Where I’ve Been When I’m Not Here

Hey everyone! It’s been a minute and I miss you guys. I’ve been gone partly because I’ve been crazy and struggling with some anxiety and depression but ALSO because I totally finished my book! YEE-HAW!

Now, I’m moving on to making a cookbook with Francesco that will be super fun and awesome. And starting another photography/art book about Italy. FUN STUFF (just need to get this anxiety under control, STAT).

WHAT’S GOING ON IN ITALY RIGHT NOW

Italy: Clashes at anti-government March in Florence: Things got a little out of control in Florence recently during a protest. Renzi has proposed a referendum that will reduce regional power. He says it will streamline parliament, his critics say that it will concentrate too much power federally. Police threw tear gas, Italians threw fire-crackers. One cop was “hurt in the leg.” And as much as I’m sad that anyone was hurt, or that the protest became violent in any way, I sure wish we could learn something from the Italians over here in ‘Merca. If we threw firecrackers at police officers during a protest, I imagine much worse things would happen. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-37886766

REVIEW: Elena Ferrante’s New Book: Frantumaglia: Alright, you guys might hate me but I don’t LOVE Elena Ferrante’s work. Sigh. I KNOW. Everyone loves her except for me and one of my best friends who discovered her together in a book club. Her writing is fantastic, but I have a hard time with her characters who are often really extreme female stereotypes, the insecure, self-loathing and petty stereotype or the martyr stereotype. However, that being said, her writing is beautiful and her books are based in the area that Francesco grew up. Reading her work is a great way to pull something about the culture of the place.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/maria-laurino/review-elena-ferrantes-ne_b_12775280.html?utm_hp_ref=italy

Two Former Nuns Celebrate Their Love For Each Other In Italy: Two nuns recently left their convent to marry each other in Italy. All I have to say about this is, “awe.” It’s incredibly courageous, especially given their faith. It must have been very hard for these women to openly do what they’re doing. Love is love is love is love. And? I always wondered about nuns… http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/former-nuns-marriage-italy_us_57ed31e2e4b082aad9b999cf?utm_hp_ref=italy

What’s new with you guys? Are you excited/terrified for the upcoming election on Tuesday?

Oh, Angelo: Possibly The Hottest Italian Man Living In Florence

A month ago some friends of mine from the AZ area joined me and Francesco in Florence for a week. For the first part of our trip we stayed in an Airbnb apartment near Santo Spirito. The apartment was sunny, newly renovated and modern. Well, mostly modern. It didn’t have air conditioning for reasons I’m still trying to work out in my mind. It was July, hot as hades, my boobs were sweaty and my makeup melted down my face the second I put it on so I looked like a whimpering mime most of the time. Since it was so hot in our apartment we mostly avoided it altogether, jetting out in the a.m. and wandering the streets like dried prunes till the evening. On one particular day the heat had become too much for me (since I’m apparently a delicate flower), and I started feeling dizzy. The last thing I wanted to do was faint in the middle of the street, something I’d witnessed a few years prior when a friend of ours from Brescia visited Florence and she dropped like a sack of potatoes on the Ponte Vecchio from heat exhaustion. She spent five hours hooked up to I.V.’s while a drunk man belted out tunes across from her. No thanks. So, not wanting to faint, we beelined it back to our hot ass apartment so I could take a cold shower.

When we walked into the apartment building we were hit by a gust of cool air. Turned out that the floor level was nice and cool, the sun hadn’t managed to work its way through the three meters of cement slabs. The main floor, the hallway, felt air conditioned and glorious so my friend Karen and I took a seat on the steps until my light-headedness passed. Francesco ran upstairs to our apartment on the fourth floor to grab some bottled waters from the fridge. Karen and I talked on the cold cement steps, enjoying a few wonderful minutes away from the hot air outside that felt like a blow-dryer on the nape of your neck. My face returned to its normal tone, my cheeks lost their bright red flush, and I felt fine again.

