A Weekend in Venice

I consider myself very lucky that I have been able to visit Venice on a number of occasions, a few times just for the day and a couple of times for the weekend! But I find that every time I go, I discover something new and find beauty and magic in the city. Whether it be visiting the Basilica, stumbling upon a second hand bookshop – stuffed to the brim with quirky and unusual books or going for a Venetian Rowing lesson, there is always some new adventure to be had or something to be experienced.

Last weekend was no exception! I met my friend on the Saturday at Casa Caburlotto, a Convent situated very close to the main railway station, where we would be staying. The convent is run by the Suore Figlie di San Giuseppe del Caburlotto and we had found it on the website Monastery Stays, which my father has seen written about in the Guardian and suggested we checked out.  Expecting all the properties to be completely booked up at such short notice, we were pleasantly surprised to find that Casa Caburlotto had availability!  Monastery Stays, may not be for everyone, but I found it perfect for our weekend in Venice. The rooms were very simple, but extremely clean, with excellent, friendly staff and the  breakfast was typical of Italian hotels -croissants, cereal, bread, cake, yoghurt, coffee and juices! There was a small chapel and a pretty inner courtyard.  It was only half an hour walk to Piazza San Marco, which was great as we didn’t have to take any water taxis or ferry’s the whole weekend! The only thing is there was a curfew of midnight, but for us that was fine, as we were exhausted from all the walking – after which, I slept so well! It was very peaceful at the Convent and had a lovely calm atmosphere!

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Casa Caburlotto, built in the 17th Century – the congregation was established in 1850 and founded by Monsignor Luigi Caburlotto.

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The building had really interesting heads on the exterior…all slightly weird and wonderful!

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The garden area was very tranquil and tended to by the Nuns. I wish I had taken more pictures inside the Convent, but you can check some more out on the Monastery Stays website.

Saturday we spent wandering around Venice, getting lost and discovering tiny streets and pretty bridges, as well as amazing macaroon and chocolate shops!  We ate extremely well over the weekend and found on both the Saturday and Sunday, lovely restaurants filled with Italians (which is always a good sign) away from the main tourist areas. On Sunday we went up the Campanile di San Marco for some amazing photo opportunities and visited the Ca’Rezzonico, a museum of 18th Century Venice, set in a beautiful palace with some of the most incredible chandeliers I have ever seen! I will be sharing photos from both of these later in the month, as well as my top tips for visiting the city!

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The houses in Venice have strange and intriguing door knockers! Keep an eye out for them…I have spotted all sorts, heads, lions…

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This boat yard was opposite a great place we found for a glass of prosecco and crostini, which are pieces of bread topped with delicious things, such as aubergine and smoked cheese, pesto with mozzerella and tomato or smocked mackerel! It was packed with Venetians and was super cheap, I’m talking €2.50 a glass of prosecco! Look out for Osteria Alsquero!

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Have you visited Venice? Did you discover any hidden gems?  What did you think about the city? I would love to hear!

Anna

 

Meet me in Venice…

How can you refuse when a friend asks you to meet them in Venice? You simply cannot and so I find myself heading there for the weekend, rather spontaneously! We decided I think on Sunday evening! My friend, whom I lived with whilst at University, is living in Dubai, but has popped over to Europe for the week and as our meet ups are now spread so far apart from one another, they are even more special! So I am super excited!

This will be my second trip to the city this year, as I went to meet another friend from University there in March, when we ended up going for a Venetian Rowing lesson which you can read about here and I attended a talk by Art Historian and presenter of the BBC’s Italy Unpacked Andrew Graham-Dixon. The talk you can also read about here.

I am not sure what we have planned for this weekend, but I am sure we will end up having an adventure or two! The first, shall be finding one another…I don’t think I have ever visited Venice, without getting a little lost!

I am looking forward to my train journey as I can read some more of Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, which is the first book I am reading for my Read Around the World feature! More to come on that soon, but you can read my first post here and I am still looking for suggestions of other books, from each country around the world! So let me know if you have any!

For now, I must pack, as I am prone to leaving things to the last minute! Only thing is, I am at a loss as to what to take! This week has been a disaster weather wise, Wednesday was 13 degrees, stormy and rainy (I even wore wellies!), Thursday and Friday 23 degrees and sunny! It makes my head spin all this weather changing…but the forecast says it should be nice, so fingers crossed!

Have a great weekend everyone!

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A picture I took of San Marco from the water taxi back in March

Anna

Back in Milan – Things I Love Sundays!

Ciao da Milano!

I am back in Italy after the summer and back at work.  So things have been a bit busy this week, what with my birthday, packing, flying, unpacking, work…which has meant I haven’t done much writing!  However, I plan to get myself more organised this week and get back on track!

