Orosei is located on the Gulf of Orosei, part of the Tyrrhenian Sea on the east coast of Sardinia.

Orosei is located on the Gulf of Orosei, part of the Tyrrhenian Sea on the east coast of Sardinia.  Larger than its neighbor Cala Gonone to the south, it’s a lot less “sea town” and more of a community with homes, jobs, shops, and restaurants.  Like Carbras, it’s in a bit of a revitalization and still has some improvements to go, but it really is a gorgeous town, on the sea, with lovely buildings, streets, and the kindest residents.


The proximity of Orosei to the Bay of Orosei and the near-prerequisite to do at least one boating trip on the sea means that there are a lot of options in Orosei.  We chose to stay at the Mannois Albergo Difuso (https://www.mannois.it/), a lovely collection of rooms peppered throughout the centro storico, all comfortably designed and accommodated, and just like a traditional hotel, with varying room types.  A lovely buffet breakfast is served every morning at reception.  (Note: there are some rooms in the building that also houses reception and the morning breakfast so if you’re a late-sleeper, you might want to ask for a different building when making your reservation.)

AN IMPORTANT NOTE TO FUTURE GUESTS: Although I loved the Mannois Albergo Difuso hotel, there are some much-needed improvements that the management really needs to implement.  By not doing so, they will be passed, and passed quickly.  So before you go, and before you book, just be aware.

When I booked my reservation, there was nothing on the website that indicated the access to the hotel beach club – a short trainino ride from near the hotel, down to the sea – was NOT included in the price of the reservation.  In fact, my confirmation email listed everything that was not included EXCEPT, apparently, use of the beach club.  I am confident in this recollection, but when complaining to the hotel, it was their word against mine.  SO TRAVELLER BEWARE: access to the Mannois Beach Club IS NOT INCLUDED and is insanely expensive.  In September 2022, first row lounge chairs and umbrellas were €40 per day (for 2 people), the second row and back was €30 per day, and the back rows were €20 per day.  Sure, there was access to a bathroom, and they had a bar (but you paid), so ask yourself why?

And although the Mannois Beach Club appears to be part of the hotel, it is a rather long walk (40 minutes) there, and another 40 minutes back, or you have to take the public Orosei trainino for €2.50 each way/€5 round trip.  The trainino is great, but if you’re going to pay that sort of money for access to their beach club, not to mention the price per night for a room, they could serve their clientele with service to the beach. 

INSIDER TIP: right next to the overpriced Mannois Beach Club is Peppe’s Bar.  For €5 each, you can rent a sun bed!  Okay, the staff at Peppe’s is pretty non-plussed about things, so you’ll have to carry your sun bed to the beach but that just means you get to sit where you want.  And shhhhhhhh, it’s a little known secret: if you head left, closer to the Mannois Beach Club – but not so close that you can hear their piped music, guests of the Mannois Albergo Difuso will have wifi access, but not pay their crazy prices for the same beach and ocean access.  But shhhhhhhh, don’t let on.

And one last thing: the Mannois Albergo Difuso will NOT make dinner reservations for their guests.  I wrote to the hotel asking for a number of reservations and they wrote back saying that wouldn’t be possible.  Thinking I misunderstood, I wrote back asking for clarification, and they said that “they have had too many problems making reservations for their guests, because when the guests show up, the restaurant says they have no booking.”  In all of my years of travel, I’ve never had a hotel say this.  And when many of their guests are non-Italian speaking, they are in trouble.  I set about making each of the reserved tables noted below in bites – some in English and some in Italian – and I had not problems.  Again, the hotel management needs to radically improve their offer or get left behind by hotels under development in Orosei or neighboring villages.


If I only had one night in Orosei, I would be in a serious pickle as I have two favourites and wouldn’t know which to choose!  They are both truly that great, both for their views and their food.  But I guess, if I was forced to choose, I would first go to Ristorante Lungomare (https://lungomareristorante.com/).  An unabashedly fish restaurant located on the Spiaggia Marina di Orosei, the views are stunningly gorgeous, the lighting divine, and the food truly outstanding.  And if you follow me, you know I’m vegetarian so how did I make out?  Outstandingly!  With a note upon making a reservation, and a reminder a few days in advance, there was never a problem.

And because Orosei and the beaches really are stunning, I’m hoping that there will be at least one additional day on your visit and you’ll be able to visit Ristorante Belohorizonte (https://www.facebook.com/riisto.belohorizonte).  A sturdy hike uphill, the views and the food at this lovely restaurant are outstanding.  Their website shows indoor pictures but if you’re lucky enough to dine here, request outside seating on the piazza that overlooks the valley below, out to the sea.  It really was breathtaking.  And the food and service sheer perfection.  (How can you not love a hostess who greets you with “hello my lovelies!”)

Another find that I truly cannot stop thinking about is the Agriturismo Gollei (no website).  I honestly don’t remember the blog post that I read that lead me to this find, but what a lovely evening of great food is on offer at this Agriturismo.  Outside of Orosei, it will require either a car, or a car service – as Orosei, oddly, does not have taxis – but it really is worth the price of a car service because, not only is it difficult to find, but then you can enjoy the wine and after dinner drinks that are included in the insane price of €40.  There is only one sitting at 20.00 and everyone is served at the same time a multi-course feast that is truly representative of an Italian meal.  Allow 2 hours for your meal, and be sure not to snack before going because the food is plentiful and although simple, truly outstanding.


Not trip to Orosei or the west coast of Sardinia is complete without an excursion along the coast of Sardinia.  There are multiple companies along the port offering everything from private hire dinghies to larger boats with near 100 of your closest friends, and all at slightly varying costs.

I was fortunate enough to stay at the Hotel Costa Dorada in Cala Gonone (https://www.hotelcostadorada.it/en/) years ago, and did such a trip.  I loved it so much, I contacted the hotel this time, explained that I we were staying in a different village, but that I loved my previous experience so much that I wondered if I could do it again, even though I was not a hotel guest.  And they said Yes!  So we boarded the Marlin with about 8 other people and spent the day cruising up the coast, jumping off occasionally, and just enjoying the crystal turquoise waters of the Gulf of Orosei.

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Located about 100km south of Alghero, the tony village of Cabras is charming and in a state of regrowth and development

Located about 100km south of Alghero, the tony village of Cabras is charming and in a state of regrowth and development.  There is a sense of pride and community here that reinforces my love of Italy.  It was eerily quiet on my many mornings, and even evenings, which wasn’t something that I was prepared for but sometimes you just need a place to recharge and unwind.


There’s something of a new movement in Italy, and perhaps especially Sardinia: the development of “hotels” that are referred to as an “albergo difusso”, a collection of buildings and structures peppered about the city, fully remodeled and run as a hotel.  The structures are often varied in theme/design, or size, or even location, but each typically comes with the same amenities as your four-star hotel.  One such place in Cabras is the Aquae Sinis Albergo Diffuso (https://aquaesinis.it/en/aquae-sinis-albergo-diffuso/), a lovely collection of rooms who, very obviously, are trying to contribute to the jumpstart of the village and the economy.  I stayed in the Pontis building which had a lovely interior garden that was private, lovingly tended to, and even had the occasional cat stroll by during even cocktails.  Other buildings had a small pool, a smaller interior courtyard, and all were serviced by the main building where a small, but adequate breakfast was available each morning.


Everything in Cabras is a short walk away, but unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of options for dining.  The options that do exist, however, really are lovely.

Osteria Il Gastronauta (no website but they are on FB) was a lovely restaurant with outdoor seating.  The staff were great and we even spoke to one of the chefs about options available to us as vegetarians.  The fried mushrooms were divine, and the pasta dishes outstanding.  It was so good that I wanted to return the next night!  The orecchiette with cacio e pepe sauce was to die for!  It was so lovely that we wanted to return the following night, so suffice it to say: if I only had one night in Cabras, this is where I would dine.

In the centro storico, there are more restaurants, most of which appeared to be pizzerias, but there was the Sa Bell’e Crabasa (https://www.trattoriasabellecrabasa.com/), a personal favourite of mine.  Set in a modern building meant to appear old like the village, the tables were well spaced and they had indoor and outdoor seats available.  The food was never rushed, and like normal in Italy, the service was slow but measured, but I’d return here in a heartbeat if I could, if for nothing else than the fresh fava beans in lemon and oil or the culurgiones, pillowy pasta filled with potato and mint

And although its nothing fancy, but the pizza divine, you must go to Il Buongustaio Pizzeria (no website but they are on Instagram) in the centro storico.  They only do pizza, and it’s a dance of choreographed steps to turn out the perfect thin crust pizza with just the right amount of sauce and toppings, even now it makes my belly grumble! 

And if you have a car – because the busses would be a bit of a challenge – you must go to Trattoria Portixedda in Oristano (no website).  Oristano is a larger, and more lively village, and appeared to be where people tend to live and shop.  And, of course, that means that there are more options of where to dine.  I found Portixedda in Oristano in a blogpost while doing my research for this trip and I am so thankful that I did.  From the outside, it looks like your typical little trattoria, but upon entering, you are met with a shock of bright orange chairs, white walls, and turquoise accents, and thumping house music.  But don’t let either turn you off: it all works (and yes, the house music was turned down as more and more people arrived).  But better yet was the owner who proudly took our order, loved that we were vegetarians (he was as well, years ago), and seemed to relish in the opportunity to create outstanding dishes that weren’t shown on the menu and were deliciously mouthwatering.


It was all about the beaches for this part of the trip.  Spiaggia di San Giovanni di Sinis, Is Arutas, Portu S’Uedda, and Mari Ermi are 4 of the favourites and they did not disappoint.  Mari Ermi was probably my favourite as it was more remote, the beach was wide and long, and there was the opportunity to rent beds and umbrellas for a totally reasonable price.  The more family friendly Portu S’Uedda was a more shallow beach, with more shallow waters (thus family friendly), but they also had access to more restaurants for lunch if you weren’t able to bring your own water and snacks.

And should you need a break from the beach, I cannot recommend enough the Area Archeologica di Tharros.  Sturdy walking shoes are a must, but what a pleasure to walk amongst the ruins imagining what life back in the day was like: how the houses were arranged, the saunas, the churches, and the placement of the Torre Spagnolo which is worth the added price of admission for the views over the tip of Sardinia.  After strolling through the ruins, follow the “road”, and the beach-goers for an extended walk along the coast.  Bring your swimsuit, and water shoes, and do as the locals do and walk down to the water and take a swim.

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the best hotel in the world is in Alghero if you ask me

(updated 23 Sept 2022)

It’s a tough choice between Cagliari but if I have to choose, I’m going with Alghero.  (Sorry to some of Sardinian friends.)  There is something about this town that I just love: the centro storico, the strolls, the water, and the fact that it seems a bit removed from the rest of the island and tourist destinations.  And I must admit, the cross-cultural aspect with Spain is really quite cool in this lovely town!


If you ask me, there is only one place to stay in Alghero: the Villa Las Tronas (http://www.hotelvillalastronas.com/).  I first stayed here years ago, and then again 10 years ago, all before they received their 5 star rating and since then, they have only improved.   Set on a private outcrop away from the hustle and bustle of the city behind it, this stunning property offers old-world charm and privacy like few others.  The hotel doesn’t brim with modern design elements – if you’re looking for glass and steel, look elsewhere – but everything you need is here, along with the highest level of professionalism.  It’s gotten more expensive over the years, but I still think it is worth every penny for the tranquility alone.  (And this is an adults only property.

Views from the Villa Las Tronas are some of the most gorgeous in the world.

I can’t vouch for either of the following, but over the years, I have gazed in awe at the Villa Mosca Charming House (https://www.villamosca.it/) whose placement along the coast and views nearly rivals that of the Villa Las Tronas.  And new to the hotel scene is the Hotel Carlos V & Spa, set near the Villa Las Tronas with views over the ocean and a more modern vibe and architecture than either of the hotels mentioned.


I don’t usually choose a pizzeria as my “if I only had one night” restaurant but hands down, the Pizzeria Al Vecchio Mulino (no website but they are on FB) in the centro storico was a stunner!  It was so good that we actually changed plans during our stay and returned on a whim to try two more pizzas and everything was just as outstanding as the first night.  Reservations are imperative, especially on weekends as we constantly saw people being turned away when they had no rezzie.

A very close second for me was Trattoria Lo Romani (https://loromani.unomenu.it/).  They didn’t have a lot of options for vegetarians but the pasta dishes were divine.  They weren’t overcomplicated, but just good ingredients, with amazingly made pasta, in a lovely atmosphere full of locals and tourists alike. Again, reservations are imperative here.


The centro storico is a lovely place to stroll in the morning and at night.  During the day, most everything is closed and, remember, it’s hotter than hades in the summer so who wants to be shopping any way.  Unlike other places in Sardegna, Alghero offers the requisit tourist shops but also “regular” shops should you forget something.

The churches in Alghero are some of my favourite on the island.  Please remember to be respectful when you’re in the church: some of them are still run by nuns who you will see in prayer when you enter.  They don’t mind you enjoying the beauty of the church, just be quiet and dress appropriately.

The towers of Alghero, along with the fortified wall, are all pretty cool to see but you won’t need to go out of your way to see them:  you can’t enter, so you’ll just see them during one of your inevitable passeggiata.

I hope that the above gives you a bit of insite in to the wonderful city of Alghero.  It’s such an amazing and lovely place, just like all of Sardegna, so go, wonder, and take in the various smells, sights, and even sounds of Alghero!

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Isle of Harris, Scotland

For the sort of calm and awayness that only the north of Scotland can afford, the Isles of Harris and Lewis are like few other places on earth.  You can experience every type of weather throughout a single day, and you will always be met with a kindness from the locals that is, at first, slightly surprising but then completely enveloping.


When you visit the Isles, you will readily see that most people visit to camp and hike and bike.  As such, there aren’t a lot of hotel options, and definitely no chain hotels that I could say.  Located on the southern part of the island is the Scarista House (https://scaristahouse.com/), a lovely Georgian Mansion with 7 rooms.  Breakfast is included and Flora definitely has a wee kitchen which is ideal given how remote the guesthouse is, and how limited restaurants are.

If I only had one night, I am certain that I would stay in one of the self-catering apartments in Lews Castle!  In none of my research did this appear so I had no idea it was even possible until visiting the castle one day.  https://www.togethertravel.co.uk/destinations/scotland/lews-castle/accommodation  Based on the website, the rooms look comfortable and modern and I can only dream of staying here if even for just one night.

Situated in Tarbert, not far from the Isle of Harris Distillery and the docs is the Harris Hotel (http://www.harrishotel.com/).   A hotel from the start, it has a long and storied history and looks like a lovely place to stay for a relaxing vacation.

If you’re arriving by ferry and want to stay in Stornoway – the largest populated area with shopping, sites, and restaurants – I would suggest The Royal (https://www.royalstornoway.co.uk/).  I didn’t stay here but when walking around Stornoway and I peered in the windows, it definitely looked like a place that I would want to return to.


You don’t go to the Isles as a dining destination.  That doesn’t mean that the food isn’t good, and if you’re in to seafood and meats, I’m sure you’ll be very happy, but as a vegetarian, there weren’t a lot of options.

Most “hotels” offer food but at what appeared, to me, to be at a bit pricey levels.  That said, I had hoped to try The Royal hotel’s Boatshed restaurant (https://www.royalstornoway.co.uk/dine/the-boatshed.html) as they did offer a few vegetarian and vegan options. 

Also part of the Royal, but in a more casual, less formal environment, is HS-1 Café (https://www.royalstornoway.co.uk/dine/hs-1-cafe-bar.html).  The menu looks identical to its sister restaurant, just a tad cheaper.

And although neither of the following are restaurants, I love their concepts and encourage everyone to visit if you can.  They are located on the same street, even further south on the Isle of Harris, but well worth the adventure.  Croft 36 (https://croft36northton.wixsite.com/home) is a wee “shed” of an establishment that opens at 11am, offers a variety of sustainably prepared breads, sweets, soups, and hot foods, that closes when everything is sold.

Temple Harris https://www.templeharris.com/, described as a “hobbit house” looks amazing.  They have outdoor seating that looks over an inlet leading out to the sea where you can enjoy preordered food in a truly relaxing atmosphere.


The entire island is a site to behold so be sure to reserve that rental car well in advance.  There are not chain rental agencies on the island so you can’t just rock up.

Any trip to the Isles must incorporate a sea tour.  We did the Shiant Tour with the Isle of Harris Sea Tours company and they were outstanding.  A 6 hour boat tour that departs from Tarbert and heads due west is an absolute joy and an incredible opportunity to see puffins, razor bills, shags, grey seals, and if your lucky (which I was), sea eagles.  There’s a 1.5 to 2 hour layover on Eilean an Taighe, an island with a 150 year old bothy where we were treated to a coffee to accompany the sandwiches that we brought for lunch.

