I arrived Florence on Friday night so I had the whole Saturday to do whatever I liked. I was happy to be back. My husband and I visited Florence on New Year 2016 to see the symphony gigs and fell in love with this beautiful and historical small city. I wanted to revisit some of the places we saw that time. I like building routines in foreign places, that way it’s easier to learn to know the city and I feel I can have a proper relationship with it.

I woke up early and headed to the Boboli gardens and had the most beautiful start for the day. The weather was sunny and hot for September but the morning was still fresh and the park was practically empty and I almost felt I was there alone, saw only a handful of runners during my walk. I got the similar feeling I get when I walk to the Montmartre Hill in Paris early in the morning, like it could be possible to feel the essence of the whole city just by going to one particular place. I walked in the park at least two hours and took some pics. I made special effort to find the green little building I could remember from our last visit. I think it’s an old coffee house, sadly not open for public anymore, and my imagination goes wild when I see it, a very special and pretty small building.

After my morning walk I took care of some practical things. I went to Palazzo Vecchio to get my wristband for Sunday and then walked past the Duomo, officially called the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, to a travel agency to book a guided tour in Uffizi for the afternoon. It would be impossible to visit the Uffizi Gallery without buying a tour, the place would be too crowded, and I thought a small lecture could be useful. I needed something gluten-free for lunch and googled a small gluten-free pizzeria right next to the Duomo and had my lunch there.

After the lunch I decided to return to the book cafe my husband and I discovered during our previous visit. The place is called Todo Modo and it’s cozy and full of books and the kind of place I would visit every week if I lived in the city. Most of the books are in Italian but they have also a collection in English and different kind of notebooks available. I bought a small traveller’s notebook and had a chat with the guy behind the desk. He told the place would be crowded during the afternoon as filmmaker Terry Gilliam (who was talking at the Wired event that day) would be there signing his books and I decided to be back a bit later after my Uffizi tour and have something to eat as well.

I continued my walk to meet Federica. She is one of the Italian girls and lives in the center of Florence and was organizing an animation festival at Theatre Odeon next to the Palazzo Strozzi that day. Fede came to meet me in front of the theatre and invited me in to see the building – Odeon must be one the most gorgeous old film theaters in the whole Europe – and then to listen to international lecturers they had that day. I felt a bit embarrassed to disturb her as she was obviously busy hosting their guests but she just kindly said “you come, you come” and took me to follow a Q&A at the big theatre hall where John Pomeroy, known for Disney films like Pocahontas, answered student questions and talked about his career and some highlights and future prospects of it.  After that I joined Fede and her team for coffee and then listened to another lecture.

I so much enjoyed this possibility and can’t thank Fede enough for being so kind and generous in the middle of her busy day! It’s things like this I find most interesting when I travel, meeting people I’ve met during my concert trips, being able to see their every day life and work and even having a possibility to learn something totally unexpected, this time secrets of animation.

The second speaker was Victor Navano who has worked for Pixar and done animation on numerous films like Monsters inc., The Incredibles, Cars, Finding Nemo – just to mention a few – and he talked about characters and their goals and obstacles and generally the basic structure of the film scene. As an example he showed a raw scene from the film Finding Dory, analyzed the characters in the scene and pointed out the challenges in it and then showed the final version. I’m not very familiar with the animation genre and found it interesting to notice there is not only equally much but maybe even more analysis behind the characters than there is in regular films. When the film is done well it’s easy for the audience to momentarily forget the structure, the analytically built characters and the work behind every scene and just enjoy the story.

Naturally that same goes with music as well and listening to the lecture made me think of this old interview Mika has given for Wired at the time NPIH was out about writing music and building a show and the science behind it all (the article and translations inside the link).

I left the film theatre to be on time for my Uffizi tour and was glad I had my ticket bought, the place was so crowded it was difficult to even find my group but finally saw the right person and got my ticket and an ear piece to listen to the lecture. An obviously very experienced tour guide took our group and started to spot suitable possibilities to see as many of the most important paintings as possible and I was pleased to receive a lot of information and listen to the lecture which was as much about the Medici family and the history of the time as it was about Botticelli, Michelangelo and Leonardo.

This was only my second visit in Florence so it was good to hear the facts again. I’m horrible at memorizing details, dates and names. My mind works differently, it looks for connections and analogies. So it was not only Flora’s dress in Primavera or that cute tiny baby foot on Raffaello’s painting that reminded me of something familiar, I paid attention also to wavy patterns in colorful angel wings and small buildings that looked exactly like the time machine at Casa Mika and I felt a bit guilty my mind wandered that way. I was looking at classical art after all and many of the topics seemed somehow holy. Of course it wasn’t all holy that time either. The artists painted their patrons in the paintings as well. There’s always been a connection between artists and important, influential people, there’s always been money or privileges involved.

I spent wonderful and extremely informative two and a half hours in Uffizi and after that felt quite exhausted. I walked next to the river back to the book cafe and saw the bridges, all of them but especially Ponte Vecchio, crowded that time. I asked the nice lady at the cafe a glass of pleasant wine and something gluten-free to eat and she smiled and brought me both including hummus and some gluten-free snacks and I just sat there an hour watching books and thinking how lucky I was to spend that Saturday in Florence and hoped everything would go smoothly the next day (and it did, see my report here).

Below a few pictures of Grazia magazine that Grazia (also one of the Italian girls) kindly carried to me to Florence. The whole special edition magazine is both in Italian and English so the interesting conversation between Mika and Pierpaolo Piccioli is easy to read. Special thanks to Grazia not just for carrying this giant magazine all the way but also patiently answering my questions on Sunday during the Wired event. Hope to be back in Italy soon X

The Wired Next Fest digital media, technology and innovation event was hold 28th-30th of September in Florence and Mika was scheduled to speak in the evening of the last day of the event. I had booked the whole weekend for other commitments months in advance but eventually changed my plans to travel to Florence. I hadn’t seen Mika the whole summer and thought it would be good to see his face again but also wanted to travel for other reasons. I’ve spent a lot of time comfortably at home lately and thought traveling would do me good and give me some energy and sharpness and I also wanted to visit Florence just to feel the atmosphere again. Mika has spent there time this summer recording his album and it’s many ways an inspiring and sophisticated small city. I was right with my decision and spent there an enjoyable and interesting weekend and have a lot of thoughts to share. A small report about the WNF event below and more about Florence in my next blog post.

Earlier this year the city of Florence awarded Mika with the keys to the city making him an honorary citizen of Florence which was a well deserved honor after his collaborations with Opera di Firenze. The ceremony was hold in Palazzo Vecchio and the award was given by Dario Nardella, the mayor of Florence. I couldn’t be there to see the award ceremony but the Wired event was hold in the same impressive building and Dario Nardella was one of the speakers and even that was a random coincidence my mind made a small connection between these two events.

