My first musical in London and other stories.

Theatres have always been magical to me. I used to spend a lot of time at our Teatro Verdi in Trieste when I was a kid. My dad used to be the masseur of the ballet company and he always had tickets for us, but the best part was when he took me backstage and introduced me to the ballerinas and actors. He was always so proud of me for some reasons and they seemed all happy to meet me and weren’t bothered at all that I was there. I remember big smiles, wigs, make up, fairy tale dresses… For a kid, what a dream experience!

Unfortunately, I wasn’t gifted with anything related the theatrical arts so I remember that sometimes when I was watching the musicals I wished I was as talented and I would have loved to be part of that team on stage. In reality, I don’t think a stage is my thing at all even if I clearly don’t lack of confidence. Let’s say, though, that I have other talents – many still to discover. 

My plan for the weekend was to just chill at home, it’s been an intensive year in terms of travel so this was one of the first weekends free. I was food shopping at Tesco when I got a text from a good friend that was wondering if I was free to see this musical in town. I managed to get at the Savoy theatre in under an hour, do not ask how, and I went to see “Funny girl” with Sheridan Smith. I have to admit I had no clue about this musical, so I did a quick research before getting there. 

For one reason or another, I never managed to see a musical in London so this was my first time and I did enjoy the show, the actors were great. But also, last night made me travel back in time, to when I was 10 and I was wearing that new dress my mum got me to go to the theatre cause my dad got us tickets to see the show. If I only could go back in time, just once…

This is been a very tough summer for me, if you’ve been reading this blog since the beginning you’ll know I usually spend at least two weeks in Italy in August and I always come back in tears. This year, due to my brother’s 40th birthday, I went to Italy in July for just over a week. I have been travelling quite a lot this year so the time was limited and I wanted to keep some holidays for another good trip later this year/early next year. It was my choice, so I can only blame myself if I get moody every single time one of my friends post a picture of the see back home. Still, it’s hard and I don’t know how people do it. I know I am used well and this is why summers in London are so difficult for me and I also know it sounds crazy that the sun influences my life so much and still, here I am to tell you that your day or week gets fucking awful when the sky is grey for 3 days in a row. But yes, you get used to it as to all things in life.

Anyway, I’ll be off for some new adventurers soon so stay tuned… There’s so much more to come!🙂

The Ornatrix, by Kate Howard.

I will put it simply: I love books.

I have many passions, lots of interests that come and go and I am always up for new things to learn. There’s only one thing that it’s always been there, that never changed through time: books. I remember when I was a kid and my dad got me some magazines for kids and I used to read them all in one go.
I do not know if I got this passion from someone or if it’s always been in me but I do suspect the second option is the right one.

Once I moved to London, I had to leave my beloved books in Italy and, moving four houses in four years, I decided that I would stop buying books or at least limit it. This is why I asked my brother to get me a Kindle and I do read on that sometimes, specially the thicker books. Suddenly though, I felt like I had to buy MORE books. How lucky was it then that my colleague’s husband works for a publishing company? Chatting about books, he suggested me to read The Ornatrix by Kate Howard.

The Ornatrix is a story set in 16th century Italy, where Flavia is born with a mark on her face the shape of a bird. Pretty tough back then, people believes lead to witches to be burnt and some other cruel stuff. Flavia’s parents are guilty of not accepting her look and making her feel an outsider. Jealousy is what leads her when her sister is getting married so as punishment for her actions, Flavia’s parents send her to the convent of Santa Giuliana. She isn’t really accepted there either, even if the nuns get used to her face. Her life changes when she meet Ghostanza. Flavia soon becomes her Ornatrix, her personal maid. Ghostanza introduces Flavia to the art of what is considered the make up of that time, which is mainly very toxic for the skin but covering up the face and giving it a white and angelic look is what every matron in the city does.

Flavia’s main desire is to get accepted by a society that bans the imperfections, so the book follows her in the challenge of looking like everyone else. Eventually, I do believe she accepts herself. I won’t spoil the rest of the story because it’s definitely worth a read.

What I found reading this book is that the topics are very modern even if the story is set in the past. Beauty, society standards and acceptance is something we all know and we all talk about.

