I have a confession to make. The first time I visited Italy ten years ago, I actually didn’t enjoy it. I was brought along a two-week holiday in Tuscany which included a villa with a swimming pool lost in the Arezzo area and for some reason I did not connect with the country. I was barely 18, was not awaken to its beauty, didn’t speak a word of Italian and in general did not comprehend how lucky I was taking a dip while admiring the winding Tuscan hills. 

Yet, there is one city which atmosphere I was particularly charmed by. 
Siena

Let me put it simply: the city is incredibly harmonious. Its architecture, its narrow streets, the warmth of its stones makes you feel you are out of time and space. It is actually difficult to explain this feeling; maybe it has to do with the size of the city. Smaller than Florence, but still big enough and yet, feels like a village. 


That’s why I wanted to pay it a visit again after spending a few days in Florence this summer. I stayed less than two days overall – but enough to take all the energy the city has to offer in. I do have recommendations however, the bad blogger I am took more snapshots of the city than of restaurants and bars and so cannot illustrate all the good food. (I already take ten minutes on average to sip on a cappuccino when Italians take one second to gulp down their espresso; couldn’t possibly draw my camera and do close-ups at the caffè A. Nannini. Would have felt waaay too judged.)

By the way something to take into account while travelling there, if you don’t have a car: the train station is located quite far away from the centre. As I couldn’t find where the buses were, I just took a taxi to my Airbnb in via Roma. I would learn later that I became part of the Contrada di Valdimontone 🐏, one of the city's neighbourhoods that compete in the famous Palio horse race twice a year. Unfortunately, 2020 not being the greatest year to gather thousands of people in the same place, the two editions occuring on 2nd July and 16th August got cancelled. Each contrada has its own coat of arms - according to the one you belong to, you'll have enemies and allies. Medieval cool.


EXPLORING THE CITY


The first thing I did once I arrived in the indolence of a summer evening, was to head to Piazza del Campo to sit down (and social distance) directly on the main square’s ground – like others do to admire the Torre del Mangia. The crowded restaurants around the seashell-shaped piazza, the music and the sunset made it quite magical. I had a walk around and made the healthy choice of having ice-cream for dinner; can you really resist one of the best gelaterie called NICE? I don’t think so.

So little time to visit a city, and so willing to discover as much as possible: I had the idea of booking a last-minute Airbnb experience tour of the city. I had done so in Florence – bear with me, this post is absolutely not sponsored by Airbnb but if you don’t know any service on-site that organise tours or if you don’t know anybody that could recommend an agency, I would definitely try out the service. Once again, I got on a three-hour long tour alone because of the pandemic and I don’t regret it! I learnt so much wandering around the city in the morning – I would never have lived such an experience with a guidebook.

ALL IN ALL


That day was divided between a morning coffee (colazione al bar) at A. Nannini, the tour, lunch at Osteria Bocon del Prete, a walk around the city, an afternoon coffee on Piazza San Giovanni and a visit to the Cathedral, which has just been renovated and is now open to the public to see its special floors. +1 for the pink marble. Everywhere. 

I would say the particularity of this city is its pride. All major Italian cities and regions do have a strong sense of identity, but I had never come across one such as Siena’s – to the extent that it is almost inward-looking in my opinion. As I talked with the guide and people in cafĂŠs, it appeared quite clear to me that you either belong to the city, which has everything you can hope for, or you don’t (in which case, good luck to you to integrate). I guess this is what makes Siena who she is. 

Although I did not spend a long time there, I hope you will consider popping by if you’ve never seen it - if you have already let me know what your preferred! It is also a great stop before further exploring the Tuscan countryside, such as the Chianti area for the vino and San Gimignano. At least they're on my list.




A Short Visit to Dainty Siena

Sunday, 27 September 2020

,

I have a confession to make. The first time I visited Italy ten years ago, I actually didn’t enjoy it. I was brought along a two-week holiday in Tuscany which included a villa with a swimming pool lost in the Arezzo area and for some reason I did not connect with the country. I was barely 18, was not awaken to its beauty, didn’t speak a word of Italian and in general did not comprehend how lucky I was taking a dip while admiring the winding Tuscan hills. 