At about this time, the front door of the apartment building opened and a tall Italian man enters dressed in a navy blue suit. His head is shaved, he’s wearing D&G sunglasses and Italian leather shoes. He shuts the door behind him, pivots, and stops cold when he sees us on the steps in front of him. A smile slowly spreads across his face, a perfect smile, revealing an excellent set of the whitest pearly whites I’ve ever seen in Italy outside of a magazine ad. He pauses there for a moment just smiling, then walks with purpose directly up to Karen and I. Standing only a few inches from our feet he cocks his head to the side, the smile has only spread wider at this point,

“Hello,” he says in Italian, “what are you doing here?”

I respond, in Italian, “It’s hot outside and it’s much cooler here. We are renting an apartment upstairs. I’m just waiting for my husband.”

He nods, “but you’re not Italian. Why do you speak Italian?”

I smile, “because my husband is Italian.”

He bows slightly, “I understand. Well, enjoy your day,” he raises his sunglasses revealing one of the most attractive faces I’ve ever seen (aside from my own husband’s). I’m not easy to impress, neither is Karen, but we were both fucking impressed. “Ciao.” He walked passed us to the apartment located directly behind where we were sitting.

He took out his keys, “I lived in the US for a while,” he put his key into the hole, “it was wonderful.”

Francesco came walking down the stairs. He saw the man talking with us and flashed me a “are you getting hit on?” smile.

“Ciao,” he said to the handsome man going into his apartment.

“Ciao,” the handsome man replied, “I was just telling your friends that I lived in America for a while.”

Francesco stopped to talk with him, “really? Where?”

Turned out, the handsome man had lived in Florida for a while, partied a great deal, worked in a number of bars, had a marvelous time, and returned to his beloved Florence.

“But why do you speak Italian?” he asked Francesco.

Francesco laughed, “Uhm, because I’m Italian?” They both laughed.

The handsome guy said goodbye and disappeared into his apartment. Francesco walked over to me and Karen,

“Wow, that guy is hot.” He noted.

“Right? Wow.”

“I can see what all the fuss is about now with Italian men,” Karen laughed, “The confidence! He walked straight up to us with a determination I’ve never seen before.”

“Oh, welcome to Italy. That’s what makes them so damn attractive, the guys, they give zero fucks. That’s exactly how Francesco was when we started dating too. Insanity.”

“I like it.”

“He’s REALLY hot,” Francesco said, again.

“Yeah babe, I noticed. You gonna leave me for him?” I laughed, “Anyway,” I stood up, “I’m going to go change. Be right back.”

“I’m coming too,” Karen followed me upstairs to our sweltering apartment.

I threw on a cooler dress and more comfortable sandals. I was on my way to meet up with Georgette from Girl In Florence and I didn’t know how far I’d be walking. Plus, I didn’t want to show up a disgusting sweaty mess so the least I could do was put on a clean dress for her. I liked her, I didn’t want to knock her out with my potent b.o.

Karen and I ran downstairs to grab Francesco before heading to a bar to meet Georgette. Only, Francesco was nowhere to be found. Karen and I waited outside, and waited, and ten minutes went by and he was nowhere to be found. Suddenly, the door popped open and F stuck his head out,

“Babe, I’m hanging out with Angelo*, that’s the hot guy’s name. Come hang out!”

“Francesco, I’m going to be late!”

“Just two minutes!” Francesco grinned.

Karen and I followed Francesco into Angelo’s apartment and out to his garden where Angelo was seated, practically naked. His six pack glistened in the afternoon sun, his biceps bounced as he stood up to shake our hand.

“This is my apartment,” he said, in English this time, “I amAngelo, I own a bar nearby.” He smiled, again.

“Can I get you guys a drink? Something, else?” He paused and flashed a smile.

Angelo proceeded to roll a special variety of cigarette.

Everyone smoked the cigarette except for me because I prefer vodka.

“You sure?”Angelo asked, flashing a crooked smile.

“Yes. I’m meeting a friend for drinks.”

