Rockfeller Plaza – New York (USA)

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The sunken Plaza

One of the most impressive things I’ve seen when I visited New York was the famous Rockfeller Centre, which is located in Midtown Manhattan, between the 5th and the 6th Avenue. It is really huge, at least from a European point of view, and it struck me for the glamour of the beautiful buildings and the mixing of private companies and business with leisure and tourism.

The Rockfeller Center is composed of 19 buildings and it’s the biggest private complex in the world. It includes some television studios (ex: NBC), head-offices of important companies (ex: Deloitte&Touche), shops (ex: a big Lego store with a reproduction of the whole Rockfeller Center made with the famous bricks) and restaurants&bars (ex: Magnolia Bakery…don’t miss their cupcakes!!!), but also art objects and architectural works.

John Rockfeller Junior started the construction works in 1930 and by 1939 the main 14 buildings were completed. During the 60s and the 70s other buildings were built along the Avenue of the Americas. The Rockfeller Centre was declared National Historic Landmark in 1987 and, since then, almost every tourist in New York comes here, because it has become one of the most iconic places in Manhattan.

I was especially impressed by two elements of the complex: the Channel Gardens in the Plaza and the stunning “Top of the Rock”, which is the observation deck on the top of the Comcast Building (30, Rockfeller Plaza).

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Channel Gardens

The Plaza is a really strange place and it has a sunken part which is dominated by an imposing golden statue representing Titan Prometheus. The part of the Plaza at street level has beautiful gardens with plenty of coloured flowers and water effects, which create a fresh atmosphere in summer. Flags from all over the world surround the Plaza, but on Memorial Day (the last Monday of May) the square is decorated by plenty of US flags in honour of the American soldiers who died while serving their Country.

Another remarkable thing in the Plaza is the Rockfeller plaque, listing the principles that were inspiring to the founder. For example you can read:

“I believe in the supreme worth of the individual and in his right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I believe that love is the greatest thing in the world; that it alone can overcome hate; that right can and will triumph over might”

Beware of the chickens; you’re in Key West!

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Slow down! Rooster crossing!

When thinking of Key West, you’ll probably see the ocean, the beach, the palms, the tropical plants, the lime pie and so on…but I’m not sure chickens would come to your mind…even if they should! Let’s see why!

Chickens came here together with the first pioneers who settled on the island about two centuries ago and they were really essential to them, because they supplied meat and eggs in a place that was almost completely isolated from the rest of the US. By the island development however, shops and drugstores became increasingly available, so that people didn’t have to keep their own farm animals anymore. This is how lots of chickens gained their freedom!

With the increasing immigration from Cuba in the 50’s, more chickens arrived in Key West, because immigrants took along all their possessions, including animals, all the more since cock fighting was unfortunately very popular in Cuba and then in the Florida Keys too. In the 70’s it became illegal and a lot of “ex-fighters” were freed. All these factors contributed to create the cheerful, colored and noisy population of the so-called “gipsy chickens” that you can now see in Key West: crossing the streets, in bars, in private gardens, on the top of parked cars…everywhere!

Half of the locals love them, while the other half hate them, but, anyway, everybody respect them and you can easily see how people drive slowly and carefully paying attention not to hit little chickens or bold roosters crossing the street.

The critics complain about the possibility that they carry some diseases to the inhabitants, get the beach dirty and make a lot of noise (in effect, roosters not only crow at the break of dawn, but you can hear them all day and all night long!)

On the other hand, chickens help keeping the cockroach and scorpion populations under control and their eggs and young fowl provide food for the local raccoons and hawks, so that nature can find a way to recover its balance by itself.

Anyway, to face the increasing number of fowls living free in Key West, the local government has established the Community Trapping Program. If there’s a young rooster that particularly bothers you, just trap it and take it to the wildlife centre, where they’ll take care of it and search an organic farm in Florida that will provide a more conventional life for this former gipsy chicken!

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Typical Key West houses

Discovering Maggiore Lake: the wonderful Borromean Islands (Italy)

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photo credit: Sway me via photopin (license)

When I was a child, one of the typical summer day trips was to Maggiore Lake, starting from Stresa and reaching the three Borromean Islands by boat.

