The Ladybug’s fairytale at the Athenee Palace Hilton in Bucharest

Athenee Palace Hilton Bucharest (2)

One of the best experiences from my weekend trip to Bucharest was the hotel where I had the chance to spend it: the Athenee Palace Hilton.

When I was looking for an hotel in town I immediately fell in love with the Athenee Palace for many reasons, first of all its amazing vintage vibe and décor, being one of the oldest hotels in town in an historical building located in the heart of Bucharest. I was amazed when I read that the Hotel had more than a century of glorious history! And its history is everywhere: in the elegant hall with mirrors and antiques furniture, in the breathtaking Dance Room (one of the most beautiful vintage ball rooms I have ever seen, I was seriously thrilled when I got the chance to visit it and to take some pictures there), in the fantastic terrace with an awesome view on the Athenaeum and on the Old Town, in the retro inspired Athenee Café that I loved so much with its black and white squared floor and its purple leather chairs.

Staying in this luxury hotel was like a fairy tale for me: the amazing history of this place designed by the French architect Théophile Bradeau attracted kings and presidents, Hollywood stars and World War figures as well as historians and novelists for the last century.

Athenee Palace Hilton Bucharest (4)

Athenee Palace Hilton Bucharest (3)

But the word tradition for the Athenee Palace also means combining history with the most modern services and comfort: luxury rooms fully equipped (let me say, also one of the comfiest beds in the world!),  top quality service and customer care, any type of activities for business and entertainment – fitness, sauna, restaurants, cafés or just relax, and the most helpful and kind staff ever!

I have been treated like a princess here and I was tempted to spend much of my time in this fantastic hotel but it is so close to the city center and to the vibrant Bucharest old town that you cannot help enjoying both the warm welcome of the Athenee Palace and of this surprising city, so beautiful during the day and maybe even more during its nightlife.

You can discover more about the hotel and its history  or book your next stay in Bucharest at the Athenee Palace Hilton here.

Photo Credit: Milena Molinari

Athenee Palace Hilton Bucharest (1)



The Ladybug’s autumn surprise: Bucharest

The Ladybug Chronicles Bucharest (14)

There are trips that are meant to be, like my little weekend in Bucharest. I had to go there for work with a friend in September but then the plans changed and I was a bit disappointed because I haven’t been back to Romania since I was a child and I was very curious to see Bucharest after many years.

I didn’t remember much about my first visit but having many Romanian colleagues and friends I was intrigued by this city. My friend was as disappointed as I was so we decided to have a look at the flights to see if we could go anyway for a weekend; as they were quite cheap we immediately booked a flight.

While reading a few travel guides on Bucharest my initial excitement slowed down a bit because I couldn’t find so many things to visit and I must admit that before traveling there my expectations were quite low. But Bucharest surprised me at a point that I didn’t expect: it is an incredible modern city at night full of life and artsy vibes but it is also so decadently retro and vintage in many corners that I was thrilled! The historical bars and shops, the cafés and the decors of the Pasajul Macca-Vilacrosse made me think of a little Eastern Paris. The weather was amazing and the sun was warm enough to bring people outside and to enjoy the little bars and parks that are almost everywhere!

The Ladybug Chronicles Bucharest (1)

The Ladybug Chronicles Bucharest (3)

The Ladybug Chronicles Bucharest (2)

The Ladybug Chronicles Bucharest (4)

We enjoyed the beautiful orthodox churches (Sfantul Anton and Sfantul Spiridon were my favorite), the beautiful parks (Cismigiu and Bordei are the best), the amazing  buildings (the Parliament building, CEC buildings and many more) and the Monasteries (the Stavropoleos Monastery is fantastic!), the old town (especially Lipscani) the new residential areas with the incredible Embassies buildings and their vibrant life, the Jewish area and even a Sunday trip to the Lake!

The weekend was full of visiting and activities but also full of very good food and vintage shopping!

There are not many vintage shops in town but let me mention two of them that are definitely worth the visit: New Retro is a tiny vintage shop on Lipscani, the main shopping street of Bucharest where Adina, the lovely owner, has so many nice things that you will love hunting there! I bought a black leather skirt but I would have bought more because her pieces are really the best in town! You will easily find her by the mannequin dressed in vintage in the middle of Lipscani!