So I will make it short and sweet! It is nice to be back and getting into a routine again, but I am already missing all my family and friends. However, as I am writing from a cold and rainy Milan today, I could be tricked into thinking it is England!

This week I have been loving…

Amazing chocolate birthday cake my Mum made me! Delicious! My suitcase weighing exactly 20kg at the airport (Phew! – No excess baggage costs! I am still to learn the art of packing light!) Starting My Best Friend by Elena Ferrante for my Read Around the World feature…I am already hooked!  Speaking and hearing Italian again Catching-up with my friends Dinner and drinks for my birthday Sunday brunch with my friend Grace Wandering around Milan Making plans and predictions for the year ahead!

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Eggs benedict at brunch today – with Green peach and mango tea! We went to Living by the Arco della Pace – one of my favourite places for brunch and they also do a great aperitivo and delicious cocktails!

I hope you all have a wonderful week ahead!

Now Milan…where is the sunshine I have been dreaming of whilst I was away…..

Anna

 

Read Around the World

As a Literature Graduate, I am obviously very passionate about books and reading. During my school years and my degree I was always reading some book or other, whether for pleasure or for educational purposes. At school I was fascinated by William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, whilst at college I loved studying Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. Then at University I particularly enjoyed Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and fell in love with the works of Charles Dickens, who is now my favourite author. I have every one of his books, as well as many texts on his life and works. I love how very descriptive his works are and how he creates these fantastic, often slightly mad characters.  I also have always loved learning about the Victorian period, as I find it a particularly interesting era.  Dickens’ Victorian England fascinates me.

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Inside an old school house, now transformed into a quirky second hand book shop in Whistleton, Suffolk! I visited this week for a browse!

I graduated with a joint Literature and Italian degree and whilst studying, often opted for the literature modules in Italian too. We studied Dante’s Divine Comedy and on my Erasmus year in Italy I also completed an Italian Literature module.  Furthermore, for my Literature dissertation I combined my love for Charles Dickens and my passion for Italy, by writing about his relationship with the country and support for the Italian Unification.

Unfortunately, since leaving University and moving to Milan, the amount of time I spend reading has definitely declined and it shamefully took me over a year to read Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit! However…through work I have read countless children’s books – The Gruffalo anyone?!  But this year I am determined to start reading more again and have already made my way through quite a few books!

I tend to read a lot of Classics, but my Dad has just given me My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante.  Ferrante is an Italian novelist (under pseudonym) who was born in Naples and is the author of The Neopolitan Novels. I hadn’t heard of her before, until recently when my Dad mentioned an article he had read in The Guardian newspaper, listing authors and novels from ‘Around The World’ and this idea that we can read our way around the world! Anything he reads about Italy he usually tends to pass on to me and unbeknown to me, he had ordered me her fist Neopolitan Novel, My Brilliant Friend.

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With the arrival of the book, I decided to do a little research about this ‘Read Around the World’ idea and have found that it is quite a popular concept and some people even base their blogs around it!

So, I have decided to do my own version of reading around the world, starting with Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, which is the story of two best friends growing up in 1950’s Naples. Where better to start my reading journey than Italy?? The book and author have received a lot of acclaim and I am excited to start reading it and then eventually to review it on here!

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My question to you all then is, can you recommend any books to me, for any country in the world? They must be written by a native to that country, but apart from that I am open to any suggestions! Then I will make a list and hopefully over time make my way through it, reviewing and keeping you up-to-date on here!

Is anyone completing this challenge at the moment? Do you have any recommendations? What do you all like to read? I would love to hear!

Happy weekend to you all!

Anna

Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life: Expo 2015 Milan

Milan is currently playing host to Expo 2015, ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life‘. The very first Universal Exhibition took place in 1851 in London at the forefront of industrial growth and was titled  ‘The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations‘ or ‘The Great Exhibition‘ – less of a tongue twister!  This famous World Fair brings together countries and nations from all over the world, to showcase and discuss Culture and Industry.  The development of the World Fair can be divided into three principle eras, starting with the era of Industrialisation, moving on to the the era of  Cultural Exchange and now the era of Nation Branding.

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The Great Exhibition 1851, Crystal Palace, London

The 1851 exhibition which took place in Victorian London was at the heart of Industrialisation and the fairs during this era, focused heavily on showcasing new and exciting developments in Science and Technology from around the world.  The era of Cultural Exchange no longer focused on technology, but instead was based on cultural themes and upon exchanges of innovative ideas to help us move towards a better future for our society. The era of Nation Branding provided countries with a platform to improve their national image, by creating impressive pavilions.

Milan Expo 2015, is a combination of each of these eras. With over 140 countries taking part, they are able to each show the best their country has to offer in terms of new technologies, whilst also trying to provide answers to the question of how can we ensure that everyone the world over, has access to healthy, safe and sufficient food, while respecting the planet itself.  Not an easy question, but one which is so very important, as even today there are still people suffering the world over from famine and poverty.

