Atene, vintage e decadente…come piace a me!

Prima di partire per la prima volta ad Atene avevo ricevuto dei pareri terribili su questa città: sporca, pericolosa, brutta, un postaccio, non andarci! Ma si sa, io ascolto poco gli altri e ho voluto comunque passarci due giorni ad apertura e a chiusura del mio giro nel Peloponneso per osservarla di persona e da vicino. Al rientro sono andata da tutti quelli che me ne avevano parlato malissimo per dire loro che…beh…io l’ho amata tantissimo!

Per me è una città decadente, con uno spirito vintage ma proprio per questo la trovo irresistibile! Questo non significa che Atene non sia una città moderna, piena di ristoranti e locali dove far festa o semplicemente bere una birra e di spazi artistici innovativi.

Ci ho camminato a piedi per più di 20 kilometri in lungo e in largo e me ne sono innamorata: dalla zona di Plaka (l’area intorno all’Acropolis) alla mia adorata Monastiraki piena di vintage e fervente di locali e di gente a tutte le ore, sono passata per vicoletti e strade moderne cercando di viverla il più possibile e di respirare tutta la sua decadenza tra ferrivecchi e bancarelle di street food.

Ammetto che il mio primo pensiero arrivando ad Atene sia stato il Partenone e l’area dell’Acropolis: desideravo visitarlo da tanto e avevo già acquistato l’ingresso online in anticipo (vi consiglio di farlo perché nonostante fosse il primo periodo post Covid c’era moltissima coda all’ingresso). Mi ci sono recata al mattino presto in apertura e anche questo è un consiglio che vorrei darvi perché dopo pochissimo tempo non solo faceva un caldo pazzesco (era Maggio) ma iniziavano ad arrivare i primi bus carichi di turisti e godere liberamente di questo spettacolo pazzesco che è l’Acropolis con il Partenone iniziava a diventare complicato.

Se amate il genere vi suggerisco anche una visita all’Acropolis Museum che è pieno zeppo di meraviglie dal passato e anche un giro a piedi tra i negozietti intorno all’area dell’Acropolis (quartiere Plaka) per rilassarvi un po’ dopo la visita.

In questa zona si trova anche Al Hammam, posto meraviglioso per godervi un paio di ore di relax nell’hammam più bello di Atene dopo la lunga scarpinata tra le rovine antiche.

La mia area preferita di Atene rimane comunque Monastiraki per i suoi negozietti vintage, il mercatino delle pulci della domenica mattina, i suoi mille locali, la street art e la frizzante vita sociale a qualsiasi ora del giorno e della notte! In quest’area vi consiglio di girare molto a piedi e di perdervi tra le mille stradine piene di sorpese e di interessanti scoperte.

VINTAGE AD ATENE

La prima buona notizia è che Atene è piena zeppa di vintage. La seconda buona notizia è che la maggior parte dei negozi belli di vintage è in centro. La terza è che i prezzi sono molto convenienti quindi qui si può comprare!

Ad Atene ho trovato uno dei negozi vintage più belli del mio lungo peregrinare tra negozi e mercatini vintage per il mondo, un posto in cui mi sono davvero emozionata, cosa che ormai purtroppo mi succede sempre meno: si chiama Troc, è un po’ lontano dal centro ma facilmente raggiungibile in metro, ed è uno spazio enorme pieno zeppo di pezzi scelti con cura. Questo è un paradiso per gli amanti del vintage etnico e del vintage tradizionale greco e turco (questi pezzi sono un po’ più cari rispetto agli altri) e io ci ho perso letteralmente la testa. E’ gestito da un’anziana signora che seppur non parlando molto inglese prova a raccontare la storia di questo posto che è stato il primo negozio di vintage ad Atene nel 1976. Per me un posto imperdibile.

Altro posto molto interessante è Like Yesterday’s, tra vintage, second hand di marca e accessori è stato uno dei miei preferiti in zona Monastiraki insieme a King Kong Vintage non visibile su strada ma al primo piano di un palazzo del quartiere dove ho trovato una bella selezione di vintage anni 70 e 80 principalmente.

Più second hand che vintage vi consiglio un giro da Vintage Love e Treasure House oppure nell’amato dai giovanissimi Yesterdy’s Bread che pur non essendo esattamente nel mio genere ha dei pezzi interessanti tra cui segnalo anche haori e kimono vintage.

Ad Atene c’è anche un bel negozio che vende vintage al kilo e la cui selezione varia parecchio quindi coglie un’ampia clientela di amanti del vintage (piccola ma interessante zona dedicata al vintage etnico dove ho preso anche un bell’abito mediorientale): si chiama Kilo Shop Greece alla fine di Ermou.

Imperdibile il mercatino delle pulci di Monastiraki la domenica mattina: tra vintage e pezzi d’antiquariato vi assicuro che vi innamorerete di questo adorabile mercatino.

DOVE MANGIARE AD ATENE

La cucina greca è tra le mie preferite e ad Atene si mangia bene ovunque ma tra i miei preferiti c’è sicuramente Tzitzikas Kai Mermigkas dove abbiamo provato praticamente quasi tutto il menù!

Se volete una cena romantica con vista Partenone illuminato (solo lo spettacolo vale la cena!) vi consiglio di prenotare da Strofi (i prezzi sono un po’ più alti e il posto un po’ più elegante rispetto alla media). Da Dopios invece potete gustare i piatti della tradizione rivisitati in chiave moderna mentre vi consiglio un aperitivo da Brettos, locale storico favoloso pieno di pezzi d’antiquariato dal suo splendido passato.

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Un weekend a Malaga tra arte, vintage e tapas

Dopo quasi tre giorni trascorsi a Granada mi sono spostata in bus verso Malaga per passare gli ultimi due giorni in Andalusia. Pensavo fossero sufficienti per visitare con calma la città ma Malaga mi ha letteralmente sorpresa con la sua invasione di musei e centri culturali, tanto che ho dovuto organizzarmi per cercare di vedere il più possibile!

