Mikaela Bandini's insider Italy http://urbanitaly.com the travel guide to contemporary Italy Tue, 16 Dec 2014 10:39:04 +0000 en-EN hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.3 Rome | Sora Margherita http://urbanitaly.com/food-wine/hot-spots/rome-sora-margherita.html http://urbanitaly.com/food-wine/hot-spots/rome-sora-margherita.html#comments Mon, 15 Dec 2014 11:48:33 +0000 http://urbanitaly.com/?p=3647
Sora Margherita carciofo
Sora Margherita is one of those places that should be somehow listed, marked as a heritage site, placed under a conservation order by whatever powers be. It is the archetypical Roman eatery of yore, shabby and minimalist by nature rather than design, the antithesis of contemporary style and state-of-the-art hospitality. And yet, unmissable. A standard, battered …

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Sora Margherita carciofo

Sora Margherita is one of those places that should be somehow listed, marked as a heritage site, placed under a conservation order by whatever powers be. It is the archetypical Roman eatery of yore, shabby and minimalist by nature rather than design, the antithesis of contemporary style and state-of-the-art hospitality. And yet, unmissable.

A standard, battered doorway on dilapidated Piazza delle Cinque Scole in the heart of Rome‘s Ghetto quarter is recognisable as the entrance only by a brown-paper sign and a motley array of stickers on the glass. Inside, no more than a dozen paper-covered tables with rickety seating in two small, spartan rooms, And you’ll likely have to share one of those tables with other diners. But then that’s what Sora Margherita is all about these days, along with the menu hand-written (complete with numerous crossings-out and corrections) on that yellow absorbant paper they place fried food on, the offhand if friendly service, the same cutlery from antipasti to dessert and settling the bill in cash: slumming it.

And all those folk don’t go slumming it at Sora Margherita in the ghetto, naturally enough, without good reason. They go for fresh homemade agnolotti cacio e pepe or rigatoni con la pajata; they queue up for l’abbacchio allo scottadito, la coda alla vaccinara or the baccalà fritto. And at the right time of year they’d sell their souls for a true carciofo alla giudìa, the crispy deep-fired artichoke of Roman-Jewish tradition. In short, you have to book because the honest genuine Roman cuisine is out of this world. 

Maybe some still go for the huge portions, a relic of the times when a legendary Sora Margherita herself dished up mastodontic plates of hearty lunchtime fare to local workmen.

Sora Margherita is open in the evenings too nowadays. Though somewhat unpredictably… Another good reason to call and book before heading hungrily in that direction.

No website, no self-referential hype, no press kit, hardly a photo… I’ll take some myself next time.

Sora Margherita
Piazza delle Cinque Scole 30
00186 Roma
+39 06 6874216

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Bologna | La FerramentA http://urbanitaly.com/shopping/clothes/bologna-la-ferramenta.html http://urbanitaly.com/shopping/clothes/bologna-la-ferramenta.html#comments Mon, 08 Dec 2014 15:55:25 +0000 http://urbanitaly.com/?p=3805
La Ferramenta FI
Bologna style is not for the faint-hearted, if we’re to take the concept of La FerramentA as a benchmark. A store which, at the first experience, takes a little working out. Ferramenta is the name above the door indicating a hardware retailer, and the only explanation is that the address was once just that. It’s in …

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La Ferramenta FI

Bologna style is not for the faint-hearted, if we’re to take the concept of La FerramentA as a benchmark.

A store which, at the first experience, takes a little working out. Ferramenta is the name above the door indicating a hardware retailer, and the only explanation is that the address was once just that. It’s in the heart of the University district in Via delle Moline and certainly gives off a radical vibe, but nothing about it looks cheap. It’s a clothing store, with shoes and various accessories, but many of the brands are atypical and the style offbeat and plucky. The same goes for a vast array of eyewear: not a classic Ray-Ban or an international-top-designer name in sight but so many stunning, distinctive frames you simply have to try them all on but don’t know where to start.

Though you could start by getting your eyes tested, because there’s at least one licensed optician among the staff of La FerramentA to prescribe and fit the lenses you need. And that is an extraordinary service to find in a clothing store.

All this in a utterly fascinating setting. Parts of the building probably date back to a fourteenth-century church, and a circular room in the basement (now women’s wear) once served to keep foodstuffs in cold storage. The design of the shop sign and the actual vintage – nay, antique – wooden shop fittings are those of the very same ironmongery that occupied the premises for almost 100 years from 1912 – though they had to chase all over  Emilia Romagna to find and bring the latter home.  

