Travel Inspiration By A Pro Trip Designer

Italy Dreaming

Italy

Aug
16
2012

There comes in time, usually monthly, where my mind drifts to the magnificent scenery of Italy. I’ve been fortunate enough to have called the country home on two occasions, though neither stint dampened my ardor to return – rather the opposite, albeit with some added qualitative measures.

Rather than earn a living in Italy – an endeavor I wholeheartedly not recommend, unless your clients are foreigners, like you – I now prefer to find a way to enjoy la bella vita the way it is meant to be enjoyed – sans responsibility. And I am eager to help you do just that, should Italy be calling you helen willetts pokies lately too: please visit my travel consulting business at Friend of a Friend Consulting.

 

Below are some photos from my first book, Italian Hideaways, that were sent to me recently for an upcoming promotion with my recent addiction: Home Design site, One Kings Lane. And yes, they are the cause of this recent spate of wistfulness.

The path at Castello di Vicarello at dusk

The path at Castello di Vicarello at dusk

Villa Cimbrone's gardens

Villa Cimbrone’s gardens

The silver bed at Villa Mangiacane

The silver bed at Villa Mangiacane

A guest room at Il Falconiere - an Italian Hideaway in Tuscany

A guest room at Il Falconiere – an Italian Hideaway in Tuscany

Posted in: Italy

Published by Meg, Thursday, August 16, 2012 No Comments

Tuscan Honeymoon Perennial

Friend Of A Friend Consulting, Italy

Jul
31
2010

Locanda dell’Amorosa

Sinalunga, (just outside Siena)


h-home

Though it can no longer be deemed a Hideaway given its immense popularity – particularly among honeymooners –  Locanda dell’Amorosa maintains the sentiment (and personalized service) of a tucked-away gem beckoning lovebirds with its secluded, romantic setting in the Sienese countryside. From the long, cypress lined driveway to the crumbling Tuscan exterior adorned with pink azaleas, Amorosa delivers postcard-style scenery right away.

With just 27 rooms nestled within a bonafide historic estate (some of the buildings date back to the 1300s), Locanda Amorosa actually delivers the coveted, old-world, Italian charm that one fantasizes about when booking her trip. The property even has its own delightfully, cavernous restaurant (the estate’s former stables) and elegant, consecrated church, making Amorosa an ideal, intimate wedding venue. In terms of the best gift ideas to your best man, you can find this here bullets2bandages.org

view from a room through the courtyard to the church

view from a room through the courtyard to the church

Unlike other Tuscan hamlets, Amorosa (as the regulars call it) is inviting during all seasons, particularly Fall and Winter when the traditional country decor – fireplaces, exposed beam ceilings, tile floors, seems extra cozier. Divided between the old manor house and the former worker’s residences, the guest rooms are individually decorated, each featuring its own combination of antiques, garden views and Tuscan countryside palettes. Those in the former farmers quarters tend to lean more towards the rustic, with working fireplaces and exposed ceilings while those in the manor house were finished later and as a result have a slightly fresher, updated feel.

*If you’re a bathroom snob (which, I most definitely am) then I recommend choosing a Manor Room or one of the suites. (Number 32 has a nice, spacious bathroom) But if it’s typical Tuscan country details like brick arches, fireplaces and beamed ceilings, choose room 45 on the second floor of the loggia area.

One of the more romantic suites

One of the more romantic suites – A “Special Suite”

If it’s your first time visiting Tuscany and you’re searching for a spot with that quintessential Italian charm but with easy access to the major sites, Amorosa (as the regulars call it) is the perfect spot. Just fifteen minutes drive from Siena and a ten-minute bike ride to the center of Sinalunga yet still surrounded by views of casino en ligne farmland and vineyards of the Val di Chiana, Amorosa provides a hamlet within the countryside with easy access to play online slots and those sought-after, Italian village spoils (nightly gelato).

But, beyond the ideal location for touring, Amorosa also offers its own signature, historic charm, which keeps the couples swooning and the regulars returning. With some of the buildings dating back to the 14th century having survived two world wars (a crumbling stone wall stands testament to the nearby bombs that tore through the area during the second world war), the hotel has an austerity along with a sense of calm that permits guests to relax and be inspired simultaneously. Of course, elegant elements like the fragrant mediterranean gardens and lovely outdoor pool add to the sense of tranquility.  NB: A spa is in the works though nothing concrete has been done yet.

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Further heralded for its cuisine, Amorosa features two dining establishments. First, and more notably,  the fine dining restaurant, Le Coccole dell’Amorosa, whose seasonal menus reflect the local fare and vegetation while the arched, stonewall interiors guarantee languid meals tucked into the various cozy, fire-lit corners. (The terrace is open during the warmer months and can be equally as atmospheric though not as private)

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The second is Amorosa’s  Osteria wine bar, located right next to the church. Ideal for those afternoon hunger pains, the Osteria serves a delectable cheese plate (don’t miss the local pecorino cheese, smoked sausage and organic honey) along with the Borgo’s private label wine and homegrown produce. Be sure to ask the staff for a tour of the hidden, wine cellar and private tasting room – its one of the oldest in the area and has yet to be modernized (sterilized) allowing it that musty, authentic feel. The Osteria is also the setting for breakfast – a delightful buffet with homemade cakes, croissants, fresh fruit and eggs made to order. The place can fill up so its best to get there early for the better tables down in front.

