Today’s My Birthday

Today is my birthday.  It’s hard to believe I am 45 years old – but it’s true.  It’s probably harder for my parents to believe!!!!

I have lead a blessed life so far and see many many more years ahead.  I am healthy.  My family is healthy.  And my memories are beautiful and precious!  To celebrate, I’m going to share my favorite pictures from the past few years – each one has a story and a special place in my heart.

I hope you are blessed with so many fabulous memories to look back on year after year!

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2015 – in front of Hampton Court

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Lighthouse Beach, Eleuthera, Bahamas

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2015 – Big Ben

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San Gimignano in the mist…taken from my torre bedroom window

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My sister, Becky, and I!

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So much Caprese!

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A gorgeous setting for a wine tasting at Palagetto

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Touring the Colosseum

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It isn’t hard to eat like a local in Italy. Lemon risotto – the most amazing risotto ever!

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Culinary magic!

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In Florence at the most adorable cafe right near the Duomo!

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My hubby and I!

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Cheers – again!

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Fire and Ice…I love this picture!

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Lined up for the toboggan ride! Quebec City, Quebec.

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What a beauty!

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I didn’t know she stuck her tongue out until I looked at the pictures that night!!! Notre Dame in the background.

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Eiffel Tower!!!! 2019

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Sea Lion Encounter, St. Maarten 2019

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June 2018. Shortly after sunrise over Vatican City. I ache for another opportunity like this one….we were high tailing it to our private Vatican Tour so we could barely stop to smell the roses, but man, I wish I could’ve frozen time in this very spot. It was so peaceful and serene.

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Pucker up!!!

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February 2019 aboard the Symphony of the Seas. Sunset while docked off the coast of St. Marteen.

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March 2013. Argenton-sur-Creuse. This was sunrise out the window of our charming 16 century townhouse at the end of the bridge.

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I have a picture of my kids doing this SAME thing in London in 2013. It is fun to recreate special moments in different locations! EPCOT 2019

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Symphony After Dark! Stunning!

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Yes, these were BOTH for me!

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Brother had to get into the action!

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Photo from the top of one of the towers – San Gimignano, Italy

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Try to blend in. Zurich, Switzerland – these are our “Polish faces” – my sister in law is Polish, and she said Americans smile too big in pictures – so this is how we imagine the Poles smile!

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Prickly Pear blossom – so many foods are made from prickly pear – candies, licorice, jams and jellys, beer…you name it! But look at those thorns!!! Tuscon, AZ

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Sagrada Familia – needs no introduction!

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2015 – Barcelona cathedral rooftop. Spain

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Try a new form of transportation….Char and Sable on a Segway tour of the city – in Europe, kids can do many things they aren’t “allowed” to do in the US.

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Atop the battlements of Castelo de Sao Jorge (St. George Castle)

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2015 – Outside of Jeronimos Monastery

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Malaga – breathtaking!

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Scooting in Cinque Terre, Italy.

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On board the Anthem of the Seas, moored off the coast of Nice, France.

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Gibraltar – long lost cousins? Oh and behind Kelton in the distance? AFRICA!!!!!

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Cousin’s Trip – Animal Kingdom 2016

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Magic Kingdom 2017 – mom and dad’s second trip to Disney without kids!!!!

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Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train, Magic Kingdom 2018

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Windsor, Char and Sable – you all haven’t met Sable yet, but this kitty gets around. She even has her own book series in the works!

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Family photo taken by dad. Yes it was cold, rainy and windy – it was April in England!!!

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Kelton’s hair resembled Albert Einstein’s a bit too much!! Madame Tussauds.

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My beautiful rose petal and Hampton Court gardens.

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Mind the gap. We got an Oyster Card and used all manner of public transportation throughout London! I love this shot of Char and Sable!

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These adorable sheep were all over the city and the kids posed with them whenever possible! The sheep were dressed in outfits that represented the area where they stood.

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Monte Alban behind me!

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Seasoned crickets at the market – I tried one and it wasn’t too bad!

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Mount Washington, New Hampshire

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Ossippee Lake, New Hampshire

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Swift River, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountains, New Hampshire

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Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire

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Ossippee Lake, New Hampshire

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The best welcoming committee EVER!!!

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Near sunrise, the island of Oahu, Hawai’i

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Kualoa Ranch, Oahu, Hawai’i

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Sunset Perfection!!!

