Thursday, April 30, 2015

Song of the Week

Yay Levante! This lady is awesome. She's got a new album called Abbi cura di te ('Take care of yourself') out on the 5th of May, and the first single to be taken from it is Ciao per sempre (per sempre means 'for ever').

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Weekend at Lake Garda

Getting up at 4.30am to get my train wasn't going to phase me after having been awake for a consecutive 36 hours the other week!

I was off to Peschiera del Garda, on the southern shore of - yup, you guessed it - Lake Garda. And for some reason I'd decided that getting the 7.05am Frecciabianca there was a good idea. As I like to ensure that I have enough time to get ready and get to the train station with public transport, it meant getting a night bus (!) and then the first metro of the day to reach Milano Centrale.

I had another seat in first class - that early in the morning it was the same price as the cheapest second class ticket - and that meant another second breakfast included in the price of the ticket (I passed on the newspaper). This time it was a Kinder Delice and coffee.

It was a shorter walk from the train station into the town than I remembered. After admiring the (slightly foggy) view I headed into the town centre - my stomach was telling me it was lunchtime! I had a cappuccino and croissant at Bar Dante, both very tasty even though the cappuccino was a bit pricey at 2.80 euro. Still, I had a comfy outside seat, so it was worth it.

I remembered that there was a long path around the lake, which was even longer than I thought it was. I wanted to make the most of the weather as thunderstorms were forecast for the afternoon. So I went all the way down Lungolago Mazzini and carried on walking to what's called Passeggiata a lago - 'walk at the lake'. You can go right up to the water and walk on the pebble beaches. It's wonderfully relaxing, a whole world away from Milan.

For lunch I went back to L'Osteria, where I went when I first visited Peschiera a few years ago. Tried and tested seemed like a good idea after having been awake since the middle of the night! I had a pizza with buffalo mozzarella and a beer - as I technically was on holiday! The waiters were all very friendly, though being called signora in continuation was a little bit strange!

After lunch I could finally check in at my hotel. I was staying at Hotel San Marco on Lungolago Mazzini, which I remembered from before as it's on the lakeside and has a swimming pool out front. The outside looks very modern, but the rooms are a bit old school. Perfectly clean and comfortable (the shower was amazing) but a bit disjointed from a design point of view. By then I was just about ready to fall over, but unfortunately after waking up from my nap I found that the promised storm had finally arrived...

Sunday morning I was very excited about breakfast, especially after having read reviews where people had mentioned the variety of cake on offer! And it was even better than I expected, I'd never seen such a vast choice of food at a hotel breakfast! Several different kinds of cake, croissants, mini doughnuts, lots of fruit, meat, cheese, eggs... I would have loved to have eaten so much more than I managed!

It was sunny, still quite windy after the storm, but it was great that the fog had been flown away. With the radio in my ears I headed back down to the passeggiata to admire the clearer views across the lake.

Nearly every single shop, restaurant, and bar in the town centre was open on Sunday, so I could have a mooch around as I hadn't had much of a look the day before. Obviously mid-morning I had to have another coffee, and this time I stopped at Caffè Carducci. It has a view of the port, and as a bonus my cappuccino was a bit cheaper at 2.50 euro.

I had lunch early by Italian standards, but I'd had breakfast at 7.30 - no joke! - so I was allowed! I'd already planned where before I'd even left Milan, so I just had to hope it was open - and it was! Toasteria Italiana is on Vicolo Otello and does some pretty special toasted sandwiches (toast in Italian isn't toast, but a toasted sandwich). I went for one with prosciutto cotto, grana cheese, smoked scamorza, and mushrooms. Delicious! They've also got a good choice of freshly-squeezed juices, and I went for one with orange, carrot and lemon. When my juice was bought out it was accompanied by a bowl of crisps - my weakness! It was a welcome change from all the pasta and pizza on offer in other places in the town.

Peschiera has a do-it-yourself gelateria! Latteria Ugolini has a shop on Via Fontana (under the archway) and after my experience with Mu in Trieste I couldn't miss out! I may have gone a little bit silly (5.24 euro eek!) but caramel sauce! The white chocolate gelato was very nice too!

I spent the rest of the day relaxing, listening to the radio, and reading. There was quite a crowd in the town, including lots of cyclists and bikers. Sitting on a bench on the lungolago was exactly what I needed, a chance to escape from the big city and to recharge my batteries.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Adverts from Italy 5

If you were in Italy a couple of years ago, you probably would have noticed those colourful Cruciani bracelets everyone was wearing, especially that summer. I thought the craze was over, but I guess not. This is their latest advert, how about a game of spot the English swear word?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sunday Classic

Today in 1970 Nicola di Bari was No.1 in Italy with La prima cosa bella. The song was also performed by Ricchi e Poveri at that year's Sanremo, and 2010 it was also covered by Malika Ayane for a film of the same title.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Word of The Week

bere - to drink

I'm definitely feeling my age today.

