Tag Archives: Italy

Palazzo Stern in Venice

Palazzo SternPalazzo Stern is one of those romantic, historic and beautiful hotels that makes one dream. Built during the 15th century, it follows Moorish style. Its inhabitants have been art collectors and traders, and who knows what else. Today, its premises are full of sculptures, mosaic, paintings and pieces of art that reflect these different owners and periods of history.Palazzo SternWe chose this hotel based on an offer on http://www.verychic.com; a French website that sells hotel deals around the world. We liked the fact that Palazzo Stern is situated right next to the Ca’ Rezzonico Alilaguna stop and many important art collections.  Palazzo SternThe day of our arrival I called the hotel about our late arrival and was told that upon availability we will receive an upgrade. This is exactly what happened: there was an upgrade from standard to deluxe and we had a room overlooking the courtyard and the Rio Malpaga canal. Palazzo SternPalazzo SternThe deal we got from http://www.verychic.com included a bottle of prosecco, which waited for us in the room. With ice and a weather forecast, of course. prosecco with iceOur room was comfortable. Nothing trendy, not very large, but cute in a way. It felt like being away from home. The heating worked very well, so well in fact that we had to turn it off as it was getting too hot. The bathroom was something that made me smile every time I entered it. Not the decoration I would like to have at home, but something you would expect in a renovated 15th century palace.bathroom in VeniceThere is no restaurant at the hotel but buffet breakfast is served until 10h30. In addition, there is a sumptuous bar that we did not try because we were too busy to learn what Aperitivo hour in Venice is like… Palazzo SternOur three nights were very pleasant, so would I stay again at Palazzo Stern? Yes, I would, if I got a very good deal. But then again, there are so many palaces in Venice, so why not to be adventurous…?


  • Very easy Alilaguna transport to and from the airport
  • Alluring design and architecture
  • Room very warm, even in January
  • Very pleasant and not-too-touristic neighborhood (Dorsoduro): perfect for art lovers, excellent restaurants


  • The front desk staff was always polite and correct, but I would have expected something special from a four-star hotel of that price category. Smile more people, smile, especially in a city like Venice that relies so much on tourism!
  • I would have liked to learn more about the history of the building right at the arrival or the first morning. Maybe a leaflet in the room? So much must have happened during the last 600 and plus years!
  • The front desk had no information on the nearby museums and galleries, which I found strange because Dorsoduro is The Art Collection quarter of Venice (a tip: if you don’t know something, maybe call to find out?)

Hotel Palazzo Stern – Dorsoduro 2792/A – 30123 Venezia – tel. 041 2770869 – fax 041 2412456 info@palazzostern.it – http://www.palazzostern.it

Cicchetti e l’ombra in Venice

Cicchetti e l’ombra is a Venetian tradition that includes a little bit of something to eat (=cicchetti) and something to drink (l’ombra), usually toward the late afternoon or early evening. Similar to enjoying tapas in Spain or apéritif in France before the real dinner, Aperitivo hour in Venice continues to fascinate both locals and tourists, and we certainly had our fair share of Cicchetti e l’ombra during our recent trip in Venice.cicchetti in VeniceCicchetti in Venicecicchetticicchetti

But what does this tradition really mean? In this case, the word Cicchetti refers to small appetizers ranging from prosciutto to baccala and aubergine slices on bread; basically anything that makes a tiny snack. L’ombra refers to a glass of wine, Aperol or other aperitif drink.

According to a common belief, l’ombra (which literally means the shade) refers to the drinking part because “the gondoliers used to snatch a glass in the shade away from the glare of the sun or the water” (DK Eyewitness Venice & the Veneto, 2012).

Cantine del Vino già SchiaviBy a pure coincidence, one of the most famous wine bars of Venice, Cantine del Vino già Schiavi, was located very near to our hotel. What was even more incredible is that we run into it just like that while returning to our hotel during our second evening. And what a fantastic world waited for us inside! Cantina del vino gia schiaviFor a few euros, we sipped prosecco, pinot grigio and local red while tasting dozens of types of cicchetti. These tiny breads were filled with pistachio mousse, dried flower petals, mushrooms, salted cod, cheese, salmon eggs, artichokes, grilled vegetables, sardines, anchovies, eggs with truffle, pumpkin puree, etc. –you name it! It was such a paradise and we kept returning every night…

When in Venice, try to look for these traditional wine bars that continue to respect the tradition of Cicchetti e l’ombra. In addition to our local pearl, Do Mori near Rialto is also very well known and appreciated by both locals and foreigners. Just do not arrive too late, as delicious cicchettis find mouths very fast!

