Italy tends to bring out the best in people- not sure if it's the warm sun on your shoulders, or the warm glow after a bottle of red, but so many of us feel like the best version of ourselves in Italy. Personally, I always felt like I had my best outfit inspirations while on my various trips here. I also attribute this to the fact that it's impossible to dress terribly when everyone around you is dressed impeccably so maybe it's just a little peer pressure, who knows! This white cotton dress was perfect for a breezy stroll along Lago d'Iseo, it hit right above the knees so I know for sure that I did some wading in the cool waters of the lake in it. Paired with the kitschy Gucci hip bag that was all the rage back in the day, I feel like this just screams summertime at the Italian lakes. I wanted to do these posts about my favourite "Italy" outfits, almost as an homage to the Carrie-in-Paris episodes when she busts out the gloves, that bluebird blue overcoat, and the beret...some outfits wait a lifetime to taken to the right city, the right country, to be worn. Have you ever had an outfit (or two) like that?
These fun treats are coincidentally perfect for the jolly celebrations and costumes of Carnevale in February. They are crispy and sweet, veiled with icing sugar in this photograph. Recipe here.
Wearing my hair with a very blunt cut these past few days. This mainly was due to the fact that I went to hairdresser for the first time here in Italy but perhaps made the mistake of seeking out my own (I saw Chinese writing and was sold because my old family hairdresser in Edmonton was of course, Chinese). They ended up not speaking Italian and I found myself leaving with a rather interesting cut that was a bit too FOB-y for me, very straight, VERY layered, especially in the front around the face. So this bluntness is therefore the result of me re-cutting my hair afterwards! It's on the "short" side for me, I was almost interested in how I'd look with the current all-the-rage wavy bob. But Massi would probably have a hissy fit if I cut that much off. Thoughts?
I've got a new section of the website called "Resources for Expats" under More...That's where I intend to curate some really unique and equally useful resources for anyone staying in Italy for longer periods of time such as study abroad students, au pairs, etc. It will eventually have information on subjects such as accommodation and travel, for example.
A couple weeks ago I had the chance to sit down with two of the founders behind Bergamo City Kiwi, an up-and-coming fresh take on traditional city guides. Currently it is available online in both Italian and English and is an invaluable tool for discovering the Bergamo's best-kept secrets (or as the girls explain below, "kiwi shops"). The Bergamo City Kiwi crew is actually made up of four members: Marco Quistini, Raffaella Algani (R), Fabio Damiani, and Margherita Bonaldi (M). I was particularly interested in hearing about how they started this project, what inspires them most about the city that is now my own, and what advice they have for tourists that happen to visit! Listen to a snippet of our interview (in English) below:
Where did the big idea for the project come from?
M: The idea came from Raffaella. She wanted to advertise her shop and she looked for something like a nice website or a nice guide that talks about...
R: ...shopping, tourism...
M:…something about the shops and the commercial activities that there are in Bergamo, but she couldn't find nothing.
M: Every guide that speaks about Bergamo, if you look for shopping, they send you to Orio Center or maybe in Via XX Settembre. There is nothing that talks about the beautiful shops and places to eat that there are in Bergamo, there is nothing that talks about that. And we walk alot around the city and we discover all these places.
R: We wanted to do something nice for the city and for us.
So basically you saw that there was a niche, there was something missing and that's kind of how it came about?
M: Yes and we wanted to do something that talks about the real city because especially a tourist, when coming to Bergamo, they just go to the Upper Town, Città Alta, that is beautiful. Nothing to say about it, it's beautiful, you have to go there. But there are also other borghi, I don't know how to say in English, for example Borgo Santa Caterina, Borgo Palazzo, Via Pignolo, Borgo San Leonardo...the city is divided historically in these borghi and the tourists miss that most of the time.
R: We tried to do something that we like to discover in other cities when we go around.
Did you look at any other guides that maybe other cities had? Like do other cities have something similar?
R: I've never seen something quite like [Bergamo City Kiwi], there are guides that talk about big cities with particular places like ours, different, not big chains, not big shops or big restaurants. Just the kiwi shop. We talk about kiwi shop and you can find them in other guides, in the big city, but I never saw something that's only about them [kiwi shops].
There are no restaurants, for the moment. A tourist or citizen also, that walks around the city to do shopping and stops for something to eat [these are places that are included in the Bergamo City Kiwi guide as opposed to restaurants]. In our kiwi shop, that are all of the same kind.
Right, so for now there is no restaurant category, it's more 'snacky' places.
M: Or wine bars, aperitivo [places].
But you think you will do restaurants? It would be a huge undertaking.
M: I wish, it's very difficult.
R: Because you have to try to test them.
M: It's hard, I would love to. I would love to select a maximum of ten restaurants that represents not the best restaurants of Bergamo, because everybody knows the, but the one that represents our vision of the project. Being the kiwi idea.
So who came up with kiwi, what is kiwi?
M: Kiwi is our logo that is the bird, not the fruit.
R: We are living with this kiwi, we can take pictures in the shop.
Oh that's him, oh ok, you have a little cardboard guy!
M: The kiwi is a rare animal who lives in New Zealand and like our shops, is something that has to be preserved and that we don't want to be extinguished. It's something small, it's not an eagle, but it's a kiwi, it's beautiful...
R: It's particular!
M: The animal is not really beautiful, but the logo is beautiful. We love it, it has alot to offer but it's in danger [referring to kiwi shops] because all the big shops, the big chains, can put it at risk. That's the point.
Did you think of the logo before you thought of the idea or was it the other way around?
