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Amalfi Coast

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Amalfi Coast – does it rise to the level of its visitors’ expectations?

Have you ever heard of the saying ‘Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you travelled’? They are indeed words I live by – travelling and adventures are the best way to learn and maximise the curiosity and restlessness within us. It makes us look at life differently, appreciate things that we would have never appreciated before and shows us how beautiful life is.

Amalfi Coast is defined as an oasis of calm, photo perfect landscapes and ultimate tranquility. Yes it can be all of that but it can also be highly deceiving. There are ways to avoid the negative encounters and enjoy the Amalfi Coast at its best. Why I am telling you this? Because I have seen and lived both sides.

So follow me through my journey and learn how you can create the most unforgettable experience – from secret coastal paths that lead to breathtaking natural wonders, exceptional local art galleries, best beach lounges to gastronomical experiences that awaken all senses.

AT A GLANCE

Best time to visit – End of August to end of September to avoid the crowdedness.

Currency – Euro

How to get there – Fly to Naples Airport and rent a car from the airport.

Highlights – Miart Art Gallery, dinner at Chez Black (both in Positano) and Cetara.

Top Fact – The only land route to the Amalfi Coast is the 40 kilometres long Strada Statale 163 which runs along the coastline from the town of Vietri sul Mare in the east to Positano in the west.

Dress code – Both relaxing, light-weighted clothes and a few slightly more elegant outfits for dinner at places such as Rada in Positano.

Shopping – Be sure to leave space in your suitcase for beachwear shopping at Antica Sartoria in Positano.

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HOTEL

As per each time I glimpse at my bucket list and Amalfi Coast stands out as the perfect option for mid-summer. I start my research on booking.com and I find what seems to be in pictures a lovely 5 stars resort in Vietri sul Mare, next to Salerno with breathtaking views overlooking the Mediterranean sea and the Amalfi coast – Hotel Raito, part of the Ragosta Hotels Collection.

Being roughly 40 kilometres away from Positano and other towns on my to-visit list, it appeared to be a convenient place to start the Amalfi Coast drive, but little did I know that any route on the coast would actually take up to two hours one way on their hairpin bends, endless and busy zigzags. I rarely book a non refundable option, however this time I was certain that this hotel would meet all my requirements.

Post a last minute realisation of the hotel’s faraway location I decide to book first night in Ravello at a 4 star hotel (amongst the very few options available). Despite the fact that I would be double booked, I am eager to visit this town anyway and am looking for some sort of comparison degree distance wise. The Hotel Villa Fraulo enjoys a 4.3 reviews stars and with all due respect for the bokking.com platform, this probably translates into the biggest mystery in the world of reviews.

What started as a carefree and relaxing experience after a one hour drive from the Naples airport in a charming rented Fiat 500 Cabrio turned into an unexpected and unpleasant encounter due to the impactful lack of cleanliness and health safety at the Villa Fraulo Hotel.

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Transport

But before I become bluntly more honest about that experience, I ought to highlight the need of renting a car. You can do this straight at the airport or online and I would always recommend Hertz due to their impeccable service. Just be sure to rent a small car and preferably cabrio so you can take in fully the alluring views along the coast and one of a kind sunsets.

DAY 1 – Ravello

I always endeavour to focus on the bright side of people, venues and experiences but this time there’s not one positive thing about the Hotel Villa Fraulo aside from its somewhat convenient location. Wrongly described as a 4 luxurious boutique hotel and featuring a series of unreal attractive visual content materials, this accommodation site is nowhere near to what has been presented online. Maybe once upon a time, but now all the stars have faded far away. The dirtiness and unpleasant smell becomes unmissable from the minute I walk in through the secondary entrance which is built in via what used to be an old garage. There are no staff members here to help me check in and even by this time I am still wondering whether I have arrived at the right location. I can see a phone lost in the background and I dial 9, hopping that someone will be kind enough and interested to accommodate their guests. Someone from 7th floor (where the actual reception is) arrives after a long wait. So much for a flawless check in. I don’t have words to describe the poor state of this hotel, will let the pictures speak for themselves.

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I immediately log into booking.com and look for another option. Despite the majority of the hotels being fully booked I find a night at the flawless Villa Tartana, a charming small hotel in the heart of Positano. Until tomorrow night though I feel the urge to step out of the hotel and visit beautiful Ravello.

From the accentuated italian culture that comes out through the pores of each corner of this small town, lemon trees and scent spread all over, spiritual art galleries, traditional coffee shops to the mesmerising grounds of Villa Cimbrone – Ravello is an absolute MUST during an Amalfi Coast visit.

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I commence my visit with a walk around the town and my glance lands on a mystical art gallery set in the garden of a church called Petit Prince, located at Via S. Francesco, 9, Piazza Duomo, 10, 84010 Ravello SA, Italy. Expect to find vibrant large oil on canvas paintings that will make you stop and stare. The sound of the choir accompanies the art perfectly, transporting me to another dimension of tranquility and beauty.

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Villa Cimbrone

Once I step out of the gallery it is already quite late but I think I know the perfect place to watch the sunset and have an early dinner bite and that is Villa Cimbrone located at Via Santa Chiara, 26, 84010 Ravello SA, Italy.

On the way I bump into Ravello’s most charming italian gourmet bio shop, providing a wide selection of local condiments, olive oils, local wine and so on. Be sure to pay a visit, it is called Pascal located at Via Roma, 20, Ravello SA, Italy.

Villa Cimbrone has records dating all the way back from the 11th century, forming part of Ravello’s golden era. It was part of a large estate with a lush green vegetation covering more than eight hectares called Cimbronium, clearly the name has been kept ever since. It belonged to the aristocratic family named Acconciajoco and was later passed to a the Fuscos noble family. Representing one of the most important cultural heritage in the area, Villa Cimbrone also features what seems infinite paths of lush green vegetation gardens, with a strong influence of classical literature and including global decorations with a high emphasis on imposing yet detailed statues.

To sum it up, Villa Cimbrone provides a luxurious experience based on its highly praised 5 stars hotel, endless lush green gardens, alluring views of the coast, gourmet restaurant and wonderful swimming pool.

Be sure to enjoy a glass of local Chardonnay at Il Balcone Di Lucille in the gardens. Best seats to watch the sunset overlooking the Amalfi Coast.

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DAY 2 – Positano

Once checked out of the ‘never again’ Hotel Fraulo, I hop into the car and after admiring one of the best coastal drives in the world (what seems much safer during daytime) I arrive at Villa Tartana, located at Via Vicolo Vito Savino 4/6/8, Positano SA, Italy. Promoted as a 3 stars hotel, this stunning villa proves that accommodation stars are beyond irrelevant on this side of Italy. Living regally doesn’t require booking the most expensive hotel. Set in a tranquil corner of the island, 2 minutes walk away from the beach and only 15km drive away from Amalfi. The welcoming can already be rated as a 5 stars experience – as I am checked in by the daughter of the owners who is more than pleased to help out with any query that guests might have. The room is beautiful, clean and fresh with a balcony overlooking the pedestrian positanian streets. On the other hand I would recommend skipping breakfast in the hotel as there are too many delicious coffee shops around Positano.

