The Ladybug and the Valencian perspectives

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (19)

My last trip to Valencia was a typical example of erroneous judgement. I was not supposed to participate to this trip because I had the feeling (don’t ask me why!) that Valencia was the typical Spanish town on the sea, full of tourists and touristic attractions and poor of art and history. I was then convinced by my friends who wanted to go there to visit the “Oceanografic” and in the end I decided to join them for a long weekend.

I am now super thankful because Valencia was completely different from what I expected: a vibrant town full of life, art and history (I found there a few of my favorite Liberty buildings in the world!) and, guess what? Also full of vintage!!

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (6)

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (1)

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (7)

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (3)

Once arrived in town as usual I immediately headed to the “vintage” area of Ruzafa while waiting for my friends to arrive. Ruzafa is a beautiful area and I enjoyed an amazing walk and a very interesting vintage tour. One of the best vintage shops in Valencia is here (Madame Mim)  as well as the cute Petticoat Vintage (where I bought a 70s scarf for 5 euros!) and Trinity Vintage (where I found a lovely vintage kimono with Japanese print for 15 euros).  After a quick walk in the Eixample area to admire the beautiful buildings and some interesting non-vintage shops I headed back to Ruzafa for a drink with my friends before dinner. If you want to try something typical but a bit strong taste the famous “Agua de Valencia” which is made with vermouth and orange juice but don’t forget to eat something with it! The drink is delicious but also quite strong for soft drinkers!

My second favorite area of Valencia was El Barrio del Carmen: a lively area full of art and artists, bars, street art, vintage and some interesting shops. One of the most famous vintage shops of Valencia  (La Vespa Roja) is in this area (the shop deserves a visit, especially for the lovely cheap dresses and 80s jewelry) and I also found a very interesting African shop (Tamala) for those who love wax prints and African jewelry. As well as Ruzafa, El Carmen is an area where the best that you can do is wandering and get lost in its streets. You will enjoy the atmosphere, people, art and be sure that there will be a surprise around every corner!

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (15)

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (8)

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (20)

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (18)

If Ruzafa and El Carmen will show you an unconventional Valencia, you can find the most conventional one in the city center, while visiting Plaza del Ayuntamiento, La Llotja de la Seda, the Old Town. Let me just give you some hints on my favorite buildings in town: the station Estació del Nord is such a beauty, not only from the outside but also from the inside. You will find it on your way from the center to Ruzafa, so make sure you have a visit inside as this building is really amazing! Same Liberty style you will find in the Central Market of Valencia, a great historical market with incredible architecture and a beautiful square that you cannot miss (Plaza del Mercado).  Last but not least, I fell in love with the amazing building hosting the National Museum González Martí: I didn’t visit the inside as I was not interested in the museum but from every single corner this building is breathtaking (make sure you see all the facades!).

Just another quick hint: if you are shopping in the Eixample area, there is a wonderful Liberty building in Calle de Pizarro with fantastic decorations and doors!

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (12)

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (16)

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (14)

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (11)

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (2)

Another area that is worth the visit for its incredible modern architecture is the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias. The buildings that are part of this center are all white with outstanding architecture (I took tons of pictures there!) and you can also visit them inside as they host the Oceanografic, the Hemisferic, the Science Museum and the Art Palace Reina Sofia . If you want to visit them all you may spend your whole day here but there is a special price ticket if you want to save money while visiting all the buildings!

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (10)

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (9)

Let’s now talk about food: when you are in Valencia you cannot miss the real typical Valencian paella! We ate very good ones at Casa Roberto and Navarro. As we talked about the Agua de Valencia earlier, let me also add something not alcoholic that you should try there: people from Valencia like enjoying a break drinking fresh “horxata” (barley water) with soft bread cakes called “fartons”. The best horxata e  fartons that you can find in Valencia are those from the historical Chocolatería Santa Catalina.

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (13)

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (5)

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (4)

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (17)

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The Ladybug wandering in Sofia

The Ladybug Chronicles Sofia (8)

My last trip to Sofia was just perfect! It was decided many months ago during a lunch with my friends when one of them (living in Milan but from Sofia) asked us to join her for a weekend in her native town. Flights were very cheap at the time so we booked the trip.

Being there with someone who is from there was just great, probably also one of the key factors to let us love and enjoy Sofia in its full magic. We did so many things, enjoyed secret places and ate the best food following our “tour guide” tips and advices.

