Monday, April 27, 2015


The last leg of our trip was Sicily, where we stayed in a town called Sciacca for a little over a week. Sciacca is a fishing town on the south western coast of Sicily and we were lucky enough to stay in our friend's guest house which is right on the beach! The views were incredible and it was so nice to hear the sea as we fell asleep at night.

This was the wind-down part of our trip so for most of the week, we just relaxed on the beach. We did take a day trip to Agrigento one day, to see the Valley of the Temples.

The temples were so majestic against the blue sky that day, and most of them are in relatively good condition - considering that they were built centuries ago - especially this one, the Temple of Concordia (built in the 5th century BC):

There's also an amazing garden there with orange and grapefruit trees, rosemary bushes, prickly pear plants - it smelled fantastic, so we walked around breathing deeply for a while.

Another day we went to a town called Erice which is on top of a cliff and has beautiful views down to the farm lands and sea below. They have a special dish there, couscous with fish, so we tried that for lunch and it was spectacular. The waiter brings over a little bowl of fish broth and you can add however much you want to the dish.

After lunch we walked up to the castle and explored the town. Erice is also known for their pastries, so of course we sampled a few.

On the way back to Sciacca, we stopped in Segesta which is an old city, previously inhabited by the Elymian people, one of the three indigenous groups of Sicily. There's an amazing temple there that's in even better condition than the ones in Agrigento.

It's fun because you can see the temple from the road; when we exited the highway we drove for a bit and there were no signs or directions, but all of a sudden, the temple was right in front of us! We also hiked up to the amphitheater and there were amazing views of the valley below and of the temple off in the distance.

For the rest of the time, we got into a routine of waking up early and going to the fish market to get fresh fish for dinner. We tried shrimp one night and a white fish another, and one night we made a big pot of mussels. One afternoon we went down to the pier to watch the fishing boats come in and unload whatever they caught.

After securing our fish for the day, we'd have a coffee in town and then come home, pack up a beach bag and head down to the beach.

It was warm enough to swim and the water was really refreshing so we'd take dips, read, play Cribbage and repeat. Every day we'd take a picnic down for lunch: salami and cheese, couscous with grilled veggies, orange and fennel salads...

Then we'd come back up to our amazing little house to rinse off and cook dinner. We definitely got into a great routine.

After traveling around for three weeks, it was nice to stay put for a while and to be able to completely relax, especially before our big move back to Colorado on Thursday!

This has been the most amazing month and the most amazing trip: from hiking in Cinque Terre to eating up Rome; discovering Bari and trying real pizza in Naples; rowing around the Blue Grotto and visiting ancient towns like Pompeii, Matera and Alberobello, and then soaking in the Southern culture in Sicily - we are two very lucky travelers! Thanks to everyone for following along on our adventure this month, and for all the great suggestions! xo

And, if you missed any posts: here's the complete trip: Cinque Terre, Rome (+ our food tour!), Bari, and Sorrento.

Thursday, April 23, 2015


For the fourth stop on our trip, we headed down to Sorrento. We actually stayed in a small town just outside of Sorrento (to get away from all the tourists who were already there in April!) called Massa Lubrense.

Sorrento is a great place to take day trips from because it's easy to get to Naples, Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast, Capri, etc. One day we took a ferry to Capri:

When we docked, we hopped right on a smaller boat that took us out to the Blue Grotto. It's a nice little 20 minute boat ride to get to the Grotto, and it's fun to see the island from the sea.

When we got to the entrance, smaller rowboats were waiting to take us inside the cave.

Getting inside is a riot: the entrance is tiny and everyone has to lie down in the boat so no one hits their head on the rocks. The rower waits until there are no waves and then whooshes the boat into the cave by pulling on a chain overhead.

Once you're inside, the sea turns neon blue from the light of the sun - it's really incredible. The rowboat driver rows you around singing Italian songs like "O Sole Mio" and you hang out in the cave for 10 minutes or so. It's definitely an experience not to be missed if you're in the area.

Afterwards, we took the chairlift up to the top of the island, where the views were amazingly beautiful, and then we hiked back down before lunch.

We ate lunch up in Anacapri (towards the top of the island) because it was less crowded up there. Of course we had delicious Caprese ravioli and Limoncello afterwards. We've really been lucking out with the weather this trip - this day was gorgeous and so was every other one. (We brought two bottles of sunscreen with us but we've had to buy about three more...I guess it's a good problem to have).

Another day we went to Pompeii, which was hot and crowded (as always) but fascinating (again, as always).

One thing that we did that was very cool and closer to our home base, was a farm tour. It was something that I stumbled on while browsing Trip Advisor before we left for the trip. The farm is called La Masseria and they take visitors around on various tours. We picked a two hour tour, and Eugenio, a fourth generation farmer, showed us around the farm and talked about the history of the area and explained how they grow their products. Sorrento is famous for their lemons, but they also have tons of olive, orange, fig and chestnut trees.

