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Trip down memory lane….

I caught the train to Ely yesterday to visit this rather sleepy little town but which of course is not a town: I’m not sure quite how it works but if you have a cathedral, no matter how small and sleepy you are , you are classed as a city. The trip through the flat land surrounding Ely is fascinating, at least for me. My mother loved the idea of mountains, and every year we all looked for calendars and Christmas cards (anyone else remember Christmas cards?) depicting Switzerland’s mountains and snow -covered forests.

I have to say I’m just the opposite, I love the flatlands of the fens. The artists among you will be well aware that horizontal lines infuse us with calm, and the fens do this for me. That’s why I love the Italian lakes (as long as I can ignore the surrounding mountains! ) Two trains later I arrived in Ely and the first stop was the riverside which is a really vital place crowded with beautiful boats, river cruisers, barges and houseboats and along the tow paths, pubs and eateries as well as icecream vans.

After lunch, fish’n’chips of course, one of the gastronomic delights of home, we made our way up to the Cathedral, known as “The Ship of the Fens” because in fact, Ely was once an island. The cathedral was begun in the eleven hundreds, and when the fens were drained from the 17th century onwards the cathedral was left standing upon its mound (the Isle of Ely) but it had previously been surrounded by marshes, rivers and peat beds. The cathedral suffered dissolution by Henry VIII when almost all of the” idolatrous” statues were destroyed by the iconoclasts. But that’s not the only disaster to have struck this most beautiful building. In 1322 the tower over the crossing of the nave and transepts, collapsed into the choir. It was redesigned by Alan of Walsingham, unusually with 8 pillars, thus octagon, and made with huge wooden tree trunks to lend it light both weightwise and because it illuminates the choir. Unfortunately this miracle of medieval architecture came under attack by the death watch beetle and as long as I can remember the cathedral has being trying to conjure up funds to pay for restoration.

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Just a little more about the Charterhouse

My Diary, Trip

The Charterhouse of Pavia.


This time we had our cappuccino and croissant BEFORE buying our rail tickets so the start of the day was not stressful at all. We decided to go via Rogoredo because there are more trains and I was curious to see such an ill- famed place. No one else seemed to be going our way and we got off lonely, at the station. An incredible experience! No signs, no indications of the glorious place awaiting, no welcome, nothing. Outside the station, midday and under a scorching sun. I always associate these deserted, burning places with Mersault’s mother’s funeral in L’Etranger, a book that had a huge impact on me when I was an adolescent and has never left me. It comes back, year after year to haunt me.

The only way that I could see to get to the Charterhouse was to walk. A pretty conservative estimate according to the signpost being 10/5 minutes along a deserted road with no shade. Get stuck in. I insisted on using my umbrella as a parasol, but was informed that I didn’t look Japanese at all and it looked like a cheap brolly not a beautiful Japanese parasol. I do my best!

When we got there it was closed so we went to a restaurant which in spite of its unpromising looks was actually ok. I had a special bread roll made with one of the side dishes on the menu, it wasn’t really a bread roll at all, it was more like a Danish open sandwich made with Pugliese bread…but the important thing is that it was really delicious.

When we finally got into the grounds of the magnificent Carthusian Charterhouse (1394) it took your breath away. Not a square centimetre is left undecorated. The tour inside was fascinating, if superficial and the information was scant. Photos are not allowed thank god although there’s always the smart alec who has more rights than anyone else. We were able to take pics of the monk’s cells which would put modern two-roomed flats to shame size-wise. And my hostas too.

My Diary, Trip

A tale of an abortive trip! – The End.

targhetta informazioniAfter the exhibition, we rounded the corner and found the big red “i”  we had been looking for, so remember, in Pavia information is always just round the corner! So we set off to be tourists in earnest.

Off to the castle. And his lordship was out too!  Closed until 230!

IMG-20190809-WA0004IMG-20190809-WA0008There were two guys waiting outside so I started my rant about things always being closed in Italy and not tourist-friendly but I was ticked off gently by the men who were actually custodians. The castle is quite magnificent and beautifully kept. I was curious about the ugly striped tape surrounding the two huge trees.
Unfortunately the guardian didn’t know how old they were and we both agreed that the tape was both useless and an eyesore.
IMG-20190809-WA0010Now off to the basilica of San Pietro in ciel d’oro; hot, tired- footed then you step down into this shadowy cool symmetrical church and everything’s ok again. It has a wonderful colonnaded crypt.

After San Pietro which alone merits the journey, we went back to see if the Duomo IMG-20190809-WA0002was open, it was. What can I say? Go! Go again and again. All those bulbous excrecsences on the outside transform into rounded chapels and a huge dome. The light is incredible. We just stayed and breathed in the beauty,really there’s not much I would know how to say.

Before getting back on the train it was gelato-time and we found a prize- winning ice cream shop, world class! Fitting end to a world class day out.

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My Diary, Trip

A tale of an abortive trip! – Continued …

Well, having got over the disappointment of not finding an Info point and certainly no hop-on hop-off buses we wend our way along a rather drab little street towards (hopefully) the town centre. On the way a pit stop for water and a beautifully drawn map of Pavia on the back of a small paper serviette thanks to the friendly barman! Now we can really get going. We arrive in front of an imposing hotchpotch of a building which must be the cathedral, but it’s closed, God’s out for lunch maybe? It’s all bumps and additions and carbuncles ,inside it must be quite fascinating : from the outside I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like.

We walk round the corner and desperate to actually see something (anything),find an art gallery open, inside you’re confronted by talking heads! The deep burgundy background makes a wonderful backdrop for the figures , torsos and busts of “Genius loci” in this spazio arti contemporanee del broletto. These opere which at first glance are Greek- Roman perfection until you look closely and see they are distorted, crying for help. Stefano di Giusto’s sculptures of suffering and tribulation a kind of “memento mori” of the difficulty of being human. Honestly I didn’t really like them immediately, until two or three days later when I started to think about them a little less superficially and they’ve been with me ever since

Down Corso Strada nuova to the famous covered bridge decorated as usual with bunches of keys and locks. It must’ve been a locksmith who started the craze off because there’s no other reasonable or even unreasonable thinking behind all this,” I love you, here are the keys to my heart,Ok darling but what are the locks for?” Locks and keys, chastity belts that’s not very loving. No, I’m convinced that it was a locksmith, no lovers could be daft enough to think keys chains and locks could symbolise love, could they?