Story Behind The Picture: Bougainvillea Beauty In Cannes, French Riviera

“Unexpected intrusions of beauty. This is what life is.” ~ Saul Bellow

I took this photo of a giant bougainvillea during a summer day in Cannes, South of France. It was the summer of 2021 and I remember that it was very hot in July (as is often the case on the French Riviera) however, I had still decided to take a tour of the town because I was in the area.

During that year, the Cannes Film Festival had been moved to the month of July because of the pandemic (it is usually always held in May) so it was still taking place on the day of my visit and the town was swarming with tourists under a blazing sun. 

I have known the city of Cannes since I was a child, when I used to spend the winter vacations with my family on the French Riviera (I was born and raised in Milan, Cannes and its neighboring towns are about four hours away from my city and my father has always loved to drive). Although we would spend time mainly in Juan-les-Pins, we would be in Cannes frequently, both in the winter time and in the warm season (Cannes is also where I celebrated my 23rd birthday). 

I have always seen Cannes as a coastal city that mixes glamour and sophistication with the beauty of nature and art; not only the luxury hotels and high fashion boutiques on the Croisette, but also the sandy beaches, the numerous buildings with movie-themed graffiti painted on their façades, the Croix de Gardes Forest Park, connected to various points from which one can enjoy breathtaking views…and the Suquet, the oldest part of the city. Prior to my trip to Cannes on that sunny day in July, I had never visited Le Suquet in person, but I had seen some very nice pictures of the neighborhood online that made me want to visit. I had been especially struck by the pictures of this giant bougainvillea that blooms in the heart of Le Suquet in the summer season, so I very much wanted to see it up close. 

Le Suquet (which means “top” in Provençal slang) stands on a sort of hill and is characterized by narrow streets that house quaint stores and typical restaurants. It is a very old neighborhood; in 1030 the monks of Lérins Abbey built the Castre Castle there, which was partially destroyed in the 18th century and went on to become a historical museum, Musée des Explorations du Monde (Museum of World Explorations).

Also in the Suquet area is the Gothic-style Notre-Dame-d’Espérance Church. Le Suquet is certainly one of the most visited places in Cannes, and having been there in the middle of summer I noticed that there were many organized groups of tourists wandering the streets of the neighborhood; the area is a bit steep but the walk is really pleasant (of course in hot weather it is best to dress in cotton, bring water and wear a hat, which may seem obvious but is essential when spending the summertime in Mediterranean areas). Also from the top of the Medieval Tower you can enjoy a breathtaking view over the Bay of Cannes to L’Estérel (a small curiosity: on clear days you can see the Massif de l’Estérel even from Italy, in fact here you can see a photo I took at sunset from my old house in Liguria, near the French border). 

It was wonderful to see this giant purple bougainvillea, which is located not far from the Notre-Dame-d’Espérance Church (outside of which is a rooftop terrace with views of Cannes and the Gulf de la Napoule) and the Museum of World Explorations. 


Five Places To Eat And Drink In Milan (Part I)

As some of you already know, I was born and raised in Milan so I have gotten to know multiple key places to eat and drink in the city over the years. I have noticed that a lot of new bars and restaurants have opened in the last period of time, which can sometimes make it difficult to choose; on the plus side, contrary to what people often think, there are many different options and venues to suit all kinds of budgets.

I decided to create a top five of places to eat and drink in Milan (in no particular order) which remain among my favorites in the city; the list includes both bars and restaurants, so in some places you can even have breakfast or enjoy a quick snack. However, I think I will update this top five in the future because I like to discover new food locations and add them to my lists, so you can consider this article as a first part of my eating recommendations. 

Let’s get started!

