Cinque Terre: Corniglia

The Cinque Terre comprises of five villages: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Vernazza, Corniglia and Monterosso al Mare (by order, if taking a train from La Spezia), and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Evi and I had picked Riomaggiore earlier because we found one small cheap room to share but when our friend, Evelyn, decided to join us for this fun trip, we could not find a room that fit 3 persons at Riomaggiore that is within our lean budget. So we searched booking dot com and found a cheap apartment at Corniglia that can fit 3 persons.

From the train station, Evelyn who reached Corniglia earlier, told us to take the City Centro bus just outside the train station. We paid 2.50 Euro to the bus driver, but then found out later from Evelyn that we could get cheaper bus ticket from the small tourism office located inside the station. Alternatively, we can climb Lardarina, a long brick flight of more than 300 steps, but we were both not up to it as we had been travelling since morning and did not have the energy to climb up. We would be blue-black catching our breath. ;P


The village stretches along the main road, Fieschi Road (or Via Fieschi), and the houses have one side facing this road and the other facing the sea. Corniglia is characterised by narrow roads and a terrace in the rock from which all other four Cinque Terre’s villages, two on one side and two on the other, can be seen. The houses are lower set, and only more recently higher, similar to those of the villages of the hinterland.

My two travelling buddies, Evelyn and Evi, busy capturing photos at Via Fieschi.

Corniglia houses

Fieschi RoadNarrow Fieschi Road.

Corniglia is not directly adjacent to the sea. Instead, it is on the top of a promontory about 100 metres high, surrounded on three sides by vineyards and terraces, the fourth side descends steeply to the sea.

Corniglia houses




The origin of the village dates back to the Roman Age as testified by the name, which finds its roots in Gens Cornelia, the Roman family to whom the land belonged. In the Middle Ages it was a possession of the counts of Lavagna, the lords of Carpena and of Luni. In 1254 Pope Innocent IV gave it to Nicolò Fieschi, who held it until 1276, when the village was acquired by the Republic of Genoa.

We spent only a short time discovering Corniglia the day we arrived and the next morning before going to Vernazza in the afternoon. As for food, we had pasta al pomodorro, lemon pie, sandwich with anchovies, bell pepper, eggplant and olive and of course not leaving behind, our favourite drinks; coffee and hot chocolate.

Here are more photos around Corniglia:

Corniglia Piazza.

corniglia-square2Having breakfast at the piazza.


pieHaving limoni (lemon) pie at the terrace by the cliff.

lemonLemon is one of the main crops at Cinque Terre.

neighbourhoodThe neighbourhood.









From Corniglia, we witnessed the sunrise over Manarola and ended the day witnessing a sunset over Monterosso. We will never forget the feeling nor the beauty.

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Cinque Terre Dream

“My luggage is too heavy, I think I wanna leave it here and take few clothes with me. I don’t think dragging it along will do me good,”I broke the silence while Evi and I packed our luggage before we leave the guesthouse in Bologna for Cinque Terre. Evi looked at me and agreed right away. We thought that each our luggage would be lighter after selling some of our books at the fair, but that was not the case. We bought books and collected some brochures/postcards, and that certainly cover the weight of the books that we sold. After communicating with the guesthouse owner via Whatsapp, we left our luggages that we will collect in five days and paid 3 Euro.

Three days earlier,we bought our tickets to Cinque Terre (Corniglia, specifically) for 19.15 Euro each. If we buy on the day we leave, the fare would be more expensive. Or we might have to take a different route with more expensive fare.

From Bologna to Corniglia, we have to change train three times. As written on the ticket, we have to travel through Modena, Parma and Fornovo. We were not sure whether to get down at Modena or Parma, so we followed our instincts; get down at Parma. So, we did. So far, so good.

While waiting for next train to La Spezia.

A photo posted by Em – Illustrator, Malaysia. (@emilayusof) on

We waited at Parma Stazione for one hour for the connecting train to La Spezia. We boarded the train but we had doubts whether to get down at Fornovo or La Spezia. We both agreed to board down at Fornovo as we thought that maybe there’s another connecting train there.



