Review of the Hotel Da Vinci Milan

As promised a review of the Da Vinci Hotel in Milan.

I visited the big purple Da Vinci in November staying for a couple of nights only. My daughters were going to a concert and I jumped at the chance to tag along for the ride.

The train journey was easy and fast enough. Great for me as I love train travel here in Italy and Europe. We were lucky enough to find a special offer on Booking.com but we went onto the hotel website and got an even better deal.

We arrived on a crisp, clear evening just before the sun went down. Check in was fast and easy but we were not offered any help with our bags. Another family checking in at the same time and with lots of luggage had to ask. This wasn’t a problem for the hotel who called for a member of staff to come and help immediately. Since we had small suitcases, we didn’t bother.

Our room was spotlessly clean, decorated in modern style and just like the photos. What a relief! The decor was modern and chic and we had a balcony which we didn’t use due to the cooler November weather. It would’ve been better in warmer weather, although the view of Milan is not particularly picturesque as Italian views go.

The only fault that I could find with the room is that being British, we do like a cuppa at all sorts of times of the day. There was a mini bar but we really wanted a cup of tea when we arrived and tea and coffee making facilities would have been great. We could call for room service but let’s face it a kettle and some cups, tea and milk would have left us feeling very satisfied.

Hotel Da Vinci Milan

The bathroom was modern and clean with a  huge shower, no bath but that was fine for us. The decor was purple in keeping with the hotel’s theme and there were the usual bathroom freebies such as shampoo, shower gel, shower cap and soaps.

Hotel Da Vinci

We didn’t realise on arrival that we were right next door to a very handy train station which was just one stop from the metro. When we arrived we’d wallked 900 metres from the Comasina stop on the metro which was fine as we didn’t have a lot of baggage but if we’d known that we could have travelled 1 more stop and then have access to a station which brought us closer to the hotel, it would have been better. The easy access from the hotel to the metro makes it fairly central to Milan city centre so I would recommend it if you want to see the city.

We didn’t eat dinner at the hotel but the menu was varied and looked to be reasonably priced. The restaurant being down in the basement area.

The tv  whilst not complicated to work, promised lots of channels but was too time consuming to set up and we had Milan to see. The next morning we went down to the basement breakfast restaurant which was crowded. We found one of the last tables and helped ourselves to the buffet style breakfast. There was a huge choice from fruit to eggs, salads to cereals, cakes and juices galore. So many types of tea to choose from as well as coffee. I like a good breakfast so I made sure I ate well. The quality was good even for mass catering.

Hotel Da Vinci

We didn’t try out the cocktail bar and it was only when we were leaving that we found where it was. It was downstairs near the check-in desk but set back and private. For some reason, I had it in my head that it would be down near the restaurant but it wasn’t. I will be going back there later on this year so I’ll review the bar and restaurant then.

Overall, a good stay., I’ll be going back, I’m looking forward to it and I’ll explore more of their facilities. I would recommend the hotel as a short stay, business meetings and for a stay of a week used as a base to explore further afield.

 

 

Lucca Mercatino Antiques

Every third weekend in the month Lucca holds its antiques market.

I love to go and explore the stalls and weave my way from piazza to piazza down the cobbled medieval streets.

There are a wealth of goodies to be found from paintings to carvings, murano glassware, furniture and yes, being Italy you can find a designer bargain from a pre-loved Italian handbag or stylish classic woolen coat. I did actually spot a Chanel quilted flap bag (unpriced) as well as Italian favourite brands such as Gucci and Prada on one of the stalls.

The weather here has been warmer than the seasonal norm here this winter and I knew it wasn’t going to rain. Perfect for browsing the antiques and also the sales which started here on 5 January and the rules are that they continue for 60 days. There are no flash sales here just twice a year, January and July. Incidentally the summer sales start on 7 July and run right up until 4 September.

Mercatno Antiquario Lucca Tuscany

Lucca is also perfect for trying out a new bistro or coffee bar and although I didn’t lunch, I found a sophisticated coffee bar on the Via Fillungo. I’ll have to get back to you with the *name as I hadn’t intended reviewing it. The cakes were not too special though and one was rather dry.

I did go to a great little restaurant with my lady friends the other day called L’Isola Che Non C’era, tel 0583 057384 for reservations. We had a great lunch for around 20€ with a glass of very good wine and a coffee after. No dessert as we were saving ourselves for a cake and coffee later that afternoon. The staff were pleasant and even though we forgot the time (we can really chat when we get going), we were not rushed and we actually left feeling a bit guilty for keeping the place open.

At the end of oir Lucca trip and being in antiques overload mood, we visited the Mercatino dell’Usato just on the outskirts of Lucca. It’s a treasure trove with tons of things. You need time and a warm coat, it’s freezing in there. Prices are fair with bargains to be had if you can find them. Items over two months old are reduced by 50% at the till and articles that have been there for a year or more have a whopping reduction of 75% at the till. Not all articles have this reduction. Some undated ones are the price on the label.

Mercatino dell'usato vintage shop Lucca

Outside there are statues and garden furniture, even old carriages but I like the inside with retro goods galore. It’s a great place for finding vintage pieces if you’re setting up a holiday rental or b & b.

