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01.23.2017

For a long time, the Douro River Valley has been considered an ideal day-trip destination from the stunning city of Porto, in northern Portugal. Lately, however, the beauty of the landscapes, the wineries and the many boutique hotels and restaurants of the valley have turned it into a main destination itself, a region offering plenty of opportunities for exploring nature and discovering the local wine culture. A World Heritage Site as well as a very ancient wine region - the first to be officially designated in the world - the Douro Valley is characterized by steep terraced hills covered in vineyards, dotted with pretty villages and the white washed buildings of the wineries. A picturesque landscape that you can explore by car as well as by train, embarking a cruise along the river and even by helicopter. Between the city of Porto, where the river reaches the sea, and Miranda do Douro, where its waters enter the Portuguese border, there are plenty of stops and sights to be included in the itinerary, on both banks of the waterway. Your starting point could be Vila Nova de Gaia, just south of the city center, where all the cellars where Port wine ages are located, and the opportunities of tasting this unique fortified wine, the absolute protagonist of the local production, are endless. To learn more about the area, stop at the Museu do Douro in Peso da Regua, focusing on the river and on wine production in the valley. Crossing the river and heading south you will reach Lamego, a wine town as well as one of the most fascinating cities in northern Portugal, whose most iconic sight is the monumental stairway leading up to the Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora dos Remedios, embellished by a magnificent decoration of white and blue tiles. To enjoy the landscape of the valley, stop at the viewpoint in São Leonardo da Galafura, near Régua, overlooking the river and the hills and offering a breathtaking 360 degree view. Getting back to the river, in Pinhão, take a look at the lovely station along the Douro railway, which is also decorated with white and blue tile artworks celebrating the wine and the landscapes of the valley. A few kilometers away you will find what is perhaps the nicest viewpoint in the whole area, Casal de Loivos, an authentic natural balcony overlooking the city of Pinhao, set in the S-curve of the river. South of the Douro, the medieval castle of Numão, with its crenellated towers and walls bordering the hill, offers yet another postcard setting for your photographs, and if you decide to venture further east do not miss the Archaeological Park of Vale do Coa, an extraordinary open-air museum dedicated to rock art. From here it’s just a short step to Spain: in Barca de Alva you will enter the area of ​​the Arribes del Duero Natural Park, where the river becomes narrower and follows the boundary line up north to the small town of Miranda do Douro. When to goIn September, when it’s harvest time in the valley and you can take part in the production of some of the best Portuguese wines. Quintas (a.k.a. wineries)Quinta do NovalQuinta do Vale do MeãoQuinta da Roêda (Croft)Quinta do Seixo (Sandeman) Quinta de Terra Feita (Taylor's) SleepTaylor’s Vintage House HotelSix Senses Douro ValleyQuinta NovaCasa do RioCasa de Vilharino de San RomãoCasa de Casal de Loivos 

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01.23.2017

Oysters are a winter delicacy, rich in essential amino acids, minerals and glycogen, which earned them the nickname “sea’s milk”. The evidence found in ancient shell middens suggests that oyster were consumed as early as the Jōmon Era (14,000 – 300 BC). Most oyster farms are located in the prefecture of Hiroshima, which provides for about 63% of the national oyster market. The recipes featuring oysters are countless. However, the most exquisitely Japanese style is deep-fried. When you are shivering with cold, kaki-fry will make your stomach and your entire body warm. You will be surprised by how many restaurants are renowned for their deep-fried oysters. But do not take our word for it. Go ahead and try the restaurants listed below. RengateiEstablished in Ginza in 1895, Rengatei is a restaurant specialised in Western-style dishes. Since its opening, a plethora of literary figures have been overwhelmed by the deliciousness of Rengatei’s fried oysters, which starts with a crunch and then copiously expands in the mouth. They are served with the shop’s original sauce. OdayasuYou always have to stand in a long queue in order to be seated in this restaurant in Tsukij, but the “kaki mix” menu, limited to the winter period, will make the wait worthwhile. The size of the oysters itself is impressive. Since its opening, Odayasu has been extremely renowned for its perfectly crunchy deep-fried delicacies. SanyūYou can really feel at home at this family-run restaurant established in Ningyōchō in 1970. From October to April, the restaurant serves fried oysters are nearly as big as a fist, whose creamy deliciousness is enclosed in a perfectly crunchy batter. Katsuretsu Yotsuya TakedaLocated in Yotsuya, Katsuretsu is a restaurant specialised in katsuretsu, “cutlets”, and many other deep-fried delicacies. From October to March, the speciality is fried oysters from different origins according to the period. You can taste them with tartar sauce, in a casual and friendly ambience. LevanteLocated in Yūrakuchō, Levante is a pioneering restaurant in Western-style cuisine. It served as a setting for Seichō Matsumoto’s 1958 debut novel “Points and Lines”. The speciality is Matoya oysters from the prefecture of Mie, cooked in various styles, including the juicy fried oysters with a fine and crunchy batter. 

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When it comes to healthy and health-conscious food, California is always at the forefront - just think of the rise of raw vegan haute cuisine, which has become so fashionable worldwide over the last years. It is therefore no coincidence that the latest reincarnation of the old fast food, an extremely innovative healthy & tech concept, comes from the San Francisco Bay Area. The name is Eatsa and it is the brainchild of designer Scott Drummond and developer Tim Young developer, two innovators whose goal was creating a completely new way of offering healthy and quality food at affordable prices, with a formula revolving around technology and a compelling image.So, how does it work? Eatsa offers a variety of salad bowls all made with quinoa, a highly sustainable food requiring few resources to be produced and widely used in vegetarian cuisine because of its high protein and amino acid content, which makes it a complete staple food, able to excellently absorb sauces and flavors. In each bowl, quinoa is accompanied by fresh vegetables, spices, eggs or cheese, and the manu also offers fruits, desserts, tea and coffee. But the most innovative aspect is the shopping experience, fully automated from purchase to payment, yet not impersonal thanks to a high degree of customization. Orders are made on the in-store iPad the store or with the App on your phone, by building your own with the fresh available ingredients, and you can pick it from a personalized cubby with your name. The system is also able to remember the customers’ tastes, saving previous orders and customizing the menu, and it accepts ingredient suggestions from the Eatsa customer community. A fast experience built around slow values such as health, quality, attention to details, sustainability and personalization. 

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Beer gardens on rooftops are quite the latest fad in Tokyo and Osaka, but in recent years the high-rise complexes in the city centre have benefited from some green trends in urban planning, accommodating eco-friendly oases, namely hanging gardens and bee yards. The so-called Green Project has brought about a number of improvements, first and foremost the reduction of CO2 emissions and of air temperature in the urban heat island, a decrease in the energy demands of cooling and heating systems, flood and fire prevention, purer air and a better environmental consciousness. So far, the Green Project has been cost-effective, too. Ark GardenCompleted in 1986, Ark Garden is the overall name of several gardens in Ark Hills and its surroundings, with about 40k plants scattered on the hanging garden of each building, each one differing in concept, and rows of cherry trees: the Four Seasons Garden, the Suntory Hall Roof Garden, the Back Garden and the Main Garden. In spring and autumn, from the surrounding buildings, it is possible to admire a beautiful garden with over 5,000 flowers of about 100 different species, laid out in a Union Jack pattern. Sorado Farm EbisuSorado Farm is a vegetable garden located atop Ebisu JR Station, Tokyo. Here the sky, sora, meets the soil, do, hence the name. Seeds and tools are available and customers can rent out plots to harvest their own vegetables and fruits. Plots for personal use are available in different sizes: 3x2m, 5x2m and 6x2m. In case you want to apply for an allotment, you still have time until 28 February. Osaka HoneyGreen urban planning is not exclusive to Tokyo. The NPO Umeda Honey Bee Project created bee yards in Umeda Chayamachi in 2010 and within the premises of Shitennō Temple in 2015. In the midst of the high-rise buildings, flowers thrive with very little pesticides. With high-quality nectar comes high-quality honey, rich in flavour and probably the sweetest in the world. The collaboration with some of the most famed food professionals has generated a number of Osaka Honey-based and branded sweets, such as kasutera sponge cake and Japanese sweets and kompeitō dragées. 

