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.

Maison des Esclaves – Gorée
Porte de non-retour, Maison des Esclaves, Goréee
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 Peruvian adventure – Part 2


Welcome to the second part of my Peruvian adventure, maybe the most exciting part of this whole trip!

DAY 8: We arrived very early in the morning after a long overnight bus trip from Bolivia in Cusco, the old capital of the Inca Empire where you can really learn a lot about Inca civilization and get completely addicted it, my word! The same name comes from Qosqo or Qusquin that means center, navel in Quechua; in fact based on Inca mythology, it was the center where Underworld met the visible world and the Superior World. The city is called the navel of the Universe and you can feel the magic of this perfect place in many places of its valley, which are perfect for meditation as the connection with the Universal power here is stronger than anywhere else in the world (which I can confirm). We spent the morning in the area of San Blas before joining a free walking tour of the city that was very interesting to know more about its history, Inca civilization and the different areas of the city, including its famous San Pedro market. We booked it online as the other free tours that we joined in Peru and I must say that they are all very interesting and well managed, with very good tour guides. The tour is free but it is suggested to leave an offer because they really deserve it.

DAY 9: First personal dream came true during this trip: the visit of the Rainbow Mountain! La Montaña de Siete Colores is located in the Andes with an altitude of 5,200 meters above sea level and it’s a two-hour drive from Cusco, and a walk of about 5 kilometers (you can use a horse for most of it, like I did). We had to leave the hotel at 3 in the morning to get there around ten in the morning but as it was winter time in Peru we were super lucky to see the mountain in all its beauty without snow! This rainbow-like appearance is created by the sediment of minerals throughout the area giving the mountain the different colors from turquoise to gold, from green to brown. It was hard to get at such altitude but I cannot name anything that impressed me more than that! The bad part of it is that the mountain was completely unknown to the locals because it was constantly covered with snow. It is only in the last decades that it was “discovered” as the climatic changes made it visible to people because the snow started to melt due to the planet higher temperatures. We booked this trip from Italy with Rainbow Mountain Travels and we found the agency very serious and helpful so I really suggest it. The prices are around 30 euros, including transportation from and to the hotel, breakfast, lunch and equipment for the trek (oxygen masks, doctors and Agua de Florida of course!). Being at 5,200 meters was a bit hard for those like me who are not used to it but with a good dose of Agua de Florida and a lot of mate in the morning I made my way to the mountain and back, although it is recommended not to stand more than 20/30 minutes on the top as it may become harder to breathe normally. We arrived at our hotel in the early afternoon but we were so tired that we slept all the afternoon before getting out for dinner and come back immediately!

Rainbow Mountain
Rainbow Mountain
On the way up to the Rainbow Mountain

DAY 10: When we arrived in Cusco we booked a whole day tour of the Cusco Sacred Valley that was really one of the best discoveries ever, not only for the magic of the valley as I said before, but also for the places that we visited and the possibility to know more about Inca civilization that totally hooked me. We started the visit with the Archeological Park of Chinchero and of Moray containing Inca ruins, especially several terraced circular depressions with incredible modern irrigation systems. On this tour of the Sacred Valley we also visited Maras, famous for its amazing salt evaporation ponds, which have been in use since Inca times, offering a magnificent view. The last stop of our tour was Pisac, another amazing Inca village where the Inca created agricultural terraces that are still in use today. They also created terraces here by hauling richer topsoil by hand from the lower lands to enable production of surplus food which they used to store in incredible natural storages.

Salinas de Maras

DAY 11: We left Cusco very early in the morning to reach Aguascalientes at lunch time on the typical busy Machu Picchu train. This small village lives around Machu Picchu tourism as it is the place from where all the buses to Machu Picchu leave so it is full of hotels and restaurants for tourists. We spent the afternoon hanging around, buying bus tickets for the following day “big visit”, imagining the Machu Picchu adventure and preparing to the trek with a good massage!

DAY 12: Finally meeting the Machu Picchu! After the Rainbow Mountain another dream came true during this trip, my third World Wonder! The lost city has still many mysteries to be solved but of one I am sure: the atmosphere of this place is incredible, the magic is tangible and the view over the valley is breathtaking! You can walk for hours and never get tired of it! I suggest to get a local guide at the entrance because it will tell you so much about this magical place that keeps its magic despite the huge number of tourists! Everything from train and entrance was booked from Italy except local buses (they sell in the afternoon for the day later) and guide. Make sure to book at least two months in advance as it is very hard to find the tickets. Consider also that due to the tourist emergency it is under discussion the idea of limiting daily entrance tickets. PS: if you practice meditation it is an amazing place to stop for a good practice here!

Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu

DAY 13: After the Machu Picchu visit we concluded our Sacred Valley with the visit of Ollantaytambo that we reached by train form Aguacalientes the night before. Ollantaytambo is part of the Inca Trail path and one of the most interesting Inca archeological sites. It was built as a ceremonial center and the visit of the city will make you discover some more interesting things about Incas. I was very impressed by the Storehouses, built out of fieldstones on the hills surrounding Ollantaytambo. Their location at high altitudes, where more wind and lower temperatures occur, defended their contents against decay. They are thought to have been used to store the production of the agricultural terraces built around the site. Grain would be poured in the windows on the uphill side of each building, then emptied out through the downhill side window. Our fascinating tour of the Sacred Valley finishes here, just in time to catch our first domestic flight from Cusco to Lima and then to Trujillo, in the north of Peru where we arrived late at night in the fantastic original Hotel Colonial that I strongly suggest if you are in town.