Dopo un giro nella sua maestosa Cattedrale mi sono diretta verso il Museo Picasso (una delle più importanti attrazioni della città) e poi verso la Casa Natale di Picasso, probabilmente più interessante sotto alcuni punti di vista. Dopo questa prima immersione nella storia e nell’arte del pittore malagueño mi sono fermata in un piccolo bar della Piazza dedicato a Bruxelles (La Calle de Bruselas) e poi in uno dei tanti charity shop di Cudeca sparsi per la citta, affacciato anch’esso su questa bella piazza.

Ho inziato un breve giro vintage prima di riperdermi tra i bar e ristoranti del centro storico di Malaga ma il mio pensiero era rivolto alla visita dell’indomani mattina all’Alcazaba, fratello minore dell’Alhambra di Granada ma non per questo meno affascinante.

Fortunatamente aveva smesso di piovere e ho potuto godermi una bella passeggiata all’interno di questo edificio in stile arabo da cui si può godere di una bellissima vista della città e ovviamente delle sue spiagge.

Nel pomeriggio ho continuato il mio giro culturale fermandomi prima al Museo Carmen Thyssen dove si possono ammirare soprattutto delle bellissime opere di artisti andalusi che hanno dipinto spesso scene di vita quotidiana tipiche di quest’area della Spagna; poi ho proseguito il mio giro del centro storico alla scoperta di negozietti locali e ovviamente ancora tanto vintage.

Prima di passare al vintage vi segnalo due negozi che ho amato tantissimo, entrambi nel centro di Malaga: uno è El Altarcito, bellissimo negozio che vende prodotti artigianali e alimentari direttamente dal Messico; l’altro è Arabesque con tantissimi capi e accessori handmade in stile etnico che ho adorato!

Ho continuato poi il mio giro culturale al mattino seguente dirigendomi prima al Centro Cultural de la Malagueta realizzato intorno alla Plaza de Toros dove era in corso una bellissima mostra (gratuita) sul fotografo di moda (e non solo) Jean Marie Périer e poi al Centre Pompidou di Malaga, a due passi dal Porto. Qui ho scoperto che la bellissima collezione permanente era chiusa al pubblico per lavori di restauro del Museo ma ho scoperto un’artista favolosa Sophie Calle, le cui opere erano invece esposte in una collezione temporanea. Da lì direzione quasi obbligata i ristorantini del Muelle Uno, dove si può osservare il viavai di turisti a spasso lungo le banchine del porto, sorseggiando una birra locale e gustando le favolose tapas andaluse!

Prima di lasciare Malaga ho fatto però anche una capatina alla zona di Soho, nota per la Street Art (è possibile vedere alcune opere di TV Boy…anche se quella dedicata a Picasso è stata distrutta) e perdersi nei mercatini di handmade di questa zona che è diventata molto di moda negli ultimi anni.

VINTAGE A MALAGA

Se Malaga mi ha sorpreso per l’enorme quantità di musei, devo dire che anche a vintage è messa più che bene! I due store di Península Vintage valgono entrambi una visita approfondita perché si possono trovare dei bei pezzi e a prezzi adeguati.

Altro preferito (forse potrei dire IL preferito) è Epoca Vintage and Second Hand dove ho trovato vintage degli anni 50 e 60 e alcuni pezzi etnici particolarmente interessanti (è quello dove ho acquistato di più ma i prezzi sono molto corretti e ci sono delle chicche che meritano davvero!)

Anche a Malaga, come in quasi tutte le città spagnole, c’è un Flamingos Vintage Kilo: negozio di moda americana che vende al kilo e dove spulciando tra i tantissimi capi di abbigliamento è facile trovare pezzi incredibili per pochi euro (esempio: ho speso 20 euro per un abito vintage e una djellaba marocchina vintage favolosa!!)

Altro negozietto interessante dove però la qualità è leggermente più bassa ma è necessario ravanare pesantemente per trovare capi interessanti a prezzi molto convenienti è Mosaico Vintage; ho scoperto che ce n’era uno anche a Granada ma quello me lo sono perso!

Uno dei negozi che avrei voluto tanto visitare ma che ho trovato chiuso in entrambi i giorni in cui ci sono passata è Entrecosturas: nella mia ricerca online sembrava un posto meraviglioso ma nella realtà non sono riuscita a visitarlo (se qualcuno di voi lo conosce fatemi sapere com’è davvero, sperando che non abbia chiuso i battenti).

DOVE MANGIARE A MALAGA

Tapas: Pez Lola, Pepa y Pepe, Gorki e ristoranti del Muelle Uno

Churros: imperdibili quelli di Casa Aranda

Teterías: adorabile quella di San Augustín, di fronte all’omonimo convento e a due passi dal Museo Picasso.

DORMIRE A MALAGA

Malaga è piena di hotel e i prezzi sono mediamente più alti rispetto a Granada ma posso consigliarvi l’Hotel California (il nome la dice lunga…) per il buon rapporto qualità-prezzo, ottima posizione e soprattutto…un arredamento vintage nella zona lobby e colazione davvero da perdere la testa!

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Un biglietto per Granada: vintage e altre storie (adesso in italiano!)

Bentornati con un nuovo viaggio alla scoperta di Granada (anche vintage)…finalmente in italiano!

Granada è la prima città che ho visitato dopo due anni di Covid che mi hanno tenuta nei confini nazionali per troppo tempo! Era un viaggio programmato nel Marzo del 2020 che è slittato piano piano fino ad arrivare a esattamente due anni dopo…ma che gioia respirare l’aria andalusa alla ricerca dei miei antenati!

Granada è una cittadina relativamente piccola, che si gira facilmente a piedi e due giorni sono sufficienti per fare un buon giro anche se c’è tanto da scoprire soprattutto se ci si lascia guidare dai suoi sentieri che dall’alto al basso la attraversano in un dedalo di stradine che offrono nuove scoperte ad ogni angolo.

