Viva Italia! Winner of Conde Nast Traveller Readers 2013 awards – Favourite Destination

conde nast travellerConde Nast Traveller one of the leading tourism publications have recently held their 2013 Traveller Readers’ Awards ceremony and Italy was once again awarded Favourite Country by it’s 83,000+ readers and I am certainly not going to argue with their perfect choice.

Rome, Venice and Florence all feature in the Top Ten Favourite Overseas Cities and Grand Hotel Villa Feltrinelli scooped up 2nd place in the Overseas Holiday Hotels.

Having lived in Italy for almost 20 years and with family still living there and working in the tourism sector this news brings me much joy and a hearty applause to my favourite country, well done guys.

Hand on heart I can tell you that Italy is the best place to take your family on holiday, children are adored in Italy as any guest will soon discover. The gastronomy talks for itself and is most likely the best in the world, the wines are of excellent superior quality and there’s enough culture to keep you going for a lifetime.

Everywhere you go in Italy has something to discover and amaze you, try it sometime, actually look into it for next year’s holiday and see for yourself why the country is winner of the Favourite Country category.

I am lucky enough to be attending a press trip to Italy at the end of October where I shall join the Liberty of the Seas at Civitavecchia, sail to Naples and then on to Barcelona with the Royal Caribbean. To say I am giddy with excitement is an understatement.

More news coming soon and very well done Italy!

Bravi bravi!


The Italian Dolomites; Eat, drink and be merry in Trentino

Trentino mountain


In Italy the kids have already broken up from school and won’t go back till mid September – I know think of the childcare that has to be in place for that! – As you know Italy is a hot country; summers can reach constant 40C on a daily basis for months. It’s not unheard of for people to drag their mattresses to the balconies at night and sleep there where there is a filo d’aria, a thread of air.

This is why the stunning mountain ranges in Italy, like the Dolomites, are a popular holiday choice for Italians, a kind of holiday I would have ignored had I not lived there for 20 odd years. Italian families will book to spend as much time as possible up in the fresh air and green pastures of le montagne, so what do they do when they ‘Vado in montagna‘ I’m going to the mountains?

Here are 10 things I would do if I was to visit this summer

Top Ten things to do in the Italian Dolomites this summer

  1. Eat. From dining like royalty in one of Trentino’s Magnificent 7 Michelin starred restaurants or a wholesome and delicious peasant’s meal in one of the many Alpine refuges dotted across the mountain tops. One things for sure you will feast on fresh locally made cheeses, hams, wild mushrooms and your life won’t be complete until you have tried Canerderli or Strangolaprete – trust me. Here’s my review of Rifugio Rumor for a better idea.
  2. Drink. Trentino is the home of Mozart’s favourite wine, Marzemino, it also boasts Italy’s top sparkling wine “metodo classico” Trentodoc and you cannot leave without trying a Gewurztraminer or a San Leonardo wine either. Grappa usually finishes off the best meals but be warned it is strong. Attend a wine tasting or visit one of the many vineyards.
  3. Visit a fairytale castle. Trentino is brimming with them dating back hundreds of years, my personal favourites are Castello Buonconsiglio in Trento, Castel Beseno which sat at the bottom of my mountain home of Folgaria, Castel Thun, Castel Stenico and Castello di Avio.castle
  4. Get some culture. Visit MART museum of modern art in Rovereto and see futurist artist Depero on display amongst many others. I would love to visit the MUSE science museum opening on 27th July and designed by Renzo Piano who designed London’s famous Shard building. MUSE begins with the local and extrapolates from that. The museum aims to follow the precepts of glocal: act locally, think globally
  5. Get fit. Cycle the Dolomiti Lagorai Bike Grand Tour six-day mountain-bike itinerary. Too sporty? Then how about the new European-wide electric bike scheme called Movelo in Valsugana? This is something new I’d like to have a go at.
  6. Music. Enjoy the beauty of your surroundings against one of nature’s most magnificent backdrops whilst listening to music. The Sounds of the Dolomites run from the end of June to the end of August.
  7. Lakes. There are over 300 in Trentino! Enjoy sailing, windsurfing, rafting or canyoning if you’re looking for an adrenalin rush. My local lake was Lago di Lavarone where many a lunch break was spent on it’s gentle shores and I never said no to a trip to Lago di Garda a short 40 minutes away.lake garda
  8. Photography. Whatever you do don’t forget your camera. Trentino will blow you away with its scenery, pack lots of SD cards.
  9. Folgaria. My home for almost 20 years. Have a brioche in Club Hotel Alpino or visit the spa at Hotel Eghel, tell them I sent you ;)
  10. Shop. You are in Made in Italy land, the fashion will blow your mind, the art, the design, the food, the leather, the ceramics. BUY because it will remind you for years to come of the fabulous time you had.

