Tag: expedia

28
Nov

My favourite bits of Italy.

Despite the fact that it requires many thousands of dollars/kilometres for Australians to holiday abroad, and our currency is always being picked on by the bigger kids, we Strayans continue to travel overseas in rising numbers, and with craftier luggage tricks. Good on us.

I usually choose Italy. I’ll go there annually if they’ll continue to have me, despite my terrible pronunciation of “grazie”.

Some reasons include:

  • Carbs
  • Fashion
  • Negronis
  • Ricotta cheesecake
  • Swimming off rocks and no sand anywhere
  • No judgment when ordering a bowl of pasta, then pizza
  • Friendly, warm, welcoming Italians
  • Everyone looks great because everyone wears sunglasses always
  • Carbs

Like most people, I’ve done the classic Italian hotspots: Venice, Positano, Sicily and, of course, Athens. Here are some of my favourite things to do/see/eat/visit in the aforementioned hotspots.

Taormina, Sicily

We stayed in Taormina, on the beach, rather than up in town. But with a cable car swinging its way between the town (all the food/shops and most of the hotels) and beach (a handful of hotels and restaurants) all day, both options are good. Have a fancy, view-soaked drink at Grand Hotel Taormina, and outstanding aperitivo at Timoleone. Have your (daily) granita at Bam Bam bar, swim at Isola Bella, and make a day trip to Noto and Syracuse if time permits. Definitely eat lunch (or ideally stay) at Country House Villadorata, just outside of Noto, if you’re roaming. It served up the finest meal of my trip.

 

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Portofino

Portofino could never be accused of being cheap, but that’ll happen when you’re a) tiny, b) breathtaking, and c) overrun with super yachts and tourists. But it’s so lovely! Pop on your best boaty pastels and make the trip already! Head up to Hotel Splendido (often called the best hotel in the world, and after staying there, I’m a believer) for a sunset cocktail, and when the bill arrives suck it up and file it in your “Lifelong Memories” folder. Buy some cheese, wine and crackers in town and have a picnic in the surrounding national park; have a casual lunch at La Taverna del Marinaio, or walk away from the packed main square to L’Isolotto for some of the best pizza of your goddamn life. There’s a small, protected swimming area just below Splendido where locals swim laps (scene of one of the most magical rock swims of my life), or Paraggi beach just outside town.

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Venice?

Rome?

Capri and Positano?

Florence?

Click here.

Definitely not here.

Responses to this drivel: 7 Comments
08
Sep

I went low FODMAP in Italy and I didn’t break.

Despite my earlier post detailing the finest pizzas and gelato and cheesecakes in Florence, I must confess those magnificent meals were not indicative of my daily diet. They were naughty, delicious pit stops on a food journey through Italy that was primarily – gasp! – lactose, wheat, gluten and fructose free, and where possible, low in FODMAPs.

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Oh no no no, it’s not for any special reason, I just like to make life hard for myself! No: since the start of the year I’ve been sorting out some longstanding gut issues, (I thank Gut, the brilliant book by Giulia Enders for finally urging me to do so; also recommend Brain Maker by David Perlmutter, he of Grain Brain fame) and my gut guy (technical title) recommended I go on the low FODMAP diet to fix them.

At first I was miserable, and confused, hungry and extremely hangry, and then, after time, I figured out what I could eat, and what upset my tum, and how to cook without onion and garlic, and now it’s just a way of life. (Except that it isn’t, because it’s not a forever-diet, it’s a highly restrictive, temporary diet while your gut heals and then you begin re-introducing the problem foods back in. But you know what I mean.)

I feel much better for it, and so armed with a slew of supplements (oregano oil, Bactrex, digestive enzymes… sing if you know the words) I headed to the land of wheat, cheese and fruit.

But here’s what I discovered. You can still eat well and not feel like you are missing out in Italy, even if you have malabsorption issues, or intolerances, are vegan, or have full-blown allergies. The Italians are incredibly progressive in this area, in fact; no one blinks when you make a special request. Except for that one time I asked for Nutella on my omelette.

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I’m not sick, it’s a dietary preference, and I am the furthest thing from an expert on this, but you can click here to read what I learned if it’s of interest. (But not here.)