If you want to walk a bit (which was our favorite activity in Bucharest and also the best way to get in contact with the city and to find out more about its hidden corners) you can visit the super tiny but lovely vintage shop Op in Strada Silfidelor with a lot of vintage 80s sportswear  (and amazing leather jackets!).

The Ladybug Chronicles Bucharest (5)

The Ladybug Chronicles Bucharest (6)

The Ladybug Chronicles Bucharest (7)

The Ladybug Chronicles Bucharest (8)

Eventually, if you want to enjoy some antiques and vintage markets check the Antiques Market in Lipscani (we went there on Sunday and we loved it although it is a little bit pricy, you have to negotiate a lot!) or the Vitan Market (Targul Vitan), one of the largest flea markets in town that takes place each Sunday. If you are lucky enough (I wasn’t) you can also have the chance to be there during the monthly Yard Sale vintage market (follow their Facebook page for the market dates). I got this information from a lovely reader a few months ago but there wasn’t any date while I was there.

 You will be surprised also about the amazing food in Romania: there is a lot of meat (which is not good for vegetarians!) but as I still eat fish I found many interesting options and some great places that you should check. If you want to eat typical Romanian food there are two restaurants that you cannot miss: the Caru Cu Bere, an institution in town with the most amazing retro décor, probably the most famous restaurant in town – it may look a bit touristic but you have to go! The second one is Hanul Lui Manuc, the oldest hotel in Bucharest that is now a very crowded restaurant where I ate the best garlic fried carp ever!

If you want something more modern and less traditional we enjoyed the lovely Simbio where we ate in a beautiful garden (just a little bit far from the city center) or the fantastic Biutiful (by the Lake), an amazing restaurant with delicious food (and the best mint lemonade) with a spectacular view on the Herestrau Lake (this was a great suggestion from a friend of mine). If you love a bit of underground we madly fell in love with the Fabrica, an alternative bar and restaurant situated in an old abandoned factory, that we found on the app Like a Local: we were mad about this place, one of the coolest places in town! Food in general is quite cheap in Romania but the quality was really high almost everywhere.

The Ladybug Chronicles Bucharest (9)

The Ladybug Chronicles Bucharest (10)

The Ladybug Chronicles Bucharest (13)

The Ladybug Chronicles Bucharest (11)

If you have the time (I didn’t) many people suggested a visit to the biggest Spa of Bucharest, it seems that it is an amazing experience but I didn’t think about that before traveling and it was a bit complicated to combine it with our activities but I have noted this for the next time.

Let me also give you an interesting suggestion that I had from a friend of mine and that I found incredibly useful: if you walk around a lot, especially at night, taxis in Bucharest are very cheap but if you download the Taxify app it will be super easy (and cheaper) for you to get one in a few minutes and pay through the app with your credit card, also from/to the airport (definitely the best way).

If you are wondering where to sleep in Bucharest I will tell you about my fairytale experience at the Athénée Palace Hilton in my next post!

The Ladybug Chronicles Bucharest (12)

The Ladybug Chronicles Bucharest (15)

The Ladybug’s Japan bound pt.3: Tokyo

The Ladybug Chronicles Tokyo (23)

And so we are in Tokyo. You cannot imagine how hard it is to describe Tokyo because Tokyo is so much.

If you are in a subway station with many exits you can be sure that at every single exit you will find a very different town. There are big lights and super modern buildings, romantic Japanese gardens, manga, crazy shopping, vintage, luxe, tradition…everything exists in Tokyo.

Tokyo is…Shibuya. The busiest crossroad in the world where we passed by during the day (in a rainy day) and again at night were we enjoyed the neon lights of the shops and buildings of the most crowded area of Tokyo. Don’t forget to stop by The Myth of Tomorrow, the beautiful Taro Okamoto’s murals in Shibuya station and to look for the best fun ever in one of the hundreds “purikura” or “prikura” photo booths where you can take and decorate your photos “manga style”!

The Ladybug Chronicles Tokyo (5)

The Ladybug Chronicles Tokyo (4)

The Ladybug Chronicles Tokyo (3)

The Ladybug Chronicles Tokyo (7)

The Ladybug Chronicles Tokyo (6)

Tokyo is…Shimokitazawa, definitely my favorite area (also defined the “hippy” or “hipster” area of Tokyo), full of vintage shops and bars all along the tiny streets near the station…the only reason why I left was the typhoon announced for that night!