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01.17.2017

It is no secret that Munich owns an artistic and cultural heritage of great value, yet for some reason its museums are not as known and celebrated as the Louvre in Paris and the National Gallery in London. Yet they are definitely worth a thorough visit - particularly the three Pinakotheken which, literally a stone's throw from each other in the central museum district, offer visitors the chance to immerse themselves in over 7centuries of great art. Inaugurated in 1836, the Alte Pinakothek collects 700 masterpieces created between 1300 and 1700, commissioned and collected over the centuries by the Bavarian royal family. The collection includes major artists of the likes of Rubens, Dürer, Bruegel, Rembrandt, Leonardo, Titian, Raphael, Tiepolo, Giotto, Van Dyck and Velásquez. Partially damaged during the Second World War (the paintings had been previously moved to a safer location at the outbreak of the war, in 1939), the building was renovated and reopened to the public in 1957. Our journey continues with the nineteenth century masterpiece collection of the Neue Pinakothek, whose present building, just opposite the Alte Pinakothek, was designed in contemporary style by Alexander von Branca and opened in 1981. The original museum, built by Ludwig I of Bavaria, had in fact been badly damaged by the WW2 bombings. The collection includes paintings and sculptures from the end of the 18th century until the early 20th century, comprising works by Symbolist and Art Nouveau artists. From Delacroix and Courbet to the masters od Impressionism, from Van Gogh to Gauguin, from Klimt to Munch, the list of exhibits is truly impressive - and further enriched by magnificent works by Rodin, Canova and other major sculptors. Finally, modern and contemporary art, along with photography, sculpture design, graphics and architecture from the 20th century to present day are exhibited in the beautiful Pinakothek der Moderne, the most remarkable contemporary art museum in Germany. This huge museum complex, designed by Stephan Braunfels and opened in 2002, includes four independent but related museums: the Modern Art Gallery, the Neue Sammlung, focusing on design, the Architecture Museum of the Technical University of Munich and the State Graphic Collection. Kandinsky, Klee, Magritte, Dali, Picasso, Bacon, Baselitz, Warhol, Boccioni, Giorgio de Chirico and Fontana are just a few of the artists whose works you can admire in this futuristic space literally bathed in light - especially in the famous glass Rotunda at the center of building. Photo creditsFacade of the Alte Pinakothek: photo by Gras-Ober under the CC-BY-SA-3.0 licenseNeue Pinakothek: photo by Nicholas Even under the CC-BY-SA-2.5 licensePinakothek der Moderne: photo by Rufus46 under the CC-BY-SA-3.0 license 

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01.17.2017

A town situated northeast of Paris, on the outskirts of the city, beyond the physical and symbolic boundary of the Péripherique. Pantin, where Paris meets the countryside, has been crossed by Canal de l'Ourcq ever since the 19th century, and characterized by large green areas and several examples of industrial archeology. In recent years, this area that used to be considered suburban, despite being well connected with Paris, is undergoing a gradual transformation which in some way "threatens" to suck it inside the city's urban fabric because of gentrification, which might lead to the usual increase in rents and house-purchase prices. Of course, this happens in Paris just like in London or New York City, yet in the case of Pantin this phenomenon appears to be bringing plenty of positive effects, at least so far. Gallery owners, fashion firms, design companies, advertising agencies and even banks – the renovated industrial building of the Grands Moulins de Pantin is now the new BNP-Paribas headquarters - have landed in this long forgotten area promoting its renewal and helping to attract more Parisians, who already loved to walk along the canal and admire the graffiti-daubed grain and flour warehouse overlooking the waterway known as magasins généraux. Only a few months ago, the magasins généraux have been given a new life by the French advertising giant BETC, which moved here part of its activities and started engaging actively in the cultural life of Pantin, in collaboration with the Major. Of the 22,000 square meters of this huge building, 1,800 are now reserved for an area called The Garage dedicated to musicians, artists, directors and producers. The entire ground floor of the magasins has been open to the public; it offers a creative space (La Grande Salle), organic food halls and a concert hall/restaurant called Les Docks de la Bellevilloise, whose opening is scheduled for next spring. At the same time, BETC is committed to preserving the heritage of graffiti which have been adorning the building for years through the Graffiti Général project, which involves the construction of a website and a book, as well as a large exhibition including thirty selected pieces. Finally, the agency constantly promotes the activities of the other Pantin cultural institutions, which include the renowned Ropac art gallery, the Centre National de la Danse, the Banlieues Blues Jazz Festival, the Gallia brewery, the production and development centers of Hermès and Chanel, and of course the Théâtre du Fil de L’Eau, housed inside a converted factory overlooking the channel. So chances are that in the coming months and years will hear a lot about Pantin. Meanwhile, to stay up to date on what is happening along the Canal de l'Ourcq, take a look at the BETC webpage devoted to the area’s cultural events.Photo creditsLes Grands Moulins de Pantin: photo by Benh LIEU SONG under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license 

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01.16.2017

Naples, the third largest city in Italy, is a place of breathtaking beauty and indomitable character: either you love it or you hate it, and when you love it, you love it madly. Lying at the heart of what Horace called Campania Felix, a ‘happy’ land blessed by a mild Mediterranean climate, an unrivaled variety of landscapes and fertile volcanic soil, Naples is one with its Gulf, whose postcard splendor still cannot conquer the fear of the active volcano, the Vesuvius, disguised as a placid mountain soaring on the horizon. Visiting Naples takes time and willingness: slowly is the only way to truly savor its multifaceted soul, travel among its different eras and landscapes, between its large squares and narrow lanes - beginning with the treasure trove that is its historic center, the largest in Europe, rightly designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The two most ancient areas of the city date back to the greek town of Partenope, on the hill of Pizzofalcone (in today's San Ferdinando area), and to the Roman city of Neapolis ( "new city"). Both are still somewhat visible in the so-called Decumani district, and particularly in Spaccanapoli, the street that goes from the Spanish Quarter to Forcella, cutting the city in a straight line. Yet the real spirit of Naples does not merely lie in its historical remains and monuments – to get to know the real city, you will need to explore the neighborhoods: Chiaja, with the promenade of Via Caracciolo, Mergellina and the many shopping streets; the wonderful hill of Posillipo, which owes its name to one of the sumptuous Roman villas which used to sit here, overlooking the sea. San Ferdinando’s Via Toledo, the most famous and vibrant street of Naples, home to 19th century opulent palaces, boutiques and literary cafes. Montecalvario, with its beloved and notorious Spanish Quarter, a maze of steep narrow streets where artisan shops and trattorias alternate with dark and grimy corners. And finally Vomero, a veritable city within the city. Whatever your itinerary, here are a few places you should not miss. SeeMuseo di CapodimonteThe Royal Palace of Capodimonte and its park have always been a magical place to the Neapolitans. The palace’s museum features several amazing collections historically owned by the House of Bourbon and the House of Farnese, as well as works by major Italian and European painters from the Middle Ages to the 17th century, masterpieces from the churches of Naples and the Borgia collection with its Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Etruscan antiquities. There is also a section dedicated to contemporary art, including Andy Warhol’s famous Vesuvius. Toledo underground stationAlthough it may seem unusual to visit a metro station, this incredible stop along Line 1 of Naples’ underground train network in the San Giuseppe neighborhood is a true masterpiece. Designed by Spanish architect Óscar Tusquets and inaugurated in 2012, it was designated "Europe's finest underground station" by the Daily Telegraph and CNN. Napoli SotterraneaHiding 40 meters under the city is a unique route running through 2,400 years of history from ancient Greece to modern times, and descending into burrows where you’ll bump into old tanks, ancient aqueducts, bomb shelters, seismic stations and even underground gardens. Cristo Velato The 17th century Chapel of Sansevero, a former church close to Piazza San Domenico Maggiore, houses one of the most famous sculptures in the world, the Veiled Christ by Giuseppe Sammartino (1753), a representation of dead Jeusus Christ covered by a transparent shroud made from the same block of the statue. A work of extraordinary beauty, charm and skill, characterized by unsurpassed dramatic force and hyper realistic details. Parco VirgilianoOn the Posillipo promontory, this nice park offers truly fine views, embracing all of Naples and its gulf, the islands and Vesuvius on a clear day. A wide avenue lined with pine trees leads to the monumental Fascist era entrance, opening on a large square enriched by a fountain. From here, you can get lost in its 92,000 square meters of greenery, among olive, myrtle, and pine trees and rosemary plants. MarechiaroA symbol of the Neapolitan “Dolce Vita” of the 1960s, this quaint suburb in Posillipo has become legendary thanks to a famous song by Neapolitan poet and writer Salvatore Di Giacomo, inspired by a window (fenestrella) overlooking the sea. With its magnificent views of the Gulf, the panoramic restaurants and the beach overlooking the famous Scoglione, Marechiaro is an undoubtedly romantic place where you can savor the quintessential postcard Naples. EatGran Caffè GambrinusWilling to try the authentic Neapolitan coffee? Stop at this historic literary café and enjoy it surrounded by Art Nouveau splendor. Pintauro275, Via Toledo If sfogliatella is the queen of Neapolitan patisserie, then Pintauro is without doubts the king of sfogliatella, which was created right here back in 1818 by Pasquale Pintauro by revisiting an 18th century recipe. Antica Pizzeria da MicheleThe secret to the extraordinary pizza baked at this authentic pizza temple is all in the know-how that has been passed on from one generation to the next ever since 1870, when Salvatore Condurro and his son Michele first opened the family business. Osteria della Mattonella13, Via Giovanni NicoteraThis simple home cooking restaurant is a great place for sampling the authentic Neapolitan cuisine of Antonietta Imperatore, “Empress” of the classic Genovese, a dish of pasta, meat and onion which is very popular in town.                                                                                                      Pizzeria De’ Figliole39, Via Giudecca Vecchia Fried pizza is one of the main cornerstones of Naples’ street food offer: here you will find it in its most genuine and authentic version, with super rich fillings according to the local tradition. Photo creditsCapodimonte Photo by Mentnafunangann under the CC BY-SA 4.0 licenseCristo velatoPhoto by David Sivyer under the CC BY-SA 2.0 licenseMarechiaroPhoto by Antonio Picascia under the CC BY-SA 2.0 licenseGambrinusPhoto by Michele Sergio under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licensePizza napoletanaPhoto by Valerio Capello under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license 