Cantine del Vino gia Schiavi: Fondamenta Nani 992, Dorsoduro, Venise
Telephone : +39 041 523 00 34






Healthy Salmon Salad

Venice was wonderful and I only have only complaint: there is so much wheat everywhere! Of course nobody forced me to eat all that pizza, pasta, cicchetti and tramezzino, but there is something in the human nature called temptation…

So, this week has been about avoiding gluten. Tonight I prepared a salad that I improvised for my parents over Christmas: it includes salmon, vegetables and nuts, and I am pretty sure it would win the prize for the healthiest salad in the world. This is what it looks like and what you need for making it: healthy salmon salad

Healthy Salmon Salad: 

Mix these ingredients in a big bowl:

  • celery (raw, cut into slices)
  • leek (raw, cut into slices)
  • broccoli (boiled or raw, cut into chunks)
  • flax seeds (I used crushed ones)
  • walnuts (I used entire ones; they look prettier)
  • garlic (crushed)

Add according to your taste:

  • olive and nuts oil
  • Herbes de Provence, oregano, dill, black pepper
  • lots of fresh lemon juice
  • a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar

Let them marinate for some time.

Next: I had salmon from our lake in Finland, brought to me by my parents before Christmas (Bringing a little bit of Finnish Christmas to Paris), so I baked an entire salmon in the oven, let it cool down, cut it into small chunks and added them to the salad when they were lukewarm. Alternatively, you could use cold smoked salmon (or any other smoked fish).

Lastly, depending on the type of fish you use, add salt. I sprinkled the salad with truffle-flavored salt, which gave it a very subtle final touch.


Lastly, following a common recommendation of French doctors, I suggest you eat the salad with a glass of white wine, ideally organic and French. I had vin primeur by Domaine La Grave, Coteaux de Peyriac (Hauts de Badens) (see Marriage of oysters and nouveau wine) but only your imagination is the limit!

Bon Appétit.

PS The wine glass is Finnish design by Tapio Wirkkala, 1952 (http://iittala.fi/web/Iittalaweb.nsf/fi/tuotteet_juominen_erikoisjuomat_tapio).

Venice: ten shades of pink

It was dark when I returned home from the airport and it was grey this morning when I went to buy milk for my coffee. They say Paris is the most beautiful city in the world and I do agree to some extent, but this morning I truly noticed how grey Paris is. Especially compared to Venice: a city full of deep and rich colors that can compete with the colors one usually only finds in India!

This said, I think there is one color that is more prevalent than others in Venice, and it is pink and its different shades. Hence some pink photos from my recent weekend in Venice:




Such a beautiful reflection on the water:Venice





Venice San Marco

…even at night there is always that pinkish shade somewhere! Venice Grand Canal

If you have been to Venice, do you agree with me or do you think I might have as well written about yellow or green?

PS Have you already checked Pearlspotting’s facebook page?

Aperitivo hour in Venice

Between the visits of the day and the dinner of the evening, there is this hour (or two) when one sits down, relaxes and reaches to a glass of prosecco or something else. Tonight, we returned to the hotel to rest a little bit but will now head back to this amazingly cute and traditional wine bar and shop called Cantina del Vino Gia Schiavi, so conveniently located almost next to our Moorish palazzo. It is going to be another moment of Cicchetti e l’ombra in VeniceCantina del Vino Gia SchiaviYesterday we shared six little cicchetti whose flavors ranged from pistacho mousse to truffle and dried flower petals. Delicious!!! One flavor I did not taste yesterday is pumpkin, so I must hurry up now –Cantina del Vino Gia Schiavi closes at 8 p.m.!

Buona sera a tutti!

Arrival in Venice

I have been to Venice only in winter and I absolutely love the crispy cold weather with blue skies. It is such a great time to visit this grand, sumptuous European city! So far, I have just walked around, crossing dozens of tiny bridges. One remarkable visit took place at La Fenice, the theater house originally built in 1792 but since then twice destroyed by a fire. Extravagant, as many things in Venice. Venice by nightIn addition, I have been overdosing on fabulous tramezzini and ciccheti, not forgetting prosecco. Our hotel, located in a Moorish 15th century palace, offered us one bottle too, and since we are flying back to Paris with only hand baggage, there is no choice but to open the bottle now…

Will be back pronto!

Christmas meal essentials!

