Although it’s been a few years since I visited Malta , I still have a vivid memory in my mind. The stunning colours of this beautiful island, where the traces of the ancient Europoean history mingle with Africa’s breath , are still ingrained in my memory.
When I think of Malta, the first image that comes to my mind are high honey-colored cliffs plunging into a cobalt blue sea and the peace and quiet of its villages.
Due to its history and nature , Malta can add interest to a beach vacation and fun to a cultural holiday, as in one day you can go from white beaches kissed by the sun to cities and monuments that hod centuries of history within their walls.
Wherever you go, architecture and nature will follow you in an endless harmony that makes this island so special. It takes just a short flight from Italy to be immersed in its extraordinary views.

The more I think about it , the more beautiful images related to the different attractions of Malta come to my mind.

Do not miss Valletta, one of the finest natural harbors in the Mediterranean. Its long streets lined with tall buildings with clothes hanging out to dry in the sun remind me of the southern Italian cities, but its extraordinary architecture and archeology tell a story of many dominations . Valletta offers culture, history and a dash of mystery thanks to the legendary Knights of Malta, who built the city back in 1565, and the many civilizations that lived here.
Valletta’s walls are still the largest in the Mediterranean , a defensive fortification that protected the city against siege .
The Co-Cathedral of St. John is another emblem of Valletta; The beautiful church where the Knights were awarded their title, boasts baroque decorations , paintings and magnificent carved stones.

If Valletta is teeming with life at any time of the day thanks to its harbor and the many restaurants and cafes, Mdina , the old capital of Malta is quiet, as to be called “the silent City” . I recall the high defensive walls that enclose the medieval village and the quietness of its alleys where to walk slowly, admiring the many craft shops scattered along the streets. The city is situated on a hill in the center of Malta and its walls offer stunning views over the island .

And then I remember the beaches , colorful and beautiful, some popular and crowded with people ,others secluded bays off the tourist trails where you can enjoy solitude in the natural scenery . The Golden Bay, made of soft and warm sand, or Gnejna Bay, surrounded by high cliffs of white rocks ; the spectacular Peter’s Pool, a cliff away from it all which circles a natural pool of crystal water. Imgiebah on the east coast, quite difficult to reach but with beautiful amber sand and the sea of many shades of blue.

Malta is a small archipelago including the island of Gozo, with its many beaches and small fishing villages , and Comino , a destination for nature trails.
Gozo in particular , the second largest island after Malta , also has an interesting main town , Rabat (in arab and Victoria in Maltese ): dominated by the fortress of the Citadel , from which you can enjoy the view all around; It’s a city rich in historical monuments as the Sanctuary of Ta ‘ Pinu.

Comino is uninhabited but frequented by many tourists who come to walk along the trekking trails that cross it . Both Gozo and Comino offer many beaches and unique natural environments , surrounded by the Mediterranean vegetation and overlooking a clear blue sea.
The best way to see the coast is from a boat to get to the most spectacular spots . In Gozo you can reach Dwejra Bay with the Azure Window , a natural arch of rock created by millions of years of geological phenomena which is today the most famous icon of the Maltese Islands .
In Comino there is the Blue Lagoon, a narrow channel that amazes swimmers with its intense blue waters.

Another image that I keep of Malta is of its nice boats , the Luzzu . These traditional fishing boats colored in yellow, red, green and blue are typical of the Maltese archipelago. The bow is decorated with two eyes reminding of the ancient Greek and Phoenician ships, a sign of the strong bond of Malta with its past.
The many small fishing villages scattered around the coast are also very attractive , jewels keeping local folklore and traditions, where time seems to have stopped. Enjoy a local market wandering among the stalls covered with fine laces while in the harbor the fishermen unload the fish of the day. I am sure you too will keep this memory as one of the the most vivid and beautiful images of Malta, a lively and cheerful island that offers the perfect sea vacation along with history, culture and tradition.

An eventful and thrilling past has left Malta with a stirring story to tell. Now a treasure trove of heritage, charm and beauty, the islands offers something for everyone. 
With a beautiful coastline, medieval cities, charming villages and picturesque beaches, a flight to Malta would be a wonderful treat for any traveler.  

Malta for the culture lover
Malta is bursting at the seams with culture and heritage. Amongst many places of interest, Valletta and Mdina are the two must see cities as they hold the key to much of Malta’s history, customs and traditions.

