Relais & Chateaus – Borgo San Felice, a Medieval village in the heart of Chianti

Relais & Chateaux Borgo San Felice

Relais & Chateaux Borgo San Felice is an oasis of peace, nature and beauty on the Tuscan hills. Borgo San Felice is the only Relais & Chateaux 5-star hotel in the Chianti Classico area. Only an hour drive from Florence, this is the perfect base to explore the surrounding area as well as those green rolling hills you must have seen in postcards and movies for years.

Relais & Chateaux Borgo San Felice

Relais & Chateaux Borgo San Felice

Surrounded by 147 hectares of vineyards, lovely squares and narrow paths, Relais & Chateaux Borgo San Felice was founded in the 8th century and its beauty has remained intact since. In 1991 it was renewed completely and turned into a 5-star hotel, but the medieval village buildings haven’t been spoiled.

Relais & Chateaux Borgo San Felice features 33 rooms and 21stunning suites like these ones:

Relais & Chateaux Borgo San Felice

FOOD AT RELAIS & CHATEAUX BORGO SAN FELICE

There are several food options at Borgo San Felice. You can opt for a gourmet dinner at the restaurant Poggio Rosso or go for the traditional flavours of Tuscany at the Osteria Del Grigio. If you are feeling hungry during the day or after a swim, there is a pool bar and if you wish to try the wonderful wines at BSF you should head to the Winehouse.

Poggio Rosso: find out more here

Osteria del Grigio: find out more here

EXPLORE THE BEST OF CHIANTI CLASSICO 

Agricola San Felice, the Borgo San Felice’s Winery, produces 14 different wines and visiting its cellar is a great way to get familiar with wine production and ageing.
Leonardo Bellaccini, the enologist, in collaboration with several universities, established the “San Felice method” which is a perfect combination of old traditions with state of the art scientific innovation. Today, Relais & Chateaux Borgo San Felice also produces DOP extra-virgin olive oil on top of acclaimed wines like Campogiovanni, Brunello di Montalcino and Poggio Rosso as well as a selection of grappa and vin santo.

Relais & Chateaux Borgo San Felice

SUSTAINABILITY & RESPECT FOR NATURE AT RELAIS & CHATEAUX BORGO SAN FELICE

At Relais & Chateaux Borgo San Felice, they fight soil erosion with the right terracing combined with a constant attention and analysis of the local flora and fauna. A great example of this approach is Vitiarium, where hundreds of species have been protected and cultivated for the past 30 years to prevent them to disappear.

Relais & Chateaux Borgo San Felice

UMANA MENTE by ALLIANZ GROUP AT BORGO SAN FELICE

What’s the best way to pass on traditions from the elderly generations to the new one? What’s the only way to share invaluable skills about agriculture and nature? Well, the answer at Borgo San Felice is Umana Mente, an Allianz Group’s foundation that connects the elderly with young people with disabilities in a common project that is a vast vegetable garden.

Relais & Chateaux Borgo San Felice

ABOUT RELAIS & CHÂTEAUX

Relais & Châteaux is an exclusive collection of 540 of the finest luxury hotels and gourmet restaurants in 60 countries. Established in France in 1954, the mission of the Association is to divulge its unique art of living in the world by selecting exceptional structures with an unrivalled tradition and heritage.

Relais & Châteaux is also a family of hoteliers and Grands Chefs from all over the world who share their passion and personal commitment to give their Guests moments of exceptional harmony. Choosing Relais & Châteaux is choosing an unforgettable celebration of the senses. The signature of Relais & Châteaux reflects this ambition:

“EVERYWHERE IN THE WORLD, UNIQUE IN THE WORLD”

Relais & Chateaux Borgo San Felice

Notes: I was a guest of Relais & Chateaux “The Art of Living” press trip – all views are my own. As always.

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Relais & Chateaux – L’Albereta, a little girl’s dream turned into magic

Relais & Chateaux - L'Albereta

Once upon a time, there was a little girl called Carmen who travelled the world with her dad Vittorio, a guide always under her arm and the dream to have a hotel as beautiful as the ones they were staying at. Relais & Chateaux – L’Albereta is Carmen Moretti’s dream come true. Today, this gorgeous hotel, which opened twenty years ago, is one of the most renowned 5-star hotels in Italy and part of the French Relais & Chateaux Association.

Relais & Chateaux - L'Albereta

RELAIS & CHATEAUX – L’ALBERETA: THE MAISON

Relais & Chateaux – L’Albereta shares with its guests the charm of its history and traditions also thanks to its strong connection to the Franciacorta region. L’Albereta entered the Relais & Chateaux network in 1998 with 10 rooms. Today it features 57 suites and bedrooms, each with its own style and details. You can choose from Classic, Superior or Deluxe rooms or pick a Suite Lake Tower, a Suite Contaldi Tower or a Bellavista Grand Suite. But if I was to go back I would surely book the Cabriolet Suite, a magical room where the roof above the bed opens to the sky showing you the starred sky. No doubts.

FOOD AT RELAIS & CHATEAUX – L’ALBERETA

L’Albereta was associated to Gualtiero Marchesi, the patriarch of Italian haute cuisine, who was the head of the restaurant for twenty years. Today, Executive Chef Fabio Abbatista proposes a cuisine based on the excellence of ingredients, most of which come directly from the hill where L’Albereta is located: here are bred exquisite chickens and rabbits, while vegetables, aromatic herbs and fruits are produced by the family vegetable garden and picked up every day by the kitchen team.

Relais & Chateaux - L'Albereta

There are three restaurants at L’Albereta, each with its own identity and purpose.

LeoneFelice

Opened in 2014, LeoneFelice is a fine restaurant, with a contemporary décor made of the best Italian design where Executive Chef Fabio Abbattista, coming from Apulia proposes a cuisine that mixes the flavours of the south with the taste of the north in outstanding combinations and surprising dishes. The name of the restaurant is a tribute to the old guardian and gardener, Leone. He has always taken care of this house and garden with love and joy.

Relais & Chateaux - L'Albereta

Relais & Chateaux - L'Albereta

If you wish to enjoy the unforgettable experience of discovering what really happens behind the scenes of a high-end restaurant you can book the Chef’s Table. A private table in the heart of the kitchen where the brigade alongside the head chef will cook a specific 6-course menu for you and your friends. The Chef Fabio Abbattista will accompany you during the entire experience sharing the ideas behind each dish and the products used to create them.

Relais & Chateaux - L'Albereta

The Chef’s Table of LeoneFelice can accommodate a party from 2 to 8 people (120 euro per person, wines excluded). Book far in advance since the waiting list is months long.

Open from Tuesday to Saturday – 7.30pm to 10.30pm
Tel. +39 030 7762603
leonefelice@albereta.it

VistaLago Bistrò

Set in the oldest room of this XIX villa and decorated with ancient frescos and Latin quotes about the art of hospitality, the VistaLago Bistrò offers its guests outstanding views over the Lake Iseo and the surrounding hills.

Open from 7.30am to 1.00am, it’s perfect from the breakfast as well as for cocktails before and after dinner. Throughout the day it proposes delicious snacks, a special selection of typical Italian and regional dishes for lunch and dinner as well as Sunday brunch and afternoon tea at five.

So, if you are feeling peckish after a golf match, a ride on the lake or a cycle on the hills that surround the area, the VistaLago bistro is open all day and you’ll surely find something to satisfy both your stomach and palate.

Relais & Chateaux - L'Albereta

Open from 7.30am to 1 am.

La Filiale

The kiosk La Filiale combines a menu entirely dedicated to Franco Pepe’s pizzas with outstanding Franciacorta wines. His world-famous pizzas are light and produced with hand-made dough and local ingredients.

The latest addition to L’Albereta, La Filiale is an informal restaurant, perfect to start out your evening with a “pizza a libretto” accompanied by a glass of wine or a cocktail.

Relais & Chateaux - L'Albereta

Open from Tuesday to Saturday from 7 PM, Sunday from 12 PM to 3 PM and from 7 PM (closed for lunch on August). Take-Away available.

ESPACE CHENOT HEALTH WELLNESS SPA

Relais & Chateaux – L’Albereta offers health and fitness programmes for those who are looking to detox and get fit in gorgeous settings. On top of specific and personalised training programmes, there is also a tailored food menu so that you don’t have to worry about calories and ingredients.

Relais & Chateaux - L'Albereta

 

For more information, click here

RELAIS & CHATEAUX – L’ALBERETA: THE WINE & THE VINEYARDS

About Franciacorta

banner-consorzio-franciacorta

Franciacorta is a region of rolling hills extending from Mount Orfano (south of Rovato) to the southwest area to the shores of Lake Iseo, and from the river Oglio on the western border of the city of Brescia in the east. The soil made of glacial moraines consists of gravel, sand and limestone, drains well making it ideal for the cultivation of grapes and winemaking. The weather is mild and constant due to its location south of the foothills of the Alps and the tempering presence of large lakes making it perfect for nature and agriculture. In fact, since the Middle Ages, Franciacorta has boasted an intense cultivation of vineyards, olive groves and vegetable gardens. Consequently, the nobles choose this area to build their magnificient country residences. Today, Franciacorta features an incredible landscape with towers, castles, palaces and villas as well as rural churches and abbeys, making it the perfect destination for a road trip or a bike ride.

