Farewell 2016!

It’s almost painful but it’s time to say goodbye to 2016.

I can only describe it with one word: adventurous.

Last year the first thing I wrote on my list of what I wanted to achieve in 2016 was “to travel more”. I am writing this on my way to Barcelona, for my 15th trip of the year.
It wasn’t really planned but somehow it happened: I started with booking a solo trip to Thailand and a short weekend in Brussels and I ended up with a long list of new/old places visited. Rome, Paris, Edinburgh, New Orleans, Turin, Trieste, Barcelona.

It has been exciting and breath taking: I met new people, I have seen so much beauty, I tasted the best food, I took some amazing pictures, I saw some friends, I smiled a lot.
I am so grateful for all of this, for me being brave enough to pack my stuff and go, no matter what. No matter what friends said, no matter if I was scared or not, no matter if instead of saving I spent it all on traveling.

It
Was
Worth
It.

I feel like I achieved pretty much everything on my list: travel more, be grateful, improve myself as human being and don’t feel guilty and be free from social constrictions.
Sure, I am not perfect and there’s so much more to improve!

And this is why I have a new list for 2017:

  1. Save for a bigger purpose: can’t tell you more than this but this year I have decided saving is the priority. I am not saying I will stop travelling but I will try to limit it. Even if I already have 4 weddings to attend and a week already booked in Fuerteventura. 🙂
  2. Be patient: in every aspect of my life. Things are always happening for a reason, at the right time and there’s no much control over it. So deep breath and let it go.
    Things will go as they are supposed to.
  3. Be grateful: always and for everything, for smaller and bigger things.
    Say thank you, say please, say I love you.
  4. Be your wonderful self: never ever forget what took you here today, all the efforts you’ve made, the path you decided to follow and how proud you should be of yourself. Always do what you think it’s best for yourself, follow your heart and try to do things you are passionate about. And smile!

Family, friends, readers… I wish you all a wonderful 2017, may this year bring you everything you always wanted!

And remember, do not be scared: go out, explore, love, smile, cry. Live it, cause we just have one life.

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Weekend in Turin: Christmas lights, food & friends!

2016 has been a very busy year in terms of traveling.

Exciting times (I will recap all of it at the end of the year) but also tiring times. For this reason I wasn’t planning to travel much this December and instead I ended up with 4 flights booked. Yay.

One of the not planned trips was Turin (or Torino as we would call it). Having some Avios to use, I took advantage of it and decided I should go and visit one of my best friends that I last saw two years ago. Having used almost all of my holidays, I decided to fly out on Sat morning at 6:30am and fly back on Sunday at 7pm. Brilliant idea, no?
To make all of this more comfortable, I decided to sleep at Gatwick airport to get couple of extra hours sleep. I booked Yotel, in the South Terminal and I was so curious to see how sleeping in a pod would be like. I can tell you straight away that it was worth the money I paid!

The hotel has been created for travelers wanting to stop for 4 hours or more. It has all the basic comforts and it’s sound proof. The price for the single pod is ÂŁ59.


I woke up literally an hour before departure and a well deserved rest.

I forgot how well you travel with BA and as a plus, we also landed earlier than expected.

I spent the day wondering in Turin, eating at Eataly (you want to check this out if you go to Italy but they are also open in NYC, Tokyo and plenty of other locations), doing some shopping and taking a nap before going out for dinner, to a house party and clubbing. Nice and easy, eh?

You can’t expect me to be all touristy on Sunday as well, I just slept for most of the day, woke up terribly hangover, had a ham and cheese toast and back on a flight to London.

But, in this case it doesn’t really matter how long you spend in a place but how well you live it when you’re there. And Turin has been like that for me this time.
Seeing one of my best friends is exactly what I needed.

Do visit Turin if you have the chance, it looks lovely with the Christmas lights on!




Now, off to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Barcelona, stay tuned!

Food tasting at Mercato Metropolitano: Parmigiano and Parma ham week! 

It has been quiet on the blog recently so I thought the best way to come back was talking about food, my true love.

