South Tyrol: Day 4

Wait! I didn’t finish telling you about Day 3!
We left the peace and quiet of the countryside and headed for Bolzano, the capital of South Tyrol. City life here, however, isn’t what you’d expect.
South Tyrol A quaint town with an outstanding quality of life, ranked highly amongst all of Italy, with a combination of youthfulness from the University and cultural influence from the older generations. South Tyrol South TyrolAlthough there is a busy atmosphere amongst the presence of mingling locals and striking architecture, nature still has an influence as you look up beyond the buildings to find you are completely surrounded by lush, green terrain.
South TyrolWalking the shaded streets, the Italian-Germanic mix of architecture is everpresent, with Roman and Bavarian influence lending a medieval look.
South TyrolSouth TyrolSouth Tyrol South Tyrol South Tyrol We retired our city explorations and headed for dinner. I’m devastated to admit that I absolutely can’t remember where this was – so if anyone recognises the dishes, please pop the name in the comments! (Lighting was difficult, apologies for the low budget foodporn)
South TyrolI started with the interestingly named millefoglie (Italian for mille-feuille) of calf saddle with truffle and endive salad. South Tyrol A neighbouring dish of risotto was too beautiful not to snap, and too cheesy to resist trying. South TyrolA very modern take on deer fillet was sous-vide and served with a soufflé of polenta, parsnip cream and Tahitian-vanilla oil. Overall, we enjoyed a beautiful take on traditional dishes, served in a warm atmosphere with friendly service. But, my sweet tooth had yet to be satisfied, and when in Rome Bolzano…
South Tyrol I bullied everyone into joining me for some gelato – my favourite way to end any evening spent in Italy. (It didn’t require full use of my persuasive powers if I’m honest)

-Intermission- Now I can tell you about my fourth and final day spent in South Tyrol. You probably need something sweet after that fine bit of foodporn – go grab a snack and we’ll continue. South TyrolOne of the favourite autumnal activities South Tyroleans enjoy is chestnut picking. The “Keschtnweg” or Sweet Chestnut Trail runs along a line of chestnut groves, providing views of the Asarco Valley.   South Tyrol We ventured the trail, admiring rustic inns and farms in the shadows of the Dolomites. South Tyrol South Tyrol South Tyrol South Tyrol I loved this: tree turned fence.South Tyrol South Tyrol The hike is mild and scenery is beautiful, traversing through vibrant green meadows and shaded forests, past bountiful chestnut trees and even vineyards.South Tyrol There’s also incredible apple orchards lining the trail, providing colourful South Tyrolean apples ready to be pressed into fresh juice. South TyrolWe walked through the forest, where I was lucky to have watched where I stepped, as I very nearly flattened this guy. South TyrolHe was about the size of my hand, and is obviously now named Chestnut.
South Tyrol The trail opened onto farmland, with ears of corn bursting from their stalks, to the delight of the crows. South Tyrol South Tyrol South Tyrol We made our way back to Radoar, a farm turned vineyard, with a variety of products on sale. We sat down in the sunshine and enjoyed a glass of the freshest apple juice I’ve ever tasted.
South TyrolTell me your mouth doesn’t water imagining the sweet-sour taste when you scroll down.
South TyrolHaving worked up an appetite from our afternoon stroll, we were ready for a truly South Tyrolean feast. There’s an old custom in South Tyrol called Töggelen. As autumn approaches, winegrowers open their cosy parlous and cellars for visitors to sample their home-grown wine and home-cooked local fare, including the beloved roasted chestnuts. We cosied up at a table in Glangerhof, 1,000 meters above sea level with a stunning open-air view of the Dolomites, and prepared for a memorable feast. 
South Tyrol
Local breads, including the traditional Schüttelbrot, were served with a cheesy chive spread and fresh butter.  South TyrolSoon came local cheeses, meats and boiled potatoes, begging to be loaded with butter and salt.
South Tyrol Tirtlen, or savoury fried pastries, were a fast favourite. We shared and teared the hot, fluffy pasty and piled each bite high with tart, cooked sauerkraut. Our eyes may have been bigger than our stomachs, and we soon regretted the fervour with which we devoured these deceitful pastries. South Tyrol More meats, onions and potatoes arrived as we groaned with concern at our tightening trousers. South Tyrol The arrival of our much-anticipated roasted chestnuts soon alleviated any memories of overeating. We greedily peeled back their warm, flaky shells to devour the sweet meat hiding inside; a true taste of autumn in Italy. South TyrolAs the krapfen were placed on the table, we almost wept in surrender. I had to at least try the deep-fried pastry pockets stuffed with tart cherry jam, and I can tell you, it was worth my near-demise.  South TyrolA delicious memory to end such a soul-indulgent trip in South Tyrol. If you’re thinking of giving the area a visit, I would highly recommend visiting during Autumn. Although the Dolomites are popular for their snow-covered offerings, an autumnal visit is beyond pleasurable.