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01.11.2017

What would Courmayeur be without the Mont Blanc? Perhaps only a small mountain village of two thousand souls, a small town like many others, with lovely typical houses and pleasant views. But everything here revolves around the granite 4,810 meter high giant bristling with spiers and ridges and furrowed by deep valleys where glaciers flow. At 1,224 meters above sea level, Courmayeur has always been a holiday resort, ever since the 18th century, when the aristocratic families of Piedmont and Savoy used to come here for enjoying thermal baths in Pré-Saint-Didier. Yet it was not until the 19th century that it turned into an international holiday destination, and subsequently into a major winter sports thanks to the construction of the ski lifts and facilities after World War II and the Mont Blanc tunnel in 1965. Today, Courmayeur is a popular international destination which somehow managed to retain its alpine atmosphere. To experience it, just walk along the narrow and winding shopping street, Via Roma, in the heart of the historic center, or go to the small towns that surround it, such as Morgex, a medieval village dominated by the tower of an ancient castle, La Salle and La Thuile. When in town, do not forget to visit the eighteenth-century Church of St. Pantaleon and the Malluquin Tower, the remain of a sixteenth century castle which now houses exhibitions and events. And although the real stars here are still the mountains, which have made Courmayeur and the whole Valdigne a renowned international alpine ski area, between one descent and the next our advice is to immerse yourselves in what remains of the ancient grandeur of old-time Courmayeur, enjoying its true flavors and exploring the rare corners that are still authentic. Here are some of our favourite places. Museo Alpino Duca degli AbruzziIn this corner of Italy where the history mountaineering was made, it is worth visiting the museum dedicated to one of the most fascinating and adventurous sports ever. The exhibition is not only for experts and enthusiasts, but also for those who want to learn more about the Courmayeur Alpine Guide Society. Notre Dame de la GuérisonVia Val Veny, La Villette This little white church, which looks tiny in the presence of the great Brenva glacier, appears like a vision on the road to the Val Veny. Built in the mid-nineteenth century, it has walls covered with paintings and votive offerings. Caffè della Posta51, via Roma Although it may be pretty crowded in peak season, this historic café in the town center with an old fireplace and seventeenth-century ceilings is worth a visit at breakfast or aperitivo time. Opened back in 1911 as a grocery store, over time it has adapted to the transformation of Courmayeur into one of the most renowned ski resorts in the Alps, welcoming VIPs and celebrities. Pierre Alexis 1877An excellent restaurant in the old city where you can enjoy both local dishes and creative cuisine based on fresh quality products and seasonal ingredients, accompanied by a wide choice of wines. Photo credits:Courmayeur, ski facilities base area: photo by Alan Baldwin under the CC BY NC-ND 2.0 licenseVia Roma and Caffè La Posta: photo by Damien Roué under the CC BY NC-ND 2.0 licenseThe cableway: photo by Dan Zelazo under the CC BY NC-ND 2.0 licenseNotre Dame de la Guérison: photo by Jerome Bon under the CC BY 2.0 license 

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It was the year 1958 when Carlo and Giovanni Moretti, having inherited the family business, an artisan company specialized in the production of glasses in Murano, Venice, had the idea of renewing it by combining the traditional know-how of glassmaking masters with their passion for marketing and design. This was the beginning of a story that even today, nearly 60 years later, continues to be told by Carlo Moretti, an "artisan factory" producing objects created by experimenting with shapes and materials, renowned among critics and collectors, hosted in homes as well as in museums, and distinguished by a diamond point engraved signature which makes them unique. Accompanied by a certificate which includes a serial number and basic information on the manufacturing techniques, proving their artisan quality, these objects are produced in limited quantities, mouthblown and hand finished. Yet their crystal-clear personality is also enhanced through the way in which it is presented, promoted and communicated. We spoke about all these themes with Antonio Ceschel, CEO of the company. SJ: What drew you to the Carlo Moretti brand?AC: I got to know the brand through a natural evolution of my professional career, yet as soon as my knowledge of the company became deeper I discovered the uniqueness and the passion that distinguishes it at all levels. It is a highly contagious passionSJ: The rediscovery of artisan brands is a remarkable counterpart to fast consumption. Where does Carlo Moretti stand in this dialectic between craft/niche and mass market production?AC: It is not easy to convey all that distinguishes Carlo Moretti, especially to those who have never visited the company. Our flagship stores and the customers who have in some way fallen in love with the brand are the main standard-bearers of our identity. We support communication within the store, with videos and an interactive touch screen monitor available to all the visitors. We believe that all senses should be involved, and this is why we invite our customers to touch our objects: while on the one hand it may slow the spread and growth of the business, on the other hand direct physical interaction with the objects is crucial to establishing a lasting relationship with the brand and to communicate our passion to the public. SJ: The Carlo Moretti objects express a uniqueness that significantly pushes the boundaries of their artisan nature towards the concept of art works. How do you see this relationship?AC: Considering ourselves an "artisan factory", we are immersed in a creation process which often solves productive issues with alchemy rather than with science. In our world, design co-exists with glass, a material that literally dominates the space; through the different stages of manufacturing, design becomes a synergic action involving an idea, the skill of the glassmaking masters and the material. Each object lives its own life and it ends up in the hands of the customer as a single piece. We like to think that this uniqueness is linked to the stories of our customers, of their families and of the generations to come. And we like to think that, in a way, all of this is "art". SJ: The story of Carlo Moretti is tied to that of the island of Murano and the tradition of master glass blowers. But through time the island has changed a lot: what is left of authentic Murano?AC: The island's history has certainly seen a contraction in terms of brands and companies, yet for a cultured and sensitive visitor the opportunities to visit well-estabished glassmaking companies and attend demonstrations are many and of high quality. Local products are constantly improved in terms of product design and quality, with unchanged respect for the ancient art of glass blowing and the know-how of the masters. SJ: What is your relationship with the city of Venice?Venice is a city that should be lived to the full, so rich in events, art and culture. Unfortunately, though, I believe that these qualities are not always conveyed in the right way; this is a bit of an Italian attitude – failing to communicate the country’s excellence, especially to the younger generations. This causes a lack of pride and a weakening of our sense of belonging. Yet it suffices to travel a bit around the world to realize how everything that is related to style, quality of life and beauty in general often has an Italian origin. I think even Murano greatly suffers from this lack of communication; its uniqueness and identity have not been promoted as much as they would deserve. 

