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Welcome 2024: Cuba, Morocco & Best of Italy!

Buongiorno e Buon Anno Nuovo!

The new year started with a calm "Come on in" instead of the frantic alarm bells that rang in 2023, so I'm happy at home working on an exciting new tour season with Wild Sage while my colleague Manu is on holiday in Kenya (lucky her!). Here's a brief intro to our 2024 news followed by some of Manu's favorite tour pics from last year, so keep scrolling!

The colorful streets of Chefchaouen -- "the blue town" -- Morocco

The big news is that Wild Sage is going way beyond the "Southern Europe" of our tag-line and has tours in Cuba and Morocco coming up this year!

Most Americans don't know that there are exemptions to the long-standing embargo against Cuba, one of which is "Support for the Cuban People," and our tour fits that category. It sold out in just a few weeks and runs March 15th, so let us know if you're interested for 2025! This tour is a "light active" so there's no hiking or biking (except for one easy walk to a waterfall) but Manu and I are going to research walking trails and hope to have an active version for next year too! See the Cuba trip here (<-- click link!)

The Morocco tour started with a private request and the tour sold out even faster than Cuba did! It's an amazing two-week cross-country adventure that starts in Marrakech and ends in Tangier, with the Atlas Mountains and Sahara Desert in between. It departs October 5th and we hope to run it again in 2025!

Manu and I went to Morocco with friends in 2018 so I already have a few pics, but these below are NOT mine! See the Morocco trip here (<-- click link!)

The rest of my season is full of private tours, from Sicily to Istanbul to the Amalfi Coast, so I've got a lot of fun in the sun in my calendar 😎.

And now, here are some favorite 2023 tour photos from my friend and colleague Manu!

She spent time in Puglia, Piedmont, the Dolomites, Sardinia and had a Tuscany-Umbria combo tour. She has another Puglia tour this May (space available! see that here) as well as three hiking tours in the Dolomites (also open): we have our classic Val Gardena starting July 7th and two of our brand-new Val di Funes & Rendena tours running June 30 and Sept 1st. The hiking is spectacular on both tours but is slightly easier in the Val di Funes.

And beautiful mountain towns:

In May she'll be down in Puglia again for a MUCH easier walking tour, between centuries'-old olive trees:

Puglia has gorgeous white-washed towns with soaring cathedrals as well as the unique conical-roofed houses called 'trulli,' plus a mysterious 12th century castle built for the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, and a majestic primordial forest:

It was in the Foresta Umbra that Manu and I came up with our company name ("Wild Sage" ☘🌿), on a cold December day when we still had no idea what bureaucratic hell awaited us (you can read about that long journey here).

Another wonderful site in Puglia is this modern wire and mesh Basilica di Siponto by Italian architect Edoardo Tresoldi. It was awarded a Gold Medal for Italian Architecture for reimagining the ghostly outline of an early Christian basilica which once sat on the site.

The trip starts in the historical port city of Bari, which has some amazing churches, like this 11th c. Basilica of San Nicola which houses the remains of Good ol' Saint Nick!

Saint Nicholas was a 4th century bishop in Myra, a town along the southern coast of Turkey. His remains were brought to Bari by Crusaders in 1087 and he is still very important to both Catholics and Orthodox Christians, so it's one of the rare chapels in Italy where Orthodox priests are also allowed to conduct ceremonies. It has become a pilgrimage site for Greeks and Russians, as you can see from the offerings box!

Southern Italy also means lots of variations on a theme! (the extra-creamy burrata cheese is from Puglia, and that alone is worth the price of admission! 😋

Manu was also so happy to guide a tour with our old friend and tour collaborator Melissa!

Manu & Mel also spent time in Piedmont, northern Italy, to set up a new walking tour. The area is known for its amazing wines (Barolo and Barbaresco are the big names) as well as its rich culinary traditions (it's the birthplace of the Slow Food Movement). Our new walking tour premieres this September for a private group.

Manu's final tour of 2023 was a Tuscany-Umbria combo which led her to the beautiful hilltop town of Orvieto, with its spectacular cathedral:

The façade glints with golden mosaics but it's the multi-colored frescoes inside that are truly breathtaking, like this dramatic Heaven & Hell scene in the Saint Brizio chapel:

Orvieto also has the surreal Pozzo di San Patrizio, or Saint Patrick's Well.

It was commissioned by Pope Clement VI in 1527 and is about 54 m (165 ft) deep. It has a double spiral staircase with 248 steps and 72 windows which let light in. The ingenious design allowed pack animals to go up and down to fetch water without ever meeting!

Tuscany greeted her with warm sunshine and this smiling figure, who seemed to be telling us that it was all going to work out:

How can you not love Tuscany?!?

Of course... some wineries were visited, like this futuristic structure in Umbria!

And last but definitely not least, Manu traveled around her beloved island of Sardinia, where she lived for a few years as a child. I already did a whole post about our scouting trip there (you can see that here) but here are a few from our hiking trip there:

We went hiking through the dramatic Gorropu Gorge:

She also went to a rose-quartz beach, had a river kayak trip, and a stayed in one of our favorite hotels:

The real magic of Sardinia lies in its rich and unique cultural traditions, which go back thousands of years. Here below is a burial chamber and the astounding Sacred Well of Santa Cristina, which dates back 3,000 years and represents the sacred (and very female) importance of water:

These Mother Earth Goddesses go back even farther and date from 3-4,000 BCE!

And still today many of the island's communities celebrate Carnival with fabulous costumes, rituals and masks:

The Mamuthones Carnival costumes of Mamoiada, Sardinia

And finally, the FOOD! I'm a vegetarian but Manu loves a good steak (plus a nice cheese & cold-cut board, and the Sardinian stuffed pasta culurgiones!):

Or a tangy citrus salad, a creamy fruit yogurt in the Dolomites, or her absolute favorite: the cheese-filled deep-fried honey-soaked Sardinian delicacy: seadas!

I'm so grateful to have Manu as my friend and colleague as we move forward into a future that's wide open with possibilities. Where do we want to go next? My personal "Wish List" includes Jordan and Albania (I've been to both but would love to get tours going) and Manu and I have Abruzzo and Molise (lesser-known regions of Italy) on our "to do" list once we find the time to go do research. What's on your wish list?


We may have to change our tag-line!

A heartfelt thanks to all of you for your support, and here's hoping that this new year brings peace and good tidings. There's a lot of chaos swirling around right now (and always) but I find nothing clears the head and heart like a walk in the woods. Even on this gray and rainy Tuscan day I find solace among the trees. And it means spring is just around the corner! 😍

Ciao e alla prossima!

Bye and see you next time!

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Love you Claire and Manu! Congrats on creating wonderful adventures for your all your friends in the world! And then giving us the gift of fabulous pictures! D and I are heading to Maui (trip planned Dec.2022) on the 30th of this month; currently we have been iced ☃️ in Camas WA for a whole week so ready to get out and find sunshine again! Will try to see you both in 2025💖

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Thanks Bobbie!! I'm so glad we've got you as an enthusiastic cheerleader. It let's us know we're not alone and that we've got friends out there! Have a blast in Maui and send some of that sun my way. It's blowing a gale outside right now and it's going to drop to freezing here in Tuscany 😨.

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