Start off with a visit to the capital city of Malta, a unique UNESCO World Heritage site. Enjoy a stroll down the pedestrian zones lined with attractive shops, colourful balconies, cafes, churches and museums. Valletta is home to the magnificent St. John’s Co Cathedral with its Baroque interior of frescoes and gilded sculptured walls. A visit to the oratory where Caravaggio’s most famous ‘Beheading of Saint John the Baptist’ hangs, is definitely a must.

Simply put, Mdina is a time capsule holding a world of heritage and culture within its fortified walls. The Medieval city takes you back into the past as the narrow streets and beautiful baroque architecture unravel a historical story.  Simply ambling through the city will enable you to take in its charm and beauty. 

Malta for the Beach Lover
A trip to the beach whilst in Malta is compulsory. Being an island, Malta is blessed with a long coastline and a wide range of beaches. With rocky, sandy, remote or popular beaches to choose from, red sand or golden sand – one is really spoilt for choice!
The vast deep shimmering sea of the Mediterranean always offers a refreshing escape from the high temperatures during the Summer. Beach lidos, open air swimming pools and colourful ice cream parlours line much of the islands coast line.  After a day at the beach, take a stroll along the promenades overlooking the sea and enjoy a breathtaking view. You may be lucky enough to catch a heavenly sunset which fills the sky with beautiful pastel colours.
In order to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, head to a remote beach such as Paradise Bay, Ghadira Bay and Ghajn Tuffieha. These beaches are located away from the city centre and offer the most beautiful views and tranquil atmosphere – perfect for soaking up the sun. 

Malta for the Foodie
One´s experience of the islands and its culture is not complete without tasting the Maltese cuisine. Hints of different cultures give flavour to the Maltese dish however it is the freshness of Maltese produce, the mix of colour and the blend of herbs which really makes Maltese cooking so appetizing and unique. With sunny weather nearly all year round and plenty of sea, Malta boasts of delicious produce, fresh fish as well as fine wines.
Be sure to take a trip to the fish market in Marsaxlokk on a Sunday morning. Here you will not only experience the taste of fresh fish drawn from Maltese waters but you will also get a taste of the Maltese culture. Visit one of the popular fish restaurants which line the coastline to really satisfy your taste buds.

If you’re not a fan of fish, do not fret. Malta boasts of delicious fresh produce as well as its renowned Maltese bread. Pop by a snack bar, kiosk or cafe and treat yourself to a typical Maltese snack known as ‘hobz biz-zejt’. This is fresh crunchy bread rubbed with Maltese tomatoes and olive oil and then topped with onions, tuna, capers and of course, more tomatoes.

Another traditional snack which will leave your mouth watering for more is ‘pastizzi’, a flaky pastry filled with ricotta or peas. These crunchy rich pastry parcels can be found at any pastizzerija sell at the very tempting price of 30 cents.
To truly experience the taste of Mediterranean lifestyle, take a seat at a snack bar, ask for pastizzi and te fit-tazza (tea in a glass) and you may be mistaken for a local.

Malta for the Night life lover

After visiting numerous museums, churches and other places of interest, it’s time to put on your dancing shoes and experience what Maltese nightlife has to offer.
Visit Paceville, the heart of entertainment and the hub of social nightlife to get into the party mood. It is here where most young people gather to enjoy a night out. The town of entertainment is packed with nightclubs, cinemas, pubs, a bowling alley, as well as beaches to add to the feel of fun and entertainment.
Alternatively, a visit to the capital city at night is perfect for anyone looking to have a good time whilst avoiding the clubbing scene. Wining and dining in Valletta will take you to some of the most original, quaint and charming restaurants and wine bars on the island. Most of them are tucked away in Valletta’s narrow streets, taking you through bastion walls and old Maltese houses. The sounds of jazz bands, musicians singing, wine flowing, chitter chatter and crowds of people create a wonderful and unique atmosphere that is hard to find anywhere else.
A few days in Malta will leave you sun kissed, refreshed, inspired and definitely wanting to come back for more. Whether you’re in for a relaxed holiday by the sea or a trip full of parties and loads of fun, pack your bags and visit the island – You won’t be disappointed!  

Always on the move. It’s the first sentence I read on the boards introducing to the Red Star Line Museum, opened last September in Antwerp and dedicated to all those migrants who set sail from the city port to a new life .