Ho iniziato la mia visita dal Albayzín, il quartiere arabo dove sembra di muoversi nel souk di Marrakech tra negozietti di souvenir nordafricani e vicoletti pieni di costruzioni affascinanti: questo è anche il posto perfetto per una pausa dolce in una delle tante teterías (sale da tè in stile arabo) o per un henné alle mani o ancora per un pasto marocchino in uno dei tanti ristoranti del quartiere.

Il giorno dopo mi sono svegliata presto per visitare finalmente la Alhambra, capolavoro di architettura araba, dove sono rimasta in adorazione per diverse ore prima di essere spinta dalla fame a lasciare questo posto meraviglioso dove ho sentito vive e forti le mie radici arabe. Perdersi nei dettagli di questa architettura è un vero viaggio nella cultura araba e nel suo importante passaggio in Andalusia.

Ho passato poi il pomeriggio nelle vie del centro tra negozietti vintage, librerie indipendenti e una visita alla Cattedrale prima e alla Capilla Real (dove sono sepolti i reali Isabella e Fernando) poi, prima di tuffarmi in uno dei miei più grandi piaceri: l’hammam! Per questa esperienza nei bagni arabi ho scelto l’hammam Al Andalus, un posto davvero magico in cui sembra di tornare indietro nel tempo in questi bagni interamente ricostruiti con lo stile arabo dell’epoca.

Ho concluso la serata in un Tablao tradizionale (La Arborea) dove ho assistito a un bellissimo spettacolo dal vivo di flamenco sorseggiando vino tinto (rosso) in un’atmosfera pazzesca piena di carica ed energia!

VINTAGE A GRANADA

Tra i miei preferiti sicuramente La Buhardilla e Oh Oh July, sulla stessa strada a pochi metri di distanza, entrambi ricchi di vintage soprattutto degli anni 70 e 80.

Interessante anche Mosaico Vintage e Flama ma lo stile è decisamente più 90s e street style per chi ama il genere.

Casa Kuna è un posto speciale dove si può trovare artigianato locale e pezzi second hand sia abbigliamento che mobilio ma anche tapear nei tavolini fuori.

Per gli amanti dei libri di seconda mano segnalo invece Reciclaje e El Tiempo Perdido, due bellissime librerie piene di tesori.

DOVE MANGIARE A GRANADA

Se avete voglia di bere una birra o un bicchiere di vino accompagnati da tapas eccezionali (in parte gratuite quando accompagnano da bere) vi consiglio di fare un salto in uno di questi posti e di assaggiare le tante tapas caratteristiche, una più buona dell’altra:

  • Oliver
  • Los Manueles
  • Los Diamantes
  • Bodega Castañeda
  • El bar de Fefe

Per un pranzo etnico dal Nord Africa invece sapete già dove andare….

DORMIRE A GRANADA

Senza dubbio la Posada del Toro è un posto delizioso a prezzi abbordabilissimi da cui è passata tanta storia…loro poi sono super gentili e disponibili per consigli di ogni tipo e poi ha la migliore posizione possibile!

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The Ladybug’s Vintage and Handmade guide of Cagliari

I must confess that when I went to Cagliari to spend a couple of days with a friend who moved from Milan a few months before, I was surprised by the quality of vintage and handmade that I found in town. The city is very different from when I visited last time years ago: vibrant, joyful, modern and traditional at the same time, colored, full of life and warm as usual! I really enjoyed my stay and I spent two half days hanging around looking for the best vintage/handmade shops in town.

But let’s start from the vintage shops:

  • First stop was Recyclerie Vintage: I virtually met Alice and Fabrizio on Instagram a year before and unfortunately they were on holiday when I was in town but Caterina was there to guide me in the first vintage shop of Cagliari where I immediately fell in love for the attention of the research that covered different styles. Classic vintage and amazing accessories (including jewelry vintage and new) on the basement, vintage streetwear with a high quality selection of vintage denim and clothes for women and men on the first floor, a tattoo studio on the second floor. This shop is a must-visit for any vintage lover and if you are around you cannot miss it! I also got a few pieces there: the vintage military green floral dress that you see in one picture, a pair of vintage soft brown leather shorts and a ring from El Rana. Prices are fair and they are really adorable (you can find them in the main street of Cagliari, in the city center).
  • Second stop was Urban Pep, founded by the lovely Vanessa who I also met online last year. Vanessa really impressed me for the loveliness and kindness but also for bringing me around to discover some pieces of her city. But she also guided me through her shop, a perfect match of vintage handmade where she mixes her two passions: vintage and Thailand. Vanessa has Thai origins and she travels her other country looking for handcrafters who create beautiful pieces with a retro twist. Urban Pep is also full of interesting collaborations with local artists and associations such as La Fille Bertha (incredible Sardinian artist – I bought one of her pieces for my new house!) and La Matrioska a creative and social textile lab (I also bought one of their handmade tees!). Vanessa is a volcano of ideas and her shop really expresses her eclecticism. Not far from Recyclerie Vintage in the main street, make sure that you visit her shop and you meet her in person!
  • Third stop was La Bottega delle Meraviglie, but I was so pissed because it was closed and I couldn’t manage to contact the owner. From her Instagram page I realized that it was the kind of shop that I would have loved but maybe I will be able to visit it next time! It is in the tiny streets of the city center, definitely worth a visit.
  • Not a shop but a vintage and antiques market that I found “by mistake” on a Sunday Morning, is the Antiques Market of Piazza del Carmine, a small but super interesting market where I found a lot of interesting pieces (especially jewelry…I left with three fantastic brooches!): mandatory stop, you will love it I promise!

Just want to share some more interesting shops that are definitely worth a visit if you love ethical, handmade and traditional shops:

  • Recyclerie has another shop in the city center (actually it was the first shop before the vintage one was born), totally dedicated to handmade pieces (homeware, accessories, jewelry etc.) coming mostly from Sardinian artists and handcrafters
  • Eticando is a lovely boutique in the center of Cagliari that only sells ethically made clothes for women and children; not the usual ethical shop, that’s why I liked it
  • The AB Gallery is a place where I could have bought almost everything for my house: pillows, blankets, carpets, decorations etc. Everything is handmade from Sardinian artisans keeping alive the rich textile tradition of the region. A true beauty.