Yet, there is one city which atmosphere I was particularly charmed by. 
Siena

Let me put it simply: the city is incredibly harmonious. Its architecture, its narrow streets, the warmth of its stones makes you feel you are out of time and space. It is actually difficult to explain this feeling; maybe it has to do with the size of the city. Smaller than Florence, but still big enough and yet, feels like a village. 


That’s why I wanted to pay it a visit again after spending a few days in Florence this summer. I stayed less than two days overall – but enough to take all the energy the city has to offer in. I do have recommendations however, the bad blogger I am took more snapshots of the city than of restaurants and bars and so cannot illustrate all the good food. (I already take ten minutes on average to sip on a cappuccino when Italians take one second to gulp down their espresso; couldn’t possibly draw my camera and do close-ups at the caffè A. Nannini. Would have felt waaay too judged.)

By the way something to take into account while travelling there, if you don’t have a car: the train station is located quite far away from the centre. As I couldn’t find where the buses were, I just took a taxi to my Airbnb in via Roma. I would learn later that I became part of the Contrada di Valdimontone 🐏, one of the city's neighbourhoods that compete in the famous Palio horse race twice a year. Unfortunately, 2020 not being the greatest year to gather thousands of people in the same place, the two editions occuring on 2nd July and 16th August got cancelled. Each contrada has its own coat of arms - according to the one you belong to, you'll have enemies and allies. Medieval cool.


EXPLORING THE CITY


The first thing I did once I arrived in the indolence of a summer evening, was to head to Piazza del Campo to sit down (and social distance) directly on the main square’s ground – like others do to admire the Torre del Mangia. The crowded restaurants around the seashell-shaped piazza, the music and the sunset made it quite magical. I had a walk around and made the healthy choice of having ice-cream for dinner; can you really resist one of the best gelaterie called NICE? I don’t think so.

So little time to visit a city, and so willing to discover as much as possible: I had the idea of booking a last-minute Airbnb experience tour of the city. I had done so in Florence – bear with me, this post is absolutely not sponsored by Airbnb but if you don’t know any service on-site that organise tours or if you don’t know anybody that could recommend an agency, I would definitely try out the service. Once again, I got on a three-hour long tour alone because of the pandemic and I don’t regret it! I learnt so much wandering around the city in the morning – I would never have lived such an experience with a guidebook.

ALL IN ALL


That day was divided between a morning coffee (colazione al bar) at A. Nannini, the tour, lunch at Osteria Bocon del Prete, a walk around the city, an afternoon coffee on Piazza San Giovanni and a visit to the Cathedral, which has just been renovated and is now open to the public to see its special floors. +1 for the pink marble. Everywhere. 

I would say the particularity of this city is its pride. All major Italian cities and regions do have a strong sense of identity, but I had never come across one such as Siena’s – to the extent that it is almost inward-looking in my opinion. As I talked with the guide and people in cafĂŠs, it appeared quite clear to me that you either belong to the city, which has everything you can hope for, or you don’t (in which case, good luck to you to integrate). I guess this is what makes Siena who she is. 

Although I did not spend a long time there, I hope you will consider popping by if you’ve never seen it - if you have already let me know what your preferred! It is also a great stop before further exploring the Tuscan countryside, such as the Chianti area for the vino and San Gimignano. At least they're on my list.





When you think about Florence, Firenze in Italian. Where does that take you? Let’s say Tuscany. Can you see the orange blossoms and the sun-kissed, cypress-lined avenues winding through the vines yet? You’re probably picturing the beautiful Val d’Orcia, which I unfortunately haven’t had the opportunity to visit this summer. But it is okay. This time, I have preferred to indulge in Tuscan city trips instead – which as you can imagine, was not all bad. First step?


Florence is a renowned city for art and fashion. It is the city of the Renaissance, the perfect destination if you are an art lover. The cultural offer, the beauty of the palazzi and of course its famous churches and piazze, bring you out of time and leave you gasping for air.