People have always felt the need to move , to look for new places to live : an instinct that has sealed the fate of all mankind and wrote the story of generations.
The multitude of people that between the late XVIII century and early decades of the XIX came to Antwerp to leave Europe was moved by despair  coming from hunger , hard times and a stagnant agricultural economy that forced many  people to try their fortune elsewhere . I try to imagine the anguish of fathers and mothers forced to take their family across an immense ocean to an unknown world: the last hope before surrendering to a fate of hunger.

The journey these people had to face  began even before setting sail , leaving from Germany , Eastern Europe and Russia to arrive in Antwerp, with the money for the ticket of the crossing in third class .

These are the stories the museum tells , with great humanity and sensitivity , focusing on people, on their hopes and their dreams . A story told from the point of view of the most humble protagonists , a narration that tries to convey all the anguish but also the dignity and strength of those people.

The exhibition is housed within the historic warehouses of the Red Star Line , the shipping company that owned the ships that took this multitude of people on a journey across the ocean to Canada and the U.S. . The stores , which have remained unused for many years after the war marked the abrupt ending of migration, are an important heritage for the city , a symbol of that bridge to America that Antwerp represented for many years.

The aim of the museum is also requalifying these sotres as long as the port , making them modern multifunctional centres that house, together with the museum , temporary exhibitions and become melting pots for citizens and tourists.
In the large central hall I meet Luc Verheyen , the project manager, who tells me the long years passed collecting information on migrants and their stories, the hard times finding information on people and families , but also the joy when a story was finally tracked down.
Symbol of this research is the iconic image of a young girl sitting on a bench holding a Red Star Line ticket in her hands .

Luc tells how they long sought to trace the identity of the young girl spreading her photo everywhere: she’s supposed to be Kattyna Szysz , but there are no reliable data about her identity.
I look at her serious face that seems to get out of the photograph, her eyes conveying the great sense of uncertainty  in front of the journey into the unknown that she was about to undertake.
The exhibition faithfully reconstructs the steps that migrants had to face along the journey to a new life overseas. Each adventure began in a travel agency in their hometown , where a series of leaflets advertised America as the new Promised Land. Red Star Line’s posters are true works of art conveying the atmosphere of the times with the same power of modern images , even though relying only on drawings.

The route continues in one of the wooden train coaches in which migrants undertook the long journey to Antwerp, where they then stayed in filthy hotels waiting for their boarding pass .
It was just inside the premises of the Red Star Line where the most difficult steps began , with the first medical examinations that had to decree the qualification of passengers to travel. The check-ups were scrupulous because the other side of the Atlantic U.S. authorities rejected individuals who were not perfectly healthy , to prevent the spread of epidemics.
The exhibition continues in the changing rooms and showers where migrants, divided between women and men, passed : some original photos of the period are located in exactly the same spot where they were taken, creating a sort of thread between past and present  and an emotional connection with the migrants.
An entire section of the museum is dedicated to the meticulous reconstruction of the stories of six migrants , chosen to represent the two millions who passed through these premises .
Here I meet Ita , who in 1922 at the age of nine travelled to Ellis Island with her mother and three brothers to join her father. Arrived at destination , she was rejected because she had glaucoma , an eye infection which was rather common at that time.
She was thus forced to leave her family in America and get back to Antwerp where she remained one year, where she was taken care by as association of volunteers. The story repeated a second time when Ita was again rejected and forced to return to Europe. Reunification with the family occurred only five years later, in 1927 : I try to figure out the despair of her mother having to leave a little girl behind and the terror of Ita , alone with an ocean to separate her from her family.
I look at all those boards crammed with photos, handwritten letters and video interviews to the descendants of migrants and I understand how the arrival to America was not the end but the beginning of an odyssey that often ended yet before beginning, with a red stamp on the documents ” denied”. But even for those admitted , the arrival in the United States marked the beginning of a difficult journey in search of a job and a house, and a fortune that sometimes did not come, forcing many to return to Europe even poorer than before .
The exhibition continues in a room hosting a scale model of a ship , showing the beauty of these true engineering jewels. It is easy to understand how the crossing for 1st class passengers was much more comfortable than those of the third class , crammed into small cabins in the lower decks . Wealthy passengers could instead enjoy luxury cabins , dining rooms gleaming with porcelain and silver and magnificent bridges to walk outdoors.
The last part of the exhibition reconstructs the arrival at Ellis Island , the largest hub of all times where more than 12 million passengers passed through . It’s easy to imagine the anguish of migrants , exhausted by the trip and fearful of being rejected at the health checks. Ellis Island was by far the biggest obstacle of the entire journey , the rock against which many would see shattered all hopes of starting a new life .
In the last section the museum becomes heritage of the whole community , not just the city but whole Europe , inviting visitors to tell and share family stories of migration, searching the museum’s archives looking for names and traces of their passage here.
A collective story that affects everyone : Antwerp first and foremost , a community made ​​up of over one hundred nationalities , a symbol of multiculturalism and a crossroad since the Middle Ages; Europe , which saw many of its citizens exhausted from a life of misery and despair leaving everything behind to chase the unknown; the United States that on those hopes and despair laid the foundations of their modern history , ensuring to many people a new and prosperous life. Past history repeating in the new migrations today, again caused by an economic crisis that drives many , young and old , to move elsewhere .

