Image: Jules & Steve Callen

Guide to Panicale, Umbria   

We had always loved Italy. From the year we eloped and were married in Sicily, we dedicated every annual leave to exploring a new region of Italy. Renting villas in Tuscany, Puglia, Piemonte, Sicily, Veneto, Emilia Romagna, Campania, Liguria, Abruzzo and the Aeolian Islands, and staying in hotels everywhere else, we felt we had a good idea of what Italy had to offer. Then we discovered the village of Panicale in Umbria. Voted one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, Panicale won our hearts the moment we stepped into the main piazza. The warmth and friendliness of the people told us we had found our new home. Instead of being in an isolated villa in the countryside, we were now in the loving embrace of a medieval village, high up on a hill, overlooking the southern shores of Lake Trasimeno. The people living there were quick to make us feel like we were part of the community. Within a short stroll from our house Casa Monte, we were able to say Buongiorno to our local baker, café owner, restaurateur, butcher and grocer.

Now, the only thing that gives us more joy than returning there each year, is to share it with others and seeing how much the experience changes them. It’s not uncommon for our guests to share a tear with a local after staying there for only a week! It’s a greatest privilege to share our home Casa Monte so that it too can be your house in Umbria.

Image: Jules & Steve Callen

Your Favourite Place That Only Locals Know About   

An eight minute drive from Panicale leads you to Il Pellicano.  It’s a buzzing Italian pub that has music, sport playing non stop on screens and whilst it may not be the perfect honeymoon venue… it has the best pizza!

Your Favourite Popular Place that is a Crowd Pleaser for a Reason

Pasticceria Panetteria GMB is found on the main road driving from Panicale to Castiglione Del Lago. This is the go to place for coffee, breakfast, morning tea, afternoon tea… The superb bakery items are never ending and they know how to prepare great coffee. And the eclectic furnishings just add to the vibe.

Image: Jules & Steve Callen

Your Favourite Restaurant   

All of them!!!  There are three fabulous restaurants in Panicale all catering to what your taste buds demand at the time.  There’s the family run Ristorante Masolino that serves fresh home made pastas, succulent roast meats, wonderful deserts and Andreà the owner has curated an extensive collection of local wines.  Then there’s Il Pozzo nell Gallo where every day it’s a treat to see the seasonal offerings on their menu.  The roasted lamb cutlets encrusted in pistachio nuts is sublime. And finally Lilo Tatini offers a creative and modern take on age old Umbrian classics. Plus, Bar Del Gallo also offers tasty light meals. Spoilt for choice! Further afield, our favourite restaurant would be Ristorante La Porta in Montichiello Tuscany. Sitting on the terrace with a view over the rolling hills of Tuscany, enjoying the food and wine, you have to pinch yourself that it is not a dream.

Your Favourite Bar  

We can’t go past Aldo and Daniella’s Bar Del Gallo. Wonderful hosts and a prime position on the piazza. A great place for your morning coffee, sitting outside and watching the village come to life. This is also the place to be at aperitivo hour to sit and sip on an Aperol Spritz or a cocktail and watch the action of the piazza. There’s always interesting people sitting at nearby tables to swap the experiences of the day and learn of new places to explore.

Aldo & Daniella. Image: Jules & Steve Callen

Your Favourite Store  

There are three favourite stores in Panicale and naturally they offer food and wine. Linda’s Marconi La Bottega and Da Iolanda are both found within the medieval walls of the village and are brimming full of Italian Salumi and small goods, great selections of Italian cheeses, fresh fruit and vegetables, grocery items, beer and wine. Everything you could want to create an Italian banquet. Linda has also on many occasions dashed home to pick a handful of fresh bay leaves or basil when the recipe called for it. And then there’s the fabulous bakery that bakes the most amazing focaccia, biscuits, cakes, breads and they even make a divine nougat.

Image: Jules & Steve Callen

Your Favourite Hotel  

There are no hotels as such in Panicale but a 40 minute drive will bring you to the wine village of Torgiano and Le Tre Vaselle Resort, a 5 star hotel and spa with a swimming pool surrounded by ancient olive trees and wonderful food and wine.

Your Favourite Way to Spend Time Outdoors  

A day’s drive around Lake Trasimeno with a ferry ride out to the islands is a perfect way to spend a fine day. There are a number of hikes in the area ranging from relatively simple to strenuous. Bike riding is also popular and if you’re not wanting to pedal, renting a Vespa is fun way to spend the day.