Second key success factor was the company: it was the first time that I traveled with this group of friends all together but the company was perfect and we enjoyed every single moment together.

The Ladybug Chronicles Sofia (1)

The Ladybug Chronicles Sofia (4)

The Ladybug Chronicles Sofia (3)

And then Sofia: some people told me that they didn’t love it too much but I literally adored it! We arrived on a Friday at lunch time and from the first lunch on the rooftop of the former Soviet archive I was in love! We enjoyed a stroll in the city center visiting the famous Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the beautiful parks full of green and the best kept secret of Sofia, the Russian Church, where people go to leave their prayers and wishes to Saint Seraphim (which we all did, of course!). We wandered in Sofia the whole afternoon but it was only on Saturday morning that we took a serious tour of the city with the Sofia Free Walking tour. It was such a great tour and we enjoyed so much that we booked a Sofia Communist tour for our Sunday afternoon. If it ever happens that you visit Sofia I truly suggest you have a tour with these guys: they are free or very cheap and what you learn is not written in any guide. They are all lead by young people from Sofia and they really manage to make you feel their love for their hometown!

We basically toured the town, with or without guide, by walk even if taxis are very cheap in case you need them. Also food is very cheap, even in the best restaurants (I’ll give you some hints on the best places to eat in Sofia at the end of this post, as usual).  Vintage lovers will be a bit disappointed though, as Sofia is not very vintage, I would say it is not vintage at all. A part for the small flea market near Alexander Nevsky Cathedral where you can almost find soviet memorabilia there is no space for vintage shopping in Sofia, even if, as I like to say, Sofia itself is such a vintage town, full of memories from its past; when you discover it you feel like being in a vintage journey and there are many places that will remind you this when you walk around its streets.

The Ladybug Chronicles Sofia (6)

The Ladybug Chronicles Sofia (5)

The Ladybug Chronicles Sofia (7)

But Sofia is also a very young town, full of bars, parties and places to meet, drink, talk and enjoy life, especially in summer when people get out of their houses after the very cold winter and enjoy the warmth and the sun.

The most vintage place that I found in Sofia was also my favorite building in town: the Central Mineral Baths; hopefully when you will be there they will be finally re-open and you can fully enjoy this wonderful place.

As for eating Bulgarian food was really delicious: there are many things that you should try from the parsley balls to the traditional salad with goat cheese, from traditional yogurt to spiced bread, from soups to French fries with goat cheese. I had the chance to eat in some incredible typical Bulgarian restaurants and they were all great (and not expensive at all). First on my list was Raketa, a post-communist restaurant that I loved so much for the food and the décor; second on top was Moma,  a typical Bulgarian restaurant, very stylish and with a traditional local decoration that I loved so much. A bit more modern but still very nice places to eat were Made in Home (a little vintage style) and The Little Things a two-floor house where every room was painted and decorated in a different color and with a lovely garden outside.

The Ladybug Chronicles Sofia (10)

The Ladybug Chronicles Sofia (2)

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The Ladybug’s first time in Barcelona

The Ladybug Chronicles Barcelona (3)

I know, I know…you are wondering how it is possible that this was my first time in Barcelona! This is what people have been told me for ages when I candidly admitted that I never traveled to Barcelona or Venice! I felt a bit ashamed about that too, that’s why I went to Venice two years ago and, after a canceled trip (please don’t ask me more about that because even after years I’m still mad at someone for doing me this) and a few postponements, I finally spent a long weekend in Barcelona in April.

Although I’m not a fan of highly tourist-packed cities (which may explain why it took me almost 40 years to visit Barcelona and Venice!) I couldn’t resist the incredible charm of this town. It’s so one-of-a-kind, there’s nothing similar in the world. Gaudí left his awesome and rich heritage to this city and Barcelona is still living of it but it is also paying tribute to his most famous artist, like all the thousands of tourists visiting La Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló, La Pedrera or Parc Güell. We can say that, like Rome for different reasons, Barcelona is an open air museum. Even in its most crowded and touristic place – La Rambla – you can find a piece of art, a Miró mosaic that almost no one sees but that is the only thing that I liked there (exception made for the Boquería Market but only if you visit it at its opening at 8.30 am like I did on a Monday!).

