There is something about Italy. There has always been something about Italy, which is probably why over 46 million tourists visit it each year. Whomever you speak to seems to have a romanticized dream of visiting or will happily share their memories of their latest visit.
As Samuel Johnson said, "A man who has not been to Italy, is always conscious of an inferiority, from his not having seen what it is expected a man should see." Italian are very kind, and even more friendly. Simpatico is their adjective for friendly, and it is how I would describe them best.
They are the guardians of some of history's most magnificent treasures, and they are used to sharing them, Hoewever, there are a few things Italians want tourist (Scandinavians and Americans, I'm talking to you) to know before you arrive in their country.
1. Dinner. It's between 7:30-22:00. Pressing your hungry face in the restaurant's window at 6:00 p.m will not change that. Calling for a reservation and dressing up for dinner, however, will be greatly appreciated.
2. Skin: show a little respect. If you visit Italy during the summer months it will, most likely, be very warm. By all means, dress down all you want, but if you're planing to visit museums, cathedrals and especially the churches, please try to cover your knees, shoulders and feet. Grazie!
3. Bread: It won't be served with butter. This one took me a while to get used to. Eating bread without butter? Not eating bread with pasta? What? Basically, you receive a little bread with your appetizer and that's pretty much it. It's also used to "fare la scarpetta" or "make a little shoe" to clean the plate of any residual sauce. To do so in a restaurant is a debatable point, so i'll leave that decision up to you.
4. Afternoon closings. Many shops will close down for the afternoon from 1:00 - 4:00 p, especially outside of the city centers. Italians go home to enjoy lunch as a family and relax. Try it!
5. Il caffè! In Italy you drink cappuccinos and cafe lattes in the morning. The rest of the time it's espresso all the way. Know that when you enter a bar and order a "coffee" you will get an espresso. Specifically ask for a filtered coffee if that's what you prefer. Also, ordering a 'latte', when you want a cafe latte will just get you a glass of milk.
6. Don't rush it! This one goes out to my fellow Swedes and German friends. Punctuality does not exist in Italy. It doesn't exist when you are meeting someone for lunch (hi dad!) and it doesn't exist when you are waiting for the bus. There is no use to get stressed or upset about it because they just won't care.
7. Simplify your Schedule: Leave time to wander the crooked, ancient streets on your own. Often, just a few blocks away from the main attractions, day-to-day life is unfolding. Plan some time where you can get off the well beaten path for a gelato, coffee, or traditional meal with the locals. Besides, if you over schedule, you just get grumpy.
8. Italian: It's what is spoken! Learning a few words and common phrases will make a big difference in your experience. Rather than launching immediately in English, and assuming you will be understood, it's polite to ask, "Parla l'Inglese?".
9. Coperto: The amount charged, per person, to sit down at a table. It's not a ploy to take advantage of you because you are a tourist. Coperto is not the same thing as a tip, which you'll be expected to leave as well. 5-10 % is usually good.
10. Ask for the Check: It won't be automatically delivered to your table after a meal in a restaurant. That doesn't mean you are being ignored. Food and conversations are to be enjoyed, not rushed. When you are ready to leave, ask for the bill, "il conto."
11. Slow Down: You can't see it all. Trust me on this one. The reason 46 million tourists descend on Italy each year is because there is so much beauty to see and experience. A plethora of culture, art, vineyards, food, and museums -- a lifetime is not enough. So, slow down, savor and appreciate what you do see.
12. Smile: You've made it to a country that has inspired visitors for centuries. Melt into its beauty and lifestyle, its art, music, and literature. Trade smiles with Italians and take home memories of a truly magnificent country, unlike any other in the world.
Now you're ready to explore the wonder that Italy has to offer! Buon Viaggio!
Gothenburg is the second largest city in Sweden, after Stockholm, but somehow seems to have a bit more life and character. The neighborhoods have more distinct identities and the people seem so friendly It might not be widely known that Gothenburg has been dubbed both ‘new Amsterdam , for it’s city planning involving moats and canals, and ‘little London' when British business owners started making their marks on the city. It has everything; a vibrant social and cultural scene, incredible restaurants, plenty of sights, an archipelago available for day trips and more cafes than one could count.
