Palombara Poolside Relaxation

 

‘sipping on tea & lounging by the pool’

Lunch is eaten in the shade on the cutest wooden tables that range in all antique hues from light pink to grey. The staff simultaneously fit into the atmosphere with their linen garments, whom all are incredibly friendly, full of southern hospitality. After a few laps in the pool and lounging on the sunbeds, lunch is served. Freshly picked tomatoes with burrata, traditional mussels or baked cod-fish, lunch is refreshingly simple yet elegant, washed down with some dry white wine. I sip on espresso in the shade and have more tea by the pool while dipping my feet in the water enjoying the warmth. The poolside is lovely and calm, perfect for getting lost in the pages of a book and letting go of whatever is going on and falling into complete relaxation.

The younger labrador ‘Joy’ was naughty and snuck into the pool when no one was watching, yet I thought it was the cutest thing ever and gave it tones of kisses on its wet face. Moments like these give Palombara the right amount of ” homey” feeling, it’s cozy, almost like a little family. poolside never disappoints here…

 

 

 

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‘Al fresco Umbria’

umbria steak dinner (1 of 1)

Umbria, Italy

After lounging by the pool the last few hours, I’ve just jumped out of the shower and now sipping on a glass of cold white wine that my hubby brought me to the bathroom.  I’m wrapped in a soft blue towel and admiring the view from our window as the bees hover over the lavender and olive trees cast shadows on the stairs. My feet are pressed against the stone tiles that are lovely and cooling for my feet. Occasionally this cat comes and says hi behind the window but I never seem to see it when we are in the backyard. It’s time to slip on a lavender blue dress and start preparations for dinner, al fresco of course. This is what Umbrian dreams are made out of…

The sun slowly begins to set and our char grill is warming up and the table is set with olive branches, a white cloth, candles and we opened a bottle of barolo wine to let it breathe. On the menu we have some T-bone steaks, garlic tomatoes and a refreshing spinach salad with an acidic vinaigrette. Our men are in charge of the steaks and us ladies prepare the side dishes. For dessert we have a cheese platter with caramelized peaches that is my ultimate weakness! The views from under the pergola of the green hills are a calming backdrop for dinner and a magical evening awaits as we begin to sear the steaks…

pool Hanna (1 of 1)

Grilled T-bone steak

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 twigs of rosemary
  • ground black pepper/ Maldon salt
  • 4 T-bone steaks

Cooking the perfect T-bone

First and foremost, make sure your steaks are thick in cut as on the grill you want to create that dark, crusty sear while keeping the inside a nice rare to medium-rare. Begin by marinading the steaks in ground black pepper, rosemary and olive oil in room temperature for about an hour of so. Once your grill is set up ready to go with lots of red coal on the base, place your steak to sear over high, direct heat to get that lovely crust. Then move it to indirect heat to finishing the cooking.

The T-bone is to sear over direct heat for about 5 minutes on each side then move it to indirect heat to finish cooking. Add salt and ground black pepper on both sides. The tenderloin part of the steak faces the cooler side of the grill and the bone towards the warmer side so the cooking is proportional. Cover and cook for another 6 minutes and turn over midway through the cooking. Remove the steaks from the grill, cover with foil and allow to rest for a good additional 10 minutes. The desired temperature for the steak to our liking is about 52 °C for a lovely pinkish medium-rare steak. Add more black pepper and salt and a few twigs of fresh rosemary and enjoy with a full-bodied red, after all we are in Italy.

I even through stepped into a pair of heels for this picture, in all honesty.. I was comfortably barefoot throughout the entire evening! I wrapped a woolen knit around me as the evening went on and darkness came upon us. We sat eating our cheese platter in pure candle light and talked the night away as the crickets sang in the background.

 

umbria dinner party view4 (1 of 1)

Spinach salad

  • 2-3 large handfuls of fresh spinach leaves
  • salt/ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon strong french mustard

For a lovely acid summer salad, make the dressing by mixing together the olive oil, mustard and lemon juice. Coat the spinach leaves with the dressing and add some ground black pepper and salt on top.

