We’ve been back for a while now


Look, I have found my way back to the bloggersphere and things have changed a little in the few months I have been away. That kind of sums up the whole reason for me poking my head back in for a visit. Now that we have been back in Sydney for a few months, and are settling into the Australian way of life (which is a lot faster), seeing old friends and adjusting to living in a big city again, my attention has been drawn to a few things I really miss about our year in Italy.

Of course this is to be expected. However, what surprises me most is the feeling you get when you arrive home and for about a month you feel a little off kilter then someone says, ‘Does it feel like you were ever away?’ If I am honest, I really do have to stop and think about it…’did I really just spend a year in Florence?’

I know I did because I am finding things quite a bit different here, for example…

I learned to appreciate the beautiful flavour of the Negroni while living in Florence and I used to drink them at the bar they originated from. In Italy there is no measuring out exact quantities of alcohol and here in lies my problem. Nic and I went out for a drink to our local watering hole the other week and I decided I wanted a Negroni. In my head I was thinking I was getting one of these…

Italian Negroni

Italian Negroni

When in fact what I got was a glass full to the brim of ice with just a hint of red colour floating around. I really missed Italian bar culture on that occasion.

We went to the shops to buy ingredients for a pizza a few weeks ago, we had everything covered until we thought about the cheese. Gone are the days of buying three fresh, soft, delicious mozzarella balls for a couple of bucks. Instead you have the choice of one large (not really that large to be honest) rubber-looking ball pretending to be mozzarella that will set you back about $7.50 or a bag of pre-grated yellow cheese…pizza Aussie style, I dreamed of PizzaMan that night.

Anyway, it isn’t all bad. As I was heading out the door for an early morning run last week I did remember the rolling hills of Tuscany, passing by the odd vineyard on my run and thinking life didn’t get better than this…

Rolling hills of Tuscany

Rolling hills of Tuscany

However, I must have forgotten how beautiful Sydney is. As I was coming up over the second hill on my run, turning right to go under the beginning of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and then trotting down the steps next to Luna Park, I pulled my head up to take in the beautiful Harbour view and thought to myself…not bad at all!

My morning view in Sydney

My morning view in Sydney

Italy the Baker family does miss you; however, I think you’d love it here… Just b.y.o cheese and booze! 

Caffé Desiderio

Italy take two is a blog I started writing just over a year ago, highlighting my families trials and triumphs of moving to Florence, Italy for a year. I am conflicted on many levels, as our year has come to an end. On one hand I am happy to go back to Australia and re-start my life of cooking, seeing friends, walking on sandy beaches and enjoying the Sydney lifestyle, while on the other hand I am sorry to see life as I have known it for the past year being wound up and put away as a memory of the past.

The boys and I flew back to Australia a week ago and I find myself sitting at my parents’ home in Tasmania by the heater on this cold winters day, looking out over the hills of Launceston and thinking to myself…I have so much more to say about our life in Florence, places to tell future travellers about and photos I want to share. So while I am now back in the land of Oz, I want to dedicate the next few posts to the favourite places and spaces I have grown to love about my year living in the Tuscan hills in a small village called Ponte a Mensola.

A beautiful summers evening

A beautiful summers evening

Food as many regular readers will know, is one of my favourite topics to photograph and talk about. It doesn’t have to be the latest gourmet meal I’ve eaten or a restaurant that’s in all the travel magazines, it just has to be good, honest food that tantalizes taste buds and makes you want to get in the kitchen and cook, or at the very least be cooked for.

Caffé Desiderio is situated in the small town of Settignano (take the number 10 bus all the way to the last stop) and was the place we chose to have our last family meal together. The owners, Michele and his lovely wife, are wonderful hosts, who are extremely welcoming and have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to Tuscan food and wine. Not only can they cook delicious, traditional Tuscan food, but they also source the highest quality ingredients that make even the simplest of dishes taste divine. I have eaten at Caffé Desiderio a few times throughout the year and have always looked forward to a return visit. It is here that I must mention Michele’s unique understanding of Italian wines. His wine list is big and bold; and for anyone who thinks they know about Italian wine he is the man you need to meet. Michele speaks beautiful English and can stand by your table for hours talking about how each bottle was crafted. For our last night we lashed out on a beautiful 2010 Barolo that Michele paired with our meal and with each sip it kept opening to new levels as the night went on.


