Viewing: Italy

Spring flowers in Lago Maggiore

It was still chilly when I left Amsterdam for Lago Maggiore, so arriving to find bright sunshine, brilliant blue skies and spring in full bloom was just the best thing ever. Bursting from trees, growing out of cracks in stone walls, shouting from rooftops… it was flowers, flowers everywhere!

Lago Maggiore Orta spring trees in bloom

Lago Maggiore Orta flowers in stone wall

Lago Maggiore Orta purple wisteria

Mostly, though, Lago Maggiore in the springtime is wisteria heaven. My memories of this weekend getaway with friends will always be perfumed with the scent of wisteria.

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From Lago Maggiore with love

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have noticed the hashtag #blago2014 on my recent pics from Italy. The seed for that hashtag was planted almost a year ago, when Jillian approached a few blog friends with the idea of meeting up in Lago Maggiore, where she lives. Just an hour by train from Milan, it would be a good base from which to visit the Salone del Mobile. She gave our trip the working title Blago (Blog + Lago) and it stuck!

From Lago with love Relaxed, idyllic Lago Maggiore was indeed the perfect home base for a girly blogger getaway. With the Alps shining in the distance like a mirage, Lago was a dreamy background for early evening aperitivi (an Italian must-do!)… Aperitivi at Lago Maggiore fabulous lunches in hole-in-the-wall enotecas, (read Judith’s mouthwatering post for the full report)… Lago di Orta Al Boeuc charcuterie cheese platter plus the occasional gelato, long rambling conversations about anything and everything, and breathtaking views around the rim of the lake. Lago Maggiore Isola San Giulio I admit, life could have been harder. [Read more...]

Milan: Beautiful city, beautiful people

Even without the excitement of the Salone del Mobile, Milan is a beautiful city to explore. With our most comfortable walking shoes on, my #blago2014 travel buddies and I pounded Milanese pavement for hours, passing by some of the city’s most iconic sights along the way.

Milan Duomo and Galleria wide angle

Oh my DSLR and wide-angle lens, how I’ve missed you! I love my little Sony point-and-shoot, but it would never let me get the immense Duomo and the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II in a single shot…

Milan Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II

or to capture the Galleria from head to toe, for that matter.

Speaking of head to toe, Milan’s beautiful and stylishly dressed citizens sure know how to steal attention away from its stunning architecture.

Milan people-watching hipster carabinieri

I secretly love to people-watch, and Milan’s unique flair makes my little pastime a true pleasure.

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Salone del Mobile at the Universita di Milano

Walking around a furniture fair for a couple days, one inevitably sees a lot of kitchens, bathrooms, toilets and chairs—especially chairs. (Why do all designers seem to be hell-bent on reinventing the chair?) After a while, it all got to be a bit too much for me. So on our last day in Milan, I suggested that we look for some of the large-scale installations I’d been seeing on Instagram, most of which seemed to be concentrated in the Universita di Milano.

Milan Salone del Mobile 2014 Universita di Milano

It turned out to be a great way to end our visit—with hardly any of the crowds we’d previously encountered in Tortona, lots of big, playful and imaginative installations, and refreshing bursts of color.

Milan Salone del Mobile 2014 giant textile balls

Milan Salone del Mobile 2014 Endless Stairs

Milan Salone del Mobile 2014 copper pendant lamp

I love looking at beautiful things as much as anyone, but after a while I had begun to crave something a little more conceptual, more thoughtful—more than just someone trying to push another product. Maybe I’m just idealistic, maybe these installations at the University of Milan were trying to sell something too, but they certainly did it in a more subtle way. By pondering big questions such as scarcity, sustainability, the future of cities, and more, they created an opportunity—in the midst of all the activity of the Salone—to pause for a little reflection.

Milan Salone del Mobile 2014 mirror selfie

Reflection, get it? Bada-boom-tsss! Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, you’ve been a great audience.

Milan Salone del Mobile 2014 Blago travel buddies

Oh, look at me being all profound and meaningful when in fact I’m just another shallow girl who can’t resist taking a selfie!

Speaking of meaningful, I hope you’re having a rich and meaningful Easter weekend. From what I’m seeing on Instagram, everyone back home seems to be partying at the beach, but I wish you a few quiets moment to reflect, recharge and to celebrate all that is sacred to you. Have a blessed and peaceful Easter!

Milan: Design spotting in Brera

I considered sharing my recent travels in chronological order, but with my #blago2014 travel buddies Jillian and Judith getting a head start on our adventures at this year’s Salone del Mobile, I decided it would be more fun to blog about Milan alongside them. Won’t it be interesting to see four different sides of the same story? Mine begins in the impossibly stylish district of Brera.

Milan Salone del Mobile 2014 Brera Design District

Populated by designer names, elegant boutiques and impeccably dressed residents, Brera is a hotbed of activity of Milan’s very own Design Week.

Milan Salone del Mobile 2014 Brera

Brera opens its polished, darkened doors to the masses during Salone del Mobile. It was an incredible experience to just wander around, popping in and out of upscale shops and showrooms, swept up in an Italian-designed lifestyle that 99% of us can only ever admire from afar.

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Let’s do brunch in… Rome

Time to take a break from Berlin and fly off to another European city for  brunch!

This month’s guest blogger is someone who I’ve been delighted to get to know online—not just because she’s a fellow Filipina, but because she’s a creative soul who’s generous with her inspiring work and creative finds.

Kat Conte has a knack for discovering artists and artisans, and shares their stories and portraits on her blog Zero the One. She teaches a Video Portrait workshop on Skillshare, and her workshop was a huge hit at this year’s The Hive conference in Berlin.

