Spectacular Ronda

Ronda is definitely one of those places where you first take 300 photos, decide now I have plenty of snapshots and then very soon realize that you absolutely need to take 300 more because a) the light changed just a little bit and everything looks purely incredible in this new lighting, b) this must be one of the top ten most photogenic places I’ve ever been to and c) when everyone else is photographing constantly it is slightly difficult to not to do so yourself.

Ronda is a beautiful small city in the province of Málaga in Southern Spain, around 100 kilometres west of Málaga. I’ll share my dos and don’ts to this gorgeous city situated on the top of El Tajo gorge.

Well actually there’s just one don’t: don’t be afraid to visit the city. Beforehand I was wondering whether Ronda is difficult to reach and if the roads leading up there are narrow zigzag serpentine mountain roads, but nope. There were bends and curves along the way but mostly it was a pleasant ride in a peaceful countryside setting with glimpses of sheep and goats pasturing on the fields near by. Ronda is accessible via highways for example from Córdoba, Málaga and Seville.

And then to the dos. First and foremost, the Puente Nuevo, a bridge which separates the old town and the modern city centre. Far far below in the gorge flows the Río Guadalevín. The view is incredible, dramatic and dazzling. For another excellent view point you can descend to the bottom of the gorge via the rock stairs on the side of the old town and you’ll reach the Camino de los Molinos and several great photo spots.

The deep ravine, the city located on its edge, the sweet sunshine in late December, the vineyards on the hills around the city and the mountains far away: an excellent day trip destination.

I would also recommend you visit the Casa del Rey Moro. There you’ll find La Mina, a tunnel and an Islamic staircase with more than three hundred stone steps which lead down to the river below. Be careful, some of the steps are wet and slippery. The descent is both a bit exciting and totally worth it, because once down there you can see the reflection of the city above in the surface of the water.

After the stair climbing (rather than before) you can enjoy this wine with a view tip: the terrace, bar & restaurant El Morabito (Plaza Maria Auxiliadora 4), located on the backyard of an old palace. As a bonus we spotted this tower-like special place with one table and chairs and decided to enjoy the vista and some local grape products up there.

The Plaza deToros, close to the Puente Nuevo, is one of Ronda’s top sights, but we didn’t visit it. Bullfighting in its modern form is considered to be invented in Ronda. The bullring is the largest and hence most dangerous bullfighting ring in all of Spain. Bullfighting is a divisive issue and you can decide for yourself whether you want to visit the venue or not.

What is for sure is that Ronda will rock you to the core. Promise.

Trento, the Gem of Northern Italy

We know Milan, Venice, Verona and the beautiful and popular lake region. But now it’s time to look up north, to Südtirol: there by the Adige River lies a culinary, bubbly, architectural and historical concentration called Trento. This city mixes influences and vibes from both Italy and Austria. On our first night there it took me a bit of time to get used to the imposing dark shapes behind the Adige river – the mountains that guard the city. Hop on the Trento tour and decide for yourself whether to include this Trentino delight on your travel plan next summer!

So, what are the highlights of Trento? First, location, location and location. Trento is located 224 kilometres northeast of Milan and less than an hour car ride from Riva del Garda, the northern tip of Lake Garda. Many roads lead from Trento: whether you are into hiking, skiing, mountain biking or winery hopping, Trento’s vicinities and neighbouring areas offer countless possibilities. For example: the city of Merano and the mountain hiker’s dream peak Merano 2000 are less than an hour’s car ride away. Secondly, 70 kilometres from Trento begins the Alto Adige Wein Strasse where you can get acquainted with local grape varieties with all your senses.

The city of Bolzano, with its numerous tower houses is a good day trip destination.

Culinarism. Would you have guessed that Trento is a culinary hotspot? Well, on the other hand, we are in Italy, the land of culinary pleasures, where many of the best restaurants have their own risotto chefs (such a noble profession, by the way). But yes, be prepared to dine well in Trento. A few recommendations: Scrigno del Duomo at the Piazza del Duomo: their Gorgonzola risotto mesmerized me; Osteria Il Cappello (Piazzetta Bruno Lunelli 5): an elegant and cosy restaurant with an atmospheric terrace: their burrata is purely divine and I am not exaggerating here. Also, in Trento you can find many beer halls with garden terraces which serve delicious food for late diners like us. And, must not forget, our favourite lunch spot was Dal Marcante Specialitá Alimentari at Viale Adriano Olivetti: they serve a wide selection of local cheeses, salamis and wines. Local, fresh and delicious and a special thanks to the warm service.