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01.10.2017

If you got literally fed up with all the End-of-the-Year and New Year’s luncheons and dinner-parties, nabemono, or more simply nabe, could be a good compromise to satisfy your hunger, without filling you too much. Here is a brief introduction to Japanese hot pots and where to find them in Tokyo.  CHANKONABEOriginally meant for rikishi, the sumo wrestlers, chankonabe is a healthy and well-balanced hot pot with a variety of ingredients, which include fish, seafood, meat, surimi and vegetables. Although most sumo training quarters are based in and around the Ryōgoku district, you can taste chankonabe in other areas of Tokyo as well. Chanko KirishimaRun by former wrestler Kirishima, from the Michinoku Stable, the restaurant is located on the 8th floor of a building not too far from Kokugikan Sumo Hall. It is usually full. We recommend the delicious chankonabe with a generous amount of shrimps and scallops in a rich broth made with pork and chicken bones. KotonofujiIt is a restaurant run by former wrestler Kotonofuji and located in Kagurazaka, where you can taste the chankonabe of the Sadogatake stable. Kotonofuji serves a simple yet tasty nabe full of vegetables, chicken and chicken meatballs, in a chicken-bone broth that has simmered for at least four hours. KANISHABUSnow, horsehair and red king are the names of the three crab species brought about by the cold northern waters in winter. Here are a couple of nabe restaurants where you can taste their delicate flesh. Ryo (Azabu)A specialized restaurant serving crabs from Nemuro and Kushiro, Hokkaido. You can choose from a wide array of dishes, including nabe. Tarabaya (Kichijōji)The shop offers Hokkaido cuisine and different kinds of crabs at reasonable prices. An all-you-can-eat option is also available. CHICKEN MIZUTAKIOriginally a Hakata specialty, mizutaki is chicken boiled with its bones and seasoned with ponzu sauce. The flavourful soup is rich in collagen and helps warming up the body. Mizutaki Shimizu (Megurogawa)This old shop run by the Kyōmachi family is always packed. Here you can enjoy a nabe with meat and stock made with free-range poultry. Hawfinch eggs on a bowl of white rice are also a delicacy. Torishō Takehashi (Roppongi)The shop serves different types of chicken: shamo, red, Yamato, and others. The most popular nabe is shirotaki, with non-deboned chicken legs and very rich in collagen. ODENOden was originally what is now commonly known as dengaku, boiled konjac and miso. Nowadays, oden consists of various ingredients, such as boiled eggs, daikon, konjac, and fishcakes stewed in a light, soy-flavoured dashi broth. In its many variations, oden is considered a classic winter dish nationwide. Kappō Inagaki (Hanzōmon)Established 30 years ago and inheriting the taste of generations, this restaurant offers oden in the styles of Kansai, Kantō and NagoyaEsaki (Kagurazaka)This very small shop, with only eight seats at the counter, is renowned for the careful selection of the ingredients, served in a simple soup that emphasizes their flavour. 

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01.09.2017

Where do the clothes that we wear come from? Who has sewn, dyed, cut them? Who cultivated the raw materials? What are the faces, the conditions and the stories of the people who have contributed to their creation? Perhaps, if we all asked ourselves this question before choosing a garment, our consumer behavior would change dramatically. In the words of Irish activist (and wife of U2’s Bono Vox) Ali Hewson, "you carry the stories of the people that make your clothes”. This is the message coming from this beautiful short film that was shot a few years ago, and it is loud and clear. In the film we see the ever beautiful Elettra Rossellini Wiedemann in the act of wearing an elegant dress along with accessories and jewelry, when suddendly the hands of the people who made them materialize like living handprints. Then come the voices, the faces and the names. A really interesting concept carried out with great skill and effectiveness by talented director Mary Nighy and co-writer Zoe Franklin. The film was commissioned by the British idea consultancy Eco-Age, specializing in ethical and sustainable values, and produced by White Lodge, the fashion division of Blink. 

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01.05.2017

City spas often end up being similar to luxury clinics: too white, too minimalist, maybe a little too cold. This is certainly not the case with Aire, an area dedicated to well-being tucked away in a narrow Tribeca street, in the heart of Manhattan, among local stores and restaurants, inside a reconverted late 19th century textile. The huge post-industrial spaces revisited by architect Alonso Balaguer, whose exposed brick walls and pillars have been preserved, are the backdrop to a very warm, candle-lit environment dominated by water. The inspiration comes from the ancient Greek and Roman baths, where the Salus Per Aquam culture has its own roots, but also from the Turkish and Ottoman tradition of steam baths. The pave is the brainchild of a Spanish entrepreneur who has already opened four Aire spas in Spain, and will shortly launch two more in Chicago and Paris. To preserve the calm of the place and the right dose of relaxation, only 20 people are allowed to be inside the Manhattan Aire spa for each 90-minute shift, having at their disposal a thermal circuit with different pools (ice, cold, warm, salted), a jet pool, a steam bath with aromatherapy, and a relaxation room with heated marble benches. Of course, massages and treatments are also available; among them is the signature Red Wine Ritual created by Spanish winery Matarromera, which includes a thermal experience as well as a red wine bath in an antique Venetian tub and a red wine grape exfoliation and massage. Aire is open every day of the year, from 9 am to 11 pm. No need to bring anything special - just your swimsuit and the desire to leave the world behind for a few hours. 

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01.04.2017

The flowing river never stops and yet the water never stays the same. With these words from Hojoki (a 1212 classic written by Japanese poet, musician and hermit Kamo no Chomei), Kouhei Nakama summarizes the meaning of the wonderful images from this little masterpiece of video art. Visual art director at WOW, Kouhei translates into visions the changes the body goes through in every moment of our lives, invisible from the outside and yet traceable on our cells and organs, where life and death happen continuously. Life, therefore, exists thanks to this cycle of life and death inside our bodies, and in the imagination of Nakama it takes the form of a smooth spiral operating small successive changes until it finally emerges to the surface. Beautiful and moving. 

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01.03.2017

A city so beautiful and full of history that it has earned the nickname of "Little Paris", and above all the designation of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. Bordeaux, the wine capital par excellence, graced by a perpetually mild climate and surrounded of vineyards. Although most of the visitors who come here can’t wait to literally soak in the wine culture, sampling the exceptionally good local wines paired with great products and haute cuisine, Bordeaux is much more than a food & wine destination. Its rare beauty, which has its roots in an 18th century grandeur recently revamped through a careful work of general renovation of the city, has in a way been freed from centuries of mold that threatened to make its nobility a little stale, and so today Bordeaux looks and feels like a city that has managed to carry her glorious past into the new millennium. The re-installed tramway, the reclaimed Garonne river banks and the restored facades of its majestic historic buildings now stand side-by-side with the new contemporary buildings, including the amazingly futuristic hedquarters of the new Cité du Vin, designed by Architects XTU to celebrate the local wine culture. Similarly, the Michelin-starred luxury restaurants, undisputed cathedrals of a sophisticated culinary tradition, have been joined by more casual but just as interesting establishments, innovative bistros, bars and clubs that add just the right amount of vibrance to the city’s nightlife. To get to know Bordeaux, our advice is to start right from its eighteenth century heart, the so-called Triangle d'Or, which includes Place Gambetta, Place of the Grandes Hommes, Place de la Comédie with the majestic Grand Théâtre, and the Notre Dame church - as well as countless luxury boutiques and stores. The medieval district of St. Pierre, with its cobbled streets and small squares, is another must-see, along with the Ste Croix and St. Michel areas, dominated by two magnificent churches. Other not-to-be-missed sights include the imposing Palais de la Bourse overlooking the river, and of course the renovated banks, where old warehouses have been converted into stores, cafes and clubs surrounded by green spaces. Finally, do not forget to enjoy the view of and from the Pont de Pierre, one of the city's symbol, the nineteenth-century stone bridge which first allowed the people from Bordeaux to reach to the right bank of the Garonne from the city center. And if you manage to spare some time for eating, drinking and shopping (we are pretty sure you will), here’s a list of some of our favorite places in town: EatRestaurant du LoupA classic Old Bordeaux-style restaurant in the heart of the city, offering traditional French cuisine and local wines in an intimate and welcoming ambience.  Jean PrinceThis newly-opened casual and contemporary ‘seafood canteen’ is the brainchild of a young local restaurateur offering affordable fusion cuisine centered around crabs and lobsters. Le chien de PavlovA creative cuisine gourmet bistro with great price/quality ratio. unusual flavors and a cosmopolitan attitude. ShopMona watchesAcronym of ‘Montres Originales Nardon et Ardilouze’, MONA was born out of the encounter between a watch-maker and a designer in the coastal town of Soulac sur Mer, near Bordeaux. It crafts beautiful and sophisticatedly-designed watches made with parts coming from strictly European manufacturers. L’intendantIf you wish to bring home a couple of real good bottles, this is the right address. Le 101A lovely concept store/gallery housed on the premises of a graphic studio, specializing in design, art and photography. Photo creditsA night view of Place de la Bourse: photo by Phillip Maiwald under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licenseThe Grand Théâtre: photo by Patrick Despoix under the CC BY-SA 3.0 

