Chef Riccardo Zanni has been here for six months, and his ambitious and delicious menu is a cause for celebration.
We arrived with no reservation, were warmly welcomed, and the service was the best I can remember in a long time. Over a glass of prosecco we considered the menu (just one dish was not available and we were informed right away). Though artichokes were only listed as a side vegetable, I am fond of them and the chef said they had just come out of the oven and would be great as a starter (and we were only charged the side veg price!). A tiny chef's salad arrived as a bonne bouche and meanwhile we had to choose wine: we enquired about something red, less usual, perhaps a less known region or grape variety. Six(!) bottles were brought to our table for a delightful discussion about the relative merits - and we were told right from the start that none of the bottles cost more than €25. We chose a Lacrima di Morro d'Alba which was terrific.
All courses served were excellent - the amount of tuna served sashimi style was so generous it was hard to finish. So there was no room for dessert, but the chef insisted on presenting his newest creation, an ice-cream of parmigiano cheese and kumquat marmelade, which was extraordinarily delicious. We declined further wine, but were nonetheless served a perfect vino generoso (sticky and dark, served chilled).
None of the extras appeared on the bill, a very reasonable €80 for two. We left a big tip and still felt we had enjoyed a bargain.
Recommended without reservation.
A Celtic festival of music and games is hardly the sort of thing you’d expect to find in the mountains of central Italy. But the Montelago Celtic Festival, launched in 2003, routinely attracts over 20,000 exuberant and kilted Italians and Europeans for a totally unique weekend experience. Every year on the first weekend in August, the alpine plains of Colfiorito straddling the border of Le Marche and Umbria throb to the beat of Europe’s Celtic heavyweights, with the final act bringing the sun up on Sunday morning. The Peatbog Faeries headline the 2012 festival at 1:00am on Saturday night/Sunday morning (August 4th-5th), following in the footsteps of previous appearances by Hevia, Kila, and Berrogüetto. The mainly under-30 crowd, who camp in a reserved area for the two-night event, are boisterous but amicable as they heave to the music, toss the caber, pulse to the thrusts of a Celtic battle reenactment, and trip through the more than 50 Celtic stalls (amongst which is a stand dedicated to Tolkein). Set in the spectacular surrounds of the central Apennine mountains, it’s a happening festival of rare camaraderie that offers something very different for the young European music and nature lover. Within striking distance are as many travel gems as you’d like from the outdoor (the Grand Circuit of the mythical Sibillini Mountains) and the celebrated (Assisi), to the “indoor” (Frassasi Caves) and the unheralded (the art and architecture of almost any village/town you happen into).
Over 65's concessions for EU citizens. All national museums are free entry on production of proof of age. This made it unnecessary to get a Roma Pass which is the most publicised tourist reduction. Sites include the Forum, Palatine and Colosseum also the Villas Adriana and d'Este at Tivoli. The wonderful Villa Borghese has free entry but must be pre-booked so do it when you are in Rome. If you do it before leaving the U.K. use their own on-line site, not a commercial ticket site, as the booking fee is much less.
A wonderful find, deep in the Umbrian countryside - a bed and breakfast but so so much more. Ca'di Gosto is part of the slow cooking movement offering great food and even cooking lessons. Set among terraces of olive trees, most of the produce is grown by the owners Jenny and David and it's home of the best eggs have ever had.
It is a beautifully renovated Umbrian Farmhouse with wonderfully decorated bedrooms with en-suites, and the luxury of a swimming pool and Jenny the chef to cook for you. The whole place is a feast to the eyes.
If you are not an animal lover then maybe it's not the place for you as Jenny and David have a lovely family of beautiful dogs, a couple of cats and an array of chickens and bantums all with there own characters!
A truly lovely and food filling pleasure.
Riva d'Arno is a new wine bar/art gallery on the banks of the Arno, a few minutes from Ponte Vecchio. It's beatifully designed with great views, fabulous food and wine and a new centre for art. It's a peaceful place to have a drink after walking around the city, a nice lunch overlooking the river or a supper as the sun goes down. It's definitely worth a visit.