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The Ladybug travel tips: six things to do in Caltagirone in one day

Caltagirone is a small town in southern Sicily, very famous all over the world for its handcrafted colored ceramics. Although I was born in Sicily I have never been there before but as my mom really wanted to visit it last summer we decided to have a one-day family trip to Caltagirone to enjoy the city.

Here are my top 6 things to do list if you decide to visit this lovely place one day:

  • The Cathedral: San Giuliano Cathedral in the center of Caltagirone is a magnificent religious building with a very old history. It was destroyed by several earthquakes and re-built many times. Its wonderful turquoise dome is very characteristic and it is visible from many corners of the city. Its inside decorations are amazing and definitely worth a visit.
  • Ceramic Museum: Caltagirone is famous all over the world for its ceramics and everywhere in town it is easy to see them decorating walls, facades and balconies of old buildings. The history of ceramics’ handcrafting is very interesting and you can have a clear idea of how it changed during the times in the beautiful Ceramic Museum. There are rare examples of different eras and a very detailed focus on the way it is traditionally crafted. You can also find here an amazing collection of the famous Moor’s Heads, typical Sicilian ceramic sculptures representing our ancestors (the Moors).
  • Santa Maria del Monte Stairway: this is the most famous corner of Caltagirone, the famous stairway built in 1606 connecting the old town with the new one. 142 stairs fully decorated with authentic ceramics from Caltagirone, it is full of plants and flowers and very loved by tourists and citizens. A picture here is a must of your visit!
  • Moor’s Heads: you can’t leave Caltagirone without brining with you the famous Moor’s Heads, representing our Moors ancestors’ heads decorated with fruits and other typical pieces of the Sicilian tradition, these pieces are a must have. You can find them in many colors and decorations but please be careful when you buy them. If they are too cheap they are not traditionally handcrafted! Moor’s Heads can be very expensive but the quality is absolutely different. Spend a bit more but get the real ones (the couple, not just one!). I got mine here after a long hunt but I am madly in love with them!
  • Granita: like almost everywhere in Sicily granita here is delicious! I had lunch with it (and a famous Sicilian brioche) in one of the bars at the entrance of the old city (in front of the City Theatre) and I was totally delighted (I got a pistachio one, of course!)
  • Magma Shop: last but not least I suggest a visit to my favorite shop in town, Magma, just near the Stairway. It is a very peculiar shop selling only handcrafted pieces mainly from Sicilian handcrafters. Clothes, accessories and homeware here are 100% handmade certified!

I am wearing a thrifted Moroccan caftan from Girls in the Garage, an handmade wax bag from Atelier Habibi and an handmade headwrap from Madame Ilary.

The Ladybug travels to Spain but staying in Sicily: plunging into the colors of Borgo Parrini

During our last lockdown, while scrolling on my Instagram feed I saw a picture that took my attention: colored yellow, white and blue houses that looked like Spanish or Tunisian. I liked at the point that I checked the geotag to understand where this lovely place was placed and, big surprise! It was located in Sicily!!

I couldn’t believe my eyes and I immediately googled the place: Borgo Parrini, between Palermo and Trapani, that was a real revelation for me! I added in my “Places to visit” list and I had the chance to go there a few months later, during my summer holidays.

But first, let me tell you more about this place: this small village near Partinico (also called the secret Barcelona) was founded in the XVII century by the Jesuits but it is now an almost abandoned village where only around 20 people still live. One of them was the entrepreneur Giuseppe Gaglio who, with the help of some other citizens decided to initiate a restoration of the abandoned houses to re-give life to his beloved village. He called Sicilian artists to recreate a Barcelona/Gaudi inspired village with mosaics, majolica and colored glass, bright facades and an explosion of colorful flowering plants.

The project started in the late 1990s and it took almost 25 years.

The life of the “Borgo” immediately changed since loads of tourists from all over the world started visiting this renovated village, pretty much loved for its colors and dreamy atmosphere.

It is more and more usual nowadays to use some “marketing ideas” to bring back to life many of the abandoned Italian villages and I must say that I think it is a great idea to restore our architectural and historical heritage and to give them a new life. And if this means also giving them a new life in terms of economy by bringing tourists and give space to more entrepreneurs, why not? Today in Borgo Parrini you can find a few pizzerias and a couple of bars and shops which was absolutely unthinkable a few decades earlier.

You can reach the village by car and it takes about an hour to visit (you can also enter the renovated houses for a few euros) and you can have a quick lunch/dinner and even enjoy the pomegranate “granita” handmade by a lovely resident who sells it on the main street leading to the center of the village!

It is better to go during the day to enjoy the bright colors and to take very nice pictures, but it seems that it is very suggestive also at night, coming back from a day at the beach or even in Christmas with its lovely decorations and a living nativity scene.

You can have an idea of how it looks like from my pictures but believe me, you’ll love it in real life!

I wore a vintage caftan found at Vinokilo in Milan with handmade turban (Mara Seyeyaram), a neoprene bag (Geometric Bag) and a pair of sequined flat sandals from Colors of California. Also, the lovely turban earrings come from Kano Sartoria Sociale in Sicily.

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The Ladybug guided tour: one day in Milazzo

If you visit Sicily, especially in summer, and you are around my hometown Messina, I definitely suggest a visit to the medieval town of Milazzo.

It is very popular as a summer destination for the beaches but also for its nightlife: when I was young I used to spend there my summer Saturday nights, in the tiny streets of the old town full of bars, restaurants and little handmade and traditional shops.

The upper part of the town is the oldest one and I find it very fascinating because of the rests of the medieval village, the castle and the fortified walls. You can visit several halls of the castle, such as the Norman tower, the so called fireplace’s hall, where in 1295 a sort of Parliament was hosted, the court and several parts built during the Spanish domination. You can also enjoy a beautiful view from there!