If time permits, you must also visit the 3 accessible lighthouses on the Isles: the sadly named, but stunningly gorgeous Butt of Lewis Lighthouse (which is really the head of the island, for the record), the mid-point Tiumpan Head Lighthouse (not accessible to visitors as the accommodations are now privately owned and appear to be a dog and cat kennel), and the southernmost, and harder to reach after a more or so trek, the Eilean Glas Lighthouse.

And last but not least, Stornoway is great just for the return to an inhabited center but also because the Lews Castle, and the parks/grounds surrounding it are absolutely lush and gorgeous.

And a final note:

Getting to Stornoway and the Isle of Harris can be a challenge.  We found that Logan Air frequently changed flight times between booking and actual departure so be sure to stay aware of your flights.  But more importantly, I think it fair to guess that weather can wreak havoc on flights: the plans are small – from wee propeller planes to the more common short-haul but still small Embraer planes – which would not be pleasure, and perhaps not even possible, during some of the high winds and storms, and dense fog, that the Isles experience.  I understand the ferry crossing from Ullapool (near Inverness) is an option in a pinch but, thankfully, we didn’t have to investigate that!

So enjoy.  And explore this wonderful remote island in the north of Scotland.  It really is worth the adventure!

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London – trouble waiting to happen in this inviting and charming city

You can get in to any number of types of trouble when you visit London: lord knows I do every time! That trouble could be shopping, over-eating, drinking, or even just wondering and getting lost. But that’s part of the charm to London so come prepared – and leave that credit card in the room if you have no self-control (note to self) – and start exploring this truly wonderful city!


The number of options in London is truly staggering and I am still trying to find the cool, funky, non-cookie-cutter options, all without spending a fortune (the latter may not be possible I fear!).

I don’t typically rave about chain hotels but I have to make an exception for the Hotel Indigo Paddington (https://www.ihg.com/hotelindigo/hotels/us/en/london/lonin/hoteldetail).  For those of transiting through London Heathrow, the worst thing ever is to stay at an airport hotel, with nothing to do, and sub-par food at the very best.  But what to do and where to stay in London for just one night?  Take the Heathrow Express directly to Paddington Station (yes, it costs 47GBP but do you really want to stay at one of those boring airport hotels?!), walk out of the station, straight down Sussex Place for about 5 minutes (my max with luggage), and the Hotel Indigo is on your right.

Blakes Hotel (http://www.blakeshotels.com/) in South Kensington is definitely a charmer and as part of the “Design Hotels” group, it gets added points for style and creativity. The hotel is located in a small residential area, but easily walkable to everywhere so I really do love this hotel. But affordability is a relative terms so be prepared (and stalk those sale sites!)

Another option that I just tried was the Andaz London (http://www.london.liverpoolstreet.andaz.hyatt.com/en/hotel/home.html) which, although part of the Hyatt chain, was really quite nice.   The hotel itself is a bit cookie-cutter – and although I love minimalist designs, the rooms were just plain which didn’t exactly scream “come and stay again” – but it’s proximity to the Liverpool tube stop makes it a great place from which to navigate most of the city so that gets plusses from me.


It’s not fancy, but if in that quick overnight in London, I can highly recommend The Mughal’s Indian (https://www.mughalsrestaurant.uk/) on London Street.  The food is affordable, was packed until closing, and the staff are really attentive and care about what they make.  I am literally salivating as I write this, wishing I would return tomorrow!

The Gate Restaurant (http://thegaterestaurants.com) was a fantastic suggestion from a friend and although it’s a vegetarian restaurant, be prepared to make a reservation and don’t be late. (We were 15 minutes late and nearly lost our table!) The food was amazing and the wine list, although small, was brilliant and, for the most part, affordable. The décor isn’t much to write home about but I must admit that the large windows that look out over rooftops was a smart touch.

Another find, this time over near Covent Garden, is Nopi London (http://www.ottolenghi.co.uk/locations). Part of the Ottolenghi chain of restaurants, this restaurant has a formal dining room, that I loved and can’t stop thinking about, and a more “family style” environment downstairs that, the night I was there, was actually fitted for a formal and private banquet. The food was divine and the options for every food type extensive, and I bet, amazing.   Big kudos to the restaurant for the following: we ordered desert but it was late in arriving. Because we were sitting there just chatting and not eating, and they explicitly say you have 1.5 hours to eat (not something I like and find somewhat offensive), the manager came over and politely asked how we were doing. When we said that we were just waiting on desert, he disappeared and quickly returned with our desert. Cool. He then followed up and when we raved about the desert, he took us to meet the pastry chef who then gave us the recipe for his chocolate confection. I’d return just because of this.


I’m still in search of those sites and experiences that you can find outside of your typical guidebook so stay tuned…

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Rome, Italy – My home away from home

[updated 008 April 2022]

I will tell anyone who asks:  Rome is to me what the sun is to Superman.  It is my home, my love, and my return.

If you must, take a map but “flying blind” really is part of the fun of Rome: getting lost, finding little cafés, little shops, or just watching people go about their business.  There is so much that I can tell you and suggest for you, but below are my highlights and where I go every time I return to Rome.  I hope that you enjoy it as much as I do.


The number of hotels opening in Roma are truly fascinating.  There are some old standbys that I still love, and some new players that have joined the scene.

The Hotel Ponte Sisto (http://www.hotelpontesisto.it/) has fond memories for me and is often a place I find myself drifting back to.  The staff have not changed in YEARS and given that the hotel is a short walk from either Trastevere on the other side of the river or the Campo dei Fiori, the Piazza Navona, and everything else you will want to see makes this a fantastic place to start and stop from!

Ponte Sisto at night

If, however, you are a fan of Roman history and architecture, you must stay at the Hotel Donna Camilla Savelli hotel (http://www.hoteldonnacamillasavelli.com/) at least once.  A former convent (or monastery depending on what you read) designed by the renowned Borromini, the architectural influences are stunning and some of the remaining religious touches are breathtaking (there’s a small set of steps with an alter by Borromini that is breathtaking).  Located in my favourite neighborhood of Trastevere, the hotel is relatively quiet but still close enough to everything that you could want to do.

Hotel De’Ricci (https://www.hoteldericci.com/) is a lovely new find located not far from the Piazza Farnessi (with the lovely tub fountains!) and within close walking distance of everything you could wish for.  Designed with a classy art deco feel, the staff are amazing and the rooms spacious.  Because the hotel is in a residential building there is no restaurant so breakfast is served in your room, with multiple add-ons if required (but rather expensive to be honest).  Reader beware: the outside lights that illuminate the façade of the building are rather bright and brighten the jr suites which are located on the first floor: if you can afford it, opt for something higher.  (Disclaimer: I can’t sleep in total darkness so closing the curtains is equally as disruptive as the light flooding in until the lights go off at 6am.)

Relatively new to the hotel scene is Chapter Rome (https://www.chapter-roma.com/).  Like many of the other new hotels that are taking former residential space and renovating it, the Chapter Rome is not really much different.  But what I loved about the hotel is that it is close to Campo dei Fiori, Piazza Argentina, and thus everything you could ever want.  The one recommendation I would make – at least until Chapter Rome double-glazes their windows and adds sound-proofed windows – is to request a room on the 3rd floor, the highest floor; you’ll still hear traffic and pedestrian noise at night but having stayed on the 3rd floor, I can only image how loud rooms on 1 and 2 might be.

And although I can’t vouch for the hotel, I can tell you that a new place has opened in the neighborhood where I lived: in fact, it is right down the street!  Horti 14 (https://www.horti14.com/) is tucked away in a quiet neighborhood of Trastevere.  You won’t roll out the door and have a restaurant at your feet, but none are so far away that the solitude may just be a welcomed respite.

Near Rome

If seeking a bit of calm and respite from what can seem like the constant cacophony of motorini (scooters), you should seek out the Castello Orsini Hotel in Nerola (https://www.castellorsini.it/it/home). The castello is a converted 10th century castle about 30 miles north of Rome and although a challenge to reach, I promise that, once you are there, you won’t want to leave!  (A spa has opened, but I haven’t tried it.)


Now, as it regards the food – the fun part of the trip –  I can make a couple of suggestions.  If you want to treat yourself just once, which I highly recommend, ask the hotel to make a reservation for you at “Ristorante Tullio” (http://www.tullioristorante.it/)  This is the restaurant that is known for their pasta with white truffles.  It’s not cheap, but worth every savory bite.  And if you like meat, you must get the Bistecca alla Fiorintina

My favourite restaurant and it’s been in Rome for ages, what some would call an institution!  Da Enzo (http://www.daenzoal29.com/ reservations imperative) is sheer perfection and unpretentious.  Indoors, there are less than 40 seats, all situated quite closely but don’t let that put you off; the food is outstanding, the service efficient but not rushed nor achingly slow, and wine selection not too shabby.  One of my favourite pasta dishses is cacio e pepe and this was, by far, the best cacio e pepe I have ever had.  I want to go back right now!Da Enzo interiorA close second to my new favourite restaurant is Flavio al Velavevodetto (http://www.ristorantevelavevodetto.it/  reservations suggested) a 30 minute walk to Testaccio if you are staying in the center of Rome.  And I promise, it is worth the trek: the restaurant appears to be underground and the dining rooms look as though they are located in former wine vaults that have been painted white.  The service was immaculate and the food simply outstanding.  On the night I dined, I had a duo of carciofi – artichokes – one fried (carciofo alla giudia) and the other cooked in lemon and oil (carciofo alla romana) and they were outstanding.  The pasta was an amazing ricotta filled ravioli with salt and oregano and although I’m not normally a fan of oregano, this was delicious!

Da Cesare (https://www.trattoriadacesare.it), in the Casaletto neighborhood is a charming and affordable restaurant specializing in traditional Roman cuisine.  Easily reached via the 8 tram in Trastevere – it’s the last stop so you don’t even need to worry about missing your stop – the restaurant is understated with wonderful service.  And on the night that I was there, I heard locals, as well as English and German tourists so at least 3 languages are covered.

Another discover, albeit having existed for nearly 100 years, is Felice a Testaccio (http://feliceatestaccio.it).  Not too far in fact from one of my favourite restaurants, Flavio Velavevodetto, this is a larger restaurant that can accommodate many more guests than many of the restaurants listed above.  The presentation of their cacao e pepe is a bit of show – mixed at the table much like truffles are shaved table-side in Piemonte – and I could have done without it, but it was divine so overlook the flash.  But the real stand-out here was the Carciofi alla Romana – the steamed artichoke with garlic and lemon.  It was insanely good!  There was the taste of a bit of char, which I have never experienced before, yet the texture was firm and only lightly salted.  I would literally return there for the Carciofi (in season, of course) in a heartbeat.

Another small place that always puts a smile on my face is Trattoria de Gli Amici, also in Trastevere in Piazza Sant’Egidio. I have never been here for dinner but as a place to stop for lunch, especially on a sunny day looking at the piazza and everyone walking around, it is close to sheer perfection.   And why this restaurant as opposed to others in Trastevere? Because they employ people with special needs and the money goes toward the ongoing support of the Roman special needs community.

Another restaurant that I must mention, and am embarrassed that I have forgotten all these years, is Dar Poeta (http://www.darpoeta.com/), one of the best pizzerias in Rome, located just across the river in Trastevere.  If memory serves, and as the lines out the door will attest, Dar Poeta doesn’t take reservations but I assure you, it is worth the wait.

And if you seek an affordable, yet traditional Roman meal, you must seek out Trattoria da Lucia (http://www.trattoriadalucia.com/ reservations suggested).  Even smaller than Da Enzo, the atmosphere is typically Roman as is the food.  On the night was I was there, a table asked what was good and the waiter listed the classics like pasta arrabiata and tripa alla romana.  The staff aren’t known for the congenial demeanor, but the food and wine are worth the trek and when the restaurant is filled with non-tourists, you know you are at a good standard place.

And arguably my favourite, despite what I said above, is Sora Margherita (https://www.soramargherita.com/).  (Yes, my faves change every time!) Located near the Jewish Quarter and although very small, and somewhat rustic, is an absolute must!  I am embarrassed to say that it has taken me this long to find this outstanding restaurant with probably the best fettuccini, with cacio e pepe, that I have ever had!  If I only had two nights in Rome, this would be one of the restaurants that I would have to return to.

Roma Sparita (https://www.romasparita.com/) may actually be the new champ when it comes to the best cacio e pepe in Rome!  Tucked away in a quiet piazza in Trastevere, this restaurant has two floors, and outdoor seating (which I opted for on a glorious early Spring night).  At first glance, the cacio e pepe prices seemed a little higher than I’ve seen elsewhere but when the plate arrived, it all made sense: a heaping portion of cacio e pepe served in a fried parmigiano bowl (that I swore I wouldn’t eat, but I did).  The staff were kind, even when folks walked up without reservations, and were always happy to help.  I heard multiple languages other than Italian and English so don’t fear, but go!

And although not exactly a “bite” in the sense used here – although it’s been lunch numerous times – right around the corner from the Pantheon is what I consider to be the best gelato place in all of Rome: Giolitti (http://www.giolitti.it/).


You will see the Coliseum, the Piazza Navona, the Palatine hills, and do many other picturesque things that I won’t repeat what your guide book tells you.  Instead, I will tell you my 3 favourite things that you must see on any trip to Rome.

First, you must go to San Luigi dei Francesci; here are 3 original Caravaggios painted on the walls of the church so they can never be removed.  This is how art was meant to be viewed and the solitude of the church, even though teeming with tourists, is sheer tranquility for me.

Caravaggio at San Luigi dei Francesi 02Secondly, if it is open or you can convince someone to let you know, go to the Santa Maria dell’Orazione e Morte (on the via Giulia near the Hotel Ponte Sisto) which is the oddest and most bizarre church in Rome: it is full of bones and skull that have been made in to crosses, light fixtures, etc.  And this is no stunt or shock-value church.  It is the real thing.

Thirdly, you must cross the river and go to Trastevere and wander and get lost and have a coffee and stop for lunch at an outdoor café.

And if you find yourself near the Colosseum (really?!), San Pietro in Vincoli is one of my favourite churches, due in many parts because it is hard to find, and thus the church is not overrun with tourists, but most importantly, because of the sculpture of Moses by Michaelangelo that is one of his greatest works.  And a bit of Trivia: the story goes that Michaelangelo was so consumed by this massive sculpture that when it was finished, he was certain that it was real and would come to life and thus threw his hammer at the knee of Moses to make it rise.  (It didn’t.)  And the horns on this head: they were meant to be rays of light but due to a translation issue (sic!) of “keren” for horns was used instead of the intended “karan” for rays.

The Mausoleo di Agusto (https://www.mausoleodiaugusto.it/en/augustus-and-the-mausoleum/) is a must-go item on your next trip to Rome.  Newly opened to the public, it offers a unique insight in to not only the structure of this architectural wonder, but also how nobility honoured their dead.  Entrance is limited in number, and it is important to book in advance as walk-ups don’t appear to be permitted.

And what’s equally great about the mausoleo is that it is right next to the Museo dell’Ara Pacis (https://ara-pacis-museum.com/).  A gorgeous juxtaposition of modern architecture with a stunning ancient alter, that is either loved or hated by most – I happen to love it – but regardless, gives additional insight in to the early roman city.

And although not exactly a site, but I recently did a cooking class with Grano & Farina (https://www.grano-farina.com/), also in Trastevere and although also around the corner from where I used to live, my choosing this school was totally by chance.  Julia and Pino offer around 20 courses so look on their website and plan in advance: they only allow 6 guests per class so you don’t want to miss out.

And last but not least, allow me to encourage you to just stroll.  After all these years, and the various directions I have traveled, I still find new things, and new ways of reaching things, and new glorious wonders.  This truly is the eternal city and should be explored as often and as varied as possible.

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Cala Gonone is THE place to go! Don’t miss it!

(updated 23 Sept 2022)

I have found a small slice of heaven in this hamlet along the eastern side of Sardegna.  It’s not the easiest to find (see note below) but I would suggest that you come here and stay for many days rather than Costa Rei or Villasmius; it’s cheaper, there is more to do, and the people are just lovely.

Note: Cala Gonone is hard to find and harder to get to.  If you decided to drive from Cagliari, I highly recommend you turning on roaming on your phone and using your trusted maps feature.

If you decide to fly to Sardegna and only stay at Cala Gonone, take the Deplanno bus from the airport.  It’s cheap, convenient, and comfortable, not to mention that you get to see much of Sardinia that you don’t see while driving on highways.