During the lockdown, I started to collect art books by TASCHEN – which I would highly recommend – as I wished to bridge the gap I felt I had with art in general. I started with Botticelli and then went on with other classical artists. Soon, visiting Florence’s Uffizi Galleries became a clear milestone I had to reach in my Italy-enthusiast life. Hence why I booked a trip to Tuscany in the middle of a covid-infused summer (and eventually couldn’t go because tickets were sold out, but that’s another story).


After I flew to Pisa from Brussels I hopped on a train to this wonderful city, where I stayed two days. Here are a few bits of my journey. Hopefully it will give you extra ideas if you are planning a trip soon (or as soon as travelling is back to 'normal', and allowed for overseas visitors).




1. Breakfast (colazione) at 

PIAZZA DELLA REPUBBLICA


This piazza is a city reference. Several cafĂŠs surround it, including Caffè Gilli (my personal favourite but closed this summer still because of the crisis) and Caffè Paszkowski, where I enjoyed a tasty cappuccino and a pastry. 

More expensive than the regular Italian coffee place, but the luxury feel and view on the carousel is definitely worth every bite.




2. Art moment at 

PITTI PALACE


So back to this story of wanting to visit the Uffizi Galleries: the museum contains the most beautiful masterpieces of the Renaissance period and is, as a matter of fact, the most visited one in the country. So popular than getting a ticket was difficult even post-lockdown. 

Instead, I discovered the gorgeous Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Gardens. I almost swooned over Stendhal style, overwhelmed by the beauty and art present from the ground up to the ceiling of every room.




3. Fashion indulge at

FERRAGAMO MUSEUM


The city is a love and landmark for international fashion. The Ferragamo Museum is a nice alternative to the Museo della Moda (which I wanted to visit so badly, but closed because of covid) if you are into sustainable fashion. The current exhibiton, Sustainable Thinking, offers insightful views on the future of the industry in this regard.




4. Lunch (pranzo) and wine at 

RISTORANTE TRATTORIA ANGIOLINO


Located Via Santo Spirito, this restaurant was the best place I had lunch at in the city. On the recommendation of influencer Carlotta Rubaltelli, I ventured in there with a couple of new friends without any expectation and was impressed by the very place itself, the professionalism of the waiters and of course, the food. Go for a typical tuscan primo (e.g. pasta) or if you're really hungry, indulge in a secondo (meat-based). You will not regret it. 




5. Roam around the

UNESCO CITY CENTRE


Do I even need to bother telling you why you should lose yourself in the streets of Florence when the whole city centre has been classified a UNESCO site and that beauty can be found wherever you look? From the Ponte Vecchio to the Piazza della Signoria, with an obvious detour to gape in awe while admiring Santa Maria del Fiore and its famous dome, by Brunelleschi... Also go and catch the best view on the Piazzale Michelangelo.






As I was travelling on my own, I also went for a tour of the city (via Airbnb Experiences) and it turned out I was the only one participating because of the health crisis. Here we were, my amazing private tour and I. It provided me with so many historical details, especially when it comes to Santa Maria del Fiore and the Baptistery in front of it - along with extra crusty Tuscan dialect - that I would not visit a new city without doing such a tour now I feel. According to the guide, the rooftop bar of La Rinascente is one of the best places where to have the aperitivo if you are looking for a breathtaking view - it will be on my list next time. 


Next step, Siena. Keep your eyes peeled! 


_

(TASCHEN has also released a photography book called Living in Tuscany, which will make you dream on while peeping into the region’s daintiest villas. It made me dream on for months.)


While Roaming Around Florence

Sunday, 20 September 2020

,


When you think about Florence, Firenze in Italian. Where does that take you? Let’s say Tuscany. Can you see the orange blossoms and the sun-kissed, cypress-lined avenues winding through the vines yet? You’re probably picturing the beautiful Val d’Orcia, which I unfortunately haven’t had the opportunity to visit this summer. But it is okay. This time, I have preferred to indulge in Tuscan city trips instead – which as you can imagine, was not all bad. First step?