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01.02.2017

The first visit is called hatsumode, but it was once referred to as toshigomori. It was customary that the head of the family stayed in the shrine overnight at the turn of the year, praying. Eventually toshigomori was divided into two customs: joyamode, the visit in the evening of New Year’s Eve, and ganjitsumode, in the morning of the New Year’s Day, which became the original form of today’s hatsumode. Meiji ShrineMeiji-jingū enshrines Emperor Meiji and his wife Empress Shōken. The thick greenery surrounding the premises makes it a popular place for relaxation, but in the first week of the year it becomes the place of worship with the most visitors in Japan. From 5 to 30 January, a calligraphy exhibition will host about 25,000 works of primary and junior high school students nationwide. Nishi-arai DaishiIn 826, during the Heian period, the temple was founded with the official name of Sōji-ji. A priest, Kobo Daishi, arrived in this area at the time of a massive epidemic. To rescue the diseased villagers, he commissioned a temple with a statue of an eleven-faced Kan’non, and a statue with his own features to be installed near an infected well. After Kobo Daishi prayed for 21 days, clear water gushed out of the well and the disease was gone. Since the well was located west (nishi) of the main hall of the temple, the site took the name of Nishi-arai, as well as the nickname of Mount Kōya of Kantō – the real Mount Kōya being in Kansai. Crowds of believers come to Sōji/Nishi-arai Daishi Temple to drive evil spirits awayHie ShrineBuilt about 800 years ago, Hie Shrine is dedicated to the mountain god Oyamakui. After Tokugawa Ieyasu established it as the guardian shrine of Edo Castle, it began to be attended by the shogunate and various feudal lords. In June, Hie Shrine opens to the Sannō Festival, one of the three great Edo festivals, During the Edo Era, floats and mikoshi (portable shrines) were allowed to enter Edo Castle, and so generations of shōgun enjoyed the event that was called the Tenka Festival. The treasures of Hie Shrine include 31 swords designated as national treasures or important cultural property, as well as the treasure of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Unlike the other shrines, the premises of Hie are guarded by statues of monkeys, instead of the usual komainu, the lion-shaped guardian dogs. The Japanese character for “monkey” can be read as saru aside from en, which is the same reading as the Japanese word for "ward off", so the monkeys can ward off evil. Ōtori ShrineThe shrine, whose name means “Shrine of the Rooster”, is dedicated to Prince Yamato Takeru. In November, on the Day of the Rooster, the festival-goers visit Ohtori Shrine to pray for a better fortune, safety and prosperity for the year to come. Since 2017 is the Year of the Rooster in the Sino-Japanese zodiac, an even larger number of people are forecast to visit Ōtori shrine in this periodKanda Myōjin ShrineThe 1,300-year-old complex enshrines the deities for 108 Tokyo neighbourhoods including Kanda, Nihonbashi, Akihabara, Ōtemachi and Marunouchi. The old Kanda market, along with Tsukiji, still provides the food of Edo. On New Year’s Day, there is mochitsuki, “rice pounding”, where complimentary sake is also offered. You can pick your own fortune slip at the Daikoku Festival, opening on 9 January and happening for three days. 

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01.02.2017

Although back in the years of the economic boom it earned the reputation of a gray, hostile, industrial city, today Milan seems to be light years away from that cliché, a city full of contrasts and yet charming, which on the one hand raises to the sky with the futuristic skyscrapers of Porta Nuova, and on the other hand rediscovers historic districts and revamps former industrial spaces. A city that accelerates but also knows how to slow down, gifted with a relatively small center enclosed in the so-called 'ring of canals' that can be easily explored by walking - starting from the monumental Piazza del Duomo, which houses the beautiful gothic Cathedral, the nineteenth century Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and the Royal Palace. From here, it’s just a short walk to more iconic places in town such the famous La Scala Theatre, the Sforzesco Castle, the artsy Brera district and the ancient Roman columns of San Lorenzo. With over sixty museums and galleries ranging from comics and photography to ancient and contemporary art, cinema and sports, Milan certainly is a culture capital, but it also has a uniquely dynamic and creative side, one of whose elements undoubtedly is the "fashion quarter", the area crowded with top-notch ​​boutiques and designer showrooms bordered by Via Montenapoleone, Via Manzoni, Via della Spiga and Corso Venezia. Further north is the new Downton Milan, which tranformed the city’s skyline with the skyscrapers of Porta Nuova, towering over the old buildings, the paved walk of Corso Como and the controversial beauty of Piazza Gae Aulenti. Yet perhaps the most unique and authentic face of Milan is the one that does not reveal itself at first glance, a discreet charm made of small details, inexpected views, hidden gardens and courtyards. And that is precisely the ‘slow city’ that we invite you to discover. Not to be missed:Orto Botanico di BreraMilan’s botanic garden is a small oasis of peace in the timeless heart of the city, where you can walk among 300 species of plants including rare and magnificent specimens like an ancient ginkgo biloba and a 40-meter high linden. Basilica of Sant’AmbrogioThis early Christian basilica is one of the most important places in the history of Milan, as well as a monument full of charm and mystery. Built between 379 and 386 by Ambrogio, Bishop of Milan, and dedicated to the martyrs, it is a rare example of intact Lombard Romanesque style. The crypt houses the relics of Saints Ambrogio, Gervasio and Protasio. Villa Necchi CampiglioA gem of rationalist architecture in the center of Milan which is still perfectly intact, including the garden with tennis courts and a swimming pool. Through its architecture, decorative arts, furnishings and collections, the Villa represents an authentic portrait of the industrial bourgeoisie’s lifestyle in Lombardy back in the 1930sSan Maurizio al Monastero MaggioreCorso Magenta, 13 - MilanAlso known as ‘the Sistine Chapel of Milan’, this church once hosted the most important female monastery of the city, belonging to the Benedictine order. The interior is simply spectacular, thanks to the wonderful decorations on the walls and ceiling adorned by Bernardino Luini’s Renaissance frescoes. 

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The future of luxury (hence of perfumery) lies in craftsmanship”: this is one of the many enticing mottos (another one of favorites being “we believe it is more humane to test cosmetics on New Yorkers than on animals”) from the manifesto of Le Labo, a niche perfume brand that was born in Grasse, the capital of perfumery in the French Riviera, and raised in New York, where founders Edouard Roschi and Fabrice Penot opened the first boutique in 2006. The great thing about Le Labo, which currently own 22 boutiques and less than 40 corners worldwide, is that it works with a community of craftswomen and craftsmen who contribute to and shape its world - perfumers, lab technicians, candle pourers, rose harvesters… And this is why the result is a collection of authetically artisan fragrances. Each location is designed as a fragrance lab open to the public, where customers can smell and touch raw materials. The collection comprises 15 unisex perfumes freshly handmade to order: this means that the essential oil concentrates remain separate from the alcohol until the moment of purchase. Only then, do the lab technicians proceed to the final formulation of the perfume: oil concentrate + alcohol + water. Le Labo also offers 8 soy-based wax candles created with top-quality ingredients and an amazing ‘city collection’ created to pay tribute to the cities they have shops in - Tokyo, Dubai, Paris, Moscow, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and San Francisco.  These 9 scents are strictly available only in the city they belong to and nowhere else, not even online, so that  you have to go physically to the stores in those cities to be able to purchase them for the first time. Every year in September, though, they are available in all Le Labo boutiques for the month. Quite an old-fashioned system, don’t you think? 

