Saturday, October 23, 2010

News about Shetland

I love to hear people talk in detail about their travels and to see their photographs. However I know not everyone feels the same, so I'll give you a break from my Italian travelogue. Besides, as is evident, I have problems placing the photographs--they rarely go where I indicate and where I'd like. I'm going to work on Picasa again and see if I can do a better job than just clicking on the 'Image' icon on the toolbar.

Disappointing news was to learn that knitting will no longer be taught in the elementary schools on Shetland. Although knitting is still very important to the islands, there is an age group of young women who, although they know how to knit, do not or do very little. The economy of Shetland has changed greatly since the development of North Sea oil; before that they saw how hard their mothers and grandmothers worked (as a necessity) to produce complicated Fair Isle and Shetland lace projects, for very little compensation.

Consequently, the children on Shetland are not likely to gain knitting skills when they are young. The members in the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers work very hard to foster the traditions and to raise funds for a museum of their own. However they are all getting older (as are we all!) and it is difficult to attract younger members as many have full-time jobs, are looking after aged parents or have young children at home. I feel I can speak for all those who have come on the tours, that a visit with the guild members is one of the enduring high points of our travels. I have renewed my subscription to the Guild newsletter and really look forward to when one arrives. The membership secretary is Jennie Bradley and she can be reached by email at:

This week I received an e-newsletter about Shetland Hamefarin (Homecoming) which took place in June of this year. Have a look at:

Recently, I phoned to Shetland and was told that the person I had hoped to speak to "had gone to Scotland"! I always find it amusing how Shetlanders do not consider themselves as 'Scots'!

Apologies to those who are waiting for details of the 2011 Scottish Skeins Tour. Please bear with me that I am still waiting for confirmation of the domestic flights. It will be a great trip and I've included some variations in the itinerary from previous years. Please keep checking into my website: and I will be contacting each person on my mailing list as soon as registration is open.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Busatti in Anghiari

A memorable tour for me was our visit to Busatti, a special place for lovers of textiles. Busatti's pledge is "never disown the origins, the taste and the quality". I can confirm that the Busatti/Sassolini families have stayed true to this pledge for over a hundred years! Not only did we get to see the looms weaving the beautiful fabrics, but were privileged to be guests in the private apartment on the top floor of the building with champagne and hors d'oeuvres. We were hosted by a charming Sassolini grandson, Stephano, who graciously answered a number of questions and discussed the challenges of the current global economy.
The image of a small selection of fabrics doesn't do justice to the wide range and exquisite standards of their finished textiles.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Following on....

On the left is a typical photo of Venice and on the right, one of the chandelier which hangs in the lobby of the Giorgione--it's enormous and very intricate. When we (reluctantly) left Venice, we travelled by water taxi along the Grand Canal to the landing where our coach was waiting. Our driver was Elio, who spoke about as much English as I did Italian, but we managed to understand each other. He was a very capable, safe driver.

Our next overnight stop was in Anghiari, a medieval-walled village, where we stayed for five nights. We were met by Mark (an old friend) and Weston who showed us to our apartments. Later, we met at Garibaldi's, a local bar, coffee house and general gathering place in the main square of the village. Giuseppe Dini was there. He is the author of An Adventure in Tuscany, a charming description of both Giuseppe's life both growing up in Anghiari and with suggested travel information and itineraries in the area. The book is attractively illustrated with watercolours by English artist, Dawn Angela.

It is hard to describe Anghiari--a special place which is tucked away in the Tuscan hills. (The village isn't even mentioned in Rick Steves' book, Florence & Tuscany and selfishly, I hope it never becomes too well known.) We had a refreshing 'aperitif' and then walked to our first dinner in the area. I won't go into the details of the delicious meals we had in Anghiari, the surrounding towns and in fact, wherever we travelled. Trust me, no one left hungry or thirsty! Our restaurants were usually small venues, with freshly prepared local food and frequently we were the only ones who weren't Italian.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Back from Italy

I returned from Italy earlier this month and again was reminded why this is one of my favourite countries. I could return again and again! I've taken a lot of photos and will show (just some) of them over the next few posts.

Our tour started in Venice--I don't think there is a more magical city. Although venues like St. Mark's Square and the areas around it were very crowded, fortunately our hotel, the Giorgione, was centrally located, yet tucked away in what was largely a residential area. It didn't take long to walk to vaporetto stops and from the open window of my room, I could hear the chatter of children walking to school. The absence of motorized vehicles gave a special quiet calm to the narrow streets. On our first night, after a reception in the garden of the hotel, with an introduction to Venice and Italy by a local guide, we walked to a nearby restaurant and dinner of delicious local dishes.

Our group spent a memorable dayon the island of Murano . Our guide was Amy, from the American Midwest, who makes her home on Murano and she gave us a unique perspective of what life is like for a North American in Italy. Amy is apprenticing under Luigi, a master craftsman. She took us for a tour of the island, where we visited the workshop of a family of glass blowers. They have carried on a tradition for over a hundred years. It was a privilege to see the distinctive creations, with intricate arms of flowers, curlicues--all in different colours and designs. Hard to believe the artistry!

We also had lunch at a little restaurant where the glassblowers and other locals eat. Another memorable time when we sat out in the garden and ate delicious, freshly prepared local specialities. I am embarrassed to admit that I ended up getting lost after lunch and never did make it back to Amy's and Luigi's studio. I wandered around and admitted I had no idea where I was and ended up just taking a vaporetto back to mainland Venice. (How can anyone get lost on Murano?)