Sunsets in Sorrento @VILLA PRESTIGE

The setting could not be more perfect: close enough to Sorrento and Positano, yet such a peaceful and quiet place. Welcomed by stunning scenery and awesome hosts, we felt at home from the first minute onwards.

The view over the gulf of Naples – a breathtaking introduction.

  

Set in the hills above Sorrento, the place is truly magical: spectacular panoramas, comfortable, clean and elegantly furnished rooms. I especially appreciated the attention to detail.

The sensory shower.

Beautiful terraces and balconies overlooking the gulf of Naples across to Mount Vesuvius made for the perfect work space with views I would love to wake up to every morning.

Hotel Prestige, located conveniently near the Villa (just down the road), features a lovely swimming-pool and cosy restaurant with authentic local cuisine. Combine that with a fantastic sunset and it’s a fail-proof holiday experience.

 

The menu is a succession of dishes of stunning tastiness. Make sure you don’t skip dessert 🙂

The Villa is very well located to see the area. The staff, always on hand with tips, will make sure you are enjoying the region to the max and having a remarkable stay. Here customer service, communication, and attitude are second to none.

Villa Prestige offers a variety of programs to choose from. You’ll get help scheduling various tours and day trips throughout the region and the Amalfi coast, sea cruising, evening concerts, you name it…

The villa is ideally placed to quickly reach the islands and many dreamy towns of the coast. A courtesy shuttle to Sorrento itself is available several times a day.

Thank you for having us @Villa Prestige (site here), and arrivederci a presto!

Umbrian Hideaway@CASTELLO DI GALLANO Resort -Valtopina

Castello di Gallano Resort is one of our favourite escapes during the summer months. Plunged into the green Umbrian country, it offers the visitor a memorable and relaxing stay.

Enchanting is the area, which can be reached by driving through some lovely Umbrian countryside.

 

The medieval hamlet (which remains are still visible today) has been turned into this fantastic resort.

The 32 recently renovated apartments are well equipped and nicely furnished.

A very pleasant setting with swimming-pool (very refreshing on a hot day) surrounded by gorgeous Valtopina panoramas.

Extensive park-like areas allow you to get away from it all. Guests can use the many common areas such as barbecue facilities, picnic area and a playground for the little ones.

Here one can relax in the resort’s sublime surroundings or enjoy day trips to many beautiful towns easily reached from the resort – Foligno, Assisi, Perugia, Bevagna, Spoleto.

 

The elegant restaurant where to discover typical dishes of Umbrian cuisine. Everything is prepared out of high-quality products. Homemade pasta, truffles, and fine meats – all combined to ensure a memorable dining experience.

 

The views all around are breathtaking and the accommodations are beautiful too.

And what better way to spend an afternoon in Umbria than to come back to your accommodation and continue enjoying this view from your very own terrace, or maybe poolside with aperitivo!

My ‘Cherry-Picked’ Cheesecake

This is how to whip up a yummy no-bake cheesecake. Fresh cherries, a crunchy biscuit base and smooth cream cheese filling make a delicious summer dessert.

Ingredients:

  • 100 g digestive biscuits
  • 40 g butter, melted
  • 250 g Philadelphia cheese
  • 250 g ricotta cheese
  • 350 g cherries, pitted & split into halves (save some for decoration)
  • 100 g icing sugar (I like to use vanilla-flavoured icing sugar)
  • 16 g unflavored gelatin sheets
  • 6 tbsp cherry syrup
  • 50 g sugar
  • mint leaves, to decorate

Directions:

Crush the biscuits and mix in the butter (melted at room temperature), line the base of a 18 cm round springform tin with greaseproof paper, and push the biscuit mixture into an even layer into the base of the tin. Chill for 15 min.

Soak 8 g gelatin sheets in a bowl of iced water for 10 min. In a small saucepan heat slowly 3 tbsp cherry syrup, turn the heat off, lift the gelatin sheets from the water, wring gently, and whisk in until dissolved.

In a separate bowl use an electric whisk to combine soft cheeses with icing sugar and the gelatin syrup mixture, until completely combined. Add 120 g cherries. Form a layer on top of the biscuit base and let set in the freezer for 1 hour.

Finally, place 230 g cherries into a saucepan, add sugar, 3 tbsp cherry syrup and 2 tbsp water. Stir over medium heat without bringing to boil. Remove from the heat. Add 8 g gelatin (soaked beforehand in the iced water and then wringed out), stir just until the gelatin dissolves. Let cool at room temperature. Tip the mix on top of the cake, smooth over the top, and refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours.

To serve, remove from tin, decorate with some cherries and mint leaves.