Both hotels I stayed at during my (all too short) visit were located centrally so there was no problem getting around the city by foot. It one prefers, the characteristic trams will take you wherever you need to go.
So, my first stop? Avenyn, of course, the restaurant/bar street where we browsed the menus for a good 45 minutes before enjoying a beautiful lunch. With that out of the way we were free to hit the streets, some boutique shopping, champagne drinking, sightseeing and hipster hunting for the ‘best spots’ as dubbed by the locals.
Halloumi and avocado burgers with parmesan fries, truffle mayonnaise and strawberry daquirie popsicles. Need I say more?
Really like this restaurant. Not to fancy where you can find italian-american fusion at it’s best.
Pulled pork from the US, Ceviche from Mexico, vegatarian dishes from Ethiopia Take your pick! I opted for vegan sausages with fried onions and coleslaw. Yum!
Beautiful sky bar located in the Gothia Towers on the outskirts if the city with a large selection of cocktails.
They describe it best on their website; ’ A tribute to the Mexican brothel Madame from 1918.’ Looking rather ordinary on the outside, you step in to the atmosphere and an era where dreams and fantasies erupts as powerfully as the taste sensation of their Piquant Chili Habanero from Tijuana. Don’t miss the margaritas, they are famous for them.
One of the places that I loved the most. The bar I located on the steps of the Art museum and you’ll have a view over the landmark ’Poseidon’ and the main street ’Avenyn’. There was such a special feeling sitting there, on cushions on the stairs, under the massive arches of the museum and watching the sunset. Beautiful.
This beautiful an eldest part of Gothenburg is packed with quaint little shops and cafes. You’ll find artisinal soaps, shoes and even marzipan. And this is also the neighborhood thats famous for their gigantic (!) cinnamon buns. A must, right?
Luxury department store
The stunning -way out of my price range- interior design boutique.
Another favorite. Accesible with the Gothenburg city card, this hour long boat ride shows you the city from a different perspective.
Garden Society of Gothenburg
Perfect place to relax in between sightseeing and shopping. Don’t miss the tropical ’Palm house’ or the incredible ’Rose garden’ with thousands of roses.
There was so much more we didn’t have time for. A trip to the archipelago, the amusement park (that was closed!), and the trams are just a few. I guess I’ll just have to return soon!
This year’s National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest received more than 17,000 entries from photographers all around the world. The winning photos are absolutely stunning – inspiring me to travel deeper, and look beyond the typical. There is so much that to explore in this beautiful world, and to tell stories through photographs with so much emotion is a gift that not all possess. View the winning photographs below.
Grand Prize "Whale Whisperers" by Anuar Patjane Floriuk
“Diving with a humpback whale and her newborn calf while they cruise around Roca Partida… in the Revillagigedo (Islands), Mexico. This is an outstanding and unique place full of pelagic life, so we need to accelerate the incorporation of the islands into UNESCO as a natural heritage site in order to increase the protection of the islands against the prevailing illegal fishing corporations and big-game fishing.”
Second Place: “Gravel Workmen” by Faisal Azim
“(This) gravel-crush working place remains full of dust and sand. Three gravel workmen are looking through the window glass at their working place.”
Third place: “Camel Ardah” by Ahmed Al Toqi
“Camel Ardah, as it is called in Oman, is one of the traditional styles of camel racing … between two camels controlled by expert men. The faster camel is the loser … so they must be running (at) the same speed level in the same track. The main purpose of Ardah is to show the beauty and strength of the Arabia camels and the riders’ skills. Ardah (is) considered one of the most risky situations, since always the camels’ reactions are unpredictable (and) it may get wild and jump (toward the) audience.”
Merit: “Catching a Duck” by Sarah Wouters
“Two boys are trying to catch a duck at the stream of the waterfall (in) Nong Khai Province, Thailand”
Merit: “Kushti, Indian Wrestling” by Alain Schroeder
“Kushti is the traditional form of Indian wrestling. Wearing only a well-adjusted loincloth (langot), wrestlers (pelwhans) enter a pit made of clay, often mixed with salt, lemon, and ghee (clarified butter). At the end of a workout, wrestlers rest against the walls of the arena, covering their heads and bodies with earth to soak up any perspiration and avoid catching cold. This relaxation ceremony is completed with massages to soothe tired muscles and demonstrate mutual respect.”