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Char playing her Ukulele at sunset…so perfectly cliche!!!

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An evening toast to the good life. We are standing on the Old Stone Bridge in Wurzburg, Germany, marveling at the fortification in the background and enjoying a common daily activity.

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Bamberg, Germany

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Our favorite mode of transportation!

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Outside the observatory. It was cold and windy!

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Best bite in the city!

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Gimmewald, Switzerland – 2019

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The happy tourists! Strasbourg, France

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American tourists – Amsterdam – 2020

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Flowers in January. And people say it’s too cold to travel to Europe in winter!

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My handsome date for the evening.

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A canal boat awaiting passengers.

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From the bottom – a look towards the fortress.

 

 

Taking it slow

Last month, I wrote a bit about Impact Travel and my own experience with the emerging trend.  Another emerging trend in travel in Slow Travel.  This type of adventure engages the traveler in an experience that revolves around not only immersing one’s self in the cultural aspects of a destination, but that idea is reinforced and made possible by the ACT of traveling slowly.  Examples of slow travel include rail vacations, river cruising (all over the world) and the American favorite – the road trip!  Traditional ocean/sea cruising can also take the form of slow travel, but the idea would be staying overnight or multiple nights in one port before moving on.

I think this concept was brought about by the fact that we desire to slow the revolution of the earth.  Time is fleeting and the older we get, the faster it seems to go!  We are so busy; we have so little vacation time; we realize our kids grow so fast and our parents are aging before our eyes.  Our family trips to Disney are wonderful and anything BUT a vacation and hopping from spot to spot on a cruise ship is not only filled with constant entertainment, but endless stimulation options that busy the mind and exercise the spirit.  People are realizing the beauty in slowing down, stopping to smell the roses, and the knowledge gained by personal interactions in culture and with people who are different than we are.

Every vacation can contain some aspects of slow travel – whether you are traveling abroad or to another part of your own country.  For example, instead of aiming to visit four destinations in a week-long trip, choose two and dive in – eat where the locals eat.  Shop where locals shop.  Ask a local about the hidden treasures of their city – they want to brag about THEIR place on this big blue ball and they are the EXPERTS!  Try a new mode of transportation!  When my daughter and I were in Paris earlier this year, we not only did a bike tour but also “rented” Lime scooters (the kind you stand on like a big kid) and scooted around everywhere!  Find a quiet place and reflect.  This single act allows me to inhale a place.  Become a people watcher and learn through observation.  Basically, slow it down.

Don’t get me wrong – there is a time and a place for the hurried vacation – I am planning a group cruise to Hawaii in 2021 for my son’s graduation (wanna go?) and know that we may never go to Hawaii again – especially as a family – so we are seeing as much as possible!!!  In the meantime, I plan on enjoying a few slow travel experiences in my near future – a river cruise in November and our weekly long camping trip coming up later in July – it doesn’t get much slower than camping!!!  The world is big and time is flying by….take it slow!

Here are some ways we have experienced aspects of slow travel on our adventures.

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Amtrak Downeaster on a gorgeous summer’s day in New Hampshire! Old school slow travel.

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Anyone need a hat?

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Harbour Island – ACTUAL pink sand!!!

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Cadiz, Spain. Churros and chocolate and a little bit of people watching.

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Try a new form of transportation….Char and Sable on a Segway tour of the city – in Europe, kids can do many things they aren’t “allowed” to do in the US.

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Try to blend in. Zurich, Switzerland – these are our “Polish faces” – my sister in law is Polish, and she said Americans smile too big in pictures – so this is how we imagine the Poles smile!

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June 2018. Shortly after sunrise over Vatican City. I ache for another opportunity like this one….we were high tailing it to our private Vatican Tour so we could barely stop to smell the roses, but man, I wish I could’ve frozen time in this very spot. It was so peaceful and serene.

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Well, I am not generally a wine drinker but I was in PARIS!!! A glass of wine was a requirement. Eat and drink like the locals.

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The Eiffel Tower was closed due to the weather, but we scooted all the way there to take in the rare sight!

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Eating like the locals in Quebec….this place was off the beaten path and we were rewarded with an amazing dinner. Everyone got a platter of thinly sliced beef, then there was shrimp and chicken to fondue as well!