Wired Next Fest was free and open to everyone but an online registration was required and to make sure things would go smoothly on Sunday I did my registration in advance, picked up my wristband on Saturday to have it ready and went to Palazzo Vecchio in good time before the doors were opened on Sunday morning. I saw maybe 20 people waiting, joined them and soon after that saw more familiar faces. The doors were opened, we could go in and the event started exactly as scheduled. The timetable for the day was extremely tight without any breaks but worked well as planned which impressed me (we were in Italy after all). Below a pic we took before going in with some of the Italian girls I know.

I went to the Wired Next Fest just to see Mika but as a pleasant surprise the whole day was much more interesting than I had thought in advance. On Sunday two guests spoke in English: Vint Cerf, one of the fathers of the internet, and interface designer John Underkoffler, known for inventing the data interface for the science fiction film Minority Report. Both were obviously experienced public speakers (see their Ted profiles here and here).

Vint Cerf was a charismatic gentleman in his grey beard and a stylish hat and his speech well structured and easy to understand. He went through the history of the internet and pointed out issues important in the future, most of them something everyone knows yet no one can (yet) solve. The final impression he left was optimistic. There are still issues related to safety, reliability and preserving the data that need to be considered and kept in mind. For example, an insane amount of mobile photos is taken every year and none of us knows what will happen to them in 15 years. This is a topic I’ve given a lot of thought and the reason why I want to do manual archives in our digital age, I simply can’t be sure what will happen to my digital archives in the future.

John Underkoffler’s presentation was entertaining and a bit Hollywood style. He showed a Tom Cruise scene with holograms and either that particular scene or similar scenes from other movies are familiar to everyone. We think the holograms we see are futuristic special effects but for designers all that is future reality and according to John Underkoffler the future user interface needs to adjust space and motion and collaborative use, just to give a few examples.

Some of the italian speakers we saw would have been interesting but unfortunately the topics were too difficult for me to understand in italian. However, generally the schedule before Mika wasn’t still boring at all. We saw some music performances and I especially liked the first guest, a singer-songwriter called Dente, and found his acoustic performance very relaxed. We saw film, youtube and television persons and I add a couple of photos of Alexandro Cattelan below because his face is familiar to everyone who has followed Mika’s career in Italy. Cattelan was on stage with Andrea Delogu talking about social media and the images from their Instagram accounts showed on the background made their talk easy to follow and to put in context even it was in Italian.

Finally it was Mika’s turn, watch his interview here (I hope there will be a translation on his fan club page and will add it later). He talked about his new album, about his stay in Italy and the country in general, about using social media and also simplicity which was the main topic for the whole event. I was happy to see his face again. I could follow his answers about music and the album quite well because my mind could put things in context and his words made me curious and impatient and to wish I could hear the album immediately. I couldn’t understand his talk about the house because I couldn’t see where he was going to (I think nowhere, it was just chatting) but the talk about social media felt obvious as he has many times clearly said he doesn’t like it.

I can understand him very well. Real life events are important to me because I want to feel the atmosphere in my body. When the atmosphere is relaxed, my body is relaxed, when it’s tense my body feels tense and I need to be there to experience these things. Sometimes the aggressiveness in social media is so strong my body can feel it even online. The upper part of my stomach starts to hurt and I can’t breath. There’s a huge difference between occasional, sharp sarcasm and constant bickering and judgmental comments. If people want Mika to use social media as a person and not only as a brand they should remember he reacts as a person. Negative pressure and repeating the same complaints can be too much for everyone.

After the interview he was finally asked to sing. Obviously the piano was left there for this reason and I had hoped it would happen. He didn’t look that enthusiastic but walked to the piano. I hoped he would do Boum Boum Boum, I thought it would be suitable even it’s in French and that he could play the intro and easily sing it. I think only a part of my telepathic message went through and he got only BB instead of BBB as he did Billy Brown instead and I was happy with that as well. I put down my camera and just enjoyed the song and it was beautiful.  A short but lovely moment. After that he waved to the audience and disappeared backstage.

I knew in advance the event would be crowded meaning I probably wound’t see him from close enough to say hello. I also knew that even if I saw him I couldn’t actually talk with him, there would be too many people around him, so I had just in case made a small thank you card with a note to give him. He left quickly though and I waited for the girls and started to ask questions and translations and we went out all together. The whole area outside Palazzo Vecchio was full of people leaving and we walked around the corner to see even more crowds.

A man was opening a car door so I stopped for a moment to give him space and suddenly realized he was opening the door for Mika. In two seconds he was in front of me, saw my face, smiled and said “hi how are you” and I stood there astonished by this incredible timing. The man who opened the door took the card I was holding in my hand and then the car was gone.  Everything happened so quickly I barely had time to think “this is what they call the flow and perfect timing”. I don’t know what happened to the card but it doesn’t matter, I did my best delivering it to Italy. I went to have drinks and snacks with the girls and then back to my hotel to get some rest before traveling to Finland.

I was a bit too far away to get good pics, sorry, but added still some to give the impression how it was and how smiling he looked. Thanks everyone, it was good to see you all again xxx

Seeing Mika during the rehearsals on Friday was a rare treat, it was a wonderful, relaxed day and we all knew Saturday wouldn’t be relaxed that way. The piazza would be absolutely packed, we would have to come there at dawn to get a decent spot behind the vip area and to keep the spot spend 12 hours under the sun without toilets or eating or even much drinking. It would be very hard and all my friends told it would be too much for them and that they would rather listen to the concert outside the main area and I could understand them very well.

Spending the whole day in the heat for a short performance in the evening was a lot. Some people had booked places at terrace restaurants in advance to have a view over the crowd but I wasn’t clever enough to do that and traveling all the way from Finland to Milan and not seeing the event itself felt somehow wrong. I had to spend the day at the piazza, I would meet my friends after that and we could have dinner together.

I arrived to the venue early and joined some people I knew in advance. The gates were opened at 10 am and I hurried my way to the barrier being well aware that standing the whole day without it would be impossible for me. It was a sunny, burning hot day. The area became full in a short time and had no toilets inside of it so it was clear we couldn’t use one until the late night after the show. That meant drinking as little as possible (even water was available as much as people needed) and in that heat not drinking enough made people dehydrated and the medical group carried fainted out one after another, not just 5 or 10 but dozens, during the whole day.

I’m not used to heat but I knew I wouldn’t faint, I would just feel exhausted and have a headache from lack of coffee. Young girls in their orange and yellow shirts worked for the event and kept offering sunscreen and hats and quite early in the afternoon things on stage started to happen and that kept the crowd entertained until it was time to officially start the concert around 8 pm. I was not next to anyone I knew in advance but the girls on my both sides spoke English so I could ask if needed any information.

The day was hot and tiring but the organization for the event worked much, much better than the one in Naples a few years ago. In Naples basically no one helped the audience (no water, no security, nothing) and this time I could see dozens and dozens of people just taking care of the crowd. If someone wasn’t feeling well they could get help immediately, at least around the area where I was, and everything was that way very safe. Also, even I was tired and had a headache later during the day I could still enjoy watching everything that happened on stage a lot.