Grazie and danke you multicultural delight!

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South Tyrol: Day 3

For a better view of our stunning surroundings, we decided to take a hike. A moderately challenging hike up Alta Pusteria on the Stoneman Trail ascends 120km, and is more than worth the climb for the view from the top.
But we’ll start at the bottom, where we made our first friends. South TyrolFluffy sheep traversed the terrain with ease, stopping to nibble along the way. (my kind of hiking)South Tyrol Once making it more than half way, we spotted the most beautiful Haflingers running free, eyeing us suspiciously as they crossed the mountain. South Tyrol South TyrolTheir golden chestnut fur and blonde locks stood out prominently against the blue sky, patiently playing follow the leader.
South TyrolEven the cows looked on with admiration. South Tyrol Just look at those ears! Don’t you just want to snuggle her?!South Tyrol South Tyrol At random, they turned and came charging across the mountainside, bullying the cows into moving from their slumber. They seemed quite pleased with themselves, like a clique of blonde mean girls harassing the Tyrol Greys. South Tyrol A panoramic view from the top doesn’t do much to help catch your breath as it is beyond breathtaking. South TyrolSouth TyrolSouth TyrolNamed for the stonemen guarding the mountaintop, an eerie display of endless stacked stone piles stand as eternal marks left by those that have journeyed to the top.South Tyrol South Tyrol South Tyrol It’s sights like these that really make you stop and think. A little mental pause button is hit as you inhale the clean air, clear your mind, and try to take it all in. South TyrolSome of the structures were really impressive, considering piling rocks on top of each other sounds much easier than its execution.
South TyrolNote child for scale. South Tyrol South TyrolI think he was trying to choose where to build his StoneDog.
South Tyrol South Tyrol This one was by far my favourite – especially the extra two little ones piled on top, as if the gargantuan rock wasn’t enough.
South Tyrol On our descent, we stopped in a mountain hut we had spotted on the way up. South TyrolBy now we were starving, and happily rested our feet in the sunshine with farm-fresh food and plenty of drinks.
South Tyrol South Tyrol This mezzeluna pasta was thick and stodgy, filled with local goats cheese and topped with Parmigiano, sweet grapes and strawberries – an odd, but delicious combination. South TyrolI quickly made a friend and snuck her grapes under the table when no one was looking.

South Tyrol has a bit of a reputation for the South Tyrolean apple, which, when paired with Austrian-style strudel, is a winner amongst anyone with a sweet tooth… including the bees!
South TyrolWe couldn’t resist a slice of this homemade strudel… South Tyroleven if the bees had other ideas about sharing. South Tyrol South TyrolThis was paired with fluffy, doughnut like balls of pastry covered in cinnamon and sugar, a well-earned treat.

South Tyrol The hut was home to a few other animals, including this large rabbit. (who wouldn’t let me pet himSouth Tyrol And the biggest pig I’ve ever seen, snuggled up with her baby. South Tyrol We finished our decline with full stomachs and wide grins, sad to be leaving the raw elements of nature, but looking forward to discovering Bolzano, the capital city of South Tyrol.

South Tyrol: Day 1

Over the past year+, I’ve been on a collection of life changing, memory making trips around the world. But, I’ve been too busy to properly tell you about them. I know I’ve shared tidbits and some of them are published, but I’d love to sit down with a cup of tea and share some of these adventures with you.