Just before I started reading this book, a famous Italian blogger posted a pic on social media about her in a swimsuit at the beach. The message was pretty clear: do not be ashamed about your body, go to the beach anyway. I found it brave and true, we cannot be influenced by how the media and the society would like us to be and I think at some point in the book Flavia realises it as well: doesn’t matter how many layers of make up she wears, she will continue to be the same person, with the same flaws. The birthmark won’t disappear, it will always be there so she might as well learn how to live with it.

While I was reading, I almost wished I could have gone into the book and let Flavia know that it’s ok, that eventually society will accept the ones that look different and that she’ll be fine. Unfortunately, I realised that is not entirely true and that still in 2016 we do have issues accepting something that doesn’t really fit in any of the categories we have been taught and that we know.

Hang in there Flavia, maybe one day people will accept everything that makes us unique.

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Thanks to Matt at Duckworth Publisher for the book.
The book is on offer till TODAY on Kobo at £3.99, otherwise you can find it on Watersones‘ website or on Amazon. Also available Kindle edition.

 

Mercato Metropolitano: the closest place to Italian Paradise. 

As you all know, I moved to London from Italy four years ago. It’s been a long journey, with many trips back and forth, with plenty of Italian food in the suitcase every single time.

London has so much to offer and the diversity of people, cuisines and activities is what I love about this city. Every now and then you can find the small Italian deli that offers this or that product that you haven’t had the chance to eat in a long time. Like this place in Chiswick where I got the best Gorgonzola ever.

So the other day, when a friend told me an Italian place was opening, I didn’t think it was a big deal. I was like: “Uh, it’s gonna be another one of those small places with couple of great items.”

Not sure what to expect, I went to Mercato Metropolitano yesterday after work since it’s not that far from the tube station to go home: Elephant and Castle. As you might know, the area is renovating and changing so no surprise they decided to invest here.

The place is located couple of minutes walk from the Ministry of Sound. You can’t miss it, the signs are pretty obvious.

The area is huge, 45000 square ft, divided into different sections. They opened last Friday so just one third of the place is now open. The main part, for now, consists in the food market. And no, we are not talking about a small deli, we are talking about a fairly big supermarket with just Italian products. From fruits and veggies, pasta and sauces, to ham and cheese and of course wine.

P a r a d i s e.

I felt like walking in wonderland, everything I thought London was missing is now in a unique place, not far from home.
There’s outdoor space to enjoy a panino col prosciutto and a glass of wine and then there’s another area where different producers are selling fresh bread, cheese, pasta, pizza, ice cream and coffee. A pizzeria is opening soon, as well as a cinema and a gym.


The idea is brilliant. I would have loved to open something like this myself, if I only had the money to invest.🙂
The concept is to offer Italian quality products to Londoners and I hope this will also help them to understand better the Italian culture, which is not only made by lovely food, but also by amazing and friendly people.

The potential of the place is huge: market, street food, fresh and authentic products but I also think it will be the perfect place for people to chill out, meet friends, attend events.

Mercato Metropolitano  is open from 11am to 11pm (closed Monday) and you can find it at 44 Newington Causeway, London SE1.

What are you waiting for then, go ahead and let me know how good that mortadella is!

Well done guys, keep the good work up!

 

London, in all its beauty.

It’s been a bit quiet on the blog recently.

Today I just wanted to share some pictures with you.
I had a friend over for the weekend and we spent it going around to explore the city, trying to see as much as possible in a short time.
The two and a half days had something in common: they all had some sun showing up at some point. The weather this “summer” has been dreadful, like summer didn’t really show up yet. But still, there’s always been at least 10 minutes of sun in the past weekend and that is exactly what I want to share with you.

To remind me (and you) that beauty is everywhere.
Enjoy!

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When I decided to move to the UK. 

When I decided to move to the UK I had various reasons: a scholarship, the desire to have new experiences and, in part, the hope to live in a better country. 
Better in the sense of having a better future. A country that had more opportunities to offer than Italy, where you are recognised for what you do and a meritocratic system actually works and where you can hope you’re kids are going to have good chances of a better life. 

After 4 years, I can say I found all of this. Or I thought I did. 

The UK today voted to exit the EU. Imagine the shock when I found out this morning at 6.30am. 

It felt a bit like when your partner cheats on you. You feel disorientated, you can’t believe it happened to you and you ask yourself why. 

Why did you decide to leave? What were the reasons that got you to this point? 

To me it looks like who voted out never travelled outside of their country, it looks like they never had to ask sanitary assistance in any of the other European countries and it also looks like they never read a history book. What do they teach you in school? Do you know anything about the European Union? About the privileges you already have? 