DAY 14: We decided to spend the day in town walking around this amazing colonial city that I really wanted to visit and that was a great surprise for me as it is probably one of my favorite cities in Peru. We reached the sea level and breathing became easier also as we are finally near the sea. The city center contains many examples of colonial and religious architecture and its colours clearly tell the story of the long Spanish domination. I was constantly in a awe in front of the beauty and colors of its buildings (the Tribunal for example), churches (the Cathedral is just a wonderful yellow and white church that I totally fell in love with!) and simple houses and bars. I couldn’t stop taking pictures almost anywhere because my love for bold colors really blossomed here!

Trujillo Cathedral

DAY 15: On day 14 we manage to arrange a one day excursion in the surroundings of Trujillo, as it is close to two major archeological sites of pre-Columbian monuments: Chan Chan, the largest adobe city in the ancient world, designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986; and the temples of the Sun and Moon (the largest adobe pyramid in Peru). They are both great examples of prehistoric Moche and Chimu cultures before the Inca conquest and subsequent expansion. These sites deserve a visit as they will keep you open mouth after the Sacred Valley experience! Our tour included a lovely lunch on the beach of Huanchaco, very well known small fishermen village and surfers’ top destination in Peru. We took a night bus to Lima (our last one!) that same night, our trip is about to finish…

DAY 16: We arrived in Lima early in the morning and we decided to have a last tour in Miraflores to breathe for the last time the Peruvian air (not the best air in Lima though as the city has very high pollution levels), eat our last Ceviche and get ready to catch our flight back to Milano!

Before giving you my best of (Food, Restaurants and Shops) let me give you a very last advice concerning traveling by bus: I was a bit skeptical at the beginning and I must say that it was hard not to sleep in proper beds and spend many hours in the bus BUT: i) Cruz del Sur buses are the best, super comfy and almost always on time; ii) it is the easiest and cheapest way if you want to travel all around the country; iii) the Andean landscapes by bus and priceless, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of these landscapes and the powerful energy of these mountains; traveling by bus is the only real way to enjoy them in all their beauty!

Huaca Arco Iris
Huaca de la Luna

What to eat

Ceviche: the national dish and one of the most popular foods in Peru, ceviche can cause instant obsession as this cooked fish served cold traditionally includes sea bass (corvina) marinated for a few minutes in lime juice, onion, salt, and hot chilies (aji) is Peruvian to the core! Try the longstanding tradition of taking the leftover marinade of salt, lime, and chilis, mixing them with Pisco (a Peruvian brandy) and drinking it as a shooter!

Potatoes:  Peru has dozen of potatoes variants and they use them all. If you are a potato addict please try them all (like I did), you will be amazed! Best discovery: Papas a la Huancaína, also in its variant with purple potatoes! It may look a bit like a yellow soupy mass topped with chopped soft-boiled egg, but don’t let that fool you.

Fried trout: If you are traveling around the Titicaca lake you will totally fall in love with this simple yet tasty recipe: the best thing is that most of the times the trout is fished just for you…can you get fresher fish that that?

Lomo saltado: Coming in second only to ceviche in popularity, lomo saltado is a mix of Chinese stir-fry and classic Peruvian cuisine. Tender strips of beef (occasionally you will find it made with alpaca meat) are marinated in soy sauce and add to onions, tomatoes, aji chillies, and other spices.

Queso helado: Traditional ice cream of Arequipa, nothing to do with cheese but super tasty, you can find it everywhere in town!

Where to eat

Amaz : amazing Amazonian cuisine in Lima

El Rincón del Bigote: the best traditional “cevichería” in Lima

Victoria Picanteria Democratica: traditional food of Arequipa in an historical restaurant that reminds us of the revolutionary past of the town

Faustina: Historical familiar restaurant following the tradition of the “abuela Faustina” that mixes tradition with modern in Cuzco

El Celler de Cler: modern and traditional cuisine in an historical Spanish building of Trujillo (ask for a table outside if possible, you won’t regret it!)

What to buy

(if you can don’t get these items at the markets as they are often not really handmade and not really traditional; if you do, choose carefully and make sure you buy from a local handcrafter)

Traditional Handmade (wool) blankets, rugs, scarves and tablecloths

Traditional Handmade Peruvian Hats

Traditional Handmade silver jewelry representing Peruvian elements: the Inca Cross, the Pachamama or other traditional representations (better if antiques)

Original alpaca wool ponchos, sweaters or accessories


The Ladybug’s Peruvian adventure – Part 1

Monasterio Santa Catalina – Arequipa

16 days backpacking in Peru from North to South is it possible? Yes, and it is one of my last adventures before the Covid-19 stopped all my foreign adventures for now!

It was a long and challenging trip but definitely one of the best experiences ever! I will share it in two different posts because it is very long and there’s a lot to say so let’s start with the journey and some of my personal tips to have a wonderful time in Peru!

First of all it is important to plan in advance your trip: I booked my flight in January because flights may be very expensive, so almost 8 months before the trip itself. Two months before I booked the hotels (all through, bus tickets for long-distance transportation and the main entries and free tours in some towns. Only few of them were booked locally (e.g. Trujillo, in the North). Before leaving I also packed with a few very important things if you travel to Peru: comfy mountain shoes, warm sweaters and jackets for the important altitudes also to protect against the wind (no medicines because the best ones, totally natural can be found there), a good and long lasting charger for the nights spent in the bus traveling. Don’t forget to bring tee shirts too as the weather can change very easily during the day and you can easily go from 0 degrees to 20 in a few hours! If you are scared of altitude remember that you will be filled with “mate” infusions and you can easily find low cost herbal remedies in local pharmacies; if you follow my personal tour the big advantage is that you gain altitude progressively which will definitely help with getting accustomed making just baby steps. In general you will probably feel more fatigue even to accomplish easy tasks (for me it was especially during the night as I found it hard to breathe normally during sleep) and you may feel huge headaches at very high altitudes but Peruvians have good remedies also for this (ask for some Agua de Florida in Cuzco, they will be pleased to show you its amazing powers!).