They, the guys behind what seemed like a crazy venture to join forces and merge a clothing store with an optician’s just a few years ago, are Pietro Rampa, Paolo Bertacchi, Jacopo Pozzati, Marco Evangelisti, Gianluca Giulietti and Fabio Guerra. The plans for renovation of the spectacular space and the neatest display solutions were all their own; the master carpenters and blacksmiths of Top Assistance in nearby Modena put them into practice.

The store’s in its sixth season – it opened in Spring 2012 – and is a landmark, a touchstone, a must-go store for contemporary hipsters, alternative fashionistas, free spirits with means who don’t mind at all if they stand out in a crowd.

La FerramentA
Via delle Moline 16A
40126 Bologna
+39 051 239346
info@laferramenta.org

 

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Naples | Martin Parr http://urbanitaly.com/art-design/naples-martin-parr.html http://urbanitaly.com/art-design/naples-martin-parr.html#comments Mon, 01 Dec 2014 10:47:48 +0000 http://urbanitaly.com/?p=3770
Martin Parr fi
Not the best time of year to visit the Amalfi Coast, perhaps, so why not stay in town (Naples, naturally), wander down to the Riviera di Chiaia, and see what Martin Parr made of it at the height of summer? In a solo exhibition, the great British photographer takes a pitilessly close look at tourists …

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Martin Parr fi

Not the best time of year to visit the Amalfi Coast, perhaps, so why not stay in town (Naples, naturally), wander down to the Riviera di Chiaia, and see what Martin Parr made of it at the height of summer?

In a solo exhibition, the great British photographer takes a pitilessly close look at tourists and how they choose to grace some of Campania’s iconic destinations. Ever a trenchant if ironic critic of the consumer society and the models it engenders, Martin Parr’s shots zoom in on familiar scenes with wry humour, brassy colour and original perspectives and reveal a different slant on how we live and behave socially. This project, unambiguously entitled The Amalfi Coast, is no exception.

Martin Parr sensitises our subconscious

   Thomas Weski

Parr needs little introduction to anyone familiar with the world of photography, but here’s a little one anyway, just because it’s so impressive. His research revolves around the themes of leisure, communication, consumerism. His photos have been exhibited constantly since 1972 in venues which include most if not all of the planet’s prestigious modern art institutions. He willfully mixes up the genres of art, journalism and advertising. Weski has also called him ‘a chronicler of our age’. And this year saw him unanimously elected President of Magnum Photos International, of which he’s been a member for the last 30 years. For all the details, see here.

The Amalfi Coast project was commissioned by Laura Trisorio of the now almost legendary contemporary art gallery Studio Trisorio, and that is where you’ll find the show until the end of February 2015.

Thanks to Carla Celestino, my man in Naples, for another priceless tip-off.

Martin Parr – The Amalfi Coast at
Studio Trisorio
Riviera di Chiaia 215
80121 Napoli
+39 081 414306

 

 

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Modica | Le Lumie http://urbanitaly.com/sleeping-around/modica-le-lumie.html http://urbanitaly.com/sleeping-around/modica-le-lumie.html#comments Sat, 22 Nov 2014 11:59:58 +0000 http://urbanitaly.com/?p=3224
le lumie courtyard night
South to Sicily again, and back in breathtaking Baroque Modica for another stunning hospitality option. It’s something they do well down there (and not only). On the hill below the castle and a stone’s throw from the formidable cathedral, Le Lumie, luxury class B&B, has just 3 rooms and a deal of charm. Those three rooms differ in size and colour scheme, …

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le lumie courtyard night

South to Sicily again, and back in breathtaking Baroque Modica for another stunning hospitality option. It’s something they do well down there (and not only). On the hill below the castle and a stone’s throw from the formidable cathedral, Le Lumie, luxury class B&B, has just 3 rooms and a deal of charm.

Those three rooms differ in size and colour scheme, but they all have the same understated contemporary style and a lot of classy design detail between the timbered ceilings and the oak flooring. No shortcuts in the bathrooms, either, with mosaic tiling and some bespoke stone fittings. They all look out over the terracotta roofs of the impressive town centre, one of 8 making up another UNESCO World Heritage site.

There’s a little breakfast area in the entrance hall, and a fine breakfast you’ll get there, complete with delectable local cakes and pastries. But the real treat is to be served outdoors whenever it’s warm enough, on the lovely Mediterranean terrace-cum-garden blessed with those stunning views.

