The time without landmarks

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I wasn’t expecting this coronavirus. I mean, I remember reading one or two articles around October and November, highlighting how a pandemic was going to be a threat in the future, but nothing that would have worried me. Brexit, global warming and ever-growing public debt in Italy were on top of my global worries list. And then the catastrophe hit. My mind and my heart are with Bergamo, the worst hit city in Europe by this tragedy. A lot has been said and I don’t think my words could add much. But I still want to reflect on what this time brought to me.

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At the beginning of the lockdown, I didn’t think I would have been able to last very long. The thing that bugged me the most was the allowance of one trip out a day. I needed more. Not so much for me, but for my little boy, who was three months old and seemed to be allergic to sleeping in the house during the day. The first few months with a newborn are special and challenging at the same time. Lockdown is hardly a recommended scenario.

I needed a time horizon, like when I broke my arm. In 25 days we will take off the cast.

We didn’t get that. You must stay at home, indefinitely. In my optimistic mindset, I was expecting the lockdown to last few weeks. Maybe that is the lie I told myself.

No schedules, no obligations, but a new life in my hands. Demanding, as all babies are. The baby, me, my husband, who embraced working from home and was glued to the screen for several hours a day, working hard as he always does. My days turned into something completely different and I switched from Fulham mummy on maternity leave with a busy social life, some childcare help in place and a foot in Bergamo, to a full time foreigner with no family nearby, no help and nowhere to go. Home, park, residential streets, repeat. Some bread making, yogurt and cooking sessions to keep my hands busy, but also not much time for anything else than looking after the little one and keeping the house together. Suddenly I was a housewife from the 60s, minus the chain smoking we saw in Mad Man.

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Photo by Elle Hughes on Pexels.com

My maternity leave, as I envisaged it, was wiped out. No more coffees with friends, baby-friendly gym classes and some childcare help to grant some me time. Just as I was getting ready to venture into central London, indulge in the numerous museums pushing a pram, the only thing available was a walk in the park.

For two months, I haven’t looked anyone in the eye, except my husband and my baby, who was getting more and more interactive by the day, and who has now passed the grand landmark of six months. A lot of whatsup groups, FaceTime calls and occasional Zoom drinks.

woman carrying a baby

Photo by Kristina Paukshtite on Pexels.com

For three months we have been filled with words like “it will never be like before”. I never believed it.

While we were in lockdown – and I say were, even though we are not back to normal, but we can do a lot of things – the “before” appeared to us so happy and absurd and full that now we want only one thing: to return to it. We longed what we knew.

I can speak about my experience and this situation has shed some light on a few things. Sure, we will not go back to a better version of ourselves. Take a ride in the car and you will confirm that people are still using the horn more than they use the break.

This situation has highlighted certain things we didn’t like of our previous life and never admitted to myself.

Frantic travels, horrible commutes, extreme planning, a lot of unnecessary spending. We spent a lot to make up for the lack of time. Think breakfast on the go or shopping as a form of entertainment. The lack of spontaneity and the need to diarise everything. Until a few months before closing, I was leading a life that was anything but sedentary. I worked a lot, I travelled for work and visited my family in Italy, I often dined out. Some weeks, even when I was eight months pregnant, I came home just to sleep.

This has been a time to reflect. I understood that real freedom is time. I was used to saying it before, but now I can certify it.

We haven’t wasted these months because we have gained a different perspective over things, and hopefully, understood what matters for us.

I want to go back to some aspects of my “before”, but for sure at a different and calmer pace.

I want less stuff, fewer clothes and longer holidays.

 

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photo credit: markus119 <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/35850894@N08/49948731942″&gt;.</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Living in lockdown – Lessons for life

Close-up Hand Of A Girl Who Sleeps In Bed Early In The Morning O

If in the past few weeks you have been isolating, social distancing and are fighting boredom in the comfort of your home, you are probably not feeling too full of hope. I have some good news for you. There have been a lot of positive changes. I have been in voluntary isolation for a couple of weeks, before the lockdown was enforced by the UK authorities. Sadly, my family in the north of Italy has been in full lockdown for the past month, so I feel like I am a veteran on the subject, having lived through the situation through them from a distance for the past month.