One of my favorite things to do in Paris is visiting La Grande Epicerie de Paris. Their recent renovation is so stylish and the service impeccable. Not forgetting their sophisticated food items’ offer and regular dégustations…

To add that extra touch of elegance and perfection to our Christmas meal, I did a bit of groceries at La Grande Epicerie de Paris on the Christmas Eve and this was the result: Christmas essentials from La Grande Epicerie de Paris

From left to the right:

  • Bordier butter: the butter of “the real chefs”; the best butter in the world
  • Grey salt from Guérande with summer truffle by Maison de la Truffe: an absolute cooking must! (if you like truffle, do not miss their restaurant at 19, place de la Madeleine)
  • Balsamic vinegar from Modena by Fernando Pensato: a fine product of Italy, used by the most elegant restaurant and hotels of the world
  • Extra virgin olive oil with white truffle: another cooking must by Maison de la Truffe. Particularly good with the Finnish sweetened potato casserole
  • Organic Boletus-mushroom mustard by Savor & sens: excellent with smoked salmon
  • Onion confit by Le Coq Noir: an essential companion to foie gras
  • Scallops-flavored tarama: a bit more original than the ordinary tarama (also exists in truffle and other flavors)

La Grande Epicerie de Paris: http://www.lagrandeepicerie.com/en.html

Paris-Venice by Emirates?

Did you know that since November 2012 it has been possible to use Emirates miles toward Easy Jet flights? This is indeed a very welcome partnership for Europe-based travelers like us who use Emirates for Africa- and Asia-bound flights and accumulate a considerable amount of miles every year. It is fantastic knowing that we can now use these miles toward a long weekend in old European cities in winter or toward some beach time in the Mediterranean in summer.

Last weekend some of our miles were about to expire and we put this new partnership to the test. As a result, Venice, here we come! There were no hidden costs and indeed even the airport taxes were included in the package. The simplest and quickest purchase ever. Bravo Emirates-Easy Jet partnership!venice canal This photo was taken in Venice where we celebrated our one-year wedding anniversary. I very much look forward to picturesque walks, Venoto wines and sarde in saor (sweet and sour sardines), one of my favorite  Venetian dishes! Moreover, for the first time ever, we have already booked a hotel and will be staying at Palazzo Stern by the gran canal.

Last but not least, I would love to hear about your favorite spots in Venice: galleries, restaurants, wine bars and other places of interest. Be my guide!

PS To follow my travels and life in Paris, why not to check Pearlspotting’s facebook page?

Catching the last rays of the Mediterranean summer

I spent this summer pretty much working in front of the computer and piles of papers, but to be honest, I do not mind spending the summer in Paris. Less traffic, less pollution, less people, less stress, less everything –in my opinion August in particular is the best month in Paris!

However, now that my contract is going to end in few weeks’ time, I can finally start planning for holidays. Our last trip to the Mediterranean basin took place in May (Crete), and we would like to catch some more of that southern sun before the autumn really begins…sky is the limitWhen I was preparing Sicilian Caponata: a perfect autumn dish yesterday, I was pretty decisive about  flying to Sicily and renting a car to explore the island. I am very intrigued about the culinary culture there. In addition, we could have free tickets with Easy Jet, and there are several flights per week (did you know that since last year you can use your Emirates miles to buy Easy Jet tickets?). The Sicily option sounds tempting for many reasons, but I do wonder about the weather. Would we be able to swim in the sea?

This morning I turned on the computer and there was an email from Transavia (http://www.transavia.com/hv/en-EU/home), a low-cost airline that is part of the Air France-KLM group. They have super-hyper-cheap flights to destination where many airlines stop flying around the time when the schools start, so now I am looking at returning to Crete (Heraklion 69€ one way) or flying to Turkey (Antalya 79€ one way). There is also Sicily (Palerme) for next to nothing: 39€. Hmmm… How about flying to Antalya and catching a return flight from Heraklion? How long would the island hopping take?

So many choices, so many wonderful destinations! Whether we choose Sicily, Crete, Turkey or something else in that part of the Mediterrenaen, it will be a fantastic choice, full of culinary experiences I am sure!

If you were me, where would you go and why?

PS Have you already checked Pearlspotting’s Facebook page?

Sicilian Caponata: a perfect autumn dish

When I was jogging along the Seine tonight it felt a little bit like autumn for the first time. I returned home, walked into the kitchen, watched the eggplants I had purchased at the Bastille Market yesterday, and wondered what to cook. I then took a look at Facebook and a friend’s post: Sicilian aubergine stew recipe called caponata. I had almost all ingredients at home (I replaced the parsley by basil leaves, and green olives by black olives) and the result was delicious! We ate the caponata with some slices of mozzarella, and the dinner was perfect! Only wine was missing…CaponataSo, instead of continuing to make my usual cut-in-two, grilled in oven eggplants, I think I will be inventing variations of caponata in this long autumn that is about to begin. Not only that, but I think our dilemma where to take next holidays was just answered…. A place in this world that mixes eggplants, capers, almonds and vinegar must be visited!

PS If you are wondering about the bowl, it is Finnish design by Marimekko and can be found here: http://www.finnishdesignshop.fi/kattaus-astiat-marimekko-hyvassa-seurassa-hyvassa-seurassa-siirtolapuutarha-kulho-p-3983.html

Recipe: http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/vegetables-recipes/incredible-sicilian-aubergine-stew-caponata