hidden europe

Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

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New rail timetables from December 2016 will improve journey times from Milan to Zürich, Verona and Venice. Pictured here is Milan's Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (photo © Mrusty / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

New European rail timetables for 2017

  • 9 Dec 2016
This weekend sees the launch of new railway timetables across Europe. This ritual takes place on the second weekend of December every year, with rail operators revamping service patterns and tweaking their schedules to reflect changing demand. We ...
Fish is a staple in the local diet, and you'll find a fabulous choice of seafood in the markets of Siracusa, Sicily (phooto © Presse750 / dreamstime.com).
Magazine article

South to Sicily

The latest book from hidden europe editors Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries is Europe by Rail. Catch the flavour of this new edition with our train journey from Rome to Sicily, specially adapted from the book for this issue of the ...
Magazine article

Hollandries: Dredging and Draining

Europe's most accomplished dredgers and drainers are the Dutch. Settlers from the Netherlands have industriously drained wetlands and coastal meadows across the continent from Bordeaux to the Baltic. We look at some of the continent's ...
Private Italian operator NTV Italo offers a new weekend service from Milan to Rimini this summer (photo © Eqroy8 / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

Summer excursions by train

  • 8 Jun 2016
New summer train timetables kick in across Europe this month, ushering in many new rail links and interesting changes in rail services across the ...
This tower in Lago di Resia (Reschensee) in Italy’s Alto Adige region is all that remains of the old parish church of Graun-im-Vinschgau (photo © hidden europe)
Magazine article

Silent witness
  

Discover the extraordinary story of how an Italian village was sacrificed to provide hydro-electric power for Switzerland. The evacuation of Curon Venosta (or Graun-im-Vinschgau in German) was a tragedy. Today the church campanile rises serenely ...
Letter from Europe

Encounter at Hendaye

  • 23 Oct 2015
75 years ago this week, Hitler was on the move. Within just a few days, the Führer's train was in north-west France, in the Basque region and in Tuscany. But this was no holiday. On 23 October 1940, Hitler met General Franco in Hendaye. It was the ...
Eurostar trains waiting at the platforms at St Pancras station in London (photo © MorganOliver / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

Europe by rail: spring news

  • 1 Apr 2015
It is that time of year when rail companies across Europe tweak their schedules for the upcoming summer season. Here's an overview of some of the noteworthy changes for this ...
A plea for urban renewal: the città vecchia in
Taranto (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

Taranto’s broken heart
  

Hop on the slow train to Taranto with us. We ride through rural Puglia in search of Magna Graecia - clutching our copy of George Gissing's account of his visit to the same region over 100 years ...
Letter from Europe

Food for thought - Expo 2015

  • 28 Jan 2015
A van speeds by in the fast lane of the West Tangent ring road, bearing the inscription: 'Nutrire il pianeta, energia per la vita'. That is the Milan mantra for 2015. 'Feed the planet, energy for life'. For this year Milan hosts a Universal ...
Lakeside setting of Mantua in Italy's Lombardy region (photo © Karol Kozlovski / dreamstime.com).
Letter from Europe

Travelling with Shakespeare

  • 31 Jul 2014
Hot summer days... and we've been meandering through northern Italy. Virtually, with Shakespeare by our side. Remember Lucentio who, in The Taming of the Shrew, leaves his home city of Pisa in Tuscany? Lucentio's servant Tranio accompanies his ...
Letter from Europe

In search of Eden

  • 14 Jun 2014
There is something very pleasing about communities which display a strong architectural coherence. In some instances, the sense of order and unity might take its spark from one striking central feature. The Italian city of Palmanova is a good ...
Letter from Europe

Much ado about the Ascension

  • 29 May 2014
There was often much ado around San Marco on Ascension Day. At least if Canaletto's celebrated paintings of Venice on the Feast of the Ascension are to be believed. The particular ceremony that caught Canaletto's attention was the annual dedication ...
Letter from Europe

Into the desert

  • 21 Jan 2014
The monastery on the Isola di San Francesco del Deserto is a place apart, an island retreat in the shallow recesses of the northern lagoon well away from the hustle and bustle of Venice. It is an island where blessed solitude is punctuated by the ...
Magazine article

All points east
  

The new rail schedules for 2014 kick in across Europe in mid-December. Big changes are afoot as Russia rethinks its strategy for passenger services from Moscow to principal cities in the European Union. There are changes to night train services, a ...
Letter from Europe

Hercules in Lazio

  • 28 Jun 2013
The time is coming when residents of Rome escape the Eternal City. Rome is not a place to stay in summer. Many from Rome head north into the hills of Lazio, where Etruscan, Roman and Renaissance threads intertwine in history and culture. The lakes ...
Magazine article