Federica and family are charming and supportive hosts. Facilities include a kitchen area for use by guests, but if they direct you to nearby seafood restaurant Torre d’Oriente it’s not just because they’re behind that worthy venture too: it really is the best. That said, there’s a wealth of gastronomic excellence in town and in the surrounding area to complement the architectural monuments, the museums, some stunning countryside and great coastline.

And then of course there’s the famous Modica chocolate.

B&B Le Lumie
Via Alessandro Grana, 106
97015 Modica (RG)
+39 0932 751439 / 389 1179059
info@lelumie.com

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Milan | Dry Cocktails & Pizza http://urbanitaly.com/food-wine/hot-spots/milan-dry.html http://urbanitaly.com/food-wine/hot-spots/milan-dry.html#comments Thu, 13 Nov 2014 16:56:20 +0000 http://urbanitaly.com/?p=3408
dry fi
From the makers, the movers and shakers, of Pisacco and sharing the same plan to serve up affordable quality in low-pressure, contemporary surroundings, Dry Cocktails & Pizza is one of the coolest addresses in Milan right now. No irony lost in the name they hit on, since this is cocktail heaven as well as pizza paradise. Keeping it …

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dry fi

From the makers, the movers and shakers, of Pisacco and sharing the same plan to serve up affordable quality in low-pressure, contemporary surroundings, Dry Cocktails & Pizza is one of the coolest addresses in Milan right now. No irony lost in the name they hit on, since this is cocktail heaven as well as pizza paradise.

Keeping it simple, Dry does just drinks and mostly cocktails masterfully mixed by a expert team led by Guglielmo Miriello, back and inspired after a long tour in Shanghai, and some of the city’s best focaccia and pizza: Neapolitan style, light, crisp and fragrant as prescribed by Simone Lombardi and his crew in the kitchen.

Simple décor too, or deceptively so: some old-style, a little post-industrial, a lot of chic, and perfect lighting - or maybe it’s the second cocktail that just gives everything that lovely warm fuzz…

All this strategically located in one of the trendiest neighbourhoods, inching north from Brera: just up the road from Pisacco in fact.

Amazing atmosphere. I had a top-notch pizza with my pop-up group of friends Cecilia, Silvia and Mario. But the hero of the hour was definitely barman Alessandro who cooked up the best Moscow Mule this side of the Volga: he’s worth his weight in platinum!

Dry Cocktails & Pizza
Via Solferino 33
20121 Milano
+39 02 63793414
info@drymilano.it

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Favara | Farm Cultural Park http://urbanitaly.com/art-design/favara-farm-cultural-park.html http://urbanitaly.com/art-design/favara-farm-cultural-park.html#comments Thu, 06 Nov 2014 18:22:41 +0000 http://urbanitaly.com/?p=3519
FCP fi
Favara, only a few kilometres inland from the incredible Valley of the Temples, is in danger of stealing the limelight in Agrigento province and perhaps much farther afield. The oldest part of the town, a white-painted kasbah known as the Sette Cortili (seven courtyards) is a vibrant and across-the-board cultural hub of contemporary art exhibitions and permanent …

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FCP fi

Favara, only a few kilometres inland from the incredible Valley of the Temples, is in danger of stealing the limelight in Agrigento province and perhaps much farther afield. The oldest part of the town, a white-painted kasbah known as the Sette Cortili (seven courtyards) is a vibrant and across-the-board cultural hub of contemporary art exhibitions and permanent installations, urban gardens, artists’ residences, creative workshops for kids, literary, music and architectural events too, and still a palpable abundance of creative energy yet to explode.

Not so only 4 years ago, when Andrea Bartoli and Florinda Saieva, notary public and laywer respectively and citizens of the declining town with its derelict centre, pondered on alternative forms of development and conceived the huge project that soon became Farm Cultural Park.

An architects’ collective joined in to deal with the crumbling buildings. A group of youngsters calling themselves Favara Urban Network (for FUN) devoted their energies to the urban revival plan. Artists appeared to fill the new indoor and outdoor spaces with their work and some stayed on in the town. Media people as well as contemporary art lovers, passing tourists and locals all came to see what the fuss was about. And so Favara was reborn.

