Places & Stories

The Happiness Tree - La Piantata

It's been nearly ten years since I put this place down on my list of places I'm saving for myself and want to visit. I don't know how it was exactly that I came across La Piantata in the virtual world; the only thing I'm sure of is that I'm happy I did.


For a long time now I have known that this is a special place and I'm looking forward to one day e-mailing my husband a booking for a few blissful days in this paradise. Or maybe I'll send it in a letter; it somehow seems more appropriate to this place and the way you are supposed to find out about it.


The story behind La Piantata is lovely: a husband and wife turned this place into one of its kind and then went on to include their two daughters and their respective families. It is a place where, I'm certain, people create the most wonderful memories that allow them to conjure up the scent of lavender, a warm breeze and that slight pain in the corners of your mouth caused by a smile that simply won't quit. Not even for days after leaving this place. Or rather, after climbing down from the tree house... And where did that come from?


In the beginning there was a man called Renzo Stucchi, who left his high-ranking position on the Board of the Cacharel company as well as his Milan address and moved to a small village in Lazio Maremmi, called Arlena di Castro. There he bought a farm that dates back to the late 18th century, surrounded by olive groves and a lavender field.


The catalyst of the process that was to follow was a huge oak growing on the estate. That oak became the starting point of what is now La Piantata. In 2005 the first tree house opened - now called Suite Bleue - 8 meters off the ground, in the beautiful Toscana with Tarquinia silhouetted along the horizon.


Apart from this unusual tree house, Agriturismo La Piantata boasts another one that is called Black Suite and is just as impressive. Guests can also enjoy in one of the rooms at the hotel on the estate.


Since life has a way of writing the most wonderful stories, after so many years and in this very place I finally got the opportunity to have as my guest the owner Renzo Stucchi and ask him some questions that have intrigued me for so long.



How did La Piantata's story begin?

I started out as pastry chef in Milan when I was 15, which is why I still do desserts for the guests. At 24 I met my wife who worked for Cacharel in Paris and following her passion for fashion, I managed to open the first Cacharel salon in Milan in the 1970s. For me fashion was love at first sight that lasted for thirty years. My CEO position in Cacharel Italia between 1977 and 2001 required knowledge not only of fabrics but furniture as well.
That is how I came to discover Provence with its endless lavender fields and delightful shabby chic fabrics. In 1999 I finally decided to move out of the city to look for a simpler and slower pace of life in the country.  It was important to me to find something just as beautiful as that Provençal landscape. It was then that I came across an abandoned farm, overflowing with lavender, which I reconfigured and decorated with Provençal fabrics and furniture. That is where I initially started to grow lavender and today we have over 15 hectares of lavender.

lavender fields - la piantata

As you yourself have said, for 26 years you held a high-ranking position in Cacharel and just when you got the chance for an even greater success in fashion industry, you decided to resign and start all over again. Was that a brave or a crazy decision at the time?

What can I say... I followed my passion and my heart.

The great thing is that my entire family shares in this choice that I'd made and in this passion. My wife is in charge of selling natural lavender-based cosmetics that we produce ourselves and we also have a small shop in Toscana, called Essenze d'Etruria.

Essenze d'Etruria

My daughters Cinzia and Elisa take care of the bookings, web page, social networks and press relations. My sons-in-law Graziano and Nabeel handle the maintenance and event planning.

la piantata family
la piantata family

Do you stay at the Treehouse often?

Not really because we're always booked solid. But when we close down in February, after San Vantino, we take up residence on the tree for two weeks.


The media often refer to La Piantata as “once-in-a-lifetime escape for visitors“. Do guests really stay here only once or do they come back?

 They do come back, of course, every year, to celebrate an anniversary, a birthday or simply for a romantic break.

They just want some peace and quiet, some romance or they wish to surprise their significant other with an exceptional experience. What usually happens is that they find much more than they expected so they leave with a great feeling of contentment.

treehouse-the couple

 What is the best time to book one of the tree houses?

"The best" time coincides with the months when lavender is in full bloom, i. e. with June and July (roughly between 20th June and 15th July), but each season has its own charm.

lavander filed toscana.jpg

In winter trees are bare and air is a little bubbly, but the snow-covered landscape is very impressive.


In spring nature awakens - roses and all kinds of flowers blossom; in the fall leaves display gorgeous colors.

spring treehouse la piantata

But of course, it is in summer that our signature plant lavender blooms, the fields are suffused with purple and its scent is simply everywhere.

What can you experience in a beautifully designed treehouse?

The time spent with your loved one, enjoying a sunset. It's an ideal place to savor the moment and make time stop.


