Wednesday, 27 August 2014


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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Best Cars for a Summer Road Trip

Everyone dreams about one day setting off into wilderness in a sleek and shiny sports car, with the roof rolled back and nothing but the open road ahead of them. The allure of a cross-country summer road trip need not be just a fantasy however; all it takes is a little organisation, a map, good company and away you go.

Perhaps you want to country hop, or just explore your own country in more detail. Either way, with the help of a satnav or an old school A-Z, a road trip promises to be an unforgettable summer experience, whether you take to the road alone or gather a group of friends for the backseats.

The most important thing to think about before you set off is your choice of car. For the more money-struck, it might not be a case of choice so much as a scrabble for the cheapest piece of metal on the market, but it still helps to consider your options. Are you going to be driving along gritty, country roads, or do you need something that’s going to zip you down those winding mountain lanes in style? Or perhaps you’re thinking about the environment and want the most atmosphere-friendly ride on the road.

Here’s a little peak at which cars are the most suitable for your trip category by category:

Great for long distances

Volvo S40 1.9D S

For those planning seriously long journeys, it’s important to check if your car is capable of covering the miles. The Volvo S40 1.9D S has been voted one of the best long distance and commuter cars by owners. With air con, leather seats and built in CD player, you definitely won’t be in for an uncomfortable ride. And at less than £2000 for a second hand model, this car shouldn’t break the bank.

The most economic

Peugeot 308 1.6 HDi 

With all eyes on the environment, especially with this summer’s heatwave well underway, it’s crucial to think about which car is going to be the kindest on the fuel gage. Make sure you don’t have to face the additional stress of hunting down petrol stations every couple of miles by taking a look at more fuel (and wallet) friendly vehicles. The Peugeot 308 1.6 HDi has consistently been voted one of the most fuel-efficient cars on the road, sipping lightly at the tank and emitting just 120kg of CO2 per km. As an added bonus, it has a huge boot and under floor storage bins for those needing extra space.  

Ideal for the budget conscious

Volvo 740

Great for cash-strapped students or those on a budget. It’s never going to win the car catwalk, but the Volvo 740 is certainly one of the most reputed cars in terms of reliability, and price. You can pick up a pre-owned version for under £1000, and with enough space for a small family or group of four, if times get really tough it can also double-up as temporary accommodation. No matter what mileage is listed on the clock, it’s not going to break down half way down the road.

Comfiest ride

Land Rover Range Rover

A little more on the pricy side, if you’ve got money to spare this car certainly comes up trumps in terms of comfort. Which? users rated this car at 98.6% for satisfaction, making it one of the most highly praised cars on the block. It may not be the most practical urban vehicle, but if you’re hitting the country hills, or plan to enter snowier climates, this car won’t disappoint. And the best bit? It’s got gadgets galore, with 11 speakers, a 7-inch touch screen TV, parking sensors, and rear view cameras.

Best for off and on road

Land Rover Discovery

Depending on where you plan on heading, you might need a car which can tackle the dirt lanes without signs of discomfort and displeasure. The 7-seater Land Rover Discovery is not only the best on and off road car, but it’s also perfect for big families or those who like a little extra wiggle room. The car comes with a top sound system, intuitive satnav, four wheel drive and even the option of a 360 degree camera operation system to navigate you through those extra tight spots.

Doing it in style

Ferrari California

Winner of the style awards, the Ferrari California is one of those racy, red rides that most people can only dream of. Enjoy the envious stares from onlookers as you glide luxuriously through the streets in this flash sports car. Brand new, this will set you back £120,000, or around the £80,000 - £90,000 mark for one that’s been pre-loved.

Reliable old banger or glamourous, celebrity-style motor – which one are you going to choose for your summer road trip? Whichever vehicle makes the cut, don’t forget to get your shades on, wind the windows down and enjoy life on the road. Oh, and stock up on oil, a spare tyre and water.

Hollie Mantle is a blogger writing in association with car dealership JT Hughes.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Good Memories

A good vacation makes lasting memories, and a keepsake from a special place can spark smiles and help keep those good times close at heart.  For many, the flavors and ambiance of a great meal in Italy is especially memorable - and those culinary experiences are now transportable in the form of a Buon Ricordo plate.