We started our meal with a selection of antipasti to wet any carnivore’s palette: cured meats, pickled vegetables, delicious marinated prunes to accompany the fennel-studded salami (so, so good!), just to name a few. It’s about now that you wish your kids didn’t have a developing palette and empty bellies, alas we did share and they loved every last bite, especially the cured meats.



Now I could talk about every dish with glee, however, I think you should just go and experience it for yourself and enjoy the wonderful selection they have on offer. The menu changes regularly and there are often wine and food nights for a set price. You can checkout Caffé Desiderio’s Facebook page for up and coming events and you might even be lucky enough to try the donkey ragu pasta Max spotted on the menu the night we dined.

I  have to admit I was a little stunned that he was so intrigued to eat donkey; however, I was also wondering what the flavour was going to be like…

Donkey pasta

Donkey pasta

It was delicious, morish and reminded me of wild boar a little. Max devoured it before I could take a second bite and then tried to eat my delicious, robustly flavoured tomato pasta! It was here that I pulled out the promise of dessert!

I’d like to tell you I have photos of the créme caramel and cassata cake, however, I was too busy polishing off a plate of eggs served with chorizo and lardon that tasted as if there was a party in my mouth. It is here I leave you with a photo of the lovely Michele himself and (hopefully) an eager desire to pop Cafe Desiderio on your list of ‘places to eat’ when you arrive in Florence, I can promise you, you won’t be disappointed…oh and FYI they make the best coffee too!



Day trip to Pisa


Alex adjusting the bell tower

One of the best things about living in a European country is the fact you can do ‘day trips’ without the travelling taking up 90% of your time. If you have ever been to Australia and wanted to ‘get out of town’ for the day, the travel side of things always seems to be longer and more painful than the actual ‘trip’.

I wanted to take a leisurely trip to Pisa with the boys, reasons being;

a) It really is just an hour up the road (on the train)

b) I know we have been before when Alex was younger, but he really didn’t remember it and I wanted him to see it again

c) I love this beautiful little town with its relaxed atmosphere, vibrant student buzz and of course the food…I have never had a bad meal here

Last Saturday the sun was shining without a cloud in the sky so we decided to jump on the bus and head to the train station for a relaxing stroll around Pisa. I know the city gets lots of attention and I myself love to look at the leaning bell tower, walk on the ever-so-green grass surrounding the cathedral and bell tower. But what is most wonderful about this town is the fact that tourists (I’m really talking about the hoards you see in big groups like in Florence) make a bee line to the bell tower, a bee line to a couple of other churches, then hightail it on out of there leaving Pisa’s beautiful streets free for you to wander around without being crushed to death by a pack of Germans/English/Japanese or whoever tourists.

Now I am sure there are 101 things to do and see in Pisa, however, whenever I go all I want to do is wander the streets, look in shop windows, lay on the grass and eat, so here are a few snaps I took to inspire the more relaxed visitor/tourist and also to pass on a great place for lunch!

This is the first time I have seen this beautiful building without scaffolding- a treat!

This is the first time I have seen this beautiful building without scaffolding- a treat!

I couldn’t believe it when we were crossing the river, one of the boys piped up and said ‘Don’t you think this looks like Florence?’ Ummm NO!

The Arno in Pisa

The Arno in Pisa

I also love going to Palazzo della Carovana which was built-in 1562-1564 by Giorgio Vasari. It is a great feeling to stand in this large, open piazza and take yourself back to another period in time. They just don’t make buildings like this anymore.


It was about this time when I needed a rest from strolling and to feel the grass (I found out later that I had strep throat on this weekend, so now I know why I wasn’t feeling in top form!)

Get mum!!!

Get mum!!!

Nic has been to Pisa several times and was telling me about this one trattoria he went to that had great, flavoursome food and was run by women. We walked past it on our way to the bell tower and I loved the small square it was on, so we decided to lunch at Al Signor Mimmo, situated on via Cavalca, 44. This is an address you will want to write down before you arrive in Pisa!


