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Holidays: Travel Photo Roulette #116

November 12, 2015
Holidays: Travel Photo Roulette

Thanks to the lovely Amanda, and her photo-judging husband over at Not a Ballerina, I am the winner of the newest installment of Travel Photo Roulette!

It wasn’t hard to choose a photo, as I immediately thought of the one place that I always feel relaxed and at peace, regardless of what is going on around me: the terrace of my favorite restaurant, Osteria La Porta. I mean, look at those rolling hills. Plus, um, wine? Sign me up.

Holidays: Travel Photo Roulette

It was actually Amanda’s theme of Home Away from Home that inspired my idea for the theme of this next round.

As winner of the previous round, I have the pleasure of hosting the next one. May I present *drum roll* Travel Photo Roulette #116!

The theme for Travel Photo Roulette #116 is: Holidays

It’s that time of the year, the days are getting shorter, the weather chillier, and the sound of holiday music is already playing in loop on many radio stations. We’ve got Thanksgiving, Advent, Chanukah, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Boxing Day, and Kwanzaa, among others (National Fruit Cake Day, anyone?!). So, no matter where you are in the world, holiday preparations will soon be in full swing!

I would love to see photos of whatever makes you think of the holidays. Whether it’s your childhood home with a roaring fireplace, your favorite city bejeweled with millions of sparkling lights, a holiday travel tradition, or a solemn custom that you hold dear.  As an expat currently living in Rome, I automatically think of my family home in Pennsylvania: for me, it embodies everything the holidays are.

Holidays: Travel Photo RouletteHome Sweet Home

And the winner is…

Kathryn from Travel with Kat!

Here’s one of my favourite holiday memories of a romantic walk in the snow. I took this a few days before Christmas while on a first date. Luckily he didn’t mind my snapping a few photos. 5 years later we’re still together.


I chose this photograph because it feels like a holiday moment frozen in time (and it probably was frozen, brr!). It feels intimate and quiet, yet is taken in the middle of the city. It evokes all kinds of warm fuzzies!

THANK YOU to all of the participants in this round of Travel Photo Roulette! See you the next time around…and enjoy your holidays, whatever and wherever they may be!

Entries for Travel Photo Roulette #116: Holidays

Anne from Let Me Be Free:

It is quite the opposite over here in Australia, things are warming up and we are hitting the beach! Christmas for me is heading back to the family farm and spending the day with our family. It is also a tradition to go and catch yabbies (fresh water crayfish) out of the dam and enjoy the feast!

Holidays: Travel Photo Roulette

Kathryn from Travel with Kat:

Here’s one of my favourite holiday memories of a romantic walk in the snow. I took this a few days before Christmas while on a first date. Luckily he didn’t mind my snapping a few photos. 5 years later we’re still together.


Shobha from Just Go Places:

This is our pumpkin pie from last Thanksgiving. We live in London and we always celebrate Thanksgiving with friends instead of family. One of my friends made this pumpkin pie and she put in edible gold flecks. You have to have pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving I feel. And you can’t start Christmas without having Thanksgiving!

Holidays: Travel Photo Roulette

Elena from Traveling Bytes:

Medellin is called the city of eternal spring, so it is fitting that their Christmas is green instead of white one. Though, for a girl who grew up with sleds and skis, it feels a little strange.

Travel Photo Roulette Guidelines

  • One submission per blog, so sites that have 2+ authors only get one entry.
  • Post processing is permitted, but photo altering (i.e. using Photoshop to remove elements) is not.
  • Abstract submissions welcomed as long as it fits within the interpretation of the chosen phrase – and the connection is comprehensible!
  • Keep your images medium-sized and web-optimized (800 pixels wide is good)
  • If you win, you will host the next round (runs for 7 days) and so choose the next theme: Keep phrases general so that all bloggers can participate. Specific items like “Eiffel Tower” should be avoided but rather made open-ended like “monuments” or with a dash of focus such as “monuments at night”, which most of us have pictures of. Phrases can be generic ‘signs’, or abstract ‘religion’, but keep it within the realm that all readers will understand. No “Kafka-esque,” or “Overlooking Creation.”
  • Themes can be reused after 1 year, however new photos must be submitted.
  • No obscene pictures or phrases allowed. Suggestive phrases and photography can be accepted, but please keep it within reason.
  • Keep the ideas and photos fresh!
  • Pictures from your entire portfolio are fair to submit. You do not have to take the photo within the week of the contest period to submit it.
  • Most importantly, all photographs must be your own. One last rule, since this is a competition for travel and photography bloggers, you must have a travel/photography blog to enter. Sorry!

