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Archive for the ‘italian hotel’ Category

What could be more evocative of the famed Italian Dolce Vita than sipping cocktails under an open summer sky, reveling in the magic of one of the world’s greatest cities – Rome?

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The Italian capital, of course, hardly needs an introduction. This vibrant and historic city is as culturally rich and architecturally stunning as the come. The nightlife scene, after a somewhat slow start, is now one of the best in Italy: bars, restaurants, cafes and pubs to suit all tastes and budgets. In addition, stylish rooftop bars now abound in Rome, glamorous destinations where you can dress to kill and enjoy pre-dinner cocktails.

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The scene is largely dominated by 5-star hotels in Rome, meaning you’re likely to enjoy suitably chic surroundings, a great cocktail list and utterly professional service. Many serve a large selection of wines, and smaller plates; the perfect proposition for oenophiles and those who want to avoid a full blown meal.

The following are some of our favorite roof bars in Bella Roma:

Terrace Bramante bar at Hotel Raphael, Piazza Navona, 00186, Rome

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There is no better way to start an evening than sipping a cocktail at the gorgeous hotel Raphael, overlooking Rome’s famous Piazza Navona. It affords wonderful views of the Vatican, the surrounding colorful rooftops and energy from the square below. The atmosphere in the evening is unbeatable and the wine selection impressive! Hotel Raphael has one of the best cellars in Rome, including some top Champagnes and fine wines from across the globe. There is better food in Rome, but it would be hard to imagine a finer position. Whatever you fancy: morning coffee, a pre-lunch aperitif or an evening cocktail, you’re bound to fall in love with this little slice of heaven in Rome.

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The American bar at Hotel Forum, 25 Via Tor de’ Conti, 00184, Rome.

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Situated at the heart of Rome’s ancient center, the American Bar at the Forum has prime position for admiring the city’s Roman heritage, whilst sipping a glass of Prosecco (or five!) The bar has become a popular place to meet before a night out, for both visitors and locals who come for the amazing 360 degree views of the Imperial Forum and across to the Piazza Venezia, but stay for the cocktails and delicious bar snacks. The rooftop restaurant is also one of the finest in the city, and will happily accommodate both hotel guests and visitors. The atmosphere is tranquil yet vibrant, making this special space the perfect spot for a bit of romance with a loved one. Undoubtedly, one of Rome’s best roof-top bars!

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La Terrazza Rose bar, St. George Hotel, Via Giulia, 62, 00186, Rome

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A sophisticated cut above the rest, La Terrazza Rose has an effortless chic about it. Offering a unique concept unheard of in Rome – at least to our knowledge – the bar is devoted solely to rosé wines and champagnes. The views from this sleek, cream colored space are some of the best in Rome, attracting a well-heeled, chic crowd. They come for the comfortable setting but stay for the incredible selection of rose by the glass. All this pink stuff is bound to work up an appetite, luckily La Terazza rose serves a mouth-watering selection of seafood, the oysters being a particular highlight. With such stunning vistas over the capital in this setting, and superlative rose on tap, it’s not hard to see why La Terazza is rarely anything less than packed.

Terrace at the Hotel Exedra, Piazza della Repubblica, 47 00187 Rome

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Facing the imposing Piazza della Republica in central Rome, lies a gem of a pool bar and restaurant, always full at weekends with revelers enjoying a poolside cocktail. The terrace overlooks the spectacular fountain of the Naiads and the church of Santa Maria degli Agneli – quintessential Rome then! Visitors can use the pool (for a fee) and are welcome to sip a cocktail until 1am or enjoy a lavish dinner overlooking the pool. The Exedra also has one of the best Champagne bars in Rome, Champagnerie Tazio, where you can enjoy a formidable selection of local and international fizz by the glass, including top Champagnes like Dom Perignon and Krug.

Roof Garden Bar, hotel Minerva, Piazza della Minerva, 69, 00186, Rome

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Effortlessly chic, grand and intimate at the same time, the historic and luxury hotel Minerva has one of the most elegant terrace bars in the entire city. The roof garden is a blissful haven away from the chaos and traffic of Rome; the white tuxedo jacketed staff are effortlessly professional and welcoming, offering both guests and visitors a large choice of Champagnes, cocktails and wines by the glass. There is often a pianist playing soothing music, creating a lovely soft ambiance for admiring the wonderful views of the Piazza Venezia and St Peters in the background. A fantastic space for the great and the good to meet, which manages to remain decidedly un-pretentious!

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0-300 Roof Garden at Restaurant All’Oro, Via de Vantaggio, 14 – 00186 Rome

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0-300 degrees wins the award for coolest Rome nightspot. Situated on top of the Michelin starred All’oro restaurant, diners and revellers can enjoy a range of superlative small plates and snacks on a small, delightful terrace, ranging from crudo, raw fish and hams to delicious seafood and meat appetizers cooked on an outside grill. The views, as you’d hope in Rome are amazing; the hot ticket is before sunset, watching the sun disappear behind the Vatican whilst sipping a cocktail. Which incidentally, are some of the best and most inventive in Rome, head chef Riccardo di Giacinto loves the weird and wonderful. We’d go for the croccante all’amarena, a heady concoction of chocolate, crème de lait and cherry.

Champagnerie ai Limoni – Grand Hotel Plaza, Via Del Corso, 126 – 00186, Rome

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A wonderful secluded hideaway hidden deep inside Rome’s touristy historic center, the Champagne terrace of the hotel Grand Plaza offers an irresistible combination of fizz on tap and suitably romantic atmosphere. A small space adorned with citrus trees and flowers gives unrivalled views of the Piazza di Spagna and medieval Rome. The list of cocktails is impressive, but you all know why you really came here – for the fizz! Make the waiters happy by sticking to Italian Franciacorta, or splash out on vintage bubbly from Champagne, but whatever your choice you’re guaranteed a memorable evenings at this little slice of Italian heaven.

Just be aware that opening times are limited and weather permitting: weekends 6pm – midnight.

Enjoy the Roman Summer!!

Tuscany in the Fall

Posted by gen On November - 8 - 2013

Tuscany in the Fall- By Simona Piccinelli, Italy Specialist

Tuscany is the ideal destination for a gourmet wine tasting getaway in the autumn! Imagine freshly pressed extra virgin olive oil on bruschetta; exquisite white truffles  shaved over handmade pasta; aromatic porcini mushrooms and roast chestnuts; pumpkin and sage stuffed pasta; ripe figs wrapped in prosciutto;  manicured olive groves and vineyards with flaming red and orange leaves; velvety red wines on a chilly, sunny afternoon, medieval castles and stone villas …. this is Tuscany in the Fall.