Lives on the move, now as then. Migration is a timeless story.

Con grande piacere ospito questo post di Alison, appassionata viaggiatrice innamorata del suo paese, l’Inghilterra, e del turismo lento. Alison è ideatrice e fondatrice di Foot Trails, un’agenzia che si occupa di turismo rurale e organizza itinerari a piedi lungo i sentieri più spettacolari e meno battuti d’Inghilterra. 
Alison ci racconta com’è nata l’idea di Foot Trails e come si è evoluta negli anni.

I began Foot Trails a British travel company, because I was frustrated by the stereotypical image of walking in England and by a lack of authenticity in UK walking experiences.
I grew up in farming. For me walking is a wonderful way to explore and travel. It connects the visitor to the landscape in a way that is totally different to any other form of transport. It’s slow and deliberate. It enables you the traveller to immerse yourself in the landscape. Taking your time you discover the lands stories and histories, nature and villages.
This was 11 years ago. Since then Foot Trails has grown from a company I began at my kitchen table to one of the leading British travel companies for rural England walking.

Today with Foot Trails you can explore many different counties of South West England including Dorset, Somerset, The Cotswolds, Wiltshire and Bath and Avon. The South West of England is blessed with a milder climate than other regions of the UK as well as a fascinating history and varied landscapes that include woodland, river, meadow, chalk down, market town, village, pasture and farm land.
Each county has its own particular beauty, characteristics, local food specialities and architecture.  We work to bring out the best of these qualities as we create our foot trails from scratch and hand-pick local country pubs as accommodation. Country pubs and country inns are of course a unique style of accommodation to England. They have been offering hospitality to travellers for centuries and seen a wonderful refurbishment in the past decade. We hand-pick each ensuring a blend of character and indulgence with modern standards. They really do make a wonderful way to explore the countryside.

Foot Trails are unique ways to walk in England too. Largely avoiding the well known national trails (some of which see in excess of 800 000 visitors a year) our authentic trails take you off the beaten track. You will wander peacefully through villages, hamlets, pass ancient churches and historic sites, enjoy breath-taking views of England’s green pastures. Each trail is planned to features a lunchtime country pub or farm café so you can enjoy our wonderful local food on route.
I’ve picked a few counties here where we have created Foot Trails and highlighted some of the experiences you can consider.
The Cotswolds  are well known for their honey coloured stone, dry stone walls and beautiful villages. Some areas of the Cotswolds become terribly busy with visitors but our trails use local knowledge to avoid these typically tourist areas and take you off the beaten track.
Choose  Secret Corswolds to really get away from it all. Or Journey Across the Cotswolds for a more classic yet peaceful inn to inn experience.

Wiltshire is less well known than the Cotswolds but has astounding beauty and a rich human history that stretches back some 6000 years. Many know Wiltshire for Stonehenge but the county has hidden beauty and the South has a string of delightful medieval villages.
For medieval history and England’s only hexagonal castle try Knights Medieval Castle or weave in Dorset with our Wiltshire and Dorset Borders inn to inn style holiday.

Thank you for reading about us. For more information about walking in England with Foot Trails please visit our website at read more about our story or discover the other walking experiences we offer.

To get deep into futuristic Singapore there’s nothing better then the area around its bay starting from marina Bay Sands,
the stunning complex of three skyscrapers on top of which there’s a swimming pool shaped like a boat : this alone will be enough to satiate your craving for futuristic architecture .