The Ladybug Chronicles Barcelona (1)

The Ladybug Chronicles Barcelona (15)

The Ladybug Chronicles Barcelona (8)

Being my first time there I had a very typical Barcelona trip with a little exception: first thing that we did when we arrived was to visit the Raval, one of the best areas for vintage shopping in Barcelona! There I found one of my favorite vintage shops, Lullaby (where I bought vintage jewelry, dresses and a bag but only when I came back for the second time…too many things there before I decided what to get!) among many other cheap shops where it was so easy to get fab vintage bargains!

It is only on the day after that I started a serious tour of the city from the Barcelona famous flea market El Mercat dels Encants Vells where we loved the atmosphere and I got some interesting African bargains; and then the Sagrada Familia, one of the most breathtaking monuments that I ever seen in my life: I still remember this feeling that I have in front of incredible monuments. They literally take my breath away: it happened in Manhattan when I got out of the metro station and I felt my head turning around because of the incredible skyline and buildings; but it also happened in Moscow in front of Saint Basil’s Cathedral and in the Red Square or in Saint Petersburg when I saw the Church of the Savior on Blood.

After a quick lunch I headed to the Parc Güell, one of the biggest Gaudí’s fantasy creations: I got lost in this amazing park and I took so many pictures that my phone battery almost died there (thanks God I always bring a charger with me!). Such a shame that it was a cloudy day but at least we didn’t get the rain!

The Ladybug Chronicles Barcelona (4)

The Ladybug Chronicles Barcelona (7)

The Ladybug Chronicles Barcelona (5)

The Ladybug Chronicles Barcelona (6)

When you start with Gaudí in Barcelona you may feel like you can’t get enough: that’s why after visiting the Pacr Güell I immediately headed to Casa Batlló first, then La Pedrera, two very different pieces of art but still coming from the same incredible mind. I had the chance to visit both of them and all that I could say was: Wow! I was completely speechless and I started thinking “why did it take so long for me to come here?” I was missing to many incredible things!

Although it was such a busy day I made time for another vintage shop in town: Love Vintage! This was the temple of vintage denim – but not only! – and the prices were so good that I couldn’t help adding new items to my vintage wardrobe: finally I got a vintage Levi’s 501 exactly as I wanted it, a pair of Balenciaga vintage heels and a pair of vintage earrings, all this for around 60 euros! Vintage shopping in Barcelona was so good! Also I added non-vintage items taking advantage of the lowest prices in Mango (I found out in Madrid that it is cheaper than in Italy!) by buying some new interesting pieces of their new collection!

Even if I was almost destroyed by the tour I couldn’t help enjoyingBarcelona nightlife: sangria and tapas were our main food and drink of the whole weekend and I couldn’t be any happier! By the way, at the end of this post I will give you some hints of my best tapas bar in Barcelona (at least those that I tried and I liked a lot!).

The Ladybug Chronicles Barcelona (9)

The Ladybug Chronicles Barcelona (11)

The Ladybug Chronicles Barcelona (10)

On Sunday morning I got up early and took the Funicular to visit the amazing Miró museum and to enjoy a different area of Barcelona, very calm and peaceful with beautiful views and this great museum dedicated to one of my favorite artists and hosting also very interesting exhibits dedicated to the bees and to Japanese portraits artists. I decided then to head to Barceloneta to have a nice walk on the sea side and to see what I miss in Milan every day: the sea. The weather was still cloudy and I couldn’t enjoy the real summer atmosphere there, but seeing the sea was enough for me at the moment!

Then it was time to get lost in the Barri Gotic tiny streets, visiting the Cathedral and enjoying the little antiques market in the city center as well as the few open shops (like the vintage kilo shop Pink Flamingos, an American vintage shopwith incredible pieces at very affordable prices where I bought a marine dress for 15 euros!) and the Rambla. I finished the tour at the beautiful Palau de la Música Catalana, maybe less famous than the other modernist buildings in town but still one of my favorites.

The Ladybug Chronicles Barcelona (12)

The Ladybug Chronicles Barcelona (14)

The Ladybug Chronicles Barcelona (13)

Last thing that I did before leaving on the day after was visiting the Boquería Market on a Monday morning without the usual crowd of the day: I had breakfast there in the morning and I really enjoyed watching the market getting started! I had lovely chats with the market sellers and I loved this relaxed atmosphere that I was going to miss badly once in Milan!

Anyway, you have the vintage addresses for your vintage shopping in Barcelona (honestly I found great quality and bargain prices!) now let me give you a couple of hints for good tapas bars or at least those that I tried and I loved while there. Casa Lolea was definitely my favorite place near the Palau de la Música Catalana: amazing homemade sangria and delicious tapas (best patatas bravas ever!). In the same area, just in front of my favorite building I had super tasty tapas and red wine at Tosca.