The lowest part is famous for its amazing beaches with warm and crystalline water, especially in the area of Cape Milazzo where you can also visit the natural Venus Pool Venus, a protected area where you can swim in the most beautiful sea.

When I was in Sicily last summer I had an incredible desire of going back to Milazzo as I was missing from more than 10 years: I was pleased to see that nothing has changed, except from the weather, as it was the most horrible hot day ever! I spent the day visiting the upper town with my sister before heading to Capo Milazzo to admire the view and then relax in a lovely beach in the afternoon.

Even if it was too damn hot that day I wore a vintage purple cotton dress from Freja Vintage (on Vinted) and a soft viscose large trousers handmade from Madame Ilary. I completed my sustainable outfit with a pair of leather sandals from Clarks, Gucci sunglasses and handmade and vintage jewelry. My wax bag is from a Senegalese handcrafter that I found through Alessia form Clementine Vintage.

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The Ladybug out and about in Brera, Milan

While constantly looking for secret undiscovered corners of Milan, I sometimes forget to put the right attention to the most known ones. I must confess that I visited some of the most iconic monuments of Milan very late and some of them I still haven’t visited at all. The reason is that I take them for granted somehow and I prefer to look for special corners, not very famous but as magical as the famous ones.

During the last year, also considering the lack of tourists and the possibility to visit all the most famous places in Milan without queuing or waiting for weeks before finding an available spot (as it used to be for visiting Leonardo’s Last Supper for example), I decided to start visiting my town as a tourist.

And I decided to start from the heart of Milan: Brera district.

The occasion was the visit of the “Pinacoteca di Brera”, an incredible museum inside the amazing Brera Palace, a late Baroque building which was erected over the remains of a 14th century monastery of the Umiliati order. The Empress Maria Theresa of Austria founded the Accademia in 1776 and housed it in the Palace. The Pinacoteca was officially established in 1809, even though a first heterogeneous collection with educational purpose existed already from 1776 – and then increased in the following years – alongside the Accademia di Belle Arti, requested by Mary Therese of Austria to offer the students the opportunity to study masterpieces of art close up. The Pinacoteca di Brera’s collection includes several of the greatest masterpieces in the history of art such as Francesco Hayez’s The Kiss, Giovanni Bellini’s Pietà, Andrea Mantegna’s The Dead Chirst and Three Mourners and Bellini’s St. Mark Preaching in Alexandria.

After the visit I headed to the Cenacolo Vinciano, finally! I have wanted to visit one of the most famous paintings in the World, Leonardo’s The Last Supper, for ages but it was so complicated as, due to the many bookings, you could have waited for weeks or months before finding a free 30 minutes slot for the visit. The Covid situation of course made this a bit easier as I could finally book my ticket just two days before my visit! I am very happy that I did it because this painting, dated 1495/1498 and placed in the former refectory of the renaissance monastery next to the Santa Maria delle Grazie church, is such an experience. I realized that I stared at the painting, almost speechless, for more than 10 minutes. It was emotional and powerful at the same time. Now I understand why it is considered Leonardo’s (and the whole Italian Renaissance) masterpiece.

My tourist visit ended with the Santa Maria delle Grazie church, founded in 1459 by Dominican monks after Duke of Milan Francesco I Sforza ordered the church and convent at the site of a prior chapel dedicated to the Marian devotion of St Mary of the Graces. It is today listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After this incredible artistic tour I decided to have a sweet break at Di Viole di Liquirizia, a super colorful bakery in the heart of Brera with cupcakes and freshly baked cakes in a shabby chic décor. I just needed this little peaceful break before heading to two of my favorite vintage shops in the area: Bottega Rossa and Urzì. Twin shops although very different, they have a parallel family history: the first born was Bottega Rossa, an eclectic vintage shop that maintains old Milan vibes, as it was one of the very first vintage shops in town. It is today one of my favorite vintage shops as I can find there the real taste of the past mixed with the stories told by its adorable owner, Francesco Urzì.

Urzì is the son of Bottega Rossa, literally. It is a more modern shop with amazing rare and designer pieces that made me think “Like father, like son”!

Of course I bought some very rare jewelry pieces, scarves and nightwear at Bottega Rossa, as I usually do when I go there!

There’s so much more to do in Brera but I don’t want to spoil it all now! This was just my little self-dedicated afternoon in the heart of Milan some time ago.

Vintage dress: London Corner Vintage

Vintage bag: Blondie Girl Vintage

Handamde turban: Madame Ilary

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The Ladybug is back home in Dakar

Car Rapide

Going back to Dakar felt more like going back home for me. Senegal is my second home and Dakar is my second city (Milan is my third, even if I live here, if you were wondering!!).

Even if I was there a few years before it felt like many things have changed in two years: new buildings, museums, mosques, highways, Dakar is a very fast-pace-moving city and I was really surprised about the big changes in just few years!

It is a very crowded and noisy city but I can’t help loving it so much. I love it for its vibrant atmosphere, the music, the people, the colored car rapides (public buses – see picture above) I love it for being so modern but so traditional at the same time, always open to renovate, to look at the future without forgetting its past. Dakar is a city of art, museums, street art, probably one of the most interesting cities in Western Africa.

We arrived from the Lac Rose, not long after lunch which gave us some time to spend in the city before going home (real home, as I spent the last few days with my Senegalese family). The first thing I asked to see was the Rail station in the city center. Why? Because I madly fell in love with the decadence of this colonial building the last time and I read some time before that it was completely renovated. I was happy to see that the renovation did not change the vibes of this wonderful building (very art deco) that has a beautiful story to tell. I was also happy that my favorite basket crafter and the lovely Malian market were still there though!

