01 Jul 2017

my home away from home


We were excited to be returning to Italy after just two years since our last visit and looked forward to flying the Emirates A380 Melbourne to Dubai on their direct service, with connection to Bologna. We had not flown to Italy on Emirates before and must say the experience was second to none. The hospitality of the crew outstanding and meal service great too. The aircraft was spacious and quiet. We were going to do this again!

Bologna, Emilia Romagna

I have travelled to Bologna several times before, but this time was different. My mother was born in the Emilia-Romagna region and grew up in Bologna and I’ve always felt the family heritage. This time there was a greater sense of connection to my ancestry. It was great to see family, it always is, and we (accompanied by my husband Campbell and daughter Madeleine) picked up where we left off on our previous trip two years before.

The gastronomic capital of Italy and slow food movement, the cuisine in Bologna represents Italy at its finest with Tortellini, Tagliatelle and Lasagna at the core of its traditional cuisine. In the centre of Emilia-Romagna’s capital, our apartment overlooked the two towers (le due torri). The best known of the twenty towers that remain of more than 100 that lined Bologna’s 12th-century skyline. This arched medieval city is spectacular; Piazza Maggiore, Il Duomo and the Basilica of St Petronis. The epitome of fashion houses, I was in heaven soaking up the colours and styles of the coming seasons. A couple of favourite local restaurants; La Terrazza, In Cucina Café e Bistrot, Drogheria della Rosa and Ristorante Cesarina located in the Piazza delle Sette Chiese (Piazza of the 7 churches) is a must.

Ravenna, Emilia Romagna

Ravenna was next on our itinerary. Known for its colourful mosaics and home to the tomb of the famous Italian poet Dante Alighieri, we visited family, the Basilica of San Vitale and other surrounding churches, a little shopping on via Cavour before a day out at Mirabilanda theme park, a definite must if travelling with children. Ravenna is also famous for Garganelli, a traditional pasta I once made as a child with my grandmother. When in Ravenna, enjoy lunch at local restaurant Ca da Ven and treat yourself to Garganelli alla Panna (or al Ragu) first starting with a platter of Prosciutto con piadine. My mouth waters at the thought of this Romagnolo delicacy.

Travelling by car in Italy gave us the flexibility we needed. Our next stop was to visit more family, followed by a local beach-stay at Milano Marittima. 

Milano Marittima is always a regular-stop as my recollection of visits to Italy as a child brought such fond memories of close-by Cervia, Cesenatico and Rimini coastlines. We stayed at the Majestic Hotel, which caters superbly for children having activities on the beach daily. It was here that we met Claudia, a lovely lady from Bergamo.

Bergamo, Lombardy

Bergamo is a town north east of Milan in the Lombardy region. Bergamo is where my grandfather was born and raised, a city that I had not yet visited. Claudia told me that my grandfather’s surname originated from the town where she was born and that we should make the time to visit. Three days later, we were in Bergamo.

What an incredible part of our journey. Bergamo is truly understated and a hidden treasure! The Citta Alta (the higher city) is accessed by funicular and the scenery is overwhelmingly spectacular. Surrounded by a Venetian wall, the Duomo di Bergamo is a majestic cathedral and Basilica di Santa Maggiore both located in Piazza Vecchia. We met Claudia and spent the day together, that evening spoilt by the local cuisine in an unsuspecting restaurant in a quaint yet cosmopolitan town.

We sojourned once again to Bologna en-route to San Gimignano. The Italian sun was steaming so we decided to bypass Florence and head straight to the south of Tuscany.

San Gimignano, Tuscany

San Gimignano, known as “the city of beautiful towers” is located south-west of Florence. Surrounded by 13th-century walls, we stayed in the heart of Piazza della Cisterna at the Leon Bianco hotel. It was an adventure, navigating our car through the narrow streets, we were permitted to drive our car into the central piazza for 15 minutes to drop off our luggage however required to park the car outside of the city walls. There were crowds of tourists and much laughter to get us through the city streets, the backdrop of scenery overlooking the Tuscan hills breathtaking.

Pienza, Tuscany

If travelling to the south of Tuscany, Pienza is a town in the provence of Siena located amongst Val d’Orcia.  An Italian friend once told me he left his heart in Pienza and I now understand why. Located 15 km from Montepulciano and 20km from Montalcino, it’s situated in the heart of Tuscany’s famous wine producing district and is still relatively unknown to tourists. Pienza presents a superb example of Renaissance architecture and in 1996 was declared by UNESCO as a world heritage site. The unprecedented, spectacular views of the Val d’Orcia, it is the capital of pecorino cheese. The inner and surrounding landscape simply beautiful.

Porto Cervo, Costa Smeralda (Sardegna)

A few more nights spent at my “home away-from home” town of Bologna, we flew to Olbia in Sardegna. This was the final leg of our journey and we were ending our trip in style. Our destination Porto Cervo, the capital of Costa Smeralda. Wow! This was amazing, the most remarkable lagoons and coastlines of the Mediteranean. We booked an apartment at Case della Marina and the hospitality was charming. With direct seaview overlooking the new marina we were in-between the new and old Marina’s. Porto Cervo is home to the mega-yachts, and is in the district of Arzachena.

For the next 8 days we sailed the waters, each day with a new and spectacular experience. There were 14 of us onboard the boat, all family and one skipper. Each morning we would wait for the weather update and the skipper would plan our voyage through the turquoise lagoons and heavenly beaches. One (of many highlights) was sailing the Maddalena archipelago located between Corsica and the north-eastern Sardegna before anchoring and taxiing the smaller boat to the shore for ice-cream at one of the waterside trattoria’s. It is only in more recent years that the Maddalena archipelago has been discovered by tourists as it was formerly the home of a NATO naval base. La Maddalena, Caprera, Budelli to name a few, are amongst the most beautiful beaches of the archipelago.
San Pantaleo, Arzachena

Not to be missed is the charismatic, small town of San Pantaleo. Every Thursday, the colourful market boasts local produce, local fashion and hand-made jewels. Our final night was spent watching the sunset on Phi Beach. My husband Campbell had seen Phi Beach mentioned on numerous occasions through his instagram feeds however we weren’t anticipating how good this could be! Located at Napoleon’s military fortress, the restaurant with Michelon star rating, Europe’s finest DJ’s were playing the latest summer tunes. There was no better way to end our trip than to dance.. and that’s just what we did!

Bologna, we will return soon.