Restaurants · Travel

Under the Capri Sun

 

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Enjoying the sun while waiting for our boat to arrive

The first word that came to my mind as our ferry inched towards the Capri dock? Wow. Aqua water, majestic cliffs, and cheerfully bright buildings make this place truly stunning. Don’t get me wrong, I really did love our time in Napoli but compared to the hustle and bustle of Italy’s third largest city, the island paradise that greeted us in Capri was a breath of fresh air (literally and figuratively).

No trip to Capri is complete without a boat tour and while we were hoping to check out the famous Blue Grotto, our guide was adamant that he wouldn’t take us there at that time in the afternoon. Turns out that our hour tour of the White Grotto, Green Grotto, Coral Grotto, and the Faraglioni (three huge rock formations along the coast) was spectacular, causing our desires to see the Blue Grotto to quickly fade away.

Capri is not a cheap destination but it’s still possible to find affordable restaurants and accommodations if you really look for them. We shared an Airbnb with our friend, Aleks, and I don’t think we could have asked for a better view from our patio. Also, thanks to recommendations from friends and my own research, we enjoyed some fantastically affordable meals.

My only regret regarding our trip to Capri is that we didn’t have enough time. Plenty of people treat the island as a day trip destination from Napoli or Sorrento but I could easily see myself enjoying an entire weekend relaxing under the Capri sun.

P.S. Sign up for Airbnb and get $37 in travel credit by clicking here.

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One of the dramatic Faraglioni
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The view from our spacious Airbnb patio
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A final glimpse of Capri before taking off on the ferry back to Napoli

 

Food · Restaurants · Travel

My Maltese Food Diary

Saturday

Breakfast:

No visit to Valletta is complete without a trip to the famous Caffe Cordina, which first opened its doors over 175 years ago. We went with two traditional Maltese sweets: a kannol  rikotta (basically their less sweet version of an Italian cannoli) and a honey ring (made with treacle, marmalade, orange peel, spices, and honey). Both were delicious and combined with the fact that it was warm enough to eat outside in the sunshine, made this a great start to our day.

Lunch:

Located in the same palazzo as Caffe Cordina is Eddie’s Cafe. I ordered the Maltese dips, which included galletti (traditional Maltese crackers), gbejniet (Maltese cheese), bigilla (mashed beans), fazola, capunata tomatoes, Maltese sausage, olives, tuna, gardiniera (pickled vegetables), and capers. It was fun to taste a bunch of Maltese specialties all at once, especially while listening to the peculiar sound of Maltese as a group of older women chatted a few tables over from us.

Dinner:

Unfortunately, the restaurant I was planning to take us to for dinner was closed for the entire month of January. We ran into this issue quite a few times since Malta is such a seasonal destination. Despite this tiny hiccup, we were seated at Tico Tico, where I enjoyed some fresh, salmon-stuffed tortelloni.

Sunday

Breakfast:

Sunday was the day we went on our (very long) journey to Gozo so we grabbed a quick bite at the cafe right around the corner from our Airbnb. Still very full from the night before, we split a Maltese pastizzi, a pastry filled with ricotta. The cafe was definitely a local spot, with almost everyone speaking Maltese.

Lunch:

Ta’Rikardu, located in Victoria on the island of Gozo, was the perfect spot to get a little afternoon pick-me-up. Rikardu makes his own wine and goat cheese from his farm so everything was super fresh. There is also a little shop downstairs filled with handmade crafts and food items that was fun to check out.

Dinner:

For dinner, we took the bus to the sea-side town of Xlendi and like the previous night, the restaurant I was planning on taking us to was closed for the entire month. Literally the only restaurant open was Mobydick , which was right on the water and offered peaceful sounds of the breaking waves throughout our meal. I also spent much of our meal pointing out the many cats that were hovering around our table looking for scraps. I wasn’t too hungry so I opted for a simple vegetable soup but Evan got the traditional rabbit stew, which was super flavorful and tasty.

Monday

Breakfast:

We took a 5-minute walk from our Airbnb to “downtown” Nadur, which consisted of an atm, coffee shop, and giant church. Another Maltese pastizzi for breakfast, along with a chocolate donut (naturally). For two cappucinos and two pastries, our breakfast bill was €3. Basically, I love Maltese prices.

