Last month we went on a five-day skiing trip to Val di Fassa in the Northern Italian region of Trentino. The last few years we shifted from skiing in Austria to skiing in Italy, and that's mostly because we became real enthusiasts about all things Italian, but also because we find Italian slopes to be really well maintained, often wide and sunny, and then, there is this atmosphere of wildness, roughness and the sense of freedom that you get surrounded by bare rocky peaks of the Dolomites.Read More
It's been a while since spring has sprung- magnolia blossoms are gone, cherry and plum blossoms are gone, the bridal-wreath spirea growing on our terrace is in full white bloom, and lavender just started popping out little green heads that will soon turn pale lavender colour- a sign that summer is just over a month away. And I decided to write a post about our wintery visit to the Italian Dolomites. The main reason I am doing this now (and not two months ago) is that I'm legging behind with my posts, but also, last month's weather was kind of crazy here in Croatia. In the middle of April, the temperatures dropped drastically with strong wings on the coast and even snow in some parts of the country. A reminder that spring is still spring- a beautiful, unpredictable season of sunny days, flowers and bright green nature, but also of chilly evenings, rain, and occasional snow. Not just a short step between winter and summer, that seemed to be happening the last few years. So.
Back to our wintery escape in Dolomites. I love mountains- just a few days spent on the sharp mountain air surrounded by snowy peaks clear my mind and recharge my body. I also love skiing, spending the entire day in the open, rushing down the slopes, being phisically active, drinking hot chocolate in the mountain huts, all of it. So each year, we try to choose a nice area, that is not owerflown with skiers or overbuilt with hotel chains. This year, we also wanted to go somewhere relatively close to us, so we ended up in ski area San Pellegrino / Alpe Lusia in Italian Veneto region (yes, apart from Venice, Verona, Padova, Vicenza and other beautiful towns, there is also skiing in Veneto).
For the first time in years, we stayed at a hotel where we had breakfast in the morning and dinner waiting for us after a long skiing day, and I have to admit it was one of the best skiing holidays (in the true sense of the word). The area itself is beautiful, Italian Dolomites being somewhat rougher than Austrian Alps- lay your eyes on those sharp rocky peaks and you instantly know you're in the Dolomites. What I loved most about San Pellegrino and Alpe Lusia ski area were wide, well kept slopes with not as many skiers as one would expect, and breathtaking vistas all around. Soaking in the scenery was one part of the beauty, rushing down the perfectly laid slopes the other. Even the food and the architecture of the huts were few steps ahead of most Alpine huts I've been to. Savoring a local dish with a beautifully framed mountain view? Yes, please! So we spent five days of sun (and trust me, we had our fair share of snowy storms and dense fog in our skiing history), wind biting us on the ckeeks, real skiing fun, hot chocolate with cream, magenta colored sunsets, some good Italian wine (extra points for that!), and the feeling of exhaustion that is good for you, exhaustion of being out in the open all day, something that has become a luxury in this frenzy world.
I feel like we found our spot, a place to return to.
*This article was made possible thanks to Ski Area San Pellegrino and Ski Area Alpe Lusia. We had an amazing time and we're truly hoping to be back.
I love spring- when I was a child this affection was connected to spring break, my birthday and lighter clothes. I remember asking my mother- When can I start wearing short sleeves? How many degrees Celsius does it have to be? That hasn’t changed, I still love to ditch my winter clothes, but I also love longer days, scent of spring, field trips and most importantly, nature’s awakening in abundance of fresh vegetables, fruits and flowers. I am literally a spring child.
This spring is special because of ours kind of an unecspected journey to Japan. Our dear friends moved to Japan last autumn, and it didn’t take us too long to respond to their kind invitations to visit them. :) Apart from admiring all of the perks of Japan, we had so much fun with them, that these few weeks just flew by!
Spring in Japan was something I dreamed of for a long time, but I never thought I was actually going to catch the magical cherry blossoms (Sakura in Japanese) in their full bloom, giving that it only lasts for about a week, until first spring rain or stronger wind blows off their tender petals.
We did book our trip according to Sakura forecast (there are Japanese sites which are giving the blossom-loving Japanese nation and enthusiastic tourists an updated insight in blossoms), but once we arrived, it seemed that the blossoms, at least cherry blossoms kept escaping us. It took some chasing through Tokio, Kanazawa, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, to finally catching the majestic grand finale of full bloom in Tokio. Our last few days in Japan were dedicated to flowers, after all, what is more Japanese than admiring cherry blossoms?
Although cherries are the leading stars of spring in Japan, we enjoyed and captured other beautiful spring blossoms aswell. We especially liked the Ume, or japanese plum with its magenta colored (Denis, I'm pointing at you ;)) flowers. We also liked the Umeshu sweet liquor, made from Ume fruits, alcohol and sugar. It reminded me of ever-popular Croatian sour cherry liquor. Now that we are in Croatia, everytime we see a tree that even resembles Japanese plum, we say: “Look at this beautiful Ume!”
This first post about Japan is dedicated to awakening of spring in all of its colors and shapes, it feels only right at the moment, when nature bursts with beauty in our part of the world aswell. I presume there will be another post about blossoms, it would be a shame not to share all of the photos we made. :)
Enjoy the spring!