Merit: “Sauna in the Sky” by Stefano Zardini
“A sauna at 2,800 meters high in the heart of the Dolomites. Monte Lagazuoi, Cortina, eastern Italian Alps.”
Merit: “Romania, Land of Fairy Tales” by Eduard Gutescu
“White frost over Pestera village in Romania.”
Have any of you been to these places? I am so inspired to explore off the beaten path – where are you planning to visit next? Leave a comment below!
The key to tackling big, abstract goals like “live a simpler, more intentional life” is to break them down into concrete manageable daily habits that you can incorporate into your routine one by one. These basic action steps will help you to simplify your life and get started with minimalism.
I believe there are two types of hotels to choose from when you visit a new city; the first is the room you book only to leave your bags in and sleep at night. It won’t matter much what it looks like since chances are you will be spending as little time as possible in it. Then there's the second type, that's the polar opposite. It’s the hotel that is part of the experience of traveling and matters as much as the sights themselves. Where you don’t mind returning early to hang out at the bar or relax in your room. And where you’ll happily spend a few hours in the morning to enjoy a breakfast and get ready for the day. Welcome to the Hotel Pigalle.
The boutique property seems to be a staple hangout spot for both locals and tourists, understandably so. While it celebrates a bygone era, there’s is also a paradoxically modern feel. You could either be in Paris in 1906, or Tribeca, New York circa 2020. The wonderful receptionist who greeted us and the rest of the staff seem to have just as much personality as the design itself, and with these two combined, it’s would be (dare I say) impossible, to not enjoy your stay.
The room was spacious and fitted perfectly with the atmosphere of the hotel. Everything from the red carpet to the soft king size bed looked captivating, which would be an excellent adjective to sum up the entire experience.
Expectedly the breakfast did not disappoint. The omelette with oil and herbs, the rooftop patio and the attentive staff were the perfect way to start the day.
It would be negligent of me not to mention the extreme detail that has gone into designing this hotel. Wherever you look there is a vortex of textiles, patterns and quirky details. There are hats hanging on the walls, feathers in porcelain vases, whiskey bottles, leather bound books everywhere and paintings and pictures filling up the walls in the staircase. It’s a lot. But in a positive way. Luxury and abundance at it’s best.
PRICE: Double rooms from €290
LOCATION: Södra hamngatan 2A , 411 06 Gothenburg, Sweden
(Thank you to the Hotel Pigalle for hosting our stay. My opinion is, of course, my own.)
Packing your bag for a weekend adventure can sometimes be the biggest challenge of the whole trip. You want to make sure you have everything you need yet make it all fit in one small bag that you'll be hauling around trains or buses. Planning is key here, and with these simple steps you will get a perfect start to your trip.
Make a list.
This one doesn't come as a surprise but it's extremely helpful if don't want to forget ANYTHING. Make a list, grab a suitcase and start packing!
Get the vitals in first.
Some people like the packing process to take a few days to enjoy the pre-travel vibes (Hi mom!) If this is the case, make sure you get the most important things in first. For me that means medicin, passport and credit card. Everything else, annoying as it may be, could be replaced. And if it's something as important as medication, pack double. One in each bag. Trust the girl who stood 5 hours in line and fought with 4 airport attendants to get her inhaler from the layover storage room in Doha.
Don't over pack. Don't. Over. Pack.
If you haven't worn it in the last two months, don't bring it. Going away for four days? Two day outfits and two night outfits will suffice. Besides, you will need some room for the shopping, right?
Put most effort in your travel wear.
What you wear, you don't have to carry. So travel in you sneakers and put the sandals in the bag. Travel in your cozy sweater and it won't take up half suitcase. Headphones around your neck, laptop and book in you carry on and you're set.
Your travel documents go in one place, your beauty products in one and you underwear in another. It will make it easier to keep track of what you bringing and will make everything easier to find.
Lastly.. Be safe.
Your going to a foreign city away from home. And while staying at a hotel, it's extremely easy to leave something behind. Don't pack anything you absolutely can't afford to lose. Comfort and basics, it's the smarter thing to do.
