Agriturismos are the trend of the moment in Italy, popping up everywhere, which makes it more difficult to find the good ones like the Oasi Verde Mengara. Lovely rooms (some even have wooden four poster beds) in an old Italian casa colonica, with a private pool.
What makes it very special though is the food: if you opt for the half board you'll taste the best Italian food ever. And if you want to try more, you can even eat à la carte. Pick the amazing entry dish 'antipasto Oasi Verde' for two, which is a whole meal of traditional recipes. Delicious is the word for this agriturismo.
Between Gubbio and Perugia. Nearest station Fossato di Vico. Ryanair flies to Perugia.
Stunning rural farmhouse set in the Tuscan rolling countryside with far reaching views to Corsica. This is a rare gem - very private, magnificent views, immaculate accommodation and delicious breakfasts!
Manciano (9km); Grosseto (35km); Rome (157km).
Boutique hostel right in the centre of Moscow. Walking distance from all the main sites. In a city with crazy hotel prices, this is a great little option. It's in a converted communal apartment (but with all mod cons) so you feel like you're staying in the 'real' Moscow rather than a soulless chain hotel. V friendly and helpful staff complete the homely experience.
Petrovka Street 17/2, Moscow, www.petrovkaloft.com
SunRock is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the serenity of Corfu, the gem of the Ionian Islands. It is a family run hostel, but having stayed there I would consider it to be a resort. As a solo traveller, I know hostels can be ideal to meet other travellers, however sometimes hostels appear cliquish. SunRock flourishes with the kindness and acceptance one would expect to receive from a loving family. Indeed, I felt like part of a family when I stayed at SunRock. Everyone that was staying there got to know each other and EVERYONE stayed longer than they expected because no one wanted to leave the peace they had found.
The family that owns the hostel/resort cooks breakfast to order as you wake up in the morning after a long night of talking with friends and watching the moonlight on the Adriatic sea as seen from the beautiful terrace. Most hostels offer a free* breakfast with their stay, but I've stayed at many (+20) hostels and most are just dry toast with butter or jelly and if you're very lucky, you get a 6 ounce cup of juice. SunRock provided me with fresh breakfast of Greek pancakes and French toast while I was there as part of my stay! YES! No extra charge! They also hosted family style feasts for dinner (also at no extra charge) where everyone staying there would sit down together at a long table. No one ever ate alone! The family makes its own feta cheese and homecooks every delicious meal. It was such an incredible experience. It germinated a seed of acceptance deep within my heart.
I heard about SunRock from a fellow Couchsurfer/traveller. It wasn't in my itinerary to visit Corfu, but based on the recommendation I had to go and I'm very glad I did - it was perhaps the best place I stayed in all of Greece!
Sunrock (Vrachos) Resort, Pelekas Beach,Sinarades,49084
SunRock is located on the waterfront of wide, sweeping, sandy, Pelekas Beach of Corfu Island. I took a ferry from Venice, Italy and was picked up at the ferry port by a staff member at SunRock. They are wonderful to provide free transportation to/from the hostel and ferry port or airport! If you give them your ferry booking or flight schedule, they will pick you up!
2661 094637 or 26610 94056 (text) or 6948407545 (phone)
Set in the heart of the Rila National Park, this hostel is the chicest place to stay if you're planning on hitting the slopes at Borovets ski resort, just ten minutes away.
We missed out on the snow, but enjoyed hiking and mountain biking around Lake Iskar. Great for thrill-seekers, the owners also organise wakeboarding, waterskiing, sailing, and fishing on the lake, and horse riding or off-road motor biking.
Despite the rugged setting, surrounded by acres of flora and fauna, the rooms are surprisingly stylish and large apartments.
The restaurant will even prepare a packed lunch for a day in the great outdoors, and the swimming pool and jacuzzi are a welcome respite after a hard day's hike!
This is a beautiful old guesthouse that has been renovated into a homely boutique hostel.
Lacking the pretension of some boutique bolt-holes, the owners are warm and welcoming and guarantee a laid back and friendly vibe at all times. The rooms are hippie-chic - think huge beds with embroidered cushions, tinkly lanterns and bright yellow walls.
