Despite its beautiful nature and its rich cultural heritage, Albania is still not such a touristic destination: most of the time we were the only two foreigners enjoying unspoiled beaches, wild mountainous areas and lake shores. The only two times when we weren’t the only foreigners around –besides of course in the capital town Tirana- there were in the two UNESCO listed ancient towns of Gjirokastër and Berat. Both Gjirokastër and Berat are well-known for their ancient neighborhoods preserving historic Ottoman-era architectures, a style originated in Turkey between the 14th and 15th centuries and arrived in Albania during the 18th and 19th centuries, but that's not the only reason why I found them both very fascinating!
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Thursday, October 23, 2014
The whole point of this short trip to Ljubljana I just had was a reunion with two of my former housemates from my EVS time in Slovenske Konjice, two girls I kept being in touch during the following years and with whom -back then- I instantly had a special bound based on our common passion for food –hence our trio nickname “trije prašički” (the three little pigs, as those from the fairy tale). And so, as you can easily guess, our trije prašički reunion in Ljubljana revolved mostly around food :-)
Elena, the one of us who still lives in Slovenia, was in charge to select a bunch of high quality restaurants in Ljubljana and she did a great job, even outdoing her own Ljubljana's best restaurants selection from last time I visited her in September 2013.
(and if you were wondering why I titled this post “VOL. 2” you should click on the previous link to read where Elena brought me to eat last time).
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Peeking into courtyards is a great way to explore a town literally going beyond the surface of a destination. From pocket parks in New York City to “Jardins” in Barcelona, such little oases help us escape overcrowded city lives. But if many of New York’s pocket parks are corporate-backed and designed down to the most minute details and Barcelona’s “jardins” are something out of the most creative dreams of landscape gardeners, Rome’s hidden inner courtyards were meant to recreate the atmosphere of the village’s main square. They are places where you can hang out the laundry, let the kids play all day long, and where neighborhood relationships are built. You can find these hidden gems of beauty both within the medieval buildings of the city center and in the suburbs of Rome, especially in those suburban neighborhoods planned as garden cities.
And so here are 5 of my favorite destinations in Rome:
Friday, October 10, 2014
All this for saying that me and my 30something friends agreed to add a spoonful of sugar to any bittersweet anniversary by organizing out-of-town celebrations; and so this time we headed to the Etruscan part of the Roman countryside visiting Bracciano, exploring the ghost village of Monterano and enjoying a Sunday lunch on lake Martignano.
Sunday, October 5, 2014
If last time I showed you the places I liked the most of my road-trip around Albania, this time I will bring you to the town which most reminded me of my beloved Balkan atmosphere: Përmet and the surrounding mountainous area, that is the very South of Albania.
I will start by saying that our three days exploring Përmet and the surrounding area have been pretty rainy and so we didn't have the chance to go around all the time but just in between a storm and the next one; therefore we had to skip many open-air places on my bucket list, such as the ancient village of Frashër within the Fir of Hotova National Park and the Këlcyrë gorge, while we played for time and stayed a bit longer into Përmet delicious restaurants tasting its well-known cuisine. In fact this is not only the area of large national parks and beautiful green valleys, but it's renowned also for its local wines and traditional products (such as the many different types of jam and compote), some of which are even protected -and therefore promoted- by Slow Food Albania.
Monday, September 29, 2014
If you would ask me which is the place I liked the most of the overall Albanian road-trip the answer is Korça.
The town of intellectuals, artists and poets really got me, and I wouldn’t mind to spend some time living there in the future. I would love it, actually!
Korça is characterized by wide boulevards with many cafes where locals enjoy a Turkish coffee or more often a beer or a raki –well, actually male locals as it is very rare to spot girls on a night out on their own (except for the capital town, Tirana).
Saturday, September 27, 2014
If you follow me on Instagram you may have noticed that I spent last Sunday surrounded by the striking mountains and the unspoiled nature of the Majella National Park in Abruzzo, taking part to an Instagrammers’ tour of the park on a vintage train from the 1920s.
I submitted my candidacy to this trip first because I wanted to show you a very off-the-beaten path region of Italy, the genuineness and the breathtaking natural landscapes of a mainstream tourism free zone, but also because Abruzzo is where my family is coming from: thanks to my grandparents I understood the local dialect before even learning Italian language and I spent my childhood summers at the seaside in Pescara or in some beautiful little village within one of the four natural parks of Abruzzo.
I’ve always seen Abruzzo through the nostalgic lens of my grandparents who left it to pursue a job in the big city, I felt asleep listening to lullabies singing about the sunrise on Abruzzo mountains and I learned how to cook from my grandma’s hands well trained on Abruzzo traditional recipes.
And now… there I was! :-)
Thursday, September 18, 2014
Our base to explore the Albanian Riviera was Himarë; we liked this small town so much that just after our first relaxing afternoon at Himarë beach we decided to revise my original travel plan in order to skip the more touristic area of Sarandë and let Himarë be the longest stop-over of our Albanian journey: a whopping 4 nights out of 13!
Of course we didn’t spend all four days lying down on Himarë beach (although Silvia would have loved that!) but we explored both the Northern part of the Albanian Riviera (and so Gjipe, Vuno and Jalë) and the Southern area too (Porto Palermo, Borsh and Qeparo).
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
As you might remember, visiting Tirana wasn't into my travel plans, but as soon as I learnt that Tirana's former mayor Edi Rama (who currently is the Prime Minister of Albania) is also a painter I longed to see the colourful outcomes of his multiple mandate.
Considering his job of mayor of Tirana as “the supreme form of conceptual art”, Edi Rama brought new life to the huge socialist buildings characterizing the capital town of Albania as a promise of a brighter and colorful future after the grey years represented by the Albanian past.
And even if some of my Albanian friends pointed out that he was only putting up a façade (no pun intended *lol*), I still find that the best way to explore Tirana is wandering around the town looking for its colourful buildings.
Friday, September 12, 2014
I've always thought there is way too less fantasy into our daily life.
I personally fight this tremendous lack living into my own dreamworld and enjoying any experience which could trigger my imagination.
For example lately I've been visiting two fascinating parks in central Italy: the Bomarzo Monsters Park near Viterbo (Lazio) and the Tarot Garden near Capalbio (Tuscany).
(they actually are very close to each others -about 100 km- but they belong to two different Regions of Italy).
Walking around (and within!) those marvelous statues feels like strolling into wanderland!
So... let's forget about real life and have a fun walk together into two beautiful Italian artistic parks.