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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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