During the past few years I’ve visited Italy many times and learnt to love the country. I love the art, culture and history. I love the food and especially the coffee. I know people from all over Italy and because of Mika have visited several corners of it. My personal favorites are places like Naples and Catania – I love shabby places with volcanos and in south I can easily find food suitable for my gluten-free diet – but every part of Italy has their own special features and it’s always interesting to learn to know them.

After all my trips to Italy I feel it’s becoming familiar to me the same way I feel in France even these two countries are otherwise so totally different. I can watch an event like this concert in Milan and recognize many artists and songs because I’ve seen them at Casa Mika or other events related to Mika and I enjoy that even I might not be into every artist or genre myself. I can’t explain who Beyonce is yet I can immediately give a list of at least 5 Italian rap artists and that’s just insane. In a twisted way it’s somehow cool to learn to know all these random things and that way be able to get a familiar feeling in a foreign country.

What surprised me most was how incredibly well people knew the lyrics for most of the songs. Many of the songs were catchy indeed, I still have songs by Ghali or Thegiornalisti playing in my head and can’t seem to make them stop. Also, I especially like the Italian way to give credit and show respect to older artists with long careers. In my country people don’t really care if someone is older or respect their age or the work they’ve done and it feels wrong and it often warms my heart to see how different it can be in some other countries.

The vip area in front of stage started to fill late afternoon and the beautiful view we had was gone. I knew to expect that in advance and can understand the system very well. The companies promoting and advertising at free events want value for their money and giving a special experience to their customers or influential people at the vip area is one way to get it.

The line-up was long. My headache got worse and I wasn’t feeling well any more and even I enjoyed watching different artists at some point I just wanted to see Mika on stage. After several rap artists it was turn for Fedez. I’ve seen him a few times but never really understood what’s the thing with him. His face and gestures give the impression that he knows his worth if you know what I mean by the expression.

It’s hard for me to see any difference between these numerous Italian rap artists, but on Saturday I saw several of them in row. And something changed the exact moment Fedez came on stage. Every single person around me raised there hands and mobiles at the same time. Suddenly everyone was awake and there was electricity in the air. I could feel it in my body and I could finally understand what’s the thing with him. He looks like he knows his worth because he knows his worth. He has this weird, incredible status and as a foreigner I don’t know where it comes from but it was interesting and impressive to see how people react to him.

Then it was finally time for Radio Italia World and Mika. Mika was wearing a colorful, glittery jacket and looked smiling and very happy, his performance was absolutely beautiful and the reception to it warm, appreciative and loving and I enjoyed being there and experiencing it all. During Stardust little sequins in both Mika’s and Chiara’s outfits sparkled making a lot of little lights (like in one of the pics below) and it was somehow so suitable. In the end of the performance he surprised the audience with L’Italiano, the song by Toto Cutugno that was released the same year Mika was born and actually even translated in Finnish that same year (it was a huge hit in my country as well) and his Italian audience loved it and I, as a foreigner, loved it. We saw a beautiful and charming four song performance.

After Mika’s performance I wanted to leave the crowd as quickly as possible to meet my friends as planned. I was tired and worried that I wouldn’t manage to get through the giant packed crowd so I asked the security guy at the barrier if i could go that way and he was kind and helped me over it. The problem was I had no idea how to go back to the audience on the other side and had no battery in my mobile left to call my friends but I was happy to leave the pushy crowd and thought I would figure something out. Luckily, there seemed to be an easy route to the other side and I could be there in a minute.

Except it wasn’t that easy. A security lady told I wasn’t allowed to use the route and that my only option to the other side was to walk around the building next to the concert area. I thanked her and did as told but by walking around the building also exited the official area and wasn’t let back in. I explained to the security guy stopping me that I was supposed to meet my friends and was only following instructions given by his colleague and very politely asked if he could let me back in. The guy said no. I saw my friends and tried to shout their names but they couldn’t hear me.  I had no battery in my mobile so maybe the guy could shout their names, his voice was surely louder than mine? The guy said no.

Without my mobile I couldn’t find my hotel as the street I earlier used was closed and it made me worried and extremely politely I explained that one more time. The guy said no one more time. He wasn’t interested in my problems, he told he couldn’t care less. I saw my friends walking away, probably to the restaurant where we were supposed to eat but had no possibility to reach them and just stood there practically in tears after the long and tiring day.

Finally I saw people who knew my friends and could call them. One of them arrived immediately and told they were already waiting for me inside of the restaurant and not to worry any more. She would explain the situation to the security and we could have dinner together. And she did explain – in Italian and in an extra polite way – and asked if I could just enter the restaurant, that I wasn’t going back to the concert (which was free btw) and that I had just lost my way when coming to meet them. The guy said no. So I didn’t join my friends for dinner.

I tell the  story because it’s small things like this that make me think Milan is an unfriendly place. It was disappointing that moment but fine in the end. I stayed with the girls who had helped me and waited until my friends had finished their meal and then finally met them all. They were all happy, smiling and in a good mood and I would have loved to chat with them longer but after everything that had happened felt better to return to my hotel. The whole group insisted walking me there and before saying good bye sang L’Italiano just for me and it was all very sweet of them.

This is how Italy is, everything is so extreme. It makes you love in a big way and it makes you annoyed in a big way. Milan has offered me many fantastic Mika moments and this weekend was one more to add on that list. What will stay strongest in my thoughts is things like Mika singing Beautiful Disaster watching Duomo di Milano, his Stardust performance with Chiara sequins in their outfits sparkling like little lights, L’Italiano in the end of his performance and my friends singing the same song after that. The other side of the experience like the burning heat, headache, people pushing or security guys using their tiny, tiny power in a wrong way will be just “something adventurous” and that way a part of the dear memory.

I can’t describe how good it was to see Mika on stage again, it filled my heart with love. Thanks everyone xxx

I hesitated a moment before traveling to Milan for a free concert at Piazza Duomo. Free summer events (this one was organized by Radio Italia) with big crowds and the burning sun are physically hard. The line-up for the concert was long and for that reason Mika’s performance expected to be quite short. Flights and hotels were insanely expensive and generally, Milan is an unfriendly place. On the other hand, the city has offered me some of my dearest Mika moments and the event on Saturday was going to be the only gig for the summer, maybe for the whole year. I couldn’t miss it, I would awfully regret if I did. Of course I had to travel to Milan.

I arrived Milan Thursday evening.  The location of my hotel was perfect and I had only a short walk to Piazza Duomo and I went there right after checking in my room. The first thing I saw at the piazza was a huge stage next to the cathedral. What a special place for a gig! I was thrilled just seeing the stage and could feel my adrenaline level going high. I had so missed that feeling. I watched a few artists doing their soundcheck on Thursday night and hoped to see more on Friday.