Breakfast at Bar Luce (Fondazione Prada)

1) Bar Luce (Fondazione Prada): This is one of the most iconic bars in Milan, and I often find myself stopping by Bar Luce whenever I visit Fondazione Prada, a cultural institution dedicated to contemporary exhibitions and art declined in different forms, such as cinema, music and photography (so you will not be surprised to know that Fondazione Prada is one of my favorite cultural places in the city and I will definitely include it when I recommend my favorite museums in Milan). Bar Luce is part of Fondazione Prada and was designed by American director Wes Anderson in 2015. It has a vintage feel and looks right out of a set of the director’s movies! Located inside the first building at the entrance of Fondazione Prada, the décor and color palette, including the wallpaper, are reminiscent of the aesthetics of post-World War II in Italy and the economic boom of the 1960s. The bar also contains notable retro elements, such as a huge pink jukebox and a couple of pinball machines. I found out that among Anderson’s sources of inspiration in designing the bar are two movies belonging to Italian Neorealism, namely Vittorio De Sica’s Miracle in Milan (1951) and Luchino Visconti’s Rocco and His Brothers (1960). I love taking pictures at Bar Luce because it is such a special location; although it is very popular for lunch, with a menu that includes a wide variety of sandwiches (including vegetarian options), I really like the desserts it offers, especially the cakes, in typical pastel colors.

Bar Luce, Largo Isarco, 2 – 20139, Milan. Open every day except Tuesday, 8.30 am -8.00 pm (Saturday and Sunday 9.00 am – 8.00 pm) 

Asian Food World.
La Collina d’Oro (Asian Contemporary Food)

2) La Collina d’Oro (Asian Contemporary Food): This restaurant has been included in the list of the best Asian restaurants in Milan for many years, partly because it has been on the scene for 40 years (it opened in 1982). The restaurant has been renovated over the years and now has a distinctly modern feel. The ambiance is meticulous in every detail and offers a wide selection of dishes (always beautifully served, as you can see in the article I wrote about my five favorite foods, which includes photos of vegetable ravioli and California Maki I ate at La Collina d’Oro). I have often eaten at the restaurant with my family, especially with my father, who is a great lover of Asian cuisine. The products are very fresh and of high quality; the prices are perhaps a bit higher than average, but that is often the case, both for seafood restaurants and Asian food places. The atmosphere is very relaxed and the staff is friendly and efficient. The menu contains a wide selection of traditional products from different geographic areas of Asia, has vegan and gluten-free options and also includes a good selection of white, red, and French wines ( Terre di Franciacorta Bianco, Dolcetto d’Alba, and Chablis Vielles Vignes Venerables just to name a few). You can also order Japanese sake or choose from several varieties of tea.  The desserts are very good, and I particularly enjoyed a typical Chinese dessert made with azuki and rice flour. It is also possible to benefit from delivery service (with a minimum order of €35).

La Collina d’Oro, Via Rubens, 24 – 20148 Milan, Italy. Open every day except Monday. Check out the official website for opening hours.

Orange Passion.
Cocktail hour at Marchesi 1824 (Via Montenapoleone)

3) Marchesi 1824: Marchesi is one of the most elegant pastry bars in Milan and has several locations, in addition to the historic one on Via Santa Maria alla Porta (which I photographed here). I have also visited both the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele and Via Montenapoleone locations (for breakfast and cocktail hour, respectively) and it is always a fantastic food experience (especially if you have a sweet tooth for cakes because Marchesi chocolate cake is delicious; you can see a picture of it on my Flickr). Marchesi is synonymous with excellence both in pastry production and in carrying on the Milanese tradition of Panettone (Christmas traditional bread). The “aperitivo” at Marchesi has been taking place since the early 1900s, when owner Angelo Marchesi began serving drinks at cocktail hour, accompanied by cakes and other desserts. Today Marchesi is owned by the Prada Group and, like the luxury fashion brand, has become one of Milan’s most iconic and recognizable symbols, attracting a cosmopolitan and elegant clientele (it also recently opened a location in Mayfair, in the heart of London). The pastry shop has remained true to old traditions, using high-quality ingredients and many handmade pastry products. Everything is taken care of down to the smallest detail, from the presentation of the pastries to the window displays and pastel-hued packaging; in addition to enjoying an excellent breakfast or aperitivo, you can also purchase a variety of products, including chocolate desserts, candies, and jams.