As you might know from a previous post, I am a massive fan of Mercato Metropolitano, the new Italian market that opened in Elephant and Castle/Borough area. When I was claiming it was “the closest place to Italian paradise” I wasn’t joking, it is a foodie paradise for sure!
The actual market area has everything you could imagine and for us Italians it also has those products that you usually have to buy in Italy and put in your suitcase before returning to London (lievito Pane degli Angeli, anyone?).

This week Mercato Metropolitano was celebrating Parma Ham and Parmigiano Reggiano. I was lucky enough to be asked to check some of the dishes out, so last night I headed there and I have to say that when I left I almost had to roll home!

The menu created for the special occasion had as main ingredients, of course, Parma Ham and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese:

Pizzeria
– Neapolitan Pizza with Parmigiano Reggiano flakes and Parma Ham

Il Riso del Mercato
– Risotto alla “Parmigiana” and crispy Parma Ham

Tortellino & Co
– Tortellini with Parmigiano Reggiano fondue & crispy Parma Ham

Vino & Cucina
– Parma Ham & Parmigiano Reggiano taglierini

I headed to “Il Riso del Mercato” first, where I actually had a variation and tasted a lovely Risotto alla Carbonara, cooked in front of me by the nice Cesare, a guy from Sardinia, living in London for the past 3 years. I also got to try a supplì which is like a rice ball, deep fried. And who doesn’t love deep fried food? Come on…



What I found out later was that the rice comes from an Italian producer who happened to be there doing a cooking demonstration, explaining the techniques for a “proper risotto”.




I could write a separate post on how to make proper risotto, all you need though is the right ingredients and 15min (+2) of your time. Most important thing: do not over cook it!

I also tasted the the pasta dish “Cavatelli with black cabbage & Parmigiano Reggiano”. The special type of pasta  was handmade by the owner of Vino e Cucina, a lovely gentleman from Tuscany.

I haven’t had the pleasure of trying the pasta dish at Tortellino & co, mostly because I am not sure I could finish it. I will make sure, though, to go back to give it a try because an homemade tortellino is a very special thing.

Lastly, how can you say no to a pizza? Impossible. So here I am, ordering the pizza of the day with parmesan and Parma Ham. Did I already say how much I love Parma Ham? It’s SO good.



If someone asks me where to get the best pizza in London I instinctively reply: Franco Manca, also cause I’ve been going there since I moved here, when it wasn’t that popular yet. Well, I can now say that I will include this pizza in my suggestions to whoever asks! Doesn’t it make you hungry just to look at it? Perfectly cooked and with a beautiful smell.

This summer, when Mercato Metropolitano just opened, I thought that the potential was huge: I am very happy to see how the place has developed and changed over the months, offering now a heated area for the cold months. I am looking forward to see how the place is going to be next summer…

One last note, I read some reviews on the fact that Mercato Metropolitano is a bit pricey. I would personally say that prices here are average. I would also say that I do prefer this place to Borough market, not just because it is Italian but also because it’s not that commercial yet. And also, I do feel a bit like at home when there.
If you’re having a bad day and need some comfort, do go to MM maybe just for some food or maybe to have a chat with this or the other vendor. Ask them where they are from, what’s the speciality in their region, what food they would recommend.

London needs a more “human side” and I do believe this could be achieved with good food and people that care about what they are doing.

Thanks to Mercato Metropolitano and The Tom Sawyer Effect agency for having me.
MM London 42 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6DR
Opening times: Tue-Sat 11am-11pm, Sun 10am-9pm
Make sure to follow them on Twitter: @mercatometropol and on Facebook.

WSET Level 1: how I got into wines.

My passion for wines started when I was around 20 years old. But I didn’t know yet.

I remember a themed party when I was study in Germany during my Erasmus, something like 8 years ago. My friend and I decided to have a wine themed party where everyone had to bring a bottle – can’t remember if we asked specifically for it to be Italian wine, but even so I remember a bottle of wine from California.