Tokyo is…Harajuku, considered as the area of young people and new fashion trends. For me it is also the area of the immense Chicago Thrift store, definitely one of my favorite vintage shops in town and definitely the one where I used my credit card the most! By the way, don’t forget to visit the shopping street Cat Street with its lovely and very peculiar shops.

Tokyo is…Akihabara, famous for the electronic shops and for the otaku, where you can find hundreds of kawaii, manga and anime shops, videogames, cosplayers and so much more! If you want to have a memory from this area, for 100 yen (less than 1 euro) you may try the gashapon machines that you will find everywhere to get a surprise gadget of your favorite cartoon or theme (sushi, cats, Dragonball, Sailor Moon and many many others)!

The Ladybug Chronicles Tokyo (10)

The Ladybug Chronicles Tokyo (9)

The Ladybug Chronicles Tokyo (8)

Tokyo is…Omotesando Street, the most famous street for luxury shopping in Tokyo.

Tokyo is…Asakusa, where our trip started and ended, definitely the area that I loved the most (except for the vintage area of Shimokitazawa!). The area is very touristic as it expands around the magnificent Senso-ji temple, the most visited temple in Tokyo. If you are there don’t forget to check your fortune at the Temple like many other visitors are doing (they are also written in English!).

The Ladybug Chronicles Tokyo (22)

The Ladybug Chronicles Tokyo (21)

The Ladybug Chronicles Tokyo (20)

The Ladybug Chronicles Tokyo (19)

Tokyo is…Korakuen, with the most amazing Japanese gardens ever. The calmness, peace and harmony of this big garden seems to be miles away from the crowd of the big city! Lotus, rice, carps and the beautiful full-moon bridge…in this garden you will feel like in an old Japanese movie (also because they offer free Japanese umbrellas to protect from the sun…perfect for your pictures!)

Tokyo is…Kagurazaka, the old geisha’s neighborhood, a traditional area of the town very calm and peaceful where you can get lost in the tiny streets of this beautiful area.

The Ladybug Chronicles Tokyo (16)

The Ladybug Chronicles Tokyo (14)

The Ladybug Chronicles Tokyo (15)

Tokyo is…the Tsukiji Fish Market, the most famous fish market in the world, where we ate the best sushi ever at 8.30 in the morning (Daiwa Sushi was the best for us!). Sushi here is not cheap. You will spend around 30 euros for 10/12 pieces but believe me, you will be more than happy! (No tuna auctions for us!)

Tokyo is…the Toc Flea Market in Gotanda (or any other Flea Market in town) where you can find amazing antiques pieces, second hand kimonos, second hand Coach bags and all type of thrifted clothes and memorabilia for incredible price (still beware of fakes!).

The Ladybug Chronicles Tokyo (11)

The Ladybug Chronicles Tokyo (13)

The Ladybug Chronicles Tokyo (12)

Tokyo is…the Tokyo Sky Tree, where we went to finally see the Mount Fuji but he decided not to show up during all our staying because of the weather. Still the view of Tokyo from there is breathless!

Tokyo is…Ginza, very famous luxury shopping area of Tokyo near the Imperial Palace.

Tokyo is…Roppongi Hills, a modern district with the Mori Art Museum and full of modern buildings, where Japanese people love to walk and have a drink on Saturday nights.

Tokyo is also the 100 yen shops (where you can buy loads of things for the price of 100 yen), the Tokyu Hands (the most famous department store of Japan), the colored and noisy supermarkets, the beauty shops (where it is “mandatory” to buy Shiseido products for almost half the price and the famous Japanese face masks).

Just one last thing about Tokyo and about Japan in general. I have been told and I read a lot that Japan is quite expensive especially when it comes to eat. Personally, a part for the experience at the Tsukiji Fish Market for which I was prepared, we never spent more than 10/15 euros for our meals, and we ate magnificently quite everywhere. We basically avoided touristic restaurants and we always picked local restaurants where people use to sit at the counter and eat their meal (with tea and water included!).