This coastal walk links five hill top villages and is classed as an Unesco World Heritage Site. The paths are a combination of rugged steps and narrow soil pathways that hug the steep and jagged coastline of the Ligurain Riviera as they meander through fragrant olive and lemon groves and past precariously perched farms. The sparkling clear waters of the Mediterranean are a constant companion and it is a sheer delight to descend into Monterosso al Mare in time for a late afternoon swim. Apart from the stunning views, the excitement of this coastal path is finding the blue and white painted markers found on rocks or on the side of houses. It really felt like a mini adventure. A train pass can be bought which allows travel on the local train connecting the five villages so walkers can walk the paths in any order depending on fitness, time or if a path is closed.
Google map: bit.ly/I8hDCs
Take an easy and must do day out from the urban bustle of Naples. Buy a 180 minute biglietti ticket at Naples Central station and take a train south to the university port of Salerno. Outside the station change on to a SITA blue line bus to underrated Maiori, remembering to sit on the left hand side. Hold tight as the bus winds its way along the coast with each bend offering a different breathtaking panorama. Get off at Maiori, the only town along this coast with a promenade and beach. Take a swim in the warm waters or sit under a shading palm, sipping a fizzing local wine. Walk along to the harbour and take a 10 minute water bus around the headland into Amalfi town - a jaw dropping way to arrive, plus it avoids any local traffic jams. Spend some time exploring the moped friendly alleys, the churches and soaking up the atmosphere. Continue by taking a 15 minute bus into the mountain above and the quiet hill town of Ravello. Relax in a garden bar before descending, on foot, down through fragrant lemon groves to ancient Minori below. From here take the bus back to Salerno and onwards to Naples. How much fun in one day can be bought for under 20 euro?
Naples is a fantastic city which is not too touristy (yet). There are fabulous jazz bars, cafes, museums, markets and short ferry rides to the beautiful islands of Capri and Ischia. If you want some real history, Pompeii is a short train ride away. I can thoroughly recommend staying at the quirky travelers' hostel, 'Six Small Rooms' - if guests get tired of all the fabulous cafes and restaurants they can cook in the kitchen and sit with other guests and chat about their travels. Nearby, there's a wonderful, outdoor market selling all sorts of fresh food. Naples is still unaltered - there you will find the real Italy.
Perched on the end of its own promontory off the from the unspoilt Gargano Peninsula, this ramshackle eaterie faces the sea on three sides. The real draw is its awesomely fresh fish, some of which is caught from the restaurant’s own trabucco, a Puglian contraption that drops nets into the teeming waters below. Ask the friendly staff for specials off the menu.
Lovely, welcoming bargainous B&B (45-90 euro per night) clinging to the hillside above Taormina. Huge balconies overlooking the bay and Giardini-Naxos. Reward yourself after climbing back up the hill after dinner with a bottle of wine and fireworks; more often than not there is of course Etna or be there on 8 September when man-made fireworks are let off all evening to celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
The Zingaro Nature Reserve Sicily is only a short bus journey from the idyllic coastal village Scopello. You have to pay a small fee to enter the reserve, but once you are in, you are free to explore some Italy's most unspoiled beaches.
The beaches are stunning small coves with crystal clear water and stunning views of the surrounding nature reserve. The clear water is fantastic for snorkelling, and diving around the national park is thought to be excellent due to the nature reserve status of the area.
The best time to go is early in the morning. You'll have a cove all to yourself. Paradise! The beaches of Zingaro are the most beautiful I have ever seen. Cars are not allowed within the reserve, but the nearest cove is only fifteen-twenty mins by foot. The park stretches for seven km, so you're spoilt for choice to discover beautiful beaches. If you want to escape the crowds of Sicily's resorts, head to Zingaro!
The reserve stretches between San Vito Lo Capo and Scopello. Palermo is only an hour away by car, but you can rent villas in the vicinity and the beautiful village of Scopello is a short journey away. Scopello has a number of B&Bs and hotels, and some great restaurants. It has a family atmosphere, but the gorgeous location makes for a great romantic trip away, too.