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12.28.2016

With hundreds of museums and galleries, London has always been a destination of primary importance for art lovers, a city that brings together, scattered among its many cultural institutions, masterpieces of all time, allowing visitors to embark on a wonderful journey through the history of art and sculpture. We chose 10 of our favorite paintings from some of the major city museums, dating back from the fifteenth to the twentieth century. Enjoy! 1) The Arnolfini PortraitJan Van Eyck, 1434, The National GalleryThat of the Italian merchant Giovanni Arnolfini and his wife Giovanna is undoubtedly one of the most famous portraits in art history. Part of this undisputed eminence is due to the small convex mirror at the center of the image, which reflects the scene offering a different perspective and also including the painter himself in the image. There are also plenty od mysterious symbols scattered around the painting, not to mention the incredible light treatment skills of Van Eyck. 2) The Baptism of ChristPiero della Francesca, 1450, The National GalleryConsidered one of the finest representations of Christ’s Baptism, this painting commissioned by the Camaldolese Abbey of Piero’s hometown, Sansepolcro, is also deemed as one of the best works by Della Francesca. Its most prominent feature is the perfect image construction, following very precise mathematical rules. But in the eyes of the observer, the first impression is above all a sense of harmony and peace3) The Raphael CartoonsRaffaello Sanzio, 1516, The Victoria and Albert MuseumCrefted for the Sistine Chapel and designed by Raphael, these precious tapestries dedicated to the lives of Saints Peter and Paul were commissioned by Pope Leo X and manufactured in Brussels. Today, they are constantly exhibited at the Vatican, yet the seven surviving original cartoons belong to the V & A Museum’s collection in London, having being owned by the British Royal Family since 1623. For Raphael, this work of art represented a twofold challenge: not only did he have to draw having in mind that the tapestries would be mirror images of his drawings, but he also knew that his work would be compared to that of Michelangelo, author of the famous frescoes of the Sistine Chapel’s vaulted ceiling. 4) Boy Bitten by a LizardMichelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, 1594, The National GalleryAn alternative version of the same painting preserved at Longhi Foundation in Florence, this famous masterpiece by Caravaggio is characterized by the skillful use of light, which enters the picture as a sort of lightning in the darkness. What strikes most about it, though, is the realism of the subject’s expression, horrified at the bite of a green lizard. Caravaggio was probably inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci’s studies in terms of facial expressions and human feelings. 5) Rain, Steam and SpeedJ. W. Turner, 1844, The National GalleryIt is not hard to imagine the disruptive effect of this masterpiece on the imagination of Turner’s contemporaries. This is in fact one of the first "portraits" of a steam train, which had been invented only a few years previous, painted with a technique that was literally revolutionary for the era. With his patches of light and color, few prospective lines and barely recognizable objects, Turner definitely anticipated and opened the way for Impressionism. Unmissable. 6) OpheliaJohn Everett Millais, 1852, Tate BritainA masterpiece of mid-nineteenth century Pre-Raphaelite painting, this famous work portrays the character of Ophelia singing before she drowns in a river, as narrated in the Shakespearean tragedy Hamlet. The woman's face is that of model Lizzie Siddal, muse of the Pre-Raphaelites and wife of the painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who was also among the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The vegetation is inspired by that of the banks of Hogswell River in Surrey, long-studied and portrayed by the artist. 7) A Bar at the Folies-BergèreEdouard Manet, 1881 The Courtauld GalleryIn his remarkable pre-Impressionist style, with this famous painting Manet takes us straight to the Belle Epoque Paris, and particularly to the most famous music-hall of the city, which is reflected in the mirror behind the bartender, presumably a woman who really existed and whose name was Suzon. Among the most debated aspects about this work is the unusual perspective: in order to see the scene from the point of view proposed by Manet, the observer should not stand in front of the painting, but rather to the right, approximately where the reflection of the mustached man is. 8) Bathers at AsnieresGeorges Seurat, 1884, The National GalleryA scene that seems suspended in time, almost surreal in its immobility: this is the first impact of this post-impressionist masterpiece on the observer. Painted by Seurat for the Salon des Artistes in Paris (and rejected by the jury), it features two different and opposed techniques: the bathers have been painted with an ‘architectural’ attitude, looking like sculptures devoid of expressiveness, whereas the natural elements, and particularly tge light, the water and the vegetation, have been depicted with an Impressionistic style. 9) Weeping WomanPablo Picasso, 1937, Tate Modern GalleryThis Cubist representation of Picasso’s lover Dora Maar, who was in her turn a very talented photographer, reveals the tragic and destructive nature of the relationship between the two artists. The woman, known to be one of the many "victims" of Picasso's passion, is portrayed with her hands on her tear-stained face, and she seems to represent an idea of ​​universal female suffering - yet it is also a strong stimulus to learn more about the life of Dora Maar. 10) A Bigger SplashDavid Hockney, 1967 Tate BritainThis instantly recognizable large square canvas is the work of British painter David Hockney, who pained it in 1967 as a homage to his ideal image of California, where he had moved a few years before. At the center of the picture is a swimming pool, the symbol of 1960s California and of its relaxed and recreational lifestyle along with palm trees, turquoise blue skies and blue water. This perfect stillness is only broken by a splash of water, raised by someone raised who just dove into the pool. 

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12.27.2016

It's been less than two months since the death of the great Leonard Cohen, but we already start to miss him. Today, we want to share the memory of this unique artist through the cartoon version of an old interview from 1974, turned into a most unusual animated film for a recent episode of the PBS web series Blank On Blank. The interview begins with Cohen, then in his forties, reading one of his poems, Two Went To Sleep, which comes to life through the animation by Patrick Smith. Then, with his unforgettable smoky voice, soft and deep at same time, Cohen unveils the genesis of his famous song Sisters of Mercy, recalling a very special night spent in Edmonton, Canada, a few years earlier. A real treat. 

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12.22.2016

If a tourist visiting London in the 1990s could have had the chance to travel forward in time to see the city as it looks today, it would have probably been quite hard to recognize it. Over the last 20 years, the skyline of the British capital has radically changed; while in 1990s the only high-rise buildings worthy of the name were the NatWest Tower (1981) and One Canada Square in Canary Wharf (1990), plenty of new skyscrapers have sprung since then, including the Gherkin by Norman Foster (2003), Heron Tower (2008), The Shard by Renzo Piano (2012), the Leadenhall Building a.k.a. “Cheese Grater” (2014), and of course the controversial "Walkie Talkie" (2014). From the top of some of these impressively high-rise buildings - as well as from the London Eye, another comparatively new London icon – the scenic view of the city is undoubtedly amazing. Yet to say the truth Londoners have always loved observing the city from above, even back when the Houses of Parliament and the Big Ben were basically the tallest buildings in town. To do this, they headed to the many hills (none of them taller than 100 meters) that surrounded the city, most of which are now part of Greater London’s urban fabric.Following are some of our favorite natural scenic viewpoints around the city. Greenwich ObservatoryWhile in Greenwich to experience the thrill of walking on the Prime Meridian or to explore the beautiful National Maritime Museum, take the opportunity to climb to the top of the hill in Greenwich Park, right in front of the Royal Observatory; weather permitting, you will be able to enjoy a view once painted by William Turner, with the addition of the new high-rises towering along the huge curve of river Thames. Parliament HillSix miles away from London City, on clear days from the summit of this green hill in Hampstead Heath you’ll be able to let your gaze reach to as far as the Thames estuary, beyond the Gherkin, St Paul's Cathedral and the other iconic buildings of London. Primrose HillThis 78 meter high hill in the north of Regent's Park is a luxury residential area and home to plenty of celebrities, yet it also offers one of the most beautiful views of the city. To enjoy it properly, we suggest having a picnic in the open green areas or a nightly climb to contemplate the bright lights of London. Muswell HillThis lovely suburb in the north of the city is a great destination to get away from the madness and experience some authentic village feel, a corner of the old London that happily survived the city’s metamorphosis into a global metropolis. In addition, the place offers a stunning view of the city, laying at your feet beyond the picturesque Edwardian roofs of the neighborhood’s houses. Horniman GardensIn Forest Hill, a suburb in south-eastern London, is one of the lesser known gems of London, the Horniman Museum and Gardens, a free-entry museum specializing in anthropology, natural history and musical instruments dating back to the Victorian era, when Frederick John Horniman first opened the doors of his house to the public. From the huge garden, the view of the city is simply beautiful - and you can also admire a 19th century greenhouse and a 1912 original  bandstand. Photo creditsCover photo: the view from Hampstead Heath by Michael Clarke under the CC BY 2.0 licenseParliament Hill: photo by Chesdovi under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licensePrimrose Hill: photo by Duncan under the CC BY 2.0 licenseMuswell Hill: photo by Chris Whippet under the CC BY 2.0 licenseHorniman Gardens: photo by Cmglee under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license 