Maggiore Lake is the second largest Italian lake, after Garda Lake, and its shores are situated in Piedmont, Lombardy and Switzerland.

Every year, this pre-alpine basin attracts many tourists from Italy and from abroad thanks to its beautiful landscapes, its charming coastal towns and the archipelago of the Borromean Islands (Beautiful Island, Mother Island and Fishermen Island).

The best starting point to discover this amazing area is Stresa, a little town situated on the Piedmontese shore, not far from the city of Novara, which is often referred to as “the pearl of the lake” for its favorable geographic position and its charming historic centre. From here, you can use the public ferry boat service to quickly reach the three islands.

For more information take a look at http://en.isolelagomaggiore.com/

The Borromean Islands take their name from the noble family who has been living here since XIVth century and who still owns Beautiful Island and Mother Island!

Beautiful Island (Isola Bella)

This is the most famous and the most spectacular one. It’s also the nearest to the shore and its name stems from Isabella (nickname “Bella”), who was the wife of Carlo III Borromeo, the noble man who purchased it in the XVIIth century. It’s entirely dominated by the glamorous baroque Borromeo palace, which can be visited with a guided tour. Outside the palace you can also visit the huge terraced gardens full of exotic plants, flowers, statues, water effects and artificial caves. One of the most beautiful elements of the huge garden is the statue of a unicorn, which was the emblem of the Borromeo family. In the garden you can also see many white peacocks that add their unique charm to the place, making the visitor feel like being in a fairy tale. The noble family used to host friends and relatives here for the holidays, but also important people were invited to enjoy the place: for example you can still see the room were Napoleon and his wife Giuseppina stayed in 1797.

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photo credit: isola bella 104 via photopin (license)

Mother Island (Isola Madre)

This is the biggest one and it also has a beautiful palace, now hosting the Puppet Museum, and a big botanic garden, where you can admire plants from all over the world. Here you can also see white peacocks, parrots and pheasants wandering around in the green.

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photo credit: Isola Madre via photopin (license)

Fishermen Island (Isola dei Pescatori or Isola Superiore)

On this island there is a little village built around San Vittore church, dating back to the XVIth century. It was once inhabited by the fishermen of the lake and it’s till populated by around 60 people, who are mainly employed in the tourist sector. It’s here, in effect, that you can find restaurants, local handicrafts and souvenir shops, while the other two islands are now uninhabited.

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photo credit: Isola Superiore via photopin (license)

For more information about the tourist attractions of this wonderful archipelago, visit http://www.isoleborromee.it/eng/home.html

Enjoying the ocean at South Beach (Florida– USA)

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View of South Beach from Lummus Park

I love the sea…its ever-changing colors, its waves, its taste in the air…just everything 🙂

The most beautiful sea I’ve ever seen is the ocean in South Beach, Miami. I’ve heard that Pacific atolls are the best, but I’ve never been there so, up to this moment, Miami Beach wins 🙂

I was fascinated by the differences I noticed compared to the beaches I know well, that is the ones situated in Liguria (North West Italy) and Côte d’Azur (South East France).

First of all, South Beach is so wide that, even if it gets crowded at times, it never gets suffocating, since you always have a lot of empty space around and in front of you to watch the sea or to walk around. In my European experience, this is rarely possible, because the beaches are smaller and they get packed with people very easily, so that they always surround you, even into the water at times! This is something I don’t really like, since it make it impossible to quietly stare at the waves or to swim without paying attention not to hit people!

The beach is mostly free and there are only some spots where you can rent umbrellas and sun beds for the day. This is very similar to South France, while in Italy you can hardly find a free beach, especially in the north shores. Even if it’s a public beach, the sand and the water are very clean and there is always some police to check everything’s ok, which gives you the feeling to be really safe.

The only remark I can make is that the beach is completely dark at night, which can make it quite dangerous to walk around after sunset. That’s a pity, because I think that one of the must-do summer experiences is a night picnic in the sand with music, campfire and watermelon!

