Posts Tagged With: bellariaigeamarina

Part 3: Fried Green Sage at the San Salvador Hotel

Buongiorno a tutti,

Well this is the final part of my Bellaria Blog Tour Trilogy! If you haven’t seen the others yet have a look:

The Blog Tour was hosted by the San Salvador Hotel run by the lovely Poggi family. The hotel is practically on the seafront, just a minute’s walk from the beach, if that. The common areas of the hotel are bright, clean and well-maintained and the owners and staff are very friendly and welcoming (and speak English!).  There’s a lounging area outside with comfy seats and swinging chairs where you can relax with a drink from the bar.

The buffet style restaurant is on the first floor. I was really impressed with the quality and range of food and even more so by their vegetarian and vegan friendly dishes. The hotel takes great pride in their cuisine – most of it being freshly made at the hotel using their own produce. In fact, have a look at their own write-up here, their photos are better!

Now, I could turn my nose up at buffet style places – you never know how long the food has been out and it’s a bit exposed to the elements eh? But the food was always obviously fresh and the buffet style meant you could take whatever you fancied and go back for seconds.

These are a few snaps from the restaurant. I was particularly impressed by the juicer which clients could make use of. You can eat as healthily or as unhealthily as you want. They even have chia seeds to have on your breakfast.

Life as a vegetarian in Italy is sometimes a challenge for me – my options can sometimes be limited to just pasta with tomato sauce. At the hotel though they were serving stuff I didn’t think you could actually get over here: different dishes including tofu, soya and tempah.  See below for some of my meals.

The hotel offer cooking courses on occasion and on one rainy morning we learnt how to make biscuits called ‘Gialletti’ (the name coming from ‘giallo’ which means yellow, the yellow tinge coming from the polenta used to make them) and piadinas Emilia-Romagna style. For those that haven’t come across piadinas before, they’re a sort of flat bread – a fat tortilla. Italians heat them up in a frying pan and put tasty thing inside like rocket and squaquarone cheese (squaquarone is a very tasty soft cheese). Our piadinas contained lard so I didn’t get to taste the final result but it did encourage me to give it a go at home (using oil!).  The bottom right hand photo below shows our final efforts with the rocket, squaquarone and slices of meat.  I was particularly impressed with the biscuits – we got to keep them and my pack of 30 or so biscuits lasted for all of about 2 days.

I mentioned above that the food in the restaurant was made using local produce – well the bulk of it comes from the Poggi family’s own land a few minutes drive away from the hotel. On our final day we were given a tour of the estate and given the opportunity to harvest some of the food for that evening’s dinner. It was good to see how vegetables should be grown properly. I’m currently growing just salad which keeps getting eaten by slugs and herbs which are looking suspiciously brown. During our harvest, we collected marigold flowers, fennel fronds, courgette flowers and sage leaves to be fried in batter for our dinner later. In fact, it seems there’s nothing that they don’t fry in batter (I didn’t see mars bars admittedly).

And this is the end result of our harvest – fried things in batter (highly recommended – particularly the sage!) and vegetable pasta with some marigold leaves to garnish and some purple flowers (I can’t remember what they’re called).

The hotel rooms were bright, spacious and clean with comfy beds. My room had a large shower but other rooms had baths.  I had a balcony complete with clothes horse to dry clothes. All in all, a nice place to come back to after a day at the beach or touring around the local area.

The hotel also provided entertainment…. Outside the hotel there are various dance clubs and places running karaoke nights etc. Back at the hotel though, it was nice to chill out in the seating area downstairs. On one night I discovered just how stressful Connect 4 can be – who knew?! It’s very strategic and our ‘board’ was huge!

On our final night a local dance group came along and showed us their moves, and dragged us onto the dance floor with them! It was great fun. Some of the group dances reminded me of Zumba – in fact, it was the same music and almost the same moves! I really should start that up again.

So I think that about sums up my stay. I really enjoyed it and I’m so pleased to have been invited along. Thank you San Salvador Hotel!

