That crazy, funny, amazing trip to Malta

Do you know when you have four days off from the hustle and bustle of your daily life and just want to get away and take a break from work? Well, happened to me recently and took the right decision to travel to Malta!

To be honest had few days to organize the the journey, book the flight and choose a hotel but this time I needed some adventure and so it was! Read just few vital information about what not to miss to see or taste, put some light clothes into my luggage, my faithful camera and set off!

Well, where to start from? The sea in Malta is mesmerizing everywhere and with any wheather condition, sunny or cloudy it doesn’t matter, cos of its iridescent shades of blue, very dark blue, light blue, green and almost yellow to some exent.

La Valletta is lovely, despite the crowd of tourists ready to take a selfie, buy whatever the tourist shops you can find at every corner of the streets of the city but! If you just walk far from the main streets, you can just loose yourself and notice a costant of the maltese architecture: wooden, colorful balconies of different sizes but present both in old and new or renewed buildings; couldn’t help myself to take lots of pictures of them!

And then the Barrakka Gardens with the outstanding view of the bay and the city of Victoria, just in front of La Valletta, the St Johns Co-Cathedral with its baroque explosions of decorations and the two Caravaggio’s canvases, one of them, The beheading of Saint John, the biggest in size he ever painted, that has the power to keep silent everyone in the solemn room of the oratory of the temple.

Speaking of food, I need to be honest: as I saw some cannoli showcased in a bar counter, I just entered and ordered one. As a sicilian, I can highly recommend to have one, they are delicious and crispy as they should be. Tasted some fish soup as well, with a genuine glass of white wine and had pastizzi but for some reason didn’t like it much, maybe I just had bad luck, considering that my tour guide was pretty sure I’d have fallen in love with that!

Visiting Malta, means staring an the perfect and stright line of the horizon from the natural terrace where you can watch at the Blue Grotto, a natural rock arch over the sea. And then Gozo and Comino: Victoria that the locals still call it with its ancient name of Rabat, the yellow limestone Cittadella, the windy watchtowers, witness of the arrivals of the pirates more than four centuries ago! Comino and its Blue Lagoon: you would be wondering for at least ten minutes how come a beach and the lagoon itself can still keep such a clear water, although hundrends of holiday-makers stand on the small sand beach, having drinks and listening to loud music.

I said adventure: I said to myself, why not? Had a trip on the so called power boat: the purpose of the boat trip was to see the caves on the sea and how the light coming from outside is able to create a rainbow inside, with the clear water playing with the rocks! It was worth it, but the funny thing was to reach the caves, with the power boat at a very high speed, banging on  the sea surface every seconds, making scream and shout as I was on a rollercoster! Very funny though!

Left this lovely island satisfied, relaxed and sure that I did right: adventure!

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Simply Budapest

Yes, I visited Budapest and yes I loved it!

Arrived late at night I was guessing the city from the taxi which was sliding through the empty tamarc of the highway.

Even though the weather wasn’t at its best, it gave me the chance to appreciate more the gifts of this stunning city: especially after sunset, Budapest looks dressed up for a special evening! The lights of the bridges, palaces, churches, markets and shops (ready for Christmas shopping) are its precious jewels.

I do really struggle to make a chart of what place is more charming, lovely or outstanding rather than another; most likely because it’s impossible!

Loved the Hungarian Parliament, so similar to the London one; spent more than one hour wandering among the masterpieces of the Museum in the Royal Palace and  I was definitely amazed in front of the poetry of the decorations of Saint Mathias Church. And what about the Fishermen’s Bastion? Built in neogothic style it throws you back to a medieval time which makes you live in a mesmerizing daydream. Don’t forget to drop by the Street Synagogue and its interesting museum and to search for the several graffiti all over the buildings of the city.

If you like statues Budapest is the right place where to spot them: politicians, saints, kings, poets and writers, all of them are mates of your walking around the city but the best one is watching Hungary from the top of the Gellért Hill, that’s the Liberty Statue holding the freedom palm; 14 metres high, is visible from every corner of the city at every hour of the day (even with foggy weather!).

Food and drink: that goulash experience must be made at least once in life as well as palinka which burns your throat in order to forget the tireness of the nearly 24000 steps taken to visit the city! And then pork sausages, cakes of unpronounceable names, hot soups and mulled wine (which I don’t like) whose steams are the sign that you’re approaching the Christmas market!

Well, my Instagram account is full of Budapest pictures because is a very charming city, it askes you to shoot it and it’s very good at posing: highly recommended and don’t forget to treat yourself with a relaxing hour spent at the several spas of the city. Many thanks Budapest!

 

Andalucía dreaming

And eventually the dream came true and visited two enchanting cities in Spain: Granada and Córdoba!