Anyway, any Peruvian trip usually starts from Lima, the capital of Peru where we arrived at night: we decided to stay safe in a modern touristic area of Lima called Miraflores, where we ate in an amazing Amazonian restaurant called Amaz before getting our well-deserved rest!

DAY 1: We spent our first full day in Lima and we booked a one day trip with Limavision to visit the ruins of Pachacamac (not far from the city) and the city center : the beautiful Cathedral and the very peculiar old town streets give you the idea of the Spanish past of this very modern and crowded city, where traffic jams are the worse I have ever seen! By the way, while in Lima we used Bolt to go around, it is very common there and very cheap.

Lima Cathedral

DAY 2: Our real trip started on the second day in Peru when we left Lima (where we will be back at the end of the trip) very early in the morning to take our bus to Ica, 2 hours away starting our journey towards the South. We used for all our bus rides Cruz del Sur, the most famous bus company in Peru with very modern and comfortable buses traveling all around the country but we booked all the trips months before the trip. In Ica you will find many people asking you for a taxi outside the bus station but make sure to get an approved one to bring you to Huacachina, an “oasis” in the Peruvian desert surrounded by sand dunes: it is very popular for sandboarding and dune buggy drives! Once you get there you will easily find many tours agencies offering the experience so, don’t miss the fun especially because you will be rewarded with one of the nicest desert sunsets. That same night we left by bus to Nazca (2 hours trip) for the next big adventure, the one that I was most scared of!


DAY 3: Overlooking the famous Nazca lines, an impressive group of very large geoglyphs made in the soil of the Nazca Desert from an helicopter was the scariest thing of this trip for me! Apparently I got enough mate in the morning to avoid any nausea and the trip went very well or possibly Aero Paracas’ pilots are very good! This visit was probably one of the most expensive (I suggest you to book it from home) but also one of the most interesting in Peru, also because the mystery around these lines are still open to many different interpretations! In the afternoon our hotel host proposed a very interesting tour of some of the beauties of Nazca, pretty unknown to the tourists who come here only for the lines: the incredible necropolis of Chauchilla, the lost city of Cahuachi with its amazing Nazca pyramids or the perfectly functioning Cantalloc pre-Inca aqueducts. The same night at ten we left for the first overnight bus trip to Arequipa where we arrived on day 4!

Nazca Lines
Nazca Lines
Chauchilla Necropolis

DAY 4: We arrived in Arequipa early in the morning, very tired even if overnight buses are quite comfortable. The city is at an altitude of 2300 meters so we started going higher but it is still very nice and just a little bit chillier. Arequipa is the second town of Peru as per population and has an amazing history: it is known as La Ciudad Blanca (The White City) because of the color of the stone with which it was built. For this reason it has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We had the chance to discover Arequipa’s history in the afternoon in a lovely free city tour (an offer is appreciated though) as well as its lovely handcrafters in the city center selling alpaca wool pieces or amazing antiques. But the not-to-miss attraction of Arequipa is Santa Catalina Monastery which we discovered during the day with its light blue and dark red colors really left us addicted (and full of Instagrammable pictures!).

Monasterio Santa Catalina – Arequipa
Monasterio Santa Catalina – Arequipa
Monsaterio Santa Catalina – Arequipa
Monasterio Santa Catalina – Arequipa
Antiques shop in Arequipa

DAY 5: We enjoyed some few hours in Arequipa visiting the famous Market Fundo el Fierro before getting on another bus that would lead us to Puno, after almost 7 hours. We booked a night on the famous floating islands of Uros on the Lake Titicaca. Where we arrived during the night on a little boat (fascinating!).

DAY 6: Sleeping on a floating island was such an experience! We woke up on this tiny island with a few houses made of totora; in fact Uros Islands are made entirely from totora reeds and the lives of the inhabitants of these artificial islands are entirely dependent upon the reed beds they live among. Despite it became such a touristic experience it’s still an incredible adventure and the communities living on the islands are very friendly and welcoming. We spent the day on a typical handmade boat, learning local fishing techniques, how the reed islands are made and enjoying some time in traditional costumes while chatting with the lovely people of the islands. If I can give you a suggestion just avoid the biggest islands and prefer the smallest ones where real communities still live there. The biggest ones are too touristic and all the magic of these places will be completely lost. We left for the Southern part of the Lake in the afternoon when we arrived to Bolivia to enjoy a completely different view of the Titicaca Lake.

Uros Islands – Titicaca Lake
Uros Islands – Titicaca Lake

DAY 7: We arrived in Copacabana in Bolivia and we immediately realized how everything was different compared to the Uros. Much less touristic, an incredible nature and definitely one of the best views of Titicaca Lake. From our hotel we booked an half-day boat excursion to the Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna where we got caught in the best views of the lake ever. These two islands are incredible, there is a lot to walk but your eyes will be amazed and will be filled with extreme beauty. We had an amazing lunch on a floating restaurant (the best fried trout ever for less than 1 euro) before hitting back the road and leaving Bolivia during another overnight trip back to Peru to finally discover the capital of the Inca Empire: Cuzco and its region.

I will leave this incredible part of the trip (it was like a crescendo of emotions and discoveries) for the second part of my Peruvian adventure next time! Also, my suggestions for best restaurants, what to eat and what to buy will be in the next post.

Copacabana – Bolivia
Isla del Sol – Titicaca Lake (Bolivia)
Fundo El Fierro Market – Arequipa
Vicunas in the Andes
Copacabana – Titicaca Lake (Bolivia)

The Ladybug discovers the beauty of Padua

Us travelers will probably face new challenges and will need to adapt to the changes if we want to continue discovering the world. Personally I had to postpone two trips and to cancel two more in Europe and in Africa and I started considering rediscovering my own country Italy in the next months.

I read a lot during the last few months that Covid-19 will probably change our way of traveling for the next months and maybe years in many different ways.

