Barbara Miolini and I first met in the early days of her opening Bar Palladio back in 2013 when I was working on a new edition of my book Love Jaipur. Since then we have become friends and meet every time I am in Jaipur. Bar Palladio is a Jaipur icon, rivalling the Hawa Mahal in terms of being the most photographed building in the pink city and certainly is on everyone’s must do list when in the pink city.
Barbara is an Italian-Swiss expat and long-time Jaipur resident whose love affair with India began around two decades ago. Today as well as running Bar Palladio and younger sibling Caffe Palladio she still runs an embroidery unit working for leading global fashion brands. Barbara is a passionate foodie and told me that “I do not cook, but I do love to eat!” She dreamt of her ideal dining experience and, working with her friend Dutch designer Marie-Anne Oudejans, has created one of the most beautiful spaces in India. Indeed its so impressive it was featured on the cover of World of Interiors and has become one of the most-loved dining venues in India.
Our conversation took place leading up to Diwali, in late October during the Covid-19 Pandemic.
What were you just thinking of?
I was just having breakfast with a colleague and discussing his imminent plans to move to Venice to study for the next two years. This made me think about the state of the world and travel, visas, commercial flights and wondering when things will be back to normal.
What are you doing for the rest of today?
Today I will go the office to work on my new project. I am just a short walk to the office and this project has really been a wonderful creative outlet for me through the pandemic. We hope it will open in the first half of 2021. Bar Palladio reopened in the beginning of September and has been doing well thanks to a lot of local support, Café Palladio opened at the end of May. Some of my other projects have been put on hold for a while.
How ‘real’ does the threat of the virus feel? Do you know any one personally who has contracted the virus?
I feel we have been very lucky in Jaipur; we are aware of Covid as people are still wearing masks, however, pretty much life has returned to normal unlike what my family are experiencing in Italy. In India it appears people have not been so affected mentally, in Italy there is a heaviness and a fear which in Jaipur it doesn’t appear to be the same. Jaipur feels lighter. Until a month ago I didn’t know anyone who had Covid-19, however since then I know some people who have had it and yet recovered quickly but sadly one of our printers has lost both of his parents.
If your own health and that of your family/friends is ok; then what is the greatest impact on your life (and on your work) of the pandemic?
I think the periods of lockdown have given people a lot of time to think about what they really want out of life and hence have prompted a lot of dramatic change. Some of my friends have left India and moved to their home countries or other places. At the beginning, back in March, it was quite scary and the question that came up, is where you really belong. For me, I didn’t feel I needed to go back to Italy by life is Jaipur
What are you looking forward to post pandemic?
I now think very close in, I focus on today and tomorrow and go with the flow, I no longer think about 12 months to 18 months ahead. I try to live in the moment and have found that the pandemic has shortened the time frame of thinking, and not to get too far ahead.
Has there been anything positive from the pandemic?
Yes, more time and a great focus on the simple things. I have really appreciated reconnecting with friends and having more time for nice conversations with them. I also got annoyed with the bombardment of the media so have reduced my time engaging with media.
What does your personal future of travel look like? When and where will you go first? What are you dreaming of?
I am going to Goa soon and am looking forward to relaxing on a beach. I hope to be able to return to Europe to visit family around Easter.
What are you finding inspiring now?
Nature. My home is near a neighbourhood park and I have enjoyed the trees and the birds, and my new project is outside of the city and deep in nature. For the first month of the lockdown, I did not leave my house, so when we could leave, I really enjoyed my evening walks when I could touch trees and see and hear the birds. I also have enjoyed some new design books and having the time to enjoy them.
What has made you laugh out loud most recently?
My friends, in particular Simon when he bursts into song.
Given we are about to celebrate the festival of lights, what has brought light into your life in the last 12 months?
My personal spiritual journey, I have more faith and more belief now and this brings light into my world.
Bar Palladio is open daily between 6pm and midnight and Caffe Palladio is open from 10am to 7pm every day except Tuesday. The on-line shop is open and ships both within India and internationally.