He shrugged.

Angelo made small talk about Florida and his life in Florence. Sweat beads occasionally fell between his well-formed pecs.

A few minutes later we excused ourselves to run towards the bar to meet Georgette. As we exited his apartment, a little old Italian woman entered from the apartment next door.

“Oh, my jesus,  his mom lives next door.”

“Of course,” Francesco added, matter-of-factly.

————–

I’m fairly certain that he has a girlfriend because it’s impossible he doesn’t BUT  if you’re interested in seeing this majestic creature in the wild visit: LANGOLINO in Santa Spirito. I’ve heard that he can be found here often. Order drinks, and thank mother nature.

*Name changed to protect privacy.

The Beautiful People Of Italy At A Glance: Summer Italian Style

Italy is beautiful, there’s no denying it, but it’s not just the country that’s pretty. Sure, it’s full of amazing architecture, rolling green hills, and lovely blue skies. The really beautiful things in Italy, though, are the people.  Seriously, it’s totally unfair to the rest of the world. Even the old people are adorable and stylish and I just want to frame them all over my house or lock them in a glass case to just look at them. Seriously, LOOK AT THEM. With that olive skin, the stylish clothes, and the booming confidence, it’s impossible not to stare.

I took these photos throughout Italy from Cellole to Florence. It doesn’t hurt that the backdrops only highlight how goddamn cute the people are with their stupid pretty skin and irritatingly badass hair. I love the summer clothes too, loose fabrics, bold colors, tribal patterns, and low cut v-necks with jeans or slacks despite the 100 degree heat. That is some serious dedication.

Probably the most irritating thing about Italians is that they know how damn cute they are (why wouldn’t they?). The emphasis on beauty and aesthetics is one if the reasons that so much care goes into the way the individuals look, the way the country looks. For this reason, Italy will always be one of my favorite places for fashion and style.

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Palazzo Belfiore: Possibly The Best Apartments For Rent In Florence, Italy

I’m always traveling. For the past ten years or something I’ve been constantly on the move, either visiting different states in the US or cruising around Europe. I’ve traveled on a college budget (think poor as F%&, sleeping in the airport), and I’ve done the luxury travel thing, too. Nice hotels are fantastic and you feel special and fancy but I always feel a little unsettled, like I’m in between something, a high-end hobo. In recent years I’ve stayed almost exclusively at apartments because I feel at home which is super important because I have OCD, I’m kind of crazy, aaaand I work remotely. Feeling good about where I am is crazy important to me because if I’m uneasy I can become homicidal or depressed or just weird. Thankfully since I travel a lot I’ve finally started to pin-point my fav stops for feeling comfortable without spending a billion dollars. I can “rough it,” I did it for years, but now that I’m older and…old, I’m basically just old, I need a bit more comfort up in my life but I would rather shop than spend a fortune on a room. While I’m still working out the wrinkles in a few of the cities I visit often, I feel like I’ve found a perfect solution for Florence for friends and my family. I just stayed in an apartment so epically badass that I had to write about it because everyone needs to stay at this place and I knew that all of you who love Italy (especially Florence) will be all about it. Seriously, even if you already live in Florence just go stay here because it is goddamn magical. So magical that I actually turned into a knight AND a unicorn.

 

