Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Gucci - for men

Let's start the new season with some Italian elegance by Gucci. Once again one of my favorite collections, because of the interesting color and pattern choices. The looks vary from dandy style in checks, herringbones and houndstooth to elegant military inspired jackets and coats in bright uni colors.

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Interesting is also that men doesn't wear a tie in this collection though it is a very elegant one with emphasize on finely tailored silhouettes and classical fabrics. Instead there are fine polo knits which are worn open which gives the look a casual touch.
Just the final evening looks show bow ties and flower pattern on trousers or jackets as a principle of nocturnal elegance.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Tuscany - art, wine and dolce vita on the countryside

After a Sunday dedicated to sports, the new week started with Florence...
Florence, the cultural richness of this city can be seen everywhere in elegant piazzas, Renaissance palazzi, academies, parks, gardens, churches, monasteries, museums, art galleries and ateliers. It is just overwhelming.


    The Cathedral
Santa Maria del Fiore

It has been the birthplace or chosen home of many notable historical characters, such as Dante, Botticelli, Niccolò Machiavelli, Brunelleschi, Michelangelo, Donatello, Galileo Galilei, Guccio Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, Roberto Cavalli and Emilio Pucci, and very many others.

arcades Palazzo Pitti

And also the beautiful countryside is studded with villas, country parish churches, convents and small, atmospheric villages. So where to start? Maybe with a nice walk into the city center, stopping by the at the Cathedral made of different colored marble in white, green and red and having a nice gelato in the afternoon sun. Walking down the streets to the Palazzo Vecchio with the replica of Michelangelo's David. 
Those movie fans amongst you might now scream: This is the balcony in Hannibal! Do you remember the scene where Hannibal Lecter is telling the police investigator about the bitter history of his family and that they have a tendency to finish their live hanging from this balcony? Well in any case, now you do.

But let's continue our walk and have a look at the medieval jewelry shops while crossing Ponte Vecchio and let's take some rays in the afternoon sun in front of the Palazzo Pitti.

Palazzo Pitti & Boboli Gardens
Florence is also the gate to the Chianti region, so we decided to have a little introduction to Chianti and Italian wine in general before we explore the countryside ourselves. An ideal place for this is the Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina directly situated at the Piazza Pitti. I would recommend their wine tasting menus which include three or four different wines selected by the skilled sommelier of the house who explains the backgrounds and flavors you will experience. They have also a nice assortment of cheeses and other delicacies to accompany the wine.

view from Boboli Gardens
After this amazing start, we needed to decide which of the cultural treasures we would explore the next morning and we came to the conclusion it will be the Palazzo Pitti with the treasure of the Medici, the Galleria Palatina and Galleria d'arte moderna, Galleria del Costume and the beautiful Giardino Boboli. Once again an overwhelming overload for the senses, but we have greatly enjoyed the exhibition "Il sogno nel Rinascimento - The Renaissance Dreamin the Galleria Palatina.

"This exhibition will offer visitors a chance to explore, for the very first time, a theme as absorbing and as fascinating as the Renaissance Dream, shedding light on its richness and variety.  The theme of the dream was considered to be of particular importance in ancient mythology and in the culture of the Renaissance, as shown by its widespread popularity in the figurative arts, particularly in works of religious art or in connection with the rediscovery of Classical mythology.

(...) It also displays, in a secular sense, the speculative and inductive potential that it offers the human mind; it transfigures daily life and reveals its erotic dimension; it plays a valuable role in the theory and practice of art, which focus just as much on dreams as they do on literature, philosophy and medicine."


But now let's leave the city and let's head to the countryside! Aftr a last glimpse of the city from the Piazzale Michelangelo the destination for the afternoon was the Fattoria Nittardi. Our overheated navigator lady was obviously on strike, so we were heading on our own through the Tuscan landscape with a vague address in our hands. Thanks to my man's stubbornness we made it in the end and were welcomed with a smile and the words: "We have already expected you one hour ago!" Well yes, we got a little lost... But the Tuscan landscape is not the worst place to get a little lost!

Fattoria Nittardi
under the jasmine arch
I have chosen this vineyard, because I got intrigued by the artsy background and indeed this place has a certain magic. Situated in the heart of the Chianti Classico region on the boundary between the provinces of Siena and Florence, the Fattoria Nittardi was originally a defensive tower, known as early as the 12th century by the name of “Nectar Dei“ (The Nectar of the God). 
In the 16th century the property belonged to Michelangelo Buonarroti (yes the one and only Michelangelo!) who in 1549 wrote to his nephew Lionardo: “I’d prefer two casks of wine rather than eight shirts,” and on that occasion sent the Nittardi wine to Rome as a “genuine gift to the Pope”. To be honest I was also more successful in finding good wine than shirts, but that is another story...

