Tag Archives: italy

Umbria (Assisi and Spello)

24 Jul

IMG_9924As some of you may know a few weeks ago we spent a week in the gorgeous region of Umbria.  It was mostly a week of hanging out at the pool with family but we did manage to fit in a few visits to some nearby towns.  Umbria, in general, has the beautiful landscapes of Tuscany but without the masses of tourists (although this region is slowly becoming more and more popular).

Here are a few images of our visit to the towns of Assisi and Spello.

IMG_9915The views of Assisi as you’re driving up from the motorway are absolutely stunning with the monochrome coloured buildings and the impressive Basilica.

IMG_9917We were pleasantly surprised how easy it was to drive up into town and park at the ultra modern multi-floor underground parking lot.  Apparently Assisi is one of the top places to visit in Umbria and is known to be FULL of tourists throughout the entire year.  We were lucky to visit it in the morning before the big busloads of tourists arrived (and before the sun got too scorchingly hot to walk around).

IMG_9927Walking through the narrow cobblestone streets of Assisi you run into nuns,priests and monks visiting from all over the world.  We were all quite impressed with the emotion a lot of people felt as they visited Assisi.  There were people in tears, in deep prayer and in awe of actually visiting a place that obviously meant so much to them spiritually. Continue reading


This and That

22 May

I don’t know about where you are in the world but here in Italy it has been one of the greyest and rainiest springs I’ve ever experienced.  Usually by the end of May the weather around here  is already scorching hot and the kids are in the lake swimming every day.  Not this year.  This past week we’ve actually had temperatures under 10 degrees and rain and hail storms that made me want to hide under the table.  But I have hope for better weather soon.  At least all this rain means we won’t have to water our gardens in secret past midnight due to water bans this summer.  IMG_8389-001

In a few days I head to Berlin to attend The Hive European Blogging Conference.  I attended the first one last year and had a great time, learned lots of new bloggy-things and, most importantly, met some fantastic people whom I can’t wait to see again this year.  My week-end is already packed full of lunch dates, museum dates, dinner dates and lots of talks and workshops.  Oh and a hotel room to myself where I can watch mindless TV and order roomservice.  Nice.

IMG_8153I don’t know if any of you know but I am a HUGE fan of Instagram (follow me here).  So you can imagine how excited I was last week when I received these Instagram prints in the mail from Origrami.  I absolutely love this small Sydney (Australia) based husband and wife run business.  The photos are great quality, it’s very reasonably priced and they arrived in record time (considering Posta Italiana was involved).

The photos come in a super stylish cardboard box and have Instagram information on the back (if desired).  On my photos I can see a map with the location where it was taken, the date and number of likes it got.  Now I’m trying to figure out what the best way is to display all these great shots.IMG_7889I can’t wait for the weather to improve so we can enjoy our Wednesday evening picnics with a group of our closest friends here.  This photo was shot on our first (and only due to bad weather) picnic this year.  Us parents kick back on blankets beside the lake while the kids run and play in the fields around us.  Photo is of the sweet little Patagnoma.  
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I received this lovely painting above from one of my daughter’s for Mother’s Day.  This girl knows me well.  I love everything about it (and her).


I have been passing this little church at least four times a day for the last decade and I finally stopped the car and got out to take some photos.  There are so many of these lovely little spots that I get to see on a daily basis.  Lucky me.

That’s enough random thoughts and photos for today.  Happy Wednesday everyone!


10 May

Yesterday the newest issue of one of my favourite magazines sisterMAG came out.  The theme of this issue is Italy and it’s absolutely gorgeous from beginning to end.  They’ve included lots of great articles on interesting  people and companies, fascinating and beautiful places to visit, the most delicious looking recipes to make and lots more (the book binding tutorial is one of my faves).  And all of the photos will make you want to immediately hop on a plane to this gorgeous county that I’m so fortunate to live in.

The magazine’s founders and editors Thea and Toni approached me a while ago asking if I’d like to participate in this issue and I immediately jumped at the chance. I’ve been a big admirer of the magazine ever since I learned about it at a presentation by Thea and Toni at last year’s European Blogging Conference The Hive.  Those ladies are so talented and ambitious.

For this issue I wrote a feature article on Italy’s Northern Lakes region (for obvious reasons of course).  After living in and exploring the region for over a decade I thought it would be a great opportunity to share my favorite places and activities that are available around Lago Maggiore, Lago di Como, Lago d’Orta and Lago di Garda.


Pop on over and take a peek at the Italy issue (available in German and English).  I know you’ll love it!

Have a great week-end everyone!

