Tag Archives: landscape

Italy: Trevignano Romano and Bracciano

A HOUSE BY THE LAKE

A few years ago we thought about renting a house in Cyprus. Or in Malta. But the flight choices from Helsinki were not the best possible. No direct flights to Malta anymore.  Cyprus had some interesting houses for rent, but at the end we could not find one within our budget, and fulfilling our wish list. So we turned to fabulous Italy – again. Great choice!

This time we chose to visit an area north of Rome, as we had so far visited areas south of Rome.

Italy is full of great people, the language is beautiful and interesting to learn, the food and wine culture is fabulous and the scenery is awesome, wherever you go.

As earlier, we found it hard to find a house with air conditioning. The summers in Italy are hot. I was about to give up, trying to find a nice house 1 hour north from Rome, with AC. Then I got a reply to one of my queries. A man in Trevignano Romano said his family has a vacation house for rent. The owner promised that the house reflected our wish list.  He promised there is ACin the house.

So we made a deal. We chose a house by a lake, instead of the Mediterranean sea, as always before. And what a view we had from the house down to lake Bracciano.

ps. to enlarge the photos, click on them 🙂

view from the T R house

While you wait to travel, read travel blogs and books of the country and the area, which you will visit. Check out the web pages of the city you will stay in. Then you know in advance of events during your vacation, find tips on great restaurants and museums, etc.

Trevignano_view from the house 2


TREVIGNANO ROMANO

This was the second time we chose a house, by chance,  in a city where the Italian themselves like to stay during the weekend and the holidays. 3500 – 5000 people live in Trevignano Romano.  It depends on who you ask. Many come there just for the weekend. Those who live there, work in Rome or are working from home.

The beautiful Trevignano Romano is situated by Lago di Bracciano, lake Bracciano, less than 50 kilometers north from Rome.

The highway A12 takes you from the international Fiumicino airport to Cerveteri, where you turn inland. From Cerveteri it took maybe 15 minutes to Bracciano, a small town by the lake Bracciano.

Cerveteri Bracciano map


BRACCIANO

The old town of Bracciano is small but very beautiful. On Piazza Mazzini you find the old castle Castello Orsini-Odescalchi.

bracciano castle wedding

You can rent the castle nowadays. One couple who did this was Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, when they were looking for a fabulous place for their wedding.

Tom and Katie wedding

From Bracciano we moved on along the SP4a towards Trevignano Romano. On both sides of the road a thick green forest surrounded the road. Every now and then we saw a glimpse of the lake. We also saw some amazing houses right by the lake. I wonder how much they cost. Our vacation house was close to the lake, but not 10 meters from it, like these houses.

T R beach houses

In ten minutes we arrived in Trevignano Romano. I must say I have seldom seen anything so beautiful.

Trevignano Romano

In the middle of the main street we turned left. The street got smaller and smaller. It was fascinating to see such old roads, with houses so close you could almost touch them through the car window.

Trevignano town 1

Putting on the first gear our small Alfa Romeo made it to the top of the hill. The view from Monticello hill was unbelievable and breathtaking.

T R view from the house to the lake

view of the b lake

Even though we check and recheck certain things, Italians tend to surprise us every now and then.

The very polite house owner showed us around the house and the garden. Everything looked great and perfect.

Trev house_JH outside

The house was bigger than we thought and needed, but it is hard to find small houses.

The garden was huge and had trees, bushes and plants everywhere.

T R house backyard flowers

The swimming pool was located a the south corner of the garden. It was a great spot. On your east side you have the amazing Parco Naturale Regionale di Bracciano and on your south side you can see all the way to Rome on a sunny day. The house had a small terrace and a bigger one. The view from the bigger terrace was just beautiful.

T R view from the upper terrace

When we asked about the AC,  the owner looked a bit sly. When I reminded him of the importance of AC to us, he started to talk about global warming etc. He also said it would not be too hot, so we would not need AC. We said we do need it. The temperature was already surprisingly high, around 34° C. Early June this is hot, even in Italy.

Finally the owner said there was an AC in the house. But, it was in the dining room. It had not been used for years. He said he would go and get the remote control and check if the AC works. When he came back and turned on the AC, a terrible noise filled the house.