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Ice Cream

As I feel an intense urge for something refreshing, there’s nothing better to hit the spot than a real gourmet ice cream! And I find the perfect place for this, just next to the stairs as I walk down from Villa Tartana. Buca di Bacco Bar is located at Via del Brigantino, 35/37, 84017, Positano, Italia. Make sure to pay at the till first and then pick your favourite flavours from the ice cream counter.

Beach Club

The first beach club I visit on the Amalfi Coast is La Scoglierea, a private beach set on a mountain cliff. Their adults only policy translates into a peaceful retreat with a good service, however does not rise up to the price expectations. Varying from 50 euros up to 80 euros per sun bed/day, the beach club lacks a welcoming treat, music, towels and that WOW factor. The potential is there, however prices must be lowered or the overall service is ought to be improved majorly.

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Dinner – Chez Black

As you might have noticed, contrasting experiences are a ritual taking place on a daily basis here and this is why the Amalfi Coast must be truly planned ahead of time and post in depth research.

Dinner at Chez Black is nevertheless one of the highlights of the entire trip, situated at Via del Brigantino, 19, 84017 Positano SA, Italy. The wonderful and kind welcoming, the fundamental requirement to accommodate any walks ins despite the restaurant being fully booked, the italian traditional gastronomical feast, beautiful setting in front of the beach and extraordinary attention to detail are amongst the numerous benefits provided by Chez Black.

Chez Black was created in 1949 and has been successful ever since, enjoying the presence of returning guests, all the way from professional travellers and tourists to established artists and celebrities. I have probably tried every single thing in the menu and whilst each dish tickles my taste buds, my favourite is the Spaghetti with Scampi and Mixed Seafood. There’s a friendly laid back yet elegant environment and featuring a beautiful natural design made of local wood that gives me that extra ‘feeling at home’ feeling.

Special thanks to Mr. Salvadore and Gianfranco for the consistent flawless service.

Lounge Bar

The night ends in the most unexpected manner, listening to a fabulous jazz band at Rada’s exclusive lounge bar overlooking the sea – Chez Black’s restaurant sister, located at Via Grotte dell’incanto 5, Positano – Salerno Italy.

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DAY 3

Treville Beach Club

Day 3 commences with a long sleep in, shopping at the local Antica Sartoria for silk artisans and beautiful embroidered beach clothes, lunch at Chez Black and a relaxing afternoon at the Treville Beach Club, Le Sirene (highly appropriate 🙂 ) which can be reached by taking the complimentary water shuttle from Positano’s port.
As I am approaching the Beach Club, the setting is already exceeding my expectations, I have discovered paradise on earth. The restaurant is on the edge of an idyllic little bay at Laurito, defined by an elegant and cosy Mediterranean style, brought to a whole new level of freshness. Expect delicious food, pasta and fresh grilled fish. But most importantly, the coffee ice cream is to die for!

As all of the above wasn’t enough, the beach contains tourmaline, semi-precious stones that are known to keep the bad spirits away and guide you towards the right direction. They are mostly dark brown but you can find the occasional light green coloured.

Not too far away from the beach there’s one of the most beautiful hotels on the Amalfi Coast – Villa Treville, situated at Via Arienzo, 30, Positano SA, Italy. For a more affordable option, they also offer accommodation at Le Sirene, just above the restaurant next to the beach.

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Art

The evening brings with it an unforgettable visit at the Miart Gallery, situated at 84017 (SA) Italy via dei Mulini 18. The gallery itself is absolutely fascinating, dragging you into a never-ending fairytale. Featuring a never seen before setup within a lush green garden. There are mostly exquisite oil paintings by italian artists and all the collections are free to visit.

Dinner

After several visits at Chez Black, tonight I decide to have dinner at Rada, a level below the lounge bar where I discovered the mesmerising jazz band the evening before. Savoury Mediterranean cuisine, fine Italian wines and last but not least they serve an extraordinary selection of bread pre dinner.

As we are still double booked hotel wise, post dinner my sister and I decide to drive to Hotel Raito, one hour and a half away from Positano. There’s nothing that can be resolved in the middle of night, therefore I go to a much needed sleep.

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DAY 4 – Cetara

This morning decisions are difficult. Give up this hotel and return to Positano although everything was fully booked? Stay here and drive 2 hours one way each day? It was a spectacularly stupid move to begin with but luckily the hotel’s manager is understanding enough and provided us with a 4 nights credit to be used in any of their hotels in Rome or Sicily. It isn’t such a bad turnaround, after all I always wanted to visit Sicily.

There’s one interest point close by and that is Cetara – the village of fisherman, so we decide to spend the day and have dinner there. After all, they do claim to have the best tuna on the italian fish market. Halfway into the 15 minutes journey the land falls away, revealing endless shades of shimmering orange, brown and yellow. It is clear why this coast is considered the world’s most beautiful and thrilling sightseeing road. Postcard perfect, Cetara is a fascinating fairytale village to explore with a huge cultural heart.

As the dusk approaches, a perfectly full moon makes its way up on the clear dark blue sky.

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Dinner in Cetara

There are two restaurants in Cetara known for their delectable traditional italian food, Aquapazza located at Corso Giuseppe Garibaldi, 36, Cetara SA, Italy and Falalella situated at Corso Umberto, 1, 84010 Cetara SA, Italy. They are both remarkably delicious, however Falallela gives you a little extra: breathtaking views overlooking the sea!

I will level it with you, there have been some major disappointments on the Amalfi Coast and there are some things that can never be predicted, but if you are picky enough and go through my article you’ll know what to choose that will constantly make you utter that WOW!

Stay tuned for my weekend in Capri – a must-see if you are planning to visit the Amalfi Coast!

Travel

Mykonos

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Why Mykonos is the best place to visit this summer!

I always search for destinations that have more to offer, beyond landscapes and beautiful restaurants or hotels. Immersing into the local culture and absorbing the people’s ways of living, perspectives on life and exciting life stories enables me to truly enjoy my stay and leave with a pocket full of new ideas, unforgettable memories and new friends all over the world.

Mykonos is all that and more. I was blown away by everyone’s way of always focusing on the half full part of the water glass, their ease to see the lighter side of things and constant smiles.

What’s more, their entrepreneurial sense of business sets Mykonos as one of the most inspiring and motivational places I have ever been to.

Here are my favourite venues in Mykonos, places that have been emphasised by the people and their insightful stories and nevertheless an impeccable service.

AT A GLANCE

Best time to visit – May to June or August to September

Currency – Euro

How to get there – You can fly straight into Mykonos’s National Airport, look for flights here.

Highlights – Visit at the Big White Art Gallery and sunset by the Paraportiani Church.

Top Fact – The famous windmills were built by the Venetians in the 16th century and remained in use until the 20th century.

Dress code – Both relaxing, light-weighted clothes and slightly more elegant outfits for places such as Sea Satin and Nobu.

