The Charm of Retiring in Italy

Did you ever consider retiring in Italy? You may not have realized it, but this is probably one of the best locations you could choose for retirement. For one thing, it’s very well connected by air and a number of steamship lines that operate between New York and Naples or Genoa.

The Italian government has been trying to promote the country as a prime location for retirement. It’s well known that there is plenty of art and culture in Italy, in major centers such as Rome, Florence and Venice.

By and large, you’ll find that prices in Italy are not as high as other parts of Europe or America. However, there are a few areas that can be rather expensive. These include Rome and the Piazza Amerigo Capponi, which is fairly close to the Vatican.

You’ll find that all kinds of transport will be available in Italy and the transport system as just as developed as anywhere else in Europe, if not more so. You could also look at tourist brochures, which will provide you with a road map.

If you are planning to retire in Italy, it would be a good idea to pay a visit first so that you can get the feel of life in the country before you decide to settle down. One of the reasons why people are happy to retire in Italy is that people here are very friendly, caring and warm.

This fact alone has attracted people from all over the world. It may surprise you that more people choose to retire in Italy than in any other country either in Europe or North America. That’s the sort of thing that speaks for itself, isn’t it?

Life in Italy by and large is quite affordable. You’ll find restaurants in the downtown areas of many cities that have been set up specifically for students and pilgrims who need to watch their expenses. One example of such a place is the Via del Mascherino, where many have claimed that a good meal with wine is available for as little as 70 cents.

In fact, there is plenty of proof that Italy offers the best of food and dining. You’ll also find good food in France, but only in Italy will you get real value even in restaurants that are not too expensive. So if you are particularly keen on eating, Italy will probably be the best place for you to retire in.

Italy offers you plenty of stimulation by way of art and culture, in cities such as Rome, Venice and Florence. However, the Italian Riviera or Sicily may suit you better if you are looking for a simple retired life. You could also consider the town of Messina or Taormina, from where you will be able to catch a glimpse of the famous Mount Etna rising out of a cliff that emerges almost perpendicularly from the sea.

Look at the number of beautiful cities you will be able to visit in Italy – Venice with its world famous canals; Naples, which is known for one of the most beautiful natural harbors in the world; Florence for art, culture, history and literature and Naples, which is also known for its ancient art collections are just a few examples of the places you would be able to visit frequently if you chose to retire in Italy.

And as it is with the food, if you have a passion for the arts, perhaps Italy will be the place for you to retire in – there’s no doubt that it will be the most romantic!

Well, ultimately it’s all up to you. You could be within easy reach of all these cultural delights if you would just make the right decision. So what do you say? Is Italy the land of your dreams?

Above Me Only Sky – impossible to ignore Mount Teide

Living on the north west coast of Tenerife, it’s impossible to ignore Mount Teide. Its vast presence looms over the La Orotava Valley like a monolithic Guardian Angel; reassuring me with its presence and a constant reminder that, unlike the thousands of visitors who every week take the cable car to within 500 metres of its summit, I had yet to get further than the crater. Last year’s increase in seismic activity had sent ripples of anticipation through the vulcanological world; “an imminent eruption” they had said. If the whole thing was going to blow, I wanted to see it before it did and hoped that my timing and their predictions wouldn’t coincide.

Mount Teide is Europe’s highest volcano and Spain’s highest mountain, situated at 3718 metres above sea level in a crater 16 kilometres wide and three million years old. The climb to its summit begins at the base of Montaña Blanca, a good hour’s walk from where you park the car and ample time to discover that walking at altitude is a lot harder than you ever realised. Altitude sickness can kick in from 2400 metres, the climb begins at 2200 metres; it’s essential to drink plenty of water and take frequent rests. Despite fervently following my own advice, by the time the roof of the Refuge came into sight, I could barely put one foot in front of the other.