An extraordinary arts centre and tourist attraction, self-supporting thanks to voluntary work, events, the bookshop, bar and barbecue garden, Farm Cultural Park also attracts shedloads of attention as an innovative example of urban regeneration, an experiment in creating growth from neglected resources, a new and sustainable business model.

And all without a whiff of a grant from public funds. Just two very determined and inspiring visionaries in pursuit of happiness.

And by the way, on the theme of solidarity in the South, ExFadda has partnered up with Farm Cultural Park this year in an immensely successful cultural exchange. Thanks to Giuliana De Donno again for pointing me in the direction of the Farm.

Farm Cultural Park
Cortile Bentivegna – Sette Cortili
92026 Favara (AG)
+39 333 7348810 / 348 0471865
info@farm-culturalpark.com

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Montramito | L’Artigiana Viareggina http://urbanitaly.com/shopping/clothes/montramito-lartigiana-viareggina.html http://urbanitaly.com/shopping/clothes/montramito-lartigiana-viareggina.html#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 13:24:07 +0000 http://urbanitaly.com/?p=3520
L'Artigiana Viareggina, detail
They’re all over Italy and countless once you start looking, these craft factories and workshops turning out superb goods, some for the designer labels and others holding out under their own flag. L’Artigiana Viareggina is one of the latter. In the hinterland of Tuscany’s Versilia riviera, tucked in behind the resort of Viareggio to be precise, this …

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L'Artigiana Viareggina, detail

They’re all over Italy and countless once you start looking, these craft factories and workshops turning out superb goods, some for the designer labels and others holding out under their own flag. L’Artigiana Viareggina is one of the latter.

In the hinterland of Tuscany’s Versilia riviera, tucked in behind the resort of Viareggio to be precise, this small company with a workforce of no more than 40 has been making blue-ribbon shoes for the last 75 years. They started out making them entirely by hand. They still make them entirely by hand. Perhaps that’s why they export to destinations all over the globe and barely know what it means to advertise.

A little nipping and tucking on the image front recently made for sexier collections by L’Artigiana Viareggina. See this season’s suede brogues in lovely muted shade combos, classic desert boots in not-so-classic colours, and smart merino wool-lined boots for warm extremities in the extremes of winter. Next Spring/Summer sees ballet pumps supple as gloves in gorgeous pastel patterns and some amazing cork wedges, with bold suede mocassins in the men’s range.

Above all, they all have the kind of elegance and wearability you only get from quality materials, fine craftsmanship, hand sewing.

You’ll find all or part of the collections on sale in a couple of dedicated stores and other stockists around Italy and beyond.

L’Artigiana Viareggina
Via delle Cannelle 126
55054 Montramito (LU)
+39 0584 940722
dama@lartigianaviareggina.it

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Vico Equense | La Tradizione http://urbanitaly.com/food-wine/hot-spots/vico-equense-la-tradizione.html http://urbanitaly.com/food-wine/hot-spots/vico-equense-la-tradizione.html#comments Wed, 15 Oct 2014 16:07:47 +0000 http://urbanitaly.com/?p=3327
Hung by the neck as tradition dictates...
Back to the Sorrentine Peninsula again, this time for one of the best delis in all of Southern Italy, amazingly located on a little road heading inland to the heights above Vico Equense. It’s simply called La Tradizione, and it stocks Campania‘s finest groceries along with a select smattering of national and international specialities. You can’t miss …

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Hung by the neck as tradition dictates...

Back to the Sorrentine Peninsula again, this time for one of the best delis in all of Southern Italy, amazingly located on a little road heading inland to the heights above Vico Equense. It’s simply called La Tradizione, and it stocks Campania‘s finest groceries along with a select smattering of national and international specialities.

You can’t miss the couple behind the concept and the counter. Salvatore De Gennaro and Annamaria Cuomo transformed the family butcher’s shop run by Salvatore’s father, almost 20 years ago, into what is now an award-winning gastronomic treasure chest. No need to rummage, though, with such expert and amicable hosts – or indeed daughters Giovanna and Maria Luisa and son Pasquale – to guide you through a tantalizing range of regional salamis and dairy products (remember, this is buffalo mozzarella country too), meats, fresh and dried specialty pastas, breads and the like, delicious local tomatoes, a thousand preserves, olive oils, wines, spirits and on and on. Not only personally chosen but often aged or refined by the master-grocers themselves.

