The Ideal City by Piero della Francesca

ideal city piero della francesca

One of my favourite paintings that I had the great fortune to see on a trip to Urbino, Italy in 1999 is The Ideal City by Piero della Francesca.

Entering the Sala degli Angeli of the Galleria Nazionale di Urbino, the painting was hanging above a beautifully sculpted fireplace and quite literally took my breath away. I stood mesmerised by it and wished I could hang the masterpiece in my front room! I could never tire of looking at the simplicity and beauty of Piero’s Ideal City and dreaming I was there.

I love the feeling of eternity it gives and the peaceful, intelligent air surrounding the buildings that is so reassuring.

My visit to Urbino was only two years after the earthquake in the region that had had such a disastrous affect on the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi destroying the famous Giotto murals. Fortunately, the Italians care so much about their history that a lot of time and money was spent on the restoration to try and save as much as they could for future generations.

If you are ever in this part of the world you must also try the local food and wine which is out-of-this-world delicious. Truffle plays an enormous part in the local ‘cucina’ along with the national dish, pasta and their red wines that are so soft and rich they’re like an elixir of the Gods, possibly direct from the Ideal City itself!

I went on a truffle hunt that same year with a local farmer and his dogs who in actual fact looked quite scraggly and not the kind of dogs I had expected for such an expensive ingredient. However, they were extremely obedient and following the farmer’s orders smelt out some truffles for us in no time, the farmer would bark an order and the dog would stop his digging instantly salivating over the spot but leaving the truffle intact. On collection, the farmer would nip a bit off with a knife and give it to the dog to thank him.

One tip the farmer gave us for fresh truffles in order to prolong their life was to keep them in uncooked rice in a clean jar with a tightly closed lid. Once the truffle has been eaten, use the rice for a truffle risotto mmmm


Trentino, Folgaria for a weekend

chasing ducks kate, folgaria Trentino ItalyIt’s always a mad rush whenever I get back from a trip away and my weekend trip to Folgaria, Trentino was no different, it’s taken the entire week to catch up and I still haven’t. I have product reviews to do, emails to reply to and posts to write but hey, What a Fantastic Time I Had! View Post

Italy by rail

Venice - Ponte de l'Agnello - Sestiere Santa CroceI don’t know about you but this time of year always has us thinking ahead to our holidays and where we could spend them. Paul has been ripping out pages from newspapers with ideas that appeal to him – he’s really taking this serious for 2012 – and everyone knows I love Italy so I wanted to talk about seeing Italy by rail as an interesting adventurous alternative that is also family friendly.

Italy being renowned for it’s beautiful art cities that are dotted around the boot is always high up there on the Bucket List as a possible destination but travelling from one place to the next often puts up various barriers especially with the Italian’s infamous reputation for mad driving and that’s where escorted trips come into the equation. A company like Great Rail Journeys can help you put together your perfect holiday in destinations all over the world and be on hand to help out if at all needed during your vacation.

When I used to work at the Italian Tourist Board I would be in contact with every tour operator in the UK and Eire who dealt with Italy, it was my job to make sure they knew as much as possible about the country and all the beautiful places to visit and consider placing them in their brochures, which wasn’t difficult as Italy oozes beauty, culture and charm, Great Rail Journeys were on my contact list and the idea of travelling by train always fascinated me as I flicked through their gorgeous brochure.

Rome: Navona Square: Neptune Fountain -Detail-A good friend of Paul’s has already booked up his rail trip around Italy for this summer, he’s taking his teenage daughter and they shall be visiting Florence, Venice and Rome amongst other places. What an amazing holiday for his teenage daughter, the amount of wonderful memories that will be made and treasured for a lifetime, the vast amount of beauty she will witness all around her and the history she will see beats any text book. Excellent choice Mark if I do say so myself.

I found an excellent blog Reid’s Italy with some brilliant tips on where to go what to do and what to eat in Rome depending on the amount of time you have available, 1 day, 2 days or more AND he has other pages for the most major destinations in Italy.