As our Italian house renter did not know what to do, and as my husband is quite smart with technical apparel, my husband said he can have a look. And smart as he is, he repaired the AC with the things available. The AC started working, without smoke and noise,  but at the lowest level. We were surprised that the owner had not checked and fixed the AC, as it is mentioned in the ad and as we had especially asked for it. We also had to pay extra for the AC.

It got so hot the next week that the house owner drove north with his family as it was too hot for them in Trevignano! And still he said no AC is needed in the house … This was hilarious. 😉

But the house was nice, the garden was huge, we had a swimming pool (2 meters from the natural park) and the location was fabulous. So we had a terrific 2 weeks in Trevignano Romano.

pool next to the natural park in T R

Spain: Estepona, Fuengirola, Marbella and San Pedro

TIGERS AND GORILLAS

One day we visited Fuengirola and its zoo (Biopark Fuengirola).

J entering the zoo

Fuengirola is a town on the Spanish Golden Coast, 24 kilometers west from Malaga international airport, and about 30 kilometers east from Marbella. The sandy beach is 8 kilometers long and has been awarded the Blue Flag disctinction by the EU. The seaside promenade Paseo Maritimo is very popular and quite crowded with hotels.

In addition to the nightlife Fuengirola offers golf clubs, mini-golf, horse drawn carriages, watersports, nautical cruises, tourist restaurants, bars and many fashion boutiques.

Mangustit 2
The zoo was renovated in 1999. The old animal cages were destroyed and the animals were given more natural homes. There are about 90 species in this zoo, including mammals, birds and reptiles. The mongoose and the tiger especially caught my eye. You can also see parrots, a leopard, bats, gorillas and crocodiles. If you want you can join a free guided tour.

zoo leopard


SAN PEDRO ALCANTARA

We asked the personnel at our hotel to recommend a restaurant for us. First they listed a few ones in Estepona, but they were expensive restaurants for tourists. We wanted to experience something local and traditional. To sit with local people and eat good Spanish food. We got a tip of a nice place in San Pedro Alcantara, just 5 kilometers from the hotel. The small town is full of great restaurants. They do not always speak a lot of English at the local restaurants, but that did not bother us. We got a table even though we did not have a reservation. The place got packed quite quickly after it opened at 8 p.m. The food was fabulous. We ate grilled prawns with garlic and herbs, grilled fish, boquerones fritos, tasty clams and mussels. And tasted some very good wine.

Boq Fritos


MARBELLA

Most people have heard of Marbella, the beautiful city on the Spanish Golden Coast, where the rich and famous like to hang around. Also golfers like to visit Marbella and its golf clubs. The population is about 120 000. We visited Marbella one very sunny day. Already in April Marbella was warmer than most of the summer days in Finland. The boutiques were nice but expensive, the selection of restaurants and pubs is wide, the old town is beautiful, the seaside promenade offers a fantastic view towards the sparkling sea and the city itself and the beach is crowded during the summer months.

Johanna Marbella

The harbour is crowded with fabulous luxury boats. Puerto Banús harbour is very popular. Around 5 million people visit it every year. The restaurants around the harbour are expensive due to tourism. If you like luxury, harbours and crowds, this is the city for you.

Ile Marbella


ESTEPONA

Estepona is a town about 34 kilometers west from Marbella and 83 kilometers from Malaga international airport. The area is known for fertile valleys crossed by small streams and a mountainous areas dominated by the Sierra Bermeja, which reaches an elevation of 1,449 m at the peak of Los Reales.

Estepona has many beaches, which stretch along some 21 km of coastline. It is a popular holiday destination. The most popular beach might be the Rada Beach, which is over 2 kilometers long and has golden sand.

Estepona beach
You can enjoy different kinds of sports, museums, the marina, the many tapas bars and restaurants as well as the shops in the town. Selwo Aventura is an interesting park (north of Estepona), where you can see birds, mammals and reptiles (kudus, Asian elephants, white rhinoceros, giraffes, African rock pythons, green iguanas and the brightly coloured scarlet ibis). There are also a wide variety of plants. The park offers adventure days and exhibitions.


FLAMENCO, TAPAS AND CREMA CATALANA

I recommend to visit Spain. The Spanish Golden Coast is just one of the many places worth a visit or two. In the middle of the Spain you find the capital Madrid, with a population of 3 million (in the metropolitan area almost 6 million). Madrid is known for the nightlife, the flamenco, Picasso, great restaurants and for many interesting museums and beautiful churches.