We thought wrong. Fornovo station is just a small station, not an interchange station. So we had to wait for two hours for another train to La Spezia to arrive. We felt stupid, of course, because the only way to Corniglia is through La Spezia. ;P

We wandered outside the station and found a cafe. We had vegetable pies and coffee and took the chance to complete our previous sketching from Bologna.

Don’t really like it but that’ll do.

A photo posted by Em – Illustrator, Malaysia. (@emilayusof) on

Somewhere along the way from Fornovo to La Spezia, Evelyn (my previous travel partner to Arcidosso back in 2014), texted me that she already arrived at Corniglia. Poor girl had to wait more than two hours for us to arrive. But she really enjoyed the time waiting. She had good late lunch, coffee and went sight-seeing around the area.

We arrived at La Spezia Centrale around 5.30pm. From La Spezia, we had to take another train (Levanto bound) and boarded off at Corniglia. We passed by Riomaggiore and Manarola before reaching Corniglia.

So to sum it up; we took 3 regional trains: Bologna – Parma – La Spezia – Corniglia. And from Corniglia Station, we took a bus (City Centro) to Corniglia village center and paid 2.50 Euro. We found out later that we can buy the bus ticket at the tourist counter for 1.50 Euro.

After we settled our things in our tiny apartment, we went exploring the village.

Here!!!! Finally at 5 Terre.

A photo posted by Em – Illustrator, Malaysia. (@emilayusof) on

We, finally made it after dreaming about visiting Cinque Terre for years.

We explored Corniglia and Vernazza, two of five villages of Cinque Terre.We wanted to visit all but a full one day is certainly not enough to cover all. Well, we can do it quickly, hop in the train, get down, take photos, hop in the train again to the next station and so on until we cover all five villages but that is not what we have in mind. We like to take our time and enjoy, and yes, keep the other three villages for next time.

I will post about Corniglia and Vernazza in two separate postings later tomorrow.

Rome, Italy.
1.32am, 110416.


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BICBF 2016

I went to Bologna International Children’s Book Fair for the third time this year. Every time, I went crazy looking at picture books and illustrations. I bet you would to if you were there.

bicbf01Malaysia Pavilion organised by Perbadanan Kota Buku.

bicbf02Some of the titles by Oyez!Books.

bicbf03I was invited by Hunan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House to attend the launching of Tang Sulan’s picture book series, of which one of the books is illustrated by me; ‘The Other Side of the Bridge’. It was launched by the winner of Hans Christian Anderson Awards 2016, Mr. Cao Wenxuan from China. Miss Lim Lay Koon, International Rights Director dari Yusof Gajah Lingard Literary Agency (YGL) and Oyez!Books was also present to witness the auspicious event.




Winner of the Fiction of Ragazzi Award (Fiction): MON TOUT PETIT, text by Germano Zullo, illustrations by Albertine. Winner of Non-fiction: LIBROS PARA MAÑANA (Series),text by Equipo Plantel illustrations by Marta Pina, Mikel Casal, Joan Negrescolor & Luci Gutiérrez. Winner of New Horizons: TONGUE TWISTERS (Lisanak Hisanak), text by Fatima Sharafeddine and illustrations by Hanane Kai. Winner of Opera Prima: PACHO RADA, LA LÉGENDE!, text and illustrations by Johanna Benz.


This year, BICBF celebrated 50 years of Illustrations Exhibition. The exhibition “Artists and Masterpieces of Illustration, 50 Illustrators’ Exhibitions 1967-2016” told the story of half a century that has seen a community of artists, publishers and readers meet each year to share their great passion: books and reading. The narration of
five decades, in the company of illustrators that have made their debut at the Fair or participated in the exhibition before going on to achieve international fame.