We then moved to the second big news in town: the newly inaugurated (just a few weeks before) Mosque of Massalikul Djinaane, one of the biggest mosques in Western Africa. It took 15 years to be completed but I was in complete admiration of the wonderful rich decorations of this mosque, that we visited at the sunset where its colors were sublimated by the golden light. After this amazing visit I couldn’t be happier to finally see my Senegalese family after so long.

Dakar Train Station
Mosque Massalikul Djinaane
Mosque Massalikul Djinaane

Even if the celebrations of being with my Senegalese family lasted until late, I woke up super early in the morning to take the boat to Gorée, an island that really took my heart the last time. I really wanted to go back there and this was maybe the only place in Dakar that did not change in the meantime.

Gorée is a UNESCO Word Heritage Site, because of its symbolic role in the Atlantic slave trade although it is a bit under discussion in the history of the slave trade. On the island there is the House of Slaves (Maison des esclaves), built by an Afro-French Métis family about 1780–1784. The House of Slaves is one of the oldest houses on the island. It is now used as a tourist destination to show the horrors of the slave trade throughout the Atlantic world and its visit will not let you indifferent. I cried as a baby the first time, so did I the second one. The only thing that can make you stop crying is the beauty of the island itself, its breath taking views on the ocean, its lovely super colored houses, the warmth of the people, the many artists who live there, the rhythm of djembe. The memories that I have here are priceless.

Gorée
Maison des Esclaves – Gorée
Porte de non-retour, Maison des Esclaves, Goréee
Gorée
Goréee
Gorée
Gorée
Gorée
Drummers in Gorée

I spent the morning on the island until lunch time, then I took the boat to come back to Dakar and to continue the visit to the new “happenings” in town. Another big news was the newly inaugurated Museum of Black Civilizations, that is conceived with the goal of highlighting “Africa’s contribution to the world’s cultural and scientific patrimony”. No need to say that I was speechless in front of such a representation of the histories and contemporary cultures of Black people everywhere, even outside Africa.

We moved back to the city center to have a long walk in the Medina, the old town, to visit the “Grande Mosque” (only from the outside as visitors are not allowed) and to enjoy the real Dakar, as I call the Medina, a neighborhood full of history but also a new cultural and artistic center of the city, especially for young artists and street artists.

We then moved towards the Corniche to visit (again!) the African Renaissance Monument (Monument de la Renaissance Africaine), a copper statue (the tallest in Africa) located on top of one of the twin hills known as Collines des Mamelles overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and representing a family drawn up towards the sky, the man carrying his child on his biceps and holding his wife by the waist, “an Africa emerging from the bowels of the earth, leaving obscurantism to go towards the light”. In front of this monument stands one of my favorite Mosques in Dakar, the Mosquée de la Divinité. Not as beautiful as the others mentioned before but I have a special affection for it that makes it very beautiful to my eyes!

Musée des Civilisations Noires
Monument de la Renaissance Africaine
Monument de la Renaissance Africaine
Mosquée de la Divinité
Mosquée de la Divinité

We left the last day in Dakar for shopping and believe me, it is the hardest part!

First of all because Dakar is full of amazing markets and you cannot miss many of them, not only for buying food and other stuff but also because some of them are just amazing!

Marché Kermel is worth a visit especially for the building: housed within a kiln-shaped hall built during colonial times, the market has been a gathering spot for traders to sell their wares to European settlers since 1910 and it is a pleasure to spend some time among the typical Senegalese food and drink sellers to discover more about the culinary culture of the city. If you feel at ease, there is a very rudimental “restaurant” on the side where you can eat many different typical dishes at few euros (I did!).

Marché Sanadaga is a cluttered and congested marke, full of boutiques, side streets and stalls offering really everything and very good for wax print fabrics, even if the best for it is definitely Marché HLM in my opinion: full of colourful stacks of wax and bazin you can sip attaya (tea) while negotiating the prices!

Marché Tilène in the Medina is very similar to Sandaga and also very interesting, as well as Colobane, one of the less touristic ones, specialized in second hand clothes (oh yes, even in Dakar!!).

Last but not least, the artisanal market of Soumbédioune is a sort of small village where you can buy anything locally handcrafted (perfect to buy your little gifts) but it is more touristic then you will need to negotiate more here than everywhere else.  

But Dakar has also a very vibrant fashion environment that is absolutely a not-to-miss when in town: Sisters of Afrika, Adama Paris, L’artisane, Sassy Chic, Tongoro are just a few names of amazing Senegalese designers who have their show room in Dakar that I strongly suggest to visit. I got a few dresses from Sisters of Afrika and Adama Paris and I couldn’t be happier.

It was a hard shopping day among markets and designers but we took a break for lunch to head to the Almadies, also known as the surfers’ paradise where we enjoyed a good lunch on the beach at The Secret Spot while admiring the Senegalese surfers on the ocean.

I was then ready (not really) to take a night flight from Dakar that would bring me home in the early morning the next day. Now I will miss Senegal so badly until I can go back again.

What to eat

Thieboudienne: the national dish, prepared with fish, rice, vegetables and tomato sauce cooked in one pot; it is usually served in a big bowl so that everyone can eat from it, it symbolizes the famous Senegalese teranga, their hospitality.

Mafé: possibly my favorite dish in Senegal, is a traditional spicy Senegalese stew made with a tomato-peanut butter sauce.  The stew can be made from beef, lamb, or chicken with variations common throughout West Africa and it is served with rice. I don’t eat meat, unless it’s a mafé!

Yassa: Yassa is a spicy dish prepared with onions and meat or fish. Originally from Senegal, yassa has become popular throughout West Africa. Chicken yassa (known as yassa au poulet), prepared with onions, lemon or mustard, is a specialty from the Casamance region in the south of Senegal. Yassa Poisson (with fish) is my favorite one.

Naglakh: Ngalakh is a delicious Senegalese millet porridge that is traditionally flavored with either baobab cream, peanut butter, or sweet yogurt. It is typically served in large bowls as a dessert. The dish is consumed chilled, and it is recommended to sprinkle it with sugar before eating.