Granada is mainly known for the Alhambra (the Red Castle) and you cannot skip its visit: you need to climb the hill, enjoy the nature, the sound of water flowing along the canals on the sides of the road which leads you to this heaven-on-hearth fortress. Once you reached the entrance, leave all your expectations behind you and travel back to the Medieval Age in Spain, when the Masters of the Water (as I like to call the arabian who took the power here) decided to make a present to Europe and build their home facing the impressive Sierra Nevada mount. The details are outstanding, the symmetry of the decorations is repeated in the same number of arches, pillars, coloumns, fountains and, although this place hosts lots of visitors, it seems that you are walking alone in the gardens of the Caliph. If you are lucky enough, you’ll have the chance to see how the sun beams are filtered by the arabesque carvings on the stone.

But Granada is not only Alhambra! The city centre is a melting pot of different cultures: the renaissance cathedral with its neverending chapels, the two huge organs, the gothic portals makes you feel tiny and the overwhelming power of art and architecture. But the best is yet to come: just behind the cathedral is the Capilla Mayor where the catholic monarchs (Isabela de Castilla and Fernando de Aragon) rest under their lavish mausoleums made of Carrara marble white as the snow of the Sierra Nevada. Next to them, another monument, less rich but still lovely: the tombs of Juana de Aragon y de Castilla (better known as Joanna the Mad) and her spouse Felipe (known as the Handsome), their coffins are enshrined in the crypt under the marble tombs.

These glorious buildings face the Madrasa, the Koranic school of Granada: it is about a very small building consisting in the praying room (where you can find all the typical elements of the arabian decoration) and the Hall of the 24 knights with its wondrous wooden ceiling.

But Granada doesn’t stop to wonder you and loosing the track of time it’s quite easy: as long as you begin to wander into its narrow streets, you can bump into one of the El niño de las Pinturas graffitis, hidden among the cobble stones streets of the Realejo area.

What you have to do now is to take a bus and head yourself to another astonishing city of Andalucía: Córdoba. Just after a short walk from the bus station, you’ll have the chance to stop into “something unique in the world”: the Mezquita! It is the mosque/cathedral of Córdoba: 856 columns support the rythm of arches made of white stones and red bricks; it is like to be in a jungle of muqarnas, golden mosaics and you cannot take your eyes off the ceiling and the chandeliers which seem to hang straight from the sky. Just in the middle of the mosque is the is the Capilla Mayor built by Carlos I: brace yourself, it is about about a firework of stuccos, dark mahogay handmade choir, organs and statues of saints. If you really want to realize what you have just seen, take a short walk onto the roman bridge and the slow flow of the Guadalquivir river will recover your senses: climb the stairs of the Calahorra Tower and from there you will eventually have a clear view of your trip to Spain: a poetry that leaves you a smile whenever you’ll hear saying hola!

A day trip in London

Wheather is nice and sunny, what else you need to grab your back pack and catch a train to London? Two destinations: the Design Museum in Kensington and the Christo’s Mastaba in the Serpentine Lake at Hyde Park.

Once you enter the Design Museum, the visitor is warmly welcomed by the museum staff which gives you some information about the building and the current exhibitions. At the moment the museum is hosting the dresses designed by Azzedine Alaïa aka The Couturier. On the first floor you can find several photographs of his creations worn by the most famous models ever. The second floor is dedicated to the history of design: I have been impressed by the graphic evolution of the London Underground map: the latest one, used by a profuse number of passengers every day has been designed by Harry Beck. This section of the museum showcases objects of our daily life and I found it such a stunning thing that every single item of life comes from a project, according to the “triangle of design”: designer-maker-user.

Afterwards my London walk headed me to Hyde Park, where stands the latest work of Christo, the Mastaba: it is a huge floating pyramide on the Serpetine Lake, made of more than 7,000 coloured oil barrels. I was walking through one of the paths of Hyde Park when I saw it and recognised it instantly and I could not control my wonderment: it was standing there, while people where having a walk, taking selfies, feeding the swans and the other birds that were enjoing this warm summer afternoon in London. I was still not satisfied though: walked untill I reached the Serpentine Pavillion where it is possible to find out more about Christo and his projects; about the Mastaba, his first concept dates back to the 70’s and meant to be based in Abu Dabi and still in progress.

It has been a lovely day for me and as usual, London never disappoints me!

 

I went to Sicily

 

I saw my mountains and the bright green woods, I breathed the fresh air in my garden, after dinner, while having an Amaro (typical spirit made of vegetables – secret recipe!) with my family and my old-time best friend!

I’ve been walking under the sun, staring at the colourful palette of the peddlers selling precious vegetables, fuits, spices, cheese, fish!

Then I took a bus and went to Palermo: still charming as the first time I saw you: the Via Maqueda, like a middleaged lady, still beautiful, with your old fashion dress, with your jewells, your light make-up, holding a glass of white wine! Sat on the steps of the Teatro Massimo, watching people in elegant suits, high heels, walking together with ordinary pepole went for a night out in the city centre; among them, brides and grooms taking pictures in front of this liberty-style masterpice of sicilian architecure!