We left at the crack of dawn. I awoke at the sort of ungodly hour which makes you question where you are, and possibly even who you are. I crawled into the awaiting cab with a driver far too spritely for this time of morning. However, I sort of love being awake and out at this time. The city is sleeping, calm, with uninterrupted streets and the faintest hope of sunrise teasing the sky. We drove down the abandoned motorway towards an infamously distant Gatwick, discussing food, of course, in between intermittent gazes out the window. It’s at this time I find I contemplate deep, boundless ideas and notions, my mind too tired to process realistic limitations.

The following blur of dragging suitcase, queuing at check-in, creeping through security and hunting for nourishment is far too familiar for me to recount. We made our way to the gate, boarded the plane, and then it hit me: I was on my way to Italy.

Italy is special for most people. The culture, the scenery, the people, the wine, the history and most of all, the food, is all intoxicating. But for me, I feel attached, enamoured, indebted and in love. I spent my childhood visiting Tuscany, spending mornings on the beach, afternoons in the pizzeria, late afternoons by the pool, evenings in the Trattoria and night-time walking down the promenade with an overflowing handful of gelato. My late grandfather, my Nonno in Italian, imparted the culture, my heritage and the intense passion for food that runs deep in the country’s veins.

South Tyrol

I was now on my way to South Tyrol, also known as Alto Adige, soaring above the clouds with no knowledge of the region, limited information of my itinerary and fading worries of deadlines drifting away in the jet stream. I had been invited to South Tyrol for the weekend to visit their mountains, eat their food and experience their culture. We entered the airport to a typical Italian affair: curious customs practices and confused baggage claim standards. We successfully managed to gather our cases and meet our driver, ready to begin our trip in Italy’s most northern region.

South TyrolThere’s something about South Tyrol that must preface your preconceptions. Rid your mind of terracotta rooftops, swaying Cyprus trees and the glittering Mediterranean. South Tyrol is an Italian Germanic mix of architecture, culture and language. All signs, ads, menus, instructions and packaging are listed in both German and Italian, and architecture is a curious mix of both, resulting in a feeling reminiscent of medieval times.

We drove for an hour and a half, through valleys, past vineyards, over rivers, through villages, past cities and eventually, up a winding mountainous cliff towards the Dolomites. We raced past descending cars around sharp corners on a terrifyingly narrow road, secretly gripping the seat with white knuckles when an impossibly large truck would careen past. Reaching the top was reminiscent to films portraying a character arriving in heaven, *ahhhhhhhhhhh*.

South Tyrol Doesn’t this look like a Land Rover ad? South Tyrol

The road evened and and we had arrived at an endless plateau of green grass and rolling hills, surrounded by immense, impressive Dolomites. This area is protected as an UNESCO World Heritage Site, providing the perfect haven for fervent walkers, hikers and mountain bikers. We pulled into what can only be described as a luxury log cabin.

The Adler Lodge
sits impressively guarding the hillside. We entered the hotel to young, friendly faces, adorably dressed in traditional outfits. Picture innocent beer maids, only instead, wielding room keys rather than bountiful brews. The interior is remarkable, seamlessly syncing traditional with modern. Attractive wood creates a majority of the structure, with modern additions of glass and touch screen technology introduced for convenience and an additional feeling of luxury.

South Tyrol

The rooms were darling, with a separate bathroom, rainfall showerhead and even a heat lamp. Reusable wooden bottles were filled with the most divine smelling shower products, scented with lavender and white musk. This and the three sections of recyclable trash bins furthered the eco-friendly ethos seen throughout the hotel. The room was cosy, but spacious with a Bavarian lodge theme, including a mini bar inside a trunk and plaid chaise lounge.