Papal exits
  

The Holy See and the Italian Republic tussled for years over which country owned one contested section of the Passetto di Borgo. That's the name given to the elevated footpath that links the papal apartments in the Vatican with the Castel ...
(photo © Redeyed / dreamstime.com)
hidden europe note

Small is beautiful: the view from the Vatican

  • 4 Mar 2013
Rarely has the Vatican been so much in the spotlight as over the last week or two. The dog days of a papacy have never in recent times been quite so clearly defined as they were in February 2013. Benedict’s announcement on 12 February ushered in 16 ...
Magazine article

Time check

The second weekend in December sees new rail timetables introduced across Europe. The new schedules see a significant recasting on long distance services in the northern Balkans. Two new international night trains will link Italy with France and ...
Letter from Europe

The city of spiders

  • 28 Oct 2012
This year, many of our travels have focused on ports. We have criss-crossed Europe from Calais to Cádiz, from Travemünde to Taranto. We sat under the cranes on the quayside of Bari, still as popular today with pilgrims from Russia as it was one ...
Teetering on the brink: the capital of San Marino clusters around the summit of Mount Titano (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

La Serenissima: San Marino
  

No other country in Europe can boast so beautiful a name: La Serenissima Repubblica di San Marino. But to experience the serenity of San Marino, you really need to stay overnight in the capital, which clusters around the summit of Monte Titano. ...
The train to nowhere: all that is left of the San Marino railway (photo © hidden europe).
Magazine article

Stranded in San Marino
  

San Marino may no longer have a passenger railway. It does however still have a train, thus marking out San Marino as one of two countries in Europe that have a train but no railway. The surviving train in San Marino is a graceful addition to the ...
Letter from Europe

Reshaping mental maps

  • 17 Jun 2012
This evening, a train will speed from Córdoba to Valencia in just a shade over three hours, marking the inauguration of another link in Spain's growing high-speed rail network. True, the new stretch of line in this case is very modest, but it is ...
Letter from Europe

The harsh lands

  • 4 Apr 2012
After the lushness of Puglia, the fierce landscapes of Basilicata came as a firm reminder that southern Italy is not all peaches and almonds. In Puglia we had enjoyed orecchiette with broccoli and been seduced by vincotto di fichi. We had heard the ...
Magazine article

Rites of penance
  

Prompted by Diego Vivanco's report from San Vicente de la Sonsierra, hidden europe sets out to detect the origins of the religious practice of self-flagellation in ...
Letter from Europe

Church etiquette

  • 9 Jan 2012
Over the recent holidays, a friend and fellow-traveller popped the 'church question'. Is it okay to slip into Mass or Evensong to enjoy the splendours of Venice's Basilica di San Marco or York's magnificent Minster when the principal intent is not ...
The Whaligoe steps in Caithness, Scotland (photo © Paula Fisher / dreamstime.com).
Magazine article

Unforgiving stone
  

The poetry of Paul Hadfield has featured before in hidden europe. When he sent us a poem on the Whaligoe Steps in north-east Scotland, it set us thinking about some of the iconic stairways that we have encountered on our travels around ...
Letter from Europe

Russian life on the Riviera

  • 24 Apr 2011
Come on, grab your camera and join us as we explore one or two spots along the coast this Easter morning. It is a stunning spring day, the blue waters of the Mediterranean seem an even deeper blue than yesterday, and the air is so clear that we'll ...
Letter from Europe

The Centovalli Railway

  • 19 Mar 2011
Domodossola has sleek trains aplenty. There are great expresses that purr north through the Simplon Tunnel into Switzerland or slide south towards Milan, hugging the west side of Lago Maggiore along the way. But lovers of great scenery and unusual ...
Magazine article

More than small change
  

You probably would have no very clear idea what currency is used in Nagorno Karabakh, no indeed whether you need to tip the barber next time you stop off for a short back and sides in deepest Chechnya. We ponder the knotty business of currencies ...
Letter from Europe

Kicking off the New Year

  • 1 Jan 2011
New Year's Day. Again. Aching heads for those who took their Hogmanay revelries a little too seriously. We slipped into 2011 in a little house on the edge of a heath on one of the North Frisian islands. Yet Estonia awakens today to the euro as its ...
Magazine article

Sea and Sardinia
  

'There's nothing to see in Nuoro,' wrote DH Lawrence when he and his wife Frieda visited Sardinia in January 1921. 'Happy is the town that has nothing to show,' opined the English writer. We follow the Lawrences on their winter journey by sea to ...
Magazine article

