Balkan Cities: Tirana In Five Pictures

I visited Albania at the beginning of 2018 and I managed to see some very interesting places. I was in Tirana for three days only, but I found it to be a city rich in culture and entertainment; while people usually prefer to see more natural places in Albania, especially towns by the sea, visiting Tirana was also important to understand a piece of Albania’s history. Tirana is the most populous city in the entire nation (located in an area inhabited by more than one-third of the entire Albanian population) but although the city was founded during the Ottoman Empire, it was expanded and modernized during the 20th century, particularly in the 1990s with the fall of the communist regime. Numerous investments by foreign entrepreneurs have ensured that nowadays the city has many venues and it is especially attractive for young people, due to the large number of cafés and restaurants. I had a chance to walk around the city and see how the locals live; as far as safety is concerned, Tirana is rather quiet but as it happens with all the big cities around the world, you have to be careful especially if you are traveling solo.

Speaking of bars and restaurants, I had a very good time at Millennium Garden, where I tried Puka Beer, which is a delicious Albanian craft beer. I also recommend eating fish at Markata E Peshkut, located in the city center.

Tirana Cityscape

1) Tirana Cityscape: I saw the city of Tirana from the top floor of the Maritim Hotel Plaza , one of the best business hotels in the city. The view from there is pretty amazing, as it also includes the mountains surrounding the entire area. Tirana is the seat of power of the Albanian government, as it also hosts the Albanian parliament. The city is now the main economic, financial, political and commercial centre of Albania, and it is home to various public institutions and the university. From the urban agglomeration of buildings, it can be noticed that Tirana is a city in constant urban growth and it has also been awarded the title of European Youth Capital for 2022.

Street Art - Tirana, Albania.
Graffiti work on the façade of NOKI bar

2) Graffiti in Tirana : the capital of Albania is full of graffiti and urban artworks as part of a project that embraces street art as a tool for social cohesion; the many murals located in various parts of the city have helped improve the city aesthetically and have given a new face to its urban fabric as well. In the same year I visited Tirana, a group of street artists organized a street art festival called MuralFest in collaboration with an art workshop in the Italian city of Lecce and the Albanian administration. Murals are increasingly appreciated by citizens in different parts of the world, and the same is happening in Tirana. I spotted this colorful graffiti of a girl dressed in flowers depicted on the façade of a popular bar called NOKI, which is located on the city’s main pedestrian street.


Throwback Thursday: My Trip To Dublin For My High School Internship Abroad Program

St. Patrick's Day Parade part II.
Saint Patrick’s Day Parade dancers in orange – Courtesy of MF

In 2011 I had the amazing opportunity to take a two-week trip to Dublin as part of my language studies program. I had already been to Ireland when I was about thirteen years old for what was basically a summer educational course; I remember visiting Dublin’s Castle and Trinity College but 2011 was when I really had the chance to discover Dublin and its surroundings.

My classmates and I were studying at the Centre of English Studies; while I am bilingual in English and Italian, it was nonetheless a very interesting course because we were taking part in discussions about different topics and the classes were designed to make us think and express opinions on various matters. I have the best memories of those days in the city and it was like having a glimpse into adulthood, as for many of us it was the first time we were away from our families for what seemed an incredibly long time. We were accompanied by a couple of teachers from our school, but most of the time we were walking the city on our own (except during school hours) and had a lot of free time in the evenings.

When we first arrived I remember opening the wrong car door because I had completely forgotten that in Ireland and the UK they drive on the left, so it was quite hilarious! My roommate Carla and I had been assigned to a lovely family in the neighborhood of Artane, which is a very calm and residential area on the outskirts of the city; the neighborhood is served by various Dublin Bus routes, so it was easy for us to reach the city center, where the school is located.

River Liffey – Dublin, Ireland
Fitzsimons of Temple Bar
River Liffey, Dublin.
River Liffey at sunset – Taken with my old iPhone 3GS
O’ Connell Street

At first we were a bit intimidated by the city and decided we would never go out at night, but changed our minds on the second day because we managed to move around in groups. The lady at our house was very strict about curfew because I was still a minor, so the main rule was to get back by midnight, a rule we were breaking all the time because we always took the bus too late.

In my opinion, Dublin is one of the best European cities and there are so many places worth visiting; the city is home to many characteristic pubs even though they generally don’t allow minors to enter because of the drinking age law; the Temple Bar area is pretty amazing for taking pictures, as it is very Irish. Most of those pubs host soccer and rugby matches and Irish people like to get together to watch the games.


Throwback Thursday: Attending The Locarno Film Festival – 70th Edition, August 2017

Invitation to Locarno Film Festival’s Opening Night

The first week of August in 2017 I had the pleasure to live one of the greatest weeks of my life. I was living in Lugano during that time, so I was eager to attend the 70th edition of Locarno Film Festival.

Locarno Film Festival is held annually in Locarno, Switzerland, and it is the most important Swiss film festival. Like the main film festivals (i.e. Cannes, Venice, Toronto…), it screens movies in different sections, both competitive and non-competitive; this includes documentaries, shorts, retrospective programs and avant-garde films. The festival’s main partners are Swisscom, laMobiliare, UBS and Manor, while the municipalities of Ascona and Locarno are the destination partner. The top prize of the festival is the Golden Leopard, which is awarded to the best film in the International Competition, along with other prizes like the Prix du Public (Audience Award) and the Leopard of Honor (Career Achievement). In addition, it awards numerous minor prizes and it also awards the Green Pardo WWF (in collaboration with WWF), praising the movie which best reflects the environmental theme in any of the competition sections. For this edition, the Artistic Director was Carlo Chatrian, who maintained his role until the following year. The President of the Jury was Olivier Assayas, director of masterpieces like Personal Shopper and Sils Maria.

Olivier Assayas, President of the Jury at Locarno Film Festival 70

I got to attend the festival with an accreditation due to the fact that I was working in collaboration with a friend journalist, so I was very happy to watch as many films as possible. I was there almost everyday and traveling from Lugano is about 45 minutes by car; I was thankful for that because hotels are so expensive in Locarno during the Festival week.

Attending the 70th Locarno Film Festival