How to submit your entry

It’s so easy! To enter the Travel Photo Roulette competition simply leave a comment below with:

  • a link to the image (whether Flickr, 500px, Trover, Smugmug, etc. or your own site) and
  • a short description/background/caption as to where/why/how this image reminds you of the holidays.

As photos are submitted, I will add them to the post. Check back to see your entry!

Submissions will close on Saturday November 21st 2015 at midnight Central European Time Zone.
I will select the winner and notify him/her shortly thereafter. He/she will then host the next round of Travel Photo Roulette #117.

Make sure you share the contest within your social media circle using the hashtag #photoroulette! The more participants we have, the more fun it will be!

Previous winners include:

  1. Nov 2010 Living the Dream: Animals
  2. Nov 2010 Skinny Backpacker: Road Signs
  3. Nov 2010 Dream a Little Dream: Street Art
  4. Dec 2010 Flashpacker HQ: Festival
  5. Dec 2010 Over Yonderlust: Landmarks
  6. Dec 2010 Don’t Ever Look Back: Beaches
  7. Jan 2011 ThePlanetD: Portraits
  8. Jan 2011 Travel with a Mate: Motion
  9. Jan 2011 Johnny Vagabond: Water
  10. Feb 2011 Ken Kaminesky: Urban
  11. Feb 2011 Travels of Adam: Friday Night
  12. Mar 2011 Itchy Feet Chronicles: The Journey
  13. Mar 2011 Brendan’s Adventures: Changing Seasons
  14. April 2011 Shutterfeet: Storytelling
  15. April 2011 10 Times One: Piousness
  16. April 2011 Beached Eskimo: Learning
  17. May 2011 Travel Junkies: Architecture
  18. June 2011 Destination World [-404-]: Transportation
  19. June 2011 Living the Dream: Paradise
  20. June 2011 Vagabond Quest: Clothes
  21. July 2011 The Unframed World: Symmetry
  22. July 2011 Beached Eskimo: Home
  23. July 2011 BackPackerBanter: Inspiration
  24. Aug 2011 WanderingTrader: Darkness
  25. Aug 2011 Finding the Universe: Tranquillity
  26. Sep 2011 Fearful Adventurer: Food
  27. Sep 2011 Adventures of a GoodMan: City
  28. Oct 2011 Reflection
  29. Oct 2011 Scene With A Hart: Framing
  30. Nov 2011 Vagabond Quest: Silhouettes
  31. Nov 2011 Hecktic Travels: Music
  32. Dec 2011 Globetrotter Girls: Love
  33. Dec 2011 Man on the lam: Humor
  34. Jan 2012 My Walkabout: Winter
  35. Jan 2012 The Art of Slow Travel: Blue
  36. Feb 2012 Ten times One: Depth of the Field
  37. Feb 2012 Runaway Juno: … Digital Nomad Moment
  38. Mar 2012 Nomadbiba: Sunshine
  39. Mar 2012 Travel With Kat: Local Character
  40. April 2012 The Travel Bunny: Street Scene
  41. April 2012 Adventure Crow [-404-]: Spirit of the Country
  42. May 2012 Food Travel Bliss [-404-]: Evening
  43. May 2012 Matt Gibson: Adventure
  44. May 2012 Flashpacker HQ: Once In A Lifetime
  45. July 2012 Dusty Main: Surreal
  46. Aug 2012 2away: Smile