I stepped out onto the balcony, greeted by the picturesque view of massive, imposing Dolomites. The air was crisp, freezing and noticeably clear – filling my polluted London lungs with fresh oxygen. I could hear the charming sound of tinkling cowbells, and quite literally, nothing else. The stillness of the mountain and breath-taking view is something I’m sure I’ll never forget.South TyrolHaving to peel myself away from my view, I traipsed upstairs to the spa and wellness area. The relaxation room makes for the cosiest of pre-treatment places, with rocking beds by the fireplace, and a glass ceiling trapping sunlight. I enjoyed a thorough sports massage using mountain-inspired elements, before being released into the Alpine Spa for a swim in the heated panorama pool, and steam in the sauna filled with mountain hay, both with spectacular views of rolling hills and rugged mountains.
South Tyrol South Tyrol You’re supposed to rub this ice on your body to cool your core temperature… Where’s the sauna?  South Tyrol South Tyrol Imagine inhaling the smell of heated, sweet hay whilst staring out at The Dolomites. South Tyrol South TyrolSouth TyrolCompletely refreshed and feeling at one with nature, we sat down to dinner at the panoramic restaurant. Tribal designs peeked from the wooden ceiling, and a roaring fireplace enhanced the cosy atmosphere. More than ready for some nourishment, we tucked into an evening of indulgence at Mountain Lodge. Paired with local wines, the specialities of Alto Adige were expertly embodied across a superb six courses. Local meats and herbs provided a fine taste of the area, with polenta dumplings and braised veal cheek serving a heartier representation. Coffee parfait with cooked plums was a sweet pick-me-up before greedily sampling local cheeses.

South Tyrol South Tyrol South Tyrol South Tyrol
South Tyrol South TyrolSouth TyrolSouth Tyrol You’re supposed to ask to sample one of each, right? I didn’t want to be rude.South TyrolThis gourmet experience was an exceptional ending to a day spent relaxing in this mountainous paradise, leaving me more than ready to see what else this region had to offer.

The Country House Montali: Day 3 & 4

The third day began with another beautiful breakfast.
The daily, delicious meals were becoming habitual and routine. I had to remind myself that after tomorrow, I would no longer be feasting on such delights morning, noon and night.
But for now, breakfast was served!
The Country House Montali The Country House Montali After the usual spread of treats, warm, thin pancakes filled with fresh fruit arrived.
This time, I went out of my way to stuff myself with as I could as I would be needing the fuel for the day’s journey ahead.The Country House Montali We quickly changed, grabbed bottles of water, loaded up on sunblock and headed out for Lake Trasimeno.
The walk was 3miles through the forest-covered mountain, down past the olive groves, through the little lakeside town and out towards the lake.
Our only directions were to keep left at the fork in the road and to be back in time for dinner.
Alberto assured us that if we weren’t back in time, he would send Leo out to find us with a little bottle of wine strapped to his neck.

After about an hour of navigating rocky inclines and steep slopes, we could see our destination, Lake Trasimeno glistened off in the distance.

The Country House Montali We passed abandon summer homes. The Country House Montali We passed olive groves.The Country House MontaliAnd we passed vineyards.
The Country House Montali Until we arrived in the lakeside town of Sant’arcangelo.
This was a very sleepy town complete with washing hanging to dry on the line, dishes clattering in kitchens and of course three little old ladies gossiping from their chairs in the shade.

The Country House Montali The Country House Montali The Country House MontaliThe Country House MontaliThe Country House Montali At the bottom of the town, we passed an original food truck.
This man pulls up in his truck every day to sell big chunks of traditionally cooked porchetta.  I planned on trying this on our way back, but had already filled up on something else… something amazing.  The Country House MontaliNearing the lake, we stopped quickly at a little delicatessen and grabbed a few vital ingredients.
Then, finally arrived at Lake Trasimeno. The Country House Montali

We sat down on a patch of grass, looked out over the lake and watched two men battling it out for the bigger catch of the day.

It didn’t take long for hunger to take over and we pulled out our treasure of a picnic.
Fresh Mozzarealla di Bufala, salty strips of prosciutto, crunchy ciabatta and the real gem, salsa di tartuffo. The Country House Montali We picked at it with our hands, creating perfect bites combining all the delicious ingredients. Each mouthful was more delicious than the last.

I sat there gazing out over the water, feeling incredibly small and very grateful to be indulging in such a delicious meal. It was one that I know my late Italian grandfather would have loved to share. I’m sure, however, he would have somehow managed to get his hands on a bottle of Prosecco to wash it all down. The Country House Montali As we finished up the crumbs, I noticed we had attracted quite a gathering of hungry friends. The countless stray cats continued to appear out of nowhere, so I tossed a few pieces of prosciutto fat and fled the scene before the cat fight.The Country House MontaliFull of delicious food and reenergised from our rest, we lazily began our 3mile journey back up into the mountain. The sun was really shining now and we decided to pace ourselves as we climbed up and away from the lake.