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BEACH

Scorpios Beach (Paraga, 84600 Mýkonos, Kikladhes, Greece)

One of the most beautiful beaches in Mykonos opened last year. A wonderful mix of lounge, deep house and instrumental music will enable you to fully relax and kick back into the cosy hammocks and oversized daybeds. Designed with the concept of simplicity in mind, everything is made from natural materials, conserving the perfectly imperfect shapes and surfaces of each object or piece of furniture.

Psarou Beach, Nammos (Mikonos 846 00, Greece)

A loungy laid back ambience in the first part of the day set in a naturally shaped cove. Kick back and relax, sipping a delicious cocktail and listening to beautifully mixed lounge chill out music. Bluntly speaking, there are 2 downsides to Nammos Beach. The sunset cannot be seen from there and the crowd after dawn converts to a slightly less elegant gathering.

Agios Stefanos Beach (Agios Stefanos, Greece)

If you are looking for an unspoilt sandy beach with clear blue waters, this is the place to go. Highly important in Mykonos, Stefanos Beach is protected from the winds and is one of the few beached where you can also just lie your towel in the sand instead of renting a sun bed.

Kalo Livadi Beach (between Kalafatis and Elia beach, located 10 km from Mykonos Town and 2 km from Ano Mera)

Featuring the finest sand in Mykonos, with bright blue and clear waters (perfect for snorkelling), yet extremely windy at all times.

Source: www.scorpioshotel.gr/

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LOCAL TRADITIONAL RESTAURANTS

The Fournos Veneti Bakery, situated at Thesi Argyraina Ep. Odos Mukonou – Αno Meras, 846 00 Mykonos Cyclades Greece – stay away if you happen to be on a diet!

Kalita Restaurant, located at Eparchiaki Odos Mikonou-Ano Merias, Mykonos Town 84600. Give in to delightful greek flavours in a glamorous rusting setting.

Chez Katrine, located at Nikiou, Mikonos, Greece featuring a fusion of french and greek dishes. A gastronomic paradise hidden on the narrow streets of the greek island. Not as easy to reach, but don’t even think of giving up, is beyond worth trying.

SEA FOOD RESTAURANT

Sea Satin, a magical spot situated at the tip of a waterfront peninsula floating right below the famous windmills and bordering with Little Venice. The freshly fished shellfish is a must accompanied by the local white wine and live music. Be sure to make a reservation prior to your visit at +30 2289 024676.

The famous Nobu at Belvedere Boutique Hotel presented in a magnificent poolside setting. With breathtaking views overlooking the white cubist houses of Chora and the Aegean Sea.

Alemagou Beach Bar Restaurant located 12 minutes away from the Mykonos Chora. Simplicity meets luxury in a natural light grey setting. To die for fresh ingredients from the local market – beautifully presented and accompanied by an impeccable service.

Source: http://www.alemagou.gr

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SUNSET

There are numerous restaurants and bars that offer stunning views of the sunset, but I particularly enjoy getting lost in a more natural setting and filled with good vibrations. Beautiful, tranquil and perfect for soothing the soul is the Paraportiani Church. Lay down on the stones next to it and get ready to see the most spectacular sunset.

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And last but not least, the Big White Gallery situated at Meletopoulou 7 Mýkonos, is home to some of the most impressive and intricate local artists. Be sure to pay a visit!

Travel

Madrid

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Madrid – highest capital city in Europe and 2nd largest city in the European Union after Berlin (now that London has decided to leave the EU).

To travel is to live – I couldn’t agree more. Travel induces a bottomless list of benefits, be it cultural, spiritual or enabling mind openness. Amongst this list, it triggers a reward that will last you forever. And that is friendship all around the globe. Everywhere I travel, intentionally or naturally I develop long lasting genuine relationships with locals that emphasises the overall experience and evokes that feeling of wanting to go back again and again.

Experiences are everything. Human beings are social creatures, therefore we base our reviews on interaction, connection and relationships. As many of us might have observed or felt before, we can dine in a 3 starred Michelin restaurant and still not feel quite as good if the experience is not powerful enough.

And this is why Madrid always feels like home for me and I try to go back every year. Beyond its beauty as a city, the close friendships I have developed there over the years make it priceless.

So why don’t you follow me on a short weekend get away in Madrid? A full travel package including a day trip to the mountains.

AT A GLANCE

Best time to visit – Most beautiful seasons in Madrid are spring and summer.

Currency – Euros.

How to get there – If you are travelling from the UK British Airways and Iberia have an array of options, from anywhere else visit www.skyscanner.com

Highlights – Visit at the Museum of Romanticism and a day spent in the mountains next to Madrid.

Shopping – Calle Serrano and Calle Ortega y Gasset.

Top Fact – One of the Museum of Romanticism’s biggest draws is the portrait of Mariano José de Larra (19th century famous essayist), who was considered the ultimate romantic hero as he killed himself in 1837 over a failed relationship.

This time I don’t have to book a hotel as my lovely girlfriends, Susana and Sara have kindly invited me to stay at theirs. I haven’t seen them in a year, so the excitement is bursting out of my chest.

However, if you are looking for a hotel my recommendation would be either the iconic landmark Ritz Hotel, Plaza de la Lealtad 5 28014 Madrid, Spain for guaranteed classic luxury in centre, featuring gorgeous gardens and surrounded by iconic art museums or the Dear Hotel, located on the famous Gran Via Street, 80, 28013 Madrid, Spain if you are looking for an easy going, laid back atmosphere. Moreover, you can enjoy fantastic downtown views from the rooftop garden and pool terrace.

I arrive after midnight, so after a looong catch up with the girls we go to sleep to gain forces for a full interactive new day in the city.

DAY 1

Art

I commence my day with a visit to the Museum of Romanticism, a fairytale drawn from the18th-19th century’s love stories, located at Calle San Mateo, 13, 28004 Madrid, Spain. The museum was built by Don Benigno de la Vega-Inclán y Flaquer, the second Marquis of Vega Inclán. It now belongs to the state since 1921. An exhilarating collection featuring art masters such as Goya, Federico de Madrazo, and Leonardo Alenza. Make sure you stop for an organic tart at the museums secret garden.

I then stop to briefly admire Madrid’s History Museum’s breathtaking baroque architecture situated at Calle de Fuencarral, 78, 28004 Madrid, Spain and featuring iconic historical paintings.

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Beauty

The early morning art intake is followed by a must-have keratin treatment at my favourite treatment salon Rogelaine Imagen Lifestyle, located at Calle de Embajadores, 274, 28045 Madrid, Spain. Becoming a yearly routine, a group of joyful and friendly experts keep my hair healthy, easy to style and smooth at all times. Be sure to make a booking at +34 915 27 37 24.

Shopping

I return to the centre for a long walk on Calle Serrano and the perpendicular streets where I discover an architectural wonder and fine local fashion designers boutiques. Be sure to check out Calle Ortega y Gasset where you can shop from both local boutiques and high end stores.

Lunch

As my stomach is urging for a spanish feast, I land at a traditional yet modern restaurant called Tierra del Queiles, located at C/ Hermosilla, 7 Madrid. Although situated just off Calle Serrano this bar manages to overwhelm me with its cosiness and to die for dishes.