Gattinara, Piemonte

8 Mar

One of the things I love about the place I live is the fact that we’re so close to so many beautiful areas.  We can hop in the car and be in the centre of Milan in less than an hour (depending on traffic of course).  We can arrive at the Swiss border within 45 minutes and to the beautiful city of Lugano in a little over an hour.  The Mediterranean Sea is a beautiful relaxing drive of less than two hours as well.  It’s wonderful to be able to wake up on a Saturday morning, look  out the window and decide what kind of landscape we’re in the mood to visit that day.


As I mentioned here  a few months ago, this year we’ve decided to explore and discover as many new and lovely places as we can in the region of Piemonte.  We are actually only minutes to the border of Lombardia and Piemonte (I do my grocery shopping there) and have actually seen very little of it over the 12 years that we’ve lived here.

Last Saturday morning we decided we wanted to do a nice little hike but weren’t in the mood to be in the car for very long.  We looked at a map and decided on the town of Gattinara which is a mere 30 minutes from our doorstep.

We all packed into the car and off we went to find some beautiful spot to take a stroll.  We arrived in the town and noticed there were signs that led up to a famous antique tower.  We followed the steep road up into the hills and vineyards and found just what we were looking for.


We parked the car, visited around the tower for a few minutes then headed off on foot among the rolling hills covered in vineyards (which apparently are some of the best around).  Along one of the dirt roads we decided to follow a sign for the abandoned castle of San Lorenzo.  The weather was still a bit foggy (which it often is in Piemonte) and we slowly made our way up through the woods.


The castle of San Lorenzo (XII-XIII) is in ruins but well kept and great fun for the kids to explore and climb around.  The sun broke through the clouds just in time for our picnic and we sat at a lovely old stone table in a little clearing in a wooded area.  The view we had on the abandoned castle was just perfect.

1-IMG_6749After lunch we strolled around the castle grounds and enjoyed the first sun we had seen in days.  In the middle of the ruins the kids found the ultimate climbing tree.  So while they climbed we sat back and enjoyed the views over the region and the Sesia River.

1-IMG_6735As usual, we had the place to ourselves.  I always find it amazing that you can find these gorgeous little deserted spots in the middle of nowhere.

1-IMG_6752Although it’s always a bit difficult to get the kids motivated to leave the house on week-end mornings they are always so happy when we are visiting these places.  They love the walks through the woods, vineyards, hills and towns and they adore hearing about the history behind all these places.


Yet another great day out discovering Piemonte.

25 Jan


The other day I was frantically driving the kids from one activity to the next when all of a sudden I found myself alone and with a free hour before having to pick up the next child.  Usually I would spend the time doing the grocery shopping or some other errand but it was such a gorgeous day that I thought I’d go down to the lake and enjoy the views.


This spot is literally 5 minutes from where I dropped my daughter off for her guitar lesson.  It was a bright sunny day and the mountains were clearly visible in the distance.  I sat there and soaked in the heat of the late afternoon sun and took in the stunning views.

1-IMG_5366I don’t know about any of you but sometimes I’m so busy with going about our daily routines and chores that I forget to stop and appreciate the beauty of the place I live in.  Sitting here on this little deserted beach looking out at the choppy lake and admiring the snow capped mountains gave me some peace of mind and let me re-connect after the chaos of taxiing from basketball lessons to theatre class and then rushing home to start dinner and finish homework.


I know it’s not always easy to find these moments but when we do it usually has a lasting effect on our well-being and tolerance of getting through these busy days of ours.  Do you have a favorite place that you go to have a moment alone?

Buon week-end a tutti!


17 Jan

A few week-ends ago we decided to make a day trip to the Piemonte region here in Northern Italy.  We are currently living in Lombardia but are literally 5 minutes from the border to Piemonte.

Piemonte offers so many beautiful areas to visit: the famous vineyards of Barolo and Barbaresco (to name a few), the vast risotto fields, small medieval towns and villages with castles, monasteries and beautiful villas and famous cities such as Torino.

So we decided that this will be our year to really explore Piemonte and all it has to offer.  Luckily we can reach many beautiful spots within an hour or so by car so it’s really perfect for a week-end day-trip.  Last year we visited the gorgeous town of Moleto and we plan to return there for a lazy Sunday lunch and walk in the rolling fields.


So for our first Saturday outing we decided to visit the small city of Vercelli.  Vercelli is one of the oldest urban sites in Northern Italy (founded around 600BC).  The town is full of historic buildings from all periods and styles.  Every time you turn a corner you stumble upon another amazing piece of architecture.


My husband spent the day teaching the kids about different styles of architecture (Roman, Gothic, Liberty etc) and by the end of the day they could identify all the styles of the different buildings and churches.  Who would have thought little kids would find it so exciting to learn about antique architectural styles!  I love that.