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12.21.2016

Golden beaches, cliffs, fishing villages and pure beauty wherever you look. Algarve, in southern Portugal, is a truly magnificent land, graced by a beautiful light and comparatively non-touristy, especially off season – when the all-year-round mild temperatures are a big plus. In Lagos, a historic and vibrant coastal town in western Algarve, Casa Mãe is a gorgeous house flooded with light overlooking the old town and the sea (which is only a five minute walk away), comprising three very different houses combining traditional and contemporary architecture, and surrounded by a large vegetable garden. Designed as an ideal base for exploring the city and western Algarve, Casa Mãe is also a welcoming retreat with the warm and informal atmosphere of a real home. The 30 large and bright rooms are located in the most modern part of the complex, but they do not lack a touch of local atmosphere, thanks to the handmade terracotta floors and the wooden panels inspired by traditional Algarvian reixas, screening the balconies from the sun while letting through light and air. Thanks to the on-site huge organic vegetable garden, to the hotel's own farm and to trusted local suppliers, Orta, Casa Mãe’s restaurant, offers healthy cuisine focused on creatively revisited fresh, seasonal ingredients including homemade bread, self-produced eggs, garden vegetables, regional cheeses, fresh juices and squashes - the zero-mile and short supply chain philosophy is taken pretty seriously here. Finally, among Casa Mãe’s special and unique perks are the hotel’s own magazine, which offers a virtual journey through Portugal visiting all the places and the people who inspired the Casa’s character, and Loja, a concept store selling Portuguese design and craft objects and featuring a small photography and design bookstore. 

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12.20.2016

When Christmas comes, Tokyo dresses up in glorious illuminations, each area more beautiful than the last. If you’re in town at around the turn of the year, you may want to check out the illuminations listed below. Marunouchi Illuminations 2016For the 15th year running, with the support of Ōtemachi Financial City, the 250 trees along the 1.2 km area stretching from Grand Cube to Ōtemachi-dōri will be decorated with as many as one million LED lights in the Marunouchi trademark champagne colour. The LED lights use electricity obtained from solar and wind power, for 100 days approximately.Until February, 19, 2017 Midtown Christmas 2016Starlight Garden is the name of the dreamlike universe of blue lights gracing Tokyo Midtown at Christmas time. This year, the spectacle of the 6cm full-colour LEDs is made even more impressive by four searchlights beaming 180m up into the airspace above Roppongi, in a dynamic depiction of the Big Bang. Do not take our word for it. Go ahead and venture through this magic land of 520,000 lights, extending from the Welcome Illuminations all the way to Starlight Garden.Until December, 25, 2016 Caretta Illuminations “Canyon d’Azur 2016”Last year, the Caretta Illuminations attracted around 500,000 visitors. This winter, the “Forest of the Blue Spirit” marks the eleventh edition of Canyon d’Azur. At the very heart of the forest, you can make a wish and sound the “Bell of the Spirit”. The chimes will resound against a wall made of eight lights of different heights and throughout the Forest. The romantic illumination show is complemented by the changing lights and the original music score playing and repeating every twenty minutes. While you’re at it, go up to the observation deck on the 46th floor of the Caretta Shiodome Tower. From there, you can contemplate the night landscape of Rainbow Bridge, and the Tokyo Bay area.Until February, 14, 2017 Tokyo Dome City “Winter Illuminations”This winter, Tokyo Dome City celebrates the 150th anniversary of Japan–Italy relations with illuminations, in collaboration with Italy, with the installation “Italy in Love – the Magic of Light, for all the Lovers”. Your guide for this journey will be la befana, the good old hag who brings children chocolate and sweets on 6 January, sprinkling the magic of Italy all over Tokyo Dome City. For the first time in Japan, the installation will feature 1:25 replicas of famous Italian spots, such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Juliet’s House.Until February, 19, 2017 Jewels of Shōnan 2016-2017Jewels of Shōnan is the third largest winter illumination display in the whole Kantō region. The Illumination spreads 360-degree from top of the Enoshima Sea Candle over a 70m-diameter Light Field. From the entrance of Enoshima Samuel Cocking Garden to the Light Field, the so-called Shōnan Chandelier creates a tunnel of light with as many as 60,000 crystal beads. You will feel drenched in a pouring rain of beaming light. Shōnan is much warmer than Tokyo: if the sun is shining, it will feel like spring, even on a winter day. From mid December to late January, you may also want to catch a glimpse of 20,000 tulips illuminated.Until February, 19, 2017 (Tulip Illuminations: mid December – late January) 

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12.19.2016

Spave Oddity by Brand New NoiseIn his Brooklyn workshop, bearded maker Richard Upchurch creates handmade voice recorders and other irresistible sound gadgets. To honor David Bowie in the year of his death, Richard designed a small and adorable handheld recording device with loop switch, pitch control knob and 1/8" output, decorated with Ziggy Stardust’s famous thunder bolt. Dan Kruger’s Loring Place Apron by Todd SnyderIf you're planing to get someone to spend some more time in the kitchen, try with this with gorgeous Chambray cotton apron created to celebrate the opening of New York City’s most anticipated restaurant - Loring Place by beloved chef Dan Kluger, which just opened in the Village. Practical, durable and stylish, it is inspired by classic workwear. Save the Arctic by GreenpeaceSanta is in trouble: because of global warming, the North Pole continues to melt and Santa’s toy factory might soon sink in the Arctic. To make matters worse, oil drilling in the sea menaces to expand, that’s why Greenpeace decided to take action in court. To contribute, you just need to add your signature as evidence of a growing global movement against Arctic oil. Plant a tree with TreedomAvocado, mango, guava or makhamia: these are the four types of trees that you can buy with a click and have planted in Kenya in the name of whoever you want as a Christmas gift (a greeting card is included). Treedom is a Benefit Corporation from Florence, Italy, which planted over 280,000 trees in Africa since 2010. Tattly’s temporary seasonal tattoesDeer horns, snowflake or butcher’s broom? Tattly’s designy temporary tattoes could be a nice gift for inviting your friends to wear the Christmas spirit on their own skin. The catalogue includes plenty of discreet and sophisticated designs, as well as colorful ideas for your little ones. Imperia, the Queen of PastaMaking fresh egg pasta is not that hard, provided that you own the right tool. And if you’re planning to spend your holidays in the kitchen, put yourself and your friends and family to the test with this classic and sturdy gem of a manual pasta machine. Get ready for a shower of homemade tagliatelle, ravioli and tortellini. New York City by Lego ArchitectureDedicated to aspiring and would-be architects, Lego’s Architecture series allows you to build miniature versions of some of the world’s most iconic buildings. The New York City set includes the Flatiron Building, the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, One World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty. Master & Dynamic, the perfect soundGorgeous and made to last, these headphones designed and developed in New York City are made with heavy-duty materials such as premium leathers and stainless steel, and designed to perform with precision for decades thanks to easily replaceable parts. But above all they are tuned for a warm, rich sound that promises to complement a diversity of tastes and musical genres by offering an expansive soundscape capturing the detail of well recorded music. Bora by Carlo MorettiFrom Carlo Moretti’s ‘artisan factory’ in Murano, Venice, a collection of 54 unique mouth blown Murano crystal glasses whose design is inspired by the north-eastern wind of the same name. Asymmetrical and almost ‘bent’ by a strong blast, these pieces look as if they had been struck by a sudden gust when still incandescent and in the process of being made by glass artisans. Each glass is individually signed and dated. Nebra Magnum  by 32 via dei BirraiLooking for an original idea for your Christmas toast? This artisan micro-brewery from Pederobba, Treviso, has launched the first beer ever created in collaboration with a perfumer – namely Angelo Orazio Pregoni. Nebra is an amber double malt beer available in magnum format on the occasion of the brewery’s tenth anniversary. The special anniversary box includes custom batteries and gears and it can be turned into a wall clock

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12.19.2016

Take a great director like Francis Ford Coppola and an over-the-top author like William S. Burroughs, deemed one of the most important artists of last century, and have them deal with the Christmas spirit. The result of this unusual cocktail will presumably be The Junky’s Christmas, definitely not your average Christmas flick. Produced by Coppola in 1993, this amazing as much as surreal animated short film directed by Nick Donkin and Melodie McDaniel is based on a Burroughs story which first appeared in 1989, and narrated by the voice of the author himself. The protagonist is an old drug addict in desperate search for a fix, who will end up finding the Christmas spirit instead – through the unexpected encounter with a guy experiencing severe pain from kidney stones. Enjoy! 

