Norman Castle in Cosenza

This building on top of the highest hill in Cosenza is a Norman castle.

I don’t normally take photos at night but I was at dinner with the group I’m with, and the castle was so well lit.

Dinner was good fun with everyone quite rambunctious and I will be sad when this conference is over tomorrow and we all go our separate ways, except for the sad reality that all wine and good food makes Ernesto a rather tubby boy.

After this, on the rest of my travels in Italy I will need to simply eat the free breakfast in the hotel each morning and no other meal most days, and walk everywhere! Otherwise I am going to come back rather overweight!

Acroneo – Ancient Wine Making in Acri….

I’m in Cosenza for a few days at a cultural conference. Yesterday we went on a bus trip into the hills outside Cosenza. There we visited a very unique wine making project outside Acri, an ancient hill town which predates Greek settlement.

A local archeologist, with the sponsorship of a university, has recently embarked on making wine the Ancient Greek way, as people would have done here 2500 years ago, in amphorae buried in the Earth.

The whole idea is fascinating, especially as I am an amateur wine maker myself. The wine, Acroneo, is made from very ancient grape varieties and is very tasty too.

When I get home I’ll need to try and get some of it shipped over.

Cosenza Cathedral

Just to show that I am actually seeing some interesting sights rather than following news from Australia on my smart phone, here is a shot of the 800 year old cathedral in Cosenza.

There are some other buildings in the same street which are even older.

It’s tricky to fathom all this, given the terms of reference for Australia in relation to old buildings is 230 years.

The GWS bandwagon

Right now I am in Cosenza in Calabria for a few days, but I can’t escape AFL and nor would I want to!

GWS is into its first grand final after giving Collingwood supporters more pain than the federal government’s refusal to increase Newstart allowances and quite frankly, I am happy. One of the sweetest things in following AFL after your team winning (2016 will keep me happy a long time) is enjoying the suffering of Collingwood supporters.

A simple life hack for people who are keen to attend an AFL grand final is to become a GWS member and pay up for the premium membership. You won’t see much competition. I may now think about adopting them as my second team.

If the Ancient Romans could drive on the left, why don’t the Italians?

There is abundant archeological and recorded evidence that the ancient Romans used to drive and walk on the left side of the road. It comes from keeping your shield on your left and your sword arm quick to draw, in case of ambush.

Driving on the left is what made the Romans great, and probably caused the British to do likewise. All this right hand drive comes from the French Revolution and the Americans adopted it in thanks for assistance in the war of independence. Crazy stuff with no sense to it except revolutionary nonsense.

More practically for me, it is doing my head in. Forty five years ago Hector the Cat taught me how to cross the road safely, and it all hard wired me to expect cars to keep to the left. It’s not safe for pedestrians like me in Italy, and I get the general impression the road toll here is ten times as high as back home.

And perhaps an urban myth, but I heard tell that the bloke who used to wear the Hector the Cat costume got killed crossing the road….

The Down Under Bar Rome: Less Authentic Than Fosters Lager….

When I was a foolish 18 year old (as opposed to the foolish 50 year old who at least knows he is a fool), I said many silly things, one of which was something about how fantastic Fosters Lager is. (Yes, it was still commonly available in Melbourne in 1987.)

Now you can only get it overseas – it’s meant to be some sort of flagship Australian beer.

So… last night I went to the Rome Down Under Bar, somewhere over the Tiber and north of the Vatican, as I was curious to see what relics of glorious Australiana were on display.

Aside from the name of the bar, the Down Under has few traces of anything Aussie to it. There is a mural of Ayers Rock and the Olgas along most of the walk, with some roos and an aboriginal included. There is a small Fosters Lager sign.

And a large Fosters Lager poster of a woman in a bikini, with the slogan ‘Australian for beer. Australian for life saver’ on it.

[To be honest, even someone as politically incorrect as I am finds such posters rather inappropriate these days.]

But there is no Fosters Lager. Or any other Australian beverage on offer.

The TV screens were not showing AFL either. They were all playing some Italian soccer match.

And I was the closest thing to an Aussie in the whole bar. Everyone else was jabbering away in Italian, and I can tell by the accent that it was not the Australian accented Italian that I speak, but real motherland Italian.

The Italian word which comes to mind when I think of this Down Under Bar is ‘fintoneria’ – fakery. That might be an unintentionally ironic comment when I reflect that I am talking about an Australian themed bar in Europe….

Perhaps the owners of Fosters should demand this bar remove all the Fosters Lager branding in disgust. Oh – I forgot – the owners of Fosters and Carlton United Breweries these days happen to be Japanese.

The not really Australian Bar….

My Italian is so-so. ‘Buffonata’ if you can see the links to the related English word, means something like a practical joke. And taking the bus down Via Della Buffalota to the Australian Bar on the corner of Via Canberra and Via Tasmania put me in mind of a good old fashioned buffonata.

You see, aside from the street names and the name of the bar, complete with the outline of a red kangaroo on the sign, there is nothing Australian about this bar. No Fosters lager, no cringeworthy Australiana. Nothing but some sort of suburban Roman cafe. No wonder this place is almost invisible on the internet….

Sightless in Dubai

I’m in transit right now, in Dubai. Never been here before and I had a window seat for a change (I outgrew window seats about 20 years ago). Sadly, some sort of haze means the skyline can barely be made out in the distance. I can only barely make out the silhouette of the Burj Khalifa. Hopefully I can get an eyeful of the sights on the flight to Rome.

The duty free stores here are monuments to material affluence and excess. I suppose it’s like that everywhere. But I suppose I don’t get around all that much….