Rewind 2016

img_20170101_124228_edit

There’s a sweet noise on the small crowded streets surrounded by flats in all colors of the rainbow and there’s a smell of pizza and oven baked goods coming from all around and all you can hear is Italian words and the face of Gianni, that Italian elderly owner of a traditional pizzeria makes you feel strangely at home. We celebrated the coming of 2017 in Naples, Capri and Procida and as we look forward with curiosity and anxiousness to the year to come we look back with wonder and we are grateful for an incredible 2016

IMG_20160102_141127_edit

with leprechauns, Irish pubs and songs, Guinness beer and trips to the Titanic in Dublin and Belfast

IMG_20160102_140939

Scandinavian snow, perfect muffins, athletic people going out to ski by metro in Oslo

12744163_818590741602818_1679290715306204204_ntraditions, family time, colorful clothes, days of joy and celebrations at our best friend’s wedding in Jaipur, meeting up with old friends for precious stolen moments of happiness

img_20161115_152408_edit

Milan Duomo, pizza and pasta with a heavenly taste, espresso, chilling in parks, polenta, discovery of the Navigli area

img_20160520_152111img_20160520_191659wandering the shores of Como Lake and enjoying breathtaking views of Brunate in Comoimg_20160521_095903unexpected trips to Sighisoara and Brasov

img_20160507_211445_edit_edit1beer gardens, charming coffee shops, Berlin wall, relaxing parks, strolls amongst restaurants and pubs of all nationalities just to charm any food lover in Berlin

img_20160815_180024_hdrbeach days and live music at the Black Sea

img_20160730_163533_editday trip to Negotin, Serbia just to have one Serbian beer

img_20160722_142418pagodas, Shan food, night markets and organized street quarters in Yangon

img_0518img_20160918_122523_editboat trips, traditional rowing fishermen, floating markets and lifetime friends in Inle Lake

img_20160920_084311img_0533sunset, sunrise, pagodas, temples and history in Bagan

img_0869img_0884gold leafs, temples, the best Shan food, monks, longest wooden bridge in Mandalay

img_20160924_141903img_20160924_172918the Grand Palace, new friends, live music, sweet memories, Same Same t-shirts and the best foot massage in Bangkok

img_20160926_135550_edit_editdays of shared thoughts, incredible views, swims, beach strolls, Rum Cola in the charming solitary Duli Beach resort in Philippines, El Nido

img_1254img_1294days of chilling and relaxing in Jaipur and Delhi making plans for future adventures

img_20161114_231850_editRoyal Palaces, Christmas trees, pierogi, beetroot soup, large café latte, Christmas markets in Warsaw

15349820_1019346348193922_3613498593471740022_nChristmas market madness in Bucharest with the view of the Parliament House, hot spiced wine and the best atmosphere to wish for

15380714_1020952261366664_6606025568305505877_n15492319_1025481797580377_6451251349531931751_nChristmas parties with memories of childhood and priceless friends

 15337529_1025171017611455_5783832348673760968_n

family and friends time colored in green, flowery, sunny, snowy surroundings to adapt to the seasons but at all times packed with an overload of joy and happiness to last for a lifetime

 img_20160618_170717_edit

Past year has thought us that we are never alone as we carry with us all the family and friends, present or past, imprinted on our skin and it takes nothing more than closing our eyes for one second to feel them all around us. We’ve lost good friends and gained new friends and family just to remind us one more time of how precious every day we receive is and that it’s up to us to not let it waste and fully live every single second of it. We hope in a happy and peaceful 2017, a year of expressing less and feeling more, of being true to ourselves and the others, of taking leaps of faith without a net, of putting dreams into reality today rather than tomorrow, of carefully using the chance given at each and every new day, of still wondering at everything around, new or old, beautiful or less beautiful, of searching for more balance in life, of still believing.

Guest Post – Liguria, an experience of a lifetime

camogli

Camogli

Liguria is a coastal region in the North-West of Italy. Once in Liguria, your only issue will be deciding where to go first. Liguria is very generous in cities and villages creating a magical environment, so take your time visiting it, experiencing it, living it.

 

I will start by saying that I have never felt so alive and so aware of my existence than in Liguria. The seaside position, the history lying beneath, the cuisine, the sky, the stars, the architecture, the nature, the colors, everything around you creates the impression of another world. It’s not just another Italian spectacular land. In Liguria, with every step, you run into an unique place or building or view or experience.

portofino

Portofino

 

My first time in Liguria, I went to Genova, but I didn’t have the time to visit much for the time being and I only enjoyed the old harbor and the amazing cuisine. And then I kept coming back and started discovering the city, without any plan or guide, just wandering through the streets, taking a trip back in time at the times of Columbus and of the great navigators.

