Category Archives: Europe

When you are in Italy, NEVER EVER…….

Are you looking forward to your next trip to Italy?

Do you already imagine yourself sitting at a bar in the sun, sipping on your espresso or eating gelato and enjoying “la dolce vita”? 😉

Milano bar
Milano bar

In this case, and if you do not want to look like a truly unexperienced Italy-traveler, you should know just a couple of small little “don’t’s”.

When you are in Italy, NEVER EVER………

  • drink Cappuccino after lunchtime
  • ask what types of coffee they have in a bar (for any further information on this I recommend to read this POST)
  • try to pay for your coffee at the barkeepers, there is always a cash-desk where you can pay for your coffee before ordering it
  • order coffee and complain if you get an espresso
  • complain that the coffee is too strong
  • think “antipasto” is only cold meat and cheese
  • use cheese on fish (even if it comes with a pasta)
  • await a salad with dressing (you have oil, vinegar, salt and pepper on the table and two hands to help yourself)
  • await some sides with the main dish, if you want to have some fries you have to order them
  • ask for a doggy-bag
  • await an extensive breakfast buffet at hotels. Italians only eat sweet in the morning, so often you will have plenty of sweet dishes and not much choices for a salty breakfast.
  • eat spaghetti with a spoon
  • cut spaghetti with the knife
  • order pizza with pineapple
  • order ice-cream by telling how many scoops (or worse: balls) you want. There are just different sizes of cones or cups.
  • drink anything with milk after dinner
  • ask for the bill seated at a table and then split the costs
  • complain about the extra “coperto” costs on the restaurants bill. This can normally be seen as the “tip”.
  • take a seat at the restaurant without waiting to be seated
  • walk around in a city with sunscreen all over your body
  • wear flip-flops when you go out at night
  • wonder why Italians wear sunglasses even at night
  • wear Bermuda shorts in the evening
  • make mafia jokes
  • use random movements of the hands to speak
  • ask for indications by trying to translate every single word with a dictionary. Italians are not patient enough.
  • say “spaghettis”: spaghetti is already the plural word of spaghetto
  • say “gnocchis”: gnocchi is already the plural word of gnocco
  • say “tortellinis”: tortellini is already the plural word of tortellino, or better: tortello
  • say “expresso”: it is espresso. Or caffè.
  • say “ciao” to formally greet someone. Better say “buongiorno”.

And now… ENJOY!!! 😉

Typical italian breakfast
Typical Italian breakfast

Food & travel behaviors

I bet there is not a single one of you out there reading this who never posted at least one picture of his food!!
Right? 🙂

It seems to me we are all surrounded by food. We are not just surrounded, we are flooded with images of food and drink. Drowning.

A look into facebook, instagram and co. is enough to see what my friends have eaten at the restaurant, what they have cooked at home, what their babies are eating… You can’t even escape this trend by watching tv: there are food-shows everywhere!!

Lugano14food
Italian food and lifestyle in Lugano

Even if I definitely do not want to see very single dish you are eating at home or at the restaurant around the corner, I think this is a good trend. People were eating privately, not really thinking about if the food is beautiful, healthy, ugly… worth a picture or not. We finally think about the food. About where it comes from, what effects it has on our bodies and most important: what effect it has on our friends who see it posted. It became a kind of status symbol.

By the way… I am loving this new trend of the short cooking instructions videos (like the ones of “Tasty” any many more). It makes cooking seem easy and accessible to everyone.

Delicious Waffle in Greece
Delicious Waffle in Greece

Are you a food-driven traveler?

Nowadays, when we travel we do not just want to show our friends at home the hotel room or the beautiful panoramic views we are seeing, we want to also show (and show off 😉 ) which restaurants we are going to and what we are eating.

Europe is trendsetter in this, and it seems this trend has also been carried overseas to the USA. I read that incredible 95 percent of American travelers are interested in a unique food experience when they travel. It was only 47 percent in 2013!

Thinking about how I chose my travel destinations I notice  that food definitely plays a big role! I can define myself as a food & cuisine driven traveler.

Travel & Food
Destinations are promoting themselves through their food: in this case Spain.

Generally speaking, I am always happy when I am able to find out more of the culture through the food, so it is always an adventure for me to try something I have never eaten before, but if I feel uncomfortable with the local food then this influences the mood of the entire trip.

