The Last Days of Pompeii?

I was at Pompeii again with friends yesterday, for perhaps the 5th time over the last two years.  In the late autumn sunshine, the ruins were as wonderful and evocative as ever.  The administration of the site remains dysfunctional.

To be confronted, at 10 o’clock in the morning at the main entrance to a UNESCO world heritage site visited by 2.5 million people per year, with scribbled signs proclaiming ‘No maps’ was shocking, even by Italian standards.

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Naples, July 5th 1465

Tavola_Strozzi_-_NapoliThe Tavola Strozzi, or Strozzi Table, is a oil on canvas picture of Aragonese Naples of the 15th century.  Rediscovered in the early 20th century and used as a bed board, it is the earliest depiction of the city and is in the collection of the city’s San Martino museum.  It shows the triumphant return of the Aragonese fleet after the victory against the Angevin pretender, John of Anjou, which occurred off the island of Ischia.

The level of detail is incredible.  Taken from a sea perspective, the picture shows the castles, fortifications, gates, towers and churches of the medieval city.  A line of warships re-enter the harbour in the morning.  Key city landmarks such as Castle dell’Ouvo, Castle Nouvo, Castle Sant’Elmo, the Duomo, Santa Chiara and San Domenico Maggiore are clearly visible in the background.

Picture: Wiki.

The Best Beaches in Italy – 10 Magic Destinations

The Priceless Guide

Summer vacations are associated with hot sun, crystal clear turquoise water, endless white sandy beaches, cocktails, beach bars and relaxation.

If you haven’t booked your summer holiday yet, Italy surely combines all the above making it one of the top summer destinations in the world for the summer period. Take a look at the 10 best beaches in Italy.

You still have some time to change your plans.

1. Rabit Beach Sicily


2. Spiaggia del Fornillo, Positano, Amalfi Coast


3. Maria Pia, Alghero


4. La Pelosa, Sardinia


5. San Domino, Tremiti Islands


6. Riserva Naturale di Vendicari


7. Chefalu Sicily


8. Torre Guacetto, Puglia


9. Riviera del Corallo, Alghero, Sardinia


10. LA Guardia, Elba, Tuscany


The Priceless Guide –

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Why do Italians say ‘Calcio’ not ‘Soccer’?

In today’s Italian lesson, we tackled the Subjunctive.  As in English, it is used to express ‘various states of unreality such as wish, emotion, possibility, judgment, opinion, necessity, or action that has not yet occurred‘.  Unlike modern English, in which the subjunctive is hard to make out, in Italian it is a minefield for foreigners and, according to my teacher, when used properly is the mark of an educated native speaker.

This lead to a long conversation about the differences between English and Italian.  My teacher said that Italians pick up the lax English grammar rules (what there are) quickly; what they struggle with is pronunciation, the sheer magnitude of English vocabulary and the way English speakers use word order and qualifiers to provide nuance and meaning. Conversely, the English pick up basic Italian vocabulary quickly (aka restaurant Italian) but can have problems with rigid grammar rules, pronouns, reflexives and cases such as the pluperfect and of course the subjunctive.

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A final salute to the heroes of Monte Cassino

‘A miniature Verdun’.  ‘The site of the bloodiest battle of WW2 for the Western Allies’.  Compared by the German side to their ordeals at Stalingrad.

The Battle of Monte Cassino was an appalling, four-month long bloodbath fought over intractable terrain and in terrible weather in the first few months of 1944 some fifty miles north of Napes.  Poor preparations, inadequate Allied generalship, a lack of cover, fierce, well prepared and brave German resistance and the tactical challenge of the pummelled Benedictine monastery, a natural fortress on top of a steep mountain, combined into a grim, attritional slog which claimed the lives of 75,000 and wounded perhaps another 200,000 on both sides.  This part of Italy was no ‘soft underbelly’ of Europe in Churchill’s ill chosen words.

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