Mdina, pure magic

Of all the places visited in Malta, Mdina was the one that struck me the most.

I knew that everybody was saying it was beautiful, but it was more than that. It was such a slice of ethereal Malta. I loved everything about it: the enchanting little alleys, balconies, and stunning flowers on the walls. It was pretty much a paradise for photo lovers, or to say it in a more modern way, Instagram goals. 🙂

A trip is made of small moments, thoughts, revelations, laughters, all together, some at the same time. I had many of those during my Trip to Mdina. I also knew that the main reasons why I loved it were:

– because there weren’t so many tourists;

– because it was finally almost warm;

– because my cynic spirit for once was wrong, since it wasn’t expecting Mdina to be truly that beautiful;

– because something beautiful becomes even better when shared with others.

There, I’ll say it. I found it was a special, magic place, that sunny afternoon.

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Valletta at dusk

A windy evening of May, I landed in Malta.

The first stop, after copious raining, was a wet and charming Valletta at dusk. The city was empty, colourful, fascinating.

Upper Barrakka Gardens are the perfect point at sunset, they give you a glimpse of the contrast between the walled city and the sea. Be sure to head there once, you won’t be disappointed.

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While strolling, I remember thinking how Valletta looked like an infinite catwalk. The street are the perfect (red) carpets, ups and downs of baroque charme, old houses and the walls to frame the scenery. There I wished I was a fashion photographer, taking pictures of beautiful people at every corner, every street. I ain’t a photographer, yet I had however, my trustful camera, to capture the vibes of the place, and a handsome fella, to explore arm in arm: the odds were in my favour that evening.

The city is anything but luxury, yet it has that certain rich appeal that only a Mediterranean city can pass to you. And I was content with that, with that shots, with that trip.

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Can we agree to say that quietness looked so strange? There, there were some cats, soaking up the last ray of sun in the evening. Quiet, posh, and avoiding in every case your attention. Or the camera… paparazzi style…

… That’s right, at the end of the day, Valletta, so empty, looked like an old Hollywood movie.

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Hello, Malta

The Mediterranean colours called, in May. Hello, Malta.

What an excitement to go for a little adventure, especially during low season, especially if it involves the sea and the perfect month to enjoy the good weather without a scorched skin. Yet, the weather was rather unpredictable…

MY FAULT:  I was asking for beautiful sunny-but-not-hot days and karma graced me with unchangeable, sunny-but-pretty-cold weather. Bar the complaints, its landscape was stunning.

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I am a nordic creature, amazed to see how many shades of brown and yellow an island down south can have. I’m used to green, but I liked what I saw, especially from the boat. There’s something magic with floating on open sea, and navigating around islands and its cliffs. And I felt light, kinda dreamy.

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With only 2 full days and no car, you got kinda limited time to visit all.

The plan was to divide and conquer: the most famous cities Valletta, Mdina; a day in Gozo, mixing Victoria with some beach time (my tolerance once with a swim suit lasted exactly 1:22 minutes but hey); smaller but charming places, like Sliema and the fishing village of Marsaxlokk (where I ate the most delicious grilled octopus ever). Props to the bus and ferry system, quite good and easy to use (and a tip for you, get the 7-Day Explore Card!!).

I leave here few snaps of the places visited. Enjoy.

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Sliema

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Marsaxlokk

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Victoria, Citadella

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Victoria, Citadella from the roofs

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Exploring Gozo

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Cliffs in Had-Dingli

 

 

 

Pigneto, an alternative Rome

If you say “Let’s go to Italy”, Rome doesn’t pop in my mind to first place.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a magical city, but it’s certainly not my idea of Italian city. In fact, it represents more the idea of chaos in an Italian city. So when I was sent to Rome for work, I thought of taking advantage of it and I organised an event in Pigneto, a different choice than the usual-known noisy and touristy city center.

Why Pigneto? “Il Pigneto” is a quintessential neighbourhood, that both preserves the personality of the golden years of cinematography and hipster modernity.

The twist of modern times is shown in the unique bar and restaurants, but also with graffitis on the walls. It was the perfect choice for me.

Bonus point, the name of Pier Paolo Pasolini – director, poet, and much more – still echoes in there. It’s seriously the place to visit!

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Early evening in Pigneto

Props to Necci dal 1924, literally the place to enjoy life, with long history, great food and delish drinks… Salute!

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27 flights, 6 months, 1 heart. An essay.

It’s 27.