(Navy coat Max&Co, Turban Madame Ilary, Shoes Marella, Striped sweaters Zara, Grey jeans Levi’s, Mom Jeans Topshop, Bag Vintage).

The Ladybug Chronicles Barcelona (17)

The Ladybug Chronicles Barcelona (16)

The Ladybug on love (and ghosting) in Paris

The Ladybug Chronicles Paris (3)

It is easy to talk about love after a fabulous weekend in Paris: usually when we think of Paris we imagine romantic dinners and walks under the Eiffel Tower, French kisses and romance like in a fairytale.

It was almost my case as my weekend in Paris was full of love…at least that’s what I thought!

Love was the reason why I flew to Paris in February: love for Malick Sidibé art and photography. I read that the Cartier Foundation dedicated an exhibit to this amazing Malian artist who passed away in 2016 and I wanted to see it so badly. Love was also the guy who said: why don’t we go and spend a weekend there so that we can visit the exhibit and have a nice trip together? I couldn’t be happier than that.

The weekend was indeed full of love and warmth (except for the weather as, even if the sky was blue and the sun was out, it was probably one of the coldest weekends in Paris in the last 20 years, at least this is what Parisians told us). A Sicilian is never at ease in the cold but Paris is too beautiful for not enjoying it fully.

The Ladybug Chronicles Paris (8)

The Ladybug Chronicles Paris (1)

The Ladybug Chronicles Paris (2)

Indeed we started our weekend from the Malick Sidibé’s exhibit: not only a collection of his amazing black and white African portraits but more a celebration of his art and his career that we enjoyed in the middle of black and white pictures, pastel walls and African music. I was amazed and so happy that I couldn’t believe that all these things were really happening: my favorite artist, my favorite town and my favorite man in the world all together!

Speaking of favorite people, after the excitement of photography we moved towards another type of excitement: fashion! Direction: the Yves Saint Laurent Museum. It is a small museum but it contains many of the iconic YSL pieces (like the Mondrian dress!), videos and photographs and it is possible to visit his atelier and studio where he created his pieces of art. Again it was such an experience!

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The Ladybug Chronicles Paris (5)

The Ladybug Chronicles Paris (4)

We spent the evening in the Quartier Latin, eating and drinking in lovely brasseries and cafés, enjoying the little street of Paris and eating Senegalese food (at the Senegalese restaurant La Pointe des Almadies) with my University room-mate and her family living in Paris.

The second day was dedicated to Montmartre, where we were staying: starting from the Sacré Coeur, getting lost in the beautiful streets with a little hint of vintage (I couldn’t help visiting my favorite shop in Paris, Chez Poupoule in Montmartre, even if I had to settle for some windows watching and a picture as it was closed).

It is hard for me now to go through these pictures and memories because many of them has faded away. My love (or at least what I thought he was) went missing since a few weeks after this trip and I experienced for the first time in my life what ghosting means and that it really exists (I thought that men disappearing when everything was going extremely well was just an urban legend…well it’s not!). Was it too good to be true? Are men really scared when things are getting too well? I don’t know, but as long as I define myself a strong woman with a luminous inside light I decided to overcome my fears and sadness by writing this post, going through these memories. Maybe it will help to let my light guide me towards my true other luminous soul.

(Coat vintage Valentino; turban and culottes Madame Ilary; Shoes Marella; Beret, bag and earrings vintage; Striped jumper Zara)

The Ladybug Chronicles Paris (9)

The Ladybug Chronicles Paris (10)

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The Ladybug’s vintage hunt in Madrid

The Ladybug Chronicles Madrid (6)

One of my main new year resolutions was to visit places that I have never visited before, or that I visited for a very short time. Most of the places that I had in mind were in Europe (then easy to reach for a weekend break) and more specifically in Spain. Even if it is a few hours away by plane I can say that I barely know this country and that I want to know it better.
That’s why the first trip of the year was in its capital, Madrid, that I visited only for a few hours many years ago while traveling to Cuba. I was totally impressed by this beautiful, dynamic, happy and elegant city. I probably had low expectations and I was amazed by the life and energy that you can breathe in Madrid, especially when you get out of the usual touristic tours and views.