There are vast majority of hotel types in Cala Gonone.  None have more than 4 stars and you can go down to a 2 star or even stay at one of the B&Bs peppered throughout this coastal community.  I chose the Costa Dorada (http://www.hotelcostadorada.it/) which was just lovely.  The staff spoke Italian with me, but they also appeared to be fluent in English, German, Spanish, and French (all heard while I was there).  I requested a sea-view room and although it didn’t have a balcony – there are shared spaced on each floor so it’s not the most private – it did have a lovely view of the sea when I opened the shutters each morning.  How better to start your day right?!


Not far from the Costa Durada is the Road House Blues (no website).  The food was pretty good and the service was excellent.  It was however, to be warned, incredibly hot!  Cala Gonone, when there is no wind, is warm well in to the evening and don’t think of asking about air conditioning (here or anywhere else!); it doesn’t happen.  What I liked most about Road House Blues was the classic jazz playing the entire time I was there.

I highly recommend La Poltrona (no website).  This place is phenomenal!  The first night I went here, I decided to walk the 2+ kilometers to the restaurant.  Unfortunately, it was hot – not to mention UP HILL which no one mentioned – and by the time I arrived, I was a sweaty mess!  But the staff was patient and once I cooled off, they said that they new I was vegetarian and the chef was offering a number of different options for me!  How cool?  My last night in Cala Gonone was to be at La Poltrona.  How could it not be?!  And the chef, once again, outdid himself with options and even accommodated my need – and yess, it was a need – to have a simple home-made pasta that was out of this world!

Another recent find was Zio Pedrillo pizzeria (https://www.ziopedrillo.pizza/).  After a long days of sun, sea, and boating, all we thought we wanted was a nice pizza outside.  And from what we saw, the pizzas looked outstanding.  But when I noticed that they offered malloredus, my favourite type of sardinian pasta, I had to try it.  And it was outstanding!  It was so outstanding that it was in the running for best meal during the entire trip!


You come to Cala Gonone for one thing: the beach.  But unlike Costa Rei, there is more to do here to occupy your time.  There is a bit of shopping that can be done (all of it touristic, however), you can go hiking, and you even have a plethora or restaurants to choose from.

But if there is one thing that you must do, you must do a minicrociera along the coast!  This will be a day-long trip (mine lasted from 9 – 18.30 even though it was suggested I would be finished by 17.00) and will cost you about 70 euro, but it is worth every penny.  And rather than going to the Port and doing one of the large tour boats, ask your hotel to set up a smaller, more private outing.  In fact, the Costa Durada has their own boat (the Marlin) and organizes this for their guests.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know about this and by the time I arrived, the boat was already booked for the days I was there.  But thankfully, the Hotel called a friend who did the same thing, they got me on to the boat tour (8 people total), and the owner of the hotel even drove me to the Port and introduced me to the guides.

The minicrociera is a sun-lovers paradise so if you don’t want to be in the sun, this isn’t the best thing for you.  But if you can stick it out – and most boats have a covered section and you can sleep on the boats as opposed to one of the beaches you will undoubtedly stop at for a couple of hours – do it.  Don’t think about it, just do it!

So, if you plan to go to Sardegna for a bit of sun and relaxation and aren’t sure where to go, without a doubt, I have to tell you to go to Cala Cogone.  It truly is heaven and there is enough to do there to keep yourself occupied and happy for quite some time!  Enjoy!

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Piemonte is more than Barolo but that’s a good first reason to go!

(update 02 Jan 2022)

Piemonte (and Langhe) isn’t a city but rather a region of northern Italy. Arguably, it is one of the most elegant regions of Italy that also acts as a collective municipality overseeing the Barolo and Barbaresco wines. My heart has always been drawn to Venice and Rome but the tranquility of the Piemonte region could very well become my third home!


I may have stumbled upon the most amazing, and charming, and inviting hotel in the Langhe region that I am honestly afraid to share because I don’t want to be turned away: the Locanda Marchesi Alfieri (http://www.marchesialfieri.it/eng/) (closest to ASTI or ALBA).  I am literally in love with this hotel.  I didn’t want to leave and when I moved to another hotel that I wasn’t happy with, all I could say was that I wanted to return to the Marchesi Alfieri.

I read an article about the Hotel Castello di Sinio (http://www.hotelcastellodisinio.com/en/) (closest to BAROLO and MONFORTE D’ALBA) and so I had to check it out. Located in the tiny village of Sinio, this converted castle is a real gem. Denise, the owner, is a hoot and full of information and advice. And the staff, they are a collective dream and literally made every return, and every departing adventure, a real joy.   You don’t stay here if you’re looking for cookie cutter hotels, but you stay here for peace and relaxation. (And, I suspect, the pool in the summer could be a wonderful afternoon reprieve, but I’ll have to report on that at another time.)

In the small village of La Morra – and a short walk from what is arguably the best restaurant in Piemonte: Il Bovio – lies the lovely little Corte Gondina Hotel (https://www.cortegondina.it/en/) (LA MORRA).  There aren’t a lot or rooms but the rooms they have, are great: some are large with only a minimal view while others are a bit smaller with a balcony where you can see rows and rows of vineyards.  And not to be missed is the morning breakfast with wonderful pastries and divine cappuccini.

The agritourismo Agricola La Morra Brandini (http://www.agriturismolamorra.com/) is a lovely, small agritourismo with stunning views over the valleys that surround it.  And on a clear day, you can stunning gorgeous views of Monviso in the distance.  There are two room types (and only 5 in total) and if at all possible, I encourage you to reserve one of the two Superior rooms: set on two levels, the lower level affords a small but comfortable sitting room and the upper level provides a larger bedroom, with a sofa bed if needed, and a small reading nook.  Reader be warned however: the toilet is on the lower level so if you’re someone who gets up in the middle of the night, you might want to consider one of Le Doppie (double) rooms.  Oh, and breakfast is gorgeous in what doubles as an often busy restaurant at lunch.

Another recent discover is the Relais Poderi Luigi Einaudi (https://www.relaiseinaudi.com/en/) a wonderfully small and pleasant B&B in the Dogliani area of Piemonte (CLOSEST TO DOGLIANI).  I counted 6 rooms – and the amazing opportunity to be the only guest for 2 nights which was perfect for this traveling introvert – and each was unique with homey and person touches.  The common spaces were warm and inviting and in the summer, an outdoor pool (which is also serves to manage the humidity in the cellars below!).

If you’re in Monforte d”Alba, a gorgeous small hilltop town that I’ve drive through and around so many times, you will find the La Ribezza Boutique Hotel (https://www.laribezza.it) a real stunner!  The staff are outstanding and the rooms truly wonderful.  My only advice to my readers is to confirm the room that you will be given, in advance if at all possible: rooms on the ground floor look on to the car park which isn’t the most attractive view, and can be disruptive when sleeping.  I was in Room 104 and wouldn’t recommend it, and I probably wouldn’t recommend Rooms 105 and 106 either for the exact same reason.  It’s a catch-22 because without parking, this would be a problem but with rooms that look on to the car park are just not attractive.  Of additional, and important note: breakfast is not typically included and is rather expensive, especially for what you get.  I would not, not, return because of this aspect alone but given that most hotels in Italy still provide breakfast as part of their rates, you should know in advance. The village below is a great place to get a coffee and a cornetto/brioche/croissant


If I only had one night in Langhe, and if I could simply travel to the Langhe region for one night, I would go to Trattoria La Coccinella (http://www.trattoriacoccinella.com/). I literally fell in love with this restaurant: the décor so charming and real, the waiters outstanding and in no way intrusive, and the food absolutely divine! Of course, I was here during white truffle season (tartuffo bianco) but even so, I know that the food here year-round will make everyone content. (And, for what it’s worth, I was only the second of 2 tables where I heard English.)  I have returned to this restaurant every year, for Thanksgiving, this being the 7th year as of this writing and it has not changed, and it remains special to this solo traveler.

De Felicin (http://www.felicin.it/en/) is, without a doubt, my second favourite restaurant in the Piemonte region and I would insist that you spend two nights  in this part of Italy, just to enjoy.  The owner and chef, Nino, is amazing and so incredibly knowledgeable for all diners.  On my visit, he suggested that he make various antipasti and, if we were still hungry, to order a pasta dish.  We weren’t still hungry!   The antipasti were each unique, tasty, and not too big which can be a welcomed respite from the sometimes heavy pasta that you can find in the Piemonte region.  And not to be missed is the wine cellar: what a site  for both the wine aficionado and the newbie!  Put this one on your list!

If you have a third night, you really can’t skip Bovio Ristorante (https://www.ristorantebovio.it) which has a bit of history behind it. The short story is that it’s sister restaurant, now closed, was even higher up the hill in La Morra but the views are just as stunning and the wine cellar is rumoured to have over 1 million euro worth of wine. As for the food, it was delicious and the staff really very helpful and the views incredible! So why is this not at the top of my list? Simply because, the food and the interior were just a bit too stuffy, and a bit too showy, and anything where I find the people to be to try too hard, I find it unsettling and not the most enjoyable experience.

A recent discovery thanks to the Slow Food movement so prominent in Italy was the Cantina del Cacciatori.  Absolutely lovely!

Osteria Veglio (https://www.osteriaveglio.it/en/) remains a keeper if you ask me.  I am embarrassed to admit that I had forgotten about this restaurant but when I walked in, I was instantly brought back to years earlier when I dined here and how wonderful it was.  The food is outstanding and the staff, multi-lingual to be noted, are outstanding.  And the food divine and the wine list extensive.

And because I can’t eat at the same places every night – although I am always tempted at Trattoria La Coccinella! – I wanted to find a new place to recommend and I can happily suggest Osteria Tre Case (https://osteriatrecase.it/it/).  My goodness, the food was outstanding!  And the staff, attentive but not intrusive, were also respectful of time and not rushing your meal.  I love the Serralunga d’Alba area, especially because it has some of my favourite wineries, but to have discovered this gorgeous restaurant a short hike up in to the “centre” is a jewel to be experienced.


One comes to the Piemonte region to see the wines, to taste the wines, and to hear about the wines. The latter, you say, is an odd thing to hear but I tell you, the stories that the vintners will tell you are mesmerizing and charming and will make the drive on these lovely curvy roads worth the endeavor.

I love cooking and whenever I can, I take the opportunity to take a cooking class.  Run by the lovely Fernanda Giomello, of Effe Food and Events in Alba (http://www.effefood.it/), this all female endeavor is a real joy!  I must admit that I was initially expecting a step by step cooking class and when that was evident from the start that that’s not what was happening, I was a little confused.  But put your expectations aside, learn the history of cooking in the Langhe, and get your hands dirty and make some food.  And if there could be anything even better… the foods that you made are then served in a multi-course dinner, with wine, and the opportunity to ask further questions and obtain additional feedback.  It was such a joy that I want to do this again with friends!

With no disrespect to the large wineries that you will find in this valley of two wines, I would avoid them and seek out the smaller producers. Personally, I can recommend the following but if you know of others, or just want to rely on your hotel, check them out:

Cavallotto Tenuta (Barolo)

GD Vajra (Barolo)




Vietti (Barolo)

La Spinetta (Barbaresco) – my favourite

Cantina Vignaioli Elvio Pertinace (Barbaresco)

Azienda Agricola Sottimano (Barbaresco)

and new to the list – only because I can only visit so many wineries and taste so much wine:

Contratto (sparkling wine in a STUNNING winery, not to be missed!)


But a word of advice: a GPS system for your car is imperative. Yes, it will nearly double the price of your rental car but some of these wineries are difficult to find and one of the wineries was surprised that I found them, on time, and when I told them about the GPS, they said that it must have been a great system as most people get lost.

And to note: most of the wineries have begun charging for their tasting.  The fact that they didn’t charge for so many years is one of the things that I found charming. But I understand, and given the tourism trade, it makes perfect sense so be prepared to pay between 10 and 25 euro for your tastings.

So, the next time you come to Milano, go past Torino and head to Piemonte and unwind and check out from the daily craziness of internet and texts and get back to life and to the living of life.

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Venezia, Italy – a place of quiet and intrique around every corner

[updated 02 January 2021]

My heart will always belong to Rome, but my dream is to live in Venice.  There is a magic about Venice that is hard to explain and holds a very dear place in my heart.   If you have not been, go.  And if you have been, go again!  It has become a tradition for me to go to Venice in February when the tour groups are gone, there is a chill in the air, the aqua alta may be in residence, and the canals and “streets” and fogged over in the morning and night.

And before we go any further, there is one bit of advice that was given to me years ago and worth remembering: lose the map!  It’s an island so you can’t get too lost.  And that’s part of the charm and how you will see things that you will never read about in a guidebook or on this website.


The Ca’ Pisani hotel (http://capisanihotel.it/) and has definitely become one of my go-to hotels when I return to Venezia.  The art deco design is close to my heart and the rooms are amazing.  If you can get a room facing toward the Rio Terrà Foscarini, do it: watching life happen close to the Dorsoduro neighborhood is a part of Venezian life that not everyone gets to see. Breakfast is ample and although I’ve not dined at the hotel, there are options from wine and cheese to a full meal.  And given that it is footsteps away from the Ponte Academia and the vaporetto stop, you’re well connected to other wonderful restaurants in this stunning city.

If you are looking for an affordable place to stay that is so close to everything you must see, the Hotel Flora (www.hotelflora.it/) is a wonderful option.

For the longest time, I thought this was a 4-star hotel and only recently found out that it is actually a 3-star hotel.  That says it all!   And although the hotel has no canal views – I’ve stayed at one of those before and although a truly gorgeous view, you may also have the scents from the canal and the noise from people walking below your window – it is 5 minutes from Piazza San Marco, 2 minutes to La Fenice, and easily accessible to everything else!   The staff is outstanding and the improvements to the breakfast buffet a wise choice for the varied clientele!  Search for me in January/February at this hotel because I will return!

If you want the same level of hospitality as the Flora, but on a smaller scale, head straight to Hotel Novecento (http://www.novecento.biz/en/); it’s owned by the same family!  Comprised of only 9 rooms, the staff is amazing, the location a wonderful respite of solitude and relaxation, and yet still close enough to everything that you’ll never feel like you are missing anything!

If money is no object, the Ca’ Maria Adele (http://www.camariaadele.it/html/index.html) is an absolute gem of a hotel and if you have the opportunity to stay here, I highly recommend you do. When you first arrive, not only are you greated by some of the most amazing staff, but you are then walked to the lounge where a bit of prosecco and some biscotti are provided while your room is prepared and the luggage delivered. That’s a great start in my book! But more importantly, the location of the hotel, in the Dorsoduro neighborhood is close enough to everything that you want, yet far enough away that it is quiet and a true get-away. And the breakfast?! AMAZING. Every evening you select what you want for breakfast, and where you want to eat it – your room, an indoor “hall”, or an outdoor balcony – as well as what time you want to eat and the rest is taken care of for you. Truly, this is absolutely astounding and it was difficult not to be little piggy and order everything on the menu!

Ca' Maria Adele with flash Ca' Maria Adele breakfastBites

As long as you avoid the tourist traps located around Piazza San Marco, and any of the ponti, you really can’t go wrong.  The restaurants will be small, and there may be a wait, but if you plan in advance, your dining experience in Venice will leave you with many happy memories.

If I only had one night in Venezia, Ai Artisti (www.enotecaartisti.com) is where I would go! The food is always amazing and although they no longer have an extensive list of wines by the glass – something I was sad to see go with the recent remodel – they still offer some wonderful whites and reds by the glass. My last night in Venice is typically spent here and every time, I stroll the canals with a full belly and a smile on my face.  I want to return right now!

Another find was the Alle Testiere (no website but on Castello 5801 on the Calle del Mondo Novo).  Again, amazing food and a terrific wine list with wines by the glass.

And then there is Osteria doge Morosini (www.osteriadogemorosini.it).  This is a tried and true seafood restaurant and worth every penny.   Although I don’t eat fish, I can certainly appreciate the smells, the ingredients, and the words of praise from those around me.  And how did this vegetarian fare?   Just perfectly because there are always vegetables on the menu and most pastas if they aren’t vegetarian, can easily be made vegetarian by leaving the fish out of the sauce.

As much as I love Ai Artisti (still my favourite in Venice) and Alle Testiere (even though they look at me oddly when I say I’m vegetarian), I decided to expand my knowledge and am proud to say that I have two additional restaurants that I can highly suggest.

The other restaurant that may very well become my second go-to place is Corte Sconta (http://www.cortescontavenezia.it/).  Trust me when I tell you to use this web address and no others; your fist hit will be another chain or restaurants with a similar name that, I recall, focus on pizza.  This Corte Sconta is no pizzeria!  The service was amazing, the options phenomenal, and the wine list outstanding.  And what gets this restaurant a special nod from me is that, even though it is a fish restaurant – that everyone was raving about (in English, Italian, German, and I think Russian!) – when I told my waiter I was vegetarian, he showed me the listed options and then started to offer some ideas of things not on the menu.  In the end, I had tagliolini with pesto that was plate-licking delicious!