“Artists and Masterpieces of Illustration. 50 Illustrators’ Exhibitions 1967-2016”: an exhibition and a publication that intends to record the evolution and the latest trends in illustrated books for children through the work of artists from all over the world. In Italy with Altan, creator of Pimpa, and Roberto Innocenti with the unmissable Rose Blanche; together with great masters of illustration, Bruno Munari, Iela Mari and Lele Luzzati, to artists such as Chiara Carrer, Fabian Negrin and Alessandro Sanna, and the very young; from Britain, Quentin Blake, illustrator of Roald Dahl, Tony Ross, who is adored by the very young for his Stories of a Princess Series, including “I want my Potty!”; from France, Jean Claverie, author of Little Lou, Little Lou, and Yan Nascimbene, the refined illustrator of Italo Calvino; from Prague, the grand dame of illustration, Kv?ta Pacovská; from the United States, Eric Carle, creator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and David Macaulay; from Australia, Shaun Tan, with The Arrival, a pertinent story of migration; to the South Korean Suzy Lee with The Wave, a precious bookwithout words, a cult work for readers of all ages, just to name a few.

Here are more photos:

bicbf07Illustrations by Korean illustrators.

bicbf08Illustrations by Taiwan illustrators.

bicbf09Books from Germany,Country of Honour this year.



Best regards,
Emila, Corniglia,
Cinque Terre, Italy.




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Lost in Venice

There is one thing that I find easy while travelling: getting lost. Finding myself lost in a foreign country was scary at first. But when it happened many times, I took it as an adventure.

The first place that I blissfully got lost was in Venice.  The walk from Venice Santa Lucia Train Station, Ferrovia to Piazza San Marco took me forever.



Along the way, I took many wrong turns and being alone in a superficial place, I almost cried. Many times I found myself caught in the maze-like narrow lanes and sometimes it seemed like there was no way out. Some of the lanes ended up on someone’s door. But somehow I managed to get to San Marco Square by finding and following the crowd. I swore to myself that time, if I ever come back to Venice, I will bring a map.

And then four years later, there I was back in Venice again, forgot to bring what I supposed to bring. I instead brought a friend, Evi.

“Emila, you’ve been here before, I hope you can take me somewhere nice where we can do plein air drawings,” Evi said.

“Uh-oh,” I replied.

Evi had wanted to sketch Venice since the first day we arrived in Italy. That actually makes the two of us. The last time I went I was so caught up in finding my way around.

And so we took an early train to go to Venice using regional train. Regional train is cheaper but slower than the fast one, costing only Euro 12 to compare to Euro 30. After validating our tickets (failure to do so can result in a fine), we boarded the train.

It was funny how the view along the way was somewhat different from what I saw four years back. Italy has changed a lot, I thought. But that was not the case when the ticket conductor came and check our tickets. He said the train we boarded was not bound to Venice; it was bound to Padua. We panicked and later boarded off the train. We took a train back to Bologna Station (paid extra 10 Euros for our tickets) and then took a correct train to Venice.

Before we boarded the train, I told Evi, if we ever got lost in Venice, we should find a hotel to sleep and find our way back to our base in Bologna the next day. She agreed as she could not do much about it as I was the so-called ‘expert’.

We reached Venice at about 11.30 am and first thing we saw was a Moleskine shop! We dropped in and bought each ourselves a Moleskine Sketchbook. We already had bought some in KL but we just need to add one each from Venice. Moleskine is an Italian company based in Milan. Moleskine products include sketchbooks, notebooks, planners, diaries and many more.  The design of the current Moleskine sketchbooks were based on sketchbooks designed by a small family-run French bookbinder in Tours, France almost two centuries ago. They produced it for stationery shops around France. However, in mid 80s, it had discontinued production after the death of the owner. So, I reckon that the last owner was unmarried and was the only child of the last generation – seems logical, right?


After Moleskine, it was lunch! We were super hungry since we just had a slice of bread and a cup of espresso for breakfast before we left for Venice.


Funny thing was, I seemed to know where to go. We did not cross the canal, but instead just walked along Carnareggio (the lane on the left side of the Santa Lucia Train Station) to find a place to eat. We found a halal restaurant called Trattoria All’Aquila. Evi had Penne al Pomodoro while I had Spaghetti alle Vongole. Evi sketched her lunch first. I could not draw with empty stomach so I decided to draw later after I finished my lunch.

Then we just followed our feet around Venice to admire beautiful buildings and found a spot to draw at Campo S. Sofia, off Carnareggio main lane. The buildings are all so beautiful.


