Whether she’s living in Egypt, China, Japan, or New York, peripatetic author and dancer Patrizia Chen knows how to tap into a new culture. T+L talks with the Italian-born writer—whose recent novel, It Takes Two (Scribner, $25), explores the passionate tango subculture of Buenos Aires—about feeling at home anywhere.

Q: Your book really captures the essence of Buenos Aires. How did you become so familiar with the city?

A: Whenever I’m there to dance, I seek out authentic experiences—opting to tango at the neighborhood milonga (dance hall), El Viejo Correo, over touristy spots, for example, or joining porteños on trips to the Tigre Delta.

Q: How have you connected with other places?

A: Similarly, by finding a community. In Japan, I got involved in ikebana—floral arrangement—through the Sogetsu Foundation ( As a girl in Cairo, I became friendly with a fabric merchant in the Al-Mouski Bazaar. Soon I was helping Egyptian women choose material for their party dresses.

Q: Any other tips for living like a local?

A: Walk everywhere; you’ll get to know the city inside and out. And consider renting an apartment so you can cook with market-fresh ingredients. A great agency for finding a place in Buenos Aires is Buenos Aires Housing (

El Viejo Correo

Located on the Parque Centenario, this authentic, neighborhood milonga that is very much not oriented towards tourists features one large tango patio on a black and white checkered tile floor. The decidedly gritty space with a max capacity of 400 fills up with loyal Porteños who come regularly, making the 20 year old spot one of the city’s most traditional tango destinations. Different organizers set up a different milonga on different days of the week, each lending a slightly different style and attracting patrons of varying skill sets.

Al-Mouski Bazaar