Fortunately this happened just once very strongly. It wasn’t even a too exotic destination. I won’t tell you which destination it was. But if you want you can guess! 🙂

Back to us: this is changing the landscape of travel. Destinations are changing their marketing campaigns and tourism professionals are spotting a good business with culinary experience travel.

Foodies are looking for a deeper experience than the random restaurant suggestions we can read in every travel guide.

Wine and travel
Wines also play an impotant role in the travel experience

But how do you find the places and restaurants to visit?

A local travel advisor can be very helpful. Travel agents had lost a lot of importance due to the fact that all of us prefer to go the direct way and look into the internet instead of go through a travel agency. But in this case local agencies can really help. They know the hot spots and can offer you an authentic food experience … even if it’s only by their personal experience. I think you can find out very easily if you are talking to someone who knows what you are searching for.

If you want to organize everything on your own you can do some research on the internet. You can normally easily find some guest’s reviews or bloggers suggestions.

Just be careful not to choose a restaurant only because of its massive presence on the internet, this does not automatically mean it is good. The small delicious restaurant around the corner will normally not even have a homepage.

Which are your favorite destinations when it comes to food?
It would be interesting to find out.

PS: Okay I admit, I am also often taking pictures of my food … just now, after having written this article, my smartphone fell into my salad… 😉

Love of Food
“There is no sincerer love than the love of food”

Fall in love with Venice in Winter

Venice
In 2016 Venice’s reputation as one of the most romantic cities on earth is unwavering. As Dean Van Es, the CEO of Fast Cover travel insurance who travelled to Venice in September said, “some 50 million people pass through Venice each year, though the majority appear to travel during the summer months.” Travel there in summer and you’ll spend a lot of time queuing. Travel in winter and you’ll get a rare experience of the beautiful city.

In winter the air is crisp and you avoid the odour you can get in summer from the stagnant waterways. Yes it can be nearly freezing (at its coldest in January the temperature can drop to around 4 degrees Celsius) but not having any queues to some of the world’s most famous sites is well worth it.

Numerous must-see sites are crammed into a small and easily navigated area in Venice. Saint Mark’s Basilica, where you can see dazzling gold leaf covered domes and mosaics, is right next to the spectacular Doge’s palace. Inside the towering Palace are magnificent paintings covering the walls and floors. The Sala del Maggior (Grand Council Hall), where hundreds of painted people in different scenes cover the walls, is sure to blow you away. Especially when there’s not a single tourist blocking your view.
Venice
Besides a gondola ride to see the waterways (which can be expensive- around 53 Euro/ 59 USD / $80AUD) you can explore Venice entirely on foot. Come during the Carnivale festival and every pathway will be covered in colourful stalls, with dozens selling beautifully decorated masks. You can walk from Saint Marks to the Rialto Bridge in about ten minutes. Santa Maria della Salute, where you’ll get a picturesque view of Venice, is another half an hour walk away. There’s no reason to be worried about the distance you’ll be covering during the day, as there’s amazing restaurants you can stop in to refuel.

There are various Italian delicacies to try while in Venice. During the day you can warm up with a thick, Venetian hot chocolate. And of course there are a wide range of different pizzas and pastas to try throughout the day, from creamy carbonara and risotto to fresh tomato and basil dishes. A tiramisu and a glass of prosecco is the perfect way to round off an evening meal. In winter you’ll also likely find outdoor bars where you can grab a cup of mulled wine or cider to warm up on your way to your hotel, bed and breakfast or hostel.
Travelling to Venice in winter is also significantly cheaper, as the costs of accommodation go down. Rather than going for the cheaper hostel option, you can treat yourself to a bed and breakfast which will provide comfortable rooms and a buffet each morning to start your day.

Many travellers only spend a day or two in Venice. However, this can mean rushing between historical sites. It is easy to spend three days exploring the city at a leisurely pace. With fewer people to contend with in the narrow alleyways through the city, you’ll find yourself completely lost in experiencing Venice.
Venice

A Short Barcelona Guide

Gaudi's Casa Battló, Barcelona
Gaudi’s Casa Battló, Barcelona

Back from the EIBTM Business Travel Trade fair in Barcelona, I would like to share some of my experiences with you. I will write a post on the official travel news soon, but first: let me give you some insights in my experiences in this wonderful city, together with some travel tips.

