The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

BOOK REVIEW: “Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore” by Barbara Conelli

TITLE: Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore
AUTHOR: Barbara Conelli
Twitter: @BarbaraConelli
FORMAT: Ebook (Kindle) and Paperback, available from Amazon
GENRE: Travel
SOURCE: Review copy from author

Author Bio:

Born in London to an Austrian mother and an Italian father, Barb now splits her time between Milan and New York. Her first book, Chique Secrets of Dolce Vita, was published in 2011. She is the host of  Chique Show at Blog Talk Radio, where she interviews authors and talks about life in and her passion for Italy.


Fascinating, enthralling and seductive travel and life tales about unexpected encounters with the capricious, unpredictable and extravagant city of Milan, its glamorous feminine secrets, the everyday magic of its dreamy streets, the passionate romance of its elegant hideaways, and the sweet Italian art of delightfully falling in love with your life wherever you go.

(Amazon product description)


In their instructions for describing someone’s appearance, “How To Write” gurus advise you not to reel off physical characteristics in a shopping list. Don’t write “blond hair, brown eyes, even teeth”, they say, but focus on a couple of arresting features: stripy but chipped nail polish, or a wrist laden with silver bangles.

By describing in detail only personal, quirky aspects of the whole, these teachers rightly insist, you create a vivid picture for your readers.

This is exactly how Barb Conelli brings to life the Milan she knows and loves.

Instead of reciting a shopping list of Places You Must See, which you could find in any guide to Milan, Conelli figuratively takes you by the hand and says, “Forget the official tour. Let me show you my Milan, the people and places I love.”

On this off-the-beaten-track tour of Milan’s streets, we visit The Paradise of Pink Feathers: the garden in Via die Cappuccini number nine, with its many flamingos, whose owner’s identity nobody really knows. We eat panettone at Marchesi’s, while Conelli relates the fascinating legends behind the pastry’s origin. (Tip: you should first try it on 3rd February, because on this day panettone has magic powers. Who knew?) On one day, she brings you along to visit the studio of an artist friend; on another, we go to the ballet school of Annamaria Bruno and her daughter Liliana to live out our dreams and become ballerinas in point shoes for a day. We meet the ghost of Mrs. Giuseppina Luini, an enterprising baker from Puglia who came to Milan in 1949, and turned the family recipe of Panzerotti into a Milanese legend.

Milan’s beauty, Conelli says, does not just lie in its breathtaking architecture, but in its inhabitants, past and present.

To me, the city is not an inanimate cluster of buildings and their architectural elements; the city is a living organism boiling with energy, its features are being recreated every day by the people who walk its streets.

It’s a city full of secret corners and quiet clusters of serenity; of shadows of people long dead, and the vibrance of those living today.

In taking a walk with Barbara, we discover the magic that is Milan.

Words of wisdom:

In order to see the world, you must know how to look at it.


When the streets of Milan ask you to dance, there’s nothing else to do but put on your ballet shoes and surrender with confidence to the arms of the city.


As an Italian, [my father] had rich experience with diabolic temptation and enjoyed surrendering to it very often and with great delight.


Despite its fickleness, vanity, unpredictability, and fancy for sophisticated elegance, Milan is an immensely simple city whose inhabitants know that real joy means seeing miraculous moments in everyday ordinariness.


At 76 pages, this book is a short but very satisfying read. If you have not been to Milan, it will make you want to visit; if you’re not a newcomer to the city, you will want to rediscover it.

Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore can be purchased here.

Or you can register for The Displaced Dispatch and hope you’ll be one of this month’s lucky winners!

Editor’s note: Kate Allison interviewed Barbara Conelli in March: “An Italian with a passion: How to live the Dolce Vita, with Barbara Conelli,” which is what inspired this month’s Displaced Nation theme of La Dolce Vita.

STAY TUNED for Wednesday’s Random Nomad interview with mid-life gap year expert, Jeff Jung.

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

Image:  Book cover – “Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore”

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6 responses to “BOOK REVIEW: “Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore” by Barbara Conelli

  1. ML Awanohara May 15, 2012 at 10:39 pm

    @Kate @Barbara
    I was intrigued by a couple of the quotes from the book — about the ballet shoes and about Barbara’s father (talk about a teaser!). What does ballet have to do with Milan, can you explain? As to Barbara’s dad, I guess I’ll just have to read the book or hope I’m the winner of this month’s giveaway. 🙂

    I have a question about La Dolce Vita more generally. As you know, this month The Displaced Nation has been devoting many posts to that topic in your honor! But how much of La Dolce Vita is about Italy, and how much is a general attitude — towards life and towards travel — that can be applied anywhere, even if you stay at home? Is Italy simply the best place to study how it is done?

    • Kate Allison May 16, 2012 at 6:27 am

      Milan’s La Scala Theatre Ballet is one of the oldest ballet companies in the world, so that’s the obvious outward connection. Barbara herself is a huge fan of the ballet, and I loved the part in the book where she takes you to the ballet school to become a dancer for a day.

      But I just loved that phrase. It’s such a wonderful way of describing what a strong hold the city gets on you.

    • Barbara Conelli May 16, 2012 at 12:03 pm

      ML, thanks for the questions! In that particular chapter I explore the ballet history of Milan, and add a story about a famous ballerina who returned to Milan and founded the first private ballet school in the city.

      To me, la dolce vita is all about attitude. In my previous book, “Chique Secrets of Dolce Vita”, I talked about this in detail. My philosophy is that you can live your own dolce vita no matter where you are in the world, even in your own backyard! 🙂

      If you’re interested in exploring the topic more, I have a very special virtual tour starting on 23rd May dedicated to this topic – loving your life and living your own dolce vita. It’s going to be very juicy and fun, with lots of information on how you can experience the Italian zest, gusto and sparkle in your life! If you’d like to be notified of the upcoming events, you’re welcome to join my mailing list by downloading the Italian gifts on my website , or just shoot me an e-mail (barb(at)barbaraconelli(dot)com)and I’ll add you and send you the link to the gifts.

      I love meeting fellow Italy lovers and sharing my passion with them! Have a Chique day! 🙂

  2. Barbara Conelli May 16, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    Kate, thank you so much for this beautiful review! You’ve really made my day and I’m glad you enjoyed reading Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore. Let’s celebrate la dolce vita and let’s live a Chique life! 🙂

  3. nuggetsforparents May 21, 2012 at 11:29 am

    Nice review! In fact, it has pushed me to finally penning down thoughts about Lonavala- a little indian hillstation that is close to my heart. It has had a fabulous history and is changing at an amazing pace. I always wanted to write down my views on this massive change that is taking place in this lovely childhood haunt. Your review has inddeed given me pointers for the same! And, I am looking forward to reading the book too. I will surely have a lot to learn from that!

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