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La dolce vita. This was my sweet Italian month. Three weeks in one of my favorite countries in the world (though seriously, it has to be my favorite favorite by now, don’t you think?), followed by a week and change in New York.
And while I will remember all the travel from this month, I got one of my favorite compliments ever from a new friend I made at a conference.
“I’ve met a lot of the big name bloggers,” he said, “and you’re the only one who introduces yourself like you don’t expect people to know who you are.”
That meant so much to me. I needed to hear that.
This crazy career — this crazy life — is so often measured by how much money you make, the cool places you visit, the brands that want to work with you, the press mentions you get.
Sometimes knowing how you make people feel — not you, the character in your blog posts, the limited view of yourself that you project to the world, but you, the actual, real person standing before a stranger — is the most meaningful part of all.
Bologna, Florence, Verona, Trento, Riva del Garda, Rovereto, San Cassiano, Longiaru, San Martino del Tor, Como, Stresa, Baveno, Orta San Giulio, Mottorone, Isola San Giulio, and Torino, Italy
New York, NY
Three fantastic weeks in Italy. What a great trip. There’s way too much to include here, but here are some of the highlights:
An excellent Traverse conference in Trento. Traverse is my favorite of the travel content creator conferences — the people are awesome, the sessions are outstanding, and the sponsors are fantastic. This time, Visit Trentino outdid themselves as sponsors, and Trentino is such a great undertouristed region in Italy. The mountains and vineyards are so gorgeous and the TrentoDOC wine is fabulous. And Trento is a sweet little city covered with frescoes.
Giving a talk to a packed room. I was speaking first thing in the morning after the biggest party night of the conference, so I didn’t have high expectations — but the room was nearly full! I talked about the most important things I’ve learned in nine years of professional blogging — the good, like how to develop your creativity and set an example with responsible travel practices, and the bad, like dealing with sexual harassment from male travel bloggers. More importantly, people weren’t in their phones the whole time. They paid attention. That meant a lot to me.
Getting professional photos taken in Florence. I wanted to commemorate 15 years since I studied abroad there. The photos came out great and the photographer Alexandra and I got along so well that we became friends. She splits her time between Bucharest and Florence and you can hire her here.
Experiencing the Dolomites in style. I’ve been yearning to visit the Dolomites for years, and this visit didn’t disappoint. Staying at Ciasa Salares was a dream — a luxurious property with a small and cozy feeling, and the food and wine was exceptional. Plus the owner took the time to show me around the region and we had one of the best meals (and surprises!) ever in the wine cellar. I can’t wait to write more about it.
Discovering the best Italian lake. Lake Orta is a gorgeous lake in Piemonte mostly unknown to foreigners and I liked it much more than Lake Como and Lake Maggiore. I also had one of the best agriturismo meals of my life for a shockingly low price ($62 for 10 courses and three glasses of wine!) at Il Cucchiaio di Legno.
Finally seeing The Last Supper. I’ve wanted to see Leonardo’s painting for so long (and make a joke about it every time I see people sitting on one side of the table). Finally I got my opportunity — while it sells out months in advance, I was able to hop on a tour with Walks of Italy. Seeing the painting (actually a fresco) in real life felt amazing.
All the Italian food. I ate my way through plate after plate of Tyrolean speck and consumed a truly obscene amount of stracciatella cheese. Not to mention the fondue in the Dolomites. Piemontese prosciutto and bufala mozzarella with a bottle of Franciacorta on a terrace at Lake Orta. My favorite tagliatelle ragú at Osteria del Orsa in Bologna. All the gelato. Even cooking with Italian groceries was pure joy.
Hanging out with my friends’ awesome kids. I loved staying with my friends Steph and Mike in Bologna, and their 2-year-old daughter is so sweet, funny, and imaginative. I loved seeing Bologna through her eyes. I also got to meet Anna and Matt‘s new baby boy in Verona, and he is an inquisitive, adorable delight. I also snuggled him while drinking a Hugo cocktail, which I think is Peak Kate in Italy.