If you’re planning a trip to Florence with family, friends, your kids, your partner, dog, whatever, definitely check this apartment out. Why? For starters it’s a historically amazing place. In 1394 three of the apartments made a townhome that was lived in by people affiliated with the Medici family and the bottom apartment used to be their “farmers” market (since the streets were too dangerous to venture onto). Also, the Clarice apartment, for example, sleeps six, has a huge living room, two bathrooms and has frescos from the 14th century (think, around the time of Leonardo Da Vinci, he probably totally boinked one of the guys that lived there because he had really good taste when it came to rooms and boinking…I imagine). The rooms are well-equipped with a kitchen, insanely comfy mattresses, adequate closet space, and decorated old school. Every second you’re in the apartment your brain is like, “HOLY SHIT I’M IN ITALY IN THE OLDEN DAYS!” Except there is modern plumbing, and a bidet, and no plague. It’s the best of all the worlds! All of the apartments are different and have cute names: Bianca Cappello, Lorenzo Il Magnifico, Clarice (my personal fave), Cosimo il Vecchio, Leone X, Caterina, and Francesca. They all fit a various number of people (the apartments, not the women…pervs) and I honestly cannot think of a better place for a bride and groom to stay the night after their wedding, on their honeymoon, or for a badass family vacation (Caterina has an upstairs loft, and 3 bedrooms… fits 6 super comfortably) or you can go with friends and split the apartment expenses to make it crazy cheap. I can’t see myself staying anywhere else or putting my family anywhere else in Florence. Oh! And my room had a sword in it! A SWORD! F was not excited that I had access to a sword or that I kept yelling, “I am a knight! Obey!” at him.

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I don’t actually have a beard in real life. I don’t know what’s happening here.

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The living room! Look at those gorgeous frescos!

Probably the best thing about the apartments though are the details that the management puts into the place. Federico Bonechi and his sister Francesca are from Florence, they know everyone, and they are amazing. I don’t like very many people enough to gush over them but seriously, they were so damn nice and helpful and I met so many great Florentines just by standing outside with Federico for five minutes and having a coffee with him nearby. Federico didn’t even smack me when I showed up late to the apartment to check-in (because I was having brunch with blogger babes Georgette from Girl in Florence, Gina from The Florence Diaries, and realized too late that a text I sent never sent).

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Federico! He’s handsome and incredibly hospitable.

 

Amenities That Made Me Insanely Happy:

  • Access for disabled people in the Francesco De Medici apartment (doesn’t sound like much but in Florence this is HUGE because most apartments are not wheelchair accessible).
  • Blowdryer AND hair straightener in every apartment (uhm, why the hell do other apartments not have a straightener? I needed this because F exploded mine at his parent’s house because he used it to “test,” a converter, NOT because he was trying to style his chest hair…this time).
  • Shampoo, sewing kit, body wash.
  • First Aid Kit in case you injure yourself with the random swords in the rooms.
  • Really plush, awesome towels.
  • Shower cap (can’t be bothered to wash my hair every day).
  • Washer
  • Vanity Kit
  • Sewing kit (so you can make yourself outfits).
  • 3 AC units (in the Clarice apartment where I stayed). Doesn’t sound impressive? It should, because I stayed in another apartment prior to this one with NO air conditioning in July when it was 100 degrees outside. I actually considered suicide multiple times per day.
  • Fresh in season fruit, and a nice bottle of Banfi, Tuscan wine (which I immediately guzzled like a rabid housewife) that they set out as a welcome gift for all guests. Seriously, how cute is that?
  • A special tea blend called Palazzo Belfiore made by a local tea house and it is freaking delicious. I like tea but I don’t love it. This blend I loved enough to bottle and carry around with me all day. They must put fairy crack in it.

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Services Upon Request (I will be taking advantage next time):

  • Housekeeping (40 bucks per day)
  • Dryer Service (clothes are returned folded)
  • Grocery Shopper (15 dollars)
  • Personal Shopper
  • Beauty service in your apartment
  • Breakfast in your apartment
  • Private driver and/or private tour booking
  • Italian language and cooking courses (in your apartment or in groups).
  • Private cook in your apartment
  • Luggage storage

Palazzo Belfiore is located on the Oltrarno in Florence, or as I like to call it, legit Florence. If you cross the Ponte Vecchio bridge and cruise over towards Santa Spirito you’ll find yourself in the same ‘hood as Palazzo Belfiore and here is where you’ll find tons of artisan shops, amazing restaurants, art, antiques, Made In Italy clothing, shoes, and general badassery. It’s my favorite area in Florence next to Campo Di Marte (Again, I’m oldish and Campo is chill). Belfiore is located between the main four points of the Ponte Vecchio, Santa Trinita, Santa Spirito, and is right next to Palazzo Pitti. It’s also right next to Piazza Della Passera, one of the few streets in Florence that was not rebuilt after WWII so it’s exactly as it was centuries ago.