Here is the good news:

The overall level of pollution is decreasing. I notice it here in West London. I can enjoy the tranquillity that comes from the lack of planes heading to Heathrow. Satellite images from NASA of China show a significant decrease of smog. The water in the Venice canal has never been so clear for the past decade (no cruises on the horizon either). The world is breathing. This shall lead us all to rethink about our sustainability habits. And just because Amazon and other retailers are still delivering, we shouldn’t go crazy on shopping online from the sofa.

Here are a few good learnings and ideas I would like to share:

Use this time to reflect. What you enjoy about your ‘previous normal life’, what you are desperate to go back to, what doesn’t matter.

Ration your loo roll. The western world uses a lot of loo paper. Next time you reach for the roll, pay attention to the number of sheets you would normally reach for, and try to half that amount. You will cut on paper waste and save a few pennies.

Review your wardrobe. In a Marie Kondo’s style, get rid of all these clothes you never wear. Life is too short to keep unloved stuff. We are all guilty of this. Those jeans are not going to go back in fashion and the battered T-shirts that you are keeping to paint the fence…you only need one. Start a pile now, set aside the items that you can donate and pop to your charity shop when we are no longer quarantined.

Spring clean early. No explanation needed. When you do it, think about those in need and set aside things that someone else might need and want. Put an alert on Next Door or Freecycle.

It is wonderful to see people’s gratitude when they get something that they need for free.

Look at your beauty cabinet. Finish your beauty products and take note of what you need and want to refill. Same applies to toothpaste, hair products, soaps, shower gels. This is the time to finish all those Christmas presents we received through the years.

Plan your grocery shop carefully. Ask your neighbours if you can consolidate your list and get one slot – if you are lucky to get one – instead of three or more. Write a list, go through your cupboard, buy in bulk when it makes sense and to purchase from local shops and supplier to the restaurants. They are not stocking the restaurants but have the logistics and the supply chain in place, so many of them are happy to deliver to families.

Use this time to reflect.

Use this time to reset.

Use this time to plan for good change.

Don’t forget to stretch and move your body. Nobody is watching you.

Try something new. Listen to a lecture, watch a good TED talk. Here is one from Artscapes at Home that I thoroughly enjoyed and is very relevant for this time:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OP2OuvxY29M

And don’t wait for the lockdown to be over. Start that change now.

 

Do you remember life before Brexit? Yes, and I would like it back

Great Britain And Eu, Brexit Referendum Concept

I hope one day we will forget about the summer of 2016 and the years that followed. The time when one evergreen topic dominated our dinner parties, office chats and news headline. An issue that led to quite a few arguments in my household, and a big deal of preoccupations, from my side.

I do not see any bright side of it; the Lord seems to think that his country will be OK. Since that horrible summer day, I think I have gone for a maximum of two days without thinking, worrying, discussing and being asked about Brexit.

I get asked every time I go to a foreign country – which means often. I have a constant reminder in the office – where we have 14 nationalities amongst 100 of us, with a high percentage of Europeans. Yes, it is a hot topic, it is on top of our minds, and it is worrisome, given some news of people like us asked – even if by mistake – to leave the country.

Now I have a paper folder called Brexit in my filing system. It is not a collection of important articles, but a place where I keep all the paperwork that I am collecting so that I can get a British passport.

Interesting that I never felt the urge to part with 2K in the past ten years, not needing a passport or a visa to live, work, pay taxes in the UK. But now I do, or I better get one, just to be safe. No matter I am married to a British gentleman. No shortcuts or privileges for me. If I want to make sure my place is safe I better get a British passport and get it fast before £2,000 turns into £3,000. Because I discovered that everything around permits, certificates and paperwork costs money, time and a significant level of commitment.

You need to be pretty motivated and organised.  It is the survival of the fittest in bureaucratic terms or the best admin warrior.

