Palazzo Vecchietti

Florence is probably my favorite city in the world (at least from the ones I know), the art, the history, present in every corner are responsible for that premise, so when we chose the Palazzo Vecchietti as our hotel, for yet another trip to the city, I knew our experience would be memorable.


And why? Because this Palazzo has 5 centuries of history! The family of name Vecchietti, was one of the most wealthy and important in Florence, and in 1578 they ordered the project of their home to Giambologna.

So, right in the middle of town, along different areas and buildings the family already had (from Piazza della Repuplica to the Palazzo Strozzi), the Palazzo Vecchietti was born. It was built over a building of the past century and in an even more antique Byzantine tower.

A few centuries later, the Palazzo Vecchietti transformed into a luxury hotel, without the usual ostentation and greatness of the five stars, but with a luxury concept with a more discrete and intimate side.

This luxury combined with history and art made me fall in love immediately!

First Impression
The entrance is in a kind of tunnel that takes us into an authentic return to the past, guiding us are the stones of the former Byzantine tower, the adrenaline rises when I know I’m touching history!


We arrived at the lobby, a huge room with the elegance and richness from other times, and I can close my eyes and imagine myself in another century. The fireplace is one of the main elements of this room is the fireplace, as well as the statues and paintings of the Vecchietti family. The antique furniture transmits refinement to this space, without overlooking comfort.

The team welcomes us kindly and offers water, or prosecco, and snacks, that are at the guests disposal during the day.

Our check in is promptly made and we are forwarded to our bedroom. And what a bedroom!!!

Bedrooms
There are 12, and two apartments. These have names of some of the most important figures in Florence. We stayed in a Deluxe bedroom with the emblematic name of Botticelli, which was honestly like a house, where I could easily live!

As soon as I entered, I realized the bedroom was a perfect symbiosis between intimate luxury and historical greatness.

The past mixes in each moment with the contemporary in a connection without precedent.

The neutral colors match perfectly with the purple vitality of the curtains, the tapestry and the sofas, velvety, transmitting comfort and well-being.

The fireplace and the books that decorate the bedroom are the main cast of true idleness moments.

The bathroom transmits unpaired fragrances and the kitchen is perfect for any house.

As I referred, this is not a bedrooms, it’s a house in one of the most historical cities in the world.

Restaurants
Having in account the concept of family home, the Palazzo Vecchietti doesn’t have a restaurant, it has a main room on the last floor where breakfast is served, or you can have it in your bedroom, as you wish, or if you leave the hotel very early, they will prepare you a breakfast box with all that is necessary to start the day in the best way possible.

There’s also a vegetarian breakfast menu, and also a gluten-free one.

However, and because the service of a true luxury hotel is present in every detail if you need a reservation in the several restaurants in town, the team takes care of it.

During the day, you can find sweet and sour snacks, besides water and prosecco in the reception.

Services
They are in all similar to any five-star hotel. Reception 24/7, wi-fi, transport or car rental, planned visits to the city or specific locations, babysitting, spa and restaurant booking, among many other options.

The hotel is also pet friendly.

Service
Palazzo Vecchietti is a different kind of luxury, without formalisms or pretentiousness, the team treats us like we’re the owners of the house, not just guests.

They are caring and don’t leave anything to chance, making us feel at home, without invading. And always welcome us with geniune smiles in the face, no need for keeping appearances.

I think luxury in the future will pass through this kind of experiences, a modest luxury, in which the quality of the products is not left to chance, but where privacy becomes the biggest priority, creating a cozier environment, more subtle and without servility.

And the Palazzo Vecchietti perfectly translates all this, a unique and familiar luxury!

Palazzo Vecchietti
Bedrooms from 220€
Via degli Strozzi, 4 – Florença
+39 055 230 280 2
info@palazzovecchietti.com

Versão Portuguesa

Photos: Flavors & Senses

Disclaimer
We were at Palazzo Vecchietti by invitation, whereas this does not alter our work, being the opinion and the text of the exclusive responsibility of the author.

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Metamorfosi

metamorfosi-20Rome is a classic city, monumental and historic, where despite the bustle of being kind of a touristic themed park, its people keep the past well present, as well as the respect for tradition and still look at change and modernity with severity, namely in terms of gastronomy.

It’s a city where it’s easy to find some great restaurants with emblematic dishes, well rooted in the Roman culture, simple, and based on product quality. However, when looking at haute cuisine, the choice is a bit more complicated, there are several starred restaurants of course, but the majority of them very classical without great irreverence or cultural shock as it already happens in other known restaurants in Italy.

But there is an exception, the Metamorfosi, born in one of the classiest neighborhoods in the city, by the hands of Roy Caceres, a Colombian that came to Italy to cook, passing by restaurants like Il Pelicano, Locanda Solarola and  Pipero before going, in 2010, on his own adventure.

The restaurant, recently renewed, is a breath of fresh air in the city, recreated with a certain Japanese influence, where less is more, with a minimalist decoration and the use of wood screens to create cozier and more intimate areas in the room.

Olive oil and salt crackers 

We are welcomed with snacks arriving quickly at the table, starting with some interesting olive oil and salt crackers and a cocktail of Vodka, Tequilla, basil, ginger, cardamom, kaffir lime and Indian figs.

cocktail

Crunchy seed bread, marinated fish and curry cream  

Followed a crunchy seed bread, marinated fish and curry cream, a snack with an interesting contrast of flavors and textures, where the curry cream raises the bar. Then we had some Chicory tips, with anchovy mayo and sesame dust,  delicate, crunchy and full of flavor.

Chicory tips, with anchovy mayo and sesame dust 

So just you don’t doubt the chef’s origins, next up were some delicious and sinful Arepas filled with meat. Perfect I dare say!

Arepas filled with meat 

Crunchy celery, mussels, potato foam, black salt and marjoram, where and unfortunately, despite the interesting textures, the delicate flavor of the mussels was completely lost in the combination.

After this interesting start, and with huge expectations, we made a pause, but not a common pause, a break so the bread arrives at the table, which here gets a specific moment. The bread created by the Swedish sus-chef John Regefalk, who fell in love with the art of bakery during his passing through Noma.

The aromatic side, the good level of hydration and an excellent crust make this bread the best we tasted in Italy. Accompanying was an interesting olive oil sorbet, allowing a good temperature contrast with the bread.

Tuna taco and herbs  
A return to Latin America with an inspired Taco, in which the tortilla is replaced with leafs of several plants and herbs. A light dish, elegant, that takes street food to fine dining, raising the bar and the flavors. On the other hand, the dish shows very well the identity of Roy Caceres that was seen all over the menu, with the resource to fresh herbs and the contrast between the vegetable freshness and the remaining flavors and textures.

After the cocktail, followed a Riesling Fritz HaagTrocken from 2015, an easy wine, without much complexity that conquers for its good acidity and the tropical and citrus notes. A good harmonization!

 Carbonara
A dish that reminds us very well where we are, with a very well accomplished version. Without using pasta of any type, the dish lives of the good egg cooked at low temperature, of the guanciale, the combination of Parmigiano and pecorino, the cracklings, transporting us immediately to the comfy flavor of the Roman classic. Very well accomplished!

On the glass, we also traveled through Italy, more precisely to the region of Umbria, with a Chardonnay Bramìto from 2015, Castello della Sala, an interesting white of great potential, with an elegant tone and appetizing nose, complex, with tropical, citric and some vanilla notes. In the mouth, its structure and acidity reveal great freshness, cutting well the greasiness of the dish.

Anti Pasta
The name says it all, a pasta dish, that in reality is not! To create a kind of linguini, the chef uses a fish broth, dehydrated, cut and then hydrated again, giving it a huge intensity of flavor and a texture similar to a thin rice pasta. The dish grows even more with the sauce, made of shrimp heads, squid, prawns and a lemon gel with herb dust that gives it that freshness the chef seeks in every dish. Very good!

To harmonize, the choice went to a Rosé from Tuscany, Bibbona SOF 2015 from Tenuta Campo di Sasso, inspired by the Provence wines, with strawberry, pomegranate, gooseberry and balsamic notes. In the mouth revealed less exuberant but its acidity and elegance allowed the sea flavors of the dish to stand out.