If you want to see what some of my fellow bloggers had to say, check out their blogs here:

Forchetta e Valigia

Profumo di Follia

Giorni Rubati

Martinaway

I’ll b right back

21 Grammy

Petali di Margherita

Big Shade

Viagem na Italia

Non Solo Turisti

x

PS. I am available for all blog tours. I would particularly encourage luxury hotels in the Maldives to make use of my reviewing services.

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Part 1: Getting the beautiful air in Bellaria Igea Marina…

Buongiorno a tutti!

I had a wonderful few days in Bellaria Igea Marina on the Blog Tour last week. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a packed schedule. I stayed in the lovely “San Salvador Hotel”, a 3 star hotel just a minute’s walk from the beach.  The tour included tours of Rimini and Santarcangelo di Romagna, not to mention Bellaria Igea Marina itself. We had cooking lessons, we tried our hand at paddle-boarding, we harvested some vegetables (well, mainly flowers in fact!), we cycled and we danced… All in all, it was a busy week.  So as not to overload you with photos and blurb, I’ll split it into parts!

Firstly, the disclaimer: I do love Blog Tours – they’re like little all-expenses paid holidays where you’re fed and entertained for the duration. Their purpose is to promote the area. However, I’m not obliged by any means to write a good review. That being said, I do really like Bellaria Igea Marina and I think it’s definitely a worthwhile holiday destination. Yet, for us English folk and in fact, probably for many other nationalities, Italy as a beach destination offers a very different kind of holiday to that which we’re used to. Indeed, sadly, there aren’t many English people that visit. With that in mind, I don’t feel like I can properly sell the merits of Bellaria Igea Marina without explaining a bit about the Italian beach culture first.

Why choose Italy as a beach destination in the first place?

We English folk do like our beach destinations. What could be more relaxing that lying back in a little cove or bay, with golden sand and nothing and nobody around for miles? Bliss! The reality of course is that unless you fit within some very specific age ranges (or you’re me), there’s inevitably children or old people in tow that require 24/7 entertainment and relentless toilet trips. Nobody takes a beach umbrella on holiday (hardly worth buying one anyway in the UK is it?) so the true Brit will burn to a crisp within the first hour and spend the rest of the holiday bright red and in pain. There will always be an annoying and stubborn pebbly lump under our towels and if it’s a sandy beach; you, your towel and all your belongings will be covered in the stuff within a couple of minutes.

Italians love beaches too but they do them completely differently. On the face of it, they seem to ruin their beaches by piling them with back to back umbrellas and sunbeds. There are bars every couple of meters, volleyball courts, boules, ping pong tables and pop up market stalls on the beach selling everything from towels and sarongs to sunglasses. There are people that take your children away and entertain them (not in a sinister way I should add!). There are even people that take your bikini clad older people away and make them do “aerobics” (I use the term loosely –uncoordinated joint jiggling? Sadly I was unable to obtain photographic evidence without being obvious. You’ll just have to use your imaginations).

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One of the market stalls looking like it might get rained on soon. It was a wet few days on the whole so my photos all look a bit moody!

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On the right is what I think must be “boules”. This is where the elders seem to hang out!

Italy have commercialised their beaches like nowhere else I’ve ever been to. But the thing is, they’ve made it much more relaxing as a result! It takes a while to get used to and in fact, I was scathing for a long time until I realised that actually, it’s nice to spend time at the beach and drink water without fear of not finding a toilet later. It’s nice to be able to buy something to eat or drink. Or relax on a sunbed and not be burnt to a crisp or covered from head to toe with sand within two seconds of applying sun lotion. Or buy sunglasses because I’ve left mine at home. Women of all ages and shapes parade up and down the beach-front in their bikinis and men do the same in minuscule “slips” (“budgie-smugglers” for the rest of us) and nobody cares! To be honest, I think Italy is a worthwhile holiday destination for that alone! It’s a very liberating experience.  Visiting Italian beaches should be used in therapy. Deep seated paranoia about cellulite or batwings just falls away when you’re just one of a million other people who just seem to be content with what they’ve got, whether that be a “beach body” or a stomach that flops over your knees. In fact, covering up just draws more attention to yourself – you’re sort of forced into being body-confident.