    1. Aug 2012 Bridges & Balloons: Splendour…
    2. Sep 2012 The GypsyNester: What the ?!
    3. Oct 2012 Runaway Juno: Sweet
    4. Nov 2012 GQ Trippin: Play
    5. Nov 2012 Life’s Little Victories: Friendship
    6. Dec 2012 Breakaway Backpacker: Face
    7. Jan 2013 Fly, Icarus, Fly: Serendipity
    8. Feb 2013 Travel Transmissions: Lost in Thought
    9. Feb 2013 Wanderlusters: The Natural World
    10. Mar 2013 Travel Junkies: Patterns
    11. April 2013 Living the Dream: Your First Time
    12. May 2013 Getting Stamped: The Sun Goes Down
    13. June 2013 The GypsyNester: Cheesy Tourist Diversions
    14. June 2013 Boomeresque: Revolution
    15. July 2013 Breakaway Backpacker: Colorful
    16. Aug 2013 Around This World: Mountains
    17. Aug 2013 Passports & Pamplemousse Hands at Work
    18. Sep 2013 TurtlesTravel Dance
    19. Sep 2013 Keep calm and travel The Sea
    20. Sep 2013 Travel Photo Discovery: The Market
    21. Oct 2013 Am I Nearly There Yet?: Travel Fails
    22. Oct 2013 The GypsyNester: Weird Regional Foods
    23. Nov 2013 Sophie’s World: Trees
    24. Nov 2013 SHOuTography: Party
    25. Dec 2013 Adventures of a Goodman: Ruin
    26. Dec 2013 Have Blog Will Travel: Light
    27. Jan 2014 This World Rocks: Crowds
    28. Jan 2014 Travel Past 50: Competition
    29. Feb 2014 The Working Traveller: Working
    30. Mar 2014 Travels with Carole: Umbrellas
    31. April 2014 Independent Travel Help Quirky
    32. April 2014 Quit Job Travel World Statues
    33. May 2014 Nomad is Beautiful People Sleeping
    34. May 2014 Backpack Me: Mouthwatering
    35. June 2014 20 Years Hence: The Face of A Nation
    36. July 2014 Two for the Road: Into the Wild
    37. July 2014 TurtlesTravel: Summer!
    38. Aug 2014 Adventures Around Asia: Candid
    39. Aug 2014 Travel with Kevin and Ruth: Hiking
    40. Sept 2014 Till The Money Runs Out: Transport
    41. Sept 2014 The Crowded Planet: Wild World
    42. Sept 2014 ZigZag On Earth: The 4 Elements
    43. Oct 2014 Travel Addicts: Heritage
    44. Oct 2014 Living the Dream: Your Grand Adventure
    45. Oct 2014 Getting Stamped: Inspire
    46. Nov 2014 Flashpacker HQ: Viewpoint
This list was re-formatted by If you like to use this two-column layout in your post please download the code here and follow instructions on same page.

The winners and themes in 2015. Click the link to go directly to that entry to see some fab photographs.

      1. Jan 2015 Adventures of a GoodMan: WOW!
      2. Jan 2015 ZigZag On Earth: Roads and Tracks
      3. Feb 2015 Where’s The Gos?: Street Art
      4. Mar 2015 Ice Cream and Perma Frost: Frozen
      5. Mar 2015 Journey Jottings: Detail
      6. April 2015 House Sitting Travel: What’s your Angle?
      7. April 2015 JetWayz: Spiritual Beauty
      8. April 2015 The Trading Travelers: Celebrate
      9. May 2015 Street Food World Tour: Epic
      10. May 2015 Next Stop Who Knows: Landscape
      11. May 2015 We Travel Together: Wildlife
      12. May 2015 Vagabond Way: Festival
      13. June 2015 Travel Addicts: Landmarks
      14. June 2015 TravelnLass: Wrinkles
      15. July 2015 Anita’s Feast: Food Markets
      16. August 2015 Travel Past 50: Home
      17. August 2015 The Barefoot Nomad: Doors
      18. September 2015 House Sitting Travel: Repeating Shapes
      19. September 2015 Berkeley and Beyond: Cemeteries
      20. October 2015 Dare2Go: Reflection
      21. October 2015 Journey Jottings: Thirst Quenching
      22. November 2015 Not a Ballerina: Home Away from Home

Rome Wander

Travel Smart Tips: Rome

November 9, 2015
Travel Smart Tips: Rome

Rome. The Eternal City. The expensive city.

Most people, whether avid travelers, or once-in-a-lifetime trip takers, have Rome on their list. Perhaps it’s the history that summons you, or the air of romance and mystery portrayed in the oft alluded to Roman Holiday. Either way, whatever starry-eyed notion brings you to Rome, the reality of the city can sometimes rear it’s trash-littered head. Rome has a bit of a reputation. Corruption, pick-pocketing, price gouging, man-handling, inept public transportation, monuments closed without warning. You name it, someone visiting Rome has complained about it.