 

Mushroom risotto, caramelized hazelnut, and robiola cheese    
Another Italian classic hidden in a “Japanese drum”, with a cape of onion and dried mushrooms, that melts while pouring the Robiola cheese cream. As to the risotto itself, it was the most comfortable and classical dish of the menu, made with great rigor and rich in flavor and texture. With some truffle chips, it would’ve been unforgettable for sure!

Accompanying was a Verduzzo 2012 from Bressan, with a wide and fresh nose, despite the honey apricot, peach and pear notes. In the mouth, its structure and persistency turned it into a great company to the textures and flavors of the risotto.

Wagyu, onion and mint sauce with eggplant, satay sauce and herbs
Dish and sides served and plated separately, once again showing the accuracy and gastronomic personality of the chef and his search for freshness and the constasts of flavor and texture executed with great elegance. Great quality meat, the sauce remiding a barbecue, but lighter and fresh, the sides bringing Earth notes and some dimmension with the satay sauce. A great, great dish!

With the meat with passed to the Reds, with a Sicilian wine, Palari Faro from Azienda Agricola Palari 2010. A beautiful wine, light color, complex aroma, surprisingly elegant, with great tanins and presence in the mouth.

Blue cheese and white chocolate lollypop, Port wine gel 
A classic at Metamorfosi, serving as pre-dessert, bringing to the table a Portuguese element we love so much, Port wine, in this case , gel made with the LBV from Quinta do Noval. As to the dish, great balance of sweetness and the combination of cheese with chocolate. Delicious!

Black Forest
A version of the classic cake, with mascarpone, dark chocolate fermented with passion fruit, chocolate crumble, herbs and red fruits gel. Interesting flavors and combinations, with highlight to the fermented chocolate, resulting in a fresh and light ending to an already long menu.

On the glass, we finished with a Favinia Passulé 2012, a Late Harvest produced in Sicily, of golden color and honey notes, with the nose transmiting classic fig notes, orange peel, dates, and dried fruits, surprising with the presence of aromatic herbs’ aromas that give it freshness. In the mouth, it’s sweet in the right measure, with power and finesse, where fruit is the hightligh. In terms of pairing, I would of course prefer a Port, but this one was not disapointing.

petit fours

To finish, the petit four, presented at a good level, with highlight to the lemon cake with vanilla and gooseberry.

The Service is worthy of highlight by itself, for being above the average of the Michelin restaurants in Italy. Calm, serene, present in the right moment, with understandable English (also a rare thing!) and with a good knowledge of the menu.

Final Remarks
It’s good when we enter spaces that break the classic rules and quickly overcome the expectations we take when entering the room, that’s the case of this Metamorfosi. A restaurant that could have everything not to be well accepted in a city like Rome, but that also has everything needed to become one of the great highlights of the city and the country.

The cuisine of Roy Caceres reveals details of enhanced subtelty and elegance, with a constant search for lightness and freshness, ending up being the common element to the entire menu, from the dishes inspired in his Latin America to the Italian classics that serve as base to some of his boldest creations.

A mandatory restaurant when visiting Rome!

Metamorfosi
Menus from 100€
Via Giovanni Antonelli, 30 –  Roma
+39 068 07 68 39
info@metamorfosiroma.it

Versão Portuguesa

Photos: Flavors & Senses

Disclaimer
We were at Metamorfosi by invitation, whereas this does not alter our work, being the opinion and the text of the exclusive responsibility of the author. 

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Crossing Condotti

crossingcondotti-15Very near to one of the most famous areas in Rome, the Piazza di Spagna, the Crossing Condotti personifies a new luxury concept.

A house that makes us feel at peace in our apartment, but with all the commodities of a luxury hotel, excelling in privacy and comfort!

At a mere 50 meters from Piazza di Spagna, minutes from one of the biggest attractions in Rome and surrounded by luxury stores, the Crossing Condotti was the perfect location to another visit to the Eternal City!

The last time we went to Rome was in 2011 and I must admit I was already missing it, those who accompany our blog know my love for history and there’s no better place than Rome to live history all around us!

crossingcondotti-14So, this time we chose the hotel Crossing Condotti, an antique house at Via dei Condotti, recently restored and transformed into a hotel that transports us to a concept of family home, with many of the features of a true five-star hotel.

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crossingcondotti-18First Impression
Let’s say its location charmed me right away! The Crossing Condotti is located in a cross-cut to Via dei Condotti, right in front of the Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti, better known as Spanish steps.

We arrived, rang the bell and immediately were welcomed at the door of this historic two-floor building, charming and restored.

crossingcondotti-17A nice member of the staff helped us with the bags and accompanied us to the reception, or better put, living room! An elegant environment, very cozy with antique furniture and sober colors.

We were offered water, tea or coffee and our check-in was taken care off, without rush, formalisms, and then we were forwarded to our bedroom, on that same floor, being given not only the key to our bedroom but also to the house, making us feel owners of this little piece of Rome!

crossingcondotti-19A few hours later and after some deserved resting we met the owner (the reception works only from 8.30 am to 6.30 pm) David, who shared the sympathy of the previous employer (there are only two) but who had another wonderful quality, he spoke Portuguese.

crossingcondotti-23Bedrooms
The hotel has nine bedrooms, of which five are Superior, one Deluxe, a Junior Suite, a Master Room and a Penthouse Suite. We stayed in a Superior, named Carroze.

A sober decoration with the original wood ceilings, antique furniture, and paintings from the previous owners of the house. An elegant combination of elements from the past with a contemporary environment.

crossingcondotti-24The bed was huge, super comfortable and the neutral tones of the curtains and the walls gave the space an unpaired elegance. In the bathroom, the L´occitane products filled the air with a soft and pleasant aroma.

crossingcondotti-25In the bedroom, we had tea, coffee, water, and biscuits. The other types of bedroom even have a kitchenette with more beverage and food options, besides a fridge, coffee machine and all the commodities of an authentic house. On its turn, and because no detail is left to chance, the Junior Suite, the Master Room, and the Penthouse have Turkish bath, with music and chromotherapy, capable of assuring the most perfect relaxation moment.

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Restaurants
As you may have realized, not being a normal concept hotel, it has no restaurant service, however, it assures a very diverse and complete selection of foods and drinks to its guests. In the kitchen, at disposal (24h a day) are biscuits, sweets, cheeses (very good!), water, juices, milk, beer, coffee, and tea.

crossingcondotti-16And also, David took care of booking our restaurants so we didn’t have to worry about a thing.

As I’ve been telling, Crossing Condotti is like our home but with a Concierge included!

crossingcondotti-21Services
The services are in all similar to a five-star hotel, just ask at the reception.
Booking a restaurant, transfers to and from the airport, guided visits to the city or specific museums, babysitter, laundry, hairs stylist, spa booking, among many other options that vary from guest to guest.

All that is necessary to make our stay memorable, the Crossing Condotti assures!

One of the things that interested me the most was the organization of small gatherings the hotel provides at the Penthouse in which all the guests are invited to taste the divine Italian cheeses and taste wines of organic production from the Montefalco region, of the house Antonelli.

crossingcondotti-8This initiative, although having been done, is still in a test phase, but it will be for sure another way to make the guests feel at home or at their friends’.

We had the chance to taste one of the wines, the MonteFalco Rosso from 2013, a wine of intense aroma and filled with wild fruits, marked in the mouth for being dry, with good structure and balanced. Super approved.

crossingcondotti-10Service
The Crossing Condotti is not a luxury hotel, but luxury incarnated in a privacy and family house environment, where we feel at home from the start, with our family and friends.

We are free to go to the kitchen grab something to drink, to sit on the living room couch and talk to the staff about Rome, or simply about life. Have some wine, talk and enjoy all the moments spent in the comfort of our space. Because Crossing Condotti is just that, our home in the city of Rome!

crossingcondotti-11I could speak about David’s sympathy, of the genuine smiles and the constant care about our well being, but if during the entire text I talked about feeling at home, you know I was extremely well taken care of!

Sometimes we get tired of the constant formalities of the luxury hotel chains, the associated pretentiousness and the only thing we want is the warmth of our own space, and that is precisely what we find here, with with a plus, the luxury and comfort are a constant.

crossingcondotti-20If I had to define Crossing Condotti I would say it is an Intimate luxury!

Crossing Condotti
Bedrooms from 245€
Via Mario de’ Fiori, 28 – Roma
+39 06 69 29 54 69
info@crossingcondotti.com

Versão Portuguesa

Text: Cíntia Oliveira | Photos: Flavors & Senses

Disclaimer
We were at Crossing Condotti by invitation, whereas that does not alter our work, being the opinion and the text of the exclusive responsibility of the author.

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Grand Hotel Palazzo della Fonte

gpf-22When we arrive at a hotel with more than a century of existence its history immediately captures our attention, mostly when we know names like Vittorio Emanuelle III and Pablo Picasso were once guests there. I speak of the Grand Palazzo Della Fonte in Fiuggi.

The famous Italian land of thermal springs, which water has the fame of treating the illnesses of Michelangelo, has a sumptuous and elegant hotel, with a century of stories to tell and a very peculiar charm that quickly transports us to Wes Anderson’s scenarios.

gpf-23By the time it opened, in 1913, it intended to be the most elegant and modern hotel of its time, being even the first to have a private pool in all of Europe. Obviously, it easily became the meeting point of the most important personalities of that time and of the European upper society.

It survived two World Wars, and nowadays keeps much of that charm and magnificence of the charming 20’s!

gpf-13First Impression
Arriving at the Grand Palazzo Della Fonte gives us the feeling of being part of a movie, with the greatness and elegance of other times, like in a Great Gatsby style!
As soon as entering the complex the hotel arises in its haughtiness in a palace shape. A huge building, white, Art Nouveau.

We entered and the charm of the decoration overwhelmed us, transporting us to the beauty of the Belle Époque, with richness in every detail, highlighting immediately the shiny wood of the furniture, the chandeliers and the elegance of the employees.

After the check in we were forwarded to our bedroom by a nice employee directly taken from the cast of the Grand Hotel Budapest movie!

gpf-2Bedrooms
It has 153, of which 145 are bedrooms, 7 are suites and one royal suite, all of them with a decoration inspired by the British country houses. The contact with nature is constant, in the floral motifs in the walls, curtains or beds, and in the views from the tall windows.

We stayed in a bedroom that despite being generously big was also able to transmit coziness. On its turn, the bathroom had a luxurious aspect, given by the marbles, but a bit outdated.

gpf-3We were also received with some tasty welcoming biscuits.

The only flaw? Maybe the absence of a robe. It’s just that I don’t survive without those huge and fluffy robes! However, after a request to the reception, a comfy robe quickly arrived just for me!

gpf-27Restaurants
The hotel has four options, Il Portico and Il Portico BarFonte Bar, La Terrazza, and Savoia.
The first is the restaurant and bar next to the exterior pool and serves different meals/snacks throughout the day. It’s open only from May to September, as well as the pool.

gpf-16Fonte Bar

The Fonte Bar is one of the most elegant and bohemian places at  Grand Palazzo Della Fonte. Enjoying a cocktail at the balcony in a party environment from the 20’s is an incredible moment.

The La Terrazza, in its turn, is the Summer restaurant, more informal and where some lighter meals are served. 

gpf-35Savoia

Lastly, the Savoia is the main restaurant of the hotel. A huge room, with finesse in each detail, and serves traditional Italian cuisine, leaving no one indifferent. Here we had the chance to taste a great lunch, that surprised us and conquered us, especially after the breakfast (served in another beautiful pavilion of the Hotel) being a bit far from what expected.

gpf-33We started with an excellent Bresaola with chestnut cream (chestnuts produced in the Hotel!), a delicious dish of baby octopus with polenta, and then a risotto with black truffle and a ravioli with Porcini mushrooms.

gpf-30 gpf-34Persimmon and vanilla mille-feuille

Despite the presentation of the dishes being a bit outdated, it just follows the palace image of the dining room. On its turn, the flavor and cooking technique were flawless.

gpf-25Services
The Grand Palazzo is the perfect hotel for personal or professional events, with a total capacity of 11 rooms offering all the necessary features, both for celebrating a special occasion or for team building events, conferences, congresses or entertainment events.

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gpf-17It’s not a hotel with a business environment but serves that purpose very well, with even more charm, with some of the rooms being true works of art with frescoes around the ceilings and walls. Not to mention the immense region of the natural park that allows several outdoor activities, as well as the golf course and two tennis courts.

gpf-5But the ex libris of the hotel is the Luxury Fonte Spa, that brings guests from all around the world.

Fiuggi is known as the thermal water springs that helped an infinity of people along the centuries, and the Grand Palazzo Della Fonte was able to combine the best of two worlds, luxury, and benefits of these waters.
The Luxury Fonte Spa is constituted by two pools, an exterior and a warm interior one, a jacuzzi, a sauna, a Turkish bath, 10 treatment rooms and a relaxation room. The treatments are signed by the famous brand Carita-Paris.

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In the complex of the spa, there’s also a gym, water/tea and fruits at the disposal of the guests.

gpf-12Service
As I referred from the beginning of the article what fascinated me the most in this member of the Leading Hotels of the World was the Belle Époque environment, the crazy 20’s are present in each corner of the hotel, and during our stay, we felt constantly a part of the Grand Hotel Budapest cast!

However, and maybe because of the time we went (November – low season) I got the impression of there being less staff, mainly in the spa that was filled with guests but just with an employee in the reception (besides the therapists). Super nice, I must say, as well as the remaining staff, but in a hotel this big the team must be extensive as well.

This detail aside, the team that accompanied us was careful, caring and with true smiles during all the stay.

gpf-19Views from the Hotel over the old town of Fiuggi

Special thanks to Daniel Barr, one of the nicest and helpful hotel directors we ever met, who guided us and showed us the history of that hotel, one of the most important in Italy!

As to the hotel, it is the best destination to those visiting that region of the Country!

I hope that one day there is a “small” investment that refunds all the glory of the past of this Grand Palazzo!

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Grand Hotel Palazzo Della Fonte 
Bedrooms from 180€
Via Dei Villini, 7 – Fiuggi
+39 07 75 50 81
information@palazzodellafonte.com

Versão Portuguesa

Text: Cíntia Oliveira | Photos: Flavors & Senses

Disclaimer
We were at the Grand Hotel Palazzo Della Fonte by invitation, whereas this does not alter our work, being the opinion and the text of the exclusive responsibility of the author.

Posted in Hotels | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Response

Pompeii

pompeiaPompeii’s ruins with Vesuvius in the background 

Located very closely to Naples, Pompeii was once a true and important city of the Roman Empire, similarly to other Italian cities, it would for sure have a quite preserved historical hallmark, but the total devastation caused in ’79 by the unstoppable rage of the Vesuvius did not allow it.

pompeia-11Nowadays it carries the weight of history but mostly of the terror that haunted the entire city and transformed it into an eternal death scenario!

If you’re traveling around the country by car you can take a day to spend in Pompeii, if you’re not, take the train from the city you’re at to Napoli Centrale, in Naples, and from there take the regional line EAV, the former Circumvesuviana line, in the station next to the central, Napoli Garibaldi. After around 40 minutes later you must leave in the stop Pompei Scavi Via dei Misteri, arriving in Pompeii.

pompeia-2We visited Pompeii on our last trip to Italy, coming from the Amalfi Coast (see) and before heading to Rome, we arrived quite early, the idea was to spend the day visiting the Pompeii excavations (the former city destroyed by the volcano) and then proceed our trip.

The path to Pompeii is uproarious, traffic everywhere, as usual in Italy! Amazing to see there is no car without damage along the way, which enhances the good driving skills of the South Italians!

But traffic aside, we arrived in Pompeii. Parked right in front of the excavation complex, in one of the various parking lots, we paid 10€ (entire day) but then realized some parks cost only 5€.

pompeia-8We headed to the old town, which entrance costs 13€ and you can visit the entire complex. Right at the entrance, you have access to a map that you’ll want to take with you, because the complex is big and has several places, and with it, you can easily orientate.

Pompeii, nowadays Unesco’s World Heritage, was kept hidden, preserved by the ashes and mud, for around 1600 years after Vesuvius eruption in ’79. It was rediscovered in 1748, by chance, and it’s almost a dark view of what it once was.

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pompeia-4Although the city had its origin in the VI or VII century BC, the excavations show what it must have looked like in the I century AD, showing the life of its citizens, their constructions, their houses, and when found, it was possible to imagine the terror felt during the eruption, because of the preservation of the bodies, running, hugged with horror expressions…

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So, despite all the historical value, there’s almost a description of an immortal death of the city.

To those who love history like myself, Pompeii is a mandatory place in Italy, if you don’t like that strand I don’t advise you to visit, much because so later you won’t say that was “just a bunch of rocks”.

pompeia-12the Roman ancestors of a street food restaurant 

pompeia-13
Along the complex, you can perfectly identify the way of living of Pompeii’s inhabitants, their occupations, their houses, from the most luxurious to the most humble, their leisure places, their places of worship, all the avenues, paths and alleys. The preservation of the whole city is amazing.

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pompeia-22Modern art being nicely integrated into the ruins of Pompeii 

We are able to close our eyes at every moment and imagine a true travel to the past, mostly next to the arena, where easily we transport ourselves to a gladiator battle where Spartacus and Crixus could perfectly be protagonists!

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pompeia-17Pompeii’s coliseum 

Pompeii is for sure an eternal and immortal city!

Versão Portuguesa

 Text: Cíntia Oliveira | Photos: Flavors & Senses

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Il Buco

Ilbuco-16 Located in the basement of a former monastery and over one of the main doors of Sorrento, Il Buco was born in 1997, considered by many the best restaurant in town, conquering its 1st Michelin star in 2003, keeping it with conviction till today.

Giuseppe Aversa – Peppe to friends – focused his entire cuisine in the territory it’s inserted in, reinventing and modernizing the traditional cuisine, using the fresh produce from the sea at its door, as well as the pasta and the vegetables from inside the Campania.

Ilbuco-15The Restaurant is divided into several rooms (among them a wonderful terrace over the arcades of the monastery), with a decoration accordingly to the region, combining white with bright tones where pink stands out in contrast with the stone.

Ilbuco-2Already installed in the most romantic and private table of the main room, we are awarded the welcoming of the chef, a fried Polenta with tomato sauce, marinated anchovy, ricotta and basil sauce. A good omen to what would come next, an excellent combination of flavors and textures, elevated by the kick of the anchovy.

Ilbucofried polenta with tomato sauce, marinated anchovy, ricotta and basil sauce

Followed a great variety of bread, homemade, where the cheese and salami one stood out, typical from Naples and also the onion Focaccia (delicious). High score also to the olive oil accompanying.

Ilbuco-3On the glass, we toasted with a Sparkling Rosé produced with the classic method in Campania, the DU BL do Feudi di San Gregorio, 100% Aglianico, which revealed a pleasant and interesting surprise, given its elegance and aromatic quality.

Ilbuco-5Squid, Tuna, Prawn and Red snapper 
And we started with the classic Italian Crudo that brought me good memories from other fishing regions of the country. Baby tuna with onion and teriyaki, squid with dark salt and passion fruit, both with orange and thin slices of red snapper, elevated by sauces of Aperol, beetroot, and passion fruit. Highlight to the sweetness and texture of the prawn, as well as the balance and notes given by the sauces in the flavor combo. Excellent raw material.

Ilbuco-6Mullet, endive, beans, spelt and lentils 
Fish full of sea flavor combined with quite earthy flavors. Excellent combination of textures and the contrast of flavors elevated by the acidic notes of the green olive and the sweet side of the dried tomato. Very good!

Ilbuco-7Risotto with burrata, shrimp and apple marmalade 
In this region, the Italian rule of not mixing seafood with cheese is not followed (and I tend to appreciate it), but here the result was very different from others I tasted before. Excellent risotto, with al dente rice and super creamy, with the right amount of burrata in order not to overlap the sweetness and softness of the shrimp, intensified by the sauce made with its heads. The apple enhances the sweet notes of the dish.

Accompanying was a Marisa Cuomo Ravello 2015, a white produced in the slopes of Ravello, where the highlight goes to the freshness and acidity, in the mouth and in the aroma.

Ilbuco-10Linguine with Rascasso, zucchini flower and tuna bottarga 
Fish in small bits cooked perfectly, fresh and silky sauce with elegant lemon, tomato, and zucchini flower notes. A simple and tasty dish, elevated by the excellent bottarga serving as seasoning and flavor intensifier.

Ilbuco-11Bonito, Bottarga cream and vitelotte potato, zucchini, potato and broccoli cake, cauliflower puree

Delicate and perfectly cooked fish, nicely paired with the cauliflower puree and the bottarga sauce. Interesting contrast between the textures of the crunchy zuchini flower and the potato cake, but lacked something to take it to another level.

Harmonizing was another white from 2015, a Fiano di Avellino de Ciropicariello, a white with expressive aromas, with flowers, dried fruits and some honey and rosemary, revealing nice freshness and citrus notes in the mouth, white fruits and a good ending. An excellent company to the fish.

As pre dessert – and not leaving great memory – was a biscuit filled with ricotta and pistachio, and a red fruit coulis. Ilbuco-14Baba au Rhum, White Chocolate, orange

A version of the classic Neapolitan dessert, with the rum marking a strong presence, balanced by the sweetness of the chocolate mousse.

Ilbuco-13Wild strawberries tartlet, Crème anglaise, meringue and limoncello ice cream 
Excellent dessert with all the flavors combining very well, including the alcoholic side of the ice cream. Less positive note just to the base of the tart that could’ve been more elegant and thin.

The service was one of the most interesting and efficient of this trip to Italy, caring about the details, knowing of the dishes and with the experience of knowing when to talk and express themselves and when to leave the client in his space and environment.

Ilbuco-9Chateaubriand being prepared at the table 

Final Remarks
The Chef’s personality, that I apprehended after a small but interesting talk, transpires in his cuisine. Peppe Aversa is passionate about produce, for his roots and for traveling and learning techniques and flavors from other cultures (we even talked a bit of our Codfish!). And that reflects in the dishes, in the combinations and the domain of the maritime flavors, being Il Buco located a few steps from the Sea. It’s one of the best restaurants in the region, with a well-deserved star, from where you leave happy and satisfied without feeling robbed (something common with the prices almost everywhere along the Amalfi Coast and Sorrento).

It’s a mandatory space to those visiting the city and the region.

Il Buco Ristorante
Menus from 75€
2nd ramp Marina Piccola –  Piazza S.Antonino – Sorrento
+39 081 87 82 354
info@ilbucoristorante.it

Versão Portuguesa

 Text: João Oliveira | Photos: Flavors & Senses

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Don Alfonso 1890

donalfonso-15There are destinations and trips we dream about for a lifetime and fortunately, there are those starting to turn true.
Amalfi was one of those dreams, not only for the luxurious environment of cities like Ravello and Positano, but for the unique scenario designed by nature, or for the famous road, sculpted by men. For me, it was also a dream for its food, the rooted traditions from the South of Italy and much in particular for a name, the Don Alfonso 1890.

As the name indicates, speaking of Don Alfonso is speaking of family, tradition and above all, a huge passion. The restaurant is nowadays in the hands of the third and forth generations of a unique family, capable of developing their project like few would.

Much before names like Noma or the The Blue Hill at Stone Barns, in which the farm, the organic and sustainable cuisine or the terroir gained their maximum expression, Alfonso and Livia Iaccarino thought that would be their path to follow in 1973 when they took the helm of the restaurant, Alfonso in the kitchen, and Livia with all her charm in the room.

50 years passed, and they have by their sides Ernesto and Mario, their children who followed their footsteps and keep developing their parents work with the same passion. The restaurant grew, won two Michelin stars and added a small and luxurious hotel with the seal of Relais & Chateaux, a cooking school, and restaurants from Macao to Marrakech passing by Rome and Dubai.

By now you must be thinking how sustainability is kept, as well as the care about the product quality – well, 30 min away from the restaurant, and in a place where they could’ve put a hotel with one of the best views of the coast, the Iaccarino’s created the Le Peracciole, a farm of 8 hectares, installed between the Naples and Sorrento golfs, with a direct view to Capri, and where they grow their vegetables, a large quantity of tomato species, olive trees and even chickens, giving them the so-called “happy eggs”.

donalfonso-19But leaving those and other details aside, and on to our experience! After a long drive from Tuscany to the Amalfi Coast, more precisely to Sant’Agata Sui Due Golfi, arriving at this restaurant of white tones and colorful details, to the good style of the region, was like arriving at the Olympus. Wide and well-illuminated rooms, tastefully decorated, with highlight to some centenary pieces that delight the guests while being accompanied to the tables.

cortonaPotato, cheese and carrot croquette and orange sauce 

Already nicely installed, we are welcomed with a glass of Derbusco Cives Blanc de Blanc Doppio Erre, a very interesting sparkling Franciacorta, of yellow tones and wide aromas of yeast and white pulp fruit, and vanilla details. In the mouth revealing to be dry and with elegant bubble. Accompanying a delicious potato, cheese and carrot croquette, refreshed by a light orange sauce.

A proper start!

donalfonsoSquid, ricotta, vegetable gel and yellow pepper sauce  
The first starter brings to my memory all that story about the care for produce, the vegetables and in particular the pepper of an elegance and subtlety so hard to find. A simple dish, refined and full of flavor, reflecting the lunch to follow!

Followed the homemade bread, a great selection, from white to sourdough, olive and fennel bread, and an extra virgin olive oil produced at Le Peracciole, touching perfection.

donalfonso-2Eel ice cream, Oscietra caviar, rose pasta and herbs 

A starter showing all of Ernesto’s creative side. The pasta is infused with roses that bring freshness to a saline combo of sea flavors. A brilliant eel ice cream transmitting all that sea flavor, mostly when accompanied by the caviar. The basil notes bring us back to earth – a combination where oddly everything works, from textures to flavors!

donalfonso-3Duck breast, cinnamon, apple and balsamic reduction
If the presentation seemed a bit outdated, the flavors were elevated to another level, excellent apple cream, and the combination of the duck and cinnamon, and the balsamic reduction (the real one).

donalfonso-4Egg, Burrata, green beans and truffle 
A dish inspired in Ernesto’s childhood breakfasts, once the truffles were kept on the fridge next to the milk, it acquired the unique aromas of the fungus. A brilliant dish, much because of the quality of the truffles presented, and the greasiness and flavor created by the combo of liquid burrata and the low-temperature egg yolk. The luxury of simplicity!

donalfonso-5Spaghetti, mackerel, breadcrumbs, pinions, caramelized onion, albacore tuna sauce and basil emulsion 
Thinking of tuna and pasta makes us think of our youth and college times, but the flavors this one gave us were far better. One of the best pasta dishes I ever tasted, from the quality and cooking of the pasta to its mix with sauces, flavors, and textures. A dish that represents very well the cuisine from the South of Italy, with apparently modest ingredients, taking us to another level!

donalfonso-7Capelli filled with black pork, amatriciana sauce, Parmigiano and truffle  
Another great dish, technically perfect and provided with great ingredients. I’ll miss the yellow tomato amatriciana, as well as the quality of the truffle. Of highlight is also the excellent fennel crunch, with a texture and flavor notes adding dimension to the dish. Delicious! 

Harmonizing with these dishes was the Contrada Marotta Greco di Tufo 2013 Villa Raiano, a white produced in the region, northeast of Naples. A complex wine that conquers at the first taste, peach aromas, medlar, and grapefruit, with floral touches, revealing in the mouth an excellent minerality and acidity of great level. An excellent company to the primi platti.

donalfonso-8Loin with a bread crust, mozzarella, pork cheek, spicy tomato puree and Mediterranean cream 
The veal used is carefully selected from producers in the region of Benevento, also in Campania, and it shows in its quality, a flavorful, moist loin, with texture, involved in cheese and pork cheek, with a thin and crunchy cape of bread. Very well accompanied and enrichened by the sauces.

On the glass was another wine from Villa Raiano, a Taurasi 2012, elegant in the nose, with dark fruit and cocoa and tobacco notes, and well-integrated wood. In the mouth, the structure and power revealed a good company to the meat.

donalfonso-9Petit fours

In the meantime, the petit fours arrived, in Italy, they tend to appear before the dessert. Highlight to the cannoli, the chocolate bonbons with orange and the tartlets, all very good.

donalfonso-10Pre-dessert

To clean the palate, nothing like an efficient Amalfi lemon ice cream, pistachio crunch, and red fruits.

donalfonso-11A lemon concert – fragrances and flavors
A classic dessert of Don Alfonso which highlights one of the most important ingredients of the region, the Lemon. Freshness and sweetness well balanced, in an interesting game of textures, between the choux pastry, the frying, the cream and the crunchy caramel.

donalfonso-12Chestnuts and pomegranate 
A very “Autumny” dessert (the time we visited), with the combination of pomegranate and the chestnuts. High score to the flavors, although the chestnut cream was a bit too dense to the “millefeuille”.

About the wines, the list of Don Alfonso is one of the most famous in Italy, with over 25000 bottles and 1300 references, kept in the historical basement, that dates from an Etruscan tunnel, with lots of centuries of History.

 donalfonso-18 The basement

In the end of our meal and after a guided visit to the kitchen and the school we went to the basement (a part of the “Don Alfonso experience”). The wines are distributed in several floors and also by levels in a long staircase that ends in the space where they cure and improve their own smoked goods and cheeses.

donalfonso-14Ernesto  Iaccarino in the colorful and impressive kitchen of the restaurant

As to the service, that unfortunately in Italy is usually below the level of the cuisine, here was really flawless, showing a good game of technique and movement, flowing around the room almost unnoticed, with knowledge about the dishes and sympathy. If we talk about Livia and Mario, they set the bar even higher, spreading the Italian charm and passion for their work for every table they pass, leaving us anxious to taste what they’re presenting.

donalfonso-20 Mario Iaccarino

Final Remarks
Sometimes not even the Michelin stars or the seals of JRE, of Le Soste, Relais & Chateaux or Les Grandes Tables du Monde are enough to assure a satisfaction brand, it’s necessary to study, see, visit and above all taste to understand a job, or in this case a conviction, that Alfonso and Livia passed on to their children.

The cuisine of Ernesto is deeply marked by the importance and quality of the product, the most sensible and refined you can find, the flavor of each ingredient is highlighted without masks, here all the technical rigor is put to the test so each element shows its best, and you can taste that in each bite.

The experience at Don Alfonso 1890 is marking at every level, from the family environment to which we are transported, to the food and the ambiance. You wish to stay, to sit and listen to the family stories, learn about the ingredients and share the meal with unique people.

See you in the next time!

Don Alfonso 1890
Menus from 140€
Corso Sant’Agata, 11/13 – Sant’Agata Sui Due Golfi
+39 081 878 00 26
info@donalfonso.com

Versão Portuguesa

 Text: João Oliveira | Photos: Flavors & Senses

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Welcome to the South – here’s the Amalfi Coast!

amalfi coast-21Sick traffic, a confusion, curves and more curves, and a huge amount of people characterise the Amalfi Coast!

At first you might think this not a very positive view over one of the most wanted destinations of all times, and in the end, that’s what it is. And why? Because not even in paradise everything is perfect!

But the truth is, even its flaws make of the Amalfi Coast a paradise!

The Amalfi Coast was always a part of my top five in Europe, always desired to visit, and so, this fall, in another return to Italy, we decided to include this region in three days of our trip.

amalfi coast-20Were three days enough? Probably not, if I had more time probably I would’ve visited more cities or villages, but it was enough to absorb the true essence of the Amalfi Coast.

This region is a commute of around 60km, from Sorrento to Salerno, constituted by small villages or historic cities and which natural beauty assured it the title of World Heritage in 1997.

There are several places to visit, we stayed for Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello.

amalfi coast-16How to get there: 
In our case, coming from the charming Cortona (Tuscany), we drove to Sorrento (around four and a half hours), where we made a quick stop to lunch at the memorable Don Alfonso 1980, and then drove again for around another hour until we finally got to Positano, to the beautiful hotel Villa Franca (see).

villafranca-33Positano

Driving to Sorrento we were able to see some of the poorest regions in the country, not anticipating the luxury of the Coast. On its side, Sorrento is more like a beach resort, with a big city infrastructure, combining the classic glamor of Italy with an environment like in our Algarve, with lots of people.

We already anticipated some confusion by the traffic and the peculiar way (psychotic, I must say!) of driving of the Italian people in the South – more like, every man for himself!

But we arrived safe and sound (not mentally- their driving skills really messed up my nerves!) to Positano!

If you’re not visiting Italy by car, you have always the option of arriving at the Coast by public transportation. If you’re coming from Rome, you can catch the train to Napoli (1h30 to 2h30) and then look for the Circumvesuviana line that will take you to Sorrento (around 1h), from there you can catch one of the many buses that’ll take you to the coast.

amalfi coast-15Mistakes not to commit:
In the days to follow we visited Positano, Amalfi and Ravello, and we made a big mistake that I advise you already not to make, we tried to visit Amalfi and Ravello by car! Forget it!

Once we were staying in Positano we were able to do a walking tour of the city from our hotel. As to Ravello and Amalfi we started the day very early and went straight to Ravello (around 1h, without traffic) and it was ok, we were able to park, but if we had arrived a few minutes later the chaos would be installed. When we left Ravello, in the afternoon and tried to go to Amali, the situation was already impossible.

So my tip is the following, if you are staying in just one city, walk around that same one, and go to the others by boat, namely Positano and Amalfi. As to Ravello, once it’s not located near the beach, if you’re going by car, leave super early!

amalfi coast-33Positano
From the hotel Villa Franca we could already see the colourful houses in terraces going down to the bright blue sea, lightly touching it. One of the most beautiful images of the coast is this one, the blue of the sea mixed with the colours of the houses.

I remember a few years ago seeing an image of this village and thinking “I will visit that place!”.

And nowadays I realize it was worth the wait, and how real was that beauty.

amalfi coast-32Positano is unmeasured seduction, charm, mystery, eternal.
With tales and legends to the mixture, from the proximity with the Li Galli Islands and their mysterious mermaids, Positano was always a place with extreme maritime significance and loved by those who had the privilege of going there.

villafranca-16Li Galli Islands

An authentic refuge of Gods, this small village was the place of wonderful residences in the Roman period and changed its urban form in 1268 when looted by the Pisanos, assuming a more defensive posture with narrow alleys and houses on top of rocks, forts and watchtowers.

Already in the XVIII century it had its peak, thanks to its port and the freight traffic coming from several strategic places, however, after Italy’s unification, the new routes established and the immigration to the USA, Positano went into decline again.

But thanks to the construction of the famous road Statale 163 (previously you could only arrive in Positano by sea or mountain trails) that connects the entire Amalfi Coast, this small forgotten village reborn from the ashes and started to become a true luxury refuge!

The former palaces transformed into astonishing hotels and a tourist elite started to transform Positano and the entire Amalfi Coast into their vacation place. From Steinbeck to Picasso, everyone wanted a bit of this paradise!

villafranca-31What to do in Positano:
Even if you don’t want to spend much time here, just walking around is fascinating. Get lost in the alleys, shop in the most varied clothing stores (like Missoni), linen is king around here, and if you enjoy alcoholic beverages you must taste the delicacy of the coast, the Limoncello.

Enter the majestic Church of Santa Maria Assunta, where you can see an image of the Virgin from the XVIII century of Byzantine inspiration.

Rest a bit at the Spiaggia grande (if you can, to those used to thin sand these rocks scare a bit!), while having the sea as confident and delight yourselves with the mountains and the colourful houses.

Another interesting activity is the path from Spiaggia grande to the more calm and recondite beaches, like Fornillo, the trail is very beautiful, interesting and not tiring, but to the laziest, you can take a boat.

amalfi coast-34
Speaking of boats, don’t miss a ride in one because the view from the sea to the coast is even more wonderful (there are boats leaving Spiaggia grande all the time).

You can also choose to visit the Li Galli Islands and get to know more about the legend of the mermaids and their seductive voices!

From Positano, there are several trails leading to small hidden villages in the mountains, which allow us a majestic view over the blue of the sea. You can start by a trail that goes to the Oasis of Vallone Porto, a place where Nature is queen.

villafranca-32From Positano, and climbing infinite steps, or by car, go to Montepertuso, the city of the Lattari mountains, which separate Positano from the sky. On the top of it you find the Burgo Nocelle, from where you get one of the most beautiful images of the Amalfi Coast.

Use and abuse of this refuge of Gods that is Positano!

amalfi coast-31Amalfi
Amalfi is a bit more confuse and agitated than Positano, and we went in the end of October, but once the weather was wonderful and there was a religious holiday coming up, the city was completely booked! I can’t even imagine what it’s like in the summer!

By car, from Positano to Amalfi takes around 45min that easily become 1h30. So forget the car, because not only the traffic is exhausting, but also there are not much parking lots, and they are very expensive. And once we are civilised we don’t even think of leaving the car in the narrow streets, where one car barely passes, talk about two and with poorly parked cars on the sides! So you know, the boat is the best option.

Amalfi is the oldest Maritime Republic of the Amalfi Coast and of Italy. Its beauty is unique and still has some traces of its Roman origin, in the Imperial Period.

Its beauty comes from the very close together houses, matching pure white with bright colours, in the blue of the sky torn by the mountain, in the alleys protected by porches, in the watchtowers and in the beach, filled with colourful sunshades that end the emerald blue of the sea.

amalfi coast-30What to do in Amalfi:
You have to visit the Cathedral, the maximum symbol of the city. Initiated in the IX century, restored several times, giving origin to the imposing construction we see today. Its beautiful polychrome facade anticipates an even more majestic interior. An interior of Baroque style, with a bronze statue of  Sant´Andrea in the altar.

Inside we have access to the first ever cathedral here constructed, the Basilica del Crocefisso and to the Chiostro del Paradiso, the former cemetery of famous citizens.

Outside we have the Piazza del Duomo, with the Fontana del Popolo in the centre. Close by, passing by a porch, we arrive at the Former Arsenals, were once were constructed warships. A few meters aside there’s also the Piazzetta dos Doges with typical factories.

Those visiting with more time, don’t miss the visit to Atrani, very close to Amalfi.

If you want to relax, the beach is the best option.

amalfi coast-11Ravello
Of the three places we’ve been to, no doubt Positano occupied the dearest space in my heart, but it would be two places in Ravello to take the award home!

The Villa Cimbrone and the Villa Rufolo. Take note of these names, because these are the two musts in a visit to Amalfi Coast.

amalfi coastVilla Rufolo

Ravello is a mix of art, culture and music, it has been the stage for names like Wagner, Miró and Virginia Wolf, among many others.

Historic sources report the presence of noble families, rebelling against the authorities of the Amalfi Coast and moving to Ravello. It prospered a lot in the XI century, breaking bonds with the Maritime Republic of Amalfi. The decline would come soon with the Norman conquerings. And already in the XIX century, it was unified with the diocese of Amalfi. But Ravello never once lost its beauty and elegance.

amalfi coast-3
On the contrary, Ravello became the place of the most important personalities in the world, who completely surrendered to its charm.

amalfi coast-6Villa Rufolo

What to do in Ravello:
We arrived very early to Ravello; as opposite to Positano and Amalfi, Ravello is not located near the sea, we went by car from Positano and it took around 1h15, there wasn’t much traffic. We parked in a paid spot, and headed to the main square, where the main Cathedral is located.

amalfi coast-29
This is the first visit card of the city, but not the most important.

We then went to Villa Rufolo, located right next to the square. The entrance is paid, but a quite symbolic value for the beauty of the place, 5€.
It was constructed in the second half of the XIII century by the noble family Rufolo, and more fascinating is the architecture, combining Arabic, Moorish, and Arabic-Norman lines.

amalfi coast-13
The entire complex is astonishing, but the ex libris really is the view. Divine, that is for sure!
Here also happens the Wagner music festival.

From Villa Rufolo we headed to Villa Cimbrone, where is located the place that took me to Ravello, the one that appears in Google when you search for the Amalfi Coast, the Terrace of Infinity.
Much likely one of the most beautiful places in the world!

amalfi coast-25Villa Cimbrone – Terrace of Infinity 

This was also for sure the thought of Lord William Beckett when in 1904 he bought the land with just an abandoned house and transformed it into one of the most idyllic places ever. Here we find a mix of styles from different periods, and fascinating archaeological remains.

amalfi coast-19
The gardens are decorated with statues, founatins, temples, caves and plants of several species.
The highlight is the Terrace of Infinity. Honestly, I could spend my life trying to explain what you feel when you get there, but nothing I could say would be enough to describe it, there are no possible adjectives to it!

amalfi coast-26
The spotlight of this trip to Italy, and for sure one of the most idyllic, majestic, divine and perfect places I ever been at.

amalfi coast-28At Villa Cimbrone is also located a luxury hotel, a restaurant with a Michelin star and here it’s also possible to host weddings, and I must say, the most beautiful place in the world to get married in!
The entrance to the complex is paid: 7€.

Those staying more than one day in Ravello may also visit the Oscar Niemeyer Auditorium, with a completely different architecture from the rest of the city.

This was our experience in one of the most beautiful places in the world, the Amalfi Coast, a unique architecture, a peculiar charm, a bustle that as so much of characteristic as of irritating, and an authentic view of paradise you can’t get anywhere else.

amalfi coast-23It’s perfectly understandable why the locals refer that arriving in paradise won’t be anything of exciting… they’re already in paradise in their own home!

Versão Portuguesa

Photos: Flavors & Senses

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Hotel Villa Franca

villafranca-37The Hotel Villa Franca is a refuge where the blue from the sky and the blue of the sea mix in perfect harmony.

Driving there is not an easy task, not because it hasn’t a good location, on the contrary, the region is amazing, but because driving in the South of Italy is a true adventure, a horror adventure of course!

This Small Luxury Hotel of the World is located on the Amalfi Coast, more precisely in the beautiful town of Positano.

villafranca-24First impression
The expectation was quite high; the images I had seen of the views from the hotel were so dreamy they almost seemed unreal. But I soon found they weren’t!

We arrived by car, very tired, driving since Cortona, we had stopped for lunch at the memorable Don Alfonso in Sorrento, and we just wanted to stop a bit, relax and enjoy the best of Positano, and so it was.

villafranca-30

villafranca-29As soon as we stopped the car at the entrance we saw its elegance, an immaculate white rivaling with the blue sky, we still couldn’t see the sea, but it wouldn’t take much long.

We entered Villa Franca and were welcomed in a small, but cozy reception where the check in was made without delays, to our right we could already glimpse the bright blue away!

villafranca-38We were immediately accompanied to our bedroom, and as soon as we left the reception to enter the lobby it was a big surprise. A contemporary decoration with unique art pieces, in a perfect symbiosis with the calm coming from the sea. We got a clear vision of the ocean, once the hotel is partly made of glass.

villafranca-2Bedrooms
We entered a bedroom where white prevailed, enrichened with colorful paintings, on the walls, and on the floor. Small but extremely elegant, with lots of light, coming from the balcony.

villafranca-3I headed to the balcony, I opened the curtains and there it was… the vision of paradise! Sea, sky, and sun! Soon arrived some goodies to the bedroom, namely sweets, and prosecco, we seated in our balcony and simply enjoyed the moment… the true Dolce Far Niente!

villafranca-17The hotel has four types of bedroom, the Classic (ours), the Superior, the Deluxe and Deluxe Special, besides the Junior Suites and the Junior Suites Deluxe. These vary in terms of size, but also on the views they offer, that I must say are all amazing, both of the sea, or the sea and the city.

villafranca-12Restaurants
The hotel has some options, like for example the Li Galli, the main restaurant, where we had the pleasure to enjoy a nice dinner, being one of the main restaurants of Positano, with the famously starred chef Gennaro Esposito as a consultant.

villafranca-13Of highlight – besides the obvious and tireless view over the sea that by night becomes an immense dark – is the steer tartar with truffle and crunchy cheese balls, and a risotto of great level.

villafranca-32Another ex libris is the restaurant on top of the hotel, working as GalliGril Pool and as Gallis Sky Bar. Which allows us to enjoy a lunch with an absolutely vertiginous view, or simply have a cocktail while grabbing a bite to eat and get a bit tanned.

villafranca-23

 villafranca-19The breakfast room is also a must, not only for the variety of products and gastronomic options but also for the fact of having a very wide view over Positano, with its colorful houses going down in terraces, heading to the sea.

villafranca-20It’s not a bad view to start the day!

Last, but not least, we have the Gallis Bar, perfect for a nice evening, in a virtually private terrace.

All the spaces have similar decorations to the rest of the hotel, contemporary and with exclusive art pieces, quite exuberant I must say, but the most elegant place of all, to me, is this last one for sure, the Gallis Bar.

villafranca-25villafranca-26The hotel also provides unique moments around food with Show Cooking experiences to the guests who wish to adventure themselves in the Italian cuisine.

One of the most praised places of the hotel, and of which they are most proud of is the Cellar, with unique wines, capable of enhancing any special moment. So, wine tastings are welcome, accompanied by cheeses and other traditional products.

villafranca-5

villafranca-34Services
Villa Franca offers all the typical services of a luxury hotel, such as concierge, wi-fi, laundry, babysitting and even dog sitting, room service, fax, private parking lot (for a reasonable price a day), among others.

The hotel also provides their guests real experiences through the Amalfi enchantments, with organized visits to Positano or other towns nearby, with boat rides or even a personal shopper.

villafranca-31The hotel is just a few minutes away from the center of Positano and of the main beach, but to those who don’t like walking, the hotel assures transportation several times a day.

If you desire to just stay at the hotel, there are also several options, an entire afternoon on the top of the hotel, relaxing by the pool and tanning, or an afternoon relaxing in the Turkish bath followed by a relaxing massage and a facial treatment is not a bad option!

villafranca-36To the most active ones (which is now my case!), Villa Franca has a small gym, but nicely equipped, and also with a personal trainer available.
Those who enjoy taking a bit of every place home with them, at Villa Franca that is possible by acquiring some high-quality exclusive products, crafted by local artisans. From hygiene and beauty products to bed and bath linen and also fragrances.

villafranca-39Service
The team of Villa Franca is nice and polite, with the particularity of not invading our space. We walk around freely around the hotel, meeting some true smiles on our way, not feeling pressured or constantly looked over. A pleasant service without the constant etiquette exaggerations of the luxury hotels.

Something very positive is the number of employees, in a small hotel it wouldn’t be expected to have so many, but like this, they assure the immediate care of each guest.

villafranca-21The hotel is a true oasis of elegance and surrounding beauty. One of the best locations in the Amalfi Coast, and assured some of the best moments of our return to Italy.

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Memorable!

Note: the hotel closes during the winter period, from December to the end of February.

Hotel Villa Franca – Small Luxury Hotels of the World
Bedrooms from 340€
Viale Pasitea, 318 – Positano
+39 089 875 655 
info@villafrancahotel.it

Versão Portuguesa 

Text: Cíntia Oliveira | Photos: Flavors & Senses

Disclaimer
We were at Hotel Villa Franca by invitation, whereas this not alter our work, being the opinion and the text of the exclusive responsibility of the author.

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Euskalduna Studio

Euskalduna-26I usually don’t write about, or visit, new or recently open restaurants, both for thinking many of the spaces are still in a defining phase, or for thinking flaws are many times forgivable, or simply because the Internet is already full of posts that live of the new, the trendy or the instant. But there are exceptions to the rule and this is a different restaurant to every level, so the will to write about it came easily.

I first tasted Vasco Coelho Santos cuisine in 2014, there were highs and lows, with some dishes better than others, but the highlight of that night was his creativity, his technique and his respect for the products.

Well, almost 3 years have passed, a few dozens of private dinners, many mistakes, and experiences, a successful “chicken house” – BaixóPito -, several trips around the world… Et voilà! The Euskalduna Studio was born; fruit of that boldness and creative need Vasco always demonstrated. A restaurant against the current, starting by its location, in a not so beloved area of Porto’s downtown, a small room with an intimate ambiance, with a little heat from the use of wood, balancing with the use of the iron and stone. Just two tables and a long counter, working like orchestra chairs in a theater play, in which the team, instead of a Kabuki play (a type of Japanese theater) presents us an Omakase menu, where the guests join the adventure of tasting the best from what the producers have to deliver each day.

Euskalduna-25If on one hand the food concept and decoration are Japanese inspired, the name comes from a pun with Vasco and the Basque country, “Euskalduna” in the Basque language. A region which influenced him a lot, both at a technical level and the composition of the dishes, due to his passage through the El Bulli, Mugaritz and Arzak.

Off with the history, on to the visit, on the 2nd day of the soft opening, mixing the tension of the opening with the demanding crowd visiting that night, among which several chefs, one of them with a Michelin star, international gastronomers and old friends – if it were me, my hands would’ve shaken much more than his, and his team’s, did.

Euskalduna-23The idea is to enter the restaurant and get carried away, like in a theater play, by the arguments (in this case around 10 moments) proposed by the chef, without restrictions (so the anti-gluten brigade can always check over your restrictions with the team while making your reservation). It’s true I like to know what I’m about to eat and chose my food, but sometimes it’s important to step outside the box and put ourselves in the hands of someone wanting to please us and satisfy us.

Euskalduna-2Edgar Alendouro – the sommelier with a Quinta das Bágeiras Super Reserva 2013

Seating at the counter, where the experience promises to be more captivating, we started the show with a toast of Quinta das Bágeiras Super Reserva 2013, one of the greatest sparklings from Bairrada, made by one of our best vignerons – Mário Sérgio – who with a blend of Maria Gomes and Bical produces a wine with identity, austere and citric, revealing an interesting body in the mouth and a freshness that allows it to accompany nicely the snacks to follow.

To start, an interesting and great version of the classic Bolinho de Bacalhau (codfish cake) – with a crunchy cape and a creamy and delicate interior.

Euskalduna-5Crab, pork tail
Followed the crab, in a great cream and the white meat from the paws, accompanied by a peculiar pork tail. If separately all the elements worked well, in the mix, the intensity of the overly toasted pork tail crunch overlapped the sweetness and subtlety of the crustacean.

Euskalduna-6Lamb tongue, hollandaise sauce, pea flower
Vasco must have some special attraction for tongues, which he always cooks with masterly, I must say. Great texture, simple flavor elevated by the sauce (that could’ve been even more intense) and the truffle, despite not in its best shape.

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Euskalduna-8Garlic and Parmesan
If the tongue may shock most of the guests, the garlic won’t fall behind. A clove cooked at low temperature, posteriorly nixtamalized (a cooking process in an alkaline solution of lime), finished with parmesan cheese. A garlic with crunchy cape and creamy interior, nice game of flavors, with a wow factor.

On the glass, was a Madeira Sercial 10 years, from Barbeito, which minerality, dried fruits, and resinous notes brought great freshness and accommodated very well with the intensity left in our mouth by the garlic and cheese.

Euskalduna-9Sea urchinParmesan tile and monks cress 
Reading the name of the dish is the same as reading umami bomb, and that’s what we got, a great snack in which even the combination of the cheese with the seafood worked.

Euskalduna-10Soup of the day – 70º egg, herbs, seaweed, beetroot and vegetable broth 
Excellent egg, cooked at low temperature and cured in sugar, nicely paired with a selection of herbs and seaweed. The beetroot brought earth notes that gave some heat and structure to the dish, but the clear broth was missing some more intensity and flavor.

Harmonizing was a young Pormenor 2015, a white from Douro, promising a lot to those who save it for some time, with a vibrant acidity, still very energic, not overlapping the delicate dishes it accompanied.

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Euskalduna-11Mackerel, Cucumber, and Gin
This is another dish the young chef has been developing since he started his project of private dinners and it showed a great level. Excellent technical rigor, the flavor of the fish and the combination of its greasiness and fat with the freshness and acidity of the gin and the cucumber. A great dish!

To go with, nothing less than a gin sour, prepared with the use of the siphon, presenting the same foam we found on the plate. Very good!

Euskalduna-13

Euskalduna-12Prawn from Algarve, curry powder, mango salad, scarlet shrimp cream 
This was the highlight of the evening! The prawns were delicate, sweet, had the right texture, very well paired with the cream made with the scarlet shrimp heads (I wonder where the bodies went to), a fresh and slightly spicy mango salad, and an iced curry powder made in the pacojet.

A great dish, where everything is in balance and makes sense, including the turmeric tea (Indian saffron), with sweet and warm notes (despite a bit cold); helping to clean the stronger and striking notes of the curry.

Euskalduna-15TMonkfish, chicken giblets sauce and turnips 
If the chicken giblets weren’t too much in relation to the fish, the dish would’ve been superb. Once the fish dose –  perfectly cooked – was small, the sauce and the intensity of the giblets took the reins of the dish.

As to the wine, the sommelier may have read my thougts and brought a wine I love, but rarely find, the Encruzado Munda 2008, a wine going through a great phase, slightly oxidated, with a nice structure and all the elements in the right places, a wine that went very well with the dish.

Euskalduna-14

Euskalduna-17Mindinha” Rib and Pineapple
One of my favorite cuts, being from Trás-os-Montes, and so many times despised, here very well treated with the low-temperature cooking, missing just a bit more caramelization on the outside. High score to the sweet roasted pineapple mille feuille – a nice pickle would’ve also help elevate the dish.

There was time also to clean our palate with the bread, developed by the team with the help of the master Mário Blanco Peres, which while not yet tuned, let’s out the aromas of the sourdough that will make this bread one of the moments of the menu in the future.

With the meat, we drank a Douro wine, Campo Ardosa 2009, with notes of the typical herbs of the region, controlled fruit, and good structure and ending.

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Euskalduna-19Apple
The pre-dessert brings fruit and freshness, in a combo of several textures of green apple, that served well its purpose of cleaning the palate.

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Euskalduna-22French toastGorgonzola Ice cream
The ending presents itself in a simple way, of modest aspect, but don’t be fooled, this French toast, cooked the Basque way, is astonishing, from the flavor to the texture game, and its good relationship with the ice cream. A beautiful homage to the region that so greatly influenced the chef, resulting in a great ending to this meal!

And for a toast, a delicious white Kopke 10 years, an aromatic wine, with balanced wood and intense, resulting nicely with the dessert and the conversation between guests and the team in the end of the “play”.

EuskaldunaIt’s also important to highlight the overwhelming crockery used to present the dishes, particularly the pieces designed exclusively to the Euskalduna, in black clay from Molelos.

Final Remarks 
Euskalduna is one of those restaurants where you don’t go to eat, but to have an experience, a “gastronomic staging” that ends with the satisfaction of our taste buds and senses. It’s a conceptual space that tears apart the city’s habits and promises the guests several sensations, of discovery, of discomfort, of ecstasy, it’s a game of highs and lows, where the texture game shines – due to his passion and inspiration for Mugariz – and the respect for an excellent raw material.

A space that despite the obvious mistakes I referred, must remain faithful to its irreverent spirit, assuming the risks of the almost daily creation of a menu. It’s up to the guest to learn and accept the highs and lows as moments and acts of a good theater play because in the end the smile and the will to applaud won’t escape.

To put on your bucket list! A future case of success of Porto and Portugal!

Euskalduna-24

Euskalduna Studio
Menus from 70€ (without beverages)
Rua de Santo Ildefonso, nº404 – Porto
00351 935 335 301

Versão Portuguesa

 Photos:Flavors & Senses

Posted in Restaurants | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Response
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