Florence is a renowned city for art and fashion. It is the city of the Renaissance, the perfect destination if you are an art lover. The cultural offer, the beauty of the palazzi and of course its famous churches and piazze, bring you out of time and leave you gasping for air.


During the lockdown, I started to collect art books by TASCHEN – which I would highly recommend – as I wished to bridge the gap I felt I had with art in general. I started with Botticelli and then went on with other classical artists. Soon, visiting Florence’s Uffizi Galleries became a clear milestone I had to reach in my Italy-enthusiast life. Hence why I booked a trip to Tuscany in the middle of a covid-infused summer (and eventually couldn’t go because tickets were sold out, but that’s another story).


After I flew to Pisa from Brussels I hopped on a train to this wonderful city, where I stayed two days. Here are a few bits of my journey. Hopefully it will give you extra ideas if you are planning a trip soon (or as soon as travelling is back to 'normal', and allowed for overseas visitors).




1. Breakfast (colazione) at 

PIAZZA DELLA REPUBBLICA


This piazza is a city reference. Several cafĂŠs surround it, including Caffè Gilli (my personal favourite but closed this summer still because of the crisis) and Caffè Paszkowski, where I enjoyed a tasty cappuccino and a pastry. 

More expensive than the regular Italian coffee place, but the luxury feel and view on the carousel is definitely worth every bite.




2. Art moment at 

PITTI PALACE


So back to this story of wanting to visit the Uffizi Galleries: the museum contains the most beautiful masterpieces of the Renaissance period and is, as a matter of fact, the most visited one in the country. So popular than getting a ticket was difficult even post-lockdown. 

Instead, I discovered the gorgeous Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Gardens. I almost swooned over Stendhal style, overwhelmed by the beauty and art present from the ground up to the ceiling of every room.




3. Fashion indulge at

FERRAGAMO MUSEUM


The city is a love and landmark for international fashion. The Ferragamo Museum is a nice alternative to the Museo della Moda (which I wanted to visit so badly, but closed because of covid) if you are into sustainable fashion. The current exhibiton, Sustainable Thinking, offers insightful views on the future of the industry in this regard.




4. Lunch (pranzo) and wine at 

RISTORANTE TRATTORIA ANGIOLINO


Located Via Santo Spirito, this restaurant was the best place I had lunch at in the city. On the recommendation of influencer Carlotta Rubaltelli, I ventured in there with a couple of new friends without any expectation and was impressed by the very place itself, the professionalism of the waiters and of course, the food. Go for a typical tuscan primo (e.g. pasta) or if you're really hungry, indulge in a secondo (meat-based). You will not regret it. 




5. Roam around the

UNESCO CITY CENTRE


Do I even need to bother telling you why you should lose yourself in the streets of Florence when the whole city centre has been classified a UNESCO site and that beauty can be found wherever you look? From the Ponte Vecchio to the Piazza della Signoria, with an obvious detour to gape in awe while admiring Santa Maria del Fiore and its famous dome, by Brunelleschi... Also go and catch the best view on the Piazzale Michelangelo.






As I was travelling on my own, I also went for a tour of the city (via Airbnb Experiences) and it turned out I was the only one participating because of the health crisis. Here we were, my amazing private tour and I. It provided me with so many historical details, especially when it comes to Santa Maria del Fiore and the Baptistery in front of it - along with extra crusty Tuscan dialect - that I would not visit a new city without doing such a tour now I feel. According to the guide, the rooftop bar of La Rinascente is one of the best places where to have the aperitivo if you are looking for a breathtaking view - it will be on my list next time. 


Next step, Siena. Keep your eyes peeled! 


_

(TASCHEN has also released a photography book called Living in Tuscany, which will make you dream on while peeping into the region’s daintiest villas. It made me dream on for months.)



Strangely enough, I have always thought that 27 would be my year. I cannot explain why my gut feeling told me the moment I would turn this age my life would change. Maybe because it is when my father started his own business. Maybe because I was born on 17th September and I have a weird attachment to the number 7. In any case, quite funny for this particular birthday of mine to unfold in 2020, unanimously claimed to be one of the worst years of the twenty-first century. 


