Category Archives: Italy

When in doubt , head to Italy ! 

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Italy is my favorite country in the world.  New York is where I wanted to live as a child , Italy (  Regions of Tuscany or Umbria ) are where I would love to retire. 

Day 1 in Milan. We checked in at the Bulgari. A true test of a hotel is what they do when they are in trouble. With that internet down , printers not working the hotel was in trouble. But with a smiling face and no stress visible they handed it like complete pros. 

We had the 4 th floor room , garden view. Very nice. 

Candy and a tamarind drink at the lobby. 


Drinks at the ever popular bar with outdoor seating. Felt like an oasis in a busy city. Loved it. 

We did lunch at convivum restaurant. It overlooks this piazza.  Everything is gorgeous here. 


We dined at the 2 Michelin star restaurant , Seta. We really enjoyed our meal. The lamb was one of the best I have ever eaten. ( At the Mandarin Oriental ) 


Day 1 – a success !! We also went to the gym – so that was great. Could slightly justify the over eating. 

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Day 4,5 and 6- Italy 

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after bidding adieu to Portofino, our next stop was Porto Ercole. A Tuscan Island where locals go on holiday. 

Before heading there we decided to do a slight detour to “The Mall”. A big designer outlet shopping center in Rappello , Tuscany. 

We then headed to Porto Ercole. We stayed at the Argenterio Golf and Spa resort. It’s a member of the design hotels. There is one Leading hotel of the world on the island , Il  Pelicano , incase you are wondering. 

  

  

  

 

  Modern property with a black and white decor. We had a  junior suite with a terrace. 

Dinner Herrera was modern Tuscan good with local ingredients. 

     
We decided to explore the island a little Porto Stefano was the nearest to followed by Orbetello. 

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We ate dinner at a beach restaurant called “I Due Pini”. It was just beautiful. 

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Hubby did a golf lesson at the hotel. I used the gym. They had 2 pools.indoor and outdoo the gym was well equipped. 

The next day we decided to return to one of our favorite Tuscany cities- Siena. It was just a 90 m drive. It was the only day it rained but it was still wonderful. 

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After a fantastic lunch at a cave restaurant ( boar’s meat sauce on Papadelle) , we had some great coffee followed by gelato. 

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Since we couldn’t get a table at Pelicano due to the inclement weather  , we ended the trip with some delicious wine and dessert.   

 

  The drive to the airport was just 90 m. 

Bye Italy. See you again soon !!!

Day 3 – Portofino-Cinque Terre

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Day 3 we had decided to eat breakfast at the hotel ( delicious ) and head to Cinque Terre. We took the train from Santa Margarita to the furthest village Monterosso. There is an unlimited train ride option which we purchased. Monterosso is beautiful but due to the tourist influx, become a tourist town. 

  
         It was gorgeous. 

     Edit  Edit  Edit  EditWe thought we could take  the ferry from Monterosso to Manarolo but at lunch time the ferry wasn’t working so we took the train to Vernazza. We ate lunch here and then decided we were going to do the hike back to Montirosso. (1:45 m).

The hike was not super easy. This was my first real hike and it wa a super fun but stressful in places where there was nothing to hold on to !

Made it back with my recovering achilles  tendon , so all good there.  

  

  

  

   

  

  

  

  

  

A drink after this crazy hike followed by a train ride back to Portofino  and another dinner at Puny. ( yes – again!). 

Off to Tuscany next. 

Day 2- Portofino, Italy 

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We were well rested this morning , having slept 12 hours !! The bedroom was so dark and we had no screaming kids ! 

We got ready and walked down to the town on Portofino. The Belmond has 2 properties here. One high up on a hill ( where we were staying ) and one right on the water ( Belmond Splendio Mare). The hotel has a shuttle service back and forth every 20 mins as well. 

   

Walking this path led to the habor. For a fishing town , it has some very beautiful high end designer stores. 

I love buying fruits as they taste so different and natural. 

  
Morning espresso. A Double. 

  

Pictures below of the harbor. 

   
     
Lunch was at a restaurant called o Magazin. Delicious fresh pasta and seafood. 

   
 

Portofino is around 1:20 mins drom Thr UNESCO world heritage site of Cinque Terra. More on that day 3. 

We ate dinner at a restaurant called PUNY. Super food. They take themselves quite seriously and if they don’t think you should , they will advise against cheese in their food lol. 

The speciality if this area is pappardelle pasta , made with pesto and tomato sauce. 

Steven our waiter shared that Denzel Washington is a big fan and has come back at 1 am ( after an earlier meal) to prepare this with the chef. 

In any case ,  the pasta and the fish we ate were so delicious we decided to come back the next night. 

Dessert was gelato ! 

Day 1 – Portofino, Italy 

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DH and I arrived in Rome and headed to pick up our rental car. ( better signage would have helped at the airport ). After an hours wait we got our cute Audi and we were off on the long drive to Portofino. (4 hrs ). 

  
The long windy roads from Rapello to Santa Margerita to Portofino were out of a James Bond movie ( though we were not chasing nor being chased lol).  