The complex includes a 5 star hotel , conference rooms , theatres , a super fashion shopping mall with boutiques of the most famous designers and outdoor areas adorned with fountains and flowers. Skypark , the roof terrace adjacent to the pool is definitely worth a visit, and the pool itself is gorgeous, suspended at 340 meters height with stunning views of the city skyline , but unfortunately  it’s for hotel guests only; guided visits are possible twice a day at fixed hours , ask at the ticket office .
Across the bay, at the mouth of the Singapore River , there are other fabulous office buildings and numerous bars , always full of people at any time of day. Here there’s the Fullerton, a super luxury hotel divided into two parts: on one side of the street the historic Victorian building , once the Post Office , on the other side directly on the bay a futuristic complex that includes several buildings with restaurants, bars and a trendy hotel that make the area one of the most glamorous of the city , especially at night when all the buildings are lit and the tables outside are full of managers and employees that work here, as well as many tourists enjoying the bay at night.
Not far from the complex , following the elegant wooden walkway that runs along the bay you get to the Merlion, a statue with the head of a lion and the body of the fish symbol of the city: its name derives from the merge of the word mermaid with lion . The terrace in front of the statue is a great place to take pictures of the compound of the Marina and the bay.

For a fireworks display like no other come here in the evening when all the skyscrapers light up and marina skyscrapers project beams of colored lights that dance to the rhythm of music, creating an amazing play of light. Just behind Marina Bay Sands, another stunning attraction awaits visitors: the Gardens by the Bay host two spectacular steel and glass domes , huge greenhouses where species of plants and flowers from all over the world grow. Personally I’m not a lover of greenhouses, but the domes themselves are certainly worth a visit. It is glass structures among the largest in the world ( 16,500 sqm). The “Flower Dome” reproduces the climatic conditions of the Mediterranean and tropical regions while the “Cloud Forest” those of the jungle. Both greenhouses are examples of high engineering and energy saving : the special glass used allow the solar radiation to get through and at the same time mitigates the heat of the sun while a sophisticated shading system consisting of triangular fully automated sails allows to regulate the amount of light and heat that gets through at different times of the day.

A short distance from the Botanical Gardens , another architectural marvel will leave you breathless : the Supertree Grove.These trees, from 25 to 50 meters high , are covered with ferns , orchids and vines and are equipped with a technology that reproduces trees’ biochemical process: photovoltaic cells perform the functions of photosynthesis and ventilation .If during daylight hours these spectacular trees and cool shade from the heat, at night they create an amazing show that gets you to Avatar’s world : the trees are illuminated by lights that change colour going from emerald green to red to purple. If viewed from underneath they are stunning , just go to the panoramic terraces overlooking the Tree Grove for a panoramic view that will leave you breathless : the colourful with Marina Bay and the Singapore skyline in the background. One of the most exciting metropolitan shows I’ve ever seen !

One of the most popular tourist destination, Sirmione is called the pearl of Garda Lake , a jewel nestled on a peninsula reaching out to the lake.
 The old town has an extraordinary artistic heritage fruit of centuries of history. Once an important Roman site , it then became part of the Lombard empire, then Veronese and  was then annexed to the Venetian Republic.
 This succession of eras and cultures has left an indelible mark on the geography and architecture of the city, and it is this mixture of styles that makes the place so special.
The entrance to the town is marked by the massive fortress of the Scaliger Castle , dating back to the thirteenth century and surrounded by the lake’s blue water.

The three towers and the male , 47 meters high , embellished with battlements dovetail , create a strong impact and the impression that you have is to enter in a medieval village .

Near the castle , along a narrow cobbled street ,St. Anne’s Church , dedicated to the mother of the Virgin Mary , is a small building dating back to the fifteenth century: inside there are votive frescoes of the sixteenth century and a painting on stone depicting the Madonna . It is worth stopping here to admire the simple and clean facade of this lovely church.
In the inside the town is a pleasant maze of narrow streets bursting with shops displaying colourful pottery , scented soaps , paintings, jewellery, embroidered tablecloths and the typical products of Garda , first of all the oil produced from the many olive trees that grow on the slopes and the hills surrounding the lake.
Walking along the main street you get to the Terme di Sirmione : as soon as you cross the threshold  a strong smell of sulfur saturates the air. Sirmione’s water is in fact rich in this element that makes it particularly healthy for the skin and lungs, a treat to which it is hard to say no, especially admiring the beautiful spa park on the outside garden with a spectacular view of the lake .
Leaving the Terme behind, the main road continues uphill through a beautiful park of tall maples and pines until you come to a spectacular rooftop terrace from which you can enjoy a 180 ° view of the lake and coastal countries.
On the tip of the island the Grotte di Catullo are a vast archaeological area that extends on the place where , in Roman times, there was an immense patrician villa . According to the tradition , this was the birthplace of the famous Latin poet Gaius Valerius Catullus. During  the last centuries of the empire,the villa was abandoned  and the vegetation soon covered it entirely . The cavity formed by the half-ruined buildings  determined the name by which the place is still known. The archaeological site is open to visitors and is a place of great charm with a stunning landscape , jutting into the lake to embrace a vast stretch of coastline.
For those who do not want to get up here on foot, there is a comfortable electric train that goes back and forth from the Therme to the panoramic square for only € 1 per ride.
On the way back you can stop at the beach, a pleasant place to have a coffee or lunch admiring the view of the lake or sunbathe on the rocks.