Italians often visit the same “bagno” or “stabilimento” (little patch of sunbeds) every year for a life time. Their parents went, their children will go, and their children’s children will go. It’s a family tradition that seems to be passed down from generations and it brings not only the family together but all the people you’ve grown up with who have the same tradition. If I visit the same place more than once, I feel very guilty – I don’t want to miss out on the rest of the world but actually, what the Italians are gaining by having this tradition and culture is much more important in my opinion: friendship and family, and having a lot of fun whilst they’re at it.

And why come to Bellaria Igea Marina?

For a start, the clue is in the name – Bellaria means Beautiful Air! The beach is golden, sandy and clean. In fact, in the morning someone rakes the beach to clear it of debris. Rock barriers stretch along the coast a few dozen meters from the beach to protect it from large waves. The water is shallow for a long way out making it ideal for children. When I arrived on Wednesday morning it was brilliant sunshine and the water was almost at the temperature I might have a bath!

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See the rock barriers… it’s shallow pretty much all the way out!

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They put a lot of effort into their beach cleaning. Someone comes each morning to rake debris into piles and then this tractor and lorry combo come along to pick it up!

There are plenty of “bagni” to take advantage of – for a few euros you can take advantage of the sunbeds, umbrellas, toilets etc. Here are some photos of the beach…

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The advantage of such a busy beach is that there are lots of well-equipped lifeguards!

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Two ladies having a morning stroll along the beach front. Later on, the beach front becomes a positive super highway of people doing the same!

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As you can see, the beach is well used!

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And taken from the other side.

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This is what I think of as party pier! Boat trips go from the end of it. When I arrived they were on a loud speaker and sounding like they were having a great time!

For anyone liking seafood, Bellaria is THE place to come to for clam hunting. In the morning, the sea is filled with people wandering around knee deep searching for them.

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One clam picker

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This photo is admittedly not a fair representation of the sea being “filled” with clam collectors but I speak the truth, honestly!

And still on the beach theme, you can rent pedalos, canoes and my new personal favourite, paddleboards! They call it SUP here, pronounced “soup”  (apparently it’s an acronym of Stand Up Paddle). Paddleboarding is amazing fun – it was part of the tour so we all gave it a go. I’ve always considered it a sort of surfing for wimps. You have what looks like massive surfboard, and then you stand up on it and paddle your way out using a long oar like you’re a gondolier. It seemed a very ineffective and unstable means of transport and lacks the excitement of catching a wave like in surfing… Oh how wrong I was! It was hilarious! Trying to stand up on this thing is nigh on impossible. You have to make constant little adjustments to your balance in order to remain above water and it uses EVERY muscle! So, it’s actually an amazing workout and I can imagine it must be relaxing when you’ve mastered it and  you’re not in constant peril of falling in.

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Here’s one of our member having a go with Fabio, our instructor, providing moral support.

Bellaria Igea Marina is flat and with large tree-lined roads, it makes for ideal cycling. In fact, everyone seems to cycle everywhere! Our hotel, the San Salvador Hotel, offered the use of bikes and our first afternoon consisted of a cycle tour of the area.

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This was my bike. I loved it! THIS is how bikes should be. Baskets, a saddle bag area, comfortable sitting position, no complicated gear changing (there weren’t any to change!!!).  Alas, it’s a bit difficult to go up hills!

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Lovely tree lined streets pave the way for cycling.

One of our first stops was the La Torre Saracena, one of six towers built in the 17th century to defend the town from pirates and other ‘baddies’. Only two towers exist these days and one is now a private residence so it’s good this one is kept open to the public. Now it’s home to “Il Museo delle Conchiglie”, a shell museum where you can see shells from around the world.

Our next stop was “La Casa Rossa di Alfredo Panzini” (The Red House of Alfredo Panzini). Alfredo was a writer, born in 1863 and who died in 1939. He’s well-known in Italy, although I admit, I hadn’t heard of him before. He was a keen cyclist and once cycled from Milan to Bellaria (well over 300km), meeting people, stopping here and there and writing about his experiences. He bought the Red House in 1909 with his wife, Clelia Gabrielli who was an artist (all the paintings in the house are hers). The house has now been turned into a museum. You can see where Alfredo used to write, his desk, his bike, some of his notes and lots of photos.