I fell in love with this house above.  How lovely would it be to have an upstairs hallway with those windows!


After a morning of wandering aimlessly through the town (which was empty for some reason) we found a little restaurant that offered delicious local specialties.  We tried the Bagna Cauda (warm dip of garlic and anchovies served with fresh vegetables), a local cheese plate (something my daughter always orders),  Panissa (a risotto with beans and sausage) and a hearty bowl of Pasta e Fagioli (beans and pasta).


We also browsed through the monthly Organic/Biological market in the main square. Lots of local honeys, jams, baked goods and vegetables on offer to buy.

1-IMG_5236All in all a lovely and sunny winter outing.  I hope there will be many more of these in the coming months.  Stay tuned!

2 Nov

It has been a crazy busy few weeks.  We’ve had guests, parties, trips, root canals (ouch) and a lot of movie-making.  To say I’m exhausted would be an understatement.  Oh and to top it off I’ve been off sugar for two weeks as well.  I’d like to tell you that I feel so much healthier and full of energy but I’m going to be honest; I’ve been a sugar craving basket case.  The stuff is worse than crack my friends.  It’s going to get easier, right?

Here are a few images of the past days.

Making pizza box skeletons to decorate the yard for Halloween.  In mad scientist clothing of course.

Choppy lake and snow covered mountains.  In October?  Not a good sign.

130 trick-or-treaters and a house full of friends celebrating makes the perfect Halloween.

Beach walk.

Multi-coloured leaf collection.

Arona on a sunny day.

Enjoy your week-end!


11 Oct

Last week-end the weather was beautiful, the kids were keen and our bike wheels were full of air so we decided to do a beautiful bike ride along the Canals of Navigli.  The Navigli Canals run from the north all the way down into the city of Milan.

We started our ride in the small town of Nosate which is about a 30 minute drive from our house. We loaded all five bikes in and on our cars and off we went.

We started off on our bike ride mid-morning and cycled a few hours before stopping for a picnic on the lawns of the Villa Gaia in the town of Robecco Sul Naviglio.

The car-free cycle paths are beautifully maintained and wind along the canals through lush forested areas.  We were lucky with perfect warm weather and blue skies (without any mosquitoes!).

Every so often you have to cycle through an old town many of which have quaint little restaurants and bars in which you can stop to eat or have a drink.

Along the canals you come across many of these old abandoned Renaissance villas.  Who on earth abandons a mansion such as this?

It’s possible to ride along the canals from Lago Maggiore (Sesto Calende) all the way into Milan.  This time we managed a little more than 40 km but we hope to do the entire ride into Milan next year.

I really do live in a beautiful place.

Gnocco Fritto

20 Sep

This past week-end the parents of an Italian friend of ours invited us to their annual end of summer party.  It’s an occasion for the extended family and friends to get together before winter starts and it, of course, revolved around food.  But not just any food.  Aunts and cousins from the Emilia-Romagna area of Italy came up to prepare the famous gnocco fritto.

Gnocco fritto is a fried dough that is served with cold sliced meats and cheeses.  They are absolutely delicious.  And addictive.  And rich.  Imagine eating a piece of fried dough with cheese and pancetta on top?  I managed to scoff down a good 4 or 5 but I did see some people who were closer to 20.  I’m surprised I didn’t see some of them passed out under the various fruit trees by the end of the afternoon (especially since there were many bottle of Lambrusco consumed as well).

These ladies started preparing the pasta early in the morning and worked straight through to late afternoon frying up pan after pan of these light and crispy gnocco.

My dainty daughters who have miniature sized stomachs managed to eat 1 1/2 gnocco.  This is Nico eating his 8th (and they wonder why their little brother who is 2 years younger weighs more than them!).

I took along some mini cupcakes.  The Italians thought they were the sweetest looking cakes they’d ever seen.  I’m pretty sure only my kids actually ate them though.  I saw many of the Italians eating the gnocco fritto with fruit salad on top for dessert.  They told me it “cleaned the gnocco out of their system”.

The party took place in a lovely field with fruit trees of every kind.  And 6 alpacas staring us from the other side of a fence.  I think they were probably thrown at least one gnocco fritto during the party.

Things I love…

3 Jul

Outdoor breakfasts with friends.  Especially if they involve stacks of crepes and waffles.Little brothers who make stacks of cookies for their sisters (who were away for 4 days).Gifts from friends that you can appreciate every year. Taking a walk through the woods and finding this that was etched into a buiding over a decade ago.One-on-one time with my daughter.Watching my kids mess around with water colour paints.Discovering a new and gorgeous spot that is actually less then 30 minutes from home.

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