Introducing some of my favorite people to each other. I have friends from so many different areas of my life, but I LOVE bringing them together. This time it was my blogger bud Kash and his love, Sabrina, with my sister Sarah and her love, Matt. I took Kash and Sabrina out to some of my favorite bars in my neighborhood, but later on we had one of those simple yet perfect New York nights: a slice at Joe’s, a salty pimp at Big Gay Ice Cream, a stroll past Stonewall, a perfect cotton candy sunset, and an evening sitting in Washington Square Park listening to a jazz band. So nice.
Getting sick in Italy. The post-conference flu struck again — too much fun, too little sleep. The worst part was that I arrived at Ciasa Salares, a culinary resort in the Dolomites, with no sense of smell or taste! Thankfully that didn’t last long and I had my senses back by the next morning.
Giving a presentation on ZERO sleep. I usually don’t have trouble sleeping — but in Trento I figured out how much espresso is TOO MUCH ESPRESSO (four in a day, the last at 4 PM). I did not sleep ALL NIGHT. That never happens. Ever. And I had to give a presentation at 9:30 AM on zero sleep. It went very well, but I can’t believe I had to do that!
Losing my Fitbit in the Dolomites. Still upset with myself for that.
Lake Como was a bit of a bust. Our itinerary was a little over-ambitious as is, but due to illness and a tough day we didn’t get to see much of Lake Como beyond the city of Como itself. That’s okay; I feel lucky that I got to experience Lake Maggiore and especially Lake Orta.
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Most Popular Photo on Instagram
I absolutely love this photo. This photo was taken by my photographer Alexandra Jitariuc in Florence, and I love how amazingly Italian it is. The red Vespa, the black dress — SO ITALIAN. For more photos of my travels, follow me on Instagram at @adventurouskate.
What I Wore This Month
I had a lot of great dresses from Rent the Runway this month. This first one was a Rachel Zoe dress that I thought would be perfect for Italy. And it was probably the closest thing I found to a simple but elegant, casual but upscale dress for looking put together in a country where most people are well put together.
I love Kate Spade, and it felt fitting to wear one of her beautiful dresses on the anniversary of her untimely passing. This one was from Rent the Runway as well — a short knit dress with colorful stitching. It ran a bit smaller than expected, which was kind of weird, as I’ve found that some of her clothing can be huge on me. But this was a good, classic dress for either Italy or New York.
For my talk in Trento, I wore a bright blue Pinko midi dress from Rent the Runway. I expected it to be a home run but I feel like it was never QUITE the hit I expected. Maybe it was a bit too long.
This red Nicole Miller dress from Rent the Runway was the one I got the most compliments on (and had the highest rating on Instagram, where I love doing fashion shows on Stories.) I love the garnet color, the deep V neck, and the different sizes of polka dots! I probably would have kept it if it didn’t wrinkle so easily — not an ideal dress for travel!
What I Watched This Month
The Handmaid’s Tale is back! I freaking LOVE this show, and season three is excellent so far. Even though it’s getting closer and closer to reality as American politicians enact laws overturning women’s rights. This month, a pregnant woman in Alabama was shot and the fetus died — and she was charged with manslaughter, not the shooter. Absolute insanity.
What I Read This Month
Eek, another month where I fell off the wagon when it comes to reading. I thought I’d get a ton of reading done in Italy, but turns out I only read a ton when I travel solo. I’m up to 48 books in 2019, and I had really hoped to be at more than 50 by now. Still, here we go:
Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York, edited by Sari Botton (2013) — This collection features essays by 28 writers (all of them women!) about their lives in New York City and when they realized it was time to leave. Some of them returned; nearly all of them have mixed feelings about their departure. The collection features essays by writers including Roxane Gay, Cheryl Strayed, Ann Hood, Dani Shapiro, Emma Straub, and more. The title is from Joan Didion’s famed essay about her own decision to leave New York; Didion is idolized by many of the writers.
