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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 […]

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. I quickly researched whether it was possible to visit the winery and our visit was booked with Produttori di Manduria cantina

The operation has been in place since 1932 and now forms a cooperative of 400 farmers, who all contribute to this special wine. When you arrive, you will see a busy shop floor with staff dispensing wine into plastic containers, very much petrol station style. This wine is good for casual drinking and judging by the number of customers, it is a very busy area. 

But dont linger here as all the treasures are waiting to be discovered. Underneath the shopfloor, there is now a fantastic museum which traces the everyday life of a farmer community. The story is told via personal objects, belonging to the members of the wine cooperative.

I thought this was  fascinating, as artifacts are presented in room settings, so it is easy to see what a certain object would have been used for, rather than having them on display behind the glass. We saw a predecessor of the modern fridge, how they used to do laundry and what kind of machinery was used to pump the wine from the storage tanks. 

The museum is also an educational place for kids to learn about simpler things in life and how their grandfathers and grandmothers used to live. My kids absolutely loved it and were full of questions to our guide Katia, who was amazing at storytelling and engaging with the kids. 

The space, where museum is located now, used to be storage rooms for wine.  While you are looking at the exhibits you can imagine, that 50 years ago every single room was filled to the brim with Primitivo wine. You can still see marks on the ceiling.  On the ground floor there are plenty of floor windows, which originally allowed to pump the wine and do quality check.  Nowdays all the wine is stored in  refrigerated containers, outside of the winery and you can see them from the parking lot. 

While the guides can share with you how the wine is actually made, I found that the history of  the cooperative and the daily lives of the farmers were fascinating.

The upstairs space is also full of objects. There are wine barrels, where the wine is still stored and old barrel carriages. The cantina is widely used for all sorts of educational, cultural events and you will see it in many posters displayed on the walls. First and foremost, it is not just the winery, but a community space where people come together to enjoy finer things in life.

While the winery was affected by Covid, by the time we visited in July, they have resumed all of their services and it was also possible to book tastings and a visit to the museum.  You can also do it here. 

Next part of our visit was practical wine tasting.  We tried  3 wines, one of them being naturally sweet wine Madrigale. The grapes are left on the wine until they become raisins. It makes Madrigale naturally sweet and the taste was absolutely superb! 

Katia shared that the cantina only produces this wine in limited quantity each year. Sugar content in the grapes should be at a particular level,  and sometimes weather conditions affect the quantity of wine produced in a certain year. Other two wines Elegia and Lirica were complimenting the selection and I would not hesitate to have them at dinner table.

We also tried a couple of local snacks: taralli and sweets , made from honey and nuts. Our guide Katia mentioned that normally the selection would have been extended, but again due to Covid regulations, they had to provide everything in the individual packets. 

Another thing to keep in mind when visiting Puglia in he summer is that everyone closes for the siesta from 1 till about 4 or 5pm. Cantina is open non-stop during the busy July and August,  so you can visit when it suits you. Katia also suggested that it is great to visit the winery at harvest time, when the smell of grapes permeates every corner in the cantina and cheerful mood is aplenty. 

Disclaimer: Our visit was hosted by Produttori di Manduria, but all opinions are my own. 

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! […]

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 ride.  However, I find it difficult to dedicate time to any development activities with her, as I also need to care for  my younger son.  

Role Models have reached  to see if my daughter would be interested to try their Online Resilience course and we have signed up immediately.  I thought that the course programme is particularly relevant at this stage of the lockdown, when kids start feeling bored, unmotivated and losing focus.

Role Models have been providing Life Skills Education to kids from 2014 and their strategy is based on character education and creative problem solving.

Our course was organised with daily classes for an hour and a half using Zoom platform, which we are all too familiar with now. The groups are kept small so  there is enough time for children to get to know each other over a week and, more importantly, be heard.

The course is a mixture of the material, which is  presented in an easy to understand way, and fun activities, keeping little minds engaged throughout the hour. For example, Letitia did a scavenger hunt, some group work, drawings and discussions. 

After the first class I asked Letitia whether she enjoyed it and her response was extremely positive. I was personally impressed that  Letititia was able to explain  quite complicated concepts of growth mindset and resilience in her own words, which meant she  understood the material. 

Also,  during the week Letitia never mentioned that classes were boring and she would rather do something else. She was genuinely interested in the material and excited to make new connections with children in her group. 

I was  smiling to myself when I saw her applying a bit of  a lip balm before the start of the class. You’ve got to look presentable when you are on the teleconference!

The children in Letitia’s group were dialling in from other countries, not just the UK and I thought this was a great touch too.  During lockdown when social interaction is almost minimal, this was a great opportunity to meet new friends and appreciate someone’s else point of view from another side of the world.