Soča river valley has sort of become our traditional summer escape: when the heat and the crowds on the Istrian coast become a bit too much for us, we tend to pack our alpine shoes and camping gear and head for a few days to the Slovenian town of Bovec, a central point of all sporting activity in the area.
This summer, we decided to stay in a camp site on the Soča river bank, near the little place called Trenta. It is a cool camp, since you get to fall asleep listening to the river, watch the chamois climbing the steep rock on the other side of the valley, or a little dormouse running up and down the tree next to your tent, have a nice cake and a tea in a cozy little camp bar, cool your drinks in the river, dip your feet in the water for just a minute (because that's the longest before your ankles start to hurt), and as in all camps, enjoy the time before dinner, when all of the campers start preparing meals and the delicious scents in a combination with fresh air make you even hungrier.
Except for the time we enjoyed in the camp, we also took a few bike rides and hikes in the surroundings, as each and every trail in the Slovenian Alps is a treasure of its own. We met a group of Slovenians who have been coming to Trenta for years, and they were pretty good advisors on hiking trails and hidden natural jewels. Thanks to them, we discovered Zapotok Waterfalls (Zapotoški slapovi in Slovenian), where you can even take a swim under the waterfall (if you're not too cold sensitiv). We hiked a part of the Soča river trail starting from our camp, and it wasn't that easy as it seemed while we were driving around in our car. We made some pictures along the way, I hope you'll enjoy them! What's your favorite escape? ( It doesn't have to be summer nor nature! :) )
For more Slovenian Alps, head here.
We are always up to discovering a new nature escape, especially if it's a) a lake b) off-the- tourist radar. So when I read a little passage about Lago di Ledro in Lonely Planet Italy guide (I find the most interesting places and experiences in those separated excerpts) I got curious, and when I found a perfect b&b to spend a night in there, I was convinced that we have to go.
The lake is situated in the northern Italian province of Trentino, about half an hour drive from Riva del Garda, a city located on the northern tip of the lake Garda. Given the proximity of the two lakes, Ledro is surprisingly peaceful and "undiscovered" compared to Garda.
After a really long drive along the busy riviera of Lago di Garda (as always, we decided to skip the highway and drive the scenic road by the lake, but, as always it took too long), we were anxious to finally get to the lake.
We were tired from the never-ending drive and not so overwhelmed with the mass tourism of Lago di Garda, but when we caught a first glimpse of Ledro and tucked our feet into its green water, we knew it would be a lovely two days!
Our b&b Enjoy Ledro in Pieve di Ledro was really neat- every room was decorated in different style, and we chose to stay in the Alpine-hut styled room in the attic with sweet wooden details. Our host, Beatrice served a lovely breakfast- raspberry milkshakes, homemade pies, tiny jars of cheesecakes with the background music played on a gramophone. Very cool.
But, the best part of our stay was the fact that she also provided city bikes for her guests, and the two of us made the most of it. :) Cycling tracks connect the nearby villages and there is a route that circles around the lake, but there are parts where the track disappears and you have to drive on the main road, alongside with the cars. Since the traffic around the lake is not that dense, that wasn't a problem.
The cycling/walking path around the lake is beautiful, and so is the lake itself. As you change your point of view, so does the water color- it's dark blue, turquoise, dark green or just crystal clear in the shallows. The water is really clean and the temperature is good for bathing- it reaches 24 degrees Celsius in the summer months, which is pretty high for an Alpine lake.
I liked the fact that the lake is not overcrowded with tourists, and there was just about right amount of swimmers, walkers, yachstman and cyclists to make it a lively but relaxing place.
For some people, the tropical beaches represent the perfect escape, for other the Mediterranean sun, but for me it's the mountains and the lakes. There is nothing more fulfilling then breathing the crisp mountain air with a profound woody scent, soaking up the sparkling greenery of alpine meadows, watching the clouds accumulating over the mountain peaks or the traces of misty fog surrounding the fir trees, and above all, resting my eyes on the changing colors of the lake waters.
I always think about how some people are lucky enough to call those places home, and imagine what it's like to live there, what's their daily routine, do they miss the buzz of the city, or does the nature make up for the things one might miss when living in a small community. I'd like to try it out for myself sometime. :)
Thanks to our host, we discovered a perfect agrotourism called Agritur La Dasa, situated above the nearby village of Bezzecca. They're producing their own dairy and meat products, but also serve hearty local meals for lunch and dinner. We enjoyed the cheese plate (the smoked riccotta is something special), home made spinach gnocchi (so soft and gooey) and delicious pasta al ragu. Few can beat their location- you can enjoy the view of the lake from their terrace or the greenery of nearby meadows and mountains, and if you visit by night, in the silence of the valley, you can hear the cows chewing the grass just below the terrace.
The whole family works on a farm, with father being the head chef, who speaks only the local version of Italian but is more then happy to hang around and explain the menu to his guests. When I asked him if they had Tripadvisor (with intention on writing an excellent review) he didn't understand what was I talking about. Then his wife told us that she heard about it, but they were not using it. It was the middle of the week, and they were full for dinner. Well, that speaks enough about the quality of their products.
Our stay was short, and we spent most of or time by the lake, because it works like a magnet for peace and calm longing visitors, but next time I'd love to explore more of this extraordinary beautiful region. I feel like we just scratched the surface of what Trentino has to offer.