Genova takes you back to your childhood, when you first learnt about history and sea travels. Genova is just that city which you have always imagined as a start of big sea adventures and development of maritime commerce. It’s it, you’re back home, in the memories of your imagination about history in the Middle Ages.

genova

Genova

 

Leaving Genova behind and moving to the riviera may generate a contradictory feeling: while you’re leaving behind such a special city, the wonders of outer Liguria start to show off and you won’t be able to choose a favorite place. For example, Liguria is host of amazing Portofino and Cinque Terre. Being there, in either of these places, it’s like walking into a photo or a painting. There is no list of things to do there, just be, just let them conquer you, just live the moment and your memories will thank you for ever.

camogli_2

Camogli

 

But there is more about Liguria than Portofino or Cinque Terre or Genova, in Liguria there are Rapallo and Santa Margherita, the sisters of Portofino, both underestimated due to their vicinity to Portofino. But they’re beautiful and they offer amazing views of the sea and the sky, making them part of a movable existence, making them become part of your existence.

rapallo

Rapallo

 

Your trip shouldn’t stop there. You should try also Chiavari or Camogli or Sestri Levante or Bonassola or Framura or Alassio. Ah, che bellezza! You’re in a book you once read or in a photo you’ve dreamt of.

framura

Framura

 

I cannot describe the feeling of the sun caressing my head or the perfume of the sea in Liguria, you just must go there and see by yourself that this cannot be put into words, but just felt and lived and kept safe in your soul.

framura_3

Framura

 

I have dispersed memories screaming of happiness: a walk on the beach at Sestri Levante, a bite of focaccia in Genova, a sip of wine in Portofino, a taste of pesto in a restaurant at Santa Margherita, the seafood in Rapallo, a feeling of chill on a bike through the tunnel in Framura, there rain on my face during a picnic in Bonassola, the feeling of a swim on a hot summer day at Porto Pidocchio, a trip by boat to Vernazza…

I am stopping here, I’ve said enough. The rest, I’ll keep it for myself. Go there and start an experience of a lifetime!

(Story and pictures: Cristina Mihalachioiu)

alassio

Puglia region and the love for the South

There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the passion of life”. As you hear these words of Federico Fellini in your mind your feet are carrying you on cobblestone streets and you enter this labyrinth of creamy houses, flowers, stairs…clothes and bed sheets hang from windows or in front of the doors right there on the street…it smells like freshly baked bread from that focaccia in that small shop on a street corner…voices accompanied by hand gestures cut the air around in the port area and the fish smell doesn’t bother you at all…pointy rooftops of trulli houses surround you…a well-practiced movement of hands piles up those Italian pastas you just heard about… orecchiette…someone is talking to you in Italian comfy and relaxed like you naturally understand every word and the thought of sharing a coffee on top of the streets of Matera with that nice old lady that would tell you the most amazing stories makes you feel sad you have not learned Italian yet…

11792177_783213951807164_5590360860438021728_o

Where are you might you ask? Well, you are just cruising around Puglia region in South Italy. The Adriatic Sea is right there in front of your eyes and the heel of Italy’s “boot” will unveil in front of you small cities filed with stories, history and the Italian passion of life. Oh yes…of course…and loads of focaccia and seafood to shift your appetite and make you crave for something so simple as bread and tomatoes.

IMG_20151201_090859_edit

Intrigued? Take a sip of espresso, heat that oven and throw in a pizza and while is baking read away…

Bari

Bari is an amalgamation of modern and old greeting you with streets for shopping and relaxing while tasting cakes and coffees or just wandering around for window shopping while in the same time teasing you to wander the old city with small streets, churches in unexpected corners, twists and turns, old city walls and small restaurants catching your eye with those traditional Italian plates the most famous of which are Patate, riso e cozze (potatoes with rice and mussels) and all sorts of orecchiette.

12247891_783739251754634_4662148001434624601_o

DSCF1707

The port area in the morning light with the calm Adriatic Sea, the fish all laid down on tables and those mid-age Italian men having their coffee, drinks and playing games or just gossiping with lots of hand gestures it’s a must.

12316588_783884275073465_311200777305447910_n

And if you are really lucky you can also see in the morning old Italian ladies preparing the homemade orecchiette and knowing this lovely Southern people one might actually invite you in to take a sit and learn some of Italy’s traditions.

12291048_783726041755955_6631050257751614834_o

Matera

Matera is home of the Sassi a charming historical centre dating back over 7000 years with dwellings carved in stone, cobblestone streets inviting you to get lost and sometimes running on top of other houses just to make the wandering even more spectacular, churches, archways, stairs running up and down, terraces and corners to stop for incredible views.