We started lunch with the caponata (a sweet/sour eggplant, caper, vegetable dish). This is one of my all time favourite ways to eat eggplant and I have to say this was one of the BEST caponatas I have eaten…even the boys got stuck in, much to Nic and my disappointment.



We all decided on pasta for lunch and were not disappointed. Nic had spaghetti with breadcrumbs and anchovies (it was awesome) while I couldn’t go past the medley of seafood with cavatelli. The seafood was super fresh and the pasta cooked to perfection, not to mention the flavour of the sauce it was tossed through. I was in heaven and I have to say, it takes a lot for me to say that when it comes to seafood pasta as I have had some pretty ordinary ones in my time…this was DIVINE!

Perfect pasta

Perfect pasta

While Nic and I were busy with the seafood end of things, the boys both jumped on the cinghiale bandwagon. They know we are running out of days when they will be able to order wild boar pasta so they did not hesitate when they saw it on the menu. I tried to bribe Max for a taste but he refused, thank goodness Alex loves mussels otherwise I might not have got a taste, it was VERY good!


Alex thinking, how am I going to keep mum and dad away from my bowl?

Desserts were all home-made and looked delicious; however, we finished  our meal with an espresso and decided to meander on back to the train station with our full bellies and fond memories of this beautiful town.

Tips for Pisa:

Arrive before lunch (no stress if you take the train)

Walk on the grass around by the cathedral, costs nothing but brings you great joy

Walk off the beaten track where the streets curve round and people say buongiorno to you

Go to Al Signor Mimmo for lunch and don’t fill up on the deliciously morish salted fried bread when you first sit down because it only gets better

Costumes, parties and musical chairs


The Big Party

It has almost been a year since we set foot in Italy for the second time as a family and as my regular readers will know, we have had a lot of experiences; one of those being kids birthday parties and I have to say up front- I’m not a fan.

Our first invitation to an Italian birthday party was in the very beginning of our stay here. We were driven up to a magical villa in the rolling Tuscan hills: prosecco was flowing, local cheese for the tasting and kids were running wild in the forest-like-yard, it felt like a movie set. Fast forward to present day and I now know through suffering a few parties that in fact our first birthday party was not the ‘norm’ and I can honestly say I much prefer the Australian system of dropping the kids off and picking them up at a set time instead of all the suffering you go through standing in small community halls with little ventilation, listening to inappropriate English music blaring at full volume, kids shouting, running, screaming, laughing and crying for up to 4 hours straight: my idea of hell.

My friend Sue emailed me a few weeks ago telling us it was her son’s birthday and he would love it if we all came, oh and by the way it was a costume party!

Hang on, I thought, this is new? I also must explain Sue is a mad, funny English woman who has been living in Italy for the past 30+ years and has keep a lot of her English sensibility, not to mention her passion for a good party with no community hall in sight. We were going!

The theme for the party was History which got the boys excited. It was planned that the boys and I would go over for a sleepover the weekend before (also happened to fit in with our book club boozy meeting), then we would pop out to Emmaus and see what we could find in the way of costumes. When we arrived at Sue’s that weekend she had already whipped up Matteo’s Roman solider costume and it was brilliant to say the least. I knew then that I wasn’t leaving until we figured out and made the boys costumes with her. I know my weaknesses and costume design is one of them.


Alex’s costume basics

Emmaus was as fabulous as ever, the boys fell in love with the place and then proceeded to tell me it was the best place for movie props (they would have spent a fortune if they were on their own…a fortune being 50 euro and that would buy LOTS!). Anyway, Alex wanted to be a Greek solider and Max Caesar or someone in a toga. It took Max all of two seconds to find a white sheet (beautifully pressed) some red ribbon, a ring and presto he was done for the grand total of 2 euro! Alex on the other hand wanted the costume to be as authentic as possible… twenty minutes later, lots of discussion, disagreements, excitement and jumping he was sorted for the grand total of 18 euro.


Middle of costume making with Sue

It was back to Sue’s place for gold spray-painting, cutting, designing and heated discussions between Alex and Sue while I meekly tied Max’s toga, pinned on some ribbon and then proceeded to sew (again took me about 5 minutes, minus the sewing).