It is not too much information as I literally spent all my days in the fair, but some basics that could be interesting, especially if you go for business and you have a hotel close to the Rambla Catalunya area.

Airport:
What to say about the Barcelona Airport? It is one of my all-time favorites! New, bright, clean, friendly and full of beautiful shops and good restaurants. It is nice to arrive in a friendly environment. On my way back I always count some time more to spend at the airport to do some shopping and eat something. You see… this is a good way to keep the business going in an airport.
Perfect also for layovers.

Transfer to the city:
I took a Taxi. They have a fixed rate to the city center, which is 27 €.

Hotels:
As I have been to the fair before, I knew that it is a bit far away from the city center and for this reason I chose a hotel which is a bit farer away from the fair but in the center, in order to be able to go out in the evening without any problem.
I have been to the NH Calderon.

The location is great as it is on the Rambla Catalunya. The rooms are a bit dark, but functional, especially if you are just coming for a fair. If you are lucky, you can even get a room with view of the Sagrada Familia Cathedral.

View from the room, NH Calderon
View from the room, NH Calderon

I had a little dispute with them as I did not have any slippers in my room and when I asked for them they told me that only Suites and Junior Suites get them. There wasn’t any chance to get some, even by asking to buying them! They just said a cold “no!”.
There are few things that really do disturb me… this was one of them. How can you deny some slippers to a client? How can you deny ANYTHING which is perfectly possible for you to a client? Without even saying that you are sorry! Ok, maybe I am too extreme, working in the hotels business myself, but I guess they had an uncountable amount of slippers and they just denied them to me.
NH Hotels Slippers

So please, if there is any hotelier reading this: tell your staff to at least kindly explain to the guests asking for something why you cannot help them.
And then please: offer slippers in your rooms, at least per request. Slippers mean “come in and feel like home!”.

But to get back to the point: functional, good position, buffet breakfast was fine. Perfectly ok if you are there for business.

A fun business hotel is the Barceló Saints. Location is not as perfect but the metro station directly under the hotel is strategically perfect. It is a strange experience to stay there as it looks like a spaceship and you completely feel like in space. The windows, the furniture, the amenities… it’s just like being in space. Even the welcome note says “Welcome on Board” 🙂

Barceló Saints, Welcome on Board!
Barceló Saints, Welcome on Board!

If you prefer very elegant, traditional luxury hotels and have a higher budget, then I recommend the El Palace. Part of the Leading Hotels of the World.

Leading Hotels of the Worls Cocktail Party at El Palace Hotel
Leading Hotels of the Worls Cocktail Party at El Palace Hotel

Fira Gran Via (Barcelona fair):
My arrival to the Barcelona fair in the morning was easy as the EIBTM organized some shuttles from the hotel, but a taxi only costs 10 € or you can use the metro.

Food & Drinks:
First of all, let me tell you about the best Tapas restaurant I have ever been to: Cevezeria Catalunya (in Carrer de Mallorca, 236). Every day it is full of people and the atmosphere is great. You can sit outdoors or at the bar on the entrance or inside the restaurant and enjoy the best tapas and great cocktails or a good Spanish wine. We asked the waiter to bring some tapas suggestions and after them, we ordered some more!
My suggestion is to reserve a table the day before or you will be put on a waiting list with a waiting time of around one hour that you can use to stroll down the Rambla.
Talking about Spanish wine:
I have been suggested by different Spanish people to drink white wine from the Barcelona region. Often the Restaurants have a house wine. And in fact, the white wine was always great!

Cervezeria Catalunya Barcelona
Cervezeria Catalunya

Cachitos
On Rambla Catalunya, 33. A more stylish restaurant, celebrating the art of food.
The specialty here are the 50 different Sangrias as you can combine different wines, even good Cava wine with different kind of fruit combinations. We had a good Cava with Berries.

Cachitos Barcelona
Cachitos

Mas Q Menos
Nice little tapas bar, perfect to enjoy a good glass of wine with some small things to eat or sandwiches.

Mas Q Menos
Mas Q Menos

Oh one last thing: absolutely ask for a window seat when flying to Barcelona! I had the luck to have a late afternoon flight and saw a wonderful sunset from my window. The view of the Mont Blanc was amazing and when we arrived, the sea was colored in yellow, orange and purple by the sunset and the boats of the fishermen were just too romantic.

View from my window seat, Luftahansa flight to Barcelona
View from my window seat