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  • Writer's picturePete Jonson

News&Views (and holidays) no. 37

Recently, I saw a small dog with no lease, attack a medium sized dog on a lease. The small dog attacked with gusto by biting the far bigger dog’s snout. The bigger dog was pulled away and the small dog was told to go by his owner. To do; teach your dog to defend itself.

I have spent with Mrs Thornton around 5 weeks in Italy. First 3 weeks in Sicily then two weeks in Northern Italy. In Sicily we started in Siracusa, then across to Polemo on the top coastline, then down to Taormina on the eastern coastline.

These smallish cities all had great charm. Narrow roads through the relevant city, with plentiful art, clothing, and food and drink shops. After a fairly early start, each day the streets were crowded with pedestrians, bikes weaving about, occasional motor bikes, cars and vans, with quite a number of side road art exponents and occasional beggers. Strollers took care not to be run over and seemed generally happy.

I have a lifetime collection of street Art, which in early years cost between $50 and $100 per item. Gradually the price rose, and this time a beautiful street scene was quoted at EU 1,500. Gor blimey, that was just too much. A friend wealthier than I went to the shop and bargained the vender down to EU 1.100. ‘Go see him, Henry, I think you’ll get him down to EU 900’. Sadly, I ran out of time (and courage) - even EU 900 was above my pocketbook. Recently I purchased a picture of several houses fronting blue water with a nice frame for EU 22. This was in Venice, where competition was more vigorous than in Taormina.

When we moved from Sicily to Northern Italy various things were different. We stayed in Bologna, Rome, and Padua, a beautiful small town at the end of our visit to Italy.

Here the cities were bigger (except for Padua) and some things were different. Street were larger and there were always footpaths. Pedestrians generally stayed on footpaths, but did not totally avoid crossing red lights. As well as cars, there were many more bicyclces with loud motors and often a very fast take-off. Vans were greater in number and large busses rumbled about.

With Mrs Thornton in command, I was taken to visit churches, including one of the oldest churchs in Italy. This was Santa Maria in Traseverie in Rome. And the University of Padua, the second oldest Universty, 800 years this year. The oldest University is said to be the University of Bologne.

My experience is that you can always expect trouble on Italian trains. Before the only stop between Padua and Venice stern, a tall railway man asked to see our tickets. I might add that when getting on our train, Mrs T leapt aboard despite my saying ‘All these people on the platform seem to be waiting – are you sure you have the right train’? She pushed on and there was nothing for me to do but follow. The stern, tall railway man explained our tickets, costing around EU 4.6 E each, had ‘not been validated, and we were on the wrong train. I shall have to charge you EU 84! We adopted an attitude of baffled misunderstanding and said little. The railway man left without asking for money. We later agreed he would it have been very complicated for him to actually extract the EU 84. So we just got of at the next station and a few moments later joined the right train.

Soon we shall return to Melbourne, Australia, via Business Class on Oman Air. Our newspaper man, Craig of Kew, has a pile of The Weekend Australian and a pile of Weekend AFR, so I hope to catch up on matters Australian. Italy only occasionally had English language newspaper and all 150 TV channels were in Italian. The only channel we could connect to was the one showing the tennis!


Fiona Prior is swept away by the canticles of Benjamin Britten, presented by Sydney Chamber Opera. More here.

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