The road to Latte
  

Border regions in Europe are always fascinating. Travel east from the French town of Menton and in no time you reach the Italian frontier. The first place of any size on the Italian side of the border is Latte di Ventimglia. We follow the road to ...
Magazine article

Sillitoe in Menton
  

Alan Sillitoe's first publications, written during the brief spell that he lived in Menton in France, were travel essays. Sillitoe died in April, having achieved a formidable reputation as a novelist. We take a look at the lesser known side of ...
Letter from Europe

From Austerlitz to Solferino

  • 11 Jul 2010
A name seen or heard out of context can be a powerful provocation. Travelling through the hinterland of Munich a while back, our train paused at Dachau. At one level this was just one more railway station serving commuters in a rather overcrowded ...
Letter from Europe

Ligurian passion

  • 23 May 2010
The long-standing English infatuation with the French Riviera has been well documented, but much less has been written about English affections for the coast of Liguria. Yet the influence of the Hanbury family, and other English settlers in this ...
Letter from Europe

The Baedeker legacy

  • 1 May 2010
"Kings and governments may err, but never Mr Baedeker," wrote the English humorist AP Herbert in the libretto for Offenbach's operetta La Vie Parisienne. Baedeker was the brightest star in a constellation of nineteenth-century guidebook publishers ...
Letter from Europe

Europiccola (Little Europe)

  • 4 Apr 2010
If the essence of Europe is distilled in any one city, then Trieste must surely be a strong candidate for the distinction. James Joyce rather affectionately described the place as Europiccola (Little Europe). East meets West in this outpost of ...
Letter from Europe

East of Trieste

  • 1 Apr 2010
Europe's Cold War borders were by no means ubiquitously impervious. Trieste on the Adriatic coast of Italy always had rather good links to neighbouring Yugoslavia. Earlier this week, we decided to travel east from Trieste, and found that the modern ...
Magazine article

An immortal mortar
  

It is a little known fact that the entire course of European history has been shaped by mortars and pestles. We unravel a little tale from Venice that highlights why the mortar deserves pride of place in any good culinary ...
hidden europe note

New 2010 train timetables

  • 13 Dec 2009
Europe's new 2010 train schedules take effect today, opening up lots of glorious new travel opportunities. Faster trains from the Kent coast to London are the highlight in England, while in Italy there is a veritable revolution as the 'missing ...
Letter from Europe

The feast of St Nicholas

  • 6 Dec 2009
St Nicholas is the ultimate all-purpose saint. His patronage extends to virgins, sailors, children and pawnbrokers. And he is patron saint of Bari in Italy, where the local fishing community makes much of the ...
Magazine article

Shortlisted for UNESCO
  

There are the sights which already feature on UNESCO's World Heritage List. And then there are the wannabes. We take a look at sights around Europe that are angling for one of the coveted places on the UNESCO ...
Magazine article

The city of St George: Genoa

The port city of Genoa commanded huge influence on account of its mercantile acumen and its early schemes for the management of public debt, which paved the way for modern banking. Today the city of St George still has the face of ...
Letter from Europe

Airport links

  • 17 Sep 2009
Is not the journey to the airport often one of the great hassles of modern travel? Not all of us can enjoy the relaxed approach taken in the Isle of Man where narrow gauge steam trains pause on request at Ronaldsway Halt, just a short walk from the ...
Magazine article

Towards the Simplon
  

For those without a hint of romance in their souls, it is possible to speed through the Simplon Tunnel from Switzerland to Italy. The train takes just fifteen minutes. But the old Simplon Pass route is still there for the taking. Brig is the ...
Magazine article

Switzerland: the Bernina connection
  

The small Swiss town of Pontresina once attracted many of Europe's literati. Today, the poets and philosophers have gone, yet Pontresina and the surrounding mountains are as exquisite as ever. The town's railway station is the jumping off point for ...
Magazine article

Gnome world
  

Gnomes of Europe arise! You have nothing to lose but your shackles. hidden europe checks out the sanctuaries where liberated gnomes, freed from enslavement to oppressive gardening cultures, can live in dignity and ...
Magazine article

City of the Muse: Barga
  

Barga is quintessential small town Italy. And Aristo's, the bar and café in the middle of Barga, is the quintessential bar - a spot that is amiable, intimate and safe. Guest author Adam J Shardlow lingers in Aristo's and finds a rich vein of ...
Magazine article

Arrivals
  

The finest arrivals are moments to savour. hidden europe recalls a few memorable arrivals: by train in Istanbul, by boat in Venice, by plane in L'viv (Ukraine) and by car in Newmarket ...
Magazine article

