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Earlier I wrote about the interior design of La Bandita Townhouse.   Clearly the owners, John and Ondine, have put as much thought into the service as they did into the décor.

From the first email to book my room, until the day I left, the service was (as the young folks say) on fleek.  This is something I do not take for granted.  Unfortunately, too many people have no idea what it means to work in the hospitality business. Why they would open or work in a hotel/restaurant/spa, etc. is beyond me.

Pienza is small hilltop town with a population of approximately two thousand people.  It was the birthplace of Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, who would become Pope Pius II. Piccolomini rebuilt the entire village, starting in 1459, after he became Pope.  He saw it as a lovely Renaissance retreat from the Papal capital.  In 1996 Pienza was named an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It’s a perfect base from which to explore this region of Tuscany (with a car).  Montapluciano, Siena, and other towns are close by.  If you’re a Pecorino cheese fan, a visit to Pienza is a must.

Since I was only staying for two nights, I didn’t rent a car and spent most of my time close to the Townhouse.  It was FREEZING.  I’m not exaggerating.  I haven’t been that cold since my days at Syracuse University.

I was elated to see these fire pits around town.  I love how in this country even a simple and functional thing, like a fire pit, is well designed.  I mean, look at the darn logs.  Did the person who built the fire make sure they were “just so” or what?  Also, as I said before, it was beyond freezing.  Who has time to worry about aesthetics in sub-freezing weather?   If the logs were janky, would the fire builder be called out?

I truly appreciate this attention to details.

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The views were spectacular.  Sunset.

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Sun rising. View as I started my epic walk three and a half-hour walk.

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Remember this road from the movie GLADIATOR?  No, I was not entertained. I was a little freaked out because I didn’t see a single person for kilometers.  I started to think, “what if a wild boar attacked me? Nobody could hear me scream. Where the heck is the next farm house?”

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Seriously, NOBODY was around.

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The top of this well, stylish simplicity.

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Pieve dei Santi Vito e Modesto Church.  It was built sometime during the 11th and 12th centuries.   Notice the distinctive carvings above the door.  Several of these small country churches were built above Etruscan sites and used some of the same imagery.

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I had a fantastic dinner at the hotel, after I defrosted.  The restaurant is open to the pubic (you need reservations).  Chef David and his sous-chef, Jacopo, knocked it out of the park.

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Martina pours some Prosecco.

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During high season, Pienza is very popular with tour groups.  This charming video about La Bandita and Pienza helps explain why.

A big Thank You to everyone at La Bandita.  Sometimes it’s not so easy to travel alone and they made me feel at home.

Photos: Me and my iPhone.

 

 

I’ve read about La Bandita, a country house near Pienza and have seen photos of it in various shelter magazines/design articles.

A little over a year ago, John Voigtmann and his wife Ondine Cohane opened La Bandita Townhouse converting a former convent in center of Pienza into a 12-room boutique hotel.

My friend Gillian and husband stayed there recently.  She told me I had to see it in person.  Gillian knows my taste and said I would love it.

She was correct.  I know people are sick and tired of decorators using words like swoon! obsessed! and dying! when describing interiors.  However, let me say, I swooned when I saw my room. I was obsessed with the design of the kitchen and was dying over the views.

I’ve written before about the mix.  It’s something you see frequently in French and Italian interiors.  It’s not easy to pull off.  Sometimes the space is too modern for the architecture and it feels cold.  Or the design is so faithful to the past, it’s dated.

Working with Florence based architects, Arianna Pieri and Ernesto Bartolini of DA.Studio, John and Ondine have created a lovely space. In a hotel, all the beauty in the world doesn’t mean a thing if the service is awful. It was fantastic and I will write about a post about that and Pienza soon.

I absolutely adore this type of décor.  The same architects worked on Monteverdi with interiors by Ilaria Miani.

i found out that one of the main resources for La Bandita Townhouse was the store Barthel.  No wonder it spoke to me as we sourced most of the items for the bathrooms in our Tuscany project from Barthel.