Because of an unexpectedly closed restaurant upon my arrival in Venice, the hotel had to recommend an alternate. I’ll leave out the gory details but suffice it to say the staff was rude and when I said I was vegetarian, they said “no.” So I needed a new restaurant and returned to Al Ponte Storto (no website) who kindly directed me to the failed first restaurant. Al Ponte Storto is not fancy but I promise you that the staff is wonderful, the food classic home-cooked fair, and not expensive. So, if the prices of Venice get to you yet you want a lovely, and simple meal, go here. I would return.

For that special occasion, where you really don’t mind spending just a little more for the production, if you will, I would send you to Ristorante Da Fiore (https://www.ristorantedafiore.com/en/), a gorgeous, tuxedoed staff, with some of the best food and most amazing ambiance you’ll find in the city.  And if you are lucky, and book well in advance, there are 2 tables that sit canal-side for that extra special evening.

Another place, and a new find which truly illustrates how the outside does not reflect the inside, is Ai Gondolieri (https://aigondolieri.it/).  Located in the Dorsoduro neighborhood, right across from the Peggy Guggenheim museum, I have passed this restaurant innumerable times and never give it a second thought.  Oh, but what I’ve been missing!  Upon entering, you’ll be met with a classic, old-school Venetian restaurant with tuxedoed staff who truly act like they want to help.  The food was truly outstanding.

And lastly, if you’re looking for something fairly inexpensive, Oké ristorante and pizzeria is a good alternative.  I went for the pizza – yes, even I need a break from the pasta once in a while – and it was delicious.  There are a lot of students and locals here, so it’s a safe bet and not overly touristy.


Venice is a wanderers paradise.   When I go to Venice, I walk for hours every day and just let my feet take me wherever they may go.  If an alley looks cool, I will take it.  If a cafe looks inviting, I will stop.   It really is all about the experience.

If you need specific places to go, there are a few that I highly recommend.  The Guggenheim museum (http://www.guggenheim-venice.it/) is worth seeking out not only because it is fun to get lost trying to find it, but the exhibit alone is truly outstanding for the modern artist in all of us.  And before you leave the museum, be sure to go out on to the veranda: you are as close to the Grande Canale as you will ever get in a former residence.

The Scuola Grande San Rocco (www.scuolagrandesanrocco.it) is an amazing gem that should not be missed.

After paying admission and walking up the stairs, look for the chairs dotted around the center of the floor: there should be mirrors that you can use to best view the ceiling above.  (Trust me, it will save your neck!)  The silence is amazing and the beauty of the frescoes  calming and haunting all at the same time.

I also recommend doing a self-guided tour of La Fenice (not to mention going to the opera if you can).

The restoration of La Fenice is stunning and the architecture over the top.  When I went, I was able to sneak in to one of the boxes and get a feel for what it would be like to sit in a box and watch one of the acclaimed performances.

And, of course, you can’t go to Venice without stopping in one – if not every one – of the churches throughout the city.  In the heat of summer, this is a lovely respite and a place to sit for just a minute.  And in the winter, it too provides shelter from the chill air or maybe even the aqua alta!

No matter how many times one visits Venezia, there will also be new things to see, just by happen-stance, or to be reminded of wonders like the Scala Contarini del Bovolo (https://www.gioiellinascostidivenezia.it/) that you’ve never previously visited but wondered about.  A phenomenal and breathtaking work of architecture, the “scala” really can’t be located by simply wondering around, even though there is a small yellow sign pointing to it’s location (which I always ignored), but a bit of GPS assistance and intention it will be worth the trek.  You can see the “scala” without paying the entrance fee (reservations recommended) through the bars that surround the courtyard, but with a reservation, you’ll not only be able to enter and see the intricacy of architecture but from the top, you’ll see across the rooftops of Venice, over to Piazza San Marco, and other landmarks in a 360 degree view.  It really is that breathtaking and worth the visit.  (And to be honest, it probably offers nearly the same views as the Campanile in Piazza San Marco, without the lines and without the crush of tourists.)

The Palazzo Grassi (https://www.palazzograssi.it/) has finally re-opened after years of work on the structure, thanks to the support of the Pinault Collection (who also undertook the restoration of the Punta della Dogana), and what a beauty it is.  The exhibitions rotate so you’ll want to see what’s on and whether it is worth the price of admission, but honestly, even if you’re not that chuffed with the exhibition, the restoration of the palazzo is truly breathtaking: from the open entrance, to the grand staircase, to the ceiling mural that will give you a neck cramp from staring up so long.

And, of  course, a trip to Venice wouldn’t be complete if you didn’t go to Murano.  (Sadly, the glass sculpture below no longer exists after many many years.  There still remains a blue sculpture – admittedly my least favourite of all the sculptures – but that is all.)

The glass is gorgeous and it is fun to watch a glass blowing demonstration.  And if you must buy something, don’t buy it near the vapporetto stop and be sure to haggle: most prices are negotiable.   But don’t stop a few hundred metres from the vapporetto stop: go further.  Murano truly is a wonderful island with some lovely restaurants, cute shops, and some amazing churches to just stop and investigate.

If time permits, don’t forget to Burano and even Torcello!  The colours of Burano are amazing and bring a smile to my face whenever I think of it.  And the pizza some of the best that I have ever had.

A German couple  in Venice recommended a lovely restaurant in Burano.   They raved so much about this restaurant that we had to try it.  If you go, make a reservation at al Gatto Nero (www.gattonero.com), definitely the best fish restaurant on the island!  And although there were definitely tourists there  – dining options on the island are fairly limited – the restaurant was also packed with locals for their Sunday brunch.   Amazing!

And Torcello?!  How quaint and lovely.  There is even a small Locanda on the island that I am dying to stay at (although they are closed in the winter when the tourists are gone!)

The first trip  that I ever took in my life was to Venice for one full week.  Everyone thought that I was insane and wondered how I could spend 7 days on such a small island.  Twenty years later, and I still go as frequently as I can and soak it all in.  Get lost: you won’t regret it.

And if you’re looking for some tapestry, fabric, or those lovely little tassles the best place is Mario Bevilacqua. There are 2 shops, both equdistant from Piazza San Marco but my favourite is the one at 337B, Fondamenta Canonica. It’s a little hard to find – being right behind the Basilica San Marco – but I find the staff there very approachable and absolutely lovely. But be forewarned: it’s hard to leave with just one thing and they are not cheap.

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Senglea, Malta

I’m including Senglea for the sole purpose of the Cugo Gran Macina Grand Harbour Hotel.  It was truly that stunning!  The small island of Senglea doesn’t have a lot to offer and probably isn’t the key tourist attraction like other parts of Malta, but for a day or two of walking around, or taking the ferry over to Valetta, or just relaxing at the pool, I found this island of the Three Cities charming and inviting.


I honestly can’t think of the right adjective to use to describe the Cugo Gran Macina Harbour Hotel (https://www.cugogranmalta.com/).  So I’ll just go with sheer perfection!  There really is no other place to stay in my opinion.  Deservingly part of the Design Hotels collection (https://www.designhotels.com/), I was given room 108, a corner room overlooking the harbor.  Although the hotel describes itself as all suites, this is beyond a suite.  I really didn’t want to leave!  The sitting room is larger than any of the other hotels that I had stayed in.  The bedroom could be closed off from the sitting area (you know, in case someone snores and you had to go out to the lounge, or left open for a phenomenal sense of grandeur).  And the bathroom was gorgeous!  The only thing that could have made it better was a bathtub but since I’m not a bath person (kinda freaks me out to be honest), I was happy with the rain shower.  This, dear reader, is a true 5-star hotel and worth every euro they charge (which should be more) and is deserving of every “Best Of” list possible.


I’m embarrassed to say that my research didn’t turn up too many dining options in Senglea so I opted to dine at the hotel restaurant Hammett’s Macina (https://www.hammettsmacina.com/) (also because I knew I needed something other than more pasta for at least one night and their menu showed a lot of vegetarian options).  This really was an extraordinary experience.  Describing themselves as cooking based on Mediterranean-semitic roots, the food is meant to be shared but also small enough for the intrepid single traveler like myself.  And when you can sit outside, have a cocktail before dinner, and observe the world passing by, there really is nothing better.


Senglea doesn’t really offer much in terms of sites to see, but I encourage you to pull yourself away from the Cugo Gran Macina Grand Harbour and take a stroll around the old town that is above the harbour.  The tiny streets are gorgeous and the architecture of the homes breathtaking.  There’s been a lot of remodeling going on which makes the old town very clean, but you can also see old homes that are yet to be updated just to have a sense of what the town used to look like.

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Gozo, Malta

Every local I met said “you’ll like Gozo better than Malta.”  Yep, you read that correctly: they refer to Gozo as being separate from the country of Malta which took me a while to figure out.  But Gozo is different from the main island of Malta and the lifestyle much more simple and uncomplicated and relaxed.  I met a lovely couple on my last day in Gozo who said that they’ve been coming for 18 years and I think that is wherein the charm of Gozo lies: in its tranquility and still off-the-beaten-path feel that the island possesses.  It’s a place to relax, and lounge, and recharge.


There are some really lovely options in Gozo but I needed something more of a resort where I could just relax by a pool and not figure out how to get to the ocean, so I chose the Kempinski San Lawrenz (https://www.kempinski.com/en/gozo/hotel-san-lawrenz/).   The hotel is beautiful but I must admit that I felt that it was resting on its position as the only 5 star on the island.  It really is a 4-star, except the high nightly rate.  The breakfast is amazing and the pool is lovely, especially in the scorching Maltese sun, but the rooms are rather tired and feel late 80s in design.  I also noticed a large tour bus arrive to pick up a tour so they apparently cater to the tour operator crowd which isn’t something that I appreciate myself. So as most travelers to Gozo have to do, figure out what it is that you need.  A number of folks that I met during my stay said that they opt for vacation rentals with pools and eat at home while others look for places closer to the larger towns.  The Kempsinski is well outside of any major town so you’ll spend a small fortune on car hires for dinner, just so you know.  But needing to relax and unwind, this was a wonderful option and will be impeccable when they update the rooms.


This is where Gozo excelled.  It wasn’t so much inventive food or anything over the top and grandiose, but just good quality food using local ingredients and outstanding customer service.

If I only had one night in Gozo (which may be enough to be honest), I would go to Ta’ Philip (https://taphiliprestaurant.com/).  Located close to the main harbor of Gozo, the food was outstanding but what won me over was the ambiance of the hotel – very modern and inviting – and the kindness of the owner, Philip.  He’s got over 30 years of experience in the restaurant industry and it shows in his attention to detail and flavour.  There were so many things that I wanted to try – having had them at other restaurants and wondering if they could have been better – but there was just no room left in the belly!  (Insider’s tip: if you have the chance, ask Philip to try his family’s recipe for the sun-dried tomato paste with a hint of salt and sugar.  It’s stunning stuff and I so wanted to ask to bring some home. But I didn’t.)

The other find that I really enjoyed was Maldonado’s Bistro (https://www.maldonado.com.mt/).  The food was outstanding and the options for vegetarian and vegan food were impressive.  If they have the bigilia flitters, get them! I wasn’t sure what to expect as they were described as something like falafel but they were so much better than that and the homemade dips were mouth-wateringly good.  It’s a little off the beaten path but with a good driver and gps, you’ll find it and be happy that you did. 

(An Insider’s tip: I always try to have local wine whenever I can, just to understand what folks expect.  Although I wouldn’t say that Maltese wines are bad, I will tell you that they run on the sweet side.  Even when requesting dry wines, at every restaurants, they were always more on the sweet side.  But… if you go to Maldonado, and maybe others, where they have non-Maltese wines, order a bottle and take home what you don’t drink.  That was the saving grace for an evening after dinner drink.)


Most of the sites in Gozo require a car to reach as they are well spread out.  So, instead, I opted for one of the all-day tours: Barbaroso Excursions (https://www.barbarossaexcursions.com/).  The problem with the tour, which I was aware of based on other comments I had read, is that the driver trying to explain what you’re seeing is virtually impossible to hear.  I was sitting right behind the driver and had trouble hearing: folks sitting at the back of the jeep heard nothing.  But if you go in knowing this, I think it makes riding around in Gozo that much more enjoyable.  The other part of the excursion – as I chose to do the combi tour – was a boat trip to the Crystal Lagoon (a marketing approach to be frank) and the Blue Lagoon (another marketing pitch as I believe the real and original Blue Lagoon is in Turkey but I could be wrong).  So why did I opt for the combi tour you ask?  Who doesn’t enjoy the chance to jump in the ocean off the side of a boat?!  There are two important things to be aware of before booking this tour: the lunch is basic, at best, but no one books these tours thinking they’ll have a divine meal.  And secondly, their website says “unlimited wine and water” but when I asked for a water on the first half, which was the jeep tour, the driver looked at me stunned and told me where I could go to buy a water.  I told him what the website said and he kindly offered to give me one of his waters that he brought along.  But given how hot it was, even driving around, that wouldn’t have been an option so I just bought my own.  On the boat, there were large jugs of water and wine, so that you didn’t pass out from dehydration.  So, be sure to bring water.

There was another tour group called Gozo Pride Tours that appeared to do the same style tour that Barbarosa does.

And yes, even in Gozo, there is a hop on/hop off tour group.  To be honest, they appeared to go most places that the jeep tour went, and it was probably cheaper, so have a think about what you want to do and then decide which option appears more greatly to you.

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Valletta, Malta

An undulating and fascinating city seemingly floating in the Mediterranean Sea.  It’s ties to Sicily are evident but this wonderful country and city have established their own identity.  As I traversed the narrow streets of Valletta, I constantly wondered what it reminded me of?  Was it a little bit of Portugal?  A touch of Southern Italy?  More than a hint of Morocco? I couldn’t say, but it is a lovely and tranquil place to stroll and relax which is what I needed.


There’s a lovely newer chain of boutique hotels in Malta, the newest being the Roselli AX Privilege (https://rossellimalta.com/) right in the center of Valletta on Merchants street.  The hotel is very vintage with art deco touches which is just my style.  The rooms are gorgeously appointed and my request for a room with a small balcony on Merchant street was met which made me very happy.  (Ear plugs are advised if you’re a light sleeper, especially on weekends.)  You can book on a bed and breakfast plan, or I think you can book for full board, but I’m not sure why you’d want to eat at the hotel every day where there are stunning places throughout this little city.  (One disclaimer: the hotel advertises a pool and through the miracles of modern photography and angles, let’s just say the pictures look bigger than it really is.  I could have “sat” in the pool but that would have been one step up from a large whirlpool, so don’t come her for the pool in the middle of summer.)


I did a lot of research in advance of my trip and truly had trouble narrowing things down to just three nights.

If I only had one night in Valletta, I’d have to make it Zero Sei Trattoria Romana (https://zeroseimalta.com/).  This lovlely Roman restaurant is set off the main streets, creating a calm and enchanting dining experience.  They don’t speak much English but they do speak Italian, and they have all of my favourite foods: caprese, cacio e pepe, and tiramisu.

A very close second in the “what’s Craig’s favourite restaurant?” category is, hands down, Beati Paoli (https://www.facebook.com/beatipaolirestaurant/).  Set on another side street on the “other side” of Valletta, the food was gorgeous and the staff perfection!  So why, you ask, is this second?  Solely because I wanted to sit outside and there were only 2 tables outside, both on a small sidewalk and a sometimes busy street.  When I return, I will feel more comfortable dining indoors and things may change.

Fifty-Nine Republic (https://www.fiftyninerepublic.com/) is a real stunner on the Valletta restaurant scene.  I sat outside on a balmy Saturday evening and thankfully, was never interrupted.  They’re not really equipped for vegetarians, despite the menu suggesting that you ask the waiter for alternate options, but the service and presentation were divine and when they have truffled mashed potatoes on the menu, can you really go wrong?

And lastly, but just as importantly even though it is not really a place for bites, if you fancy a cocktail before or after dinner, you must seek out Alchemy on Straight Street (https://www.alchemyvalletta.com/).  They don’t take reservations and seats are somewhat limited but the cocktails are worth the wait.  The “Ancient Kiss” is insanely memorable (I’m still salivating) and the mixologists are so knowledgable and creative that they deserve all acolades possible.


There aren’t really a lot of sites to see in Valletta, other the city itself.  Well, after you see the stunning works by Caravaggio in St Johns Co-Cathedral, that it is!  Which, by the way, gets crowded very early and very quickly so if that’s what you’re here for – that was the case for me no doubt – arrive at the opening and ask for the Caravaggio paintings and then, when you’ve absorbed as much as you can of these masterpieces, take in the remainder of this baroque wonder.