Image: Jules & Steve Callen

The most interesting person you’ve met in Panicale 

Every local has a story whether they are Italian or from other parts of the world. This small beautiful village attracts artists, chefs, photographers, food writers, politicians, fashion designers, professors, historians, bankers, wine makers, gardeners… you name it!  And the friendliness and ambience of the small piazza where everyone chills out at the end of the day is a perfect place to share your stories with them. Lifetime friendships are made here.

Image: Jules & Steve Callen

Romantic date night recommendation

Florence! It’s an easy train ride from Panicale to Florence and this is such a superb city, so why not make a date overnight?  We often take an early train from Castiglione Del Lago station to Florence and go direct to Palazzo Galetti to check into an elegant room in this family run beautifully restored Palazzo. Then it’s time to aimlessly meander amongst the myriad of shops looking at clothes, shoes, bags, food, jewellery … whatever you fancy. Lunch is a panini from All’ Antico Vinaio known as one of the best street food venues in Italy – and it’s true! During the afternoon take in the galleries and churches. Don’t forget to have a custom made Magnum ice-cream at the Magnum Store near the Duomo … unforgettable!  And for aperitivo, there’s no better place than Procacci Panini Tartufati (dal 1885) the wine bar where you can sip a Prosecco and sample small bites all involving the elegant truffle. Then for dinner head to Osteria L’Antico Noè where owner Massimo will take you through a menu of superb dishes based on in season produce.  In fact, as you walk into the restaurant, you’ll pass crates of fresh produce hinting at what you’ll find on the menu.  Then it’s time to stroll back to your Palazzo for a well earned sleep.

Image: Jules & Steve Callen

Anything else that a honeymooner needs to know about Panicale?

It’s the secrets of Panicale that are revealed when you become a local, even if for just one week, that make it your own unique experience.  We hope all guests to Casa Monte and Panicale will take away their own special lifetime memories and friendships.

Ms Zigzag says: Thanks to Jules and Steve for inviting us into their lives in Panicale. I know anyone travelling to Panicale using these tips will have a rich and deeply enjoyable experience. Grazie! 

About Jules and Steve Callen: Jules and Steve eloped in 1992 and were married in a 14th century chapel on the side of Mt Etna in Sicily. This was also the beginning of another romance as they both immediately fell in love with Italy. This led them to buying and restoring a one thousand year old house in a small medieval village (they named Casa Monte after their son) in Umbria in 2004.

Interview conducted by honeymoons blogger, Caz Pringle.

Polka Dot Honeymoons Directory Mid Banner

New Zealand! You sure are shining brightly in today’s shoot of colourful, lush, wedding inspiration!

Set against the rugged west coast of Punakaiaki on New Zealand’s South Islands, today’s dream team included a bunch of talented wedding pros – florals by Charmed Flowers, photographer CM Photography, cinematographer  Take Five Cinema, with the shoot being produced and led by stylist Fallon from The Little Hire Company, who also provided the styling decor.

Floral designer Ginny, who created a bright, multicoloured bouquet full of foliage, tells “We wanted to create something a little different, something colourful and fun that could resonate with couples who are not afraid of stepping outside the box to go on an adventure in beautiful New Zealand. Set in the rugged West Coast of Punakaiki, the South Island, this shoot draws inspiration from the vibrant untamed natural landscapes of rocky beaches and temperate rainforests. Bold pops of floral colour contrast beautifully against the lush native foliage and the addition of lace gowns and filigree jewels add a refined elegance.”

In the beautiful Zealand forest, the team set to work creating a tropically inspired tablescape with modern vibes, Palm print stationery from Paper Darling complementing the pieces from Little Blush Creative and cake by The Cake Eating Company.

The bright pops of pink, orange and lime green were a beautiful relief from the deep, and vast greenery backdrop. A simple tablescape of white, set with gold flatware allowed the modern stationery and flowers to do the talking, the paper pieces adding a simple nod to the tropical inspiration.

Our brides, who all wore gowns from  Mille Feuille Bridal with jewels by Filigree Fine Jewels. added flowers to their hair to complement the bright bouquets, their looks styled by  Olivia Davy Hairdressing and Image Beauty Bar. The end result? A take on tropical that despite its gorgeous colour, takes on that mystical flavour that only New Zealand’s mythical vibes can create.

Take Five Cinema, captured this stunning film of the editorial unfolding.

