Archive for September, 2010

The litte Icecream Tank

Making money on the beach is a fairly sophisticated exercise in Italy.  The beaches are rented out to local entrepreneurs who charge unsuspecting punters 11 Euro per half day for the use of a sun umbrella and a lounger/beach chair.  Not availing oneself of these services is not an option if one wants to go swimming.

Once in the water, one is at the mercy of the local surf patrol, who rely on a very sophisticated version of IRB (inflatable rescue boat) to pick swimmers from the surf.

Italian Surf Life Saving Jet Boat

Had enough of swimming?  How about some shopping then?  The place is riddled with illegal North African immigrants who sell anything from imitation Gucci handbags and Oroton sunglassses to small plastic bags full of dried green stuff.  And they hit you as you come out of the water, between the low and high tide marks – because they can!

But once you have navigated your way through the crowds you get to the icecream vendor – who appears to be using a converted remote control bomb disposal robot to sell his wares.  Imagine driving one of those things along Takapuna Beach.

The little ice cream tank

But they do not make it easy for you!

Italian Food for Fast Food Addicts

What comes to mind when you think about Italian food?  Pasta, for starters (literally!). Pizza would be a close second. My personal favourite is Caprese.  Buffalo mozarella with tomatoes. Yum.  One thing that became obvious very fast on this trip is that what we consider to be Italian food and what the Italians themselves consider to be Italian food can be quite different!

The pasta I ate in Italy was generally NOT drowning in sauce and did NOT try to escape across my plate.  Portion size was moderate, as there were typically another four or five courses to follow.  Pizza dough was flat and crispy rather than puffy and soggy – and there were rarely more than 3 ingredients on top of the pizza.  “The Works” concept as practised by commercial pizza sellers in this country where EVERYTHING is heaped upon the poor dough was non- existent. 

On the downside though, the Rimini restaurants were offering “Wuerstel” as a pizza topping, obviously trying to attract those German tourists who can not do without sausage, thus living up to their image.  And why Co-Op Italia, one of the larger supermarket chains uses a Dachshund or “Sausage Dog” as a marketing symbol is beyond me.

Italian Supermarket Advertising

Back to the topic though – even Fast Food addicts are catered for in Italy.  Don’t fancy going into restaurant? How about using a giant hole in the wall crammed full of vending machines to sort out your meal.  And yes, a microwave is provided as part of the service as well.

New Age Italian Cuisine for Cultural Cot Cases

 And there was certainly nothing FREE about the offer, so no idea where this branding has come from!

Lisbon Seed Merchant Caught in Time Warp?

In the middle of Lisbon’s city centre, just around the corner from the main promenade, I stumbled upon this somewhat dated horticultural seed retailer. 



Several Questions came to mind, such as

  1. What is he doing selling his wares in the middle of the capital?
  2. How can he afford to be there, given that he had no customers?
  3. When did the store last have a bit of money spent on maintenance?


Detailed View of the Brand Image

See for yourselves.


I tried to strike up a conversation with the proprietor – which was unsuccessful due to a total inability to find a common language.

Emilia Romagna

Doesn’t this expression just roll off your tongue?  Doesn’t it sound a lot better than ” Northern Italy”?  I won’t attempt to explain the geographic features of the Emilia Romagna here, others can do that a lot better.  What matters within the context of this blog is that this Northern Italian region is a prime producer of pipfruit, stonefruit and kiwifruit and that Bologna University has a long habit of producing outstanding young horticultural scientists who hone their skills amongst the local crops before they travel to places like New Zealand and underpin our horticultural economy with their skill sets.

An Italian Wedding with Kiwi Connections

The fruit looked pretty good as well.  Size is, by the way, everything in Italy.  Taste, of course, matters too – but premium stone fruit must be bold and in your face.


Note the use of both returnable plastic crates and the one way flimsy wooden packaging typically associated with European stone fruit.

Produce bins are also quite popular with the punters – particularly at open air markets which can be found everywhere.


And just like any good produce merchant, our Italian colleagues also struggle with the disposal of empty packaging.

Yes, stacking the empty trays NEAR the rubbish bin COULD work!

ISHS Congress

Why visit a Conference or Congress?  This is not meant to be a trick question – but “because I need to develop my upper torso muscles” is probably not a standard answer either!

Upon registration every delegate – as long as he or she no longer qualified in the “uncleared situation”  – was issued with a satchel/backpack which weighed about 5kg.  It contained the Congress Programme and the presentation abstracts.

The only way to cope with the Congress programme was to withdraw to the nearest cafe for a cool beer

Anyone who was in doubt about the details printed in the programme, could refer to the Abstract documents of papers submitted which were also included in the satchel.

ISHS Abstracts

Back to the question of why one visits a Congress then. 
The answer is, of course, to learn.  Although in the case of Lisbon it would have been advantageous to come equipped with a wheelbarrow in order to cope with the mass of printed materials issued.