Enjoy your trip!
There is a special bond between a person and their grandparents. The generation gap usually makes them fountains of knowledge and wisdom on subjects your parents or friends may not always understand. I’ve always had two of my grandparents in Italy, so I only saw them I few times a year. I recently, or what was in fact two years ago, but still feels extremely recent, lost two of them. Having never known my mother’s father that leaves me with one, my father’s mother, which feels a bit too overwhelming to think about for long periods of time, so I try to ignore it, and live in spite of it. I guess I don’t really have a choice in the matter.
I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older or because they’re gone, but lately I keep finding myself thinking of all of them. Of the lives they lead; their childhoods that I don’t really know much about. About the choices they made and what they gave up. Things that seemed to come so easy to them that I seem to be impossible to me. Grandmothers who devoted their lives to love. To their men. To their children. And the most incredible grandfather with very different values and views on life. The roles seemed to be more etched out and the responsibilities more predetermined. I will always feel them near no matter how many years pass. What hurts though, is that what we had together is all we ever will have. There won’t be any new memories to create together. Except with my grandmother. Nonna Ida. Ball busting-Italian- cool as hell-housewife. In ways I haven’t paid much attention to the role she played in shaping me. But some of her lessons will never be forgotten.
She taught me to always walk with my head held high.
When I was about twelve or thirteen, I was visiting my grandparents in their summer home in France. My grandfather was at home and my grandmother and I were walking along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, eating ice cream. The early teens were an extremely difficult time for me and I was constantly at war with myself. Nothing was good enough. I felt ugly and lonely and overweight. Just odd, I suppose, which was all nonsense. I had developed this habit of staring at my feet when I walked and my grandmother had in turn developed a habit of her own, where she grabbed a hold of my chip and pulled it up. This silent battle went on for a few weeks before she stopped in the middle of the Promenade, grabbed my chin and didn’t let go. She said ‘what are you doing? Why do you keep looking down when you walk? Not only do you give off the impression that you are invisible and that people don’t need to pay any attention to you, you also happen to be missing everything that’s going on around you. The beach, the waves, the people. That’s enough! Basta!’ and of course, with her quick Italian wit, she added ‘besides, you don’t want to become a hunch back do you?’ No grandma, I’d rather not develop a hunchback, thank you. It stuck anyhow, and my eyes have looked up ever since, no matter the mood.
She taught me that love needs to be fought for.
I used to refer to my grandparents whenever I talked about love. I used to refer to their nearly 55 year old marriage and all the hell they conquered side by side. I’m pretty sure countless hearts broke the day they decided to separate from each other. Our pillars in the family. And they did separate so I guess their love won’t go down in the history books as an epic one. But the fight behind it might. My grandmother fought with her life for it to work. At an age when you shouldn’t have to. When things should run smoothly. I remember us having a fight once, years before I know her and granddad were having problems. We were driving through Rome and I was so mad I could barely hold my tears back. We were talking about how much one should fight for their partner. She was arguing how easily people left each other these days, how quickly people were exchanged for others. How people were too soft to get their hands dirty. My mother had recently left my stepfather so I took it as a personal attack, which of course it wasn’t. She was talking about herself. I just didn’t know her fight had already begun. I would have left. At the first bump I am fairly confident I would have thrown in the towel. I am the type of person she was referring to because the fear of losing time or courage is too prominent in me. But maybe it’s not about winning, but knowing that even if you don’t make it you did everything you could. And we know she did.
She taught me that life is for the living.
In a lot of ways my grandmother is the typical Italian housewife. She makes home made pasta, she takes care of her family, she watches a telenovela before she falls asleep and she puts her family before everything else. In a lot of ways my grandmother is not the typical Italian housewife. My grandmother flew to Hong kong by herself at nearly 60. She has a bad-ass scar on her knee from when she clumsily climbed on a long tail boat in Thailand in 67. She goes to all-night bridge tournaments on the beach to play cards at 4 am in the morning and sometimes she doesn’t answer her phone because she’ll be in a food court with her fellow widowed friends sampling wines in the middle of the day. My grandmother has three grown children, two of which have moved abroad. She separated from her husband at 68 and lost him at 70. But she is living her life to the fullest. And that is the greatest lesson of them all.
