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Italy’s Hidden Gem

Article from CondeNast (cntraveller).

“Italy’s great art cities attract millions of visitors each year, and quite rightly so. But this extraordinarily diverse country is stuffed with glorious, lesser-known destinations, many of which lie well off the beaten tourist trail. This is our choice of some of the best small towns and villages covering sleepy, sun-drenched fishing communities, splendid bastions of the Baroque and medieval hilltop set-pieces. Efforts will be rewarded by fabulous food and wine, warm hospitality and a sense of having discovered something a bit different”.

My pick:

It’s difficult to believe that Matera, located in the little-visited region of Basilicata and now glowing from its 2019 stint as European Capital of Culture, was one of western Europe’s most deprived towns until the 1950s. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the honeycomb of ancient troglodyte dwellings (sassi) that lies below the honey-hued medieval town is now largely restored and occupied by galleries, restaurants and hotels. But to get an idea of what cave living must have been like, you can visit the fascinating Casa Grotta di vico Solitario, or even sleep in one if you don’t mind windowless rooms.
STAY: Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita,
EAT: Dimora Ulmo,


Lying just inland from the wide strip of lido-occupied beaches that fringe the Versilia coastline north of Pisa and backed by the majestic, marble-rich Apuanian Alps, mellow old Pietrasanta has long been home to a vibrant community of artists and sculptors, its bronze foundries and marble studios attracting the likes of Mitoraj, Botero and Henry Moore. It is dozy off-season, but busier in warmer weather when a cool, arty crowd drifts up from the coast to explore its galleries and independent boutiques and sip Campari spritz in the lovely Piazza del Duomo.
STAY: Albergo Pietrasanta,
EAT: L’Enoteca Marcucci,

In the wine world, the charming little medieval hilltown of Montefalco is synonymous with Sagrantino, the full-bodied and highly prized local red wine, its vines turning the surrounding hills deep russet-red just before the grape harvest. Known as ‘the balcony of Umbria’ because of its far-reaching views, the town has five entrance gates, each of which leads, via a cobbled lane, up to the round-ish central piazza. Don’t leave without tasting the wine and seeing Benozzo Gozzoli’s exquisite 1452 fresco cycle depicting the life of St Francis in the Convento di San Fortunato.
STAY: Palazzo Bontadosi,
EAT: Coccorone,


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Paris & Must-See Sites

Paris deserves its reputation as the most Romantic City in the World. Every turn reveals a famous landmark, a cozy café, a smart Boutique, and historical buildings situated at one of the busiest boulevard. Live and experience La Vie a la Française: French cancan, painters in Montmartre, chateau of Versailles, Garnier Opera … and simply write your story sous le Ciel de Paris.

Arc de Triomphe, La Grande Arche
Champ de Mars
Chapelle Expiatoire
Chateau Versailles
Conciergerie, Palais de la Cite
Domaine National du Palais-Royal
La Bastille
La Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris
La Cité des Sciences à La Villette
La Defense
La Seine & Croisière
La Tour Montparnasse
Le Marais
Le Marais & Le Centre Pompidou “Beaubourg”: Contemporary Museum
Le Musée du Quai d’Orsay
Le Parc Monceau
Le petit et Grand Palais near Champs Elysées
Le Trocadero
Le Village de Bercy: a typical southern French place, with great restaurants
Les Buttes Chaumont: a wonderful green park Quartier Latin
Les Halles – rue de Rivoli
Les Invalides
Les Jardins de Tuileries
Les Jardins du Luxembourg
Montmartre: le Sacré Cœur et la place du Tertre, encompass Artists, Painters, etc
Musee du Louvre
Opera National de Paris – Palais Garnier
Paris Zoological Park
Place Concorde
Sainte-Chapelle, Palais de la Cite
Tour Eiffel








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PARIS, Shopping Addresses & Quotes

Fancy shopping? There is more to the Capital of Luxury. Outlets, small shops and flea markets also coexist in the city of lights.
Coco Chanel’s Famous Quotes:

  • Elegance is when the inside is as beautiful as the outside.
  • Simplicity is the key note of all True Elegance.
  • You can be gorgeous at thirty, charming at forty, and irresistible for the rest of your life.
  • Adornment, what a science! Beauty, what a weapon! Modesty, what elegance!They Say:
    “I could give up shopping but I am not a quitter.”
    “Honestly, shopping beats therapy anytime. It costs the same and you get a dress out of it.”
    “I’m not a shopaholic, I’m helping the economy.”
    “Shortest horror story ever: Sold Out.”
    “Cinderella is proof that a new pair of shoes can change your life.”
    …and they are Right!

