International Writer of Mystery, Travel, and Wine

Category: Travel (Page 1 of 3)

Radio Interview

I was interviewed today on my local radio station. We chatted about my books, both fiction and non-fiction, and talked about travel and writing in general. It was a lot of fun which surprised me because public speaking still makes me a bit nervous.

Please listen when you have a chance. I’d love to hear your comments. 

What’s New?

It has been a busy couple of months!

I’ve been working on my podcast website, How Do I Move To… which informs listeners on various aspects of moving to different countries. I’ve published eleven podcasts with over 500 downloads and covered countries in Europe and the Americas. The podcast is available on Apple, Spotify, Google – and many others. You can access all the published webcasts here.

In addition to the podcast, How Do I Move To… has a YouTube channel which is in the process of being updated. I have discontinued the written guides, though some are available still on Amazon and in the eBookstore.

I’ve recently launched an online writers’ workshop called Empower Writers. The workshop will be run over Facebook. It’s a private site where writers can submit their responses to weekly writing prompts, receive peer reviews, make friends and connections, and access a writers’ resource library. The best part is that the first 50 subscribers get a FREE lifetime membership – check it out and join today!

Finally, I’ve been hard at work on my fourth novel. It is titled The Berlin Device. The book is an action/adventure novel featuring Xander Berlin, a man desperately trying to step out from his father’s dark shadow. He embarks on a mission across three continents, dodging assassins and witnessing the effects of the device. It’s a non-stop adventure that I think you will really enjoy, especially if you enjoyed The Navarre Brotherhood. I expect to self-publish the novel in January so stay tuned for more details. I’m still finishing edits and working on the cover, but a draft of the edit follows:

If you’re feeling generous, please support some of my favorite animal rescue sanctuaries:

International Primate Protection League

The Wildcat Sanctuary

Thanks for following along in my adventures and enjoy the holidays!

 

 

 

 

 

35 Eco-Friendly Travel Tips for 2021

Eco-travel seeks to benefit local communities and cultures while minimizing the impact on the environment. Eco-travelers try to minimize the carbon footprint of their travel by making wise and conscientious choices. Eco-tourism can educate tourists, protect natural habitats, and boost the employment and financial opportunities for local people.

Follow the following tips to become an eco-friendly traveler!

Transportation and Packing:

  1. A large portion of a plane’s carbon emissions occur during takeoff and landing, so try to book non-stop flights.
  2. Consider flying with one of the 30+ International Air Transport Association (IATA) member airlines that offer carbon offset programs.
  3. After arriving at your international destination, avoid taking domestic flights and travel by bus, train, or bike instead.
  4. If you must rent a car, choose the smallest or hybrid vehicle that will meet your needs.
  5. Pack lightly because the more that a plane weighs, the more carbon emissions it produces.
  6. Bring shampoo, conditioner, and soap bars. They do not come in plastic packaging and are generally made from natural materials. They also take up less room in your suitcase.
  7. If you cannot drink a beverage without a straw, bring a reusable straw. Plastic straws are destructive to the environment and often end up in the ocean, causing harm to wildlife.

Hotels:

  1. If possible, stay at a working farm that also functions as a hotel or inn. Travelers can stay connected with the area’s agricultural heritage and save money as they generally cost less than hotels.
  2. Check if your chosen hotel is affiliated with organizations such as the Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, EarthCheck, Green Globe, or Rainforest Alliance. They may also be certified by the Center or Responsible Travel, the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, or the U.S. Green Building Council which proves they have met minimum standards of sustainability.
  3. Responsible eco-travel businesses will have the details concerning their sustainability and corporate social responsibility clearly explained on their websites.
  4. Take a shower – uses only 10-25 gallons of water – rather than a bath that can use up to 70 gallons of water.
  5. For short stays, re-use your towels and ask housekeeping not to clean your room. This will reduce the amount of chemical cleaning supplies used, electricity consumed during vacuuming, and laundering the bed linens.
  6. If you absolutely need your room cleaned, hang your towels – it’s the universal signal for the staff to not take them for washing.
  7. Take all the free amenities like soap, shampoo, toothpaste, etc. home with you. Unused portions are often disposed of without recycling.
  8. Ask the hotel about their recycling program and sort your trash. If the hotel does not recycle, consider finding somewhere local to recycle empty bottles or take them home.
  9. Be sure to turn off all the lights, heat, air conditioning, and television before leaving your room.
  10. Close the curtains when you leave the room – this helps keep the heat out during the summer and the heat in during the winter.

 

Tours and Local Culture:

  1. Research your tour company to determine how they give back to the local community. Be aware of “greenwashing” – where a company tries to sound “green” but actually does not practice any sustainable policies. Use companies that hire local guides and contribute to preserving the area’s natural resources. If possible, find a tour company that is both run and operated by the local community.
  2. Smaller tour groups have less of an environmental impact so seek out small group tours.
  3. Immerse yourself in the local culture and honor local customs. Research before you go and learn a little about the local cultural traditions and some key vocabulary words and phrases in the local language.
  4. Buy local products when possible rather than products that have been shipped in from overseas.
  5. Buy souvenirs directly from local, indigenous artisans. This helps them feed their family and preserve their culture.
  6. Always ask for permission before taking a photo of someone – it’s common courtesy.
  7. Do not buy souvenirs or products made from endangered plants or animals or souvenir photos that exploit wildlife.
  8. Don’t take any tours that promote hands-on encounters with wild animals. These animals are often illegally captured, drugged, abused, and slaughtered.