Best Ice Cream in Town – Mistura

I skip dessert to leave room for the best ice cream & coffee latte in town – Mistura located at Calle de Augusto Figueroa, 5. Embrace yourself, your taste buds are about to embark on a sensational and tasteful journey. I mentioned the importance of personalisation for the customer many times before, and as per the Gelateria GROM example, Mistura was created by two entrepreneurs as well, Carlos and Carmelo. As they say, they provide the ambience, the space, the smiles and the most delicious natural ingredients – and you create your own ice cream. You can combine an ice cream flavours mix with any topping you’d like, from exotic fruits to chocolate bites.

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Dinner

As if I haven’t spoiled myself enough, I go for dinner at this chic, newly opened restaurant – Habanera, situated at Genova Street 28. Featuring a vibrant urban setting and a caribbean & mediterranean cuisine, this restaurant & lounge is the to-go-to place in Madrid this summer. The whole ensemble, a palette of fresh grey and creams blends in beautifully with the vibrant green array of plants. Don’t mind the reviews, although the initial weeks weren’t as good, the restaurant has certainly revamped its menu, ingredients and presentation.

Another option for dinner would be Ana La Santa located in Plaza de Santa Ana, 14, 28012 Madrid, Spain, where you can enjoy delicious traditional tapas at the bar or a highly flavoured paella in the dining room.

Plaza de Santa Ana offers a wide array of options including the stunning rooftop bar at the ME by Melia Hotel, located no. 14, Madrid 28012, Spain.

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Lounge Bar

Dinner is followed by a welcome dose of edgy elegance at Fortuny Restaurant & Club, situated at Calle de Fortuny, 34, 28010 Madrid, Spain. A sophisticated modern large terrace, home of some of the best cocktails in Madrid and best DJs in the world.

Other options for cutting edge design and ambience terraces and rooftops in Madrid are the rooftop bar at Hotel Oscar (Plaza de Pedro Zerolo, 12, 28004 Madrid, Spain), the terrace at Casa de America (Paseo de Recoletos, 11) and Tartan Roof at the Hotel Circulo Bellas Artes (Calle del Marqués de Casa Riera, 2, 28014 Madrid, Spain).

DAY 2

Day 2 brings along an unforgettable day at my friend’s estate in the mountains, more specifically in the Alpedrete village. It feels like a corner hidden from the rest of the world, blessed with mesmerising landscapes of nature, colourful plants and lush green trees branches.

All the houses in this area and surrounding are made of raw materials and local wood, featuring large courtyards and wonderful pools that enable you to escape the hot weather in the city. The plan for the day is very straight forward – kick back and fully relax in this perfectly cosy ambience.

Nevertheless, the homemade potato tortilla, spanish jamon, huevos rellenos (filled boiled eggs), queso manchego (my favourite kind of cheese) and the sweet sangria are present all throughout the day. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that after copious amounts of food I feel the need to go for a walk in the village.

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I realise that this is a residential area only, however after a brief research I discover that not far away from here, there’s a small town called Guadarrama that caters for visitors seeking colder temperatures, especially during summer time. Several hotel options can be found on booking.com. Beyond the obvious alluring landscapes, what’s interesting is that Gudarrama was home to intensive fighting during the Spanish Civil War and as a result post war, the town had be rebuilt completely. 30km more from here and you arrive at Sierra de Guadarrama National Park – the 5th largest in Spain, covering approximately 34,000 hectares.

Experience a whole new side of Madrid and its surroundings, the perfect escape for a summery weekend.

Travel

Rome Part II

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Another day in the eternal city…

Piazzas

Il dolce di fare niente is far too tempting – the second day commences with a long sleep in and a fruit platter at Mirabella, rooftop restaurant belonging to the Splendide Royal Hotel, whilst writing to share another experience with you. This is followed by a long walk, visiting several both opulent, famous and hidden piazzas of Rome.

Despite my cultural interests, especially in architecture and art, the most known Piazza Barberini and Quattro Fontane located at the intersection of Via delle Quattro Fontane and Via del Quirinale in Rome (an ensemble of four Late Renaissance fountains) are not as impressive and grandiose as expected. Furthermore, I would dare to say that locations such as Piazza Bocca della Verità situated between Via Luigi Petroselli and Via della Greca and Piazza di Monte Citorio close to Via del Corso are far more complex featuring a more personalised and detailed architectural design.

AT A GLANCE

Best time to visit – I would definitely recommend visiting during spring or early summer.

Currency – Euros.

How to get there – If you are travelling from the UK British Airways has an array of options, from anywhere else visit visit www.skyscanner.com

Highlights – Dinner at Marco G and a visit at Palazzo Barberini.

Shopping – Via dei Condotti

Top Fact – Piazza Navona was developed on the Stadium of Domitian’s premises, created in 1st century AD, and follows the form of the open space of the stadium. The romans used to go there regularly to watch the games.

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Piazza Navona on the other hand never ceases to amaze me. Host of three of the most mesmerising fountains in Italy – Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, Fontana del Moro and Fountain of Neptune, Piazza Navona is one of the main Baroque Roman architectural and artistic representative developments. And when you think it can’t get better, they decide to add a Gelateria GROM in the very corner, located at Via della Maddalena, 30a, 00186 Roma, Italy. Now that’s a proper end to my roman squares visits.

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Lunch

After a traditional italian feast the evening prior I decide to book lunch at Aroma,  a magical 5 stars rooftop restaurant with breathtaking views of the Colosseum and the Emperor Nero’s Gardens, located at alazzo Manfredi, Via Labicana, 125, 00184 Roma, Italy. Step away from the crowded paths surrounding the Flavian Amphitheatre and have a seat at Aroma to get the best view you could have ever imagined. In contrast with the baroque grandeur spread throughout all the sights visited earlier, this restaurant offers a laid back ambience featuring an effortlessly chic and modern design. Bear in mind that a smart casual dress code is recommended, especially for dinner. Chef Giuseppe Di Iorio is sure to take you through an exploratory journey of your own taste buds capturing all senses by using the freshest organic ingredients. Asparagus and ricotta cheese flan with poached quail’s eggs and black truffle is a MUST!

La Pergola is another luxurious lunch or dinner option, a 3 Michelin starred rooftop restaurant with panoramic view of the eternal city. Make sure to book at least 1 month in advance!

Art

On my way back to the hotel I stop by Galleria Borghese located within Villa Borghese Gardens. Including 20 rooms across 2 floors, the gallery hosts a highly impressive Borghese collection of paintings, antiquities and mostly sculptures. If your cultural affinities incline towards sculptural masterpieces, than a visit to Villa Borghese is imperative.

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Dinner

Dinner on Saturday at Marco G every time I visit Rome has become a ritual and no wonder! Located at Via Garibaldi, 56, this is by far my favourite restaurant in Rome due to its sensational traditional dishes made out of 100% homemade organic ingredients, exceptional service, the Speedy Gonzalez like serving and cosy ambience. The homemade tiramisu is to die for!

