Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Why Arpino?

When we decided to move to Morocco and make the Red City our primary base people kept asking us "why Marrakech?", "why Morocco?". You can read more about our reasons for settling down in the magical city of Marrakech on the edge of the Sahara Desert in a previous blog post HERE.
Arpino, a beautiful hillside town, close to Rome.

Last year when we started to renovate our Italian townhouse Casa Colle in the ancient Italian mountain town Arpino, outside Rome, our friends did not ask us "Why Italy?" (after all, everyone loves Italian food, wine and history). But they did ask "Where is Arpino?" and "Why Arpino?". So we thought we would try to explain our love for this amazing and genuine Italian little treasure of a town in this blog post. A town we are lucky to, alongside our houses in Morocco and Sweden, call home.

Our townhouse, Casa Colle

There are so many reasons why Arpino is simply amazing, but let us give you our top-5 list:
1. Location, Location, Location
Arpino is one of the major medieval hilltop towns, perfectly located in the beautiful landscapes of the region Frosinone of Lazio, in the heart of Italy. You can reach both central Rome and Naples as well as three major airports (2 in Rome and 1 in Naples) in 1-2 hours by car. If you stay out of the rush hour traffic you can be in Rome in a little bit over one hour for lunch or shopping. There are also high speed trains if you prefer not to drive.

Arpino is also a great location to explore the fascinating region and within one hour's drive you reach the coast with beautiful, genuine and charming coastal towns like Terracina and Sperlonga. This coast line is at least as charming as the more tourstic areas up North like Portofino and Cinque Terre. A one hour drive in the other direction from Arpino takes you to Abruzzo National Park, one of the most beautiful nationalparks in Europe where you can also go skiing in the winter time. You could also go trekking or hunt for truffles in the rolling hills surrounding Arpino. 

Two hours drive south from Arpino brings you to the stunning Amalfi Coast, where you can also catch a speed boat to Capri or explore Pompeii. The enchanting town of Arpino is a well-kept secret but is a place that provides a genuine Italian town experience in a truly historic setting and with an optimal location to explore the middle and south of Italy.

Arpino is the perfect base for exploring, within 2 hours you reach the Amalfi Coast, Capri and Naples. Within 1 hour you reach Rome, coastal towns Terracina & Sperlonga and Abruzzo National park.
2. The Fascinating History
Arpino's long and distiguished history goes back over 2700 years and there are landmarks everywhere in the area. It was first a settlement of a local tribe, the Volscians, in 7th century B.C. They built the huge Cyclopean Walls with a pointed arch gate that is almost 4 meters high, this is the only existing pointed arch left in the world by the way!

Then there is the 2000 year old Roman road Via Latina that went straight through Arpino, parts of it can still be admired in the main piazza. Several famous Romans came from Arpino, the most prominent one was the consul and famous orator Cicero, whose statue now can be seen in the main square of the village. Other Romans born in Aprino are Gaius Marius (The 3rd founder of Rome) and Marco Agrippa (The architect of the Pantheon in Rome).

During the Middle Ages the town belonged to the Kingdom of Naples and King Ladislaus of Anjou-Durazzo built the massive "Ladislaus Castle" on the Falconara hill, overlooking Arpino. Before 1861 (when the textile industry was moved up North by political decisions) Arpino was one of the leading textile producer in Italy featuring many successful businesses and prominent families. During these wealthy days many beautiful palazzos were built in Arpino and today both Italians and foreigners have started to renovate these beautiful buildings.

Via Latina, the 2000 year old Roman road is visible in the main piazza.

3. The Spectacular Views
We have travelled all over the world and seen some pretty spectacular views but Arpino has by far the most stunning sunsets that we have ever experienced. The main reason for buying our house Casa Colle was the undisturbed views over Arpino and the mountains in the backdrop. The photos below explain better than words. To sit on our terrace with these views is better than any meditation or therapy in existence.

These sunsets!
Love the view from our terrace!

4. The Food & Wine
In Italy food and wine are very important, it is all about great quality and almost everything is locally produced. In Arpino, a region of some 7000 people, we have several local butchers, excellent wine and cheese shops, a pasta factory (where they custom make your pasta according to your wishes) and a number of grocery stores with locally produced olive oil, fruits and vegetables. Not to mention all the charming bars and cafes surounding the main piazza of Arpino where you go to enjoy your daily espresso or apertivo and watch the daily life pass by.