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Our appetizer..bread dipped in cheese!

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Taking it easy at the Siberian Spa outside of Quebec. A family trip to remember.

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It isn’t hard to eat like a local in Italy. Lemon risotto – the most amazing risotto ever!

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Scooter pick up! Try a new form of transportation….the best way to see the Amalfi Coast!

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Limoncello to end the evening! Drink like the locals! This is the restaurant near the Vatican – halfway through our meal about 20 priests walked into the restaurant….a good beginning to a joke!

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Eat where the locals eat. Giuseppe and his biggest fans!

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So much Caprese!

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Our greatest find! Just hop off the highway to find your treasure!

Sunrises and Sunsets…iconic views of travel.

I have a thing for sunrises and sunsets.  They signify the beginning and the end.  They are an invitation to start anew and force us to put things behind us.  I have found great joy in witnessing these celestial spectacles and even though some of them happened years and years ago, they recall memories that I may have otherwise forgotten.

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November 2018. A sunrise in my backyard with freshly fallen snow.

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March 2013. Argenton-sur-Creuse. This was sunrise out the window of our charming 16 century townhouse at the end of the bridge.

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Summer 2018. Naples, Maine. Sunset on Long Lake.

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Summer 2016. Naples, Maine. Tubing at sunset on Long Lake.

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November 2015. Sunset over Monterey Bay, California.

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Fall 2012. Sunset on the amazing island of Eleuthera, Bahamas.

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Unknown date. Sunrise on my street.

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December 2013. Sunrise over Mount Baker, Washington State.

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Sunset. Eleuthera, Bahamas.

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Sunset. Eleuthera, Bahamas.

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Summer 2017. Sunset over Balch Lake, Maine.

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February 2019 aboard the Symphony of the Seas. Sunset while docked off the coast of St. Marteen.

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February 2019. Man-made sunset on the Savanna in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

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February 2019. Sunset over the lake from our room in Bay Lake Towers, Disney World.

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June 2018. Sorrento, Italy. Sunset over Vesuvius.

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June 2018. Shortly after sunrise over Vatican City.

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September 2014. Sunset in Eleuthera, Bahamas.

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April 2016. Sunset in Sorrento, Italy reflected in Aperol Spritz.

 

Italy…Bits and Pieces (of my heart) Part II -Aperol for the win and travel gurus!

Aperol Spritz is my husband’s Italian (and summer) beverage of choice.  We first experienced this beauty on our first road trip in Italy when we arrived in Sorrento at our lovely Agriturismo, Antico Casal.  Our host made us this famous and refreshing drink to enjoy at sunset – and you, too, can make it here at home.  Aperol is a bitter Italian spirit (available at most liquor stores) but when combined with prosseco, orange juice and soda water, the flavors open up and it becomes a lively Italian sunset in a glass!  While recipes vary regionally, the original is the best and can be found on the Aperol bottle!  I was amazed to find PRE-MADE Aperol Spritz in Italy when I was there in June and may or may not have enjoyed a few bottles (alone)!

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A VERY expensive Aperol Spritz in Venice – 15 Euros – about $18USD, but it WAS a beautiful setting!

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Ok this is an exaggeration – but check out that gorgeous veranda at our Air BnB!

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Pre-Mixed Aperol Spritz!!!

Rick Steves – As a travel enthusiast and vacation planner, I recognize quality and an outstanding product and I think Rick Steves puts out amazing tools for any type of traveler.  I have used and planned many of my own vacations with the help of Rick’s travel guides and keep a small library of his tour books to lend out to clients and friends.  His expertise really lends itself to the adventurous traveler – experienced or novice – and provides resources that enhance a pre-organized vacation, educate the traveler and help the do-it-yourselfer plan effectively to get the most out of their experience.

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For my most recent Italian adventure, my mom, sisters and I used Rick’s mobile App for some pre-trip planning (he has GREAT radio interviews and cultural “lectures” available on the App for your pleasure) as well as using Rick’s guided audio walking tours.  While I will say there were a few hiccups with this method (people pressing “play” at different times and having to catch up or go back from time to time), we thoroughly enjoyed using these audio walking tours we had downloaded onto our phones before we left – we loved the history, the authentic tidbits and the feeling like Rick was our tour guide – well, I guess he WAS!!!  We used his walking tour of Florence, Rome, and Pompeii and really gained a lot of insider information.  Check it out!!!

