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Lignano vol. II

And we are in Lignano again! A small charming town in Friuli-Venezia Giulia we fell in love with last year. This time I drove from Vienna, which took me only 6 hours together with a stop at Wörthersee. A very comfortable and fast way, I couldn’t be more satisfied! Processed with VSCO with c1 presetSeeing the town during high season was a new experience. Last September everything was quite empty already, a lot of restaurants closed down, the streets were quiet. This time we caught the official opening of the season, which is every year a huge deal, with concerts, loud parties outside until late and people constantly arriving. It was wonderful, how Lignano woke up and started shining! IMG_1686Now let’s get to my favorite topic which becomes even more intense when I reach Italy: food!

During our stay, there was an Easy Fish Festival: streetfood markets serving anything from fish croquettes and ceviches to oysters and raw tuna; wine tasting areas, masterclasses, and a great vibe on Sabbiadoro coastline. I love such events! Food there is usually better than in the finest acknowledged restaurants, and one can learn so much.

Last year I already wrote about our favorite restaurants in Lignano. Brigantino, to my greatest regret, closed down. But we found a new great location outside of town which has amazing seafood and delivers a proper Italian gourmet experience: al Fiume Stella is a beautiful hidden place with a great view, romantic area and the freshest raw prawns. Ask chef to prepare a plate of raw seafood for your company – and you will squeal from pleasure. We as well entrusted the choice of primi piatti to the chef, getting a red prawn risotto and a crab pasta – two of my favorite seafoods, how could they have known 😉

In the town itself, there is also a trouvaille that I loved from the first evening on – Sandrocchia restaurant. Take a tuna steak! A very generous portion. Good pizzas, amazing cheap wines and sparkling wines (order by decanters!). Definitely a must-try. Don’t be scared by the waiting line outside, it moves fast and is worth it!

We went for Bidin (fancy gourmet) and la Botte (hugest portions in the world) again and had the same pleasant experience as last year. La Botte would probably become my all-time favorite if I lived in Lignano: not expensive, fast, delicious; you can feed the entire family with one dish.

Coming with a car was great because we got to explore the are a little bit more. Last year we rented a car for couple days to go to Venice and to Croatia, but having it parked downstairs the entire trip gives this wonderful freedom of going to another small town for lunch. We went for Grado and Marano.

Grado is quite a big town, but surprisingly not very touristic and rather an authentic one. A lot of elder people drinking vine from 10 a.m. on, narrow streets which have never been renovated, excavations with real artifacts sticking out on the main square, a lot of bicycles, small dogs and bakery shops. This is a town you expect to see somewhere in the depths of Tuscany, but not on the seaside which is usually all about beaches. Quite a nice surprise! Will definitely come back for a lunch here.

Marano Lagunare, on the contrary, is tiny. Local navigation has a lot of berths there; fishermen are to be seen everywhere. We drove up to the wild beach which could be a great escape from crowded expensive ones of Lignano and Bibione. I am sure one can buy the freshest fish and amazing products directly from farmers there. And where else do you see 7-year olds playing football on the main square? L’Italia vera!

We are planning to be back to Lignano more times this summer. Can’t wait ti see how it looks like at the peak of the season, play more tennis in local club, eat tartars followed by oily pasta dishes, then grab that ridiculously huge ice cream where you can put as many extras in as you want; have digestives at the local bar where we already run into people we know. Lignano is our place!


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Pasta, Wine & Snowboards

Снимок экрана 2018-03-22 в 18.27.38This is the last tribute to the mountains this season, and I really hope spring must be somewhere very close to us on its way!

Our ultimate skiing-snowboarding tour took us to Madonna di Campiglio, Italy. I have been there before, so just click the link for my first impressions. This year I got convinced that the slopes are one of the best. Very long, wide and with quit stable and steep incline, they would be perfect for the beginners, as well as they remain enjoyable for the advanced riders. There is always some extreme to be found, if one is looking for it, too. The weather was extremely cold for Italy when we arrived, with the lowest of -20, but thanks to large amounts of snow precipitation, there was no ice on the slopes at all. Great powder and even low temperatures didn’t ruin the experience, as most of the funiculars are either closed cabins or modern heated chairlifts. We traveled on skis to the regions of Pinzolo and Marilleva. Definitely take a lift to Doss del Sabion for the best view ever!