La Sagrada Familia
On the east coast you find the city of Barcelona, known for the artist Joan Miró ,
La Sagrada Familia (which will perhaps never be finished though the work started in 1882), the long beaches, La Rambla (a very long park road), the nightlife, great restaurants, the many museums and green parks as well as for football and the Futbol Club Barcelona (Barca).

The northern parts have many nice cities and towns. Maybe the most known of them is Santiago de Compostela, the capital of the autonomous community of Galicia and the destination of a Catholic pilgrimage route.

The Spanish Cuisine is very good. The tapas, the paella (Spanish rice dish), fried fish, the chorizo (sausage) and Jamon Iberico (Iberian ham), clams and mussels, garlic prawns, tortilla espanola (Spanish Omelet) and the olive oil are all tasty and delicious. Just like the red wine.

Paella
For dessert you can choose fresh fruit, Manchego cheese or Crema Catalana, which is the Catalan name and version of the French dessert, crème brulée. Or try a Churro (Xurro) and you won’t be hungry for hours. It is a sweet Spanish doughnut, a fried pastry. Do like the Spanish do – dip it into hot chocolate!

Italy: Etna, Catania and Syracuse

HELSINKI – ROME – CATANIA

In 2004 my husband and I decided to enjoy an adventure. We wanted to see something interesting in Europe, not too far from Finland and where it would be around 20 C (68 F) during the day. We chose to make a trip to Sicily, Italy.

We decided to visit the area around Syracuse and the small towns further south. Most people visit Palermo and the beaches north of Catania (Taormina and Naxos) – later in the summer time.

Unfortunately there were no direct flights to Sicily, so we had to fly to Rome, then take a connecting flight to Catania.

What an experience it is to see the Rome International Airport for the first time!

We had only 1 hour between our flights. I give you a hint – reserve at least 2 hours between connecting flights. Your day will be less stressful.

fiumicino airport

MOUNT ETNA

The flight from Rome to Catania, an Italian city on the east coast of Sicily facing the Ionian Sea, was short. The view from the plane was awesome. The Mediterranean Sea is for sure one of the most beautiful seas, especially when the sun makes the water glitter.

When I saw Mount Etna, the active stratovolcano of Sicily, I found my disposable camera (back then that was normal…) and took some pictures. It was an amazing moment.

Mount Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and is in an almost constant state of activity.

Etna lentokoneesta katsottuna

CATANIA

We did not visit Catania this time. It is the second largest city in Sicily. If you like a hectic lifestyle and chaotic traffic, visit Catania. The nightlife is well known and you will find plenty of bars to choose from.

The city is known for its seismic history, having been destroyed by a catastrophic earthquake in 1169, another in 1693, and several volcanic eruptions from the neighbouring Mount Etna volcano.

Catania city and Etna
SYRACUSE

It is about 70 kilometers from Catania to Syracuse. We had chosen Hotel Helios. Helios was OK but not as great as advertised. Back in 2004 our budget was small, otherwise I would have chosen another hotel.

Hotel H and me

If you visit Syracuse you might want to stay at Mercure Siracusa Prometeo or at Jolly Hotel Aretusa. These are in the center of the city. Best choice might though be to book a room at Grand Hotel Ortigia, which is in the old town (called Isola Ortigia). Also Hotel Roma is a great choice.

In Syracuse, population 125.000, the cultural history is mixed with Italian city life. But just a short drive away you can enjoy the small and beautiful beaches, rocky shores and the fabulous countryside.

Pachino Sicily_2

PIAZZA ARCHIMEDE

An evening in the old town of Syracuse (called Ortigia) will fill you with great memories. Just before sunset we took a taxi to the old town and searched for Trattoria Archimede, which our hotel clerk had recommended. We had asked where do the Italians eat dinner. Sicilia in Tavola is another great restaurant offering great traditional food.

We arrived a bit early. Italians eat later, after 8 pm. We are hungry before 7 pm. We decided to hang out at Piazza Archimede for an hour. Great decision. The piazza is beautiful. And quite old. It was opened in 1878.

Piazza Archimede Syracuse

While sipping a cold drink at the terrace of a nice bar,  Banco di Sicilia and the other old buidings around you whisper stories of ancient Sicilian times and lifestyle.

I can warmly recommend to visit Sicily. There is so much to see as well as to taste!