This weekend you can visit Italy’s hidden ‘green heritage’

On June 27th and 28th, Italy's National Trust is inviting visitors to discover some of Italy's lesser-known heritage - outdoors.

This weekend you can visit Italy's hidden 'green heritage'
The gardens of Palazzo Margherita in Bernalda, one of the sites open this weekend. Photo: Fondo Ambiente Italiano (FAI)

This weekend sees a special outdoor edition of the open days held twice a year by the FAI (Fondo Ambiente Italiano), the trust that maintains and manages thousands of heritage sites around Italy, from castles and stately homes to libraries, gardens and lighthouses.

While its spring 'Giornate FAI' usually take place in March, this year they had to be cancelled because of Italy's coronavirus lockdown.

Instead the trust is organising special visits to gardens, terraces and woodlands to help minimise the infection risk.

Visitors will be limited to small groups with staggered entry times, and tours now have to be booked in advance via the FAI website.

Usually the Giornate FAI are a rare chance to see inside properties that are off-limits to visitors for most of the year, but in this case the programme also includes public parks and forests where FAI guides will point out features you might otherwise miss – like the 'secret gardens' tucked inside Rome's Villa Borghese park, or the Borgo Pirelli, a residential neighbourhood built at the start of the 20th century for workers in the nearby Pirelli factories and since engulfed by later developments.

Some visits will also take the form of bike rides, hikes or lessons in botany. The idea is to “bring Italians closer to nature and our landscapes” and promote Italy's “green heritage”, the FAI says.

While the FAI usually asks for donations rather than charging entry, this weekend it's requesting minimum contributions of €3 for members and €5 for non-members to help support the trust after Italy's long lockdown, which kept its sites closed and hurt its finances.

The complete list of more than 200 sites open this weekend in 150 locations around around can be found on the FAI's website.

Booking opened on Tuesday, June 23rd and is open until Friday, June 26th. Some sites or times may be reserved for FAI members, which you can join for an annual fee here.

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German train strike wave to end following new labour agreement

Germany's Deutsche Bahn rail operator and the GDL train drivers' union have reached a deal in a wage dispute that has caused months of crippling strikes in the country, the union said.

German train strike wave to end following new labour agreement

“The German Train Drivers’ Union (GDL) and Deutsche Bahn have reached a wage agreement,” GDL said in a statement.

Further details will be announced in a press conference on Tuesday, the union said. A spokesman for Deutsche Bahn also confirmed that an agreement had been reached.

Train drivers have walked out six times since November, causing disruption for huge numbers of passengers.

The strikes have often lasted for several days and have also caused disruption to freight traffic, with the most recent walkout in mid-March.

In late January, rail traffic was paralysed for five days on the national network in one of the longest strikes in Deutsche Bahn’s history.

READ ALSO: Why are German train drivers launching more strike action?

Europe’s largest economy has faced industrial action for months as workers and management across multiple sectors wrestle over terms amid high inflation and weak business activity.

The strikes have exacerbated an already gloomy economic picture, with the German economy shrinking 0.3 percent across the whole of last year.

What we know about the new offer so far

Through the new agreement, there will be optional reduction of a work week to 36 hours at the start of 2027, 35.5 hours from 2028 and then 35 hours from 2029. For the last three stages, employees must notify their employer themselves if they wish to take advantage of the reduction steps.

However, they can also opt to work the same or more hours – up to 40 hours per week are possible in under the new “optional model”.

“One thing is clear: if you work more, you get more money,” said Deutsche Bahn spokesperson Martin Seiler. Accordingly, employees will receive 2.7 percent more pay for each additional or unchanged working hour.

According to Deutsche Bahn, other parts of the agreement included a pay increase of 420 per month in two stages, a tax and duty-free inflation adjustment bonus of 2,850 and a term of 26 months.

Growing pressure

Last year’s walkouts cost Deutsche Bahn some 200 million, according to estimates by the operator, which overall recorded a net loss for 2023 of 2.35 billion.

Germany has historically been among the countries in Europe where workers went on strike the least.

But since the end of 2022, the country has seen growing labour unrest, while real wages have fallen by four percent since the start of the war in Ukraine.

German airline Lufthansa is also locked in wage disputes with ground staff and cabin crew.

Several strikes have severely disrupted the group’s business in recent weeks and will weigh on first-quarter results, according to the group’s management.

Airport security staff have also staged several walkouts since January.

Some politicians have called for Germany to put in place rules to restrict critical infrastructure like rail transport from industrial action.

But Chancellor Olaf Scholz has rejected the calls, arguing that “the right to strike is written in the constitution… and that is a democratic right for which unions and workers have fought”.

The strikes have piled growing pressure on the coalition government between Scholz’s Social Democrats, the Greens and the pro-business FDP, which has scored dismally in recent opinion polls.

The far-right AfD has been enjoying a boost in popularity amid the unrest with elections in three key former East German states due to take place later this year.