So, how do you fix all of that? You can’t. Rome is out of your control.

But, if you know how, you can easily make all that Rome has to offer work to your advantage. Traveling smart contributes to traveling safer and traveling cheaper no matter where you go in this world.

 Travel Smart Tips: Rome

Are you interested in seeing magnificent works of art, but less than enticed by entrance fees and long lines? Visit some of Rome’s 900+ churches! The entrance to most churches is free, including St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, the largest church in the world. There you can see Michelangelo’s famous La Pieta, a jaw-droppingly beautiful marble statue depicting the Virgin Mary cradling the body of Jesus. Other famous works of art in otherwise possibly overlooked churches include Renaissance master Caravaggio’s Calling of Saint MatthewSt. Matthew and the Angel, and the Martyrdom of St. Matthew at San Luigi dei Francesi; Michelangelo’s Christ Carrying the Cross at Santa Maria Sopra Minerva; and Caravaggio’s Martyrdom of St. Peter and Conversion of St. Paul,  Raphael’s Chigi Chapel, and many statues by Bernini at Santa Maria del Popolo. Each church has its own operating hours, and some can be quite idiosyncratic. Make sure to double-check before you make your plans.

Go for a walk. It’s really that simple. Every corner you turn, every small side street you walk down, can hide the most beautiful treasures, both big and small. Not to mention you’ll save the hassle of dealing with the public transportation system, an organization plagued by a reputation of running behind schedule, drivers striking without notice, and passengers left stranded.

Every random stroll in #Rome is free entry into a museum of hidden gems!

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the things you find walking back to your car after the bar.

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Are you getting thirsty on your walk around Rome? Carry an empty water bottle with you and fill it up at one of Rome’s many Nasoni, or public water fountains. These fountains, of which there are around 200, can be found throughout the historical center. The best part? This water is clean, drinkable, and free! Not to mention fresh! If you want to blend in with the locals, drink from the Nasoni  – it’s the same water coming through the taps in Roman homes! ACEA (manager of water services utilities) has a map of Nasoni locations throughout the historical center, which can be found here.

Many famous attractions in Rome offer free admission, including the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Trevi Fountain (among many others). But, if you happen to be in Rome on the first Sunday of any month, you are in luck! All public museums, monuments, and archaeological sites are free to all visitors! Choose wisely what you will see during that time, as some places, such as the Vatican Museum, are absolute madhouses. Others offer discounts after a certain time of the day, so make sure to double-check those places you’ve decided you want to go!

roman ruins and rain!

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Be smart about how you eat and drink! It seems like every other week a disgruntled tourist is posting a picture online of a receipt for four coffee’s and a gelato costing an astronomical amount. If you order a coffee, pastry, gelato, or anything else that is served at a bar and can be eaten standing up…stand up! The cost of the same item, when seated, can be triple. Not to mention, when seated, you have to pay a service charge (or coperto), which can range anywhere from 1-5 Euro per person. This rule of thumb applies even more so if you are near a famous attraction such as the Vatican Museums or the Colosseum. And if the menu doesn’t have prices? RUN.

Do as the students do and have aperitivo! Did you spend too much on that rockin’ purse and now you’re short on cash for dinner? Aperitivo is a pre-dinner drink (see some of my favorite Italian cocktails here) that typically comes with access to a full-fledged buffet of salads, pizzas, mini-sandwiches, and sweets (shall I go on?!). Some restaurants create a platter for you and serve it to you at your table, others are a bit more casual. In Rome, the price for what will become your favorite thing about Italy, commonly ranges from 9-15 Euro (drink and food). Have a drink, or two, and eat until your heart’s content…no need for dinner after!


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If you are looking for the perfect time of the year to travel to Rome, let me be brutally honest and tell you that summer is not that time. Overwhelmingly hot and humid, Rome becomes a dense and insanely crowded city during the months of June, July, and August. August is quite possibly the worst time to visit Rome, as the majority of Romans flee the city for the coast for the entire month. That means fewer people, yes, but fewer people that run the restaurants and stores, leaving many things permanently closed. The best time of the year to visit Rome is in the fall, when the temperature hovers between 62-72 degrees Fahrenheit (17-22 degrees Celsius) well into mid-November, and day trips outside of the city (perhaps a weekend in Tuscany), put you smack-dab into the middle of harvest time (new olive oil sampling, anyone?!).

grapes just chilling on the side of the road during my walk today.

