A Travellerspoint blog

Our Tuscan Retreat at La Pieve Marsina

As I am starting to type this article, laying with my computer on an antique pink quilt thrown on a wrought iron bed, a swallow flies into my bedroom at La Pieve Marsina, a Tuscan retreat in the middle of the Chianti hills.

Our Tuscan Retreat at La Pieve Marsina
As I am starting to type this article, laying with my computer on an antique pink quilt thrown on a wrought iron bed, a swallow flies into my bedroom at La Pieve Marsina, a Tuscan retreat in the middle of the Chianti hills.

She greets me cheerfully with a few, rapid wing beats before shooting out of the window, gliding briskly/swiftly over the endless rows of vines outside.
hotel Tuscan Retreat
Ambra La Pieve Marsina
I found this to be the perfect welcome to my Tuscan villa named “Le Rondini”, which in English means – you guessed it – “swallows”!

These beautiful birds belong a time that no longer exists. They used to crowd my barnyard when I was a kid, fringing our canopies with beautiful mud nests. Their flocks, coming and going to and from Africa, represented the passing of the seasons. No matter what the calendar said, it wasn’t really spring until they came.

Now that the pollution, the use of pesticides and colder springs made their life harder, swallows in the north of Italy are mostly gone.
pool Tuscan Retreat
Here in the middle of the rural Chianti, where the closest supermarket is 30 Km away, the time seems to have stopped. And the chirping of the swallows create the perfect soundtrack for our time at the La Pieve Marsina.

This Tuscan retreat, surrounded by rolling hills combed with Chianti vineyards, is the modern transformation of a rural tiny village composed by a few farmhouses surrounding a small parish church (“pieve” in Italian).
Tuscan Retreat
La Pieve Marsina2
Today that little chapel became the reception of this enchanting agritursimo, and right next to it is the beautiful apartment “Le Rondini”, where Alec and I had the best time cooking, relaxing and just being present while staring at the greenery around us.

Alec Tuscan Retreat
Ambra at swing
We spent our days walking up and down the hills, laying by the pool and playing with the lovely dachshund Pippa, who kept on running around with her ears flapping gleefully.
agriturismo La Pieve Marsina
La Pieve Marsina
If you are looking to detach from the modern world and avoid the temptation of going out, this place is the perfect gateway. A time machine that can bring you back to en era where our life wasn’t run by technology and you could enjoy the melodious singing of the swallows.

Loc. Argenina, 53013 Monti in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti, SI, Italy

Phone:+39 349 882 3426
Website: http://www.pievemarsina.com/en/
Tuscan Retreat at La Pieve Marsina
Tuscany Hotel Reviews
Italy Tuscan2
Ambra La Pieve Marsina

Posted by lbob 15:56 Archived in Italy Tagged hotels travel hotel italy luxury tuscany reviews Comments (0)

CastelloBanfi Il Borgo, Luxury Retreat in Montalcino Italy

CastelloBanfi Il Borgo, Luxury Retreat in Montalcino Italy
Growing up as a devoted history lover, I have always daydreamed about living in a castle. I used to recreate that magical word in my phantasy, populated with vassals and fortune tellers, with dames and cavaliers.

This summer, my stay at the beautiful Tuscan resort CastelloBanfi Il Borgo in Montalcino, Italy gave me the chance to turn this dream into reality.
Ambra Castello Banfi 2
This beautiful property is set in an ancient stone hamlet that was built in the 1700 sunder the protective walls of the 13th Century Castle “Castelloalle Mura”. What was once used as a dwelling for farmers who toiled with their noble landowners has today been restyled into the luxurious rooms and suites of this jewel of Tuscan hospitality.
Ambra Castello Banfi
While the architectural style remained unchanged and very authentic, the interior was renovated with modern comforts, premium fabrics and exclusive accessories.
Luxury Retreat in Montalcino
Ambra Castello cannon
dream of living in a castle
We were so lucky to stay in one of their exclusive 14 rooms, surrounded by history, vineyards and olive groves.