Final Day

The final day in Rome brings with it a sensational lunch at the best pizzeria in Rome, Pizzeria Emma located at Via del Monte della Farina, 28, 00186 Roma, Italy. Words cannot describe the overwhelming feeling of pure happiness that my taste buds are currently experiencing. If you love pizza, you are set for an unforgettable ride!

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More Art

Just before my cab ride to the airport I feel the urge for another artistic intake and so I stop by at the Palazzo Barberini, situated at Via delle Quattro Fontane, 13, 00186 Roma, Italy. This splendid grandeur houses the largest and one of the most important collection of antique paintings including Raphael’s portrait La fornarina and Caravaggio’s Judith Beheading Holofernes. What’s more, the architecture constitutes a masterpiece in itself, encompassing details borrowed from the northern neighbours, Venice. The Allegory of Divine Providence and Barberini Power filling the large ceiling of the grand salon oughts to be mentioned as a striking piece of art, a fresco painted by Pietro da Cortona. The painting process commenced in 1633 and was brought to competition in 1639.

If you have never been to Rome, clear up one of your weekends and make sure you visit the eternal city this summer. And remember, any questions, pop them via the contact form available on the contact page or comment below. Ciao!

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Travel

Rome

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Buongiorno Roma!

Travel enables you to escape the ordinary, to pass from mirrored activities, work, days to high doses of excitement. I have been asked several times why? Why creating another platform that provides travel information, when this industry is defined as soon to be one of the most saturated markets. My answer is simple. I don’t just provide information, I am a storyteller, one that aims to engage you, the curious and nomadic side of you and transport you to where I am so you can see it with your own eyes, hear it with your own ears and feel it with your own soul.

The world is far too beautiful for you to skip another experience, another journey!

After a week loaded with insightful meetings and the launch event of a life-changing concept – Livoos (soon up on my blog), I hop onto a plane and head off to Rome for a weekend city break. It is hard to imagine how I can take this italian fairytale-like city up a notch, giving that I have explored it inside-out each year. However, this time around I am seizing new culinary journeys and parts of the city yet undiscovered.

AT A GLANCE

Best time to visit – I would definitely recommend visiting during spring or early summer.

Currency – Euros.

How to get there – If you are travelling from the UK British Airways has an array of options, from anywhere else visit visit www.skyscanner.com

Highlights – Dinner at Due Ladroni and breakfast at Mirabelle, Hotel Splendide Royal.

Shopping – Via dei Condotti

Top Fact – The Splendide Royal Hotel was once a 19th century palace providing as headquarters of the Roman Maronite community. After more than one year of re-structuring, it reopened its doors as a small luxury hotel in the heart of Rome.

Travel

I usually fly with British Airways for short hauls, and despite an average good service I can’t help but express my disappointment when it comes to in-flight food. It has truly gone from delicious to standard and from standard to very poor quality. Time to get back on track BA!

Hotel

Contrary to the non-satisfying culinary experience during my flight I finally arrive to Hotel Splendide Royal, a fine small luxurious hotel squeezed between the roman streets of the city’s centre, right at the intersection of culture, museums, communication and art.

Located at Via Di Porta Pinciana 14, Via Veneto, Rome, 00187, Italy, this mesmerising hotel is similar to a time capsule, encompassing the byzantine and renaissance years of Italian art and architecture. Featuring the perfect mix of paintings, sublime handmade interior design details, and one of a kind sculpture works.

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Splendid is highly appropriate as part of the hotel’s name – oversize translates across everything here, from super king size beds to opulent ceilings and soft large towels. Not long after my flawless arrival to the room, the management team knocks on my door and brings in a wonderfully adorned tray with a selection of exotic fruit and a bottle of prosecco. Why? Only because they like to cater for their guests and add that WOW factor to their services. The quality here is down to the smallest detail and the customer service is magnificent.

Rooftop Restaurant

Among its treasures, the hotel features one of the best and most alluring rooftop restaurants and terraces in Rome. Mirabelle, located on the 7th floor of is sure to leave you speechless. My eyes are rewarded by panoramic views of palaces of Pinciano, Villa Medici, Trinità dei Monti, Saint Peter’s and Gianicolo.

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Dinner

In the late afternoon I go for a walk via the Spanish Steps and Via die Condotti and enjoy the sunshine on my face, ending up at the romantic old school restaurant – Due Ladroni, situated at Piazza Nicosia, 24, 00186 Roma. Not only do I find multi-languages speakers waiters that pepper the customer service provided with a joyful personalised twist, but also the strongly Neapolitan influenced dishes consisting of fresh fish and seafood are to die for.

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Lounge bar

On my way back I stop for a night cap at Zuma’s rooftop terrace, located at Via della Fontanella di Borghese, 48. Providing a close look of Curch San Carlo al Corso, both the restaurant and the terrace feature a highly elegant and contemporary design.

Stay tuned to follow me on my journey through Rome.

Travel

Bali Part II

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INDONESIA SERIES | Bali Part II

THE HANGING GARDENS RESORT UBUD

Arrival 

We arrive at the Hanging Gardens after darkness has fallen. The resort is located at Banjar Susut, Desa Buahan, Payangan, Kec. Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia. The service is flawless, everyone here seems to be smiling regardless of any worries they might have left at the door. I am a huge fan of hotels featuring the most areas in open air and this is just one of them.

Once arrived at one of the Panoramic Villas I notice the traditional asian elegant design in a contemporary living space, all built in natural wood and surrounded by nature – it seems to be the perfect balance between traditional and new. As we step into the room I am once again speechless. The room includes a super king bed, two large bathtubs – one indoor and one located on the side terrace. An additional queen size bed is placed on the very corner of the terrace, next to…well a private infinity pool, just above the rainforest, allowing countless hours of stargazing. I start loosing any track of time once again, the numbers and hands miraculously disappear from my watch.

I drop everything on the floor and jump into the water enjoying the silence which soon converts into a beautiful soulful song. All my thoughts disappear in a nanosecond.

AT A GLANCE

Best time to visit – there is a tropical, warm and humid season all year around, however the best time to visit Bali is during the dry season, from April until September.

Currency – Indonesian Rupiah. You can use your credit cards in most places, although it is always beneficial to carry some cash with you in the local currency. Easiest to exchange at the local airport.

How to get there – there are no direct flights if you are travelling from Europe. Best connecting flights are via Doha, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Dubai.

Highlights – private dinner by the pool at the Hanging Gardens Resort.

Top Fact – The Hanging Gardens of Ubud resort was built by 700 local craftsmen using traditional materials two years, from 2003 to 2005.

Dress code – Very relaxing, light-weighted clothes. A pair of heels is more than enough, make sure you also pack a pair of trainers for hiking.

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Resort & Surroundings 

The sun comes up and just when I thought it can’t get any better I wake up to an outrageously beautiful landscape, as the bed faces a panoramic view through a glass wall. The only thing that might potentially dampen my mood right now is one of the numerous torrential rains we have had so far. But the sky couldn’t be clearer nor bluer.