It made me think that the last time that I visited a city in Italy was in September 2019, yes long time ago, when I joined my parents and their friends in Padua while they were touring Veneto and Emilia Romagna. We spent a lovely day in Padua all together and I discovered a wonderful city that has so much more than the wonderful Sant’Antonio Basilica with its amazing decorations. The Basilica was built to house the tomb of St. Anthony, whose remains are spread through 2 of the churches 4 cloisters. The Basilica is huge with 8 domes and some bell towers and it is one of the most mystic places for prayer that I have ever visited. It is rich in traditions, history and decorations, it will leave every visitor with the mouth wide open. Also its patio is absolutely lovely.

But the Basilica is just one of the best monuments in town.

I started my visit with the amazing Cappella degli Scrovegni, with masterful frescos by Giotto. The access is very limited so don’t forget to book your visit way in advance online because it is really worth a visit. From there you can easily reach the old town by walk and reach the beautiful and vibrant Piazza delle Erbe e della Frutta with its amazing Palazzo della Ragione, full of frescos and artifacts.

Also, the Battistero – currently under restoration – is worth a visit as well as the University, the second oldest in Italy and where Galileo taught and Dante was a student!

We walked to the Prato della Valle, a beautiful park with fountains and surrounded by statues, where we found a lovely food market to taste some local food and wine!

I can say that in general the frescos and historical buildings of Padua will take your breath away: it is a very retro city, full of history and, speaking of this, you definitely need to visit Café Pedrocchi, opened in 1831, that was the largest café in Europe and was visited by artists from all over Europe including Stendhal and Lord Byron. You can go there for a coffee or for a spritz and feel like a vintage diva!

I didn’t have time for vintage shopping but if you are around, I love Foxy Brown, a lovely shop not far from the train station that you would love for sure!

The Ladybug succumbs to the charms of Bilbao

The Ladybug Chronicles Bilbao (2)

Last year I started my Spain discovery tour with a trip to Madrid, followed by Barcelona and Valencia, because I realized that I haven’t traveled to Spain at all, even if I am loving it more and more as far as I discover new corners of this beautiful country. This year I decided to add a new city to my Spain discovery tour: Bilbao. I had many friends who visited it and they all loved it, then I decided to book a long weekend with a friend there and I must say that it was great!

We arrived on an early afternoon and once we left our luggage at the hotel we headed by tram to my third Guggenheim museum out of four in the world (Bilbao, Venice, New York and Abu Dhabi – the one that I haven’t visited yet): I wasn’t disappointed at all! I loved the modern architecture of this museum and I loved the most famous pieces exposed outside: the “Puppy”, a floral puppy by Jeff Koons as well as his famous Tulips also exposed in Milan at the Fondazione Prada, or the big spider “Maman” by Louise Bourgeois. I was lucky enough to find there many pieces by Jenny Holzer, one of my favorite artists, who also dedicated a permanent installation to the city of Bilbao. Her colored neon art tells stories of migrants, solitude and fights, it was a pleasure to admire her art for real for the first time in Bilbao.

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The Ladybug Chronicles Bilbao (3)

After a few hours lost in this beautiful museum we headed back to the Plaza Nueva and we enjoyed the Spanish “pintxos” time. The Place is full of bars where you can eat the most delicious pintxos, the Basque Country version of the famous Spanish tapas, with the best local red wine (vino tinto) – I will give you my favorite addresses in the Plaza Nueva at the end of the post. It’s the best moment to enjoy the city at its best: full of people, sparkling and creative!

The next day we had a very long walk around the city (the good thing about Bilbao is that you can easily walk to visit it as it is quite small) starting from the amazing area where we stayed, Bilbao La Vieja: we admired it at night and it has the best spots for drinking, probably the most visited by young people, but during the day we could admire its great street art: graffiti and murals are a must when you visit this old mining area that went from popular to trendy in the last decades. You can still see the entrance of the old mine near one of the restaurants along the river and you can recognize it by the mine graffiti on the wall (just in front of the Ribera market).  Then we headed to the old town, Plaza Nueva again, the beautiful Plaza de Unamuno with the famous staircase and the Pensión Matilde, the Cathedral, the amazing art nouveau building of the Abando train station (possibly my favorite building in town) and all the tiny streets where it’s so easy but also so pleasant to get lost. In these little streets you can also find Flamingos Vintage Kilo (they have many shops in other Spanish cities like Barcelona), possibly my favorite vintage shop in town, where I bought two little 80s dress for less than 10 euros and I can’t wait to wear them!

The Ladybug Chronicles Bilbao (5)

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Before heading to the “new” area of Bilbao we stopped at the Mercado de la Ribera, an institution in town, beautifully decorated food market where you can also eat meat, fish or of course pintxos, like we did (with a glass of red wine) at the Vermutería. The food was excellent and so was the wine…we got ready for a busy afternoon towards Plaza Moyúa and the newest  part of Bilbao with big streets and modern shops…a bit boring for us! Then we decided to take the Artxanda Funicular to find some peace on top of the hill and to admire a wonderful view of Bilbao from the top! Of course all this peace made us ready for the crowd of the Plaza Nueva and for another night of pintxos, wine and music in Bilbao!

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The Ladybug Chronicles Bilbao (6)

The Ladybug Chronicles Bilbao (8)

We spent our last day in Bilbao far away from the city: we took a bus up north to see the Basque Coast, more precisely the lovely city of Getaria to visit the Cristobal Balenciaga Museum just near the curated central square of the town. The museum is definitely worth a visit not only for the comprehensive view of the designer life and creations but also for its beautiful modern architecture: a black cube from the outside but great light and pink walls inside! I loved this museum dedicated to one of the most important designers ever, also one of my favorite of all times!