Having finally reached our destination, I quickly stripped and ran down to relax poolside. Before long, my new furry friend arrived for some love and affection.

The Country House Montali I’m sure if you follow me on Instagram @alessandra_ldn, you’ve already seen what I indulged in next.

Starting to feel hungry before dinner, I snacked on some ripe figs straight from the tree.
As you can imagine, pure bliss. The Country House MontaliNearly time for dinner, I quickly changed and took a starlit walk to the main house lead by several of my furry friends.

Wondering if the day’s luck could truly continue, we were presented with yet another evening of fabulous food.

To start, a beautiful caramelised onion in puff pastry, with melted parmesan cheese ice cream.

The Country House Montali The Country House Montali Followed by ginger and lemon risotto. The Country House Montali The Country House Montali Then the show stopper: a melange of zucchini and ricotta on a beetroot coulis with a parmesan crisp and fried carrots.
I was delighted to find that beetroot in Italian is barbabietole.
Isn’t that fun to say?
I’m now giggling imagining you sitting their sounding this out to yourself.
Bar-bah-bie-to-lay

The Country House Montali The Country House MontaliThey say all good things come in threes – and when it comes to dessert, this rule always applies.
A trio of pear cupcake with white chocolate ganache, bitter chocolate & strawberry ice cream and a cocktail of banana & rum were the perfect way to end the night.
The Country House Montali

Day 4

Given our amazing day the day before, we weren’t necessarily prepared for today’s storm. It started in the night and continued relentlessly, becoming progressively worse throughout the day. But, I’ll tell you more about that later.

At least the day started with waffles.
This softened the blow that there would be no sunshine for the next 24 hours. But of course at this point, cutting into my fluffy, warm waffles, I was blissfully unaware that the sunshine would stop on my plate. The Country House Montali After a very drawn out breakfast trying to wait out the rain, we eventually ran for cover back to our rooms. Here we sat in silence, listening to the sky opening up overhead. This was the perfect time to write to you and catch up on reading.

Reading Mr. Bourdain’s book only succeeded in making me hungry. Which was perfect as it was now time for lunch.

Wrapped in a fluffy, white towel, we dodged raindrops down to lunch.

A beautiful bowl of fresh cauliflower pasta with olive oil and pink peppercorns was just the thing we needed.
The Country House Montali This was followed by a fresh salad with simple, but incredible tasting ingredients. The Country House Montali A winter melon and amarena compote was a delicious, light end to lunch. The Country House Montali We spent the afternoon chatting, playing Italian card games from my childhood and sitting outside watching the rain fall and lightning strike from the sky. Eventually we retreated back to our room, led by a very wet Piccolo and took shelter for the afternoon.  The Country House Montali The weather forced us to relax as we were trapped by one very angry mother nature. Water continued to bucket down from the sky, thunder and wind shook the windows and lightning struck the mountains. Luckily, The Country House Montali was not a target this time. Alberto entertained us with stories of previous disasters brought on by these storms and we considered ourselves lucky to only play witness the brilliant show. The Country House Montali Starving and stir crazy, we were more than excited, if not a little sad, for our final dinner at The Country House Montali.

To start, figs with roquefort cheese, toasted walnut and endive tempura.  The Country House Montali

Then, the ultimate comfort food.
Four cheese gnocchi with salsa di tartufo.
The Country House Montali A leek quiche with marinetti carrots and sweet & sour peppers followed.  The Country House Montali And a traditional cannolo alla Siciliana was our final treat for the evening. The Country House MontaliIn the morning we awoke to blue skies and Indian porridge.
The Country House Montali Sadly, we packed our bags into the taxi, said our goodbyes to our lovely hosts and The Country House Montali’s incredible staff and headed for the airport. The Country House MontaliMy four days at The Country House Montali were incredible.
The Italian hospitality makes you feel as if you are home, scenery is breathtaking and food is comprised of inventive dishes, each more delicious and exciting than the last.