The Upper Barrakka is a gorgeous place to look out over the city and across the harbour to the Three Cities.  Likewise, the Lower Barrakka offers the obverse view and provides a different vantage that I really appreciated as it was away from the tourist hustle and bustle.  And near the Lower Barrakka is the Seige Bell and tomb of the unknown soldier commemorating recent wars.

There is a hop on/hop off option that you can take from near the bus terminal that will make seeing this wonderful island a lot easier (and which couldn’t be accomplished by foot).

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Negril – 7 miles of gorgeous beaches and activities galore!


There are a wide variety of options to choose from in Negril, from the all-inclusive to pay as you go, from 5 star to hut on the beach.  Being someone who is not a fan of the large commercial resorts, I opted for the Sunset at the Palms (https://www.thepalmsjamaica.com/) based on the fact that it was small and tranquil, and adults only.  There are positives and negatives to be honest.  On the positive side: the staff are outstanding, the tranquility divine, and the nature sounds soothing and calming.  At this very strange time in our existence, this is what I needed.  And the expertly manicured grounds are stunning and offered that sense of calm that I craved! On the negative side: I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was in a Jamaican remake of “Dirty Dancing”.  The “treehouses” are a little dated, and the architecture a little reminiscent of days gone by as they struggle to stay afloat with the mega-resorts.  And sadly, the food was just so-so and the laminated menus a real turn-off: for an adults only resort, I would hope that sticky fingers weren’t an issue and thus proper menus could be prepared.


As I mentioned above, the laminated menus were a real turn-off.  Not only does it feel cheap, but it doesn’t even suggest the possibility that the food is seasonal and varied.  There is something about the static nature of a laminated menu that isn’t inviting.  And although I don’t think anything could stand up to Chef Matthew at the S Hotel, the chefs reached out daily and did the best that they could with what was available to them.


If chillaxing isn’t your thing, there are plenty of things to do in Negril.  These activities aren’t exactly sites but any version of water sport is available either through your hotel or directly on the beach.


I don’t do this often but I do feel that an addition note when traveling to Jamaica is warranted.  Bring cash.  Many things are cash-only and the expectation to tip – whether when using the VIP service at the airport, or tipping at the resort bar (regardless of being all-inclusive), or getting food on the beach, you will need cash.  And lots of it.  I always have cash with me but honestly didn’t realize the amount that was really required and was on the verge of being ill-prepared.  And although ATMs exist, they are rather few and far between (literally).

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Montego Bay – Where you stay, and the staff you encounter, can make or break an experience. And although Montego Bay seemed to be more of a stop-over either when arriving or departing the island rather than a destination, the staff at the S Hotel alone made me want to return.

Where you stay, and the staff you encounter, can make or break an experience.  And although Montego Bay seemed to be more of a stop-over either when arriving or departing the island rather than a destination, the staff at the S Hotel alone made me want to return.


The S Hotel Montego Bay (https://www.crissahotels.com/s-hotel-jamaica/) really is a stunner.  It definitely has that South Beach vibe, which I don’t think is a bad thing, especially since they’ve retained their Jamaican heritage through design, the food, and even the music and posters throughout the property.  The hotel is stark-white with hints of black in the rooms and more pops of red and black in the public areas, offering a calm respite to hot days, the grey pop-up showers in the afternoons, or even the often-seen sunburnt guest.  Views of the ocean and the pool are stunning and if you can swing it, the top, 6th floor, has access to the Sky Deck and the Sky Lounge. 


Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many locations were closed or we were just not available to guests of the property.  But in all honesty, that was just fine with me; Chef Matthew is stellar and a real find for the hotel!  His food was outstanding and as a vegetarian, he met with me nightly and seemed to enjoy the challenge of making an outstanding and varied meal every evening.  One of the biggest let-downs for any vegetarian is receiving the un-inspired grilled vegetable platter or the quinoa and vegetables that we can make ourselves at home: not with Chef Matthew.  And as you’ll know from other posts, I’m not a fan of eating at hotels as I like to get out and explore but I was happily ensconced at the S Hotel and literally looked forward to Chef Matthew’s creations daily.


Because of its proximity to the airport, I’m really not sure there is that much to do in Montego Bay.  There are a number of high-end all-inclusive resorts nearby so if that’s your thing, do it.  Regardless, I do hope to return when the world returns to normal and explore more fully.  In the interim, I will say that although Doctors Cave Beach is cute, it is also incredibly small and rather crowded.  (I chose to remain at the pool at the S Hotel.)


I don’t do this often but I do feel that an addition note when traveling to Jamaica is warranted.  Bring cash.  Many things are cash-only and the expectation to tip – whether when using the VIP service at the airport, or tipping at the resort bar (regardless of being all-inclusive), or getting food on the beach, you will need cash.  And lots of it.  I always have cash with me but honestly didn’t realize the amount that was really required and was on the verge of being ill-prepared.  And although ATMs exist, they are rather few and far between (literally).

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Torino – Italian with a hint of Swiss mixed in

(updated 30 August 2020)

When I think of how to describe Torino, I constantly think of it as a hybrid between Italy and the Swiss: the locals have all of the traits that I love in an Italian but there is something a bit more Alpine – I truly don’t mean that offensively – about them that really does make this place absolutely unique. And the Alps in the distance don’t hurt things either!

the alps from TorinoNites

I love the TownHouse mini-hotel chain in Italy and, thankfully, Torino has the only one outside of Milano: TownHouse 70 (http://www.townhouse.it/th70) which is centrally located to everything that you could ever want to see, and eat!, and is a short walk from the Porta Nuova train station so you don’t even need to take a taxi! TownHouse 70, like the others, offers a communal breakfast but, unlike the others that I’ve stayed in th70 has taken feedback to heart and now offers BOTH the communal option as well as a separate room with individual tables. So, if you don’t feel like sitting with strangers, you can now sit alone.


The food in Torino, and I suspect all of the Piemonte region, is quite heavier than that of central and southern Italy and, I must admit, took a bit of getting used to. Honestly, I didn’t see a salad on any menu. Granted, this could be because of the time of year, which I respect, but when walking through the Saturday and Sunday outdoor markets, I did see various lettuces and other vegetables so they were coming from somewhere.

But I digress… if you only have one night in Torino, I would encourage you to go to Le Vitel Etonne (http://www.leviteletonne.com/). This was probably the cheapest restaurant that I had the pleasure of visiting and, by far, the best, the most charming, and the most “at home”. When I arrived – as I learned to do when in Venice and being told that they couldn’t serve a vegetarian – I asked if it was a problem and they said “not at all.” And then came this lovely fresh ricotta with a pistachio sauce that was amazing and simply followed by a cross between a soufflé and a round omelet of eggs, cheese, and spinach. And that was just the appetizer! But for the main course, I had asked if I could just have a pasta with some vegetables because there is only so much gnocchi with a gorgonzola sauce that one can eat. (Like I said above, it’s heavy food.) And then before me was a lovely plate of homemade pasta with a bit of butter and fresh artichokes. Add a bit of parmigiano cheese and I was a very happy man. Oh, and before I forget: they have amazing glasses of wine by the glass – how to end a trip to Torino without yet another glass of Barolo?! – as well as a wine cellar that you can pick and choose from. When I left, they asked how the food was and I could say was “I am so very happy”.

If simple and small places aren’t you’re thing and you want to splurge, I can suggest two other restaurants on opposite ends of the spectrum. For a traditional, and lovely, meal, go to Tre Galline (www.3galline.it). Don’t mind the area of the walk to the restaurant because I promise, the food is divine and this late in the year, I was still able to have an appetizer with black truffles. This is a very traditional Piemontese restaurant, with a heavy emphasis on meats and meat-filled pasta, but it is worth the journey and definitely the experience.

Tre Galline insideThe other restaurant that I can highly recommend is Consorzio (http://ristoranteconsorzio.it/?lang=en30). I read some unflattering things on various sites so I was prepared but I tell you, the guys that ran the restaurant were a delight! Once again, I asked if my being a vegetarian was a problem and my guy – there are only 3 plus the chef – shook his head yes and said “it’s not a problem” – and it wasn’t. The wine was great – if you’ve not tried a Ruché before, ask for it here – and the food outstanding, if not traditional Piemontese: the plates are smaller, the food a bit more “nouveau” and perhaps even moving toward the refined and perhaps even French scale of cooking. But I loved it and I will return.

Another recommendations is L’Agrifoglio (http://www.lagrifoglioristorante.com/). Although not near the “centre” which is also where the Townhouse 70 hotel is, you can reach it by walking, just allow yourself a leisurely 30 minutes to get there but I promise, it will be worth it: the food is simple and traditional, which is what I search for in a restaurant, the staff was outstanding and amazingly helpful to this vegetarian, and the prices were so affordable that I did a double-take at the bill to make sure that they didn’t forget something!

And my latest find, although not “new” by any stretch of the imagination is Al Gatto Nero in Torino. From the outside, the restaurant is pretty non-descript and really quite easy to miss. But on the inside is a world of classic piemontese cuisine with lovely staff and even better food.  And given that it was, once again, white truffle (tartuffi bianchi) time, I had to try and honestly, it was the best I had this time around and, perhaps, near the top of ever.

And because I found this “fornai” (bread shop and more) and wandered in desperate search of it the following day, I encourage everyone to find Perino Vesco (http://www.perinovesco.it/it/). It is amazing! The staff was sweet (and remembered me on only the second day), the pannini, the sweets, and the coffee were outstanding! Honestly, the things they had on display here made it difficult for me not to buy everything in the entire store! And the fact that it was crowded both times I went in tells you lots. (And I was the only tourist that I could hear!)


Beyond the standard guide book things to do, I can’t honestly suggest other sites that one needs to visit. The first Eataly and the Olympic stadium are well outside of the centre and a serious hike – Eataly took me 45 minutes to walk to from the centre and the Olympic Stadium further AND there was a Juventus game so I couldn’t tour that day anyway – but as I always do, don’t worry about what a guidebook says you have to do, but just wander and take in this lovely city.

I want to return to Torino as I have visions of truffles dancing in my head but even if you can’t come in the fall, for whatever reason, Torino really should be on your bucket list of places to visit and explore. It really is a different version of Italy than you are probably used to.

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Delhi was more than I expected to be honest. The vibrancy and “controlled” chaos is unlike anything I’ve seen elsewhere.

(updated 30 August 2020)

Delhi was more than I expected to be honest.   I knew that I would find poverty, immense poverty, and I suspected that I would harassed by men seeing the foreigner and by young children desperate to sell me pretty much anything that they could get their hands on. But what I didn’t expect was the intense kindness that nearly every Indian that I came in to contact with, even those on the streets of Delhi still trying to “help the foreigner.” I’m not sure I would choose to return to India of my own volition, but if given the opportunity to return for work, I would certainly take that opportunity to learn more, explore more, and experience more as I think this conflicted country – between the rich and the poor, the educated and the not, the happy and the sad – has so much more to offer.

monkeys on the roofNites

Being that this was my first time in Delhi, I don’t have a lot to offer but what I can, I am confident of. Hotels near Connaught place are definitely the safer place to stay. I was fortunate to stay at the Shangri-La Hotel (http://www.shangri-la.com/newdelhi/erosshangrila/) which I really quite liked: the rooms were large, the bed was conformtable, the staff were great, and the breakfast was fantastic!

My dream hotel (for my next visit) has got to be The Imperial (http://www.theimperialindia.com/). Oh my goodness this hotel is stunning! The night I was there, there was a reception outside with the hotel awash in lavender and the scent of jasmine everywhere. I truly didn’t want to leave!

The other hotel that I am dying to try – so I guess I need to go back at least twice – is the Claridges hotel (http://www.claridges.com/index.asp), the grounds look amazing and truly removed from everything that you see outside of the hotel gates.

I took this opportunity on this trip to try somewhere new and I can honestly say that the Le Meridien (https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/delmd-le-meridien-new-delhi/)  on Windsor Place is a keeper.  Just like the Shangri-La above, it is located within about a 45 minute stroll to the Gate of India and 15 minutes or so to Connaught Place.  But the hotel itself if stunning, with ample space and an amazing sense of calmness for such a large hotel.  If you can have access to the lounge on the top floor, do it: dining, or having an evening cocktail in tranquility is such a lovely approach before your day or to end your day before venturing out to dinner.

But reader beware: as lovely as Windsor Place is, or anywhere in Delhi for that matter, the streets are broken up with round-abouts.  Why beware?  Because these round-abouts mean that you can’t walk in a straight line without having to cross traffic and if you are not of a strong disposition, and perhaps a bit of daredevil, this is a crazy thing to navigate.  So, if this freaks you out, call an Uber (SIM cards are only about 600INR for great service and coverage), a taxi, or take a tuc-tuc.


Hands down, this is my favourite experience, ever, in New Delhi and would be the only place I’d go if I had just one night: Indian Accent (http://indianaccent.com/newdelhi/) at the Le Parker Meridien.  There is an a la cart menu, and there are only 2 seatings each night (19.00 and 21.45) but go for the chef’s tasting menu!  It is a visual parade that tingles your senses with each subsequent course.  And for what amounts to less than $100, it is so worth the adventure.    (And FYI: there is a New York restaurant that I have got to try!)

If I had 2 nights in Delhi, I would choose to dine at The Spice Route (http://www.theimperialindia.com/the_spice_route/). This was truly an experience worth every penny! The interior design was like nothing I have every seen, the food exquisite, and the overall mood of the hotel (The Imperial) breathtaking.

If I had a third night, I would go to Dhaba (http://www.claridges.com/the-claridges-newdelhi/dining-daba.asp) in the Claridges hotel. I had read about this restaurant and was so not disappointed! The idea was to give you the feel of being in a rickshaw with oustanding food to act as a counterpoint.


If you have the time, and the money, you must go to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. It may sound touristy, and it’s a long drive, but trust me when I tell you it is worth every second.

In Delhi itself, and if you have the stamina for some jostling and some haggling and a lot of horn-honking, you must experience Old Delhi. Everyone told me to try the street food – I couldn’t and I’m not sure you should unless you have a handy dose of antibiotic treatments and a lot of hand-sanitizer – but everything else about Old Delhi is amazing. It makes the soukes of Morocco seem quaint and calming!

Taj Mahal closerDelhi is an amazing place full of joy and sadness, and riches and destitution, and not something that is easily explained or enthusiastically promoted, but I don’t regret going and I sincerely hope that I will be able to return sometime soon and share more of my findings with you.

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Burano – the colours, the solitude, and the tranquility calm me and inevitably bring a smile to this sometimes-hardened face.

(updated 30 August 2020)

A trip to Venice is never a trip without an excursion to Burano, probably my favourite island (yes, even more so than Venezia), only because the colours, the solitude, and the tranquility calm me and inevitably bring a smile to this sometimes-hardened face.


In my next iteration, I will build a small, boutique hotel on Burano so that a lucky few can enjoy the wonders of this magical island.  Why, you ask?  Because there are no hotels on this island!  But thanks to the folks at Venissa (http://www.venissa.it/ospitalita/wine-resort-camere/) they’ve begun buying individual flats at both the restaurant location on Mazzorbo as well as around Burano.  I must admit that I have not had the pleasure of staying here but it won’t be long.  Trust me!


Venissa (http://www.venissa.it/) is three parts, not equal but each divine in their own right.  Il Vino is a lovely wine tasting venue of their outstanding local wine.  Il Ristorante is their Michelin starred restaurant that serves haute italiana cuisine, if I can say that.  They specialize in either 5-, 7-, or 9- course menus, and none are cheap, but I would argue that each is worth the experience.  They also offer a la carte but don’t expect the prices at the local trattoria.  And then there is the Osteria, which is my favourite, simply because I love the décor, the staff are outstanding, and the food divine.  It’s still not nona’s cooking at the local osteria, so the prices are a little higher, but my goodness it is worth it.

And if you’re on Burano during the day, and you need a bite to eat, the Trattoria al Gatto Nero is just as wonderful, and just as difficult to get a table at.  So, make a reservation in advance or be prepared to wait in line for up to an hour or more https://www.gattonero.com/.

There are of course pizzerias along the main tourist area, and scattered along the numerous canals but it is the above that I would gravitate too without hesitation.


There aren’t specific places that one must seek out while in Burano, or Mazzorbo, but, instead, walk.  Just walk, and walk, and walk, and when you find a canal that looks intriguing, take it.  It’s an island after all, and a small as well, so you really can’t get lost except for getting lost in the stunning colours of the city.