Responses to this drivel: 4 Comments
03
Aug

Five Total Florence Food Wins.

In a sentence that’s so gross even I’m repulsed: a few years back I lived in Tuscany while writing a novel. When I say ‘lived’, I mean schlepped around from B&B to B&B, from Lucca to San Gimignano, Forte dei Marmi to Florence, for six weeks. But still, it counts for something. Oh no, no, no, you mustn’t call me a local, it’s too much, basta, basta!

Florence swiftly stole my heart, the old dog. That’s its thing! It’s a heart-stealer, an extremely pretty, romantic city boasting an exciting history, art superstars, terrific food, world-class shopping and breathtakingly long queues for nude statues. (Also, in July, far too many tourists, but as one of them, even a local one, I’m not meant to say that.)

ZOEFLORENCE

 

As it happens each time I fall off a plane, I Goog everything from ‘finest Negroni in Florence’ to ‘best gelato in Florence’ to ‘local favourite pizza Florence.’ I need to know what’s best, old and new. If I’m in a city for only a few days, there is no time for a bad meal. They each must be sensational, lest my holiday slip below a 100% perfection rating. (Airports and, yknow, actual travel in general notwithstanding.)

And not a bad meal was had. Here are my favourites, perfect if you only have a few days and a stomach with a perfectionist complex:

 

Write-a-blog-about-it level ricotta cheesecake: Osteria Buongustai

This is a teeny, local-loved joint just back from Piazza del Republica (the big square with the antique carousel that must be ridden, no matter your age) serving delicious panini and very delicious spinach and ricotta crepes in dark, crowded, loud chaos but the homemade, warm baked ricotta cheesecake slapped in front of us with zero fanfare, was the stuff of dreams. We went back three times. Three.

 

Outstanding Gelato: Gelateria De’ Neri

Look, most gelato is pretty great when it’s summer and you’re in Florence. But at the same time, if I’m gonna eat gelato in Florence, I want it to be excellent. Here’s what a local taught me about gelato buying: Avoid places with all English wording, or with bright neon colours, or huge mounds or unnatural colours, or brand labels on the tubs (the equivalent of buying Streets ice cream posing as homemade.) The best gelato will be imperfect, smooth, flat and wavy, in a stainless steel mega tub, and somewhere nearby there will likely be the words ‘Gelato Artigianale.’ To that end, my stomach can personally vouch for the very popular, very traditional, very NOMNOMNOM Gelateria De’ Neri (they offer soy and sorbet options for the dairy-free, but I went hard on the ricotta and fig and rice flavours), the much-loved Vivoli, and also Cantina del Gelato. But like I said: Florence/summer/gelato – life is good.

 

Very delicious pizza: La Bussola

You’ll almost certainly come across this restaurant in your pizza-pie Googling, and with good reason: it’s delicious. Crispy and thin and simple. Ask the charming, playful waiters which to order, they know what’s up. (I went Margherita with olives.) The cocktails (“Two Americanos, please”) were strong and perfectly made, the interior was cool and dark, (the floating stools at the bar are terrifically ‘60s and quite frankly, they should be in my house), and the place is heaving with both locals and fellow pizza-Googlers. We had our concierge book us a table (and a babysitter, ahem) on the day and got an 8:30 booking easily, and they were accepting walk-ins, (with a wait). Dessert looked gorgeous, but my rule in Florence is to always walk home and grab a gelato. Duh.

 

The fancy, blowout meal: Cibrèo ristorante.

Celebrity chef, long-time local favourite and proprietor of a million fantastic reviews, Cibréo ristorante is not cheap, but it’s VERY worth it. (There’s also a Cibrèo trattoria and caffé across the street, and a theatre, Teatro del Sale, which apparently does great/odd shows + food) and are all great/use the same kitchen, however the menus/cost/experience differs. We had a Negroni outside at the caffé, before dining inside at the ristorante. We wanted to try the trattoria few nights later but – GASP! – it was closed because it was Monday. Remember this, cos it’s true of many restaurants in Italy. We were unjustifiably gutted.) The (traditional Tuscan, and pasta-free) food is exceptional (the chicken and ricotta meatballs are so YES) and the wine list was deeply impressive, if fermented grapes are your jam, which they probably should be if dining here. The diamonds were in the details for me, the eccentric, delightful service, the waiter sitting down with us at our table and talking us through that day’s menu, the enormous assortment of complimentary starters, the hilarious breadstick, the scent of the candle in the toilet…   Some meals are different, they lodge themselves in your memory, and this really did for us. 15/10.