Last night I went out for cena with some of my colleagues, and being a group of mostly British people we may have got a little bit carried away with the drinking... It started off with prosecco at a bar near the office, aperitivo at Yguana near the columns in the centre of the city, then dinner at Trattoria Toscana (which I highly recommend if you're ever looking for a nice restaurant in Milan). It was all fun and games at the time, but today I'm paying the price!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

365 Days of Happy - Days 241 to 270

I'm behind on this as always, and before I start packing my bags for another weekend away here's what I've been up to for the 365 Days of Happy project!

Day 241: Prosecco time!

Day 242: Second breakfast on a Sunday.

Day 243: I was loving how light it was in the evening.

Day 244: Supper and Grey's Anatomy in bed because I can.

Day 245: Comforting pasta in brodo

Day 246: Bagels from San Marino!

Day 247: My first ever supermarket delivery.

Day 248: At the train station off to the mountains for the weekend.

Day 249: Waking up in the mountains.

Day 250: Starting on the delicious cheese I bought back from the mountains.

Day 251: Breaking out the flowery skirts!

Day 252: And the bagels were delicious!

Day 253: Colomba!

Day 254: Cheers!

Day 255: At Radio City Milano

Day 256: A relaxing Sunday evening.

Day 257: Presents to take back to my family.

Day 258: Trying out the Chinese food from the supermarket.

Day 259: Spring's on its way!

Day 260: Junk food from the supermarket eheheheh

Day 261: Eclipse watching!

Day 262: A guided tour around the amazing Bagatti Vallecchi museum

Day 263: Getting ready to go back to the motherland.

Day 264: Tamer than usual pre-flight drinkies!

Day 265: Lunch with an old friend.

Day 266: Tasty dessert at my aunt's.

Day 267: Meeting my new cousin for the first time!

Day 268: Happy birthday to me!

Day 269: A very decadent coffee!

Day 270: Chilling at the airport before my flight

Song of The Week

I first heard this song early Sunday morning, walking round Trieste listening to the radio. It's Nella macchina ('In the car') by Marracash which features singer-songwriter Neffa.

Italian protip: A car in Italian is most commonly called a macchina, which is literally 'machine'!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Easter in Trieste (aka Trieaster!)

I hadn't even caught up with the sleep I'd lost thanks to my unplanned stay at Amsterdam airport when it was time to start packing again!

I was off to Trieste for Easter. After spending the long Easter weekend in Genova last year, I already had a plan back in January to go away again this year. I wanted somewhere I'd never been to before, and wasn't too far or difficult to get to from Milan. I chose Trieste, in the very north-eastern corner of Italy, near the border with Slovenia.

My train was at 7.35am (argh!) from Milano Centrale. It was a rare direct Milan-Trieste train that would take me across the north of Italy, down a very familiar route past Lake Garda, Verona, and onto Mestre. After that it would be all new.

I'd booked my tickets at the beginning of the year, and for the journey over to Trieste I had a seat in first class as it had been the same price as second class! Obviously the seats are more spacious, and there's also the free drink and snack - second breakfaaast! - and in the morning you're also offered a newspaper.

The train arrived three minutes early (!!) after the four and a half hour trip in Trieste Centrale - which was a much smaller station than I'd imagined - and armed with Google Maps I made my way to my bed & breakfast.

I was staying at Zudecche 1 bed & breakfast, in a little side-street on the edge of the city centre, and about 15 minutes' walk from the train station. Check-in wasn't until the evening, but luckily I could leave my luggage so I could go off exploring!

My first stop was Trieste's most famous landmark, the big massive piazza, or to call it by its' proper name - Piazza Unità d'Italia. And it's pretty impressive. And really very big. It looks out onto the sea as well, making the view even more impressive. Tripadvisor (seriously, what would I do without it?) helped me find lunch - Genuino, an 'Italian fast food' restaurant. I'm not really one for spending lots of time eating when I'm travelling, I'd rather be out and about exploring. I was very impressed when I was handed my lunch of grilled salmon, rice, roast potatoes, and vegetables! Oh, and I had some locally made beer too, very nice!

I needed to walk all that off, so my plan to walk along the seashore worked out. And I found Trieste's canal! In that area I had a cheeky frappé at Grom (good old trusty Grom!) before I carried on with my mission to get to know the city.

By mid-afternoon my feet were starting to ache. So what else could I do after having watched people everywhere drinking spritz all day but have one myself? A lightweight version as I didn't want to get lost on my way back to my B&B! A spritz bianco - white wine and soda. And of course, snacks. After living in Milan I couldn't believe my spritz at Pep's cost just 3 euro! The only downfall was the pigeons who decided that they liked the look of my snacks too...

Rain was forecast for Saturday, but it managed to stay off until just after breakfast. I quickly bundled myself out of the B&B by 9 and headed towards the Scala dei giganti - the 'giants' staircase'. It goes up and up and up to a park and castle - an area that commemorates those lost to war. It has some great views over the city and out to sea.