So far, I obtained the permanent residence card last summer. Right now I am going through the steps for the passport, which included passing a test called “life in the UK”, where you can learn about kings and queen and courts and, as last week, an English test at the Trinity College. Taking an English test, with all the severe exam set up, made me feel slightly insulted, and set me back £150. Luckily I can afford all of this, but it never pleasant parting with money for something you do not need or want. It feels like paying a parking fine, the only money I consider genuinely wasted in life.

The surprising factor is how I feel towards this. And the word is simple: unwanted, rejected and slightly exploited. Not a nice feeling.

While I was getting ready for my test, I took a quick stock at the room, at the multi-ethnic faces, all ready to become British, some of them also going to lose their original citizenship for the privilege.

And I am pretty sure that who voted for Brexit would not have liked the prospect that all these foreigners, exactly like me, my builder, my cleaner, my colleagues, to become British. Funny outcome.

union jack flag and iconic Big Ben at the palace of Westminster,

 

Wear it pink for breast cancer awareness month

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I think I will remember this October, for few things: a real Indian summer both in London and in Milan, my new home getting ready and the media attention that women have received during this last few weeks. I didn’t join the various hashtags campaigns that have invaded the net, but I reflected on the fact that my generation of women, strongminded, well travelled and educated, will probably need to fight against something else. It is not emancipation, the patriarchy or pay gaps – although there is still a lot that can be done. It is statistics. It is 1 out of 8. This is the ratio of women that get breast cancer. It is a lot.

October is the breast cancer awareness month. A good reminder to check your breast.

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Several cosmetics companies are running a campaign, and I have certainly spotted quite few pink ribbons dotted around department stores and beauty counters.

This year I am paying a lot more attention to this, because, someone very dear to me and of my very same age, is currently affected by this illness.  As I do not believe this is the place to discuss someone else’s cancer, I thought this is an opportunity to remind myself of the ethos of this blog, which I conceived as a place where I could share my tips and views about London, from an Italian perspective. So here is my tip. If you have never been to Hello Love – yes, that is its name – head there. Hello Love is a concept store full of colour and beautifully designed items and accessories, with an healthy cafe’ in it.

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It is a place in busy Holborn, where you can find some tranquillity and buy postcards, scarves, bags and decorated coconuts, or a special edition bra by Stella McCarthy. The great designer lost her mother to this disease too.

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This colourful and beautiful place it a destination for a cancer patient who can find support, attend alternative therapies classes and get the equivalent of several goodie bags, all free of charge. It was set up by a formidable, and probably rather well connected, young woman, who has been a great supporter of my friend through her treatments.

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So – if you live in London – go and check this place. Even if you do not buy a ginger tea or a bracelet, you will understand why a place like this is such a great resource and destination for people going through the disease and the recovery. We all need to be surrounded by colours and hope, and you will find plenty of that there.

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http://www.hellobeautiful.org/events/festivals/hello-love-

space/http://www.hellolovestudio.com/

https://www.stellamccartney.com/experience/fr/fashion-and-music-join-forces-for-breast-cancer-awareness/

 

 

Forever young – this is a beauty post

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During the last week, the news has been atrocious, depressing and I have lost my words for what we are witnessing. The reality is brutal and overwhelming, so I just want to move my attention from things that I cannot control, to more simple, mundane and pleasurable things. And share it with the girls.

One disclaimer before you continue reading this post.

I am going to speak about beauty, so if you are male and don’t work in the cosmetic industry, you will probably won’t find out anything that you would like to know more about. You have been warned. And I am going to sprinkle it with the ugly truth: staying young and look young is a fight, it a quest to fend off mortality. And the stakes are high: our face, our hair, our body. It costs time and money. I am no beauty blogger but I am a discerning consumer with a very developed sense of smell and I hate getting ripped off. I believe that quality needs to be rewarded, but I do not want to pay for the global advertising campaigns of the products I put on face, hair and body.