The first appearance of the name “Franzacurta” can be traced back to 1277, where it appears in the municipal statute of Brescia as a reference to the area south of Lake Iseo. Franzacurta or Franzia Curta was then an important area for the supply of wine to the city of Brescia. The name derives from the fact that here tax was not paid here “corte franca” (AKA nothing to do with France!)

For information about ideal Franciacorta and exploring the region, please visit the website of the Association La Strada del Franciacorta.

During our The Art of Wine Living tour organised by Relais & Chateaux, we had the opportunity to visit two famous wineries belonging to the Moretti family and it was a great opportunity for me to learn more about Franciacorta’s wine and its production process.

Bellavista Winery

At Bellavista, they use time-proven cultivation methods, which comply with the rhythms of nature and do not try to cheat it with any artificial help. The privilege of the right vineyard exposures, mass selection and manual harvest and selection (vineyard by vineyard, row by row) are some of the essential elements that make Bellavista’s wines unique in the world.

The fermentation takes place in small white oak casks where the wine refines its Franciacorta character. The re-fermentation happens in bottles set in their vast cellars at a constant temperature of 13°C and then silent refinement over long years (more than six sometimes).

Here, manual work is still at the center of the production of wine and in fact they are one of the very few winery which hasn’t adopted a giro pallet but instead have hired an incredibly agile and fast guy who can turn 120 bottles in 20 seconds (don’t ask me how!!) for a total of 7000 bottles.

Bellavista Winery, Carmen Moretti’s family business uses the Leone grapes to produce 1000 bottles yearly of a pure Chardonnay that is unique in the world and can only be found here.

“Imperfections aren’t weaknesses, they are our strength and uniqueness” Mattia Vezzola – aenologo at Bellavista

Among the various Riserva wines, there is also a recent experiment of wine which is resting in 9-liter bottles made of Murano glass.

Contadi Castaldi

The name is a synthesis of the ancient history of Franciacorta and its vocation for outstanding agriculture. In 1500, when the Venetian Republic was at the height of its splendour, Franciacorta produced food and wine destined for the tables of princes, kings and rich merchants. For Franciacorta, the beautiful city of Venice was the market of choice for introducing its wines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the many quarries in the area gave rise to the Biasca brickyard, the old building that houses the Contadi Castaldi winery today. When the Franciacorta region was at the peak of its development in the 1980’s, Vittorio and Mariella Moretti decided to convert the brickyard into a winery. Its large spaces and long tunnels where the bricks were fired proved to be the perfect place for ageing Franciacorta vintages and welcoming wine lovers.

Contadi Castaldi is the only winery that owns winegrapes all over the Franciacorta territory.  It was a passion for the art of innovation that pushed their wine specialists to search the Franciacorta region to find the most evocative vineyards and the most passionate winegrowers.

About Relais & Châteaux

Relais & Châteaux is an exclusive collection of 540 of the finest luxury hotels and gourmet restaurants in 60 countries. Established in France in 1954, the mission of the Association is to divulge its unique art of living in the world by selecting exceptional structures with an unrivalled tradition and heritage.

Relais & Châteaux is also a family of hoteliers and Grands Chefs from all over the world who share their passion and personal commitment to give their Guests moments of exceptional harmony. Choosing Relais & Châteaux is choosing an unforgettable celebration of the senses. The signature of Relais & Châteaux reflects this ambition:

EVERYWHERE IN THE WORLD, UNIQUE IN THE WORLD

 

 

Notes: I was a guest of Relais & Chateaux “The Art of Living” press trip – all views are my own. As always.

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Relais & Chateaux – Il Falconiere, where time stands still

Relais & Chateaux Il Falconiere

The first stop of our The art of wine living tour was the Relais & Chateaux Il Falconiere which, like a Tuscan dream, takes place at Silvia and Riccardo Baracchi’s 17th-century family residence. Set amongst the vineyards and olive trees that surround the small Etruscan city of Cortona, this maison is a true delight. The guest rooms, located around the main residence, have all the simplicity of a Tuscan villa. The terraces of the former winter garden, with their heady aromas of rose, offer superb vistas over the neighbouring countryside. A sophisticated restaurant serves Michelin cuisine, reflecting the flavours and fragrances of the local traditions while the Thesan Etruscan spa offers exclusive, luxury rituals.

The Estate: Relais & Chateaux ll Falconiere

Surrounded by vineyards and olive groves and immersed in a charming family atmosphere, the Relais & Chateaux Il Falconiere embed the Tuscan dream. Set in the middle of the Val di Chiana and with Cortona perched on a not too far hill, Il Falconiere is the perfect location for relaxing and living under the Tuscan sun while tasting and cooking incredible dishes made with local produces.

“Our enthusiasm has always has been, along with our passion, the engine of this great adventure.Our dream has become reality “ Riccardo Baracchi  

History, Traditions and Philosophy of Relais & Chateaux Il Falconiere

Riccardo and Silvia Baracchi, the owners, had a dream that they slowly turned into reality and that today attract visitors from all over the world. The name comes from their great passion for falconry, and in fact, during our time, we were welcomed by the house hawk and I got to hold him on my arm too! (In the pic Silvia and Riccardo’s son, Benedetto)

 

Set in a 17th-century farm villa, the Relais & Chateaux Il Falconiere is a true oasis of peace and calm in the middle of the Tuscan countryside. Here, time has stopped, and traditions have taken over innovation and technology. Here at Il Falconiere, you can feel at home while enjoying the slow pace of life and the stunning views.

A unique mix of passion, haute cuisine, great wine, love for nature and unchanged traditions is what welcome its guests at Il Falconiere. As soon as you walk down the gravel driveway and you hear the noise expanding down the valley, you will feel at home. Here you will be treated like an old friend and Silvia’s hugs will welcome you into her universe.

The rooms 

The Baracchi family has slowly restored the ancient farm buildings of the estate, and they now offer 22 rooms spread all over the property. Every room is completely different and unique in style and details, including artworks of local artists and artisans. There is also a little old chapel that still serves as the base for religious functions.  If you choose Il Falconiere for a romantic stay with your other half, there are also small cottages sprinkled about the property.

Relais & Chateaux - Il Falconiere

Il Falconiere rooms include:

5 Classic rooms 

8 Deluxe rooms 

4 Junior Suites 

2 Suites

2 Executive Suites

1 Winery Master Suite

If you are planning to visit Il Falconiere with your family or with a group of friends, there is also the Villa Borgo del Falco which you can rent exclusively.

The Queen of Il Falconiere: Silvia Regi Baracchi 

Relais & Chateaux - Il Falconiere

A true Etruscan, Silvia was born in Perugia and grew up in Cortona right in the middle of the Etruria. Her parents also had a restaurant and from them she learnt the art of hospitality and traditions. In 1989 she opened Il Falconiere restaurant trasforming the old lemon house of the villa. Four years later, with the husband Riccardo they opened the first nine rooms of the Relais and slowly refurbishing and turning all the buildings of the old estate into what is today: an elegant and gorgeous 5 star Michelin wine resort.

Silvia is not only a famous Michelin Chef, sommelier, entrepreneur, wife and mother, she is also involved in many social projects, such as the Cene Galeotte (Convicted Dinners) at the Volterra prison where inmates and chefs cook together. Additionally, Mrs Baracchi, being a true multi-talented woman, has also published “Rosso di gusto, passioni in cucina”, a series of fun and intriguing stories where recipes are shared through love stories and red ingredients (yup, the best combo indeed).

Relais & Chateaux Il Falconiere

The Restaurant 

The restaurant, Il Falconiere is set in the old lemon house which was restored and refurbished and now features a fantastic panoramic terrace overlooking the Tuscan hills and countryside. The interior design is traditional with a modern twist, while the stone walls give the restaurant that warmth feeling often missing in more modern places.

Relais & Chateaux Il Falconiere

Relais & Chateaux - Il Falconiere

In 2002, thanks to the high-quality ingredients, respect of seasonality and the use of local products mixed with the outstanding and creative cuisine, along with a wide selection of incredible wines, Silvia Regi Baracchi obtained the first Michelin star.

“The colours, the stones, the serenity of an ancient Tuscany, is a spell where time stands still 

Michelin Guide talking about Il Falconiere

Cooking Under the Tuscan Sun

The Baracchi Winery

Everything at Il Falconiere started from here, the Baracchi Winery. Riccardo Baracchi wanted to continue the ancient family art of grape growing and wine-making since 1860, and with the help of the agronomist Stefano Chioccioli, who selected and identified the best land for each variety, they created a world-renowned brand. Today, spread on a 60 hectares property along the valley, the Baracchi Winery produces excellent Sangiovese, Syrah, Cabernet and Trebbiano grapes. 

