Rome and La Dolce Vita

Rome, the beautiful eternal city. Must admit, I felt slight travel stress when I thought that I should fit over 2000 years of the history of civilization in one long weekend. And soon I came to realize that I – obviously – couldn’t. And here is my first Rome tip: choose a few sights and places of interest, reserve time for wandering the side streets and discovering authentic trattorias and gateways with fountains and orange tree gardens and leave the rest until the next time.

Rome in late March was warm. It was around 23 degrees Celsius during the two sunny days. The last day of our visit was also the time of the Maratona di Roma: around one o’clock in the afternoon we saw a stream of tired runners wrapped in their silver space blankets heading home from the finishing area near the Colosseum. The end of March is an excellent time to visit the city. The flowers and vines are blooming, the warmth and the sunrays caress the visitor and the tourist season with its costlier prices is still not fully on (unless Easter is dated on that particular weekend). The chestnut vendors and street musicians are out by the piazzas and the queues to the most popular gelaterias stretch out to the streets. One thing that surprised me was the number of heavily armed soldiers and police officers all around the city, at metro stations, by the squares and in front of all the official buildings. It is both reassuring and slightly alarming at the same time.

In this post I’ll share a few favourites. A post about Roman cuisine and the adventures of one day are coming up a bit later!

The Colosseum. A stage of raw history and a spectacular must. On my first visit to Rome we spent the day there, marvelling at the arches of the exterior, the arena, the hypogeum and the thrilling size and scale of it all. This time we decided to focus on the other sights. No other monument has impressed me as much as the Colosseo. I read somewhere that the arena could also be flooded for water battles: can you imagine that? It must have taken ages to create a sea battle setting and where did they get enough water for that? So, my recommendation is that watch the Gladiator one more time and go (preferably book you tickets online in advance to avoid the lines).

Circo Massimo. Have you biked or ran along the runaway at the Tempelhof Airport in Berlin, the one that has ceased operating? In Circo Massimo you can get a similar experience by galloping around the grass field. This is where the epic chariot races (remember Ben Hur) took place in Ancient Rome.

Fresh-produce markets. I love markets and market life: they are great for picking something fresh and seasonal as a to-go lunch. We visited the Campo de’ Fiori on Saturday around one o’clock pm and it was still busy and lively at that time. The selection includes for example cheeses, fruits, vegetables, cut flowers and moka pots. Globe artichokes (the one resembling a big green pinecone) were one local ingredient which we spotted on the menu in the trattorias as well. March is the prime season for the carciofo alla giudia. Another well-known market, Mercato di Circo Massimo, is closed for now, just to let you know.

Roman Cuisine. I could write extensively and with passion about this. One primo piatto I really enjoyed was salad with bresaola, arugula and parmesan, insalata di bresaola con rucola e parmigiano. Just add a little olive oil. Pure deliciousness in the colours of Italy. Delicious were also the pasta cacio e pepe, carbonara and the tiramisu.

Explore and walk around the Centro Storico. The historic centre is thick on skilful sculptures and magnificent artworks. For example the church Chiesa di San Luigi dei Francesi houses three of Caravaggio’s stunning paintings. If all of a sudden the lights go out as you are admiring the canvases, you must insert a coin in the light box.

And then there of course is the Pantheon. The unique and striking Pantheon. The rays of light come inside the monument from the oculus in the centre of the dome. And as sunlight gets in so does the rain. The rain water drains away from the small holes in the marble floor.

More tips in my next post. Grazie mille, Roma!

What surprised me in Macau

Macau is referred to as the Vegas of the East, did you know? And it really lives up to that depiction with its showy casinos. But the city is much more than that, it is a fascinating mixture or European and Chinese culture and traditions.  We started our Christmas visit to Hong Kong with two days in Macau, a Special Administrative Region of China. It is convenient that you can take the ferry to Macau directly from the Hong Kong International Airport. Many nationalities are free of a Visa requirement. On the way there we chose the Super class option of the TurboJET ferry:  it was located on the upper deck and included a green tea or coffee and some rice snacks. The cost one way is $ 326 per person and the trip takes around one hour and fifteen minutes.

And here we are, in Macau. I’ll introduce certain things that, well, didn’t necessarily surprise me big time, but a little bit and in a delightful way.

First, it was warm, more that twenty degrees Celsius during the day. In December. During our day stroll I got to take my leather jacket off. The Poinsettia Christmas flowers were blooming. A peculiar thing was that many of the locals had dressed their small dogs in these warm quilted jackets. Couldn’t understand why and felt a bit sorry for the small furry fellows.