Marchesi 1824, Via S. Maria alla Porta 11/a – Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – Via Montenapoleone, 9, Milan. Open daily. For opening times of the different locations check out the official website. 


Five Places To See In The Principality Of Monaco

Monaco views

I have been spending time in the French Riviera since I was a child. I would spend many summers and winters in the small town of Juan-les-Pins, especially in my teenage years, and it is in the French Riviera that I have made some of my fondest family memories. 

It has been more than fifteen years since I first visited Monaco, and I have returned countless times over the years, both with my family and on my own. The Principality has always been a holiday destination long before Grace Kelly became a princess; in fact, the French Riviera was already quite popular in the 1920s, when Jazz Age writers and artists (including Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda) would spend periods of time devoted to creativity and rest on the French Mediterranean coast, before the advent of World War II, as evidenced by the Assouline volume “The French Riviera in the 1920s” (which is full of wonderful photographs, as are all the books by the luxury publishing house).  

Monaco’s popularity is largely due to the inauguration of the world’s first casino-resort (Casino de Monte-Carlo), which became one of the most glamorous destinations as early as the Victorian era following the legalization of gambling in 1855, and which achieved iconic status among European resorts in the following decades. To this day, Monaco is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the French Riviera, thanks in part to the various events that take place each year, such as the Formula 1 Grand Prix de Monaco and the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters (which I would love to attend someday because I am a huge tennis fan). 

Monaco is one of the cities in Europe that I know the most; my cousin works there and I also have many family friends in the French Riviera. These days I’m not going back very often because I promised myself I would visit new places (this was after realizing that I often tend to go back to cities I have already visited), but I think the city’s landmarks are especially worth seeing. So I decided to do a top five of the must-visit places in Monaco; I recommend going there in the spring months because the French Riviera can be incredibly crowded in the summertime, which may not make you fully appreciate your visit (besides the fact that summers are very hot in the Mediterranean area). 

Casino de Monaco.
Place du Casino

1) Place du Casino: the Place du Casino represents the center of the Principality of Monaco, mainly due to the presence of the imposing Belle Époque-style building built by the famous architect Charles Garnier (who also created the Paris Opera). The building houses the Casino de Monte-Carlo, the headquarters of Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, and the Grand Théâtre de Monte-Carlo. Both the Casino and the adjacent Hotel de Paris are owned by Monaco SBM (Société des Bains de Mer), a company that owns a number of hotels, restaurants, and other venues in the Principality. The company also offers a loyalty program called MyMontecarlo, which through a card allows members to access a range of discounts and benefits at establishments operated by SBM (which I myself have been a member of in the past). The Casino has also been the location for a number of films over the years, such as Ocean’s Twelve (2004) and the 007 movie GoldenEye (1995). The square has undergone a total makeover in recent years, changing from a dome of turf to a total esplanade of tiles on which a number of palm trees have been planted; the Anish Kapoor mirror in the center, surrounded by a circular fountain, has been retained, and the square now looks very much as it did when it was first inaugurated in 1850. Café de Paris is located on the left side of the square looking at the Casino; it is ideal for coffee, orange juice, breakfast or lunch because of its privileged location that allows a wide view of the surrounding area, which now has a quieter atmosphere thanks to the pedestrianization of the square (although I retain a nostalgic memory of the old square, especially for the lighted trees during Christmas time). Also close to Place Du Casino is One Monte-Carlo (the new fashion district with 24 luxury boutiques, including French brands such as Saint Laurent and Louis Vuitton), the Metropole Shopping Center, which, with its elegant marble corridors and crystal chandeliers, includes 80 boutiques and six restaurants, and Les Jardins et Terrasses du Casino, a curated green space in the center of the Principality.