Giving in to pressing demand at long last, La Tradizione now officially serves food and wines to savour on the premises, preferably out on the terrace. So from 8am through to midnight you can shop, grab an ace sandwich and a craft beer, snack on choice chocolate with vintage rum, pick from a platter of exquisite cheeses and cold cuts, or choose your meat from the counter and entrust it then and there to the resident ‘serial griller’.

La Tradizione, says Salvatore, is a sort of superior service station on gourmet Sorrentine State Highway 145. A must-stop for any food lover in the area.

La Tradizione
Via Raffaele Bosco 969
80069 Vico Equense (NA)
+39 081 802 8437 / 335 65 93534
info@latradizione.com

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Milan | LaFavia Four Rooms http://urbanitaly.com/milan-expo-2015/milan-lafavia-four-rooms.html http://urbanitaly.com/milan-expo-2015/milan-lafavia-four-rooms.html#comments Tue, 07 Oct 2014 13:52:28 +0000 http://urbanitaly.com/?p=3507
LaFavia Four Rooms
Now here’s one of those secret addresses that really will make the difference, particularly if you’re weary of the great and glossy chain hotels. This one’s in Milan, nice and central in Zona Garibaldi: a sublimely appointed B&B on the first floor of a late 19th-century palazzo, recently and handsomely renovated, run by the owners. LaFavia Four Rooms …

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LaFavia Four Rooms

Now here’s one of those secret addresses that really will make the difference, particularly if you’re weary of the great and glossy chain hotels. This one’s in Milan, nice and central in Zona Garibaldi: a sublimely appointed B&B on the first floor of a late 19th-century palazzo, recently and handsomely renovated, run by the owners.

LaFavia Four Rooms boasts a big terrace and a veranda and just the 4 design rooms, each with its own distinctive style in which contemporary meets retro and has no fear of busy patterns applied in moderation or of upcyled furnishings. That holds for the respective bathrooms too. Two of the rooms also have a kitchenette and open onto a private terrace area.

The personal touch in the case of LaFavia Four Rooms is that of Fabio and Marco, along with the architects, the art designer and many other creative friends who worked on the project, all duly credited on the website. A cherished project, the fruit of lengthy wanderings around the world and the ideas, objectives and dreams that matured along the way, to share concepts and qualities they admire with other wayfarers back in their hometown.

A few of those concepts are evident right away: exquisite hospitality; no tvs but lots of books; a couple of bicycles for eco-sightseeing; purified rather than bottled water; and organic, mostly zero-miles produce for breakfast. For the rest, such as planting trees in Costa Rica, meet Fabio and Marco.

LaFavia Four Rooms
Via Carlo Farini 4
20154 Milano
+39 347 7842212
write@lafavia4rooms.com

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Rome | Freni e Frizioni http://urbanitaly.com/food-wine/hot-spots/rome-freni-e-frizioni.html http://urbanitaly.com/food-wine/hot-spots/rome-freni-e-frizioni.html#comments Tue, 30 Sep 2014 13:55:05 +0000 http://urbanitaly.com/?p=3447
Freni e Frizioni
Freni e Frizioni was the cool destination for summer nights in Rome this year, and still is as the nights themselves get cooler. Beautiful people spill out in droves onto the piazza and occupy every available public perch within shouting distance of the neatest cocktail bar in Trastevere. If you’re looking for a quiet drink, look elsewhere; if you’re …

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Freni e Frizioni

Freni e Frizioni was the cool destination for summer nights in Rome this year, and still is as the nights themselves get coolerBeautiful people spill out in droves onto the piazza and occupy every available public perch within shouting distance of the neatest cocktail bar in Trastevere. If you’re looking for a quiet drink, look elsewhere; if you’re after the best – and by no means the most expensive – mojito in town, Freni e Frizioni is your spot.

Stocked with every alcoholic beverage you’ve ever heard of, it’s retro-stylish on the inside (though often so packed you can only see the ceiling lights) with a palpable mechanical theme borrowed from the auto workshop which occupied the premises in times past – hence the name which translates as ‘brakes and clutches’. Other diverse objets d’art scatterered about are actually just that: contemporary works on show.

A lively team of young, professional mixologists and someone pretty skilled in the kitchen look after all the rest: a menu of spirits as long as both arms, all the hottest cocktails, wines and beers and legendary aperitivi from 7 to 10 every evening.

At Freni e Frizioni, they like to quote some well-known dipsomaniacs, like…

I drink to make other people more interesting

Ernest Hemingway

Freni e Frizioni
Via Del Politeama 4/6
00153 Roma
+39 06 45497499
email

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