If you want to try a very special experience we heard about Nagomi Visit before leaving and we immediately booked a dinner with them. Basically it is a site ( where you can experience the incredible Japanese hospitality by having dinner with a Japanese host that will contact you on the site when you insert your proposal. The fee is fixed and you will organize the dinner with the host that is usually within 1km from where you are. You can cook together, understand more about the Japanese culture and enjoy a night out with your Japanese family!

We were lucky to have Junko and her family as hosts: we took the train to Hino where they picked us up and we enjoyed an amazing evening at their place. Junko prepared a tasty Japanese dinner (including different types of sake!) and we had a beautiful conversation, exchanging ideas and tips about our so different cultures. After dinner her son’s friends joined us and we all took a personal class of shodo, the art of Japanese calligraphy. We also received as a present a beautiful fan with our names “translated” in kanji. It was one of the best experiences of our trip. Japanese hospitality at its best!

The Ladybug Chronicles Tokyo (2)

The Ladybug Chronicles Tokyo (17)

The Ladybug Chronicles Tokyo (18)

The Ladybug Chronicles Tokyo (1)

The Ladybug’s Japan bound pt.2: Nara, Kobe, Osaka, Hiroshima, Nikko

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (16)

When you travel around Japan the best way to do it is by train. Train are fast and always on time (this is not just a legend about Japanese public transportation!) but they are also quite expensive. For this reason before leaving for your trip it is essential that you purchase a Japan Rail Pass in your country that you will activate once you arrive in Japan.

We bought a JRP for one week only (between Kyoto and Tokyo) in order to concentrate all our train trips during this time before ending the trip in Tokyo. We then left Kyoto to travel to Nara, Kobe, Hiroshima and Osaka before heading back to Tokyo from where we had just a one-day trip to Nikko (2-hour train ride from Tokyo) for which you buy a specific ticket including train and access to the World Heritage site of Nikko or other sites if you decide to spend two days in the area.

But let’s proceed with the first stop: Nara. We decided to ask for a free walking tour in town and we got a really nice tour guide living in the city who showed us the beauty of his town starting from the famous Todai-ji site, probably my favorite Buddhist temple in Japan, including the big green area (Nara Park) around the temples full of small temples, pagodas and loads of free lovely deer who love to play with visitors and eat from their hands! The main temple, the Great Buddha Hall, is amazing and it contains the largest bronze statue of Buddha. We stopped for lunch in a super nice restaurant in the city center of Nara where we ate the delicious saba (mackerel) sushi, the typical Nara sushi wrapped in bamboo sheaths.

Near the restaurant there was a super nice vintage shop where I got a really nice (and soft) after lunch shopping session before heading to the Kasuga Taisha, the biggest Shinto shrine in Nara surrounded by a beautiful and mysterious forest. After the tour, on our specific request, our guide brought us to a very special place where we could be part of the famous Japanese Tea Ceremony.

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (5)

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (7)

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (4)

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (6)

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (23)

Second stop of the tour of Japan by train: Kobe. The small town is very famous for its kobe meat, which is the main reason why we visited it. Two of us are vegetarian but our friend really wanted to taste it then we decided to go there. First we decided to head to the famous Nunobiki Herb Garden of Kobe where we got with a cable car and where we enjoyed a beautiful nature and a great view of the town. During the visit we enjoyed a pretty much needed herbal feet bath, we tasted a delicious lavender ice-cream and I took hundreds of photos of succulent plants (my succulent goals!). Of course we had separate lunch: while one of us was tasting kobe meat we found just in front of her restaurant an amazing and super cheap sushi place where we got one of the tastiest sushi ever! We then moved to the Hakutsuru Sake Brewing Museum for a little sake tasting before moving to the next stop: Hiroshima. Just in time for the A-bomb Memorial day, the next day.