I love living in New York. You know I love living in New York. But to live in New York means that you spend a lot of time hating it — the horrific state of the subway, the ever-skyrocketing cost of living, the gentrification and homogenization of neighborhoods, the fact that it’s harder and harder to be a creative here unless you are independently wealthy. And this book gets at this frustration from SO many different angles. I felt all the love and all the angst from these writers. A few left for Los Angeles; several left for upstate New York. North Carolina; Providence; Paris.
There were two things I couldn’t relate to, though — nearly all of these writers moved to New York in their early twenties and partied, lived in terrible apartments with several roommates, and moved from neighborhood to neighborhood as they worked to make a living at writing. Secondly, most of these writers moved to New York in the pre-9/11 era and moved away in the early 2000s at a time when the internet transformed the publishing and media industries and many writers lost their paid work. It made me a little sad I never had those experiences. It’s a New York that I will never know. Also, while there are some authors of color in this book, none of the essays take place in Harlem, which seems like a big oversight. Still, I really loved this book.
The Dark Heart: A True Story of Greed, Murder, and an Unlikely Investigator by Joakim Palmkvist (2018) — Back in April, Amazon offered several Kindle books written by authors around the world for FREE, no strings attached. I ordered them all (are you surprised?) and this is the first one I’ve read: a true crime book by a Swedish journalist. When Göran Lundblad, a millionaire agricultural entrepreneur, went missing, no clues turned up — but soon it seemed like his daughter and her boyfriend had the greatest motive to kill. The person who finally solved the case was not a detective, but a volunteer with the local Missing People organization — and she used her smarts and intuition to turn the case on its head.
This wasn’t my first book by a Swedish author — I’ve read Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo series — and I appreciate the spare orderliness that Swedish authors bring to their prose. And this one was well translated. The story unfolds slowly — so slowly that it seems obvious, like the killers could be caught any minute — but things really speed up toward the end and I couldn’t put it down. True crime isn’t usually something I enjoy, but this book was a change from the usual stuff I read.
Coming up in July 2019
I’m SO excited for what lies in store this month. I’m doing some seriously cool travels in Canada!
First, I will be doing a 10-day small ship expedition cruise through Atlantic Canada with OneOcean Expeditions. I first approached OneOcean at an industry event wanting to learn more about their Arctic itineraries, but they showed me this Atlantic Canada itinerary and it looked SO COOL that I knew I had to do it.
This expedition goes to some remote and seldom visited parts of Atlantic Canada: Sable Island, Nova Scotia, an extremely hard to reach island where wild horses run on the beach. The Isles de la Madeleine, tiny fishing islands covered with colorful cottages. The Gaspé peninsula of Québec, with its dramatic cliffs. Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland’s spectacular showstopper. And St. Pierre et Miquelon, two islands off Newfoundland that are the last vestige of France in North America. Those are just half of the destinations. And Cailin is coming with me — our third trip in a row!
After the trip, we will be doing a road trip through Cape Breton, the northeast part of Nova Scotia that is home to gorgeous landscapes, tons of lobster and oysters, and Acadian and Gaelic culture. I am going to eat more lobster than humanly possible. I’m also excited to finally visit Halifax, Nova Scotia — Cailin’s hometown! Cailin has visited me so many times in New York, so I’m excited for us to hang out on her home turf for the first time.
It’s crazy — other than a plane-to-bus layover in Toronto in 2012, I haven’t been to Canada since starting this blog in 2010. That’s insane and my visit is long overdue. I’m especially happy to be spending so much time in Atlantic Canada in particular, as seven out of my eight great-grandparents or their ancestors actually migrated from Europe to Atlantic Canada (mostly from France to New Brunswick and from Latvia, Scotland, and Ireland to PEI). Only my great-grandfather from Sicily landed directly in the United States.
Aside from that, I’ll be making a trip home to Massachusetts this month. And at the end of the month I will be landing in my 80th country (!!). Not quite ready to reveal that one yet…but it’s in a region I’ve wanted to visit FOREVER and you shall see when the time comes.