Things to do in Bologna and Modena

Any food lover should put a trip to Bologna and Modena at the top of their ‘places to visit’ list. I’d heard from fellow foodies (and Rick Stein) that this central area of Italy was a culinary dream, but had no idea of the intensity of the local food traditions. Every shop exhibits homemade tortellini in the windows and proudly hangs mortadella from the ceiling. The historic arched streets are scented with the sweet smell of balsamic vinegar and Parmigiano Reggiano, I was in heaven. In between mealtimes there are plenty of beautiful buildings and art galleries to explore, and both cities have impressive towers to climb, to help work off those extra pasta calories!



We stayed at one of the Adriano Residence apartments, which are located all over the central part of the city. Our modern apartment was stylish and comfortable, ideally located just a short walk from all the sights and shops.


Archiginnasio of Bologna, once the main building of Europe’s oldest university, is a staggeringly beautiful place to see. While wandering round the city we stumbled across the beautiful ‘Little Venice” a part of Bologna where the roads are replaced with water, like in Venice. Also in the centre of town are the magical whispering walls, where you can stand at diagonal walls and hear your friend whisper. To see the city from up high, test your thighs with a climb up the 498 steps of the Asinelli Tower.


Every Bolognese local will recommend a different ‘favourite’ restaurant you should try. I quickly realised there wasn’t one or two restaurants that we HAD to tick off. Instead we chose dependent on their menus, prices and table availability. Scaccomatto was particularly memorable for their wonderfully simple sweet onion and parmesan raviolini. Head to Tamburini for wonderful meats and cheeses, perfect for an early evening aperitivo, and Drogheria della Rosa for an authentic four-course Italian dinner, accompanied with lovely wines.

There are specialist places to visit if you are after specific foods or ingredients: Le Sfogline for handmade pasta, Paolo Att & Figli for sweet treats, Caffe Terzi for coffee and La Sorbetteria Castiglione for ice-cream.



Modena is a quiet town which has become known for it’s long and rich food heritage. Locanda del Feudo is a boutique hotel in the small town of Castelvetro, a short drive from Modena. The property has just six suite rooms, each spacious but cosy and the hotel restaurant is highly recommended.

Osteria Francescana

Many make the pilgrimage to Modena to visit the World’s Best Restaurant, Osteria Francescana. I loved every mouthful of our meal at the restaurant, a truly special experience that was worth the wait. Chef Massimo Bottura reimagines Modenese ingredients and classic dishes to create plates of food that are wildly imaginative and sensational to taste. If you unable to get a table here, do not fear, as Massimo also owns Franceschetta 58 in Modena, a more relaxed restaurant which serves some similar dishes, at much more affordable prices!


Stop by Mon Cafe or Menonoka for a morning coffee and visit Antica Pasticceria San Biagio for speciality pastries like frappe and tortelli fritti. Mercato Albineli is a lovely fresh food market to pick up any seasonal ingredient you could dream of.

The are plenty of charming shops to buy souvenirs from in Modena. I loved the handmade leather tortellini keyrings from La Vacchetta Grassa and there is a lovely range of Italian scents at Avery Perfume Gallery.

There are a few attractions to entertain yourself during the day. The Ghirlandina tower offers colourful views over the town and car lovers will be in heaven at the Museo Enzo Ferrari.

Parmigiano Reggiano

While staying in Modena venture to the outskirts of town to learn about the heritage of the famous Traditional Balsamic Vinegar di Modena and the process of making Parmigiano Reggiano. Museo dell’Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Spilamberto is a historic museum which holds many balsamic vinegar barrels in its attic. For an education in parmesan head to Hombre, an organic farm which makes some of the best cheese in the area, or 4 Madonne Caseificio dell’Emilia for a more comprehensive tour and tasting.

More information on Modena here.

The Gallivant, Rye

There seems to be a growing enthusiasm for British travel, and I feel like 2017 is a great year to explore the lesser known areas of England. Recently I spent a night in Rye, a charming town just 90 minutes drive from London. Our base for the weekend was The Gallivant, a perfectly quaint boutique hotel, minutes away from the stunning Camber Sands stretch of beach.


There are many things to see and do in Rye; I recommend walking down the picturesque Mermaid Street, grabbing high-quality coffee at Edith’s House and splurging on vintage kitchen accessories at Crock & Cosy. After a morning exploring the tearooms and antique shops of Rye, we headed to The Gallivant for a relaxing weekend.

Gallivant HotelGallivant HotelGallivant HotelGallivant Hotel

There are 20 rooms at The Gallivant and many have recently been refreshed and redecorated. We were in Room 8, which was small but perfectly arranged. There is a subtle nautical theme throughout the rooms at the Gallivant, hinting at the beachside location. The interiors feel luxurious thanks to the lovely materials used… white marble table tops and soft indulgent bedding. Quirky features like the vintage bedside telephones and mini library of books add character to the rooms.

Gallivant Hotel

I was delighted to find a large bath complete with generous bottles of Bramley products. The Bramley collection are all natural and handmade in the South West of England. After a blissfully long bath I wrapped up in the fluffy white towelling robes provided by The Gallivant for guest use.