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (1)

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (3)

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (2)

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (8)

Hiroshima was probably one of the most emotional stops of our tour. We got up very early in the morning to make sure to be near the A-bomb Dome (the only building that didn’t fall down during the atomic attack of the 6th of August 1945) for the 1 minute of silence to remember the victims of the attack. There was a lot of people, most of them were not even born during the facts but many had family concerned by this tragic event. We then visited the peace memorial museum and park and we were amazed by the importance of peace for all the people there. They were not only remembering the past, they were especially celebrating peace. As the morning in Hiroshima was very emotional we decided to allow us some time to relax before heading back to the peace celebrations. We decided then to stop in a restaurant in the city center to taste the famous Hiroshima okonomiyaki (a bit different from other parts of Japan as they are done with noodles) and a green tea ice cream before taking the boat to Miyajima island. This island was amazing: there was peace, calm and deers and we enjoyed the view of the famous Shinto tori (door) on the water from the beach. We were then reinvigorated to go back to Hiroshima for the Peace floating lanterns ceremony at the end of the afternoon, where everyone wrote a message of peace on a paper lantern that was illuminated and let float on the river with hundreds of other colored lanterns. I think that we will never forget this experience, possibly one of the most touching of my life.

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (9)

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (10)

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (11)

The day after we woke up to catch a train for our next adventure: Osaka. There our free walking tour guide was waiting for us to bring us to the beautiful Osaka Castle that is a sort of Museum with very interesting temporary and permanent exhibitions on Japanese art and history. On the way back we stopped to taste the famous tokoyaki (octopus balls) and to eat in an amazing restaurant advised by our tour guide where we ate the best udon and tempura ever! In the afternoon we visited the city center before catching our last train to Tokyo and start the second part of the journey.

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (13)

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (14)

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (12)

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (15)

While in Tokyo we dedicated one day to the visit of Nikko. Until the very last day we were not sure if it was worth the visit because we had very different feedbacks from friends and other travelers online. We decided to go and we didn’t regret it at all.  Nikko is full or culture and tradition. With the pass that we got at the train station we could get a bus from the station to the World Heritage site of the Toshogu Temple (the access was also included) that is absolutely amazing! The architecture, decoration, colors, atmosphere are unique and we could also see the Three wise monkeys and the Sleeping Cat. Also the red sacred bridge Shin-Kyo was fantastic, immerged in the beautiful nature of Nikko. So if you are thinking shall I visit it or not, my answer is definitely yes!

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (19)

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (20)

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (17)

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (22)

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (18)

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (21)

The Ladybug’s Japan bound pt.1: Kyoto

The Ladybug Chronicles Kyoto (15)

As it happens almost all the time when I am back from a trip with high emotional impact, I need some time to put things together and to try to write them down. This time I must say that I was even faster (do you remember my very late posts about Senegal? But this was a different story).

If you follow the blog on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter you may know that this summer I had an amazing trip to Japan, touring the country during almost two weeks, definitely one of my best travel experiences so far.

Now I have almost 2000 photos, even more memories…how to say something about that?

First of all I decided to split my adventures in three parts: Kyoto, Tokyo and the other cities that I visited (Osaka, Nara, Hiroshima, Kobe and Nikko) just to try to make it easier for me to write and maybe also for you to read.

I will start with Kyoto because it is the first city that we visited, after a quick pit-stop in Tokyo when we arrived (relax in a ryokan with private onsen…pretty much needed after a very long flight).

The Ladybug Chronicles Kyoto (14)

The Ladybug Chronicles Kyoto (16)

The Ladybug Chronicles Kyoto (17)

The Ladybug Chronicles Kyoto (18)

The Ladybug Chronicles Kyoto (13)

Kyoto is the ancient capital of Japan and probably the most charming city of the country: incredible sights by day and by night, the most beautiful temples and shrines, great food and shopping, nature and ancient traditions. We started the visit with the famous Nishiki market where we also ate great sushi and seafood in general. We remained in the city center to start our Japanese shopping with the best vintage kimonos and haoris that I found in Japan. If you want to buy original Japanese kimonos without breaking the bank the best way to do it is finding them in second hand shops or flea markets. In Kyoto I found two amazing pieces in Kawaramachi Dori in a beautiful shop full of vintage traditional kimonos (I also bought a small obi there). Kyoto is also perfect for buying traditional silks and fabrics as the prices are relatively low as well as the famous furoshiki, the Japanese traditional handkerchiefs to be used for almost everything!

We spent the afternoon and night in Gion, the famous geisha’s neighborhood and one of the most fascinating areas of Kyoto. We visited the Maruyama Park with the Shinto shrine of Yasaka and we got lost in the tiny streets of Gion looking for geishas (we spotted four but it was impossible to photograph them!) and enjoying the nightlife.

