Summer in Sicily

It’s been a while I did not spend any summertime in Sicily, for two main reasons: prices to fly there in August are extremely expensive and everywhere is insanely packed.
Living in Milan for most of the year means I don’t want to spend my time on holiday stuck in traffic and I don’t want to fight with the person next to me at the beach for some more room.
So, my personal piece of advice is keep reading this post to know how I escaped the crowd, but book your flight to get there in spring or fall to enjoy the best from this beautiful island and save some money you can reinvest in food 🙂
Read till the end, where my best recommendation is, but don’t skip there: there is a panino surprise in between!

I landed in Catania early in the morning, the same day my friends, Alessandra and Elena, were flying to Sicily.
I spent some time with my parents and after lunch I joined my companions for a couple of days together: off to Syracuse and Ortygia.
When in Sicily, my only religion for breakfast is granita and brioche, something really hard, I realised, for a non-Sicilian to understand.
The first day we went up north to Augusta to spend a nice day by the pool with some friends and to enjoy a warm sunset at Sbarcatore dei Turchi. Good wine and fresh seafood for dinner in Brucoli.

The day after we drove to San Lorenzo and the Vendicari Nature Reserve. If you are in this part of the island you can also go and visit Noto, a typical Sicilian Baroque town, UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2002.
We already visited the city so we decided to skip it this tipe, and admire the sun going down at dusk in Capo Passero. Marzamemi, a fisherman village, was our choice for dinner.
My personal advice: don’t go to Marzamemi in August. It’s a beautiful and traditional village but really too small to handle the amount of restaurants and people gravitating there in summer. But again, go in late spring or beginning of summer and you’ll be fascinated by Marzamemi and its beauty.
The third day, was the best one if we are talking about food.
A crazy, in a good way, man is running the Caseificio Borderi cheese shop in Ortygia, the island of Syracuse. His name is Andrea and, as he said, he spent his entire life being a cheese maker, and his name was famous only in Sicily. He is now making sandwiches since the last two years and he is renowned in the entire country of Italy. The reason is simply said: these panini are simply delicious. A sandwich with all-inside: fresh cheese – at least 4 different types – fresh herbs and vegetables and, if you are not vegetarian, some charcuterie from his shop.
Wait in line for your turn, he will delight you with jokes and stories while playing with food for making the most appetising panino you can get in Italy. His very patient wife at the counter will surprise you, again in a good way, with the bill.

I left my friends in my hometown, Catania, where I joined back my family. Some quality time with them and my nephew. Days of relax and healthy food. The day the the beach and the night some freshly picked tomatoes and zucchini from the vegetable garden, eggs from my dad’s chicken, and the most amazing shooting star I’ve ever seen while drinking a beer with my parents lying back looking up at the sky.
If you are in Catania and want to try something different go on a hike on Mt Etna – perfect at sunset – and enjoy a glass of Nerello Mascalese wine, or – and that’s my favorite thing to do when there – join Carmelo and his Surf School for a class. Impossibile to be disappointed – unless there are no waves around!

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lauraSummer in Sicily

Discover Antwerp Through Experience… and coffee shops

Antwerp. Between Brussels and Rotterdam. Not that far from Milan but close enough to always say “one day…” without booking my trip.
That day came last March, when I received a call from Jasper, the editor-in-chief of This is Antwerp, inviting me to be part of D.A.T.E. – Discover Antwerp Through Experience – together with some other creatives from Europe. Ending our journey with an exhibition of six of them. Great illustrators, smart people and now friends, after a week together.

DAY 1 – I took an early morning flight with Brussel Airlines from Linate Airport to Brussels. From the airport there is a train to Amsterdam that stops at Antwerp Central Station.
The lovely Astrid was there waiting for me. A quick stop at the Hotel and then we rode our bikes to join the crew. I was so tired for the first two hours, I had no idea how to match names and faces. Sorry guys!
We had lunch at Coffeelabs and, after that, an incredible workshop with Stoffel and An from Kastaar print workshop.
20 minutes for a rapid shower and then off for dinner at Native, a small restaurant using local ingredients to create a really good dinner. Truly recommended.

DAY 2 – Wake up call – literally! – at 8am. A bike tour courtesy of Cyclant to explore and discover the architecture in Antwerp, including the newly opened Harbor House, designed by Zaha Hadid.
Lunch at Brel. Oh mamma, I still dream of their ravioli. Too good to spend time to photograph them!
When you are in Belgium, ça va sans dire, the keyword is beer. A tour inside the local brewery De Koninck was the best way to spend the afternoon before taking a deserved nap.
Moroccan dinner at Bizanaat. Then some sleep. Or maybe beer? 

