Five Bookstores In London

Daunt Books, London. Image Credits: Alexandra Kirr

I am an avid reader and I love wandering around bookstores in towns and cities I am visiting. I started reading when I was still attending kindergarten and my love for reading has grown through the years; I usually read all kinds of books across different genres and I love reading physical copies of books, so I rarely get to use an e-reader. Since I speak four languages, I like to read in different languages as well. I mostly read in English and Italian but I occasionally read French and Spanish editions of books as well. When I’m in Italy I find it difficult to buy books written in English in local bookstores, as most of them have only very few in stock and they are often quite expensive, so when I’m in foreign places like London or New York I really enjoy exploring the city to discover new bookstores.

I lived in London for some time in 2016 so I would buy books directly from local bookstores and I have rounded up five of my favorite ones I came across while living in the city:

Brick Lane Bookshop

1) Brick Lane Bookshop: an independent bookshop in Tower Hamlets. Established in 1978, it is located in the East End, one of the most iconic areas of London, which hosts plenty of interesting clothing stores, cafés and is also home to the famous Spitalfields Market. I love walking around this neighborhood because it is one of the most distinctive in the city and it has become a trendy area like Shoreditch, especially for young people. Many streets intersecting with Brick Lane are great to explore if you enjoy urban art and graffiti, since the East End is filled with amazing artworks covering different building façades. Brick Lane Bookshop used to be part of the Tower Hamlets Arts Project, formed in the 1970s out of a protest. There wasn’t a single bookshop in Tower Hamlets at the beginning of the ’70s, so a group of local people decided to start one. They began with a weekly stall in Whitechapel Market where they sold Penguin proof copies and the success of the bookstall inspired the locals to create a permanent bookstore. If you happen to visit Brick Lane, be sure to stop by the library because you will sure find some interesting reads about London and the East End (I suggest you have a look at the historic Brick Lane’s Beigel Shop, which is also known as “the yellow one” thanks to its bright yellow sign, and try one of their delicious bagels).

Brick Lane Bookshop, 166 Brick Lane, London, E1 6RU


Throwback Thursday: Christian Dior, Designer Of Dreams At The V&A In London – June 2019

The Dior Line, 1950s

I have always loved visiting London’s Victoria & Albert Museum and it is one of my all-time favorite museums because every season they hold great fashion retrospectives that are usually displayed in a very sophisticated and scenic way, like “Cristóbal Balenciaga” in 2017 and “Fashioned from Nature” in 2018 (also, it’s impossible not to mention Alexander McQueen’s “Savage Beauty” in 2015, one of the most popular and successful retrospectives ever held at the museum). I am grateful to have been able to attend some of these exhibitions throughout the years; “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams” has definitely been my favorite so far.

Since it had already been showcased at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, the exhibition was very much hyped even before opening at the V&A and it did not disappoint expectations. According to MF Fashion, “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams” had a record number of spectators, selling almost 600,000 tickets in seven months. I was very lucky to be able to attend the exhibition because it was extended until September 2019 so I got to see it in the month of June during a trip to London.

The exhibition presented about 200 rare Haute Couture garments, starting from the birth of the House of Dior in 1946 and tracing the evolution of Dior’s signature style over the years. It allowed visitors to examine various illustrations, photographs, videos, magazines, accessories, vintage perfumes and make-up, for a total of about 500 objects extracted from the immense Dior Archives. It basically turned out to be one of London’s biggest cultural events in 2019 and I was happy to become a V&A member on the day I attended the exhibition. One of the first pieces displayed was the iconic Bar Suit, which is part of the V&A’s permanent collection, since it was gifted to the museum by the Maison Dior in 1960.

Christian Dior showcased his first haute couture collection in February 1947 at 30 Avenue Montaigne in Paris. The designs offered a great alternative to the masculine style of women’s fashion after World War II and they were widely praised and highly acclaimed by the press, as Harper’s Bazaar editor in chief Carmel Snow told the designer: “Your dresses have such a new look!”

The term New Look was chosen to name the collection and its two silhouettes, Corolle (featuring full skirts similar to flower petals) and En 8 (hip-hugging pencil skirts). The Bar suit was inspired by the bar at the Hotel Plaza Athénée in Paris and became the symbol of the New Look, creating a new fashionable silhouette that was unprecedented for the time; the rounded shoulders and the flowing, elongated shapes made to highlight the waist, along with the voluminous corolla skirts, helped reshape women’s bodies by bringing back feminine beauty and reviving sensuality. At the same time, garments from the past such as corsets and guêpières were brought back into vogue so Dior found itself at the center of a fashion revolution thanks to his innovative spirit. The New Look designs on the walls of the V&A were presented in a majestical way, followed by a section that highlighted the looks from 1947 to 1957 that defined this revolutionary fashion era and a section dedicated to Christian Dior’s love for Great Britain.

Dior - The New Look.
The New Look – Dior
Dior Romanesque dress (1950)
Dior Ulysse coat (1952)
Dior Aladin dress (1953)
Christian Dior: Great Britain

The exhibition was divided in eleven different theme sections; the first one started with Christian Dior’s earlier years and was followed by the New Look section that showcased his groundbreaking approach to fashion.


My Favorite Places To Eat In London

The Victoria Pub in Paddington, London

I lived in London for about a year and have also visited it plenty of times throughout the years, so I got to know a lot of places to eat in different areas of the city. I am not a huge fan of British cuisine, but I love English breakfast and having a Sunday brunch so I am also going to mention a couple of places where you can enjoy an excellent breakfast.

The last time I was in London was right before the pandemic and I hope to be back soon to visit some friends, especially my dear friend Jigna, an eyebrow guru who works in Mayfair (where one of my favorite restaurants is located). I would also like to try some other restaurants in the city, so I added them to my Google Chrome favorites as a reminder for when I return to the UK.

Here below you will find my favorite places to eat in London (since I am Italian, most of the places are offering authentic Italian cuisine).

Eating pizza at 50 Kalò di Ciro Salvo, The Strand, London

1) 50 Kalò di Ciro Salvo Pizzeria: this is one of the best places in London to eat pizza. Having already opened a restaurant in Naples in 2014, they opened a place in London in the summer of 2018. Their name originates from the interpretation of dreams; according to the Neapolitan tradition, 50 represents bread (or dough) and Kalò means “good” in the ancient language of pizza-makers. The dough is made with accurately selected flours blend, to which is added a large percentage of water to create a pizza whose ingredients taste deliciously good. Ciro Salvo is part of a renowned family’s third generation of master pizza-makers and has been recognized as one of the best in his field by food critics, both in Italy and abroad. While his pizzeria in Naples was among the six ones included in Italy’s Michelin guide, his London restaurant has been named Best Italian Pizzeria in London for Gambero Rosso in 2019, the same year I visited the place. It is located in Westminster’s Strand, an area known for its restaurants, hotels and legendary theaters like the Savoy. I love eating at 50 Kalò because the atmosphere is cozy and familiar, and if you are Italian you will definitely feel at home.

7 Northumberland Ave, Westminster, London WC2N 5BY, UK , open every day from 12.00 to 11 pm.

Rigatoni alla Caprese - Carluccio's.
Rigatoni alla Caprese – Carluccio’s, South Kensington, London

2) Carluccio’s Italian Restaurant in South Kensington: Carluccio’s has various restaurants around London and in other UK cities, but my absolute favorite is the one in South Kensington, one of the neighborhoods in London I love the most. Located near the Tube station, it focuses on Italian cuisine, with dishes ranging from pasta to risotto that reflect the authenticity of Italian flavors.