M: The other way around. At the beginning we had like, very common names like Bergamo Sotto La Mura, but we were bored so we decided to pick something very strange so that people say, kiwi...why?
I like it! Fantastic! We already talked about what the main goal was, who was your main audience?
M: It's very recent so we don't have an audience yet really, we are collecting them on FB and we are investing in advertising.
So what would your target audience be? Who would you hope to use it?
M: There are two groups...the citizens from one side because it is a guide for the citizens of Bergamo, there are lots of places to discover that nobody knows. So if you wanted to go for a glass of wine or if you want to buy a dress, maybe you can look at this and find new places that you didn't know. And for the tourists of course, that come to Bergamo. For everyone. From ages 20 to 60! Men, women!
How did you go about compiling who you wanted to include in the list?
M: We walked around the whole city! We entered the shops and asked. When we explained to them the project, almost everybody was enthusiastic so we had no problems to gather the shops.
How long did it take to compile everything?
M: We started March the past year, since then. Not everyday, but almost.
It always evolves, so there is a News section so when a kiwi shop has something interesting to say- we go there, we take a picture, we write an article and we publish the news.
Also under the Curiosity section, it's also in evolution, there is a part about the stairways of the city- to go from Bergamo Bassa to Bergamo Alta, we have an interactive map with all the stairs and the description and all the water sources where you can find fountains.
You're going to make an app?
M: We would like to. We are looking for sponsors. We want to do the app. Probably we'll do it in the next two months.
What's the best way people can use the website?
M: We have areas, that is borghi in Italian (lists them). You can navigate inside them and in each, you have all the shops. Each shop has a page with pictures and description and info, and how to reach [them]. You can also navigate by categories. One shop can be in more than one category. There is also a map.
What’s your favorite discovery in Bergamo up until now?
M: One is Chiccus, I love it. It’s a winery and prosciutteria! It’s wonderful, we didn’t know it before.
Do you have any tips for tourists who are exploring the city (besides looking at your website!)?
M: They should for sure not just go to the Upper Town but also discover the borghi, the center is also beautiful. Also Borgo Santa Caterina is very beautiful…I don’t know what to say, just discover the city!
Want to know more? Check out the contact info below or just go to the website!
tel:+39 333 316 52 31
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Massi just celebrated his birthday on the last day of January but I didn't get to share my gift to him immediately as I experienced the ever-so-common reason why you don't book surprise trips without triple-checking your research...I had ended up booking a weekend trip to Sicily starting the day of our friends' wedding where Massi is due to be the best man. Oops! All's well that ends well however, as I was able to change our RyanAir flights without suffering an aneurysm from the price tag which means...Sicily, see you in three months!
I am so bloody excited that I'm going to be able to watch The Oscars live. For anyone in Italy, they are broadcasting it on Cielo starting at 22.50. Sometimes you feel a bit out of the loop when it comes to North American television etc, which I know is dumb: it's not life-or-death if I don't get to know who was eliminated on The Bachelor when the rest of Canada and the US does. However, it was always kind of a tradition for us to watch The Oscars (and especially the red carpet) as a family so it's a nice feeling to be able to partake all the way over here. Not sure if I'll watch right up to the end which will be 6.00 Italy time, I'm not enough of a cinema lover for that, I just want to see what Charlize is wearing...
This is one of my all-time favourite photos of Massi and I taken six years ago in London. I had an old Nikon digital camera and I'm certain this was just with an Auto shoot setting taken by his sister or brother-in-law. You'll be seeing a bunch of older photographs from our worldly journey up to this point in the coming days, hope you like them! I'll file them under The Backstory because in truth, these were moments that did lead up to where we are today.
I always knew there was something wrong with me. Not in a bad way or anything but I just knew something was askew. I started noticing this when strangers would ask me the same question with rabid curiosity as if the answer would give them some kind of worldly enlightenment:
Where are you from?
Then, travelling more, I realized that I had this "gift" of being un-categorizable in the ethnic sense, racially ambiguous I think they call it. People usually lean to a mix of Asian, but usually not anywhere near the right one and because I'm quite tanned, that really throws them off. Racial ambiguity is a travel lifesaver that you can't buy. It means you can fit into the crowd in alot of the places you go like Hawaii, Brazil, Costa Rica, even Nepal (to name a few of my successful camouflaging sessions).
Things got more interesting when I came to Italy. The Italians are a little old-school, especially the older ones and rightfully so. They have an extremely hard time processing the idea that someone can be Canadian and not white. In their minds this is impossible. I have had people try to re-word their where are you from to versions of yes, but where were you born, thinking it was some kind of language barrier causing me to answer with Canada each time. The funniest part is when I play along and they finally get to the question of where my grandparents came from and I tell them China, shock and awe ensues. Shock and awe. And these poor Italians are just mind-blown and then 9/10 of them will start convincing me that I'm not Chinese and I must be lying to them. They will then continue on to list the super-stereotypical facial and personality characteristics that makes someone Chinese as if this is evidence that they are right and I am mistaken about my race. To this I normally just nod along and try to interject how China is a big country so obviously appearances change from region to region etc, etc, but to no avail. The conversation usually ends with a very confused Italian.
This racial ambiguity has led to many fun stories that I like to tell in retrospect, one such time was when a cashier (after greeting me in Italian) randomly started asking me how to say different things in Spanish. I played along in a terrible accent, having taken beginner Spanish. I thought this was small-talk until I left and she said HASTA LUEGO!
Jasmine is a former pharmacist turned freelance writer, foodie, and fashionista from Alberta, Canada living "the sweet life" in Bergamo, Italy.