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

A Day at the Zoo

I don’t think I had been to the zoo in at least ten years, so my friend and I decided it was the perfect day trip for the Summer holidays! Our local zoo, Colchester, has recently been rated 2nd best in the UK and 11th best around the world! It is home to over 270 species and is set in 60 acres of parkland and lakes. The zoo partakes in many different breeding and conservation programmes and helps to protect threatened and endangered species.

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It has changed a lot since I went there as a little girl and has some fascinating new animals such as the adorable Red Pandas and the Sun Bears! We had a lovely day exploring the zoo, I even fed an elephant and a giraffe! We managed to catch a picture perfect moment when two sea lions had a cheeky kiss as they passed over our heads in the sea lion tunnel and saw two lions hugging! So sweet!

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I also posted this photo in my last ‘Things I Love Sunday’ post – but I just love it, so I am including it again!

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This is one zoo I would definitely recommend, not only for the animals and the awards it has won, but for all their efforts in helping to improve animal welfare standards, research work and education programmes. Hope you enjoy some of my photos!

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Have you been to Colchester zoo? What is your opinion of zoos? Do you a favourite zoo or animal park? What is your favourite animal?

Anna

Things I Love Sundays

Good evening all!

It has been another busy but lovely week at home and we finally had some sun! I even managed to do a little sun bathing! I have a lot planned for this coming week and am working on loads of new posts! I am trying to start posting more frequently and regularly from now on so keep an eye out!

What has been making me smile this week?…

  Full rainbows in the sky after a rainy afternoon Trip to the zoo, seeing sea lions kiss, lions hugging, feeding an elephant and a giraffe Walks in the countryside – Playing pooh sticks in the River Stour with my friends (who remembers this game?)   Seeing the utterly amazing ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night time‘ at the Gielgud theatre in London Spontaneous invitation to a Golden wedding anniversary celebration Late night baths and listening to Classic FM Staying up late with my Grandma and laughing our heads off – And my cousin giving birth to a beautiful baby boy!! Lots to celebrate this week! – 

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Hope you all have a great week!

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

 

Things I Love Sunday

Why does the Summer always go so fast? I have already been home for two weeks and I will be heading back to Milan and work at the start of September! However, for now I am so happy to be in England, relaxing, catching up with old friends and enjoying the great British Summertime…..hahaha!

So here is what I have been loving this week…

Walks in the wood Games night with friends and being a pro at playing Taboo  Trips to London with my Dad and his history lessons on the Tudors in the National Portrait Gallery Buying pretty postcards Audrey Hepburn portrait exhibition  Reunion with my house mates from University and it feeling like we hadn’t spent a week apart, let alone three years! Wandering aimlessly around London’s canals Peppermint tea  Listening to Lady Gaga on repeat

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Tower Bridge as the sun was starting to go down

What have you loved this week?

Happy Sunday evening!

Anna

The Allure of Audrey

For as long as I can remember I have adored Audrey Hepburn. Even before watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s for the first time, I was drawn to her timeless beauty and grace and watching her films only made me admire her more. Whether playing Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, Sister Luke in The Nun’s Story or Regina Lambert in Charade she brings such elegance and intrigue to every character.

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Taken by Cecil Beaton for Vogue in 1964 New York

I love how expressive her face is, those famous eyebrows, her glistening eyes and magnificent bone structure…she would have made a marvellous actress in the silent movie era! A trained ballet dancer she moves with ease across the screen and brings style to every role, whether dancing in Funny Face, singing in Breakfast at Tiffany’s or playing a runaway Princess in Roman Holiday!

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A still from Funny Face, taken by Richard Avedon in 1957

Not only was Audrey Hepburn a true Hollywood Star, she was an incredibly talented woman and spoke English, Dutch, French, Spanish, German and Italian! She had that true star quality but also the ‘common touch’ in the sense that people could relate to her in all she had been through both on screen and in her, at times rather tragic, private life.

Towards the end of her life, Audrey dedicated a lot of her time and energy to being a UNICEF Goodwill ambassador and helping impoverished children across the world.  She travelled to many countries including Somalia, Ethiopia, Turkey and central America on UNICEF missions and whilst she must have found it completely devastating to see such sadness across the world, she was very passionate about her humanitarian work and if you have seen any images of her on these trips, you can see how personal it was for her.

“Often the kids had flies all over them, but she would just go hug them. I had never seen that. Other people had a certain amount of hesitation, but she would just grab them. Children would just come up to hold her hand, touch her – she was like the Pied Piper.” (John Isaac – UN photographer).