A bit less than a year ago, I celebrated my birthday in Rome to kick off the year on the right foot, without knowing what to expect. You know the wish they tell to make before blowing out the candles? Mine is always the same – to be happy (I know, please refrain your cynicism). I just had the feeling this year would have a particular twist, just like your favourite cocktail the bartender offers to revisit (must say that I was not expecting this twist to be that confined, though).


For some, September is synonymous of the end of summer and has some melancholia attached to it. For me and many others, it means getting back to business and splinter the remaining sandy particles off your shoulders to enter fall while slipping into a light yet warm-coloured jumper. No, actually, just beige. It is pulling yourself together and get new shoes to walk over the next twelve months. In a way, it has always more felt like a new year than January.


A few days before turning 28, I feel radically different. It is not only something up in the air, but a genuine, yet light-hearted, change. I consider myself lucky as to how I surfed the pandemic-ensued confinement wave over the past few months. I think this year is the year where I truly understood what it means to find the opportunity in times of crisis. Not in terms of optimising your time or anything like that, but in terms of finding the light when the candle is burning out.


I have learnt to set my priorities; to strike the right balance between work and personal life. I take care of my health and pay attention to details, I even take vitamin D as I apparently have quite a deficiency (not that you care, but here you go). I came to realise that as simple as it sounds, I needed to take proper care of myself and I did. Whether it is by surrounding myself with the right people or reinforcing, most importantly, the relationship I have with myself, I have become addicted to dealing with my own issues and growing out of it. In a way, I’ve become an enhanced version of a self problem-solver. I feel more focused. 


You know when they tell you that it doesn’t really matter what your life plans are because life will take care of messing them up? As far as you don’t like to recognise it, it is often true. Bam, a pandemic – and everything ends up upside down. 


27 is the year where I came to wonder, and believe, that maybe that’s for the better. After all, life has its timing, a timing we don’t necessarily understand at the present moment, but which will make sense in a couple of weeks, of months, or years; and it will all fall back together. Drawing on a few experiences, I have come to develop that optimism by choice until it became natural, because 1. whenever bad times stroke the silver lining always followed 2. I always ended up understanding the reason behind the setbacks I encountered. It really is soothing to remember that every time an obstacle comes up, you know that what matters the most is how you react to it. This way, you stop wasting too much time thinking about the reason why it happened and instead focus your energy on what you can do to keep on walking. Life happens, shit happens and that’s okay. Who knows, you might even eventually dance on the thread instead of staggering.

 

This is maybe what I reckon the most precious capacities I have honed this year. Acceptance, resilience and genuine hope for the future, if only you put the effort in and take action as to what you really want to achieve. Oh, and there's something I am not going to stop doing: to trust my instinct. So far it has never failed me. I don’t think your instinct ever fails you if you have the courage to listen to it when making decisions. 


Finally, I'd say I know a bit more about how I want to live my life. While I still don't know exactly where I'm heading, I feel more confident to be at the helm. I am an extroverted introvert as they say, and pian piano I am turning into this social butterfly, taking on more and more projects and keeping it together. I still sometimes need a full week post-Italy where I have to be left alone to recharge, but I enjoy my decisions more and more. (Does that make sense?) 


So, cheers to what's to follow.


_

Excuse my inspirational tone as I have just finished listening to yet another episode of the Michelle Obama podcast. I just wanted to share an honest, bare opinion on how I have felt myself grow over the past year. 

My 27 can for sure be your 23 or 32, or 36 (I don’t know how old you are out there, should probably check my blog analytics). 


Photos were shot in Siena, Tuscany; first one is at the Sanctuary Saint Catherine of Siena. If they let me go back to my sentimental homeland, in a few days I’ll be blowing out imaginary candles in the Eternal City until I can officially – sooner than later – call it home again.




27, What About It?