A short distance from the famous Rabat and Fez , Meknes is a little Moroccan jewel ready to show its beauty to visitors. The city is called the Versailles of Morocco for the palaces , mosques , stables and the beautiful gardens that adorn it .

The Sultan Moulay Ismal in the seventeenth century chose it as the capital of the Kingdom and wanted to make it the most wonderful of the imperial cities , transforming it in less than fifty years in an architectural marvel shining with gold and ceramics adorned of elegant damask patterns . Thanks to the valuble artistic heritage, the city has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage sites .
The tour starts from the Bab Mansour , the majestic wall complex that form the entrance to the city , with a profusion of  decorations that adorn tiles and marbles .
Dar Jamai , 1882, which houses the Museum of Moroccan Art , is a beautiful building adorned with a magnificent Andalusian-style garden with palm and lemon trees, where it is nice to take a break to escape from the heat .
The city tour continues among beautiful buildings covered with arabesque patterns as precious laces and streets crammed with people and perfumes up to the Dar el Ma , the stables of Moulay Ismail . its huge proportions were meant to express the greatness of the kingdom, and the astonishing arch system creating an amazing perspective view demonstrate the engineering skills of the builders and seem to embrace the visitors and carry them into a marvellous maze.
The city tour end up in the souk of Meknes , much smaller than those of Fez and Marrakech but with a more intimate atmosphere and less crowded with tourists : here there is no pre-established path , the key to enjoy it is to get lost in tis maze along the narrow alleys packed with beautiful objects that tell stories of ancient crafts and traditions.

The beauty of Meknes lies not only in the beautiful architecture but also in its position , at the top of a hill surrounded by lush valleys. It’s in these valleys covered with olive and palm trees , about thirty kilometers from the city , that lies Volubilis , the most important and best preserved Roman site in Morocco. The decumannus still shows the perimeter of the shops and houses , with beautiful polychrome marble mosaics , and remains of the baths and therme . The Romans once again surprised me with one of the most beautiful archaeological sites I have ever seen in the middle of the hot Moroccan land . Or maybe it’s the combination of Mediterranean architecture and Moorish atmosphere that makes this place so special , another jewel of this magnificent country that keeps surprising me.

 Kota Kinabalu stands to Borneo as Kuala Lumpur stands to Malaysia . Sabah’s capital is the most modern and cosmopolitan of all Malaysian Borneo , made up of wide roads , modern buildings and shopping centers at every corner. Even though not boasting the elegant malls of KL , it is a future-oriented city that tries to give a gorgeous new pictures of itself with gleaming glass and steel buildings . But the restyling process has just begun and the city still has a strong Asian footprint , the one that strikes at first sight : dirty alleys crammed with Chinese shops selling all sorts of goods of uncertain origin, local diners of steaming hot noddles with worn-out furniture , markets where hygiene concerns are far from our standard. For travelers who are not familiar to the Asian world , the impact with KK, as the locals call it , can be pretty shocking. But it is in this universe of humanity and ways of life so different from ours you can experience the real South East Asia, teeming with life and activity.