There are few places on earth so idyllic and beautiful which tantalize all the senses like La Toscana

Poderi di Luigi Einaudi

We were lucky to attend Buy Tuscany a few weeks ago and visit some of our favorite suppliers to touch base and check the state of the wear and tear. Things were looking great! We are happy to recommend the following hand selected hotels for your next vacation in Tuscany, ones that have worked very well this last season and where you are sure to have a fabulous time- buon viaggio!

Relais Borgo San Felice

Immersed in the sublime Chianti wine country, surrounded by vineyards and olive trees, this Relais & Chateaux is actually an entire small hamlet. It´s got movie set narrow streets, a Romanesque church and medieval buildings which house 46 elegant rooms and suites. Being a historic structure there is no elevator but there are 5 rooms on the ground floor for those who can´t do stairs. After a late breakfast, the perfect relaxed day can start with a visit to the winery onsite, followed by an excellent Tuscan lunch at Poggio Rosso, where 2 Michelin starred chef Francesco Bracali prepares dishes based on local culinary traditions with his hint of personal creativity. Next season they will be offering exciting new cooking classes.

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Castello di Casole

Recently opened after a long and careful restoration by Timbers Resorts, this wonderful huge estate welcomes you with a cypress-lined lane that leads to the elegant main courtyard of the castle that dates back to the year 998. In the main area and building the hotel offers 41 suites, mixing Tuscan and contemporary styles. There are also some villas and farmhouses scattered throughout the extensive estate (available also for sale).
Not far from the hotel, in cooperation with winemaker Paolo Caciorgna, Castello di Casole produces 2 wines: Dodici and ‘C’, both private-label signature wines, which are available only to owners and guests. Very exclusive.

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Castel Monastero

Located in one of the most beautiful areas of the Chianti Classico wine region, the hotel is a respectfully restored medieval village. The buildings, distributed in different areas of the estate, are divided into “contrade” and house 74 luxury rooms and suites. While the village is in classic Tuscan style, the rooms have a chic, modern design which retains a warm and intimate atmosphere.  The Gourmet Highlight is celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay´s restaurant, Contrada.

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Villa Armena

A stunning late Renaissance villa made with red brick, surrounded by gentle hills (this is quintessential Tuscan countryside), dotted with oak trees, wheat fields and cypresses: this is Villa Armena. Very intimate and cozy, it is owned and run by Edoardo and Elena (together with newborn Leo and bulldog Franco), a sweet and professional couple that really make you feel at home, as if you were old friends. After a day of  tasting Brunello di Montalcino or a visit to the white truffle fair in nearby San Giovanni d’Asso village, this is a great place to relax and enjoy the peace of Tuscan countryside. Dine in at restaurant Sorbo Allegro, where you will be be pampered by chef Carlo Valeri, who recently won the  prestigious Gualtiero Marchesi award. Recommended!!

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Borgo Scopeto

Feel like you are a galaxy away from the trials and tribulations of modern life, yet in reality you are onlya short distance from Siena-  Borgo Scopeto is a classic Tuscan “borgo”.  Once home to the famous Sozzini dynasty, it is now a beautifully restored and elegant hotel- a tasteful blend of traditional and contemporary styles. Borgo Scopeto is also an agricultural  estate, producing wine and extra virgin olive oil, that you can sample at their fancy La Tinaia restaurant or directly at the winery, not far from the relais. Dreamy!

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Il Borgo Castello Banfi

If you’ve always dreamed about being a prince or princess  then this is the right place for you! Owned by world famous Banfi winery, it is housed in a real castle in the ethereal Montalcino countryside and offers 14 fantastic rooms and suites furnished and decorated by Federico Forquet, with exclusive accessories. You can dine in the classic Tuscan restaurant in the medieval castle, sampling traditional dishes like pinci (which is called “pici” in the rest of the region of Siena). This is a thick, hand-rolled pasta, that you can learn to make during a fun and interesting cooking class on site.

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Il Falconiere

The ultimate Under the Tuscan Sun experience. Experience true Tuscan living at this welcoming resort, with  touch of bohemia. The warm, affectionate  Baracchi family are great characters. Silvia will spoil your palate at the restaurant and during her enlightening and amusing cooking classes (you can even learn how to make your own cheese!), Riccardo will charm you with tails about falconry and, together with his son Benedetto, will introduce you to his wines. Add a small but complete spa (with wine therapy and olive oil treatments), not to mention the opportunity to meet falcon Lilla … what else could you look for?

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We get so many requests for romantic trips, from honeymoons to anniversaries, babymoons to Valentine’s Day trips, so we composed some fun ideas in Italy (is there anywhere more romantic?) for our special guests:
1. For lovers of the romanticism  period and particularly of Lord Byron, what could be better than his suite at Punta Chiappa in Camogli with a private dinner from the tower where he wrote his poems? Sublime views from the special Byron´table…

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2. For Shakespeare romantics, a plush room in gorgeous Verona facing Juliet’s balcony is all you’ve ever asked for…

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3. For astronomers and star crossed lovers,  the cabriolet suite in the lovely Franciacorta winemaking countryside is a dream

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4. Want to cross paths with movie stars and rock stars, but avoid the paparazzi – we suggest an off the beaten track location like Basilicata where Francis Ford Coppola has opened a fab little palazzo hotel…

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5. If Classic is your style, then Venice is your destination and a terrace on the Grand Canal is THE luxury touch to make the experience special and memory making…

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6. For the lucky ones who have already found their prince charming, stay in a real castle in Tuscany!

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7. For  lovers of the Dolce Vita,  the jet set atmosphere in Capri with its amazing food and nightlife extravaganza calls…

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8. … and finally, for those who are down to earth, but still dreamers  at heart, a private candelit dinner overlooking the sea, in stunning Taormina, Sicily is our suggestion…

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Let us plan the romantic vacation of a lifetime for you, drop us a line!

