Summer’s coming at last, and it’s time to plan the holidays. Whether it’s a weekend or a longer break, nowadays getting around and finding the right accommodation is really easy: a search online, a couple of clicks and it’s done.
Some people like to stay in a hotel with all the comforts of home: cleaning every morning, towels and toiletries provided. But I prefer to rent a house and enjoy the things only that can provide: home-made breakfast, reading a book on the patio, a kitchen. And I assure you that I get free shampoo and conditioner too. #likealocal.
Last summer I decided to tour Sicily with a couple of friends, to explore the hidden wonders of the island. It was fabulous.
We stopped between Taormina and Catania to spend a quiet couple of days enjoying the island’s wonderful sea. In Stazzo, a small village on the coast, we managed to rent a spectacular house in a little corner of paradise.
It was no ordinary house, but a genuine late 18th century castle in Liberty style: the Castle of Slaves. Very near the sea with views of Mount Etna, the house had a lovely private pool surrounded by a hectare and a half of gardens with a lawn, a swing, lemon trees, gorgeous climbing bougainvillea, roses, palms and a spectacular pine tree.
In that house I had a favourite spot, where I especially enjoyed relaxing after lunch: the patio. It really reminded me of my grandfather’s house in the country. A white sofa, a wicker armchair, a couple of sun beds, a hammock where I loved to swing and read, and a table nearby where I could put my indispensable glass of cedrata. But what I liked best about the patio was the smell of the cyclamens planted in a tidy row of huge, ornate terracotta pots.
I don’t know whether it was the scent of lemons, the flavour of cedrata, the hammock, or perhaps the kindness of the two owners, but I fell deeply in love with that house in Sicily.
Barcelona is a magical city that obliges you to walk with your nose in the air so as not to miss anything and to take it slowly, savouring every district, every flavour and every encounter. At Easter I decided to go back there with my boyfriend, to get away from the day-to-day slog and enjoy a bit of vibrant Spanish life. It’s only an hour and a half by plane from Italy.
Since we’re not at all keen on hotels, we booked an apartment right in the centre. The photos I’d seen online didn’t do it justice. A gorgeous brick house with two bedrooms, a large bathroom and a cosy little living room with kitchenette. It was all beautifully furnished; the owner obviously loves the house, and we felt very much at home.
My favourite part was definitely the bedroom: colourful and inviting. When we arrived we found on the chest of drawers a vase of fresh flowers, a note welcoming us and some new, sweet-smelling towels for our shower, much-needed after the journey.
When I’m away from home, I often find I don’t sleep well because the bed’s either too soft or too hard, or sometimes the pillow’s too thick. But I slept fabulously in that bed in Barcelona: large, comfortable and with plenty of pillows, just the way I like it. If I owned a holiday home, that’s something I’d pay attention to.
And the most wonderful thing about the apartment? The rooftop terrace, directly facing the Sagrada Familia. Sangria y tapas por favor!
Imagine waking up in the morning, opening the window and looking out at the bay of Riomaggiore in the heart of the Cinque Terre: sparkling blue sea, coloured houses, the smell of salt in the air and not a cloud in the sky.
For my birthday last year, my boyfriend took me for a weekend in this romantic part of the world. Our love-nest was a little studio apartment in the centre of Riomaggiore, featuring a terrace with breathtaking views. I didn’t know the Cinque Terre, and I’m still wondering why on earth I’d never thought of spending a weekend there.
For me, the best part of the day was breakfast time, without a doubt. The image that’s stayed with me is the little terrace with the table laid with colourful American-style placemats, contrasting white cups, a centrepiece made of shells and…a plate of focaccia - Liguria, so delicious! Everything tasted of the seaside, everything was homely.
I can’t hide the fact that in those moments I asked myself why I had to live in Milan and work in an office, instead of being a fisherwoman in Riomaggiore. It’s a good question…
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