A purchase of a cosmetic item is never a simple purchase, it is a trip to hope land. I feel more excited buying a lipstick than a new scooter, to put this in perspective.

I believe, like Helena Rubinstein, founder of the eponymous brand, was used to say that “there are not ugly women, only lazy ones”. As a non lazy woman, every time I buy a new product, I expect it is going improve my life. I do not buy cream, I buy hope in a jar.

Growing up the world of cosmetics was divided into two main and simple categories: good stuff, which you buy in fancy perfumeries and pharmacies and costs more than a casual dinner out, and not so good stuff, available in the supermarkets or shopping centres. Now things have changed, there are probably 250 more brands than when I was a teenager, cosmetic surgeons have their line of creams and large multinationals like L’Oreal and Coty own the majority of the products available, so options and prices, are endless. To make things even more subtle and confusing the packaging has also evolved and brands carry values for each client segment.

Let’s start with the face. I am a fan of Sarah Chapman and nearly all her skincare range. I also love doing facials and I try to do a weekly mask at the very last. Despite liking the idea of treating myself to one of her amazing facials in Sloane Square, I do not fancy the idea of parting from 150 quid plus every six weeks. So I discovered an alternative, which is her facial in a box, the Sarah Chapman Sunday Night signature’s facial. It comes with easy-to-follow instructions and a leaflet that explains how to massage your skin, that can be repeated on a daily basis using other creams too. The best thing is that contains the material for two facials, and you are left with a bit of extra cream. The result is great. I did it during a week when I wasn’t sleeping very well, went out a bit too much but people were complimenting me how well I look. The skin is left with a lovely glowing light and the texture is firmer.

Now, this is the time of the year when, if I was still living in Italy, I would probably go for few massages, releasing toxins trapped under my skin and make my cellulite appear less scary. Since the age of 12, trying the first swimming costume of the season is a disappointing experience. In London finding a masseuse that can do some lynfodrenage massage or slimming massage is like finding the Holy Grail. When you type it in Google, they direct you to some sauna and non-recommendable environments, unless you are a man in search of Thai pleasures. and if you think I am joking, check out this video. I have done everything it shows. You do not need to speak Italian to understand it.

Having done a bit of research beyond the first page of Google and spoken to a fellow Italian during a gym class, I found out that, in order to smooth the skin, loose few centimetres and get rid of fat cells, the place to go is Marylebone, just around the corner from Hayley Street. I headed to the Cosmetic Skin Clinic, where there is an extensive menu of non-invasive cosmetic treatments, and devoted a couple of relaxing hours to the capable hands of a lovely therapist and a machine called Cool Sculpting. It is the bread and butter of the clinic and I am sure there are busy right now, with summer approaching, freezing and massaging lots of women (and men).

The procedure is simple. You lie on a bed and the machine works on the selected area, freezes the local fat for about 20 minutes in each localised area. After that, a skilled therapist massages it for few minutes and then your fat dissolves in the months to come. Forever. No collateral effects, no special rules to follow, just don’t put on weight. Different rules apply if you are working on other areas, such as tummy or face. While the machine works on your selected spots, you can read, watch TV or browse your phone. I was so relaxed and comfortable that I even fell asleep during the treatment, as the noise produced by the machine is quite soothing.

I did one treatment for upper legs. When I went to the clinic for the first time, I discovered people do it for much smaller areas such as chin, arms (see bingo wings), and stomach. It works best on selected area and, mainly if you are not fat but have some targeted areas where diet and exercise fail. Like old school massages, with the difference that you do it once and then you are done. Now, I do not think I will ever be asked to model for bikinis or underwear, but the look and consistency of my skin have definitely improved, and I believe it is there to stay, and possibly improve even further in the months to come. The sort of thing that is priceless for your self-confidence. Now I have a tights gap and more definition is visible, and I am optimistic!