In June 1799 the famous German naturalist and explorer, Alexander Van Humboldt, stopped off at Tenerife on his way to South America and climbed the volcano. An account of his journey tells that, despite it being mid summer, the party complained bitterly of the cold as they spent the night on the mountain, “having no tent or blanket”. It was November now, still hot on the beaches at the coast, but a very different story at this height. As the sun went down, the temperature at the Refuge plummeted from 13°C to -1°C in under an hour; I hadn’t been this cold since I left the UK over two years ago.

Through clenched teeth I asked the Refuge worker what time he intended lighting the fire. He looked at the thermometer and replied: “It’s not cold enough for a fire tonight.” I laughed, certain that his statement had been intended as a joke. It wasn’t. “We don’t light the fire unless it gets to -7°C “he said. I stared at the thermometer, willing it to drop further, but it faltered at -4°C and stayed there. It was ‘lights out’ at 9 pm in the shared dormitory but exhaustion and a couple of glasses of icy red wine failed to induce sleep; I thought of Humboldt, exposed to the elements; it didn’t help me to sleep but it passed the time.

I had used the term ‘pitch dark’ a thousand times in my life but never had it been so appropriate as when I stepped out of the Refuge at 4.30 am to start the final ascent to the summit. My torch lit a paltry puddle of light in the mass of lava and pumice that gave a confusing uniformity to the ground. I stumbled around on the loose stones before the ‘path’ finally took shape in front of my slowly adjusting eyes and I began to climb. My legs were still exhausted from the climb the day before, it was freezing cold, my fingers were numb despite the thermal gloves, my face and ears were stinging and my lungs were snatching at oxygen in the thin air.

Squinting through the torch light for the next few steps, I stopped frequently to allow my lungs to recover and to gape, open mouthed at the vast expanse of star-saturated sky above me. I had never seen so many stars, all the constellations I could name and dozens more besides. Every few minutes a flash of light streaked a small section of the night’s canvas as a shooting star showed its path fleetingly. Only 300 kilometres off the coast of Morocco, this is an African sky; a jewelled, black velvet cloak, hypnotic; luring me to stand and stare, but I had to keep moving if I wanted to make the summit before sunrise.

The 500 metre ascent took two hours, every step a mental and physical test of stamina. As the peak came within reach in the grey half light of dawn’s beginning, clouds of yellow sulphur rose from fumeroles in the rock’s surface and clogged my mouth and throat, the heavy gaseous smell impregnating my hair, my skin. I pushed off a rock to reach the summit and my hand scorched through my glove; I pulled away quickly, suddenly reminded that I was on top of a volcano.

On the summit, I let my rucksack fall to the ground and climbed up onto a boulder; the world at my feet, above me only sky.
Cloud floated all around like a halo of foaming sea and the horizon burned pink, then orange as the sun rose. The lower peaks floated in the cloud like a school of hump back whales riding the white surf; beyond the circle of cloud, the lights of the south coast and the neighbouring island of La Gomera burned like diamond shoes at the feet of the giant volcano. And silence…complete, engulfing silence, as the sun rose blood red and cast its dye over the rocks surrounding me.

I bit into my last piece of chocolate, a reward to myself for making it to the summit, it nearly broke my teeth it was so cold. When I’d swallowed it I needed a drink but the water in my flask had frozen to ice; I had a six hour, 9 kilometre descent ahead of me, my fingers were numb and my feet and legs were screaming. But just for now, none of that mattered; I was standing with the Gods on the top of the world.

It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life, but next time, I’m taking the cable car like everyone else.

Taking Refuge
The Alta Vista Refuge sits at a height of 3270 metres and offers basic shelter to those climbing the mountain. There are no facilities for cooking and no refreshments on offer. There is a small gas burner available to heat water, but with only one burner and lots of climbers, a hot drink is just a distant dream.
It’s essential to book in advance.