Pair excellent food with first class wine. Let’s pop in at the Ferrari winery (Via del Ponte, 15). We had booked a tour and a tasting at Ferrari Trento in advance. The tour started with a 15-minute ad film about the winery (skilled but rather sentimental), its history and the owning family, followed by the tour and the tasting. The story and legend of the Ferrari winery began with a man called Giulio Ferrari in the beginning of 1900s. He had a vision and a passion of creating a wine which could compete with the high-quality French Champagnes. Ferrari himself did not have offspring so later he chose, after careful consideration, a wine shop keeper from Trento called Bruno Lunelli, to continue fulfilling his dream and vision of producing quality sparkling wine in the heart of Trentino. And now today, the third generation of the Lunelli family is leading the company. I propose we raise a virtual glass to Giulio, who once decided to plant Chardonnay in Italian soil and was persistent with his pioneering experiments. Salute!

Since a good holiday is about balance, it’s time to go for a run (perhaps on the following day of the winery visit). Up on the hill Doss Trento there is the Mausoleo di Cesare Battisti and running there and back from the city centre makes for an excellent morning workout. You’ll get a bird’s perspective on the city, a sweaty workout and some culture all in one, which is convenient. Next to this hill lies the a mountain, best reached by the Funivia (funicular) Trento-Sardagna. The latter is a pretty little village with several small vineyard patches.

If you happen to visit the place on a calm Sunday afternoon, everything except the bar/café by the cable car station will be closed but you can enjoy some refreshing cold water from the several water posts and admire at the illustrations on the facades of the houses. And after this healthy day walk, if you desire you can enjoy a glass of cold and sparkling Altemasi Trentodoc at the bistrot before heading back down.

What else? The MUSE, the Science Museum designed by the architect Renzo Piano (Corso del Lavoro e della Scienza 3) hosts many interactive exhibitions. Very popular with families and children and no wonder as there is a big experiential area for kids. Also, wandering on the streets and alleys of the city centre and admiring the many beautiful balconies, wooden window shutters and balcony flower blossom. My each trip to Italy equals tens if not hundreds of pictures of the aforementioned.

Grazie Trento, you were a sweet mixture of bubbles, Piazzas, historical vibes and the intoxicating scent of apple orchards.

I Amsterdam

I think it was in March when I said Darling, I signed up for the Amsterdam Marathon.

Exactly two weeks ago, on a sunny Sunday on October 15th was the day of the big race. The day when all those countless training hours and certain moments of positive stress were measured.

But, this is not a marathon report, though I might write one next. This is my compact tip guide to Amsterdam. So, hop onboard and let the canal tour begin.

There are cities I like (Reykjavik for example), cities I love for their intense beat (New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong) and cities where I can picture myself living one day (Berlin, Copenhagen and, as the latest discovery: Amsterdam). The atmospheric waterways, numerous flower shops and flower markets, the leaning old narrow buildings, broad biking lanes and the fact that everyone bikes everywhere. Amsterdam is a verdant city which exudes art and interesting vibes.

My favourite thing was strolling along the canals, both in the soft and peaceful afternoon light and in the evening time, before and after dinner. The many canals have had the task of keeping the city above water. Also, the windows in the gorgeous apartments right by the canals are so huge that one gets a little glimpse of the local décor trends.

After a long walk what would better hit the spot than some gin? Let’s head toward the gin distillery Wynand Fockink (Pijlsteeg 31). It is a small tasting house established in 1679, serving jenever and liqueurs. There are guided tours with tastings during the weekends: a strong recommendation. We booked the tour online a few hours before it started and it was a fascinating experience. The host was superb, and we got to learn the stories behind many of the bottles: for example, there are drinks for all the phases of a love affair, from courtship to celebrating a new born baby.  In Dutch, by the way, pregnancy is referred to as Hansje in de Kelder. It is interesting to compare idioms in different languages.

The foodie in me rejoiced of the wide selection of Indonesian restaurants. A special recommendation goes to the rice table, Rijsttafel, at MAX Amsterdam (Herenstraat 14): the menu includes several Indonesian specialties, such as a spicy aubergine salad, a vegetable curry and seasoned seabass filet on a banana leaf. Yummy food in a warm atmosphere.

If you have time: visit De Hallen (Hannie Dankbaarpassage 47), a cultural concentration with a cinema, bike rental and repair store, fashion shops and a food market. The food hall offers flavours from dim sum to Lebanese and Vietnamese delicacies. The food was tasty and fresh but how the logistics were organized there could afford to be improved.

The last tip: the TSC Amsterdam Marathon. The route was scenic, the cheering was energetic and the weather in Mid-October was gorgeous with sunshine and around 25 degrees Celsius. There were even some families who had set up their own refuelling stands for the runners with bananas and water. And if you are not running and have a good three hours to yourself, head to the Van Gogh Museum. The doorman was arrogant, the masterpieces are purely impressive.