Max’s quick costume design

I know Sue is a good friend because she put up with Alex’s pedantic ways and after making two soldier costumes she was still looking forward to the party. I, on the other hand, was exhausted!

The following Sunday I bravely borrowed Shelly’s car while she was off working in NY and drove us up to Pistoia. Just another experience to add to my list and one I don’t want to do very often as driving in Florence is a little freaky, especially when you’re not use to driving on the left-hand side of the road and in a manual. I kept on yelling out “Am I on the right side of the road??” 


Let the fun begin

The party was a huge success all due to Sue’s fantastic organisation and constant supply of party games (something Italians do not do). Musical chairs is now know to all that attended the party as a very scary and dangerous game due to the misfortune of a poor girl attending. She was having so much fun when the music stopped she slipped and missed the chair and by some crazy bad luck, managed to fall and splinter her ankle bone! The poor girl ended up in hospital waiting to get a screw put in her leg. I will never play musical chairs again without thinking of this day and feeling weak in the legs.

You know it has been a great day when the boys pile back into the car at dusk, fall asleep in the back seat (even when mum is looking a bit freaked out behind the wheel) and say they don’t need any dinner because they ate too much cake. I think it was the perfect way to end our birthday-party experiences in Italy. Happy 11th Birthday Matteo!

Italian BBQ

The Spring weather has been an absolute delight these past few weeks and with this comes one of my favourite food activities – barbecuing!!

I was put onto a very good local charcoal maker from a friend of mine whose Persian husband highly recommends it; and I have to say it has a delicious smoky flavour we are enjoying. I am not an expert on Italian BBQing but what I do know is when I BBQ in Italy, there is always plenty of food with fantastic flavour and I really don’t have to do anything to the food except enhance the flavour that is already there.

Last night was a beautiful evening for a spot of grilling so I am going to show you my ideal Italian BBQ when the weather is deliciously warm and begging for us to sit outside again while stoking the Weber.


We first started with peperini dolci, these wonderful small peppers have a sweetness to them that intensifies when lightly grilled. We then marinated them with thin slices of garlic, a pinch of chilli flakes, extra virgin olive oil and a good splash of vinegar. Left to marinate while the other food’s cooking, they are a treat worth waiting for.


Once the peppers are marinating it’s time to put the sausage on which usually takes about 5 minutes longer than the beef steak and if you have never tasted grilled Italian salsiccia then you really need to book a flight to Italy and find someone with a BBQ!

The sausage is delicious, extremely flavoursome and very, very morish. As for the bifstecca, I pay a little more and by the ‘Naturara’ beef which is hormone free, bursting with flavour and on the more expensive end of beef (the one in the photo cost me 15 euro), BUT an absolute bargain for any Australian buying quality beef. For example, if  I bought the same cut and size in Sydney from my butcher (excellent quality also) I would be looking at paying about $30-$40 for the same piece.


While the meats were resting it was time for Alex’s favourite: grilled cheese.


It is called tomino and it is like a mini brie with an extra tough outer rind that allows the heat to warm and melt the middle while keeping the outside intact and offering a lovely BBQ-ed flavour to the cheese. And because this is Tuscany, you can also buy tomino with a layer of speck for added flavour (no vegetarians for dinner tonight). I have to admit this is one of my new favourite foods too and I really have to limit us to one per four people, because if it were up to Alex and me, we would have a whole one each… I mean just check out that center:


That is pure heaven!

With all the foods resting and the cheese cooked to perfection it was time to eat. Nic had whipped up a delicious pesto potato salad and a rocket and parmesan green salad to accompany all our wonderful barbecuing. To say this was a feast is a bit of an understatement and the fact that my only job was to sit down, sip wine and wait for this all to appear on the table…well that was a true delight for me.


What is your favourite food to grill? I can only answer this question if I’m allowed at least 5 different  things because I haven’t even talked about pork yet!

Spring in a bowl

I think it would be very easy for me to sit here and list all my favourite foods I have enjoyed this year and no doubt bore you to tears. No one wants that. However, one of the best foodie tastes I have had this year (and I am putting it right up there with truffles) is the creamy, delicious, succlent, mouth-watering delight called burrata. I was first introduced to it on a pizza at PizzaMan (awesome pizza in Florence). The pizza was thin with a smearing of tomato sauce and mozzarella melted into the crust, then topped with fresh cherry tomatoes, rocket leaves, dollops of burrata and lashings of olive oil: HEAVEN!