No, you don’t. 

You don’t know how it feels like now living in uncertainty. You don’t know how it feels like to fear that it’s gonna be more complicated to see your family, even if it’s “just” two hours away. You cannot even imagine how it feels like to stop and think: “Do I want to have a kid here? Do I want them to live in a country like this? What values am I going to teach them?”. 

Did you think for a second what to tell your own kids about this? Did you think about the faces of your Turkish baker, your Greek coffee maker, your Italian waiter, your Spanish shopping assistant? How are they going to feel? 

Right, you can argue that we don’t know what’s gonna happen yet and it will at least take two years to figure it out. 

In the meantime, though, I feel betrayed by a country where I invested 4 years of my life. And this is a hell of a long time. 

That time in New Orleans.


It happened that I had to go on a business trip to New Orleans. If you know me well enough you’ll know I don’t do usually business trips: I am an office manager and as the word suggests, I need to be in the office. This time, though, our annual conference was taking place in New Orleans so they decided to send me over to help: yay! 

I’ve been to the US once before and that was an epic trip: 9 days in New York after my graduation, meeting friends that I had previously met while I as studying in Germany. 

I didn’t even look into New Orleans that much before leaving, I had been that busy in the previous weeks with work that I didn’t really know what to expect. Plus, I wasn’t sure I would have had that much time to actually see the place due to the conference. 


But first things first: food! I had breakfast in this places suggested by our hotel concierge and it was so crowded. Our waiter and cook was called Peanut and at some point he started signing out loud and everyone was clapping while having breakfast. How entertaining! The portions were typical American, massive pancakes and omelettes!

The rest of the food was interesting too, a lot of shrimps and a surprisingly good turtle soup! 


As said, most of my time was spent at the hotel but I had a wonder in the French quarter, had a proper hot dog, seen the party going on in Bourbon Street and had some fun nights with my colleagues. 

I cannot really say much about what to visit and where to go but I am happy to share some nice pics. 

Enjoy! 

Hai mai pensato di cenare al buio?

Per buio, intend buio pesto. Non e` come chiudere le luci quando si e` in cucina, che alla fine un modo per trovare quello che stiamo cercando si trova. Parlo di entrare in una stanza che non hai mai visto prima e farti guidare da un cameriere non vedente.

Ne parlavo con un collega, parlavamo di quanto sarebbe stato strano ed interessante provare quest’esperienza cosi abbiamo organizzato una cena con degli amici e l’altra sera ci siamo trovati al ristorante che si chiama Dans Le noir? vicino alla stazione di Farringdon qui a Londra.

Da fuori non e’ che si veda molto, le finestre sono oscurate da delle tende nere. Appena siamo entrati siamo stati accolti da una delle ragazze che lavorano alla reception, che guarda caso lavorava con me ai tempi del catering, che ci ha chiesto di mettere in un armadietto le nostre borse, telefoni e qualsiasi cosa si illuminasse come gli orologi. Dopo di che abbiamo scelto quello che volevamo bere perche’ i menu li avevamo gia’ scelti prima di andare al ristorante. Ve lo dico pero’, si puo’ scegliere a grandi linee tra menu di carne, vegetariano e a sorpresa ma non si ha idea di quello che si mangia fino alla fine quando poi ti mostrano le foto del menu scelto. Ci vuole molta fiducia.

Dopo le prime formalita’, ci e’ stata presentata la nostra guida non vedente, Fabio, che ci ha guidato nel buio della stanza e che sarebbe poi stato il nostro cameriere per la serata. Io ero la prima in fila e Fabio mi ha chiesto di mettere la mia mano sulla sua spalla destra e di seguirlo, tutti gli altri hanno fatto lo stesso con la persona davanti a loro e siamo entrati in fila indiana… nel buio piu’ totale.

La prima impressione e’ stata che ti serve una bella dose di fiducia perche’ stai seguendo qualcuno che non conosci e speri che non ti faccia sbattere contro qualcosa (ma ovviamente lui sa esattamente dove sta andando). La seconda impressione e’ che la stanza era avvolta in un’oscurita’ che non ho mai visto in vita mia. Eppure ero sicura di avere ben chiara la definizione di “buio”. Fabio ci ha guidato alle nostre sedie e sono riuscita a sedermi in una posizione quasi normale. Ho subito relaizzato che c’era qualcuno alla mia sinitra e non era nessuno dei miei amici: abbiamo condiviso il tavolo con altri 4 ospiti, due ragazze (una con un accento francese) e due ragazzi. Iniziare a chiacchierare con loro e’ stato automatico, ma l’avremmo mai fatto in un ristorante a luci accese? I nostri quattro vicini sono stati contenti di condividere la loro esperienza con noi e di darci qualche consiglio prima di cena.

