Gubbio, Umbria, Italy

Lots of people I recently talked to, even some experienced travellers, never heard of town called Gubbio, one of the great Medieval stone towns in Italy. I don’t know why it gets overlooked by all sorts of tourists guides?

If you like history, Medieval architecture, Gothic palaces and churches, cobblestone streets, markets and good food, plus all in a beautiful natural setting, but far from the mainstream tourist flows, you don’t need to look any further. Go to Gubbio!

 

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Bellagio, Lake Como

Lake Como is a timeless classic. For hundreds of years it’s been a popular destination with the rich and famous but there are plenty of things to do at Lake Como for the humble tourist. I found that it doesn’t matter how lavish looking are the hotels and restaurants around, the natural beauty of the Lakes and surroundings are taking advantage and overshadow everything else. So much beauty in one place!

Lots of people can be put off by thinking it’s the exclusive place of holidaying oligarchs and film stars (George Clooney has a place there). I also thought initially that it’ll be too much for our budget. But if you opt like we did for self-catering, it can be very affordable, because all the best things there, like breathtaking scenery, fresh air, swimming in the lakes, wonderful walks around are FREE!

We stayed in Bellagio – perhaps the most well known town on Lake Como, but the house we rented situated just outside of city centre, perched on very VERY steep hilltop. And although the walk to the town and back required physical effort at least twice a day (well, we have to burn off all these Apperitivi and gelato some how!), we were rewarded with peaceful surroundings and the most stunning views.

 

Ortigia, Sicily

Ortigia island is the oldest part of the beautiful city of Syracuse in Sicily. It is rather small and best enjoyed by foot. Perfect for strolling through the narrow lanes, admiring the buildings and sea views, dropping into churches, stopping for a drink or a great meal. There is so much to see over there, the place is packed with hidden gems and usual finds. The layers of history are everywhere  – Greek & Roman ruins, the great Duomo, ancient baths below ground, Baroque buildings and some modern addition architectural pieces are fun to explore.

We stayed in a district of Guidecca, with very narrow streets, typical medieval houses and clothes hanging from the balconies. This district used to be a home of Jewish community. Many buildings were built around a courtyard, which had a palm and citrus tree in the center. You can still see someone of it. The local people of Ortigia are very friendly and welcoming, the tourist traffic this time of year was light and the experiences were unforgettable!

Be aware: pictures overload!

 

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