When the tights come off and the sun is out, I suddenly want bronzed and healthy limbs. Now, I am afraid I haven’t found a good self-tanning lotion for the body or one I can apply skilfully without orange lines, but the good news is that I have the solution for the face. And the best thing is, it smells lovely. It is from James Read, and works as an overnight mask. The tan mist compliments it nicely, adding an extra layer of colour. Plus it is refreshing, in case you might want to use it in a warm place.img_52451.jpgIt is super moisturising, very forgiving and builds up nicely in two or three days. I do not love sunbathing, do not want to invite new wrinkles on my face and always wear a hat and sunglasses, so I find this perfect for the holiday and not only that. As soon as the summer arrives, I want to look tanned and healthy.
And last but not least, on the “best ideas/ products to share” an oil that I discovered by chance. It was in the goodie bag of the Chelsea Flower Show, alongside other plants and flower related creams and soaps. It is the Dr Jackson’s Baobab and Rose oil. The instructions couldn’t be simpler: put it where you like. I have been using it for my lips and I love it. A Very little amount goes a long way. Sometimes useful discoveries come by chance.

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An honest post cannot spare something not quite perfect. I have one beauty regret, which is another lip product. I splashed way too much money on a lip product by Lancer, another “new and groundbreaking ” brand.

The purpose of this lip balm is to moisturize, stimulate collagen production and increase the volume of the lips. The only thing I can say is that it stings, dries my lips and the cap doesn’t work very well, so I had a lot of product, which looks and feels like glue, spilling in my makeup bag. Not a winner.

 

 

 

 

Reviews and pictures are mine.
More info:
www.cosmeticskinclinic.com
www.cosmeticskinclinic.com/premium-brands/coolsculpting/
www.net-a-porter.com/gb/en/product/618953?cm_mmc=Google-ProductSearch-UK–c-_-NAP_EN_UK_PLA-_-UK+-+GS+-+Beauty+-+Low–Beauty_INTL&gclid=Cj0KEQjwx6TJBRCWtsiXpI7bhOYBEiQA1en3F6RJmMnxIEWsRbWRBs0oKwwwcvsYBDiMODgeJG_sz50aArO88P8HAQ
www.jamesreadtan.com/
www.net-a-porter.com/gb/en/product/796499?cm_mmc=Google-ProductSearch-UK–c-_-NAP_EN_UK_PLA-_-UK+-+GS+-+Beauty+-+Low–Beauty_INTL&gclid=CjwKEAjwja_JBRD8idHpxaz0t3wSJAB4rXW5HG81ICWyklEmp5MSCCp0CoTmC8EB9aptKnIlwUVc8xoC2d3w_wcB

Magic art, where fantasy and reality collide

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This week I finally reconnect with the world of art and guess what, I am a lot happier for that. It all started in a very corporate way, attending a conference in Munich where I heard catastrophic predictions about the Trump administration and the Titanic act that Brexit will represent for the UK. Luckily the balmy weather, the sunshine and the good company I was with tempered these feelings of fear and negativity. On my way back in London, welcomed by November rain, I headed to the South Kensington club for the presentation of Block Universe, London’s international performance art festival running, which is about to start in a week. And I am genuinely excited about the programme and the performances that will see in few days.

Performance followed in the other part of town, in trendy and not so grungy anymore Shoreditch, at STRUCTURED MAGIC, an exhibition of visual and performing art where fantasy and reality collide. IMG_5498

If Block Universe makes references to the world of Physics and the notion of time, “the Structure of Magic” is a psychotherapeutic term, which involves offering new models of being in an imaginary context. This is a method intended to transform a person’s perception of the world and their place in it, on a fundamental level – literally expanding their reality, by demonstrating that there are always more choices than initially perceived. Hence making the invisible visible.

All humans experience the world differently and each of us creates a different model and therefore a different reality. In this exhibition, dominated by the great work of my friend and talented artist Robina Doxi, the artist invites the viewers into her inner world and experiences the magic of her fantasies and dreams. Her pieces take you on a journey that seems to tell you a story, sometimes a fairy-tale, sometimes a dream, sometimes a sci-fi narrative, condensed with abstraction and dystopian imagery.