Regarding to the town, I expected a little more. In Italy, I am always sure to see greatest shopping and dozens of cozy trattorias with delicious food. In Madonna, it was good, but not the broadest variety of restaurants and shops. We were really happy to have booked a full board hotel, since it seemed we would struggle with finding a place for dinner for a big crowd each time. Shopping was very limited, too. It didn’t matter since we came there to ride and I was happy to ride whole days long (as the 12 o’clock skipass isn’t really a thing there), but if you don’t rush to the slope every morning and would like to have more entertainment in town – choose some place like Cortina d’Ampezzo or Selva di Val Gardena.
Some food up on the mountain was delicious, though. I would highly recommend Chalet Fiat: we remembered this place since 2 years, after they were cooling wine down throwing bottles outside in the snow 🙂 Reservation few days in advance is highly recommended! But my way of coming saying I will take the next free table and am willing to wait 40 minutes at the bar worked, too. Restaurants are never booked put to its real capacity since it’s impossible to predict how long people are gonna spend there, so the reservation time slots are always longer than the real time of tables being occupied (unless a reservation specifies a very exact slot), so this way very often works in fancy-always-booked-out places; the hosts would be happy to have extra orders in the time left before the next reservation, just ask!
In town, there are two places which we also marked two years ago and enjoyed again: Belvedere and Antico Focolare. Open for lunch as well as for dinner, it’s a pure pleasure to eat the best Carbonara at Belvedere or truffle ravioli and risotto from A.F. coming down to town straight after an intense day on the slopes!

I am more than ready to welcome spring now, it’s taking too long this year, so we may probably hope for a very hot and dry summer. But the snowboarding season’18 was awesome: Austrian Lech, Italian Madonna di Campiglio and even Russian Sochi – what a great combination! See you next year on the slopes!


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Lignano-Venezia-Istria-Palmanova

Снимок экрана 2018-07-10 в 23.48.25Where to go if you are on vacation in Lignano?

  • Venice.

The first most obvious choice. A one-hour drive, maybe a slight difficulty finding a parking spot at the city entrance – and the pearl of Italian history and culture is there to be explored and admired. I love Venice in summer, in winter, again in summer – doesn’t matter, it’s always gorgeous. In fact, if you open up my hashtag devoted to Italy, there might be even more posts about Venice than about Florence (for those who don’t know me long: Florence was my second home for some time and I left my heart there, so there is a lot I had to say about the city… but just maybe not enough words sometimes in the past). During our stay in Lignano, we used the chance and drove to Venice, of course. I loved it in September! Definitely less tourists than in summer on in February during the carnival; the weather was sunny and hot; restaurants don’t close down off season like on the seaside.

  • Croatia: Istria, Umag.

Croatia is so close to Friuli-Venezia Giulia that going there for some seafood is a must-do. The closest towns are Istria and Umag, but driving down for more really doesn’t take long. I already went to Krk and Kraljevica earlier this year, so we didn’t take a very long drive and stopped at Kempinski, Istria. It is a beautiful area. but I found it too cut off from civilization. Definitely a perfect spot for family vacation or a romantic trip for two, but not something for those who love active tourism an parties. But the food! Go for raw red prawns wherever, whenever!

  • Palmanova

The cool thing about this town is its shape: its perfectly symmetrical. Check it out! A pure pleasure to walk and a disaster to drive – all those gates through the former fortress walls are exactly the same! But the town is cool, very authentic. People also come there to buy foie gras.

Next time we will definitely continue exploring the area around Lignano! Yes, there will be another visit, I am sure! 😉


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Lignano

IMG_8533This is a very special post. It covers my first (and I am sure that more will follow) visit to a place that became special from the first days. Lignano is an Italian summer resort town on the Adriatic coast. I have been to this side couple times, but it couldn’t compare to Lignano! If I found myself there out of a sudden, I wouldn’t even guess that it’s Italy at all. No offense, Italy is the best country in the world for me, but Lignano is just very different from typical seaside resorts we are used to. Maybe I was so impressed because we went out of season, of course. Mid-September turned out to be just perfect. Yes, many restaurants and shops get closed for winter already; it rained few times, but it was a proper velvet season vacation.