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Pavia, Italy – an amazing college town in Northern Italy with so much to see, and amazing places to dine, all while only be an hour outside of Milano.

Like so many cities in Italy, Pavia is filled with unparalleled history: from the likes of famous scientists to artists like DaVinci who spent time in this gorgeous city and contributed to the design of the stunning Duomo (or should I say, lay out).  But it is also home to a world-famous university which is part of what brings this little city such charm: it is a college town but it is also a humble town of amazing and kind people who welcome these tourists with open arms.


Without a doubt, the Arnaboldi Palace hotel (https://arnaboldipalace.com) (https://antychecase.com/) must be one of the most exquisite places I have ever stayed or seen.  A new hotel in a stunning old building that has recently been renovated, the spaces are large, the lounge where you have breakfast in the morning is large enough for a party for that special occasion, and the rooms decorated with care and stunning alacrity. 

The folks at Antyche Place (https://antychecase.com/) have a dependence not too far from the Arnaboldi Palace that is the perfect place for families as, at least the room that I stayed in, the rooms have small kitchenette areas where food and things can be prepared and lovely views over the Duomo Square.


If I only had one night in Pavia, I would head straight to Ristorante Lino (http://www.ristorantelino.com/).  Stunning in its art deco design and attention to detail, the food is outstanding and the wine list exhaustive.  But most impressive was the attentive staff who were never intrusive but always helpful and ensured that everything was perfect.

And if I had a second night – because you really should have a second night in this amazing town – head straight to Locanda del Carmine (http://www.locandadelcarmine.com/).   Located in the piazza in front of the chiesa del Carmine, this little restaurant is fantastic!  The staff were outstanding and the owner, who was my own personal savior, divine!  Why the shout out to the owner?  Because like much of the winter cuisine in norther Italy, the food is heavy and there is a reliance on risotto and gnocchi, both of which I find heavy and neither particularly appealing.  And as luck would have it, gnocchi were the only vegetarian option on the menu but thanks to the owner, I was served an amazing pasta with fresh vedge and beans, almost like a play on minestrone (and I devoured it!).


No visit to Pavia would be complete without visiting the stunning churches that, although appearing rather rough from the outside, are absolutely stunning on the interior.  The Duomo is a must-stop, as are S. Michele Maggiore and Santa Maria del Carmine. 

Also of note at the Duomo is the museum under the church that includes amazing artifacts from the church, as well as stunning mosaics from the church floor and other local churches that have been decommissioned.

A recent addition to the tourist scene is the Kosmos Museum (https://museokosmos.eu/), a stunning re-envisioned natural history museum that takes walks you through history as animals have migrated or been transported by humans, with the ultimate conclusion of what global warming and pollution have done to our environment and world.  The folks with the vision behind this museum are to be commended for their approach and unique outlook on making a museum actually fun and interesting.

And last, but arguably most importantly, there is the Certosa di Pavia.  The Certosa is a functioning monastery located just outside of Pavia and it is worth the effort to get there.  Not be forewarned: even if you take the local train from Pavia to the next step for the Certosa, you are still a few miles away from the actual monastery so plan carefully, and be sure to allow yourself time to enjoy the architecture and the relics inside this glorious place.  It’s been years since I first visited the Certosa and I still dream about returning, that’s how wonderful this place is.

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Mumbai is an incredible mix of old and new, upscale and slums, modernity and the way things have always been done… all of which should not be missed.

An incredible mix of old and new, upscale and slums, modernity and the way things have always been done… all of which should not be missed.


As this was my first time in Mumbai and I was here for work, it was important that I stay near the center and closer to hospitals and medical colleges so I chose the ITC Grand Central (https://www.itchotels.in/hotels/mumbai/itcgrandcentral.html), a truly stunning hotel that isolates you, and insolates you, from the insane traffic just outside the door.  The staff were amazing and the décor very calm and inviting.  And as part of the Marriott chain, it makes it just a tad more attractive.  (And if you can swing access to the Club Floor Lounge, do it; amazing breakfast in the morning, high tea in the afternoon, and cocktails before dinner.

If Marriott isn’t your thing, or you just want to try other options, the Oberoi chain in Asia is absolutely stunning!  Price can be a challenge here but if you consider what I mentioned in my earlier post (https://www.oberoihotels.com/hotels-in-mumbai/), you might get an affordable price that is just worth a few rupees more!


If I only had one night in Mumbai – and honestly, if I had two, I would choose the same place! – you must go to The Bombay Canteen (http://thebombaycanteen.com/).  Please, don’t be put off by the online pictures of the outside, and not get frightened when your car turns in to what appears to be a luxury mall; tucked in the back is this larger than expected restaurant with the most amazing staff, who are so helpful, and divine food!  The bar is wonderful as well and I can attest to their classic cocktail skills.  But it was the food: a slightly inventive take on Indian cuisine, but not so much of a take as to call it “nouveau” because, as you know, I don’t like pretentious anything.

I can also recommend Trishna (no website), another out of the way hotel that is truly an oasis on what appears to be a small side street, in a city of small side streets. The outside décor is all glitz and glamour – a bit over the top to be honest – whereas the inside is very small and minimalist.  My taxi driver said it was the best fish restaurant in the city and although I don’t eat fish, I can guarantee that the veg dishes were top notch.


Mumbai is an amazing and diverse city spread out over unknown miles and the only real way to see the sites is via a tour.  To be honest, my tour guide wasn’t the best – she was supposed to be with me 2 days but switched to another guide on the second day and neither really gave more detail than when a building was built – so I won’t provide any specifics here.  But I will tell you that you must see the Gate of India, the Taj Hotel near the Gate, and most importantly, you must visit Elephanta Island.  Every guide book will tell you this but, truly, it is imperative!  But reader beware: the boat trip to the island is painfully slow with nothing to see, and upon arrival at Elephanta, even if you don’t pay the few rupees extra for the “tram” to the base of the UNESCO site, you will have to walk some steep steps to visit the monument.  So bring plenty of bottled water!

And when you reach Elephanta Island, have your cameras ready: the monkeys are playing everywhere and they are too cute to describe.

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More than just gorgeous canals

I love Amsterdam.  Full stop.   The people are amazing and helpful, the food divine, and there is a tranquility about the city that keeps me coming back as often as I can.


If you want a truly wonderful and homey experience, you must try and book a room at the Hotel Seven Bridges (http://www.sevenbridgeshotel.nl/cms/).  I tried for years to get in here and when I finally did, I wasn’t disapointed.  The staff is great and the rooms really quite cool and filled with antiques.  (They even include information on the antiques in your room so you know what you are living with.)   The owners live on the ground floor and it’s really quite interesting in that the “reception” is closed at night so you pretty much come and go as you please, just as if it were your own house.

My other favourite hotel in Amsterdam is the Hotel Pullitzer (http://www.pulitzeramsterdam.com/) which is just amazing.  It’s a bit more upscale the Seven Bridges, but doesn’t have as much individual charm so take your pick.  Either way, you won’t be disappointed.


Le Garage (http://www.restaurantlegarage.nl/), which is near the Rijksmuseum, is a funky cool place with incredible food!  I loved it and want to go back

De Vijff Vlieghen (https://www.vijffvlieghen.nl/en/) is a classic restaurant with out of this world food.  And it’s not pretensious, even if it is one of the standard restaurants in the city.

BIHP Art and Food (http://www.bihp.nl/) is also close to the Seven Bridges hotel and is a quaint little place.  The menu is small, but fantastic, and they even made something for me, the vegetarian.

Restaurant Bussia (http://www.bussia.nl/) I can’t go anywhere without finding good Italian food and this was it for me!

And if you want a truly interesting experience, take a taxi to the former Olympic Stadium and book a table at Vak Zuid (http://www.vakzuid.nl/nl/). This is a great place for drinks and people watching and the food is amazing!  It’s a little on the loud side, but worth it.  (and don’t worry, it doesn’t become a night club until around 11pm).


(coming soon)

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Vancouver BC – Truly, what a stunning city! And one that I want to return to to investigate, and wonder around, and get lost within. And although my time here was short, I have no qualms in recommending some great hotels and restaurants! Head north and enjoy!


I typically try to avoid chain hotels if I can but on my first visit, because it was for a conference, I stayed at the Hyatt Regency Vancouver (http://vancouver.hyatt.com/en/hotel/home.html) which was lovely, centrally located to the convention center and shopping, and the staff sincerely went out of their way to help any time it was needed.

The Fairmont Pacific Rim (http://www.fairmont.com/pacific-rim-vancouver/) is absolutely stunning and I will be staying here on my next visit.  I was fortunate enough to see a room – with a water view and it was outstanding! – and it looks pretty close to spectacular.

And if money is no object, The Loden (http://theloden.com/) is your place to go!   It ain’t cheap, and I couldn’t justify the expense, but the pictures on their website make me drool and want to stay here.


The restaurant scene in Vancouver is hopping and I definitely need more time so that I can share more finds.  But if your time is short, these few options should hold you over.

My favourite restaurant is a vegetarian restaurant that is not in the center of the city so it might not be the easiest to reach (you need a taxi) nor the most appealing for everyone.  The Acorn (http://www.theacornrestaurant.ca/) was outstanding and I sit here drooling just thinking of the food.  The restaurant is small, and the bar even smaller, but the food was out of this world and the staff were so gracious and kind that I didn’t want to leave!  The food is seasonal, as it should be, so be sure to put this on your agenda.  But reader beware: the Acorn doesn’t take reservations – something troubling to this traveler who doesn’t queue for anything – but the wait was short and the old fashioned that I sipped a little too quickly as we waited made up for everything.

I’m also going to add the Wallflower (https://www.facebook.com/wallflowervancouver/) to my list even though I didn’t have the time to go here.  I’ve read a lot about it and it sounds scrumptious so I’m adding this to my list!

And last but certainly not least is Preston’s (http://www.prestonsrestaurant.ca/vancouver/), a short walk from the convention center if you’re in that neighborhood.  I went here once for lunch and then again for dinner and really enjoyed it.  The food was fairly traditional and certainly not overpriced and the drinks were affordable so it’s definitely worth a try!

And for you breakfast buffs, you must go to De Dutch (http://dedutch.com/). It’s unpretentious and wonderful food to start your day!  I had breakfast here and didn’t need to eat again until dinner!


Sadly, I didn’t have time to see anything except the inside of the convention center (stunning, as far as convention centers go!) and hotels but everyone I know raved about renting bikes and riding around Vancouver Island so I’m adding this in even though I didn’t have the opportunity to enjoy this play time.

So hop on that plane and get yourself to Vancouver!  And if you’re coming from the East Coast of the US as I did, you’ll probably need to stop over somewhere so maybe consider stopping over in Seattle – one of my favourite US cities – and make it a two-fer!  Enjoy and safe travels!

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Ia (Santorini), Greece

Santorini is really made up of two splendid villages: Fira and Ia.  Fira is more of the metropolis and Ia is the village where all of the pictures “from Santorini” are taken.  Although I love Fira and recommend that you go, I would encourage you to only do a day trip (or walk there, see details later) and rather use Ia as your base.


There are so many gorgeous places to stay in Ia that I really don’t know what to tell you.  My go to place had always been Alexander’s Boutique Hotel Oia (www.alexandershotel.com/hotel) and it really is a lovely place.  Unfortunately, however, they seem to be expanding in to other properties and, as such, their attention to clients lacks much.  And the fact that a ring was stolen while I was there, with no attempt to replace it of even apologize, makes me still question whether to return or not.  So, be warned: this is a lovely hotel and the cave houses are amazing, but know that the service may be rude and unhelpful.

If you want to have some true peace and quiet, I would encourage you to stay at one of the beautiful hotels between Ia and Fira, all of which look out over the caldera and have pools to squelch the afternoon heat.


Eating is a bit of pastime in Ia and you really can’t go wrong.  And because you are on the end of the island, most every restaurant has a view.  So, in all honesty, the determining factor of where to go could depend on price (and what you pay for the view).

Papagalos restaurant (papagalosrestaurant.com) was an amazing find and the food perfect for both this vegetarian and my non-vegetarian friends.

Ambrosia & Nectar (www.ambrosia-nectar.com) is probably my favourite choice because the décor was soothing, the staff outstanding, and the food sheer perfection!  There wasn’t a view of the caldera, unfortunately, but we sat outside, under a lovely canopy and watched the crowds go by, the sun set, and relaxed as if we were at home.

And if you want to splurge, you must go to 1800 (www.oia-1800.com).  Talk about service with a view!   The restaurant is on the top floor of what appears to be a very old house and truly, the views cannot be beat.  And the food?!  The food is beyond divine and worth every penny that this upscale restaurant will charge.  If you only have one night, this would be my recommendation to you.


It may seem odd to include a bar and a wine shop under the sites section, but trust me when I tell you that you must go to both.

Meteor café (www.meteorcafe.gr) is a site to behold at the end of one of the pedestrian-only streets before the street starts to curve down to the caldera.  Okay, it’s not cheap here – you are paying for the view as you do in most places – but the view is incredible, the soft jazz playing is relaxing, and when you need to just sit down, relax, or even have a drink before dinner, this is the place to go.  Sure, you will find lots of other places – and I encourage you to try them all – but if you need a highly recommended place, this is where you need to go!

And if you want to check a few bottles of wine in your luggage before you go, you must visit the lama wine store (www.lamatrade.com).  The owners are incredibly knowledgeable about Greek wines and didn’t steer us wrong.  And, quite honestly, the prices are cheaper here than they are in the convenience stores where you will have to go for all of your other provisions.

But now on to the actual sites in Ia.  Although it is a bit of cliché, watching the sunset in Ia is a site to behold.   There are boats that cruise the caldera but if you don’t want to spend the money, or have the food that I believe is included, just go walk to the tip of the island, one hour before sunset, and you will see everyone standing around waiting.  Not only is it a great place to people watch, but it is also a great time to have a drink and watch a truly beautiful aspect of nature.


Another thing that you must see, although not a site per se, is to walk from Ia to Fira (or the other way if you prefer): the views to the caldera are stunning, the exercise a welcomed change from sunning by the pool or on the gravel beaches, and the chance to see nature not something that every visitor to Santorini has the chance to do.

Santorini is really a place to relax and enjoy life.  You won’t find museums and even venues for music, but you will find outstanding views, meet truly sweet people, and enjoy a relaxation in life that we are rarely allowed to experience.

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Located over 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, Tromsø is an amazing, but small town, that invites all travelers with open arms and stunning views.

Located over 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, Tromsø is an amazing, but small town, that invites all travelers with open arms and stunning views.


Tromsø doesn’t have boutique hotels, as far as I could tell, and seems to be populated with a couple of major Nordic chain hotels, so my typical effort to find unique places was a bit thwarted on this adventure.  But after reviewing the available options, and seeing what the best deal I could find would be, I decided upon the Clarion Hotel With (https://www.nordicchoicehotels.com/hotels/norway/tromso/clarion-collection-hotel-with/), part of the Clarion Choice chain.  The staff were incredibly helpful and the breakfast in the morning (included) fantastic with everything that you could hope for.  When booking, confirm a room with a water view.  But be forewarned: the rooms are small as you pay for the view, and not the space.

Pretty much next to the Hotel With is the Scandic Ishavshotel.  I didn’t stay here but as most of the tours either meet here or across the street at the Radisson Blu, either would undoubtedly be an excellent place to stay.


A note on dining in Tromsø: being this far north, and if you’re there in the winter, options become a bit smaller and for a vegetarian, the options even fewer.  But they will try so venture out.  And if you enjoy fish, you can’t go wrong!

If I only had one night in Tromsø, I would go to Bardus (http://www.bardus.no/).  Located right across from the library (a former swimming hall), a seat on the window will provide a stunning view of life passing by in a lovely and quaint environment.  Although they didn’t have many options for a vegetarian, the chef tried and they were able to offer a starter and an entrée.

Another option, albeit located in a hotel, is Marcus Samuelsson’s Kitchen and Table (http://www.kitchenandtable.se/).  I loved it, although my friend wasn’t quite as impressed as I was, but the setting was amazing and the staff so incredibly helpful.

And the last place that I have to recommend, simply because it was my favourite, even though I didn’t eat here: Campagniet Restaurant (http://www.compagniet.no/).  We went to the bar and it was fantastic.   It was crowded and the list of wines by the glass, along with the beers, was outstanding!  Located on the second floor of an old building in the centre, try for a window seat as watching the city walk and drive by is really mesmerizing.  I would love to sit there right now with a glass of wine and tired feet.


Most people go to Tromsø for the sites and, as such, guidebooks and websites will tell you the various options available to you.  And since we were no different, I can make the following recommendations.

