Author: Katya

Fun Lunch with Trunki

Fun Lunch with Trunki

The schools are back and so are the school lunches. Somehow, every year in August, I find myself looking for a new lunchbox and a packing set, as the one from the previous school year never survives. This year I decided to try TRUNKI range, […]

Family Day Out with Narrow Boat

Family Day Out with Narrow Boat

As many families during this summer, we were looking for ways to spend time outdoors. There are several canals within 30 minutes drive and during lockdown we were enjoying numerous walks along the water. Another way to enjoy the canals is to hire a narrow […]

Wine Tasting at Arnaldo Caprai Winery in Montefalco

Wine Tasting at Arnaldo Caprai Winery in Montefalco

Italy has the largest variety of grapes, which are only grown locally and cannot be found in any other country. This presents a great opportunity to try wines made from these rare  varieties and save Chardonnay or Merlot for another time. Sagrantino is one of the oldest varieties of grapes, which only grows around the town of Montefalco. Nowdays over 80 local wineries produce wine using Sagrantino grape and one of the most famous ones is Arnaldo Caprai. Located just outside the main town, it is a beautiful estate with rows of vines stretching as far as the eye can see.

We have booked a visit, which included winery tour and a tasting session. There are a number of options you can select HERE , depending on the time available, your group size and your wine interests.

Our tour started with an introduction to the winery and its roots. The birth of Montefalco Sagrantino goes back to the 80s.  Arnaldo Caprai was one of the pioneers to cultivate the special character of Sagrantino grapes and eventually changing the landscape for many wine producers in the area. Nowdays, wine tourism is flourishing with many people visiting the town of Montefalco and its surrounding area for this reason alone.

The grapes are harvested by hand in mid-October and the process of wine production is slightly different to usual methods. Once grapes are harvested, their skin is cut to allow the juice to come out,  but grape skins are left to ferment together with the juice. Skins stay in contact with fermented juice for a while and are eventually taken away to make grappa.

After about a month in  tanks, the wine gets relocated to the oak casks (barrique) and stays there for 2 years. The final step is bottling, where Montefalco Sagrantino  matures for another 2 years. Every year the winery buys 200 brand new oak casks to smooth out Sagrantino’s character.

The old casks will get used for maturing other types of wines, but not for Sagrantino. Throughout the tour you get to realize that Sagrantino rules here.  While other kinds of wines might get less than a VIP treatment, Montefalco Sagrantino  always gets the best seat in the house.

Montefalco Sagrantino  can be kept in the bottle for up to 10 years, so it is a great wine if you can ensure correct storage conditions.

After the tour , it was time to stop at a beautiful tasting area. Due to Covid,  the terrace,  overlooking the vineyard, was closed, but we had a great time sampling the wines in pleasant tasting room.  The wines we tried were: 

Grecante 

Montefalco Rosso

Collepiano Montefalco Sagrantino 

The wines were complimented by the selection of cold cuts and cheeses, as well as bread and locally produced olive oil. Staff at the winery was extremely helpful and knowledgeable about wines.  Denise at the tasting room and our tour guide Camilla both completed certified wine courses, so they knew exactly what they were talking about.

I definitely recommend visiting Arnaldo Caprai winery if you are in Umbria. You can come without booking for a simple tasting, However, if you fancy an extended experience, I recommend to book, as they do get busy with visitors. You can book your experience HERE.

To entertain the kids, we took them for a run in the vineyard. There is plenty of space and everything is open so you can see the grapes up close, talk about how they are growing, and what becomes of them. I find these hand-on experiences in the vineyards way more useful than dry lessons at school on agriculture and food/drink production.

While you are here, definitely visit the town of Montefalco, appreciate the views from the hill and think how lucky you are to be sharing this landscape and wine with many other people from around the world.

Disclaimer: Our visit was hosted by Arnaldo Caprai, but all opinions are my own.