IMG_20151201_095401_edit_edit

Once you exit the Sassi a new city lies ahead with souvenir shops, small terraces where Italian ladies enjoy a quick espresso perfectly going with a smoke and some gossip, focaccia from the street shop eaten with your hands with a better taste than anything else, a guy signing his guitar to make some extra money or who knows maybe to get noticed…Matera is, no wonder, a favourite spot for filmmakers and soon to be European Capital of Culture.

IMG_20151201_082935

12291983_785823081546251_3408660631901281800_o

Alberobello

Beautiful Tree” (if you guys want to translate it) is a small town with just about 11,000 inhabitants famous for its trulli. What’s a trullo? Well it’s a small house with a conical roof made out of stones piled up one on top of the other. The origins of the design seem to be linked with the high taxation on property people of Puglia used to pay and this dry wall constructions where created to allow dismantling when the inspectors were in the area. Some of these elf size houses have particular symbols painted on the cones including a series of Christian symbols.

12311301_784368795025013_3109949137607157527_n

And if you get in the area of Trullo Sovrano there’s this cool trullo house home of a shop of Italian food products where this nice gentleman will tell you a few words about the trullo home and its rooms and invite you to taste all types of Italian liquors you are in the mood to try on…we promise the taste is so precious that you will be tempted to ditch the clothes you carried in your backpack and fill it up with liquor bottles, packs of orecchiette and biscuits.

12314382_784367281691831_218426184182716539_o

Locorotondo

The “Round Place” has a circular historic centre.  The village is considered amongst the most beautiful places to visit in Italy with a labyrinth of white alleys, white houses with the most beautifully decorated numbers graciously showing details of the street where the house is located.

12371216_788046191323940_4858635638011319986_o

12304108_784021955059697_6654217824102665826_o

No cone roof tops in the historic centre (you can gaze at them from the viewing point looking towards Locorotondo countryside) but you will find here the special pitched roofs called “cummerse”. And if this doesn’t convince you know also that Locorotondo produces some good white wines still or sparkling.

DSCF1787

12314615_784099541718605_4782853687656687347_o

Martina Franca and Trani

Martina Franca has a historic centre surrounded by stone walls with remainders of Baroque and Rococo styles to be fund in the gates, the piazzas and the churches. The streets are small and picturesque and the place is also renowned for white wine.

12307410_784022055059687_8189003414043425999_o

12314444_784023211726238_8092954551006024046_o

For a different view of Puglia you can try Trani a fishing port, historic buildings and boats in the harbour playing around with the sunset light to give you enough time and space to breathe and dream.

11900119_783290321799527_7405568938181189112_o

You can reach Puglia region by plane to Bari and from Bari you can easily take a train (under 2 hours) for all the above destinations.

For more pictures from Puglia check out our Facebook page here.

12308200_787503981378161_240871445132340962_o

Positano Bites Deep

We’ve been following Travelista73 for quite a while now and we have to say that her blog has it all: good stories, amazing pictures, glamour and that je ne sais quoi that makes you want to come back for more.  More on Travelista73 here http://travelista73.blogspot.ro/p/about-travelista73.html
We are thus very happy that she agreed to share as guest post one of her post from the beautiful Italy.  We have not visited Positano yet but we have to admit this post just put Positano high on our bucket list. So here we go:
As our boat made its way through the azure waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea towards Positano Bay, I inhaled the warm breeze and gave gratitude for this blessing.