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Quattro Leoni one of the last remaining lions in stone (if you concentrate on the gray cement).

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Santa Spirito

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Historic street in Florence near Palazzo Pitti, Via Toscana

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Local caffe around the corner from Palazzo Belfiore

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Palazzo Pitti

If you’re interested in booking an apartment email Francesca or Federico for pricing or bookings (you’ll get a better deal if you book directly instead of on a third-party site because they give discounts: info@residencebelfiore.it

Artisans Near Palazzo Belfiore:

Silvia Nesti: www.silvianesti.com she works with silver

Rentato Olivastri: www.olivastrirestauri.it he is a theacher in the Scuola del Restauro

Enrico Giannini : Master of the paper

Luigi Mecocci: Master of restauro

LIVE IT LOCAL: Such a great video, short, sweet, and full of places to go and things to try along with local artisans, cafes, restaurants, and even cake shops.

Recommended Restaurants In Florence: 

Classic Mid-range Tuscan Food (within € 40 per person):

Toscanella – Via Toscanella 32r – Tel. +39 055 285488

Magazzino – Piazza della Passera 2/3 – Tel. +39 055 215969

4 Leoni – Piazza della Passera 5 – Tel. +39 055 218562

Il Santo Bevitore – Via Santo Spirito, 64/66 – Tel. +39 055 211264

La Casalinga – Via dei Michelozzi, 9r – Tel. +39 055 218624

Lungarno 23 – Lungarno Torrigiani 23 – Tel. +39 055 2345957

Classic mid-high Tuscan food (€ 40 and up per person):

Buca dell’Orafo – Volta dei Girolami 28 – Tel. +39 055 213619

Coco Lezzone – Via del Parioncino, 26r – Tel. +39 055 287178

Mamma Gina – Borgo San Jacopo, 37 – Te. +39 055 2396009

Classic top Tuscan food (€ 50 up per person):

Cammillo – (Casual)

Buca Lapi – (smart casual – only open for dinner)

Borgo San Jacopo 57r – Tel +39 055 212427

Via del Trebbio 1r – Tel. +39 055 213768 (top end of Via dè Tornabuoni)

Vegetarian Restaurants:

5 & Cinque – piazza della Passera, 1- Tel. +39 055 2741583

Brac – Santa Croce Area – Via dei Vagellai 18/R – tel +39 055 0944877

Le Vespe Cafè – Santa Croce Area – Via Ghibellina, 76 – Tel +39 055 3880062

Il Vegetariano – Piazza San Marco Area – Via delle Ruote 30r – Tel. +39 055 475030

 

 

Travel Small Town Italy: Off The Beaten Path Like A Boss

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The other day I was wrote an article on Choosing Where To Travel In Italy. I decided to elaborate on that post because I know a lot of you are really into a specific kind of tourism: The Off-The-Beaten-Path Kind (what did you think I was going to say? Pervs).

Italy has a lot to offer and choosing the right vacation for you can be the difference between a mind-blowing trip or one that is frustratingly so-so. My favorite parts of Italy are the places that nobody sees, the places that are as far removed from my own culture as possible. I mean, Florence is amazing and it’s my home-hub BUT the tiny villages are where I go on vacation because they offer a different flavor entirely. Small villages offer a more “authentic” cultural experience because larger cities cater to foreigners like ME and sometimes the Italian-ness gets “diluted,” (or enriched depending how you look at it) along the way. Really, it just gets less obvious for tourists and you can spend your entire trip looking for something authentic in a city like Florence. When I was in school we stalked people to find the real “locals” and studied them like demented anthropologists for a little taste of authenticity. Save yourself all of that weirdness, skip the big cities, go off-the-beaten-path.