If you only have one night – as some of the tour groups did – you’ll want to try and see the Northern Lights.  I chose Enjoy the Arctic (http://enjoythearctic.no/).  Andrei was very informative and was as determined as we were to see the Northern Lights.  It was slightly precarious with the incoming clouds but we saw them and it truly is everything that you think it will be.  And props to Andrei for accommodating us with vegetarian food by the fire.  Note to the reader: it is cold so put your pride aside and take Andrei up on his offer of a snow suit.   We didn’t and it got very uncomfortably cold quite quickly!

If you have a full day, the first thing that you really should do is just explore Tromsø.  It really is a stunning city and really fun to get lost and to find your way back.  But if you have a second day, consider doing a whale watching tour.  Sadly, because of global warming, the herring aren’t coming as far “south” as Tromsø and, as such, the whales aren’t coming this far “south” either.  We chose Fjordtours (https://www.fjordtours.com/).  So, a whale watching tour will inevitably require you to take a boat about 2.5 hours north.  But it is so worth it; we were fortunate to see roughly 100 orcas and although we couldn’t see the humpbacks – as they don’t really come out of the water – you could see them spew water in the air from their blowholes.  Stunning!

Polaria (https://polaria.no/en/) is amazing!  The architectural design of the outside will elicit either a love-it or hate-it reaction: personally, I loved it and the idea that the building is slipping in to the water!  But most of all, I loved Bella the bearded sea lion.  When I heard that she was “fickle” and “opinionated”, how could you not love her in all of her big-girlness.  But more than Bella, being able to see and learn about sea life above the Arctic Circle was amazing and, suffice it to say, informative.

And last but not least, you must take the Fjellheisen (https://fjellheisen.no/en/) to the top of the mountain on Tromsdalen, across the fjord from Tromsø.  You can take a taxi over or, if you pay attention to the stops, you can take a bus from the city centre for a lot less.  Note to the reader: the bus stop is past the entrance to the Fjellheisen.  But trust me when I say that the views are stunning, and with sturdy hiking shoes, you can really enjoy some truly stunning vistas that you won’t get to see anywhere else.

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Easter Island – a true once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that should NOT be missed

Easter Island (Isla de Pasqua) is an environment, a society, and a culture completely unto itself and should be visited by everyone at least once in their lifetime. Why? Many of the cars are old and beat up, but still running (what I expect Cuba to be like when I finally visit). Telephone service and the internet exist, albeit slow and somewhat circa 1990s (be warned you digital maniacs!). Housing is only what it needs to be: protective and safe but really nothing more. But it all works in a non-hurried, self-sufficient sort of way. Here’s a great example: I went in to the “more modern” supermarket (as described by my hotel, amongst the 3 options that were provided) and what I found were large but mostly bare shelves with one or two of each thing except for the staples: rice, sugar, and flour. Everything else, I would venture to guess, is provided by the land and that, ultimately, is what I found so wonderful about Easter Island.

And although I will rarely tell you how much time to allow for a visit, Easter Island is the exception: you need at least 2 full days on the Island to be able to see the numerous Moai and to learn about this amazing land, it’s history, and to meet its people. I flew in on a morning flight from Santiago so I had half a day to walk around the “centre” and left on day 4, in the afternoon, to allow myself the necessary time to explore. And the other tourists I spoke with agreed: 3 nights is the optimal time required.


In my research, there were three levels of accomodations on the island: the hostal/room in a house for about $60, the mid-range at about $200 – $300, and the all-inclusive for well over $600 – $1300 per night. When choosing your hotel, I would encourage you to choose something close to the “centre” of town as there isn’t much else happening on the island that you can see on your own.

I chose the Hotel Puku Vai (www.pukuvaihotel.com) which is a short 5 minute walk from the airport and one of the mid-level hotels. (Don’t worry: only LAN airlines flies in and out, once a day, so there is no airport noise.) Right off a main street and a 15 minute walk to the main street and “centre”, the staff are kind and helpful, the breakfast extensive, and the rooms clean and what I would guess to be traditional. I will be honest and say that I was nervous when I viewed the pictures on the web but there is something very important to keep in mind that will help you with everything on the island: remember that Santiago and Hawaii are both about 4000km away so everything on this island, if it’s not grown here, is imported. It’s all relative.

Another place that I saw, but was quite expensive when I initially made my inquiries, is the HangaRoa Eco Village situated right on the coast. The rooms look stunning and only a few minutes away from the “centre” so if money is less of an issue, you really should consider this hotel.


Keep in mind that if it’s not grown on the island, it’s been imported (via the daily LAN flights from Santiago!) which means that things can be expensive and food options somewhat limited. This is also important to keep in mind for lunch and dinner: you can’t just walk up and say “I’d like ___” like we normally do: they have enough food on hand for the planned meals; unplanned meals are more difficult to cater for so be prepared. And for my vegetarian readers, as well as those with food allergies, this won’t be a dining paradise I’m afraid. But you’ll survive and the food choices should not stop you from visiting this amazing place.

La Kaleta (no website) is a lovely little restaurant in the centre of town, near the ocean. Its location, of course, makes for a lovely site for dinner with sunset views. The menu is mixed, focusing heavily on seafood of course, but there is also meat and pasta dishes, all written on a chalkboard for everyone to view. They also have a full-service bar which is not too expensive and the staff speak varying degrees of English so I would definitely put this on your list of places to dine.

The other place that I dined, and which would probably be my “if I only had one night on the island” choice, was Kaloa Pasta and Bistro at the HangaRoa Hotel. With stunning views over the ocean, which makes for a very special sunset dinner, the prices weren’t much more expensive than any other place on the island, the staff was great and spoke wonderful English, and the kitchen was willing to help this vegetarian with a lovely pasta primavera!


And organized tour is a must. If you can afford it, I would book a private tour as I am certain that you will learn of things that a larger, group, tour isn’t able to offer. Kia Koe Tours appears to be the largest on the island and that is who I used, based on recommendations from the hotel. The other that I saw, and which appeared to be doing the same route was Mahinatur and, from what I overheard, they seemed to be a bit more in to the history of the island so they might be worth a try but I don’t know the prices.

Rano Raraku Moai seventeen and eighteen

Other than the mandatory tours, there really isn’t much to be done on the island. I was here on a Friday and Saturday night and it was no different than the Sunday night: subdued, relatively quiet (except for the chickens, dogs, and occasional motorcycle), and no nightlife to be had.

sunset day 2 02

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Santiago – a unique blend of old, communist, and avant garde

(updated 12 October 2018)

Santiago de Chile is an interesting place to say the least: there are gorgeous examples of old architecture, remnants of hard times gone by but still in use, and modern buildings and streets that look forward to the future. For a brief stint – perhaps on your way to Patagonia, over to Easter Island, or in combination with Buenos Aires – this city has much to offer. For a longer stint, for which I must admit I was here on business, it can get a bit tough to keep yourself occupied I’m afraid. But don’t let that stop you as a lifetime is really not complete without a visit to Santiago and to experience the charm and friendliness of the Chilean people.


I had the great fortune to stay at two amazing hotels while in Santiago. In the Providencia neighborhood, and close to numerous forms of public transportation is the Le Reve Boutique Hotel (http://www.lerevehotel.cl/). The rooms are large and comfortable, the breakfast is ample and delicious, and the staff are amazing. And the gardens! Stunning and a welcomed respite from the craziness that can be just outside the front doors of the hotel.

The other hotel that I can recommend is The Aubrey (http://www.theaubrey.com/). More expensive than Le Reve, this lovely hotel with just 15 rooms is situated at the base of the Cerro San Cristobal in the Bellavista neighborhood. Fun, hip, restaurants are just around the corner and the staff is unlike anything I’ve ever encountered; I didn’t want to leave the room or the hotel.   And the bar! My god, the bar!

The Aubrey bar 02The Aubrey sitting room


Santiago, and Chile as a whole, is not really known for the culinary charm but I had the pleasure of visiting a few restaurants that I would gladly return to.

If you only have one night in Santiago, I would go to La Bodeguita de Miguel Torres (https://www.labodeguitamigueltorres.cl/) located just off of Vitacura. A truly stunning restaurant with lovely ambiance and food, you will find a plethora of options that will even satisfy the vegetarian in the group.

For a slight change in food, or perhaps just something a bit more traditional(ish) is Los Cuates (http://www.restaurant-loscuates.cl/). There’s nothing overly special in the décor but the staff are amazing and the food (all Mexican) is outstanding!

If you stay at La Reve, there are a number of restaurants on the small street that the hotel shares. Luco’s Hamburgueseria is a charming place that only serves burgers but has great happy hour drinks and makes a mean pisco sour. And as of this writing, there’s a charming guy named Juan who will keep you happy all night long! And on the same street, just a few doors down, is El Huerto (http://www.elhuerto.cl/), a cool yet calm vegetarian restaurant that was a welcomed retreat from much of the heavier food


Sadly, I didn’t happen upon anything that I didn’t read about in guidebooks and articles about Santiago. But as I always do, the opportunity to just walk and get lost is an experience in and of itself and I encourage everyone to at least do that.

virgin mary atop cerro san cristobal detailed side

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Vignacastrisi – a tiny village of remarkable strength and beauty

I lived in Rome for nearly 6 years, and I visit at least 2 times a year, and hands down, Vignacastrisi has got to be the smallest village I have ever stayed in.  Yet, it was worth the adventure, and something that I am confident I will never forget about, even if my travels don’t take me back to this small town but, instead to new tiny village adventures!


From what I can tell, there are few B&Bs, and a couple of agriturismos in Vignacastrisi, and one other establishment (but a hotel?) called the Palazzo Guglielmo (http://www.palazzoguglielmo.co.uk/).  I’m not sure how I found the Palazzo, as there is literally nothing to do or see in this tiny village, but it is an absolutely amazing oasis of call and rest in this out of the way village.  The breakfast  is absolutely stunning and the cappuccini (yes, plural, because they were so good that I had 2 each morning like a little piggy) which made for the perfect start to a relaxing day!

palazzo-guglielmo-breakfast-spreadThe Palazzo has a small pool, but not really room for more than 8 people, and not all in the pool all at the same time.  The rooms are large and spacious but quite open to the other guests unless you close the door-windows (I would beg for curtains so that a little light could come in rather than cave-darkness, personally). The ground floor rooms have their own tiny gardens (often shared) where you can continue to relax and read.  (Note to the readers: there are no telephones in the rooms, nor are there TVs, but the WiFi is pretty good so that you can stay connected.)

palazzo-gugliemo-gardenThis really is an oasis because, within the walls of the Palazzo (and the nearly city block that they have assumed) you have all that you want and English is a nearly perfect second language for those who don’t speak Italian. I heard a number of people saying that this is the umpteenth year in a row that they’ve gone to the Palazzo and I get it: it’s an oasis, without   the stress of having to speak Italian, and a gorgeous opportunity to relax and unwind.  (For the record, I never spoke English at any time in the Palazzo or surrounding areas.)


I’m embarrassed to admit that I ate at the same restaurant 3 times while I stayed in Vignacastrisi.  But my goodness was it worth it!  The Casa dell’Angelo  is part  of the Palazzo with both an entrance from the Palazzo grounds, as well as from the outside, and the chef is an absolute genius!  On my first night, the Palazzo had let the staff now that I was vegetarian and it was amazing.  Oh, and the wine list, was  incredible and the staff so knowledgeable that not only did I have a constant smile on my face from the wines  I tried, but I also have ordered a case of my favourite wine upon returning home!  But back to the food: on subsequent nites, the staff made sure that I didn’t have the same food as previous evenings and suggested new wines to try.  It really was that good!

casa-dellangelo-antipasti casa-dellangelo-primiAs I said, I’m embarrassed  that I ate at the same place every night which is not something that I normally do.  In my defense, I was to eat at the Agriturismo L’Aia (https://www.aiadisangiorgio.it/) which I heard was wonderful but they were closed the night I wanted to go and on the following night, the torrential downpour and 10 minute walk in said downpour played against me.

Neighbors at the Palazzo recommended the Pizzeria La Stua (never found in any of my searches) (https://www.facebook.com/lastuavigna/).  Although they admitted it wasn’t fancy – “it has paper tablecloths” – they said the pizza was fantastic and the pasta, although simple, was delicious.  And it’s very family friendly.  I wish I had known as I would have tried as the mere word “pizzeria” makes my mouth water.


Truly, there are no sites in Vignacastrisi.  Upon my arrival at the Palazzo, and because I had already broken out in to a sweat – it was HOT and humid – I asked for a map and was given one of Lecce.  So I asked for one of Vignacastrisi and was told that there’s not much in the village but still printed out a Google map so that I didn’t get lost.  In less than 1.5 hours, I had traversed the entire village, and every street.

On a subsequent day, in between rain showers, I walked to Castro, a larger village with a marina and “beaches” a little over 2 km away.  It was a lovely walk, and good to be moving, but there wasn’t that much to do and see in Castro either.

So, why you ask, should you go to Vignacastrisi or any of the surrounding villages?  Because it’s a part of Italy that if you really want to know more about, it is integral to the fabric of this culture, and these people, that I so dearly love.  Italy is more than Milano, Firenze, or Roma but small communities that exist and even thrive on their uniqueness and it is fun!

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Just a hint of what Ireland has in store

Bring an umbrella and always carry it with you.  That is the best advice anyone can keep in mind when visiting Dublin.  It’s a gorgeous city but the words of a taxi driver hold true: “I can tell you the weather report for the next 6 months… cloudy, with bouts of sunshine, the occasional rain shower and a gusty wind or two.”   And how true it was!


The first place to look for availability must be Butler’s Townhouse (http://www.butlers-hotel.com/).  It’s a bit out of the way – but an absolutely lovely walk in to town or the convention center – but the hominess of the townhouse is unrivaled in all of my travels.  Cecilia, the lovely and accommodating manager was a literal breath of fresh air every day and went well out of her way to help in every way possible.  In fact, upon leaving Butler’s Townhouse, I felt a pang of sadness as though I was leaving a friend.

If Butler’s is full, or you want to spend more money, check out Number 31 (http://www.number31.ie/) my second choice for a place to stay in Dublin.  There are, of course, numerous chain hotels that you can frequent but none will give you the personal touch that either Butler’s or Number 31 can do.


Dublin has apparently really come in to its own in terms of the restaurant scene.  In fact, they have a Michelin Starred restaurant, L’Ecrivain (http://www.lecrivain.com/) which I wasn’t able to get in to but next time.

Brasserie Sixty6 is a brilliant and lively restaurant with a fresh take on Irish cuisine (http://www.brasseriesixty6.com/ may be closed).  The food was divine and the wine list really quite broad with a bit of something for everyone.

As anyone who reads my blog knows, I love farm to table restaurants and Dublin’s The Farm (http://www.thefarmrestaurant.ie/) hits the mark straight on the head!  You must go: pleasing for both the vegetarian and the carnivore alike, the staff where fun and informed and the food absolutely divine.  (The “beet me up” dinner was out of this world!)

The ely group has a number of restaurants around the city that I understand are some of the best in the city.  I can personally recommend ely Gastropub (http://www.elywinebar.ie/) for their fantastic food, great beer, and fantastic staff.  I can only assume that their other restaurants are equally as good.

If, after a lovely dinner, you are in the need for a evening drink, I would recommend either the Palace bar (http://www.thepalacebardublin.com/) and Bowes pub (http://www.dublinpubscene.com/thepubs/bowes.html), the latter proudly stating that they have 130 some odd types of whiskey (I only had 3).  Of course there are lots of pubs and bars around so I just say, pop in and have a blast.

And lastly, and not exactly a “bite,” there is the Celtic Whiskey Shop (http://www.celticwhiskeyshop.com/).  This is a must and if you can speak with Michael, do so: according to three different bar tenders that I spoke to, Michael is probably the most knowledgeable person in all of Dublin when it comes to Whiskey.  (Suffice it to say that I left Dublin with two bottles of Yellow Spot, the big brother to the more typical Green Spot Whiskey!)


Regrettably, I didn’t have much of a chance to do much sightseeing but I can tell you that you must – must – visit the Book of Kels which is amazing but to this bibliophile, the library that is part of the tour is breathtaking and if they would have let me, I would have stood there for hours thinking about the books there, the people who used them daily, and the love that went in to their creation.

Christ Church is a must do when going to Dublin.  I’ve honestly seen better cathedrals in the world, but given that it is the oldest church in Europe, a trip to Dublin wouldn’t be complete without paying homage.

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Firenze, Italy

Florence is one of those places that I think the adjective “indifferent” best applies to how I feel about the city: I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it (like I do Rome and Venice) either, so it’s just there.  Don’t get me wrong: Florence is a beautiful city and has so much amazing art and architecture that one must visit at least once in their lives.  Whether you choose to return after that first visit, well, you’ll just have to tell me won’t you?