This star quality that I have talked about and the ‘Audrey Hepburn Allure’, is still ever present and is bringing large crowds to the current Audrey Hepburn Portaits of an Icon exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, running until the 18th October. I first heard about the exhibition before Christmas and was so excited to see it! My Dad and I booked train tickets to London on Wednesday but stupidly didn’t check first we could get tickets to see the exhibition, then found they weren’t available on-line or  via telephone! But after a sprint across London to the Gallery we managed to get in without problems…panic over! I was surprised by the size of the collection of portraits and a little disappointed that there weren’t more photos from her private life (as the exhibition was curated with collaboration from her family), however it was still highly enjoyable and had some beautiful images, including movie stills, magazine covers and backstage photos. I am very grateful we managed to get tickets and that I didn’t miss my opportunity to see her – we had just finished, when someone set off the fire alarm and we all had to be evacuated! Never a dull moment!

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This was one of my favourite images from the exhibition, Audrey with her fawn shopping for groceries…as you do!

Have you been to the exhibition? What did you think? What do you admire about Audrey?

Personally I admire her modesty, her wonderful child like sense of fun and her compassion for other people…I can’t think how to describe it better, but she really does have an allure, a magical, star quality.

“If I’m honest I have to tell you I still read fairy-tales and I like them best of all.” (Audrey Hepburn)

Now I really must go as I feel an Audrey Hepburn movie marathon coming on, but I leave you with a fellow daydreamer, singing the perfect daydreamer song…

Anna

 

Things I Love Sunday

I have decided to start a ‘Things I love’ feature, which will be a regular Sunday post! It is such an easy way to appreciate and be thankful for the small things in life and remember all the little things from the past week!

So without further ado, Things I love this week…

Being home with my family Catching up with family and friends Endless cups of tea and biscuits Relaxing bubble baths Being woken up by my dog Popping candy ice cream Seeing a clear sky of stars at night Dinner with friends – Poached egg on toast with crushed avocado and chorizo  Singing at the top of my voice with my Mum as we drive along with the roof down Long train journeys, visiting my cousin and the chance to read George Orwell’s Animal Farm in one day Skype dates with my friend in Milan – 

What are you thankful for this week?

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I took this today in Norfolk, it was a beautiful day in the countryside!

Have a great week ahead everyone!

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

10 Random facts about myself!

Hello everyone! I am writing this post from England as I am finally back home for the Summer with my family and friends! I left the sweltering heat in Milan and hopped on a plane to Stansted, to be pleasantly surprised by the weather here.  Not at all as cold and rainy as I was expecting!

I thought I would write a slightly more personal post as being home surrounded by lots of pictures and memories makes you a little sentimental. So I am going to tell you all 10 random facts about myself, so you can get to know me a little better!

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  1. Whilst at University, I joined the polo club and played (or at least tried to learn to play) polo. I don’t think I am a natural, but I absolutely love riding and have ridden since I was young.
  2. I have taken and passed Grade 6 in both piano and flute.
  3. In 2001 I performed in a variety show at the London Palladium, with my old Dance School. We performed two modern dance numbers, one to Geri Halliwell’s ‘It’s raining men’ and one to Elvis Presley’s ‘Jailhouse Rock’! For which, we wore amazing 50’s style dance skirts! They were great for twirling around in!
  4. I have a rescue dog – a Staffordshire Bull Terrier called Robbie!  My Dad, brother and I chose him from about ten staffies we met at a Kennels in Essex. He was originally called Diesel until the Kennel staff renamed him.10570208_887293894643325_1281618656_n
  5. My favourite food is Jacket Potato! Or to be honest any type of potato! I just love them!
  6. Whilst at college, I was an extra in a film about the notorious Witch Hunter Matthew Hopkins. I was in three scenes, including the hanging of three witches, where I had to throw handfuls of mud at the women convicted of witchcraft!
  7. I can speak Italian and am re-learning German. (Unfortunately since I started learning Italian I lost a lot of my German).
  8. My favourite author is Charles Dickens! I have every book he wrote and countless books on his writings and his life. I even combined my love for Dickens and Italy for my dissertation in my final year at University, writing about his relationship with Italy, through his travel writing and the novel ‘Little Dorrit’.  He was also, interestingly, a great supporter of the Italian Unification.
  9. Although I live in a city and love city life, I am a true country girl at heart and find that the smells, sights and sounds of the Essex countryside are so relaxing and beautiful. It is where I feel most at home.
  10. My favourite film (or at least one very high on my list) is Shawshank Redemption. I love the way the film is narrated and the beautiful sentiment in the most memorable quotes from the film.

 – I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice. But still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they’re gone. I guess I just miss my friend. – 

These are just a few random musings about myself, which I hope you have enjoyed! If you feel like it leave me a random fact about yourself below! I would love to know something about you!

I have lots of posts planned for the next month and am looking forward to a busy summer or fun and writing!

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