All operations in the vineyards are carried out by hand with the utmost attention so that each of the 6.250 plants per hectare will produce only a few bunches of grapes, each one with the full expression of its variety. In the cellar, fermentation takes place in vertical barrels and made by hand for Pinot Noir, Syrah and Cabernet and for the other vines in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature.  the oenological technique must succeed in pulling out the essential components of grapes in such way to obtain harmonious wines. The use of French barrels completes the ageing of the wines.

Today,  the company’s products including wine, grappa and extra virgin olive oil are distributed in 3 continents and 12 countries around the world, sharing this way the best of the Tuscan traditions. 

Thesan Etruscan Spa

The exclusive Thesan Etruscan Spa, which was added to the already fantastic property in 2009, is an intimate and luxurious spot for relaxing and wellbeing. Here, the Spa treatments follow the cycle of the seasons as well as a link from the table to the Spa which uses the local products such as olive oil and wine for its treatments

Relais & Chateaux Il Falconiere

The collaboration with the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella completes the high quality of the treatments at the Thesan Etruscan Spa which guarantees the use of the best natural products respecting the sustainable choices of Il Falconiere.

About Relais & Châteaux

Relais & Châteaux is an exclusive collection of 540 of the finest luxury hotels and gourmet restaurants in 60 countries. Established in France in 1954, the mission of the Association is to divulge its unique art of living in the world by selecting exceptional structures with an unrivalled tradition and heritage.

Relais & Châteaux is also a family of hoteliers and Grands Chefs from all over the world who share their passion and personal commitment to give their Guests moments of exceptional harmony. Choosing Relais & Châteaux is choosing an unforgettable celebration of the senses. The signature of Relais & Châteaux reflects this ambition:

“EVERYWHERE IN THE WORLD, UNIQUE IN THE WORLD”

Thank you so much to Silvia, Riccardo & Benedetto Baracchi and their fantastic team, especially Lina Bartelli – Sales & Marketing Manager and Anna Maria Coli – Resident Manager, for their incredible, charming, warm and genuine welcome into their home.

 Relais & Chateaux Il Falconiere

Follow Relais & Chateaux Il Falconiere on Facebook  and Instagram and book your there here

 

NOTE: I was a guest of Relais & Chateaux’s The Art of Wine Living press trip. All views and opinions in this post are my own – as usual 🙂

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Relais & Châteaux Il Borro – A place like no other

Il Borro

Set in the middle of a superb 700-hectare Tuscan estate, the Relais & Châteaux Il Borro is an oasis of charm in the form of a mediaeval village with a villa, a farm, many traditional shops, a modern SPA and farm buildings. Vineyards, gardens, tennis courts and horse fields surround this incredible Tuscan paradise where wines and olive oil are produced by traditional methods and are an integral part of the landscape of the region. The property mixes ingredients like art, style and haute cuisine to the old traditions of the best wine-making creating a combination of sublime perfection that is best appreciated when spending a few days at Il Borro.

 Il Borro was the third hotel of our The Art of Wine Living press trip among some of the most stunning Italian Relais & Chateaux properties was. I only wish I could have stayed there for a week. Or two. Or forever.

Relais & Chateaux - Il Borro

History and traditions OF Il BOrro

The story of Il Borro estate starts as a fortress built to defend a strategic area crossed by stretches of the Clodia and Cassia, two important Roman roads which made it the object of contrasts and disputes between local factions and noble families. In 1254, the Marquis Borro Borri, then mayor of Arezzo, bought the property but it was only in the 16th century, under Alessandro del Borro that the village took his current shape and look.

In the mid-Fifties, Il Borro passed to Duke Amedeo of Savoy-Aosta and in 1993 the Duke sold the entire property to the Ferragamo family during what Ferruccio Ferragamo often called “an enduring act of faith”. He and his son, Salvatore spent more than a decade restoring and refurbishing the ancient place while taking care and preserving its old traditions and history.

Relais & Chateaux - Il Borro

Today, walking around the medieval village and passing by the old shops and artisans’ workshops you can clearly feel and breath the values that the Ferragamo family wanted to protect and preserve: the atmosphere of the past times taken to today and to the future generations.

The borgo still features the ancient church which two times a month is still used for the religious function which attracts locals, guests and the staff. The integration with the local community is vivid and alive in all the aspects of the resort.

 

 
The art of WIne-making at Relais & Chateaux Il borrO

The winemaking revival at Il Borro begins in 1995, two years after the Ferragamo family bought the estate. Ferruccio decided to make the most of the temperate climate and the excellent exposure of the vineyards combined with an ideal soil for the cultivation of the vine.

In 2012 the estate converted to biodynamic agriculture with the aim of obtaining an even more fertile soil and an ever-better quality product with no use at all of chemical fertilizers or pesticides. The whole production at Il Borro is organic since 2015 and in the same year, Il Borro produced the first two organic certified wines: Borrigiano and Petruna.

“Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world” Ernest Hemingway

Relais & Chateaux - Il Borro

Thanks to its eco-sustainable choices, biodynamic principles and respect for the environment, Il Borro is an example of sustainable agriculture and development as well as a zero carbon footprint estate.

A tour of the Il Borro Cellars is a journey to the heart of Tuscan wine-making tradition and a chance to learn more about this “art”. Here, in one of the oldest cellars in Italy, the first ever Chianti wine was produced, and today as then, the magic of winemaking continues with the same passion and commitment. Accompanied by experts you will see the different steps that turn simple grapes into fine wines and the vats, barrels and barriques that make this possible.

The labels produced at Il Borro are:

IL BORRO – 50% Merlot, 35% Cabernet, 10% Syrah, 5% Petit Verdot
ALESSANDRO DAL BORRO – 100% Syrah
POLISSENA – 100% Sangiovese
PIAN DI NOVA – 75% Syrah, 25% Sangiovese
LAMELLE – 100% Chardonnay
OCCHIO DI PERNICE VIN SANTO DEL CHIANTI – 100% Sangiovese
BOLLE DI BORRO – Classic Method Rosé, 100% Sangiovese
GRAPPA DEL BORRO – 100% organic Petit Verdot
BORRIGIANO – 35% Syrah, 40% Merlot, 25% Sangiovese
PETRUNA – 100% Sangiovese
ROSÈ DEL BORRO – 100% Sangiovese

We were lucky to be at Il Borro during their Winederful Harvesting Day 2017 and, after learning the ropes of grapes cropping, we were spoiled by a fantastic BBQ which we washed away with some of the delicious wine produced right in the estate and mentioned above.

Il Borro

 


SUSTAINABILITY & TRADITIONS 

Sustainability and respect for the local community and the territory are the guiding principles in everything Il Borro does. The Ferragamo family made a commitment to respect the local ecosystem so that every product would be a real expression of the territory. These principles are also applied to the production of Extra Virgin Olive Oil which began in 1996. The harvest is done manually and a biodynamic approach is used during the crushing and pressing phases.

Relais & Chateaux - Il Borro

Another great example of Il Borro’s sustainable approach is the Orto del Borro which takes an entire hectare of the property. It was certified as organic in 2014 and it employs centuries-old practices like crop rotation which allows the land to regenerate. The produce is used in the kitchens of the resort creating km-zero and tasty dishes.

With its constant focus on the ecosystem, in 2014 Il Borro also decided to welcome bees. 30 hives were set up in the natural reserve for the entirely organic production of honey and since 2015 they also have 200 chickens for the production of organic, free-range eggs.

FOOD & TAste At RElais & Chateaux, Il borro

Il Borro features three restaurants each with its own identity and style but all under the direction of the Executive Chef Andrea Campani. His cuisine is based on the idea that every dish deserves a special emotion and that eating should involve all our senses. The venues are open also to non-residents and aim to satisfy the tastes of all guests.

The Osteria del Borro is a gourmet restaurant where Andrea Campani offers the unique opportunity to discover the traditional Tuscan cuisine with a touch of futuristic taste. The venue features elegant and refined rooms making the place the perfect spot to enjoy a mouthwatering dinner. 

The Tuscan Bistro is a more informal restaurant, ideal to enjoy breakfast or a delicious meal with locally sourced products. The concept is also present in Florence as the Tuscan Bistro Firenze as well as in Dubai in the luxurious Hotel Al Naseem Madinat Jumeirah. The restaurant gained its Gambero Rosso Best Italian Restaurant award only 5 months after its opening.

The Vin Cafè offers light lunches, tea or a glass of wine that can be enjoyed admiring the picturesque medieval village or while sitting at the side of the infinity pool.