So whilst you’re tucked up indoors out of the dreadful weather that’s thrashing our country today, why not have a look at the glorious Bel Paese and see just how many different places there are to visit. There’s something for everyone!

Here are some of my Italian holidays over the years

Lake Garda


Cinque Terre

Folgaria Italy – WIN a weekend Ski break at Residence Derby Club

Folgaria is the most beautiful mountain village set in Northern Italy with views from the top that stretch from Venice to the Dolomites and I was lucky enough to live there for almost 18 years. I got to know the people, their culture, their language and their passions and the Italians are very passionate people about everything. No Italian I know can sit down and talk to you without moving their hands to add more expression to their speech, it’s probably one of the first things I picked up on when learning their language! How to talk with my hands. A simple gesture can mean ‘Are you crazy man?’ or ‘Get out of here!’

In fact one of the things I miss most are the people I met during my Italy time. I count myself so lucky to have bumped into the most genuine, interesting and kind people. I learned so much from them as I grew up amongst them and I became, for a brief moment, one of them as I was accepted whole heartedly into their community no strings attached. Something I will always be extremely grateful for.

Folgaria’s main industry is tourism, ski resort in the winter and stunning mountain resort in the summer offering breathtaking walks, nature, sunshine and joy. I would say that most of the people I know out there work in the tourism sector, many families own hotels and run them incredibly well after over 100 years of guests passing through their doors. Many have restaurants again offering jobs to the entire family, a brother the chef in the kitchen, the sister serving tables and mamma and papa’ keeping a steady rein on the business everybody doing their bit for the overall benefit of all. Ski instructors, shop owners, young adults working in the skipass office or on the skilifts. Everyone has their place and it’s a happy, well run community… and of course the bars are out of this world!

Folgaria will ALWAYS be in my heart, apart from my oldest two children still living there, I spent too many happy moments there that have their roots still deep down inside and I am giddy with excitement today because I have been given the most fantastic opportunity to offer one of my readers the chance to win a family holiday there so they too  can experience the Folgaria Love. How amazing is that?

A good friend of mine, Camilla, her family own this beauty. It’s a residence and a very popular one too. I have stayed there with Paul as her guest and can assure you the apartments are all well equipped, warm and cosy decked out in the welcoming Tyrolean style and the comunal rooms on the ground floor are a joy to stay in with children’s play rooms, wifi and comfortable seating areas where you can sit and read or play cards or just enjoy the stunning view.

Residence Derby Club started out as an inn in 1910-11 and it’s fascinating history can be found here. Today the perfect stop off for anyone looking for a self catering ski holiday (let’s concentrate on the snow for now as the season is approaching fast eh?) The apartments are of various sizes to suit most requests and the Residence Derby price list can be found on their website split into high/middle/low season and then columns of the different sized apartments. Prices are per week and per apartment, unless otherwise indicated and include: rental of the apartment fully furnished and equipped, consumption, taxes, TV, telephone, fridge. A Parking space in the garage or in the lot outside. 

A further compulsory payment per stay per apartment for the Club Card of €60.00 includes a magnificent range of services such as the mini club, animation and Baby Park on the pistes plus entrance to the local communal swimming pool, AND discounts in the local shops, restaurants, ski school and ski hire.

There is also the obligatory deposit required on arrival of €150.00 to cover breakages and damage – this is returned on departure

Cots, high chairs, bottle warmers are all available at no extra cost, SKY TV in all apartments and what more can I say other than this is a perfect solution to any family holiday.

If I have whetted your appetite and you’d like to visit Folgaria, Residence Derby are currently promoting a special offer for the week 10 – 17 December where one skipass for 6 days is included in the price of the apartment. Also don’t forget you are bang in Christmas Market land here and a short drive to Trento, the capital town of Trentino, or Rovereto will surpass all of your shopping expectations – trust me on this one ;) Ski, eat, drink and be merry and shop the Crimbo Markets, I couldn’t think of anything nicer to do.