Reservations:
Company offices
C/ San Francisco, 5-4º
38001 – Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Tel. 922 010 440 ; Fax. 922 287 837
E-mail: teleferico@telefericoteide.com
Fee per adult: 12.00 euros per night, max stay permissible is one night.

Permits:
To climb to the summit of Mount Teide you have to apply in person to:
National Park Office
C/ Emilio Calzadilla, nº 5 – 4th floor
Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Tel. 922 290 129 – 922 290 183 ; Fax: 922 244 788
E-mail: teide@oapn.mma.es
Office hours: from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., from Monday to Friday (take a photocopy of your identity card or passport).

However, if you stay the night at the Refuge, and provided you climb before sunrise and return past the cable car station before 9am, you do not need a permit. You’ll need a good torch, preferably one on a head band to leave you hands free.

Santa Úrsula – Fit for a king

Santa Úrsula is a thriving shopping and commercial centre, richly endowed with excellent restaurants and all manner of retail outlets. Furthermore, on every other garage door and garden gate, the ‘se vende vino’ signs invite you to buy locally produced wines. In short, Santa Úrsula is a great place to eat, drink and shop; for some of us, three of life’s greatest pleasures.

The roads climb steeply from behind the main street into the upper reaches of the municipality providing you with heart stopping moments as your car, if it’s anything other than a 4 x 4, starts to slide inexorably backwards on the 1 in 1 incline; even the short stroll from town to the Post

Office leaves you glancing anxiously around for the oxygen bottle. But head down towards the coast and you see a different face to Santa Úrsula; for although a quiet invasion of new housing developments is creeping across the headland of La Quinta, in the as yet untouched area of Malpaís, nature still holds sway; the mighty cliffs that guard Barranco Hondo and provide sanctuary for seabirds like the shearwater are carpeted in the lush palm groves that were once prevalent throughout this area.

History

In pre-Hispanic times, this north westerly area of Tenerife was one of the most densely populated by the first inhabitants of the island; the Guanches. Living in caves, they grew subsistence crops and tended livestock, moving from upper to lower levels from spring to autumn in search of rainfall. These seasonal trails became known as ‘camino real ’ and there’s a walkable patchwork of them throughout the municipality of Santa Úrsula, along with many sites of Guanche remains including the Cueva de Bencomo, or Cueva del Rey (King’s Cave), which contains primitive wall engravings.

Following the Spanish conquest, the lands in Santa Úrsula were given over primarily to the cultivation of cereals and vines; the vines thrived in this area, which ultimately become part of the Tacoronte-Acentejo region; the first on the island to receive a Mark of Origin.

In 1922 The Fyffes Banana Company bought their first terraces on Tenerife in Santa Úrsula and built galleries to provide water to the crops.
Always at the hub of transport, Santa Úrsula was an obligatory stop on the mid nineteenth century Santa Cruz to La Orotava horse-drawn carriage route; the horses were rested at Cuesta de la Villa, and in 1902 it was on the first bus route on the island which ran from La Laguna to La Orotava.

What to See
You know you’re in the centre of Santa Úrsula when you arrive at the imposing Town Hall with its row of flags and young drago Trees. It’s worth popping in here to see their collection of old photographic prints that adorn the ground and first floor walls. The photographs show landscapes covered in palm groves, vines, bananas and fruit trees, right up to the latter half of the last century.

The church of Santa Úrsula, opposite the Town Hall, was founded in1587 and is devoted to the British Saint, Ursula. It has a single nave which widens into a cross before the altar providing two side chapels separated by arches of Acentejo blue stone.

On Good Fridays, a procession follows the camino real from the church down to El Calvario; a simple altar of three crosses dating from the early seventeenth century.

Opposite El Calvario are the Casona and Ermita of San Luis, the ermita still retains its original 1680 style, including the central stone arch and Arabic tiles; the surrounding plaza is planned for extensive renovation later this year.