As a parent, you get a summary at the end of the day what material children managed to get through and what activities they participated in. This allowed me to discuss with Letitia what she enjoyed and which  activities were a challenge.

If you have any questions or need advice on the content of the lessons, staff at Role Models is eager to help and provide more information. There is also a Top Tip in a daily summary for parents, which allows us to build on the material and remember some of the motivational phrases, which can be used when the course is over. 

There are a variety of courses that Role Models offer for different age groups and if you are interested to sign up for them, please use my discount code KATYAKIDS25 to get 25% off your booking. 

Disclosure: My daughter was invited to participate in the Online Resilience course , but all opinions are our own.  

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 […]

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 […]

Hiking in Romania with Kids

Hiking in Romania with Kids

Do you take your kids on hiking trips? I started slowly introducing little hiking adventures when we go on holiday, especially if a local landscape can offer good views. 

For my son Luca it is still not possible to walk for long periods of time, so we usually carry him in a backpack, but my daughter Letitia , who is 9, is quite capable of walking at least 2 hours with small breaks here and there. 

Romania offers lots of opportunities for easy walking or  harder hiking trips. You can choose either mountains or gently rolling countryside, there is plenty of signposted routes and it would not be a problem finding one which suits your family.

Summer is the best time for hiking, but as we discovered, it is also possible to hike in winter if you know where to go. This winter of 2020 was not particularly high on snow. It made our walk easier, but I am sure that if you do not go too high, it would still be possible to find areas suitable for walking. 

We went on a hike with Marian, who owns  Active Travel Romania specialising in sustainable travel and promoting local businesses. After having a chat with Marian, I was happy to learn that not only he is promoting slow travel, he is also living sustainable life himself. Marian told me that he grows his own vegetables and supports traditional methods of wine-making, pickling  vegetables and looking after small animals. 

Marian hiked all over Romania for the best part of his life , so he knows all the hikes and ensures that they are geared up for your fitness level. We had no difficulty completing the hike and at the end of it, there was a welcoming lunch in a local guesthouse, a great way to replenish our strength. 

We started our trip in a town of Brasov, where we jumped n the car and drove for about 40 minutes or so. First stop was a Bat Cave, where we were lucky to see its sleepy inhabitants. 

Our next stop was Piatra Craiului National Park, where we started  a gentle circular walk around 2 small villages. We had a chance to see the sheep, frolic in the snow and go uphill. We also stopped and chatted to 2 old men from the village and briefly learned about their lifestyle and daily tasks. 

Lunch was waiting for us in the oldest guesthouse in Piatra Craiului National Park. The guesthouse still belongs to the same family since its creation. Initially,  Romanians were coming for a countryside break and now it is open for everyone to enjoy. The guesthouse is run by a lady in her 60s, she looks after the guests and also cooks all the food.  All ingredients for our lunch (apart from fresh tomatoes and cucumbers) were produced by the guesthouse, so you don’t get more local than that!

We started off with sheep cheese, boiled eggs and home made sausage. This was followed by bulz, cornmeal porridge baked with cheese and topped with a home made grilled pork sausage.  The main course was also complimented with pickles: tomatoes and cabbage. I loved trying these local specialities , I felt as if I was  invited to my favourite grandmother for lunch. After eating out for a week in Romania, I can assure  you that you will most certainly not find this type or quality of food in any restaurant.  

After lunch we went to say hello to the animals: sheep, cows, chicken and the dog. It really is small things that get my kids excited. They are not interested in conquering Everest, when there is an opportunity to pet a sheep right in their shed and then try some cheese made from sheep’s milk. 

The hike gave us an opportunity to enjoy fresh air, nature and meet friendly locals. It was such a different experience from the usual sightseeing or city walking. While  Active Travel Romania  can organise a variety of day tours, they also can plan a longer hiking trips for several days , where you can either go camping or stay in local guesthouses. When my son is older and can walk better, I am seriously thinking of coming back to Romania to do a longer hiking trip. 

Overall, this day trip was all about nature, being disconnected from the city life and sampling local produce.  This activity was a great way to educate my  about a simple life in a countryside and a different lifestyle , where majority of things are produced locally or you just have to make them yourself, as there are no shops or restaurants for miles. Life-learning experience no less!

Disclaimer: We were hosted by Active Travel Romania, but all opinions are my own. 

Must-do Experience in Bucharest: Ferestroika

Must-do Experience in Bucharest: Ferestroika

Time is passing and with time we are losing certain practices, experiences and things we used to enjoy. Would not it be great to go into a time machine to see how people used to live in the past and experience their way of life? […]