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Melting pot London

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London speaks more than 300 languages. It is indeed a boundless container of people, who the city has prized with a discreet and unyielding character, softening, on the other hand, their temperament and inclinations. So, despite the fact that you can’t describe the British as extroverted and out-going, they nevertheless show a greater capacity for extemporaneous friendliness; the taste, and the pleasure, for exotic cuisine, as well as the endurable patience to understand broken English. A kind of courtesy that is well-spread, and not solely formal, winds through the streets. British are very polite. In a restaurant, you will have to say thank you when you get the menu, thank you when you place the order, thank you when get your dishes, thank you when the waiter takes away the plates and even thank you when you pay! You’ll have to say “excuse me” if you want to pass someone and “I’m sorry” if you accidentally touch someone. British people even say sorry if you stand on their toes! This reassures everyone – even the most timid tourist – that he will never be left alone. This way everyone feels heartened, as he sense that the English language is for many locals here, like for himself, just a vector of communication, free of any cultural implications. Those English who are not tourists represent a rather vital trait d’union between their wonderful culture, and their daily life. In the north European metropolis, one feels like an evolved citizen and rests assured by homologated looks. Department stores with a sophisticated outline, illuminated with ultraviolet rays, have washed away their old smell of naphthalene. Away from the legendary Scottish textiles, away from the strong greyish Irish wool, away from the liberty flowers wallpapers painted in pastel colours, leaving the streets to their brightness and sounds. The sense of anonymity conveyed by these big shopping centres, which are the same everywhere, does not seem to bother any Italians. On the contrary, the Italians here covetously look for Gap, Jisgaw, H&M or any of the well-stocked shops, selling all kinds of food, like Selfridges or Mark&Spencer – still unheard of in Italy – which lead a more refined and exclusive purchase, all over the streets of South Kensington. Crowded without causing a sense of disorder, coloured and yet sober, animée but not fretful, set up to be a modern city – London is definitely not mechanic. Mistakes are human and tolerated here and they are perceived as one of the many exceptions to our daily lives. A notice indicates the opening hours of the underground customer service, and yet at the scheduled time no one is on duty. Self-sufficiency is a necessary talent and it is directly proportional to that sense of equanimity that affects British minds and which some define “indifference”.

Written by Cinzia Pierantonelli

Translated by Rocco Massarelli

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Low cost London

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Low cost London

Modernity is in the air, a quantum leap that the new political deal has permitted us to jump over in the past ten years, thus helping to redeem the country from years in which cuts and sacrifices had marked it way too deeply, reducing it to a poor, peripheral – and definitely not attractive – place.

An attractor

In London today, everything seems bursting with the scent of money, especially for those who come from European countries that may have with weaker currencies. But it certainly is expensive! For smart travellers, the best way is to book your low-fare flight online together one of those cheap bus services that can take straight to the city in no time. It is sure that today in London there’s always more and more low cost hotels coming out, starting as low as one pound in Tottenham – a very central area indeed! The city also offers an excellent transportation service, which is extremely dear but – if you manage to adjust it to your personal needs – can be very convenient. It can also be surprising to notice that, although traffic is moving rapidly and comfortably, buses always have enough seating, making it possible for everyone to enjoy the splendour of the city from the top of a double-decker bus. The underground line has been active for a very long time and, despite occasional slowness, functions efficiently from one end of town to the other. Using the shell-shaped black taxi is just another essential whim – if not just for the pleasure of experiencing something truly British. Trendy restaurants – these are essential too – like Prêt à Manger or Costa Coffee where you can find the typically English muffins or more international dishes, satisfying every kind of need, even economical, but especially they are well representative of a metropolis in which life is fast and lived very individually: students from every part of the world gather to join a cutting edge school and university system, a lot of singles, and many business men staying in the city for shorter periods. Museums are traditionally free, which is probably already something that can allow everyone – with no distinctions – to benefit from works of absolute value. It would be sufficient to enter the British Museum even for a few minutes and stop in front of the Rosetta stone and admire the magnificent – yet controversial because of the claims from Greece – friezes from the Parthenon, to feel part of our history and be enriched by it. The quality of life is also made of these affordable privileges. At night, bars are full of young people, anchor men and women looking for a place to meet new people or simply to unwind, to the point that a woman might argue that here girls go looking for the heir as if it was full of prince clones, maybe they delude themselves or perhaps they just want to look like princesses in a country where women, like the Queen for instance, really count and want their opinions to be respected. Attractions are uncountable in London and I don’t only mean the ones we’ve all studied at school. The offer has improved constantly in the past few years if you just think of the area around Tate Gallery. The 2012 Summer Olympic Games – for example – officially the Games of the XXX Olympiad, and also known as London 2012 as per the official logo, are scheduled to take place in London , from 27 July to 12 August 2012. Following a bid headed by former Olympic champion Sebastian Coe and the then Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, London was selected as the host city on 6 July 2005 during the 117th IOC Session in Singapore, defeating Moscow, New York City, Madrid and Paris. London will become the first city to officially host the modern Olympic Games three times, having previously done so in 1908 and in 1948. While budgetary considerations for the games have generated some criticism, they have also been welcomed by others as having prompted a redevelopment of many of the areas of London in which events are to be held – particularly themed towards sustainability. The main focus of the games will be a new 200 hectare Olympic Park, constructed on a former industrial site at Stratford in the east of London. The Games also make use of many venues which were already in place before the bid. The Games and the large amount of people from all over the world leaves us wonder how multi ethnicity can be so wide spread that people are no longer able to detect where everyone’s from. In fact, if colour and somatic traits may at times tell us something, at a closer look we might as well make think again.