The skies there are starry; you are lifted eight meters up in the air, away from the humdrum of everyday chores... There is this unique feeling of spending your holidays in the wilderness, but without forsaking any of the amenities.

 Daughters of Mr. Renzo Stucchi have sent in a stack of photos of this place, which has only made me love La Piantata more. Has the time come for me to make reservations for the following year when my tenth anniversary comes a-knocking?

Drinking coffee in Vienna

Do you know that feeling when you find a place where you can sit for hours, hold a meeting, write a letter (by hand) to someone who appreciates you, watch that perfect movement of the human hand clasping a cup of coffee, slowly bringing it up to the mouth that sip the magic potion, wait a second until the palate signals its approval and then replace the cup back on the saucer that matches it perfectly?

On the table -coffee and suitcase.jpg

I have found such a place in the city to which I keep going back and where I keep finding places that can instantly slow me down in this race that we call life.

Coffee - Latteart - Project: We Travel.jpg

The interior immediately struck a chord with me. I actually like this minimalism cultivated by an ever growing number of cafes. I like discreet details; I like my thoughts to be untethered by needless objects on the walls. I enjoy such a backdrop against which that first sentence of mine can take shape....

Interior - Pelican Coffee Company - Project: We Travel.jpg
Interior - Pelican coffee Vienna.jpg
Coffee stuff - Project: We Travel.jpg
Interior - Pelican Coffee Company - Project: We Travel.jpg

And then there's the coffee. These guys know what they're doing and it doesn't take more than one sip for my palate to applaud the effort.

Specialty Coffee - Pelican Coffee Company - Project: We Travel.jpg

 I'll return to this place. With my Traveler's Journal that doesn't leave my side and a pencil. Incredible ideas can sprout here and what delights me is the possibility that in a few years' time I will be able to remember it was here that they came to me.

My top 6 places for coffee in Vienna:

Best day trip from Zagreb - lovely Ljubljana

Each of us has their own town, an hour or two away from the one we live in, to which we go once or twice every year. We go there to get a shot of inspiration, a taste of some design, a photography and a feeling that you have been far away. That you have crossed the border and maybe even taken passport with you.

So each of us knows the streets of that town, has their own place where the coffee is great, knows the slant of the sunrays on the main street in the golden hour. And when bags in which they are carrying the shopping done in those charming stores cut into their palms, they long for a couple of hours more to soak in or maybe hide, collect and file away everything that has happened that day.

9 am breakfast in Ek Bistro, a place that serves great breakfast in an unusual interior chock-full of great ideas, far from the hustle and bustle, a place reminiscent of student days in some country where we had been on student exchange.  Or on holiday. A place to ease your way into the day.

Ek bar Ljubljana Project We Travel.jpg
Ek bistro Ljubljana Project we Travel.jpg
Ek bistro Ljubljana Project We Travel.jpg

10:30 am coffee in Tozd. Tozd is the place to start or finish your day. The place for sunrises or sunsets. For tousled hair, sun glasses, sitting cross-legged on the floor, for ideas, for the gang, for parents who do not wish to grow old, for kids hanging around those un-old parents. A place to pause and stay. For a long time.

Tozd Ljubljana Project We Travel.jpg
Tozd Ljubljana Project We Travel.jpg
Tozd Ljubljana Project We Travel.jpg

At 1 pm I choose to have my lunch at Bazilika because it always reminds me that my life could be better and healthier. And that I should start right there and then, in the company of the great people running this restaurant.

Bazilika Ljubljana Project We Travel.jpg
Bazilika Ljubljana Project We Travel.jpg
Bazilika Ljubljana Project We Travel.jpg

2:30 pm a walk through Tivoli Park because one healthy turn deserves another. And besides, the park is close to Bazilika.

Park Tivoli Ljubljana Project We Travel.jpg
Park Tivoli Ljubljana Project We Travel.jpg

4 pm sweets in the Vigò pastry shop because that's what we always do in the lovely Ljubljana. We love the place. It is slightly touristy so we play the part although we know the town so well. And that's precisely why the ice cream there is just the way we like it.

Vigò Ice Cream Ljubljana photo

Vigò Ice Cream Ljubljana photo

4:45 pm coffee-to-go in Črno Zrno, a place with top-quality Colombian coffee and a place to have what seems to be our third coffee of the day. Because the owner is great and we can chat with him about coffee, people and the country. And because it closes at 5 pm.

Črno zrno photo

Črno zrno photo

5 pm shopping in Gud Shop for some more happiness, those little things that put a smile on your face and that we always keep close at hand. Or decorate our home with. Or ourselves.