Nel frattempo Fabio ci ha descritto tutto quello che c’era sul tavolo: posate, tovagliolo, bicchieri e io ho subito pensato di toccare tutto per sapere dov’erano le cose. Un altro cameriere e’ arrivato per portarci l’acqua e il vino. Ho sempre pensato di essere abbastanza portata a versare il vino dopo anni di sperienza nell’industria del catering, solo che non ho realizzato subito che l’oscurita’ avrebbe cambiato competamente la mia prospettiva e che mi sarei ritrovata quasi spaventatia di versare troppo liquido nel bicchiere. Sono cosi’ finita a versarne troppo poco e quindi ho poi dovuto riempire il bicchiere piu’ volte, aumentando il livello di difficolta’.

Ma la parte divertente e’ quando arriva il cibo. Quando ci sono arrivati i piatti era chiaro che tagliare qualsiasi cosa ci fosse stata portata sarebbe stato complicato. Cosi finisci per toccare quello che hai nel piatto e appena lo assaggi ti viene naturale chiedere ai tuoi compagni di avventura se secondo loro state mangiando anatra? E c’e` forse dell’aceto balsamico sopra? Ma cos’e` sta roba tonda qui? Per non parlare delle volte in cui pensi di aver beccato qualcosa con la forchetta per poi scoprire che quando la porti alla bocca sopra non c’e` nulla. Devo dire pero’ che con il secondo piatto mi sono quasi sentita migliorata nel tagliare la carne.

Non vi diro’ che cosa ho mangiato di preciso, non vorrei rovinarvi la sorpresa nel caso andiate un giorno a provare il ristorante, pero’ posso dirvi come mi sono sentita nel corso della serata. Appena siamo entrati nella stanza sono andata un po’ in panico: non avevo mai provato così tanta oscurita’ e mi sono sentita disorientata, vulnerabile e spaventata perche’ ho perso quello che mi rendeva sicura di me: il dono della vista.

Ma poi lentamente mi sono abituata al buio e gli altri sensi hanno iniziato a lavorare di piu’: ero piu’ attenta ai suoni, anche a quelli che non erano cosi’ ovvi. Per esempio, a meta’ serata mi sono resa conto di riuscire a percepire una presenza dietro di me anche se la persona non ha emesso nessun suono.
E poi ovviamente il gusto, non so se i gusti siano migliori ma sicuramente presti piu’ attenzione a quello che stai mangiano, anche usando l’olfatto. Inoltre, il fatto di toccare gli oggetti che erano sul tavolo, stringere il baccio alla mia amica seduta vicino a me e toccare le mani della nostra guida mi ha fatto sentire molto piu’ a mio agio.

Tanti anni fa facevo volontariato con i disabili e quando dovevo lavorare con quelli non vedenti mi sentivo sempre terribilmente a disagio. Non ho mai capito bene perche’ fino all’altra sera. Il fatto che qualcuno mi toccasse cosi tanto mi rendeva nervosa ma adesso capisco che una persona non vedente si possa sentire rassicurata dal gesto.

Uno dei miei amici al tavolo ha chiesto quando pensavamo di poter resistere in una situazione di buio totale e qualcun altro ha risposto dicendo “non molto”. Io invece ho pensato che ci sono un sacco di persone che vivono in una situazione cosi tutto il giorno, tutti i giorni.

Quanto sono fortunata a vedere? Anche se mi lamento perche’ sono miope e devo usare gli occhiali. Che cosa ho fatto per meritarmi il dono della vista? Che cosa hanno fatto gli altri per non meritarselo? Niente davvero, certe cose sono cosi e basta ma questa esperienza ti fa avere una prospettiva totalmente diversa sulla vita.

Amici e lettori che passate di qua, se avete l’occasione (a Londra o non) andate a provare questo tipo di ristorante. Non abbiate paura, siate emozionati e felici di avere la possibilita’ di provare qualcosa di nuovo e siate grati perche’ la vita e’ bella sia con la luce che col buio.

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