Empty beaches with all facilities still available; no need to reserve a restaurant when the child is born to celebrate their 18th birthday there; empty sidewalks and bicycle ways (which we chose as main means of transportation even though we rented a car), pleasant deals in luxury hotels, etc. Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

The town itself is very neat and unbelievably green. We lived in Sabbiadoro district which looks more touristy and loud at night. It is separated from Pineta full of private houses rather than hotels by a beautiful forest. There are all kinds of sports facilities hidden in the green area, as well as a huge tennis club, two multiple yacht piers with oysters growing right on concrete docks. It’s a heaven on Earth. That rare case, when there is something to do for the young, the retired and the big families, too. Lignano is a miracle.

I could praise the place and its smart administration for long, but I am just impatient to switch to my favorite topics of all times: gastronomy. Italy is for eaters. Let me share some personal experience of my Eataly:

  • La Botte: the name means “barrel”, and having visited the place, I understand why. This is how you are gonna be feeling at the end. I have never in my life (and I ate a lot!) seen such huge portions. When you order a small portion of ravioli, you expect 3-5 pieces. Scroll down to food pics and check our small portions out. We were aware that the portions are quite big, but underestimated the scale because of relatively low prices. I honestly didn’t expect a bucket of pasta, good pasta, for 10ish euros. The thing is, everything is so delicious that you can’t part with the dish and give it away, doesn’t matter if you can’t breathe anymore. If you want to have simple but real tasty Italian food and stay on budget – visit La Botte and share one bucket portion with three friends.
  • Bidin: an elegant evening restaurant. Typical good Italian style of serving and design, wide wine choice, extended waiting time which makes the experience indeed special, too. Don’t come too hungry before the opening as we did, because the staff and the chef ain’t gonna hurry. The owner/manager was very attentive, though, and offered us a seat and drinks before the restaurant even opened. The food – excellent! Cold raw meat/seafood starters of excellent quality, proper Italian pastas of classic styles as well as with fresh seasonal seafoods. Very nice, definitely worth the price range.
  • Brigantino: a kind of place that I usually call “that local one”. Behind this I mean that the locals go there. Indeed, even during siesta, some people always sit outside chatting and will all get up to open up doors for the visitors, even if they are not the management and just happen to sit there with their buddies. An Italian place with some Austrian influence, everyone is speaking both languages (well, everyone in the region does, but the chef of a “una vera osteria italiana” is not gonna address his clients in German; there it doesn’t matter. Very cosy atmosphere, more of a family place than a posh date choice. I highly recommend beef tartar! They prepare it freshly the way you want right at your table, and it’s incredible!!! Everything else is very tasty, too, but the tartar just got our hearts. The staff is super nice and flexible: when we suddenly decided we want extra spaghetti aglio e olio as a side dish to the steak, but the meat was already done, our awesome waiter literally rushed to the kitchen and made sure we get spaghetti within 5 mins. We came back for that tartar 3 times, but on the third try the restaurant was already closed, I guess due to the end of the season. So, I have a reason to come back asap!
  • Sabbiadoro: probably the most “chic” restaurant of the resort. Haute cuisine in the flesh. Small portions of the things that one eats not to eat but to feel. The game of the tastes of everything I tried was inexpressible (is the word even in use?) but at the same time it wasn’t too much, if you know what I mean referring to gourmet. There are some presentations that sometimes simply don’t look edible, the taste doesn’t even matter that much then, if your mouth doesn’t water once you see the dish. Sabbiadoro restaurant is on point there. Raw seafoods plate, foie gras, slightly cooked scallops and red-prawn risotto were just as you can expect them in a restaurant of such class. What I didn’t like was the atmosphere. Completely empty and way too quiet I’d say. But I guess it must be like that just during the low season. Most of our dinner we were the only visitors to the place which makes me feel uncomfortable. All other places were semi-filled, even though Bidin is also quite price and situated far from tourists areas. I really hope that this one is full, loud and smelly of excellent food during the season!
  • Agosti: you can find this one in the very heart of the pedestrian area of Lignano Sabbiadoro district, which is usually not a good sign. For the first week, we avoided checking it out simply because we don’t trust such locations and go for the places where you have to jump over volcano and swim waters full of piranhas in order to get there. The more hidden – the more “local” is usually a rule with few exceptions. We gave it a try on one of last evenings, so good was the smell when we passed by daily. It was full, we hardly got a table despite it being end of September, so I guess I should recommend to reserve. We expected some simple but good seafood. However, what arrived to the table was quite a masterpiece! I always say that sauces and oils make the food. It just has to be fresh and with proper spices – then it’s already good food. Exactly the case: very fresh (something didn’t arrive on that day and the waitress honestly told us that it was available only frozen and we should better take the other one) and combined with proper breads and oils, side-dishes and sauces. I don’t really have more words to describe the food, we ate too much there to go into detail, can just say that it was an enjoyable experience.
  • Rueda Gaucha: last but not least which is worth mentioning. It’s a different type of a place, more Austian. A meat restaurant with several pasta dishes. There are Austrian speck-style starters and sausages for those who get tired of pastas, if it’s even possible. We hit it for proper steaks, they were expensive but extraordinary. I mean, I live in Austria, Austria knows good meat, it’s very accessible and the quality   can’t be doubted. But this is more of a usual steak because of the way it’s prepared, I think. No pans and grills in the kitchen. They throw your meat on the iron lattice right in front of a huge chimney of the main restaurant room. You watch the meat becoming your dinner. Definitely not a vegan kind of place. I don’t know if it’s firewood instead of gas or the meat is just very good, but all three kinds of steaks that we took were VERY good.