Gud shop Ljubljana.jpg

For more adventures from Slovenia read here.

What is Swedish fika?

Fika is “together time” over a coffee, tea and maybe a Swedish “bulle” or a cake. It’s taking time out, relaxing and chatting with friends, colleagues or family in a cafe, in the office or at home. I love fika <3
— Linda Hugod, Employer Branding Academy / @lindahugod

It's easy to get used to fika in Sweden. Fika (pronounced “fee-kah”) is a daily ritual that is mandatory for Swedes (and Scandinavians). More than just once a day.

Drop coffee Stockholm Project We Travel.jpg

Fika is much more than just a coffee break. Fika teaches us that we should take time out, chat with colleagues, friends or family members over a cup of coffee and nibble on something sweet like kanelbulle. Or if you prefer savory, smörgås - open-faced sandwich - might be more to your liking.

Fika does not include a laptop or scrolling down your cellphone, fika is about people, talking, laughing. When it is fika time, those who happen to be on fika may not answer your call. Because the now that we seek and wish to live in is happening right now and requires complete dedication.

People need to hang out to stay healthy. It would be strange if someone would refuse to go to “fika” with the people from their office... The job will always wait for you...
— Maja Tibinac / @majatibi
Pascal cafe interior Stockholm Project We Travel.jpg

I was thinking a lot about fika when I was in Stockholm, watching people having a fika. It was lovely to see them talking, smiling, with a cup of coffee in their hand. They were not always sitting down, those good looking Scandinavians were standing up more often than not and seemed to be immersed in the moment they were experiencing just then.

Fika means connecting. It is the most brilliant , tasy and relaxed way of building network, hanging out with friends or spotting some new ones. Fika is cup of coffee, cinnamon bun and love. It’s a way of saying - let’s get to know each other - for real.
— FRUKOST STOCKHOLM GUIDE / @frukoststockholm

My places in Stockholm for fika, taking a break, people, smiles, sweet and savory snacks, gentle atmosphere...

... for big decisions and first well told jokes, places for hellos and goodbyes, places where you ask for pastry recipes and place where you just quietly say "I'm happy" because that's what you really are, these places are...

Pascal coffee place Stockholm Project We Travel.jpg

1.       Drop Coffee, Wollmar Yxkullsgatan 10, Stockholm (Metro: Mariatorget) 

Drop coffee Stockholm, Project We Travel.jpg
Drop coffee Stockholm, Project We Travel.jpg

2.       Pascal, Norrtullsgatan 4 (Metro: Odenplan)  &  Skånegatan 76 (M: Medborgarplatsen)

Pascal cafe details Stockholm Project We Travel.jpg
Pascal fika Stockholm Project We travel.jpg
Pascal cafe Stockholm Project We Travel.jpg

 3.       Kaffeverket, Sankt Eriksgatan 88 (M:  S:T ERIKSPLAN)

Kaffeverket coffee in Stockholm Project We Travel.jpg
Kaffeverket coffee in Stockholm, Project We Travel.jpg

Enjoy Zagreb Like a local - part II

Britanski square Zagreb
Britanski square Zagreb

As mentioned in my first post about Zagreb, my favorite coffee place in Zagreb, Cogito, is the place where I start my journey through my everyday life. Close to Cogito is the Britanski Square, which enjoys the reputation of the most Zagrebian of Zagreb squares. The older generations are appalled by what the place has become. But we younger people find some events, places and people that pique our interest. We will happily stroll around this square on a Sunday. From early morning antique dealers start converging here, or rather, those who are reselling the content of their cupboards for which we won't get the price we'd like. Because they are merciless. And they know they will find the right customer somewhere among the stalls.

Up the hill from Britanac is where the quiet zone begins, the zone of happiness and first kisses of high school kids. Rokov perivoj and its little park provide a backdrop of old houses in which I would like to take that cup of coffee I was writing about. The third one that day. I wouldn't be loath to knock on your door and say, I've just come over to see how you live so that I won't ever again have to regret passing by your house without ringing the bell. But I never do. I just enjoy looking.

Zagreb Rokov perivoj
Zagreb Rokov perivoj

You can climb down from Rokov perivoj on two sides, one of which will literally drop you into a street full of beautiful men and women, gorgeous shop windows and the stories behind them.

I don't feel like going there today. I'm more interested in how you will react when you see what is above Rokov perivoj. I suggest you to walk over to the Museum of Architecture. Or rather, its building. The courtyard hidden behind it. Don't go there on weekends because for some reason it's not open then. Surprise them during the week. They will be glad to see you. 