The hostel has a great location on the riverfront, and is right in downtown Guayaquil, perfect for trips down the Guayas River.
Compared to the rest of the hectic town, life is mellow in this hostel - we spent evenings on candelit balconies overlooking the river, and started our day in the restaurant which serves a free breakfast of fresh organic food.
Surrounded by wooded hills and vine covered slopes, this rural agri is perfect for foodies and families alike. Breakfast on home-made preserves, tarts and local cheeses while taking in the views across to the wonderful medieval town of Sassetto.
The evening meal was our daily highlight, the friendly owner and his family served up delicious and unusual regional dishes always with an equally tasty veggie option. We chatted over plentiful supplies of the local wine at communal tables under the stars while the kids hunted in the grounds for wild boar and fireflies.
65 euros per night per person half board
40 mins drive from the etruscan coast and nearest station and 1 hour from pisa airport
When you have had enough of the hustle and bustle of Montreal a 90 minute drive or bus ride will take you to the village of Sutton, a great base for discovering the Eastern Townships region of Quebec. The village has good restaurants and food stores, notably La Rumeur Affamee, and many of the lodgings such as Vert Le Mont B&B are certified 'Bienvenue Cyclistes' meaning you will be offered a healthy breakfast and a safe place to store your bike overnight. Radiating out from Sutton are a number of challenging bike routes including the Mont Sutton circuit and, just over the border in Vermont, the Jay Peak circuit.
www.infosutton.com Official guide to everything Sutton including a section on cycling or call the helpful tourist office on 1 800 565-8455
Veolia transport buses leave Montreal's Station Centrale bus station two or three times a day for Sutton.
www.bbsutton.com Vert Le Mont B&B website
You probably have not heard about Ai Casali, but that’s only because its one of Friuli’s best-kept secrets. Nestled in the foothills of the Julian Alps, surrounded by forest, vineyards and cornfields, you get a feeling of seclusion and isolation. The rooms are light, airy, rustic and modern and breakfast sets you up for a days relaxation, be it by the pool or using the wellness area. The town of Cividale is a two mile walk away with restaurants and bars serving delicious Italian and Friulian food and wine (made from local ingredients that taste as they were meant to). You feel like you are a million miles away, however, as you sit by the pool or drink in the views from your balcony. Just don’t tell everyone how good it is!
Via Guspergo 17/3
33043 Cividale del Friuli - UD - Italy
It's the real deal: a gorgeous place with endlessly enthusiastic hosts in the middle of an organic lemon grove looking straight out to Capri. Aldo's the farmer, all round lovely guy, and the man who bakes you your fresh bread for breakfast from one of the ovens built into the wall (naturally one for pizzas) while you sit round the big beautiful table in his kitchen, and tells you everything about what he's growing, Naples, and his wife Matilde. And her funny habits. She pops up after work and on certain nights can cook you dinner from their local goodies, and yep, they are good, plenty of fish and home grown vegetables. And as Matilde used to run a restaurant in Sorrento, she's good at it, very good. The farmhouse is a self-restored old stone saracen watchtower with rambling extensions, and you can stay in the tower, just below the kitchen, or in a separate cottage in front with it's own lawn looking straight out to the Bay of Naples and the shimmering blue sea. There's an old fashioned plush restaurant just down the hill through the vineyards, serving divine lobster ravioli and much more. Another mile on there's the small town of Massa, or you can rejoin the crowds in Sorrento for something a bit livelier. There is splendid panoramic isolation at the Torre, but with nearby buses that head out to the pristine nature reserves of the Punta Campanella and onto the Amalfi Coast. When we left, Aldo gave us a rucksack of organic lemons and a huge grin. So recommended it's not true.
Outside Massa Lubrense, 4km from Sorrento
If you're looking for somewhere classy to stay on the West Coast The Westin St. Francis in San Francisco brings old time nostalgia to the 21st century. Located in the very heart of Union Square it is in a prime location to explore all that this city has to offer.
