Lapland, peaceful Finland

I know, it took me a while to write this post about magic Lapland. I started writing this few weeks ago, but then everyday duties kept me away from just clicking publish.

Only two places in this world I visited so far gave me a real sense of inner peace: Hawai’i and Finland.

I was there at the end of January, a last second trip made possibile thanks to Marco from Mam Press and the wonderful team of Visit Finland – Virpi and my beloved Eva in primis. 

The most fascinating thing of this magic land is the light. Forget about winter, spring, summer and fall. Forget seasons as you know them, there are eight different ones in Lapland and I wish I can go back and spot contrasts between one and the others.

I used to wake up in the dark. Not because I’m an early morning person – I’m not! –  but during that time of the year sunrise is at 9.30am and the light is perfect till sunset at 4.30pm: that light every photographer is looking for! From warm tones in the morning to purple sky in the afternoon.

I was lucky because the weather was really nice and the high was only -15°C instead of -40°C for the season.

Day 1 – Our flight was from Milan to Kittilä via Helsinki. We left in the morning and landed at 7,30pm. A transfer to Olos and a warm dinner at Lapland Hotel Olos – with a private sauna inside the room!

Day 2 – Shower, breakfast, and with all my layers on, we went to Torassieppi, a very small village where I had one of the funniest Lappish experiences: a reindeer safari!
Lunch in the hut – a deer soup, of course – and then off for another safari with huskies. A very cold ride when I thought I was losing my hands and feet – you know, I’m from Sicily – but I survived.
And I’m glad I did because in the late afternoon we had the arctic sauna, and if you are wondering what arctic in this case means,well, it means avanto, the ice hole where you dip yourself in after some minutes in the hot sauna. Finnish people, that was great!!! For the very first time in my life I felt like a living Sicilian granita.
Then, after dinner some weird green lights appeared in the sky: the aurora was there playing it’s magic for us.

Day 3 – Off to Ylläsjärvi right after breakfast. A snowmobile excursion to the Lainio Snow Village, lunch and back to Lapland Hotel Saaga, dinner and some good live music at the Ylläs Jazz Blues Festival.

Day 4 – Imagine a forest skiing excursion in wonderland. What can you spot running in the snow? Alice’s white rabbit! We were totally amazed by the majesty of frozen lakes and that orange, huge, sun.
A once in a lifetime experience.
A walk with snowshoes in the afternoon and our last sauna of the trip in a place called Aurora Estate. A really nice bed and breakfast, cozy and welcoming. A very traditional smoke sauna, where they smoked the reindeer we had for dinner just few hours before our arrival. Food was incredibly good.

Day 5 – Sadly time to fly back. I wish I can enjoy more of Lapland and its magic lights again soon.
Take some notes because there is so much to do: if you have kids, if you are travelling with your partner or if you want to enjoy some time by yourself. It’s a relaxing and fascinating destination for everyone.

Finland is well connected with the world thanks to Finnair and you can book excursions and tours with Safartica or directly at your hotel.
See you soon Lapland, peaceful Finland. It’s always a pleasure.

You can also check the article I published on about this Lappish adventure.

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Faroe Islands – Five reasons to go back

You know, I’m from Sicily. I need warm weather and sea breeze. At least that’s what I thought before start traveling and discovering Nordic countries.
I don’t think I’ve ever finished reading Eat, Pray, Love and probably that’s the reason I barely remember the incipit: her sitting on the floor with the wish to just run until she reached Greenland. Since then there is a joke between me and my friend Giulia that peaceful, quiet and low density countries are synonym of happiness.

I traveled to the Faroe Islands last summer and to fully enjoy the experience I decided to accept Punkt challenge and be offline for 48 hours. It worked! And it was great.
As soon as the plane was approaching Vágar airport tears of joy came down. And as far as I know myself I get moved during take offs and landings only in Sicily and Hawai’i. – Yes, I have this thing for islands… 🙂

Unfortunately, sun was shining only the first day. So, instead of walking and hiking I focused myself on food and beers.
I tried to reserve a table at KOKS but they said it was fully booked, and that was before they won their first Michelin star. So if you are planning a trip to Faroe be sure to check KOKS out weeks before your arrival. I definitely want to go back for sure and try Poul Andrias Ziska’s creations. Reason #1 to go back.

Day 1 Morning flight from Copenaghen to Vágar with Atlantic Airways.
As soon as we arrived we rented a car and drove to Gásadalur. When shooting landscapes in the area a dog led us to an old post office, now home of a nice family who welcomed us inside their place and show us what they produce using local wool. We promised them to go back and say hi before leaving but I got sick on the last day and we missed our promise. Reason #2 to go back. 
In the evening we drove to Klaksvík and spend there the night.

Day 2 – Breakfast at Café Fríða and then off to Tórshavn, the capital city of the Faroe Islands.
If weather is nice take the ferry to Syðradalur, drive to the village of Trøllanes and hike out to the Kallurin lighthouse. Reason #3 to go back.
We drove to Tórshavn and checked in at Hotel Føroyar, then walked down to the city center. A local beer at the Irish Pub and dinner at Barbara Fish House. Few steps from the restaurant up in the hill there is a taxi station where you can get your ride back to the Hotel – truly recommended if you want to pair your food with local beers.

Day 3 – We explored Streymoy Island and then back to the city center for lunch. In the afternoon we were supposed to see a local couple to learn how to cook traditional Faroese food but at the very last moment they couldn’t meet us. Reason #4 to go back. So we got a warm salmon soup in a small restaurant in Søldarfjørður, one hour drive from our hotel.