An edible Eden: Piemonte
  

Not for the first time, hidden europe salivates over north Italian food. Guest writer Peter Wortsman takes a few Piemonte byways in search of truffles, the perfect ravioli and a tongue tingling ...
Magazine article

Rest-stops for the soul
  

There is little that is religious about modern mass travel. But seaports, railway stations, airports and even motorway service areas have chapels and churches that address the needs of ...
Magazine article

Venice: the islands of the mad
  

Venice has a long tradition of exiling her problems to preserve her serenity. Gunpowder, lunatics, lepers and amputees had no place in the heart of the city. Michelle Lovric visits the islands of the lagoon in search of hidden ...
Magazine article

Europe's fading borders
  

With the expansion of the Schengen zone to encompass nine more countries, Europe's borders are fading fast. Communities once divided by international frontiers are happily united. But there is a downside, for fading borders within the European ...
Magazine article

Temples of pleasure
  

Many modern shopping centres are parodies of the elegant glazed arcades that were, in many nineteenth-century European cities, focal points for shopping and relaxation. From Brussels to Milan, Cardiff to Genoa the arcaded gallery became a byword ...
Magazine article

Rotor heaven: Europe's helicopter links
  

We take a look at commercial helicopter routes around Europe, both past and present. There are areas in Europe where helicopter services are still very much a part of the regular transport network. Examples include the Faroe Islands, the Scilly ...
Magazine article

Alpiniøya (Spitsbergen)
  

The name of a tiny island off the coast of Nordaustlandet in Spitzbergen is a tribute to an extraordinary series of expeditions conducted in 1928 by members of the Alpini, the elite mountain brigade of the Italian army. A report from ...
A Silja Line ferry docked in Helsinki harbour (photo © Dennis Dolkens / dreamstime.com).
Magazine article

Sea fever
  

When one time English poet laureate John Masefield extolled the lure of the ocean ("I must down to the seas again..."), he clearly didn't have Cunard's luxury Queen Elizabeth II ship or the same company's new super liner Queen Mary in ...
Letter from Europe

Arabic Sicily

  • 29 Mar 2009
Wander along the Via Porta Palermo in Mazara del Vallo and you might easily think you were in North Africa. The fishing port on the southwest coast of Sicily is an extraordinary spot, a little haven of North Africa in southern Europe. It happens to ...
Letter from Europe

Campione - an Italian exclave in Switzerland

  • 1 Feb 2009
Campione is an extraordinary spot - a geopolitical oddity of the first order. The village is an exclave of Italy within the Ticino region of southern Switzerland. The conundrum that is Campione'd Italia is nicely captured in a set of old Campione ...
Letter from Europe

Santa Lucia

  • 12 Dec 2008
Santa Lucia is patron saint of Siracusa, the island fortress city on the Sicilian coast, where Lucia was born in the late third century. The story tells of her being martyred in her home city at the tender age of twenty. Of course, Santa Lucia's ...
Letter from Europe

Seasonal diversions

  • 25 Dec 2007
Christmas-tide travellers, if they are lucky, might get a privileged glimpse into the lives of others. The results are not always comforting. Dervla Murphy, writing in Through the Embers of Chaos, recounts an invite to a post-Christmas soirée in ...
Letter from Europe

Cultural landscapes in the Veneto

  • 6 Nov 2007
Venice may come with a constellation of superlatives, but head out into the Veneto to find a world apart. The country around Treviso, just a dozen miles inland from Venice, is classic città  diffusa territory. As if in retort to Venice's urban ...
Letter from Europe

Trieste connections

  • 18 Jul 2007
The slow train to Trieste hugs the Adriatic coast, giving gorgeous views of the Miramare, a fabulous folly of a fortress built on a rocky plinth by Archduke Maximilian, the younger brother of Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I. The train brings the ...
Letter from Europe

Shrovetide frolics

  • 20 Feb 2007
Consider a journey that starts in the Swiss Alps and ends in an abandoned city in the south Caucasus region. To be more precise, we'll start at Pontresina, just over the hill from St Moritz. It's a place where poets and philosophers used to come ...
Letter from Europe

Lost communities: France, Russia and more

  • 27 Jul 2006
Many are the European communities that have been lost to warfare, natural disasters or other agencies. The old town of Tocco Caudio in southern Italy was abandoned after an earthquake in the 1980s, as was Poggioreale in western Sicily a few years ...
Letter from Europe

Migrants in Lampedusa (Sicily)

  • 23 Jul 2005
The Mediterranean island of Lampedusa is generally one of those 'out-of sight, out-of-mind' places, a tiny speck of Italian land that is much closer to Africa than the Italian mainland. Even the Sicilian port of Porto Empédocle is over two hundred ...