Museum of architecture Zagreb

From the museum there are several ways to reach the center, the tourist mecca of Gornji Grad. Mine is the way you will end up telling about to your friends. The other is easily forgettable. Nothing wrong with it. It's just that is doesn't have the same effect.

It will take you 10 minutes to get here and another 10 minutes to reach the center. The locals don't really go here. Not unless it's on their way.

Academy of Fine Arts Zagreb

But true Zagrebians know this street and this part of the city. Its name is Jabukovac and it makes you think of the Jabuka club, the Arts Academy, sculptures in the forest and nice houses. I am certain most of the people in Zagreb had at least once (or even regularly) ended up in the Jabuka club. The club that has been torn down, a cult club where the 70-year olds of today used party hard in their 20-ies, collecting stories they now talk about while playing chess on Britanac. What a club that was! I too went to Jabuka (who didn't!) on more than one occasion! It is unbelievable how well I remember every single thing.

On Jabukovac you will also experience the rebellious spirit of the Jabuka bunch when you stroll around the Arts Academy and see what new things the students threw out. Into the yard. Because they don't need them anymore. Perhaps you will want to take something with you? Or maybe simply touch those textures they have been playing around with.

Academy of Fine Arts Zagreb (7).jpg
Academy of Fine Arts Zagreb

The Academy is surrounded by a park that is home to some of the sculptures by these young talents. Climb up because everybody does. Nothing will happen.

Academy of Fine Arts Zagreb
Academy of Fine Arts Zagreb

And yes... By all means, lean against one of Academy's windows. And just peak in like a kid... Keep peaking and let yourself feel.

Academy of Fine Arts Zagreb

And after this story go get a dose of Zagreb from your brochures. Don't let me drag you along one place or another that will stick in your memory. I might shake loose too many emotions. Raise too many questions... And the next thing you know, you will be sending e-mails, writing in, asking for explanations.

Climb up to Gornji Grad to experience history, take a picture, take in the view of the city. Go shiver all over at noon when you hear the cannon from Grič. Go get a story too. Because we have some great stories from Gornji Grad. Especially those by our great writer Marija Jurić Zagorka who lets her characters inhabit precisely this part of town. Her works have not been translated into any language, a sad fact. But you can catch one of the shows in English and Croatian from The Secrets of Grič, a project that takes you through the back alleys of Gornji Grad. Zagorka herself will take you there. Mostly in summer. Walking alongside her, you will find yourself immersed in a world from the early 20th century. 

Upper town Zagreb
Upper town Zagreb
Upper town Zagreb
Upper town Zagreb

My Zagreb is slightly different, but it is mine. And when we lose each other, he and I, we meet up on Gornji Grad or in Rokov perivoj and realize that we are still here, for each other.

Photo by Sanja Bistričić

Photo by Sanja Bistričić

Upper town Zagreb
Upper town Zagreb

Enjoy Zagreb Like a local - part I

I haven't always lived in Zagreb, but now it seems to me as if I had. When I drive along side roads, it dawns on me how well I really know the streets of this city, the culture of its pedestrians and drivers or the lack of thereof. The city and I are particularly aware of each other on the way back home from a get-together after midnight. Without the slightest fear or - God forbid - any apprehension that I could come to harm in this city.

Zagreb Street
Zagreb Street

As years go by, Zagreb is turning into the kind of city I used to cross borders to get to. A city that is somewhat faster than it used to be, offering better cafes, restaurants and yoga studios.  A city where you can get from A to B a little slower because it is gradually being taken over by tourists, which makes me especially happy.  A city where various languages are trying to make themselves understood. 

When I was thinking about this post, I knew that it would be anything but a typical advertisement for this city. I knew that I would be taking my readers - and later on you travelers as well - to places that will replenish them. To places that encourage you to think, take the city's pulse or take a break from it, write a line or two about your experiences or listen to this very singer when you walk along my route. Because it just feels right.

Zagreb the view.jpg

When you go for a walk with me, you will keep moving if I take you out for coffee first. You will keep moving by standing still for a while.

Cogito coffee Zagreb
Cogito coffee Zagreb

It is inherent to the culture of this city and country in general to drink coffee. We drink coffee when we are starting our day, when we want to stretch it out, when we need to talk to someone, make a business deal, think about something, when we need to calm down. Come over, I'll make coffee or Let's go get coffee is a very common sentence for your average Croatian. 

When I drink coffee, it has to be really good. OK, fine, the best! It's a long story why that is so, but that's the way it is. I will tell you the story at some point.