CastelloBanfiilBorgo is truly a place of peace and serenity.Enjoying breakfast or “aperitivo” at sunset from the infinity pool that over looks immense stretches of Brunello vines is simply good for the soul.
Castello well
Ambra Castello
But wait until you witness the most delectable gastronomic experience at “Taverna”, one of the two epic restaurants on property. That’s the ultimate experience to please all of your senses!
Ambra tee at Castello
Ambra Castello pool
Ambra in a castle
In the next post will show you all the delicious Italian food we got to savor at the castle’s restaurant, but for now enjoy some beautiful photos and the video about this incredible resort!
Ambra in Montalcino Italy
Ambra at Castello
CastelloBanfiIlBorgo pool
CastelloBanfi Il Borgo
CastelloBanfiIlBorgo night

Posted by lbob 18:06 Archived in Italy Tagged hotels travel hotel italy luxury tuscany reviews Comments (0)

Gourmet Lunch at “La Taverna”, Castello Banfi

As you might have read in my last post about the stunning 5 star resort Castello Banfi Il Borgo , set in a 13th century Tuscan Castle, what made our experience at the resort even more memorable was the incredible lunch at La Taverna.

As you might have read in my last post about the stunning 5 star resort Castello Banfi Il Borgo , set in a 13th century Tuscan Castle, what made our experience at the resort even more memorable was the incredible lunch at La Taverna.
At their classical Tuscan restaurant Taverna Banfi, built in the former barrel cellars of the castle,our lunch was truly unforgettable.

As we cross the beautiful entrance vault of “Taverna”, we are welcomed with a glass of “La Pettegola”, every fresh and fruity Vermentino that smells and tastes like peach.We sip on it and take some time to admire the beautiful rustic décor of the restaurant. “This is going to be epic”, Alec whispers excitedly.
Since the very first moment we sit at our table, the staff has us covered: a basket of warm gluten free bread is immediately served.It’s time to give the house made condiments a try.The extra virgin olive oil “Poggioalle Mura Fruttato Intenso” is extremely rich and delicious, but it’s their “Condimento Balsamico Etrusco” that impresses us the most.
This balsamic vinegar made of Moscato and Trebbiano grapes is aged for 12 years and decanted in different barrels made of different woods every 24 month sin order to absorb hints of different flavors. This balsamic is so sweet and creamy that it almost tastes like a fig jam, but yet there are no flavorings added. Even my vinegar-hating-husband ends up buying a whole bottle!
Our beautiful hours d’oeuvre is a zucchini strip seasoned with garlic olive oil and rolled with lettuce, served for a fresh start together with a warm prawn placed over a bed of velvety green pea compote that embraces the seafood in a prefect bite.
My appetizer is a Chianina beef carpaccio rose that envelopes a crown of radicchio, rucola and crispy lettuce. The fruity olive oil that drizzles the carpaccio makes it taste unusually sweet while keeping it moist and tender.
A glass of Chardonnay “Fontanelle 2015” opens the formal entrance of our “primo” (main pasta course), a summer pasta dish made of gluten free fusilli seasoned with zucchini and prawns cooked in a light tomato sauce and made fresher by a touch of basil and fennel seeds.
The lightness of the white wine pairs flawlessly with the sweetness of the main course.What a perfect match!
A glass of Belnero 2016, a robust red wine made with 60% Sangiovese and 40% Cabernet Merlot, is then brought to table to enhance the taste of my second primo: a creamy Minestrone,made upon request without gluten nor dairy to accommodate my food allergies.
This vegetable soup is perfectly rich thanks to the buttery presence of the white cannellini bean, which keep the whole thing velvety and thick! My dish is so good I don’t even crave the gorgeous black truffle ravioli in my husband’s plate!

Well, almost.
Because we are in Montalcino, I hear an imaginary drum roll when the sommelier brings us a glass of their signature “Brunellodel 2011”, made with 100% Sangiovese grapes.It might be because they have a home court advantage, but this smooth and perfectly balanced red wine very is by far my favorite.

The “secondo” is by far the most remarkable dish I’ve tried. This veal fillet with fresh Porcini mushrooms, garden vegetables and roasted potatoes served over a bed of spinach and zucchini will stay forever in my memory!