They are now closed for the winter, but don’t worry! They open again in April of next year. I’ll post the website here for you to enquire more.

Promise me if you go, you’ll give a little cuddle to Leo & Piccolo for me!

The Country House Montali: Day 2

The first thing you notice having lived in a buzzy, bustling city for years once out in the remote Umbrian hills is the silence.

It’s the kind that leaves you alone with your thoughts and forces you to pay attention to smaller worlds living around you, such as those of the hundreds of different insects, creeping through the olive grove. It made me become incredibly conscious of sound and the peace that silence is capable of instilling.
Even though I have one of those minds that never stops talking.

We woke up early and tiptoed down the gravel path through the olive grove to breakfast. IMG_3415

A beautiful spread of fresh melon and fig jam, bread and butter, warm, apricot jam filled croissants and chocolate apple pastry decorated the table.

The Country House Montali

After picking through the pastries, a bowl of muesli with toasted oats, coconut, melon and apple was served. It was the perfect fuel for the long day ahead.The Country House MontaliWe hitched a ride with Alberto who was off to collect more guests at the airport.
We flew down the gravel roads leaving a trail of dust behind us. Our nerves slightly eased by Alberto’s endless arsenal of jokes as we overtook 18-wheeler trucks and little old ladies more concentrated on sharing the correct way to make pasta than the road.

We were left in the centre of Perugia and told to follow the escalators.
In the middle of this medieval city, the last thing you’d expect to find is a series of escalators.
But, there they were, and up we went.

The Country House MontaliWe headed towards the main strada, Corso Pietro Vannucci and ambled along as the sleepy, medieval town began to wake.

The Country House MontaliThe Country House Montali The Country House Montali The Country House Montali The Country House MontaliAt the end of the strada lies Piazza IV Novembre. In the piazza is the Fontana Maggiore, a beautiful fountain built in the 13th century. The star of the piazza, however, is the divine Duomo towering over the square.  The Country House MontaliThe Cattedrale di San Lorenzo, also known as the Cathedral of Perguia, holds stunning intricacies present across many of Italy’s cathedrals. Endless detail in marble work, gilded frames and stain glass windows are truly breathtaking. Regardless of the building’s significance, it truly is an awe-inspiring masterpiece.

The Country House Montali The Country House Montali The Country House Montali The Country House MontaliWe left the cathedral and began to wander aimlessly around the town.
Up a road, down an alley and through beautifully constructed buildings, we came to the top and looked out over city. The Country House MontaliThe Country House MontaliThe Country House Montali The Country House MontaliThe Country House Montali The Country House Montali The Country House MontaliStunning views of rolling hills and terracotta tiles stretched as far as the eye could see. The Country House MontaliAfter a little more wandering and discovering, we headed back down towards the city centre.
The Country House Montali The Country House MontaliAs you can imagine, my favourite thing about Italy is admittedly the food. I spotted a delicatessen and popped in to see what was on sale.

Just look at the size of these grapes!
They were like mini plums and had such a beautiful colour. The Country House Montali I’m positive their packaged Mozzarella di Buffala is nothing compared to that sold at home and desperately wanted to buy boxes of it to sneak into my suitcase.
But, I figured this wouldn’t go over too well in customs and moved onto the meat. The Country House MontaliBeautiful prosciuttos, salamis and homemade sausages lined the meat counter, taunting me. The Country House Montali We left the delicatessen and found a little market selling rows of leather bags, clothes and antiques. More impressive than anything being sold, was the breathtaking view beyond the stalls. IMG_3606The Country House Montali And, this little guy!
Just look at that little face.
He was free to a good home and again, I mentally negotiated the chances of slipping through customs with “special goods” in my bag.
I decided to give it a miss.
The Country House MontaliSufficiently starving having been surrounded by people snacking on piadinis and pastas, we popped into a literal hole in the wall for something to eat. The tiny store sold slices for about a Euro and was filled with business men, tourists and students alike, all wanting a warm snack.

I went for a classic Pizza Margherita topped with fresh Mozzarella inspired by my craving from earlier. It was simple and delicious. The perfect mid-afternoon snack.