Interview with Angelo Di Costanzo – Head Sommelier of the prestigious Capri Palace Hotel & Spa

Cellar Tours meet one of Italy´s brightest sommelier stars in beautiful Capri…


We had the pleasure recently to meet Angelo Di Costanzo in Anacapri on the roof terrace of the gorgeous 5* Capri Palace Hotel & Spa, where he has been the head sommelier since 2009. The hotel hosts also the 2 Michelin starred restaurant L’Olivo.

The youngest of 7 brothers, Angelo was born in Pozzuoli in 1975, he attended hotel school and, after working in several local restaurants, he became a certified AIS sommelier in 2001.

In 2008 he was awarded “Best Sommelier in Campania” and “Silver Pin – Charme Sommelier of Italy”. From 2002 to 2009, he run a great wine shop in Pozzuoli, L’Arcante, which is also the name of his fantastic food and wine blog, L´Arcante.

Sipping a glass of Falanghina dei Campi Flegrei Cruna DeLago, we began our chat:

1) CT- What made you choose wine as your passion? How did you become a sommelier? Why did you choose to stay and work in Campania? What excited you?

ANGELO- After some years of my work, I had the need to grow professionally and wine made me felt immediately so many emotions I decided to improve my knowledge and go deeper in that field. So everything started, studying, visiting wineries, walking in the vineyards. And I still cannot stop! Why did I choose to live and work in Campania? Well, what better experience is there than the opportunity to show your gorgeous region to guests coming from all over the world, staying home?

2) CT- What is unique about Campania in terms of food, wine and scenery? What can you find there that you can’t find in other places?

ANGELO- Campania is a very rich and generous region, still far from being over exploited or discovered. It is unique, with fabulous landscapes, terrific historic sites, welcoming people, amazing wines and gourmet products and a gastronomic tradition with such a huge variety it is very hard to find anywhere else.

3) CT- Which appellations, or general wine producing areas of Campania are your personal favorites and which of the local grape varietals do you enjoy most? Any particular wine you felt in love with?

ANGELO- Campania is the land of “100 local grapes”, an ampelographic treasure you cannot find anywhere else in the world. There are many wines you shouldn’t miss, each micro wine region, from Caserta to Naples, on Amalfi Coast to Irpinia, in Cilento or Sannio, offers its best, fine wines which are becoming more and more requested on the export markets, too.

Think of Falerno del Massico, but also  Amalfi Coast wines or Taurasi, the most important red wine of Southern Italy, made with aglianico, the most widely grown grape in the region. But you can find many other peculiar grapes: ginestra and palagrello for white grapes, piedirosso, casavecchia, marsigliese, tintore to name a few red ones. Unusual names, sometimes difficult to remember, producing very good wines, loved by guests who come to Capri from all over the world

4) CT-  Can you offer our readers any tips for enjoying Campania in terms of wines to look out for, favorite restaurants, etc?

ANGELO- Of course, nobody should miss Capri (!) , where I live and work , and Campi Flegrei, where I come from, plenty of interesting wineries to visit. I would suggest an excursion to Vesuvius, in Terzigno, to visit and have brunch at Villa Dora.Then, a visit to Caserta area, at Terre del Principe, an amazing winery, where you can also enjoy a traditional meal prepared by chef Maurizio Piancastelli.  In Irpinia, a drop in to Mastroberardino is a must, as well as to their wine resort and Morabianca restaurant with chef Francesco Spagnuolo.

Going south, you have to visit Cilento and its enchanting sea, stopping at a family run organic winery Casebianche, where you can also spend the night, Betty e Pasquale Mitrano will take good care of you. Last but not least, the Amalfi and Sorrento coast, where I particularly love Monte di Grazia wine estate in Tramonti, Marisa Cuomo in Furore and Vigne di Raito in Raito, close to Vietri sul Mare.

5) CT- What do you think the pros and cons of visiting Campania are and would you suggest it as a destination for wine lovers?

ANGELO- Pros are so many they are hard to list, Campania is absolutely a destination a wine lover cannot miss, to get and breath over 2000 of grape growing and wine making history. You can easily say that grape and wine were born here, thanks to the Greeks. I cannot see any cons, but I would like to give a true advice, especially to guests arriving from far away for the first time: put yourselves in good hands, as Cellar Tours, to organize the trip, the winery visits, the restaurants, sightseeing. This region offers a lot, but you need to know well the people, the wineries, the locations, not to waste your time.

6) CT- If you had to pick one favorite place in Campania, it would be…..

ANGELO- …. a very hard question! Every area has something special: in Campi Flegrei and Ager Falernus you find smoking soils and thousands years old wine anecdotes, in Irpinia amazing wineries, in Amalfi Coast and on the islands one of a kind landscapes, with vineyards suspended between sky and sea, in Cilento it is simply heaven … every one can find his own cup of tea.

7) CT- Your dream dinner paired with wines would be …

ANGELO- I am very proud to work here at Capri Palace and I would definitely recommend it for a gourmet highlight. Apart from Capri, I had several dinner extravaganzas: in Vico Equense at Torre del Saracino with Gennaro Esposito, but also at Taverna del Capitano in Marina del Cantone, to name just a couple. Should I pick one only, anyway, I would choose Don Alfonso 1890 and the lovely Jaccarino family, in Sant’Agata sui Due Golfi, for its outstanding cuisine, the impeccable service, great sommelier Maurizio Cerio: a real dream!

Interested in a luxurious, gourmet food and wine vacation in Capri and the south of Italy? We organize wine tastings with Angelo in Capri and he can  also show our guests intimate small vineyards on the island, contact us for more info.

Best Luxury Beach Resorts in Europe this Summer

Posted by gen On July - 16 - 2010

It´s sizzling this summer in Europe and a few days on the coast are definitely in order! Some suggestions for luxury coastal hotels  by country:

FRANCE

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Château Eza- Eze: The ultimate French Riviera hideaway. Think lifestyles of the rich and famous, this charming medieval hamlet spills over a clifftop overlooking the Med. The small luxury hotel has a Michelin starred restaurant and Birdseye views over the sparkling sea.

best beach resorts in Europe

Hôtel du Cap Eden Roc – Antibes:  this hotels attracts the most beautiful, chic and rich jetsetters in Europe. Gorgeous setting.

best beach resorts in Europe

Le Mas de Langoustier – Porquerolles: Less bling bling than the Riviera, Porquerolles island in a natural paradise and has sublime views and a stay here is about the setting and the sea.