Photo credits: Travelista73
There, like a crown jewel amidst the steep rocky cliff of Italy’s Amalfi Coast laid Positano, a place so enchantingly beautiful that its memory remains etched upon my heart. Sun drenched homes built on a series of cliffside ledges cascaded down to the shore in a panorama of pastel hues, ocher, and vermilion. The gold and green mosaic dome of the legendary Church of Santa Maria Assunta glistened underneath a crystal blue sky. Tropical flowers and lemon and olive groves beautifully displayed in harmonious union. A landscape so romantic it has inspired painters and photographers the world over.
Photo credits: Travelista73
Ever since watching the romantic comedy “Only You” I have dreamed of visiting Positano and its renowned hotel – Le Sirenuse – a Moorish Baroque 18th century villa with spectacular views of the sea and the famed Costiera Amalfitana. Once the summer residence of the Marchesi Serale family, members of which still manage this luxury property, it is now the place where dreams are made. And on this special day they happened to be mine.
The moment you enter the glass doors of Le Sirenuse you are enveloped in a world of understated elegance and serenity. The impeccable grounds boast white washed walls, arched and vaulted ceilings and gleaming handmade ceramic tiles. Antique paintings and prints framed in handsome mouldings hang on the walls, while a stylish combination of traditional and contemporary furnishings decorate the interiors and rooms.
Photo credits: Travelista73
 A handwritten welcome note, fresh fruit and nuts, and a bottle of Champagne awaited our arrival. Frette bed linens of the finest quality were perfumed with lavender. The bathroom was made of prestigious marbles with a Jacuzzi tub fit for two. Luxurious Eau d’Italie bath and body products imbue their lovely scent throughout. The terrace, with its glorious views, was the perfect place to sit, sip Champagne and relish this moment.
Photo credits: Travelista73
The pool, perhaps my favourite space on the exclusive grounds, was surrounded by lemon trees and breathtaking vistas. Our days were spent relaxing poolside enjoying our favourite Italian aperitivo “Aperol Spritz” and marvelling at the beauty that surrounded us. This small corner of paradise was the perfect place to bask in the final days of summer.
Photo credits: Travelista73
Everywhere staff greeted us by name. This special touch provided a sense of being among family and friends, and maybe it was in this spirit of home that on our first evening we decided to dine on our terrace. Positano glowed under the night sky, a vision so heavenly I wished time could stand still.
The following evening we enjoyed fresh oysters and a glass of champagne millésimé on the candlelit terrace of the Champagne & Oyster Bar. The soft music and balmy summer night lulled me into a state of utter relaxation before heading for dinner at La Sponda, the hotel’s Michelin star restaurant.
Photo credits: Travelista73
What an unforgettable experience and atmosphere dinner provided! The space was lit by four hundred candles as musicians played old Neapolitan love songs. We dined on a selection of Mediterranean inspired dishes and sipped wine. It was one of those rare moments when everything in the universe seemed to conspire to remind me of the infinite beauty of life and love. It was a moment to be savoured slowly, passionately, and with every ounce of my being.
John Steinbeck said it best, “Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.” And as the memories of Positano permeate my soul, I am filled with nothing but thankfulness for the unforgettable memories.” – TRAVELISTA73
Photo credits: Travelista73
Photo credits: Travelista73
Photo credits: Travelista73
Photo credits: Travelista73
Photo credits: Travelista73
Photo credits: Travelista73
Photo credits: Travelista73

 

All roads lead to Rome

The first story of this blog travelers is about one of my favorite cities in the world Rome, Italy. First time I visited Rome it was in 2008 in a power tour of Italy including the romantic Venice, the full of art Florence and Rome.  Loved it so much that I promised I would return soon despite my long time plan to never return to the same city twice :p. 
 
Vatican

 

In 2011 I returned to Rome for three days of freedom. May is the perfect time to visit Rome. Summer months (and especially August) are very hot and winter…well when you are a bit cold nothing feels so special anymore :). In May the weather is just as it should be, 24 degrees Celsius just enough to enjoy the sun on a nice small Italian terrace but not too much so you start sweating.
 
Too much for an introduction so let’s get down to business. If you are in Rome for three days here are some places you should not miss.
Vatican view from the Basilica

Vatican – small and nonetheless so overwhelming. Visit the Basilica Saint Peter – the biggest in the world – and watch the columns that embrace you from the entrance, the Swiss guards that keep the palace and the pontiff safe.
You will see here many works of Bernini, one of the most famous sculptor of Rome the art of which is all around Rome (the Barberini fountain, the Four Rivers Fountain, Fonatana di Trevi, etc.), the amazing Michelangelo for which the human body had no secrets, Rafel Sanzio in love with nature…Definitely go up the Basilica, there are some stairs to walk to go up there (323 stairs) but the view is worth it!

 
Colosseum by night
Colosseum – If you are passionate about history and everything there is to know about Roman life here is the place to start. Buy an audio guide or bring some information about the place so that you understand a bit what is nowadays in ruins.
 
You will like the stories about the manner in which the Romans were sitting in different rows depending on their statute in the community and their wealth, the fact that elevators where in use at that time, tickets were sold and seats were numbered, plans for fire protection and evacuation in case of danger on different gates were observed, etc. 
Colosseum


Once you have seen the Colosseum move to the Roman forum to see ruins of the temples and Roman houses. Interesting to see is the Vestals Temple (the Vestals were virgins who dedicated there life to the gods and kept alive a flame inside the temple) and the Cloaca Maxima which represents a sewage system that Romans were using.