We wanted to hire scooters but realising we didn't have the required driving licence, decided to hire a small motor boat instead. This was an amazingly affordable and relaxing way to explore the beautiful Amalfi coastline. With no prior experience of sailing the hire process was extremely simple and the boat very easy to maneuver. We found a lovely spot to drop our anchor and sat sunbathing with complete privacy, making the occasional dive into the wonderfully clear blue water to cool down. There were several hire companies in the Amalfi harbour, very easy to find and organise. This was the highlight of our three week trip to Italy.
Atrani perches on a viaduct, wide enough to be a small park. From the balustrade at the back of it you can see straight down to the town’s piazza. Around the piazza the houses cram, piled on each other, a dense mass threaded by passages and arches and many flights of steps — but no streets, except one. Walk through the nearby tunnel and you’ll emerge in another town, the larger and more famous, Amalfi!
Google map: bit.ly/Ik7oik
The short walk from the train station to the beach takes you past a variety of shops, restaurants and beautiful architecture. On arriving at the beach you will find at least three miles of golden sand propped up by many hip and trendy bar/restaurants. A day trip to Viareggio complemented our stay at the stunning nearby city of Lucca, which is easily accessed only 40 minutes away by train.
Google map: bit.ly/HKzSNa
The coast of Gargano has lots of beautiful, and often empty, beaches. If you want to visit beaches where the loclas go then Il Gargano is the place to travel to. Vieste, Peschici and Mattinata are some of the more well-known beaches however there are lots of secluded spots along Gargano if you really want to escape the crowd!
An historic path that links five picturesque farming and fishing villages perched on rock outcrops rising out of the sea. Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore are virtually unapproachable by road which makes the walk even more breathtaking. However for the faint of heart access can also be achieved by rail and sea, the latter of which gives wonderful views of the villages and interlinking paths. These steep paths perch above the sea on one side and the land, cultivated with terraces, on the other. A profusion of olive groves, vines, lemon trees, wild herbs and beautiful Mediterranean flowers greet the traveller at every unexpected turn of the path. Try the two hour walk from Monterosso to Vernazza at a gentle pace, lunch at Gianni Franzi with a bottle of the local Cinque Terre white wine and the boat trip back for an unforgettable day out. Best times to visit are Spring and Autumn for the better weather and fewer tourists.
Between Genoa and La Spezia in Liguria. Airport at Genoa and train links to all five villages from there.
There is a set of thermal water pools, icy and clear, and devoid of tourists and roaming public because its off the beaten track. Particularly great when its hot and humid and the beaches are teaming, pick a pool, enjoy the breathtaking ice cold water and live dangerously down small rapids. All ages tend to go there but it could be a bit uneven underfoot for the unsteady.
Follow signposts to Dolce Acqua, from there it's about a 20 minute drive. Park and follow the signs to Pigna, over a rickety stone bridge and and down the side of the water to pick your pool. (Equally accessible from Monaco as it only just over the border.)
Google map: bit.ly/IhEjka
Forget Italy's ancient history and immerse yourself in a little mid twentieth century nostalgia instead. Back in the 50s and 60s numero uno stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman left their yachts at anchor in Portofino's dreamy harbour, then took over the Hotel Splendido to indulge in a little of La Dolce Vita. The views from this old fishing village are still groovy, but the Splendido's little sister, the Splendido Mare, probably has the edge over its elder sibling these days. Prices for both are reassuringly stratospheric. Far out, baby.
Camogli is a sun-bathed and laid back fishing village on the Riviera di Levante, just a short boat-trip (or a longer, spectacular hike) from the more famous and touristy Portofino. Stay at the nearby Villa Rosmarino which offers a warm welcome, designer interiors and stunning views of Camogli and the coast to Genoa. In the evening you can stroll down past the pastel painted houses to the numerous harbour side bars and watch the sun set behind the lighthouse before sampling the delicious local pasta.
The Arco Naturale is a natural spectacle on the outskirts of Capri town which is best accessed on foot. Within minutes you will be away from the hoards of tourists in Capri town walking along tiny streets to the coast. The arc itself is a huge curved rock springing out of the water. There is a handy cafe at the top of the steps leading down to the Arc.
Capri Town, Amalfi Coast
Google map: bit.ly/IblpAj
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