Sunday, 13 September 2020

,


Strangely enough, I have always thought that 27 would be my year. I cannot explain why my gut feeling told me the moment I would turn this age my life would change. Maybe because it is when my father started his own business. Maybe because I was born on 17th September and I have a weird attachment to the number 7. In any case, quite funny for this particular birthday of mine to unfold in 2020, unanimously claimed to be one of the worst years of the twenty-first century. 


A bit less than a year ago, I celebrated my birthday in Rome to kick off the year on the right foot, without knowing what to expect. You know the wish they tell to make before blowing out the candles? Mine is always the same – to be happy (I know, please refrain your cynicism). I just had the feeling this year would have a particular twist, just like your favourite cocktail the bartender offers to revisit (must say that I was not expecting this twist to be that confined, though).


For some, September is synonymous of the end of summer and has some melancholia attached to it. For me and many others, it means getting back to business and splinter the remaining sandy particles off your shoulders to enter fall while slipping into a light yet warm-coloured jumper. No, actually, just beige. It is pulling yourself together and get new shoes to walk over the next twelve months. In a way, it has always more felt like a new year than January.


A few days before turning 28, I feel radically different. It is not only something up in the air, but a genuine, yet light-hearted, change. I consider myself lucky as to how I surfed the pandemic-ensued confinement wave over the past few months. I think this year is the year where I truly understood what it means to find the opportunity in times of crisis. Not in terms of optimising your time or anything like that, but in terms of finding the light when the candle is burning out.


I have learnt to set my priorities; to strike the right balance between work and personal life. I take care of my health and pay attention to details, I even take vitamin D as I apparently have quite a deficiency (not that you care, but here you go). I came to realise that as simple as it sounds, I needed to take proper care of myself and I did. Whether it is by surrounding myself with the right people or reinforcing, most importantly, the relationship I have with myself, I have become addicted to dealing with my own issues and growing out of it. In a way, I’ve become an enhanced version of a self problem-solver. I feel more focused. 


You know when they tell you that it doesn’t really matter what your life plans are because life will take care of messing them up? As far as you don’t like to recognise it, it is often true. Bam, a pandemic – and everything ends up upside down. 


27 is the year where I came to wonder, and believe, that maybe that’s for the better. After all, life has its timing, a timing we don’t necessarily understand at the present moment, but which will make sense in a couple of weeks, of months, or years; and it will all fall back together. Drawing on a few experiences, I have come to develop that optimism by choice until it became natural, because 1. whenever bad times stroke the silver lining always followed 2. I always ended up understanding the reason behind the setbacks I encountered. It really is soothing to remember that every time an obstacle comes up, you know that what matters the most is how you react to it. This way, you stop wasting too much time thinking about the reason why it happened and instead focus your energy on what you can do to keep on walking. Life happens, shit happens and that’s okay. Who knows, you might even eventually dance on the thread instead of staggering.

 

This is maybe what I reckon the most precious capacities I have honed this year. Acceptance, resilience and genuine hope for the future, if only you put the effort in and take action as to what you really want to achieve. Oh, and there's something I am not going to stop doing: to trust my instinct. So far it has never failed me. I don’t think your instinct ever fails you if you have the courage to listen to it when making decisions. 


Finally, I'd say I know a bit more about how I want to live my life. While I still don't know exactly where I'm heading, I feel more confident to be at the helm. I am an extroverted introvert as they say, and pian piano I am turning into this social butterfly, taking on more and more projects and keeping it together. I still sometimes need a full week post-Italy where I have to be left alone to recharge, but I enjoy my decisions more and more. (Does that make sense?) 


So, cheers to what's to follow.


_

Excuse my inspirational tone as I have just finished listening to yet another episode of the Michelle Obama podcast. I just wanted to share an honest, bare opinion on how I have felt myself grow over the past year. 

My 27 can for sure be your 23 or 32, or 36 (I don’t know how old you are out there, should probably check my blog analytics). 


Photos were shot in Siena, Tuscany; first one is at the Sanctuary Saint Catherine of Siena. If they let me go back to my sentimental homeland, in a few days I’ll be blowing out imaginary candles in the Eternal City until I can officially – sooner than later – call it home again.




bonjour white