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I arrived early on a Friday afternoon and I immediately headed to Malasaña area where, based on my online research, I could find the best vintage shops in town. Well, I was completely overwhelmed by the number of great vintage shops in the space of a couple of streets; most of them were next door to the other and I completely immerged myself in a vintage tour of the area until I realized it was already time for dinner: Retro City, La Mona Checa, Williamsburg, El Rincón de Tía Jo, Biba, Magpie, Flamingo Vintage Kilo, Aramayo Vintage, Le Freak Olé just to name a few of my favorite ones. They have quite different styles from each other but they are all worth a visit because I found lovely stuff at great prices in each of them. Being also sales time in February I can say I got some (ok, many!) vintage bargains there: from dresses to coats and shirts, the first vintage afternoon in Madrid was pretty good and the area is really nice.
After my dose of vintage shopping I was ready to seriously tour the city, starting from the beautiful Palacio Real (the Royal Palace), personally one of the most beautiful that I have ever seen, Plaza Mayor, la Gran Vía (the biggest shopping street in Madrid, where I also found out that Mango is less expensive there than in Italy…you know what was the consequence of this discovery, right?), San Miguel market (where I ate the most delicious “croquetas de bacalao”, codfish croquettes), Plaza de Colón and the amazing Madrid museums: El Prado, the Thyssen-Bornemisza and my favorite one, the Reina Sofia (where I also found a beautiful exhibit dedicated to Fernando Pessoa).

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The Ladybug Chronicles Madrid (4)

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The Ladybug Chronicles Madrid (11)

On Sunday morning I woke up early to visit the famous Rastro Market, a flea market where you can find a lot of souvenirs and gadgets but with a very nice antiques and vintage area that is worth the visit. From there I walked all along the lovely Calle Embajadores to get to the popular area of Lavapiés, with its little coffee shops, little markets and colored walls where you can breathe a different and more real Madrid, like in Malasaña.
I have to say that I ate like a pig in Madrid…tapas, croquettes, tortillas, hot chocolate and churros (perfect against the cold weather!) but my favorite place for tapas and for a tasty potato tortilla with caramelized onions was Juana la Loca in the La Latina area (very nice area too!). Make sure you get one of these and their amazing tapas are to die for!
Although the weather was pretty cold (that’s why I am wearing my adored vintage shearling coat from I Love Vintage in Milan and my Madame Ilary lurex turbans) the sky was always clear and the sun was at least warming our hearts! Like this city that I didn’t want to leave because I enjoyed everything there: people, food, atmosphere, shops, museums and all these little areas outside the tourists’ path, that are probably the best areas of Madrid. Oh…and the vintage! Definitely one of the most interesting vintage cities in Europe (it was hard to put all my vintage bargains in my small suitcase but I won!).

The Ladybug Chronicles Madrid (8)

The Ladybug Chronicles Madrid (9)

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The Ladybug Chronicles Madrid (13)

The Ladybug Srilankan Chronicles – pt. 2

The Ladybug Chronicles Sri Lanka (9)

The second part of my Srilankan journey started from the “cultural capital” of Sri Lanka, Kandy, where traditional, colonial and modern are incredibly mixed. We admired the view of the lake from the top of the hill (that we reached with a tuc tuc…what an experience!) and we walked through the streets of Kandy full of life and little shops. We visited a local tea factory and we got immerged in the Buddhist prayers of the Temple of the Tooth Relic of Buddha, one of the most beautiful and fascinating temples I have ever visited.

The Ladybug Chronicles Sri Lanka (2)

The Ladybug Chronicles Sri Lanka (1)

But as far as we left Kandy by bus we were amazed by the luxurious tropical nature: from there to the mountain in Nuwara Eliya, passing by the Ramboda Falls, nature was the only main character. The tea plantations were everywhere but I didn’t know that it was nothing compared to what I was going to see the day later.

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The Ladybug Chronicles Sri Lanka (4)

After spending the night on the mountain in Nuwara Eliya (where we took a break from the muggy weather and finally enjoyed a fresh night!) we headed to the small train station of Nanu Oya where we took a local train to go down the mountain. It was probably the most intense experience of the trip: if you ever decide to visit Sri Lanka this train experience must be on top of your list for many reasons: the local trains are very old and all the doors are open, so if you seat near a door you can admire the most incredible nature ever, especially tea plantations as far as the eye can see; you can buy amazing food from locals on the trains and have pleasant conversations with the other passengers who looks at your excitement with a nice and understanding smile; you will have a strong feeling of being in another era of the past.