During the exhibition, I had a chat with Madame Echo, a performer who gifted me of a little bottle of champagne, with a wish of happiness protection. The magic is going to happen after the election in the UK, on the 8th of June. I would never say no to happiness and champagne. In fact, they often go hand in hand. Merci Madame E. IMG_5518

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.blockuniverse.co.uk

http://www.southkensingtonclub.com

www.doxi.org

 

Jewels: A never ending​ fascination

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After hunger and thirst, and the need to keep you warm comes the need to embellish your neck, ears, fingers.It is not by chance that, whenever you visit a national museum in the antiquity section, you will always find a piece of jewelry next to the knife and thw bowl.

From diamonds to plastic beads you buy on the beach, jewelry never fails to fascinate me. I might not buy them, but I always look at them. A few years ago I toyed with the idea of getting more involved in this sector, took a weekend course, invested in a box of beads and few tools. I was used to finding making necklaces, bracelets and earrings relaxing. Predominantly for self- consumption and taking inspirations from the likes of Marni, Lanvin or Brunello Cucinelli, I managed to sell few through a boutique, gave some to my friends as a gift and mostly I was wearing them. Every time I was wearing one of my pieces I was receiving attention, if not positive feedback. But getting people from liking to buying them was another story. Not only I wasn’t the most gifted maker, but also none of mine designs were originals, so the idea of making a little independent business out of it didn’t make any sense. Then I started looking around and realized that there are a few very gifted and brilliant jewelry designers out there. Here I have enclosed a selection of my favourite, whose future is – no doubt – shining. All spotted at Scoop Internation Fashion Show London.

Chupi

Chupi is an Irish designer, making gorgeous delicate gold jewelry inspired by the beauty of natural and wild things. Acorns, swan feathers, tiny twigs catch the eye of Chupi Sweetman-Pell and she turns them into beautiful pieces of jewelry by casting ‘the already perfect forms of wild and natural things’. Irresistibly drawn to ‘wild and natural things’ she began making jewellery by casting found items including swan feathers, tiny twigs and acorns and found there was a real market for these pieces. Having met her at the fashion fair Scoop London, I was enchanted by her positivity and enthusiasm: “My jewellery is made for your inner magpie, delicate pieces in sparkling gold and silver with the shiniest semi-precious gems. Each piece is handmade with love.”

 

Xtra Start Jewelry 

If colored gemstones are your things, XSJ will make you feel like a kid in a candy store. I am a fun of colored stones, especially if set in contemporary design. XSJ offer a lot or ranges, different styles that share one characteristic: each stone is handpicked, which guarantees a high level of quality and is as close to perfection as it can get.

I remember spotting these pieces a year ago and longing for them. The only trouble is there too many pieces I like, starting with the Aurora collection, where it is all about Rose Quartz and two shades of Smoky Quartz, followed by Carry me, that reminds me a lot the iconic Pomellato piece at a fraction of the price, and to finish with the Full Bloom collection, where rings can also be worn stacked together.

 

Mirabelle 

Mirabelle’ s pieces cached my attention on a rainy day when I found shelter in the V&A and spotted some quirky and surprisingly wearable little pieces. I then discovered that the designer behind Mirabelle is Veronique Henry. Working from her North London studio, she draws inspiration from different cultures from across the globe, favoring the East, creating simple, beautiful, fair trade pieces by hand.

The brand has gone far since the day I discovered it, having caught the attention of some major stockists, and it is now available at Fenwick’s Bond Street, and Anthropology.

 

Celia Brown

Célia Brown is a Swiss born designer living in Geneva. Her experiences in India generated the aesthetic essence of her collection, reflecting this complex and multifaceted country. Her pieces are best when combined, in my opinion, creating unique shapes to letting originality speak. Using the words of the designer Celia: «The first idea was to recreate a little totem, simple, efficient and graphic, with a nice color scheme”.

 

 

 

 

 

The brands mentioned in my blog are my personal preference and are not PR driven.