With thousands of events organised over the six months of the Exhibition, they hope to create the opportunity to exchange ideas and solutions for a more sustainable planet. Some people have questioned whether an event sponsored by corporate giants such as Coca-Cola and McDonald’s can really be taken seriously when discussing sustainability and healthy living and there has been a lot of people against Expo for various reasons, including corruption (this is Italy after all).  There were even riots after the opening night of the fair, which I wrote about here.

However, surely the important thing is that we are made to consider and discuss these issues and that events like this create funds and awareness for the problems they are hoping to solve? Yes, maybe the money spent on building the pavilions and all the events organised could have gone directly towards aid and helping people who are suffering, but then it can be argued that each  Expo leaves a lasting legacy, not only for the country it is held in, but for the issue it addresses. ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life‘ – will hopefully make us think about our relationship with the planet, the land and the food it provides us with. Essentially, if we don’t take care of our planet, we won’t have food or energy for the future and the Planet and its inhabitants will suffer.

When I started writing this post, I didn’t really intend for it to have such a serious tone to it, but I think it is an important theme and I had read quite a lot about this years Expo as well as its history. I think it is a great event and has amazing potential to influence many people.  You can see that by the number of people who have visited already!

Unfortunately, I have only been once so far and that was on an evening ticket, which is so convenient and only 5 Euro. However I plan to visit in September and October a few more times and hopefully for a full day too!

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If you are visiting prepare to walk, queue for individual pavilions and be utterly exhausted by the end of it! My friend and I had completely underestimated the sheer size of the place and for me this was one of the most exciting and impressive aspects. There is a main ‘walkway’ running through the middle with pavilions either side for each country. They vary greatly in size, some quite simple and understated, others elaborate and distinctive. There are, of course, as the theme is centred around food, endless opportunities to  try all sorts of cuisine from all around the world. There are musical acts, fabulous costumes and I found the smells, sights and sounds so enticing!

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The pavilion for Germany

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The Chinese pavilion – which I haven’t yet been in, but admired from the outside!

We visited relatively few of the pavilions, which is why I must go back again, but we did make it to Korea, England, Germany, Qatar, Morocco and America.  Each pavilion features information about things such as their farming methods, food production, culinary traditions and sustainability and technology within their country. Some provide lots of really interesting information, such as Qatar and Morocco, while others seemed a little vague, for example (and I feel bad saying this) England. The concept of England’s pavilion was lovely, you enter through a zig-zag meadow and see an amazing structure built to represent a bee hive, but there wasn’t much information and what information there was, wasn’t represented in the most interesting way.

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England’s pavilion

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Looking up at the dome of the English pavilion

We had some great food, sushi from the Korean pavilion and vegetable curry from Morocco, plus there was free water throughout the site (both still and sparkling) which was a great bonus.

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Mock spice market stall outside the Qatar pavilion

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Table of traditional food inside the Qatar pavilion

By far, however, my absolute favourite thing, was the Tree of Life! If you go, you must stay to see the light show in the evening, as it was stunning! I stood mesmerized watching the tree light up perfectly in time to the soundtrack, water sprouting up peacefully…it was as if the tree and the water were dancing to the music! It really was quite magical, I was completely fascinated by it – I will be making sure I see the show again next time I go!

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Have you been to visit? What did you think/enjoy/dislike? What is your opinion about the event? I would love to know what you have to say…or if you have some advice for what to see next time!

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Outside the Moroccan pavilion

Anna

 

Armani Silos: Sophisticated and Sleek

As I mentioned in my recent post on the wonderful Prada Foundation in Milan, the same weekend I also visited the Armani Silos. The building was originally used for food storage, hence the name ‘Silos’ and Giorgio Armani decided to maintain the name, as he explained that for him, fashion is as essential to life as food! The large space  of 4500 square metres is spread out over four floors and the collection exhibits clothes from the 1980’s to today, as well as a digital archive on the top floor.

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The clothes are organised in themes and you start with the Stars and Day-wear section on the first floor, moving upwards to Exoticism, Colour-Schemes and finish with Light and the Digital Archives on the fourth floor.  What I really liked about this layout was that it meant you could see how Armani has been influenced by certain things again and again throughout his career.  They had grouped together pieces, for example from the 80’s and 2000’s which featured similar exotic fabrics and colours,  insects and intricate beading. It was interesting to see how fabrics, cuts and styles have come back into fashion or been updated years later.

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Armani is such an iconic brand and for me is the epitome of style! His designs are so perfectly cut and flattering to the body, minimalist and understated but so chic and elaborate at the same time.  The Stars section of the exhibition featured a video showing the numerous famous faces who have worn Armani throughout its’ history, from Diane Keaton accepting her Oscar for Annie Hall, to Sophia Loren, Richard Gere and Lady Gaga.