The most characteristic place is the amazing night market : if you’ve never been to an Asian market , this is the place . At the shadow of the Meridien , which pampers the European customers with the most opulent luxury , every evening is staged an open air theatre where the actors are street vendors extolling their goods in a loud voice : vegetables of all kinds, exotic fruits unknown in the West, fresh fish, meat , eggs …. nothing is missing .
The stalls are organized into sections depending on the foodstuff ; those with fish and meat are the most characteristic : streams of water mixed with the blood of the fish cut on the spot flow under the customers and tourist’ feets. Getting here is like stepping into a Dantesque circle , a jumble of voices and strong smells that fill the nostrils.
At dusk the square becomes a huge dining room where diners can taste the fish freshly cooked on the coals . Long tables hosts local people who eat fish and shellfish armed only with sticks and bare hands, while next to them European tourists , who come here for the authenticity of the place, hesitantly approach to food , trying to figure out how orders work. Nothing could be simpler : you just have to indicate the fish you want and wait at  the table to be served! Even though the Asian face of KK is strong and dominant , there are some city corners where you suddenly get transported in Britain of late Nineteenth Century . Before the war destroyed the city , its name  was Jesselton Town and here lived British settlers . Jesselton Hotel, the first hotel to be built in town , has elegant white facades overlooking Java Street , once called Bond Street , which is now the heart of the city. The rooms, although with a little old-fashioned furniture , are perfectly maintained and the guy welcoming tourists outside the hotel’s entrance, dressed with white shirt and  shorts in perfect english jungle  style, reminds of Old British Empire.

Another nice place to enjoy the city  is the area facing the sea with a wooden walkway overlooking the harbour and the islands in front . The area is full of restaurants and pubs very welcoming to tourists, but the prices are really high compared to the rest of the city: I would not recommend eating here, but the place is worth a visit for a walk at dusk to watch the sunset or the fishing boats return home.

Imagine an immense jungle , hundreds of miles away from civilization, tall trees , lush vegetation where countless species of insects and birds live.

Imagine huge caves that penetrate into the belly of the earth , where rivers flow underground and millions of bats hang on the vaults.
That, and much more, is Gunung Mulu National Park, one of the most beautiful areas of Sarawak , near the border to Brunei and Sabah.
With no roads connecting with civilization , this place can only be reached by plane leaving from Kuching , which is just a two hour flight away, or from Kota Kinabalu at less than an hour, flying over miles and miles of jungle.

It takes only two hours flight to leave the civilized world behind and land on a  lonely airstrip surrounded by greenery, in a landscape that embodies Borneo itself: unspoilt and mighty nature  .
Getting off the plane, emotion skyrockets : around me there’s only the jungle, an endless stretch of green stretched on a blue sky that seems closer than ever, as if I could just reach out and touch it.
In just a few minutes by taxi we get to the headquarter of the park : a bridge going over a caramel river leads to the main offices. The girl who welcomes us is very kind , the service is perfect : I booked our stay months before and on arrival everything is as required , and nobody asked me a penny in advance ! We get the keys and walk along the wooden walkways that lead to the rooms , where we find a huge and beautiful wooden bungalows nestled in the jungle with a sloping roof and a big patio with deck chairs where to lie down and admire the greenery all around. Inside the bungalow  is comfortable and spacious, a sober and decent style that fits perfectly with the place .
Mulu Park soon shows us its lush beauty : nature is there , just outside our door, only few steps away.
Although located in the heart of the rain forest  with the nearest city at more than 700 kilometres away, the park has been equipped so to make the jungle experience easy and comfortable : miles of wooden walkways getting inside the jungle trace paths that visitors can follow in  safety without running the risk of being bitten by some insects or spiders . Park guides organize trekking excursions for all levels, from easy walks to multi-days treks where you get deep in  the caves with mud and guano or you climb the highest peaks in the area.
Mulu is not only jungle but also huge caves, including the Chamber of Sarawak, considered the largest cave in the world : to reach it you have to face a 12 hours journey to the center of the earth! Only for experienced trekkers . Since I’m not trained enough to face such a trek , I chose the most simple excursions but the experience was anyway amaizing!

The Clearwater Cave gets deep  in the dark among magnificent and beautiful stalactites and huge caves like churches, until the silence is suddenly broken by the tumultuous rush of a fast flowing river shaping rocks with its power , creating all this wonder .
The Deer Cave is a  huge cave surrounded by the jungle where a multitude of bats live, too high to be seen with naked eye but whose presence is revealed  by their strident verses and the unmistakable smell of strange slime coving the floor, which is actually guano ! I know it seems disgusting but believe me when I say that walking in this natural cathedral  wrapped in a religious silence with the lush jungle outside makes you forget all the rest and fills the senses with wonder.
Outside the cave, another extraordinary event rewards the effort of the trekking: from a small arena set up just outside the entrance to the cave, each evening at dusk you can watch the bat exodus : millions of bats leave the cave and head to the jungle for the night hunting , flying in compact groups that draw fancy shapes in the sky and sinuous strips that seem to come from the brush of an artist.
It’s at nightfall that Mulu gets at its best : with darkness the creatures living in the jungle come out and give life to a symphony , a music that captures the senses , so powerful to give skin goose , so intense that you feel it in the belly .