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Hotel du Palais- Biarritz:  The ultimate aristocrats playground. The Duchess of Alba is said to take a suite here for a month every year, and Russian aristocrats have been so enamored of this resort they built a Russian orthodox church across the street! Biarritz is located in the beautiful French Pays Basque, a hop skip and a jump from Spain´s gourmet Basquelands.  A stay here could pair well with some time in the Bordeaux wine county, or indeed in San Sebastian across the border.

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Best beach hotels Europe

Elounda Beach Hotel- Crete: wow, this is an amazing place located on Crete´s northeastern coastline. Highlights include the dramatic location, Chenot spa, and those sea view rooms..

ITALY

best beach resorts in Europe

Il San Pietro – Positano, Amalfi Coast: Few hotels can compete with San Pietro in Italy in terms of location and luxury. Located in the dreamy village of Positano, this hotel is a great base for exploring Campania. Must sees and dos include Ravello, Furore, a meal at Don Alfonso 1890, wine tasting in Irpinia, pizza in Naples, Pompeii…featured in our luxury tours of Amalfi Coast.

best beach resorts in Europe

La Plage resort – Sicily: Spectacular location in Sicily´s prettiest corner, Taormina. Really a collection of villas, tastefully tucked into lush gardens, this is a terrific choice for a few days by the sea. While in Taormina, don´t miss the Ancient Greek theatre and wine tasting near Mount Etna.

Best luxury beach resorts Europe

Il Pellicano – Maremma, Tuscany: stylish resort in southern Tuscany, attracting a real “it” crowd.   If you can peel yourself away from the pool scene, why not enjoy a luxury wine tour of the local Super Tuscans?

best beach resorts in Europe

Fortino Napoleonico – Marche: beautiful setting in undiscovered Marche, coined the “new Tuscany” by the New York Times. Unspoiled, amazing food here and dreamy scenery.

PORTUGAL

Best luxury beach resorts Europe

Vila Vita- Algarve: Moorish inspired design and resort is spread over 50 hectares of gardens and with inviting sea views. The kind of resort where if you want to stay in a cocoon, you have everything you need on site- various restaurants, spa, pools, etc. Tips in fine dining in the area here.

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Luxury beach resorts Europe

La Gavina- north of Barcelona, you´ll find this graceful resort in an unspoiled section of the Costa Brava. White and airy, it has a 1920′s feel. Romantic outdoor restaurant with candlelight and piano… while in the Costa Brava, explore the Emporda wine country.

luxury beach resorts Europe

Marbella Club Hotel, Golf Resort & Spa – Marbella:  a resort for those looking for golf and sun y basta. It does golf and sun, and does them well :) If you have a craving for culture and a bit of real Spain, drive up to Ronda, a beautiful village with a terrific restaurant, Tragabuches.

Val d’ Orcia- Tuscany at its most romantic

Posted by gen On March - 7 - 2010

The Val d ‘ Orcia, featured today in the NY Times, is quintessential Tuscany and utterly romantic.  Expect dreamy hills studded with cypress trees and ancient farmhouses; a smattering of gorgeous art cities and medieval towns in easy reach (Siena, Pienza, San Quirico D’ Orcia, Montepulciano, Montalcino); world class wine country (Brunello, anyone?); amazing cheese country (this is the land of Pecorino) and supremely atmospheric drives.

If you have not yet had the opportunity to visit this breathtaking region yet, then we cannot recommend it enough! This is also THE destination for special occasions- anniversaries, honeymoons, wedding proposals, family reunions…

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A quick guide to the Val d’ Orcia for food and wine lovers:

WHEN TO GO: Autumn is the ultimate time to visit for wine lovers as the vineyards are at their most beautiful, the wineries have a real buzz, the weather is generally still sunny but deliciously fresh (perfect for the region´s rich red warming wines). Winter is very cold but a great time to enjoy the food and captivating landscapes without the stifling summer crowds. Spring is gorgeous.

WHERE TO STAY: You can use a few different places as bases, either in town or countryside. We love the Grand Hotel Continental in Siena for old world charm, the luxury Il Borgo at Castello Banfi (also a wine estate, near Montalcino) and the darling little Palazzo del Capitano in the delicious hamlet of San Quirico d’ Orcia.

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WHAT TO DO: Wine tasting is obviously a big pull and many wineries open to the general public like Banfi, Barbi and Poggio Antico (which also has a great restaurant) in Montalcino.  For visiting  cult wineries (like Casanova di Neri) and more special visits, book a luxury private wine tour in Montalcino or lesser known Montepulciano. The artistic treasures in the towns of Siena and Pienza are also a “must”. Hiring a local art guide is a fantastic way to discover the local anecdotes and secret corners too.  Renting a villa for a week in Val d´Orcia and spending quiet days cooking, shopping at local markets, wine tasting and relaxing is also an unforgettable way to enjoy the region to the fullest.

WHAT TO BUY: Rare Brunello, artisan cheeses, wild boar cured ham (prosciutto di cinghiale), Terracotta in Siena: and then fine products from other parts of Tuscany (olive oil from Lucca, hand made masks from Florence, antiques and gold from the countless markets, etc).

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More info:

Italy travel tips

Wineries in Tuscany

Chefs Tour of Italy

Simona Piccinelli, our Italian food and wine specialist has put together a fabulous suggested week-long itinerary for gourmets wanting to eat their way through Northern  Italy’s best restaurants.  Pour a glass of Italian wine, grab a notebook and read on….

DAY 1- Fly into Milan, pick up car and drive east to the Franciacorta wine region. Check into the Albereta Relais & Chateaux hotel, set amid a vineyard.  Taste Franciacorta wines at La Dispensa or at the Bellavista estate. Tonight for dinner, enjoy dinner at your hotel in Gualtiero Marchesi‘s phenomenal restaurant.

Italy Top Chefs Tour

DAY 2- Drive to Bergamo, one of Northern Italy`s hidden gems. Explore the old town in the higher part of the city . Settle into a splendid lunch at 3 Michelin starred Da Vittorio. After lunch, take in some sightseeing in the città alta and head back to the Albereta wine resort.

Italy top chefs tour

DAY 3- On to Cremona, home of the Stradivarius and another delightful town off the main tourist track. Poke around the small town’s gorgeous churches and small museums and then head to the wonderful 3 Michelin starred Dal Pescatore for lunch. Mega treat. Digest your tasting menu on a charming walk through Mantova afterwards, yet another darling town and stomping grounds of the powerful Gonzagas.