 

The luxurious afternoon tea and stroll: The Four Seasons Hotel

If you hanker for greenery after plodding around in the heat on cobblestone streets for days, I urge you to come here for coffee and cake, or a spritz. Head to The Atrium Bar, which, like the entire hotel, a former palace, is opulent, regal, plush, and just so, well, expensive, but head outside as a matter of priority: The Four Seasons sits gloriously on Florence’s biggest private garden, Giardino della Gherardesca, all five acres of it. It was walled off, owned by Florentine nobles and unseen by the public for five centuries but now we’re in! And thank grass for that, cos it’s friggen paradise. Have your drink (it won’t be cheap: be warned, in fact, anti-cheap is probably the best way of putting it), then take a long stroll, and lay down under a tree for bit. It’s pretty special, and unlike Australia, there are no bindies.

Ah, Florence, ever the gent.

 

Responses to this drivel: 3 Comments
12
Nov

How to pack for a beach holiday with a baby.

It’s easier than packing for a beach holiday with a pet tiger, I suppose, but there’re still some challenges. And by challenges, I mean: suitcase space. Once I’d packed all of his stuff, I just squeezed in one sandal and a swimsuit for me.

It’s different depending on the baby’s age, obviously. This time last year we went to Europe for a month and all we really needed to pack was some clothes, a few colourful, rattly toys and my boobs.

This time he was 13 months old, eating normal food and wanes of toys in 20 seconds. And so, here’s how we chilly Melbourne cats packed for our magic trip to the Maldives with our teeny, non-verbal little buddy:

What I packed for baby

Swim pants (I prefer these over swim nappies, although I packed a few swim nappies too) plus a full body UV 50 rashie/swimsuit because sunscreening a baby is about as easy as pushing toothpaste back into the tube. (I like the Babes in the Shade ones as they’re cute and don’t feature angry animated sharks.) Sandals and walking shoes, a wide brim UV 50 hat with chin cord, and a cap. Assorted shorts and t-shirts and onesies… enough for one outfit a day and a few spares. (Special nod to Pure Baby’s little summer onesies.) I packed several Bonds Wondersuits because we adults had the air con at night, so these PJs ensured he’d stay warm.

Read the rest of this piece on Expedia, whom I wrote it for because I’ve tricked them into thinking I know heaps about travel, here.

Read about when to use the word ‘whom’ and when to use ‘who’ here.

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05
Dec

Don’t take four serums overseas.

As a beauty editor, frequent flyer and now mother, I wrote a piece for Expedia on the golden rule of travel beauty, which is: take heaps of bubble gum.

No, wait. It’s: keep it simple. Or, pay the price. (Literally. In luggage weight charges.)

Preparation is king.

Travel isn’t the time to be wasting precious minutes on boring stuff like applying mascara, blow-drying hair, fake tanning, manicures and so on. So, do all you can before you leave to make your holidays a, ‘I’m up, let’s go!’ experience, rather than, ‘Just give me half an hour.’ Get eyelash extensions. Have a keratin smoothing treatment put through your hair. Get a spray tan. Get gel polish on your toes and get a nude manicure (no polish or clear) on your fingers so you won’t have chipped, skanky nails a week in. (Natural is the new black anyway.) Waste time on your appearance before you leave, not once you arrive.

Pack everything a week out.

Then, the day before, when you’re adding your daily essentials, (sunscreen, cleanser, foundation etc.) remove 30% of what you packed. You do not need four serums. Nor do you need your hair curler and hair straightener, plus three brushes. Travel provides a wonderful opportunity to do a beauty detox. I’m not asking you to look like a banshee for two weeks, but I am asking you to reconsider how much of your suitcase you are dedicating to stuff you don’t need and won’t use during two weeks in Peru.

READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE HERE.

DON’T READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE HERE.

Responses to this drivel: 4 Comments