Archive for June, 2014

Eating “The World’s Best Gelato” at Gelateria Dondoli in San Gimignano, Italy

Rosemary Baby Gelato under the Tuscan sun

During my recent trip to Florence, I took a day trip to Chianti to go wine tasting. My tour guide recommended a stop in the quaint medieval town of San Gimignano, near Siena, to try some of “The World’s Best Gelato” at Gelateria Dondoli.

Gelateria Dondoli is hard to miss with it’s merits and awards on the doors

San Gimignano is sometimes called the “Medieval Manhattan” because of its towering stone skyline. I would have liked to explore the town more, but I was on a mission to find Gelateria Dondoli. It’s located on the town’s main square of Piazza della Cisterna– just look for the line out the door.

A few scoops of gelato in a cone for a few euros

While waiting in line it became clear that the Gelato Dondoli hasn’t won the Gelato World Cup in several years (Hello… there’s a World Cup of Gelato?). Gelato Master Sergio Dondoli last took the title in 2009 as part of the Italian team. Rumor has it you have to sit out after back to back wins.

According to Coppa del Mondo della Gelateria website, France won the top prize in 2014. It also appears that ice cream makers win the awards as team (much like the FIFA World Cup), which might explain why a few other other Gelaterias had similar title claims on their doors.

The fruit gelatos are gluten free at Gelateria Dondoli

I wasn’t going to back out of line now because of the technicalities of a title win. Selecting a flavor was the toughest part. The fruit gelatos at Gelateria Dondoli come in a variety of flavors including fig and watermelon and are gluten free. Some flavors have fun names– The Rosemary Baby gelato (made with raspberries and rosemary) was my favorite.

Left: Passion fruit gelato Right: Rosemay Baby gelato

The cream gelatos also range from standard to unusual varieties. There is one called “Michelle”– named in honor of FLOTUS. Michelle is made from almonds, orange zest, honey and saffron and was a real crowd pleaser. Other outside the box flavors included gorgonzola and walnuts, and several including Nutella.

Traveler’s Tip: Real gelato isn’t aerated, so the geniune stuff doesn’t tower over the container in puffy heaps

The chocolate gelati are also anything but basic. The Amedi Chua won an award. Other chocolate varieties include edgy combos and ingredients like pink and sichuan peppers. I ordered  the Cioccolata Bianco because when overwhelmed with choice, I default to ordering my namesake gelato.

Scooping away at Gelateria Dondoli

The gelato was indeed delicious and hit the spot on a hot summer day in Tuscany. Was it the best in the world… probably not. But the story is good and it’s worth a stopping by and dropping a few euros on this delicious local Tuscan treat.

Gelateria Dondoli

Gelato under the Tuscan sun = Summer

Gelateria Dondoli

Address: Piazza Cisterna, 4,

53037 San Gimignano Siena, Italy

Phone:+39 0577 942244

 

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Where to Eat in Florence, Italy: Trattoria 13 Gobbi

Spaghetti pomodoro at Trattoria 13 Gobbi

It’s not hard to eat well when visiting Italy, but sometimes it’s not easy finding a trattoria that appeals to both locals and tourists alike. After taking a private tour of the Accademia Gallery in Florence, my husband I wanted to have lunch someplace less overrun with tourists. Elisabetta, our incredible tour guide, suggested checking out Trattoria 13 Gobbi, which she said had a good mix of locals and tourists and excellent food.

Relaxed yet comfortable atmosphere at Trattoria 13 Gobbi

Located in an alley a little off the beaten path, Trattoria 13 Gobbi had upscale casual atmosphere and fair prices. It’s cozy and charming, and the service was quite good, with Aperol Spritzes showing up just moments after we ordered them. The restaurant wasn’t packed solid, but there were tables of Italians, and a small Japanese couple who ate an entire Florentine steak while barely coming up for air.

Zuppe at Trattoria 13 Gobbi

The pasta fagioli soup was delicious and hearty and one of the the Tuscan regional dishes typical of the restaurant’s menu. The pasta was also excellent, simple and clean. Despite being full, I lusted over my neighbor’s insalata caprese, since both the mozzarella and tomatoes looked perfectly ripe and divine.

Left: Tuscan white beans were a great side dish Right: The spinach side

We shared sides of Tuscan white beans (yum) and spinach while drinking Tuscan wine by the glass. The meal’s sole let down was the veal milanese, which came over salted. When we pointed this out to the server he apologized and explained the “perhaps the chef is in love.” It was charming (and we were already full). Our server removed the item from the bill.

Locals at Trattoria 13 Gobbi

We left lunch completely satisfied and I was disappointed I did not get a chance to return to 13 Gobbi for dinner. I liked the combination of relaxed atmosphere and delicious food, and found the international crowd appealing. I’ll definitely be returning on my next trip to Florence.

Shrine to Tinganello, one of my favorite wineries in the Chianti region

Trattoria 13 Gobbi

Address: Via del Porcellana, 9R, Firenze, Italy

Phone:+39 055 284015

Email: trattoria13gobbi@casatrattoria.com

Price range: €21-40

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Drinking a Jaipur Martini in The Pink City (and the Recipe)

Shaken not stirred- the pink Jaipure Martini at the Polo Bar

The Jaipure Martini is one of the signature cocktails of the Rambagh Palace — which is my home base while I’m in Jaipur for a few days. Jaipur is known as the “Pink City” so the cocktail is pale pink to signify it’s city of  origin. Rose petals also signify the beauty of the Palace, and are displayed everywhere on the property, and make the Palace smell wonderful.

Rose petals awaiting their fate in a martini glass

If you have no plans to visit Rajasthan any time soon, here’s the recipe for the Jaipure martini– so you can sip a little of India in the comfort of your own home.