Top Range

  • Les Galeries LaFayette
  • Le Printemps Haussmann
  • Le Bon Marche
  • Beaugrenelle
  • Le Carrousel du Louvre


Middle Range

  • Forum des Halles
  • Italie Deux
  • Les 4 Temps & Le CNIT
  • So Ouest
  • Aeroville

Outlets near Paris

  • La Vallee Village
  • Usine center (Paris Nord II) (Avenue de la Plaine de France, 95500 Gonesse)
  • One Nation Paris (1 rue du Président Kennedy, 78340 Les Clayes Sous Bois)

Best addresses to shop in Paris:

  • Avenue des Champs Elysees
  • Rue de Passy
  • Rue St Honore
  • Rue de Rennes
  • Rue de Rivoli – Le Marais
  • Boulevard Haussmann
  • Boulevards Saint Michel & Saint Germain
  • Avenue Montaigne
  • Avenue des Ternes
  • Quartier Beaubourg et les Halles

Shopping Tips
For bargain shoppers, you should know that Paris has two sales periods:

  • Summer sales begin June 25th and ends July 29th.
  • Winter sales start around 8 January each year. For a period of six weeks, all the shops in Paris offer many discounts to liquidate their stocks of the past season. (Discounts can sometimes reach – 70%).
  • The main stores in Paris usually open from 10:00 till 19:00. They close on Sundays, except for the shops in Carrousel du Louvre, Avenue Champs-Elysées, Marais district or Sevres-Babylone.


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Journees du Patrimoine, SEP. 21-22, FRANCE


European Heritage Days are the occasion to visit Monuments and Castles often for free!
In Paris, discover places usually closed for public. In Ile-de-France, visit the abundant Heritage sites of different eras, from the Renaissance estate to the fortified castles, … Royal Residences.

PARIS Outings to discover:

  1. Elysée Palace opens its doors for European Heritage Days. Visit this high place of power and the prestigious salons of the Hotel d’Evreux.
  2. Palais-Royal and the meeting rooms of the State Council, Ministry of Culture and the Constitutional Council.
  3. French National Assembly, tour Palais Bourbon, Hotel de Lassay.
  4. Ministry of Economy and Finance. Visit Bercy from the inside and enjoy crazy experiences as ziplining.
  5. Ministry of the Interior. Visit Hotel Beauvau, ..lounges, gardens, offices, former jails.
  6. French Court of Appeal.
  7. Grand Palais, created for the 1900 World’s Fair.
  8. Musée de la franc-maçonnerie proposes exclusive tours to discover its values and culture.


  1. Seine-et-Marne Heritage with guided tours, exclusive open houses and family entertainments!
  2. Yvelines castles and museums.
  3. Essonne and its treasures.
  4. Val de Marne
  5. Val d’Oise.
  6. Seine-Saint-Denis.



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BELGRADE: Some of the Finest Restaurants

Mezestoran DVORIŠTE, Svetogorska 46, 11000 Beograd
Tel: +381 11 32 46 515

Skadarska 32 (278.76 mi), Belgrade, Serbia 11000
Tel: +381 11 7234885

Kej oslobođenja bb (kod hotela Jugoslavija), 11070 Beograd
Tel: +381 063 836 1462
Close to Saint Ten Hotel, Nebojsina 49a Belgrade, Serbia


(By Therese ABou Jaoude Nassar & Hoda Takieddine Talih)

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BUCHAREST: Some of the Finest Restaurants