It started to rain, so it seemed like a good point to check out a cafè Walter, one of the owners of the B&B had recommended - Cafè San Marco. It's like something straight off the streets of Vienna! Sunday morning when I was speaking with Walter at breakfast, he explained that the café as it was now hadn't been opened for very long. The owner of the bookshop next door bought the café and combined the two - a great idea! The cappuccino - which is known in Trieste as a 'caffelatte' - cost 2.50 euro, and that also included a little biscuit and a glass of water. The hipster waiters were friendly and extremely efficient!

I wasn't feeling my best on Saturday, so I decided to take it very easy. I woke up from my nap too late for a lunch, so I went back to Genuino as I was too hungry (and hangry) to research another option. And seeing as I was on holiday I had a beer with my delicious hamburger to make me feel a bit better!

For merenda I had actual tea and a cupcake! There's a little tea room in the old town called Ginger, and they have a great selection of teas. I chose a gorgeous vanilla black tea, and had a cookies and cream cupcake. The tea cost 3.50 euro, but the teapot contained enough for two and a half cups.

The wind arrived Saturday night. The one thing Trieste is most famous for in Italy is the bora - its' own special brand of strong wind. Walter explained on Monday that what I'd experienced over the weekend was just 'a taste', and I was glad it hadn't been any stronger - I nearly lost my glasses on Monday!

On Sunday I got a bus to go to Miramare castle, just to the north of the city, It's the No.6 bus that takes you there, and there are a few stops for it in the city, including one next to the train station. (As I discovered, it's not one of the buses that stop in the piazza in front of the station, but facing the station it's to your right.) I managed to get off a stop after the one I was meant to - following the instructions from the castello's site didn't work... - but I still managed to get to the castle easily down a flight of stone steps and through the car park. My favourite thing about the visit was the big garden, just wandering around. The views are fantastic though, can you imagine how it would have been to live in a magnificant castle on the sea? I'd also timed my visit perfectly, the museum was one of the civic ones that are free all over Italy on the first Sunday of the month! The gardens are free to get in, entrance to the castle normally costs 6 euro.

By the time I got back to Trieste it was lunchtime. And it was Easter Sunday. Big problem. There was no room at the restaurant for little old me, and after wandering around for what seemed like hours, I gave up. There wasn't much else I could do except to head for the Burger King that was a short walk from my bed & breakfast...

Fed and watered I was off on another adventure. There's a tram that goes from the city centre up into the hills over Trieste to the town of Opicina. And it's SO cool. When it starts climbing out of the city it becomes a funicular - the track reminded me of a rollercoaster, but luckily it doesn't go anywhere near that speed! As it climbs up there are amazing views of Trieste and the sea. It was absolutely my favourite thing about my time there, and unlike anything I'd ever done before.

Still full after my late fast-food lunch I went to a do-it-yourself gelateria I'd spotted next to Burger King. At Mu there are different flavours of Mr Whippy style ice cream (but much tastier, obviously!) that you serve yourself, and loads of toppings and sauces to choose from. Delicious! I discovered that the chain has not one, but two stores in Milan!

The wind seemed to calm down during Sunday night, even though my trusty weather app said that I was in for another blustery day on Monday. At breakfast everything seemed very calm, until I started packing that is...

It was a bit windy, but at that point not as bad as Sunday, and there was a beautiful blue sky. When the wind died down it was warm. I had most of the day before my train in the evening, but no concrete plans. One thing was for sure though, my first stop would be for another coffee - in Piazza Unità d'Italia this time. I chose Sting, which is on the left corner as you're looking out to sea. And in the sun there was a beautiful view to enjoy.

Another thing Trieste is famous for is its' coffee, it's Italy's biggest coffee port and historically was the point where coffee was imported into the country. I don't use a moka anymore as I have a Nespresso machine, so there wasn't much point me taking any of Trieste's coffee home with me; but there's a torrefazione in Via Cavana in the old town that has a large selection of teas in its' window. They were far too tempting, and after my delicious tea at Ginger I bought a packet of vanilla black tea to drink at home.

After yesterday's farce I easily found a trattoria for lunch that served traditional triestino food, and was one of the first to arrive. Al Petes' doesn't have great reviews on Tripadvisor, but I ate well, having gnocchi with goulash and a glass of red wine. Oh, and more coffee afterwards of course!

The sea was looking spectacular in the sun - not so spectacular was the jellyfish I saw argh! After walking off that lunch I only had a couple of hours left in the city, so I went back to Pep's for another three euro spritz! (Alcoholic, me?)

By then it was time to get my case from the B&B and make my way back to the station. Trieste being the very eastern end of Italy, the trains stop here. My train to Milan was already at the station when I got there about an hour early, and after getting some food for the trip I climbed aboard and settled down for the long journey home.