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The Ladybug Chronicles Sri Lanka (8)

After the train ride and a restoring food stop in a local farm, we finally headed back to the sea where we spent two relaxing days on the Indian Ocean in Waskaduwa: the dark yellow sand, the blue sky and sea, the palms, everything was just perfect to keep inside us the beauty of the last days, to meditate and practice yoga, to relax and just enjoy the moment and the place.

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The Ladybug Chronicles Sri Lanka (11)

The Ladybug Chronicles Sri Lanka (10)

Before heading back to Italy we decided to have a short trip to Galle, a lovely colonial fishermen village where we enjoyed a pleasant visit of the old town just in front of the beautiful Indian Ocean.

It was hard to leave the country because – a part for the heat – everything was just magic: people, food, traditions, views. To be honest I didn’t expect to find all this beauty in such a small island.

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The Ladybug Chronicles Sri Lanka (13)

The Ladybug Srilankan Chronicles – pt. 1

The Ladybug Chronicles Sri Lanka pt 1 (15)

It is always a bit hardfor me to write about my travels. I know it sounds weird from someone who is supposed to be a blogger, then someone who is quite at ease with words, but when it comes to travels I still find it hard, which may explain why it takes so long for me to write travel blog posts and they are often published many months after the trip itself.

It is the case again for my trip to Sri Lanka which happened in November last year. I think that I still find it difficult to put into words the feelings, the atmosphere, the noises, the smells, the people, the food that I “recorded ” with my senses while traveling.

2017 has been quite a tough year for me, this is why my friend decided that I needed a huge holiday to do together faraway from here. When she proposed Sri Lanka in November I immediately said yes. I have been studying about a trip to Sri Lanka years ago because it was on my wish-list and I was pretty excited about the idea of traveling there with one of my best friends just to celebrate the end of some bad things in my life!

As there are many things to say I decided to split the chronicles in two parts: the first part starts with our arrival in Colombo and it stops on the way to the mountains while the second part begins with the long ride to the sea and the end of our beautiful Srilankan adventure.

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The Ladybug Chronicles Sri Lanka pt 1 (6)

The Ladybug Chronicles Sri Lanka pt 1 (4)

Flying to Colombo from Milan was a bit long and we arrived in the capital quite destroyed but as it was early afternoon we didn’t care about the stress and the fatigue and we started the visit of this beautiful colonial city where you can find a (pink) mosque near a (turquoise) Hindu temple and in front of a (golden) Buddhist temple, next door to a catholic church. I was totally fascinated by the pacific mixture of religions in Sri Lanka since the first day. The colors and smells of Colombo are incredible and totally captivating and the vintage style of the colonial buildings has a timeless appeal. The Indian Ocean completes the beautiful atmosphere while the noisy tuk tuks move quickly and everywhere! We got caught in a quick storm while visiting but at the end of the holiday we were so used to that, that we knew exactly when a new one was coming, how long it would last and how to handle with it!

We left early the day after because of the long bus ride to Dambulla, and we traveled along the Sabaragamuwa region to stop watching the baby elephants showering in the river and being fed with giant baby bottles at the Elephant Orphanage of Pinnawala. We traveled in the middle of amazing tropical nature but it was just the beginning because the powerful nature was the most important part of all the journey (as well as the amazing Srilankan food!).

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The Ladybug Chronicles Sri Lanka pt 1 (2)

On our third day we visited the magnificent Sigriya rock fortress (the Lion Rock): 1200 steps, 370 meters high, cliff-side, under the hot sun and with the highest humidity ever…it was hard but we made it and it was worth the effort not only for the archeological site but also for the incredible views.

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On that same day (after many bottles of fresh water and a delicious meal!) we headed to Polonnaruwa also known as one of the most ancient Srilankan kingdoms and a World Heritage site (btw did you know that some scenes of the Duran Duran video “Save a Prayer” from 1982 were filmed here?).  The archeological site and the ancient Buddha temples were such a mystic experience, especially under the rain!

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The Ladybug Chronicles Sri Lanka pt 1 (9)

I have to say that I saw some of the most magnificent Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka: on day 4 we headed to Dambulla to visit the famous Golden Temple containing more than 150 statues of Buddha in its caves decorated with secular paintings, one of the most incredible sites that I’ve ever seen and it is also part of the World Heritage.

From day 5 starts the second part of the journey and of my Srilankan chronicles: you will find it in my next post in a few days, so if you liked what you have seen so far stay tuned, more Srilankan adventures are on the way!