The Ferragamo Family: a story of fashion, style and art

In 1996, Salvatore and Ferruccio Ferragamo decided to replant the Il Borro vineyards and concomitant Ferruccio decided to start a unique and private collection of engravings with a wine theme. Today, after many years of research and scouting, some of these artworks are currently on display in the Ferragamo Museum, where visitors are taken on a journey through the Il Borro history, from Alessandro Del Borro to the Medici to the House of Savoy and the finally the Ferragamo family. The gallery includes artworks by great artists such as Mantegna, Picasso, Goya and Warhol.  

For info and booking: claudia.artini@ilborro.it   tel:+39 3665601139

 

 

 

 

 

 

WELLNESS & WELLBEING 

Right at the centre of the estate, there is an oasis of wellbeing where guests can keep in shape with gym or yoga classes, be pampered in the exclusive Spa Suite and enjoy regenerating treatments at the hands of expert therapists.

I must confess I had various massages in my life, but Valerie’s hands made miracles to my stressed back and neck. Truly, it was the best treatment ever!

Relais & Chateaux - Il Borro

Whether you are strolling through the narrow streets of the village, relaxing at the pools, enjoying treatments at Il Borro Spa or the traditional cuisine at one of the restaurants, you will experience the same pleasure: that of a particular art of living only possible at Il Borro. 

About Relais & Châteaux

Relais & Châteaux is an exclusive collection of 540 of the finest luxury hotels and gourmet restaurants in 60 countries. Established in France in 1954, the mission of the Association is to divulge its unique art of living in the world by selecting exceptional structures with fan unrivalled tradition and heritage.

Relais & Châteaux is also a family of hoteliers and Grands Chefs from all over the world who share their passion and personal commitment to give their Guests moments of exceptional harmony. Choosing Relais & Châteaux is choosing an unforgettable celebration of the senses. The signature of Relais & Châteaux reflects this ambition:

“EVERYWHERE IN THE WORLD, UNIQUE IN THE WORLD”

 

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Matera, why you must visit it now

Matera

I’ll admit it. It was through Instagram that I fell in love with Matera and it became a constant, fixed, ever-present travel obsession goal. And finally, this summer – my summer of fulfilling Italian dreams and exploring my home country-  I managed to see it with my own eyes.

As much research you can do about Matera, as much as you stalk people on Instagram and Pinterest, there is not much that prepares you for seeing the shiniest Italian gem for the first time.

World-known for its famous sassi, Matera is located on the border of Basilicata and Puglia and is one of my latest (and favourite) discoveries in Italy. Walking around this cute town where the sun reflects off the white limestone is not only breathtaking but extremely fascinating because of its history but also for its stunning beauty. But things were very different not too long ago…

THE OLD ITALIAN SHAME

Matera dates back to the Paleolithic Age and once you get there, you will see that not much has changed. Matera, after Petra in Jordan, is the oldest city in the world which was continuously inhabited for more than 30,000 years. It was once considered a giant slum filled with malaria and where poor people were living in medieval conditions. In caves. Exactly as described in the controversial book ‘Christ Stopped at Eboli‘ by Carlo Levi (1945), there was no running water or electricity and people were really living in very basic conditions. Truth to be told until the 1950’s Matera was also where prisoners were sent to live (and possibly die) in horrible conditions. In 1952, after the visit of the then prime minister, the Italian government ordered its evacuation due to inhumane living conditions and the city was left behind and abandoned by everyone but the addicts and the “bad people”. The residents were offered a new apartment in the new Matera, but some struggled to live their homes, livestock and families.

MATERA TODAY

The city was never completely empty until the 1980s, but it’s only in the last two decades that the government and the local authorities and entrepreneurs have launched and managed a deep and important make over and facelift. Today, Matera has re-shaped its streets, caves and general vibe. There are luxury and boutique hotels at every corner and you can dine at some of the best Italian restaurants right in the same caves that not long ago hosted entire families and their livestock, often in the same room.

After so much general effort, in 1993, Matera was named a UNESCO World Heritage sites, which means that it is considered of ‘outstanding value to humanity and is protected to preserve the cultural and natural heritage of the area.” Matera will also be the 2019 European Capital of Culture and I think this gem is totally ready to attract thousands of visitors.

First of all, let me tell you that the sassi aren’t what you think (or what I thought!). Many people think that Matera’s caves are the “sassi”, but they’re not. The sassi (literally meaning “stones”) refer to the two neighbourhoods, Sasso Caveoso and Sasso Barisano, made of stone dwellings in porous limestone of tufa in the ancient town. The original living quarters were primitive cave dwellings on the other side of the canyon. Gradually, the people made their way over to build the city you can visit today. 

To really get a feeling of Matera, you need to walk (and get lost) among the narrow lanes between houses.

 

 

 

How to explore the city 

Kids, there is a new way to explore a new city and this new way is an app called Aroundly (available in the App Store and google play). Aroundly allows you to tailor your visit to your preferences, whether you are alone or in a group, looking for fun or culture, this app creates an itinerary just for you takes you around Matera (or Cagliari, Erice, Catania, Trapani, Siracusa, Trieste and many other cities) and puts you in touch with locals and new friends.

Where to stay in Matera 

Sant’Angelo Resort

When I was invited to stay at the Sant’Angelo Resort in Matera, I had no doubts to say YES and immerse myself in this stunning hotel and its ancient walls and rooms. The owners took on the massive project to transform these caves that were once humble abodes, into splendid residences, suites and luxury rooms in order to redeem and restore the noble soul of an old civilization. The result is a mesmerising resort where you are constantly spoiled by incredible views over the old town and where every little detail screams luxury, but also home. I had a fantastic stay at Sant’Angelo and I am sure I’ll go back next time I am in Matera.

As I always do when I travel for work, I opted for breakfast in bed which was served in a sumptuous basked filled with all the delicacies you would expect from such a top notch hotel.

Vicolo Fiore

If you are looking for a simpler room in Matera, then Vicolo Fiore is the go to option. Only 50m from the Piazza Pascoli viewpoint, this brand new and super cute apartment features two double rooms (Barisano & Caveoso, the names of the two neighbourhoods) and a brand new kitchen that offers all you need for a short stay in town.

You will have all the comforts and facilities you will need for a short or a long stay in Matera, including (strong) wi-fi making a perfect place for fellow digital nomads looking for a place to work and stay put for a short period of time. Another plus is the free parking (which is a massive plus in Matera which is almost completely car-free).

 

How to reach Matera 

  • Train: if you want to travel by train, the easiest way is to first get to Bari which is connected to Trenitalia (the national train system and it’s a 4-hour train ride from Rome to Bari), then go to the regional train site, Ferrovie Appulo Lucane, putting in “Bari Centrale” as your starting point and “Matera Centrale” as your endpoint. The ride takes between 1 hour and 15 minutes and 1.5 hours and it is very cheap (something like 2 euros). From the train station, it’s about a 15-minute walk to the sassi of Matera.
  • Car: as part of our #fromnorthtosouthandbacksummer road trip we came by car, but parking in the centre of Matera can be quite difficult (erm…impossible!) since it’s a big ZLT area (no cars allowed except for residents), but you can still find a solution by talking to locals or parking just outside the city center.

INTEresting FACTS and tips ABOUT MATERA

  • Matera was tagged a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993
  • Here is where Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of Christ’ movie was filmed
  • Forget your heels and wear (very) comfy shoes – ideally with a good sole as the streets can be quite slippery
  • Fully charge your camera batteries and bring a wide angle lens if you have one

BOOKS & MOVIES 

  • Christ Stopped at Eboli by Carlo Levi’
  • The Passion of Christ by Mel Gibson
  • Ben Hur
  • La Lupa, 1953
  • Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo 1964, by  Pier Paolo Pasolini

WHY SHOULD YOU VISIT MATERA NOW

Today, the city (still) has a great non-touristy vibe. I don’t think it will be the same next year since Matera will be the 2019 European Capital of Culture and I am sure it will attract even more visitors in the next decade and beyond. So, if you don’t love crowded places and queuing every 10 minutes book your stay in Matera now!

Sleeping in a cave? Where else can you experience it? I am not sure, but I think Matera is the only place in the world.

As Carlo Levi said:

Anyone who sees Matera cannot help but be awe-struck, so expressive and touching is its sorrowful beauty

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My Weekend in Hossegor with JO&JOE

I had only been home for a few days after my 21-month around the world trip when I boarded yet another plane to join a press trip for the opening of JO&JOE in Hossegor. I could not say no to Accor Hotels and their latest brand launch. Firstly because I’m always hungry for new adventures and always on the hunt for fantastic locations and hotels for my fellow digital nomads and travellers for my global collection of connected homes (places where you can live, work and travel feeling at home and stay connected), second because travelling is always a great idea and I never say no to it!

So, I quickly packed my bag and off I went to explore and admire the new concept by  Accorhotel in collaboration with Quiksilver and Roxy.

As soon as my fellow bloggers and I landed in Biarritz, we were welcomed by the Accor Hotels team and a nice lux car that took us to a full immersion into surfboards manufacturing at Euroglass incredible facilities in Hossegor.