Whenever I see it on a menu I order it without a doubt and think there is nothing greater. So when all the delicious spring veggies started popping up in the markets and begging me to buy them, I knew there was a salad I just had to make: spring vegetables seasoned with truffle salt and burrata.


Fava beans, fresh peas and rocket leaves finished with parsley, truffle salt, burrata and olive oil

I could eat fava beans and fresh peas all Spring long and still want more; however, when they are paired with the creamy goodness of burrata and the peppery leaves of rocket, the taste just ignites your senses and you can’t say no! The only way you could make this even better would be to serve it with grilled asparagus…

Grilled asparagus with shaved parmesan

Grilled asparagus with shaved parmesan

And with that said, this would have to be my most favourite meal this Spring…


Ricotta doughnuts


I have realised that Easter came and went faster than a speeding bullet this year and I haven’t posted anything about the food we ate. I won’t rehash the whole day but I must make special reference to the delectable ricotta doughnuts I made for dessert. I was looking for something that wasn’t chocolate seeing as the kids’ bedroom was overflowing with chocolate wrappers.

Of course, it helps if you have delicious, fresh ricotta at your fingertips, however, if you do not and regular store-bought is the only option then the lemon zest will help boost the flavour.  I wish I had a better photo of these delectable, morish balls, however, I have to confess these were made at the end of a very long and fabulous day of eating and drinking way too much so I was somewhat blasé when it came to the photo… I was also caught off-guard when I opened my icing sugar and found it had formed into one solid block, hence the lack of white powder elegance on the above balls. I was also supposed to make a lovely orange glaze to drizzle over these delectable doughnuts, alas I discovered that the oranges had never made it home (can’t say the same for the extra bottle of Prosecco). So I improvised and used pure maple syrup which worked a treat.

I love it when a recipe is very quick and easy, and I love it even more when I can improvise with the ingredients. I’m not sure we really needed these at the end of the day but I know I was pretty excited to eat them when they were fresh out of the oil. However, next time I will make the added effort to check my supply cupboard before I drink a bottle of prosecco and maybe even make a pot of lemon curd to serve with them…that would be really decadent!

Mini fried ricotta doughnuts

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 cup castor sugar

3 eggs

8 oz fresh ricotta

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon lemon or orange rind

In a large bowl add the flour, baking powder, sugar, eggs, ricotta, vanilla and zest.

With a wooden spoon, mix until just combined.

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan (approx 1 inch in pot) then gradually drop in heaped dessert spoon sized balls of dough and fry until golden. Repeat until dough is finished.

Drain balls on some paper towel then sprinkle with icing sugar and serve with either lemon curd, orange syrup, maple syrup or whipped cream.

Just be warned they are very morish!

Some of Vienna’s food and wine


Firstly, I would like to say thank you all so much for your concern and I’m sorry to cause concern… we’re all good but reminded that life takes us around unexpected corners! I am looking ahead to our last 9 weeks in Italy and right now I must complete the Vienna experience as I have been informed Vienna is an up-and-coming holiday destination for a few bloggers out there.

As I said before, the cafe scene is big and bursting with avid food lovers, I have also never seen so many signs in cafe windows stating they are vegan friendly- this is something new to me. Of course, you are always going to have average food shops in the city centre where tourism is at its peak, however, if you just take a walk to a neighbouring suburb you won’t pay half as much and no doubt get something home made and delicious. Take for example our neighbourhood of Neubau: plenty of cafes to choose from at very reasonable prices. We settled on this one called Ulrich which was situated in the St. Ulrich Piatz just off Burggasse and just happens to be the new ‘hip’ place.


Hip new cafe/bar

We loved the outdoor seating and the relaxed atmosphere of the place. What we did find was they tend to ask you if you have a booking. We never did. However, most of the tables outside were pre-booked but we were told if we were gone before the booked time then they were happy to accommodate us. We figured an afternoon beer won’t take all evening to finish so we sat down and enjoyed the atmosphere. Our server here was a lovely guy who use to study in Bologna last year…and how did we find this out? We kept answering in Italian! 