Roasted tomatoes

  • 4 steak tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 garlic chopped
  • Ground pepper/ pinch of salt

Make a dressing by mixing the olive oil and garlic and black pepper. Slice the tomatoes in half and coat them with the oil. Place the tomatoes on the grill and let it cook throughout. Add a pinch a salt and drizzle the remaining of the oil on top.

and of course a rustic cheese platter for dessert.. the crown jewel of any dinner party!

Caramelize some peaches in the remaining heat of the grill by coating them in sugar and butter and let them become tender and soft over the warm heat. Serve with figs and hard cheeses and a few sprinkles of herbs.

cheese platter (1 of 1)

 

 

 

 

The untainted beauty of Scilla Chianalea

 

From the sandy coloured buildings to the details of the door handles, Scilla Chianalea is a tiny hidden treasure that exists right on the edge of the sea, far South of Calabria.

Scilla is located on the toe of Italy’s boot that is split in two by a tiny port. To the North, the quaint fishing district of Scilla Chianalea harbours narrow lanes (one main lane) of restaurants terraced on top of the aquamarine Tyrrhenian sea that is a slice of heaven. Searched beforehand via pinterest, I was excited to see the picture-esq views that I drooled over back home. With the cacti lined pathways and white laundry hanging from the window, every cobblestone pathway guides you to the water with its seawater-smoothed stone stairs. The place is tiny, making it a perfect spot for a walk around and seafood lunch. As we arrived to Scilla Chianalea, it was exactly as imagined. The houses cramp right at sea with waves crashing up the walls and tiny colourful boats pulled up at their feet. The aqua coloured doors are as photogenic as their marine-style handles and the colourful window shutters are tremendously inviting against the pale cracked facades.

Tiny slipways lead you to the waterfront as if you are intertwined with the water, so no wonder it is listed as ‘Borghi più belli d’Italia’ one of the most beautiful villages of Italy. The region is known for seafood and typically swordfish and in the mornings, fishermen head to sea with their spears.  The romantic town reminds me a bit of Greece, perhaps due to its mythical background, the blue hues or the style of the tavernas on top of the water just like in Thirasia (small fishing village from Santorini). Hardly no one spoke english, which made it an even more exciting adventure, portraying its tourisim-amount. Most visitors were Italians and you could tell they were on holiday as their camera’s were as busy as ours.

The village lies directly in front of Sicily and you can see the silhouette of Mount Etna in the horizon. Calabria is known for its steep coastal villages, the dramatic landscape and a dark past that involved corruption, wars and natural disasters. Its far different from the rich north or elegant Amalfi, from abandoned fishing villages to raw beauty, tourism is slowly making its way here to explore the more unknown. Local culture and culinary traditions have roots from Scilla, where chili and onions play a large role. We were told that onion is so sweet here that it is used for making jam and peperoncino is so fiery but earthy. They like it spicy here, more spicy than in the North. Chili and onion are found all over Calabria hanging from windows and sold in laurels along roadside.

We decided to have lunch at Il Principe di Scilla and sampled different seafood overlooking the beautiful blue sea. Naturally we had to try some swordfish carpaccio that melted in the mouth, fresh fragrant clam pasta and delicious grilled scampi with sweet pistachio crusting. We watched the fishing boats rock with the waves that glistened as much as the prosecco in my glass and enjoyed the untainted atmosphere that was all new to us.

I did some research about Calabria and if you are first timers like we were, I would suggest staying in Tropea and visiting Scilla as it is only an hour drive away. If you are traveling for a few weeks by car down south, I would primarily locate in Apulia and come for three days or so to the Calabria region to get a feel for it. It was interesting to drive through the landscape that is rich in agriculture and explore Italy’s all sides, both rich and poor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The slow-chic Masseria Palombara, a hidden escape

‘A mecca of authentic beauty with a luxurious feel to it’

As the sun pushes through the turquoise door of our beautiful room, the countryside awakes to a Apulian dream. For a visual addict, this location will hit you in all the right spots with its tasteful mixture of rustic charm blended with the ideology of ecological living. Masseria Palombara is a kaleidoscope of old and new interior with immense attention to detail that is as photogenic as the lemons in Positano.