Euroglass was founded in 1990 to supply Quiksilver with premium surfboards and for the past 25 years, the team has worked extremely hard to produce top boards while innovating in style, design and materials. Euroglass’ boards are used by worldwide surfing champions all around the world and, being a surfing beginner myself, for me it was like being in a candy shop.

After this incredible visit, we were finally taken to explore JO&JOE open house.

What’s so special about JO&JOE?

Well, for a start, this is a very new concept of open house hotel which Accor had in mind. They wanted to create something for the millennials, which would represent them and make them feel welcome and free. But also which would be founded on three words: security, privacy and friendliness. To realize that they collaborated with specialist such as psychologist, doctors who could study the mindset of this generation which they wanted to reach.

This fantastic historic building is an open house that welcomes neighbours and travellers alike. It’s a cool, affordable and caring hostel but also a hotel and a home for some. It’s filled with a smart and irreverent design where you are invited to indulge in all sort of cocktails, live music and events.

The Jo&Joe home in Hossegor is the very first that Accor Hotel has opened in the world but they are planning on opening 15 in total over the next 3 years.

Since JO&JOE is a brand that goes beyond hospitality and travel but that aims to reach and mix the local community with travellers, the founders have also created a cool app (available both on the Apple Store and Google Play) where you can join events around you but also pay your hotel bills since the open house is cash-free – isn’t that a dream come true?

They have different types of rooms, shared and private. The shared rooms we’ll go up to 10 beds and the private rooms can be for 2 to 5 people.

All the rooms are incredibly spacious, bright, practical and with VERY comfortable bed. Each bed comes with built-in lights, fan, USB socket, plug and curtains for extra privacy.

Around the house there is lots of space to relax and chill: large sofas, hammocks, giant flamingos and long chairs, but if you are feeling active, you will also find a ping-pong table, a climbing wall, a slackline and yoga lessons too.

What to do in Hossegor?

Hossegor is a small french seaside town by the Atlantic, perfect for those who love the ocean and its waves. The village is full of cute little restaurants, bars, boutiques, shops and of course waves: Hossegor is the favourite French destination for surfers from all over the world and it has gained a glamourous spot among the best places to surf. Hossegor is also very good for other wet and dry activities (read more below). Basically, Hossegor is the perfect place to indulge in a sporty weekend or a chilled vacation.

Surf and SUP with Hossegor Surf Club

I might still have some salt in my hair since the last time I was surfing in Bali, but I am still very far from being a pro, so the lesson with the team of HSC was simply amazing and despite the short waves, we had loads of fun!

Dine at Heads Beach Brewing Company

My fellow bloggers and Instagrammers were spoiled with burgers from Heads, a gorgeous restaurant right on the beach in Hossegor where we had the opportunity to taste some delicious meat and veggie burgers obviously accompanied by french fries and local beer.

Lunch at Le Mango Tree

On Saturday morning, after yoga, breakfast and surfing, we had a gorgeous pic nic organised by the guys of the Le Mango Tree in a cute park along the river. It was not only beautiful and healthy but also very yummy!

Fat Biking

I had never tried those very cool bikes before, but going around Hossegor and the beach was such great fun!

For more inspirations and ideas about what to do in Hossegor, follow @hossegorofficiel on Instagram and don’t miss a thing and follow Jo&Joe on Facebook and Instagram!

Once again, it was amazing to meet other interesting fellow bloggers and travellers and the JO&JOE, Roxy & Quicksilver was probably the most  welcoming client I’ve met so far.

Kerstin 

Jorge

Patricia

Stephanie

Charlotte

Going home after a long time…

going home after long trip

I am going home after a long time

As you are reading this, I’m finally boarding the plane that will take me home to Italy. If I planned everything really well and there haven’t been any delays, in this exact moment, I should be taking off from Bangkok and toward Myanmar, India, UAE, Germany and eventually, home. I am finally sitting on board that same plane that I’ve already cancelled and postponed 3 times. It’s bittersweet, I’m still shit at saying goodbyes to old friends, new road friends and places, despite the millions I’ve already said in the last few months. But it is time.

I’ve finally accomplished all the things I wanted to do during this long solo journey and this chapter of my life is now completed. In the best way possible in fact. I could not ask for more since the main goal has been achieved. That is becoming a calmer, wiser, slower, finest, better version of myself. The world and its beautiful people have shaped that little, scared, lonely “girl” that was desperately crying at the airport in Istanbul in September 2015. That  girl does not exist anymore and she has been replaced by a stronger, fulfilled, empowered woman who loves herself and the world around. I can travel alone. I can travel alone for twenty months (and counting). And not only I can, I LOVE travelling solo! In fact travelling solo is THE BEST and nothing compares to it.

I am ready to go home also because I’ve managed to achieve my second, accidental goal. After so much struggle and hustle, doubts and failures, today and for the past few months, I am standing tall on the tiny successes of my location independent lifestyle and since it’s been exactly 12 months that I’ve been able to travel only with the income made on the road, I can finally call myself a real digital nomad and for thsis I stick a little invisible DN badge on my chest. YAY!! I made it. I freaking made it.

The journey has been incredible and so powerful and so amazing and especially humbling. The places and people I’ve met made me the person I am today. And I gotta be honest with you, I’m having a massive crush on me right now 😍. Like my first real self love in 32 years, mate.

As I have learnt so much about myself, I realised that I was more scared of the known than the unknown. I realised that the fear that normally entangles people to stay in normal lives was what boosted and fuelled my trip. Where others remain stuck in the intricated world of doubts, fears, insecurities, I took advantage of them and decided to shape new opportunities just for myself.

And I forgave myself. I realised that all the things I did, I said, I wanted were necessary. Every single little thing. Finally, I looked up to the mirror, deep into my big brown eyes  and while hugging my naked self, I said the words: “you are forgiven”. Because in life, sometimes, you can prepare yourself, but you cannot predict what life throws at you and you can’t blame yourself for wanting more, for having bigger dreams, expectations, love for life, for loving the unexpected more than the expected, for loving freedom more than boredom. You can just be you. And I can just be me.

And I am finally ready to go home 

In the past 20 months, I have had some of the most incredible experiences of my life, I have slept in the middle of  deserts, I climbed on top of mountains, volcanos and rocks, I’ve swum with turtles, dolphins, sea lions and clown fish, I have seen countless sunrises and sunsets, I have slept in 543875426043 hostels, campgrounds, luxury hotels and in my tiny tent on the side of many Aussie roads. I have been blessed by incredible people, my time was wasted by a couple of assholes too (hello, f***ing German mechanic in Cairns!!).

I’m scared but also excited for everything that lies in front of me during this Italian summer that I’ve been dreaming for a while. I am mentally getting ready to be overwhelmed with emotions, smells and tastes. I am already physically ready to welcome all those familiar hugs, kisses and strokes I’ve been missing for so long.

649 days.

20 months.

13 countries.

4 continents.

25 flights.

15 trains.

43 buses.

6 cars.

35 scooters.

3 bicycles.

1 camel.

Everything is exactly as it is meant to be

During all this time, I have planned little, the few plans I had were normally cancelled, postponed or changed. My return couldn’t have been any different. During my journey around the world, I always tried to get off the beaten track, often missing the must-see, must-dos, must-bes. Some days I was plain lazy, others too busy with work, others too sad to leave my bed, some days I was filled with such an intense joy that I thought my heart would explode. On this trip, I learnt what pure happiness means. I was blessed by it when I was staring at the Taj Mahal while the sun rose on the horizon and my incredible friend, Prabu took the beautiful photo that symbolises my trip.

I was overwhelmed with true joy when surfing for the first time in Sydney, but also when I was lying naked and alone on a beach in Western Australia or when I hiked the Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand, danced the traditional dances in Fiji and Samoa, when I first tried Muay Thai in Chiang Mai, when I relaxed tubing in Laos, or while seeing my business blossom naturally and effortlessly after so many stops and failures. I was happy surfing again in Canggu, hugging a dear friend on top of the rice fields in Ubud, or while talking about love and commitment with a long-lasting stable couple or when I realised that perfect love does not exist and we are human with another favourite couple I am lucky to call my friends. And I was happy to discover that life is all this. It’s made of little, brief moments when everything is exactly as it’s meant to be and nothing, absolutely nothing, could be any better.

Because everything is already perfect. It is as it is meant to be.

SEO storyteller

Am I ready to go home?

Of course not. I thought I would by now, but the thing is that no one ever feels completely ready when the moment to board that last plane comes. Surely no one who has the bad habit of setting super high expectations for themselves. And I’m guilty of that, of course. Nobody feels as changed as they had planned to be when they firstly left home. Personally, I don’t know if I have truly changed or if my current conditions and mindset make me act as a different person to whom I was before. What I do know now, and I know it really well, is what freedom tastes like. And it tastes like sea water and honey, watermelon and chilli. And it tastes like Life.

