What's new in Italian travel

The gastronomic capital of northern Italy is to gain its first air link from the UK on Friday, when Ryanair (0906 270 5656; www.ryanair.com) starts flying from Stansted to Parma. The home of Parmesan cheese and superb ham is also a cultured and beautiful city - its signature structure being the octagonal baptistry, eight centuries old and built of pink marble. The Stansted-Parma service will operate four times a week. Ryanair has also returned to the Stansted-Lamezia Terme route, flying three times a week to the southern province of Calabria.

Warning of the week: transport disruption

Italian air traffic controllers are expected to strike today between noon and 4pm, which could cause big problems for airlines and travellers. Baggage handlers in Bologna may strike for 24 hours on Monday, 27 March; carrying hand luggage only would be a good strategy. The dispute will not affect Forli airport, which Ryanair describes as "Bologna" even though it is 20 miles to the east.

Italian State Railways English-language website has a "news on strikes" link. At present, that leads to a blank page, but travellers face possible overcrowding on trains around the impending elections. Italians are entitled to a 60 per cent discount for journeys to vote, and many of them are likely to combine the trip with seeing friends or family.

Bargain of the week: Milanese connections

BA Connect, the new no-frills subsidiary of British Airways (0870 850 9 850; www.ba.com), plans to fly to Milan Malpensa from London City airport from 2 May. A fare of £88 return is available, even for peak dates.

For only £2 more, you can fly from Manchester to Malpensa and back - just £90 return on off-peak days/flights. BA Connect also serves Malpensa from Birmingham (£116 return).

Simon Calder