Photographer: CM Photography / Cinematographer: Take Five Cinema / Styling & Decor Hire: The Little Hire Company / Bride's Dress: Mille Feuille Bridal / Invitations & Stationery: Paper Darling / Flowers: Charmed Flowers / Tableware: Little Blush Creative / Wedding Cake: The Cake Eating Company / Makeup Artist: Image Beauty Bar / Hairstylist: Olivia Davy Hairdressing / Getting Ready Robes: Grossart Ever After / Jewellery: Filigree Fine Jewels / Catering: Paroa Hotel / Model: Lucy Magill / Model: Brooke Hudson

Synonymous with bicycles, pretty rows of canal houses and stroopwafel, Amsterdam is a definite bucket list destination that simply has to be seen in real life to be truly appreciated. A short train journey or flight away from nearby travel hotspots London and Paris, Amsterdam can be easily slotted into your European honeymoon itinerary, making it an even more desirable destination.

Plus, it’s a delight to visit all year round. From ice capped canals in winter, to auburn-hued autumnal streets and balmy summer nights, every season offers different activities and elements to enjoy.

For the ultimate celebration of Amsterdam’s famous flower, the tulip, time your visit for spring, and be delighted by the absolute abundance of blooms at every turn!


For the true Dutch experience, try to stay near the city’s trendy Jordaan region and the famous ‘Nine Streets’, which boast some of the most picturesque canals and the best shopping and dining spots.

Opt for an Airbnb apartment to live like a local, or check into one of the gorgeous hotels near the district, such as the Pulitzer Amsterdam or The Hoxton.


A breeze to get around on foot (and naturally by bike), Amsterdam is a city that is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace, where you’re free to wander at will and can enjoy getting a little lost along the way.

Plus, Amsterdam offers an array of incredible museums, galleries and historic places to see – from the deeply moving Anne Frank museum, to the fascinating artefacts and spectacular architecture of the


Cruise the canals

To really experience the beauty of the canals, a boat cruise is an essential element of your itinerary. Forgo the oversized vessels heaving with tourists in favour of a private or small group tour with Pure Boats Amsterdam, which provides guided tours of Amsterdam’s canals and harbour.

Hosted by a delightful local couple, the two-hour tours take place on gorgeous wooden canal boats and each tour includes grazing boards of delicious local snacks plus drinks. Along the way you’ll see some of the city’s famous sights, discover more about Amsterdam’s history and lifestyle and enjoy soaking in the ever-changing scenery.

Tiptoe among the tulips

If you’re lucky enough to time your trip during spring, then a visit to the renowned Keukenhof gardens and neighbouring tulip fields is an absolute must. Flower lovers will be enchanted by this dazzling display of bulbs dancing among perfectly manicured grounds.

See the swans gliding on the lake, climb up the windmill, stroll through the garden design displays, and then venture to the adjacent fields to achieve peak tulip fever!

Be immersed in art

Just as the tulip is to flower, Van Gogh is to art in Amsterdam, so naturally a visit to the Van Gogh Museum is a must. Here, you can discover more about the artist’s influences, studies, life and aspirations, all while browsing through a vast collection of his distinctively beautiful work. From sunflowers, to self-portraits, there is so much to discover about this Dutch master.


Amsterdam offers an eclectic mix of gorgeous cafes, upscale restaurants and trendy drinking spots which are sure to delight foodie couples.

Part gift store, part café, Pluk Amsterdam is a pretty white-walled establishment nestled within the city’s famous Nine Streets. Serving up an array of Instagram-worthy breakfast bowls, fluffy omelettes and fresh pastries, it’s the perfect spot to start your day.

For a mid-morning coffee or afternoon tea, visit Ree7, a neighbouring café with window displays always amply stocked with tempting sweet treats.

Meanwhile, millennial pink fans simply must make the trip to MaMa Kelly, an all-pink-everything establishment sitting pretty at the edge of the city’s Olympic stadium. Specialising in lobster and chicken (with alternative options too) this dreamy dining destination is perfect for a memorable dinner.

Round off your evening at Tales and Spirits, a tiny dimly lit drinks spot which serves up an extensive list of killer cocktails, each with their own story to tell. Expect your selection to arrive with a flourishing finishing touch, special instructions or perhaps even flames! For a suitably Dutch tipple, order the Van Gogh cocktail, served complete with paintbrush and artist’s palette.

Ms Zigzag says: Could there be anything more romantic than cruising the picturesque canals hand-in-hand with your new wife or husband? Looks like Anika had a beautiful trip! 

About the author Anika Reynolds: I’m a freelance writer with a love of weddings and creatively styled events. I have a penchant for pretty stationery and perfectly put together cheese plates, and a never-ending sense of wanderlust!