Hello, Bonjour e Ciao!
I've been SO busy these past few months (** setting up MY NEW COMPANY!! see below...) that I haven't had time to post, and I'm getting this "best of" compilation in just under the wire! Plus, I only had time to go through my TOUR pics and can't even think of how long it would take me to sort through my personal photos from the year, so here's a quick look at some of the marvelous places I've been this year.
** BIG NEWS: it is with great pride and excitement that I announce my new company: WILD SAGE! I am co-founder together with my long-time colleague and friend Emanuela ("Manu"), who lives in Rome. She and I started the ball rolling a few months ago and it's such a lengthy process in Italy that we won't be officially-official until probably February (ouf!). But we already have a Facebook page, an Instagram account (<-- click on both of those links to get connected!) and a new webpage that's so new it's not even connected to the proper URL yet! I'll make a more official post in a few weeks when we're finally up and running, but in the meantime contact me if you're interested in a tour for next year! We already have open departures to the Greek Islands, Naples/Amalfi, Puglia, and Sicily!
My first tour of the year was to Andalusia, in southern Spain -- the only tour that I did for my former employer. I was so happy to get back to Spain and took a few extra days on my own in Sevilla. Below, some colorful ceiling patterns from the Alcazar, a former palace of the Islamic Caliphates who ruled here for centuries. (**click on each image to see it separately if you're viewing this on a computer and not a phone**)
You can see more about Sevilla in my blog post from this spring (click HERE).
I was there in the weeks before Holy Week so I saw a lot of religious processions, including this group who were practicing for their journey that they have to do BLIND (you can see they're blindfolded). Quite moving!
I love how different the food is from Italian! Here below: cold gazpacho and garlicky Ajo Blanco plus an enlightening olive oil tasting!
Below, the amazing Alhambra in Granada (another Islamic palace), the soaring ceiling of the cathedral, and the countryside dotted with olive trees.
I had a tour in Tuscany and then a research trip to Puglia before heading to Naples to start a tour to the island of Ischia and the Amalfi coast. Below, Atrani town (left), Procida island, and the beaches of Ischia Ponte.
We had a lovely day at sea circumnavigating Capri on our own private boat (as you do ;-) )
It's the land of lemons and limoncello!
And THE FOOD!!!
No shortage of vegetarian food in Campania!
And of course there's WINE:
And HUGE fresh figs!
Then it's time for a NAP! 😄
After a busy summer I went to Croatia for a tour in September.
That water... ! 😮
I was there during the grape harvest (and had some great wines!!)
Below, the island of Korcula (birthplace of Marco Polo!) and the walls of Dubrovnik.
Sometimes, when I'm lucky, I get to show a group around my home town! (of course I have a TON of photos of Florence but I'm trying to stick to tour photos only...
The great doors of the Baptistry were open when we walked by, so we got a glimpse of the magnificent mosaic ceiling. One of the oldest buildings in Florence! I've made lots of posts on Florence so go scroll through my posts if you want to see more.
I was lucky to be out there in early spring, when the wildflowers and green wheat fields make a rainbow of colors. I even got to see the poppy fields of the Val d'Orcia!!
I even got to walk out to this little chapel, probably the most photographed in all of Tuscany!
I saw the open-air thermal baths of Saturnia (very crowded!) and the illuminated skyline of Pitigliano (not crowded).
I did a hike through these amazing "channels" that were originally dug by the Etruscans. You can see more about that region on my blog post here.
And yes, they also have some good food in Tuscany! Below: super-fresh pecorino (sheep's milk cheese), a fruit & veg stand in a hilltop town near the coast, a seafood pasta that I did not eat (I'm vegetarian) but I loved this picture! And lastly, an amazing cooking lesson from a local chef: here, fire-smoked burrata with a red bell-pepper cream. Yum!
I spent a day in Siena, a city I have loved since my first tour there in 1997!
In September I curated a tour for a group of 12 people in a villa near San Gimignano, sharing the cooking, doing some bike rides, lounging by the pool, and breaking out into the occasional dance party!
My penultimate trip this year was to Sicily, the biggest island in the Mediterranean and boasting some of the best preserved Ancient Greek temples in the world. Here below, "the Valley of the Temples" at Agrigento and the Archaeological Site of Segesta.
Some of the most amazing water I have EVER seen!!!
Sicily has some astounding Medieval and Baroque architecture:
And the spectacular cloister in Monreale, near Palermo:
The beautiful (and still functional!) salt flats at Trapani:
Two of the best things I ate all year: a special Sicilian-style focaccia that was light and fluffy and salty and oily, topped with a sun-dried tomato spread; and typical Sicilian Pasta alla Norma, which features fried eggplants/aubergines, tomato sauce, a ricotta salata. OMG.
My last scouting trip came in December (very late to be out traveling as it gets dark at 4:30 and it can be cold!!), to Puglia, the "heel of the Italian boot." We got to see the Christmas lights in the white-washed towns of the Valle d'Itria! For more on Puglia see my post from June here.
We saw some amazing things, like: the ruins of an ancient abbey that used to house an important library (the picture shows the inside of a dome w/o a roof; a venerable old oak tree; a bougainvillea-draped 'masseria' (fortified farmhouse); an extremely fortified masseria; a series of 'trulli' conical-roofed houses about to get hit by a summer storm (that was in June, before both Manu and I got Covid!); and an amazing vast field of wildflowers in an olive grove in December!!!
And yes, they also have good food in Puglia
25 years of guiding and I still love getting out into-the-field (sometimes literally). Whether (below) on a motor boat in Capri, walking barefoot in the mud to avoid ruining my hiking boots, enjoying a late-afternoon swim on the Tuscan coast, hugging some Greek columns in Sicily, or playing Winter Angel in Puglia. Bring on 2023!!
Thanks for joining me on this great journey, and I hope to see you on a tour (or just in social media) over at Wild Sage. So proud of what we're doing!! Here blow, me and Manu a few years ago, and our new logo. Let's go, girls!! ❤️