Even if Germany changed and improved my perception on beers more than wine, in the past years I started to appreciate wines more and more.
Next door to where I am from, Pinot Grigio is a big deal but it’s not that I cared that much when I was younger. We used to go out with friends and drink “spritz” more than anything else which is a mix of white wine (not of high quality I’d say) and sparkling water. If you want the fancy version ask for a spritz Aperol.
Anyway, I can’t remember a day when I thought: “Oh, this wine is good. I am into wines!”. I do remember, thought, that there was always wine at home, specially when we traveled to the South of Italy, where every summer we bought some wine for the whole year (or at least half year!).

In the past 4 years, I tried to widen my horizons and I did try more wines, maybe because in London there’s so much choice. I started learning what I like better (reds!) and what’s not really my thing (still not convinced on rose), and I started drinking to actually enjoy a glass of wine and not just to get drunk.
So the consequent decision was to officially learn more about it and this is why I enrolled for WSET Level 1 Award in Wines.

The Wine and Spirit Education Trust is internationally recognized and it was also in a very convenient location for me in London, on Bermondsey Street.
The introductory class lasted 6 hours (2h on three Thursdays) and we studied 7 grapes variety, the different wine styles, how to systematically taste wines, how to pair food and wine and how to serve and store wines. Trust me, there’s a lot of information to learn in 6 hours! At the end of the class, there’s an exam (a proper exam, with multiple choice questions) and then, if you pass you receive your certificate and a little and cute badge.

wset
And here I am, proudly holding my certificate!
The test was tricky, I wasn’t sure till the end I passed but I managed. YAY!

I have to say that I loved the course, it gave me a different prospective on wines and I think it’s so interesting to understand the specific flavors in each grape variety. It also, though, made me have more questions about wines, about pairing, about how wine is made.
This is why I will be most likely taking level 2.

I definitely recommend this short course if you want a basic and general knowledge on the most popular wines. I feel my knowledge on wines is (slowly) growing and I hope I can learn so much more about this fascinating field.

I don’t think I will be writing about wines, not sure I know how but stay tuned, there’s definitely much more coming up. 🙂

Scottish Adventures: exploring Edinburgh!

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Scotland has been in my travel list since ages, especially since when I started reading the series Outlander. The series, which is also a TV show now, is (obviously) set in Scotland so I wanted to check out how the place really looks like, after reading so much about it. For the records, I am still on book 5 out of 8 – long way to go.

I got on a BA flight on the Friday afternoon and after a quick 45 minutes, I arrived in Edinburgh where I soon realized people are SO friendly. I decided to get the tram from the airport into town (very convenient, £8,50 return) and I got rewarded with a pretty cool view as well. Everything seemed so green!
I stayed in one of the best looking Airbnbs so far, 20 min walk from the Old Town.

One of the cool part of staying at this place was that the hosts had multiple rooms available and they had some other guests staying at the place which meant I got to chat with this lovely couple living in Amsterdam, how nice!

Anyway, after getting some noodles at the local place, I went to a pub close by, just to have a beer and I ended up making friends (have I ever said that of any pub in London?). After one too many drinks and not enough hours sleep, I was ready to go and explore on the Saturday – even if I had a quick look at the Old Town when walking to the apartment and I already fell in love with the city.

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I decided to have a wonder at the National Museum of Scotland, which has a lovely collection regarding Scottish history and also, there’s a terrace on the top floor where you get an amazing view of Edinburgh.

But let me tell you about the best part of this weekend in Edinburgh: the Eat and Walk tour.
I love food tours, most of the times you get to taste something really authentic and you get to meet a tour guide that for sure knows a lot about the city.
And this is exactly what happened! I met the group at 12pm, we had 5 stops with food/drinks tastings and I was really looking forward to it.
I won’t tell you the exact locations but I will share with you pictures of this experience, that I highly recommend. At the first stop we tasted Scottish Salmon, in the second stop pig cheek with mash potatoes and black pudding on toast and a lovely Prosecco topped up with a local raspberry gin, in the third stop we tried haggis and whisky, then cheese and wine and finally dessert.

In the last place we also bumped into a wedding where everyone was wearing a kilt… so very typical!
The tour costs ÂŁ59 and it’s totally worth it. Not only you get to taste all the amazing food and drinks, but you also walk around town and the tour guide will explain all about the areas & the history. Also, communication is pretty easy cause they give you a headset type of thing so listening to the guide is so easy and the noise of the town won’t disturb you.
My advice is to try all the food, I know black pudding and haggis might not sound appetizing but they are so much better than expected!
And also, I made some friends as well! We were 5 in total at the tour and we decided to have dinner together that evening… so a lovely day all around!