Flat nuts – the perfect beer snack

We ordered beers (I had a Weissbier and Nic had the local Zwickel beer) and a bar snack, then sat back and enjoyed the afternoon along with everyone else. I have to say Nic and I both enjoyed Austrian beer much more than the wine. We are big red drinkers and favour a full bodied Shiraz which is very different to the Austrian reds we tried. They were very sweet, light and fruity. I think next time we will try more rieslings and definitely more beer. Our bar snack was delicious, the bread was crisp and house-made from whole wheat flour served with extra virgin olive oil and a dukka mix of crushed nuts, sesame seeds, salt, cumin seeds and a hint of chilli: absolutely delicious and very morish.


Fruit and veg vendor

Another of my favourite places to walk around in Vienna was the Naschmarkt, this is a wonderfully massive food market. You will find anything from food stalls, produce stands, restaurants, cheese vendors, old guys selling pickles and sauerkraut right out of the big barrels…and pretty much anything else you can think of that is food related. The first shop we came across was an Asian grocer so we stocked up on supplies to bring back to Italy (and sadly left them on the train!!) and then we found white asparagus. Big, fat, beautiful white asparagus, I love the stuff and can’t get enough of it at home as the supply is very small and very expensive. Another reason I love to stay in apartments is the fact that I can cook with local products, so I purchased a big bunch of white asparagus and served it for dinner and breakfast the following day. I would of been in heaven if I had brought my truffle salt too… But I managed to buy some mini brats wrapped in bacon that tasted pretty yummy, so breakfast the morning after the markets was pretty delish and gave us plenty of energy for a day of sightseeing.


Poached egg with sauteed asparagus and bacon wrapped mini brats


Another one of my favourites in Vienna was frittaten; pancakes seasoned with herbs, cut into thin strips and served in a rich beef stock. I can understand why this is popular with the locals, it is full of flavour and the texture of the pancake works beautifully with the  rich flavours in the broth.




I’m not sure I want to post this next picture but Max absolutely LOVED his cordon bleu. The kid has not stopped eating since his 12th birthday and Vienna was his mecca for large plates of meat! I have to say I did try a piece of his lunch this day and it was very yummy, however, my tuna salad was made beautifully and the right choice for me. What I am trying to say is if you have hungry pre-teens then Vienna is your town.


Giant cordon bleu

Right that’s it, I cannot possibly end this with that picture so here is one more delight you can have in Vienna- pastries 


Mango and pineapple pastry, apple and sultana and jam filled pastries

By the way, the mango and pineapple pastry on the left was my favourite and if you need a few cake recommendations I hear the esterhazytorte and the dobostorte are delicious…and how could I forget the classic apfelstrudel!

A holiday in Vienna

This is a hard post to write. My blog is for me to remember the highs and lows of our year in Italy and Vienna was a holiday (slotted in with Nic’s history conference) that holds both highs and the lowest of lows for me.

Life has so many turns and bumps, when you have been clear sailing for a long time and thinking life just can’t get any better the bumps land hard and everything you know to be so turns into a series of free-falling, not knowing what to do or how to stop. I am going to talk about Vienna as the beautiful city it is, however, please excuse my lack of excitement and lack of cake photos…the wheels fell off my holiday before I could eat cake.


We arrived in Vienna on Wednesday morning, bright and early as we had decided to take the overnight train from Florence to give the boys yet another travelling experience. The train is very easy and if you are short then probably a very comfortable ride, however, Nic and I were wishing we were a foot shorter when we laid on the sleeper beds.

We stayed in yet another Airbnb apartment and I have to say it was excellent. I wasn’t sure if I had made the right decision when booking it as it was a bit out of the centre, however, when we arrived and met our host we all thought it was perfect. The place was big, bright and beautifully decorated in a vintage theme. Asta our host was very helpful and left us to our own devices. Perfect.

In the museumsquartier

In front of the monument to Maria Theresa near the Museumsquartier

To fill in the day we decided to take a leisurely walk around the city centre also ignoring the tiredness that was creeping in. Vienna is beautiful, let me state this clearly. The city is very easy to walk around, however, if you would rather use public transport then you have trams, subway or bikes to choose from. I have to say the subway is the cleanest I have ever seen ( I’ve seen a few) and extremely easy to operate, people are very happy to help if you need it.