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12.15.2016

If you thought waking up the whole family to the sound of an air horn at dawn on Christmas Day and forcing everyone to unwrap the presents in their pajamas before 7 a.m. was a weird enough holiday tradition, think again. On planet Earth, there are people ready to go long distances to win the prize for the craziest, freakiest and most absurd Christmas ritual. Santa’s Bad HelperA frightening goat man that takes to the streets chasing naughty children, spreading panic at the sound of a cowbell. To escape the scary Krampus, traditionally a servant of St. Nicholas, avoid the Italian regions of Trentino Alto Adige and Friuli Venenzia Giulia, Austria and Southern Germany at Christmas time. Just joking. Not from there, please!As the name itself suggests, that of the Catalan Caga Tió is a rather odd tradition: a tree trunk filled with candy starting from December 8 is eventually beaten with sticks by kids until it "evacuates" the yummy little treasure. Skating to the MassIt would appear that in Venezuela, on Christmas morning, people go to the Mass on skates, the streets having been previously closed to allow the faithful to go safely. The tradition began in the Fifties as a festive street party, and apparently even today you are bound to bump into one of these traditional patinatas somewhere around the country (be careful, though, because Caracas has recently topped the list of the most dangerous cities in the world). Stand Back, You BroomAccording to the Norwegians, Christmas Eve is the night of evil spirits and witches, hunting homes and terrorizing their residents. Therefore, it is considered advisable to hide all the brooms to prevent the spirits from riding them around the house - the great excuse ever to skip housework at Christmas. Ornaments Don’t Go Where Cobwebs GrowWhy fill the tree with expensive ornaments when you can entrust the decoration to an industrious spider and rely on the natural beauty of a spiderweb? In Ukraine, the legend of the poor woman who, too broke to buy garlands, had her tree decorated overnight by a gigantic cobweb, is so popular that people still buy fake cobwebs and plastic spiders as well-wishing Christmas decorations. The Mysterious Christmas PickleIn the United States, the Christmas tree hides a tiny decoration in the form of a gherkin among its branches. Who manages to find it on Christmas morning receives a promise of good fortune for the following year - although children usually prefer an additional present gift. Hungry for the CaterpillarThe nutritional properties of insects and their designation as "food of the future" for us humans have been widely confirmed, and so maybe it’s about time our little friends began to tremble. Meanwhile, South Africans will continue to celebrate Christmas munching on handfuls of delicious fried caterpillarsA Refreshing BathThe English are crazy, especially in north-eastern England, where it has become a tradition to plunge into the North Sea in fancy dresses on Boxing Day. In their defense, this is all for charity: the associations that organize these icy swims do it in order to raise funds for noble causes. The Invisible GuestIf you should ever find yourself sitting at a Christmas table in Portugal, be advised that there will probably be some extra places reserved for guests that will hopefully be no-shows. As it happens, the souls of the deceased are usually invited for lunch on Christmas day – and once that brief moment of horror is over, you’ll realize it’s actually quite a nice and thoughtful tradition. Any Excuse Will DoIn Philadelphia and New Orleans, Christmas has apparently become a great opportunity to honor the fine British tradition known as ‘pub crawl’. The annual ‘Running of the Santas’ is the perfect occasion for joining a crowd of party animals running from bar to bar disguised as Santas, elves, reindeers or any other Christmas cliché. Hangover guaranteed. 

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12.14.2016

When speaking of the British capital is impossible not to mention the ‘double decker’, the world-famous red bus which has become one of the symbols of the city along with the Big Ben and the classic red phone booth. Hopping on a double decker and sitting on its upper front seats is one of the most fascinating ways to explore the city, especially at Christmas time when the streets are filled with decorations and colorful lights. The Routemaster – this is the name of the original London bus which made its first appearance in 1954 - is characterized by an open platform in the rear, and unfortunately it was due to this distinctive element that it was eventually retired mainly for safety reasons and because of the excessive maintenance costs (it required a conductor in addition to the driver), and replaced with a new generation of double deckers. The new buses, which have retained the colors and shape of the original ones, still offer the priceless thrill of soaking up the atmosphere of Christmas from the comfort of a veritable British icon. Following are our recommended routes for a memorable tour of the city. Just get you ticket and hop on! Route 15Although the Routemaster has been retired, along this route there is still a bunch of old double deckers. Bus no. 15 crosses the city from east to west, from Blackwall Station to Charing Cross Station in Trafalgar Square. Along the route there are plenty of notable stops, including the Tower of London, the Monument (a 61-meter-tall tower built in memory of the great London fire of 1666), and the imposing St Paul's Cathedral on Ludgate Hill. Route 74Bus no. 74 crosses town from north to south-west, starting in Putney Exchange, a stone's throw from Madame Tussaud's famous wax museum, and ending at Baker Street Station. Stopping at Marylebone Street, Mayfair, Knightsbridge, South Kensington and Earls Court, it’s a great option for reaching Hyde Park – whose Christmas version is a giant amusement park called Winter Wonderland – the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum, all located on Exhibition RoadRV1 RouteRunning through the city from Covent Garden (which currently houses a charming Christmas market) up to Tower Gateway Station, this route crosses the Thames twice, through Waterloo Bridge and London Bridge, offering the chance to admire the bright decorations reflected in its waters. Other sights include the Shard, the Southwark skyscraper designed by Renzo Piano, and the iconic London Eye, located between Westminster Bridge and Hungerford Bridge. 

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12.13.2016

Last November, Netflix released what had ben announced as the series that would soon take the place of Downton Abbey in the hearts of the British and international public – The Crown, focusing on the early reign of Elizabeth II. Soon after the launch, the facts and the anecdotes connected to the ninety-year-old Queen’s journey to the throne were the object of an unexpected revival, triggering an endless series of articles comparing the official truth with its fictional depiction, ad filtered by the enthralling writing and stunning photography of the most lavish and expensive TV series ever made. If you loved The Crown and would like to compare Claire Foy’s interpretation with the actual ‘Lillibeth’, take a look at this section of BBC’s historical archive entirely devoted to the Queen’s early reign. Original footage includes the Royal Wedding and the Royal Tour of South Africa first broadcasted in 1947.

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12.12.2016

Christmas is almost here and there is nothing better than spending a day at the Christmas markets to immerse yourself in the spirit of the holidays. Especially if you’re in Vienna, where the atmosphere this time of the year is truly magical and evocative. The Austrian capital is home to a myriad of markets, a classic local December ritual; here's a list of the ones you should not miss. Wiener Christkindlmark, Rathausplatz The Christmas market on the Town Hall Square is one of the largest ones in Vienna. With 150 stalls and a giant Advent wreath to decorate the location, it offers culinary delights and perfect gift ideas to the millions of tourists it attracts every year. Not far away, at the Town Hall park, the fun is assured by the presence of two ice rinks and various entertainment activities for the little ones, including the reading of Christmas stories.From 11/12 to 12/26 Weihnachtsdorf, Maria-Theresien-PlatzBetween the Museum of Art History and the Natural History Museum, all around the statue of Empress Maria Theresa, 70 stalls sell pieces of artistic craftsmanship, hot and cold drinks and sweet delicacies. A soundtrack of gospel choirs and live music accompanies the experience, creating an atmosphere of celebration and serenity.From 11/16 to 12/26 (replaced by the New Year’s Market from 12/27 to 12/31) The Christmas Market at SchönbrunnIn the charming courtyard of the Palace that was once the residence of Princess Sissi, magnificently decorated for the occasion, 80 little wooden houses sell roasted chestnuts, pastries, hot drinks and various Christmas goodies. There are plenty of activities for children, too, which makes the atmosphere merry and the place perpetually crowded.Open from 11/19 to 12/26 (replaced by the New Year’s Market from 12/27 to 12/31) Altwienermarkt, FreyungThe oldest and most traditional Christmas market in Vienna dates back to 1772. Come here if you’re looking for top-quality handcrafted nativity figurines, glass and ceramics decorations and fine jewelry. Of course, the stalls also offer countless delicacies such as spiced cookies, flavored teas and mulled wine – and there are Christmas carols (starting 4 pm) every afternoon.From 11/18 to 12/23