Chocolate Factory Visit at Vetusta Nursia

Chocolate Factory Visit at Vetusta Nursia

It is always been my childhood dream to visit a chocolate factory. The appeal is obvious: eat as much chocolate as I can. Little did I know that the dream will finally come true during our summer trip in Italy. Small town of Norcia in […]

Visit to Primitivo di Manduria Winery

Visit to Primitivo di Manduria Winery

If you are visiting Puglia, you will, for sure, come across Primitivo wine served in local restaurants and bars. We were staying for several days in Manduria and I was delighted to discover that the area is famous for its own wine Primitivo di Manduria. […]

Exploring Matera with Kids

Exploring Matera with Kids

When the new James Bond movie will be released in 2020,  Matera will be on everyone’s mind. Located in the Basilicata region, Matera was almost unheard of even 20 years ago, despite the fact that it has been continually inhabited for more than 7000 years!

We were travelling to the seaside in Puglia and stopped in Matera for the night to appreciate its ancient history and mesmerizing views. Matera is similar to Venice – no matter where you look, the views are breathtaking and you constantly want to get your camera and snap, snap, snap.

Matera is one of the oldest inhabited places on Earth, so trying to crack its stories on your own is no mean feat. Enlist the help of the professionals from Sassi Tour and  you will see the best viewpoints and have a good understanding of the city’s past and the future. 

We arrived on Saturday evening and had a chance to have a quick walk before dinner. On Sunday morning we met with Nico , our guide and founder of Sassi Tour, and  we told him what we have already seen. Nico was very happy to take us on an alternative route, so we see more of this magical place. Nico is a qualified archeologist and a local, which means he knows Matera inside out  and can adjust the tour content to your liking.  

I loved that Nico can talk about the history of Matera at any given time point, but he is just as happy to share his views on Matera’s not so distant past, when majority of cave houses were abandoned, and its residents were relocated to modern housing estates. Last but not least,  you get plenty of gossip about the making of the new James Bond movie too!

We started the tour at 9am and finished just short of noon, which gave us plenty of time to get everywhere without the help of the buggy. There was also plenty of opportunities for pictures and little breaks, as my son can’t walk too fast yet.

If you are exploring Matera with a toddler, like we did, leave your pushchair in the hotel. There are a lot of stairs , so you will be carrying the buggy more than you will be pushing it. Get plenty of water and snacks to bribe your little walkers to get to the next viewpoint, church or a hidden courtyard. 

Matera was awarded the title of the European Capital of Culture in 2019 and it was also named first Unesco site in the south of Italy in 1993.

Whether you like to explore new places via museums or by walking around, Matera has plenty to offer for both options. In fact, if you want to give it  justice, two days is extremely little time to try and get to know Matera better. If your itinerary allows,  definitely dedicate some quality time for your  encounter –  I promise, you will not regret. 

As part of the tour you will be able to visit some of the cave churches and a cave house (“Casa Grotto”), where people used to live up until 1960s. The house is done as if someone just left the door open and you are able to see complete reconstruction of the family life.

I was shocked to discover that animals used to live in the same space as humans. Imagine taking your horse for a walk, but she needs to pass your living room before reaching the door! As you can imagine, space in a sassi was at premium and every centimetre was cleverly used.

We also visited cave church Santa Lucia Alle Malve and Nico was helpful in explaining different symbols and history of the frescoes. Before wide availability of books, all religious stories were represented on church walls. It is difficult trying to decipher a variety of symbols and relevant Saints  without an input from someone knowledgeable, like Nico. 

Nowdays old city of Matera is a desirable place to live for artists, musicians  and designers , which means there is always something going on – exhibitions, concerts, or installations. Nico was great at recommending places to see , when we have free time, so we ventured to one of the viewpoints after our tour to make lots of pictures. 

If you are thinking of booking the same tour, explore Sassi Tour website and you will be able to choose from several options or customise your own experience the way you like. When we visited some of the tour options were not available due to Covid restrictions, but I am hoping that soon there wont be many restrictions.

Naturally,  I was very interested in a food tour in Matera, but Covid had other plans. Maybe, you will be more lucky and will share what delicacies you have managed to try. 

At the end of the tour, you will get your own little vintage souvenir from your guide. I will not reveal what it is to keep the element of surprise, but it is super personal and unexpected.

Disclaimer: We were hosted by Sassi Tour, but all opinions are my own.