 

Conservation and innovation for the Italian School of London

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Italians like doing business in London and are here to stay, soft or hard Brexit. The love affair with West London is still going strong, at least for those who can still afford it, or got there first, and set roots in leafy Notting Hill and surroundings.

A statement of their commitment is the newly refurbished and extended Italian School in London, a full time bilingual Italian and English Primary School with Nursery, located in one of the nicest roads in the upmarket Holland Park.

The education model integrates the British system – in particular its educational objectives and teaching methods – with the Italian curriculum, merging the best of both worlds, using the words of their founders.

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The school originally opened in 2010 to accommodate a limited number of pupils. The growing number of Italians – most of them bankers and professionals – that have chosen the UK capital to do business and start a family has been increasing steadily for the last six years, and despite the uncertainty triggered by the referendum, it doesn’t look like it is going to stop anytime soon. So more people means more families and children, and higher demand for more space to accommodate pupils.

The difference between junior schools that most of us attended and this one are staggering. While our chairs were old and made of the cheapest possible materials, the desks scribbled all over it and were dated pre Second World War, these are colourful, ergonomic and have the signature of leading design firms behind them.

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And that is the interior. This new development, which features a glazed walkway through the courtyard between the two properties on the first floor, was executed and delivered by JT Lab, architecture and design firm based in London, led by two young Italian architects.

The project presented a high level of complexity and challenges, such as the conversion of a listed building, located in a conservation area, from residential to school, the redesign of the inner space to efficiently enable a smooth connection between the original building and the new one, delivered within a tight deadline.

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Tiziano Massarutto, principal at JT lab and project lead said: “We are delighted with the new building. We got there after facing several challenges, such as matching the features of the building and the need to deliver a space suitable for young children and their educational needs. We are very proud of the result, having delivered it on time, within budget and to high standards.

While we were working on this project, we thought a lot about the users of this space, the children and their teachers. Putting their safety first, their experience at school, and their desire to have fun at school, we designed this space around them. This school, which features Italian leading furniture companies for their interiors, is a child-centric space, and I hope my little daughter will be able to study here in few years time”.

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Five storeys are not enough

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I remember that, not too long ago, Soho square was a place you walked through quickly, keeping an eye on your purse while walking fast. The park in the middle of the square wasn’t regarded as the most salubrious of central London and its reputation was justified. Now it is media land, rental space is one of the most expensive of the capital, the restaurant scene is thriving and it remains one of the main areas for going out. Soho is still seedy, grants a level of anonymity and invisibility as nowhere else. It is a place where you can walk on your own and change the course of your night just by choosing a door, or not. In the land where everything is possible, there was still a corner ripe for development.

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Until now. At the corner of Soho Square and Soho Street the scaffolding have finally come off and a new bar/ restaurant/ fun place is there. Called Six Storeys, it is what it says. It is having a soft launch this month, inviting few lucky ones to eat, drink and be merry.camm-and-hooper-vbh-432

The overarching theme running across this six storey townhouse is prohibition, quite appropriate considering the location and its long standing reputation for vice and underground life.

The drinks list is extensive and showcases that – Brexit or not – London is still a destination for innovation and talent, in the media, in the tech sector and when it comes to food and drink. Where else can you find a 72 hour Fig or Apple Pie infused Martinis or a savoury, Venison and Summer Truffle Gin Cup? Or a Burnt Toffee Scotch Old Fashioned, a Rose and Cocoa infused Vodka or even a Peanut Butter flavoured Rum. Luckily this will not only be a place for drinks, but food will be high on the agenda and served through the day.

vodka

The venue will then officially open from the 3rd January 2017.

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Get there soon, before everyone hears about it and gets impossible to get a table.

www.sixstoreys.com

Jerusalem, magic madness

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Jerusalem Western Wall

Jerusalem is a crazy place, and not only because of the well documented Jerusalem Syndrome: a phenomenon where foreign visitors suffer psychotic delusions, believing that they are figures from the Bible –  Jesus himself, or the Virgin Mary.