The village is very famous for the museum but also for the wonderful beach and for the restaurants near the beach where you can eat the best fresh fish but be careful: you need to book a table before and to choose carefully the restaurant as some of them are really incredibly expensive! After our dose of fresh fish and blue sea we headed back to Bilbao for our last festive night in Plaza Nueva first and in Bilbao La Vieja then!

As promised a last word to my favorite spots for pintxos in town, all in the big square Plaza Nueva. We loved Zaharra, a new spot with delicious food and wine and we ADORED the historical Café Bar Bilbao (one of the oldest bars in town where we switched from pintxos to fried calamari as it is the plate they are famous for!) and the traditional Victor Montes for the excellent pintxos and wine.

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The Ladybug Chronicles Bilbao (9)

The Ladybug Chronicles Bilbao (12)

The Ladybug names Budapest the vintage capital of Eastern Europe!

The Ladybug Chronicles Budapest (4)

There are three cities that I felt quite ashamed about not having visited them until very lately: one was Barcelona that I finally visited last year, another one was Prague where I went two years ago and the last one was Budapest where I spent a weekend with my friends in May. I don’t know why but they looked so obvious to me that I never felt like organizing a weekend there! They are not far from Milan, not expensive, I had to wait for someone to ask me to go there to eventually go there (except for Barcelona, that was my idea!). And I was wrong about them being obvious, because I loved the three of them.

For sure going to Budapest when I had still Jordan in my mind and heart was not easy but I really enjoyed this beautiful city on the Danube river, often called “Paris of the East”.

The city can be split in two big areas: Buda on the southern side of the Danube river and Pest on the northern side. We decided to dedicate one day to each of them as we had to full days to spend in town. We had the chance to have an apartment in the Gozsdu area where there is a lovely vintage and handmade weekend market during the weekends so we started the day with some local shopping before heading to the first vintage shop on my list: Jajcica, definitely one my favorite vintage shops in town. I spent hours trying amazing ethnic tunics and 60s dresses and I started my day with a bag full of incredible vintage pieces for bargain prices. Not too far is Lovebug Vintage, a concept store with mixed and contemporary pieces where I found some cute stuff and a beautiful vintage tapestry bag.  This was just the beginning of the vintage experience in Budapest, I really didn’t expect all this wonderful vintage here, so be prepared with a lot of space in your luggage for your vintage finds. Budapest is for me the capital of Vintage of the East!!

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The Ladybug Chronicles Budapest (1)

The Ladybug Chronicles Budapest (5)

After this great vintage preview we started our serious tour of the city along the river in Buda with a long walk to admire the incredible Budapest Parliament (it is better to see it from the other side of the river so that you can admire this amazing building in all its beauty) and all the beautiful buildings along the street before heading to the Castle, like the wonderful Szilagyi Dezso Teri Reformatus Templom.

We then reached the Castle with the Budavari Siklo, The Budapest Castle Hill Funicular opened 1870 and still running to admire the most beautiful view of Budapest from the hill. Don’t expect to find a real Castle there but enjoy the monuments that are part of the Castle district like the Royal Palace, the Matthias Church and, my very favorite, the Fisherman’s Bastion.

After a long day of walking and visiting we decided to have a proper relaxing evening at the famous Géllert Thermal Baths. This is one of the most interesting art nouveau buildings in Budapest (I was madly in love with the inside) and also a must-see if you want to understand how important is the thermal baths habit in Budapest. There are of course a lot of tourists but the many services offered (external and internal pools with different thermal waters, massages, sauna and iced water) make you understand how important it is in the city culture. Gellért is not the only historical thermal bath in Budapest, you can find many, maybe a bit less touristic but this is an institution and you cannot miss it!

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Second day of the weekend we spent it in Pest, my favorite area because of its many vintage shops, hipster bars and, more than everything, my adored Jewish Ghetto. But let’s start from the beginning: after a second tour at the Gozsdu Weekend market (where I decided to buy two beautiful vintage amber brooches!) we visited a couple of interesting vintage shops of Buda: Szputnyik is a mix of modern and vintage pieces (especially modern though) but they have a very vintage second store in the Jewish Ghetto (in Kiraly St.) that has incredible pieces (little bag from there with a skirt and a dress!); Retrock my favorite shop of day 2 with two floors of amazing vintage at very good prices (my second big bag this time!!), PSTR store where I spotted a lovely vintage skirt and shirt.

With my hands full of vintage like the day before, we started a proper visit of Buda starting with St. Sthepen’s Basilica and getting lost in the wonderful Jewish Ghetto with its decadent buildings, and beautiful synagogues, especially Dohany Street Synagogue, possibly my favorite building in town.

This is also the area of incredible places like Szimpla kert, one of the most famous bars of Budapest where there are so many things everywhere that it is almost impossible to describe it: I can only tell you that we didn’t even stop for a beer but spent a long moment there observing all the wall decorations and furniture because it was really mad!

If you are vegetarian there is not a lot to eat in town, I went for hummus and Langosh in the Jewish ghetto but also for different tastes of chimney cakes every time that I spotted a seller!!!

One last interesting tip: even if you can easily hang around in Budapest by walk or public transportation, we used a lot Taxify from/to the airport and to reach some vintage shops that were not very close. As in Bucharest it is super cheap and it works very well. So download the app if you don’t have it yet!

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The Ladybug living the Jordanian dream: Amman

The Ladybug Chronicles Amman (4)

The last stop of my Jordanian journey was also the most painful: I left the Wadi Rum desert with my heart broken because I didn’t want to let go all the emotions, feelings and gifts for my soul that I received there but we had a long trip up north to reach Amman and a last day to enjoy this amazing country that I didn’t want to leave.

I cannot explain how I felt during this four-hour trip along the country from down South, I was sad but happy at the same time, I couldn’t believe that all those moments happened for real and I didn’t know how to make them last in my mind and soul. I must confess that I also cried (which I did a lot when I came back home) but I cried of joy and gratitude for the unexpected and new emotions.