Buon ricordo means "happy memory" and also explains the goal of this unique program.  Buon Ricordo is a non-profit association of restaurants founded to promote and publicize the diversity and value of local cuisine.  In Italy, regionalism still abounds; the dishes you enjoy in Tuscany are different from the traditional fare of Puglia, for example, and local products vary as well.  The program bands together a group of individuals who treasure their traditions and want to share them with others through carefully prepared meals that are served up with a heaping helping of hospitality - the kind of dining experience that is memorable.  The Buon Ricordo goes home with the guests who keep a decorative dish from that eatery.

There are more than 120 members whose restaurants proudly prepare their regions' recipes using local products and serve them on hand-painted Vietri ceramic plates bearing the name of the restaurant along with a design that highlights their specialty.  They are collectable, colorful souvenirs, and some plan their vacation destinations around Buon Ricordo restaurants' locations.

The house specialties may change from time to time to highlight a different regional dish, as well as a new accompanying plate.  The program helps keep local traditions alive but also draws people to visit some out-of-the-way towns in the search of a guaranteed good meal.  It's also a good way to find a friendly, authentic restaurant in the midst of a busy tourist-oriented city.  The plate you take home beats a t-shirt or a snow globe!  It's sure to be a buon ricordo of your Italian vacation experience.

Say It With a Kiss

The sweet little treats known as Baci by Perugina Chocolates are a "kiss" of chocolate-hazelnut, but they started out with a less than romantic name.  Concocted in 1907 by Luisa Spagnoli, one of the founders of Perugina, as a way to utilize bits of hazelnuts that were left over from other candies, she mixed up a 'dough' of chocolate hazelnut paste, pressed in a whole hazelnut and covered it all in dark chocolate.  She displayed them in the shop window of the famed chocolatier in via Vannucci, in the heart of  Perugia and called them "cazzotti" (punches) because the irregular blobby shape looked like a boxing glove.

Despite the odd moniker they sold well, but Giovanni Buitoni, the other partner in the business, was a man made for marketing and knew it needed a name change:  something short and sweet and endearing.  Bacio.  Kiss.  It sparked his creativity.  Grasping on the theme of affection, he decided to include a love note in each chocolate, a quote by famous literary figures on the theme of amore, like a message in a bottle (or in chocolate, as the case may be.)  He tweaked the shape to be more appealing while retaining the original recipe of Luisa, which was becoming more and more popular, then wrapped them up in the now-distinctive silver foil adorned with blue stars.

The Bacio became a symbol, a way to express affection and send a secret love note to someone.  Recipients started collecting the love notes as keepsakes.

Through the years new packaging options were introduced - ethereal-themed boxes and blue star-shaped tins, for example, and the little treat went national.  Since then, Perugina has constantly introduced new Baci-themed gadgets and fanciful packaging - a blue and silver Vespa model with the Baci logo; hollow chocolate Christmas balls filled with the candies; lockets and Easter eggs and Baci bouquets, among them.  But the candy itself remains an unchanged icon.

Baci by Perugina remains a way to express affection.  If you want to say it with sweetness and chocolate, say it with a kiss!

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The agencies of tourist guides in Sorrento: to turn the holiday into a magical experience

Nowadays we are in possession of many tools that allow us to organize our holidays completely independently. We must admit, however, that these solutions are not the best choice if we want to turn a vacation into a magical experience, an unforegetable holiday perfectly able to satisfy our every need, our every wish and even the smallest desire that could be born in us during the holiday. Maybe you do not think that you have any desires to meet and that's because you've never been to Sorrento and its peninsula. These lands are so rich, overflowing with history, traditions and secrets to discover that they will create a thousand different desires in you.

In this case, then the best solution for your vacation in Sorrento will be to rely on the agencies touirst guides, agencies that allow you to explore the area in the best way possible and to give you a magical vacation, making it a real unforgettable dream. What can agencies do for you?

The agencies allow you to organize trips of all types. You will have the opportunity to reach every town on the Amalfi coast, such as, for example, Positano, Ravello not to mention of course the islands of Capri and Ischia. You will see towns that seem to be on the verge of throwing themselves in the waters of the sea. In fact, perched atop steep cliffs. You will see vast beaches, but also full of small intimate coves. You will see restaurants that have amazing views, where you will be able to enjoy the local dishes and pastries that are seen all over the streets of the towns, streets where cars could never be able to pass, with window displays of specialities and scents that comes from every corner of the town. You will see the lemons with their yellow intense skins that are grown, overlooking the sea and the vines from which comes the grapes for fine wines. You will see churches that are
beautifully sun-kissed and who are dressed  for the events of the towns.

Not only will the agencies allow you to sail the sea on a sailing boat to experience all this from a distance or to get on a helicopter to see Sorrento and all its wonders from above. Do you want to go around the wineries?  Want to visit a farm in the area?