Italy top chefs tour

DAY 4 – Shift gears and head to Lake Garda today. Drive to Torre del Benaco and take a cooking class with  Andrea and Lara at Le Gemme di Artemisia which will be lunch.  (This features in our Garda culinary weekend). Then visit the lake and head to Brescia, an unsung art town nearby where you can have a trendy aperitif. Dinner tonight could be at the beautiful 2  Michelin starred Miramonti L’Altro. Sleep at Albereta again tonight.

Italy top chefs tour

DAY 5 Work your way back to Milano today and visit the sights- cathedral, Brera, etc. Dine at the contemporary and hip 2 Michelin starred Sadler tonight. Sleep at the cute Petit Palais.

Italy Top Chefs Tour

DAY 6- Drive south today to visit Pavia, with its stunning Certosa, monastic complex. Amazing and so close to Milan. Tonight for dinner, finish your top chefs tour of Italy with a divine cena at Trussardi. Sublime.

Italy Top chefs tour

DAY 7- fly home and get your gym membership going again :)

Italy´s wine country is spectacularly varied from the dramatic valleys of Piedmont overshadowed by the Alps, to the fairytale wine roads of Chianti (complete with castles, medieval villages and cypress lined country roads), to the volcanic vineyards near Sicily´s Mount Etna.

Wine lovers coming to Italy are spoiled for choice when it comes to beautiful vineyards, charming restaurants and quaint family run wine estates; however luxurious and stylish accommodation has in years past, not been one of the highlights of the rural wine country. Not any longer! Wine hotels are hot hot hot right now, and there are some absolutely FABULOUS places to stay in the wine country now.

Here is a list of some of our favorite hotels either with a winery or right in the wine country (most set amid vineyards) throughout mainland the north of Italy (info on Southern Italian and Sicilian wine hotels coming soon!):

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L’Andana, Maremma

Best wine hotels in Italy- l´Andana

This is simply one of the loveliest hotels in Italy- a boutique luxury hotel located in a renovated 16th century Duke´s summer hunting lodge amid a vineyard near the castle crowned coastal village of Castiglione della Pescaia- right in the heart of Maremma, home of the Super Tuscans. L´Andana facilities include an “Espa” spa, vitality pool, a Michelin starred Alain Ducasse restaurant, vineyards and winery, hiking trails, tennis courts, – what more could you ask for?

Best wine hotels in Italy- l´Andana

More info on L´Andana hotel here.

Il Borro, Chianti

Best wine hotels in Italy- Il Borro

Owned by the Ferragamo fashion family (who purchased this medieval hamlet cum exclusive resort from the Dukes of Aosta), Il Borro is a unique vacation village. In the resort there are two ultra luxury villas and four farmhouses with individual apartments. It is located about half way between Florence and Perugia, close to the historic town of Arezzo. Within the resort there is a beautiful winery (wine has been made in this hamlet since the 1700´s) and the property also produces olive oil and honey. Il Borro is perfect for big groups or families wanting to visit the wine country in a relaxed, luxurious atmosphere. Activities that can be organized here apart from wine tasting include horseback riding, yoga, archery, hot air ballooning, and hiking.

Best wine hotels in Italy- Il Borro

More info on Il Borro here.

Castello del Nero, Chianti

Best wine hotels in Italy- Castello del Nero

A stunning, authentic 12th century castle that has been luxuriously appointed with period furniture and all the creature comforts, Castello del Nero is by far the most luxurious hotel in Chianti. Surrounded by 700 acres of romantic olive groves and vineyards, this stunning hotel could not be more picture perfect. There are 50 rooms, each uniquely decorated and many with claw foot bathtubs, and vaulted or frescoed ceilings. The facilities include one of the best spas in Italy and a fine restaurant (La Torre). This is the ultimate hotel for honeymooners and/or wine lovers looking for romance.

Best wine hotels in Italy- Castello del Nero

More info on Castello del Nero hotel here.

Banfi il Borgo, Montalcino

Best wine hotels in Italy- Castello Banfi Il Borgo

The prestigious American owned Brunello di Montalcino producer Banfi, also boats their own darling little wine country hotel, right on site. There are only 14 rooms, including some lovely suites, and the decor is rustic chic. Bathrooms are a strength here with features you don’t often find in European hotels like professional hairdryers, oversized showers, etc. Guests have access to many pretty exclusive areas like the reading room, the pergola garden and the convivial Taverna restaurant. Then of course, on the property, they can visit the winery castle and the glass museum, open to the general public. This is the best option for a luxury hotel near Montalcino, especially as Castello di Velona is closed for renovation.

Best wine hotels in Italy- Castello Banfi Il Borgo

More info on Banfi Borgo hotel here.

Chianti wine region profile and Chianti private tours.

Maremma wine region profile and Maremma private tours.

Montalcino wine region profile and Montalcino private tours.

Tuscany

PIEDMONT

L’Ostelliere, Gavi

Best wine hotels Italy- Ostelliere

Gavi is one of Piedmont’s least visited wine regions, and what a pity as some of the countryside is pristine, the village of Gavi offers a preserved historic center and the Monterotondo wine resort has it all- rustic hotel, top class restaurant (La Gallina), famous winery (Villa Sparina)- all set amid manicured vineyards. As in all the wine hotels, the most spectacular months to visit are September and October (harvest time) when the vineyards are at their best and the weather is still nice enough to sit outside on the terrace sipping a glass of wine taking it all in. Non wine related activities this hotel offers are bike tours of the area, posh picnics on the river, cooking classes, truffle hunting, and visits to rice producers. Of the 25 rooms here,12 are suites and worth paying extra for.

Best wine hotels Italy- Ostelliere

More info on Ostelliere hotel here.

Relais Monforte , Langhe

Best wine hotels Italy- Relais Monforte

This is the Langhe´s newest highly acclaimed hotel just opened this spring. And it is an oasis for golf lovers! Located near the medieval wine hamlet of Monforte d´Alba in the heart of Barolo wine country,Relais Monforte actually has a working winery on site- the Cascina Gagliass. Many of the 36 bedrooms have big terraces and rooms and this contemporary and stylish hotel is just what the doctor ordered for guests looking for bright and airy decor and high end, discreet service. Facilities and services include: 9 hole golf course on site, wine tasting on site, private cooking classes, a wellness center, and stylish restaurant (Piedmont cuisine with an innovative approach).