I must say that even though #italiansdoitbetter, there can always be disappointing dinner experiences everywhere, especially on popular resorts. Lignano was an exception: I didn’t have a single average meal in more than a week. This fact would already be enough for me to come back, but I fell in love with the town itself as well. Would be curious to see it during high season and then come back again when it gets empty.


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Favorite Summer Tradition

…for me is, of course, annual trips to Italy! This post is a throwback to the Italian trip of the summer 2017. Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetBack in the days I would spend whole summers mostly in Italy, only leaving for 2-4 weeks for somewhere else. The main reason, other than unconditional love for Italy, would be to practice the language. But now I speak decent Italian and from last summer on have been trying to broaden horizons and travel outside my favorite country more, as well as start learning some other language. Spanish was chosen to be the next one, as you remember from my 2016 summer trip to Cuba and Mexico.

Nevertheless, a trip to Italy is a must-do for me every summer as well as every winter, as Italy is not only the best way to spend hot days for me, but the most desired snowboarding destination, too. What a country!

My summer vacation this year started exactly like the one last year, by the way: we made a road-trip to Milan and then hit couple more places, including a lake. Trip with the girls last year was awesome, so why not do it again, we thought? We were different team this time, but it was just as great! I am so happy I bring all my friends to Milan and to my most beloved city of Italy – Florence. Last year I went there with my Australian friend, but this time we managed to include Florence in the road trip plan right away.

Four days in my favorite country to begin with – what can be a better kick off for the summer?! It’s gonna be a great one, I know! This time I don’t want to heap this post up with must-eat’s, as everything is a must-eat for me in Italy. So, let’s skip my usual approach to travel notes which always includes tips for restaurants, bars and view decks, and I will just leave couple pics here to remember how great this trip was. There is no need to prove that everything is worth tasting and seeing there 😉

Last year’s memories of the times when I studied at Bocconi together with breakfasts at my beloved eat me & go; nights at Aperol terrace dancing like crazy above Duomo Square and parking for free as if we were always locals there

Next stop – my one and only Florence. The voice announcing trains on the station still gives me shivers of the memories from those times when I used to come to that station anxious and happy; narrow streets every single one of which I still remember as if I had spent my childhood there; favorite bar La Petite where it all started 3 years ago; leather market and the “don’t let him take you to the big shop, it’s a forbidden experience!” from Sex&The City; risotto ai porcini and the view on Duomo cupola in the sun dawn.

I was the happiest there, in Florence. I am happy now, too. Just differently happy. More mature or more cynically happy, which is by no chance a measure of less happiness; just the difference. The time when I was happy in Florence was most likely the last one, when I was happy as a child. Now I am actually happy for the first time since then, since that other “happy”. Now it’s a grown-up happy. The concentration of the word happy in this paragraph must exceed the use of this term in my whole blog.

Away from redundant revelations: our final stop on the way back to Austria was at Garda lake. Last year we went to Como, and our horrifying experience with running out of gas on a mountain road was the most stressful memory until we ran out of gas on a highway on the way to Croatia recently :-/ Life doesn’t teach us much, I know! But the lake was nevertheless so beautiful that this time we decided we absolutely need views like that again. We chose Garda because had only been there in spring time before. It is absolutely amazing in summer, too! 

I claimed I wouldn’t give any advice now, but just one, please: go somewhere around Salò when visiting Garda: no tourists, perfectly quiet and beautiful. Felt like the air itself has its sound there. Loved it!