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So, are you ready for your next trip to Rome? Keep these travel smart tips in mind and I promise you’ll leave feeling as if you’ve conquered the city, know the ins and outs, and can blend in with the locals (don’t wear flip-flops!).

A presto!

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Nibble Wander

A Weekend in Tuscany

August 27, 2015
Weekend in Tuscany

A weekend in Tuscany. My body relaxes and my heart and mind collectively smile. Just saying it aloud causes a collective sigh from anyone within hearing distance. Now, those of you who know me know that I am not one to romanticize Italy. In fact, I recently guffawed at a dramatically idyllic  New York Times article written by a man who had just honeymooned through Italy with his wife in their vintage rental car. Italy can be magical (especially if you have an unlimited budget), but like most places, it does have its flaws. But Tuscany, the Val D’Orcia region in particular, is a place where I feel magical. A sort of weightless ease that I’ve found only once before: on the porch of the house I grew up in.

Weekend in Tuscany

I fell in love with the Val D’Orcia the first time I stepped foot out of the car at the agriturismo we frequent. It was so quiet that it was almost unnerving, the air so fresh that my then cold-addled head didn’t know which way was up. But, my Italian was adamant that I would enjoy this weekend in Tuscany, for my 29th birthday, even with a raging head cold. He was right.

Known for the production of some of Italy’s most sought after wines, the Val D’Orcia stretches south from Siena to Monte Amiata and is characterized by its famous landscape. So famous, in fact, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004:

The landscape of Val d’Orcia is part of the agricultural hinterland of Siena, redrawn and developed when it was integrated in the territory of the city-state in the 14th and 15th centuries to reflect an idealized model of good governance and to create an aesthetically pleasing picture. The landscape’s distinctive aesthetics, flat chalk plains out of which rise almost conical hills with fortified settlements on top, inspired many artists. Their images have come to exemplify the beauty of well-managed Renaissance agricultural landscapes. (via the UNESCO website)

When you think Tuscany, I guarantee the picture in your mind is of rolling hills in hues of brown and green, and the winding roads lined with Cypress trees that are splashed on every postcard and travel guide you have. In fact, the first time I watched the sun rise from our bedroom at the agriturismo, I thought as though Mr. Darcy would crest that low hill with his brooding brow and high-waisted pants. The glowing light would hit him just perfectly from behind so that he appeared other worldly. You know what I’m talking about ladies. The end of the otherwise snooze-worthy Keira Knightley version of Pride & Prejudice was decidedly the best part.

A Weekend in TuscanyOur morning view (photo credit: Rebecca Danks)

Whenever we have guests visiting us in Rome, we make it a habit to spend a short two-day weekend in this region. Over the last two years we’ve gone so many times (my Italian has been frequenting these places for over a decade), and delighted so many friends and family, that I thought I should put it down on paper and share the wealth. I’ll let you know where to stay, what to visit, and most importantly, where to eat! Other than that, get yourself a GPS when you rent your car and just follow the beautiful winding roads wherever you feel you are being taken!

Where to Stay

Weekend in TuscanyAgriturismo Podere Agogna (photo credit: agriturismo website)

When we spend the weekend in Tuscany, we always stay at Agriturismo Podere Agogna. This charming, still-working farm is off the beaten path. Literally. The small dirt and gravel road that leads you deeper into the country eventually veers off to the left and ends at this magnificent property (at night you are likely to see some wild boar and porcupines cross in front of you on the road). Don’t come here looking to relax by the pool with a drink – there isn’t one. But that’s the beauty of it. This is the kind of place where you sit at the large table on the porch with your friends, a bottle (or two) of wine, playing charades until the early hours of the morning. Bruna and her husband Pasquale are delightful hosts, greeting you at any time of the day when you arrive and making sure your stay is nothing short of remarkable. Ask them for a tour of the grounds and you’ll see Via Francigena, the old trade route running from France to southern Italy, right in the backyard (it’s been common to spot hikers, backpackers, and others finding their way down the road, offered coffee and other refreshments by Bruna and Pasquale). Make sure to check out their cellar, which they carved into the side of a rocky hill, that contains their homemade marmalade, wine, and other goodies. Do I even need to mention how magnificent breakfast is? You’ll enjoy a multitude of homemade cakes, marmalade, and coffee on the beautiful outdoor porch.