Best wine hotels Italy- Relais Monforte

More info on Relais Monforte hotel here.

Albergo Agenzia, Bra

Best wine hotels Italy- Albergo dell´Agenzia

Slow Food headquarters- how cool is that? The Albergo Agenzia, located near the Slow Food capital of Bra, is a handsome hotel set in a historic (Neo Gothic) Savoy residence. While the rooms are fairly simple and not luxurious by any means, the benefit to staying here is right on site you have the famed wine bank which you can visit and the outstanding Michelin starred Ristorante Guido. Also on site, out of interest, is the International University of Gastronomic Science which attracts culinary students and professionals from around the world. This hotel is also a good base for wine touring as you have Barolo, Barbaresco and Alba all nearby, not to mention Giolito cheese, our favorite cheese tasting venue.

Best wine hotels Italy- Albergo dell´Agenzia

More info on Albergo Agenzia hotel here.

Piedmont wine region profile and Piedmont private tours.

FRIULI

Terra e Vini, Gorizia

Friuli wine hotel

Friuli is THE “it place” for cult white wines at the moment. It´s huge fans and advocates include Mario Batali, and Joe Bastianich is even making wine here. we are also major fans of Friuli, one of Italy´s undiscovered wine regions. Located northeast of Venice, Friuli is home to some stunning scenery, interesting cities like Trieste (which attracted writers like James Joyce) and of course those wines…. white wines are what the region has become know for, and a new term has even been coined “Super Whites” and the town of Gorizia is where you´ll find some of the best wine country. This little hotel calls itself an osteria (restaurant) with rooms. Indeed, the rooms are an afterthought and don´t expect luxury, but if you want to be in the thick of the wine country this is a great option. Elda Felluga’s restaurant has become mythical and you can experience it for yourself, then stay over and wake up to views of the gentle Friulian countryside.

Friuli wine hotel

More info on Terra e Vini hotel here.

Friuli wine region profile.

FRANCIACORTA

L´Albereta Relais & Chateaux

Franciacorta wine hotel- L´Albereta

Franciacorta is Italy´s most exclusive sparkling wine region and this gorgeous Relais & Chateaux is simply the only place to stay for guests looking for romance, atmosphere and luxury, of course! Located less than 90 minutes east of Milan, near the pretty Lake Iseo and the town of Brescia, Franciacorta is one of the north´s hidden wine country gems. The Albereta is the perfect place to stay for a wine tasting spa weekend, with its 2 same owned wineries (stylish Contadi Castaldi and the uber prestigious Bellavista) and world class spa (which includes Apollo, the new beauty technology). If you are celebrating a special occasion and want to splash out, book the Cabriolet room in the Torre di Lago- push a button and the roof opens up for you to admire the stars from your four poster bed! Another fabulous reason to stay here is to dine at Gualtiero Marchesi´s super famous restaurant, benissimo!

Franciacorta wine hotel- L´Albereta

More info on Albereta Relais & Chateaux hotel here.

Relais Franciacorta

Relais Franciacorta wine hotel

For an inexpensive option in the Franciacorta wine country, this is a great choice. Use this comfortable, rustic hotel as a base to explore the top wineries of the area such as Bellavista, Bersi Serlini, and Il Mosnel. Set up a cooking class at one of the local restaurants. Do a Michelin star dining tour of the region, rent a boat on the lake, visit the art city of Bergamo and see the Ancient Roman ruins in Brescia, take some invigorating hikes… there are many opportunities for a relaxing vacation in Francciacorta. This hotel has 50 rooms, some of which have lake views (worth it) and decor is simple country design. one thing to watch out for though is that many weddings are organized here, so make sure a wedding does not correspond to your dates if staying here as it is no fun if not your own wedding!

Relais Franciacorta wine hotel

More info on Relais Franciacorta hotel here

Franciacorta wine region profile and Franciacorta private tours.

VENETO- PROSECCO AND VALPOLICELLA

Relais Duca di Rolle Bisol, Prosecco

Relais Duca di Rolle Bisol, Prosecco

In the gentle rolling hills of the Prosecco wine country, the wonderful Bisol winery have opened this darling little self catering complex in the hamlet of Rolle. About 50 minutes north of Venice, you are immersed in unspoiled countryside here. This is a fantastic option for big families travelling together as you can rent the various apartments and cook on your own in the fully equipped kitchens. There are also 2 great little restaurants in the hamlet. If you are on a budget and want to spend a few days in the wine country close to Venice, this is a stellar choice. Time it to correspond with the Cocofungo mushroom festival in October or the various wine festivals in the region. Don´t miss Bisol´s winery of course as well as the stately Villa Sandi.

More info on Bisol wine hotel here.

Villa Quar, Relais & Chateaux

Villa Quar, Relais & Chateaux

The Valpolicella wine region is home to the famed Amarone and Recioto wines, and is a delight to visit. You can either use historic Verona as a base, or for something more romantic and original, you can stay right in the countryside (only 5 km from Verona). And great news- there is a marvelous Relais & Chateaux hotel awaiting you here. This five star luxury hotel is set inside a vential Villa and the Villa Quar is strikingly elegant. The villa itself is Italian patrimony, and breathes history and prestige. A n ancient stone wall encircles the breathtaking property, which encompasses its own vineyards used to make the hotel´s own wine (!) The gastronomic Arquade (2 Michelin stars) restaurant is world class and foodies from all over Northern Italy flock here. There are 28 room here, 10 of which are suites, and decor is classic Relais & Chateaux style. Rooms are stuffed with many antiques, too. Gorgeous and the ultimate destination for a wine tasting weekend in Valpolicella.

Villa Quar, Relais & Chateaux

More info on Villa Quar, Relais & Chateaux here.

Prosecco wine region profile and Prosecco private tours.

Valpolicella wine region profile and Valpolicella private tours.

More Wine Hotels in SOUTHERN ITALY coming soon.

Italian wine country

Angelo Gaja 150 year Anniversary at Vin Italy

The mythical Piemonte wine family Gaja is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year at the annual wine fair Vin Italy. And what better way to celebrate it than with a fabulous wine tasting of Gaja´s best wines ever? This once in a  lifetime event will take place on Saturday April 4th at the Centro Congressi Europa in Verona. Internationally famous wine write Jancis Robinson will lead the spectacular and unique tasting of wines to include:  Gaia&Rey 1994, Darmagi 1997, Conteisa 1996, Sperss 1989, Sorì San Lorenzo 1988 and Barbaresco 1964!!!!!