The True Taste of Umbria @ARNALDO CAPRAI – Montefalco

“Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy,”

– Benjamin Franklin

This year’s Cantine Aperte weekend has been filled with time with friends in the countryside around Montefalco. It was about tasting gorgeous wines, strolling through the vines, and enjoying stunning views over some of Umbria’s finest landscapes.

And what better place to learn about the local superstar grape Sagrantino than at the Arnaldo Caprai vineyard.

 

Umbrian families have been perfecting their crafts for generations. And that goes for harvesting olives, sculpting ceramics and, of course, winemaking.

 

Visiting this beautiful winery was on the top of my ‘to do’ list for years. They are evangelical about taking visitors on tours, tastings, or even gourmet picnics among the vines – the setting makes for the perfect al fresco dining experience.

 

The man himself, Mr Marco Caprai.

Since 1988 Marco Caprai has been leading the company in his pursuit of giving the tradition an innovative approach. Harnessing his personal talent and skills, he made a commitment to produce high quality wines through environmentally conscious innovation, sustainable winery and farming operations. This, and the desire to preserve the landscape and regional identity, has lead to years of research in the agronomic and enological fields, which also involved the University of Agriculture of Milan.

The wine is just as amazing as the views. In the glass: Colli Martani Grechetto DOC Grecante.
Savour a glass of delicious Arnaldo Caprai wines while taking in the stunning panorama!
Arnaldo Caprai Grechetto Colli Martani Grecante 2015: #1 on Wine Spectator’s list of Italian white wines for summer.
The exclusive cases filled with a hand-picked selection of superb wines.
One to drink, one to cellar 🙂

For more info visit www.arnaldocaprai.it

 

Chocolate Kisses @PERUGINA – Perugia

An incredible journey awaits you once you set foot in this factory. A behind the scenes tour  into the world of chocolate making!

 

You will learn about the history of the brand, as well as the aspects of top-quality chocolate production – this place has been home to the famous Baci (Kisses) wrapped in multilingual love notes, and then come the finest truffle and praline fillings, chocolate bars and so much more.

Since Perugina launched  its first store in 1919, it has grown into an internationally known brand, which has conquered our hearts, one bacio at a time.

This is also a story of the lady behind it all, Mrs. Luisa Spagnoli, who realized her ambitions of creating not only a brand of women’s fashion clothing, but also a small chocolate making enterprise in the centre of Perugia.

The past comes to life thanks to a selection of photographs and objects that recreate the history of Perugina from its humble origins in 1907 to the present day.

The record-breaking bacio (Bacione) by Perugina.

In a relaxed atmosphere of the chocolate atelier  you can create your very own chocolates under the expert guidance of maître chocolatiers, or practice the art of chocolate making by visiting chocolate workshops.

Easter creations during Easter time.

Our knowledgeable guide Luigi made the tour a very unique experience. He gave us an interesting insight on the company’s history.

An introduction video was followed by a wonderful visit of the factory, an explanation as to the origins of the coco bean and how chocolate is made, and of course, tasting the entire range of Perugina chocolates!

Cocoa pods, which host 30/40 cocoa beans each, cushioned in a soft white pulp.
One bacio, two baci…

They also have a shop for you to go mad in – a wide selection of chocolate gifts to take home at the end of the tour.

Visit this site for more info, reservations, and an unforgettable experience at Casa del Cioccolato Perugina.

Bomarzo a Marzo

The Sacro Bosco of Bomarzo is an extraordinary and mysterious garden in the province of Viterbo, where grotesque figures carved in situ out of peperino came to life in the mid 16th century.

The area, once homeland of the Etruscans, is extremely unique and beautiful – we are in Tuscia, northern Lazio, the Cimini mountains in the backdrop, and the Tiber River Valley marking the border with Umbria.

Lazio is not just Rome, even if hugely influenced by its nearness and its classical past. Characterized by the volcanic crater lakes – think Bolsena, Bracciano and Vico, Lazio has some important river flows and lavish green forests. Washed by the Tyrrhenian Sea, it is mainly a hilly region, with few mountains on one side and the plain towards the coast.

Rome’s noble families would have luxurious retreats set in the beautiful countryside. Just like the Orsini family palace that dominates Bomarzo, a small town perched on a tufa rock hill. Pier Francesco (Vicino) Orsini (1523- 1583) and Giulia Farnese moved into the palace surrounded by a sacred wood with lumps of peperino rock emerging from the ground.

The park was conceived by Vicino Orsini during the 30 years of his adult life. His intention was to impress his friends and visitors, to make them wander in wonder, and enter into a deep state of spiritual questioning.

The sculptures are spread all over the woody land. With no logical order nor designed route, the garden is unconventional and unlike any other. The guests would leave their horses at the entrance and stroll along the twisting pathways, fascinated and overwhelmed by curiosity to interpret the meaning of the sculptures.