The audience was allowed to watch the rehearsals from distance and on Friday we stayed at the piazza the whole afternoon located on the left side of stage (seen from the audience) between the stage and the cathedral and saw almost the whole line-up doing their soundcheck. I loved watching how the artists walked to a certain specific part of the stage and suddenly paid attention to the view opening to the cathedral and how their faces expressed admiration in very similar ways. The stage view must have been amazing, one of the most impressive in the whole world for sure.

In the pic below is Mika watching the view. This was the moment I had looked forward to most: Mika watching Duomo di Milano singing Beautiful Disaster. Below that Fedez watching to the same direction and below that Fedez promoting his shoes the cathedral on the background (in his photos, not in mine).

Watching rehearsals is a different experience compared to watching the gig itself and something I find really, really interesting and being able to see what happened on stage on Friday made my trip much more special than it would have been without it. The vibe is always different compared to the gig afterwards. Gigs are done for the audience, rehearsals are done for other reasons, to prepare the show and to make it as good as possible, so the atmosphere is often more serious. This time rehearsals were open to the public and every artist was aware of that and took a little bit contact with the crowd and said ciao and grazie tutti after finishing but stayed still mostly focused on the soundcheck and on working with the musicians and the stage crew.

My photos are taken from very far away (the area near the stage was reserved only for groups with special passes) so they are not good quality but I still add them here to describe the day better. The photos are taken with a big zoom and for that reason look like weird paparazzi pics but they were not in any way secretly taken. People were free to be there and take as many photos as they liked. The event was also streamed and I want to thank the organizers for doing it this way. Because of the location it was probably difficult to do in any other way but I still appreciate they didn’t try to make it harder for people and I really enjoyed watching everything on Friday, maybe even more than I did on Saturday. Being able to watch rehearsals is rare and during the concert the vip area around the stage was full so it was much harder to see anything at all.

Made me smile to see Mika and Fedez in their matching black and white outfits, Mika having a black jacket with butterflies, Fedez a black shirt with a gun pattern, and I immediately wondered if they had planned it that way, as a joke to describe “their personalities” or if it was just a coincidence and described their personalities. I love the butterfly jacket, it must be one of my favorite Mika jackets. On Friday Mika came on stage after Fedez around 9 pm and they did Beautiful Disaster together – twice – and that made me very happy. I had specially looked forward to the song. It felt an obvious choice and I knew to expect it in advance and it had been playing in my head the whole week.

Stardust performed together with Chiara felt as obvious as Beautiful Disaster so it was not a surprise to see her on stage after Fedez. Stardust is not one of my biggest personal favorites but it’s still a lovely song and it was sweet to hear it again after such a long time and again, twice.

I had hoped to hear Underwater, it’s a powerful song for big crowds, but maybe because of the nature of the concert the third song on the setlist was Grace Kelly. A few more photos from the rehearsals below and more about the event in a separate post. The jumping pic is poor quality but it was a funny discovery among the other pics. It was beautiful to see Mika on stage again. It was just like the old days, like there was no time between at all.

Casa Mika has been a wonderful project and a lot of fun for us to follow so I wanted to do one more blog post related to the topic and list my favorite moments of the season. I added links to episodes with subtitles and to separate performances (sign in to watch).

1st episode

My biggest favorite during the first episode was the emotional performance for Any Other World including the introduction to the song. I’ve seen many Any Other World performances during years and this was a good one even from that point of view. It was emotional to hear Mika singing again – I hadn’t heard him the whole year – and it was touching to see the instant and very genuine response from the audience and his reaction to that as well.

As my second favorite I mention Mika’s visit to the shepherd’s farm in Sardinia. Not only because it was cute (even it was) but also because I generally like this part of the concept where Mika is visiting further parts of Italy meeting people who’s everyday life is so different compared to his, learning to know and understand their thoughts and kind of putting himself in their shoes. I loved watching the visit, extremely touching and funny at the same time.

I add the fiction part as my third favorite here even of course it was not only in the first episode but in all of them and I’m not only referring to the story or idea but especially the styling and the whole visual part, very well done.

2nd episode

Massimo Ranieri was my favorite guest of the whole season and his performance together with Mika, introducing Mariangela Melato and Mika interviewing Alessio Boni related to the subject was all together definitely my favorite part of the second episode. I got the instant feeling I was watching a star and it looked to me Mika felt the same way and even though the song they did together was originally done before I was born it still felt familiar from my childhood and took me quickly back to the 70’s and made me in a good mood.

The orchestra performance with Mickey Mouse was adorable and very special so I want it to be on my list. Mickey wasn’t an ordinary guest at all. I felt very lucky to be at the recordings to see him live.

Unfortunately I didn’t see Pick Up Off The Floor live (so I don’t have a personal memory of it and for that reason it’s not something I will watch over and over) but I saw the whole episode later and the performance was extremely elegant and the singing carefully done. Absolutely stunning.

3rd episode

The 3rd episode included my favorite parts of the season. I loved the performance for One Of Us (Uno di noi) and knew the moment Mika sat at his piano it will be my biggest favorite this year and immediately thought how grateful I was to be there to see it. Beautiful arrangement with violins and beautiful, beautiful performance and such a warm and important speech before the song about opening our homes and hearts to those who are in need of help.

In the end of the episode Mika did an amazing visit to Casa Verdi and met retired musicians living there. This little clip made me cry, I couldn’t help it, I was in tears while watching it at home. I could see the respect on Mika’s face and how special it was to him as well and all I could think was that this is why I love him. For things like this. Later I thought of the Italian television audience who (according to the numbers) didn’t seem to like the second season as much as the first one. Even he offered them moments like this? How shallow can they be?

4th episode

The last episode went from the colorful confetti party (which I loved) to the sadness of Happy Ending (which I loved as well but for different reasons). To choose something between them I link the Mademe Butterfly scene I found very impressive.

Can you choose your favorites? xxx

The second Casa Mika season is still continuing on television but the recordings are all done and for us who liked to be in the studio and watch everything live it’s practically over. Luckily there are still two episodes to watch via streaming. I’m afraid the ratings for the show haven’t been nearly as good as last year but that’s definitely not because of the quality of the show but for other reasons like the timing and also the fact the big audience in Italy simply don’t know to value high quality as much as we all had hoped. I’ve really enjoyed this season and I collected some of my favorite details below. The past four weeks have been a project for me as well and it had a personal meaning to be there for the last recording and I really appreciated that I was able to do it and I saw some performances that will always stay in my memories.

During the last recording we saw the party confetti version of It’s My House I had hoped for all these weeks. I love confetti. It makes a mess and I feel childish to admit it but I love it. Different theme versions of It’s My House have been one of my favorite parts of the season and I find it surprising. It’s not a song I love the same way I love his best songs and it’s not the kind of song where Mika can go deep inside of the song like he can do with his most stunning songs. It’s rather like one of those songs where he needs to built something around the song to make it work (the same way like Celebrate or Talk About You) but – or maybe for that reason – it fits perfectly for television and it could fit on his concert setlist as well. I loved the show elements for the aquaworld we saw last Sunday (probably aired during the third episode) and I loved the confetti party version from Wednesday. Every detail – the stage and even his suit – was matching with the colorful theme and the idea was cool and will surely look fantastic on television.