Music and Dance

Stavropoleos 5, Old Town Area, Bucharest
Tel: 0040726 282 373

19:15 Traditional music- Altita Group;
19:45 Traditional music – Caru’ cu bere Taraf (inside the Beer Museum);
20:45 Caru’cu bere team parade;
21:00 Society dances – Contesina Group;
21:30 Sportive dances – Contesina Group;

Str. Franceza nr. 62-64 (0.20 mi) Bucharest, Romania 030119
Tel: 0040730 188 653
20:00 – 23:00 Manuc Inn taraf
20:45 – 22:15 Traditional dances with Rapsodia Carpatilor Ansamble – Songs from Banata, Moldavian, Dances and Folklore from the Oas County

Șepcari 16, Old city
Tel: 0040725558286

(By Therese Abou Jaoude Nassar & Hoda Takieddine Talih)


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Romania Facts & Figures

Surface: 238,391 km2 roughly the same size as the United Kingdom.
The Palace of Parliament, located in Bucharest, is the world’s largest and most expensive civil administration building in the world. It also ranks as the biggest office building in Europe (3.9 million square feet) and 2nd largest in the world, after the U.S. Pentagon. More than a million tons of marble, steel, crystal and wood have been used to build this palace!
Carpathian Mountains: home to one of the largest undisturbed forests in Europe = 400 unique species of mammals, including the Carpathian chamois, where 60% of European brown bear live.

1,350 floral species e.g. yellow poppy, Transylvanian columbine, saxifrage and edelweiss.

Turda Salt Mines (Salina Turda) located in Transylvania, stands the world’s largest salt mine museum, (400 feet into the Earth).
The Danube River flows 1,788 miles from its springs in Germany’s Black Forest to the Black Sea, where it forms the Danube Delta – 2nd largest and best preserved in Europe formed over a period of more than 10,000 years – 2,200 miles2 of rivers, canals, marshes, tree-fringed lakes and reed islands,. Home to the world’s largest reed bed; hosts rare species of plants & animals e.g. endangered sturgeon, otters, wildcats & European mink.
The 2nd largest underground glacier in Europe (in terms of volume) is found in Transylvania = 3500-year old Scarisoara Glacier, 75,000 cubic meters, located in the Bihor Mountains… 154-foot deep entrance shaft leads to some impressive ice structures, ice stalagmites & Scarisoara ice-cave.
Peles Castle was the 1st European castle entirely lit by electrical current produced by its own plant.

Castle’s central heating & vacuuming systems, built in 1883, are still in use today.

The world’s first industrial oil refinery opened at Ploieşti (southern Romania) in 1857. Oil was exploited commercially in Romania since 1857, two years before oil was discovered in Pennsylvania.
The earliest reliably dated European modern human fossils, up to now, were discovered in 2002 in southwestern Romania (at Pestera cu Oase – translated as the “Cave With Bones”). The fossil’s age is estimated at 37,800 to 42,000 years old.
The real Dracula (Vlad Draculea) nicknamed Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler) was a Romanian prince and military leader who fought bravely against the invading Turkish army in the mid 1400’s. Count Dracula – the Vampire – was created by Irish writer, Bram Stoker in 1897.

The most famous novels written are “The Castle in the Carpathians” by Jules Verne, and “Dracula” by Bram Stoker.

Voronet Monastery, northeastern Romania, is known as the ‘Sistine Chapel of the East’. The monastery built in 1488 is known worldwide for frescoes & intense shade of blue known as ‘Voronet blue.’
Tallest wooden church in the world, 2nd tallest wooden structure in Europe, is in Sapanta Peri = Maramures.
Romania Today is the #9 wine producer in the world!

11 “indigenous” varieties of grapes cannot be found anywhere else in the world are produced here.

The movie Cold Mountain was filmed in Romania. Hollywood celebrities Jude Law, Renee Zellweger and Nicole Kidman relaxed in Poiana Brasov after shooting the film Cold Mountain on location in nearby fields and farms.
The Pastrami – a popular sandwich ingredient in America – has its origins in Romania. Little Romania…
The Black Church has the largest organ in Europe with 4000 tubes (built by Buchholz, Berlin’s famous organ builder, in 1836) as well as the largest bell in Romania, weighting 6.3 tons – Brasov (Transylvania).
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