When we arrived in town we were still dirty and full of sand everywhere, then we decided that the best thing to do was heading to the Al-Pasha Turkish Bath (very famous in Amman) to enjoy a full sauna, Turkish bath, peeling and massage in this wonderful place, where we also enjoyed free tea and sweets before leaving for dinner. I took it like a sort of renaissance: they could remove the sand from my skin and hair but couldn’t remove the best memories that I keep in my heart.

The day after we had 12 hours to enjoy Amman and I must say that this town did its best not to make me feel too sad: Amman is colored, noisy, crowded, full of life and sparkling although quite hot!

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The Ladybug Chronicles Amman (2)

The Ladybug Chronicles Amman (1)

We started the day with a few hours visit at the Amman Citadel, to visit the Roman ruins on top of the hill and we gradually walked down to reach the famous Roman Theater and the colorful suq of Amman near the crowded King Hussein mosque. We found there the best Syrian fabrics and Jordanian embroideries for incredibly good prices (this was my Amman bargain!), discovered the gold suq (where I bought a beautiful ring) and the very surprising women suq.

It was lunchtime when we decided to go find the famous Hashem restaurant where we ate the best hummus and falafel of our lives and it was so cheap that when we received our bill we thought it was for one person but it was for the six of us! The tea also was delicious and the huge variety of hummus made us fighting for which one was the best! After this delicious lunch we walked a few minutes to Habibah, one of the most famous bakeries in Amman where we ate the delicious (but full of calories!) kunafa, a typical Jordanian syrup soaked cheese pastry, and other delicious things that we cannot even name!

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With our tummies full and happy we stopped at the Diwan Duke, the oldest building in town, where we had a clear vision of what was life in Amman during the last century and where we had a long chat with its welcoming owner, Mamdouh Bisharat.

We left then the old town to head to Jebel Amman to visit the King Abdullah mosque with a beautiful blue dome although we missed the Abu Darwish mosque because of the crowd of the rush hour. We got lost then in the colored steets of Amman, with its beautiful murals and painted stairs all over the city (don’t ask for them, you will find them almost everywhere!)  before eating our last mensaf at the Al-Quds restaurant and running to the airport to catch our night flight to Milan.

This happened almost two months ago now but I will never forget this wonderful trip, possibly one of my best three life travels. It changed me, for real. I was definitely ready for such an emotional journey and it found me when I needed it most. I think of Jordan every single day of my life since then and I know I will be back one day.

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The Ladybug living the Jordanian dream: Petra

The Ladybug Chronicles Petra (14)

The first reason why we decided to travel to Jordan was to visit Petra, one of the seven World Wonders, personally my second one and my first abroad (as the other one is the Colosseum in Rome!). We have been feeding our eyes with pictures from this wonderful archeological site for years so we decided that it was time to take the road to the country, take our own pictures and collect new memories in Petra.

The site itself has a very mysterious story: it is not known precisely when Petra was built, but the city began to prosper as the capital of the Nabataean Empire from the 1st century bC. Petra was later annexed to the Roman Empire and continued to thrive until a large earthquake in 363 AD destroyed much of the city in the 4th century AD. The earthquake combined with changes in trade routes, eventually led to the downfall of the city which was ultimately abandoned. By the middle of the 7th century Petra appears to have been largely deserted and it was then lost to all except local Bedouins from the area.

In 1812 a Swiss explorer named Johannes Burckhardt set out to ‘rediscover’ Petra; he dressed up as an Arab and convinced his Bedouin guide to take him to the lost city: since then Petra attracted tourists from all over the world and the site is constantly under development. New monuments are discovered and made accessible to visitors every year and many of them are only “visible” at the moment from some corners of the site.

The Ladybug Chronicles Petra (1)

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It is for sure a real city and it was very hard to see it all in one day that’s why we decided a tailored tour with our fantastic guide the night before while eating a Jordanian dinner in Wadi Musa. We met very early the next day to enjoy as much as possible of the city until the sunset when it closes to tourists. We decided to follow the famous siq (around 1,5 km) along the breathtaking canyons where so much of the Nabatean culture and lifestyle was already visible and explained to us by our incredible guide. The reason why we decided to enter Petra from the siq was the emotion of seeing the Treasury, one of Petra most known monuments, from the canyons. I was completely speechless and my heart was beating so fast for the incredible emotion.

Seeing it for real for the first time is a moment and a feeling that I will probably never forget.

Once we managed to control our feelings we started our way through the Street of Facades and the Roman Theatre before starting a pleasant hike to the High Place of Sacrifice. There are a lot of hikes in Petra if you want to see the best places and views: you can do them slowly if you are not super sporty but in case you feel really tired you can do it with the many donkeys that you can find around the site. But please, do it! The best of Petra is from its heights! From the High Place of Sacrifice you can easily see so many monuments that are still hidden from the tourist view that the 45 minutes hike will look like 10 minutes!

We were lucky enough to have a sunny day with a good temperature so it was not so bad to walk a lot but remember to bring water and to stop every now and then in the many Bedouin shops to have some typical sage tea to recover and regain your energies!

There are also good hikes to admire The Treasury from the top of the front rock but we decided to leave it for the end if we had time and in the end we didn’t have time at all for a last hike!

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The Ladybug Chronicles Petra (10)

We also visited the wonderful Royal Tombs (Urn Tomb, Silk Tomb, Corinthian Tomb and Palace Tomb) with the greatest walls and ceilings where the erosion created amazing motifs, before returning to Colonnaded Street to stop for a frugal lunch (there is a little self-service restaurant before the route to The Monastery or you can bring your own food) and then make the most important hike: around 45 minutes to the famous Al-Deir, The Monastery. I can’t say if I preferred the Monastery or The Treasury (maybe the first one!) but they are both a huge surprise and very emotional when you see them after a long walk (The Treasury) or a long hike (The Monastery). Still we decided to sit there in the bar just in front of it and to admire it in all its beauty while sipping mint tea and just enjoying the once-in-a-lifetime view! As it was already almost the sunset we waited there to watch it from that spectacular position before heading down to the exit before the site closing (around 6.30/7 pm).