Tickets will be available for sale soon, keep your eyes peeled on the Vin Italy website for details still to be released. Proceeds will go to charity (Fondazione Nuovo Ospedale Alba – Bra Onlus).

More info here.

Angelo Gaja 150 year Anniversary at Vin Italy

WHEN TO GO- Vin Italy takes place from April 2-6 in the elegant Italian city of Verona.

WHERE TO STAY- In Verona, we love the historic Gabbia d´Oro with its charming period furniture and splendid location.

WHERE TO DINE- Verona is full of exceptional restaurants and we particularly love: Il Desco (think suckling pig with black truffles, cannoli stuffed with Burrata cheese and high end creative cooking); beautiful Maffei, an elegant restaurant set in a Baroque dining room; the convivial Bottega dei Vini (the risotto cooked in Amarone wine is straight from heaven!) and the trendy Ristorante al Cristo (sushi, Pintxos and creative cuisine dished out in a 16th century palazzo).

WHAT TO DO- In Verona, don´t miss the Roman Arena, one of the best preserved Ancient Roman remains in Italy; the Cathedral, Castle and Royal Gardens are all delightful, too; further afield you could visit the Amarone wine country; head to lovely Lake Garda; Venice is only a short distance….

MORE WINE EVENTS IN ITALY- here is a list of 2009 wine events including Vin Italy

Any time of the year is a good time to visit the wine country when it comes to drinking nice wines! But winter can be the most challenging season to visit as vineyards are dormant and bare (not lush and verdant, as in other times of the year), and many of Europe´s wine regions are covered in overcast and bleak skies. There are a few regions however that are just fabulous to visit in winter, and here are some nice ideas for wine lovers looking for that unforgettable winter wine tasting escape:

Winter wine tastings

Alentejo, Portugal

The Alentejo is without a doubt one of our favorite wine regions in Europe. This unspoiled and breathtaking region features soft, rolling hills studded with cork trees and Moorish castles and is spotted with colonial style wine “quintas”. The scenery in Alentejo is reminiscent of the romantic savannas of “Out of Africa” and in winter, you can expect bright blue skies and invigorating cold weather. For a winter wine tasting break we suggest you use the Unesco heritage town of Évora as a base, visit a few wineries and enjoy some long leisurely wine lunches in cozy restaurants with open fireplaces.

Wineries to visit: Esporão, Monte Seis Reis, Herdade da Malhadinha are all favorites and can provide (paying) tours and tastings if you contact them beforehand to set up the appointments.

Alentejo winery consortium:Vinhos do Alentejo feature all kinds of wine region info on their website for self-drive trips (in Portuguese).

Where to stay: Our favorite hotel is definitely the romantic and luxurious Convento do Espinheiro, just outside Évora.

More Info on the Alentejo wine region

Luxury chauffeured wine weekends in Alentejo

Alentejo wine region in winterAlentejo wine region in winterAlentejo wine region in winter

Sherry Country, Spain

Jerez de la Frontera, the main wine town in the “Sherry lands” is a truly delightful little provincial capital. The benefit here is that the wineries are right in the historic center so you don´t need to drive and you can taste as many wines as you like! Most are in walking distance of each other through the pleasant center. Sherry wines are varied (finos, amontillados, palo cortados, and more) and quite strong, perfect on a sunny and cold winter´s day. The ideal winter wine weekend in Jerez would include winery tours, an excursion to beautiful Seville (one hour by train), and a lunch at La Mesa Redonda.

Wineries to visit: Sandeman (our favorite for private VIP tours), Pedro Domecq, Bodegas Tradición, Emilio Lustau, González Byass (Tio Pepe)

Sherry winery consortium: Consejo Regulador Denominacion De Origen Jerez Xerez Sherry

Where to stay: Our favorite hotel in Jerez is the Palacio de Garvey (which made it to our top ten wine hotels in Spain hotlist). The Villa Jerez is another refined little hotel, out of the center in a more residential neighborhood.

More Info on the Sherry wine region

Info on luxurious wine weekends in Seville and Jerez

Winter wine tastings

Valtellina, Italy

The ultimate winter wine escape, Valtellina offers sunny blue skies, fluffy snowy mountains in winter and phenomenal red wines made with the Chiavennasca grape (cousin of Barolo´s Nebbiolo grape). The region is alpine, near the Swiss border and the perfect winter wine weekend could include winery visits and tastings, an excursion to pretty St Moritz (on the Swiss side) and an excursion by horse-drawn sled through the snow. The cuisine is FABULOUS, real mountain food and it perfectly accompanies the rich, velvety “Sforzato” wines.

Wineries to visit: None of the wineries have regular scheduled tours, so you will need to contact them individually to request a (paying) visit and tasting. We particularly love Nino Negri, Triacca, Rainoldi and Conti Sertoli Salis.

Valtellina winery consortium: Consorzio Vini Valtellini have information on the region, wineries and travel tips.

Where to stay: There are some wonderful spa hotels, perfect in winter. We love the Bagni di Bormio, a real destination hotel with wonderful soothing spa treatments and natural springs.

More Info on the Valtellina wine region

We organize luxurious chauffeured wine tasting weekends in Valtellina, more info here.

Valtellina wine region for winter escapes Valtellina wine region for winter escapes

Prosecco Wines and Travel Info

The Prosecco wine region in northeastern Italy is one of our favorite destinations and we are delighted to share with you some of our top picks from the region if you will be travelling to Prosecco:

Appellation(s)- The main appellation is DOC Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene. Other ones in the Treviso-Conegliano-Valdobbiadene geographic triangle include: Prosecco DOC del Montello e dei Colli Asolani, Prosecco IGT dei Colli Trevigiana,  Prosecco IGT della Marca Trevigiana and Prosecco IGT del Veneto.

Prosecco Wine

What to drink- Look out for “Prosecco Superiore di Cartizze” on the label. Top producers include Bisol, Zardetto, Villa Sandi, Carpenè Malvotti, Canevel, Ruggeri & C, Adami and Cantina Produttori di Valdobbiadene.

Wineries to Visit: The Prosecco consorzio have a lot of information on wineries that you can visit, contact them for info on self-drive trips.