Domoda: Domoda is the national dish of Gambia, but you can easily find it also in Senegal. It is a peanut stew made with or without meat and served over fluffy rice. If meat is used in the dish, it is usually beef, bushmeat, or chicken. If Domoda is made without meat, any available vegetables can be added into the stew, usually pumpkins and sweet potatoes

Bissap/Bouye/Attaya: don’t leave the country if you haven’t tried the best drinks of Senegal! Bissap is a fresh drink made from the hibiscus (called bissap here) while Bouye is made with the baobab fruit. Attaya is the typical sugary Senegalese tea and I can tell you that you will ask for it all the time once you try it once!

Where to eat

Everywhere, especially in the streets or small family restaurants. I have never tasted bad Senegalese food, even if when I eat it at home, prepared by my Senegalese family, I am completely in heaven!

What to buy

Handmade textiles (wax, bazin): the Dakar markets are perfect to buy a lot of typical African textiles such as wax and bazin at very affordable prices compared to Europe. Just pay attention to the different quality of the textiles. Prices are almost standardized so you can negotiate basically if you buy many (as I do!).

Handmade silver Jewelry: Senegalese handcrafters are specialized in silver jewelry that has here incredible shapes inspired by the muslim sacred jewelry tradition and the tuareg one. My favorite rings come from Senegal and have important meanings for me as many of them have religious connotations.

Wooden home decorations: masks, statues, bowls, chairs, stools handmade with wood are typical here, it is the perfect place to grab your favorite one handcrafted locally.

Rugs: rugs are made in Senegal basically for religious purposes to sit for the prayers or just as a base where people can eat from the common plate. They are very cheap but also very well crafted with beautiful colors and patterns, you will love them!

Shea Butter: just the best and the cheapest shea butter can be found in Western Africa! The pure shea butter is a gift of the nature for almost everything so don’t miss that chance!

Handcrafted baskets: Senegal is famous for its amazing colored handcrafted baskets in many different shapes and sizes. I got mine in Tivouane on the way south from Lompoul but they are easy to find everywhere. PS: they will let you bring them on the plane, so don’t hesitate to buy more!

Tam tams: even if you are not a drummer you can still learn and if not, they still represent the beat of Africa’s heart and a wonderful piece of decoration (still looking for mine!)

A very last tip for all the vintage and antiques lovers: in many markets you can easily find very old men bringing old metal scrap and oxidized objects. Please stop and have a look: you cannot imagine the gems that are hiding in these little stalls for few cents if you have a proper look!

Medina, Dakar
Almadies, Dakar
Almadies, Dakar
Sisters of Afrika – Dakar

Click here for Women dresses

The Ladybug’s second home and first love: Senegal

Delta du Saloum

If there is a country where I would move immediately it is definitely Senegal. I am madly in love with the culture, the people, the traditions, the rhythms, the colors, the language, the dances…everything about this country truly passionate me at the point that I believe I must have some Senegalese blood in my veins, at that point I feel at home there!

If you are an “Africa beginner” I strongly suggest to approach Africa from this country as it is very modern while keeping strong traditions and because it is famous for its “Teranga”, as their hospitality is known all over the world. You will never feel alone there, there will always be someone to talk to and to help you with the kindness and smile that you will never find anywhere else!

This was my second time there and while the first time I mostly stayed in Dakar and its surroundings, this time I had a bit more time to discover part of the country.

I booked my flight way in advance as usual, there are direct flights from Milan at affordable prices and I got the chance to get a very cheap ticket also considering that I was there in November when it is less hot and flights are generally less expensive. Autumn and winter are very good seasons to travel to Senegal as the summer heat can be very hard to bear sometimes (my first trip was in August and I absolutely preferred this trip weather-wise!). I organized most of my trip from here thanks to my family and friends in Senegal who helped to find a local guide (Momo, who turned out to be the best guide I could have ever found in Senegal, if you need his contact, just drop me an email) and we organized the itinerary from here. He booked the car, the hostels and everything we needed in advance. So no bad surprises, only good ones! Yes, because for example during our long hours in the car our fantastic driver had great ideas to visit places that were not in our itinerary but that we loved so much!

Sacred Baobab
Mixed Cemetery Joal Fadiouth
Mbour beach

I arrived in Dakar from Milan late at night and I had a taxi to Mbour, on the southern coast not far from Dakar where my guide was waiting for me. I was so excited that there was no way for me to sleep even if it was almost 2 o’clock so we headed to a bar near the beach to listen to live mbalax music while sipping a bissap and eating my first of a long series of Senegalese dishes!

Even if it was impossible to sleep for the excitement of being there again after so long, I got up very early in the morning to explore the “Petite Côte”: we rented a typical Senegalese pirogue to discover the Saloum Delta and its amazing mangrove spending the morning there, visiting the small islands of the Delta on a cart sipping café Touba and enjoying the company of the people from the villages.

After a quick lunch (always delicious, you cannot go wrong with food here!) we headed to see the famous baobab in Senegal, the sacred one, because the griots were buried within this tree. Griots have never worked the soil and, as a result, cannot be buried in the ground. It is said that if a griot should be ever buried in the land, a terrible drought will develop. I had the chance to get inside and feel the power of this tree that is always considered sacred in Senegal.

We then headed to Joal Fadiouth, also known as the Shell Island as it entirely lies on shells. The atmosphere there is so peaceful and walking on shells is such an experience! Joal Fadiouth is a Christian and Muslim village, which mixed cemetery made of shells under the shadow of amazing baobab trees is a real place of peace and symbol of religious respect. The main religion in Senegal is Islam but there is also a big Christian community: they live in peace since ever and they respect each other in a way that I have never seen before, a real example for the world!

When back in Joal we had the chance to visit Léopold Sédar Senghor house: the place where this amazing Senegalese poet and politician lived is a real museum now. He was the father, with Aimé Césaire, of the Negritude movement and first African member of the Académie Française. His fight for Africa and Senegal will never be forgotten as well as his powerful poetry (one of his most famous poem was dedicated to Joal indeed, “Joal! Je me rappelle”).