It’s really 27 flights, the number I reached in 6 months time, January to June 2016.

Never happened before, but I was secretly aiming to do it for a long time. Fun fact: I believe I’ve driven a car only a quarter (or less) of the times I took a plane. And by that I mean, I looove driving, but I was always somewhere else than a road. For stats lovers:

  • it seems it’s an average of 1 flight per week,
  • but it was more like coming and going, every 2 weeks;
  • the longer period I stayed home was less than 3 weeks, I believe 18 days;
  • the longest flight was 12h 30′ hours, HK to Munich in March with Lufthansa;
  • the shortest flight must have been Berlin-Paris, 1h and 20′.

What I have learnt so far:

  • people can’t pack, despite they think so;
  • people passing security have the ability of a red fish and won’t understand even their native language to follow simple instructions;
  • I don’t look nor sound Italian, at least the majority of people say talking to me;
  • the bra will always beeps in Europe. Use bralets and rock the nipples;
  • same as the bra, don’t be fussy and take off your shoes, it’s quicker;
  • even if you are tired, sleepy, sad or having a meltdown (and I’ve managed to be all the above) if you are super kind and friendly with flight attendants and people at the shops everything will run better up in the air and ground;
  • talking to guards and security makes you feeling safer and them useful, do it, don’t be only a stranger that passes by;
  • the duty free can be your best ally, especially during missions like “getting to the airport make-up free and boarding as if I was ready for a photo shoot” or “ew, I look like sh..eep”;

In a nutshell, it’s been a fairly crazy rollercoaster, full of iPod sessions, high hopes, waiting lounges and public transports.

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And it’s 6 already.

Yes, half of a year gone, another birthday passed away and I had the best NYE I can ever remember (thanks to a singing-in-the-car warrior). With temperatures spanning between a -23 in Vilnius in January to +34 in Berlin last week, it’s fair to say I had an intense time. Changing coats, changing hat, boots to sandals, smile to tears. Time spent working, time not spent blogging, time flying, time waiting, time following. I was mainly the one with the heart in a hand luggage. “High Hopes”, the motto of the year. And that brings to the third and last part of this essay.

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1 heart: Mine.

It’s got heavy, too heavy I fear to bring it as a hand luggage. I always wonder why people are afraid of explosions, when they should be scared of implosions. It’s such a more silent way to live in pieces.

I got told by a good friend that everyone has a big darkness inside, that many only show when they part ways. For me the aftermath has become a game of forgiveness and forgetfulness: I’m no longer sure I want to stay in that playground, but I kinda feel stuck.

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A photo session in Turin

Turin is the first big Italian city coming from West.

I came from East, from the soulless, business-oriented region of Milan. The good thing to reach from one city to the other is to see the continuous groups of rice fields between them, separating their distant personalities. The trip gets a bit cathartic, like a silent, natural cleansing of your mind.

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Looking outside the window

Turin was the first capital in Italy, the first in many things. Was. Somewhere roaming around you can still feel it, in some other parts it still holds the crown of being the capital of local, even of lost.

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I remember my first time in Turin, maybe 15 years ago. I found it sad and kinda empty. I’ve changed my mind during the years… Turin has had a sort of newborn vitality, all around events, museums and arts. There’s one thing I’ve always loved loads of Turin though: la Mole.

For me, one of the most magical building men could ever create.

Perfection, anthropology and mythology together.

 

Well, I was in Turin for a reason: to learn about an artist. What I learnt from that day was much more, especially from his sons’ eyes and story telling. And while I was listening to them, I started remembering little things. The dynamics of a family, the smell of an Italian house, a wall by no reason left white, but filled with paintings, the little gardens with wild flowers, kids eating gelato, couples looking at the shop windows on a Saturday afternoon. Everything frankly so much more than my lonely life.

That day I also tried to switch camera, and left my beloved Titty to my friend. The pictures along this posts are actually his. Enjoy.

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The Unbearable Lightness of Being in Paris

Ah Paris!

What more resounding and compelling than being in Paris? I mean, it’s Paris! A city as cute as arrogant… and a city of and for artists and lovers!

My ingredients to a perfect weekend in Paris were:

  • my bestie along
  • a wonderful art exhibition to attend
  • cute guys walking in the streets (how can they be so many?)
  • incredible sunsets
  • wine(s)
  • other alcoholic beverages for the necessary socialising during ‘aperitif’ time
  • croissants
  • entrecĂ´te avec pommes!! 😀

 

The weekend was a pretext to see the wonderful exhibition at Centre Pompidou about Anselm Kiefer, my favourite artist (someone familiar with my blog might recognise the name…). It was a great event, bravo to Pompidou for organising it.