This was my room, number 12.  I arrived late afternoon.  The amount of light during the day is unreal.  I love that they retained the stone wall.  The view from the tub was sick.  The Ortigia products were a nice touch, as were the free water and soda in the mini-bar.

In my next apartment I would like a canopy bed. The colors, the lighting, the bed linens, I really didn’t want to leave this room after two days.

I have to ask if they have a room with a desk, because La Bandita is a perfect spot for writers.

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Tears of happiness when i saw this huge shower stall.  I really need to move.

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Gorgeous.  The main hallway is the first thing you see when you walk thru the door. The convent dates from the 1400s.

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Again, stone walls.  A lot of natural materials with pops of orange throughout.

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This kitchen is everything.  In the States open-plan kitchens are preferred but not in Italy (or the Caribbean).  Notice the overhead window over the bar?  It drops down.  Once you close the door on the left of the bar, you have a closed kitchen that lets in light.   A friend of mine, who lives in a loft in Rome, did something very similar.  It’s a brilliant idea.

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An old map of Italy in the library/lounge.

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I was very excited to see so many classic LPs in different genres. I could’ve stayed up all night listening to music.  I still have some vinyl and for my next apartment (I know, I know) I will buy a turntable.

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You know how I feel about books and magazines.  It was freezing outside.  It was nice to curl up on the sofa and just chill.

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John is former music industry executive.  Some of his gold records sit on top of the bookcase.

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Aperitivi time!

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John has said he and Ondine wanted to create a beautiful, comfortable hotel where people could come to relax and enjoy Tuscany. They have. La Bandita is a special place. I cannot wait to return during warmer weather so I can eat outside on their fantastic terrace.

Photos: (except for the one of the kitchen and of the bookcase) me and my iPhone.

Click HERE to see more from La Bandita’s great photo gallery.

La Bandita Townhouse

Corso Il Rossellino, 111
Pienza (SI) 53026
Toscana, Italia
Tel +39 0578 749 005
info@la-bandita.com

 

Anguilla is quite the A-list celebrity/VIP destination these days.  However, the small island has managed to retain it’s relaxed, quiet charm.

My most recent piece for FATHOM Magazine went live today.

 

ANGUILLA – I wish I could say I have always appreciated this beautiful island. That would be untrue.

When my family moved from New York City to the leafy suburbs of Verona, New Jersey, I knew I had to become a true American teenager. I was hampered by my parents’ insistence on raising their children as if we were a family living in the Caribbean.

My parents are from St. Martin (totally different from the Dutch side, St. Maarten) and both my grandmothers were Anguillian. Whenever we went to St. Martin to stay with my paternal grandparents, we ferried over to Anguilla to visit family and friends. When I was a child it, was fun to hang out with my cousins, go the beaches, and stuff ourselves on Johnnycakes, rice and peas, and salt fish cakes. But as for the stunning white beaches of the island, they were lost on me when I was older. I mean, I was a teenager. Visiting relative after relative while sitting on their verandas for hours drinking Ting was boring.

The final anti-island straw happened one night when I was walking back to my aunt’s house and a mongoose ran across my foot. I was done. I thought, “I could be chilling at the Short Hills Mall with my friends instead of being stuck on this tiny island.”

It wasn’t until my parents moved to back to St. Martin after retirement and I moved to Rome that I began to understand why those trips back home were so important.

To read the rest and see more pictures, click HERE.

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The beach at Cap Juluca with the island of St. Martin/St. Maarten in the background.

Photo: Me and my iPHone

Why do I miss Sicily?   There are Sicilian restaurants in Rome.

Perhaps this is only an infatuation.  My first trip to Sicily was just last year, which I wrote about in FATHOM.  Maybe the island will lose its hold on me after a few more trips, or years.  We’ll see.

Like the cuisine, the art and architecture of Sicily has been influenced by the diverse cultures of its various rulers.