Hotel Belmond Splendido was just gorgeous. Old school charm. We had a junior suite with 2 terraces to lounge in. Just brilliant views.  

  View from terrace 

  The hotel was full of regulars. People checking in had been there multiple times. It’s a place where everyone knows your name. Also well loved by movie stars ! 
We ate dinner at the Hotel the first night on ther terrace , taking in the beautiful  scenery. 

A hotel with only 62 rooms , it sells out quick. Contact me for specials and exclusive deals. 

I ain’t a chef – but you can train with one!

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I received a cook book signed by Nancy Silverton as a present. I decided to try the ‘linguine with clams, pancetta and spicy Fresno chilis’.

Now, the results were quite average.
I discovered
– I don’t care for clams. I prefer mussels.
– it called for too many onions.

So, I rather take a live cooking class and if it’s in Italy it’s even better. At Villa San Michele overlooking Florence- sign me up. Or better yet- let me sign you up!

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Sicilian Caponata- recipe from my friends at Orient Express hotel- Grand Timeo Orient Express

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Sicilian caponata

When I was the Grand Hotel Timeo, in April, 2012 I was served this dish and I fell in love with it. The sales manager was kind enough to remember to send me the recipe! 🙂

1 kg eggplants

300 grams red bell peppers

N. 2 onions medium size

300 grams  celery hearts

150 grams pitted green olives

100 grams capers in salt

N. 2 tablespoons tomato paste

60/70 grams sugar

Half cup white vinegar

4/5 fresh basil leaves

Extra virgin olive oil

Preparation

Cut the eggplants into cubes of about 1.5 cm, seasons with salt and place in a colander for about one hour to lose the bitterness.

Cut the celery into small pieces, blanch in salted water, fry the eggplants in hot oil and dry.

Fry the onions finely chopped in a pan, add the blanched celery, the tomato paste, the olives cut in half and the desalted capers.

Cook until celery is well done, add the eggplants allow them to cook few minutes more, mixing frequently; then add sugar and vinegar, let the pan on the flame for some more minutes, add the basil leaves and the dish is ready: serve room temperature.

Day 5- Florence , here we come! :)

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Santa Croce church was our meeting point after a breakfast feast. We went to a leather and mosaic factory.
The mosaic art was created in the 16 th century by the Medici family. It was used as inserts in panels , table tops etc. They use beeswax to join these pieces together. They start with an idea- portrait , canvas etc then create a template and apply to the solid piece of slate and then just cut out with an old bow. On the weekends they go to look for stones in the hills of Florence.

   

The mosaic workshop we visited was “I Mosaici di lastrucci”.

Its on Via dei Macci, 9, -51022.

http://www.imosaicidilastrucci.it/index.php?i-mosaici-di-lastrucci-firenze

More info is on the previous post.

                               

   

       

The leather school”Scuola Del Cuoio”  http://www.scuoladelcuoio.com/index.html –

There was a dormitory that was abandoned and converted to a leather school for the orphans. The Fransicians decided to train them in the leather crafts. This was in the 13 th century. This was near a tannery as it was close to water. They uses to cover their manuscripts in leather. The family owned a leather workshop in 1932. It was specialized in artisinal leather.
In 1950 the leather workshop moved here, to this location. There is a workshop and an international school. The leather is all Italian. We met 2 of the 3 sisters who are the owners of this workshop.

       

After this, we had a little bit of free time to walk around, so I walked a little bit of this fantastic city!

      

Villa San Michele Site Inspection

http://www.villasanmichele.com/web/ovil/villa_san_michele.jsp

Built in the 15 th century. 1808 was a monastery then converted to a villa. A French owner bought it but it was destroyed in 1942 after the war. In 1952 it was converted to a hotel.

This was the 2 Nd OE hotel in Italy. Designed by Michaelango. The suite ( Michangelo is 70 sq mt and connected with 2 double suites) .
There are 2 classic doubles ( overlooking the gardens) ,10 superior doubles and 8 deluxe double rooms.
In 1994 the outside was built until 2003. There are 3 categories. Very large 40 sq mt. Private terrace or garden.
In 1994 after the major refurbishment the dining hall was covered and they were able to create the indoor restaurant.
Junior Executive deluxe, deluxe and junior superior. The lomonata suite has a plunge pool. There is 1 bedroom suite , then 2 garden suites.The chapel -deluxe double used to be the chapel of the hotel.
Total 46 rooms.

There is no spa but all treatments can be arranged in the rooms and there is an open space spa area for massages overlooking the city.

The cooking school works on Mon , Wed and Sat. The rate of the school  is 200 euros pp plus tax. During peak season there is a symphony of pasta , a 3 day stay who will prepare typical pasta and then other chefs come to prepare food and demonstrate.
  

    

  

The Last Supper 

      

  

  

 

  

  

  

The meal was perfection. This was our last dinner before we left.

The next day, we headed back to NYC on Alatalia, which was absolutely fabulous being on their flat beds. A great flight and service. I would highly recommend it.