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The Ladybug Chronicles Sri Lanka pt 1 (13)

The Ladybug and a dream coming true: Gorée Island, Senegal

The Ladybug Chronicles Gorée Senegal (6)

If I have been dreaming of Africa for more than 20 years, I have been dreaming of visiting Gorée Island for at least 15 years.

It all started when I read an article on the House of Slaves in Gorée, one of the oldest houses on the island where the African slaves were imprisoned and sent to America by boat. It is now a museum showing the horrors of the slave trade throughout the Atlantic world.

If Gorée is a wonderful island with a lovely beach and beautiful colored houses, with an ancient fort and a lot of artists and tourists, the House of Slaves experience is completely dramatic and sad. I decided to start the tour of the island from there and it was so emotional.

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The Ladybug Chronicles Gorée Senegal (4)

A part of me was happy of finally being there, another one was ashamed and destroyed about the horrors showed and I started crying on the “infamous door”, the door from which the slaves were put on the boats to travel in cruel conditions to America where they were sold as slaves.

The house is dramatically beautiful and tragic at the same time. It took me a while to start the tour of the island by walk after the visit. Today, when I think of that visit I still feel the same feeling of shame and rage, especially if I wonder what has really changed since then.

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The Ladybug Chronicles Gorée Senegal (5)

The Ladybug Chronicles Gorée Senegal (11)

I walked during all the afternoon throughout the island, I stopped to talk to a lot of people, to listen to the djembe players, to visit the fort and to stop by the artists communities all around the island. I enjoyed the breathtaking views, I bathed on the beautiful sea, I took a lot of pictures of the colored houses…I really needed all these things to recover from the visit to the House of Slaves.

The boats from Dakar to Gorée and the way back are very frequent and are also a beautiful way to enjoy the Senegalese life: many people living in Dakar work in Gorée and they travel every day. Opposite to what usually happens in Europe they enjoy a good talk with tourists and I personally enjoyed too. It is a way to know each other, in every possible way.

The Ladybug Chronicles Gorée Senegal (7)

The Ladybug Chronicles Gorée Senegal (9)

The Ladybug Chronicles Gorée Senegal (8)

The Ladybug Chronicles Gorée Senegal (10)

The Ladybug and the African (Senegalese) Blues

The Ladybug Chronicles Dakar Senegal (15)

It took a while to write this blog post on my trip to Senegal last summer. It is hard for me to write about it because it was a life changing experience and even after 5 months it is still in my head and I feel the African blues every single day of my life. I want to go back and I know that I will but the urge sometimes is unbearable.

It was my first time in Africa: I have been dreaming of it for more than 20 years but I was so scared of my reaction that I postponed this trip forever until I decided that it was something that I had to do, a dream that I wanted to make come true.

I brought with me a notebook because I wanted to write down everything but I was so overwhelmed by all my emotions and feelings that I came back home with a blank notepad. Everything was impacting me beyond words and even now I am unable to express my feelings by words.

The Ladybug Chronicles Dakar Senegal (3)

The Ladybug Chronicles Dakar Senegal (1)

The Ladybug Chronicles Dakar Senegal (2)

My trip to Dakar in Senegal was a kind of test for my reaction, just for your understanding: I was tempted to stay there for the rest of my life and for the first time in my life I tried to postpone my ticket to go back to Italy. Also when I came back to Italy I suffered a lot: I missed everything from food to people, perfumes and familiar noises, the call for worship, the rhythm of mbalax, the wolof, the laughs, the constant happiness of those days, the kindness of people. I finally understood why they call it the country of “Teranga”, hospitality.

I had the chance to live with a Senegalese family (who is now my second family) in Dakar and I decided to visit the town and its surroundings during my stay. I leave the tour of the country from North to South for my next trip.

Dakar is a town full of life night and day: it is noisy and crowded but irresistible at the same time. It is easy to meet people, to talk to everyone and to enjoy the beaches, the rhythm and the food almost everywhere!  On some days I just wandered in the streets of Dakar without destination using taxis or the famous colored buses: the Medina, the Almadies area, Place de l’Indépendance, the Corniche, the beautiful beach of Yoff, the amazing markets of Sandaga, Kermel, Tilène, the mosques, the Museums and Galleries (my favorite ones were the Galérie Antenna and the IFAN museum).