Fontana di Trevi




Fontana di Trevi – Who amongst you has not seen the old time movies (like A Roman Holliday) where the main actors where just jumping in the Trevi Fountain. Fontana di Trevi is better in reality that you have seen in pictures. Is all the time surrounded by people who make noise, take pictures, throw coins or just sit down and relax drinking an espresso. Fontana di Trevi is the place to which I always come back to in my mind when I need to go to a quiet, safe and comfortable place.
 
Pantheon 
The Pantheon – Amazing building for lovers of architecture with its huge oculus and place of rest for Rafael Sanzio. The place offers cooler temperature and a place to hide from the sun and also a place where you feel extremely peaceful. The square where the Pantheon is located is full with terraces and I do recommend you to sop for a beer and a pizza and just spend 2 or 3 hours to eat, drink and enjoy doing nothing at all.
Here, near the Pantheon you will find the best espresso in the world. Just go on Via degli Orfani to Tazza D’oro and you will not regret it!
 
Piazza Navona – The square has the shape of a big vessel and was once the place where chariot competition took place. It is now the place where you can enjoy the fountains and the street artists. 
 
Take a pizza and a Nastro Azzurro and make sure you eat gelato (ice cream). This is a place to sit around and breathe in what Italians call “la dolce vita” or “dolce far niente”.
 


Piazza di Spagna
Piazza di Spagna – This is the place to relax on stairs and enjoy the rumor of the street after you have walked down Via del Corso and spent an afternoon shopping. Walk up to Trinita del Monti for a better view of the square and La Barccacia – designed by Bernini and his father to resemble a sinking ship.
I like to say that in Rome history and the art have left the buildings and moved into the streets because if you walk down the streets of Rome you will find art and history at every corner.
 
Doria Pamphilj Gallery
If you wish to leave the streets and hide a bit from the sun do not miss the Doria Pamphilj Gallery and the Borghese Gallery. Both the homes of wealthy families are now the home of great painters and sculptors. A tip for Borghese Gallery, make sure you call prior to your arrival in Rome and book a time to visit because it’s only done on pre-booking. For Doria take the audio guide; you pay some extra euro but the story of the gallery is told by one of the descendents of the family and is unique.
 Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II – This is the monument you will see from many spots in Rome and if you have heard the expression “all roads lead to Rome” than from what I can tell in Rome “all roads lead to Vittorio”. The monument is often called the typing machine or the wedding cake because of its shape. I’ve seen one similar in Vienna.
 
Ok. I bored you with all the details about places to visit let’s point out some other interesting stuff.
Giolitti
For the best ice cream you ever eaten go to Giolitti http://www.giolitti.it/home.html . For coffee go to Tazza D’oro and forget about everything else; if you are an addict don’t think you will find here big cups of coffee, this city is all about espresso http://www.tazzadorocoffeeshop.com

 

For food do not go for pastas unless the restaurant is very good. Try instead the pizza. I know everybody complains that is not that good but I for one love the pizza con tonno because they make it without onions and with tomato sauce.
 
For shopping go to Via del Corso but make sure you have money to spend because the streets have medium budget shops but also high life shops.
 
For views go up the Vatican.For small streets and street life go in Trastevere. For souvenirs just walk the streets between Trevi and the Pantheon. Make sure you buy one of the black and white pictures with Audrey Hepburn or Marilyn Monroe or one of the colored pictures with Vestas motorbikes – they will make your life better once you get back to the real life.
 

For night views go to the Collosseum, to Fontana di Trevi and to Vitttorio. Watch out for weddings you will see a couple of them. For movie addicts go down Via Venetto to see the plaque dedicated to Federico Fellini. Here you will come across lots of fancy and expensive hotels and terraces. If you have the time and you go with a bigger crowd try visiting Cinecitta Studios.
Finally, for young tourists I recommend Roma Pass – you have free access to transport means and free access to certain museums. For the Colosseum this magical pass will allow you to go in front by skipping the entire line.
Roman forum


Top 10 things to do when in Rome:
 
(1) sit in front of Fontana di Trevi in the morning;
 
(2) eat gelato from Giolitti;
 
(3) drink an espresso from Tazza d’Oro;
 


(4) relax on the stairs from Piazza di Spagna;

(5) go on Vatican to enjoy the view;

(6) sit for a bit in the Sistine Chapel and try to imagine Michelangelo on his back on the scaffolding painting the ceiling;

(7) ride a Vespa;




Piazza Navona


(8) buy a pizza in Piazza Navona in the evening and enjoy the street artists;

(9) sit at the feet of the columns of the Pantheon and breathe in the cold air; 

(10) walk on Via Sacra in the Roman Forum and imagine you lived in ancient Rome.

 
And after all of the above who’s to say that Rome is not the city of art, food and love….
 
Piazza di Spagna
Trastevere