Shopping:

  1. Bring your own, reusable, cloth bag for shopping. Plastic bags can take up to 500 years to biodegrade and are banned in many places.
  2. Use refillable water bottles and avoid contributing to the plastic bottle waste that litters the ocean. Most tourist areas have potable water that is safe to drink.
  3. Eat local foods and help support the community. Shop at farmers’ markets and eat at restaurants with locally-sourced ingredients.
  4. Drink locally-brewed beers and other beverages. This reduces the carbon emissions of shipping non-local beverages and is carbon-friendly.

Hiking and Water Sports

  1. Always stay on marked trails when hiking. Going off of the marked trail could lead to destruction of endangered plants or encounters with dangerous species.
  2. Deposit your trash in trash receptacles or take it with you when you are done hiking. You can even pick up other, less eco-friendly tourists’ trash and dispose of it properly.
  3. Do not feed or touch wildlife as this makes them reliant on humans and can lead to attacks.
  4. Don’t touch or step on the coral reefs when snorkeling or scuba diving. This can stir up sediment and damage the reef’s ecosystem.
  5. Don’t forget the sunscreen when snorkeling and scuba diving, but make sure the sunscreen you use is reef-safe for marine life and coral.

After Travel:

  1. When your travel or tour is completed, look into ways to help offset your travel carbon footprint:
  • Donate to an organization that plants trees
  • Volunteer to plant trees
  • Pay into a carbon offset organization

The world is ours to improve or ruin – let’s make it a better world for those who inherit it from us

 

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How Do I Move To…Belgium

Calling all digital nomads, retirees, and would-be expatriates!

Considering a move abroad? Looking for better weather and a lower cost of living? Maybe you just want a change.

Check out my new project: How Do I Move To…

I will be exploring different country destinations with podcasts, YouTube videos, and country guides.

Podcasts are now available on Apple Podcasts and there’s a dedicated YouTube Channel. Like and follow your media of choice so you will be updated on new episodes.

How Do I Move To…France has already been published and I just published How Do I Move To…Belgium. Stay tuned for the next edition which will be How Do I Move To…Ireland.

I look forward to your comments and suggestions.

I’ll see you…overseas!

How Do I Move To…

If you have been thinking that it may be time for a change of scenery and time to make the move overseas, then I have a podcast, YouTube video, and guide for you.
Announcing the launch of my new enterprise – How Do I Move To… where I explore different country destinations and the factors you need to consider before choosing a new place to live.
The podcasts and YouTube videos for each country contain similar information whereas the guide has expanded information and data to better help you choose your destination.
All three can be accessed at my website:
If you are a podcast listener, you should be able to find the How Do I Move To podcast at a variety of podcast hosts (some are currently pending) or at my podcast website:
If you prefer visuals, please visit the How Do I Move To… YouTube channel:
Finally, the guides are available in digital and paperback formats at Amazon:
Subscribe so you can be notified of new podcast releases.
I’ll see you…overseas!

We’re Moving…

Hello loyal readers,

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!

My Summer 2019 Vacation in Italy – Part VI

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.

Church bells

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.

Bari

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.

Lake Garda

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!

My Summer 2019 Vacation in Italy – Part V

As I sit here in Connecticut, experiencing another horrible tragedy, but this time on a global scale, I can’t help but think back to the beauty and idyll of last summer. My heart bleeds for Italy – and for the whole world during this pandemic. While nothing will make it feel any better at this moment in time, please lose yourself in the beauty of Italy and revel in the fun and amazing experiences I was fortunate enough to enjoy.

Come – experience 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!

My Summer 2019 Vacation in Italy – Part IV

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.

Amazing Assisi

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!

My Summer 2019 Vacation in Italy – Part III

I was somewhere in my third of six weeks of travel as I made my way down to the heel of the boot of Italy. The heatwave continued and it only seemed to get hotter the further south I went. I had considered taking a ferry over to Greece for a few days from Bari as this was the least expensive option but decided I didn’t want to waste two days to ferry travel.

Brindisi is a gorgeous town, even in the 95+F degrees. It’s on the water so you at least get a nice breeze. There is nothing I enjoy more than wandering through what feels like ancient towns while marveling at the architecture and history of a place. It kind of makes you feel a bit inconsequential in the whole scheme of the universe.

The Port of Brindisi is fantastic! Wide pedestrian promenades lead to the port which has restaurants, great views, and a Roman column with stairs which is said to be the historical end of the Appian Way from Rome. The current column is now a fake – the original is on display in a museum. There’s also cargo and cruise ships and a marina and a whole lot of activity.

Incredibly historic and charming photos from around Brindisi. From the 24th-century church, the Piazza Duomo, the Cathedral, and the random fountains and staircases, it’s all incredibly amazing!

What do people in Brindisi do on weekend evenings? They go out! There are four restaurants in the Piazza Mercato and they were all packed. There were THOUSANDS of people strolling, sitting, talking – everywhere in the city, young and old alike. Families, friends, locals, tourists – fantastico !

Because there’s nothing better to do in 90+ degree weather then walk through some rather sketchy – and deserted – areas of town for an hour to the Monumento al Marinaio to get to see this stunning view! Then there was the also slightly-frightening walk back, but I rewarded myself at the end with a small gelato. (See? More stairs!!)

Just arrived in Lecce. My lodgings are within sight of the Duomo and include a Juliet balcony. Lecce is literally oozing with historical buildings and monuments, each more stunning in scale than the previous. It’s more inland, so it was hot as Hades. You will also note that all the buildings are made of the same material and are the same color. It really was incredible to feel so connected to history.

Join me next week as I travel north to Perugia (my favorite town in Italy) and see the wonders I cooked at a cooking class located on a working farm. Delicioso!

Please let me know what your favorite parts of Italy are and whether you have visited any of the sites I’ve shown you. I feel so incredibly lucky to have been able to spend six weeks traveling through Italy and there are still places I have yet to explore! Tell me where to go next.

Alla vostra saluté! (To your health!)

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