The Ladybug Chronicles Kyoto (1)

The Ladybug Chronicles Kyoto (2)

The Ladybug Chronicles Kyoto (3)

The Ladybug Chronicles Kyoto (4)

The Ladybug Chronicles Kyoto (6)

The Ladybug Chronicles Kyoto (7)

Our second day in Kyoto was dedicated to the huge Imperial Palace of Kyoto and its perfect gardens (I learned here the real meaning of perfect harmony in a Japanese garden!) before heading to the Kiyomizu-dera site in Higashiyama, part of the World Heritage and one of the most visited Buddhist temples of Kyoto (finalist for the 7 World Wonders competition!).  In the afternoon we took the famous Philosopher Walk, a long peaceful stone path with many interesting temples to visit on the way like the beautiful Nanzen-ji (where I practiced meditation!) or the Ginkaku-ji, also known as the Silver Pavilion.

Our third day in Kyoto was really emotional but also quite hard. I didn’t mention that it was horribly hot and humid during almost all the staying there (exception made for some rainy hours in Tokyo). For this reason we decided to wake up very early in the morning to visit the most famous shrine in the world, the Fushimi Inari-taisha, a quite long climb in the middle of hundreds of tori (Shinto doors) that was so awesome and difficult at the same time due to the awful heat (even early in the morning!). It took almost the half day to visit this amazing shrine but we couldn’t get enough of Kyoto awesomeness, so we moved straight to the Kinkaku-ji, also known as the Gold Pavilion, an amazing golden temple in the peace of a wonderful Japanese garden. After this hard day we decided to have a late lunch at the Shogetsu Okonomi, a restaurant inside the Tenryu-ji site where food (vegetarian) is prepared by the monks following the zen tradition. No need to say that it was delicious and probably one of our best experiences in Kyoto.

Restored after this amazing lunch we felt ready for a long walk inside the bamboo grove in Arashiyama: it was interesting but there were too many tourists so we decided to have a well-deserved matcha ice cream to finally relax and prepare for another perfect dinner in Kyoto!

The Ladybug Chronicles Kyoto (12)

The Ladybug Chronicles Kyoto (9)

The Ladybug Chronicles Kyoto (8)

The Ladybug Chronicles Kyoto (5)

The Ladybug Chronicles Kyoto (10)

The Ladybug Chronicles Kyoto (11)

The Ladybug is a storyteller: the legend of the giants Mata and Grifone

The Ladybug Chronicles Mata & Grifone (1)

A few weeks ago, while walking down the streets of Messina I stopped by the two big statues of the giants Mata and Grifone riding their horses.

The two huge statues are exposed in the central square of Messina (Piazza Unione Europea) in front of the City Hall a couple of weeks a year, usually after mid-August (after parading for a couple of days) until the end of the month, to allow tourists and citizens to take pictures of them and to celebrate the legendary founders of the city.

I have always loved their legend since I was a child because it was the celebration of an interracial and interreligious couple! They still represent to my eyes the symbol of an open town, open to migrants, strangers and whoever approaches our sea. Unfortunately this is not how the things are going lately in my town and in my country in general, that’s why I wanted to remember this story and to tell it to the world: to remind that we all come from “mixed” ancestors, we have no idea of what type of blood runs into our veins, and we should be proud of it.

The Ladybug Chronicles Mata & Grifone (4)

The Ladybug Chronicles Mata & Grifone (2)

The Ladybug Chronicles Mata & Grifone (6)

The legend says indeed that people from Messina come from this mixed couple: her name was Marta, she was from Camaro, one of the area of the city, beautiful and tall girl, daughter of a local landlord falling in love with a dark skin big pirate during the Saracen invasions of Sicily around 970 AD. The pirate was called Hassas Ibn-Hammar but he had to change his name and religion (he was of course Muslim) to marry Marta. His name then became Grifo (exaggerated to Grifone due to his size) while her name was changed in dialect to Mata. They founded then Messina by populating it with a lot of descendants!

This post and pictures are my tribute to them, to my legendary ancestors representing peace and connection between different cultures, races and religions. This is how proud I am to be from Messina.

For my yearly tribute I wore a vintage floral shirt from Humana Vintage Milano, Topshop denim shorts and Japanese white flats. Ghanaian bolga bag is from Sankofa Beads and Baskets on Etsy, while round sunglasses are from Valentino.