Weekend in Tuscany

Weekend in Tuscany

Weekend in TuscanyVia Francigena road marker on the grounds of the agriturismo

Weekend in Tuscany

Weekend in Tuscany

Where to Eat

Weekend in TuscanyTerrace at Osteria La Porta (photo credit: restaurant website)

It’s hard to pick a favorite of anything, let alone a favorite restaurant in a country admired the world over for its culinary traditions. But I can say, without a doubt, that Osteria La Porta is my favorite restaurant in Italy. Quite possibly the world. I kid you not. And lucky for you it just happens to be in Monticchiello, a small town in the Val D’Orcia, less than two miles from the agriturismo I mentioned above. To be quite honest, I have very few pictures of Osteria La Porta or its delightfully delectable food. Why? Because I’m too busy stuffing my face. The menu changes seasonally, but some things they do exquisitely all of the time: roasted piglet, braised boar cheek, roasted pigeon, and my Italian swears by the savory pie of porcini mushrooms with pecorino (a regional specialty cheese) and truffle.

Weekend in Tuscany

Weekend in Tuscany

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Lugano & the Saga of Disappointing Travel

July 21, 2015
Lugano & the Saga of Disappointing Travel

“Look. I have a strategy. Why expect anything? If you don’t expect anything, you don’t get disappointed.”
― Patricia McCormick, Cut

Easier said than done, right? Especially when it comes to traveling. You spend weeks, months, even years, collecting pictures of exotic locales and resplendent monuments, only to realize when you get there that the pictures, while beautiful, were in no way the reality you are now faced with. All that you had dreamed about while you were supposed to be answering that email from your boss was lost behind the new dark tint of your no longer rose-colored glasses.

While we spend our time pinning, filtering photographs, and sharing travel stories (I say “we” because, hey, I’m totally guilty of this as well), we may let other, possibly more relevant information, get lost in translation. My travel boards on Pinterest certainly don’t reveal graffiti-laden monuments and overflowing trash bins, nor do they properly convey the smell of a crowded city on a stiflingly hot summer day, or the elbow to the ribs you get while trying to view the same 5′ x 5′ framed masterpiece as 3,500 other people.

PINTEREST LuganoLago di Braies, Italy ‖ photo: Pinterest

=Austrian National Library (Österreichische Nationalbibliothek), Vienna, Austria ‖ photo: Pinterest/Wick Sakit

And, while it may seem like I’m Debbie Downer-ing all over this post, I promise I’m just trying to give myself a pep-talk and I thought, hey, others may need this smack on the back of the head too! You see, I had *gasp* my first very disappointing travel experience recently, and at the end of the day I was angry, irritable, and resentful that I had wasted the time and money to get there.

While rocking in the corner and repeating to myself “I am not alone,” I ran across a fantastic post from the husband and wife duo of Adam and Hannah over at über-popular travel blog Getting Stamped. Asking a large handful of their travel-blogger friends for their most disappointing travel experiences, Adam and Hannah were able to put together a list of helpfully honest and relevant mini-reviews for the realistic traveler (read the full post here – it’s awesome!). If this roundtable taught me anything (and it did – never going to Brussels), it’s that I not only need to research the places I want to see, but also pay attention to the things about them that I need to see in order to effectively counter-attack any potential discouraging situations.

If only I had that sage wisdom before I went to Lugano, Switzerland, a place surprisingly not on Getting Stamped’s list (probably because I’m the only person ever who was like, “hey, guys, let’s go to Lugano, it looks awesome”).

I suppose Lugano could be a lovely place to retreat for the summer if you have a lot of money and time to spend. The hotels on the lake are grand, the restaurants expensive, and the water sparkling. But for the average tourist who will spend only a day in the small lakeside city, it offers very little. The majority of the food that is affordable, is mediocre and unfortunately, as with any new place, you may very well choose wrong. One could say that the biggest attraction besides the lake and its promenade is the shopping. Luxury stores abound here, and while the Swiss Franc exchange rate between either the U.S. Dollar or the Euro is not astronomically high right now, Switzerland has historically been an expensive country (the most expensive in all of Europe according to one 2014 report). The casino, particularly for those who are familiar with U.S. casinos, is more than a little disappointing and the sidewalk cafes with lake views either cater directly to you with a tourist menu (pictures included – RUN!), or don’t have what you want at all. You would think a fully stocked bar in a luxury lakeside resort city would be able to make a Champagne cocktail.