We ended our first incredible day at the sunset on the beach of Mbour to watch the fishermen back from their fishing day bringing the fish to the market. The sunset here, like in Kayar, when the fishermen are back is such an incredible experience: the colors of the many Senegalese pirogues, the crowds around them, the beautiful beach at the sunset are really a not-to-miss experience in Senegal.

We ended the day at the market of Mbour playing djembe with my “griot”, who has one of the most important roles in passing on history and traditions, especially the oral ones.

It was time to get braided at a friend of a friend’s house and to spend the night there chatting with new friends until it was time to get back to the hostel with a new amazing braided hairdo!

Saly beach
Saly beach
Yassa Poisson
Touba Mosquee
Touba Mosquee
Touba Mosquee

Freshly braided I spent the next day relaxing on the wonderful beach of Saly, still on the Petite Côte, while drinking ataya (traditional Senegalese tea), bouye (made from baobab fruit) and eating fresh fish wonderfully prepared by Daouda, owner of La Paillote de Daouda on the beach of Saly. It was such a relaxing day, chatting and discovering while admiring also one of the best African sunsets ever.

After such a relaxing day it was time to leave to Petite Côte to start a very intense trip through part of the country.

We left very early the morning later, to reach Touba, the sacred city before lunch time. I missed this experience the first time and I really wanted to visit the Sacred Mosquee of Touba, considered the most important in Senegal. It is the holy city of Mouridism and the burial place of its founder, Shaikh Ahmadou Bamba Mbacke. At the heart of the Mouride holy city lies its Great Mosque, purported to be one of the largest in Africa. Since its completion in 1963 it has been continuously enlarged and embellished. The atmosphere here is really peaceful and I was very happy to find something that I was really dreaming of: a blessed muslim tasbeeh. It happened exactly how I imagined it, even better, in full respect of the religious tradition. The Mosquee is partially open to visit and you will find a nice guide at the entrance to tell you the story and try to explain part of the magic of this place (because the rest of it you just need to feel it).

From there we headed directly up North to reach the beautiful city of Saint Louis, another dream of mine! We rented a small house on the beach for two days there and as we arrived early enough we immediately visit the center of the city on board of a traditional cart. Saint Louis is a very open and blossoming city with a great artistic life. It is known for the Jazz Festival but also for one of the most interesting Photography Museums. It is also called the mixed city (ville métisse) because since the colonization many Europeans live here and the mixed community is very large. Although during the colonial years it was known as a center of slave trait, the colonial buildings and the wonderful colors make it one of the most attractive cities of Senegal. I strongly suggest a visit because you will find here colonial and traditional treasures that will really have you floored!

Thieboudienne
Saint-Louis
Artist Amadou Boye in Saint-Louis
Saint-Louis
Sunset in Saint-Louis

The next day we decided to reach one of the most amazing natural areas of Senegal: The Langue de Barbarie (French for “Barbary spit of land”, named after the Barbary Coast) is a thin, sandy peninsula between the ocean and the final section of the Senegal River. The National Park covers an area of 2,000 hectares and it is home to an abundant variety of bird species and three species of turtle. You can see them from a typical pirogue and then enjoy a beautiful walk of the wonderful beach.

We enjoyed a real “ndar” lunch before hitting back the road towards the South, in particular to spend a night in the desert, in a Lompoul camp. On the way south we had a very interesting lunch stop on the beach of Lompoul: we enjoyed an amazing yassa poisson before heading to our camp. Lompoul is very famous for its small desert not far from Dakar, where it is possible to spend the night in a Mauritanian camp. We arrived there early enough to enjoy a dromedary walk in the desert and to enjoy one of the best sunsets ever. After the sunset, we ate an amazing dinner and we enjoyed a beautiful night around the fire listening to the rhythm of Africa’s heart: the sound of djembe and sabar. That night was very important for me and for my life. I felt at what point I wanted to dance sabar. I’ve always thought it was too difficult for me and I’ve never started it before. But that night I felt that it was necessary for me, it was my sabar call. I don’t think that it was a coincidence but I found the way a few months later, without even looking for it. It was just meant to be and today I can say that it was the best decision I’ve ever taken as it totally changed my life.

The Mauritanian tents are very modern and comfortable, compared to the Bedouin ones they are open and it can be a bit chilly and windy at night! Nevertheless, it was such an experience that I loved!

Saint-Louis
Langue de Barbarie
Lompoul Desert
Langue de Barbarie
Lompoul Desert
Lompoul Desert

After a good breakfast in the desert, we continued our way back to Dakar. With a few interesting stops proposed by our amazing driver, Moussa. First we stopped at Ngaye Mekhé , very famous for the handcrafted shoes. This small town is full of little shoe makers’ shops and I finally found a pair of amazing yellow leather slippers, Senegalese style (very proud of them!). Then we stopped at Tivouane, the best place to buy the typical handcrafted baskets in many shapes and dimensions at the small market of women full of baskets to die-for!

After a few hours we arrived at Rufisque, not far from Dakar, near the last stop of our tour before spending a few days in Dakar. Before heading to Lake Retba (Lac Rose = Pink Lake) we stopped there for a Jeep tour on the sandy beach and for a yassa poisson. We arrived on the Lake just after lunch and it was an amazing surprise for me because this time it was really pink! The first time that I was there I had a pirogue tour of the lake but I couldn’t see its pink color.

Its pink waters are caused by a specific algae that produces a red pigment to assist in absorbing light and is known for its high salt content. The color is particularly visible during the dry season (from November to June) and is less visible during the rainy season (July to October), which explains why I couldn’t see it the first time. This beautiful landscape really amazed me, also because I still had a beautiful memory of this place from my past visit.

This was the last stop before heading that same afternoon to Dakar. But my lovely Dakar needs a specific blog post that you can read soon!

Bissap in the desert
Lac Rose
Lac Rose
Senegalese woman in Lac Rose
Tivouane