Over the centuries the property changed hands often until it was taken over in 1982 by Frankfurt publisher and art gallery owner Peter Femfert and his wife Stefania Canali, a historian from Venice. As homage to Michelangelo, the art tradition of the winery is intensively cultivated. Every year a well-known artist paints the label as well as the wrapping paper used for a limited edition of Casanuova di Nittardi wine bottles. The collection, started in 1981 and includes works by internationally renowned artists such as Guenter Grass, Hundertwasser and Yoko Ono.

Today Fattoria Nittardi produces five different wines:
* Casanuova di Nittardi: An elegant and refined Chianti Classico named after the new house of Nittardi that is simply called Casanuova di Nittardi as it is only 500 years old.

* Nittardi Riserva Selezionata: The premium Chianti Classico of Nittardi is made with the best grapes from the vineyard Vigna Alta.

* BEN: Is the youngest wine of Nittardi coming from Maremma made with the indigenous white grape variety Vermentino. BEN stands for Beniamino, a typical Italian name that is given to the youngest and most beloved son.

* Ad Astra: One of the two Super Tuscans from the vineyard in Maremma is made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Merlot and Syrah grapes. The name Ad Astra (“To the Stars”) comes from the Latin motto: Ad Astra per aspera that means “A rough road leads to the Stars”.

* Nectar Dei: The super-premium wine of Fattoria Nittardi was christened with the ancient name of Nittardi from 1183.


I felt pity leaving this beautiful place with the smell of lavender and jasmine in my nose, but we still had to find our accommodation for the next two nights; the Casa Chianti on the border of Fiano.

the terrace, the view
Two days without internet, but therefore getting spoiled already in the morning with fresh coffee, ham, bread, eggs, yogurt, cake and cherries and for the evening there is a lovely osteria at the ground floor of the building offering authentic tastes of the Tuscany with view to the vineyards!
the breakfast

It's lovely to have a base in the countryside and having the possibility of making excursions to the surrounding places. One of this excursions brought us also to the seaside of Livorno and to Pisa with its famous leaning tower. But very close is another interesting place for all two-wheel lovers; the factory and Museum of Piaggio!

first prototype!
A place which made me immediately smile. Cuties everywhere! Small ones and BIG ONES! And with endless creativity in use as for example as fire brigade, military vehicle, rally Vespa, and and and... The use of Vespa seems to have no limit, especially seeing also those strange attempts to make her fly. Not sure if my cutie would like to fly, but I prefer to stay on the ground with her...

Also the design phantasies seems to have no limit as we can see with the Ape painted as "carretto siciliano". I felt like a little girl in the candy store! 

favorite places in Florence and Tuscany:

for wine:
Pitti Gola e Cantina - Piazza Pitti, 16 - Florence
Fattoria Nittardi - 53011 Castellina in Chianti (SI)

for dinner:
L'Osteria di Casa Chianti - Loc. Case Nuove 77 - Fiano - Certaldo (FI)

for ice cream: 
Gelateria Grom - Via del Campanille/ Via delle Oche -Florence

for Vespa:
Museo Piaggio "Giovanni Alberto Agnelli" - viale Rinaldo Piaggio 7 - 56025 Pontedera (PI)


All in all the whole journey was amazing, we could see so many great places in such a short time, but if you had given us more time, we probably would have traveled the whole of Italy! But definitly we will come back!

Emilia-Romagna - fast bikes and tortelloni

Seeing our travelling schedule, you might wonder Venice, Florence, Verona AND Imola??? Well this journey was not just about art, wine and dolce vita. We had a mission and the mission was called SUPERBIKE
We got both hooked watching motorbike races and we wanted to see how it is to be there for real. Do you actually see something? Can you follow the race? Is it exciting or just boring? How is the atmosphere? And what else comes to your mind.
Imola racing circuit from the air
So after two amazing days in magical Venice, we followed our overheating navigator through the Italian countryside to Imola. Those racing enthusiasts among you will know that Imola is famous for the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, the Ferrari home circuit for the Formula 1.

We chose a position called "Aqua Minerale", which you can see quite in the center of the picture. We had a nice place on the slope in a park with view on the curves. One could say racing with picnic atmosphere, because that's what all Italians around us were doing.