Lunch:

Back in Valletta for the rest of the afternoon, we popped into Da Pippo Trattoria on a whim. Best. Meal. In. Malta. By. Far. The small restaurant was very busy but we were able to grab the last open table. As soon as we were seated, our waiter placed a plateful of fresh goatcheese, tomatoes, and capers in front of us. After a couple minutes, he came back to our table and asked us what we were in the mood for – meat, seafood, pasta. No menus, he said, they only cook what they could get from the market that morning. Afterwards, he brought us a clam linguine and lobster ravioli, which were two of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had (and I live in Italy). That was followed by chocolate canolis, limoncello, and espresso. After all that food, I basically had to be rolled out of the restaurant but it was one of those meals that we’ll remember for years to come.

Food · Photography · Restaurants · Travel

Stop Number Eight: An Overnight in Nice

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Nice’s Russian Orthodox Church makes you question where you really are for a moment

Nice is the capital of the French Riviera and was the perfect halfway point on our drive back to Bologna. Although we only saw the downtown and coastline at night, that was enough to make me fall in love with Nice.

As a California native, I am a sucker for beach towns and while Nice is probably a little (a lot) more luxurious than most Californian beach towns, I couldn’t help but feel drawn to the city as soon as we exited the freeway. That isn’t to say that there weren’t a few hiccups during our stay, though.

We stayed in one of the more questionable Airbnbs which involved a bed with a broken leg, a front door that didn’t lock, and a very creepy basement that only consisted of a bed frame and a giant Winnie the Pooh teddy bear. A little creepy! Nevertheless, that didn’t stop us from enjoying the city and exploring the downtown, which was still beautifully decorated with Christmas lights.

We stopped in at Chez Pipo for some tapenade and socca – a flatbread-like thing that is a specialty of the region (so good!). Then, we spent the rest of the evening walking through the old town and along the harbor, gazing at the beautiful architecture all around us.

In the morning, we discovered that our Airbnb was very close to the Russian Orthodox Church so grabbed a quick snapshot of it before heading towards Cinque Terre.

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The Basilique Notre-Dame – the largest church in Nice
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Socca – made from chickpea batter poured over a searing hot griddle
Food · Restaurants · Travel

Stop Number Five: A Tapas-Filled Day in San Sebastian

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San Sebastian (or Donostia in Basque) is one of my favorite cities in Basque Country. With its warmer weather, streets upon streets of shopping, great beaches filled with surfers year-round, and endless tapas bars, it’s hard to not fall in love with the city.

When I was a little girl, I visited San Sebastian many times with my parents. I remember my dad took us to this one tapas bar that he said his grandfather took him to all the time when he was a kid. While I didn’t know the name of the bar, I was determined to find it and continue this little tradition.

Who knew how quickly we would just stumble upon it! We weren’t in San Sebastian for even a full hour (and I hadn’t even really started searching for it) when we just walked right by it and I immediately knew that it was the right one.

Bar Gorriti serves up an impressive number of traditional tapas for such a tiny space (although it seemed so much larger when I was younger). A few tapas here was such a perfect way to kick-off our time in San Sebastian – a way to honor the great memories I have from all those summer vacations as a kid while creating new memories as an adult.

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Food · Photography · Restaurants · Travel

Stop Number Two: An Overnight in Marseille

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Morning down by the harbor

Our arrival into Marseille was a bit stressful. Our only phone that had cell service and that was directing us into the city ran out of battery so we took the first exit and ended up in not the best neighborhood.

We ended up pulling over in order to locate the phone charger and ended up scratching the side bumper (that turned out to be an expensive mistake) but luckily Evan found the charger, we filled up on gas from a sketchy gas station, and we were on our way to our Airbnb.

I’m not gonna lie, I was a little concerned about the looks of our apartment from the outside but it turned out to be a super modern, clean space and was just right for one night (there was no wifi, so I don’t think I could handle more than one night). After unloading our bags, we headed downtown and had amazing seafood at

After unloading our bags, we headed downtown and had amazing seafood at Toinou. We then walked along the harbor, which was eerily empty, and continued to enjoy warmer weather than we’ve been used to.