I love all these tidbits –  They truly ARE bits and pieces of my heart.  I treasure them as sweet memories of adventures, interactions and integrations I will never have again.  I hope you find them helpful, useful and enjoyable and I hope you hold your own bits and pieces of treasured memories.

Italy…bits and pieces (of my heart) Part I – Dinner, Breakfast, Dessert!

Bits and pieces…..here are some observations made while traveling in Italy!  I wanted to break it up into two parts to stretch out your enjoyment:)  Let me tell you about my regional food favorites, my gelato adventure in pictures in this first part, and some touring tips to help make your DIY Italy experience the best.  Oh, and let’s not forget Aperol Spritz!!

Tuscany is known for its cured meats, particularly boar meat.  It is also well known for its pecorino cheese.  Their tomato sauce is simple and savory – made with crushed tomatoes, loads of garlic, even more olive oil and whole, dried pep(p)eroncini peppers placed in a tea strainer and marinated in the sauce while it boils on low (you know these peppers – we call them crushed red pepper and you find them at every house of pizza in the north east!) Tuscans do not shy away from slabs of steak, red wine and the joy that comes with experiencing a meal with friends and family.  This is probably one of the BEST reasons to visit Italy and a part of the culture that is so endearing!  Here is my sister-in-law’s aunt’s authentic Tuscan “gravy” recipe – this is EXACTLY like the one we made in our cooking class at our agriturismo.  Also, what to do with leftover sauce!!!

 

Gelato – I take this business seriously and there is nothing more serious than Italian Gelato!!!!  I haven’t met a gelato flavor I didn’t like but I do like some more than others – my favorites are chocolate, strawberry, pistachio, salted caramel and nutella!  I always have my gelato in a cup to minimize loss due to melting, and a new flavor every time – how can you go wrong?  Here is a picture diary of Italy through the eyes of a gelato aficionado!  There’s no better way to sight-see!

 

 

What fun themes do you use when you travel?  My gelato tour gave me a free pass to eat as much gelato as I wanted!  Like one would NEED a reason!!  When my son was little,  he was FAR more interested in all the fountains at Disney than he was anything else – so I feel like it was a fountain tour of Disney!

In Part II of Bits and Pieces, learn to make the quintessential Italian refresher and learn who my favorite traveling companion is….hint: it’s not my husband – SSSHHHHH!

 

The Great Italian Food Tour, Part II

Last time, I shared with you the amazing start to our Italian adventure – culinary style!  I covered our first night’s cooking class, gelato and pizza in San Gimignano, our most expensive meal in Venice, and how we happened upon the BEST taverna in Italy – and met Guiseppe!!!  Here we are for part two, which kicks off in Rome!

Our first night in Rome we arrived around 4pm and immediately hit the streets for an audio walking tour that we enjoyed via our free downloaded Rick Steves App!  I highly recommend this option for the adventurous traveler and will delve into this great traveling tool in another blog!!!

This evening we enjoyed some street food (and gelato) while we roamed the streets of ancient Rome, beginning at Fiore del Campo (the field of flowers) and ending at the Spanish Steps.  I won’t give too many details as I intend to do that another time, but let me just say there was a wonderful surprise around every corner and our hot paninis, espressos and slices of pizza did not disappoint!!!

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Our second day in Rome was a walking extravaganza!  We started off with egg sandwiches at home (the beauty of staying at an AirBnB is that you can make a few things at your home base and save money for the bigger meals) and hit the road for our Vatican Tour.  For lunch we stopped en-route to the Colosseum at a street side taverna and enjoyed wine (duh), pizza, caprese and more.  We had gelato at least once😊 and walked about 12 miles this day and it was HOT!!!!  But one of the best experiences of this day was our dinner….

Being Americans, we tend to eat earlier than most Europeans.  We were toast from a LONG day of touring and walking and headed to dinner near our accommodations around 6pm.  We picked a lovely taverna we had passed on the way to the Vatican (our “home” was about 3 blocks from the Vatican) and settled in for an amazing meal.  Our server was fabulous and the food was great – but what made THIS particular meal so memorable was the fact that near the end of our meal (when most Italians are thinking about going out to dinner) 20+ priests walked into the taverna to have dinner – it was like the set up for a joke, “Twenty priests walk into a bar….”!  It was so ROME – next door to the Vatican – and they just settled in to a great meal – now, we might have been a bit punchy with wine, too much walking and a gorgeous limoncello toast, but this rounded out our Roman experience like no other!!!!