The best pizza we have had (honestly!) is the white four cheeses pizza made in the local pizzeria, behind the square in Aprino. There are several amazing restaurants in and around Arpino, many with mentioning in the prestigous Guide Michellin. Great food and wine experiences is part of everyday life here and it is super cheep compared to the touristic areas up North (an espresso or capuchino is 0,9 Euros and a pizza dinner with wine would cost 20 Euros for 2 persons)

A typical Italian lunch at La Perla.

5. The Friendly People
Arpino is a living community with a lot of young people, some even moving into Arpino to start up new businesses like agritourismos (eco friendly hotels/restaurants), working in administration or agriculture. Many are farmers and the region produces some high quality olive oils, vegetables and wines. When moving to Arpino we felt so welcomed by the whole community and all the amazing people living there. This is still a town where people seem to help eachother and actually care about one another. If you need a plumber you just go down to the piazza and have an espresso and you will find one. Whatever your questions are (and they are many when you buy a house in Italy) people are happy to help out.

Our amazingly skilled builder Claudio and his entire family soon became very good friends and continue to support us in our daily life in Arpino. The local real estate agent Alison Holland (check out her agency Via Romana if you are interested in properties in the region) and her daughter Katherine were so very helpful to make the transition to Italy as smooth as possible. The translator Daniela, our amazing notary Alice, the hotelier Sonia (whose beautiful hotel was a second home before our house was ready) as well as Jackie (who looks after our house when we're not there), Connie and Peter, our cool neighbours from Texas, all became part of our local Arpino tribe. After all, living in Italy is all about people and making new friends (oh, and the food and wine of course).

Spontanious drinks with some Italian friends in the piazza


Some more great Arpino friends!
Oh yeah, then there is the climate!
Being a hillside town, Arpino enjoys mild summers as well as mild winters. It does generally not get crazy hot in the summers or super cold in the winters. We spent November, December and January in Arpino and actually could sit most days outside in t-shirts during lunch time. In summer there is a nice breeze. So, the climate, like the views, history, people, location and food is perfect!

Blue skies and great weather most of the time

Where to stay in Arpino
1. Hotel Il Cavalier dÁrpino, a charming hotel located in a renovated palazzo with great location, beautiful views and a stunning garden.

Where to eat and drink
1. La Perla, amazing restaurant with true fine dining ambitions and very friendly service.
2. Il Ciclope, charming and rustic family run restaurant with great local food and wine.
3. Barnabas, best wine bar in town with excellent selection of Italian wines. The best place to enjoy an apertivo by the square and shop for fine wines.
4. L'ottavo Vizio, easy going Italian restaurant in the cantina of an old palazzo.
5. Il Casale della Regina, excellent restaurant with a modern take of the Italian kitchen.
6. Bar Sport, despite the terrible name, a very charming coffee and wine bar.
7. Pizzeria Trattoria Del Corso, where you find our favorite pizza!

What to do in Arpino
1. Explore the old town, the acropoli, overlooking Arpino.
2. Walk through the narrow streets and enjoy the historic remains on display evrywhere.
3. Go trekking or truffle hunting in the hills around Arpino
4. Enjoy the magical sunsets
5. Sit on the piazza with an aperol spritz and watch the local life go by

Beautiful nature of Arpino

A new dog, named...
In a few days we will get our new dog, a short haired black tan dachshund puppy. When thinking of a name for our new family member we decided to call him Cicero, in honor of our beloved Italian town Arpino and the famous Roman born there. It will no doubt be a very stylish dog and we can't wait to return to Arpino with him in August as soon as his EU passport and vaccinations are ready. But first we will enjoy two months in the beautiful Stockholm archipelago on the little island Runmarö where we have our summer house.

Meet Cicero, our new tribe member
See you soon Arpino!

Sunday, 23 April 2017

The streets of Marrakech

One of the favourite things to do in Marrakech is to stroll through the ancient medina and the souks that are like a maze hoping to get lost for a while before finding your way home again. Those moments of not knowing where you are feel like you are an adventorous expedition trying to find some new exotic market or some unknown artisants quarters.