During my journey, I also learnt the meaning of losing everything. Of feeling lost and really alone. Of not knowing who you are or what do you belong to. But the most important lesson of the entire trip was that Another Life is Possible. If you really lose everything, if you don’t have anything else to lose, then you gotta start all over and build something new, something amazing just for yourself. And believe that you can

I am scared. 

I know I’ve lived as much as I could. Not by ticking off things off of a list, I’ve only been to 13 countries in 20 months, but by embracing the people and the world around me. By letting it go under my skin, day by day, person by person.
I am not going home only after 20 months of travel around the world, I am going home exactly after 10 years of living abroad and away from my family and friends.

It’s freaking scary. It’s overwhelming and is frightening and exciting. As I walk down into the tunnel to the plane, there are thousands of emotion exploding inside me. While I was packing Frank (my big backpack), one more time, I had tears in my eyes. Today, I learnt to welcome all these emotions as I know they are all part of the journey, they are all part of life. And I also know that soon enough I will be going back to the other home I’ve created for myself. The one up there in the sky. Or on the road. Because I feel home everywhere. The world is my home. Because my home is everywhere and anywhere I have been. But also where I haven’t been yet.

They say home is where the heart is

But my heart is wild and free

So am I homeless or just heartless

Did I start this, did it start me

They say fear is for the brave

For cowards never stare it in the eye

So am I fearless to be fearful

Does it take courage to learn how to cry

So many winding roads

So many miles to go

(Passenger)

I am always gonna be fine

But as I went through security, as I got another exit stamp on my passport, as I am sitting on this plane, I feel stronger. Stronger than ever. Because the road taught me that I will be fine. I will be fine always and everywhere. Nothing can break me because nothing was fixed to start with. The truth is that not only I found myself. But I found that little, permanent home, just inside myself. The perfect place to rest after a long day, the cosy home I made for me only. In a world where nothing is permanent, constant, I learnt that I AM my own constant element in the equation of life.

Only me on both side of the equal sign. And it’s more than enough.

going home after a long time

Embrace Life as it comes

It’s impossible to know what might happen next. Or why. What this situation will bring to you. Or which way you will take when faced with a big decision. Why some things will be destroyed. What makes some other blossom, die or change. How people get sick, change or leave. How people can love you, make promises, break them, break your heart. Live without you. Forget you. It’s impossible to explain why children die while the sun still rises every morning. It is impossible to understand. But it is unavoidable.

It took me 5 years, 1 month and 2 days to become the person I dreamed to become. To fully transform the little girl I once was into the woman I imagined I could be. I aspired to be. I ought to be. It took so much out of me. It broke me into a million little pieces, but they say that sometimes you need to smash a crumbling house in order to build a stronger one. And so I did.

Set fire to your boats

I set fire to the boats of my safe life, I scratched my title and experiences, I chose freedom while fear, hustles and struggles were burning all around me. And I fell. Oh gosh, I fell so deep. I burnt myself too.

I felt more alone than ever. It was like I was the only person remained in the universe. But that was ok too. Because alone was what I needed. What I wanted and because by learning to be alone I became much stronger, so much wider, so much better.

I no longer beg for attention, for love. I no longer need love to fix me. The waves crashing on the beach, the birds singing, the clouds moving above my head, a familiar tune in the background, a smile of a stranger, my own smile. All of this are enough. They are more than enough, they are everything.

They are everything.

My life, my wonderful life, like all lives, so impermanent, so imperfect, so fragile, yet so powerful, so mesmerising, so scary. So remarkable. So mine.

going home after long time

Live life to the fullest.

Exit your comfort zone. Feel uncomfortable, feel scared. Do something on your own. Miss your friends. Feel lonely. Eat the food you’re not used to. Pack your backpack, sweat. Sleep on bunk beds. Sleep in the middle of the desert. Don’t sleep and party all night. Rise early. And feel strong, feel connected. Lose yourself. Lose everything. Just let it be. Breath. Look at a beautiful sunset on the other side of the world. And feel at home wherever you are. Feel that you are exactly where you need to be in this moment. Live in the present, forget the past, don’t stress about the future. They do not exist. Be. Here. Now.

Make it remarkable. 

So yes, after these last 20 months exploring the world, exploring myself, loving the world, loving myself, I am ready to go home. I am ready to go home after a long time.

 

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going home after a long time

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Digital Nomads Trail – Stay Connected at MAADS while in Cambodia

digital nomads cambodia

Are you another digital nomad thinking to skip Cambodia because you’ve heard that the wifi is s*%t?

Please rethink.

Like most of you know, since I’ve left my corporate job in London two years ago, I’ve been doing all sort of gigs and jobs to sustain my travels while slowly finding my little niche as a digital nomad and, more recently, entrepreneur. You can read more here where I answered the question that I get asked about 43925704375943 times a week.

Time has passed since I wrote that blog post and in the meantime, I’ve religiously decided to drop anything that wasn’t very profitable, long-term or aligned to my values. To cut the story short, I’ve slowly narrowed my scope to become a remote content creator, influencerSEO specialist and yes, start-up entreprenuer. Maybe a weird mix, but one that works extremely well for me, but especially for my clients.

Since I’ve achieved the official status of digital nomad I could no longer stay in remote places or hostels with crappy wi-fi. Being connected has become essential to me and that’s why in Cambodia, a country known to lack reliable wifi I decided to get in touch with MAADS. This is a little chain of stunning boutique hotels all around Cambodia. But the peculiar aspect of each and every hotel that belongs to MAADS is that they all offer impressive comfort for us, the vagabonding digital nomads.

Not only they are impressive structures that offer all sort of services you might need, you can also rely on FAST internet and comfortable working stations.

While I was in Cambodia, I had the unique opportunity to stay at two of their properties in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Guess what? Both times, I extended my stay and I was tempted to just lock myself in the room and move in. Forever.

ABOUT MAADS

All MAADS hotels have a distinctive identity and each remains true to its local architectural heritage, design and atmosphere. The founders, Marie and Alexis de Suremain, are the minds behind this string of hotels, restaurants and shops in Cambodia.

Nature has always been the inspiration behind all their projects starting from the opening of the first hotel in Phnom Penh, in 2006. To today, the founders and MAADS stand for responsible and sustainable tourism.

But MAADS is so much more than this. It’s also known for:

  • respecting and actively contributing to the destination by promoting local creativity and cultural activities
  • offering more than facilities, food and a bed. People choose MAADS to immerse themselves in a dream
  • being inspired and devoted to the natural environment.

 

TEMPLATION SIEM REAP – CAMBODIA – MAADS ASIA

The property

Minutes away from the spectacular Angkor Wat and located in a very quiet area of Siem Reap away from the tourists, Templation is a true oasis of calm, silence and beauty.

The hotel features Junior Suites, Pool Suites and Pool Villas as well as a RestaurantSpa & FitnessMain Pool and the shop Cambomania.

During our stay, Ale and I had the fantastic opportunity to be the first guests to attend a local cooking class lead by the Head Chef. Set in the gorgeous garden and filled with delicious spices and tastes it was one of the highlights of our stay.

Templation Gallery

 

DETAILS

Templation is north of the new Angkor Ticketing Center, closer to the entrance to the temples, and at 9 kms from Siem Reap International Airport, avoiding congested downtown Siem Reap. A 5mns drive will get you to Angkor Wat, the National Museum or the city centre. info@templation.asia  +855 (0)63 969 345  +855 (0)92 783 622  Rok Rak Street, Modul 3, Phum Sla Kram, Siem Reap, Cambodia

TEAHOUSE PHNOM PEHN – CAMBODIA – MAADS ASIA

The property

Inspired by Asia’s love and knowledge for tea, Tea House is one of Phnom Penh most peculiar hotels. The design combines classic Chinese details with the latest technology and facilities. Once you step inside, you will feel like entering a secret garden of quiet and peace right in the middle of Cambodia capital city. The perfect place to relax and get some work done.

The hotel features a Tea LoungePoolTea GardenRestaurantSpa and a Cambomania shop.

All the rooms are simple yet stylish and you can choose from two bedroom suite to our standard double for lone travellers or couples, all include free (fast) Wi-Fi and generous buffet breakfast.

Teahouse Gallery

DETAILS

TeaHouse: info@theteahouse.asia  +855 (0)23 212 789  #32, Street 242,  Phnom Penh, Cambodia

*

If you also would like to stay at Teahouse MAADS in Phnom Penh while exploring Cambodia, make sure to use the DIGINOMAADS code when booking so that you can enjoy a 10% discount and a free 30-minutes massage. [Long/medium arrangements also available]

 

Massive thank you to MAADS, Bernard Cohen and my favourite model Alessandra.