So I’m happy to welcome Kat here to share another kind of find—a foodie find. Loosen your belt a notch as she takes us for an Italian-style Sunday brunch, il pranzo della nonna, or grandma’s lunch… in Rome!

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Let’s do brunch in… Florence

Georgette Jupe is, as her blog says, a Girl in Florence. She’s also the girl who led us to our awesome Notte Bianca experience in Florence, by supplying the only English itinerary I could find online.

An American who’s been living in Florence since 2007, Georgette has a self-diagnosed obsession with food (as I would, if I lived in Italy!), making her a great fit for a guest post about, well, food. I like her blog’s local, not-your-typical-expat approach to everyday life in Florence: its food, wine, culture, humor, language and more. It’s a fun read, and a great resource for anyone Florence-bound—both travelers and immigrants (I won’t say tourists and expats!) alike.

So what does this Girl in Florence have to say about brunch in Florence?

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Venice in watercolor

It’s been a while since my last watercolor project. The class went on break for the summer, and I decided not to join any of the outdoor painting sessions my teacher held in place of the regular class. When I went back to Haarlem in September, I decided to continue my travel series with a painting of a Venetian gondola. With the change of seasons, it was my way of saying, “Take me back to Venice in the springtime!”

Here, my biggest struggle was with the interior of the boat, because there was so much crap detail in it. My teacher Penny is a real master at knowing when to be a stickler for detail and when to let go and just splash around, so I had lots of help from her here. She also introduced me to a rather colorful Dutch euphemism for nitpicking: mierenneuken, which literally means, to fuck an ant. Hilarious.

Overall, I’m really happy with it… but I think I’ll go easy on the details when choosing my next subject!

Do you like this month’s watercolor piece? Does it feel like spring in Venice to you?

Siena: Pattern love at the Duomo

While traveling in Italy, you can end up seeing so many churches that they all start to blend together after a while. The one church that jolted me out of my “church fatigue” after two weeks in Italy was the Duomo at Siena.

When I first walked in, it wasn’t the immense scale of the Duomo that got my attention—it was the feeling that, for a church built in the 1200s, there was something so strikingly modern about it. Then I realized what it was: black and white stripes!

Siena Duomo

The tones of midnight blue and copper in the ceiling also seem so current. I would love to use that combination somewhere in my home—to perk up our deep blue bedroom walls, maybe?

Siena Duomo ceiling

I have zero education in design, but I love patterns and I love spotting them on trips. My eyes were drawn to the marble floors of the Duomo, with their bold graphic patterns in black, ivory and rust. Don’t these look so maximalist chic?

Siena Duomo tiled floor pattern1 Siena Duomo tiled floor pattern2 Siena Duomo tiled floor pattern3

It makes sense for a church to remind people of heaven, doesn’t it? That must have been the motivation behind these celestial-inspired patterns on the dome…

Siena Duomo starry dome

… and on the floor of the aptly named Piccolomini Library, a small but stunning collection of illuminated manuscripts housed in the Duomo.

Piccolomini Library floor tiles

I know I can’t be the only secret pattern junkie around here. Now that I’ve outed myself, won’t you lovers of pattern reveal yourselves too?

By the way, this is my last post from our Italy trip. I can’t believe it took me so long to blog about everything! I dive right into Kleine Fabriek as soon as I get back from my trip, so I won’t get to post about Iceland immediately.

However, I’ve prepared something special for the weekend. It’s something I’ve never done on the blog before and combines two of my favorite things: travel and food. I’m excited and I really hope you’ll like it. Stay tuned!

Siena: people-watching at Piazza del Campo

One of the things I love to do when traveling is watching people… and, since I got my amazingly discreet 50mm lens, taking pictures of them. Does that make me creepy? I hope not!

A day trip to Siena gave me the chance to do just that. It was a hot sunny day, and like any open-air public space in Europe on a hot sunny day, Siena’s famous Piazza del Campo was filled with people basking in the sunshine.

Siena Piazza del Campo

It looked like it could be a scene at the beach. A beach with coins in its turquoise waters…

Siena Piazza del Campo fountain

… and a herringbone pattern imprinted on its shores.

Piazza del Campo herringbone bricks

Okay, you probably wouldn’t see a 13th century town hall like the Palazzo Pubblico at the beach… so I’ll give up the comparison. By the way, the picture is curved not because of distortion from my wide-angle lens, but because the piazza itself is curved like a shallow bowl.

Siena Palazzo del Publico

In a wide open space like this, I don’t mind so many people. Besides, there is something different about the atmosphere of a town square that makes it fun. I love the luxury of doing nothing—you get to observe little differences, details, that you would otherwise miss.

This kid in a wheelchair was having the best time being wheeled by his friends up and down the gentle incline of the piazza. That made me smile…

Wheeling around Piazza del Campo

as did the sight of a giant tour group leaping into the air in sync…

Jumping in Piazza del Campo

… and these two crazy American girls dancing for a video camera. Well I don’t know for sure that they’re American, but the crazy ones always turn out to be. Just like the loud ones turn out to be Filipino!

Dancing in Piazza del Campo

Check out this Italian gentleman, looking oh so cool in his full suit. The Sartorialist I am not, but I just had to take this man’s photo. I do believe this is what they call swagger.

Italian man in suit

Oops, huli!

Italian men in suits

But this is Italy, after all. Even the police are stylish!

Italian police in Siena

Do you photographing people when you travel? Are you the bold type who takes their photos right up front, or are you shy and have to do it from a safe distance like I do?