"Welcome to the Baron's castle" baronedivandastad's Profile

Here's the Baron

My name is Alessandro, but pretty much only my mum calls me that way. For the rest I'm simply mac or "Il Barone". This last nick comes from the way I enjoy what I call Quality of Life. Travelling is an essential part of my job, but I rarely stay home when I'm off. I mostly use planes, although nothing takes me off my motorbike when weather allows.


I have created my own blog about re-immigration to Italy - check it out on http://re-immigration.blogspot.com

Warning: the blog contains politically incorrect and controversial views about my country. Be advised and don't go there if you still think that Italy is the idiotically idylliac place described in "Under the Tuscan Sun".

The Baron's thesis + new bike

Even though I'm still updating VT every now and then, I have not finished writing my thesis yet as it's now time for introduction and conclusion.

In October 2005: I felt that my older bike (see below) needed a younger, bigger sister. Although I have come to terns with the bike and its driving style, it still amazes and kind of scares me to think that this beast easily pulls you up to 250 km an hour, and unlike Boeings does not take off.

On two wheels

My old bike turned 16 last January. During my spare time, I am continuing the practically endless project of restoring it. Recently, it has been the turn of the exhaust pipe, which I scraped fully (took an afternoon!) and re-painted in opaque black. A real beauty.

Now it's got new tyres, new air filter, new battery, new electrical equipment, new brakes and new engine oil and spark plugs. Freaking expensive, but now it's ready for a nice trip together.

I had organized a trip to Tunisia in order to test all this, but the company cancelled it in the last minute, leaving me stranded. It wasn't all bad news, though, as I could focus on my thesis. See you again in the autumn.

Gourmet guide to the hidden Italy

Since you can get lots of tourist advices (in terms of things to do) from other, much more complete VT pages, and given that there's no way I can match them in quantity and quality of tips for the average tourist, I decided to focus on what you should do if you want to experience a bit of the hidden world of my country, the one where we live and the one most tourists don't dare cross.

So you'll mostly see tips about restaurants and other things connected to the loosely defined concept of Quality of Life (QoL).

The Rome page is something I'm starting to be proud of

Since my job takes me to places that not many people get to see, and since I try to visit non-touristic places as much as I can, you'll see some tips about strange places.

Travel on...

Although my travelling has kind of slowed down recently, both my job and my adventurous spirit take me to different places. I try to keep a list of places I have been to recently. Clearly, I don't have time to create a travel page for all of them, but I'm happy to answer questions. And you'll see the best entries here.

The places I have visited most often recently are the Middle East (Kuwait City, Dubai, Riyadh, Istanbul, Tel Aviv), Sicily (Catania, Taormina, Palermo), the surroundings of Rome (Rieti, Bracciano, the Roman Castles), Northern Europe Helsinki, Swedish and Finnish Lapland, Tallinn, Stockholm) plus of course my hometown Siena.

Best of the best

Often I get asked about the best I've seen among the 30+ countries I've been to. Here's a short list where items come in no particular order.

Best airlines
- Qatar Airways
- Air Dolomiti
- Ryanair
- Emirates
- British Airways
- Blue1
- Finnair

Best hotels:
- Sheraton (Kuwait City, Kuwait)
- Hilton Conrad (Cairo, Egypt)
- Marriott (Orlando, US)
- Moevenpick (Dubai, UAE)
- Radisson SAS (Linkoping, Sweden)
- Parco degli Aragonesi (Catania, Italy)

Best Restaurants (that's a tough one):
- Da Enzo, Molino il Moro (Siena and Colle di Val d'Elsa, Italy)
- Nokka and Sundmans Krog (Helsinki, Finland)
- Trattoria San Giuliano and Trattoria dal Peccatore (Catania, Italy)
- Mughal Mahal (Kuwait City, Kuwait)
- Assaraya (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)
- Shangri La Corsetti and Cantina Castrocielo (Rome, Italy)

Best bars / pubs:
- On The Rox (Rome, Italy)
- Teerenpeli (Helsinki, Finland)
- Hooghoudt (Groningen, Netherlands)
- Moskva (Tallinn, Estonia)
- La Compania del Ron (Bilbao, Spain)
- Re Artù (Rome, Italy)

Best beers:
- Orval (Belgium)
- Litovel (Czech Republic)
- Corsendonk Pater (Belgium)
- Peroni Gran Riserva (Italy)
- Velkopopovicky lager (Czech Republic)
- Moretti La Rossa (Italy)
- Tumma Olvi and everything you can buy from Teerenpeli and Plevna (Finland)
- Corsendonk Pater (Belgium)
- Theresianer Vienna (Italy)
- Menabrea 150 anniversario (Italy)

Best microbreweries:
- Panimo (Oulu, Finland)
- Teerenpeli (Helsinki, Finland)
- John Harvard (Boston, US)
- Rock Bottom (Denver, US)
- Plevna (Tampere, Finland)
- BOA (Rome, Italy)

Best winemakers (ok, I'm a bit biased on this one, I admit):
- Planeta (Sicily, Italy)
- Fonterutoli (Tuscany, Italy)
- Fontanafredda (Piedmont, Italy)
- Casale del Giglio (Lazio, Italy)
- Pieve di Santa Restituta (Tuscany, Italy)
- Feudi di San Gregorio (Campania, Italy)
- Caparzo (Tuscany, Italy)
- Barone Ricasoli (Tuscany, Italy)
- Pieropan (Veneto, Italy)

Best buildings I've seen (note: this does not necessarily mean the most beautiful or stunning, just buildings I've been fascinated by):
- Palazzo Pubblico (Siena, Italy)
- Duomo (Siena, Italy)
- Hermitage (St. Petersburg, Russia)
- Kingdom Tower (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)
- City Hall (Bamberg, Germany)
- Parc Guell (Barcelona, Spain)
- Hvittrask (Espoo, Finland)
- Villa Adriana (Tivoli, Italy)
- The Castle (Budapest, Hungary)
- Sony Center (Berlin, Germany)
- Orthodox Cathedral (Tallinn, Estonia)
- Castel dell'Ovo (Naples, Italy)

Best ciites/towns (that's even tougher):
- Siena (Italy)
- Helsinki (Finland)
- Bamberg (Germany)
- Riga (Latvia)
- Dubai (UAE)
- Alesund (Norway)
- Groningen (Netherlands)
- Rome (Italy)
- Boston (US)
- Bratislava (Slovakia)
- Tallinn (Estonia)

Best regions:
- Rioja (Spain)
- Central Tuscany (Italy)
- Aland islands (Finland)
- Alto Adige (Italy)
- All Savo and Northern Karelia (Finland)
- Lofoten Islands (Norway)
- Sicily (Italy)
- Salzkammergut (Austria)
- Vierwaldstaettersee (Switzerland)
- Thuringen (Germany)
- Friuli-Venezia Giulia (Italy)
- Istria (Slovenia/Croatia)
- Tornio river valley (Finland, Sweden)
- Geirangerfjord (Norway)

Best motorbike riding roads:
- Snovagen (Norway)
- Grossglockner (Austria)
- Road n. 222 Siena - Florence (Italy)
- Punkaharju (Finland)
- Road n. 17 Snasa - Bodo (Norway)
- Around Saimaa lake (Finland)
- Road n. 2 Siena - Bolsena (Italy)
- Berlin - Wittenberg
- Uphill from Limone del Garda (Italy, haven't tried this but it was gorgeous with the car).

Places where I'd like to go one day:
- Siberia
- Japan
- New Zealand
- Argentina
- Iran
- India
- South Africa
- Ireland
- Portugal
- Ukraine

  • Intro Updated May 26, 2006
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