Israel’s health ministry records around 50 cases a year (!) where a tourist’s delusions are so strong that police or mental health professionals are forced to intervene. Many more incidents go undocumented on the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City.

So I went there last weekend, for four busy days as a mid-season break, with some welcome sunshine and temperatures that made me forget about the dark days of November. I had no time to prepare and draw an itinerary. All I knew is that I was in for some sunshine, chickpeas and a place like no where. So I took the passenger’s seat – quite literally – and let the locals take the lead. The Lord and I were very lucky, as we were guests of two friends, both diplomats, who took us around and let us travel seamlessly through the Jerusalem and its neighbours.

In the space of few days, we were exposed to a very different world to the one we are used to. If where we live danger is represented by cars and domestic accidents, there things take a different level.

The best way to capture what we experienced, is by impressions, themes and places.

First the queue. Arriving at the airport means passport check, which takes a long time. I have a particularly large share of bad luck when it comes to picking the queue, and we ended up in a very slow one. Luckily I also have sharp elbows, I haven’t turned into a Brit yet and jumping the queue doesn’t make me feel ashamed. The first similarity with Italy.

Objects for sale in a Jersualem Market

Religion. Jerusalem is like the Disneyworld on steroids of all religions, and I hope no one gets offended, but no place in the world represents the three major monotheistic religions in such proximity. Jerusalem is a disputed city under military surveillance that attracts faith, hopes and spirituality, but also a special kind of madness. It is mad approaching a sacred place and having to go through security checks. It is mad that the most sacred places are treated as a canvas for selfie sticks and that plastic bags, iPhones and tacky “made in China” items are rubbed against anything that is a sacred symbol.

Weapons. The soldier patrolling the street is a 21 year old girl who carries a massive rifle and takes a selfie, looking fierce and sexy. It is mad that I can walk around and pass smoothly through checkpoints because I am sitting in a car with a diplomatic number plate, while the lovely man called Sami, who was our guide in Bethlehem and the Church of Nativity cannot leave his city, leave alone his country, and that for certain groups of Palestinian is nearly impossible to pass through the checkpoints.

Divisions. Not only religious but territorial. Israel is divided into regions, “Area A” (larger cities under Palestinian Authority control) and “Area B” (smaller villages that are, in simplified terms, under joint Israeli-Palestinian control, sharing Palestinian and Israeli security control and includes the vast majority of the Palestinian rural areas), and “Area C,” the part of the West Bank under full Israeli control.

The Med. Jerusalem reminded me of Italy, of the Mediterranean all together and for that very simple reason, I felt at ease.

Table Served With Middle Eastern Traditional Dishes

People. With the exception of the kind guide Sami, everyone I met was two things: expat and strong-minded. Amongst them an American young lady who just resigned from her job at the Embassy, as she doesn’t want to work for the Donald.

Peace and olive trees. We went for late lunch to Hosh Jasmin, an organic farm and restaurant set on a hillside in the Bethlehem-area town of Beit Jala. Great food, relaxed service – maybe a bit too relaxed for our habits – and beautiful setting, overlooking the valley. We had a drink in the garden and then moved to the restaurant’s porch overlooking terraced olive groves and winding paths and valleys. It was peaceful, you would never guess a checkpoint is only a walking distance away. A large group of Italians was having a family gathering inside and spent the afternoon eating and singing.

Food: it is a bit like boarding the chickpea express, and I was pleased to discover that the recipes of Yotam Ottolenghi are difficult to achieve even there, where allegedly all ingredients should easily be found at the market. He wrote a book called Jerusalem, but even the locals find his list of ingredients too long and challenging to source.

The Book: Jerusalem: the Biography, by Simon Sebag Montefiore. Montefiore takes the history of the old city from its beginnings as a fortified village through every conquest or occupation. Now that the peace process appears to have finally collapsed, Montefiore’s book indicates that the Jerusalem syndrome of the comparatively few may well affect us all.

Verdict: I will be back. Next time I would also like a flavour of Tel Aviv.