Churros en Barcelona!

It as been a couple of tough few days, one of my best friends is no longer with us and I am heart broken. But, he wouldn’t want me to stop, he would want me to write, as I always did. Writing is what got us together in the first place, so let’s do this.

I started the new year travelling, so let me tell you all about Barcelona…
It was 2008 when I visited Barcelona for the first time: I was am Erasmus student based in Erfurt, Germany, visiting a friend that was studying Spanish in the city.
I have to admit, Barcelona didn’t really impressed me back then: everything seemed less interesting than Berlin. I couldn’t really figure out why, but I guess it was because  I had the impression Berlin was just… so much more!

Anyway, when my friend and I had to decide where to go for NYE, Barcelona came across as one of the cheapest options. So we packed a light backpack (thanks Decathlon!) and went to Gatwick for our flight.

We stayed in the neighbourhood called “El Born”, great location in the city centre, walking distance from a lot of cool areas. We used Airbnb once again and everything went pretty smoothly. Arriving late on Friday evening, we didn’t have much time to explore so we went straight to the apartment and woke up for a fresh start on Saturday morning.

We were blessed with a super sunny day and we headed straight to the Sagrada Familia, took some classic selfies and then headed to La Pedrera. I already visited Casa Battlo’ last time, they are very different I have to say but both worth a visit. Very expensive though!
If I can give you one and only advice: buy tickets in advance and online! You’ll avoid queues and disappointments!

 


After visiting couple of the most iconic places, we headed to Las Ramblas and La Boqueria market. I did have some vivid memories of veggies and other goodies at the market and I really wanted to go back to get some cool pics.
The place is very instagrammable but it’s not just that, it’s very typical and the food is good. Do get food here, it’s not too expensive and it’s better than going to a random place not knowing what you’ll get (ad happened to us!).

img_1758img_1757img_1756img_1754

Before heading home to get some rest, we stopped by the port area. It was such a sunny and lovely day and we just ended up sitting there and having some fruit we got from La Boqueria market. The sun, the sea, some food and a good friend… you really don’t need much more!

IMG_1787.JPG

We weren’t sure what to do for NYE but then we happened to find an Italian blog about BCN and these guys were organizing a dinner so we thought, why not?
It was fun I have to say, we meet in the Barceloneta area to have dinner at the restaurant with another 100 random people. Brilliant!

On the Sunday, our last day in Barcelona, we decided to go to Park Güell. Again, do book in advance. We didn’t and we couldn’t get in, but there is still the park around the main area and that was enough for us on that sunny day.

IMG_0494.JPG

We then walked all the way into town, stopped in the main cathedral and ended the day with some churros.
There’s plenty to see and to do in Barcelona, but a quick weekend is also a good idea.
I’ll leave you with the churros pic… delicioussss!

img_1954

Buon viaggio, Fed.

Mi chiedo se tu abbia avuto paura.
Poi penso a come ti conoscevo, sempre sorridente, sempre pronto ad affrontare quello che la vita ti buttava addosso.
In questi tanti anni di amicizia so per certo che hai vissuto, hai amato e hai fatto quello che più ti piaceva fare: viaggiare.
Ne abbiamo passate tante insieme nonostante ci trovassimo sempre in luoghi diversi: i racconti di Erasmus, i racconti di come le nostre vite si stavano sviluppando, i racconti sui progetti futuri. E le mail, piene di te e di vita.
Lo so che nonostante non potremo andare a quel concerto di Londra a maggio, tu ci sarai. So che sarai sempre con me, che mi dirai “Cuooooor” con quel tono quando farò qualche cazzata, so che mi abbraccerai come avresti fatto quando ci saremmo rivisti e come hai fatto quando ero a Torino a dicembre.

Questo e’ il post che ho scritto tanto tempo fa parlando di te, quello in cui racconto come ci siamo conosciuti. Poi mi sono resa conto che ci sei in tanti altri post. Mi sono resa conto che sei dovunque e che ci sarai sempre.
So che te ne sei andato facendo quello che ti piaceva, so che sapevi che ero felice… non ti preoccupare per me – mi hai lasciata in ottime mani.

Grazie per le risate, per Torino, per i concerti insieme, per postare sempre le foto dei tuoi viaggi, per il supporto sempre.

Non ci saro’ per il tuo ultimo saluto il prossimo martedi, saro’ a Fuerteventura, un viaggio che avevo programmato da tanto e che sai che avrei fatto. Mi avevi dato anche qualche consiglio. So che non vorresti che io cambiassi i piani e quindi faro’ quello che abbiamo sempre fatto: Lonely Planet alla mano, macchina fotografica al collo e la solita voglia di esplorare un posto nuovo.

In una delle ultime mail parlando dell’Islanda mi hai detto che “i vulcani e le enormi cascate mi hanno ricordato quanto io sia piccolo e impotente, i grandi prati mi hanno ricordato che nonostate tutto e tutti la vita va sempre avanti.”

E anche questa volta la vita andrà avanti Fed, in fondo questo è solo un altro viaggio…

Ti abbraccio, come sempre.

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.

img_0310

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 £59.


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!

img_0785

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.

img_0668

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 £59 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!

 

img_0855