HostelLife: Conversations with guests – Soo Lim

People frequently surprise me, but when Soo Lim told me that she “has a birthday every year, but doesn’t always get older”, it kind of blew my mind.

1 July 2016

HostelLife: Conversations with guests – Yanni, Lola & Alina

This past Easter, I chatted with these three warm and friendly Indonesian guests about the Pope, pasta and the fact that they are 3 strangers traveling together.

19 May 2016

Rome’s Parks – Parco degli Acquedotti (Aqueduct Park)

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This is the first in a series I’ll be posting about Rome’s various green areas.

On Mother’s Day this year and with an entire day to have my minions children and husband at my disposal, cater to my every whim, all to myself, I decided on lunch at my favorite restaurant and a bicycle ride.  We don’t all have our own wheels, so we reserved some bicycles to rent.

I found on-line the kind folks at Fuori di Ruota, a cultural association in a private residence.  Reservations are mandatory and it’s possible to just send a text message or email and they speak multiple languages including English, Spanish and French.  They responded very quickly to our request.

We picked up our bicycles and directly across the street was the Parco degli Acquedotti, but were informed that the Via Appia was a 25 minute ride away.  Since we had very  limited time and the Via Appia definitely deserves at the very least 2 hours, we decided to just ride within the park.

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The park gets its name from the two aqueducts in the park – the Acqua Claudia and the Acqua Felice.  Near the entrance to the park across from Fuori di Ruota one can also see the remains of the Villa delle Vignacce, once a very large private residence that was built in the 2nd century AD.  It’s also possible to see a section of the Via Latina – one of the original Roman roads that was built in the 300s BC and once stretched for 200km.

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The park is truly spectacular –  incredibly green and the dirt paths are well-maintained (by Rome standards).  On the weekends you’ll get an eyeful of everyday Rome – folks having a picnic, jogging, strolling, cycling, having a picnic or an amorous cuddle.  Since it’s a protected area, there is no development within the park and you’ll even see sheep herders and their flocks grazing in the fields.

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Despite some mention of it in various guidebooks such as Rick Steves, most visitors to Rome don’t head this way.  The park is easily reachable by public transit and there are two metro stops nearby – Lucio Sesto (15 minute walk) and Giulio Agricola (10 minute walk) both on the red line/Line A metro in the direction of Anagnina.

 

 

Discovering Montalcino wines with Curious Appetite & We Like Tuscany

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I didn’t always like wine.  My family is Puertorican and ours is a rum culture, not a wine culture.  Living in Italy for the past 17 years, I have definitely gained an appreciation and love for wine and I try to learn what I can usually from knowledgeable wine expert friends in Rome like #winelover Sarah May Grunwald of Antiqua Tours or Hande Kutlar Leimer of Vinoroma.

This past March, I was invited by my friend Coral Sisk of Curious Appetite who is based out of Florence to join in on a group wine tour being led by her and We Like Tuscany specifically visiting small, independent producers of Montalcino wine in the Val d’Orcia area of southern Tuscany.  The whole area became a designated UNESCO World Heritage site in 2004 and it is a stunningly beautiful part of Italy.

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We had an early start and while the day was grey and drizzly, our group was small and in good spirits – we were in a beautiful place in excellent company with lots of great wine in our near future – who wouldn’t be!  Our first stop was at the Casato Prime Donne winery.  Donatella Cinelli Colombini is an inspiring entrepreneur who started this first all female winery in 1998.

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At Casato Prime Donne each part of the winery during tastings is a multi-sensory experience with music specifically and expertly selected in each of the rooms to correspond with the wine being tasted.

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A red heart on the barrel signifies the top of the top at Casato Prime Donne winery – wine made from the best grapes grown in the best part of the vineyard and an extremely limited quantity produced.   After our visit, I had to buy a couple bottles to remember the experience.  The red heart bottles were out of my price range, but they have a wide range of differently priced options to choose from.

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I’m not used to drinking wine so early in the morning so I took very small sips at Casato Prime Donne and saved most of my wine drinking for our second stop at Santa Giulia winery which despite the wet weather had gorgeous views.

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We toured a bit of the winery, but primarily did our wine tasting with lunch.  It was a wonderful spread including a thoughtfully prepared first and second vegetarian course for me as the lone veggie in the group.  I don’t ever expect a special meal so this was very much appreciated.  Gianluca Terzuoli poured the delicious wines from his family’s vineyard that is run by him, his wife and parents.  At mealtime is the traditional way to drink wine in Italy and my preferred way as well so this was perfect.

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After a delicious meal which was prepared by Gianluca’s mother, we headed to our third and final stop of our wine tour at La Fornace winery.  Founder and patriarch Franco Giannetti passed on the family business to his son Fabio and it was very obvious that he inherited a love for their land and passion for their product.  Both father and son were there to pour the wines and tell us about their winery and the history of wine in the area.

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As a small independent business ourselves, I feel strongly about supporting other small, family run businesses like the wineries we visited.  In the internet age, their product is now available to everyone so if you don’t live in Italy there’s limited quantities you can take back home with you, but they can ship and then thankfully, it’s always possible to order more.  Wine tours or a wine tasting are definitely a great idea when in Italy as it’s such an integral part of the culture here.  So much wine and so little time!

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The wine I brought home didn’t last very long, but I still have a bottle of a 2009 Santa Giulia Brunello di Montalcino that I’m saving for a future special dinner.  Thanks so much to Curious Appetite and We Like Tuscany and all the wineries we visited for a very memorable day.

HostelLife: Conversations with guests – Adam & Anna

Adam & Anna are brother and sister, on their first trip alone together and first time to Europe.  This time I have a special guest helping me interview them – Viola (my youngest daughter)!

30 April 2016
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