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The Ladybug Chronicles Petra (23)

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At our biggest surprise, the same city changed completely its color at the sunset going from dark yellow/rust to rose-red (they call it the Pink city after all!). Can you see how different the Treasury was in this pinky color?

When we arrived at our hotel we felt super sore and tired but also very happy! We had one of the most incredible days in our lives so we decided to have a pleasant Turkish Bath and relaxing massage at our hotel (the Petra Palace Hotel was very nice and clean and its position was fantastic, less than 400 meters from the entrance of the archeological site!) before having dinner at the Cave Bar, possibly the oldest bar location in the world as it is entombed in a rock carved by Nabateans nearly 2,000 years ago!

Three nights a week you can also enjoy the Petra by night tour: it starts at 8.30 pm and it brings you through the Siq to the Treasury, both enlightened by candles in the night. It must be super nice but we couldn’t do it because it didn’t take place that night.

One last important tip: one of the best investments that you can do when you are in Petra is having a guide. There is so much to see and know that you will never manage to do that yourself and when you do you will probably miss so much. We were lucky enough to have one of the historical tour guides in Petra (he is an official tour guide since 1979) and definitely the best we could ever had! Mahomed Al-Hasanat ( is the best person to guide you in Petra or around Jordan (Little Petra, Wadi Rum, Aqaba) and he is now also a great friend.

As it often happens in Jordan you arrive as a tourist and you leave as a friend.

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The Ladybug Chronicles Petra (27)

The Ladybug living the Jordanian dream: Madaba and the Dead Sea

The Ladybug Chronicles Madaba Dead Sea (4)

There is no other way to call my journey through Jordan than a DREAM. First of all a dream coming true, because I have been dreaming of visiting Petra for such a longtime that I can’t even count the years; but it was also a dream itself, a place where I completely disconnected from the world and finally deeply connected with myself. I am not the same person who arrived in Jordan more than a month ago as this trip has changed me in a way that I didn’t expect: everything was suddenly finding its place in my life while new chaos emerged but it was a good chaos, a creative one, lifeblood for my thoughts and dreams.

It will be hard for me to give you tips and telling you the story of this trip without connecting it to the emotions that I felt.

For this reason I decided to split the journey in four posts, the main stops of this trip: Madaba and the Dead Sea, Petra, Wadi Rum desert and Amman.

Let’s start from day one: Madaba and the Dead Sea.

Once landed in Amman, we rented a car at the airport and started our trip towards the Southern Jordan starting from a quick stop in Madaba to visit the famous mosaic map of Saint Georges church and to buy kilims, the typical Jordanian rugs handmade here, another reason why this city is very famous. Situated at just 30 minutes by car from Amman I really suggest a visit to this lovely town as it gives you a delicate first approach to Jordan with its beautiful churches and mosques before getting to the “real” Jordanian adventure. We stopped here only a few hours in the morning (just the time to visit the oldest Palestine mosaic map in the world and buy a red keffiyeh and a kilim!). Madaba is hospital, peaceful and full of history, it was great to hang around visiting churches (they are all very close to each other) and to meet locals, who are very proud of their city and willing to give you all type of information! Artisan Street is perfect for your first shopping in Jordan and definitely cheaper compared to Petra.

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But it was when we left Madaba and started the Kings Road heading to the Dead Sea that we started understanding what to expect from Jordan. The most beautiful views were in front of us and they didn’t leave us until we arrived in Wadi Musa that night. I cannot describe the beauty of this road with canyons and valleys on one side and the beautiful view of the Dead Sea with its turquoise water and white salt on the other side. We stopped hundreds of times to take pictures or make videos or just stay there and admire the incredible work of the nature in silence. The first day in Jordan was already leaving us speechless.

We joined the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth, around 400m under the sea level around two o’clock: as it is difficult to find a place to access directly to the sea we stopped at one of the many resorts along the sea, the Amman beach. We went for this one because it was less crowded with tourists and many Jordanians use to go there to enjoy a couple of hours at the beach. Floating on this sea was one of my dreams since I was a kid and studied it at school: the experience is incredible because the high concentration of salt in the sea not only doesn’t allow life in the sea but also won’t let you swim because you are constantly floating! Right on the other side you can admire Israel and if you are lucky enough (we were!) you can try for few JODs the famous Dead Sea muds on your skin. I suggest you try this because between the salt and the mud you will have the softest skin ever (I also had Turkish Baths, scrub and massages in Amman and Wadi Musa…I had the best skin I ever had in my life in just 5 days!).

After a quick late lunch and a last “bath” in the sea we took back the Kings Road to Wadi Musa: hours of silence and meditation along the most amazing road I have ever gone down. Jordan was already revealing its secrets and was starting to change my molecules…

We arrived in Wadi Musa just in time for dinner at the Red Cave: we ate mensaf, the typical Jordanian dish made with lamb, rice, yoghurt and pine nuts, Jordanian sweets and had a lot of Bedouin tea (I didn’t know yet that I was going to drink liters of Bedouin tea for the next three days!). Petra was waiting for us on the next day!

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The Ladybug’s dream of Marrakech

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I still remember the day when we decided to travel to Marrakech for a long weekend: I was with my best friends, we were eating lunch during our work break, it was September last year. All of us had this little dream of visiting the town and we set-up March this year as the perfect time for our trip. Said and done: we got the tickets a few weeks later and in December all was planned for the Marrakech dream!