Singapore; one of the smallest and most densly populated contries in the world and a breeze to explore. Nothing is more than an hour away from the center of town. Here is a list of things you shouldn’t miss if you’re planning a visit.
JUMBO SEAFOOD, RIVERSIDE
Known for their award winning chili crab and incredible sides such as deep fried bread with garlic sauce. Well worth a few hours of your time. You will not regret it, promise.
20 Upper Circular Road
Riverwalk, Clarke Quay
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Singapore's first world heritage site. Established in 1859 the Botanic gardens played a historical role in the introduction and promotion of many plants of economic value to Southeast Asia, including the Para rubber tree. Today, with its 74 hectares, it showcases over 10 000 different plants and the region's most significant living collection of orchids.
LE KUE DESSERT RESTURANT
A restaurant that only serves desserts. Need I say more?
20 Haji Lane
PULAU UBIN (GRANITE ISLAND)
For a look of what life in Singapore was like before the glamour and skyscrapers visit Granite island where people live in villages and fishing and farming are still a way of life.
FIVE STONES HOSTEL
This hostel is a gem. Perfect if your on a budget or just looking to make some new travel friends I came here my first nights in Singapore and ended up on a bar crawl with a few people from around the world before we headed back to the "hangout area" for a little James Bond and some popcorn!
THE GARDENS BY THE BAY
Now, this is something else; Part flower conservatory, part futuristic avatar wonderland. Make sure to walk along the bridge suspended 22 metres high, between two 'super trees' to get one of the best views of the skyline and Marina Bay while admiring the color shifting trees.
THE SINGAPORE ZOO AND NIGHT SAFARI
Singapore Zoo has been known for having among the most beautiful wildlife park settings in the world, where animals roam freely in open and naturalistic habitats. They also have the world’s first safari park for nocturnal animals with over over 2,500 animals in their naturalistic nighttime habitats.The star of the Night Safari is a guided tram ride that takes you across 7 geographical zones of the world. From the rugged Himalayan Foothills to the swampy banks of the Asian Riverine Forest.
SKY DINING AT FABER PEAK
Away from the bustle of the city, Faber Peak Singapore features a vibrant cluster of dining and entertainment, cable car joyrides and unique experiences at the peak of Mount Faber. Located 100 metres above the sea, one of the choices is to enjoy a private dinner in a cable car while moving over the relaxing views of the Sentosa island and the city skyline.
THE ARAB QUARTER
It’s the vibrant colours of the shops of the Arab Quarter that stick in the memory. Textile stores and outlets selling Persian carpets are the most prominent, but you’ll also see leather, perfumes, jewellery and baskets for sale.
Little India is, as the name promises, the centre for the large Indian community in Singapore. It is one of the most colourful and attractive places to visit, I would say, and definitely the most fragrant!
THE SINGAPORE FLYER
The worlds largest observation wheel, standing at 165 metres. About 30 metres taller then the famous London eye.
Sentosa island is a resort island located about 30 minutes from the city centre. It's reachable via the bridge or cable cars and houses everything you need to have a lovely vacation. World class hotels, award winning spas, great restaurants, a rainforest, a beach, golf courses, yacht marinas, an aquarium and even Universal Studios.
No trip to Singapore is complete without a visit to the Raffles Hotel. First opened in 1887 it has preserved it's colonial ambience and romance of the far east. Enjoy an afternoon tea, then spend an evening at the long bar where the Singapore Sling was invented.
Singapore’s historic Chinatown is a bustling mix of old and new, filled with traditional shops and markets as well as cool stores and cafes. Really good place if you're looking for streetfood.
MARINA BAY SANDS
Hotel, restaurant, mall, nightclub and bar. The jewel of this luxury hotel, however, is to be found 200 meters above sea level; The infinity pool.
The Singapore River has been the centre of trade since modern Singapore was founded in 1819. During the colonial era, Boat Quay was the commercial centre. At present, five blocks of restored warehouses house various restaurants and nightclubs. There are also moored Chinese junks (tongkangs) that have been refurbished into floating pubs and restaurants.