As I tiptoe out of bed from a well-rested night, the vaulted ceilings have a calming effect to the entire space. I creak the door open greeted by the brightness of the sun to see the little limes on the tree still damp from the nights mist. The low sun creates that ‘oh so desired lens flare’ as it peaks through the fig trees, prickly pears casting shadows on the white washed walls as it rises gracefully to another cloudless day. The harmonic hues of blue and green blends with whites and creams giving our room that mediterranean vibe that is taken one step further with the salt water taps that does wonders to my Scandinavian hair. The enchanting Masseria Palombara allows for its guests to disconnect from it all in the heart of the Southern Italian countryside.

‘A breakfast dressed for pinterest’

As we walk to breakfast, we are immediately greeted by the friendly staff that lead us to our table. The slow-food breakfast includes fresh fruits, home-made yogurt (that is just amazing), jams & honey and a savory treat from the kitchen that varies on a daily basis finished with a round of cakes. With eggs straight from the hen-house, ricotta pie, and a fig basil mousse spread on bruschetta (with own pressed olive oil of course), the breakfast was one of the best I’ve ever had. It doesn’t hurt when the table setting looks like it’s made for instagram with splashes of colour set on driftwood tables. In fact the plates and cups were so beautiful, Mr. N and I we drove to Grottaglie, the town where the ceramics are made and created a set for ourselves that should be arriving next week!

As you enter the white archway into a large sun-baked courtyard, you are greeted with singing birds, a spa to your left and a calming view of the grounds. The limestone walls protect the yard where cactus lined corners, cozy nooks and haybeds spread on the fields creating a tranquil adults only setting, that offers you numerous places to unwind. The mood at poolside is perfect, with jazz playing in the background and silhouettes lounging on the chairs reading their holiday novels, we sip on our glass of rosé and soak in the sun that still is so hot in late September. Tea is served in the most beautiful pots and service is immaculate straight from the start as they great you at your car when entering the premises.

‘Eco-friendly & organic’

Converted into an elegant luxurious hotel, this organic farm covers about 100 hectares, with a relaxed philosophy of slow-chic culture. Set within acres of untainted beauty, it is situated 2 km from the Medieval town of Oria. The estate surrounds with almond and olive groves and gardens that cater to the kitchen on a daily basis for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Palombara is a working farm that prides itself on being self-sustaining. Most of the food on the menu is grown here or otherwise locally sourced from nearby smaller businesses. The food is robustly chic with the right amount of authenticity allowing the flavours to speak for themselves. This gem was set up by the very humble Angelo and Fabiola that make the place feel personal throughout the stay. They epitomise everything that a host should be and the presence contributes to that wonderful homely feel. The service throughout was top-level and Palombara offers value for money in every single aspect, creating that luxurious getaway retreat.

‘Nearby towns’

There is vast opportunity to explore cute nearby towns via car that are a must! This time, Mr. N and I decided to visit Martina Franca, Locorotondo and Grottaglie that are all in decent driving range from the masseria. All towns are worth visiting to soak up the beautiful white streets of the old towns that are more picture-esq than the next. Oria is also very close and one night decided to eat dinner there in a great fish restaurant. However, I do recommend to eat dinner at the masseria as the experience is fabulous. All the lit candles and soft music echoing from the arched walls add that ambiance on top of a delicious dinner.

As I took of my suede peacock slippers and dipped my toes into the pool, I collapsed onto the lounger, sipped on some green tea and got lost in the pages of my book. With palm trees casting shadows in the backdrop and green vases lining the white sunbeds, Mr. N and I embraced the chic poolside in pure relaxation. I love how accidentally the tea set matched my book and kaftan in the opal green tones… just heavenly and can’t wait to go back next year!