Malaysia won’t leave you speechless…

Malaysia is so much different from its neighbouring countries both on the north and the south. Landing in the dense, smoky urban jungle of Kuala Lumpur can be a massive shock, especially for me as I was coming from over a month spent on the pristine beaches and unspoilt natural beauty of Samoa and Fiji.

Malaysia isn’t beautiful – and this is the first time I say this of any country I’ve visited – sorry my dear Malaysian friends, no personal offence intended!

At the end of my Pacific wandering, I was looking for a place to meet up with my best friend and spend Christmas together. I shall be honest, Malaysia was our choice simply because for both of us (from Samoa and from Italy), it was the cheapest flying option.

Info about Malaysia

60% of the population in Malaysia is Muslim and you will find (and hear) mosques everywhere. But, you can also find temples too. Around 20 % of the population are Buddhist and Hindu.
Malayan is the language of the country and I recommend you learn a few words before heading there. It’s always nice to be able to say hello and thank you wherever you go.

Before heading to Malaysia

Currency

The local currency is Malaysian Ringgit and the current exchange is 1 USD = 4.46 Ringgits. Withdrawing money from  ATMs is easy and Malayan Bank doesn’t charge any commissions for foreign cards.

Safety

Malaysia is very safe. I’ve never felt at risk or in a dangerous situation while there. It’s like this in most of the countries in Southeast Asia I have been to.

How to get there

If you want to get by plane, there are many cheap flights companies coming from the countries around Southeast Asia. Air Asia offers good deals, especially flying to Kuala Lumpur. Check Skyscanner to make sure that you get the best fare if you are coming by plane.

You can also get to Malaysia overland from Thailand and Singapore. From Thailand, you can get there by train or bus.

Visa

Securing a visa for backpacking Malaysia isn’t going to be an issue. Most of the countries have free visa for 30/90 days to visit Malaysia. You just need to hold a passport with at least 6 months left, and you should get your stamp at the airport with no issue.

Weather

The weather in Malaysia is quite unpredictable and different from part to part. Peninsular Malaysia can be wet any time of the year even though the wet season officially lasts from November to March. The dry season is from April to October.

How to get wifi in Malaysia

Getting wifi in Malaysia is easy. You will find wifi almost everywhere. There are many places like malls, shops and bars where you will find wifi. And the connection is really good compared to a lot of countries in Southeast Asia.

Accommodation

Accommodation is very cheap in Malaysia. There are a lot of hostels where you can pay $4-5 for sleeping in a dorm and there are beach cottages for even less!

Below you will find my recommendations as always under the Dream section.

Kuala Lumpur

Initially, exhausted by 14 months of non-stop travelling, I spent almost three weeks in KL hosted by a dear Instagram friend from London who has relocated there with her husband. I lived the great life in her stunning apartment a stone’s throw from the Petronas Towers; I could actually see them while typing away on my Mac in her living room and while swimming from her awesome pool. Valeria totally spoiled me with her scrumptious and healthy lunches and I also managed to get back to the gym in the morning too. It was strange to finally settle back in the old home life and routine after so long on the road. It really felt strange to have a home, even if not mine, even if only for a short time. And it was amazing. Thank you, Vale! <3

The capital of Malaysia is a huge, messy, work-in-progress Asian city. Traffic jams are guaranteed every day and it’s far from being a pedestrian-friendly town. However, being the perfect shopping capital in South East Asia (after its bigger sister and architectural inspiration, Singapore), it’s a place worth a short visit (two or three days are enough).

Things to do in KL:

Petronas Towers and Marini’s on the 57

Sri Temple  

Batu Caves  

Brunch & Work at VCR

Get lost in The Rabbit Hole…. 

For some mysterious reasons, I have no pictures of this place even after spending several awesome nights there…I can’t tell you exactly where it is, but the Alice in Wonderland’s Rabbit Hole is here 🙂
Address: 16, Changkat Bukit Bintang, 50200 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Pulau Pangkor

After exploring KL, my best friend and I headed to the ocean for some well-deserved relax and beach time.

– Directions: take a bus from KL to Lumut and then the ferry from there.

 

Georgetown / Penang 

Georgetown is such a well-made cocktail of cultures, religions and history that my friend and I struggled to leave when it was time to catch our ferry north.

 

MUST – DOs in Georgetown: 

Upside Down Museum

Malaysia

Caffeinated break at Wheeler’s Coffee

Malaysia

Wander along Love Lane for some weird encounters…

Malaysia

Eat, Love and Eat. And Repeat 

Thanks to its Malayan, Chinese and Indian communities that gather to this peninsular country many centuries ago, here you can find incredible types of food that will never leave you hungry. Malaysia is truly foodies’ heaven and even the most sophisticated palates are going to find something new and delicious here.

malaysia

Dream at House of Journey

A cute, little hostel with an incredible vibe and staff. Minimal breakfast is included. Wi-Fi is weak but free.
 
Address: Pulau Pinang, 10200 George Town, Penang, Malaysia

After spending a few days in this little multicultural town, Fede and I got the ferry  to Langkawi 

Langkawi

Langkawi is the perfect place for relaxing that you can’t miss it when backpacking Malaysia. It’s a cheap place to buy alcohol and devices. And if you think about the usual party places of Thailand, Langkawi is not one of them. It’s a place for you to enjoy the beach during the day, and the quiet peace at night.

Do NOT Dream at Tubotel

I rarely leave bad reviews, but Tubotel really was a massive disappointment. The staff is poorly trained and far from friendly. Facilities are often dirty and despite they have and advertise having wi-fi, it is always turned off for some obscure reasons (even when politely requested…I work online!!!) The location is also inconvenient and next to the airport/port. No beach. We only stayed here because we made our booking at the very last second for NYE and it was one of the very few places available (we now know why!) The only plus of this place was the generous breakfast which was free and delicious.

Malaka

While backpacking Malaysia, Malaka or Malacca must be part of your itinerary. This old colonial town still retains the charm of the Portuguese influence and architecture. I loved this place maybe because it’s totally different from the other places in Malaysia.
friendship

Masjid Selat 

Work from 

Kaya Kaya Cafe

A very lovely cafe that serves excellent coffee and sumptuous meals. WiFi is quite good too.

Kaya Kaya cafe

Dream at 

Ringo’s Foyer Guest House
Address: Jalan Portugis, Kampung Dua, 75200, Malacca

The owner of this hostel is a character and full of life person who will take you to explore the town by bike and he’s always making sure the guests are having fun and are comfortable. The hostel is very nice and clean and in a OK position. I reccomend it ! 🙂

Directions: from Langkawi take the ferry to Kuala Perlis and from there catch an overnight bus to Melaka.

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Lost & Found in the Pacific (part 2) – Samoa

If in Fiji I got totally lost, Samoa is where I truly found myself again. My last post was all about my wild three weeks healing, flirting and finding a way to build my broken heart and shattered self-confidence, but it was only in the calm waters of Samoa that I really faced the sudden mess of my Life, the unsustainable pain, the shock of losing my chosen One. In Samoa, I had to move on and decide if I wanted to waste my last few months on the road crying over the spilled milk or face it, feel it and f**it.

Pain is inevitable.
Suffering is optional.
Murakami  

I decided to f**k it.

I landed in the capital of Apia after a brief flight from Nadi, where my driver greeted me for the long ride to my accommodation on the beach (see below for details). 

As he was driving, I was thinking about my recent memories of Fiji. I wandered, looking out of the window, if my next 10 days in Samoa would have been similar, but I had no expectations. I learnt to leave them behind. Nowadays, after sixteen months on the road, I travel without plans, ideas or programmes and I let the places and the people to amaze me.

All the time.
Everywhere.

This is for me is the purest way of travelling, where you explore for the pleasure of understanding, of being surprised, of letting the new country, city, people to take you by the storm. Anyway, as I was lost in my train of thoughts, we were taking the coastal route through an endless line-up of tiny villages, as most Samoans live along the coast. The villages were all extremely beautiful. Simple, but clean, with beautiful lush gardens and coconut plantations and natural forest. The road was winding and bumpy making the journey ever more interesting. People on the streets were coming back from work or school. In Samoa, most men wear the traditional lava-lava, a skirt that ends right below the knees, the kids are in their cute school uniforms while women have a more western look and traditional tattoos on their tights. There are tons of schools along the way, maybe as many churches, it seems. While we ride, we can see many family burial sites, prominently positioned in the front yard of the house, usually they are a pyramid type of tomb, sometimes single graves topped with a stone. There are no typical stores however, but little kiosks selling all sort of things. On the street, there are chickens, cows and stray dogs relaxing, sleeping or wandering. By the time we arrive at the destination, the sun was setting on the horizon and…

…and there is where Samoa hit me on the head.

samoa

I knew that there would be coconuts, sun, salt, and breathtaking natural beauty, but I did not know Samoa was a true untouched heaven, an incredibly stunning country lost – like I was – in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. What makes this tiny island country very special is the deep connection and love for the Fa’a Samoa, the Samoan way of living, so evocatively alive and deeply embedded in the people of this country which I immediately grasped on that first night.