When Santa Úrsula named the viaduct over Barranco Hondo ‘Puente del Rey’ (The King’s Bridge), it was no idle whim of a planning officer, for this bridge was actually commissioned by a King; Alfonso XIII, on a visit in 1906. Designed by engineer José Eugenio Ribera, this elegant structure can only be seen in its entirety by walking up the hill opposite the restaurant ‘El Cuevita’, on the TF217 Santa Úrsula side of the bridge.

Signposted on the TF21 towards La Orotava is the Mirador Humboldt. It’s from this point that the famous German explorer and scholar is said to have first noticed how the vegetation varied from coastal to upper regions, adapting in layers to its environment; thus began the new science of geo-botany. Humboldt might not recognise it today, but it’s still a great vantage point over the Orotava Valley.

What to do
Treasure hunt
There are ancient trails leading to unspoilt ravines and secluded coves all along Santa Úrsula’s coastline. Recent urbanisation, however, has meant that finding them can prove more taxing than cracking the ‘Da Vinci code’. Two hundred yards before Café Vista Paraiso, a passage, marked by an eroded metal sign, leads to a path which meanders through glorious countryside to the coast. Beyond La Quinta Park Hotel, a woodland track dissecting a row of trees emerges at four wonderful mature drago trees. The best is found across the bridge over the TF5 at the end of Camino Malpaís. One ‘dead end’ road from the roundabout leads to the historic Ermita of San Clemente, whilst on the other, a recently restored trail descends through the beautiful Barranco Hondo to a small beach lapped by crystal waters; a perfect spot for appreciating why the Acentejo coastline was once considered to be one of the most beautiful natural areas of the island.

Fit for a king
Before the Mirador Humboldt a Guanche mural signals a road which serpentines upwards; from its hairpin bends, two paths follow the valley’s curves to the Cueva del Rey (King’s Cave). The lower trail gently crosses goat pastures to emerge opposite the cave, whereas the higher path will appeal to Indiana Jones types. A narrow concrete water course, thankfully with handrail, clings to the hillside; its highpoint, literally, is the vertigo inducing aqueduct which spans the ravine directly above the cave. Admittedly, views from the safety of the road may be as good, but they don’t come with the added adrenalin rush.

Sweaty palms
Parque Las Palmeras, on what was once a palm tree filled plain, is a recreational area with a difference. Amongst the shrubbery, a jogging track and wooden exercise apparatus, designed to work abdominal and upper arm muscles, have transformed the park into an open air gymnasium, or torture chamber depending on your viewpoint. Have a go, or pop across to the adjacent park (open 17.00-21.00 daily, 10.00-13.00 & 17.00-21.00 Saturday & Sunday, closed Thursday) where trickling water from the fountain and birdsong from the small aviary provide a more relaxing alternative.

Shopping
Dulcería La Sirena
This isn’t just a cake shop; this is compelling temptation with a fridge and opening hours. The fabulous handmade birthday cakes are themed from Disney classics to naughty postcards and the range of fancies will get you mentally stepping onto the treadmill before you’ve even ordered.
(+34) 922 302 927; Carretera General, 15; open 11.00-21.00 Monday to Saturday, closed Sunday

Where to Stay
La Quinta Park
An oasis of tranquillity set in expansive tropical gardens overlooking the Atlantic. The sumptuous Spa Club offers health, relaxation, beauty and health regimes in an aquatic turquoise wonderland. Just walking through the door loosens the neck muscles a notch.
(+34) 922 300 266; Club Spa (+34) 922 300 951; Urbanización La Quinta; www.spa-clublaquintapark.com; junior suites for two people from €54 per night

Casa Rural ‘Peraza’
For those who prefer a simpler and more rustic base from which to explore, the Peraza offers traditional accommodation for up to six persons in the La Corujera district. The steepness of the streets here offers an aerobic alternative to the gym.
(+34) 922 300 379; ‘Casa Peraza’; Antigua Corujera, 40; €72 per night for two persons