The speeds of the bikes are a bit slower here in the curves than on the straights, but the interesting thing is that one could witness some important fights in ranking. Maybe the atmosphere is more tensed at the finish line, but I really enjoyed the races and also the people. They enjoyed a good competition and were feeling with the drivers. For example we could witness how one driver got off the track and was driving through the gravel in high speed directly to the concrete barrier. You could sense the tension and the scared looks of the people around and hear the sigh of relief followed by big applause when he just could turn the bike centimeters in front of the barrier and got back on track. I think the drivers must feel this kind of support too because they always have an additional round where they wave at the audience and do some fun tricks to celebrate with the audience. I must say I even got more hooked after this experience and I also have found my favorite: Max Neukirchner on Ducati 1199 Panigale R, #27!

Ducati Museum:
from the beginnings with "cucciolo", the attachable motor for bikes,
to the MotoGP champion bikes from the different years
After an exciting race, we had a look at the whole circuit to check out the best position for the next time and went for a well deserved dinner to 30km far away Bologna.
Everyone who has travelled with me before knows that I love to plan holidays nearly as much as going on holidays and during my research I came across a lovely looking trattoria in the heart of Bologna. 
The name of the place is Trattoria Anna Maria and the walls are covered with pictures and greetings from clients and friends all over the world. Being in Bologna we of course had our Tortelloni! Followed by game meat and zuppa inglese. Delicious! And the perfect finish for an exciting day!

              advertising from the early beginnings
FIM World Superbike champion bikes

But there is another amazing place in Bologna for two wheel enthusiasts; the Ducati factory and museum! I have arranged us a visit to both and I would like to say thanks to our guide Giulia who has showed us with a good portion of humor how a Ducati is being made and introduced us to the history of the company. 

We could witness the production of several models from the engine till the final tests and had couple of good laughs when Giulia was proudly explaining about the great working climate in the factory and the responsibility every worker has which leads also to very few mistakes in the production. But if you have seen all the Godfather movies and your Italian guide insists that workers "don't do the same mistake twice", you just can't help and start laughing.

Also our bike for the final test, the new Panigale, just stubbornly refused to start. That's what you call a show effect I guess, though Carlos Checa and Max Neukirchner can sing probably their own song about the difficulties with the new bike... The Diavel started immediately with the well-known Ducati roar. Forza Ducati!

favorite places in and around Bologna
for dinner:
Trattoria Anna Maria - Via Belle Arti, 17/a - 40100 Bologna 

for bikes:
Ducati Museum and Factory - Via Antonio Cavalieri Ducati, 3 - 40132 Bologna

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Macalister Manison - colonial charm with a modern twist

Still in exploring mood, I came accross this project of boutique hotel, the Macalister Mansion, by the Singapore based office Ministry of Design. Located along the historic Macalister Road, the hotel is situated in a lovingly restored colonial mansion that was built in the early 1900s in the heart of Georgetown, Penang.

Within the hotel, each space is dedicated to a distinct room which can be typically found in an old english manor: dining room, living room, guest rooms, the den, the cellar and the lawn. 
With this concept the nostalgic charm of the colonial periode goes hand in hand with contemporary art and design. 

the mansion
The living room is all about innovative gastronomy and offers a selection of modern cuisine. The modern interior design reflects this with the lightness of the color choices in white and pastel shades. It accentuates the colonial background with the a hint of irony looking at the pink and pale blue deers and the white stylized tree which give the room a mysthic fairy like atmosphere.

the dining room
The living room is a more casual space to hang out, where you can enjoy pastries and a selection of local cuisine and international flavours or play pool.
Set within a playful and colourful theme, the floor is characterized by the the historic red-and-white tiles and the large number of suspended luminaires and plants hanging from the ceiling combine the western modern with the exotic.

the living room
Each of the 8 guest rooms is individually designed with a specially commissioned art pieces to accent the contemporary theme. Each art piece is influenced by the life story of Sir Norman Macalister and Macalister Mansion.

the guest rooms
The cellar is a space to lounge, relax with a glass of fine wine or champagne. It stocks over 300 labels of wines from all over the world, possibly the largest collection in Penang. This is the perfect place to enjoy a pre-dinner drink or a nightcap.
the cellar
The Den is like and old style smoking room, a place to relax and unwind with a glass of quality whisky or cigar. Specialist in Single Cask and Single Malt whiskies which are sourced from renowned distilleries around the world together with a wide range of cigars.

the den
So are you now also in travel mood?

Monday, 22 July 2013

Paul & Joe - pre-fall 2013

The Paul & Joe collection plays with different silhouettes and materials. There are feminine looks versus oversized sweaters and trousers in the 80s style and also Asian inspired cuts and materials create an interesting contrast. The autumn color palette here is highlighted with a bright yellow which gives the collection some lightness.
Besides the Asian inspired pattern also another autumn trend is present in this collection. The animal print and 
knit in form of cats and wolves is still strong and occurs also in the accessories.

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