Argghh. Now talking about it has made me want to go back *puts thinking cap on and starts to plan* for more info here’s the official tourist board of Trentino website

Rifugio Rumor, Veneto Italy

Rifugio Rumor Campomolon, ArsieroLast weekend I took a quick trip over to Italy to see my grandson christened. I can’t believe that after the hottest August on record for years in Folgaria I arrive and the heavens opened! Not only that it didn’t stop for two days but thank goodness it cleared for the christening.

As always it’s the perfect time to catch up with my best friends in Italy, we’re all really bad at keeping in touch, the odd Facebook comment but never lots of texts or phone calls as much as we’d like to. Nevertheless, it’s like picking up where we left off and there are certainly no breaks in the conversation as we all struggle to get a word in edgeways.

This time we organised to eat out on Saturday night, I left the choice up to them and a group of 12 of us drove across the mountain pass to Rifugio Rumor which is in Campomolon in Veneto and is at 1748m above sea level – imagine the view in the daytime?

Rifugio Rumor - Veneto

It’s a long twisty drive to get there and from Folgaria it took about half an hour, our reserved table had already been laid up, it is a rustic setting so don’t go expecting linen napkins, silver cutlery and crystal glasses, the idea of these Refuge restaurants was born years ago for people travelling from one place to another and needing a stopover, nowadays they are very popular with cyclists, motorcyclists, hikers and families too looking for a day out a little different to the usual.

Filet steak grilling in front of the fire

We chose from three starters, I chose Fettucine alle finferli (local wild mushrooms) which I forgot to photograph as they were so delicious and for main course the speciality of the house is grilled meat.

mixed grill Rifugio Rumor

Filet steak, costine (ribs) and tagliata di manzo grilled in front of the open fire, so tender it melts in your mouth. Served with potatoes and fried tomatoes. Delizioso!

bread and wine

Dessert was a plate of Salame al cioccolato and bottles of grappa were strategically placed on the table, prugna and white or Limoncello which I chose :)

Rifugio Rumor after dinner

The cost of the whole meal including alcohol was €25.00 per head and considering fillet steak was included I think it was excellent value for money.

Gianni rifugio Rumor

Our host and manager of Rifugio Rumor Gianni Marenda

If you’re ever in the Dolomites keep an eye out on your map for Rifugio as there are many dotted about and they all have good wholesome meals on offer, the views are spectacular and it’s a fabulous experience to be on top of the world enjoying a good meal.

I’m linking up with The Crazy Kitchen and her fab Foodie Foto Friday

The Crazy Kitchen

Autumn in Trentino: Folgaria

newborn baby sleepingIt’s time for another flying visit to Trentino, my favourite place in Italy as Evan is going to be christened this weekend and I am going to be there.

It’s with mixed feelings that I leave as on one hand I must leave Paul and the twins behind in the UK but on the other I shall be free to enjoy Tommy and Megan and their families without any distractions. Of course I wish I could share the lovely things I will see and do with all of my family together but needs must so excuse me whilst I get very excited all over again.

My suitcase is stashed to the hilt with toys for Gracey, presents for Evan, lots of clothes for me as I can’t make up my mind what to take and it looks like rain too but of course my few belongings will rattle around empty on my return trip on Monday.

I’m taking my camera, my video camera and my laptop with me plus my brand new G Drive slim where I have now transferred all of my iPhoto library, you know I never used to be this gadget orientated but look at me now how I move country..