The Jaipure Martini

By Girwar Sigh

Ingredients:

Tanquerey 60 ml

Rose Syrup 4 ml

Martini Rosso 2 ml

Crème de Fraise 2 ml

Jaipur Martini GIF

Directions:
Pour all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake well with ice and pour into a martini glass and garnish with rose petals.

Rose petals on display in the lobby at the Rambagh Palace

If you’re going to be visiting Jaipur, I’d highly recommend coming by the Rambagh Palace for a drink in the Polo Bar even if you’re not a guest here. It’s a lovely space with an interesting history.

The Polo Bar at Rambagh Palace

Bhawani Singh Road

Jaipur – 302 005

Rajasthan, India

Hours: 12:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.

Reservations: Not required

Attire: Smart casual

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A Stay at Ladera Resort, St. Lucia

When your room is missing a wall, it definitely qualifies as Glamping

On my recent trip to St. Lucia, I stayed at two different properties, both in the Soufriere area of the Island. First up was Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Resort.

Next, I stayed at Ladera Resort for 3 nights, which I covered in detail for the Glamping.com blog (Arrival and Day 1, Day 2, Day 3).

Ladera’s pool sits below it’s bar and Dasheene Restaurant

The two hotels are located close to each other. Ladera even sends guests via shuttle a few times a day to Sugar Beach, since the resort is located in the lush hills between the Pitons, and not right on the ocean.

Not surprisingly, we bumped into some of the same couples we met at Sugar Beach. It makes sense to move around if you’re spending more than a few days on St. Lucia, and the combo gives a nice mix of beach and rainforest and two very different vibes.

Left: Swing over the pool in our room  Right: The indoor “living room” of PR 3 had Piton views

Ladera is the more unique of the two resorts. Since the rooms are all missing a wall, guests are truly getting a 5 star glamping experience. You’re at one with the elements, be it sun, rain, or stars. You’re not exactly roughing it though, the wooden rooms have all the necessary creature comforts (including wifi). But if you’re the type who is going to freak out if you see a gecko in you’re room, then Ladera probably isn’t for you.

Cool in-room amenity: a star chart and binoculars

I love resorts with a non-generic vibe and personality, so I adored Ladera. I also thought the food at Dasheene, their on-site restaurant, was the best of the hotel restaurants I tried. The Caribbean kingfish and jerked shrimp on sugar cane skewers were standouts, and cocktails were a few dollars less expensive than those I drank at nearby resorts.

The mosquito netting is sexy– and helpful when your room is missing one wall

Left: Colorful tiles in the rainforest themed Rainshower Right: The rainshower could easily fit two people… or maybe five

St. Lucia is definitely a couples destination. There were a lot of honeymooners at Ladera, and the hotel is situated for maximum privacy. Missing a wall does mean that you hear the nature outside, the cicadas at night, and the occasional couple in the throes of ecstasy in the next room (good for them!).

Side by side sinks in the wooden bathroom of PR3

Ladera has a top notch staff that can help arrange sightseeing, tours, or any other needs you might have. Their spa is very basic, but the technicians are great (I got a very reasonably priced deep tissue massage that hit the spot).

Ladera’s vibe is eco-chic: wood, boulders, and exposed to the elements

Funky pots and sexy shadows are part of Ladera’s organic charm

Ladera’s social center is the pool, bar, and restaurant area. The bar has spectacular sunset views and saves the best front-row seats for in-house guests. Non hotel guests have to pay a cover fee just to check it out. Local musicians play during brunch and dinner, and the vibe is casual Caribbean elegance and divinely laid back.

Waiting in the bar at Ladera

Lush green landscaping and fun tiled ponds add to the resort’s charm

The Spa might not look fancy, but the treatments are fantastic

The gym is good for working off the rum-based cocktails and fabulous breads served at breakfast

A friendly local in the bar

Peg, a local bird, joined me for breakfast

What I liked most about Ladera was how fun it was. The food was fine-dining quality, but there are just enough local touches that keep it unpretentious and decidedly not stuffy. The guests were also low key and chill. Tables are adorned with madras napkins, and squirt guns meant for fending off local birds who invite themselves to your meals and want in on your tasty bread basket at breakfast.

Left: Drinking a coconut in the bar Right: an omelette made to order for breakfast

Ladera isn’t cookie cutter or generic, and neither are it’s guests. It’s an unforgettable place to spend a few days for a special occasion like a romantic weekend away, an anniversary, or a honeymoon.

A jerked fish wrap for lunch in the bar

Ladera’s bar menu had killer chicken satay, and rum and lime cocktails

Caribbean kingfish for lunch at Dasheene Restaurant at Ladera

The band sets up before dinner in Ladera’s Bar Area

Guests gather poolside to take in the spectacular Piton sunsets

Guests thinking about Ladera should know that it’s not located right on the beach, and while their is shuttle service available, I didn’t even use it as I spend my days at the pool or exploring the surrounding area. There are plenty of taxis available should you miss scheduled shuttle service to Sugar Beach.

Paradise Ridge at night

Ladera Resort

Soufrière,

St. Lucia, West Indies

Resort Reservations: 866-290-0978

reservations@ladera.com

Rates start at $475.00

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Scenes From a Night in Florence, Italy: a Photo Essay

Sunset over the Arno River in Florence, Italy

Sculling on the Arno at sunset in Firenze

The carousel on Piazza della Republicca glows with lights at night

No biggie– just a bulldog rocking a Gucci leash

Piazza della Signoria on a beautiful summer night

Florence might not be home to the Vatican, but a religious parade of chanting priests and nuns did happen outside my window while I was watching the England vs. Chile match. Here’s a short video I shot on my iPhone 5s using the Cinamatic app.

Religious Parade 19 June Florence Italy

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