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Paris is really a lovely city. It really makes you feel in love. Nevertheless when it rains, the water pouring down on your head is kinda poetic too. The sun popped out on Sunday, these are some of my favourite shots from that day…

 

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And of course, there’s her…

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Au revoir!

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HK, back to the (tropical) hood

Nothing makes me more excited to be back in HK.

A place that has never been home, yet I could easily call it like that. Why? I often ask myself that. I’m not fascinated by China, and I don’t really consider HK part of China, despite some resemblance… So what is it? I guess it’s because when you start travelling around Asia, that crazy continent gets inside of you, like a virus and you can’t get it out anymore. But you sum Asia to all the Western treats, you get HK. A virus with comfort. And an incredible selection for eating out and shopping.

Plus, the mountains and water all around… It’s addicting!

I can’t spend other words more, and need to show the pictures. This is a big selection of an even bigger album, sorry to overwhelm you with HK-ism. For me it’s a bit of religion.

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Kowloon to Central on a rainy day.

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Central to Mid-Levels, night

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The majesty of taking a ferry during night

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Typical HK

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Kowloon in the rain

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The happiest couple in a street karaoke

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San Francisco – Wan Chai

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Tramways

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Waiting to go. Causeway Bay

 

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Nan Lian Garden, Diamond Hill

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Bus to Victoria Peak

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View

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Kowloon bound

Ok, that’s enough. I’m already too nostalgic by nature.

See you soon, HK.

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Mid-Levels

Want to see more? I wrote about areas of the city in 2013, here’s the link: https://valanzo.com/tag/hong-kong/ 🙂

Castle Hunting in Brandenburg

I tend to get a bit unbiased when it comes to visit castles.

As much I love the fascination of an old castle, I always snob them, preferring towers and modern high buildings, or museums. But I got convinced to do something unusual of a lazy winter weekend, persuaded especially by the nice opportunity to drive a car, something exotic in Berlin.

The destination was the town of Rheinsberg, between Berlin and Hamburg (more Berlin than Hamburg, but quite in the middle of nowhere). A cute town with a charming lake, Grienericksee, and an even charming Renaissance palace. Even the cold weather seemed charming.

Rheinsberg Palace was home to Frederick the Great’s teen years, said to be the happiest years of his life here when he was “just” Crown Prince. What struck me most where three rooms of the palace:

  • The dancing room
  • A bedroom with Renaissance taste
  • An oriental living room downstairs with the most beautiful Chinese tapestry I’ve ever seen

I wasn’t much into the history of people living there…my bad. But in the end I took some nice pics that I am going to share here with you. If you want to read more about the castle, Frederick and his siblings, Prussia and more start from: http://www.spsg.de/en/palaces-gardens/object/schloss-rheinsberg-1/

It took a nerd with an old-fashioned tasted friend to take me to Rheinsberg, but hey it was a lovely trip in the end.

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The nerd and the photographer.

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LĂźbeck on a rainy winter day

It might not sound all that ideal, a trip to a city when you know the weather will be a scary mix of winter-in-Northern-Germany horror deluxe: BĂśen winds, possible fog, possible rain, possible snow. A delightful mix for your hair and the impending cold you feel growing inside.

Fizzy hair, don’t care. Cold, too. Train, here I come. LĂźbeck, see you in a bit.

First impression: Red bricks and houses that reminds me of Amsterdam. And Copenhagen. It’s like Amsterdam is, in fact, set in Cop. Pretty inception, I must say. It gets prettier when you realise that, despite being on German soil, the Old Town is a bit on sweet hills. Details are the interesting part of this trip.

Bar the rain, it was a pleasure to capture the silent streets, tiny alleys, beautiful houses and the small harbour. The pictures I took end up being quite dark and contrasting, catching the light was a bit difficult, but I might say I enjoyed some of the results

I would also get an extra side of rain for the fish I ate there. De-Li-Sh. I recommend you Kartoffelkeller >> www.kartoffel-keller.de/ 🙂

Following, snaps from the city.

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And the view from the harbour:

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I particularly liked the houses and the small, unique alleys spread around the city. Here’s some examples.

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I have other 50 pictures I would like to upload, but I’ll stop here. 🙂

See you soon.