It’s not easy to make high energy songs work on television the same way as controlled, slower songs do without impressive show elements. Hearing stunning versions of songs like Any Other World, No Place In Heaven or Happy Ending or beautiful covers either in English or Italian where Mika is fully focused on the song is the biggest reason that makes me travel to Italy time after time instead of only watching the show on television. Mika is at his best when he’s doing strong songs sitting at his piano or otherwise purely focusing on his singing. Not only because his voice sounds better that way but also because he’s reached the point where his performing side is strong and describing enough to make those songs extremely stunning.

It’s good development, it means he’s maturing as an artist. Also, a television recording means different circumstances for high energy songs compared to a concert. In the studio there’s no (the same kind of) adrenalin or energy included. During a real concert both Mika and his band can listen to the audience and respond to the current energy, they can also make small changes and let the energetic songs evolve night after night and all that can’t happen during a controlled and considered one time only performance they do for a television show.

About the audience. Most of the time studio audiences don’t know what to do. People stand up and clap in a wrong rhythm when they should either sit and focus on a very special performance or dance and party. It would have been a good idea to have a person who guides the audience and clearly tells when to sit, when to stand and how to clap like many other big productions have (like it is at the Voice, can’t remember the guy’s name but everyone who’s been at the recordings knows who I mean). It might have been worth it especially nights when most people came to see their first recording like it looked on Wednesday.

One of my favorite details during this season was the fiction part, it was well done in every way including outfits, style and designs and there seemed to be a good story to follow all the way. I loved some collaboration ideas as well. I’m not an opera person, I don’t know much about it and in the beginning I thought it would make me bored but I loved watching especially the last one we saw. I loved some guests, some others not so much. Rita Pavone and Massimo Ranieri made me smile and enjoy the show because they are the kind of old stars Mika can have fun with on stage, he doesn’t need to take care of them, they take care of themselves. The level of guests varies and I understand it very well. Recordings are done in such a short time period and it must be difficult to fit everyone’s schedules together and must be a challenge to find interesting enough guests for every episode.

This year the production had chosen several a bit provocative details to show to the audience. We could see Mika taking off his clothes, we could see him in the bath tube with Fedez and we could see him giving a beautiful lady a long, long kiss. Some fans might think it was all done just to attract more viewers but it didn’t look to me Mika thought it that way. It looked to me he wanted to show he has no limits on stage. That he can do whatever it needs to be done for the show and I think he was quite brave doing it all, he’s sometimes very shy. Also, it was all genuinely quite funny. There were many funny details between music and more serious topics.

I would naturally like to see Mika in the main role all the time. On Wednesday he did several solo performances and I absolutely loved it and in the end of the session we all had the feeling he let his music talk and tell the message. He said good bye to the house and did the last song and I had tears in my eyes, partly because good byes are always sad but partly also because the performance was so incredibly beautiful. It’s not that I want Mika to be stuck in Italy doing Casa Mika for the rest of his life, there are many other options for him. He can take the concept to other countries or he can bring it on stage or he can just take some ideas and use them at gigs. I want him to make music one way or another, where ever it happens. There’s so much potential to use in numerous different ways.

After the recording the atmosphere was actually very happy. Italian fans had planned a wonderful after party and invited us all to be a part of it. It was raining but they still set a beautiful table with a white table cloth and real candles and fairy lights and beautiful glasses and serving dishes and it was all really Italian. Italian people love dressing up and making things fancy and beautiful. They had wines and pizza and even potato crisps (practically the only thing I can eat in situations like that and believe me I was hungry after not eating the whole day) and when Mika was ready with his own after recording duties the security invited us inside the Casa Mika gates and the table and everything else was brought with us and Mika came to see it and he saw the amazing house themed cakes and the fancy champagne bought him as a gift and I think he could understand the effort the girls had made because he showed a very sweet reaction. He opened one of the bottles and poured some sparkling wine to everyone and patiently cut and served the cake and was generally as kind and thoughtful as only he can be and it left a good, happy feeling to everyone. A very sweet thing from him to do.

Another Italian adventure behind, thanks everyone xxx

I haven’t posted any blogs after the past three recordings so I’m collecting a few thoughts here. I was at the studio a week ago on Sunday night after the mfc party and I really enjoyed watching the filming together with my friends but didn’t have any special thoughts to share afterwards and blogged only about the party (photo galleries here). I returned to Milan on Wednesday even I didn’t have a ticket (I still wanted to travel to keep my flights for this week, they were connected) and wasn’t lucky with overbooking. I stayed outside the studio the night because that’s the whole idea with overbooking, you might get in at any time during the recording in case there are free seats. However, no luck for me with that on Wednesday.

It was sad, to be honest, to listen to “my house is your house” outside in the cold knowing it’s just a song and that obviously that time his house wasn’t my house at all. It came to my mind maybe I shouldn’t be doing all this. Maybe I shouldn’t take risks all the time because it’s not possible to be lucky all the time (for any of us). I couldn’t wait to be back home and get some hugs from my family and also have a little rest. After a day off I went back to Milan, this time with a ticket and last night saw a beautiful, beautiful recording!

Suddenly occasional few hours outside like a few days earlier didn’t feel that bad anymore. It wasn’t the first time things don’t work out and it wasn’t the last time they don’t work out, sometimes it simply is like that. What’s important, most times everything works out like it did last night. Everything was beautiful. The whole session was absolutely beautiful from beginning to the end. As beautiful as it can be.

A few random thoughts about these recordings below.

It’s amazing to watch how confident Mika is compared to the first season. I’m sure he’s a bit stressed, the work is hectic and something unexpected is happening all the time but we can’t really much see his stress at all, he looks just very confident and relaxed and chats with the audience during breaks. He’s very focused and it’s easy to see how important it is for him to do things well, he looks determined and ambitious and that’s always attractive to watch, isn’t it. I find all that really charismatic in anyone and as you all know Mika can be charismatic just standing there. It’s impressive to watch him on stage and I’m sure the whole audience feels the same.

We haven’t seen any particularly interesting international guest this year – not as interesting as last year – but on the other hand there are some interesting collaborations and I’ve very much enjoyed seeing them. Also, I think the topics are more serious this year and that’s good development and something I had hoped for this season in advance. I’ve been surprised by the response Gregory is getting on twitter, people are really touched by this character and sharing their own experiences about depression, anxiety or other kind of darker emotions. In Finland people are naturally melancholic and for us sadness is a normal part of life and it’s natural to talk about it but I think Italians are not that direct or used to it and for them it can be easier to talk via Gregory. Maybe, not sure if that’s the explanation, in any case the idea works really well and I’m happy to watch the warm response the character is receiving. Unfortunately my Italian is not good enough to understand any monologues and I need to wait translations to properly understand everything.