The Country House MontaliIn my opinion, no Italian meal is complete without creamy, sweet gelato.
We sought out Grom, a locally loved gelateria and I ordered my favourites: chocolate, stracciatella and pistachio.
The Country House MontaliThis was followed by another leisurely stroll down random passageways, killing time before our taxi was arranged to collect us.
The Country House Montali The Country House MontaliAfter being collected and dropped back to our temporary home at The Country House Montali, we had just enough time to shower, throw on a dress and scamper through the grove to arrive in time for dinner.

Our lovely hosts greeted us and showed us to the same table we sat at each night.

To start another delicious evening of food, we were served a quinoa & cherry tomato cocktail with pepper cream and bites of Mozzarella di Bufala.

The Country House MontaliNext, a little mixed vegetable roulade with a saffron sauce. Rotolo di CrespelleTo finish the savoury dishes, a Brazilian inspired potato stuffed pastry filled with tender aubergine. This was served with fresh pesto and cauliflower foam.

The Country House MontaliFor dessert, a beauifully presented tower of almond crunches layered with fresh pistachio cream and wild berries. I can assure you this tasted as delicious as it looked.

The Country House MontaliA delicious ending to another day in Perugia.

The Country House Montali: Day 1

So, this used to be a little something called a lifestyle blog. Call it passion, obsession or go ahead and throw out the word greed, but this has slowly spiralled out of control down the rabbit hole of food porn. Albeit a delicious hole, it is a hole of lies. As often goes with the love of food, I am constantly consumed by wanderlust.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen I did a little traveling last month and have wondered where I was or what I was doing, so I’ve decided to share it with you.

As we pull in below the clouds, the rolling hills and symmetrical rows of trees instantly reveal the essence of the Italian countryside. Having grown up visiting Tuscany and Veneto, Perugia felt familiar in the way memories from a once visited place cling to the back of your mind, but still maintain enough of a foreign element to feel like an adventure.

We left the slow chaos that only an Italian airport could manage to function with and crawled into our taxi. We drove away from busy streets filled with drivers indicating left, but veering right, old men bickering using one hand for their phone and the other waving about in the air, and wannabe Formula 1 racers speeding past slower cars into oncoming traffic to overtake on single lane roads.

After following several hidden signs and turning onto various unmarked roads, we asked the driver what the beautiful building perched on top of the mountain far off in the distance was. It was our destination, The Country House Montali, which sat at a seemingly unattainable height atop a forest-covered mountain with no visible path leading to it.

The road was made of gravel and wound up steep, perilous cliffs with any signs of modern civilisation disappearing below us. Eventually, each turn led to the assumption that we must finally be there, this must be it. But, we continued to climb to the very top, 500km above everything else before we saw it. A beautifully painted sign at the gates welcomed us to The Country House Montali, allowing a sigh of relief marking the end of our journey.

The Country House Montali

Leo, a longhaired dachshund barked incessantly, grumpily welcoming his new guests who only pass inspection once loving pats are given out. Although he thinks he runs the place, The Country House Montali is actually owned by the lovely Alberto & Malu who opened the hotel 25 years ago. The hotel is completely vegetarian and is comprised of a main house with the dining room and kitchen, a games room complete with a billiards table and past the stunning pool and through the olive grove are the hotel’s guest rooms.

The Country House Montali

Before being shown to our room, like all classic Italian hospitality, we were fed. Our cases were left by the door and we sat outside under a shaded canopy with Leo standing guard against the property’s many wild cats. Most of which he has undoubtedly marked as plotting, miscreants carrying out some sort of evil plan.

The Country House Montali

We grazed on freshly baked bread before a beautiful dish of warm, cheesy faro with fresh vegetables arrived. It was such a simple dish, but was so full of flavour and ended up being the perfect introduction to our vegetarian journey.

The Country House MontaliThis was then followed by a delicious coconut tapioca topped with fresh whipped cream.

The Country House Montali The Country House Montali

As the chefs were busy making dishes for the hotel’s next cookbook, we were lucky enough to sample a few extra treats, including warm biscotti with almond, chocolate and orange zest. The Country House Montali

Having taken my fill of delicious food, I ran straight to the room, stripped into a bikini and headed for the pool. As autumn falls upon London, the California in me has begun to panic. Flashbacks of snow pouring from the sky and London’s “longest winter in 50 years” have me shivering already. A dose of Italian sun was exactly what I needed to at least attempt to tide me over until the sun next decides to shine over the gloomy city I’d soon return to.

