The whiteness of the light and the chirping of tropical birds fill the room on the first floor – the room with big windows and a big white cotton bed – and wake us up. We take a glance outside and find the small Santa Maria, a secondary aristocratic street in Miraflores, unknown to taxi drivers. Exactly where Miraflores gives way to San Isidro and to the enchanting olive-tree wood named El Olivar, and further on to the eighteenth-century hacienda of Astrid and Gaston. Taxi drivers do not know this new ‘hotelito’, and we will not show them. Every time we come here, we will ask to be dropped at Ovalo Gutierrez, and so avoid disturbing the quietness of Santa Maria and this breathtaking house. We are the queens of a small 1940s residence that makes you proud every time you cross its gates. The delicious breakfast is made of gentle portions and a veranda that opens on the garden, where they are bedding a new lemon tree. Sometimes an example of the most perfect and modern hospitality can be found in unexpected towns.
MINI Adventure Trip 2015, Argentina
The crackling sound of the wheels on the dirt road to Antofagasta de la Sierra. The earth on our bonnet, onto which we wrote like kids, in the Valle de la luna. The wind whistling against our half-closed window on our way to Tolar Grande. The black volcano crust crumbling against ochre sand dunes. The colour shades of Andean rocks. Cactus flowers, wind-ruffled bushes, and every grazing llama. The pure white of Salar de Antofalla, and the pure blue over 4800 metres, which take your breath away. Gauchos riding on the edge of landscapes wider than one can imagine. Nature’s absolute beauty makes you reconsider the concept of beauty itself…
Chiloé Island, Chile
Chiloé is a long and narrow stretch of unspoiled land surrounded by the Ocean off the coast of Southern Chile. It’s the largest island of an archipelago that bears the same name. Refugia sits atop a hill at the edge of the sea. It’s a great modern haven: majestic, geometric and luxurious. Each of the twelve rooms has views on the surrounding nature and includes a reading room, a living room and a terrace. The legend goes that a ghost ship sails in the depth of the Ocean around the island. Sometimes, it emerges on the surface to reveal itself to other ships. It could happen to you while sailing around the fjords on the hotel’s vessel Williche.
The Pampas, Argentina
Driving towards San Miguel del Monte, just outside Buenos Aires is like trying to get out of Milan on a Friday night driving on the multiple-lane main road packed with cars that are stuck or barely moving forward. For an Italian, the landscape is not dissimilar from the countryside of the Emilia region. You can feel tired and disappointed that you are not in a completely unspoiled land…
Buenos Aires and Salta, Argentina
When it’s our December, it’s summer in the Australian hemisphere and Buenos Aires smells of blue Jacaranda. It’s a sweet fragrance that permeates the whole city, you can’t miss it. We only remember details of the places we visit, what’s memorable about Argentina is its inebriating smell. It’s in the city, in the countryside, up to the most remote corner of its immense land…
Buenos Aires, Argentina
When we asked an Argentinian, he told us that La Boca is not in the outskirts of Buenos Aires and yet when we arrived at El Ombrero we felt as we’d come to the end of the city. The only way to get to this residential street, dimly lighted by a few streetlamps, is by taxi and you need to know the full address. At the entrance, a police officer checks everyone on the way in and out. Fried calamari, grilled sausage and mashed potatoes: the food is abundant, frugal, tasty and cheap.
Salta is not the attracting city that many book-guides describe. However, it’s the heart of a land of infinite beauty. It’s the ideal stop from where to set off in different directions. Finca Valentina is a divine shelter; it’s the house to come back to. Fabrizio and Valentina welcome you as their family in their beautiful and sophisticated casale where intimacy and quiet reign. Early in the morning, you wake up to a light and persistent bird singing. A breakfast of vanilla milk and crunchy muesli, scones, freshly baked pastry and spreadable dulce de leche awaits you on beautifully embroidered linen tablecloths. The delicious food is wisely prepared by female Argentinian hands but inspired to the Italian culinary tradition. At dinner, you talk about Puna and the martial landscapes that some still have impressed in their eyes and others know they will come back to see again.