Summer 2017: Fresh Air 17 in The Cotswolds (June 11 – 2 July 2017)
Summer in the UK comes and goes without notice, and as a mini-heat wave came upon us last weekend I decided to take my camera to one of the prettiest rural areas in England, Cotswolds!
The Cotswolds is a fairy tale area that lies pretty much in Gloucestershire and Oxford, approximately 90 min from London. The ancient medieval villages, rolling hills, crystal water streams, thatched cottages, English gardens and flowers will suggest you are visiting Alice in Wonderland!
We headed towards the little village of Bibury to stay at The Swan hotel. The hotel is part of Cotswold Inns Hotels and it is right in the middle of the village. Getting there after 5 pm was perfect, we managed to enjoy the village without too many tourists around. Bibury is two small villages separated by the river Coln, on one side is Bibury and on the other side Arlington. In the Arlington side, you can visit what is probably the most famous photograph spot in the Cotswolds, Arlington Row.
These cottages became an instant tourist attraction in 2014 after featuring inside every British passport. On the Bibury side we visited St Mary’s church and walked past Bibury Court, probably the most amazing country house I’ve ever seen. This gorgeous house dates from the 16th century, until recently a hotel but according to one of the many friendly locals it is now the private house of Sir Jonathan Ive, head of design at Apple. Apparently he bought the house in 2015, and renovations are underway until 2019!
The following day we briefly stopped at the New Inn B&B in the village of Coln St Aldwyns. We were trying to get a room for the Saturday night but sadly they were fully booked. Bella, the very friendly host, suggested us to visit her village, Quenington and follow the signs to Fresh Air 17. Fresh Air? Isn’t that everywhere in the Cotswold? Well not this one!
Fresh Air 2017 is a biennial sculpture exhibition in the grounds of Quenington Old Rectory, the private house of Mr and Mrs David Abel Smith. After paying a very reasonable entry fee, £ 5 each, we went into the grounds and gardens. They were quintessential English but full of contemporary sculptures, made the landscape surreal! Artists from all over the world are exhibiting and all sculptures are for sale. Students from various colleges are also invited to take part.
This unique exhibition has been growing steadily from its original 300 visitors in 1997 to over 14000 visitors in 2015. If you want to be one of the lucky ones in 2017 and see modern and cutting edge contemporary artwork in stunning outdoors you have the chance until July 2!
There is a very classy and beautiful pub close to this exhibition, so if you can avoid weekends you may be lucky to find a room at The Keeper’s Arms
The Cotswold are extremely popular, and deservedly so, however just straying from the beaten track will rip fabulous rewards!
Where to stay in Lecce
For many years I used to book groups for a client in Lecce but never visited. Last summer well I could not avoid the trip, as we were very close by and very curious about why clients from as far as Australia were coming every year to Lecce. So I decided to take a look
It took some convincing for the husband to get out of the hammock, but I packed our bags and booked a couple of nights at the very central and very beautiful Patria Palace Hotel As this is where my clients were staying year after year, it was quite logical to start discovering Lecce from here.
The hotel is right in the middle of the historical centre, please make sure to use all your senses if you are driving. Your Sat Nav could land you right in the middle of the pedestrian zone and with an expensive fine, that’s what we did and we were lucky to encounter a couple of very friendly carabinieri!
First thing you notice is the most beautiful golden light of the city. As most building and monuments were constructed with Lecce Stone, a yellow limestone which is one of the main city exports, when the sun is out everything seems to be glowing under a golden yellow light. The city is known as the ‘Florence of the South’ but this really doesn’t do it any justice, for this is a city with its own most enchanting baroque character and beauty. A good place to start your stroll is at the Basilica di Santa Croce, situated a few meters away from the hotel. With this building you start appreciating the rich and amazing baroque style of the entire city, just looking at the elaborated façade will take plenty of time.
From there you can head towards Piazza Duomo by Piazza San Oronzo and Via Vittorio Emanuele II, were you will be right at the heart of the city. Plenty of shops, restaurants and cafes if you want a little break or appetitivo. Another monument to visit is the Teatro Romano, an open Roman theatre and if you are lucky enough you can catch a concert as many events take place during the summer months. A very unique museum is not far from there, the Museo Faggiano. This is a bulding that never intended to be a museum, it was the family home of Mr Luciano Faggiano. In 2000 he wanted to renovate the building as he intended to open a trattoria but he encountered some troubles with the toilet. As he was looking to fix the sewage pipe he started to uncover a subterranean world tracing back before the birth of Jesus. He is a very funny character and you can read more about his story at this link http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/15/world/europe/centuries-of-italian-history-are-unearthed-in-quest-to-fix-toilet.html?_r=0 (Museo Faggiano, Via Ascanio Grandi, 56/58, tlf +39-0832-300528 )
Most surprisingly it was to discover an array of fashionable clothes and jewellery designers continuing Italy’s rich design tradition, so not everything in Italy comes from China after all! A couple of shops worth visiting are Sartoria Artigianale Atika where it’s quite common to find the designer Mr Antonio Franco at his desk planning his original designs (Via Francesco Rubichi, 13, Lecce +39 0832 308428 http://www.atikasartoria.it/ ) If jewels are your thing then make sure to visit Maria Paola Barrotta at her studio in Via Arcivescovo Petronelli, 12 (http://www.mariapaolabarrotta.com/
Where to Eat
Food, well as with every time I visit a new place I think it’s the best in Italy! Orecchiete pasta, Burrata Pugliese (a very soft cheese similar to mozzarella) fish and Primitivo wine are a must when you are here. A couple of restaurants to recommend: near the Duomo you will find Corte dei Pandolfi Restaurant, situated in a lovely little square with outside tables ( Corte dei Pandolfi, 3 http://cortedeipandolfi.com/ ) and if fish is what you fancy then head to Pescheria con cottura near Piazza San Oronso, here you can choose your fish and they will cook it for you ( Via de Mocenigo, 23 Telf +39-0832-098366 http://www.pescheriaconcottura.it/ )
For more info on Lecce or Puglia check the website http://www.viaggiareinpuglia.it/hp/en