So would you like to treat yourself to a weekend away just before Christmas? The Weekend to win is 16 – 19 December check your diary – can you do it? You will not be disappointed, I promise. They’re offering the accommodation all you have to do is get there. Airports to look out for are Verona, Bergamo, Venice and Treviso, all of which are within a 2 hour drive, Verona only  1 hour. British Airways fly in to Verona and Ryan Air serves the others, more in depth searches may find other airlines too going to the area. A hire car would be a brilliant idea and allow you to discover the surrounding area, many airlines offer these on booking too if not taxis are available at all of the airports. I will of course help the winner with any questions and information

Still interested? Here’s what you need to do

  • Subscribe to Mari’s World via email so as not to miss out on any other fantastic opportunities coming up soon and leave a comment below saying you did so
  • LIKE Mari’s World on Facebook (see the box in the sidebar)
  • Follow @Maris_world on Twitter
  • Ask to be ‘friends’ with Derby Club Residence on Facebook and leave this comment on their wall ‘I want to win the Mari’s World weekend break to Derby Club Residence’
  • Leave a comment below to say you are a friend and have commented on Residence Derby Facebook page
All entries will be entered into and the winner will be selected randomly I wish you all the very best of luck and when you’re in Folgaria talk to EVERYONE (shops, ski hire, restaurants etc) and tell them Marianne sent you ;) You never know you might get a discount.

Competition Terms & Conditions:

• This Competition is open to everyone over 18 years of age, excluding employees of Derby Club Residence and its affiliates or agents, the families of such employees and any other person connected with this promotion.
Competition ends 18th November 2011 midnight.
• All entries received by this date will be entered into a prize draw and the winner will be chosen randomly.
• The winning entry will receive an apartment for four people accommodation ONLY. Extra beds will have to be liaised directly with Residence Derby Club.
• The prizes are as stated and cannot be transferred, sold or exchanged. There is no cash alternative. No bulk or third party entries accepted.
• The winner will be notified by email on 19th November 2011.
• The Promoter reserves the right to substitute the prize with a prize of equal or greater value in the event of unavailability due to circumstances beyond the Promoter’s control.
• By entering this competition, entrants agree to be bound by the rules and by any other requirements set out in the promotional material.

Sardegna, La Costa Verde

As I lazily  dragged myself awake a smile on my face as another day of holiday laid empty ahead of me, it occurred to me it was a Monday. My second thought was ‘We leave Sardegna on Thursday and a quick round of mental arithmetic calculated I ONLY HAD 3 DAYS LEFT!

In four days time I would be back in our home on the outskirts of London, back to normal. Other half off to work and me running the house and family life. On one hand I was looking forward to getting back, finishing decorating the girls room, building the new John Crane Doll’s House waiting for us to vlog, checking the progress of my courgettes and tomatoes and the success of my grow bag frame. Not to mention 2 parties to attend to attend the first weekend back!

Seaside games

But although I had many things to look forward to – was I ready to go home? To swap the crystal clear seas of the Costa Verde for the murky waters of the Kent coast? To exchange the constant 25C for an unpredictable weather such as the British summertime?


Three weeks are a long time to have nothing to do and we were extremely lucky to be able to take such a break but if I could have had an extra week I think I could have forced myself to stay.

One of my fondest memories of our holiday in Sardegna will be sitting on a deserted beach watching Paul play with the girls by the sea. Running from the waves, jumping the waves, hearing little voices carried by the wind ‘My turn Daddy!’ Two little hands held in his showing the trust, the love and the friendship these small ones have for him.

Of course he loves it, he adores his girls and never hesitates to spend time with them, inventing games and making them have fun. And as the mother and partner this is such a lovely scene to sit back an watch. I’m joining up with Karin’s Flashback Friday today so head over and see what the others have to reminisce about