It was one of my biggest dreams, I don’t know why we never talked about that but the idea of traveling there, smell the perfumes, drinking mint tea, shopping in the souk, visiting this wonderful city has been in my mind for almost a decade!

I was a bit worried when we landed, as I usually am when I have big expectations because sometimes I think they may be too big and I may end up disappointed but Marrakech was definitely beyond my high expectations. We spend there only 4 days but I could have stayed more and when I left I promised to go back to Morocco because this country is really fabulous!

We arrived quite early in the morning and we decided to head to the new town to have lunch and then visiting the modern Marrakech before spending the next three days in the old city. The real reason why we started from there was another of my old dreams coming true: the visit of the Yves Saint Laurent museum and the famous Majorelle Garden. I saw so many pictures around but nothing compares to the real colors of this place: the blue Majorelle (as they call it) and the yellow, the amazing cactuses and other succulent plants, the fuchsia of the flowers and the incredible decorations of the Berber museum make this place absolutely unique. Even if you are not a fan of Yves Saint Laurent (better if you are because the small museum has some amazing pieces inspired by his love for this town) you will definitely enjoy the magic of the designer’s house in Marrakech (that’s where he moved since he first travelled there) even if the house itself is not open to visitors.

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After the visit we headed back to the old town to have a mint tea aperitivo on the Souk Café Terrace where you have a wonderful view on the Koutoubia Mosque (the view at the sunset during the prayer was breathtaking). We loved so much the Terrace that we decided to stay there also for dinner and to enjoy the typical tasty Moroccan pastries and a hot tea to close the first day!

It was hard not to stop at every shop to buy things but we resisted the souk one more day and we decided to spend the second day visiting the amazing Marrakech buildings and palaces. First stop the Koutoubia Mosque, the most important in town just near the famous Jamaa el Fna square, the biggest and more picturesque of Marrakech (even if I didn’t like it that much as it is full of tourist attractions, but still interesting to visit!). You can visit the mosque only at certain times of the day but the atmosphere and the whole building are worth a visit, even if you will see it from almost everywhere in town if you are on one of the many amazing Marrakech terraces.  From there we moved to the Marrakech Kasbah to visit another mosque, the Kasbah, and two beautiful places: the Saadian Tombs and the Bahia Palace. The Saadian Tombs date back to the end of the sixteenth century and are located in a closed garden. In the same garden you’ll see over one-hundred tombs that are beautifully decorated with colored mosaics. The Saadian Tombs are the resting place of approximately 60 members of the Saadi dynasty but the most important is the main mausoleum with the graves of the sultan Ahmad al-Mansur and his family.

Not far from there is the Bahia Palace, a building commissioned by the Grand Vizier Ba Ahmed ben Moussa, with eight hectares and 150 rooms that lead to various patios and gardens. The most interesting part of the visit is the harem of Abu Bou Ahmed’s four wives and 24 concubines. The ceilings and floors of this building are a blossom of Moroccan art and zellij (zellige) the typical geometrical mosaic tilework that has Berber and Moorish origins.

We stopped for lunch at the lovely Zeitoun Café in front of the Kasbah Mosque (the cous cous was delicious!) and after the intense day of walking and visiting we allowed ourselves a relaxing moment at the Ziani Hammam where we had a traditional Moroccan treat (hammam, sauna, scrub, full massage, shower, hair wash and of course mint tea) in a typical traditional space that is a sort of combination of tradition and modern. We enjoyed it so much that we didn’t want to leave anymore!

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We dedicated the last two days to wandering (and often getting lost) in the little streets of the Medina and of Marrakech huge souk. These two days were full of discoveries, beautiful surprises and crazy shopping of course! The smell of the spices and tea, the colored ceramics, the Berber jewels, baskets and rugs (I got all of them after long extenuating negotiations but I was super proud and happy!), the silver mirrors and teapots, the embroidered slippers…we couldn’t resist! I expected sellers to be a bit pushy but in the end it was fun to enjoy talks with them and negotiate for almost everything (it is almost mandatory here to negotiate, if you don’t do it they may get offended!).

During these two crazy days around the souk we stopped for lunch or dinner in three interesting places that I’d love to mention because they are definitely worth a visit:

          Dar Chérifa: it is a hidden gem of the Saadian era, a restaurant, a riad, a cultural venue, hosting regular international and national exhibitions, workshops, concerts and events. We stayed there for dinner and their Mrouzia sweet dish of lamb with dry raisin and almonds is to die-for (btw, I don’t eat meat but I couldn’t resist it) as well as their Moroccan desserts. Don’t forget to book your place!

          Le Jardin: our last dinner in Marrakech was in these lovely but huge open air restaurant in the Marrakech Medina; the food is very good and the decoration is lovely! It is recommended to book a place before you go, it is pretty crowded.

          Max & Jan: it is a famous modern concept store with a beautiful terrace on top and lovely decoration with Berber rugs that I adored. The space is definitely more interesting than the food or then the (expensive) clothes and accessories.

Last traveler tips: if you decide to spend a few days in Marrakech, the best place to stay is absolutely a traditional Moroccan riad. They are generally very welcoming and you can drink mint tea at every hour of the day or night, but more important they usually offer homemade Moroccan breakfast (you will love it) in their beautiful terraces and the décor is so typically Moroccan style that you will love it.

I had the chance to stay in the Riad Jnane Mogador: the location was perfect because it was exactly in the middle of everything (Jamaa el Fna square, Souk, Bahia Palace etc.) and you could easily go everywhere by walk from there. The internal court and décor was lovely and the rooms were comfortable and clean. Also they have a good restaurant and a lovely spa if you feel like having a good massage! The price was definitely very low for the quality and service that we received so keep it mind in case you are planning a stay in town!

The Ladybug Chronicles Marrakech (17)

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The Ladybug Chronicles Marrakech (16)

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The Ladybug Chronicles Marrakech (11)