DAY 3- This was my solo day. After spending the morning with all the other guys, I decided to take some time for myself, exploring the city on my own and discovering some of the best coffee shops in town.
Normo – Really nice location and staff. Their main business is coffee but I’d like them to serve some iced tea without sugar during summer.
CaffèNation – YES! Coffee is really good, and I’m glad I’ve found a place in Milan selling their beans.
St. Vincent – This is the place. It’s a clothing store with a coffee corner inside. It’s so beautiful and cinematographic you can’t resist any single detail.
Kaffeenini – “Do you have any iced tea without sugar?” “Yes, we have strawberry tea” Finally! 🙂 One of that plus a bread pudding with mixed seeds as a refreshment after walking in the heat the entire day.
Dinner was in the beautiful place you can see below: Fosbury and Sons. The location where Josè, Marianna, Dennis, Alessandra, Siggi and Sarah exhibited their works last June.

DAY 4 – A relaxing day before the opening of the exhibition. I walk around the city, visiting the Graanmarkt 13 store, but I’ll try the restaurant for lunch next time I visit Antwerp.
A quick snack at Frites Ateliers, a Belgian fries shop opened by Sergio Herman. His restaurant The Jane is another reason I want to go back soon, being sure to book a table in advance.

DAY 5 – The last day in Antwerp deserves a single blog post all for itself.
Nadia, my travel companion for that day, kindly drove me to a place in the countryside. A mysteriousp place. It’s all about Alex Vervoordt. A really great discovery!

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lauraDiscover Antwerp Through Experience… and coffee shops

One Thousand and One Nights in Marrakech, Morocco

I love to travel and I don’t mind to travel alone. For my birthday this year I was looking for a trip to Marrakech, a place that – according to my friends who’ve been there – you love or you hate. No half measures.
I was searching for flights and Riads when KAYAK reached me out to be part of their #KAYAKHacksMarrakech campaign. Perfect timing!

DAY 1 – I left Milan early in the morning to land in Marrakech right after lunch. It was April and really hot and humid. The keyword is “negotiate” about everything. It’s not easy but it’s part of the Berber culture – so get used to it! A cup of mint tea at La Famille and then a visit to the Bahia Palace, a complex of beautiful buildings and gardens built in the late 19th century. I tried to visit the Saadian tombs but they were just closing to public when I arrived. So I stopped at an herbalist’s place where I learned more about how to mix and match herbs. Do you know rosemary, oregano, thyme and rose flowers together can let you lose up to 4 kg in 10 days? I don’t know if it’s true, but they say so…
Then I met Ahmed who told me more about his culture and Berber traditions and let me take a shot at sunset from his terrace.

DAY 2 – I was pretty tired the first night so I went to bed really early. A good idea because, even if I’m not a morning person, I woke up the day after when everyone was still sleeping and I crossed the city before they opened markets and no tourists were around. I walked from my Riad to Jardin Majorelle – let me say a bit overrated. That blue is incredible and I think I have some good shots in my film camera. Wish me luck when I develop the roll!
After that I tried to walk back to che city center but I met a guy who insisted a lot to lead me into a tannery. He said I was really lucky to experience that because it was the last day of work – I didn’t believe that but bravely I followed him anyway into that stinky place. They give you some mint in case the smell of the leather and some natural colors, like pigeon poop, is too strong.
Weirdly Marrakech reminds me a little bit of Bangkok. I took a cab and I had lunch at Mamounia, and guess what I got? A thai papaya salad!
Some shots around the area and finally off for some rest – did I say it was really hot? – a massage and dinner.

DAY 3 – Breakfast at Café des épices where I tried typical small sweets made with almonds. A visit to the Maison de la photographie, a really nice little museum where you can find some great shots of Marrakech and you can enjoy the city through the eyes of someone else. A stop at Le Jardin for a refreshing drink and I got lost into Norya ayroN shop and her beautiful textiles.
For lunch I had no doubts I wanted to try Nomad, everyone is talking about this restaurant with a beautiful view from its terrace. Between tagine and cous cous I said yes to a vegetarian pastilla, a traditional Moroccan pie stuffed with seasonal vegetables or meat.
The afternoon was all about relax and a special treatment at the riad. I stayed at Riad Les Boungainvilliers in the Medina. The location was perfect because I only used cabs a couple of times. Marrakech is pretty easy to walk, but keep your GPS on, save places in Google Maps so you know exactly where you are when exploring the city on your own.
This journey is in partnership with KAYAK and I’ve honestly found very useful the trip section in their app because it does exactly what I used to do for all my trips. It collects all the informations – flights, hotel and other stuff – in chronological order. Even if you made reservations from different sites, you just send an email to Kayak from the email address associated with you account… et voilà! Everything is there.

My experience in Morocco is also on my instagram feed.


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lauraOne Thousand and One Nights in Marrakech, Morocco

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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lauraFaroe Islands – Five reasons to go back