On a less cultural note there are some good shopping streets selling all manner of things and wandering around makes for a pleasant evening stroll.

Just a few minutes walk from the hotel is Gelso Park which is a large green park with a lake, playgrounds, a dinosaur area (seriously) and large trees that grow blackberries (in fact, that’s where the park gets its name – Gelso is the name of the blackberry tree).

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These are some of my fellow bloggers taking a blackberry break! You might just be able to see one of our members up the tree.

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Beautiful lake at the park.

The area was affected quite heavily by the war – or at least Rimini was. Our 14 year old Bellaria Igea Marina enthusiast cycle guide showed us one of the last remaining reminders of the war – a bomb shelter hidden behind a fence and sunken into the sand.

So that’s Bellaria Igea Marina itself. The San Salvador Hotel provide a good description if you want to read it here. What makes it such a good location though in my opinion is its proximity to some of my other favourite places (click the links to check out my blog posts about them): San Marino, San Leo, Gradara, Forli, Urbino, Pennabilli to name just a few and then of course there’s Rimini and Santarcangelo di Romagna which I’ll tell you about in the next post.

Stay tuned!

x

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Part 2: Exploring the local area: Rimini and Santarcangelo di Romagna

Buongiorno a tutti,

As promised, here’s the second part of my latest Bellaria Igea Marina Blog Tour Trilogy. (When it’s made into a film I imagine it will be split into 4 films and I will be played by Angelina Jolie). If you haven’t seen Part 1 yet, have a look here.

Santarcangelo di Romagna

Our first out-of-Bellaria Igea Marina visit was to Santarcangelo di Romagna, just a few minutes drive from the hotel. It’s a very pretty town. In fact, they had only just had their “Balconi Fioriti” festa (Balconies in Flower) and all the balconies and houses had blossoms of all shapes and sizes outside. The cobbled streets reminded me of old villages back in the UK.

One balcony did make me laugh though…

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This would be like my attempt at producing a balcony flower display. I did find it strangely pretty though and definitely eye-catching from my perspective at least! I am slightly concerned for the owner’s welfare though. I hope it’s just a case of being a terrible gardener.

Our tour guide showed us around the town, taking us past the Tonino Guerra Museum. Tonino Guerra was a well-known writer, poet and screenwriter born in 1920 and died only recently in 2012. His work often featured butterflies as when he was held prisoner during the war, out of hunger he was forced to eat them. Afterwards they held a special significance to him, realising he no longer had to eat them made him happy.

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A mosaic fountain outside the Tonino Guerra museum. See the butterflies?

Just before the Tonino Guerra museum is the Button Museum. Yes, that’s right, buttons! There’s over 8500 of them in there! Sadly, we didn’t have time to visit.

In the main piazza, Piazza Ganganelli, there’s an archway called ‘l’Arco Trionfale’ or also ‘L’Arco Ganganelli‘. Legend has it that if you walk under the archway, the horns on the arch will move if someone has cheated on you. Ha!

Santarcangelo also has a sprawling man made cave network underneath it. The caves have been used for multiple purposes over the years. Nowadays many have been sectioned into private areas enabling the inhabitants living above to have more space: a sort of underground extension. They were also used as a bomb shelter during the war but their more long standing use seems to have been as a wine storage area as the temperature stays a pretty consistent 12 or 13 degrees. There are some curious parts in the cave system – for example, you’ll see in one of the photos below that some niches have been carved out of the rock. Experts have debated the purpose of the niched room – I think my favourite was a sort of meeting room where each person has their own niche (the explanation was more elaborate than that but that’s the gist!). Back when I used to have a proper job, I’d have enjoyed meetings a lot more if I could have had my own niche.