The autumn is a great time for wild mushrooms in Trentino and I hope to fit in a risotto or side order of funghi. I also have a pizza high up on my list, a Crodino which you never see here, an espresso (proper one) some mountain photography if the weather plays ball and a slice of strudel. They also make a wicked Sacher torte.

Folgaria in pictures

It’s big wine season too and I shall do my best to try a Marzemino which is typical to the area of Trentino, a Pinot Grigio, a Pinot Nero and a must-have Gewurztraminer. You know when I lived out there, I did the first course on my way to being a somelier and we used to hold wine tastings for our hotel guests.

I shall be visiting the ‘kids’ in the Alpen Eghel hotel and I’ve been booked in for a manicure on Sunday morning.

folgaria night

I shall meet with my best mate and chat too much, drink too much and probably spend too much in her Benetton shop too but it’s got to be done, a fill up until next time we meet which will most likely be the wedding in March.

Don’t know if you can tell but I am really looking forward to being there and you’ll hear all about it on Tuesday, love to all and have a great weekend – I will!

Ten Things I learnt from the Italians

I moved to Italy when I was 20 and left when I was 37 so I guess you could say I became an adult there. I am sure that many defining parts of my character where finely honed by the Italian culture and here are some of the best bits I brought back with me…

Italian Food

I learnt to cook! Not that I couldn’t cook before but I moved on from Learner to Cook. Mum is the best cook I know and my brother is a chef so the appreciation of good food runs in the family. However the Italians are very conscious of their food and adore telling you how their Mediterranean diet is the best in the world. I like that they use products that are in season and grown locally or at least Made in Italy

Italian Wine

Young people do not HAVE to get blindly drunk to enjoy a Friday night in Italy…sometimes it happens but it’s not a necessity. Enjoying good wine and spirits is a huge part of the Italian lifestyle. Alcohol costs a lot less and there are no age limits in bars but underage drinking exists on a much lower scale than here in the UK. Youngsters there don’t have to get trashed to prove they’re as big as the next guy or to be able to say they had a good night out.

Italian Art

Everywhere you go in Italy you cannot help but be in awe of your surroundings. Churches, town halls, villages with wall art and artists painting, sculpting or creating masterpieces in the village square for all to see. Every place in Italy, be it a tiny village or a city, has something beautiful to show.

Italian Fashion

Some of the greatest designers in the world are Made In Italy, every Italian is enormously proud of their standing in the world’s fashion stakes and this is so visible as everyone takes pride in what they wear and the majority look like models themselves. Makes it a damn sight harder to keep up with the Rossi’s I can tell you!

Italian Family

The Italians I had the pleasure to meet, all put family in first place. The elderly are looked after and respected by all. Italy is also VERY child friendly sometimes verging on the extreme as some parents let their children run riot in restaurants, shops and public places shrugging their shoulders as if they can’t do anything about it. ‘They’re children!’  Hell for waiters and shop owners but be rest assured any holiday in Italy with children will be delightful as you can take them everywhere you go and people will stop to praise them.

Con calma

or Take it easy… yes, there’s no rush, don’t go stressing yourself out, take your time and get it done properly. There’s always tomorrow.

Italian House rules

Whenever you wash your dishes by hand you MUST always rinse the soap off. True! You wouldn’t  dream of leaving shampoo in your hair. Money – don’t get in to debt. Pay as you go and go without if you can’t afford it. This makes for easy sleeping at night.

Italian Patriots

They all share a deep adoration for their country, after all they have got it all; sea, sun, sand, mountains, skiing, lakes, beautiful cities and beautiful people. Their summer vacations are taken within their boundaries, Sicily, Sardegna, Puglia to name a few. Ski trips to Trentino, Courmayeur or Alto Adige, Weekend trips to Florence, Venice, Pisa…I could go on forever.

The Italian language

Of course, I came away bilingual. My written Italian isn’t perfect as their grammar is unbelievably complicated but I can read and of course talk till the cows come home just don’t get me started on their politics….

photo by kerben