Lunch in Lugano ‖ Cold, bland pasta with congealed sauce ‖ 22 Euro

I can’t very well speak for the whole of Lugano, or the other small towns and mountain-top retreats surrounding Lake Lugano, but I can say that my overall impression was further solidified by my experience there (or lack thereof).

There were a couple of things I did enjoy in Lugano, however, including visiting the beautiful Chiesa di Santa Maria degli Angeli. The church, which began construction in 1499, has one of the most stunning frescoes I have ever seen, and the most famous of the Renaissance frescoes in all of Switzerland: Passion and Crucifixion by, Bernardino Luini, 1529. 

IMG_2991Chiesa di Santa Maria degli Angeli ‖ Passion and Crucifixion

IMG_4211-001Chiesa di Santa Maria degli Angeli ‖ Passion and Crucifixion

IMG_4207Chiesa di Santa Maria degli Angeli

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Sacro Monte di Orta

July 13, 2015
Sacro Monte di Orta

I must be absolutely insane to long for the days of employment.

Leaving my career behind when I got married and moved to Italy was an easy decision at the time: I had met my other half, the Angel to my Buffy, the Darcy to my Elizabeth, so what was a little sacrifice?

But it hasn’t been easy. Even now, being in Italy for almost two years, my mind is still trying to force itself into the career-minded mold it lived and thrived in for so long. You must have a career, you’re not contributing to the success of your family unless you’re making money, who are you without a job?! In the U.S. we have this little habit of viewing ourselves as our careers. When we meet someone for the first time the first question we typically ask them is “Oh, what do you do?”.

It is simply not like that in Italy. I’ve had an hour long conversation with someone where work didn’t come up once. My mind is slowly adjusting, and in order to break out of the cycles of worthless doom (can you tell I’m a bit dramatic?) I get trapped in from time to time, I focus on the positives of not having a traditional 9-5. Among them, I get to volunteer, I can work on my voice, I’m on the board of an Expat organization, I have time to write this blog (hey, that’s pretty awesome!), and I get to travel with my Italian when he goes away on business. Major bonus there.

Since business travel doesn’t necessarily cater to the tourist, I get to experience things that I never even knew existed. It’s my own little slice of heaven, and there’s a certain magic to doing it on my own. I can’t rely on my Italian, who is in meetings all day, for directions, translations, or itineraries. It’s all on me…and it makes it all that much better.

One of the treats I recently discovered was Sacro Monte di Orta, a beautiful walking path and garden carved into the side of the mountain overlooking lake Orta and the island of San Giulio. Along this wooded path are twenty chapels full of magnificently carved figures and intricate frescoes that depict, and celebrate, the life of Saint Francis of Assisi.







Sacro Monte di Orta, literally translated as Sacred Mountain of Orta, is one of the nine Sacri Monti (Sacred Mountains) of Piedmont and Lombardy, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Garden of Ninfa

July 3, 2015
Garden of Ninfa

Among the many things my intelligent, kind, generous, funny, handsome Italian brings to the table is his knowledge of Italy and its small, hidden treasures. I’m an off-the-beaten path kinda girl, both in life and in travel. I like to experience and appreciate things that most people overlook simply because they don’t know that they exist.

The Garden of Ninfa (Giardino di Ninfa), though fairly well-known by locals of the Lazio region, is mostly overlooked by travelers making their way through the Italian trifecta of Venice-Florence-Rome. Though its location isn’t ideal for those who have only a day or two to spend in Rome, it is ideal for those spending three or more days with some time set aside for exploring the countryside. I can say, it is most definitely worth the trip.



The original town of Ninfa, nestled between the Lepini Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, was erected on the site of one of the area’s most abundant springs. Over time water has played a crucial role in the survival, and flourishing, of Ninfa. In learning how to master and control their abundant water supply (an early dam can still be seen today), the small town was able to power small machinery such as mills and olive presses.


Though once prosperous, like many things throughout history, Ninfa was ultimately destroyed by war. In this case, inter-family papal wars. Continue Reading