Luigi Barzini described Venice as “undoubtedly the most beautiful city built by man” in The New York Times. I have to agree him because every building appealed to me, not to mention picture-perfect. I could go on taking pictures of all buildings one by one. But I was there to draw, so I only managed to cover little part of it.

Our trip went smooth, it was windy and cold but we managed to stop by another location to do a drawing before following the crowd to get to the ferry station at San Marco Square to get back to Santa Lucia Station and then to Bologna.

We missed many touristy spots namely Rialto (where I got lost on my first trip), Murano, Burano and Torcello but we didn’t mind. As long as we set foot anywhere in Venice and drew something, that was good enough. Having Evi with me on this trip gave me the strength and confidence to stop worrying too much about getting lost.


On the night train back to Bologna, Evi told me, “Emila, although we only discovered 5% of Venice today, I think if we ever come back to Italy, I don’t want to go to Venice. I want to discover the place that we got lost earlier today. You remember the signboard at the train station where we boarded off?”

“Yes, you mean Montselice?” I replied.

“Yes, that’s the one.”

“Sure Evi, getting lost in Montselice sounds like a great idea. I’m getting the hang of it,” I remember telling her before I dozed off to the sound of the regional train moving slowly towards Bologna.

[This article appears in Gaya Travel magazine, issue 9.4.]


Credit references:


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BOLOGNA. So what comes to your mind when I mention Bologna? Spaghetti Bolognese? Beware, I can read your mind.

things Bologna

To tell you the truth, at first I thought Spaghetti Bolognese is Bologna’s supposed signature dish, but when I was there, I simply could not find any Spaghetti Bolognese. I learned from the locals that they use tagliatelle instead of spaghetti and the meat-based sauce is called ragù. The earliest documented recipe of an Italian ragù comes from Pellegrino Artusi who first published a recipe in 1891 for a meat sauce characterised as being “bolognese”. There you go, the name to look for ‘tagliatelle al ragù‘. Finding a halal one is quite hard in Bologna, but it’s not a big deal as I can always make Spaghetti Bolognese (or tagliatelle al ragù) at home.

I visited Bologna last March for the second time to attend the world’s biggest children’s book fair. I went to do research on my new children’s books, besides being there at the Malaysia Pavilion to promote my books for international licensing rights.The Bologna Children’s Book Fair is the most important international event dedicated to children’s publishing and multimedia industry. I was there in 2010. I wanted to go back this year because previously I didn’t have much chance to really explore the halls and really look at children’s books displayed at the book fair. I also didn’t have the chance to stick my illustrations on the Illustrator Wall because I didn’t know about it until I was there. I am thankful to KLM Royal Dutch Airlines for sponsoring my return flights to attend this prestigious event and eventually get to stick my illustrations on the wall.


You see, this is the kind of book fair that I quickly feel belonged. There were children’s books everywhere. There were millions of books on display! Just imagine that I was like a child in her playground getting the right toys!

For your information, Bologna Children’s Book Fair has been around for 53 years. Bologna Children’s Book Fair is an annual event where authors, illustrators, literary agents, licensors and licensees, packagers, distributors, printers, booksellers and librarians meet. Here they sell and buy copyright, find the very best of children’s publishing and multimedia production, generate and gather new contacts while strengthening professional relationships, discover new business opportunities, discuss and debate the latest sector trends.

I am proud that this year, my books and books that I illustrated were also being displayed at the Malaysia Pavilion. But yes, the hidden agenda was to just travel. Prior to Bologna, I went to Arcidosso, a commune in the Province of Grosseto in the Italian region Tuscany, including Florence and Venice.

Apart from being at the book fair for a few days, I got a day off to explore some parts of Bologna city with my illustrator friend, Evi, who stayed with me in a rented room in an apartment at Via Ferruccio Garavaglia that we booked through Airbnb. It’s way much cheaper to rent through Airbnb rather than hotel room for 2 pax. We stayed with the owners, Katerina and Fabio, a very friendly and nice couple. We rented the room because it is situated near the book fair, only about 10 minutes’ walk.