Le Rocher - Monaco.
Streets of Le Rocher

2) Le Rocher: this neighborhood is located in the upper part of Monaco, near the Place du Palais, site of the Palais Princier (the Prince’s residence, where the changing of the guard of the Carabiniers du Prince takes place every day). The old town is characterized by narrow medieval streets in whose surroundings are architectural buildings such as the Palais de Justice, the Palais de la Poste and the Romanesque-Byzantine style Cathedral. Le Rocher is the historical center of the Principality and constitutes one of the main districts of Monaco, as well as the oldest. In the same place are the Town Hall and the Palais Princier, whose apartments are open to the public from April to October, and it is possible to admire an array of period furniture and paintings housed within the halls.  Since the district is a promontory jutting out over the Mediterranean Sea and located in the upper part of the city, I recommend comfortable shoes if you want to reach the place on foot because the walk starting from the Rampe Major is slightly steep but really pleasant also thanks to the panoramic view over the Principality (it is during the walk that I took the photo which opens this article).

Le Rocher is indeed a quaint neighborhood, with its narrow streets, restaurants and typical shops, and it is very nice to visit; in fact, it is reminiscent of some of the old villages in the South of France because of its structure. The Old Town is located within the 16th-century ramparts, and its medieval alleys lead to some key places in the neighborhood, such as the Chapel of Mercy (Chapelle de la Miséricorde) and the Cathedral. Also near the Old Town are the Saint-Martin Gardens, which date back to 1816 and were the first public gardens opened in Monaco. They constitute a place of quietness that offers an exceptional view over the sea. Near the gardens is also the Oceanographic Museum, which I have visited several times over the years; in fact, I walked the narrow streets of Le Rocher during one of my last trips to the museum that was created by Prince Albert I in 1910. The other side of Le Rocher offers a view of Port Hercule and the rest of the Principality. I hope to visit Le Rocher more extensively in the future because it is a lovely place that you need to devote a good amount of time to. 


Armani Hotel Spa in Milan, Italy

Pool - Armani Hotel Milano.
The pool at Armani/SPA

Giorgio Armani is one of my favorite fashion designers and I have already talked about his empire of fashion, design, and luxury hotel business on my website. I recently wrote an article about my visit to the Armani Silos, a museum space dedicated to the Armani fashion universe, on the occasion of Emporio Armani’s 40th anniversary. I have also been to the Armani Hotel Restaurant several times over the years, especially during Milan Fashion Week.

I love anything that reflects the minimal style and philosophy of Giorgio Armani so I was very excited to spend a morning at the Armani Hotel Spa in Milan. The entire Armani Hotel and Restaurant complex is one of the most elegant and iconic places in the city, located on via Manzoni, in the Fashion District.

The exclusive environment of Armani/SPA fully embodies Giorgio Armani’s signature lifestyle and design. It is a 1000-square-meter corner of tranquility and well-being located on the eighth floor of Armani Hotel Milano that allows guests (both hotel guests and those who only want to use the spa service) to relax and participate in a wellness path equipped with a sauna, steam bath and ice waterfall.

Armani/SPA also offers its guests three philosophies of carefully designed treatments based on natural products, in order to meet each individual need: the MU philosophy includes a series of treatments that aim to induce a deep feeling of relaxation. The LIBERTÀ philosophy is designed specifically to free the mind and body from deep physical stress through scrubs and face/body masks. The FLUIDITÀ treatment collection aims to harmonize mind and body and improve the process of eliminating toxins and excess fluids. In addition, it is also possible to enjoy a series of two-hour facial and body treatments through the use of some of Armani’s signature skincare creations, such as the Armani Crema Nera line; the exfoliating mask with natural oriental-inspired products is especially recommended.

Armani / Spa.
Armani/SPA – Minimalism at its best