What to Eat in Romania: 11 Dishes to Try

What to Eat in Romania: 11 Dishes to Try

When we went to Romania for Easter, I wanted to try as many local specialities as I could.  Romania is obsessed with pork, so majority of dishes on my list are pork-based. One of our guides made a joke : “What is the best vegetable […]

Online Development Classes with Role Models

Online Development Classes with Role Models

Lockdown conditions are affecting so many aspects of our daily lives and, frankly, staying at home and homeschooling two kids has been challenging in the last two months. My older daughter Letitia does her homework and gets out for a daily walk or a bike […]

Essential Tips for Visiting Peles Castle

Essential Tips for Visiting Peles Castle

Peles Castle is, without a doubt, a jewel  among Romanian attractions. It is consistently ranked as one of the top  places  in Romania.

Peles Castle is a mesmerizing, beautiful place, where each room has been worked on by the best craftsmen at the time. You will be able to see different styles like Gothic, Italian, Moorish, Turkish all within the space of a couple of rooms.

Peles Castle is located in Sinaia, which is a small town approximately 1.5 hours train ride from Bucharest. If you are thinking about your itinerary in Romania, Peles Castle is definitely worth a look – whether you choose to visit it on a day trip from Bucharest or make an overnight stop in Sinaia. 

I want to share my top tips with you on visiting Peles Castle, so you are able to get most of your visit. 

1.Try visiting the castle on a weekday and if you can time your visit either early in the morning or in the second half of the day. 

We arrived around 10am and we did not really stand in the queue for tickets, but we had to wait for about 20 minutes for our guided tour to start. For guided tours, the  preference is given  to orgnaised groups, rather than individual tourists, so it is very likely that you will have to wait a little bit for your tour to start.

When we finished our castle tour, it was around 11.30am and there was already quite a queue for the ticket office. As many tour groups arrive in the morning, it might also be better to time your visit in the second half of the day or during lunchtime when everyone is eating.

2.Extend your visit with second floor private apartments

The castle can only be seen as part of guided tour, so you will not be able to walk around  on your own inside.  There are two types of tickets :  either formal apartments on the first floor or you can decide to visit first and second floor, where private quarters are located. At the end of first floor tour, the guide will ask if anyone has tickets for the second floor, and  will take you upstairs if you have purchased the extended ticket.

Judging from our group, noone went to the second floor, so if you want some peace and quiet – I suggest paying a bit more for the privilege. 

3. Taking pictures 

You can not take pictures inside unless you pay a fee at the ticket office. 

Outside there is plenty of space to take lots of fantastic pictures. It does get crowded, but try and be inventive with your positioning. 

4.Keep your eyes peeled to spot the treasures.

The castle is stuffed to the gills with excellent examples of craftsmanship, whether it is wood carvings, Murano glass or paintings. You have to keep your eyes peeled, as there are so many objects in each room . It is literally like a jewel box full of treasures. 

Watch out for Klimt decorations in the theater hall, which later was turned into a cinema.

5. Maximise your sightseeing

I suggest to combine your visit to Peles Castle with  Pelisor Castle, where Ferdinand and Marie, Romanian monarchs lived for a number of years at the beginning of the 20th century.

Pelisor Castle is smaller, and it is not  as popular as Peles Castle, so you are likely to be one of the few visitors. I sometimes find that going to smaller attractions is more rewarding, as there are no  crowds, there is no need to rush and there is an opportunity to feel the atmosphere.

If one castle is enough for the day, you can have a break for lunch or picnic and then visit Sinaia Monastery, it is only 15 minutes walk from Peles Castle.  It is an equally historical place, where you  can discover more about iconography and Orthodox religion. 

In terms of lunchtime options,  there are a couple of cafes just next to Peles Castle, or alternatively bring the picnic, as there are plenty of spaces to have one. 

Escape to the Country in Bucharest: Village Museum

Escape to the Country in Bucharest: Village Museum

If you are visiting Bucharest and want to learn about traditional culture in Romania, I recommend going to “Dimitrie Gusti” National Village Museum. The museum has a great collection of buildings, lovingly restored and rebuilt on site from all over Romania,  with a time span […]