An islander in the Finnish archipelago

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Do you know the largest archipelago in this world is the Finnish one?
I didn’t and I’m glad I had the opportunity to discover some of its hidden gems few days ago.
I was invited to explore the area between Helsinki and Turku with Lance Henderstein for the Tour de Relax hosted by Visit Finland.
We met in my beloved Helsinki together with other photographers and bloggers, we got a car and our tour started.
[This is a play and read post: some songs of the road-trip are in The Finnish Archipelago playlist on Spotify.]

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Day 1 – Turku and Naantali

We arrived in Naantali where we met Marianna from Visit Turku. She gave us all the information we needed to explore the region and to reach the National Park of Ruissalo for the Ruisrock Festival. Check Ricky-Tick Big Band out for some Finnish ska.
Naantali is also the home of the famous Moomin Family! If you have kids stop at the Moominworld, I’m sure they like it!
Where to stayNaantali Spa, Naantali
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Day 2 – Kustavi

We left Naantali to drive towards Kustavi. That night I had one of the best food experience in Finland at Kipina Pop-Up Restaurant. Look at this dessert as a sneak peek of the dinner prepared by chef Petteri Luoto.
Pekka Kuru, the owner of Kipina is also organising the Food and Fun Festival in Turku this October.
Where to stayPeterzens, a family owned boathouse complex. Leontina took care of us and we had the pleasure to chat with her and her young son. We watched the Euro 2016 Final match in the bar – food is also really good! – with other guests, Leontina’s brother and his golden retriever. Of course, thanks to my other love for the Iberian Peninsula I cheered on Portugal!
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Day 3 – Kustavi and Iniö

After breakfast we visited the Kustavi Artisan Village. Essi and her newborn, Felix, showed us what her parents built years ago: a villages dedicated to art and crafts with workshops, and I shaped my first pottery… Well, at least I tried! Her salmon soup made me forget about the rain.
In the afternoon we paid a visit to a weird building we saw on our way to Kipina Restaurant: Art Teatro.
If you want to challenge yourself and see how acrobatic you are, that’s your place!
We got on the last ferry to Iniö and we arrived at our Bed and Breakfast, owned by the very kind Tapani and Satu. A quick dinner and then the first and deserved sauna!

Where to stayBergshagen, Iniö
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Day 4 Houtskär and Korpo

Satu leaded us to the ferry, we arrived in Houtskär, had lunch in Näsby and then we reached our final destination of the day, the island of Korpo.
William, who is also the chef at Hotel Nestor, welcomed us in his Bed and Breakfast.
Some ribs for dinner – they say Buffalo Restaurant is the place if you look for meat on bones. I won’t disagree!
Where to stayHotel Nestor, Korpo

 

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Day 5 Korpo and Nagu

An early morning wake up call to meet Linnea. She lives in Korpo and with her, we walked the Barefoot trail in Retais – walking distance from Hotel Nestor – a path to discover art hidden in the woods – and the island of Korpo.
A lunch perfectly prepared by William, who is young but already talented and then off to Nagu.
In Nagu we visited Margot Wikström, a strong woman who quit her bank job to follow her dream of growing berries. Her farm, Tackork, is wonderland to me, and for the first time in my life I tried the Saskatoon berries – where can I find them in Italy?!? With this dilemma I ate a salmon soup right before having a hot Sauna.
Where to stay Stallbacken, Nagu.

 

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Day 6 Nagu

After breakfast, a stop at the farmers market to eat more saskatoon – ah! – and then we tried the famous Köpmans pike burger. Famous because it was good for real!
Patrik and his friend Veera joined us because – oh mamma! – Patrik was filming us for a short video about the Tour de Relax. And yes, we were so relaxed we missed our ferry to Pensar Syd where we were supposed to meet Eva and Petter the owners of the islands for a day of foraging into the wild. We have to come back, for sure.
Instead of discovering the natural delicacies of that tiny island, we tried to fish in the Baltic Sea, and we got… tons of seaweed!

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Day 6 Pargas

A new day for our final destination before going back to Helsinki: Pargas.
Minna at Sattmark, a building from the XIX century, made a delicious fish and chips and a fish plate for lunch. We already knew it was raining a lot, but what we didn’t know was that we were going to meet the reincarnation of Salvador Dalì himself that the afternoon!
Ted Wallin is an entrepreneur who opened Art Bank, a private exhibition of the Catalan artist and an art gallery featuring young artists. He is going to build in the city center a new place which architecture is inspired by – of course – Dalì!
With surrealist visions in my mind I drove back to the beautiful Villa Reuter. Sauna, hot tube and a dive in the Baltic Sea after a pike perch and chanterelle mushrooms dinner along with a couple of cold beers home-brewed by Patrik and Eva, made that night the perfect end for this journey.
Where to stay Villa Reuter

 

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With eyes full of the summer Finnish light and bellies dreaming about those berries, it’s time to return to Helsinki and saying good bye to this magic country. Once again, hope to see you soon, Finland.
Kiitos

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lauraAn islander in the Finnish archipelago

I am from Sicily

 

Catania Pescheria

Last April, on a tour to discover Mantua, I met the young but already talented Hal Davis and he noticed I’m so proud of my birthplace I keep saying “I am from Sicily”.

Finally, few weeks ago, after 6 months, I came back to Catania for a week of food, volcanic ash, friends, sea breeze, family and wine.

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Thanks to Il Picciolo Etna Golf for the hospitality.
Images shot with Sony A7R

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lauraI am from Sicily

Helsinki Secret

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Helsinki, what’s your secret?

To be honest, I always dreamt about travelling to Finland.

Last October I posted on Facebook something like “I’d like to go to Lapland and visit Santa Claus”. Georgette sent me this direct message “I thought you might like to apply for this… Helsinki Secret Residence“. I did – because she was totally right! – and few weeks later Elisabeth from Visit Helsinki wrote me back to give me the great news.

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Last March, I spent 10 days in Helsinki to experience the city, the local lifestyle and to discover some of the best secrets in town together with my friend and colleague Lance.

The first secret is her, Elisabeth. She is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met.
Well, all the Finnish people we met are really nice and friendly – as you probably would not expect from Nordic people, but they are great!
I was there the week of my birthday. Elisabeth hosted a private dinner with Chef Joona Lehto and Markus Veikkolainen from HelEats and I’m glad Jerry, Kea and Kathrin joined us!

The second secret is the residence itself, Aallonkoti. The apartment was cozy and with everything we need for living and enjoying the city like locals do, sauna included!

The third secret is the food scene, but I’m not sure I already want to share everything about that :-)

The best way to discover the Finnish food culture is to grab a ticket to Helsinki and explore the city on your own. We had the pleasure to travel with Finnair –  and drink coffee in my favorite Marimekko cups.
The last not-so-secret news is that they have €uro and also for this reason, compared to the other Scandinavian capitals, travelling to Finland is not so expensive.

Looking forward to come back soon, Finland. I still have a date with Santa!
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lauraHelsinki Secret