The Country House Montali The Country House Montali

Feeling the sun soak into my bones, I felt a smile spread across my face.
And then, I felt something else.
Something furry rubbing against my arm and then cuddling against my face.
One of Leo’s rivals, a grey tabby I decided to name Picolo for his stubby, little legs, perched himself at the head of the sunbed and waited for some loving.

The Country House MontaliHe purred away, grabbing onto my hand whenever I pulled away from stroking him. Finally deciding he had received enough affection, he took off into the olive grove chasing one of the black cats. The Country House Montali

Not being able to sit still for any longer, I decided I needed an adventure. We walked out to find a medieval castle I had spotted on our way up the mountain.

The Country House Montali The Country House Montali The Country House Montali The Country House Montali The Country House Montali The Country House MontaliOnce we arrived, we discovered Castello di Montali is now private property with a beautiful home built inside the walls. We ventured round, marveling the architecture rich with history, framed by a stunning view of the scenery below.

The Country House MontaliWe came to the castle’s gate with a ferocious barking guard dog, who quieted down after a few stokes and tummy rubs.

The Country House MontaliAt the end of the property, we stood and looked out over miles of land with trees, lakes and mountains in the distance.

The Country House Montali The Country House Montali The Country House MontaliHaving done enough exploring, we headed back as the sun set to get showered and ready for dinner, which begins promptly at 8pm each night.

The Country House Montali

There is no menu at The Country House Montali.
A series of four courses is presented each night and you are only expected to give everything a taste. This didn’t prove to be a problem as course after course never failed to please. Colourful, inventive, beautifully decorated plates arrived one after the other with all the attention and care from staff expected in a five star restaurant.

The Country House Montali

To start, pear and melon crudités with a balsamic reduction, slices of Piedmontese cheese, Prosecco jelly and a strawberry-grape jelly.

The Country House Montali

Next, homemade cannelloni of ricotta with salsa di pomodoro and lemon zest.

The Country House Montali

Then, puff pastry filled with spicy potato on pumpkin coulis served with sweet & sour shallots.

The Country House Montali

Last, but certainly not least, chocolate lava cake with fresh fig ice cream.

The Country House Montali Just look at that! The Country House Montali

We were the kind of full that makes you feel warm, tingly and happy inside. This is what I fondly refer to as food drunk. After some fresh mint tea and endless conversation, it was time for bed. We had been up and travelling since four in the morning and the 8.30am breakfast meant I was going to need at least a few hours sleep before the full day ahead.

Venice

My very typically Italian Nonno needed to do some business in Veneto, Italy and was planning a weekend trip. Absolutely enamored with Italy, my Nonna and I quickly offered to accompany him on his trip in case he needed some entertainment or someone to share dinner with. We presented our case and after successfully winning him over, immediately began to book and plan.

I spent my childhood summers visiting my grandparents in London, and often we made trips to the Tuscan seaside. There is no where in the world I feel more at peace than in Italy. I’ll try to keep my infatuation controlled while I detail our quick trip, but you’ve been warned, I really am obsessed.

There is something mystical about Venice. As you float down passageways, surrounded by history, trying to conceptualize a city resting entirely on water, everything seems completely surreal. Each building an architectural masterpiece, completely different from its neighbors, yet molds together to form a perfect, intricate puzzle.

 
This strange structure hangs above what was originally the only umbrella shop in Venice.

Food in Venice can be incredibly expensive, taking advantage of the packs of tourists that invade the city year round. I would suggest you find a local bacaro (wine bar) that serves cicheti, which are like little italian tapas. This is my favorite way to eat by far, as it ensures you are able to sample various local specialities. There are beautiful seafood dishes and the artichoke is phenomenal.
Venice is a place that everyone should visit in their lifetime. There’s no way the city could leave a bad taste in your mouth, even if the piazza is flooded or the wind whips down the alleys, its truly breathtaking and like nothing you’ve ever seen.