Thank you to everyone who came out to the Vineyard at Hillyland on Saturday, September 12, 2020, to help me celebrate the launch of my new book, Reunions Can Be Murder: A Wine Tasting Mystery Series.
Thank you for bringing your friends and family with you as well. There were over 50 people who came to the event. I truly appreciate the support and encouragement from my friends, family, and the local community.
The weather was beautiful, the wine was delicious, and everyone was delightful. I’m approximately 50% complete with the second installment in the series – which will be titled Vineyards Can Be Murder – and I hope to have it published by November 2020.
If you purchased a book at the launch event – or if you already had a copy – please submit a review on Amazon.
Whether you saw my Facebook event advertisement, saw the post somewhere else on Facebook, read the press release, or saw the article in the Chronicle – or just happened to be at the vineyard – thank you again for spending some time with me.
Unfortunately, I was so busy signing books and chatting with everyone that I forgot to take photos. Please post any photos from the event – or the day – in the comments. Also, please post where you heard about the event so I’ll know where I should focus my marketing campaigns on for the next event.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 6, 2020| Windham, CT
Visit www.TammyWunsch.com for contact details, review copies, photos, and an author bio.
HIGH SCHOOL REUNIONS CAN BE FUN…OR THEY CAN BE MURDER IN AUTHOR TAMMY WUNSCH’S
“REUNIONS CAN BE MURDER” The Wine Tasting Mystery Series with old grudges, best friends, and wine!
On Saturday, September 12, 2020, there will be an official Book Launch Celebration for a novel published by local author, Tammy Wunsch. The event will take place from 2:00 p.m. through 4:00 p.m. at The Vineyard at Hillyland, located at 75 Murphy Hill Road in Scotland, CT. At the event, you can meet the author, have your book personally signed, enter the drawing to win a timely and beautiful prize, and receive some book swag. Books will also be available for purchase.
Inspired by high school reunions everywhere – and a love of wine – author Tammy Wunsch wrote her cozy mystery novel in which three friends stand up to long-time nemeses, drink wine, and get entangled in the murder and mayhem of their former classmates. If you suffered through the pitfalls and terror of high school, you will relate to the main character’s ambivalence and trepidation about attending her 20th high school reunion.
Kat Snow confronting her high school fear of not fitting in after returning to her hometown in the fictional town of Harmony, just north of Boston. She has been forcibly retired from the Boston Police Department after a meth addict’s vicious attack left her partially disabled, disgruntled, and at her wit’s end. Her best friends, Syd and Ricky, convince her to attend their 20th high school reunion for a weekend of fun and frivolity. Instead, Kat finds murder and mayhem along with new friends and some delicious wine.
Join the author for snacks and swag. Bring a chair, drink some wine, and support a local vineyard at the “Reunions Can Be Murder: A Wine Tasting Mystery Series” book launch and signing event. You are certain to enjoy this action-packed, wine-filled whodunit that will keep you guessing until the end.
“Reunions Can Be Murder” by Tammy Wunsch
Softcover|6 x 9 in|168 pages|ISBN 978-1-64999-748-7
E-book|176 pages|ASIN B08DC8WD25
Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and TammyWunsch.com
About the Author: Tammy Wunsch is an International Writer of Mystery, Travel, and Wine who currently resides in the Quiet Corner of Connecticut. Formally educated in business, she has worked in a variety of industries and is both entrepreneurial and adventurous by nature. She is passionate about animals and loves to travel, cook, kayak, and read.
“Reunions Can Be Murder” is a fictional story based on Tammy Wunsch’s appreciation of wine, good friends, and mysteries – in no particular order. Paperbacks and e-books are available at Amazon.
If you aren’t following me on Facebook, then you may not be aware that I just published my second novel, Reunions Can Be Murder: A Wine Tasting Mystery Series.
It’s been a rough year and returning to your hometown isn’t always a happy experience. When my best friends Syd and Ricky insisted we go to our 20th high school reunion, I thought “how bad could it be?”. It turns out high school reunions can be fun…or they can be murder!
Pour a glass of wine and enjoy this action-packed, wine-filled whodunit that will keep you guessing until the end!
You can buy a PDF copy at the e-bookstore or pick up a Kindle or paperback version at Amazon.
If you are going to be in the Connecticut/Massachusetts/Rhode Island area on September 12, 2020, stop by the Vineyard at Hillyland between 2:00 and 4:00 p.m. I’m holding a book launch and signing event. You can pick up some swag and snacks (no purchase necessary) and participate in a group wine tasting using the tasting sheets that are included in the book. The vineyard is not currently hosting tastings, however, wine can be purchased by the bottle or glass. Bring a chair, meet the author, and enjoy some delicious wine.