The farm was so peaceful and it smelled amazing there from all the delicious trees and herbs! Italians are great at using every inch of the land, as well as every part of every product. For example, lemon pulp is used for marmalade, the juice is used for lemonade (or kept as lemon juice, obviously) and the rind is used for making Limoncello, the after dinner drink.

For the rest of our time there, we explored Sorrento. We were planning on taking a day trip to Ravello or Positano on the Amalfi Coast, but we had been doing so many day trips that we decided we just wanted to chill. We had our own little beach down below the place where we stayed and it was fun to hike down there for a coffee in the morning.

The tourist season was just starting to get going, but we had the whole beach to ourselves, except for a few locals! In downtown Sorrento, however, it was a different scene with tourists everywhere! And lemons. We explored downtown one afternoon....

...but then we found a great little area down on the sea called Marina Grande. It's part of Sorrento but used to be its own little community. It has a funkier, more local feel to it and these days it's much quieter than up in Sorrento and it's so nice to sit on the sea and eat lunch.

We've been eating tons of seafood this trip since we've been by the sea pretty much the whole time, except for Rome. Our favorites are insalata mare (seafood salad), spaghetti with seafood (or spaghetti with clams) and at Marina Grande, they had this amazing basket of fried fish which everyone was ordering, so of course we followed suit.

Then, last Saturday morning, we headed to Naples where we would board the ferry that evening, for Sicily. We had the afternoon in Naples to kill and had one thing on our agenda: pizza.

We went to L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele which is one of the most famous in Naples (for various reasons, including the fact that the pizza scene in the movie Eat, Pray, Love was filmed there). The whole thing was a scene. We arrived at about 12:45 and there was already a huge line outside. What you do is go inside and take a number and then come back out on the street and wait for two hours. I'm not kidding - we waited for an hour and forty five minutes. Italians hate waiting in line anywhere - at the grocery store, in the car - so we figured that if they could wait, we could wait. Plus the people-watching is incredible. And the pizza is even more so. There are only two types on the menu: margherita (with cheese - buffalo mozzarella) or marinara (without cheese). We went for the classic margherita, of course, and it was the best pizza we've ever had.

That evening we got on the ferry and set sail for Sicily, where we arrived in Palermo early the next morning. More on Sicily next week!

PS - If you missed the first part of our trip, here is Cinque Terre, Rome and Bari.

Monday, April 20, 2015


The third stop on our tour of Italy (as we're calling it now) was Bari, a city in Puglia which is a region on the eastern coast. The scenery was a little bit different there:

We stayed in a great neighborhood with tons of small food shops and a market every morning that sold all kinds of vegetables, fruits and fresh fish. The market was probably our favorite part of Bari; it was so typically Italian and everything was so bright and vibrant.

There was one fish man who was great: every day he would scream out "CHE BELLE COZZE!" while he worked. One morning he gave Ryan a raw clam to try and we ended up buying a bunch of them. He told us to cook them with parsley, garlic and diced tomatoes and then to put it over fresh spaghetti, so obviously we followed his instructions and it was one of the best pasta dishes we've ever eaten.

Bari itself isn't very touristy, although there are several tourist destinations nearby. One day we took the train to Matera, an ancient town that is thought to be one of the first human settlements in the world.

The houses are cut into the rocks and the area has been inhabited since the Palaeolithic period - many people still live there today and there are lots of restaurants, cafes and hotels. We walked around and explored for a few hours and it was beautiful.

When we stopped for a glass of wine, it was served to us in this pitcher with ceramic cups which felt very authentic. We saw a lot of ceramics in the restaurants in Bari - and the surrounding area - and now we're on the hunt for perfect cups to bring home.

Another day we went to Alberobello to see the "Trulli" which are little huts that people used to (and still do, actually!) live in.

This is another example of an early settlement that is still thriving today - it's a Unesco World Heritage Sight (as is Matera). Many of the Trulli are shops now, or restaurants, but some are still lived in by local families.

Puglia was interesting because there are a lot of tourist sights that are slightly under the radar. There are fewer museums/churches/monuments in this region and more early settlements and...

...caves. We stopped in Castellana Grotte one day to see the caves there and they were incredible. They began to form 90 million years ago and they're full of stalactites and stalagmites and crystals.

For the rest of the time, we kicked around Bari, exploring the city and eating delicious fresh seafood.

We noticed that the food was incredible and so different than anything we've had. One of their signature dishes is oricchiette pasta with cime di rapa (broccoli rabe) and sausage. Another is a casserole made with rice and mussels and thin slices of potato on top. And, as we learned on our food tour, Puglia is the birthplace of Burrata, so we made sure to eat lots of that.

Bari turned out to be one of our favorite stops because it was so different from anywhere that we'd been before. Plus, everyone was very friendly and they were all super impressed with our Italian because they didn't know that we'd been living here for four years! And, food-wise it was a personal favorite as well.

If you're in the area or are planning a trip, we stayed at a great airbnb apartment that we'd highly recommend.

And later in the week: part four of our trip! Stay tuned...

PS - Our first two stops: Cinque Terre and Rome.