I wonder around the resort whose architecture is defined based on existing natural contours and lush vegetation. The design is built on a 45 degree angle with Feng Shui principles, expressing a world of infinity and stability of energy. Highly important for me is the idea of a boutique hotel. Rather than choosing landmark hotels in exotic destinations, I prefer the resorts with a maximum of 50 rooms / villas. The Hanging Gardens features a perfect no. of 45 villas set on two levels.

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Dinning Options

I discover a luxurious restaurant called The Garden overlooking the lush rainforest, Ayung River and the ancient Dalem Segara temple. Encompassing global flavours combined with traditional organic recipes, the garden restaurant creates the perfect nourishment for your taste buds. Just below the main restaurant there’s a breathtaking lounge area – The Garden Bar, partially open-aired featuring picturesque views of the infinity pool.

Whilst my mouth drops open at the beauty set on the very edge of the rain forests’ valley, a friendly member of staff informs me that the resort also provides private dinning by the pool and the unforgettable experience of dinning at the temple. Be sure to book any of these on the day of your arrival as they prior notice to be able to organise.

The Rainforest

After a couple of blissful hours spent at what has been fairly claimed no. 1 best pool in the world and a delicious & beautifully presented tuna steak I can’t help but wonder what’s on the other side of the infinity pool’s line?

I gather my thoughts, grab my Havaianas and walk down the stairs all the way down to the rainforest. I am immediately introduced to alluring landscapes, waterfalls that shimmer into the warm glow, several surreal bridges all throughout the forest overpassing the Ayung river and an array of colourful butterflies. What surprises me most is that I can’t see anyone else wondering around here although it’s extremely easy to reach.

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TEGALALANG RICE TERRACE

As incurable nature lovers, we decide to visit one spot that has been on our Bucket List for a long time, the Rice Terraces located at Jalan Raya Tegalalang, Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia.

We pick up the car and adventure into the unknown, a 30 minutes road trip through the narrowed & curved streets of Ubud. A slight insecurity filters through as our car is slowly letting us down but once we’ve made up our minds there’s no way back. NOTE: Make sure you input your destination on your GPS well in advance as the internet connection might drop out when less expected.

Once closer to the terraces, bear in mind that there’s no parking within the actual grounds, however there’s a parking available on the left hand side, approximately 50 meters away from the main entrance.

There is no need to purchase any tickets outside, I simply donate money to the workers inside which I find on my way in and all throughout the terraces. I step inside and remain speechless, this is truly quite like nothing I have ever seen before, layers and layers of lush green vegetation loaded with countless palm trees. The idea of hiking the unstable wet grounds for at least an hour until reaching the final point is slightly scary yet fascinating. NOTE: Important to grab a pair of trainers or rain boots and comfortable light weighted clothing. You might find a few ants tribals eager to climb up on your legs, although if you’re geared up appropriately you’ll be fine.

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In the unusual case of arriving in flip flops (as I did), it is best to walk around barefoot as all of the workers here, especially on a rainy day. I sit on the wet ground and absorb it all in one more time. The light has already dimmed outside and so starting to look for the exit around here can become a trickier situation than what it initially seemed. Out of nowhere, a worker comes our way and simply says: ‘Follow me’.

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He is showing us the way out, but we stop on the way at his cabana built within the Rice Terraces. We didn’t carry any water and were beyond dehydrated, so he offers us coconut water whilst caring our worries away with his handmade musical instrument. My eyes are in tears and I am stood humble in front of this men that has just made our evening with the very little that he had.

I leave filled with joy and happiness after not only exploring some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world but also by having discovered the kindness, wonderful souls and spirituality in each person I met along the entire journey.

Up next from the Indonesia Series: Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Lombok

Travel

Bali

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INDONESIA SERIES | Bali Part I

Bali, an oasis full of surprises.

We sometimes think we have seen it all & done it all. We sometimes forget to open up and let our five senses explore, learn and see new things every day. Keeping an open mind might lead you to both good and bad choices. But the upside of this is that both good and bad choices generate good stories that will last for a lifetime.

Travel comes in so many different shapes and manners, being different from one person to another, although we tend to always go for our habitual travel patterns. So this time, I wanted to travel far, far from my comfort zone and far in distance.

As per each weekend I commence my research for my next destinations. I use several different websites to purchase my hotel and at times the entire package including flights. They have a wonderful array, make sure you check them out.

Secret Escapes is an exclusive members only travel club offering up to 70% on luxury hotels and holidays. New offers land every week which will be also sent to your email to keep you inspired.
Similar to Secret Escapes, Voyage Privé specialises in online private sales for quality exploratory holidays and luxury trips.
Booking.com is a digital accommodation booking website offering a wide range of hotels in 85000 destinations worldwide.
Expedia offer top deals on package holidays, launching daily travel deals from luxury to low cost hotels, holidays, city breaks and flights.

 

AT A GLANCE

Best time to visit – there is a tropical, warm and humid season all year around, however the best time to visit Bali is during the dry season, from April until September.

Currency – Indonesian Rupiah. You can use your credit cards in most places, although it is always beneficial to carry some cash with you in the local currency. Easiest to exchange at the local airport.

How to get there – there are no direct flights if you are travelling from Europe. Best connecting flights are via Doha, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Dubai.

Highlights – Stay at the Hanging Gardens Resort, Visit at the Dewa Putu Toris Art Gallery and Dinner at Matis.

Top Fact – Bali is part of the Coral Triangle featuring over 500 reef building coral species which is 7 times more than in the entire Caribbean.

Dress code – Very relaxing, light-weighted clothes. A pair of heels is more than enough, make sure you also pack a pair of trainers for hiking.

Bali enchants all who visit, although this destination is no typical voyage. You have of course the option to remain within the resort’s premises throughout the whole period of time and step out for the occasional dinner and drinks. On the other hand, I saw an ample opportunity to learn about its complex culture all the way from wildlife experts and historians to the most vision changing people – the locals.

JOURNEY AND HOTEL

This time I book a package on Voyage Prive including flights via Doha with Qatar Airways and the Novotel Hotel in the region of Bali, Benoa. Being part of the Accor Hotel Group, Novotel provides a variety of advantages worth while. Make sure you sign up here.

After a long yet pleasant journey with Qatar Airways I arrive to a tropical splendour surrounding a beautiful 4 stars hotel built on the beach and featuring the most alluring traditional balinese design. I have thought of several different hotels prior to my trip such as the ultra modern Trans Hotel in Seminyak, which under the management of Alex Jovanovic offers an impeccable service and overall experience. However, I am magnetised by natural settings, must be the flow of the water that we usually seek to translate in our lives.

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As we (my sister and I) are restless explorers, renting a car wherever we travel comes natural. This time around we encountered slight issues, whereby everyone’s reaction to tourists potentially renting a car is rather inconclusive and somehow even disturbed. Characterised by incurable stubbornness, we decide to rent a car from the hotel (if you are looking for a higher end car brand, forget about it! A Fiat will do, you will find out later why).