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The first thing I would recommend (and I honestly can’t recommend it enough) when visiting Italy is to rent a car. Italy is big in terms of what it has to offer, but tiny in terms of actual size, a car will allow you to do more stuff with less difficulty at your own leisure. It’s an absolute must if you want to stay in small cities and avoid the tourist traps but you also want to stop in larger cities to take in the historical sites and museums. You can find plenty of international companies that you’ll recognize but we usually go with Europcar or Sixt. Renting a car is affordable (especially if you consider train tickets, etc) plus it gives you a freedom that you can’t get with trains, especially if you consider all of the strikes are likely to happen at least once during your stay. Book in advance, get GPS, and try to get a car that can use Metanol (am I spelling that right? Anyway, corn fuel that is cheap in Italy) plan out your trip, and you’ll be fine. Trust me, it’s impossible to suck at driving worse than me (my sister will happily agree with this) and I managed to drive halfway across the country without dying.

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NORTHERN ITALY

Piedimonte: I haven’t actually been here  yet. Yeah, I know, so why is it here, right? Well, my friends keep recommending it and it’s on my list of places I’m going this year because it’s gorgeous, delicious, and supposedly free from waves of tourism. So, it counts as “one of my favorite non-touristy places that I wish I had gone to and will but haven’t yet.” Take that, logic!

Brescia: This place is diverse and more “german” than Italian but it’s near Milan and a fairly cool city in terms of culture. It’s not saturated by tourists, and you’ll find an interesting northern Italian culture here.

Bassano Del Grappa: A small city near Venice. This is a great place to stay and then you can pop over to Venice for a day or two. Venice is amazing but it’s so packed with tourists during high-season that sometimes you just want to pop in and get the hell out of there before a family from south Jersey mows you over.

 

CENTRAL-ISH

Gaiole In Chianti: This is a teeny-tiny town is in the Province of Siena in Tuscany. It’s southeast of Florence. There is a castle nearby that is the single most romantic place I’ve ever stayed with my husband. We had a fireplace in our room. We spent a lot of time in that room. There may or may not have been rolling hills of Oliver groves that were also sort of sexy in a newlywed kind of way except that I was afraid of snakes so it was more like romantic with periodic OH MY GOD IS THAT A VIPER!? So, in the end, not that sexy.

Castiglione D’Orcia in Val D’Orcia: Francesco took me here for a romantic weekend. It was beautiful. But the host of the vacation rentals showed us his dead animal wall and I was convinced that I was in an Italian version of Texas Chainsaw Massecre. Notice how I am a terrible date? On the upside, gorgeous vineyards, and absolutely no tourists. Also, in D’Orcia, stop in Montalcino for some of the best wine in Italy. Tell them you were sent by ME, this wino you randomly found on the internet.

Panzano In Chianti: This little village isn’t touristy at all. It’s adorable. And, most importantly,  you can find Dario Cecchini there, a veterinarian student, turned butcher who recites the divine comedy while gutting animals (yeah, that’s him in the pic below). He’s an eighth generation butcher and is extremely famous in Italy. You can visit his gem of a butcher shop and restaurant Antica Macelleria Cecchini for a taste of the most authentic Bistecca Fiorentina in Tuscany.

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Arezzo: Located in Southeast Tuscany. A one-hour train ride from Florence. It’s a very cute city with a huge market every week where you can buy everything from Italian lace to cookware. I’d highly recommend staying here for a few days at least, check out the locals, make friends, enjoy local cuisine, and watch grandmas take their grandkids for gelato.

Umbria: This region is still relatively unspoiled by tourists. It’s green and beautiful and you can breathe without busloads of people stepping on top of you. In Umbria you’ll also find the province of Perugia which is amazing, and boasts some of the best small cities like Assisi. All mentioned places are relatively free from tourists and about as authentic as you can get.

SOUTHERN ITALY

Sicily: I love Sicily. Despite it’s gorgeous landscape, nearly unmatched cuisine, and clean beaches, Sicily is often overlooked by tourists. I have no idea why (maybe they’re afraid of the Godfather?). Francesco proposed to me for the first time in Scopello in the Trapani province.