My coffee is brewed in Cogito, who are without doubt the best roasters in the region. Although they have places on several locations in the city and each of them is tempting enough to make you want to sit down and collect your thoughts, I am enamored of the one in the Deželić Street. You'll find mostly locals there, each sitting down to their own table, everyone saying hello to each other, baristas who know which kind of coffee each of us drinks and will recommend you one that will hit just the right spot, the music, the atmosphere, the vibe... This place has it all.

photo by Ivoje Stepić

photo by Ivoje Stepić

This is my place and if you happen to see me, sit down next to me and I will gladly take you through the maze of thoughts that are crossing my mind at that particular moment.

Photo by Ivoje Stepić

Photo by Ivoje Stepić

You can find out a lot about Zagreb just by sitting down in a cafe and watching the locals. It is important that you slow down on your journey; that is the best way to learn what makes the people in this city tick. Memorize the word "polako", take it easy, slowly.

Cogito coffee Slow life Zagreb

Cogito is close to the Britanski Square, which enjoys the reputation of the most Zagrebian of Zagreb squares.

I am planning to tell you more about this Square and the best places in Zagreb where you can enjoy as local. Stay tuned and curious for a short time, I promise!

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Creating Lifetime Memories with Praktik Èssens

We were among the first guests of the first Praktik boutique hotel in 2009 - Praktik Rambla. I can still recall the feeling that this hotel inspired in me, especially during siesta and in the evening before going into town for dinner. The building, dating back to the early 19th century, is in eclectic style, with - you've guessed it, my great passion - huge windows, perfectly framed by white, wispy curtains. I could sit for hours, watching them sway in the only breeze to drift in that particular day during the warmest summer of 2009. 

Praktik Essens

I also remember the scent of shower gel and shampoo. It has remained my favorite until this very day. The fragrance of those lovely toiletries still takes me right back to Praktik Rambla.

Praktik hotels boast very functional and tastefully decorated rooms, with details that pulls you into the story behind them, a perfect atmosphere, the staff, well designed community areas for guests, lamps, floors, hardwood surfaces... I could go on and on.

Praktik Rambla facade.jpg
Praktik Rambla outside.jpg
Praktik Rambla communitiy area.jpg
Praktik Rambla building.jpg

Owing to this concept, coming back to such a hotel after you spend the whole day exploring this city, you don't feel that you're missing out on anything Barcelona has to offer. The hotel itself becomes a part of your trip that you end up telling everyone about. The hotel where before going to sleep you just quietly say: Thank you.

It was then that I fell in love with the concept of Praktik hotels. They simply draw you in.

Shortly afterwards the Praktik went on to open hotels Praktik Bakery, Praktik Vinoteca and Praktik Metropol in Madrid as well as Praktik Garden. In 2015 we stayed in Praktik Garden and once more, we were wowed by the idea, the green concept, functionality of the rooms and the hotel location. The Garden hotel had a great green terrace and this hotel became our favorite spot to begin and end the day.

Praktik Essens Interior
Praktik Essens Garden interior.jpg

And now, after hearing about a new hotel, somewhere halfway between these two and still close to all others (with the exception of the one in Madrid), I found myself looking into dates for Barcelona. I haven't heard of anyone ever packing their bags for a hotel; it's always the city that we come for. But I am packing my bags for a hotel simply because it rounds off the story of my Barcelona like no other.

This new hotel, called Praktik Èssens, touches on the strongest among my senses that sometimes scares even me with its potency. The sense of smell. It is scent that always launches me into a narrative, I remember fragrances and attach colors to them, which makes it is easy to store them away in my memory. I have this incredible thing for fragrances. I can recall them even after 30 years.

And imagine now my favorite concept hotel chain in my favorite city opening a hotel that is all about fragrances, taking their guests on a wonderful sensual trip through its rooms.

Praktik Essens Rooms

Praktik Èssens has created its own fragrances to capture the essences of the sea, the mountains, and the flowers of the city and its surroundings. After a careful selection process, Praktik presents its 4 Èssens fragrances: Mar, Herbas, Flor and Barcelona. This last fragrance is remarkable in that it blends the three previous fragrances in very studied proportions. For us, it directly evokes the city of Barcelona!“

Sagrada Familila Barcelona.jpg

We still haven't discussed this at home. This desire of mine to take a stroll through our favorite city, breathing its scent in, but somehow I know we will go there. Now or later on, I just know we will! Maybe we manage to catch the 25% discount they are offering on any available room in the period between 1st March (when the hotel actually opens) until 16th April. The very discount we used ten years ago when the Praktik Rambla opened and when we fell in love with the entire concept.

So what do you think, is it time to hop on a plane and go get a new story?

Praktik Essens Rooms
Praktik Essens Rooms

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