Day 4 – We met Kári Kristiansen, head chef at Ræst, in the morning to interview him and finally learn more about Faroese food culture, starting from the name of the Restaurant which means fermented.  When you live in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean you need to know how to preserve food, cod or even lamb, and how not to waste anything out of them. Sad to say, but is part of their culture, they also eat pilot whale meat, cut into long thin slices and then dried.
Menu changes depending on the seasons. Reason #4 to go back.

We met no puffins, so the island of Mykines is on my list for the next trip to Faroe. Reason #5 to go back.

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Breakfast in Milan – Three of my favorite places

I’m not an early morning person. I wish I was, but if I have no meetings scheduled I prefer to take my morning slowly. I like to make my coffee and prepare my own breakfast. Enjoy that moment in my kitchen and then start my working day.
But sometimes two is better than one, so after my first breakfast there are some places in Milan where I like to go for “Another coffee, please!”

I selected the three of them that meet my taste: they have both sweet and savory options, so you can get your brioche and do breakfast they way Italians do, or ask for your breakfast sandwich. So these are my recommendations for where to have breakfast in Milan.

Pavè Break
The younger brother of the first bakery opened few years ago. Everything is really good but be sure to try their brioche or croque monsieur.
Via della Commenda, 25, 20122 Milan

Bar Luce @ Fondazione Prada
The bar designed by Wes Anderson for Fondazione Prada. Small sandwiches and rice pudding are my favorites.
Largo Isarco, 2, 20139 Milan

I have different images of this place but focus on this: Stefania is the best pancake maker in Milan. That’s all you need to know!
Via Savona, 2, 20144 Milan

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lauraBreakfast in Milan – Three of my favorite places

Chasing the sun in the Norte Region of Portugal

“Is your first time in Portugal?” I traveled to Portugal twice, both road trips because there is so much to see and explore. In 2007 a quick tour from Vila Nova de Milfontes to Aveiro. Last time in 2014 from Algarve up to Lisbon and – photo tour was published soon after on Food & Wine.
In between I met Nelson Carvalheiro, a really successful Portuguese travel blogger, in London during a photography class with Anthony Webb. We both liked each other work and we stayed in touch since then. Thanks to him I had the opportunity to go back to Portugal this winter: I was looking for some sun but I’ve found lot of food instead!

Day 1 – Matosinhos. If you like me have a passion for art and architecture this is the hometown of Alvaro Siza. A quick walk and then off for a wine tasting at Garage Wines, awarded as the best wine shop in Portugal. As soon as you meet Ivone, the owner, you understand why her garaffeira is so famous. With the best smile she could share with us she explained everything we needed to know about Portuguese wines for that area: from vinho verde to all the different variations of Porto. The good news is she ships abroad!
Right after that, dinner at Eslapanada Marisqueria A Antiga. A minute of silence for me. And sorry in advance to all the vegetarian people who follow this blog. But I come from an island and if you grew up surrounded by the sea, in summer you have sea urchins and bread for merenda because your dad just fished them. So you can understand my excitement when I saw on display fresh seafood straight from the shore. And yes, I tried for the first time percebesor dinosaur feet as Marcela used to call them! So. Good. We stayed at Casa do Godinho and it’s a shame we spent there just one night. I’ll go back, for sure!

Day 2 – The day started with a visit at Conservas Portugal Norte where Claudio led us into a tour to see how fresh fish is turned into cans and shipped worldwide, with a strong attention to quality.
A coffee at L’Kodac before the best lunch we could ask for by Chef Rui Paula at Casa do Cha, designed by Siza.

Day 3 – Póvoa de Varzim
Joseph Flores, from the Ethnography and History Museum was our guide for the day. His passion for his town and his job won us over! We started from the fish market. Meeting Maria Irene was the chance for me to start a new project on instagram I was thinking about in the last weeks #PhotoAudioON.
Off to the coast, a walk in the harbour and then up on the top of the lighthouse. Lunch and off for a visit at the Museum, before a canned fish tasting.

Day 4 – Espinho
A visit at the local museum and then off to Oporto Golf Club, the oldest in the entire Iberian Peninsula. After lunch Sandra Duarte, a local glass artisan welcomed us in her workshop with a good bottle of Porto wine as a perfect auntie would do – and with her smile and skin colors she reminds a lot of my auntie Mirella!
The truth is you cannot leave Portugal without trying Bolas de Berlim, fried donuts filled with custard or… nutella! I had both of them because I’m greedy. And another glass of Porto, please!

Unfortunately we had no time to visit the city of Porto this time and the sun was a bit shy. But I’m pretty sure I’ll go back soon because there is so much more to see, visit and taste!

A special thanks to Turismo do Porto e Norte, all the local Tourism Boards who helped us planning this trip and last but not least Jose Manuel from Madomis Tours.

If you want to know more about Portuguese food, Nelson published The Portuguese Travel Cookbook, perfect to read before planning your trip and right after when you miss some of their delicacies.

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lauraChasing the sun in the Norte Region of Portugal

Bologna, the best food town in Italy

No secrets I like Bologna as no other cities in Italy. It’s small enough to be liveable, people are often smiling and making jokes, food is probably the best one in Italy and their accent is so perfect also Dante Alighieri loved it so much.

Two year ago I published on Food and Wine a small guide with some of my favorite places in this little town in the heart of Emilia Romagna. This week I spent in Bologna, the best food town in Italy – probably! – a couple of days to refresh my memory and eat some good fresh pasta.

A couple of places I’d like to add to my guide
Osteria dell’Orsa – a nice little Osteria to eat some fresh food a good selection of cheeses and piadina
Trattoria Meloncello – the first Trattoria you meet at the end of the walk up to San Luca and then down under its 666 portici. Perfect on a sunny day to enjoy the view of Bologna form the top of one of the hills that surrounds the city.

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lauraBologna, the best food town in Italy