You can reply to the event here so I’ll know to expect you.
I just wanted to let you know that I will be phasing ExpatWriter.com out and migrating everything over to TammyWunsch.com. The content will not change – I will still be writing about travel, wine, and animal welfare – however, I am also an author so I am rebranding myself as Tammy Wunsch, Author and Content Writer (and still an intrepid explorer despite this damn pandemic!).
So, follow me to TammyWunsch.com and stay tuned for my new book, Reunions Can Be Murder which will be published very soon.
Thank you for your support and I hope to see you at the other site!
This is my final installment on my series about my trip to Italy in the summer of 2019. I spent six incredible weeks traveling the depth and breadth of Italy. Each region and town I visited was spectacular. The sights were amazing and steeped in history. Join me on the last nine days of my trip as I leave Milan for Modena to Siena and Pitigliano and finally down part of the Mediterranean coast to Rome. I wasn’t planning on going back to Italy this year but even six weeks were not enough time to fully explore this beautiful country.
I picked up my Fiat at the Milan airport and headed to Modena, home of everything balsamic vinegar. The car was an experience unto itself. I rented a manual shift car because it was less expensive. While I am experienced with manual shift vehicles, it had been over two years since the last time I had driven one, so that was exciting. First off, if you’ve never driven in Italy, be forewarned – they drive WAY TOO CLOSE. On the highway, you’re driving about 140 KPH (approximately 80 MPH). The car behind you is driving about 142 KPH and is so close that you can clearly hear them swearing at you even though there is no way for you to move over. I ended up driving in the middle lane a lot of the time.
The car rental agency rented me a GPS – imagine my surprise when I discovered it was a Tom Tom (do they still make those) and the current settings were in Portuguese. I ended up having to pull over to the side of the road and press random buttons to finally program it to speak English and then figure out how to use a Tom Tom.
Finally, figuring out the toll system was no picnic. Most of the toll stations on the highway are the equivalent of the self-checkout line in a store. You pull up, insert a ticket, and then pay. Sounds simple, but nothing was labeled and I inserted my ticket into every available slot as well as my debit card. One time, I used cash and the change was dispensed in Euro coins that bounced out of the collection bin. I had already spent way too much time at the machine and was surely annoying the cars that were stacking up behind me, so I left it and moved on.
I didn’t love Modena but a lot of that was probably influenced by the rainy weather and the fact that I was there on a weekend. Nearly everything shuts down on Sundays and it’s often difficult to find a place for lunch.
While there, I took a tour of a balsamic vinegar producer and learned all about the grapes used, the process employed to ferment the grape must, and the stringent rules that producers must follow. There was a tasting and the difference between authentic Modena-produced balsamic vinegar and run-of-the-mill balsamic you find in your local grocery store is astounding. I ended up purchasing three bottles: traditional balsamic, raspberry balsamic, and truffle balsamic (after my truffle hunt, I’ve become a fan).
After Modena, I traveled to Siena and enrolled in a few day trips. Above, you can see the beauty of Siena and the largest piazza in Europe. I have recently seen a photo of the piazza and, due to the lack of people walking on it, grass has started growing through the cracks of the pavers. Watch the video below and listen to the bells in one of the smaller piazzas.
One of the first tours I took was a Vespa tour of the Chianti hills of Tuscany. If you look very closely, you will note that I am not on a Vespa, however, a Vintage Fiat 500. Having never driven a Vespa before, the tour operators give you literally a two-minute lesson in a 20′ X 40′ parking lot with one of the operators running alongside you and screaming in your ear what to do. Naturally, I did not feel comfortable on the Vespa so I transitioned to the Vintage Fiat. When I think of “vintage”, I usually think of restored and, I don’t know, safe? These cars were anything but. My car stalled whenever we slowed down. At one point, one of the tour guides had to push the car to the top of a hill and pop the clutch to get it restarted. Another of the vehicles had its gas pedal fall off and the driver and passenger had to split up into the two other, barely-functioning vehicles. It was a nice day despite the Vespa/Fiat fiasco.
We stopped at Rocco di Castellina and had some free time to walk around. It’s a charming walled city full of character, incredible views. and interesting stone-covered walkways.
After leaving Rocco di Castellina, we meandered through the hills of Tuscany to a local Chianti Classico vineyard – Poggio Amorelli. I learned that there is a difference between what I thought of as Chianti and the Chianti Classico. The Classico is delicious with a ruby-red color and aromas of violets and cherries with an earthy spice. To ensure you are buying the correct type of Chianti, the Chianti Classico is marked by the DOCG, which stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, or Denomination of Controlled Origin. The DOCG symbol is a black, young rooster (Gallo Nero) on the label.