However if all that sounds a little too strenuous then why not stay awhile and as the saying goes "meet me at the clock". The old style grandeur shines through in the lobby of this 5 star luxury hotel. Marble doric columns all exquisitely maintained and acres of polished wood make guests feel welcome as soon as you set foot in the door.The greeting is no less warm from the staff that work here, from the doorman to reception.
The rooms are very well appointed with all the modern amenities that a seasoned traveller could ask for. Especially the Heavenly Bed, you'll be fast asleep in no time. If you can, ask for room 1132 the views across Union Square are superb.
If you do decide to "meet at the clock" then be prepared to taste some fantastic cocktails and nibble finger foods from Michael Mina. Or why not stroll across the lobby and sample this Michelin starred chefs menu for yourself. Exquisite dinner and lunch at a price that might just surprise you!
Of course you may feel the need to work off some of that excess and there is a gym if you're so inclined, or why not head to The Spa and indulge in some rest and relaxation. Treatments to suit all tastes and budgets are catered for. Whether you would like a massage to relieve jet lag or just getting your nails done - its' all here.
If you are tempted to leave this luxury retreat then San Francisco has much to tempt you with. Take a cable car to Fishermans Wharf and experience the tacky side of 'cisco. Stalls selling fresh seafood, souvenir shops and the sea lions at Pier 39. Try Boudin bakeries sourdough bread with clam chowder - delicious! But make sure you leave room for the bread. Its the best bit!
No trip to San Fran would be complete without a visit to The Rock. Alcatraz has been closed for many years now but visitors still flock to its spooky corridors. The night visit is especially terrifying and not for the faint of heart.
The ferries also take you across to Sausalito a small slice of the Meditteranean in The Bay. Art galleries, boutiques and the best sandwiches ever at the delicatessen 'Venice'. On your return the Golden Gate Bridge spans the straits and there are some great photo opportunities.
Once you return to terra firma explore Chinatown, Little Italy and Nob Hill as all these areas are in easy walking distance. Don't forget Lombard Street the worlds windiest road. San Francisco may seem like a long way to go for a city break but its accessability is it's strong point. Everything seems to be in easy reach and a cab ride is taken at your own risk...remember Bullitt?
Couple your trip with a stay at The Westin and if you need to escape the hustle and bustle of San Francisco and need a quiet oasis to recharge and regroup then The St. Francis will leave you feeling refreshed - but I'm sure that at some point you'll want to return to the Streets of San Francisco!
Situated just an hour or so drive from San Francisco, the Napa Valley is a wine and food lovers heaven. Incredible eateries and divine vineyards abound in this Californian idyll.
Napa has a vast range of wineries to choose from whether it be small and personal or the large vineyard that does escorted tours.
No trip would be complete without a visit to Yountville where Thomas Keller’s restaurant The French Laundry reigns supreme. But be warned you have to book two calendar months in advance to get in. We tried and failed miserably, so if anyone reading this can let us know about their dining experience it would be jealously appreciated.
We did, however, get a table at Keller’s Bistro also in Yountville - Bouchon and that made up in some way for our disappointment as it was superb! It is a more casual dining experience with a fun and flirty atmosphere. The menu is very much French bistro inspired with moules frites and huîtres featuring prominently. The poulet aux petit pois à la Français was simple and delicious and the braised pork cheek was declared a masterpiece. As we were celebrating birthdays, complementary signature desserts of tarte au citron and chocolate brownie ‘Bouchons’ were a welcome ending to the evening.
There are so many dining venues in Napa that you can be spoilt for choice. Local deli's with first class cheese, wine and cured meats. Fantastic breads baked on the properties with everything to go! So why not grab a picnic and take a seat in the Yountville market area. It is beautiful, with sparkling fountains and tucked away benches perfect.
If something a little more daring is your thing, then Napa Valley Aloft offer dawn balloon rides over the valley - weather permitting of course. It is incredibly serene to be floating two thousand feet over the vineyards one minute and then barely skimming the vines the next with the only noise coming from the burners used to keep us aloft. It was testament to our pilot Laura’s skill that she managed to put us down safely in a handkerchief sized field in the middle of acres of vines. A memorable experience followed by a champagne breakfast with your new found friends and fellow passengers.