The Gallivant restaurant serves comforting dishes with an emphasis on fresh local produce. When we sat down for lunch I was impressed to see a food map on the table detailing where all the fruit & vegetables, meat & fish and wine has come from (most of which is within a 10 mile radius!). Everything we ate was delicious, from spiced roast parsnip soup to the dried aged Sussex Red beef sirloin. The kitchen really respect the ingredients they have, creating simple but sophisticated recipes. Don’t miss the sticky toffee pudding for dessert!

Gallivant Hotel

After a long and refreshing sleep, breakfast was enjoyed from the comfort of our own room. The cute window seats are perfect for morning snacking, we feasted on freshly made Waffles with banana and decadent Eggs Benedict, while watching the sun rise around us.


Within the garden of the Gallivant is the newly opened Beach Hut, a peaceful oasis for guests to enjoy spa treatments. I embraced the opportunity to be pampered for an hour, and felt my body de-stress while therapist Billie massaged my back and scalp with the Natural Spa Factory products.

The Gallivant is not far from the city, but offers busy city dwellers the opportunity to truly relax away from their busy everyday lives. With great food and new spa offerings, this boutique British retreat ticks every box.

More information and book a room at The Gallivant here.

A Return Trip to The Scarlet, Cornwall

I often get asked by dithering lovebirds where I would recommend going for a romantic weekend away in England. I have no better suggestion than Cornwall. Easily accessible by train with almost exotic beaches and wonderful rugged landscapes, it is a relaxing and calm escape from busy city life.

A few weeks ago I visited the Scarlet Hotel in Cornwall for the second time. When I first stayed in 2011, I was wowed by the luxurious eco design, natural yet indulgent environment and immaculate service, and was prepared to be less impressed second time round. Yet, stepping inside the serene Scarlet entrance I felt my heartbeat slow, my breathing regulate and my muscles relax, it was just as wonderful as before and I felt overwhelmed with happiness to be back.

After brief tour of the gorgeous facilities, we were dropped off at the spa, an ideal place for couples to truly unwind. We soaked for thirty minutes in the soothing cliff-edge hot tub with a glass of bubbly and admired the awe-inspiring views of the ocean. In the outdoor area there is also a natural pool for keen swimmers, though we favoured the warmer inside area and collapsed on the beanbags in the quiet relaxation room. Before my treatment I was asked to fill out an intriguing Ayurvedic form, illustrating my body and personality type; Vata, Pitta or Kapha. My therapist was gentle and friendly and asked me a few questions to establish where the stress and tension may be located, she then devised a completely bespoke combination of facial and massage to suits my needs. In line with the Ayurvedic approach, the Scarlet spa is very zen, with a muted colour scheme and cocoon-like pods for treatments. I felt sleepy immediately as I sunk into the warm bed surrounded in draped material and let my worries melt away.

The isolated location of the Scarlet means the spa is a popular part of the hotel. I had to fight for my space in the indoor pool, and the relaxation room was full of dressing-gowned guests! There are other pleasant rooms to rest and read, enjoy a cup of tea or play a game of pool. After a stint at the spa we retired to our room, trying out the giant bath, natural toiletries (Rosemary and Bergamot by St Kitts) and gazing out from the little balcony. We enjoyed one of the ‘generous rooms’ with an open plan bathroom with a luxuriously large bath, and separate wet room with a frosted glass door. The furniture is natural – warm wooden tables and soft grey chairs. The bed was wonderfully comfortable, the lighting subtle with numerous settings so you can ensure it is exactly as you wish.

The Scarlet is a hotel for foodies, the culinary offerings here are both health-conscious and indulgent. We were treated to dinner and breakfast in the sea-facing dining room. Chef Tom Hunter is thoughtful and inventive with an emphasis on seasonal Cornish produce, the dinner menu changes daily. Three courses cost £42.50 and there is a lovely variety to choose from. To preserve my appetite, I opted for a warm salad of chargrilled vegetables with westcomb ricotta cheese, heritage tomatoes and gremolata, a vibrant, colourful and healthy dish. My guest chose a more comforting bowl of Pappardelle pasta with roast crown prince squash and old Winchester, it was simple and brilliantly tasty.

Main courses were regal in their presentation. Loin of Dexter beef with braised ox cheek, bone marrow crust, dauphinoise potato and rainbow carrots was a delicious dish, the top meat drizzled with rich sauce and complemented by the lovely vegetables. For poultry fans, the Cornish chicken breast is a must, served with confit leg ravioli, honey glazed parsnips, chard and pearl barley, it is a fantastic combination of textures and flavours. Naturally the plate was scraped clean within minutes.

Our dessert choice was a no-brainer… we shared the White chocolate mousse with honeycomb, raspberries, pistachio cake and natural yoghurt sorbet. It was spectacular, the perfect spherical honeycomb ball filled with sweet silky white mousse and balanced with the red fruit and nutty cake cubes.

We woke, later than usual, with the blessing of no alarm, after deep restful sleep. Noticing the sun emerging from the clouds, we grabbed our jackets and headed for the long stretch of beach below the hotel. It was blissful inhaling the fresh salty sea air and absorbing our stunning surroundings. Tired out from our walk, we returned for homemade granola, fresh coffee and pancakes with roasted apples. What more could you wish for from a Cornish weekend away?

More information and book a stay at The Scarlet Hotel here.

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