It's like a fairy-tale walking through the medina.

And somehow you always seem to do just that. Even after so many years in Marrakech there's always new streets and new parts of the medina you didn't visit before and that you are amazed by. It's easy to walk around for hours and lose track of time, especially if you have your mobile phone with a good camera with you. There's so many beautiful things and street life to take photos of.

If you get lost, don't worry! Keep on walking!

If you are in Marrakech for the first time it could be a bewildering experince to walk in to the souks but key is to keep walking and look confident on where you are going (even if you're not). Otherwise it won't take long before you are attacked by boys and young men who want to show you the way to the big square. That's fine of course, as long as you want to go to the big square, and you have 10 or 20 dirham to tip them with. (Some will ask you for up to 100 dirham, but never pay that much!). And some will try to trick you into believing some streets are forbidden to walk on or that they are closed. Most often this is not true and you could just give them a friendly smile and walk on. Eventually you will always find your way out of the souks and onto a major street where you can find your way back to your hotel.

There must be a thousand different streets like this in Marrakech!

The souks are located north of the big square Jemmaa el Fna and are the largest in Morocco, famous for as the most exotic place to shop in the whole world. Marrakech is almost a thousand years old and the souks were at an early age divided into several distinct areas where one area sold shoes and another sold carpets etc. The most valuable products like jewlery were places in the centre of the souks. Today is is still like this to some degree but many areas now sell a little of everything.

The souks are simply magical!

Don't forget to photograph all the gorgeous gates and doorways!

And buy some popcorn if you feel like having a snack!

If you have been walking for too long... take a rest...

...or take a horse ride back home...

...before you see double...or triple!
We have now spent almost a month in Italy, time sure flies, and it's high time to head back to our main base, our Riad in Marrakech. We look forward to May in Morocco, catching up with all our friends, working on exciting Red City PR projects and once again walk thos magical streets of Marrakech!

Red City, here we come!








Thursday, 13 April 2017

Capri - The Ocean Break

Arpino, our little medieval village just south of Rome, is the the perfect starting point for exploring Italy. It is conveniently located close to Rome, Naples, historical sites, national parks, mountains and the coast line including Sperlonga, Amalfi and Capri. This time we drove our little Fiat 500 (what else?) to Naples to catch the express ferry to Capri. We were excited to check out this beautiful island that has attracted both Roman emperors and the global jet-set scene for over two thousand years.

Capri - an iconic destination.
Capri - also called "the gardens of Eden"

Less than 3 hours after leaving our house in Arpino we checked into Relais Maresca Hotel on Capri, one of the oldest and most iconic hotels on the island, located in the marina with stunning ocean views. As always we prefer to travel off-season and we actually arrived on the very day when most of the hotels and restaurants started to open up for the season so it was still pretty calm and tranquil. Many tourists visit Capri over the day so when the sun set we had this charming island (almost) to ourselves.

Welcome to Relais Maresca! 

We enjoyed our beautiful terrace suite with amazing views.

Capri is a pretty small island so you can walk, take the convenient cable car that connects the harbor with the main town or catch a taxi (they are all cabriolets!). There are basically three main parts on the island: Capri town, marina grande and Anacapri.
View over the marina.
Capri is absolutley stunning with very dramatic sceneries, lush nature and the most beautiful ocean views wherever you turn. There is a reason why this tiny island has attracted so many royalties, celebrities and tourists over hundreds of years.
Different shades of blue, local fishermen doing their thing.

Capri is best explored on foot, walking the charming and narrow streets, or by boat which gives you the opportunity to go around the island and experience the dramatic cliffs and enchanting caves. 
We took a very beautiful tour around Capri in a private Riva boat.

The famous blue grotto was simply spectacular.
Dramatic cliffs everywhere! And the little house below them belongs to the Swarowski family.
And beautiful caves everywhere too!