There are plenty of top quality B&B's, Inn's and resort hotels to choose from for your stay. The River Terrace Inn is one of these, do choose the balcony rooms overlooking the river and take your morning coffee whilst enjoying the peace and quiet as the river gurgles by.
No trip to Napa would be complete without experiencing the Wine Train. A three hour lunch or dinner trip taking in the breathtaking vistas of the local countryside. Or, how about kayaking on the river or a trip to the Jelly Belly Gourmet bean factory? It’s not just about wine!
Napa old town has a number of mentionables too. The Oxbow Public Market has a wonderful cheese and wine tasting emporium. Run by Peter Granoff you can sit at the large bar area take a carafe of your favourite tipple and pair it with a platter of cheeses, salamis, fresh made pickles and fresh baked bread – sheer heaven. They also have Kara's Cupcakes, an Oyster bar and much more.
Pay the Bounty Hunter a visit too; it’s where the locals eat so it must be good. Speciality wines by the glass or bottle and incredible barbecued meats served at trestle tables, perfect for getting to know your neighbour.
Coles Chop House is an award winning American Steakhouse that serves some of the best Dry Aged Beef you will ever eat coupled with delicious cocktails.
There is an awful lot more to Napa then you can possibly fit in, in just a day or two. With breathtaking scenery, friendly locals and visitors alike and a diverse range of activities to suit all tastes and budgets. It is a wrench to leave this gorgeous area. They say you leave your heart in San Francisco, I left mine in Napa. I hope to return soon and claim it back.
Lu Branu is a family run agritourismo, situated in the Costa Smeralda, in an area of around 150 acres of land. The farm produces its own food and wine, which are all typical of Sardinia.
Located near the town of Arzachena and within driving distance of at least 20 idyllic beaches, I would recommend this agriturismo especially to families with small children.
The owners are extremely friendly and hospitable. Children will love the play park and tennis court, as well as getting to know the animals and birds at the farm. Parents can relax in the laidback, safe, childfriendly environment.
address - Lu Branu, Giuanneddu 07026, Arzachena, olbia-tempio.
Kibbutz Ein Gev is beautifully located on the sea of Galilee. While it does have its own hotel, many young travellers go there to work as Kibbutz volunteers. It has a strong agricultural sector, growing bananas, mangoes, dates and catching the famous St Peters fish in the depths of Lake Kinneret. Volunteers can particpate in all these endeavours. While kibbutz volunteers work hard the beauty of Ein Gev pays for itself were you can climb mount Sussita or swim in the lake and get drunk in the Kibbutz pub.
A bus usually leaves twice a day from Tiberias on the opposite side of the lake from Ein Gev. A 20 minute ride along Lake Kinnert and you are there
A spacious holiday studio with a view of both the Vieux Port and Notre Dame de la Garde. The place is one of a few apartments run by Romain who was full of advice on where to go.
In the evening the place is buzzing with all the seafood restaurants and bars.
For daytime activities take the free ferry boat a few steps away at Place Aux Huiles across to the Hotel du Ville (no quicker than walking but a lot more fun) and explore the Panier district or take the 83 bus to the Prado Beach.
Place Aux Huiles
Romain - Tel: +33 6 77 94 34 50
Superb four star hotel just opened last month. It's located at the end of Princes Street which is a great city centre spot. Facilities include pool, gym, bar and restaurant, rooms are brand new with all modern gadgets, wi-fi throughout. The bar is a trendy hangout to see and be seen in. For some of the best shopping in Scotland turn right onto Princes Street when you exit.
Tel: 0871 288 1208
Asha Cottage at Diani, south of Mombasa is a mini-paradise. Built right on the beautiful white beach the ever-changing sea is the back-drop to a small hotel which is more like a family home. The owners, John and Dominique, are highly aware of the responsibilities of tourism and can advise guests interested in supporting the local people or environment in a practical way. They are attentive to detail and comfort and have provided an atmosphere in which their guests can relax - whether by the pool, in the small health spa or in the lovely gardens surrounding Asha Cottage where you are likely to see the rare Colobus monkey. As frequent visitors we could not recommend it more highly.
Asha Cottage, Diani Beach, Ukunda, Kenya
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