The Ladybug Chronicles Dakar Senegal (4)

The Ladybug Chronicles Dakar Senegal (6)

The Ladybug Chronicles Dakar Senegal (5)

The Ladybug Chronicles Dakar Senegal (11)

I started my tour with a special visit to the African Renaissance monument and the museum where you can also admire a wonderful view of the town, especially if you walk down the hill until the beach.

The surroundings of Dakar are also breathtaking: I will write a dedicated post to Gorée Island, which was for me a very special experience but I took the boat a second time to head to Ngor Island from the amazing Ngor beach. As it was August the island was pretty crowded on the beach side but if you walk to the rocky side of the island you will be surprised by the awesomeness of the views and maybe for the first time you will be completely alone.

I also headed by bus (this was a bit more complicated trip!) to the Pink Lake (Lac Retba) where I toured the lake on a pirogue…but unfortunately that day the lake wasn’t as pink as I imagined. Its salt content is very high which gives it its pink color but only in particular weather conditions.

The Ladybug Chronicles Dakar Senegal (7)

The Ladybug Chronicles Dakar Senegal (9)

The Ladybug Chronicles Dakar Senegal (8)

The Ladybug Chronicles Dakar Senegal (10)

So if you are not afraid of the African Blues (believe me, it’s the hardest thing) just book a flight to this amazing country and live it fully, breathe the love and buy all the amazing things that you can buy there (wax fabrics, African handmade jewels, colored baskets). Eat the best plates of the Senegalese cuisine (mafé, thieboudienne), the juicy mangoes or drink the bissap, the ginger and the buoy (the fruit of the baobab tree) and enjoy the incredible nature (you can see the most beautiful baobab trees and animals).

It can be a life changing experience especially if you decide to live it like locals: staying in small B&B instead of fancy hotels, going around by bus or shared taxis, walking, talking to people, basically enjoy the real Senegalese life.

The Ladybug Chronicles Dakar Senegal (12)

The Ladybug Chronicles Dakar Senegal (14)

The Ladybug Chronicles Dakar Senegal (13)

The Ladybug’s vintage friendly weekend in Frankfurt

The Ladybug Chronicles Frankfurt (9)

While I was in Munich for work this summer I had the chance to spend a little lovely weekend in Frankfurt to see two of my beautiful friends living there. As usual, every time that I go visit them, our weekends are full of food, shopping and amazing walks and sightseeing in this beautiful German town that I visited four times and that I saw changing a lot in the last 15 years. Frankfurt is today one of the most interesting and sparkling cities in Germany where you can also have great vintage shopping sessions! Let me be honest: it is not full of vintage spots but if you know where to go you can see (and buy) amazing stuff for very good prices.

The Ladybug Chronicles Frankfurt (2)

The Ladybug Chronicles Frankfurt (1)

The Ladybug Chronicles Frankfurt (8)

This time I visited again two of my favorite spots in town:

1.       Epiphany on the Zeil (Frankfurt main shopping street), basically a thrift store full of amazing designer and high street second hand pieces from clothes to (amazing) shoes and bags where you can also find beautiful vintage pieces. (I bought there the 70’s vintage bag that I am wearing in these pictures);

2.       The Antiques and Vintage market along the river Main that you can visit every Saturday morning: it is a lovely market full of bargains for your wardrobe and home and at the same time it offers amazing views on the city’s skyline!

Anyway we also walked and ate a lot during that weekend! The sightseeing in Frankfurt is still a great experience: from the beautiful Romer Platz to the Alte Oper the contrast of the old city with the new futuristic one is still incredibly interesting.  One of my favorite spots in Frankfurt is the Goethe House, with a museum dedicated to the German romantic writer.

The Ladybug Chronicles Frankfurt (3)

The Ladybug Chronicles Frankfurt (7)

The Ladybug Chronicles Frankfurt (4)

On the eating side, the best part of Frankfurt is the brunch! Many restaurants and bars offer cheap brunch with amazing food: it is the perfect place to eat, meet people and spend a few hours observing the local habits and tastes! Our favorite brunch was definitely at Nordlicht near the lovely Berger Strasse.

If you want to eat amazing African food, try the delicious Ethiopian restaurant African Queen near the train station: the area is not great but the delicious food will make you forget about it!

PS. When in Frankfurt I received a beautiful vintage present: a long suede skirt that my friend found during a swap party! I loved it so much that I wore it immediately with my new vintage bag from Epiphany!

The Ladybug Chronicles Frankfurt (5)

The Ladybug Chronicles Frankfurt (6)