Rarely you see so much unspoilt tropical beauty, very few hotels, no international supermarkets and the lack of hectic pace of modern life. The tiny South Pacific island nation of Samoa really is something incredible. I have seen a number of places in the world as you know, but Samoa truly is still unspoilt, wild and untouched as people had told me.  

WHEN TO GO:

Samoa is an incredibly beautiful place. It is not just the tropical flowers, the fresh air and the warmest people, it is the music, the dance, the sweet scents and the meaning of life which take a totally different perspective here.
Avoid the wet season from November to March but expect rain throughout the year. I was there in December. It rained every day for a little bit, but the peace of the low season is unbeatable.

samoa

SLEEP & DREAM AT:

Taufua Beach Fales – Lalomanu Beach, Upolu 

Incredible and wild home away from home for a week. This very laid back, far from fancy, family-run beach establishment of fales is paradise. Perfect if you want a quiet, chilled place to relax and go to bed rocked by the crashing waves. This was the perfect place to sooth my soul and heart: remote enough to ensure peace and quiet but at the same time with just the right number of guests and shows to keep you entertained.

Here, I slept in one of the traditional fale, an open cottage without walls, just a roof supported by pillars and beams, that in Samoa is often used to greet relatives and friends and sometimes, like in my case, even for sleeping.

Samoa

Samoan Outrigger Hotel – Apia, Upolu 

An exquisite boutique, family-run guesthouse with fale-style private bungalows set in a lush garden around a nice swimming pool. There are also normal hotel rooms in the main building. Complimentary breakfast.
Samoa

 

TOP 10 THINGS TO-DO IN SAMOA:

If hanging around the pool is not your thing (hello, traveller!), then consider renting a car (you can usually get the international licence on the spot through the rental company), and go about touring the island instead. Waterfalls, lagoons, diving and surfing spots, all make the trip worthwhile. Also: If you consider road tripping or backpacking in Samoa, be mindful that almost all land is in private hands, and that beaches are usually only accessible after paying a small fee to the local village.

1 To Sua Ocean Trench – Upolu

Magic is real! This is a giant swimming hole, thirty metres deep, filled with sea water and connected to the ocean by an underwater channel. You will need to climb down a very steep ladder in order to go for a swim.

To Sua is a “big hole” (this is the actual Samoan translation) that was created many, many years ago through volcanic activity making it one of the major attraction in Samoa (and a very Instagrammed sight too).

A swim in the To Sua Ocean Trench is unforgettable and this place was probably my favourite sight on the entire island.

 

Samoa te sua ocean trench

2 Fia Fia Night

Fia Fia is a tradition that you must experience while in Samoa. During the event, fire dancers, delicate female dancers, and super fit male dancers, songs and traditional food all come together to create a remarkable and memorable evening. Breadfruit, chicken, fish, fresh fruits, pork and taro are traditional foods, with kava being the traditional drink (like in Fiji).

Fia Fia Fia Fia

3 Lalomanu Beach

This is one of Samoa’s most pristine beaches, on the southeastern tip of Upolu. Here you can hire a beachside fale (I recommend Taufua Beach Fales), swim, snorkel, eat and soak up the sunshine. I was staying here for the first part of my holiday and many day trippers were coming to visit this gorgeous beach.

4 Robert Louis Stevenson House 

After Te-Sua Ocean Trench, this was probably my second favourite thing during my time in Samoa.

When Robert Louis Stevenson, the famous author of Treasure Island and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (Wordsworth Classics), arrived in the South Pacific in 1889/90 he found a warm, tropical paradise filled with friendly people and he decided to settle here with his family. Stevenson had been struggling with the ill health of his lungs all his life and the climate in Samoa seemed perfect, so much better than his Scottland or his wife’s America. So he bought an estate in Valima, right outside Apia and moved in with his wife, her children from her first marriage and his mother.

The house is still in the exact same conditions as a century ago: there is a half-completed jigsaw upstairs which totally mesmerised me, there are dresses, combs and books and of course, the studio where Stevenson completed some of his best works, including Kidnappedand Catriona

A visit to this museum/house is a must-do while in Apia and if you haven’t already, buy a copy of one of  “Tusitala” (Stevenson’s Samoan nickname, which means the “Writer of Tales”) there.

5 Papapapaitai Falls

The Papapapaitai Falls is a beautiful sight and my pictures don’t give them justice. Just off the Cross Island Road you will find a small bay to stop and admire them. As far as I know, there is no direct access to the fall, but you can see them from here: an incredible water stream down into a deep gorge.

6 Papaseea Sliding Rocks

Another gorgeous place to explore and have fun with your friends. Papaseea Sliding Rock is located at Seesee in Faleata District about 15 minutes drive from Apia. The sliding rocks are divided into two waterfalls where you can swim and slide for some extra fun.

There are one 5 meter slide and three smaller ones at the base of the steps and it is an ideal place for cooling off on a hot day.

7 Namua and Nu’utele Islands 

The translucent lagoon around Lalumanu beach is beyond beautiful and thanks to its rich marine life, it is now a reserve that protects a magnitude of tropical fish species. From here, you can head off to Namua Island just a little further to the north where you can swim with the endangered green turtle or you can explore Nuutele Island and see the most magnificient seabird nesting grounds of the Pacific.

8 Sunday Mass

Samoan people love to joke, sing, dance but are serious about three things in life: God, family and food. With regards to the first, with a couple of friends I met on the Island, I decided to go to a Sunday mass to see what the fuss was all about. We understood nothing of the service, of course, but the calm, the peace, the voices and the singing brought peace to my messy head and restless heart. Sunday in Samoa is a day of rest in which everyone goes to church dressing immaculately in white

Sunday in Samoa is a day of rest in which everyone goes to church dressing immaculately in white. They were elegant and beautiful and their procession to church reminded me of old movies and photographs from another era. It was an incredible experience that I highly recommend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9 Umu

While in Samoa, you must eat as much fresh fish and tropical fruit as possible. Also, make sure to try the Island fries made of taro and banana instead of potato. If you are lucky (like I was!!!) you will be invited to try the traditional Sunday lunch, the most important communal meal of the week (to’ana’i), with locals at their village.

The meal, which is cooked over the Samoan Umu, a traditional above the ground stone oven heated by glowing hot lava rocks normally features a whole pig, tons of different vegetables and coconut-based delicatessen. The food can be placed directly on the rocks, wrapped in banana leaves or in coconut fronds for cooking. Useless to say that we ate too much of all the delicious food that was offered to us by the incredibly generous and friendly people we’ve met.

10 Get a bus ride to the markets

Moving around Apia is simple and the city isn’t too big to walk everywhere. But, why walk when you can hop in one of the fun buses that populate the capital? Grab a map and board on a local crazy, brightly colourful bus. It’s cheap and it’s an incredible experience that you must try.

In Apia, the bus terminals are located next to the food market in Fugalei and also opposite the flea market at Savalalo. Apart from these two terminals, there are no designated bus stops, so you will need to wave down a bus (use your whole arm and keep your palm facing downwards) as it approaches and ask the driver which bus you need to catch. The seats are wooden benches, and if the bus becomes full, the locals will opt to sit on each others’ lap, rather than stand in the aisles. You will also be offered to sit on some strangers’ lap, so don’t be offended or scared and just embrace the Samoan way of living 🙂

The produce market in Apia is open every day of the week but is best from Monday to Saturday and it offers a dazzling array of fresh local produce. Go there for lunch and walk along the various stalls that serve some cooked Samoan favourites to nibble on and be amazed by the number of bananas, the taste of coconut and taro in all shapes and sizes.

If you are on a hunt for Samoa’s traditional, fine handicrafts like baskets, bags, sarong and more, then head to the Apia’s Flea Market on Beach Road (Monday to Saturday), which sell everything from colourful Samoan clothing to crafts.

samoa

Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.
Henry David Thoreau

samoa, fiji airways, fiji

In the Fa’a Samoa philosophy, natural disasters like strong hurricanes or tsunamis are blessings, as they wipe away existing structures and the arrival of donations help replace the faulty roads, bridges, houses and electric lines with new ones. It is there, talking with the locals about the last tsunami, about the family that manages Taufua Beach Fales lost over 80% of their members and how a local teacher saved the lives of dozens of Australian pupils simply following her instinct from the wave, that I understood.

I understood that in life, sometimes we need to be hit by a massive, unexpected, tragic tsunami that will take us completely down, almost suffocating us, depriving us of oxygen and hope, and only there and then, on the edge of losing everything, we must find the reasons and the way back up. Where we can breathe again. And it is there, once again swimming in incredibly crystal clear waters that I promised myself that I would go through it.

I wouldn’t let myself drown.

I know that I can survive
I walked through fire to save my life

* Most pictures were taken with the new addition to my Olympus family: Olympus Tough TG-4 Camera – Red

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