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    My City Life: Pretty Little London

    Sara Santini and Andrea Di Filippo, co-founders of the popular Instagram account, on feeling like they belong in London and getting through the day with plenty of coffee

    Where in London do you live and/or work?
    We have been living in Angel, Islington for the past five years. We love this area of London so much. We changed flats and areas many times, seven times over seven years in London, but we seem to not want to leave Angel. Our work takes us everywhere in London so every day is different and we get to explore different areas, from a breakfast meeting in the City to lunch in Chelsea and a shoot in Covent Garden. A bit tiring but never boring!


    What’s your earliest memory of London?
    S: My earliest memory of London is me getting off the Stansted Express in Liverpool Street when I first came to the city. I was just 19 years old and completely mind blown of how busy the station was and how everyone was rushing around looking like they had somewhere important to be. It was a bit of a shock having just come from Italy and its slow-paced walks, but I also knew immediately that this was where I belonged.

    A: My earliest memory is getting the underground with a friend from London and thinking ‘I will never ever figure out how this works’. For some reason, of all the things to do in this city I really wanted to see the O2 Arena, so that is where we went.


    What makes London special to you?
    S: The diversity of the city and that there truly is something for everyone. I also love how welcoming and accepting this city is, no matter who you are and where you come from. They say about New York that it’s the city that makes your dreams come true, but I do really believe that it is the same for London.

    A: I could write an essay on why London is special to me. But if I have to say one thing it’s the vibe and the fact that there is always something going on. I am never bored in London and even when I travel, I’m always looking forward to coming back. Also, I’m a big foodie and the restaurants in London are just special.


    How would you describe London in three words?
    S: Vibrant, diverse and fun.

    A: Diverse, fun and inspiring.

    I love how welcoming this city is, no matter who you are and where you come from.

    What’s your usual morning routine?
    S: I don’t really have a morning routine as every day is truly so different. I usually wake up around 8am and make myself a double espresso. Then I see where the days takes me.

    A: I’m not an early morning person but I’m usually up and running by 9am. I don’t have breakfast but drink a lot of coffee, which gives the energy to get through the day. I usually like to get emails done in the morning and do the creative work in the afternoon.


    What do you do to keep a good work-life balance?
    S: Doing what we do and not having a 9 to 5 job can be challenging in terms of having a clear work-life balance and the temptation to continue to work after hours is real. It is important for me to keep weekends free, not use my laptop after 7pm and have time with my friends and Andrea to travel and enjoy life.

    A: As me and Sara work together and are a couple, it can be quite difficult at times to switch off. I’m kind of a workaholic so I could literally work all day every day (partly because I love my job), but Sara really helps me switch off my laptop and relax.


    What activities, habits or rituals have you found help you to maintain good mental health through challenging times?
    S: Walking a lot really clears my mind and there wasn’t a day during the pandemic where me and Andrea didn’t go out for a walk. I loved exploring our neighborhood and finding cute streets and hidden parks we didn’t know about.

    A: Cooking really helps me when I’m stressed, especially during the pandemic. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to learn new skills that give you a sense of achievement.


    What do you like to do to relax?
    S: It might not be everyone’s idea of relaxation but when I feel like I need a break and I’m a bit stressed out my medicine is to hop on a plane and go on a little trip whether it’s Paris, Amsterdam or home to Italy.

    A: Watch a good TV series and – again – cook new dishes for me and Sara.


    What’s the best book you’ve read in the past six months?
    S: Lately, I’ve been more into easy readings and novels to relax while on the plane such as Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty or Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Such great books that kept me hooked to the pages.

    A: Our book Pretty Little London: A Seasonal Guide to the City’s Most Instagrammable Places obviously! Jokes aside, I really loved Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall. It makes you understand a lot about why some cultures and countries are how they are, and a lot depends on their geographical position.


    What are you currently listening to?
    S: I’ve been listening to old music from Dean Martin, Sinatra and Reanto Carosone but also a bit of French music.

    A: I don’t really listen to podcasts, but I love listening to music especially when I’m on public transport. I’m currently listening to Frank Sinatra and Dean Thomas a lot because I’ve just come back from New York and they remind me of my trip.


    What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
    S: The best piece of advice is from my grandma, which always reminds me about this old Italian phrase that literally means ‘don’t bandage your head before breaking it’ and I guess it can be translated into ‘don’t cross that bridge before you get to it’. It really helps me to worry less about things that are in the future and that might not even be happening at all, and to stay focused on the present.

    A: I used to be quite superficial and rush through things making many silly mistakes, so my tutor at university made me learn the hard way. He would say that my thesis was full of errors but wouldn’t tell me which ones, so he made me re-do it until I got it right (which took a while). Since then, I have been much more detail-oriented, and it has taught me to be a perfectionist.


    What thought always puts you in a good mood?
    S: Planning a trip, a bit of shopping, seeing my friends and a date night with Andrea are my cure to anything.

    A: The thought of travelling around the world and inspiring other people to do the same through our photography.


    Follow Pretty Little London on Instagram @prettylittlelondon. Pretty Little London: A Seasonal Guide to the City’s Most Instagrammable Places, is available here 

    The Royal Exchange is delighted to host a photography masterclass with Pretty Little London on 17 & 18 February, as well as an upcoming exhibition. Click here for full details


    The Royal Exchange is partnering with Mind in the City, Hackney and Waltham Forest to encourage conversations about mental health, wellbeing and community spirit. For further information on Mind in the City, its support services – a range of innovative and collaborative services to support people’s mental and physical wellbeing, resilience and recovery – and how you can get involved with campaigning, fundraising or volunteering, please visit:

    Mind in the City, Hackney and Waltham Forest is part of the national Mind network, which provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. If you, or anyone you know, is experiencing difficulties, visit to access information about a broad range of topics and services, designed to help you overcome the challenges of this difficult time.