Where to Eat
donde Mario
The old road through Santa Úrsula is renowned for its choice of quality restaurants. Setting the benchmark is the impeccable ‘donde Mario’, one of a trio of delightful restaurants run by the same family, where quality and attention to detail in both food preparation and décor ensure both eyes and appetite will be suitably sated. Inspired traditional and international dishes, which appear to have been designed to complement the mint fresh interior design, and a cellar of the finest wines make donde Mario’s a culinary must.
(+34)922 304 585; Carretera Provincial, 119; average cost of a main course €20; open 13.00-16.00 & 18.00-23.30 daily, closed Sunday

El Gallinero
Although the menu is typical Canarian, chef, Victor Manuel Ortiz’ skill is such that familiar dishes taste mouth-wateringly original; lamb melts in the mouth whilst pork chops elicit pleasurable sighs. Five star food at embarrassingly low prices in a charming old mock henhouse.
(+34) 922 303 010; Carretera Provincial, 171; average cost of a main course €6; open midday-midnight, closed Thursday

La Bodeguita de Enfrente
With a creative menu matched only by its exquisite dining area, it comes as no surprise to learn that this intimate ‘Bodeguita’ is run by sons of Mario, of ‘donde Mario’ fame. By following their father’s philosophy they’ve created a great little restaurant to enjoy some tantalising tapas.
(+34) 922 302 760; Carretera Provincial, 205; average cost of a main course €15; open 18.00-midnight, closed Tuesday

Nightlife
Possibly because of the proximity of the Popular University, the bars in Santa Úrsula have a more contemporary style than is usually found in smaller communities around the island. On Carretera General, atmospheric Africa is a particularly chic example, whilst Mirlo Blanco and Tijarafe are inviting and individualistic watering holes in which to soak up the ambient atmosphere as well as some local wine.
Cultural refreshment is provided by concerts, plays and art exhibitions which are regularly staged in the municipal cinema and theatre on Carretera General and in the Casona San Luis in El Calvario

Transport
Buses
From Las Americas and Los Cristianos catch the 110 or 111 service to Santa Cruz, departing every thirty minutes from 06.15 until 20.45, then transfer to the 101, departing, also half hourly, between 06.00 and 21.30.
From Puerto de la Cruz, the 101 service departs every half hour from 05.30 to 21.00

Taxis
The taxi rank is outside El Medievo on Carretera General; telephone 922 300 031

Tourist Information
The nearest office, with leaflets and information covering the whole Acentejo area, is in Tacoronte opposite Plaza Estación. Cultural agendas can be found in Santa Úrsula’s library on Calle Alejo Pérez (open 09.00-14.00 & 16.00-21.00 Monday to Saturday).
(+34) 922 570 015; Carretera Tacoronte-Tejina; open 09.00-14.00 Monday to Friday

Parking
There are spaces all along Carretera General.

Fiestas
Party time comes to town in early May and on 21st October when the Day of the Cross and the fiestas in honour of Saint Úrsula are celebrated. The church and main square are garbed out with stunning flower garlands and elaborate arches constructed with harvest fare, whilst the atmosphere in town is ignited by spectacular pyrotechnic displays.

Getting Fresh at the Central Market, Adelaide, South Australia

One glimpse of the pure sensory overload that is Adelaide’s Central Market and all rumours of this as the sleepiest of Australian capitals are soon put to bed. From the first step inside you’re assaulted with a buzzing mass of patrons, drifting from stall to stall as if drawn on scent trails toward hanging gardens of salt-cured meats, aged cheeses, and steam clouds of freshly brewed, freshly roasted coffee. If the aroma doesn’t leave you gobsmacked, the super-saturate rainbow of local, organic produce of every thinkable variety certainly will. Blaze a trail through this maze of edible wonderment, and even step through the other side to Adelaide’s small, but vibrant, Chinatown. Open late on Fridays, this market is a dream date for people-watchers and foodies alike.