Do you want to discover the secrets of hand made crafts? All this is obviously possible by relying on a tourist agency. Then you can still arrange a visit in the beautiful city of Naples or archaeological sites of Herculaneum and Pompeii, in short you can live every corner of the territory with the opportunity to discover all the information, every secret you want to have answered and every question that comes into your mind.

Believe us, a holiday of this kind is a holiday that enriches the mind, which quenches your curiosity and your desire to discover the world,  Italy,  its history, a holiday in which you will never regret but rather fall in love with, an experience that will be etched in your heart forever.

Why Sorrento, the Amalfi Coast, the Campania? These are simply the places that make you fall in love and literally steal your heart.

Find out more about Sorrento on

Friday, 27 June 2014

Distinctive Dwellings: The Masseria

Scattered about the fertile plains and low hills of Puglia stand white-washed dwellings that bear testimony to a particular epoch of southern Italian history.  Known as a masseria, these isolated rural structures once protected and housed numerous farmers and their families in a communal, cloistered setting.

The lands of the south were primarily distributed among the aristocratic elite who owned vast holdings in the feudal system of the time, first initiated under Frederick II and then continued by the rulers of the Kingdom of Naples.  The peasants worked the land in exchange for housing and a percent of the harvest, and they tended the estates for the mostly-absent owners.

The masseria was similar to a Spanish hacienda, a protected compound surrounded by walls and often bearing a watch tower.  The windowless walls had only one entry gate, which would be closed at night, and to ward off possible invaders or brigands.  Inside was a courtyard surrounded by the main house and smaller outbuildings.  It was a self-sufficient dwelling.  There were animal stalls and storage rooms for grains, goods, and farm equipment, along with fruit trees and a vegetable patch.  In the courtyard stood a water well, a wood-burning bread oven, and often even a chapel.  The courtyard served as a petite piazza, a gathering space for sitting, chatting and menial household chores, as well as playground space for the children.

Outside the walls were the fields of grains and olive groves, and pastures for the animals.  Larger vegetable plots and fruit orchards were common, too.  The farms were quite isolated from each other, so each masseria was its only microcosm, a country community in miniature.  Farmers, their families, and household servants lived, worked, worshipped and played together within the complex.

Things changed after the Unification of Italy when the owners started spending more time on their land and turned them into "masseria palazzo" structures, more prestigious and less "working farm".  Eventually, the feudal system was abolished and the lands divided up.  Many of the masserias were abandoned as people immigrated or took jobs in the cities.  Today, however, there has been renewed interest in the unique structures, which are found predominantly in Puglia and Sicily.  Many have been restored into inns and restaurants; others still serve as the headquarters and housing for determined but modern farm families. 

Look for these peculiar walled compounds as you travel around the south, and maybe dine in one to get a glimpse of a way of life that once was.

Spaghetti al Tonno

From Gioconda's Kitchen - Spaghetti al Tonno (Spaghetti with Tuna)

As you probably know by now, Gioconda is a fabulous cook.  Today, she shares a recipe which is not only a family favorite, it's super-easy to prepare, as well!

Gioconda says:  This fresh and tasty sauce is prepared in just a few minutes while you wait for the spaghetti to boil!  I make it when I'm late getting lunch together or when unexpected guests arrive.  It's a great one-pot meal.
  • Ingredients for 4 people:
  • 300 grams (12 oz.) spaghetti
  • One can tuna packed in olive oil
  • 300 grams ripe tomatoes, chopped (it's alright if they're canned)
  • 50 grams (3 TBSP) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 10 grams (2 tsp) salt-cured capers
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 spoonful of minced parsley
  • 2 or 3 basil leaves
  • Red pepper flakes (if you like a little spice!)
  • Salt
Prepare the sauce:

In a large pan, heat the olive oil together with the crushed garlic.  Empty the tuna into the pan along with capers.  Cook a minute while you break up the tuna with a fork.  Add the parsley and tomatoes.  Cook for a few minutes on medium-high heat.  Tear the basil leaves and add it at the end, and taste to see if you need to add a little salt.

Prepare the pasta:

Boil the spaghetti in a large pot of water.  Use at least 4 liters of water, add salt, and cook until the pasta is "al dente".  Drain the spaghetti, keeping some of the water.  Add the drained spaghetti to the pan and toss it with the sauce over a medium-high flame for a minute, adding a little of the cooking water if necessary.