The next morning, Evan had to work on a final paper so I took off on my own to see Marseille in the daylight before we hopped back into the car and continued our journey. In just a couple hours, I was quite proud of how much I was able to see and managed to walk almost eight miles!

Some of the highlights included going back to the harbor and seeing all the fishermen selling their catch, a walk through Le Panier – the oldest neighborhood in the city which is filled with cute boutiques and restaurants, and checking out Cure Gourmande – the most amazing sweets shop with some seriously incredible apple cinnamon cookies.

After spending more time than expected at Cure Gourmande (I was eating all the free samples trying to figure out how I’d possibly decide which ones to buy) I realized I was going to be late to drop off the keys with our Airbnb host. So, with a bag of cookies in one hand and a half-eaten beignet in the other, I hustled up the hill to our apartment.

I arrived at the front door short of breath, with sugar all over my face from taking bites of the beignet and our host probably thought I was insane. The beignet and cookies were definitely worth it, though. After dropping off our keys, we loaded back into the car and headed to Basque Country.

I have mixed feelings about Marseille. Despite my love of those apple cinnamon cookies, I was pretty decided that I had no desire to return to the city at first (the number of abandoned buildings that were completely falling apart and the large amounts of trash everywhere was alarming).

But looking back now, I would like to spend more time exploring Le Panier and would love to hike up to Notre Dame de la Gard. When it comes down to it, I simply don’t think that we visited at the right time and a visit in the summertime may just change my mind about France’s second largest city.

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A heavenly meal at Toinou
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Eerily empty streets of Le Panier
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A glimpse of Fort Saint-Jean
Bologna · Culture · Food · Italian Culture · Restaurants · Uncategorized

Behind the Scenes of a Gelateria

img_9503After dinner and drinks with a few friends a couple weeks ago, one of my friends suggested that we get some gelato for dessert. We ended up at Gelateria delle Moline – a business that has been in the same family for three generations.  After a couple of us began gobbling up orders of the Italian version of an ice cream sandwich (you get to choose two gelato flavors to place inside this deliciously deadly, homemade brioche bun – SO GOOD), we began talking with one of the owners, Marco.

After a couple minutes of polite chit-chat, he asked us if we wanted to see what it’s like behind the scenes of a gelateria. Of course, we gave an enthusiastic yes. Marco explained that they make all their gelatos fresh every day, which was quite incredible considering how tiny the kitchen was.

He said that the process was actually very simple and involved making a large amount of base (which consists of only milk, eggs, and sugar) then adding flavor into some of the base, which varies depending on what type of gelato he’s making. The flavors can be any combination of various chocolates, fruits, nuts, and cremas. And that’s it – simple and authentic Italian gelato.

Marco told us that the most popular flavor at the shop is the caffe (coffee) but he said he doesn’t like coffee much so he prefers the crema, a super creamy gelato that tastes like custard. He may be the first Italian I’ve met that doesn’t like coffee! Nevertheless, Marco was a part of the most memorable gelato experience I’ve had since moving here and I’ll definitely be going back once the weather gets warmer.

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The base is whipped up every morning in this giant mixer
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This is where they store the base before adding in different favors
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Melted chocolate that is cooling down so it can be added to the base
Bologna · Food · Restaurants

Buon Appetito – Tamburini

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There are many restaurants in Bologna that offer boards filled with meats and cheeses, a go-to choice for people like me, who consider sliced meats and cheeses a couple of my major food groups. Tamburini is right around the corner from Mercato di Mezzo, my favorite market in Bologna that offers only the freshest products, and it easily upholds the high food quality of the neighborhood.

Sandwiched between two storefronts displaying ham legs and giant parmesan cheese wheels, Tamburini is a deli that has casually been serving up slices of proscuitto, salami, and Bologna’s famous mortadella since 1932. Plus, they have over 200 wines avaible by the glass.

We stumbled into Tamburini one stormy night to escape the rain and were able to snag one of the last avaible tables. We snacked on their traditional meat and cheese board in their cozy bar area and I think it was just what we needed to recharge before heading back into the rain (an umbrella would also be nice for next time, though).