Last night we saw performances with Fedez and I think that was a good thing as we had earlier already seen several older guests and this balanced the age structure (Fedez already posted about his visit so it’s not a surprise to anyone and not something to avoid mentioning). After Fedez some stunning solo performances from Mika. I felt extremely lucky to be in the studio last night and I know I will feel lucky to watch the performances again on television and also to have the clips to watch later. Everything was perfect, the voice, music, outfits, show elements. Now looking forward to the show on television on Tuesday and the last recording session on Wednesday. The season will be over before we properly realize it started xxx

Mika Fan Club is celebrating the 10th anniversary and organizing fan meetings in different countries and on Sunday the Italian crew hosted another great Italian Mika party in Milan and we gathered together before heading to the studio to follow Casa Mika recordings. What a fun party we had! A huge, huge thank you to everyone who was involved in the preparations and special thanks to Marina who – as always – was once again endlessly patient and helpful with everyone and answered all my questions and kindly made sure I had suitable food to eat at brunch. Below a group pic of the organizing team and a photo we took together with Marina (thanks to Roberto for taking the pic).

The venue/restaurant was reserved only to Mika fans and the place was absolutely wonderful, it really couldn’t have been more suitable in any way. I took a few pics so everyone can see what I mean, the place was exactly like a house! Kitchen, dining room, living room area, hobby space… So colorful and cozy and the best thing was the amazing, friendly staff taking care of us. I’m trying to visit some cafes and restaurants during my each Milan visit to learn to know the city and this was honestly my favorite place so far, I couldn’t feel a hint of the cold attitude I’ve felt in some of those otherwise so cool, trendy places I’ve visited during my trips lately. The atmosphere on Sunday was lovely and it seemed to me everyone at the party felt the same.

Ani had an idea of a big card/poster we could all make together during the meeting to give to Mika later in the evening so we all draw a little house and the result was a big poster full of different colorful houses to celebrate Mika’s new single It’s My House and of course also the beginning of the second season of Casa Mika. The idea worked very well, I think! Most of our houses looked like pre-school drawings (I know my butterfly house certainly did) but I think the result was still quite cute and we definitely had a lot of fun doing the project between eating, dancing and chatting. Maybe not art exactly but I hope it means something to Mika his fans come from many different countries to gather together and to do something as a community.

The highlight of the party was a giant cake with the MFC colors and anniversary logo and the cake looked absolutely fabulous (again, thanks to the organizing team for this amazing surprise!) and we took some group pics around it.

I tried to walk around and take photos of every table and people having fun but as people were moving and doing things in different parts of the ”house” I probably couldn’t catch everyone but still collected as many different pics I had and made a big photo gallery below. I know several fans were periscoping during the party and hope all you who couldn’t be there enjoyed watching those periscopes and felt you were with us in spirit. So good to see everyone, until next time. xxx

Back home from the third Casa Mika recording. I’m keeping my update short and try not to give any details in advance. We saw one international special guest – something different than I had expected – and would be difficult to describe the session without revealing too much. Also, we didn’t see any solo performance from Mika so I didn’t feel as excited and emotional as I did during the previous sessions even of course I enjoyed watching him with guests and appreciated the opportunity to follow the production work as much as I always do.

This time Mika was mostly in his role of the host of the evening and interviewed and entertained. He is good at that all and it was a pleasure to watch him but naturally, it didn’t give me the excitement and extreme happiness I usually get from his own music performances. He did some songs with his guests and with them he’s very much focused on them, making sure they get their share of the spotlight, trying not to draw too much attention to himself. All what we can expect from a good and generous host.

One of the songs he did on Sunday together with an Italian well-known guest was a particularly great performance and it seemed to me both the guest and the host had equally fun. The audience was very lucky and the performance had to be repeated (I think they made a mistake with their choreography) and even Mika seemed to enjoy doing everything all over again. My favorite kind of Casa Mika performance even this popular Italian song wasn’t familiar to me in advance.

In case someone thinks it looks too easy for people like me to be there and see everything I want to remind this is actually not that easy at all. Milan is far away from Helsinki and being there twice a week means spending two nights at recordings and four days and nights traveling between Helsinki and Milan leaving only two days to spend at home with my family. I can do all that only because my family is being endlessly patient with me and I try not to take it for granted. My husband takes care of everything at home while I travel and he does it because he knows how important this all is to me and how happy it makes me.

It does make me happy. It’s wonderful to see Mika on stage again and to hear him sing both alone and with guests. There’s a new tone in his voice compared to some old recordings I’ve been listening to at home during the gig break and I love hearing it. I don’t think things can stay exactly the same all the time and thinking of time passing by makes me aware of how precious everything is. When this moment is gone it will never come back. We need to enjoy everything as much as possible.

For many fans things happening purely in Italy seem like minor events on Mika’s career but a show of his own in general, especially a show of his own this big is a huge possibility and would be an amazing opportunity for any artist. It means also huge pressure. There’s a massive production and people who write and people who design and people who take care of every technical detail but it’s Mika’s name written on the wall with giant letters full of flowers and it’s him on stage in different glittery suits practically the whole two hours. It’s even his responsibility to make everyone else look good and whatever the result it will reflect back on him and the channel investing in him.

Italian television audience is not like us fans, it’s demanding in a different way. Luckily the studio is full of people who already love him and everyone’s attention is on him during the whole recording session and I’m happy it’s like that. I want him to feel the instant response from the audience so he can remember how it feels and how important his music is to people in case he has forgotten it.

The cutest thing actually happened after the third recording when I heard Mika talking about the special guest he had that night using words a child would use and being very serious in his excitement. I think he just used words he had in mind. In the middle of those crazy busy schedules and hard work and after being such a professional television host the whole evening he genuinely talked like an excited kid. I thought it was adorable. He’s very special that way. I often think there’s a part in him that’s not totally grown up, sometimes he makes me think of my 6 year old nephew. I’m happy to know the television world has not yet ruined him and hope it never will.

At the moment this show is as close to Mika making music as we can get and I’m looking forward to seeing many memorable performances before the season is over. I will be back in Milan on Saturday. There’s an MFC party on Sunday morning and I’m planning to take a lot of pics and will post them after the event. Can’t wait to meet everyone xxx

In the pic above is only a cardboard version of Mika but I thought it was funny they brought it outside next to the Casa Mika car so the audience could take selfies with it before going in. It’s not allowed to take any photos inside the studio so no pics of the setting to share but I wanted to write a small update in any case, otherwise seems impossible to keep my notes in time order.

I know my emotional response to the first recording (part 1 here) seemed silly but actually many people told me afterwards they felt exactly the same way and that it was lovely to tears to hear Mika’s voice and to watch him preparing his performances and to see only him on stage after such a long break in gigs lately. On Sunday during the first filming there were no tight schedules with guests and the atmosphere was warm and cosy, Mika was very casual with the audience and chatted and shared his slightly nervous feelings with people which added the emotional vibe.