Another thing I loved in Miami were the long waves and the view of surfers practicing near the shore, not to mention that swimming in the waves is much more fun! Mediterranean sea is usually calmer and colder. I was so surprised by the hot water of this part of the Atlantic Ocean, because I had always thought it had very cold water everywhere, but I’ve been told that in South Florida you can enjoy the Gulf Current flowing from the Caribbean, so that the water temperature never drops below 24°.

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The sea at sunset in South Beach

In South Beach you can easily see some local fauna, such as big pelicans that almost touch your head while diving into the water, small fishes very close to the shore and also some fenced turtle nests on the beach. In fact, in the period between April and October, a lot of sea turtles come here at night to lay their eggs!

Another distinctive feature of South Beach is the view of the colored lifeguard cabins in art-déco style, perfectly matching hotels and bars in Ocean Drive!

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The typical lifeguard cabin

 

Waiting to leave for Nice (France) in two weeks, I’m taking one more look at the pictures I took in Miami almost 2 months ago!

Have a nice holiday!!!

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Miami sunset

A starry sky at your feet: one night on the top of the Empire State Building (New York – USA)

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The Empire State Building at night

Since I was a child, one of my biggest dreams was to be in New York City and this year this dream has come true! This magic city gave me a lot of emotion and beautiful memories and one of the brightest ones is the staggering night landscape seen from the top of the Empire State Building.

It was a warm and windy night and we decided to spend it doing something we had read about and had us intrigued: going to the top of the most iconic New York skyscraper to enjoy the view of the city lights. If you are planning to visit New York, I would highly recommend you to have this experience, because what you see stepping out into the observation deck is going to leave you breathless: it’s like having a big starry sky at your feet and, no matter how you slice it, the atmosphere is surreal. I particularly enjoyed the view of lower Manhattan, where you can see the Freedom Tower in the distance and the confluence of the Hudson and the East rivers into the ocean.

Over the years, this art déco skyscraper has become one of the symbols of New York City. It stands in Midtown where 5th Avenue crosses 34th Street and, with its 443 m, it’s the second highest building in town after the new Word Trade Center. The Empire State building was also the highest building in the world until 1967, when the Twin Towers were built.

Its name stems from the New York State’s nickname, that is “Empire State”: the legend has it that Henry Hudson was so struck by the beauty of this territory that he exclaimed: “This is the new empire!”

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Lower Manhattan at night

To get to the top of the Empire State Building you have to stand in line for the security check, the tickets and the elevators and it can be a long wait, because it gets very crowded at certain times, but, if you want to speed it up, I suggest you to buy your tickets online. The best thing to do is to have a New York City Pass, so that you can choose in advance all the attractions you want to visit and skip the lines for tickets everywhere, saving your time and your money too, since you’ll get 15-50% discount.

For more information go to http://www.smartdestinations.com/new-york-attractions-and-tours/_d_Nyc-p1.html?pass=Nyc_Prod_Exp

Just another practical tip: at this altitude it’s very windy and it can be cold at night, even in summer, so don’t forget to take a sweater with you!

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Just like a starry sky

Time travelling before Florence Cathedral (Italy)

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photo credit: Firenze via photopin (license)

I’m not a big fan of architecture and monuments in general and I’m not used to getting emotional about this kind of art, because I prefer to admire nature and landscapes instead, but I made an exception once and it was great since it was unexpected. It was 6 years ago and I had just arrived in Florence. After dinner, I went for a walk in the historic centre of the city and, coming out of one of those narrow streets, I came across an impressive building shining with white and dark green decorations: that was the famous Florence Cathedral!

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Movida made in Turin: the Quadrilatero Romano (Turin- Italy)

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Via S. Agostino

Imagine a warm early summer evening, when you feel like having fun outside, but you are in a big and austere city in the North of Italy…don’t despair, you have 2 possibilities to make your evening: just go to San Salvario or to the Quadrilatero Romano, which are the best “movida districts” in Turin!

Continue reading “Movida made in Turin: the Quadrilatero Romano (Turin- Italy)”