The check in process runs smoothly and we are quickly accompanied to one of the villas across the road. We pass through a path covered by bright green exotic plants (some of which I have never seen before) with a relaxing pool on the side. As I step into the room, I realise this resort is all about soul satisfying-stillness, starting from the oriental music on the background, furniture fully built out of natural and local wood all the way to the bed covered by Plumeria petals (unmissable from Balinese culture).

DAY 1

I wake up early so I can enjoy the breakfast overlooking the Indian Ocean. I start devouring the fruit platters whilst I surprisingly also discover the most delicious porridge in the world alongside the Salak, or differently called the Snake Fruit.

Once finished I feel the urge to start exploring the unspoiled nature of the island and so I decide to spend the day on the hotel’s beach despite the cloudy and lower temperature climate. Upon a brief research I realise that my visit is at boarder line between the dry and rainy season. However, my hippie spirit filled with joy and excitement at the thought of exploring the Indonesian land suddenly breaks out.

The resort includes 3 swimming pools, 3 restaurants and bars, a fitness centre, a tennis court and a wonderful balance spa.

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Whilst I enjoy the magnificent views, a concentrated dose of boredom kicks in due to the extreme laid back atmosphere. The Hotel Novotel Benoa is absolutely perfect for families, but my nomad side drags me back to booking.com in the search of a new adventure in the neighbourhood. I soon land on The Hanging Gardens resort which rings a bell as being the most alluring sanctuary hidden within Ubud’s Jungle. I book a room for two nights and look forward to my first road trip in Bali unaware though that I am set to discover a piece of Paradise that goes beyond unexpected.

DINNER IN SEMINYAK

In the evening I reserve a celebratory dinner at METIS located at Jl. Petitenget No. 6, Kerobokan Kelod, Kuta, Kabupaten Badung, Bali, Indonesia before heading off to The Hanging Gardens the following morning. Although I am not expecting any level of luxury in Bali, this restaurant is beautifully inspired by Asian tropical architecture yet infiltrating a modern, chic & elegant twist on it. Wonderfully spacious, it features 5 areas – indoor lounge and restaurant extending into a blissful terrace, private garden and lounge bar converting into a club post dinner and a Gallery & Boutique selling top balinese fashion & art. The French Mediterranean cuisine is absolutely exquisite and further more, the deserts are highly eclipsing the mains. The relaxed atmosphere sets the stage accompanied by the sophisticated setting and impeccable service. The club however is annoyingly crowded missing the elegance spread on the rest of the areas. Make sure you book prior to your visit as it might be difficult to find a table, even more so during the weekends.

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DAY 2

Road Trip

The second morning brings with it a unique experience that enables me to genuinely understand and appreciate the local people and their endless kindness. Despite being set to drive straight to The Hanging Gardens resort in Ubud, the traffic is far away from being any sort of helpful or friendly. Hundreds of scooters appear out of nowhere and there are 3 different traffic lights for the same intersection. Patience is not a virtue for local drivers, therefore the honk noises almost turn into a large instrumental ensemble without a conductor. Unfortunately, taxis are a rarity here, therefore self-driving is still the best option.

Kopi Luwak Coffee Plantation

As we are trying to solve the puzzle, a local man approaches us by scooter and provides us with tips on how to drive in Bali, followed by an invitation to drive behind him to his work place as he is certain that we will love it. After making up our minds several times we decide to follow him and as we approach his so called office we realise that he is taking us to the Kopi Luwak Coffee Plantation located at tJL. Pura Dalem, Tegal Tamu, Batubulan, Gianyar – Bali. This place was brought up in our exploring planning conversations before but seemed impossible to find. Once arrived, I am sat down by lovely Adex at a table in the middle of the plantation to enjoy the best coffee & tea tasting. The taste is absolutely irresistible and so I end up with 3 bags full of different flavours of coffee and tea from the local shop. Kopi luwak includes part-digested coffee cherries eaten and defecated by the Asian palm civet. It might not sound as appealing, however the Luwak Coffee’s flavour is by far the best I have ever tried. What’s more, the civet coffee is also one of the two most expensive coffees in the world with retail prices reaching €550 per kilogram. #1 is occupied by the Black Ivory Coffee retailing at €850/kg.

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Dewa Putu Toris Art Gallery, Tegenungan Waterfall and the Tek Tok Dance

The coffee plantation is followed by a visit to the Dewa Putu Toris Gallery, Jl. Raya Batuan No.12, Batuan, Sukawati, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia – an impressive art collection curated by both established and new balinese painters. Not to be missed, expect an array of traditional activities such as the fire dance recreated through the point of the brush. The setting itself is unexpectedly inspiring, recalling the design and architectural details of a temple.

We then follow the route that leads us to the Tegenungan Waterfall, Kemenuh, Sukawati, Kec. Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia, known as one of the most alluring cascades in Bali thanks to its unforgettable lush green surroundings.

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Having lost any notion of time, I realise now how late it is and that we will end up with a nocturnal driving to the Hanging Gardens. Despite this thought I want to make one more stop at the Ahadewa Barong Dance to experience the balinese dancing called the Tek Tok Dance. This is often presented at the Bali Culture Centre, however if you are looking for the real experience in a traditional setting, than this is your go-to place. Accompanied by the musical sound of the Tek Tok repeated by dancers, the balinese dance represents a message of truth, devotion and genuine compassion.

Balinese Dancer

Ubud is the cultural representative area standing for the history of Bali itself. There is a wide range of historical & cultural attractions such as art museums, centres and temples. I would recommend spending two days in Ubud so you can enjoy the full experience. Besides the points mentioned above, make sure you also visit the Monkey Forest. Bring nothing else but your camera and hold tight to it, there are some expert monkeys that will still away any possessions.

Stay tuned for my experience at the mesmerising Hanging Gardens resort and Day 3 activities.

Bucket List

Bucket List #2

OHHCOUTURE

There’s an average of 16.8 days of annual paid leave. Some of you might wonder at times – why should we even bother and go through the hassle of organising a weekend get-away or an exotic holiday? Further more, there are so many other things that can be bought within that budget. My question to you is WHY NOT? Why not creating experiences that will last you for a life-time, journeys that change your vision, broaden your perspective on life, open your mind, enrich your cultural knowledge and what’s more – make you a better person? I can’t seem to find any contra argument to this. Can you?

Let yourself inspired by my second bucket list and stay tuned for a weekend in Monaco experimenting my first Grand Prix and the Indonesia series!

Miras Hotel Cappadocia, Turkey - captured by @mirashotel

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Arashiyama, Kyoto, Japan - captured by @japvivas

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Chapada Diamantina, Bahia, Brazil - captured by @southamerica

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Hawaii’s Haiku Stairs - captured by @everchanginghorizon

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Côte d'Azur French Riviera - captured by @ohhcouture

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Travel Venice

Venice

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A Venetian Affair

Always in movement. Always on the go. Always exploring. Similar to a book, life has its chapters. It is in our hands whether we choose to write a black and white chapter or create a book full of multicoloured, multicultural and multi-experiential pages.

After a busy week, the weekend brings a last minute decision to pack and fly to Venice. Have been there twice before, never had a chance to explore the city properly though. Seems to be fully booked everywhere and due to not having spent the night in Venice before, I don’t have any knowledge as to what hotel to book, nor what plans I should make during the weekend. Exciting, I love this kind of challenges!