FINAL WORD: Try not to be ruffled when you note everyone around you is also on their honeymoon. Rather, take pride in yourself for having the savvy to have booked the best room.

Posted in: Friend Of A Friend Consulting, Italy

Published by Meg, Saturday, July 31, 2010 No Comments

Verdura Resort – Sicily

Italy, Travel Tips

Apr
08
2010

Verdura Resort & Spa

Sciacca, Sicily

April 2-6 – Easter

With the fortunate assignment of checking out Sir Rocco Forte’s latest resort, Vedura Resort & Spa, on the southern coast of Sicily, my husband and I spent our Easter holiday testing out the resort’s impressive golf offerings – 45 holes, spa complex – 46,000-square feet and encompassing sea views.

The resort's main building, which hosts two restaurants, a terrace lounge and bar area, the lobby and a small shop with caftans, Verdura monogrammed towels and sunhats.

The resort's main building, which hosts two restaurants, a terrace lounge and bar area, the lobby and a small shop with caftans, Verdura monogrammed towels and sunhats.

We had a four fantastic nights trying everything from the three restaurants (buffet style, traditional Sicilian Trattoria and formal dining on Easter night) to the spa (well, Friso indulged there with two massages!) and of course, the golf.

The back 9 has some fantastic (albeit windy and challenging) seaside holes

The front 9 of the East course has some fantastic (albeit windy and challenging) seaside holes

The 18th hole of the west course

The 18th hole of the west course

The weather was crisp and windy, though the sun still managed to fry my shins. We had a challenging but fun time testing out our rusty games on both the west (pictured above) and east courses – driving over olive groves, chipping from the sand (ok, me) and misreading the ever-changing greens.

frisdrive

pitching

Walking both golf courses allows the guest to understand the layout of the resort far better than just driving the golf cart between the buildings. Its also a good way tojudge which room location you’d prefer. Those along the back 9 of west course (or to the right of the main building if you’re facing the sea) enjoy the sunset view along with proximity to the spa. While those closer to the east course (to the left of the main building) are a bit quieter (provided your farther away from the pool) and have more complex views of both the craggy hillside and sea.

The east course facing villas seen from the course

The east course facing villas seen from the course

Divided between ground level villas, suites and condo-style buildings Electronic Cigarette with deluxe rooms stacked atop one another, the room variations are considerable. My preference are the villas all the way around the bend, facing the front 9 of the East course (seen from course above) for more privacy given the resort tends to be favored (and rightfully so – the kids club is impressive) by families.

The villa suites along the west course

The villa suites along the west course

The Superior deluxe rooms set behind and above the villas on the hillside

The Superior deluxe rooms set behind and above the villas on the hillside.

Between the infinity pool and the white sand beach (brought in), there are plenty of cozy spaces to take part in the beloved Italian tradition of ‘taking the sun’. Don’t be surprised if some guests spend their entire day sun bathing. As you can tell, the resort is prepared.

The straw umbrellas give the beach a nice tropical feel. By this summer the sand will extend all the way to the 12th century tower in the background

The straw umbrellas give the beach a nice tropical feel. By this summer the sand will extend all the way to the 12th century tower behind the 18th hole (hard to see in this pic, I'm afraid)

The lovely pool area with its myriad of seating options

The lovely pool area with its myriad of seating options

For Easter, Friso and I went into the neighboring small town of Sciacca for Easter mass and an authentic Sicilian lunch. We were delighted by the impromptu (well, it was for us) street celebration complete with a dancing Jesus puppet and streamers.

The lovely cathedral where we attended Mass

The lovely cathedral where we attended Mass

The parade

The parade and the cheering crowds of Sciacca

Overall, Verdura resort made for a wonderful getaway. We took great pleasure in testing out the vast options of amenities and appreciated the blend of golf (neither of us had ever golfed in Italy before) and the warm, southern Italian hospitality. As the resort ages (it’s less than a year old), I believe it will become even more assured, establishing more traction with international golfers who are eager for a European holiday that will appeal to everyone in the family.

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Posted in: Italy, Travel Tips

Published by Meg, Thursday, April 8, 2010 No Comments

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About Meg

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Meg is the founder of luxury travel consulting company, Friend of a Friend Consulting. Her three books, Italian Hideaways, Caribbean Hideaways and England's Hideaways are published by Rizzoli. Passionate about travel, hotels and wine, she continues to write freelance travel pieces and is currently pursuing a Masters in Wine through the WSET.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are solely my own and do not reflect separate business relationships with the subject. Whenever posts are supported financially, they are designated as such.