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We departed Rome and headed for Sorrento.  On the way, we stopped at an Italian Autostrada rest stop – these cool inventions are fantastic and a cultural experience on their own and deserve to be highlighted.  These traditionally stretch OVER the highway and are pretty monstrous buildings.  They have restrooms, cool gift shops and WONDERFUL fresh cuisine that is not what you would expect at a rest area.  If you ever road trip in Italy, I highly encourage you to stop and check these out even if you don’t NEED to – it is an Italian experience!

Our arrival in Sorrento was thankfully, uneventful – aside from arriving early and having to wait on meeting our AirBnB host at our apartment – which, by the way, was lovely – more on that in another post.  We had been eating out a lot so this evening, my sister, Kelly, decided to cook for us, so we ventured down the street to the local Carrefour (European grocers that we have found in Italy, France and England and I am sure they are elsewhere – but you know what you will find there so that is nice once you are able to recognize some chains) and picked up some staples – eggs, wine, cured meats, cheese, pasta, bread, basil, coffee and chicken breast – and my sister made us an incredible homemade Italian meal!  It was great to eat at home, relax on the balcony and soak in the Sorrento charm.  That evening, we picked up our scooter rentals for our next day of touring (don’t miss THAT blog for sure!) and we walked off our dinner enjoying the winding ancient streets of Sorrento.  And we had gelato!!

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The next day was our self-touring scooter extravaganza – and memories we will never forget – especially the picnic lunch we enjoyed at Villa Cimbrone in the cliff-side Amalfi Coast town of Ravello.  We had planned a lovely picnic for this day of adventure including our meats, cheeses, bread and sweet treats and had the most delightful picnic in the most amazing setting on the Amalfi!  Picnicking is one of my favorite ways to really experience the joy and simplicity of Italian food, so don’t miss out on this classic culinary gem.  Here are a few pictures…

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Our final full day in Italy was anchored by a train ride to Pompeii and Rick Steves audio tour of this ancient delight.  I have, for a long time, been a connoisseur of history, culture, languages and people.  Pompeii is an iconic destination for people like me and in my book, only second to visiting the Great Pyramids of Giza (someday!!)  We had our customary breakfast at home, picked up some panini on the road, enjoyed some gelato in Pompeii, then had a lovely sunset dinner at a hotel across the street from our apartment.  Our last meal in Italy was a feast for the senses and as we had done so many times before, we each got a different dish and shared – and no one was disappointed.  This meal really highlighted the­­­­­­­­­­ unique and fresh cuisine of Sorrento – with daily caught fish, lemon risotto (let me tell you – there is NOTHING like a Sorrento lemon), gnocci with red sauce and wine!  It was a bittersweet meal that put the icing on an amazing culinary journey taken by four women, ready to taste Italy!!!

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I don’t know if you have noticed the theme aside from food, but it’s the people, the sights and the senses that are awakened by experiencing something different.  Travel is a story that unfolds through the eyes, the ears, the nose, the mouth and through touch.  It is one of our only activities that engages us on so many levels, and I believe that is why travel is something we desire so greatly.  There are so many adventures to have, people to meet and experiences to have.  Happy Travels!!

Indulge me a bit and enjoy this short time lapse video of us scooting our way up, up, up to the cliff side town of Ravello!

The Great Italian Food Tour, Part 1

Italian Food.  I feel like I could just drop the mic right there and walk away from this post…but I would leave so much out!  So here is a run down of the amazing food and beverages I experienced in Italy this past June!

When we think of Italian food, many of us go right to pasta and pizza, and while those are VERY good in Italy (regionally amazing), food in Italy is so much more!  The first things that come to mind for me, having traveled there three times, is fresh, authentic, regional, simplistic, divine!  When I traveled to Italy with my sisters and step mom this past summer, we sought out authentic Italian dining experiences and were rewarded beyond measure.

