Taormina, Sicily

‘Taormina’s past is Sicily’s history in a microcosm: Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Swabians, the French and the Spanish all came, saw, conquered and left.’

Taormina has been the most popular tourist destination in Sicily for a couple of hundred years.  Although normally, we try to avoid too touristy places, this time we couldn’t possibly miss this little place. If it was worth visiting for Oscar Wilde, Goethe, Alexander Dumas, Truman Copote, Greta Garbo and many others, it should be worth visiting for us too. So we did, we visited and liked it a lot.

Taormina is home to one of the most famous Greek Theatres in the world. Here, in summertime the main events of the International Film, Music, Dance and Theatre Festival of Taormina Arte take place. Hence so many celebrities gather here. Besides the ancient Greek Theatre, it has many old churches, lively bars, fine restaurants and all sort of shops(mainly expensive!).

Taormina is not by the sea, it is above the sea, at 200 meters. You can walk up to the top or take a cable- car. To be honest, it is usual to find an absence of any signs in Sicily, here was the same. So we didn’t see the cable-car straight away and decided to take a walk. Luckily it wasn’t a mid summer day, however, it still was rather warm and it took us nearly an hour to climb up there. We recuperated after with a large drink… Aperol Spritz. 🙂

Catania, Sicily

We’ve just returned after our week-long holiday exploring the east coast of Sicily. What a great country, full of surprises. Before we even left, we had a surprise – Etna started to erupt the day before our departure. Luckily, it didn’t affect out flights. Actually it was just a bonus for us, to see it quietly bubbling away, spitting the lava it was something magical. (Note: it wasn’t bad eruption, no-one injured, so it’s all good!)

Our trip started in Catania, Sicily’s second city. Catania is vibrant, loud, full of traffic, shabby but beautiful! It is like ginormous hot pot, with Etna on top, literally bubbling at the time we were there.

I read somewhere an interesting fact that Ancient Greeks believed Mount Etna to be the home of Vulcan, the god of fire. To the Ancient Greeks, every time Mount Etna erupted, it was merely a sign that their god of fire Vulcan was creating weapons for their God of War, Mars. Despite the frequent volcanic activity, people still choose to live in the vicinity of Mount Etna though.

 

 

 

Hungarian Food taster

During our stay in Hungary, besides the sight-seeing, our aim was, of course, to try as much authentic Hungarian food as possible.

Unfortunately, in the city, you’ll be overwhelmed by the amount of bright signs on the street, advertising  fast food, pizzas and burgers. However, if you are patient and do some research, turn off the main high street and leave the tourist areas, you’ll be rewarded with some absolutely delicious authentic dishes; Goulash, Bean Soup, Mushroom Soup, Fisherman’s Soup, Stuffed pancakes, Paprikás, made of pork, beef or chicken which is one of the most popular meat dishes.

If you have a sweet tooth you do not want to miss their amazing Hungarian cakes and pastries. Coffee houses, cafés are the best places to try these sweet delights. Luckily, they are everywhere and very affordable. You must try their Strudels, a flaky pastry with various fillings, cottage cheese, apple, poppy-seed and my favourite- cherry. Not to mention the Eszeteházy torts – cake layered with walnut cream and  Cottage cheese cake.

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Hungarian Walnut Cake

And of course, you can’t leave the country without trying their famous street food – Lángos. Unfortunately, it is not from the ‘low calories’ range (we shared one between two of us and it was incredibly filling). It is a yeast-raised dough, deep fried in oil, and served with lashings of garlic, sour cream and shredded cheese.

Langos

As you know from my previous post, we were lucky enough to be invited for a traditional Hungarian Sunday dinner to our friend’s parents’ place. Her Mum is an incredible cook and she prepared an array of never-ending amazing food for us. We had a Chicken Soup with Cottage Cheese biscuits, Stuffed Pancakes with Chicken and served with Paprika Source, Chicken Paprikash with Galushkas, Cottage & Poppyseed Cake, and Gluten Free Chocolate and Walnut Cake. It was a delicious feast!