On Wednesday the production went through the whole first episode and filmed all performances with guests. Mika was chatting as casually as he did on Sunday but he had to also stay extremely sharp because the schedule was long and full of different components: music performances, interviews, monologues, small fiction parts and other details like clips filmed in advance and showed on the screen. The whole session was really interesting to watch and follow on many levels, not just Mika’s part and the guests but everything what was happening in the studio. The production group is big and I could recognize many faces from the last season.

I was seated a barrier located directly in front of my face and the lady from production responsible of the audience kindly offered us a couple of places with no barriers and further away (she saw them after everyone had arrived) but as soon as I stood up my view was stunning so I preferred to stay at my barrier seat and had really a brilliant view during the parts where the audience could stand or dance and saw actually very well between the barriers everything else as well and I told the lady after the session how perfect it all was. The production for a show this big is like a huge machine and I feel we fans are extremely lucky to have our opportunities to watch everything this closely and I hope people working for the audience know how grateful we are.

I’m trying not to give any spoilers about the upcoming episodes but as Rai has already announced some of the guests it doesn’t matter I mention them here too. Most songs would be better performed by Mika alone (my honest opinion), I’ve never been keen to hear duets for that particular reason. However, of course the whole idea of the show is Mika opening his house and welcoming people into his world so letting his guest to take their time and space is quite essential to the concept no matter how much we all would prefer listening only to him.

And I do love watching him with people and I admire his sensitivity and ability to face people as persons and everyone as they are and have always thought what a complex person he must be on the other hand giving such a private impression and on the other hand being so patient and generous with his attention to people around him. He’s got a lot of practice in that and he’s very professional but I still find it astonishing to watch every single time.

The most interesting guests are always those who impress Mika as much as they impress the audience and I love watching his gestures and how much he seems to respect people’s experience and long careers they’ve built. On Wednesday my favorite guest was singer Rita Pavone who had an incredible energy and who totally rocked the whole studio. She and Mika did a performance together and people in the audience had a blast dancing and partying.

Because the show is Italian I’m naturally not always familiar in advance with the guests and think they’ve been selected partly because of timing like always with different television shows – there are always singers and actors willing to promote their latest projects – and whether I like these guests or not usually depends on their performance that night. International guests are artists suitably visiting Italy or people Mika somehow personally knows and this time we saw Dita von Teese who’s performance I didn’t know to look forward to in advance but which I eventually found very impressive.

Her figure looks absolutely stunning, I must say. I was wondering how it even can be that stunning but as she told herself, she was born a blond-haired Midwest girl and has probably worked hard both for the character/role and the figure. I would have loved to hear her talking longer to learn to know how she is as a person but at least we heard a small interview between her burlesque performances. I’ve always thought burlesque means a certain style and certain type of show elements but I guess the main point is still to take clothes off. Anyway, I found her performances exciting and her as a guest very interesting. Also, her part in the show was entertaining many ways and I’m sure people will love it.

I really love the small time traveling idea located between guests as it seems to give rhythm to the show and connects the studio space and beforehand recorded clips together and it works well and I can follow it (and also the taxi parts familiar from the last year) quite well despite of my weak language skills. However, Luciana Littizzetto who joins Mika several times during the episodes speaks incredibly fast and understanding her with my practically non-existing Italian is impossible and from my point of view those parts feel long but the Italian audience seems to think she’s very funny.

The highlight for the season start is the performance for It’s My House, an obvious choice for the first episode. It’s My House was filmed again on Wednesday and the performance was full of energy and show elements and seeing it now twice is not enough for me and would love to see it again and again and hope Mika will do it at least one more time maybe in the end of the season with lots and lots of confetti. Also, I loved the old-fashioned Italian song we heard both on Sunday and Wednesday, his voice sounds extreme pleasant in a song that style and I could have listened to it for hours.

One of the performances Mika did on Sunday was so stunning they didn’t film it again on Wednesday at all but we saw the recording on the screen and it was as breathtaking as I could remember it being. The second recording ended around 2 am. Even all the performances gave me a lot of energy I was still very sleepy in the end of the session and could only imagine how exhausted Mika must have felt after focusing so hard for so many hours without any breaks but I hope the joy and pride of having his own show we could see on his face and even in his moves and gestures made him forget the tiredness.

I met some new and many familiar faces on Wednesday and had a lovely time, thanks everyone xxx

Recordings for the second Casa Mika season started on Sunday and I travelled to Milan on Saturday to have a possibility to spend a few hours both days learning to know Milan before going to the studio on Sunday night. I’ve visited the city many times for gigs and different events and recordings and even spent there time with my family but never really learnt to like the place. I’m sure there are many hidden treasures for those who know Milan well but for an average traveller it’s a distant place. I’ve always thought it’s expensive and a bit too fancy for my taste and I didn’t feel any different this time either. I’ve travelled in Italy a lot and seen many places much more suitable for me than Milan is.

I visited a couple of cafes I had seen mentioned in articles and a bookstore I had hoped to see for a long time but mostly just enjoyed walking around. The weather was beautiful both days, almost like in summer even it’s October, and loved being in the sun and watching dogs, saw many of them. An elderly very elegant gentleman dressed in a carefully chosen suit walked his likewise elegant elderly dog and I couldn’t stop admiring this amazingly stylish couple. I randomly discovered a small bakery near my hotel and it looked like a small family business with mother and daughter and grandmother and I visited the place twice and bought coffee and gluten-free little biscuits and almost felt I have a nice new routine and I like having small routines like that when I travel abroad.

I couldn’t wait to see the first recording but also knew that this time it would be quite short and that Mika would even leave the studio to go to another one in a different building to perform his new song and I had prepared myself to a possibility we wouldn’t hear him singing at all not to be too disappointed if that really happens. As soon as he came on stage he confirmed to the audience he needs to do another recording in the middle of our session but also explained he would sing both before and after that and that while he’s gone the girls would film their part and we could watch that.

Knowing we could finally hear his singing made me incredibly happy and was so unexpected that I actually started to cry the moment he started to sing. That was weirdly emotional even from me and quite embarrassing and Ani gave me a surprised ”woman are you serious” look but I really couldn’t help it, I felt overwhelmingly happy. My eyes became horribly red of course. You know all pretty young girls who get teary eyes and become even more beautiful than they already are like real life princesses? I cry and I become one of those new species scientists have been discovering from the bottom of the oceans. No one even knew those creatures exist and now there’s a possibility I was filmed for Italian television looking like one and I don’t even care. I was so happy Mika is singing again and thought I now have everything I can possibly hope for.

He did a couple of songs and the version of one his most impressive live songs was absolutely beautiful and the audience went wild and people were standing and clapping and screaming and making noise with their shoes – obviously I wasn’t the only one who had missed his singing – and he looked a bit touched of this spontaneous reaction and after seeing that I cried even more of course.

Then there was a break while Mika did his performance in the studio next door and to be honest it wasn’t as disappointing as I had thought in advance at all because his family took over the stage and we could watch the girls and I love watching them. Those dogs are adorable! I can’t tell how long it took and suddenly Mika was back and promised to sing us a couple of more songs and we watched some clips and filmed some introductions for Rai 2 to be broadcasted in the near future.