2,5 hours in a private boat takes you around the island and gives you tine to explore all the caves and sights.
A word of warning; Capri is not cheap! In fact, even for luxury travellers like ourselves, we found it very expensive. So stay away if you are on a budget. For instance, two small cappuchinos at one café we visited were 14 Euros! (In Arpino we pay 2 Euros). But if you are willing to spend some cash, there are so many great restaurants and beautiful luxury hotels here.
Capri main piazza with the cool clock tower that you can hear ring every fifteen minutes.

We went to some excellent restaurants both in the marina grande and Capri town. Since it is expensive wherever you go we suggest you aim for the nicer upscale restuarants that offers the best value for money and stay away from the over priced joints. The fish is extremely good, the local wines are nice and Capri sure attracts a fun crowd. As always try to avoid peak season, it can get really crowded.
Enjoying an ocean front lunch at Lo Zodiaco, a nice fish restaurant in the big marina.
Ocean views from the terrace restaurant of Relais Maresca.

Luxury hotel Quisiana has both a great casual pool side bistro and an amazing fine dining restaurant.

Beauty everywhere!

Where to stay
-Hotel Quisiana (The iconic luxury hotel on the island)
-Hotel Relais Maresca (Charming hotel with the best ocean front location and suites with terraces)
-Tiberio Palace (It does not get more posh)
-La Minerva (A bit outsode town but very nice)
Where to eat:
-Villa Brunella, la Terassa restaurant (Best view over the sunset and excellent food)
-Rendez Vous (fine dining restaurant of Quisiana)
-Lo Zodiaco (stylish fish restaurant in the marina)
-Villa Margeritha (a beautiful terrace and a nice restaurant)
-La Colombaia (easy going but pricy pool side restaurant if Quisiana)
What to do:
-Hire a private Riva boat with a skipper and go around the island
-Take scenic walks
-Shop the unique Capri collections of the global luxury brands
-Go and hang out on the posh beach clubs around the island
-Visit Villa Elise (to admire the terraced gardens)

All the luxury brands have small shops on Capri and many of them create unique Capri collections sold only on the island.
This Dolce&Gabbana t-shirt is part of a unique Capri collection that is only sold in the little D&G store on the island. Of course we had to get them!
Beautiful sunset #1 (as seen from our suite at Relais Maresca)
Beautiful sunset #2 (as seen from the Villa Brunella terrace restaurant).
Capri was a very nice experience and we will be back soon again. After 3 days on this beautiful island we both feel energized and ready to head back to Arpino and celebrate Easter.
See you on the other side of Easter!

Friday, 7 April 2017

Spring in Arpino

Spring in Arpino is a powerful and colourful experience with cherry blossoms and fruit trees in full bloom. We have chosen a great time to spend a couple of weeks in our townhouse when the nature is waking up after the winter and when the temperature is mild, between 15-20 degrees during the sunny days. March and April here is like Swedish summer basically.
Arpino behind spring blossoms
The views are even prettier than usual, which is hard with the kind of views Arpino offers. The medieval village on top of the hill is just made for being photographed over and over. And we have sure posted lots of these photos over the past months.
Arpino at its greenest!
And the animals are also waking up to see the beauty of Arpino
Cherry blossom everywhere!
Another proof of spring.
We have taken so many long walks and well needed jogging tours around Arpino the last days where we've been met by so many nice village people together with the spring views.  

One day we took a long walk and had lunch at the fantastic restaurant "La Perla" that had this view.

Another day we drove to the nearby lake to have lunch at the Guide Michelin restaurant "Il Mantova Del Lago" that had this view.

View from one of our many jogging tours.

5 things to do during spring in Arpino:
1. Take long walks through the stunning landscape in full bloom
2. Enjoy an espresso in the sun on the main square (an espresso or capuccino is around 1 Euro each)
3. Visit the many sights of the region before the touristic season starts
4. The first Sunday of every month during spring it is possible to visit the enclosed nunns of the Benedectine convent (this nunnery is our closest neighbor!)
5. On Good Friday there is a huge parade going through Arpino, it is all very impressive!

View of Arpino from the hill where we live.
We have combined business with pleasure, working on some exciting Red City PR projects from our Italian home while enjoying the most beautiful of springs. Now we look forward to some friends visiting and also easter in Arpino.
Greetings from Italy
Hope the sun is shining on all of you!