HOTEL

I finally find a room available in the Gritti Palace (http://www.thegrittipalace.com), a magical hotel on the Grand Canal that perfectly combines culture, history, endless elegant Venetian design with exceptional art. Worth mentioning the hotel’s terrace with alluring views of the Grand Canal, facing the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute.

AT A GLANCE

Best time to visit – spring to June, summer time brings a very hot air which makes it unbearable to walk around.

Currency – Euros

How to get there – if you are travelling from the UK British Airways is the best option, for any other flight options visit www.skyscanner.com. The Marco Polo airport is much closer to the centre.

Highlights – Giudecca, the other side of Venice and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

Top Fact – Venice is built on 117 small islands connected by 409 bridges (read more here).

Special treat – dinner at Oro Restaurant in Belmond Hotel Cipriani.

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ARRIVAL

As I arrive at the Marco Polo airport I am looking for the signage that leads me to the water taxis, however I must say that it can get quite confusing. Let’s make this easy: walk out of the airport through the exit on the right towards the parking. Follow the path on the left side, cross the zebra, keep walking for another 5 minutes and at the end you will find both shared transport and water taxis. Worth getting a cab, the journey itself is a welcoming adventure not to be missed.

DAY 1

I wake up early to enjoy the breakfast on the terrace which is a sublime experience. Staff is very friendly, the ingredients are fresh and the food range is wide enough to cover all tastes. Although difficult to leave, I get a map from the concierge to establish the must sees and commence getting lost around the city.

It can be difficult to imagine Venice as a lush area, but for explorers visiting in spring you will be pleasantly surprised to discover numerous corners of nature, terraces packed with colourful roses and blossoming branches overhanging all around the city. The bold coloured buildings, the preserved sophisticated facades, the relaxed rhythms – il dolce di fare niente, the narrow hidden paths in between buildings and the water movement transport me into a different dimension, away from any worries or thoughts I might have in the real world.

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PALAZZO DUCALE

I stop by Palazzo Ducale which is 5-10 minutes walk distance from the hotel in Piazza San Marco (San Marco, 1, 30124 Venezia, Italy) where I am once again blown away by the detailed interior and opulent painting parade showcasing on all walls and ceilings. The palace was built in the Venetian Gothic style with Byzantine-Venetian influences. Initial works started in 810 and was restructured countless times due to three huge fires, structural failures, new organisational requirements or complete overhaulings of the ornamental trappings.

The Paradiso in the Great Council Chamber is the largest canvas painting in the world! Doesn’t sound as surprising considering that the Great Council Chamber is 53 meters long and 25 meters wide, dimensions that define it as one of the largest rooms in Europe.

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GROM – Il gelato come una volta

After visiting the Palazzo Ducale, I feel the urge to enjoy my first GROM gelato in Venice. The sophistication in texture, the refinement in taste and the natural ingredients make it the best ice cream in the world. GROM is 100% natural, they only use fresh fruit from the best consortium in Italy with no addition of artificial colorings, aromas, preservatives or emulsifiers.

What’s more, the idea came from a newspaper when Guido Martinetti was reading an article on ‘gelato like it used to be made’. He then contacted his friend Federico Grom and decided to buy the best raw ingredients and open up a gelateria. From one ice cream shop opened in 2003 and with no prior industry experience, the business has generated €23 million revenue and has been sold to consumer goods giant Unilever for an undisclosed fee. Talking about entrepreneurship skills!

DELICIOUS LUNCH

I then hop onto a gondola and ask to be taken around the narrow canals rather than the Grand Canal which is always busy. After a very informative gondola ride on the history of Venice my stomach starts screaming at me ‘PASTA!’. I give in and post visiting and having a look at several restaurants I go for Antico Martini located in Campo Teatro Fenice, 2007, Venezia, Italy. Very friendly staff, a pleasant and cosy terrace separated from the crowded public squares and delicious food! I order a Foie Gras selection and Tagliolini with Black Truffle. BLISS!

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TRADITIONAL DINNER

After numerous kilometres of wondering around and an Aperol Spritz later I go back to the hotel to change for dinner. I narrow it down to two choices, both spectacular for dinner: Michelin starred Oro Restaurant with a breathless waterside terrace located in Belmond Hotel Cipriani, Giudecca, 10, Sestiere Castello, Venezia VE, Italy or something more traditional and laid back yet still elegant but less presumptuous.

Despite a late afternoon dish of pasta, I choose the second option, Trattoria do Forni, a lively restaurant with several rustic & Orient Express-style dining rooms. The atmosphere is as expected, chill-out for both the young and not so young. They use impeccable and fresh ingredients treated with simplicity yet resulting in complex tasteful starters and mains. The Scampi on raw artichokes is not to be missed!

DAY 2 – GIUDECCA

A glorious sunny Sunday is perfect to adventure the little known Giudecca, the Other Side of Venice as I like to call it. It is understandable that the mass tourism is always trotting around central Venice, however I think it is safe to say that this thin island will soon become a centre of attraction in Venice for new generations of travellers.

The breathtaking view across the Giudecca Canal to Dorsoduro, Piazza San Marco, and Palazzo Ducale, a landscape that has inspired numerous great italian artists, is the first WOW aspect that already converts Giudecca in my favourite part of Venice. Although I absolutely love the Gritti Palace hotel, the peaceful, relaxed and village vibe here makes it the perfect place to stay whilst in Venice, especially if you prefer a quite accommodation avoiding the loud crowds.

After crossing the canal in less than a minute, I first visit the alluring Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute followed by a walk around the island. It takes up to one hour at most to wonder around the whole island, although the bold colours, surreal bridges, traditional architecture might make you stop and sigh at each corner. The Fondamenta Cà Balà area (30123 Venezia, Italy) leaves me speechless, central Venice has nothing on it. I stop there for 15 minutes and stare without being able to take my finger off the shutter button of my camera.

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ART

I continue with an unforgettable visit of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection (Dorsoduro, 701-704, 30123 Venezia, Italy) founded by the former wife of long time favourite artist Max Ernst and niece of the mining magnate, Solomon R. Guggenheim. A must-see selection of modern art collected by herself mostly between 1938 and 1946. Amongst the great artist featuring on Palazzo Venier dei Leoni’s walls, which Peggy Guggenheim purchased in 1949 being her home for 30 years, are Braque, Léger Dalí, Miró, Picasso and Kandinsky.

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LUNCH

With a pocket full of art inspiration I cross back to the central Venice for lunch at the traditional venetian pizzeria Rosa Rossa (Calle Mandola, 3709, 30124 Venezia, Italy). The smell of fresh bread and baked pizza, the wooden design details, informal and enjoyable atmosphere, delicious food and sublime Aperol Spritz highly exceed my expectations. BEST HOMEMADE PIZZA IN TOWN!

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Despite the fact that I arrive at the airport completely soaked after someone decides to show off on the Venice’s canals I leave with the sweetest taste in my mouth, this trip has been much more than expected.