Tag Archives: Italy


20160412-08084241-900The bus services that connect the little hill towns around here with the larger settlements on the Amalfi coast are quite remarkable. The bus drivers not only manage to squeeze their special, shortened buses through the sometimes tiny gaps on these small mountain roads with less than an inch separating them from the nearest wing mirror, but also to negotiate the tight hairpin bends without making the passengers feel sick. All the normal jokes about Italian driving don’t apply here. I have nothing but admiration for them. The ticket pricing is also pretty good.

But there’s a problem.

They’re too punctual.

20160412-08051322-900We missed the bus back up the hill from Positano this evening: we arrived about 30 seconds late and so had to wait another hour. But we had also missed the one going down in the morning, when we arrived about two minutes early, to see the bus just departing about two-and-a-half minutes early. We didn’t want to wait for the next one, so we walked down by the steps. All 1700 of them.

What I want to know is, why can’t they be more like other southern-Europeans and take a more relaxed approach to timing? Me, I blame Mussolini…

Local residents


I’ve seen dozens of these little chaps over the last few days, but few that have let me get as close as this.

After the rain


The view from our balcony just now. And yes, it really did look like this…

The welcoming committee


We’ve moved from a British coastline to an Italian one, for a few days.

Using a shutter to capture shutters


I like shutters. Why do we have so few of them in Britain?

These are on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence.

The look o’ Lucca



and refined…


Far from the madding (post-breakfast) crowd…

We used to think Venice was crowded until we spent a week in Florence. The great thing about Venice, especially at this time of year, is that you can step off the main thoroughfares and get lost in peaceful (and often pretty) backwaters. In Florence, the areas that aren’t crowded are often empty for a good reason.

The best way to see the popular spots in Florence, we discovered this morning, is to do it before about 8 a.m.

Build your house upon the rock

In the last week I’ve walked and cycled many miles around Florence, on the ubiquitous slate-grey stone with which its streets are paved. They cut nice textures into it to make sure it doesn’t become too slippery in adverse weather conditions.

But I have walked on this stone before, in many cities around the world, and in a finely-polished form, because it is used as the flooring material in Apple’s retail stores.

Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs describes how this came about:

In 1985, as he was being ousted from his first tour at Apple, he had visited Italy and been impressed by the gray stone of Florence’s sidewalks. In 2002, when he came to the conclusion that the light wood floors in the stores were beginning to look somewhat pedestrian — a concern that it’s hard to imagine bedeviling someone like Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer — Jobs wanted to use that stone instead. Some of his colleagues pushed to replicate the color and texture using concrete, which would have been ten times cheaper, but Jobs insisted that it had to be authentic.

The gray-blue Pietra Serena sandstone, which has a fine-grained texture, comes from a family-owned quarry, Il Casone, in Firenzuola outside of Florence. “We select only 3% of what comes out of the mountain, because it has to have the right shading and veining and purity,” said Johnson. “Steve felt very strongly that we had to get the color right and it had to be a material with high integrity.” So designers in Florence picked out just the right quarried stone, oversaw cutting it into the proper tiles, and made sure each tile was marked with a sticker to ensure that it was laid out next to its companion tiles. “Knowing that it’s the same stone that Florence uses for its sidewalks assures you that it can stand the test of time,” said Johnson.

Small carbon footprint

The Italians certainly know how to transport people efficiently in and out of cities.

I must have a mischievous turn of mind, though, because I keep thinking about dominoes…

Il Cane


Where we’re going, we don’t need roads!

Venice, just below the Rialto

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser