Luxe Adventure Traveler http://luxeadventuretraveler.com Adventure Travel With a Glass of Wine Mon, 29 Jun 2015 10:25:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 Making Macarons in Paris http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/making-macarons-in-paris/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/making-macarons-in-paris/#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2015 10:11:02 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=65613 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Macarons are one of my favorite things in the world. There’s just something about the colorful meringue cookies with luscious fillings like black currant or strawberry sandwiched between them that I simply can’t resist. I’m hardly ever in France for more than a few hours before I have a little bag of macarons stashed in [...]

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Macarons are one of my favorite things in the world. There’s just something about the colorful meringue cookies with luscious fillings like black currant or strawberry sandwiched between them that I simply can’t resist. I’m hardly ever in France for more than a few hours before I have a little bag of macarons stashed in my purse and there’s even less chance of those macarons lasting more than a few hours. Obviously I couldn’t resist when Cook’n with Class invited me to learn how to make my very own. Making macarons in Paris had been on my bucket list.

Why Paris? Though the origin of the macaron is debated, there are records of Catherine de’ Medici’s pastry chefs bringing the macarone (Italian meringue) to France with them in 1533 when she married Henry II. But the double-decker jam or ganache filled macaron is indisputably accredited to Pierre Desfontaines of the pâtisserie Ladurée in the early 20th century.

As I donned an apron and gathered with my four other classmates around the table, Chef Constance told us that we’d be making four different kinds of macarons: raspberry and rose, salted caramel, mint chocolate ganache and passion fruit infused chocolate ganache. We started with the easy part – the fillings.

Making macarons in Paris with Cook'n with Class

Melting chocolate for the ganache

I remember unwrapping a bowl full of individually wrapped Brach’s caramels that my mom and I would melt in the microwave when we baked Christmas cookies. There would be none of that in my macaron making lesson. We made salted caramel from scratch, as the French do. We also chopped up and melted chocolate and then infused the two batches with mint leaves and passion fruit juice to make the ganaches. And we made home made raspberry jam.

I was thrilled to get to taste each. Isn’t licking the bowl the best part of baking?

With the fillings made and cooling on plates over on the counter, it was time to get down to the business of making the delicate little macaron shells. Chef Constance explained that the ingredients must all be precisely measured or the shells might not puff up properly. So we measured everything out with a kitchen scale.

One of the ingredients in the cookies is almond flour and the oil in it causes it to clump. As Chef Constance handed me a shift and set me to work shifting the almond flour not once, but twice, I quickly realized why a single macaron at Ladurée costs nearly 2. This part was, admittedly, my least favorite part of making macarons.

Making macarons in Paris with Cook'n with Class

Making sure the temperature is just right with a candy thermometer

Once only the finest bit of the flour was in the bowl, out came a Kitchen Aid mixer at least twice the size of the one I own at home. The Kitchen Aid easily whipped egg whites in to a meringue at the same moment that sugar water was being heated to an exact temperature with a candy thermometer. Finally we folded in the dry ingredients and divided the mixture in to four bowls.

The shells themselves aren’t actually flavored. We used pink, yellow, green and orange food coloring pastes to color each of the bowls. Like the precision of mixing the ingredients, we folded in the paste bit by bit to evenly mix it and not alter the texture of the meringue.

Making macarons in Paris with Cook'n with Class

Ready to pipe out perfect macaron shells

The meringue was finally put in to pastry bags and we were ready to pipe it out on to the baking sheets. And just like taking no short cuts in making the fillings, we didn’t get any stencils to pipe out the perfectly sized shells either. I tried to eyeball it and make each macaron shell the same size.

Making macarons in Paris with Cook'n with Class

Not bad without a stencil!

Finally our baking sheets were ready to be placed in the convection oven. Macarons are high maintenance! There’s definitely no walking away and coming back when the timer dings. No, we kept watch to ensure the shells wouldn’t crack. The perfect macaron shell is slightly crispy on the outside, still slightly chewy on the inside and has a “foot”.

Our macaron shells did indeed come out with feet. We applauded like a plane full of Italians landing at the airport. But there was still more work to be done.

You see, you have to unstick each macaron shell from the parchment paper without the foot tearing off. The five of us must have spent 30 minutes alone gently massaging each macaron shell until it slid off the parchment paper all on its own.

Making macarons in Paris with Cook'n with Class

Piping the salted caramel on to the macaron shell

Making macarons in Paris with Cook'n with Class

Looks like a success to me!

The jam was the easiest of the fillings to pipe on to a shell since the jam spread a bit on its own. I didn’t have to press much to complete the little macaron sandwich with the top shell. The chocolate ganache, on the other hand, was harder to work with and I had to take extra care not to crush the shells as I handled them.

Making macarons in Paris with Cook'n with Class

A few of my favorite things: red wine and macarons

Making macarons in Paris with Cook'n with Class

Maybe I have a new career as a macaron maker?

Three hours after I arrived at Cook’n with Class, it was time for my favorite part of the class: tasting our handiwork. Chef Constance even poured us each a glass of Le Sudiste, a merlot-syrah blend, that paired wonderfully with our macarons. Even with each of the five us tasting one of each flavor, there were still more than a dozen for each of us to take home with us.

Though I’ve never even batted an eye at the cost of a macaron (they’re my indulgence), I certainly never will after following a recipe that had more steps than the 387 it takes to climb to the top of Notre Dame. And yet, the work involved hasn’t detered me. I love macarons so much that I am definitely going to give making them at home a try.

Booking
Cook’n with Class Paris offers a variety of dessert and market classes, including the macaron making class. The Macaron Making in Paris class is 130 per person and 100 per child 12 – 16 years of age. The class lasts 3 hours.

I was an invited guest of Cook’n with Class in order to bring you this story. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own.

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5 Summer Festivals Not to Miss in Northern Italy http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/5-summer-festivals-northern-italy/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/5-summer-festivals-northern-italy/#comments Wed, 24 Jun 2015 10:31:46 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=7074 Luxe Adventure Traveler

It’s the first day of summer and while the temperatures may be sweltering in Northern Italy, I’m still excited summer has finally arrived. It’s the season of some of my favorite festivals. Here are 5 summer festivals not to miss in Northern Italy: Festa del Redentore Originally a celebration to give thanks for the end [...]

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It’s the first day of summer and while the temperatures may be sweltering in Northern Italy, I’m still excited summer has finally arrived. It’s the season of some of my favorite festivals. Here are 5 summer festivals not to miss in Northern Italy:

Venice Festa del Redentore

Enjoying Redentore’s fireworks from a gondola

Festa del Redentore

Originally a celebration to give thanks for the end of the plague in 1576, today the Festa del Redentore is Venice’s hottest summer party. Venetians come from all over the Venetian Islands to moor their boats in the lagoon and celebrate literally from sundown to sunrise. The evening culminates in a massive fireworks display that lights up the sky for a whooping 45 minutes.

The Festa del Redentore is on July 18, 2015. Pack a picnic and party the evening away with hundreds of others. Fireworks start at 11:30pm, though you’ll need to secure your spot in San Marco much earlier if you want “front row” viewing.

Sculture di Sabbia

The tale of Pinocchio told in sand sculpture

Sculture di Sabbia

Jesolo, a big beach city in the Veneto, kicks off the summer season with a sand sculpture festival. The best sand sculpture artists from around the world show off their amazing skills and help the city of Jesolo to tell a story through sand. The 2013 edition will be the scene of the Italian Renaissance where arists will recreate the works of Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo.

The Sculture di Sabbia runs June 12 – August 2, 2015 daily from 9am – 11pm. Admission is €2 and children are free.

Fiera dell’Aglio di VoghieraFiera dell’Aglio di Voghiera

Calling all garlic lovers! The village of Voghiera in the Emilia Romanga region celebrates one of the most renowned varieties of garlic, a gastronomic treasure that even has the status PDO (Protected Denomination of Origin) with a garlic fair each year. You’ll find almost only locals at this festival as they celebrate with food (all including garlic, of course), wine, and live music on the grounds of an ancient castle.

The Fiera dell’Aglio di Voghiera takes place at Belriguardo Castle from August 7 – 9, 2015 with food tents opening at 7pm. A fixed menu plate is €18 per person and includes ravioli in a garlic sauce, french fries seasoned with roasted garlic, garlic bruschetta, garlic sausage, garlic-breaded pork kebob, garlic seasoned steak, a slice of melon, a nectarine, and a nectarine torte for dessert.

Tractor Pulling Mania

Tractor Pulling Mania

Tractor Pulling Mania

Tractor pulling in Italy? That was my reaction too! But this was a surprisingly fun festival filled with beer, food, and lots of tractor pulling fun. Cheer on tractor, some decked out with specially modified engines, as they attempt to pull a massive block the furthest. Of course, the festival wouldn’t be complete without a Miss Tractor Pulling Contest followed by live music and partying until you can’t party no more.

Tractor Pulling Mania takes place in Fiume Veneto in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region from June 20 – 21 beginning at 6pm.

Verona Opera FestivalVerona Opera Festival

Imagine sitting under the stars in the 3rd largest arena in the world built by the Romans in 30AD while strands of Italian opera dance across the night air. Each summer from June – September, you can do just that at the annual Verona Opera Festival. Each year operas like Aida come to the stage of the 3000 year old Roman amphitheater and tickets on the stone steps are incredibly affordable. Just be sure to bring a cushion to sit on!

The various operas run June – September multiple times weekly and start at either 9:15pm or 10pm, so prepare for a long and late night. Tickets range from €21 – €183 depending on the seats selected. Book tickets online

 

Reader question: Do you know of any summer festivals not to miss in Northern Italy that I should have included?

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Are the Water Slides Worth It at Citta del Mare? http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/citta-del-mare/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/citta-del-mare/#respond Sat, 20 Jun 2015 17:31:20 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=65414 Luxe Adventure Traveler

By now you’ve no doubt seen the pictures of the epic water slides that run down a cliff and deliver you right in to the Mediterranean Sea. Travel + Leisure even named the slide one of the world’s craziest when the pictures began circulating back in 2012. The slides are real and they’re located at [...]

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By now you’ve no doubt seen the pictures of the epic water slides that run down a cliff and deliver you right in to the Mediterranean Sea. Travel + Leisure even named the slide one of the world’s craziest when the pictures began circulating back in 2012. The slides are real and they’re located at the Citta del Mare Hotel Village in the province of Palermo, Sicily. And if you’ve already discovered that and read Citta del Mare’s reviews on TripAdvisor, you might be wondering if the slides are actually worth it.

I wondered the same and put it to our Facebook community. With a resounding yes, I booked my last night in Sicily at Citta del Mare to check out the situation for myself. I have to admit that the slides are a lot of fun and worth enduring the rest of the frustrating experience at this resort.

Citta del Mare

Sliding in to the sea at Citta del Mare

The Slides and Pool

The slides are the best part of Citta del Mare, but they are smaller than the infamous aerial photos make them look. We stayed mid-week and blissfully only had to share the slides with two little boys. There are only two slides and you can’t really just hang out in the pools between the slides because they are small. I would not want to be here when it’s busy. 

Though the slides aren’t quite as big as they look in photos, I thought they were actually the perfect size. These slides are work! You can get in from the first or second level. Otherwise, after each slide, you swim across the little pools, climb up the ladder to the next one and repeat all the way until you shoot out in to the Tyrrhenian Sea.


Climb back up a ladder from the sea and then climb the stairs all the way back to the top. We did the slides four full times and a couple times from the second level.

Be aware that the slides do close for riposa (Italy’s siesta time) from 12:30pm – 4pm. They are open 9am – 12:30pm and 4pm – 6pm.

There is also an Olympic sized swimming pool located at a different part of the resort and there were people both swimming laps and playing.

Citta del Mare

Only the Club Card is accepted for payment at the beach bar

The Club Card

One of the most important things to understand, which I’m frankly still confused about, is Citta del Mare’s club card. You can’t eat, drink or purchase anything at the resort with cash or a credit card. The club card is mandatory and they charge you at check-in for it. I paid 20 and I got a different response from every staff member that I inquired with as to what I was actually paying for. It seems that the pool, slides and activities are not actually free for guests and that is what the “cost” of the card is for.

At reception you can put money on your card and use it to purchase drinks and snacks at the bars located around the resort. Any credit that you have left on the card is refunded at check-out. If you chose the full-board option when you booked your room, you also use swipe the card to access the buffet at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Citta del Mare

The buffet dining area at Citta del Mare

The Restaurant

Citta del Mare is located in the middle of nowhere in the province of Palermo. The closest town is Terrasini, which is 7 kilometers away from the hotel village. That’s fine if you’re renting a car to get around Sicily, but if you’re using public transportation then you’re stuck with Citta del Mare’s restaurant.

There is only one restaurant and depending on the type of booking you made, you’ll have all your meals included (full board) or you’ll have to purchase meals (half board). We were staying in a superior room, which gave us access to a private dining area of the restaurant called Belvedere. The buffet part of the restaurant is 7.50 per person per meal and Belvedere is 12.50 per person per meal.

Our booking was the bed and breakfast option, so we purchased dinner and lunch since there were no other options for meals during our stay. We took our ticket to the restaurant and were seated in a section of the buffet that was separated with a screen from the larger portion of the buffet. It reminded me of a cruise ship as another two people were immediately seated with us at our table for four.

Citta del Mare

The only good part about the buffet is the wine on tap

The food was just okay. Do not expect any spectacular Sicilian meals at the buffet. There were a variety of salads, hot dishes, a very small citrus mousse for dessert and wine and water on tap. I didn’t like the selection and a bowl of pasta with vodka sauce just didn’t leave me feeling satisfied.

After we’d eaten at the buffet, we noticed the Belvedere section as the guests seated there were being served meals and had bottles of wine and water on the tables. Back at the reception desk for about the tenth time in only a few hours since we’d checked in, we found out that we had actually paid for Belvedere but the staff did not seat us there.

Lunch in the Belvedere section was definitely higher quality than the buffet we’d had for dinner the night before. The food is served and you have a selection of first and second courses, as well as a small salad buffet. I had a pasta with mushrooms, calamari and roasted potatoes. I also sampled eggplant parmesan, green beans, and a bread with tomatoes baked in it. Everything at lunch was delicious.

Citta del Mare

Our superior room was so basic it didn’t even have outlets

The Room

Citta del Mare’s website clearly states that the rooms are basic. I wasn’t expecting much and the room was basic with a bed, desk, tv, bathroom and a balcony. The room was clean, but could desperately use some refurbishment. Many of the tiles in the bathroom were cracked or chipped, as was the stucco on the balcony.

There is air conditioning, but even on full blast at the coldest temperature it just seemed to blow warm air. Not surprisingly, the bed was like sleeping on a rock. I spent an uncomfortable night tossing and turning while I tried to find a way to get comfortable.

Most frustrating were the lack of outlets. We had to unplug the refrigerator to charge our phones as it was the only outlet in the bedroom. There was also one outlet in the bathroom.

Customer Service

The worst part of this resort was the customer service…or lack of. It literally took us 45 minutes to check in, and I mean 45 minutes from the time we stepped up to the desk and began the actual process of checking in. First, the receptionist tried to charge me the full rate when I had pre-paid online. I only had the balance of the club card, which I knew had to be paid upon check-in.

Their system also does not allow for the resort to make a bill and make one charge on your credit card. After the receptionist ran the charge for the club card, she then wanted to individually charge me for the extra meals and the airport transfer service I booked. I had to argue and finally a manager came and added up everything in order to make one charge on my debit card. It was ridiculous.

I already mentioned that we weren’t seated in the Belvedere section for dinner as we should have been. I spent another 30 minutes arguing about this with reception and trying to find out if there was a price difference between the two different areas of the dining room. There is; Belvedere is 5 more than the buffet. I asked for a refund of the price difference and was told no because “I still ate dinner.” After standing my ground, I was finally offered a 5 credit to use at the bar.

We booked the hotel’s airport transfer service. After arguing about something or other after dinner, the receptionist asked what time I wanted the transfer for. I told her 3pm the following day and she explained that she had marked the wrong time on our ticket. When I got back to the room and checked, I saw that my carbon copy of the ticket actually did have the right time on it. So she’d just changed someone else’s transfer time. The next morning I mentioned this to reception so someone else wouldn’t miss their transfer to the airport. We weren’t even in the book!

To make up for all the inconveniences, the hotel did give us a late check-out and we were able to use our room right up until 3pm when we departed for the airport.

The Verdict

The location is very pretty and the grounds are well kept. Citta del Mare was fine for one night and to enjoy the water slides for an afternoon before flying home. I would not want to spend more than one night and I recommend booking a stay during the week. Book a superior room and opt for the Belvedere if planning to dine at the resort.

Getting ThereBooking
Citta del Mare is just 15 minutes drive from Palermo Falcone–Borsellino Airport.. The resort offers a shuttle to and from the airport for 12 per person. If you’re arriving from elsewhere in Sicily, the resort it accessible via train to Piraineto. Warning: there is nothing but a closed up station at Piraineto and the parking lot is literally a garbage dump. Be sure to arrange for the hotel to pick you up at your train arrival time.
Citta del Mare has 800 rooms and are reasonably priced starting at 80 per night. You can book directly via their website, but I found much better deals on booking sites like Expedia and Yonderbound.

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Hiking Stromboli: One of the World’s Most Active Volcanoes http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/hiking-stromboli/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/hiking-stromboli/#respond Sat, 13 Jun 2015 18:20:28 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=65385 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Volcanoes fascinate me. Last year I was thrilled to be in Iceland when Bardarbunga started erupting and I got a thrill when I could see the explosions of lava shooting in to the air during my few nights in Myvatn. When I heard that you could trek up one of Italy’s three active volcanoes at [...]

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Volcanoes fascinate me. Last year I was thrilled to be in Iceland when Bardarbunga started erupting and I got a thrill when I could see the explosions of lava shooting in to the air during my few nights in Myvatn. When I heard that you could trek up one of Italy’s three active volcanoes at nighttime to capture the lava spewing in to the air meters from you, I knew I had to do this adventure. Hiking Stromboli sat on my bucket list for nearly six years…until this week.

Stromboli

Smoke billows from the crater on Stromboli

The trek starts  from sea level and climbs up an ever changing terrain. I met my guide, Tom, from Volcano Adventures and he reassuringly explained that we’d make the trek in stages. From the village we followed a path as it gently climbed upwards toward the entrance to the nature reserve. Already 30 minutes in to what is an eight hour trek, Tom pointed to a tiny bar and let our small group know that this was the last place for a proper bathroom and to top up your water.

Next we were headed to 390 meters. With the late afternoon sun blazing overhead and hardly a cloud in the sky, I was thankful that even an active volcano that has been in nearly continuous eruption for 2000 years has vegetation on its base. The shade from tall bamboo, small trees and even out-of-control pricker bushes offered relief from sun beating on us.

The trail zig-zagged up Stromboli and I counted down the 14 switchbacks one by one as I rounded each bend. As we emerged from the vegetation on the very last switchback, I was already rewarded with a spectacular view that I couldn’t see from the village.

Stromboli

Stromboli’s last lava flow from August 2014 still steams

Stromboli had a bigger eruption with a lava flow that began August 4, 2014. The lava flowed from the crater right in to the Tyrrhenian Sea and I stood gazing at the still steaming trail. A few sips of water and a few photos later, it was time to keep moving. We needed to reach the summit before sunset and we weren’t even a quarter of the way up.

Here the terrain began to change and the steep climb up demanded bigger steps. Gone was the mostly even path and now we picked our way up rocks. Nature’s stair master was testing my legs as I powered myself upwards. This was the section of the trek Tom claimed was the most demanding for him and I was glad to finally reach 390 meters, where we took the first short break.

It was also here at 390 meters that our guide from the Riserva Naturale Orientata met our group. From this point, it is require to have a local guide and from here on out our guide, Mario, was in constant contact with control as they monitored eruptions and our location to ensure safety.

We prepared for the next section of the trek by stuffing everything, including our helmets, in to our backpacks. The vegetation was thick on this next section and we’d be ascending 100 meters every 10 minutes. It was steep and my legs began to feel the burn, but I trudged onwards.

Three hours and 700 meters in to the hike and my legs were already exhausted. We reached a rock face and with no shame, I used my hands to bend over and scramble up it. The lights began to twinkle from the village below and sulfur fumes danced on the air. We were getting close and I could finally see the first hikers up on the ridge above the crater.

Stromboli

Watching sunset from the summit

Stromboli

My friend Tiffany and I are all smiles on the summit

The temperature drastically changed as we reached the first shelters directly across from the crater. Every so often the crater emitted a sound like water when it starts to boil, punctuated by a boom. We listened to these periodic explosions while watching the sun set and snacking on a Clif bar and beef jerky.

Finally Mario received clearance for our group to ascend the last bit up on to ridge. This was the worst part of the trek for me personally. The terrain was nothing but soft black sand and as I sank several inches with each step, my feet felt like I had concrete blocks strapped to them. For the first time on the hike, I thought to myself “I just can’t do this.” But there was no turning back. I only had a few meters to go and the way down was on the other side of this tortuous sand dune.

Stromboli Volcano

A mild explosion emits ash and incandescent lava fragments, sending them up several hundred meters in to the air

The trek is tough. There were moments when my legs burned so much that I thought I would crumple to the ground at any second. But as night fell and I got my first view of the magma bubbling in the crater below me, I forgot how exhausted I felt. I was, completely mesmerized, as every couple of minutes the lava fragments exploded in to the air. Unfortunately, the biggest explosion happened just after I had packed up my camera and tripod in preparation for the hike back down.

The hike down is dark and dusty as we practically skied down through the sand. I was so glad that I had packed that extra flashlight in addition to my head lamp. The lights of the village crept closer and closer and soon enough we were back at the beach.

Stromboli

Enjoying a glass of Etna rosé with lunch and a fabulous view at Da Luciano

There isn’t much to do on Stromboli aside from hike the volcano. The island, the furthest in the volcanic Aeolian Islands archipelago, has a population of just 500. Much of the island is inhabitable with the stratovolcano in nearly constant eruption for the last 2000 years. We arrived on the ferry just before lunch time and had plenty of time to explore the village and enjoy a much needed lunch before starting the hike in the late afternoon.

Getting ThereWhere To StayWhere To EatTips
Stromboli can be reached by ferry from Sicily in about 3 hours. Siremar and Ustica both have ferries that run to Stromboli, though ferries are not frequent except in the summer period from late June through September.
Stromboli is a car free island. The Hotel Ossidiana is conveniently located 100 meters from the port. Rooms are basic, but comfortable with excellent air conditioning.
Da Luciano promises the best terrace view in Stromboli village and it definitely doesn’t disappoint. The food is delicious with a changing menu based upon the fresh catches of the day.
  • Stromboli is strictly regulated and you must go with a guide if you plan to hike beyond 390 meters. We recommend Volcano Adventures as the treks are lead by trained geologists and volcanologists. The Stromboli trek starts from 40 per person and includes the local guide, booking fees and helmets.
  • Bring an extra shirt and a jacket or fleece as the summit is quite cold, even in summer.
  • Bring a head lamp and a small flash light. It is very dark on the descent and the village streets are not illuminated.
  • Carry a minimum of 2 liters of water per person (I drank 3 liters), some snacks like Clif Bars, a piece of fresh fruit or beef jerky.
  • Hotel Ossidiana has a mini fridge in each room. Pick up a sandwich or a take-away pizza and put it in your fridge for when you get back from the hike. You’ll be starving and not much is open when you get back at midnight!

UNESCO_Logo-150x150This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For more info click here.
You can see all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites we’ve visited here.

 

We were invited guests of Volcano Adventures in order to bring you this story. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own.

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10 Things to Do at Milan Expo http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/things-to-do-at-milan-expo/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/things-to-do-at-milan-expo/#comments Fri, 05 Jun 2015 13:35:35 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=65294 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Milan Expo has been the most anticipated world’s fair in decades. This year’s theme is “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life” and it’s a fun, yet educational way to learn about sustainability and food security. With 145 countries represented at the 1.1 million square meter exhibition space, it can be a bit overwhelming to know [...]

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Luxe Adventure Traveler

Milan Expo has been the most anticipated world’s fair in decades. This year’s theme is “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life” and it’s a fun, yet educational way to learn about sustainability and food security. With 145 countries represented at the 1.1 million square meter exhibition space, it can be a bit overwhelming to know where to even start once you find yourself on the other side of the entry gates. While I plan to attend Milan Expo 2015 several times over the six months that it runs (from May 1 through October 31, 2015), I’ve rounded up some of my favorite things to see and do from my first visit:

Milan Expo 2015

Making my own personalized jar of Nutella at the Nutella Concept Bar

1. Make Your Own Personalized Jar of Nutella

Nutella is an iconic Italian brand; one that always appears on the lists of top souvenirs to bring home from Italy. The hazelnut spread is so popular, in fact, that one jar of Nutella is sold every 2.5 seconds throughout the world. Well, now your Nutella souvenir from Italy just got a bit cooler. You can stop by the Nutella Concept Bar and print your very own personalized label for free. Purchase a jar of Nutella for 5.50 and the staff will affix your personalized label for you.

Milan Expo 2015

Enjoying a New England lob-stah roll at the USA Pavilion Food Truck Nation

2. Eat New England Lobster Rolls

The food truck has become synonymous with American cuisine and the USA Pavilion is embracing it with their theme American Food 2.0. The Food Truck Nation is an edible exhibit with six food trucks serving up American classics like hamburgers, New England lobster rolls, BBQ ribs and good ‘ol fashioned apple pies. Each week of Milan Expo different states will be celebrated as regional foods are showcased at the trucks.

If American food trucks aren’t your thing, you can also eat every from sushi at the Japan pavilion to tagine at the Morocco Pavilion.

Milan Expo 2015

Fountains dance to Italian music at The Tree of Life

3. Dance to the Tree of Life Fountain Show

At the center of the Lake Arena, the largest open space for Milan Expo visitors to relax, is the Tree of Life. It’s a work of art itself, but you’ll want to stop by for the show. Every hour on the hour, the Tree of Life has fireworks and other special effects as fountains dance in a concentric circles around it to the tunes of five contemporary Italian composers. The daytime shows last 3 and a half minutes, while the spectacular nighttime show is 12 minutes long and is set to a special suite of music composed by Maestro Roberto Cacciapaglia especially for Milan Expo.

Milan Expo

Chef Aurelio Damiani makes spaghetti mancini with truffles and anchovies at the Love It – Real Italian Food pavilion

4. Sample Local Specialties at Show Cooking Demonstrations

Food knows no language barriers and that is especially true at Milan Expo where you can quite literally eat your way around the world. While many pavilions have restaurants and stands where you can purchase local specialties, a number of pavilions also have show cooking demonstrations where you can learn to make the recipes and sample the food. And did I mention its free?

While I might be biased as Italy is my adopted home, the Love It Real Italian Food pavilion should be on your to do list while at Milan Expo. You can taste regional products like cheese, olive oil, yogurt and wine as well as join the short show cooking demonstrations multiple times daily. You’ll get to taste delicious dishes from top restaurants in Italy.

Some of the other pavilions also offering show cooking demonstrations with samples are the Switzerland Pavilion where you can make your own Swiss chocolate bar to take home and tagine and other Moroccan specialties at the Morocco Pavilion. These events are not typically on the daily program, so just be on the lookout for show cooking demonstrations as you wander around.

Milan Expo

Fabrizio Levita performs at the Germany Pavilion during Milan Expo

5. Jam Out at a Concert

Germany’s “Field of Ideas” pavilion has the motto “Be active” and they showcase that sound is a big part of being active. A outdoor concert venue features German musicians throughout Milan Expo and the wide open Fields of Music space encourages concert goers to get up and dance as performs rock out. Check out the event calendar for daily events and concert times.

Milan Expo

Larger than life sculptures by Giuliano Tomaino line the Decumano at Milan Expo

6. Admire the Works of Art

Expo isn’t just all about food. Walk the main promenade, called the Decumano, to admire the exhibition of works by Italian sculptor Giuliano Tomaino. The exhibition is supposed to represent the disenchantment of childhood, but I found the friendly looking rocking horses whimsical.

Milan Expo

100 years of Coca-Cola will be celebrated at Expo

7. Celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Coca-Cola

Celebrate the 100th anniversary of Coca-Cola with an interactive journey at the Coca-Cola Pavilion. The exhibition takes visitors through the company’s deep roots in Italy, its sustainability model and how the company reduces the impact its products have on climate change. But it’s such a fun exhibit with unique works by artists such as Andy Warhol that you hardly realize you’re actually learning something. After Expo, the pavilion will be recycled and become a covered basketball court for the local comunity to promote sport and physical activities.

Milan Expo

The Russia Pavilion at Milan Expo

8. Gawk at the Architecture

In days gone by structures like the Eiffel Tower and the Atomium were created as entrances to the World’s Fair. While Milan Expo won’t be producing the next Space Needle, the pavilions built to house the 2015 Expo are impressive. Qatar looks like a palace, Ecuador dazzles with colorful strings of beads hanging over the pavilion, and Russia has a giant mirror that juts out above giving you a cool space to take a unique selfie.

Milan Expo

Festive sake barrels from the Japan Pavilion, where rice is a staple food and at the center of the Japanese culture

9. Inspire Your Wanderlust

With 145 countries represented, you can travel the world at Milan Expo! Stop by Brazil to jump and play on the net above the exhibition space (one of the top attractions at Expo) and after all that jumping around, quench your thirst with a Brazilian smoothie.

Visit Switzerland and access their four tours filled with water, salt, coffee and apples. Once at the top, visitors can take as much as they want, but remember that these resources are limited and have to last the six months that Expo runs. The exhibition teaches us that if we all take some, we might not be leaving anything for the next generation.

Take a trip to the rainforest at the Malaysia Pavilion, enjoy a Turkish coffee or tea with typical baklava at the Turkey Pavilion, or taste Slovenian beer at the Slovenia Pavilion. No matter which pavilion you end up in, you’ll surely leave inspired to head to these countries on your next trip.

Milan Expo10. Take a Guided Tour

If it all still seems overwhelming, Milan Expo offers daily guided tours that will show you the best of the best pavilions and help you understand what it is all about in a 3-hour tour with an expert guide. The English tours take place daily at 10:45am, 11:30am, 2:45pm and 3:30pm. Tours must be booked in advance by emailing visitexpo@exploratourism.it and cost €20 per adult and €12 per child under 14 or seniors over 65.

Know Before You Go

TicketsGetting ThereTips
Milan Expo is open daily from May 1 – October 31 from 10am – 11pm. Avoid the long lines by purchasing your Milan Expo tickets online in advance. You can purchase entrance with shuttle transfer from Milan from $56 per person (I highly recommend this option as the shuttle drops you off at the entrance and you apprecaite not having to walk the extra 1 kilometer from the entrance to metro station). One day tickets without shuttle transfer are $44 per person.
Milan Expo is located the the Rho Fiera north-west of Milan. From Milan, which is accessible from all over Italy by train, you reach the exposition site on public transportation. It is easiest to purchase a round trip extra-urbano (extra-urban) ticket, which is 5. Take Linea 1 (Red line 1) to Rho-Fiera Milano metro station, which takes around 35 minutes. Duomo and Cadorna are both on Line 1, where they connect to the city’s other underground lines.
  • Bring an empty water bottle. There are free water refill stations located around the exposition site. Otherwise bottled water costs 1.50 per bottle.
  • There are also free charging stations located in Tracce self-service restaurants. The charging stations have individual lockers with keys where you can leave your device to charge and come back to get it later.
  • There is a free People Mover shuttle bus that runs every 5 – 7 minutes and shuttles you from one end of Expo to the other. Look for the People Mover shuttle signs located along the Decumano to reach the pick-up locations.
  • Download the Milan Expo App with maps and daily programs of events for iPhone or Android.

 

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The Barcelona Hotel for Wine Lovers http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/hotel-praktik-vinoteca/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/hotel-praktik-vinoteca/#comments Mon, 01 Jun 2015 21:17:05 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=65100 Luxe Adventure Traveler

You can savor Spain’s famous Rioja wines without ever leaving chic Barcelona, yet feel like you’re in the heart of Spanish wine country. Hotel Praktik Vinoteca is a boutique wine themed hotel located in the heart of the Eixample district, steps away from fantastic restaurants, wine bars, the Passeig de Gracia and Rambla Catalunya. With [...]

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You can savor Spain’s famous Rioja wines without ever leaving chic Barcelona, yet feel like you’re in the heart of Spanish wine country. Hotel Praktik Vinoteca is a boutique wine themed hotel located in the heart of the Eixample district, steps away from fantastic restaurants, wine bars, the Passeig de Gracia and Rambla Catalunya.

Praktik Vinoteca

The lobby is a fun space to relax with a glass of wine

With the motto “In wine we trust,” I knew I’d love the Hotel Praktik Vinoteca before I even landed in Barcelona. I arrived to trade my passport for a glass of Cava (the Spanish version of Champagne), which I slowly sipped in the lounge while my check-in was completed. Normally, I want to rush up to my room to drop off my bags and freshen up. But I was hardly in a rush, as I sank into the comfy chairs with my Cava and took in the bottles of wine and wine-themed decor.

Praktik Vinoteca

My room at Praktik Vinoteca

The hotel has just 64 rooms, which are bright and decorated in a minimalist style with wooden headboards and Spanish wine art. I found my room to be very comfortable, though a tad on the small side. The hotel is, after all,  located in a 100-year old building so small is to be expected. As a self-professed Goldie Locks of hotel beds, I can tell you that I had a fabulous night’s sleep in that bed.

My favorite guest amenity at Hotel Praktik Vinoteca is that they have an on-site sommelier who does complimentary wine tastings for guests. I’m not up on my Spanish wine knowledge, so sitting down to get schooled was a real treat! I thought that it was also really great that the hotel doesn’t have any wines over 30, which fits with their vision to provide value luxury for guests.

Praktik Vinoteca

Wine tasting at Praktik Vinoteca

We tried four different Spanish wines, each from different wine regions. I opted to do a tasting of all reds since I much prefer them to whites. The Vitaran, which is aged for 15 months in second and third year French oak barrels, was my favorite of the tasting. It was unique with notes of banana – a tasting note I hadn’t ever detected in any wine I’ve had before.

We also tried a Ribera del Duero, which is a great drinking wine that really doesn’t need food paired with it to take the edge off. The Castillo de Mendoza, perhaps aptly named, made me want a big, juicy steak to eat while sipping it. The Priorat, with it notes of chocolate and black pepper, would have been my favorite before I tasted the Vitaran.

Being a small boutique hotel, there isn’t necessary a lot to do in the hotel itself outside of enjoying the lobby bar and the garden when the weather is warm enough. So I thought it was really fantastic that the hotels provide a map with eight of the El Born and Eixample districts’ best wine bars, gourmet grocers and top restaurants. You’ll just have to stay at the hotel to get the inside scoop, but I will tell you about one of my favorites.

Vila Viniteca

Cheese tasting at Vila Viniteca

Tucked on to a street that I’d never have stumbled upon had I not had a specific destination in mind, Praktik recommends Vila Viniteca. Described as “one of the most select and internationally renowned gourmet shops,” I was definitely not disappointed. The shop actually takes up three separate buildings on three corners of Carrer dels Agullers and offers cheese tastings with wine pairings.

They have over 350 different types of handmade cheese and since my knowledge pretty much consists of Manchego, I was more than happy to let my friend Lauren (the lovely owner of Devour Spain food tours) and the experts at Vila Viniteca surprise me.  We opted for three cheeses each for our tasting and all that were selected were delicious. My favorite, not surprisingly, was a red wine cheese.

We Recommend

Eating My Way through Gràcia with Devour Barcelona

Back at the Hotel Praktik Viniteca, I had to skip out on breakfast because I was about to spend four hours Devouring Barcelona on a food tour. I did pop in to have a look at the breakfast offerings and there were plenty of sausages, decadent pastries and pa amb tomaquet (the famous Catalan bread with tomato) along with fresh squeezed juices, coffees, tea and much more.

Without a doubt, I’d stay at this fabulous boutique hotel again!

Booking
Rooms at Hotel Praktik Viniteca start from 100 per night and include a welcome drink, free wine tastings, and free wifi. There is also parking available in a garage below the hotel.

I was an invited guest of Hotel Praktik Viniteca in order to bring you this story. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own.

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Luxe Adventure Traveler of the Month: Tiffany Avery http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/luxe-adventure-traveler-of-the-month-tiffany-avery/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/luxe-adventure-traveler-of-the-month-tiffany-avery/#respond Sat, 30 May 2015 15:35:04 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=65226 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Welcome to the Luxe Adventure Traveler of the Month series! Here we check in monthly with regular travelers just like you – no blog, no job in the travel industry, just travel. Want to be a Luxe Adventure Traveler of the Month? Get in touch with us at info@luxeadventuretraveler.com. This month we check in with [...]

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Luxe Adventure Traveler

Welcome to the Luxe Adventure Traveler of the Month series! Here we check in monthly with regular travelers just like you – no blog, no job in the travel industry, just travel. Want to be a Luxe Adventure Traveler of the Month? Get in touch with us at info@luxeadventuretraveler.com.

This month we check in with Tiffany, who loves to travel with her dog. We met Tiffany in Italy when she asked for some suggestions planning a trip to Rome. She ended up having a great time Eating Italy and living like a local in the GowithOh holiday apartment she rented.

Luxe Adventure Traveler of the Month

Tiffany, her husband and her dog in Italy

Name: Tiffany Avery

Occupation: Legal Assistant

Hometown: Raleigh, North Carolina

Tell us a little about yourself: Although I am a Southern girl at heart,  the desire for travel has always been a major part of who I am. Whether it’s the next town or across an ocean, I want to immerse myself in a culture outside of my own. Life is about experiences, and I want to live it to the fullest potential.

How many countries have you been to? 11, and counting!

Favorite US city and your favorite thing to do there? Los Angeles. Whether you want to go hiking on the Brush Canyon Trail or celeb spotting down Hollywood Boulevard, there is always something to do!

Favorite international city and your favorite thing to do there? Munich. I have made the trip there several times now and shopping along Kaufingerstrasse never gets old! Plus, Germany has some magnificent food.

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Tiffany in Paris

Least favorite country? Why? Oh wow, this is hard. I don’t really think I have a least favorite. Each country and culture is unique in its own right, and I am grateful for the opportunity to experience every one of them.

You travel with your dog often. Tell us a little about that and which destination has been your favorite to travel with your dog to. I do not have children, so my dog is my “furbaby”. He travels well, and I particularly enjoy having him by my side. He is a 5 pound furball, so people often approach us wanting to pet him, giving me the chance to meet and talk to people I wouldn’t have otherwise. We recently took a trip to Switzerland and I don’t know who had more fun, myself and my husband or our dog – he loves all of the attention!

Five things you never travel without? (Passport is a given). My camera, camera charger, sunglasses, chapstick, and my iPhone – although I try to not be distracted by it. You never know when the need will arise to Instagram the moment!

Favorite travel iPhone app? I just recently discovered Foodspotting and now I am addicted. Who doesn’t want a visual guide to top-rated food nearby?!

What is your most embarrassing or worst travel moment? My husband and I were in London this past summer, and if you’ve traveled to London you know that the Tube has A LOT of escalators. It was my birthday so I decided to dress up and was feeling rather chic in my new floor length chiffon maxi skirt. As we were headed down one of the dozen escalators to start our day in the city, my skirt got caught in between the steps and side track. Luckily I caught it just in time to spare others an eye full, but I had to walk around the rest of the day with grease stains half way up my skirt. Needless to say, that was the first and last time I wore that skirt.

My dream travel destination: Africa. A safari is at the top of my bucket list.

You’re a Luxe Adventure Traveler reader. What’s your favorite tip or suggestion you’ve gotten from our site? I don’t think there is really a particular tip or suggestion; with every post that I read you inspire me more and more to get out of my comfort zone and truly embrace each new experience, even with something as simple as a food or drink suggestion that I may not have thought to try before reading your blog.

What’s your favorite travel website(s) (besides Luxe Adventure Traveler, of course!)? TripAdvisor. I’m really big on reading reviews.

Best travel tip: Travel with an open mind. Things will not always go as planned, but as long as you are open and ready to go with the flow, nothing can stop you!

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Where to Eat and Drink in Milan http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/where-to-eat-and-drink-in-milan/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/where-to-eat-and-drink-in-milan/#comments Thu, 28 May 2015 22:00:53 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=65212 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Most non-business travelers only pass through Milan for a night or maybe two. It’s a shame because the city has a lot to offer visitors. Not only are there must-see attractions like the Duomo, Da Vinci’s Last Supper and Castello Sforzesco, Milan is home to Italy’s hottest dining scene. You’ll find everything from the city’s [...]

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Most non-business travelers only pass through Milan for a night or maybe two. It’s a shame because the city has a lot to offer visitors. Not only are there must-see attractions like the Duomo, Da Vinci’s Last Supper and Castello Sforzesco, Milan is home to Italy’s hottest dining scene. You’ll find everything from the city’s institutions serving Milanese classics to newcomers serving international innovative cuisine like Nobu. When you find yourself in the Italian capital, here’s where to eat and drink in Milan:

Naviglio Grande

Naviglio Grande: the place to see and be seen

Where to Have Apertivo

Apertivo is mostly a Northern Italian custom and Milan is one of the best places to experience it. Apertivo is the few hours between work and dinner when Italians like to relax with wine or cocktails and snacks. When in Milan, head to the Naviglio Grande.

Once the most important canal in Milan, the Naviglio Grande was used as a trade route in the 13th century and salt, grain, wine and manufactured goods were transported on it to Switzerland. Marble and stones were brought to Milan on the canal to begin the construction of the Duomo in 1386. These days the canal no longer sees boats using it as a route to Switzerland, but it is the place to see and be seen during Apertivo. Chic cafes line both sides of the Naviglio Grande and Milanese head here to share a drink with friends.

Some bars will have a buffet like set-up and the snacks are inclusive with your drinks. In true Italian fashion, just place a few small nibbles on your plate. Apertivo is not meant to replace a meal. Here are a few of my favorites to try:

Il Vinaccio

Snacks during apertivo at Il Vinaccio

Il Vinaccio

My favorite apertivo spot on the Naviglio Grande is Il Vinaccio. Grab an outdoor table when the weather is nice, which is great for people watching. It’s actually hard not to completely fill up on apertivo snacks here with a generous platter of salami, local cheese, mortadella, mushrooms, olives and breads. Try a local wine like a Barbera.

Il Vinaccio is located at Ripa di Porta Ticinese 49 and is open from 4pm – 10pm. Closed Sundays.

Twist on Classic

Before I really appreciated wine, I loved a fancy martini like my go to mango and chambord martini or a mojito. Good cocktails are pretty hard to come by in Italy, which is why I love Twist on Classic. As the name implies, this Naviglio Grande bar serves up the classics but with a twist. You can even find the go to Italian cocktail, the Aperol spritz, but here it’s served with a twist – an artisanal French liqueur called St. Germain instead of with Aperol.  Better yet, the snacks are a board of a trio of bruschetta (pronounced bru | SKET | ta, not bruSHETta. Olive Garden, sorry but you’ve got it wrong).

Twist on Classic is located at Ripa di Porta Ticinese 13 and is open from 6pm – 2am Monday – Friday and 3pm – 2am Saturday and Sunday.

La Vineria

La Vineria isn’t located right along the Naviglio Grande, but it is on a lovely pedestrian street only a few minutes walk from the canal. What I like about La Vineria is that you can bring in your own bottles (any plastic bottle like a 1 liter water bottle will do) and have them filled up with wines from various regions in Italy. Right from the tank, the wine is inexpensive ranging from just 2 – 4 per liter. You can also buy wine by the glass and sip it while people watching from the handful of tables outside the shop.

La Vineria is located at La Casale 4 and is open from 10:30am – 1:30am Monday – Saturday and 4pm – 12am on Sunday.

Naviglio Grande Apertivo Tour

A great way to get acquainted with the Naviglio Grande is to go on an Apertivo Tour of the neighborhood. Not only will you discover more great bars for apertivo, you’ll also learn a lot about the history of the area and see some of the hidden courtyards only locals know about.

The Naviglio Grande Apertivo Tour is $65 per person and includes one drink at each bar visited on the tour.

Where to Eat

Milan’s dining scene is a chic as its fashion scene. New restaurants are regularly opening, but like a Chanel suit, some just never go out of style. Here are a few of my favorites that are institutions in the Italian capital:

Panzerotti di Luini

A panzerotto from Panzerotti di Luini

Panzerotti di Luini

This is a must in Milan! Panzerotti Luini has been a Milan institution run by the same family since 1949. Perhaps Nonna Giuseppina’s high standards and family recipes are why this little shop always, always has a queue of chic Milanese and in-the-know tourists stretching out the door. The thing to try here, though all of their pastries are incredibly tempting, is the panzerotto. The panzerotto is the delicious original version of what my hometown (Erie, PA) calls the pepperoni ball. Fried dough stuffed with mozzarella and spicy salami. At just €3 each, you can have two. And I promise you that it is worth the wait!

Panzerotti di Luini is located at Via S. Radegonda 16 just a street over behind the Duomo.

El Brellin Milan

A jammy Rebo wine paired with fried zucchini flowers at El Brellin

El Brellin

Located on the Naviglio Grande, the restaurant is another world once you step inside. I prefer dining in their lovely garden when the weather is nice, which is situated along the ancient laundry house. El Brellin is said to have the best risotto alla Milanese in the city, and while I haven’t eaten every risotto alla Milanese to be found in Milan, I have had my fair share of them. This one truly is my favorite. I also adore their fried squash blossoms served with a row ham.

El Brellin is located at Alzaia Naviglio Grande 14 and is open daily for lunch from 12:30pm – 3pm and dinner from 6:30pm – 1am.

Il Salumaio di Montenapoleone

Cotoletta alla Milanese at Il Salumaio di Montenapoleone

Il Salumaio di Montenapoleone

Il Salumaio di Montenapoleone has some serious ambiance as it’s set in the courtyard of the stunning old Bagatti Valsecchi palazzo in the heart of the fashion district. It’s been run by the same family for three generations since 1957 and is acclaimed as one of the best restaurants in the city. The food is divine with a menu of Milanese classics like cotoletta alla Milanese (a breaded veal cutlet) and innovative pasta and meat dishes. And if you don’t want to dine there, you can pop in to the shop to purchase delicious cheeses, salami and other products.

Il Salumaio di Montenapoleone is located at Via Santo Spirito 10 (across from the Four Seasons Milan) and is open 8:30am – 11pm (shop) and 12pm – 11pm (restaurant). Closed Sundays.

La Veranda at Four Seasons Milan

This Alba white truffle shaved over my pasta was heaven at La Veranda at Four Seasons Milan

La Veranda

La Veranda at the Four Seasons Milan is set in a restored monastery. In summer, there is outdoor seating available in the garden and you’ll quickly forget that you’re in the heart of a bustling city. The menu features fresh, seasonal ingredients and I love when the Alba white truffle is available in fall. You’ll also find Milanese classics and Italian dishes, like the delicious zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta and drizzled with pesto.

La Veranda is located at Via Gesù 6/8 and is open daily for lunch from 12pm – 4:30pm and dinner from 5:30pm – 11pm. Reservations recommended.

viator-ambassador-400Our Navigli Apertivo Tour was provided by Viator in order to bring you this story. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own.

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Four Tips to Maximize Your Time in Paris http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/maximize-your-time-in-paris/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/maximize-your-time-in-paris/#comments Tue, 26 May 2015 06:38:55 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=6249 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Audrey Hepburn famously said “Paris is always a good idea.” We couldn’t agree more! Like most of our readers who travel when you can get away from work, we’ve also visited Paris on short breaks. Of course, as a first time visitor you want to see it all but that quickly becomes a pretty ambitious [...]

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Audrey Hepburn famously said “Paris is always a good idea.” We couldn’t agree more! Like most of our readers who travel when you can get away from work, we’ve also visited Paris on short breaks. Of course, as a first time visitor you want to see it all but that quickly becomes a pretty ambitious plan. So just how do you maximize your time in Paris? After a few trips to Paris over the last six years, we’ve put together these tips for how to maximize your time in Paris:

Louvre Paris

Long lines at the Louvre

1. Skip the lines with the Paris Pass.

Paris is the most popular city in the world to visit. Over 30 million people visit Paris each year! Waiting in line for hours at attractions like the Louvre or Notre Dame is the biggest time suck you’ll face when visiting Paris. One of the smartest things you can do is to invest in the Paris Pass, which gives pass holders elite fast track entrance to many of Paris’ most popular museums and attractions. By saving time skipping the line, you’ll have time visit more attractions or spend a little time enjoying a leisurely lunch.

The Paris Pass is available for 2, 4, or 6 days and gives you free entry to over 60 Paris museums and attractions, and use of the hop-on-hop-off bus plus unlimited journeys on all Paris public transportation within zones 1 – 3, which covers all of central Paris.

I recommend visiting the following attractions on day 1 of your 2-day Paris Pass:

  • Louvre
  • Arc de Triomphe
  • Notre Dame
  • Bateaux River Cruise (at night is best to see Paris lit up)
  • Hop On Hop Off Bus (picks up near Arc de Triomphe and will take you to all these attractions)

Also with the Paris Pass, you can visit the Palace of Versailles. I HIGHLY recommend doing this. It will take an entire day, but don’t miss it! To get to Versailles, take the metro to the Champ de Mars stop (Eiffel Tower stop) and change to the RER C train. It takes about an hour to reach Versailles.

Eiffel Tower2. Plan ahead.

We all have romantic ideas of giving in to our whimsy, but if you want to see the main sights of Paris you will need to plan ahead. Keep in mind that your Paris Pass is based upon a calendar day, so if you activate your pass at 4pm on Saturday, Saturday is counted as day one of your pass usage. Instead, if you are arriving in Paris mid-day plan activities not on your Paris Pass like visiting the Eiffel Tower and save time by booking your timed entry online to avoid waiting in the long lines.

Leave the other days of your short break to go shopping, take a macaron cooking class, visit Galeries Lafayette (Paris’ most famous department store) or wander Paris’ parks and gardens.

Parc de Monceau Paris

Parc de Monceau

3. Make use of public transportation.

The Paris Pass include use of all Paris metros, RER, buses, trams, SNCF overland suburban trains, and the Montmartre Funicular within zones 1 – 3 and a two-day hop-on-hop-off bus tour of Paris. Utilize public transportation to get between sights on day one and two of your Paris Pass and then cash in your voucher for the two-day hop-on-hop-off bus in the evening of the day your Paris Pass expires. Doing so allows you to use the two-day hop-on-hop-off bus to get around the city once your Paris Pass expires.

Oyster Bar at Galeries Lafayette

Oyster Bar at Galeries Lafayette

Hot potato cart at Gardens of Versailles

Hot potato cart at Gardens of Versailles

4. Don’t waste time with long lunches.

We enjoy – and often need – a sit-down break from being on the go. But you don’t need to sit down for a two hour lunch each day of your trip. You can have a gourmet lunch-on-the-go in the food hall at Galeries Lafayette. And when we say food hall, that doesn’t begin to describe it! There is a raw oyster bar, champagne bar, tea room, and just about every type of “take-out” you can imagine. Eat in the cafeteria-style dining room with a stunning view of the Eiffel Tower.

Or pop in to one of Paris’ many gourmet markets and grab a baguette, some cheese and a bottle of wine. Have lunch outdoors in one of Paris’ many gardens.

What tips do you have to maximize your time in Paris?

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7 Must Visit Wineries for Cantine Aperte http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/cantine-aperte/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/cantine-aperte/#comments Sun, 24 May 2015 01:44:00 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=54867 Luxe Adventure Traveler

  “And on the seventh day God rested from all the work he had done.” Twelve years of Catholic school has the Book of Genesis burned into my brain. But in America, not much is actually closed on a Sunday. As Americans our 24/7, go-go-go, need-it-now mentality makes us forget that time practically stands still [...]

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Cantine Aperte Friuli Venezia Giulia

Map of Cantine Aperte in the Friuli Venezia Giulia

“And on the seventh day God rested from all the work he had done.” Twelve years of Catholic school has the Book of Genesis burned into my brain. But in America, not much is actually closed on a Sunday. As Americans our 24/7, go-go-go, need-it-now mentality makes us forget that time practically stands still on Sundays in other parts of the world. Italy is one of those places and outside of the major cities like Rome, Venice and Florence, you won’t find much open on a Sunday. Certainly not wineries! Except for one Sunday each year when wineries across every region of Italy open their doors during Cantine Aperte and no reservation is required for a tasting. Here are 5 must visit wineries to visit in the Friuli Venezia Giulia and Veneto regions for Cantine Aperte:

Castelvecchio Winery1. Castelvecchio

Castelvecchio Winery, located in Sagrado, has an incredible history. The grounds were the location of a World War I battle that ultimately took these lands away from the Hapsburg Empire. The villa even served as the Italian command headquarters and you can see graffiti from the soldiers preserved on its walls.

Try: The Friuli Venezia Giulia is known for its whites, but try the 2005 Sagrado Rosso, a blend of Terrano, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon from the vineyard’s best years.

Castelvecchio Winery is located at Via Castelnuovo 2, Sagrado (GO) 34078

Fratelli Vogadori2. Fratelli Vogadori

A small family run winery with some of the most stunning views we’ve seen from any tasting room we’ve visited so far, Fratelli Vogadori is located in the Veneto’s Valpolicella. Fratelli Vogadori even has a charming bed and breakfast. Each apartment has a balcony overlooking the vineyards and village of Negrar, which is situated close to both Lake Garda and Verona.

Try: Always a fan of Amarone, the 2008 Amarone Forlago stole my heart. It is only made from the best year’s grapes and has to be a nearly perfect Amarone. It is aged 1 year longer than Amarone Classico and has aromas of chocolate and vanilla. It tastes of chocolate and has just the slightest hint of sweetness.

Fratelii Vogadori is located at Via Vigolo 16, Negar (VR) 37024

Paladin3. Paladin

The Paladin wine estate is run by brothers and sister Carlo, Lucia and Roberto. They follow their grandfather’s wine making traditions since Paladin was established in 1962, though the love of wine and vinitculture in this unique area straddling both the Friuli Venezia Giulia and the Veneto regions dates back to the Roman ages.

Try: One of our favorite red wines is Malbec and it is typically used as a blending grape in Europe. Palladin’s Malbech Gli Aceri has won awards and we’re happy we don’t have to travel all the way to Chile for a great bottle!

Paladin is located at Via Postumia 12, Annone Veneto (VE) 30020

4. Principi di Porcia

Principi di Porcia is much more than a winery. Their Fattoria Azzano Decimo farm has several important projects that are sources of agro-energy and produces bio-gas for the entire community of Azzano Decimo. The cows play an important role at the farm too. Their manure is utilized to fertilize the grapes organically and the milk they produce daily is given to the Latterie Friulane for the production of Montasio cheese.

Try: The 2007 Titanus, a vintage from the Le Riserve del Castello, has a very velvety texture and hints of vanilla. It’s aged in French oak barriques and has very long production process.

Principi di Porcia is located at Via Zuiano 29, Azzano Decimo (PN) 33082

Strada del Prosecco

Strada del Prosecco

5. Al Canevon

The Strada del Prosecco, winding along spaghetti thin roads in the Prosecco Hills of Veneto has some serious wow-factor and Al Canevon is located in the DOCG territory with an astounding 40 hectares. Here a vineyard that large is really something special and it’s just one of the reasons they’ve made a success market for themselves since opening their doors in 1971.

Try: We don’t drink Prosecco often, but the dry and elegant fruity Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG Brut is perfect as an apertif or would be great with fish dishes. Perfect when served at a very cold 7 – 8°C, we can already imagine it being refreshing on a hot summer day.

Al Canevon is located at Via Prà Fontana 99, Valdobbiadene (TV) 31049

Beautiful day for Cantine Aperte! Sipping a 2009 red from Vistorta and enjoying their lovely gardens! #cantineaperte

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6. Vistorta

The Friuli Venezia Giulia is known, quite famously, for their white wines. So it might be surprising that there is a top notch winemaker focused on reds in the FVG. Brandino, Vistorta’s winemaker, studied at Texas A&M and then interned in Bordeaux before returning to Italy and focusing his attention on the merlot grape. Try: A red is a must at Vistorta and we are particularly fond of the 2009 Vistorta, made from 100% merlot. It’s smooth and pairs wonderfully with baked pasta, medium-aged cheeses and, of course, meat dishes. Vistorta is located at Via Vistorta n. 82, Sacile (PN) 33077

Fun vibe at I Magredi for Cantine Aperte! How much wine would it take for you to ride that train? #cantineaperte

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7. Cantina I Magredi

Originally purchased to be a fruit orchard, the Tombacco family started cultivating grapes for wine making in the 1980s. The wines produced at I Magredi are meant to enhance all the delicious flavors of the Friuli Venezia Giulia like San Daniele proscuitto and Montasio cheese.

Try: While I Magredi does produce some reds, whites are king at this FVG winery. Try the Divinotello Bianco, which pairs nicely with shellfish from the region.

Cantina I Magredi is located at Via del Sole, Domanins (PN) 33090

Know Before You Go
Event InformationWineBUSTips
Cantine Aperte 2015 is on May 31st from 10am – 6pm.
CThe WineBUS is available from Trieste in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region and is €40 per person. It visits 5 wineries with an expert guide and includes a light lunch at one of the cellars. It departs from Trieste at 9am and returns at 7pm. Make a reservation by emailing info@mtvfriulivg.it or calling +39 0432 289540.
  • Select wineries throughout the Friuli Venezia Giulia region are hosting Dinner With the Winemakers (view all the menus and contact information for reservations at the link) on Saturday, May 30th. Reservations are required.
  • Find all the participating wineries for Cantine Aperte all across Italy here.

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