Aftewards,  dinner at Sferracavallo, small coastal village, just few minutes by car from Palermo: a delicious trip to two worlds, one of the fishermen and that of the restaurants; each course was telling me a story, the how and when, people woke up in the early morning, when the air is still humid and the sea is quite and they went to fish, to survive, to sell, to come back to the boat the morning after, as ever.

A day at Isola delle Femmine, this small village, with an astonishing sea which offers you uncountable shades of blue and green: I saw people buying fish, trading the price, children playing seek and hide (as I used to do when a was a little girl), had a huge icecream sitting in front of the small harbour, facing the bronze statue dedicated to the fisherman while holding his net.

I tried to keep in my mind all these memories, the landscapes, the colours, the sounds of people speaking sicilian.

See you later my dear and far Sicily.

What happens when I watch a Hitchcock’s movie

Watching a movie is a common activity, loving cinema is something deeper. I have a very long list of movies that have to be watched and among them, Hitchcock’s ones are on the edge.

Yesterday I choosed Strangers on a train dating back at 1951. No point to talk about the plot (is available everywhere on the internet); what I am keen to talk about is all the typical features of his style that make his movies a unique masterpiece.

First of all his cameos, generally at the very beginning of the movie, and this is the first feature that I love: I observe each single frame in order to spot him and once I found him I always cry out “here he goes!”; my favourite one is in The birds when he comes out from the animals shop with two little dogs. What I noticed of these cameos is that in most cases, he gives a very short glance to the main character and I want to believe that it was like a signal that he was sure that it would have been a good movie!

Secondly I love all the camera movements, it is all about to tell the story and literally drag the audience to feel the same feelings of the characters, the same concerns and hopes. Together with the camera movements, one more of his stylistic choice is to tilt it on one side, especially when he wants to show the madness of the thoughts of the antagonist: there is something wrong with the plan (usually concerning a murder) and these distorted pictures suggest that it will lead to bad consequences that the main character will have to solve.

Third element: women. All of the time very elegant, charming and beautiful actresses! The female side of the stories is pivotal for the success of the work: I love the closes-up, they are made when the female character is shown for the first time and usually the male one is charmed and falls in love at the first glance. I love their clothes (how to forget the black dress worn by Ingrid Bergman in Notorious?) and jewelleries, how they sparkle – especially earrings and brooches – which give them that old time glamour!

All of these details are tools to reach the real aim of the director: suspense! Love the editing of single frames, together with the soundtrack, as a jigsaw where every single piece heads to the solution of all the troubles that gather for the whole duration of the movie. At the end everything is solved, the misunderstanings unveiled, the innocent exonerated and the guilty is punished (generally with death).

I can’t wait for the next one and… to spot Alfred on his cameo!

Back from the trip

Well, after coming back from Amsterdam I waited few days to collect my reflections based on memories, pictures and questions from my friends about the city: I am utterly satisfied of these three days!

One of the first impression I have got once I went out from the train station (Amsterdam Centraal) is the city landscape: rows of colorful buildings that seem following an order that doesn’t exist indeed; if you focus your sight on few builidings per time, you will notice that these constructions are crooked and by making a short search on internet I found out the reason why: buildings are high and most of them have warehouses on the top, so in order to hoist up goods and not to break windows and to preserve the facades, they are leaning forward.

Second impression: museums! I visited the Rijskmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum: simply stunning! Rembrandt’s Nightwatch is the masterpiece of the Rijskmuseum and now I know the reason why: you need to observe the picture for a while, focus on the single details such as faces, hands, eyes, colours (mainly warm ones), dresses and light! I won’t describe the picture itself but what I felt: it has the power to drag you back to the 17th century and you feel at the centre of the scene; captain seems to point you out like saying, come and join us! The hall whereby the huge picture is housed is crowded by tourists, school grups, students, artists drawing and eventually me, reading the description of the masterpiece, guessing if the man with the hat is really Rembrandt or not! Van Gogh Museum has been like reading a poetry that lasted two hours: what impressed me the most was the deep relationship between the painter and his brother Theo (and eventually bought the book of the letters they wrote each others!). One of my favourite picture is Wheatfiled with Crows: the combination between the thousands shades of blue of the sky and the golden brush strokes of the field is a perfect balance wheby the painter decided to paint some large black signs of flying crows before the storm.

Third impression: cats! These adorable beasts are everywhere in Amsterdam but curious thing is that they live most of their life in restaurants, shops and cafés; but as the girls at the windows of the Red Light District, it’s forbidden to take them pictures: for the first ones because they get angry and you risk to see your phone or camera to be thrown away in the channels, for the second ones you will simply remain to shot the window of a restaurant because the cat has already gone away!

I highly recommend a trip to the Dutch city and don’t forget to get a camera or a good quality phone with you, because I do believe that is one of the most photogenic places in North Europe: don’t miss to visit the Hortus Botanicus, the Heineken Experience and the Waterlooplein flea market! 

Thank you Amsterdam!