The Ladybug Chronicles Mata & Grifone (3)

The Ladybug Chronicles Mata & Grifone (5)

The Ladybug and the Brazilian experience at PAC Milan

The Ladybug Chronicles PAC Brazil (8)

Before leaving for my summer holidays I visited a last exhibit in Milan: Brazil. Knife in the Flesh at PAC in Milan. At my biggest surprise it was a great exhibit and I enjoyed it a lot, especially the live performance by Maurício Ianês that I found emotional at the point that I couldn’t stop thinking of his work for the following days.

I don’t go often to PAC exhibits but when I do they turn out as great events: I think about the one on CUBA or on Nelson Mandela, two of my favorites ever! This one on Brazil was not less. The name of the exhibit (Navalha na Carne) is the title of a play by the Brazilian writer Plínio Marcos, particularly active during the years of the Brazilian military regime. Not a surprise then that the exhibition is based on this never-ending conflict inside the Brazilian society; it is expressed through installations, photographs, videos and performances of the artists invited and it is often interpreted with hope for the future or with complete disillusion and disappointment.

Anyway, the Brazilian cultural environment is still alive and prosperous and it represents a sort of revolutionary act in front of this perennial conflict.

The Ladybug Chronicles PAC Brazil (5)

The Ladybug Chronicles PAC Brazil (6)

The Ladybug Chronicles PAC Brazil (7)

The Ladybug Chronicles PAC Brazil (4)

I was lucky enough to visit the expo in July, during the live performance of  Maurício Ianês, in front of whom I spent a lot of time, sitting on the floor and trying to connect with the artist and with his incredible powerful message. He arrived at the exhibit beginning of July completely naked (like he did 10 years ago at the San Paolo Biennale) waiting for the visitors to offer him food, clothes, drinks or whatever they want to offer. Since then he has been living in the Museum for two weeks exposing what he received during his performance (that he calls “action”) Untitled (Dispossession).

For the event I wore different shades of blue: from the electric blue of the thrifted Topshop silk shirt, to the teal of Zara culottes, to the aqua of Madame Ilary handmade turban. I added a vintage 80s flamingo brooch from La Vespa Roja in Valencia and mud caged boots from Jeffrey Campbell.

The Ladybug Chronicles PAC Brazil (2)

The Ladybug Chronicles PAC Brazil (3)

The Ladybug Chronicles PAC Brazil (1)

The Ladybug and the Valencian perspectives

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (19)

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

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

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (6)

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (1)

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (7)

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (3)

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

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

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (15)

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (8)

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (20)

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (18)

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

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

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (12)

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (16)

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (14)

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (11)

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (2)

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

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (10)

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (9)

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

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (13)

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (5)

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (4)

The Ladybug Chronicles Valencia (17)

The Ladybug wandering in Sofia

The Ladybug Chronicles Sofia (8)

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

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

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

The Ladybug Chronicles Sofia (1)

The Ladybug Chronicles Sofia (4)

The Ladybug Chronicles Sofia (3)

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

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

The Ladybug Chronicles Sofia (6)

The Ladybug Chronicles Sofia (5)

The Ladybug Chronicles Sofia (7)

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

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

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

The Ladybug Chronicles Sofia (10)

The Ladybug Chronicles Sofia (2)

The Ladybug Chronicles Sofia (9)

The Ladybug’s first time in Barcelona

The Ladybug Chronicles Barcelona (3)

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

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

The Ladybug Chronicles Barcelona (1)

The Ladybug Chronicles Barcelona (15)

The Ladybug Chronicles Barcelona (8)

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

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

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

The Ladybug Chronicles Barcelona (4)

The Ladybug Chronicles Barcelona (7)

The Ladybug Chronicles Barcelona (5)

The Ladybug Chronicles Barcelona (6)

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

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

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

The Ladybug Chronicles Barcelona (9)

The Ladybug Chronicles Barcelona (11)

The Ladybug Chronicles Barcelona (10)

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

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

The Ladybug Chronicles Barcelona (12)

The Ladybug Chronicles Barcelona (14)

The Ladybug Chronicles Barcelona (13)

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

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

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

The Ladybug Chronicles Barcelona (17)

The Ladybug Chronicles Barcelona (16)