We went out to the city early in the morning, took bus 35 to the city and started walking to Via dell’indipendenza, a business street that is not far from Bologna Centrale (the main station) via Piazza XX Settembre. There was an open market at Piazza XX Settembre called Fiera del Libro that sells books and prints. This book market takes place twice a year: March to May (Spring) and from October to November (Autumn). Evi and I bought some art books at very good price.

Opposite Piazza XX Settembre, there’s Montagnola Park. Montagnola Park is the oldest park of Bologna and it has always been a location for cultural performances, games and sports competitions. This park is open to the public since 1664. The park is accessible via two beautiful flights of steps decorated with sculptures and reliefs, including a beautiful fountain depicting the horse and virgin in the grasp of an octopus.

We later strolled along the porticoed Independence Street towards Piazza Nettuno. Independence Street is the major shopping strip, with an abundance of local boutiques and jewellery stores, not to mention the international ones. I bought a pair of Marietta’s suede boots for 10 Euros and a Pull&Bear jeans for 17 Euros. Oh, and a sweater for 15 Euros at a boutique that I can’t remember the name.

Along the walk to Piazza Nettuno, we saw the baroque Cattedrale di Bologna, a church that is dedicated to Saint Peter. Most of the present building dates from the 17th century, with a few parts from the late 16th century. The architecture is so grand and amazing.

When we got to Piazza Nettuno, we saw a rally going on. The rally, called S.O.S. Venezuela, was in support of students and protesters in Venezuela who are standing up against President Nicolas Maduro’s regime. S.O.S Venezuela was simultaneously held in dozens of cities throughout the world on the same day. The objective of the gathering was to create public awareness of what is happening in Venezuela as well as gain signatures for a petition to get elected officials to take a stand and denounce the human rights violations. We didn’t join but just stood there watching the rally while looking at beautiful buildings in the area including the Fountain of Neptune.

The Fountain of Neptune (Fontana di Nettuno), a monumental civic fountain with a bronze figure of Neptune, extending his reach in a lordly gesture of stilling and controlling the waters. I was mesmerised to learn that in 1920, one of the Maserati brothers, the artist Mario Maserati, used this symbol in the logo as it was considered particularly appropriate for the sports car company due to fact that Neptune represents strength and vigour. In addition, the statue is a characteristic symbol of the company’s original home city, Bologna.

Other than Maserati, I thought that it is good to mention here that Ducati and Lamborghini was also established in Bologna in 1926 and 1963 respectively.

Also in the vicinity of the square is the big Biblioteca Salaborsa. Salaborsa is Bologna’s multimedia and general information library, which provides users of all ages with books, newspapers, magazines, videos, compact disks, data banks, along with cabled and wi-fi internet connections. Access to the library is free.

Opposite of Salaborsa is the Town Hall (or Palazzo d’Accursio), consisting a set of buildings that were united over the centuries. In the 15th century, it was restored by Fioravante Fioravanti, who added, among other features, the Clock Tower.

clock tower

And the clock made us hungry! We didn’t realise that we had walked and explored for 5 hours! It was already 3pm and we decided to eat rice. We walked the same route back to the station and had our late lunch at a Pakistani cafe. While eating, we planned to explore more parts of the city but suddenly the rain poured. We decided to just go back to the apartment and rest. The 5-hour walk (with a heavy camera, bag full of books, new pair of boots, jeans and sweater) had an effect on my back.

We did go out to the city once or twice to have lunch and buy few other things during other days but that was about it since we had limited time. After discussing much about it, Evi and I like to go back to Bologna on a more relaxed trip, not as an excursion for an event.

Bologna has so much to offer and makes a perfect off-the-beaten-path destination for savvy travellers. It is a delight to simply wander and discover unexpected sights and architectural masterpieces from the past, not forgetting the tagliatelle al ragù.

Getting to Bologna: KLM Royal Dutch Airlines operate twice daily from Kuala Lumpur(KUL) to Bologna (BLQ).

P/S: I wrote this article for Gaya Travel magazine and will appear in the latest issue 9.3.

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