Let me start with a bit of our family history with food – as it can’t be ignored that one’s previous experiences with any of the five senses shapes their perceptions about new things.  One thing can go without saying – we ALL love food!  Our family gathers around wonderful meals when we come together and delight in trying new recipes, cooking with fresh and healthy ingredients and sometimes over indulging….well, maybe not only sometimes😊  My dad’s most famous line when you join our family for a meals is, “If you go away hungry, it’s your own fault!”  And believe me, everyone is welcome at our table and there is always enough food – thankfully!

My step mom is a great cook – we always enjoyed hearty home cooking growing up.  Her stuffed shells are to die for and I remember traveling back to college after Christmas break with a huge pan of them in my back seat!  I have never been very fond of raw onions, a culinary topic still entertaining to this day, but overall, if you put it in front of me, I will eat it!  My sister, Kelly, is amazing in the kitchen!  She is always trying new recipes and I don’t ever think she has made something that wasn’t outstanding!  She inspires me to try new things all the time!  My other sister, Becky, was most definitely the pickiest of us all.  Growing up, Becky ate Eggo waffles, peanut butter and fluff (for those of you not in New England, this is the most amazing culinary invention EVER and you should try it!) and pizza with the sauce scraped off.  I seriously think that’s all she ate for about 12 years!!!  But I have to give Becky props – she has grown to be super adventurous and daring in her culinary experiences and makes a mean taco dip!!!

With that bit of back story out of the way, let me proceed….

Our first night in San Gimignano (Tuscan region) was a bit of a blur; having just flown overnight from Boston, we arrived at our fantastic Agriturismo (check out my blog about them) and were greeted with warm Italian hospitality and some amazing house wine in preparation for a cooking class we arranged ahead of time!  That evening, we prepared pasta (using only three ingredients!), an authentic spicy tomato sauce perfect for pasta, pizza, focaccia and the following morning’s breakfast (this is actually top secret but something I will share later)!  We also prepared dough for the focaccia, a summer version of tiramisu featuring strawberries, using limoncello instead of coffee, and enjoyed the fantastic company of our chef and interpreter (our host at the Agriturismo acted as our interpreter when she didn’t have other duties to attend to….and when she did, we figured it out!)

Needless to say – the food was amazing, plentiful and made with love, laughter and joy!  A funny story – while we were making the tiramisu, our chef was explaining the biscuits used…we called them “lady fingers” and the chef and his assistant thought that was the weirdest thing they had ever heard!  Here are some photos from before our cooking experience and our arrival day in San Gimignano (you will notice a LOT of wine toasts!  Italians know how to celebrate la Bella Vita!)

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Other meals we enjoyed on this leg of our trip were gelato (I ate gelato with vigor and abandon everywhere we went in Italy), espresso and panini, and the most expensive meal on our journey – a lunch canal-side in Venice!  Here’s a picture diary of these experiences.

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Our next culinary adventure worth mentioning specifically was the late lunch we had while traveling from Tuscany to Rome.  It was a long drive – about 3.5 hours, and we were getting a bit hungry around 1pm.  We didn’t have any specific plans – and that’s when the MAGIC happens!!!  We decided to get off the autostrada (Italian highway system) at a random town and found a jewel of a taverna!

Our lovely host, Giuseppe – of course – was a fabulous man who endeared us and stole our hearts!  Meals in Italy don’t get more authentic than this and Giuseppe made this out of the way stop so memorable.  Here is a photo diary of that amazing meal!!!

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Part 2 of this wonderful culinary adventure to follow, but here are some random food pictures of our trip thus far.  Hang tight for the rest!  ‘Tis the season for enjoying food, family and friends!

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A Different Way to Stay

Do you know what I think is the BEST stay in Italy right now?  It’s the Agriturismo.  For those of you who may not be familiar with the agriturismo, they are “farm stays” in Italy. Kind of like renting a room on a working farm but with pizzazz!

Now, I’m not talking about a small cottage in the middle of nowhere and you have to milk the cows to earn your keep – although I bet you could find something like that if that is your cup of tea.  The agriturismos I have stayed in have been elegant, beautifully restored family homes that now accommodate guests in a setting similar to a bed and breakfast, but the key difference is the fact that the agriturismo must produce a certain percentage of agricultural goods – like olive oil, wine, limoncello, livestock, grains, veggies or fruits.

The original idea was to help support the dwindling number of family farms and save a way of life that is being forgotten; to preserve history.  To allow guests to wrap themselves in a true Italian experience and honor their family-based roots. I think the US could take a lesson here!