We finished our day in Monteriggioni which is an impressive walled, Medieval town. The town was originally part of a castle which stood in this location since 1200 and whose towers can still be seen for miles across the Tuscan hills.
My next day trip took me to San Gimignano, another wine tasting at a vineyard, and back to Monteriggioni.
San Gimignano is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a medieval walled-town with 14 towers visible from miles away. It also boasts the world’s best gelato and a cistern that dates from the 13th century. The day I was there, there was a market day and the streets were closed off to automotive traffic. The streets were overflowing with market stalls and pedestrians. As you walked down the street, there would suddenly be an opening and you would look out across the hills and valleys at breathtaking views.
At this day’s wine tasting, the vineyard paired their wines with Tuscan favorites: pasta, cheese, charcuterie, and. pastries.
The tour finished in Monteriggioni where I stopped at a local wine shop for a very sophisticated wine tasting. You purchased a card with a certain number of points programmed in. When you found a wine you wanted to taste, you would insert your card and the points would be deducted from your card. Different wine tastings had different point values. It was really very clever.
After nearly six weeks of travel, I wanted to relax for a few days before coming home and jumping back into normal life. I did some research and found a spa that I could go to for one day and a hotel that was within 20 minutes of the spa in Pitigliano. I thought it would be a short drive from Siena to Pitigliano but there was not a highway so I drove about four hours through hills, mountains, and valleys on switchback-filled roads. I was white-knuckled most of the time with my jaw firmly clenched. I drove through some areas that were very desolate and thought if I had driven off the road, people might not find me for months.
Once arriving, I discovered that, without a doubt, Pitigliano was the most majestic-looking town I encountered in six weeks. It sat high atop cliffs that were brightly illuminated in the evenings. I accidentally found myself across the gorge from the town – in reality, I couldn’t find parking in town and couldn’t turn around so I ended up driving out of town until I could somewhat safely make a U-turn. The town was picturesque with narrow pedestrian streets that made you feel like you were in an Anne Rice novel. There was a festival the night I was in town and kids were running all around and competing in some games in the square – at 11:00 at night! The hotel I stayed in had their own mini-spa which even had a salt cave.
I spent a day at the Saturnia Thermal Spa and it was not quite what I had expected. Coming from the United States, we are accustomed to (probably) stringent regulations on health and safety. There was a large thermal pool which was quite sulphuric. That was as expected, however, the mold growing on the side of the pool and floating throughout when it broke off was not expected. There were also two circulatory baths. One was a wading path where you walked from hot to cold to hot water to improve circulation. The other was two jacuzzis – one hot and one cold – and you alternated ten minutes in each pool. There was also hydro-massage and saunas and quiet spaces to sit and relax. I also had a problem finding the exit but left feeling as if my body had partially recovered from the thousand miles I must have walked in the previous six weeks. It was a fantastic way to end the trip.
As I prepared to leave Italy, I drove my car down along the Mediterranean Coast. I decided to stay by the airport rather than in the center of Rome as I didn’t want to deal with the train the next day. While it is convenient, I was done with dragging my suitcase up and down stairs and onto trains and trying to find a spot for the my suitcase. I stopped and ate a a quaint little beachside restaurant. It was the perfect ending to a memories for a lifetime trip.
In summary, my least favorite town was Bari and that had more to do with the lack of internet at my residence. If I hadn’t had an assignment due and so much trouble finding internet service, I’m sure I would have been delighted with it as well. It was a beautiful city, I just didn’t have a great experience.
My two favorite towns are Perugia (Umbria) and Pitigliano (Tuscany) and I can see myself returning to both.
Overall, I enjoyed Lake Garda, the largest lake in Italy. I can definitely picture myself spending time on the shores of the lake annually. The microclimate was perfect and the towns felt very comfortable.
My recommendations are what’s right for me. Take a trip for yourself and discover what you love most about Italy!
While waiting for a tour of the lake district to start, I spent a few days in Florence. It was still as hot as Hades but I walked through the city to experience the architecture and vibe of the city. Nothing can prepare you for the sheet size and vastness of the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, translated as the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower and more commonly known as the Cathedral of Florence or the Duomo di Firenze. (This is going to be a long post so if you want to know more about the Duomo di Firenze, please click here.