The Ogre/ (the Mouth of Hell)
Hannibal’s Elephant

There is also a Leaning House with an intentionally shifted centre of gravity, which gives you an odd wobbly feeling when inside.

Intended to astonish, the gardens was where Vicino Orsini tried to cope with his grief after his beloved wife Giulia died.

The Temple

The monumental complex with its looming stone monsters, dragons, exotic animals, giant men and women, obelisks and mythological figures around every corner (some feature inscribed verses and mottoes) is an enigmatic example of the Italian High Renaissance.

Despite being a 16th-century architectural project, it is unlike any other garden of the time. Spring is a good time to visit. Take your time to enjoy this magical garden, which has inspired many artists.

 

The park is one of a kind, very educational and worth visiting. You get here by car. Go early or late to avoid crowds (and maybe get nicer photo ops). Allow an hour or two for your visit, maybe more if you bring a picnic lunch. There is also a small play area for the children.

Carefree Days @HOTEL SCHNEEBERG Family Resort & Spa **** – Val Ridanna

The Valley of Ridnaun (Val Ridanna) will greet you with pure Alpine nature, bright sunshine and fresh air that stimulates the senses, while the Kruselburger family will leave none of your holiday wishes unsatisfied.

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Like its sister valleys ,Val Racines and Val Giovo, Val Ridanna is relaxed and truly beautiful, and offers easy-going and friendly atmosphere.

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For almost 40 years now Hotel Schneeberg and its knowledgeable and helpful staff have been taking good care of their guests. It is also known as one of the most family-friendly hotels in Alto Adige.

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A fully equipped safe play area and an excellent spacious nursery (Mini-club), with well trained staff to look after the children. Our daughter enjoyed all of the fun activities and brilliant entertainment.

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You’ll eat very well here. The restaurants combine the best of Italian cuisine and South Tyrolean cooking. The buffets and the 4-course dinner in the evening are great and  can please everyone.

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The location and the area are beautiful. The hotel offers great indoor and outdoor activities: the Schneeberg spa facility of 8000 m2 has saunas, steam baths, relaxation rooms, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, solarium and fitness area, not to mention the slides, pools and castles of the Bergi-Land aqua park.

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There is also a bowling alley, bars, a pizzeria, and a  disco pub. The cross-country ski trails are just outside the hotel, as well as the natural pond with pedalos, the huge open space for games, swings, and mini-golf.

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Relax and Alpine mountain scenery
Relax and Alpine mountain scenery.

There are lots of activities to try out both in summer and winter. Follow the call of the mountains and go hiking, climbing, mountain biking. Enjoy the surroundings and visit traditional festivals, events and concerts. Have fun on the 25 kilometers of snow-sure slopes of the Racines-Giovo ski area, which features 8 ski lifts, including the new eight-seat cableway, terrific ski runs, the Racines Funpark, a ski school and a children’s area. At these high altitudes the snow is almost certain from December through March, or anyway guaranteed thanks to the slopes equipped with snowmaking even when nature doesn’t cooperate.

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You’ll find plenty of things to do here in your off-slope time, as well. You can visit the Wolfsthurn Castle, Mareta, which hosts the South Tyrolean Museum of Hunting and Fishing, and the Mining World Ridnaun-Schneeberg.

The hotel is about a 15-minute drive from the beautiful town of Vipiteno (Sterzing), read my earlier posts to learn more about the region.

Arezzo Is Always a Good Idea

Arezzo, a town about 80 km south-east of Florence, is universally known for its gold-working (since the Middle Ages) and the medieval jousting contest La Giostra del Saracino performed twice a year in the main piazza.

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Arezzo is the capital of the easternmost province of Tuscany, which gets far less attention. The town was once part of the Etruscan League, then turned into the flourishing Roman Arretium, and later a medieval commune.

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Among its native sons and supreme citizens were the poet and educated humanist Petrarch (1304-1374) and the talented artist and architect Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574). Here Guido monaco taught music and went on to invent the basis of the modern system of musical notation. Roberto Benigni filmed in Arezzo the scenes of his Oscar-winning tragicomedy Life Is Beautiful (La Vita è Bella, 1997).

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Start at the Duomo (Cathedral of San Donato), it’s magnificent. Facing the same piazza is the 14th-century Palazzo dei Priori.

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If you walk through the gardens, you’ll get to the 16th-century Fortezza Medicea. Situated atop the San Donato Hill, it was one of the three fortresses built to defend the city. It offers great panoramic views of the city and witnesses various periods of construction.

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A monument (1928) in the Prato Gardens honoring Francesco Petrarca.
A monument (1928) in the Prato Gardens honoring Francesco Petrarca.