This year I was driving back with the gang, too. Last time I stayed in Milan due to the start of my studies there, and this year I was initially planning to stay in Italy until my flight to Spain. But at the very last moment things twisted around and I went back with the girls which was a good decision: the views on the drive back are breathtaking!

After our nice Italian days I came back to Vienna, which I never do in summer. I guess I am starting to feel completely at home there, if I actually want to be there even during my time off. Spending 5 additional days with my boyfriend before leaving for longer holidays felt very good. Now I am already away again, for this summer I moved to Barcelona. But about that – later 😉

Have great summer holidays, everyone!

Beso


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Cortina d’Ampezzo

Juhuuuu the skiing season to be continued! Several years ago we started with a tradition of going in the mountains more than once, and me getting into the university with quite flexible schedule possibilities helped that move a lot. This year our next spot was old famous Cortina d’Ampezzo, where the 1956 Olympics were held.

The town is absolutely stunning. Something different from all those similar alpine villages. Maybe because it is not in Tyrol we are used to see in winter. It actually even reminded me of Courmayeur, maybe because both Aosta and Friuli Venezia Giulia were independent regions at some point and managed to develop their own micro cultures differing from the typical Italian ambient.

I want to warn you about the facilities, though. As the resort is very old, the lifts are not modern either. For the skiers it should be no problem but as a snowboarder I sometimes was finding it quite challenging to get off the lift as it doesn’t slow down at the unloading point. There are some newer areas further away though, you just have to get there having struggled trough 1-2 old-fashioned funiculars. Don’t let it ruin your experience and just look around once on the peak – you will forget everything!

There are two separated zones in Cortina itself and the famous Cinque Torri 16km away. All three slopes networks are worth trying out! The Cinque Torri area is a place where events described in “All Quiet on the Western Front” are described and one can still see what’s left from Austrian and Italian troops’ tunnels and mines. It’s a breathtaking beautiful, too. Hard to imagine there were terrifying bomb explosions sounds there once.

Back to my beloved topic, food. Cortina differs from typical Italy here as well. Sometimes it’s a bit confusing and finding just regular al dente pasta is not that straightforward. But there are good places, definitely! I’d point out 5 Torri (simple and delicious), Stella Polare (marked by Michelin Guide, so a bit more elegant), pizzeria Porto Rotondo, Ra Stua, Beppe Sello is also said to be outstanding but we didn’t make it there – so try and leave me a feedback, if you ever find yourself there 😉 If you are ready to wait a bit longer but to get the best seafood you can find there – reserve a table at il Vizietto!

If you want to leave the mountains for a bad weather day and have a roadtrip around Veneto – you can of course go to Venice, but that would take you around 2,5 hrs. There are some small places closer to Cortina too, though! We tried Belluno – nothing new for Italy experts, but definitely very authentic for the new country visitors. Look for  restaurant (it seemed to be the only restaurant there at all, and it’s good).

The last two weeks of this winter sports season were sunny, very warm (what I love about snowboarding in March so much – plus 8 on the slopes feels just right) and just right for me to get distracted from Viennese life, spend some time with family, friends, good food and wines. Now let the spring come and see you again next year in the Alps!Processed with VSCO with g3 preset


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Bella Venezia

One of few tourist places that I enjoy visiting. Usually I try to avoid them popular for Chinese group tours routes, but Venice doesn’t have to be that! Having been there quite many times I managed to develop my own ways to reach San Marco from Santa Lucia and sometimes I meet literally nobody while making the 50th turn among narrow passages.

Having been in Venice several times both in summer and in winter it’s hard to tell which I would prefer. Summer is definitely more attractive for cursing around on boats, but actually this February was warm enough to take water taxi as well. One thing that makes spring tricky is the regular flooding, but in winter and summer you shouldn’t face that problem. Another lovely thing about going in February is the annual carnival which I got to see the second time. It’s not even about the shows, those I avoided due to my favorite tourist crowds, but the city itself is more magical during the carnival, there’s just more happening around every corner wherever you are staying.

So, I am very glad I got to spend 2 days in Venice on my way to Cortina d’Ampezzo and stopped there again for some shopping (all open on Sunday, a nice surprise for Europe! and great sales after the carnival is over!) and lunch on my way back. A place where I will always enjoy coming back for some crunchy pizza from the place near the train station, sitting at the channel bank waving at handsome gondoliers and hiding from crazy pigeons.See you again next year for sure ❤