Written by Cinzia Pierantonelli

Translated by Rocco Massarelli

A new London

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New, sumptuous, welcoming, cosmopolitan and clean. In occasion of the turn of the century, Tony Blair had managed to leave a millenary legacy by inaugurating a footbridge, later to be closed again for its lack of statics. After being fixed, the bridge had been reopened becoming one of the major attractions in the capital. Slowly walking across it can be quite exciting, as one can feel the Thames vibrating and its waters sloshing against the boats while the city looks away, unaffected. From the catwalk of the Millennium Bridge old and new architectures blend in a fascinating way. The Tower Bridge overlooks the river from a distance. On the one side of it is the Bankside: Tate Modern, the appendix for contemporary art of Tate Britain, a suggestive operation of industrial archaeology revised, the austere and gigantic building with a long chimney, was first a power plant, and now hosts areas with large paintings and sculptures by artists such as Mondrian, Hockey, Picasso, and offers an awesome view from the terraces of the building; the old Globe Theatre, the building which revisits the Shakespeare era, by organizing representations in broad daylight as it was then that the audience, was aimed at those who stood, that is the mob, whereas the lodges were reserved to the most affluent families. On the other side of the city: among the architecture that stands out the most we have the recent Gurky, a rather unique skyscraper in the architectural form of a cucumber and, of course, the monumental church of Saint Paul which the architect Christopher Wren conceived after a fire in 1666 with the idea to make this place the perfect combination of classic, as it is the Hellenic facade, and Baroque style, as in the decorations inside the dome. No less fascinating – and particularly suitable for small children – is the British Airways London Eye, the Ferris wheel from which to enjoy breath-taking skyline and which is located on the Westminster Bridge. Then, ideal for a Sunday stroll, Spitalfields is a craft market that can be reached by moving to Liverpool station, passing through the famous Huguenot Quarter. It’s surprising how the streets are so clean, clean and composed, unlike what happens in the U.S. for example. Perhaps this could be the result of a sense of vaguely Victorian prudery, when even table legs had to hide under long tablecloths; now it is still rare for people to consume foods on the street. Meals are one of those things that call for discretion and privacy, like the ritual of afternoon tea – which no Englishman will do without.

Written by Cinzia Pierantonelli

Translated by Rocco Massarelli

London inedited

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London is offbeat and tolerant. London is sunny, and incredibly warm and embracing – especially this year – so far from the stereotypes that depict it merely as a rainy and humid place. This summer, actually, looks particularly bright and even though we’re heading into the Olympics, the English feel no fear and have already adapted to the summer heat. They no longer represent – perhaps – those nineteenth century minds who would at best appreciate late rays peeking over the mountains of Liguria and that for nothing in the world would ever dare to gaze out to the beaches in Sicily? However, the favourable climate seems to make everything much easier and one often forgets to be walking in the streets of such a crowded city. Despite its gigantic proportions, the city extends for more than 60km and it’s divided into small entities: all neighbourhoods with a personality of their own, a strong human dimension, historical and well-preserved dwellings, as well as discreet and rigorous family units. Green is everywhere: from the worldly famous great parks like Hyde Park to the more limited spaces which are managed from the citizens themselves. Nature, sport and healthy food are as important as a pint of beer in a pub after work. And these, of course, are on the corner of every street: pubs are places where nothing – except the ubiquitous big flat screens broadcasting sport news – seems to have changed in decades; there’s even the same smoky pall and the soft lights, a dark and dense atmosphere, like Guiness – which people usually drink at room temperature, almost tepid. Nothing modern – so it seems – can be found in these unique places, irreproducible despite globalisation and despite all the efforts made by English-native businessmen who immigrated all over the continent. Because difference lays in the people who attend them from 5 o’clock onwards, after working visiting your favourite pub can become a necessity; for men and women equally.

Written by Cinzia Pierantonelli

Translated by Rocco Massarelli