Hungarian Chicken Soup

Cottage Cheese Straws

Chicken Paprikash

Cottage Cheese & Poppyseed Cake

Paleo Chocolate Cake

 

Budapest

We recently visited Budapest for the first time and had a fabulous time. What a great city it is and spring is a perfect time for visiting when it’s already much warmer than the UK and everything is covered in bloom.  I’ve heard a lot of good things about Hungary before, but in reality it was even better then I expected. Buda and Pest, two parts, two stories merge to form a romantic incredible getaway with european style but with a unique signature. The city is very clean, has so much to offer, is very easy to navigate and is comfortable to be in. Plenty of history, culture, enchanting architecture all over the city, sights, museums, you will never be bored.

We were fortunate be taken outside of the city, to Lake Balaton to see some ‘real life’ outside of the capital. We were also invited to our friend’s family house for a proper Hungarian Sunday dinner, which was amazing. The scenery of the river, mountains, lots of trees, great food and hospitable hosts were amazing.

Budapest/Parlament

Buda part

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Budapest/Fisherman Bastion

Budapest Castle

Buda part

Buda part

Budapest / Old Town

Budapest

Budapest/ synagogue

Pest Architecture

Tihany, Hungary

Budapest/ Parlament

Trattoria Vino e Cibo

This little hidden Trattoria and the meal we had there, wasn’t just a highlight of our recent trip to Italy, it was the best fish place I ever visited so far. Had we not been taken there by our dear friends we wouldn’t even have found it, let alone tried it. But we were so glad we visited this place, because here is where we had our best food moments.

Trattoria Vino e Cibo turns out to be a delightful tiny restaurant (very few seats) where you can taste the real cuisine of the Marche. The décor of this place is nothing out of the ordinary, even a bit tired. But don’t go there for the interior, go for the cooking and great wine!

The menu is unique and varies day to day. It all depends on what is caught at the nearby harbour. There’s no table top food menu, instead the owner comes over to the table with an A frame board, where you get to read the days creations. (Talk about locally sourced produce and reducing your carbon footprint! Seems they’re doing it right in Italy, you catch what you catch and eat what you catch. They’re not trying to meet quotas for supermarkets)! Ambiance is very cozy and the service is splendid and friendly.

We also had a local white wine, which we all loved, completely different from anything we’d ever tasted, so many different layered flavours. Often wines we buy in the UK will make me sneeze, like an allergic reaction, maybe because of certain sulphites or preservatives. This Italian wine, nothing!

We trusted our Friend who is local to this area with the food choice and everything he choose was amazing.

Pane e scombro

Pane e scombro

Tartar de Tonno

Tartar de Tonno

Cannocchie limone e rosmarino

Cannocchie limone e rosmarino

Seppioline ripiene al forno

Seppioline ripiene al forno

Rombo al forno con pendolini, olive e basilico

Rombo al forno con pendolini, olive e basilico

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Trattoria Vino e Cibo

Via Fagnani, 16

Senigallia, Italy

Monastero di Fonte Avellana

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We’ve just come back after short but lovely break to Italy. Without mentioning the food, one of the highlights for us was a trip to Monastero di Fonte Avellana, a  Roman Catholic hermitage in Marche region. It is truly a peaceful place with a few well preserved buildings and the natural surroundings are beautiful and tranquil.

The location is a bit remote and, I have to say, driving on the road up to the monastery was a bit adventurous and not very enjoyable. Both my sister and I felt a bit ‘fragile’ after reaching the top, however, soon after we were rewarded with the most stunning views, spectacular surroundings and authentic hospitality.

Apparently, you can stay there over night on a sort of B&B basis, but some people (like us) are coming here for hiking in the mountains, especially this time of year it is absolutely beautiful.  The only regret we had is that we could not stay longer.

I loved the harmony and peace of Fonte Avellana and thought that we must come back to explore more hiking trails in the area, breath the clean mountain air and listen to the silence.

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Mark’s highlights included catching multiple Italian grasshoppers, a lesser seen green spider, and a very speedy lizard.

Before leaving we visited the store where you can buy different goods produced by monks whom live there, including herbal teas, bitters, sweets, creams, soap, and for more adventurous their honey liquor, which  has 90 percentage of alcohol!

We tried this bright yellow ‘paint stripper’ on our last night after a proper Italian meat feast. If you like Pernod Anise, maybe you’d like this. Very fragrant, very yellow and very very strong. The best way to kill off any seasonal cold germs!!!

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