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.


A Day in Rome

Oh Rome, missed your summery sweetness in the snow blizzards (!) of April in Helsinki. Oh well, let’s get rolling. I haven’t really done these Day 1, Day 2 type of itinerary posts, but as our Saturday in Rome was so fruitful, I thought I’d do one now.




Our plan was to spend the day exploring the Vatican City and then enjoy the vibes of Trastevere in the night time. And that we did. After starting the day with a sweaty workout at the gym (one accommodation recommendation with a good gym is the Residence Palazzo al Velabro) we headed towards the fresh-produce market Campo de ‘Fiori to sense the market bustle and to see what was seasonal and delicious at the time. We took a small detour across the Ponte Fabricio to see the Isola Tiberina. The selection at the market included colourful vegetables, flowers, Italian cheeses, an assortment of pasta, limoncello in glass bottles shaped in the form of Italy and kitchen accessories.


After the Roman market experience it was time for some lunch. We were certain that we’d find an alluring Osteria with tasty food in one of the smaller side streets. And very soon we did. The La Fiaschetta (Via Dei Cappellari 64) is small, easy-going and authentic Italian restaurant with excellent food. Try the cacio e pepe (pasta with cheese and pepper) and the carbonara and finish your meal with a strong espresso. At La Fiaschetta they also have an extensive selection of Italian wines. Our views met the ranking of TripAdvisor: the restaurant holds the place 149 of the almost 10 000 restaurants in Rome.


As a side note, if you are in the mood / serious need of some dessert in the vicinity of Piazza Navona, you have to head to the Gelateria del Teatro (Via dei Coronari 65). You really must. I kid you not it’s the best artisan gelato I’ve ever had. Tasting the mango flavour was like biting a ripe and juicy mango. All their ice creams are prepared on site: through a big glass windows you can see the gelato chefs (might they take interns?) at work. Excellent flavours are also the pistachio and the mixture of rosemary and honey. Be prepared to queue for a while. But, it’s definitely worth the wait.


The next destination: the Vatican – the empire of the Pope and smallest state in the world. The Vatican Museums have more artworks and magnificent treasures than many small countries. Among the most impressive highlights are the Sistine Chapel with the amazing ceiling frescoes painted by Michelangelo, the Sala degli Animali with its various sculpted animals, the colossal bronze statue of Hercules in the Round Room, the mosaic floors and the Egyptian museum with its mummies, skilfully painted sarcophagi and the decorated urns for different intestines.



As a word of warning, right around the penultimate corner before the museum entrance there were these men wearing suits and some official Vatican guided tour badge who really tried to bamboozle the visitors: they claimed that choosing the other line meant queuing for around four hours whereas the faster (and a lot costlier) lane would get us to the museum entrance in only 15 minutes. Well, we decided to pass their offer, took the alleged slower line and reached the entrance in about 20 minutes. Some devious people. The full entry ticket cost 16 euros per person and included the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. Last, we visited the St. Peter’s Basilica.


By the way, if you want to send a special greeting by mail, the Vatican City has its own postal service and postage stamps.

After the hours spent in awe, you might be hungry. If you are in the mood for what some call the best pizza in Rome, head toward the Pizzarium Bonzi (at Via della Meloria 43). They serve scissor-cut slices topped with various yummy toppings. You can enjoy your slice by the high wooden tables right outside. Be prepared for a little wait.


Our Saturday evening we spent strolling the medieval alleys of Trastevere, a charming and atmospheric neighbourhood by the Tiber. There is no shortage of alluring trattorias. Our choice was the ristorante Le Mani in Pasta (Via Dei Genovesi 37). It turned out to be a combination of delicious food and a speedy and eventful atmosphere. Try the artichoke salad as antipasti and the pasta with seafood for two. They also had some excellent bubbly from the Franciacorta wine region. So now we know where to head next.

A great day.

Rome and La Dolce Vita


Rome, the beautiful eternal city. Must admit, I felt slight travel stress when I thought that I should fit over 2000 years of the history of civilization in one long weekend. And soon I came to realize that I – obviously – couldn’t. And here is my first Rome tip: choose a few sights and places of interest, reserve time for wandering the side streets and discovering authentic trattorias and gateways with fountains and orange tree gardens and leave the rest until the next time.




Rome in late March was warm. It was around 23 degrees Celsius during the two sunny days. The last day of our visit was also the time of the Maratona di Roma: around one o’clock in the afternoon we saw a stream of tired runners wrapped in their silver space blankets heading home from the finishing area near the Colosseum. The end of March is an excellent time to visit the city. The flowers and vines are blooming, the warmth and the sunrays caress the visitor and the tourist season with its costlier prices is still not fully on (unless Easter is dated on that particular weekend). The chestnut vendors and street musicians are out by the piazzas and the queues to the most popular gelaterias stretch out to the streets. One thing that surprised me was the number of heavily armed soldiers and police officers all around the city, at metro stations, by the squares and in front of all the official buildings. It is both reassuring and slightly alarming at the same time.


In this post I’ll share a few favourites. A post about Roman cuisine and the adventures of one day are coming up a bit later!


The Colosseum. A stage of raw history and a spectacular must. On my first visit to Rome we spent the day there, marvelling at the arches of the exterior, the arena, the hypogeum and the thrilling size and scale of it all. This time we decided to focus on the other sights. No other monument has impressed me as much as the Colosseo. I read somewhere that the arena could also be flooded for water battles: can you imagine that? It must have taken ages to create a sea battle setting and where did they get enough water for that? So, my recommendation is that watch the Gladiator one more time and go (preferably book you tickets online in advance to avoid the lines).


Circo Massimo. Have you biked or ran along the runaway at the Tempelhof Airport in Berlin, the one that has ceased operating? In Circo Massimo you can get a similar experience by galloping around the grass field. This is where the epic chariot races (remember Ben Hur) took place in Ancient Rome.

Fresh-produce markets. I love markets and market life: they are great for picking something fresh and seasonal as a to-go lunch. We visited the Campo de’ Fiori on Saturday around one o’clock pm and it was still busy and lively at that time. The selection includes for example cheeses, fruits, vegetables, cut flowers and moka pots. Globe artichokes (the one resembling a big green pinecone) were one local ingredient which we spotted on the menu in the trattorias as well. March is the prime season for the carciofo alla giudia. Another well-known market, Mercato di Circo Massimo, is closed for now, just to let you know.

Roman Cuisine. I could write extensively and with passion about this. One primo piatto I really enjoyed was salad with bresaola, arugula and parmesan, insalata di bresaola con rucola e parmigiano. Just add a little olive oil. Pure deliciousness in the colours of Italy. Delicious were also the pasta cacio e pepe, carbonara and the tiramisu.


Explore and walk around the Centro Storico. The historic centre is thick on skilful sculptures and magnificent artworks. For example the church Chiesa di San Luigi dei Francesi houses three of Caravaggio’s stunning paintings. If all of a sudden the lights go out as you are admiring the canvases, you must insert a coin in the light box.

And then there of course is the Pantheon. The unique and striking Pantheon. The rays of light come inside the monument from the oculus in the centre of the dome. And as sunlight gets in so does the rain. The rain water drains away from the small holes in the marble floor.



More tips in my next post. Grazie mille, Roma!