The Ponte Vecchio, or the Old Bridge, is stunning, crowded, overwhelming, and breathtaking all at once. This medieval stone bridge spans the Arno River and is lined with shops as bridges were in the past. Formerly butcher and baker shops, now shops catering to tourists, it is the oldest bridge in Florence and was the only bridge over the Arno until 1218. I doubt anything built today would last for 800+ years! To add some intrigue, the Vasari Corridor runs along the top of the bridge. This secret passageway connects the Palazzo Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti (if you’ve read Dan Brown’s “Inferno,” you are in on the secret).
Have I mentioned how hot it was in Florence? I escaped to the Boboli Gardens and wandered around to enjoy the vistas of Florence. I also enjoyed some culture at the Uffizi Galery. I was hoping for some AC but at least the thick walls kept out a lot of the heat. The building was constructed between 1560 and 1580 and, once again, the architecture is nearly as stunning as the artwork. The Uffizi has one of the largest collections of Old Masters in the world. I saw Michelangelo, DaVinci, Titian, Rembrandt, Reubens, Van Dyck and too many more to mention.
I continued my day of culture at a performance of the Three Tenors of Florence. It was held at the Auditorium de Santo Stefano, a converted church, and was absolutely lovely. The music was accompanied by ballet dancers and the acoustics were phenomenal. Walking back to my hotel, it was a little creepy to see the streets so empty after having been so packed earlier in the day.
I joined a Trafalgar – Cost Savers tour as I was starting to feel a little lonely after four weeks alone. It was an 8-day tour of the lake region in the Lombardo region. I was very reluctant to try a tour. When I was in high school, my parents took my sister and me on one of those “If it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium” tours. I was afraid that this tour would also be filled with complaining, elderly Americans who wanted everything just like they had it in the USA. I was very pleasantly surprised, however. I met people from all over including the UK, South Africa, and Australia. There were a few elderly people but there was a good age range from 30’s and up. I wasn’t the youngest – but I certainly wasn’t the oldest either so that made it better.
On the first day, we took a boat trip on Lake Como. I saw some beautiful scenery from the lake tour and then we wandered around Bellagio, commonly referred to as the pearl of the lake. I climbed to the top of the little town and then back down where I met up with a new friend from the tour and we each enjoyed a glass of wine at a cute little wine bar. After climbing down the second set of stairs, we thought we should try an Aperol Spritz which was made with Aperol liqueur and sparkling rosé wine. It was both delicious and refreshing!
We next traveled to Switzerland and Lake Lugano. The lake was refreshing and relaxing and I loved these paddle boats with a slide attached that were for rent to tourists.
In the town of Lugano, we took a funicular to the top of Mont San Salvatore. We enjoyed breathtaking views. Take a trip with me down the funicular in the following video – if you dare!
Our next adventure brought up back to Italy and Lake Stresa. I had visited Stresa two years previously on our way back from Zermatt to Milan and fell in love with it then. It is extremely picturesque but we were only there briefly so I didn’t get a chance to explore the islands in the lake or the Palazzo Borromee.
The Palazzo Borromee is still partially a private residence. The grottoes beneath the palace were so that the owners could walk around and cool off there on hot days. I was awe-struck by the gardens and I got my first glimpse of a white peacock – I never even knew they existed before!
The tour stopped in Orta which is a charming town with narrow, winding streets – and yes, more stairs!. It was the perfect place to relax with an Aperol Spritz – after all, you need to taste quite a few to determine who makes the best one! On the way out of town to our next stop, I tried a Caffé Shakerado which was adventurous for me because I don’t like, or ever drink, coffee. This was sweetened and shaken up with ice until it was extremely chilled. The best way I can explain it is that it tasted almost like a coffee milkshake. There was a lot more caffeine, however, and I felt the effects when we arrived in Verona.
The first photo above is “Juliet’s Balcony” – not really because “Romeo & Juliet” is a work of fiction. It’s in a tiny courtyard that you access through a passage that people have attached written notes with used chewing gum. It was rather revolting to see, despite the sentiment. The second photo is what I really thought the good people of Verona had erected as the “actual” balcony as it was much prettier. Verona had its own coliseum, however, most of the town seemed dedicated to shopping and tourism. I definitely could have skipped this portion of the tour.
Next we came to my favorite lake – Lake Garda. It is the largest lake in Italy and it felt so incredibly calming and awesome. From watching the paragliders to the boat ride around the lake, it was absolutely stupendous. Lake Garda is surrounded by mountains and enjoys a micro-climate in the north that allows them to grow both lemons and olives. I thoroughly enjoyed the town of Limone, the colorful flowers, and the ingenious way that there are two roads around one portion of the lake – one for pedestrians/cyclists and the other for automotive traffic. This is the second place (Perugia was the first) where I felt I could live.