Everyone was super excited to hear the new song and the performance was really good and energetic and I was once again surprised how different a song becomes when it’s performed live. I had heard a clip and thought My House is extremely catchy and perfect to use as a tune for his show but maybe not as suitable to play at gigs as his other songs but he did it in front of us and it was just like any other energetic song he performs regularly and will surely work well also outside the television show (and it has been playing in my head non-stop since we heard it). Then one more Italian song as a surprise and it fitted his voice perfectly and I very much enjoyed listening to it.

Mika’s singing was beautiful even he hasn’t been performing much lately. There was a warm tone in his voice slightly hinting he had a flu but it didn’t make his singing any less lovely and I only hoped singing wouldn’t hurt him and that way disturb the upcoming recordings. We didn’t see any guests during the first recording (a dream recording for fans) but as I can’t give any spoilers I couldn’t mention them any way and just wanted to write a small post to describe how the atmosphere felt in the beginning of the filming and will probably blog more detailed after the first episodes are out. We got little sneak peeks to the fiction parts Mika has mentioned in interviews and after seeing them I expect people to love them and feel very curious about them myself as well. There will be a lot of new details in the concept!

Now back home for one and a half day (to hug my kids and my dog and of course my husband who has a birthday today) and back to Milan on Wednesday. Keeping my fingers crossed for tickets and hoping everything goes well. It was lovely to be back in Italy and to see everyone again xxx

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It’s been more than two weeks since our New Year’s Eve in Florence and I still almost can’t believe we could experience it all nor imagine any better atmosphere or better way to spend that special day. The opera in Florence offered pre-sale packages for the New Year including the symphony concert and a dinner at the opera afterwards and to confirm our seats many of us bought those packages months in advance.

I didn’t give the dinner much thought beforehand, I just wanted to have my concert ticket as early as possible and intentionally avoided having any expectations regarding to the dinner. In my experience things in Italy can be either absolutely amazing (I could give many, many examples) or go terribly wrong in which case people just say “oh well we’re in Italy” like those words simply explained it all (and I’m starting to understand they do, lol!).

This time everything went very well and the evening was really nicely organized. The dinner was served smoothly, the food was delicious, we got wines, a dj, an open bar and impressive fireworks exactly at midnight and it seemed everyone was in a good mood, eating, chatting, dancing and generally having a wonderful time. The Italian girls had helped the opera to organize our tables (for around 100 fans from all over the world) and named every table according to different Mika songs. Ours was called Dr John (such a cute detail wasn’t it).

The concert on New Year’s Eve was extremely intense and transferred us to another world and the best thing with the dinner was that it didn’t remove us from our magical atmosphere. We were quietly guided to our tables and given a glass of wine. The music started (mostly Mika and older party hits) and several waiters started to carry first starters and then other courses. It was all smooth and gradually more and more cheerful and somehow quite surreal.

The tables and food looked festive with many different glasses and fancy details. Not sure what the starter was, maybe chestnut, but my pasta after that as a second course was delicious! Weird to be this excited about food but I rarely get really tasty gluten-free pasta… The main course seemed good but was brought to tables at midnight and suddenly everyone run outside to see the fireworks and I left my food just like the others which was okay as I was full after the pasta anyway.

After celebrating the midnight we all came back to our tables and had a wonderful dessert (mine was a small gluten-free chocolate cake) and some sparkling wine and people danced or just sat and had coffee until the staff said it’s time to go and we started – very gently – to prepare our return back to the reality and a bit reluctantly left our fairytale party, feeling ourselves like real life Cinderellas, literally looking for our shoes (mine were under the table, my feet were hurting so much) and trying to find a taxi to take us back to our hotels.

It was a lovely day, first the stunning concert and then this dinner party with so many familiar faces. Definitely something to remember years to come. See our international table below. Front from right: Renate and her husband, Marion and Miri from Germany, Becks from Spain and Rose from the UK. Behind: me and my husband from Finland and Christina and her husband from Romania (her son took the pic).

Thanks everyone for that special evening and night, I felt lucky to spend the New Year with you! Last but not least, a huge thank you to the Italian fans for their preparations and of course to the opera for organizing everything so well! X

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My husband and I spent a long weekend in Florence for these two symphony concerts and had two and a half days to walk around in this beautiful city. We arrived from Helsinki on Thursday and had no plans for the evening and decided to walk to the hill to see the city view and have a quiet, cozy meal after that.

We wanted to visit both the Uffizi and Accademia Galleries during the weekend but didn’t bought tickets in advance and were not sure if we are willing to queue long enough to see them both. Eventually we went to Uffizi early Friday morning just before the opening time, got in after a half an hour of waiting and had a peaceful experience in the museum, luckily only a decent number of people were let in at a time.

I love museums for their atmosphere… I love beauty and aesthetics in general but I guess I’m more interested in the artist life and those brilliant personalities behind the master pieces and the historical spirit living in old buildings than any form of art itself.

Botticelli’s Primavera must be the most famous piece in Uffizi and as it’s surprisingly positive compared to everything else it was my favorite as well and I especially loved it how Flora and her dress immediately brought my mind Ida and her lovely flower dress in Montreal! Uffizi art was full of mothers with their giant, fat, even muscled children and I couldn’t stop staring at them in all their fascinating weirdness. The colors of the round painting below made me think of this autumn colored sweater I had seen on a fashion catalogue. Everything modern designers do comes from history, doesn’t it.

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On Saturday we headed to the Accademia Gallery a little bit later than planned and the weather was chilly and the queue long already so we took a guided tour starting in a few minutes which turned out to be a good solution as we didn’t have to queue and got a nice history lecture before having time to walk around in the museum on our own.

Michelangelo’s David was absolutely breath-taking! This was my first visit in Florence so I had no idea how stunning, impressive and huge it is in reality. The amount of love and admiration for the male body put in this sculpture is simply astonishing. The body and muscles in all their perfection combined to the giant hands and clumsy ankles and even lovely natural light coming from above, loved it all.

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After visiting the gallery we had a plenty of time to walk around before it was time to get ready for the New Year’s Eve concert and we had a small rest in a cozy, colorful book cafe we bumped into on our way to the river. It was perfect for us, we both love books and as it wasn’t mainly for tourists it wasn’t crowded at all and we could have a calm and relaxed moment before walking to the Boboli gardens.

The gardens – actually a large park – must be my favorite of all the places I saw in Florence. It was big enough not to feel too busy and crowded (people were mainly gathered in certain spots to take photos) and we could have walked there for hours, I would love to go back there in spring time.

I took a lot of pictures of the beautiful small green observatory because it was exactly the kind of a building where I would love to live but I guess a historical observatory with an access to a huge, private park in the heart of the most important renaissance city in the world can be too much to ask. What a lovely and pleasant long weekend in Florence and as always, the anticipation of these two symphony concerts made my mood even better than it already was. The experience would have been different without them, it wouldn’t have felt complete like this.

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