Like most hotels in Europe, there seems to be a lot on both ends of the spectrum and not a lot in the middle.  But don’t let that deter you.  And, whatever you do, don’t start thinking about the conversion rate of euro to your national currency: think of them as 1 to 1 if at all possible.  It honestly helps put things in perspective.

It is also important to keep my one most vital tip in mind: never book off of a website, but rather, write to the hotel directly asking for availability and the best available rate.  9 times out of 10, I get a great rate that is not available on the web.  And if you are staying for 3 nights or more, there is normally a better rate available.  Why waste money when a few minutes of time is all you need to write an email.

That said, my new favourite chain of hotels in Florence is the Lungarno Hotels group (www.lungarnohotels.com).  This is a relatively new chain of hotels in Florence, and part of the larger group of Design Hotels (www.designhotels.com) throughout Europe.  The Lungarno Hotels are all clumped together near the Ponte Vecchio (where you will, no doubt, want to go and explore).  The lower end of the hotes, I think, is the Gallery Art hotel and it is still quite stunning.  The common areas are akin to a library and personal art gallery and the rooms range from good-sized to suites.  My only complaint, if you will, is that each of the rooms has hardwood floors (a good thing) but when the lazy people above you can’t pick up a chair, but drag it – especially in the middle of the night – well, you can imagine.

Another hotel that I feel confident in recommending is the Borghese Palace Art Hotel (https://www.borghesepalace.it/contatti/).  I passed by this with a friend and then went back to have a look around and let me tell you: it looks stunning!  I will be staying here next time, just to have a look and advise my readers better.

If, by chance, you are in Florence for a conference or need to be near the train station, there is a 4 Star hotel called the Hotel Croce di Malta (www.crocedimaltaflorence.com) where I have stayed before.  In all honesty, it is pushing it to give this hotel 4 stars, but it is clean, the staff were great, and if you don’t have much time, its location really can’t be beat.


Until this visit, I had never been overly impressed with the restaurant scene in Florence.  Perhaps things have changed, or my sleuthing has gotten better, but I think that this time around I managed to avoid most of the overly-touristic restaurants.  My favourite, by far and away, was Buca dell’Orafo (www.bucadellorafo.com).  The staff were outstanding, the rigatoni with a smoked tomato sauce divine, and the atmosphere very non-touristy.  And the best part: although the staff does speak a bit of English, they are willing to let you speak in Italian.  Try it!  Italians prefer that you try rather than be lazy or, worst yet, purposefully butcher it like many of the young tourists walking around.

Another restaurant that I thoroughly enjoyed was Boccanegra (www.boccanegra.com).  There are 3 parts to this restaurant: the ristorante, the osteria, and the continetta.  I opted for the osteria because that is what I love about Italian cooking: I want to see what I am eating, taste what I am eating, and not be confused by what I am eating and tasting.  That’s what an osteria is to me.  The staff here were very friendly and not cloyingly attentive like many places can be.  And let me tell you: the caprese was the best that I’ve had in the city to date!  And I ate caprese every night!  And although I don’t eat meat, they are supposedly known for their bistecca fiorentina (which I heard was great) which means that their wine list is heavy on the reds.  For 29 euro, we had an outstanding, full-bodied red that was not a chianti and was the cheapest wine on the list.  And it was the waiter’s recommendation to us!  Oh yeah, before I forget: don’t be put off by what some of the reviews on those other sites say.  I didn’t read any of those before going and only know of their opinions the day after and I still loved it.

Il Latini (www.illatini.com) was recommended to me but I wasn’t able to go.  It’s listed on many of the sites out there and I hear it is good from a couple of friends so I would believe them and go.


I can’t really add much to the list of sites that one must visit when in Florence: the Uffizi Gallery, “il Gigante” (aka, David), and the ponte vecchio as well as those amazing things that you see and find along the way.  So, instead, I will encourage you to go to 2 places for a drink either before a late dinner or after dinner, because the views are spectacular.  The first is actually the rooftop bar at the Continentale hotel (part of the Lungaro Hotel group).  The banquettes around the rooftop are incredibly comfortable and the views over the city breathtaking!  What better way to wind down the evening.  (And not a lot of people know about this place so it really is quite calming.)

The other place I would recommend it to go to the Forte di Belvedere on the “other side” of the Arno river.  It’s a bit of a walk – nothing better than after a filling meal of pasta and meat right?! – but well worth it.  Just find an enoteca that appeals, sit down, have a drink, and be amazed at the views back over the Arno at Firenze.  This really is a sight that should not be missed!

And with that my friends, put on your walking shoes and explore one of the cities in the country that I love and affectionately refer to as home.

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Barcelona, Spain

(updated 04 August 2012)

I find it difficult to choose between Barcelona and Madrid as my favourite place in Spain.  Each offers such different things to enjoy, admire, and fall in love with that I’m not sure if I will ever have a favourite.  But for this writing, allow me to wax nostalgically about Barcelona, a true gem of Europe.


One of my favourite Spanish hotel chains is the Room Mate hotels.  Now, if you’ve read other posts, you will know that I am not a fan of chain hotels.  But this chain is great: they are funky, the staff are young, hip and knowledgeable, and the hotels are typically located in residential areas so you don’t feel as though you are among the throngs of tourists mulling about.  In Barcelona, there is Room Mate Emma (http://www.room-matehotels.com/eng/barcelonahotel/emmahotel/emmahotel.php).  It is just a short walk to everything – las Ramblas, the convention centre, and every conceivable restaurant option you could want – and I highly recommend it.

The next hotel that I suspect I will book is the Hotel Sixty Two (http://www.sixtytwohotel.com/).  I have finally had the chance to stay here are it is all that i hoped it would be!   Classy, minimalist design, and if you’re coming from the airport, you can take the train, get off in BCN, and it’s only a few blocks walk.  Absolutely stunning!

I’ve heard good things about the Hotel Montecarlo Barcelona, although I haven’t stayed here, so you’ll have to let me know what you think if you go.  (http://www.montecarlobcn.com/?gclid=CLGa06Hz1qwCFcV_5Qod1jirqw)

The U232 Hotel (http://www.u232hotel.com/default-en.html) is another option if you are traveling to BCN.   The hotel design is vintage Ralph Lauren in black, cherry, taupe and everything I hoped it would be.   The staff are amazing and very helpful and the location in a somewhat residential part of BCN is amazing.   For those business travels out there, just know: the internet connection in the hotel is dreadful.  Not only is it weak and kept cutting off, but even in the lobby – where I would work each morning –  the signal is pretty dim so just be prepared and be patient.  The hotel  is worth the stay, just not the free internet!


I love the food in Barcelona!  It’s not the easiest place for a vegetarian to eat, but I’ve yet to have a problem and I can say with all pride and admiration that every restaurant has gone  out of their way to make something for me, beyond the typical grilled vegetable platter.

Restaurant Gaig is a Michelin starred and worth every penny, but very expensive (http://www.restaurantgaig.com/).   It’s just down a small little alley/street from my personal favourite restaurant in Barcelona so if you can’t get in, or don’t have dosh to splurge, check out

Restaurant Tragaluz (http://www.grupotragaluz.com/tragaluz/).  Like I said, this is my favourite in the city!  If you can sit on the top floor, which is enclosed in glass, do it!  Note: if you arrive early, they won’t let you go to the restaurant as they want you to drink in the bar.  The bar is cool, but expensive so just be forewarned.  (The bar no longer exists and now it is an oyster bar but still, if you arrive early, they won’t seat you.  But still an amazing restaurant and still my favourite!)

Another favourite of mine in the city is the Casa Calvet (http://www.casacalvet.es/).  As you walk around Barcelona, you can’t help but notice the influence that Gaudi had on the city.  What makes this restaurant so special, besides the food, is that Casa Calvet was the first residence that Gaudi designed for a private client.  The restaurant is a tad on the posh side but it is such a lovely experience – almost like sitting in someone’s private home having dinner – that you really should try and go if you can.

And finally, and before I forget, you must seek out La Vinya del Senyor.  This is a lovely wine bar – among a plethora of wine bars – but this is truly the best with an amazing list of wines by the glass and some pretty tasty tapas as well.  It’s a walk from any of the hotels that I have mentioned, but that’s what you do: you walk and take in the sites of Barcelona all in anticipation of phenomenal wines (and perhaps a bit of cheese too!) before dinner.


I, personally, love La Segrada Familia, Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece and strongly encourage everyone to go.  But, whatever you do, don’t be rushed; take your time to look at the details and see all the different figures that are nearly hidden in the structure.   Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

I would also encourage you to stroll up the street (sorry, I can’t remember the name) that leads to Park Guell, another Gaudi masterpiece.  Yes, you can take the metro, a bus, or even a taxi but if you walk, will be greeted by more of Gaudi’s masterpieces along the street.  And once you are at Park Guell, stroll around and maybe even stop along your way to get some bread and cheese for a little picnic in the park.  You won’t regret the journey and you will love seeing all of the locals intermingled with the tourists admiring the beauty and vision of Gaudi and his park.

And if you have the time – or better yet, please, make the time – you must go to Montserrat, the hilltop religious center.  You won’t be disappointed, I promise.

Getting there is really quite easy: when in the metro station, you will see kiosks promoting Montserrat and telling you the options of how to get there so fear not, it really is easy.  When you get to Montserrat, just wonder.  And be sure to see the black virgin.

(Note: because Montserrat is on a hilltop, it can be quite cold up there so take a jacket, even if you are sweating from the heat in Barcelona.   You will need it!  And it will cover your shoulders when you go in the church.)

And with that, I encourage you to go and visit one of the most amazing cities  in Spain.  I think you will love it and want to return as soon as possible.  Enjoy!

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Milano – unlike much of Italy but still quintessentially Italian

(updated 29 Feb 2020)

Most people I know either love Milano or hate Milano: I’m still not sure why because I think it a fascinating, multi-cultural place with so much to see and do that I just can’t get enough.  But, perhaps, in retrospect, people don’t like Milano because it isn’t like the Italy we grew up with in our heads: little streets, little buildings, and lots of ruins.  But these are, in all honesty, what makes Milano such a fascinating destination.


Milano has every possible price point in terms of hotels.  And, needless to say, I haven’t stayed at all of them (!), but I do tend to stay at group of hotels, all of which I highly recommend.

If money is no object or you just want to splurge, you must stay at the Park Hyatt Milano (http://www.milan.park.hyatt.com/hyatt/hotels/index.jsp?null).  The hotel is located right next to the Gelleria Vittorio Emanuele II (the famous stain-glass covered shopping arcade) and the Duomo.

If you need something a little cheaper, but still close to the Duomo, go to the UNA Maison (http://www.unahotels.it/en/) which is about a block and half from the Duomo and a hotel of calm with a pallate of whites and beiges.  I love this hotel!

About a 15 minute walk further east (I think) is the Petite Palais Hotel ( http://www.petitpalais.it/).  This hotel has been hit and miss for me but the design, decor, and location make me keep coming back hoping for a good  room, as opposed to a corner room on the second floor that seems to invite all of the outside noise at all hours of the night.

Another more recent find is “the Yard” (http://www.theyardmilano.com/) a new endeavor by a truly lovely family.  This is not so much a hotel, as it is a bed and breakfast: the family is always there, their sun a sweatheart, and everyone just wants to help you.  The only downside, if there is one, is that you don’t exactly have privacy: the family is literally just down the hall so, I imagined anyway, that they can here everything that you are doing.  It was a strange feeling.  But all-in-all, I would stay again.

And if you are looking for something truly unique, I highly recommend the “TownHouse Collection” (http://www.townhouse.it/) of hotels.  Each is unique, close enough to everything that you want to see and do, and you don’t feel like you are staying in staid hotel.  I love TownHouse 33.  I love the TownHouse chain and this hotel did not disappoint.  The communal breakfast in the morning was more than the typical Italian breakfast but not quite the American smorgasbord breakfast that some may be used to. I loved it! And in terms of the rooms: some rooms look to an inner courtyard and these, I suspect, are quieter than those looking on to the street.


Finally, I have found places in Milano that I can recommend for the hungry traveler!

Ratana Ristorante (https://www.ratana.it/?lang=en) may just be my favourite restaurant in Milano.  As I write this, I literally cannot wait to return!  The food was outstanding, the wine divine, and the staff so incredibly helpful that I didn’t want to leave.  There was also something about the familial aspect of the restaurant: there was a feeling that family members of the staff were there, just as you would at someone’s house.  But it was the food.  I love the tradition of Italian cooking, and the simplicity of it all, but somehow the chef, Cesare Battisti, has managed to modernize the food while keeping to tradition and not making it “nouveau Italian”.  Sincerely, I say bravo chef.  And everyone must go here.

I have fallen in love with the Trattoria del Nuovo Macello (http://www.trattoriadelnuovomacello.it/)! I am literally dreaming about the staff, the food, and the wine list. I could go on and on about this restaurant but, instead, just take my word for it and go, but know that, like many restaurants in Italy, they are closed on Sundays. And when you do, be sure to get the saffron “rice pudding” with strawberries if it is available. Oh. My. God.

In the Navigli neighborhood, I was taken to one of the growing slow food establishments that I honestly cannot wait to return to: L’Osteria Grand Hotel (http://www.grandhotelosteria.it/). It’s not the easiest place to find – to say that it is tucked away off of a busy street is an understatement! – but with a good map and a bit of patience, it will be worth the trip! At first, I wasn’t sure if they spoke anything other than Italian but I am happy to say that I heard a bit of English and a bit of German the night I was here. The antipasti and the primi were truly mouthwatering and the dolci, which I don’t typically take, was incredible. Make this a stop on your tour of Milano!

My latest find is a keeper!  La Bettola di Piero (no website but on Facebook) is a quintessential Italian restaurant.  There is nothing fancy, the tables are covered in checked tablecloths (not to be kitschy but for real), and there are old pictures hanging on the walls.  But the food is absolutely divine, the owners are so genial and check on every diner, and the ambiance is so inviting and welcoming.  They do have an English menu available but I honestly can’t tell you if they speak English as everyone in the restaurant – except for yours truly – was Italian: I did not hear one word of English spoke then entire time!

And if you are in need of some great, classic, and unpretentious Italian food, head no further than La Cantina di Manuela, a 10 minute walk from TownHouse 33.  A small enoteca with wonderful wines by the glass, the food was outstanding and full of locals so you knew it would be good.  I will be back in August, if not sooner, and cannot wait!

If you are near the Duomo and are looking for great, yet affordable pizza – for either lunch or dinner – I can highly recommend Mozzarella e Basilco  (http://www.mozzarellaebasilico.com/).  Tucked away behind the Duomo, off of Corso Vittorio Emanuelle II, is some of the finest pizza from Napoli that I have found this far north. The restaurant is filled with everyone – young, old, local, and tourist – and the staff and managers are just outstanding!  It is so good that I am literally drooling as I write!  Be sure to put this on your list of places to visit.

And my latest find, as of 2020, is the sister restaurant to Felice a Testaccio in Milano (http://feliceatestaccio.it/en/milan/).  Cacio e pepe is a southern dish so this traveler was insanely happy to know that there is a place in the north that will meet with cacio e pepe cravings when I next travel through this stunning city.


A visit to Milano should not be considered complete without a visit to the Galleria, the Duomo, and the Last Supper.  (For the latter, be sure to book as far in advance as you can as they only allow a certainly number of people in at any one time.) (Click here for tickets http://www.vivaticket.it/?op=cenacoloVinciano. The page is in Italian but you can change to English in the upper right corner.)

And before you leave the Duomo, be sure to pay to go to the roof of the Duomo and walk on the roof.  The views are stunning and it’s something you can do that not everyone knows about.   And,  if the weather is not good, or you just need a break, be sure to go to La Rinascente department store, right next to the Duomo, and go to the cafe on the top floor; it has views of the Duomo from an angle that not everyone has the luxury or knowledge to view.

After you have done the requisite tourist things – all of which I love and recommend – be sure to allow some time to go to the Pinacoteca di Brera art gallery (http://www.brera.beniculturali.it/) something that I overlooked for the longest time and now is one of my favourite galleries in the world.

If you can get in, I highly recommend seeing an opera at La Scala.  It’s difficult to get tickets, but if you can, you won’t be disappointed: it is, after all, where Italian Operas began!

And finally, your trip to Milano would not be complete without a stroll down Via Montenapoleone, Via della Spiga and Via Sant’Andrea.  This is where the pretty people are – assuming you don’t think all Italians are “pretty” – and the clothes aren’t too bad either.  And if  you have the chutzpa (not meant negatively, I assure you), go in to the shops and see some truly outstanding craftsmanship.  I do it every time!

And with that, I will wish you great travels to a city that I adore and think of as a third home.  Buon viaggio!

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