Mercatino dell'usato Lucca

  • Update!

The little bar is Il Bernino , the cakes were better this time too. Prices are 3.50€ for home made pastries and 2.50€ for home made cake. They also do some interesting looking cocktails with and without alcohol so I’ll be going back to try.

 

Hey, Where Did The Time Go

Summer Sagras and Other Distractions

Hey, where did the time go?

My last post was at the start of summer and we’re now here on the edge of wintertime.

Not good enough I hear you say, and I agree. I looked at my blog last week and I got started almost a year ago. I was full of enthusiasm of how great it would be telling you all about living in Italy-

Well it isn’t that good really, mainly because I’ve had a lot of distractions and I travel in the summer and there are tons of events on in this area of Tuscany. We have sagras where we all flock to local venues such as school play grounds, sports fields or church gardens or land, where we eat good, simple meals prepared using wonderfully fresh, seasonal local ingredients. Top that with lashings of local and cheap wine or prosecco, a band and dancing and you’ve got a fun evening.

These sagras normally pay homage to a certain food such as polenta or pork or chestnuts but generally you go and eat a good plate of pasta, a second course and a pudding. Who could ask for more on a balmy summer evening!

 

 

 

sagras in Italy

So, back to my blog, I have decided to be myself and to share my experiences properly. I’m off to Milan for a few days next week so I’ll be reporting on my trip there.

Other up and coming events include the Christmas markets at Florence, oh and the chocolate festival, yet again, from Barga!

Sagra in Tuscany

Summer’s Here, Italian Style

Well summer is here and my little town is full of visitors and starting to get very lively.

It’s the last day of school before the long 3 month summer holiday snd the tradition is that the kids soak themselves with water before going home.

I love the warm weather particularly the  breakfast ritual. Going the bar for a pastry and cappuccino to watch Italian life go by. My town has a Saturday market and so there’s lots of action, friends meeting, cheek kissing, hands frantically moving to embellish the conversation….. Love it all.

At around 12.30 things start to quieten here. Local people are conscious of the 1pm lunch deadline and town empties out. The only ones left at the bar are visitors who lunch there and take in the sunshine.

My cappucino cup is empty. I have chatted and met up with some old friends but  I am semi-local so I’m anxious to get back home for my pasta

Summer’s here!

Thailand Travelling and Musing

Having lived in rural Italy for nearly 12 years I have learned never to expect the mundane and that every single day will present something unusual.

I am travelling around Thailand at the moment with a friend who lives mostly in London. The differences in our handling of situations are vast. My friend becomes irate at almost every inconvenience, every little set back and has no patience when a local person is trying to tell us something.

I on the other hand listen and look and of course smile. It then becomes much easier to understand what I am being told.

I am used to strange and unexpected things happening in my life (I do live in the country after all!). Things such as our taxi running out of petrol in the middle of Bangkok at 2 in the morning. My friend was furious and stormed off. I just flagged another one down and started again. The taxi drivers here seem to just cover one area of Bangkok (where I am currently) and so don’t know the other parts of the zone. This infuriated my companion here but as I keep saying, this isn’t London, life here is much more exiting!

Customs and general behaviour are obviously different. Religion, culture. It needs to be respected not compared to “back home”. Living in Italy, even such a short distance from my birth country has taught me that things done a different way aren’t wrong, they are just different and one shouldn’t anger because something is done in a different way. Instead, it is an opportunity to find a fascinating insight of into the culture.

Spring is in the Air

Spring is in the air here in Tuscany and life is a buzz..!

Seriously, the moment the sun comes out to visit after winter time, every one is out having a strim.

Here in Italy, well, in the Tuscan countryside, the only way to garden is to use a strimmer. The sun rises and  all day long buzzing of keen Italian gardeners cutting back the new growth of the season fills the air, and believe me things can grow really fast here in sunny Tuscany!

The first sign that spring is coming is the appearance of the Mimosa. It is given to ladies on the “Festa della Donna” or International Women’s day. It has tiny yellow fragrant flowers and grows very easily in these parts. Not only is it very common here but it’s also extremely versatile. You can use it to make cakes and drinks. Hmmmm, maybe I’ll let you have a recipe for this in the near future.

We’ve been joining in the spring time gardening fever and have cleared a small piece of land that we have. This land can only be used for planting though and not for animals. We do have another tiny piece that can only be used to tether animals so there’s a great place if the kids start to play up!

Now that we have cleared our land we will wait until the end of April or May time and start our “orto” or veg patch but I won’t be adhering to the local custom of planting certain plants when the moon is at a particular stage in its cycle, that’s far too complicated for us.

Italian garden

We’ll grow the staple tomatoes, both salad and normal, courgettes (zucchini), aubergine, cucumber and peppers. Yummy, can’t wait. There’s nothing more satisfying than just nipping out to the garden to pick a basket full of vegetables and then going back to cook and eat them the same day. Love it.

We have rescued our poor fig tree which was overwhelmed by brambles and elder (sambuco). This plant will be my absolute joy this summer when it should produce two crops of delicious figs. My favourite. I eat the the whole fruit, and very quickly I might add, but Italian friends of mine howl with laughter because they don’t eat the skin. Just the insides but that is a subject for another post in the future.