Agriturismos can be found in other place in Europe.  In my humble opinion, agriturismos are amazing!!!  They TEND to be less expensive than a traditional B&B (around $40 per person per night including breakfast) or hotel, and the food is fresh off the farm; the people are genuine, engaging and delightful, and the accommodations are typical fairytale-esque!  I have personally stayed in three different agriturismos, and while each of them have been different, they each had gorgeous qualities that made me want to return!!!

Let me tell you about my agriturismo adventures!  

When my husband and I traveled to Italy together in April 2016, we stayed in two agriturismos – one in Sorrento, operated by a lovely Italian Mama and her 3 sons, and a Tuscan vineyard agriturismo outside of San Gimignano, operated by the family that produces Palagetto wines.  

The Antico Casal Agriturismo in Sorrento was lovely – our first trip to Sorrento and our first farm stay.  We arrived late in the day after driving from Rimini that day (on the Adriatic side of Italy) and were welcomed with smiles, invitations to dinner and a beautiful room with a view of the incredible Sorrento hills – lush with citrus trees and olive groves.  Antico Casal boasted an amazing view of Sorrento from the rooftop terrace, where we first enjoyed the famous Aperol Spritz – my husband’s favorite summertime beverage. This is one of only a handful of agriturismos in Sorrento and took advantage of the sloping Sorrento geography with terraced plots for lemons and livestock.  

One fabulous story I would love to share (there are many – including finding my brother-in-law’s long lost brothers) is about the night we ate three pounds of fresh steak!  No kidding! So that morning, we got up early to do some sightseeing. We enjoyed our breakfast (fresh squeezed orange juice, pastries with NUTELLA in them – I have noticed a severe lack of peanut butter all over Europe – but at least they make up for it with nutella!), fresh yogurt and fruit.  We headed outside to take a quick walk out on the terrace and noticed a massive side of beef strung up under the pergola and the butcher hard at work. We learned that a week before our arrival, one of the beef cattle went to slaughter and here he was, returned, for our dinner! We marveled at the sheer magnitude of the butcher’s work ahead of him, and then left for the day dreaming of a gorgeous steak for dinner.

Little did we know that we would ONLY have steak for dinner!!!  Well, and a salad and dessert – but seriously – our hosts explained that they had spend ALL day butchering a preparing the beef so they had little time to prepare fresh pasta or another side, so we literally had a slab of beef each with a fresh bed of new greens!  Talk about meat sweats! Holy Cow! But it couldn’t have been fresher or any tastier! Oh and so you know, many agriturismos offer dinner with your stay for an additional cost – we have found that typically the dinner is about $25-$35 per person and that includes a started, one or two main courses, dessert, wine, limoncello and cappuccino – well worth the quality and quantity of food, but you are not obligated to eat there – just let them know in the morning if you will be there that evening so they have enough fresh food prepared.

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In Tuscany, we stayed at at the Torre Palegetto – about a mile from the ancient gates of San Gimignano – we had met up with my lovely sister-in-law and brother-in-law in Sorrento and enjoyed the second half of our trip with them.  We stayed in a two bedroom ancient tower (Torre) that was complete with a living room with an magnificent fireplace, a dining room and an adorable kitchen – and did I mention the TOWER!!! FAIRYTALE! It was enchanting and I cannot even describe how many checks on my wish list I got to mark after this stay!  

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Most recently, the amazing agriturismo we stayed at outside of San Gimignano this summer is called La Lucciolaia.  It is one of a few sister agriturismos owned by the Palagetto winery and they have renovated traditional Tuscan farms and towers into these beautiful rooms and homes away from home!  We were VERY pleased with our stay! We had two rooms on the lowest story of the farmhouse complete with our own patio with majestic views of San Gimignano in the distance! We stayed here for three lovely nights and used this centrally located base as our jumping off point for lots of sightseeing.  We spent time in Florence, took a train from Florence to Venice for a day, toured San Gimignano, took an amazing winery tour at the Palagetto Winery just minutes from our agriturismo and also had a private cooking lesson at our agriturismo from our chef the night we arrived. It was fantastic!!! I will expand on this more when I write about how we ate our way through Italy!

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Well, that was quite a Travel Tangent – but I highly recommend that if you are going to go on a do-it-yourself tour of Italy, you check out Agriturismos for at least some of your stays!