The night walk was one of those unique experiences I will never forget : walking in the dark along the walkways that meander through the jungle , the step illuminated only by the light of torches, stopping to observe insects, small rodents , spiders and huge branches covered with fungi that gets fluorescent in the dark; wonderful creatures that seem to belong to a fairy world . Our guide shows us an insect with wings shaped like leaves that open and close making a sound similar to a violin : I remain some minutes listening to it, enraptured by the perfection and the volume of the music that this little thing is able to create so naturally . A small note in the high and mighty jungle’s song, an harmonious cacophony that gets into the skin , goes through the veins and reaches the heart where it explodes in a riot of emotions that you know you will never forget.

It  was worth travelling the other side of the world to listen even to a single minute of this music . I had never been so close to nature, its disarming and exiting beauty has left me stunned and full of wonder.

Speaking of New York is no easy task due to the many possibilities the Big Apple offers . Visiting NY it is always exiting , especially the first time: everyone has already been here before and knows the unmistakable Manhattan skyline and the crowded streets full of people and yellow taxis: images seen thousands times in magazines, movies and TV shows . 
New York is vital , exciting, glamorous… adjectives abound for this metropolis symbol of the American dream .
But it can be intimate too , and even moving . That’s what I experienced visiting Liberty and Ellis Island, two islands not far from lower Manhattan.
These islands are the perfect destination for a day trip away from the hustle and bustle of the city and a chance to get in touch with America’s history.

Ferries to the islands depart from the pier in Battery Park at walking distance from Wall Street, the financial

heart of the city. The ferry ride is a journey itself providing spectacular views of Manhattan skyline : from here you get a clear perception of the density of skyscrapers crammed into a few square meters, which seem to sink into the the sea any moments , as if all that steel and glass were too heavy for the thin strip of land on which they lay .

I admit that I came to Liberty Island rather biased , convinced that its famous tenant would disappoint me. But the Statue of Liberty, though not huge, enchanted with its perfect and harmonious face and a sharp look that conveys pride and sagacity .
In the intention of its designer , Eiffel , the Statue had to represent American independence and I think the goal has been achieved because its serious and fair expression reveals the soul of a nation based on dreams and courage.
But the real gem of the day is Ellis Island  that from 1894 to 1954 was used as a sorting station for immigrants .
The original building , masterfully restored, has been turned into  the Museum of Immigration.  The huge Registry Room , with vaulted ceiling, where hope and despair often intertwined, has been left blank , apart from some counters where the inspectors used to seat. Alongside a series of rooms with interesting photographs and text explain the process that the immigrants unterwnet for the first inspection : the rooms covered with white tiles remind me more of a prison rather than the prelude to a new life and I wonder what an immense anxiety all those people must have felt  while doctors decided their destiny .
I wander silently along the halls so as not to disturb the memory of all those who passed here, behind them the farewell to their country, in front of them the hope of a new beginning.
When I get the great Hall of Registration, the emotion skyrockets : millions of Americans can trace their family origins to a man , a woman or a child who passed through this room ; migrants entered the room through the ” stairs of Separation ” , which marked the dividing point for many families and acquaintances to various destinations. I try to figure them in my mind , men tired from the long journey waiting patiently for their turn , women holding hands with theis babies, in their eyes the fear of seeing all hopes of a better life for their family break into pieces. I try to imagine the anxiety they must have felt and the relief when immigration officials gave their permit.

Other rooms illustrate the stories of these people : photographs, texts, small household items , items used along the sea journey and even recordings of original voices . Stories of dreams, hopes , losses, separations and encounters, lives that pass before my eyes, a mosaic of small moments that forged a country.
On the first floor there is an exhibition “The people of America ,” which tells four centuries of American immigration , offering a portrait of the migrants : who they were, where they came from , why they emigrated. Here there are also computers to access the huge migrants file and look for the names of friends and relatives who emigrated, to track down a tangible sign of their being here. 
The sorting migrant station  was designed to accommodate 500,000 immigrants per year , but in the early part of the century the number was more than double, a multitude of people that crossed these rooms, bringing with them their roots , their memories , their traditions  mixed with dreams and hopes for a new life.

Here America has its own roots , and it here the Old Continent has established new foundations , delivering part of his people to a new story.

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