Walk down the corso (Corso Italia), past the shop windows, cafés, and the beautiful Romanesque church of Santa Maria della Pieve with its unmistakable bell tower called “of the hundred holes”.

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From here you get to the most beautiful square of Arezzo (and one of the most beautiful in Italy) –Piazza Grande, with fine medieval buildings and the Vasari Loggia.

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Here the Giostra del Saracino takes place twice a year (in June and September). A historical re-enactment of a medieval knights’ competition between the four districts of the town.

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Palazzo della Fraternita dei Laici in Piazza Grande.
Palazzo della Fraternita dei Laici in Piazza Grande.

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Basilica of San Francesco
Basilica of San Francesco

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Inside is an amazing fresco cycle by Piero della Francesca – the extraordinary Cappella Bacci with the Legend of the True Cross;  not to be missed!

Numerous Etruscan tombs as well as remains of ancient Roman buildings have been recovered within the modern town. A trip to Arezzo wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Roman Amphitheatre and Archaeological Museum: an interesting itinerary, where you can walk amongst the amphitheatre ruins and discover Arretium through the gems of the museum.

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You may also wanna visit Casa del Petrarca (in via dell’Orto, not far from the Cathedral, now the seat of Petrarch Academy of Arts and Science) and Casa Vasari (in via XX Settembre, rebuilt and frescoed by Giorgio Vasari in the 16th century).

Around every other corner I stroll past there is something to explore and discover, like this interesting Fauna Selvatica exhibition.

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Envisioned by the province of Arezzo, the project owes its existence to the group of experts. 600 different pieces from birds to mammals represent the local fauna as well as the exotic wildlife. An insight into the biodiversity of our planet, with particular regard to environmental problems. The museum is a few steps away from the Cathedral, at n.3 of Piazza della Liberta. Open every first Sunday and the preceding Saturday of the month, free entrance, 9:30 – 13:00 and 15:30 – 19:00, or by appointment.

Advent in Alto Adige

You can’t beat the sensory experience of Alto Adige in December! For a Christmas enthusiast like myself, the magical Christmas markets of this region are a MUST!

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The beautiful squares of Merano, Brunico, Bolzano, Bressanone, Vipiteno set the atmosphere for the most beautiful time of the year. Advent singing warms the hearts of visitors, and the smell of Christmas pastries, mulled wine, and other seasonal culinary delights lingers in the air.

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South Tyrol regional capital Bolzano and its Christmas market that fills the central Piazza Walther, where you can buy handcrafted holiday decorations and gifts that you won’t find in usual shops. It is the biggest and one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Alto Adige.
South Tyrol regional capital Bolzano and its Christmas market that fills the central Piazza Walther, where you can buy handcrafted holiday decorations and gifts that you won’t find in usual shops. It is the biggest and one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Alto Adige.
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Each market is unique. Bressanone is well worth the visit during the Advent!

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Inside the beautiful Cathedral of Bressanone
Inside the beautiful Cathedral of Bressanone.

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The market in Vipiteno is also a favourite.

Countless events help shorten the wait until Christmas, such as Krampus runs organized early in December. The scary-looking furry and horned figures, Krampuses, roam the streets of Bressanone, followed by St. Nicholas and his angels, who represent a victory of good over evil. You are in for a truly unforgettable experience!

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Spend the most wonderful time of the year in Alto Adige. Each market has a unique personality and  should not be missed.

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Coming to Alto Adige is always a treat, whether it is winter or summer. We really enjoyed the holiday atmosphere here. I can’t wait to start planning our return trip next year!

Buon Natale!

A Toast To Autumn @Fattoria COLSANTO -Bevagna, PG

Umbria never fails to surprise me. I sometimes forget what a beautiful region it is. The landscape is simply fascinating, and autumn is the right time of year for a scenic back-road drive, with vineyards whose leaves paint the countryside red, orange, and gold.

If your Umbrian dreams feature these amazing vistas, set your sights on Montefalco, known as the ‘balcony of Umbria’ for its dramatic hilltop perch. There are few better places to connect with all the charm and authenticity of this beautiful region than Fattoria Colsanto, situated right in the heart of Umbria. It makes a great base to visit all the main towns, with so many sights and treasures to choose from:  Perugia, Spello, Bevagna, Spoleto, Foligno and, of course  Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis, are all within easy reach.

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The area is known for its wine and Livon is one of the best wine producers from this corner of Umbria. The family also owns wineries in the most famous regions throughout Italy. They did a superb job in renovating the 18th-century farm house, adding today’s modern comforts to the estate, with five comfortable rooms for the guests. The cellar offers quality wine tastings, including the region’s signature Sagrantino di Montefalco and Montefalco Rosso.

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The area is so incredibly pretty. And what better way to experience it than stay in such a relaxed and charming place!

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How’s this for an inviting view?