 

Cantina Tour

After Santarcangelo, we went to visit Collina Dei Poeti, an agriturismo (sort of B&B set in an agricultural setting of some sort) and cantina (wine producer in this instance!) set in some lovely countryside that produces Sangiovese wine, a wine typical of the Emilia-Romagna region. We were given a tour of the estate,  showed the vineyards, olive groves and a couple of rows of Gelso trees (you might remember from the last post that they produce a sort of blackberry). After the tour, we had an opportunity to taste the wine. Now, this is where it’s very noticeable going on a wine tour with Italians. I’m generalising here of course but, Italians are just awful drinkers despite their passion for wine. For example, the guide opened up a bottle of their fizzy Sangiovese wine – shared between 9 of us, the bottle remained half full and  people were questioning their ability to cope with a second, let alone a third glass. IMAGINE! Still, it was good wine and it was complimented with some of their own olive oil doused bread and some other aperitivo style treats. All in all, it was a lovely finish the day, even if I did feel like a raving alcoholic by the end of it!

Rimini

Our final trip was to Rimini. I’ve been to Rimini before and liked it a lot. This time though, we had a tour guide that gave us some insights. Rimini was heavily bombed during the war and many buildings needed to be reconstructed. In fact, some were never rebuilt and remain as ruins as reminders of what happened.

I hadn’t noticed the graffiti in Rimini last time I was there but it really is very good – in fact, calling it graffiti seems to be a bit disrespectful! Have a look at the photos below. I love the old lady in the smoke and if you click on the image of what seems to be an old stone relic next to the water, you might be able to see that it’s just painted like that and it’s not made of antique stone!

Rimini has some fascinating roman relics. In Piazza Ferrari lie the uncovered remains of “The Surgeon’s House“. They know a surgeon lived there because of the tools uncovered that are remarkably similar to the ones still used in the operating theatre today. Mosaics cover the floor. They dug down a couple of meters to discover these relics. It’s amazing to think that under Rimini there could be a lot more. It also struck me how similar it was to our own roman ruins – in fact, I remember visiting a very similar example in Fishbourne Roman Palace in Sussex years ago. The thought that at one point, our nations were so similar and inhabited by the same people, but are now so entirely different is quite mind boggling I think! I live so much in the present that it’s a struggle to imagine this surgeon going about his business in the 2nd century AD. They even know which room he used to meet clients in.

We also explored the “Tempio Malatestiano” which was commissioned by Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta around 1450.  The Malatesta Family (known as the House of Malatesta were an Italian family that ruled over Rimini from 1295 until 1500, as well as (in different periods) other lands and towns in Romagna. Sigismondo (what a great name) became Lord of Rimini at the age of 15 and the family has quite the story of deceit and  corruption (like all politicians then!!). The Tempio Malatestiano was originally known as San Francesco, a gothic church but Sigismondo decided it would make a nice personal mausoleum for him, his lover and later his wife. So he organised a sort of extreme makeover style regeneration and the external walls were covered by thick marble carved with Malatestian symbology. It certainly is a very grand church. You can see in the photo below the external marble arches that were built to cover the original stone windows. There’s some very elaborate stonework inside too. I was struck by a creepy looking cherub, photo evidence below. I can’t ever work out if they’re forces for good or evil! And finally, I took a picture of the inside of the church and I was surprised to see the rather ghostly looking white figure in it. I’m sure she wasn’t there when I took the picture… !

Walking around Rimini, our excellent tour guide gave us a very detailed and interesting account of the buildings and history of the city.   The lady with the bike in the photo below is riding through what used to be a fish market. The religious looking chap in the statue below is in Piazza Cavour and is of San Gaudenzo, the patron saint of the city… or is it? No, apparently it’s actually Pope Paul V but the dedication was changed when the anti-papal Napoleonic troops invaded with the hope they wouldn’t destroy (it worked). The arch there has been in the wars, literally. The top part needed to be reconstructed after the bombing and it looks a bit worse for wear these days. There used to be a bronze statue on top which has never been seen or heard of since it’s disappearance (I’m not entirely sure how they know there was one – there’s nothing in the books and no photographic evidence! Perhaps my house used to have a bronze statue on too). The bridge, has seen it’s fair share of history as well, once spanning across a river which has now been diverted. All in all, far from what many people regard as just a seaside resort, there’s actually a lot of history within Rimini’s town center and it’s well worth a visit.

I think that largely sums up the visits… Please tune in for Part 3: Fried Sage at the San Salvador Hotel.

x

 

 

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