 

 

Read more here: Masseria Palombara
In collaboration with Masseria Palombara *

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Seafood Under the Pergola

Is there anything better than dining under the Umbrian sun?

The thick pergola umbrella casts a calm Italian ambiance perfect for those slow dinners with the family that last for hours. We dressed the table with a white table-cloth, placed candles, olive branches and lavender here and there creating that relaxing rustic chic look. We sipped on wine and grilled some simple seafood on an old-fashioned char grill that was built into the stone wall. We made a pot of classic french mussels set in the middle of the table where we all scooped some for ourselves. Looking back at these pictures, I still can taste the rustic bread that I scooped into the white wine sauce with a hint of fresh herbs in the background. The view over the hills was purely breathtaking, just green after green as far as the eye can see. We got dressed nicely, my sister-in-law dabbed on some red lipstick as she put baby B to sleep. We all cooked together and the men naturally took charge of the grill. We listened to music, danced and enjoyed the evening that prolonged until late after midnight and still cooked some steak later on. I still remember when my brother asked his wife P to dance and they were spinning in the backyard, it was one of the best nights of summer!

Seafood is such a great social food as everything is placed in the middle, easy to cook and always looks and tastes great! The key is to make a great marinade for the seafood, grill it to get that lovely char flavour and dress it with lemon and simple flavours, that’s really all you need! Scroll down for the recipes and inspiration for dining al fresco, country-style!

How to make the Seafood Marinade

Make the marinade in a bowl; add some olive oil, chopped parsley, chili and garlic. Use this marinade for the  different shrimps and octopus ( in separate bowls) and let them marinate for a few hours. Grill the seafood and add ground black pepper and salt if needed and brush the remaining marinade on top. Serve with lemon wedges.

Classic Moules Mariniére

2 kg Mussels (cleaned & beards removed) Wash mussels in cold running water. Press the shells of any open mussels together; if they don’t close, discard them. With a sharp knife pull out the beards and drain well.
1 onion finely chopped, 4 cloves garlic, handful of thyme, 2 bay leaves Over a medium heat in a large pot, sauté the onion, garlic and herbs in the butter for a few minutes.
150 ml dry white wine Add the mussels and white wine into the pot and cover with a lid. Cook for 5 minutes, until the mussels open.
Handful of chopped parsley Ready to serve: add in some chopped parsley (can add a splash of cream if you wish) and serve with rustic loaf to scoop the juices with.

 

 

 

shrimps evening paisely (1 of 1)

 

Spinach Pea side dish

Add a dollop of olive oil on a pan along with the grated garlic, a few leaves of chopped sage and the chopped shallot. Stir for a few minutes before adding the peas (we used frozen ones). Add ground black pepper, a pinch of salt. Then stir in a few large handfuls of fresh spinach and about a handful of grated parmesan cheese. Cook for a few minutes until the spinach wilt.

 

 

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Monokinis & Mornings in Umbria

Looking back at these pictures bring back June memories of our holiday, when the season of cherries was upon us. I still feel the moment of this morning, it was early and calm and I was enjoying the soft awakening of the nature in the countryside. My nephew was being fed in the kitchen and I was picking fresh herbs, grating lemon zest onto our morning bowls. I can almost feel the smell of the lemon and taste the sweetness of the cherries as I’m writing this post. The dark purple juicy pebbles make an easy breakfast when you combine them with pomegranate seeds/juice, yogurt and lemon zest and of course a few necessary herbs.

As you could sence the day was going to be a hot one, it was easiest to slip into a dark green monokini and feel the luxurious softness of the suede robe against my bare skin. I’m still so obsessed with this robe and looking back at these pictures, I love all the subtle green shades, from the olive branches to my outfit to the bowls and backdrop. When the early morning tiptoed upon us, the slowness of the countryside took over and allowed us to embrace silence so easily. You cannot get this feeling in the city and that is why I hold these country escapes even more dear to my heart.