If you are going to experience the Dolomites, take the cable cars in Bolzano, Italy. The area used to be part of Austria so there is still a lot of German spoken in these parts. We hiked in the 100+ degree heat and viewed some intriguing rock formations. One of the local restaurants provided some delicious – and free – apfel strudel and local wine. I had a brief Sound of Music moment which was wonderful.
Nearing the end of the tour, we stopped in Bergamo. We took another funicular up the mountain through the town. We had a few hours to wander around and I delighted in the charming town that had fantastic pizza.
The last day of the tour took us to Milan. When I went when I was younger, I did not like Milan at all. I have grown to really appreciate the thriving city. From the unassuming Teatro all Scala – I vow to see an opera there someday – through the famous galleries and to the Duomo, Milan is a marvel and I feel myself becoming more and more comfortable there every time I visit.
I’m nearing the end of my six-week journey. Next week will be the last installment in this photographic journey through Italy from the summer of 2019. I packed a lot in, driving myself (Yikes!) from Milan to Modena to Siena and finishing in Rome. I will be back and I wish everyone in Italy – and around the world – a safe and speedy recovery from this global pandemic. It’s scary out there but there is a lot of beauty to enjoy and adventure to experience. Arrivaderci, Italia!
I really enjoyed the eastern and southeastern portions of Italy last summer. The views were gorgeous everywhere you looked (see Part I, Part II, and Part III of this series). However, I fell in love with Umbria. Perugia is one of my top three favorite towns in Italy now. I was absolutely stunned by the beauty lushness, and magnificence around every bend in the road.
Follow in my footsteps and experience virtually what I discovered.
Perugia – An Amazing Walled City
From the first moment when I stepped off the train, I was enchanted by Perugia. It was a little overcast so I decided to take a taxi to my hotel. Good thing as the taxi immediately started to drive on the street that went straight up. Apparently, the train station is at the bottom of the mountain. I mentioned to the taxi driver that it was good I didn’t walk with my luggage and he heartily agreed.
There is a funicular to take you partway up and then a series of escalators built into the mountain to make navigating the city so much easier (with fewer steps to climb though those are available should you so desire). I stayed at the Hotel Sangallo Palace about halfway up the mountain. It was perfectly situated with the escalator a short walk away and I was able to hear the jazz music wafting down from the top of the mountain and up from below. Truly spectacular.
The walkway and stairs were part of a former Roman aqueduct. Walking down a narrow, medieval street, you would turn a corner and be presented with the most breathtaking view. The escalators were built into the mountain and you emerged in Etruscan ruins.
Umbria Jazz Surrounds Your Soul
I was there coincidentally during Umbria Jazz. The sounds of music filled the streets and there were free concerts and performances everywhere. It was like having a classy soundtrack of my life.
The concerts were all sold out by the time I wandered into Perugia, so book ahead. Umbria Jazz is usually held in July, though I’m not sure what will happen this year. They get some pretty top-notch jazz musicians, too.
History and an Etruscan Well
The Etruscans were there before the Romans and provided clean, public water to their citizens. Below are remnants of an Etruscan well which is thought to have been dug in the second half of the third century BC (yes, that’s right. Before year 0!). It was later used by Romans and other inhabitants of the town.
Phenomenal Cooking School in Umbria
I took a cooking class outside of Perugia. The cooking school is located in a farmhouse and we used many ingredients grown right on the farm, including their delicious wine and olive oil. It was absolutely amazing and I met and cooked with people from all over the world. The school is called Let’s Cook in Umbria and I highly recommend you sign up for a multi-day class I took the 5-day class and could have stayed longer. I left with recipes and memories that will last a lifetime.
After our cooking class and lunch – where we dined like royalty and drank wine made at the farm – we took some daytrips. Our first activity was to participate in a truffle hunt with a trained dog – and one in training. After, we attended a truffle tasting. I never thought I liked truffles before. I do now.
Terrific Truffle Hunt
Another excursion took us on a tour of Assisi. It’s all uphill but the views were incredible and the history contained in the cathedral was awe-inspiring. Even if you’re not religious, you need to appreciate the craftsmanship and artistry that was put into these medieval churches and mountainous towns.
The Craftsmanship of Orvieto
Our final excursion from the cooking school was to Orvieto. Another superbly designed and crafted cathedral. The scale and scope are incredible and it’s hard to believe that the cathedral could have been built at a time with no cranes or power tools.
Until We Meet Again, Arrivaderci Perugia
If you ever have a chance to visit Perugia, run, don’t walk. I will definitely return time and time again.
Join me in Part V of my summer vacation when I go to Florence and take a tour of the Lake Region. Spoiler alert: I find my favorite lake!