Here are a few of our favorites-

Villa Sandi- one of the most architecturally appealing wineries in the entire area, Villa Sandi can offer tours for the general public by previous appointment (paying). More information on this beautiful estate here.

Prosecco Wines and Travel Info

Bisol- Apart from the outstanding visits they do (by previous appointment and paying), Bisol also have a tiny inn located in a converted monastery should you like to stay over on their gorgeous property. More information on Bisol here.

Bisol

Where to Stay:

Villa Cipriani in lovely Asolo is one of our favorite hotels in the area, luxurious and very quaint with stunning views.

Follina is home to two very elegant historic hotels, the Villa Abbazia (classic charm) and the Hotel dei Chiostri (more contemporary interiors).

Where to Dine:

Villa Sandi have a terrific restaurant close to the wine estate called the Locanda Sandi.

Trattoria alla Cima is one of our favorite little restaurants in the area, located in pretty Valdobbiadene

Try you hand at cooking at home with Prosecco, check out these recipes.

trattoria-alla-cima

Luxury Private Wine Tours:

Cellar Tours offer private VIP tours for couples and groups by Mercedes sedan and vans to top cellars with special lunches and wine pairings included. More info on day trips from Venice here.

Prosecco Wines and Travel Info

Special Events in the Prosecco Region:

21February – 8 March 2009- In Vidor, they hold a spring “Mostra” (showcasing) of Prosecco wines from the DOC. Info here.

21March – 13 April 2009- In Col San Martino, another spring wine festival takes place, information here.

11– 26 April 2009- this year the“Prosecco Brotherhood” will hold the 39th Cartizze and Valdobbiadene DOC Wine Festival. Info here.

24 April – 3 May 2009- the wine hamlet of Saccol, near San Pietro hosts the ultra high quality Cartizze and Valdobbiadene DOC Wine Show. Info here.

30 May – 14 June 2009-S. Pietro di Feletto ( a medieval hamlet with an ancient Camaldolesi monastery) is the host to the  Vini di Collina wine fair, info here.

26-28 September 2009- In Conegliano they hold an annual grape harvest festival (“Festa dell Uva) Info here.

More events in Prosecco here.

Prosecco Wine Festivals

Sardegna Culinary Weekend Sardegna Culinary Weekend

Last month, we were invited to Sardegna for a fantastic culinary competition and some touring on this gorgeous Italian island.

Here are some notes from our trip, by Simona Piccinelli, Italy Specialist:

On Thursday we arrived to fabulous Sardegna to participate in a culinary contest in the ancient Catalan town of Alghero. Nestled along the coastline in the northwest of the island near beautiful Capo Caccia and the other-worldly Grotta di Nettuno, Alghero is a popular resort on the Coral Riviera.  Our accommodation was a cozy agriturismo, run by an excellent extra virgin olive oil producer, San Giuliano.

Sardegna Culinary Weekend

San Giuliano have been making top quality olive oil since 1916, and this year they launched a wonderful new food and wine tourism initiative in Northern Sardegna. The idea was to promote their oils, the various local artisan food products, the wine estates and this specific corner of Sardegna through a high profile culinary contest. So, we were delighted to take part of this epicurean weekend! The invitees included five grand chefs, five journalists and ten tour operators (including us, Cellar Tours).

Sardegna Culinary Weekend

For the contest, there were five teams, with a chef as the leader of each team: Lorenza Carmignani Gigli from Tuscany, Barbara Roncarolo from Cucina magazine, Giovanna Ruo Berchera from Piedmont, Valeria Vocaturo from Rome, and Marilena Bergamaschi from Milan. Our team was the “Monte Sixeri” team led by the very talented Giovanna Ruo Berchera, and journalist Fabio Cavallari.

Sardegna Culinary Weekend Sardegna Culinary Weekend

The rules of the game were laid out for us. The contest included the following challenge: search out and buy the best local products of each village, within a 30 km distance from the olive oil estate in order to create a traditional “Sardo” (Sardinian) recipe which enhances the olive oils.

So on Friday we travelled to Porto Torres and the Romangia area, famous for its seafood, wines, bread, olives, pastries and vegetables. We had a lot of fun driving through the beautiful countryside, meeting local people willing to help us with the treasure hunt, and searching for goodies in local farmers markets and tiny little shops. We visited the hilltopped villages of Sennori and Sorso, tasting local delights.  It´s a tough job, but hey!

The recipe our chef Giovanna decided on for the contest was “gnocchetti sardi con ragout di triglie, finocchietto e zafferano.”   We picked the wild fennel ourselves from a nearby pasture and we found the equipment to make handmade gnocchetti (called a “ciuliri”).

Sardegna Culinary Weekend Sardegna Culinary Weekend Sardegna Culinary Weekend

We spent Saturday morning in the kitchen, admiring the skills and abilities of the five chefs as they chopped, diced and dazzled. While the gastronomic jury was deciding on the winner, on Saturday afternoon, we toured some more around Sardegna with our new friend Daniele, introduced to us by Giovanni Greco of the luxurious Hotel El Faro , a luxury 5 star hotel with outstanding views over the crystalline sea. Daniele is very passionate and passionate about his native Sardegna. He drove us to the protected marine area of Capo Caccia , where  we even saw a wild boar running in front of us! Unfortunately it was drizzly and the sea was too tumultuous to visit the wonderful Grotte di Nettuno, so we went to the only natural lake in Sardinia  – Baratz lake – surrounded by pine woods on sand dunes, so high it looks like gentle hills. From there we drove in his 4×4 to the Porto Conte bay to admire the spectacular sunset, smelling all the wild herbs (mirto, timo,  origano, elicriso, acetosella, and finocchietto selvatico.)

Sardegna Culinary Weekend Sardegna Culinary Weekend

We headed into beautiful Alghero next for an aperitif of Vermentino (one of the native grapes) at his restaurant and then he drove us back to the San Giuliano olive oil estate.  Saturday night we enjoyed the awards event. Although our team didn’t win (we were in 3rd place), we had a fabulous time!  We thought the quality of the food and wine was fantastic, and the hospitality of the people paired with the absolutely stunning scenery, have convinced us to offer new gastronomic tours in Sardegna.

Read about our culinary adventure (in Italian) in the local newspaper.

Sardegna Culinary Weekend Sardegna Culinary Weekend