Thursday, 7 November 2013

Rapallo, Excelsior Palace Hotel, Portofino and The Cinque de Terre!!

The last destination of our Italian road trip - time to hit the coast!!


Rapallo is in northern Italy and is part of the Tigullio Gulf. It's located in between Portofino and Chiavari.

We had chosen to stay at 'Excelsior Palace Hotel'. It was roughly a 2 hour drive from San Gimignano.

I was so excited as the hotel looked really amazing and it was right on the coast!

This was the entrance............

We parked up and headed to the foyer to check in.

The foyer was beautiful, very luxurious and full of sun light.

This was our room.

The balcony really had the WOW factor. Check out that view!!


We were so pleased with our choice! We unpacked a few bits and then headed down stairs to explore! 

This was the hotel's restaurant over-looking the sea ...where we had lots boozy lunches :)


One morning we woke up at 6am to watch the sun rise. It was magical watching the world wake up.

The colours were breathtaking. 

This is Portofino ( 5 min drive from the Rapallo ) where we ate one night. It's really pretty with lots of restaurants over looking the marina.

Some of the yachts were HUGE, you could smell the money :)

I love this photo, it sets the scene well.

We had a lovely evening there, drinks and dinner with a gorgeous view.  It's definitely worth a visit.

After a boozy night in Portofino (every night is boozy in Itlay) we woke up early to hit the Cinque Terre! This is the main reason why we stayed in Rapallo!!

 Cinque Terre

Strung along 18km of serrated cliffs between Levanto and La Spezia, the Cinque Terre is one of Italy’s treasures. 
These five higgledy-piggledy villages – Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore – are cut off by mountains choked with olive groves and dry-stone-walled vineyards.

We got the train to Riomaggiore - from there you can get a boat that takes you to each village. You need a whole day to see all five.



Time for a snack. There are lots of little bars, restaurants, cafes, shops and food stalls lining the winding, cobbled, streets. I just wanted to eat and drink EVERYTHING.

The magnificent surroundings.

We walked up the steep streets to the top...........

We had to do a few cheesy couple shots!

We walked along the rocks that led into the sea to get this shot!!

It was such a fantastic day out and I strongly recommend it!

If you are super fit there is a trecking path that takes you to each village by foot - it takes about 4 hours! What a challenge!

I think I would collapse after an hour, especially in that heat but lots of tourists like to do it.

WHAT A TRIP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I had such an amazing time!!!!!!!! Hiring a car and doing a road trip really is the best kind of holiday. It gives you the ability to see so much more and there's a nice balance of relaxing and exploring.

I hope this post has encouraged you to do it and also given you some ideas of where to visit and stay. 

TripAdvisor is so useful when planning this kind of trip - I swear by it.


Tuesday, 1 October 2013

San Gimignano, Tuscany!

The second leg of the Italian road trip! 

It was my first ever time in Tuscany. Myself and Andy drove from Florence to San Gimignano which is a small, walled medieval town in the province of Siena, Tuscany, north-central Italy.

On our way in the views were just amazing!! I felt like I was entering another world. A world full of countryside, beautiful vineyards and clear blue skies ahhhhhhhhhh.

Heaven :)  

We stayed at 'Relais Santa Chiara Hotel' which is just a 5 minute walk from San Gimignano town centre.

Oh yes, the pool................

Bar service was availble by the pool so many mornings we sipped on cocktails while working our tan. Oh it was fabulous darling ;)

I was really happy with the hotel we had chosen (with the help of TripAdvisor) it was sooooooo pretty and surrounded by stunning scenery! Even though it was so close to the town it was still so peaceful and quiet.

This was our room. It was small and compact but we had our own private balcony which is needed in the scorching heat :)

San Gimignano town!

The pretty town square.



I wanted to try it ALL!!

I had fallen in love with San Gimignano. There are tons of little alley ways where you can discover hidden restaurants and wine bars or you can sit by the main square sipping Prosecco and just watch the world go by.

As we had the car we went on an adventure up into the hills to find wine!!

We came across this little winery ..............

We were greeted by a little old lady who spoke no English. We asked if we could try some of their wine and she happily showed us to a tasting room. It was lovely wine, we also tried their olive oil too - we brought two cases as it was such a bargain.

It was so fun going on an adventure into the hills, there are lots of different vineyards you can pop into to do wine tasting.

We had some fantastic dinners out, there are lots of lovely restaurants to choose from and it was really reasonable too.

The food was just amazing, most nights we started by sharing an antipasti dish, then pasta, followed by meat or fish and then a naughty dessert. We took our time as the Italians do. I think I tried the tiramisu in most restaurants as it's my favourite!! We stuck to the local Chianti wine which was BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!!!!

We didn't have any bad experiences with food, every restaurant really delivered and everything was ten out of ten. It's rare that you get that on holiday.

We had such a great time and we are definitely going back next year!!!!!

Friday, 13 September 2013

Italian road trip! First stop - Florence. Guinea fowl and chocolate pasta anyone?

I have just got back from my adventure in Italy!

I may now be a stone heavier ( I drank and ate sooooooo much) but hey, what a trip!

We flew into Florence and arrived mid day.

Florence was beautiful. There were lots of designer shops and LOTS of tourists but it was still a lovely city to walk around.

After having a little pre evening nap at our hotel  (as you do) we headed out to find a nice restaurant........

It took us a while.

We went on the hunt for one that we had read about on Trip Adviser. We searched for ages, got lost and asked several locals who spoke no English which just made us even more lost.

FINALLY we found it ................and it was closed!!! Very annoying!!

Where to go now?

We had remembered seeing a cool place down one of windy streets so we re-traced our steps and found it!


It's so exciting discovering a new restaurant, especially when you feel you have found a hidden gem.

We were welcomed in by a very charismatic and friendly waiter who gave us a few seating options. 

The restaurant was pretty full ...always a good sign.

We chose to sit by the open glass kitchen area.

We started off with a glass of Prosecco and asked him to recommend a nice bottle of red for us........


 I never usually drink Chianti but as the saying goes - when in Rome! 
I  have been missing out, the wine was BEAUTIFUL and cheap!!! 

I went for the grilled octopus with bur rata, crunchy celery and lemon  - DELICIOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I really love octopus it always feels like such a treat when I have it.

Andy had the Foie Gras with apricots which he said was great (i'm not a fan)

For my main course I went for a pasta dish the waiter recommended - homemade black tagliolini with sea urchin and pesto sauce - oh wow I totally cleaned the plate!

 It was gorgeous!!

I was very happy.

Andy went for a bit of a wild card - homemade pici pasta with guinea fowl ragout, parmesan cheese and................ CHOCOLATE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well I was very excited to try this!!

I try and encourage Andy to order the really unique dishes, so I get to try them hehehe.
It was very rich but I really loved the strong flavours. Andy was full so I polished the rest off :) YUM.

We were both too full for dessert, rarely happens to me, so the waiter gave us two creamy lemoncello cocktails on the house.
Nice touch, lemoncello is one of my favourites.

A sweet end to our first dinner in Italy!

Well we had to get a silly photo, we were on holiday and a little smashed from the STRONG wine.

The waiter waved us off!  

Having a fun waiter really does bring your meal to life.

Great night!

We headed back to our hotel to get a good nights sleep. 
San Gimignano bound tomorrow yippie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!