Every day I stopped by to see the Burial of Santa Lucia, painted by Caravaggio in 1608, located in the Santa Lucia alla Badia church. There is something very special about seeing art in the context that it was created for.

In the early 2000’s many architects and interior designers started to buy and renovate houses in the area.  I kept getting lost in little courtyards and side streets.  There was inspiration all around me and design elements that gave me some ideas for my Caribbean beach house project.

Below are a few of my favorite things:

How pretty is this packaging? I received a gift from this store on my birthday.  Erica’s daughter picked it out.  That five year-old has excellent taste.

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Photo: ortigiasicily.com

As someone who was raised Methodist, I’m still thrown by some of the more intense art in Catholic churches.  My childhood church had stained glass with images of things like Jesus chilling with some shepherds.

Here is the patron saint of Siracusa, Santa Lucia.

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Clever use of a satellite dish.

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Spiderman on the side of the Municipal Building representing the heroic spirit of the people. I’m trying to find out who the artist is and when the work was installed.

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Cool planter outside a house that faces the sea.

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Rome-based artist UNO and his latest installation.

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Also from Rome, Alice Pasquini.  Erica and I went to see her and UNO work on their murals. This is a school in Siracusa.

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The new and the old.

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I saw these fishing baskets all over my neighborhood.

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Love the door.

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And this gate.

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This alley showing a sliver of the sea was up the street.

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I’m thinking about my next trip. Maybe I should go to Palermo or Cefalù, or both.

Photos, unless noted otherwise, are by me and my iPhone.

I appreciate the majesty of the Hudson River and the cool blues of a lake in Maine but I’m a sea/ocean person.

It’s probably because I’ve spent the majority of my life living on the East and West Coasts of the United States and during the summer my family went to the Caribbean to see my grandparents. Even if I didn’t go to the ocean often, when I lived in Manhattan the beach was a summer situation only, I needed to know that it was close by.

Once I moved to Los Angeles, I had a car again. On Sundays I would load up my LL Bean tote bag with scripts for the infamous weekend read and head to El Matador Beach in Malibu. Working on Sundays wasn’t so bad with a view of the Pacific Ocean.

Sicily, Italy’s largest region, has 992 miles of coastline surrounded by the Tyrrhenian, Mediterranean, and Ionian seas.

Sunrise. Ortigia. The sea was a block away from my apartment.

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So were these rocks. Erica’s five year-old daughter asked me if I was going to jump in too. I told her I didn’t swim. She’s a great swimmer and was perplexed by my answer.

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Ortigia. Early morning swimmers.

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Siracusa. Three small trees on a cliff spotted during an early morning jog.

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Mt. Etna. View from the Monaci della Terra Nere boutique hotel on a cloudy morning.

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Salina. View of Stromboli.

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Salina. On the mountain near the village of Pollara.

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Salina. The San Lorenzo church in Malfa.

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Photos: Me and my iPhone

I kept bumping into Erica and her parents at the market.

We do have great markets in Rome but the market in Ortigia is on another level.  I think it’s because the food doesn’t have far to travel.  The freshness and variety is unreal.

I’m still going on and on to Erica about the peaches I had.  I’m sure she’s tired of hearing about them.

I didn’t buy any fish but I did eat my share from the market.  I’m still talking about that too.

A MUST is the shop, Fratelli Burgio, located near the end of the market closest to the sea.  It gets very crowded so be patient.  I hear they have fantastic sandwiches and aperitivi.   The line for sandwiches was long and there was only one person behind the counter.  Poor guy.

I bought some Pachino sun dried tomatoes in olive oil there.  At thirty-two euros a kilo they were not cheap but were worth every single euro.

A bowl of said tomatoes.  Pachino tomatoes are grown only on the Southeastern coast of Sicily.

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The fishmongers were quite lively (and flirty).  I was too shy to snap a photo of the very attractive gentleman who called me Ms. New York.

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Baked ricotta cheese at Fratelli Burgio.

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 Photos: Me with my iPhone

 

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