I was flying back to London on Sunday afternoon and I still had plenty of time to explore, so I decided to spend my Sunday morning at Arthur’s seat. I have to confess that I cheated a bit and took the lower (and less difficult!) route but the view was simply amazing.

 

Walking up the hill was great and the weather turned as well and it was surprisingly sunny. After the walk I headed into town, visited couple of churches, had a lovely burger and watched a street performance (that I had seen the day before as well, but doesn’t love bagpipes?).
I will end this post with some pics that will give you an idea of the loveliness of this place.
Edinburgh is a magic place, I truly believe there is something special there.
So, go and visit Edinburgh and then, go and visit the rest of Scotland… which is now on my list as well!

Enjoy!

 

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Canapé judge: tasting tiny food. 

This past Wednesday I went to “Venue and events 2016” which is a yearly event organised by Squaremeal, where you have tons of events/venue/food suppliers. I usually go to get some inspiration for our Christmas party and team building activities.

This year I also had another opportunity: becoming a judge for the “CanapĂ© Squaremeal cup”.

After a long afternoon strolling at Old Billingsgate Market – where, by the way I worked so many times when working in catering- I got selected to be a judge.

The Canapé cup was taking place in the vaults, very iconic part of OBM. We all had a list with numbers and details about the different canapés and we had to mark our favourite three, very difficult cause most of the canapés were so pretty to look at. Of course the look is not the only important thing, canapés have to be easy to eat (usually just one bite) and tasty.


As you can see, they were definitely pretty! For my top 3 I picked a combination of great taste and good presentation.

Being able to judge and taste food is always a good experience, I found it interesting cause it wasn’t just a mare “eat to feed yourself”, but a posh version of it.

Now, let’s wait and see who’s the winner!

Stay tuned, next on the blog my Scottish adventures!

 

4 years and counting. 

On a normal 17th of September 2012, I was on a plane heading to London thinking that after 6 months I would have been back home again.

And here I am, 4 years later in my London living room. Who would have thought?

If I think back, I see myself with short hair moving around London looking for my first house, getting lost in Elephant and Castle which is now one of the places I know best. I see myself in class, thinking that sport management was my thing. And I see myself in catering, working in any possible venue, thinking that I couldn’t possible work that much and then realising that my body got used to it, and carry on for hours and hours. I have to say that if I think back, one of the things I remember the most is that time, maybe because I have been in the catering industry for 2 years. The amount of wine I poured, the number of plates I have served and cleared, the times I had to manage waiters and waitresses at high profile events, feeling the adrenaline of it. I had an amazing time.

And then, when things changed and I decided I wanted a “normal” job I still enjoyed it, cause it gave me the chance to do other things and have a better life. Like traveling. This year alone has been amazing, with the “12 trips in 12 months” project that is working well so far.

Money is not all in life, but it does give you the chance to do more things and things you always wanted to do but you couldn’t affort, especially in a city like London where the rent usually takes up a big chunk of your salary.

The most amazing part of the 4 years is the amount of things that happened and changed, I am doing a job that I never thought I would and so this means only one thing, actually two:

1. Life is unpredictable.

2. We can really become what we please in our life, we can do the job we want, we can achieve some dreams, there’s infinite possibilities to do what we like the most.

I cannot understand and I am not very tolerant to people that say: “oh now is too late for me to change career or to do this and that”. I want to tell you a secret: the only time it will be too late is when you’ll be dead.

So, enjoy till you can, believe things can happen, put some effort in following your passions and remember that literally anything can happen.

In the meantime, I want to thank my family for always being in my life, my friends in Italy for still being there every single time I go home (and still counting down the days till the next time we are going to see each other), all my friends here in the UK where I have met some really great human beings, but let me thank also all the people that entered my life but then left: that’s ok, it happens.

I am very grateful every single day for the things I had, for the ones I have achieved myself and for everything else that is yet to come.

Cheers!