Sardegna: Holy crap is this place gorgeous. Seriously, like pristine waters, warm, friendly culture, and food that could win over even the pickiest of eaters.

Palestrina: Is located near Rome and is a gorgeous mountain area. The air is clear, tourists hardly ever frequent the place, and the locals are kind and interesting. Plus, it’s close enough to Rome for a day visit (or two).

Cellole: This is the least touristy place I’ve ever been in Italy. It’s green, old-school, and totally closed-off from the rest of the world for the most part and when I’m there I feel like I’ve time-travelled back to the 1950’s. It’s the south of Italy at it’s finest, simple living, amazing food, and it’s incredibly cheap. It’s near Naples and Rome for fun day trips.

Cassino: The wonderful Cassino, home to…things? This is another example of small-town living that is totally unspoiled by tourists. A great place for younger people to go who also want to see Rome and Naples. The squares are packed with young people drinking and talking, restaurants like Bianco Noir are amazing and addictive (one of my favorite restaurants in Italy), and you can check out some historical WWII sites (the battle of Montecassino is quite famous). Also, I have a friend who just started a supper club here. Message me for details. 😉

Sperlonga: This little city is located in Lazio and there were zero tourists the last time I was there with my husband. It’s on the sea and it was a really beautiful place that was super relaxing. Absolutely no crowded streets, no hustle and bustle, and every old man in the entire city gathered in the square at lunch tim to smoke cigarettes and gossip.

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Highly Recommended Non-Touristy Places By My Badass Readers

I haven’t been to all of these places but on my last post a bunch of you badass readers offered up your favorite off-the-beaten-path destinations in Italy because you’re amazing and always have great advice. So, check out these places also while planning your trip! Bagni di Lucca, La Marche, Perugia, Costacciaro,Turin, Puglia, and Basilicata.

What did I forget about? Any other amazing destinations I accidentally left out? Tell me in the comments below!

Remember, be safe, and have a blast. YOLO and all that.

A Glimpse Of The Real Florence, Italy. By Kari Varner

I’m really excited to feature photos from this amazing photographer Kari Varner. Kari is also a former SACI student and she’s incredibly talented (Unlike me. My photos look like a child took them after over-dosing on baby Benadryl). I love her style of photography, it’s super intimate and I feel like I’m standing right there with her. But not so much in a stalker sort of way. This series really captures the feel of Florence. I know you guys are going to love them as much as I do. Tell me which one is your favorite in the comments below (I especially like the dead pigeon since I’ve stepped over many of them on the streets of Florence and I have a weird love/hate relationship with bird corpses because of it. But not like a serial killer.).

REFLECTIVE PUDDLES (or, where I fell down)

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What Does It Mean To Be Authentically Italian?

“Yeah, but does the place have real Italian food? I mean, is it authentic in your opinion?” my friend asked when I told her about this new restaurant that was opening in our home town. Since moving to Italy in 2009, I’d been deemed the Great Authenticator by people back home regarding anything related to Italy. No, chicken alfredo is not “Italian.” Yes, I suppose being romantic might be an Italian thing depending on your definition of “romantic.” No, bbq chicken pizza is not really a thing. Yes, real people drive scooters in Italy.

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My husband is proudly, authentically Italian. I am proudly not (I’ve got enough crazy up in my life). This is us, in Naples a few years ago. Naples is debatably not “Italian,” depending on who you ask.

Where Italy is concerned, the struggle to pin down what is “authentic” versus what isn’t can be a full time job. Pretty much everything is up for debate and not even Italians can really agree on what makes something Italian or not.

“Prada isn’t Italian anymore, they have Chinese workers in their factories,” my hairstylist said to the old lady with the hot pink lipstick sitting next to me. If a foreign national touches it, it’s no longer authentic, and it’s probably contaminated with icky “otherness.”

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