I’m not sure if it was because we have been living in Florence where you can feel the grime and dirt of past centuries peeling off the buildings, but Vienna seems incredibly clean, bright and new. It was like they had just painted all the buildings ready for the tourist season.

We were hungry after our city tour and it was getting late so we decided to look up a traditional eating spot in our travel guide. Of course the two we thought sounded good were on the other side of the city. The first one was gone, replaced by a craft store (must have been really good!), however, the second restaurant (Figlmüller) which was just around the corner was an excellent first choice for experiencing Vienna, afterall it is all about the schnitzel!!

Max AFTER he'd eaten

Max AFTER he’d eaten

This place was fantastic and the schnitzel excellent. All their schnitzels are bashed out to 34cm of pure deliciousness. The crumbing light, crunchy and morish. Our server recommended a salad to share and this was actually one of the highlights of the trip. The four of us couldn’t get enough of it, the dressing was a perfect combination of sweet and sour. The potatoes were Nic and my favourite, while Alex couldn’t get enough of the carrots…as for Max, he was loving the 34cm schnitzel!

Wiener Schnitzel

Wiener Schnitzel

We rolled out of the restaurant feeling very happy, satisfied and up for a little more walking. Vienna has a wonderful cafe and food scene that I wasn’t expecting, I will have to do a photo journal post just so you can see what I am talking about. Now though I will take you on a photo journey of Vienna so you can see what I mean when I say it really is beautiful. As for museums I can highly recommend the Kunsthistorisches Museum which contains an amazing collection including one of the world’s largest collections of Old Masters.

A side view of Hundertwasserhaus

A side view of Hundertwasserhaus

If you are up for a hike just outside the city centre, then go and check out Hundertwasserhaus, a beautiful apartment building designed by Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. This was a favourite of mine.


While Nic was at his conference the boys and I checked out the Belvedere which is another dramatically large palace that was commissioned by Prince Eugen of Savoy.

Alex loved petting the fish

Alex loved petting the fish

A view of Vienna from the top of the  water animal zoo

A view of Vienna from the top of the Haus des Meeres

And if you are travelling with kids then I highly recommend a morning spent at the indoor water animal house, the Haus des Meeres. Lots of animals to look at and fish to pat and monkeys walking by…not to mention the view of Vienna from the top of this somewhat very ugly building.

A rear view of the palace from the gardens

A rear view of the palace at Schloss Schönbrunn from the gardens

On our last day we headed out to the Scholss Schönbrunn, which is the former summer residence of the imperial Hasburg family. This place is incredible, from the ballrooms to the gardens. The day was easily spent wandering around the grounds and palace rooms.

I will leave you here and write about the food scene next, something that deserves its own attention.


The burn off


Burn offs all over the countryside

The olive harvest is well and truly over, just about all the farmers have finished trimming the olive trees, getting them ready for the next season. Scattered around the open fields of Tuscany you will see stacks of sticks, twigs, branches and anything else that will burn. Burn off is an Italian tradition around this time of year which I personally love to hate (especially when I have just hung laundry on the line!) For the past few months there have been small smoke fires burning off all over the countryside and a week or so ago Roberto, our landlord finally got around to burning the massive pile of olive twigs and branches he has been collecting over the past few months…Alex was ecstatic!


The end of the olive tree cycle


In the beginning there was smoke…a lot of smoke, so Roberto went and did what any sane farmer would do and tipped a bottle of kerosene on top to really get the juices flowing, which of course did the trick to Alex’s delight.


Farmer Alex

When all the action was at it’s peak, Roberto’s wife came out with celebratory beverages. To salute the flames perhaps? I am not sure, but I wasn’t saying no to home-made crema di lemoncello that’s for sure…even if it was only 10-am.



I know they got rid of burn offs in Australia in the mid 80’s (something of a relief for my mum if I remember correctly) however, they are still going strong here today. While it is a pain with the washing and the air is polluted with smoke fumes, I can’t help but love a good bonfire. Alex and I might have to befriend an Australian olive grower just to experience it all over again.


Beautiful bonfire