Overlooking the mountains and eating breakfast on my favourite spot on the stone stairs was a real treat. I started this day barefoot to pick some fresh olive tree branches to decorate our table and was in awe of all the beauty around me. * Taking in a deep breath* I watched the sun cast shadows through the trees as it rose higher into the blue sky and I took another bite of my yogurt and let the day take over. 

 

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Heat Wave

Campello sul Clitunno, Italy

Next to our villa exists a tiny medieval village (close to spoleto) of campello sul clitunno that is nestled in the high hills of olive groves as far as the eyes can reach.  The view is quite spectacular from here, the castello stands out on the peak and is surrounded by its original walls that have kept the medieval heritage intact remaining back to the 14th century.

One morning when our men went our golfing, we decided to hike to the hilltop from our villa (keep in mind my sister-in-law was pushing a baby pram on the uneven roads) and I can tell you it was quite the workout in the intense heat when the thermometer starting pushing past 30 celsius degrees. But it was so great, we walked around the wiggly road in between the olive trees right into a beautiful limestone formation of houses, churches and a calming settlement inside the castle walls. Wild rosemary bushes grew in the corners of the pathways and faded roses stood still in the intense heat. The details on the church were beautiful and while my nephew played on the pebble ground, a cat sat in the shade observing every move. The views and feeling here were so serene in true Italian fashion.

Dressed in a white jumpsuit and a lace robe on a fine sunday, we headed out for a slow lunch to a traditional trattoria close to our villa. We had pre-scouted some Michelin guide restaurants from back home and made a reservation in advance to a trattoria that serves local robust cuisine called  Al Palazzaccio-da Piero. I can tell you it did not disappoint! We started with a shared antipasti and I followed this with some wild boar dumplings in a  broth and ended the course with some amazing roasted lamb stew that literally melted in my mouth. The cuisine was unpretentious and rustic, totally expected for the countryside atmosphere.

Gotta love the slow umbrian lifestyle

Above- the view of the castello from our villa

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Lavender lunches al fresco

 

lavender lunches

With my hair tied in a messy low bun, the warm summer breeze blows my sun bleached hair across my face as I pick a bouquet to decorate our table for lunch time. A raw mix of olive branches, rosemary and lavender that grow right beneath your feet is a rarity that excites me to the core as it smells divine and looks simplistically natural. We set the white linen on the table and decorate the rest with olive branches as the lush pergola gives us shade from the hot day air of about +35 celsius degrees. We prepare a fresh summer country-esq salad with Italian flair with a fiery vinaigrette that is perfect for hot days. The kitchen smells of garlic, rosemary and sage as the homemade croutons are frying away, while we sip on some dry local vino and enjoy our slow cooking moments in the midst of Umbria.

Ingredients for a summer style Italian Salad

  • cantaloupe melon
  • parma ham
  • figs
  • pecorino
  • home-made croutons (fry stale bread in rosemary, sage, garlic, olive oil, salt)
  • Spinach leaves
  • basil
  • jalapeno stuffed olives

vinaigrette: combine lemon juice, strong mustard, olive oil and a bit of sugar.

 

 

 

Dreamy Umbrian Mornings

‘Slow mornings in Italy are good for the soul’ is what I always feel after starting my days in such tranquil places.  Waking up under the Umbrian sun in this beautiful villa is what dreams are made of as I open the creaking door to the damp mountain air. Perched up on hillside, the olive grove spreads as far as the eye can see, the air smells of rosemary as the sun rises beautifully over the pergola on our terrace. Our men (aka my hubby and brother) left early for golf, so P (sister-in-law) and I decided upon a relaxing pool day to ourselves. We started the day with a workout exploring the surroundings that were breathtaking by the way and then when my little nephew fell asleep, we found ourselves at poolside taking in the amazing June heat. We started the day with strong espresso, tea and indulged in yogurt bowls that had fresh peaches, huge figs and thyme from our own bushes.  This is what I call, true morning bliss…

fig brekkie view (1 of 1)