The meat is thick and extremely tender, cooked to perfection to reach the most delicate consistency.The Porcini are so soft that they melt over each bite of meat just like they were a sauce.I wish they never ended.
And what a cool surprise to be served a glass of my favorite dessert wine, “Brachetto D’acqui 2015”!
Accompanied with it was a fresh fruit compote that towered pineapple, cantaloupe, kiwi, blackberries and raspberries,enhanced by the intense hint of sprig lemon verbena.
Even if you don’t get the chance to stay at Castello Banfi, their ‘Taverna Banfi’ restaurant is a must on your next trip to Tuscany. Just be sure to save some room for their incredible wine tasting and afternoon aperitivo!

Posted by lbob 08:13 Archived in Italy Tagged restaurant travel hotel italy luxury tuscany review Comments (0)

The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, AZ

The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, AZ
The desert is by far one of my favorite landscapes… the silence, the vastness, the extreme conditions to which the autochthonous forms of life managed to adapt simply make it something epic!
Ambra at botanic garden 3
I first fell in love with the desert when I visited Joshua Tree and Palm Springs… but it’s when I drove through Utah that I got hooked completely!
Ambra and cacti bird Botanical Garden
Alec kept telling me: “wait until you see Arizona… you’ll freak out!” and he was absolutely right! From Sedona and its breathtaking Red Rocks to Phoenix and the Sonoran Desert… I was mesmerized with the beauty of this state and its magical aura!

Ambra Desert Botanical Garden Phoenix butterflies

To better familiarize with all the species of plant and animal life that populate this beautiful area of the world, we decided to go explore the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix:a 140 acres area that showcases all the natural beauty of the desert.
Ambra Botanical Garden in Phoenix

We got there late in the afternoon trying to avoid the crazy temperatures of the Arizonan May… but as soon as I got there I wished I had put up with some sweat and spent more time there! 3 hours are definitely not enough!
Ambra at garden
bird at botanical
Hundreds of different types of cacti and succulents (and so many more photos to take!!); several species of birds and other wildlife… and wait until you get to the Butterfly Garden, packed with beautiful native flowers, butterflies and humming birds!! We saw a snake, a roadrunner, a few rabbits and two beautiful families of desert quails and ground squirrels!
cacti at botanical
Ambra desert garden
At the end of our visit, we even got to admire the sun setting behind the hills and painting the sandy ground with the sculptural shadow of the saguaros… just like in a Clint Eastwood movie!!

The only difference is that instead of lighting a fire and preparing our sleeping bags, we drove back to Phoenix and enjoyed our night out!
botanical cacti
birds at botanical
We loved every minute at the Desert Botanical Garden, so if you are ever in Phoenix make sure to check it out!
Desert Botanical Garden

1201 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008


Posted by lbob 06:18 Archived in USA Tagged desert travel arizona usa Comments (0)

Bangkok: The Sticky Rice & Mango Adventure (Part 1)

As we get out of the airport and feel the hot, windy temperature of Bangkok, we fall in love. It’s 11.30 pm and, although we’re tired after our flight, the phosphorescent taxi line that parades up and down the streets enlivens our mood.

As we get out of the airport and feel the hot, windy temperature of Bangkok, we fall in love. It’s 11.30 pm and, although we’re tired after our flight, the phosphorescent taxi line that parades up and down the streets enlivens our mood.

Even though the Skytrain public transportation is extremely efficient, modern and punctual, Bangkok is a car town. Taxis are so cheap that if you’re too hot to tackle it on foot, they’re the best way to navigate this maze.

Our base in the city, Four Points Sheraton Hotel, is awesome. Iron embroideries and blue garnishments decorate our room, where a sliding wooden door opens up the view on a large, lush bathtub. A few hours later, when we get up and shift the curtains, we realize we have a gorgeous view over the city’s roofs, connected to each other by threads of hanging dry clothes. From the roof top swimming pool, the sight is even more beautiful: an endless row of skyscrapers that glistens in the air heavy with mist.

After several refills of Bircher Muesli and the freshest exotic fruit at our hotel breakfast buffet, we are redy to hit the street and sightsee the city.
Unnfortunately, just ten minutes after we leave our hotel, Terminal 21, a super modern mall with a whole story dedicated to Thai specialties, happens to be on our way. We pull into this gateway to our first authentic Bangkok gastronomic experience and for at least a couple hours, we get stuck at Pier21 Food Terminal.