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I have a somewhat special love for Armani, as whilst on my Erasmus year in Italy, I completed a six month internship at the company’s production offices in Modena. I was so excited when I was accepted and offered the opportunity, as I absolutely love fashion and it was an experience I will never forget. I learnt a lot and met some amazing people! (Sadly not the man himself!) The main design offices for Armani are of course in Milan and the city is definitely his city! Not only is there the Armani department store, featuring all their lines, as well as a florists, but next door is the Armani hotel! Armani Caffe is a great place too for a light lunch or coffee and cake – they once had an amazing melting chocolate pudding! It was divine! And I have always found the staff in both the Caffe and Department store very friendly and helpful, so don’t be put off by the slightly intimidating style of the place!

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Love this dress! The colours are amazing, so vibrant and I love the delicate embroidery!

Back to the exhibition and luckily for myself and the two friends I went with, Sunday seemed to be a particularly quiet day, so after clearing airport style security, we enjoyed the space almost entirely to ourselves! There were endless members of perfectly groomed and very good looking staff on hand to help…for example when all three of us could not work out how to call the lift…it was too high tech for us! Haha! After we had spent a couple of hours exploring and appreciating all the beautiful clothes, we headed to the Navigli for a walk around the Darsena, before enjoying delicious cocktails at Ugo on Via Corsico.

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Another perfect day in the city!

Anna

A stylish afternoon: Fondazione Prada

I have always had a passion for fashion and have been reading Vogue since I was about fifteen and as you will have seen in my previous posts, I also love going to exhibitions and galleries. So you can imagine my excitement when I found out that two new exhibition spaces were opening in Milan, one the Fondazione Prada and the Armani Silos.  Obviously we expect anything connected to these two iconic brands to be not only luxurious but elegant and stylish. So a couple of weekends ago, a friend and I decided we needed a weekend of culture and to finally visit both spaces.  I will talk more about Armani in another post, but first we headed to the Fondazione Prada in the South of the city.

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The Fondazione (foundation) currently doesn’t feature any fashion exhibitions, but it does have a selection of permanent and temporary exhibits. I was particularly interested in a film interview they were showing with director Roman Polanski, talking about his earliest inspirations and what shaped the future of his film making.  The film was really interesting as it gave a great insight into the process of how Polanski works and how he has incorporated ideas from films, which inspired him as a young film student, into his own movies.  Plus the cinema had the most amazing mustard yellow/greeny velour seats and were super comfy! All that was missing was the popcorn!

We then mooched around the other exhibits, including two floors of Greek and Roman art, which talked about the relationship between originality and imitation of artworks. There was also an exhibit we looked at which explored the link between everyday life and art, however it was slightly too modern for me and I struggled to understand the full meaning of it, despite my friend offering up some rather excellent on the spot interpretations for me! One piece was a burnt out car, covered in neat, uniform lines of cigarettes, which she claimed showed a link between death, smoking and driving! It kind of made sense and maybe she was correct…but there wasn’t enough information available to read so I am not sure!

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If anyone can tell me what this represents? A tar covered car with carefully placed white feathers!?

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This is the burnt out, cigarette covered car I mentioned! Any ideas?

However, my favourite thing about the whole Fondazione Prada was the architecture. It is on the site of an old distillery dating back to the 1910’s and during transformation of the site they kept some of the original buildings and added in three new spaces; an exhibition pavilion, a tower and a cinema.  Each building is so different from the last and all built using different materials and colours. It was really quite fascinating and oddly beautiful. The juxtaposition of materials and architecture styles has created a space which you want to explore and I found myself touching all the walls and taking my time to appreciate each building from the floors to the ceilings.

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I would really like to live in a gold tower!

Furthermore, there is a charming bar (with delicious panini and iced espresso!!) designed by the director Wes Anderson. It also is a slight mismatch of colours and textures and was designed in the style of a historic Milan Café with features evocative of the 1950’s and 1960’s. For me, it brought to mind a mixture between an old Parisian Café and an American diner (sorry Wes if that wasn’t your intention)!

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I really love sitting in busy Café’s and listening in on lively conversation between friends, accompanied by the clink of cutlery and glasses and the smell of fresh coffee.  There is something so intriguing about the sounds, smells and atmosphere it all creates and of course I love watching all the well dressed Italians coming to and fro for a quick espresso at the bar or a glass of prosecco!  I read that Wes Anderson said about the bar, “While I do think it would make a pretty good movie set, I think it would be an even better place to write a movie.” I can see what he means…I intend to return more than once – even if just to sit and drink a coffee and indulge in some people watching!

Anna