During the Xmas holiday season there was a proper Christmas Market, Feira de Natal, with pandas wearing red and golden reindeer horns, the traditional Nativity Scene, a sea of red Christmas flowers and stalls selling everything from caramel peanuts to bric-a-brac jewellery.

Second, the Portuguese impact and legacy. I learned that Macau was administered by the Portuguese Empire from the 16th century until late 1999, a long time. You can see the Portuguese impact in the architecture, in arcs, white pillars and pastel colours and also for example in the traffic signs. The city is a mixture of Portuguese style and Chinese life, details, temples and shrines.  One place exuding Portuguese heritage was the St. Michaels Cemetery (2A, Estrada do Cemiterio). It’s a thing for me to visit the cemetery when I am in a new city. In the center of this beautiful cemetery stood the turquoise St. Michaels Chapel. The cemetery is a peaceful place in the middle of the lively city. The names, photos, memorial phrases and flower compositions on the graves show the merging of the Chinese and Portuguese cultures.

The Portuguese impact could be tasted in the cuisine as well. For our Christmas dinner we enjoyed some codfish in the form of a fish cake at the restaurant Fado (No. 2-4 Estrada da Vitoria). Though the most delicious dinner was not Portuguese inspired but Singaporean: a small and simple place near the Mercado Municipal Horta. We sat right by the street and shared a rich chicken curry. The friendly owner lady gave us some good Macau tips.

The city was bigger than I had expected but yet compact. All of the central sights are within a walking distance. The most famous of the sights is the Ruins of the Church of St Paul. All that is left of the church now (there was a fire in the 1800s) is a majestic facade and a broad stairway. During our visit the place was packed with tourists, school groups and families having a lunch break or a photo session.

The monument with its statues, skillful details and pillars is definitely worth the visit but it is rather quickly seen. It would have been beneficial had there been an information board about the ruins explaining a little bit about the symbolics of the inscriptions. When you head away from the ruins along the small and narrow streets there are several opportunities to try the dried meat which seemed to be a popular snack among the locals.

The casino experience. You can’t really talk about Macau without mentioning the big and imposing casinos. I didn’t find a gambler deep inside me so a quick round in the game halls was enough for us. Furthermore many of the slot machines were rather difficult to comprehend: there were no easy-to-understand fruit games. But  that’s alright, I’ll save my game money for a cocktail, I thought, wishfully, dressed in my shining little black dress. It turned out that you have to make quite a walk in the casino area to find an elegant cocktail bar, or any cocktail bar really. But Rolex shops were ubiquitous: you could find one behind every corner. They were as frequent as the bridal shops downtown.

The most interesting aspect were the parts of cities built inside the casinos. The Venetian had the canals and gondolas and the Piazza San Marco and right outside the Parisian there was an illuminated and dazzling copy of the Eiffel Tower. Must admit, I was a little doubtful that the casino scene would be as dazzling as the Vegas comparisons promised, but it was.


One place that deserves a mentioning is the lobby of the Grand Lisboa Casino (2 Av. de Lisboa). There is a lot of antique and art on display from a private collection. The amount of gold and detail is stunning and stupendous.

I would say that Macao is a good destination for a day or two to be combined with a visit to Hong Kong.

Something baffling, fascinating and extremely realistic: Ron Mueck in Tampere


If you are heading to Tampere, here’s a chocolate tip and an art tip.

The first recommendation is the exhibition of Ron Mueck’s big human figures at the Sara Hildén art museum (Laiturikatu 13). This is the first time the works of this Australia born sculptor are on display in the Nordic countries.

The works are very realistic; his art has also been characterized as hyper realistic.  The body hair, skinfolds, a short bristle, wrinkles, a chip in the toe nail, the blood stains on a gigantic four meter long newborn baby and a bleeding wound.  The size, realism and the subjects of the works make them very impressive, and expressive. Mueck is talented, no question about that. I was both fascinated and baffled while looking at the sculptures.

I almost had to pinch myself from touching the works. The museum has tried to solve this problem by providing a material model with which the visitors can gently feel the materials that the artist uses.


In addition to the works themselves one fascinating thing was a video showing how the works are made. I watched it twice because the first time I didn’t quite grasp the whole process. So many work phases, an arduous process and so many people that are involved in the making of the pieces.

The exhibition is on until October 16, 2016. Check it out. The art museum is located right next to or almost inside an amusement park.



And not to forget, the chocolate tip: the chocolate shop Tallipihan Suklaapuoti in Tallipiha (Kuninkaankatu 4) won’t let you down if you want to keep your blood sugar levels high with chocolate truffles and traditional style caramels.