We start from the Gourmet Market, which not only boosts an incredibly vast selection of dried fruit (from Longan to Pomelo and Sakura Plum), but it’s also provided with stands where they squeeze tropical fruits such as Durian, Dragon Fruit or Lychee and serve fresh juices. We try the Coconut Water, bottled fresh every morning with whole chunks of fruit inside, and a shot of wheat grass.
frit 5
The Food Court is truly overwhelming. 80% of the items displayed are something we have never seen before: pastries with the most disparate colors, unknown ingredients, unusual shapes. Steamed Bread in Coconut Soup, Taro Baloons and Red Bean Crepes are just some of the strange items on the menu.
Green-Tea-Matcha-Buns 6
Taro-BaloonsZebra-Croissants-Maple-Strup-KobaciBerry-Danishes 7
Cinnamon-Rolls 8
Our first stop is at Sant’Etoile Bakery. Their Blueberry Pastry looks exactly like the delicious Cream Cheese Blueberry Cake we tried at 85 Degrees, an Asian Bakery that has just one location in the US at Irvine, CA. The warm sweet bun we got there was phenomenal. If this is the original version of that one, it should be at least as good. When we cut our pastry in half though, we are disappointed: “Where is the filling!?” The inside is sadly empty: there’s just a fluffy dough that leaves us upset and longing for indulgence . We abandon it and move forward.
Blueberry-Pastry 9
We try Kiki Saru, little pancacke dough bites shaped like bees and filled with piping hot egg custard. Their intense taste of yolk is softened by the hint of vanilla emitted by their creamy center. It’s good, but we wouldn’t go back for a second one.
The shop next door, Via Ton Ton, sells something that almost looks the same. As soon as we get closer to compare, we realize it’s a Sweet Potato confection! We immediately get one and this time our treat it’s actually amazing.
Sweet-Potato-Pastries 11
A sweet, little handful of flavor with a slightly rubbery but dry consistency that recalls the starchiness of a potato puree. Delicious!!
Sweet-Potato-Pastry 12
We keep on walking, but the variety of food is so overwhelming that we end up sharing a pretty basic Chicken Stick sauteed in Lychee sauce. It’s ok. Nothing to write home about.
Lychee-Chicken-Stick 13
The too many and odd options, together with the fact that we can’t understand any of the explanations we are given, confuse us and, at the end of our tour, our eys are fed, but our mouth are still ravenous.
Diapositiva19 14
It seems impossible to be hungry in this kind of Meccah of food, but we actually are and we move our pace to get out, looking for some nourishment.

We thrust our way through the crowd of the vibrant streets markets, where the locals, aimed to nothing but commerce, improvise themselves as vendors offering flowers bracelets, clothes, fake designer bags and the most incredible and weird varieties of food.
Bargaining with them is a must. Who’s bluffing? Who’ll give up for first? The customers, who pretend they can’t afford to spend that one extra dollar, or the vendors, that attempt to be unmovable but are ready to run after you proposing their ultimate discount. We make pretty good deals: costume jewels, t-shirts, exotic fashioned ornaments. Haggling over hundreds Bath (local currency) is fun, until you realize that what for you is just part of the folklore, for them is what makes their life different.

We try to get out of the “shopping district”. The incredibly hot air and the stink that comes from the many fish balls carts are unbearable. It’s almost 5 pm, and all we have had is a juice on the street with Oriental Pear, Apple and Carrot. Good and refreshing, but definitely not enough.
Diapositiva18 17
Fortunately, during our wanderings, we run into Mango Tango, a coffee shop specialized in mango based desserts. Not to make any mistakes, we order the combination platter, making sure we try not only the traditional Mango Sticky Rice, but also the Mango Sherbet, and the Mango Iced Pudding. Among the three, tradition wins through. The rice dressing is luscious, velvety, richly moisturized with coconut milk cream. We finally get what we were looking for!
Mango-Tango2 fin
This dessert is so good that, for a while, we debate about getting a second one. “We should take advantage of the fact we’re in Thailand and stuff ourselves with this amazing Thai dish…” While we’re expressing this insight, a plan takes shape in our mind: Why don’t we try as many Mango and Sticky Rice as we can and compile our personal chart of deliciousness?

…To be continued.

Posted by lbob 05:29 Archived in Thailand Tagged food thailand sticky rice bangkok thai mango dessert Comments (0)

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