Category: Travel Life

The Hanging Dead of Palermo’s Catacombs

Let’s talk about dead people. Not all dead people, though — just the ones hanging on the walls of the Capuchin Catacombs in Palermo, Sicily (in Italy). They are seriously among the most interesting “still around” dead folk on this planet, and you should go see them, too.

But first — let’s talk about them.

The Capuchin Catacombs got their start in 1599, when the (above-ground) Capuchin Monastery’s cemetery was outgrown.  (more…)

VB Award Logo overlay on a rural outdoor scene of green mountains and meadow flowers

Versatile Blogger Award for Horse On The Menu

It’s a real honor to have received the Versatile Blogger Award by Lynne Nieman over at Wander Your Way. This peer nomination community is such a brilliant idea, a way for us bloggers to encourage each other and spread the word about other great work. What is blogging, after all, without each other to bounce ideas off of and learn from?

In fact, if you haven’t already, you should definitely check out Lynne’s fantastic website and blog related to all things independent travel. She even does consulting for your next travel adventure, planning all the little details you couldn’t possibly have thought of to take the stress out of your trip. (more…)

A statue in The City of Como (Lake Como, Lombardy, Italy)

The Notorious Italian “Furbizia”

Since living in Italy, it’s become abundantly clear that there’s a cultural concept Jason and I are (and have been) entirely unaware of. It’s something Italian’s know well and are always on the lookout for, but we have been blind to.

It’s called: furbizia.

The word furbo often means “clever” — but also “sly”, “sharp”, “crafty”, and so on. It’s more sinister meaning is what typically prevails: clever in the sense of “taking advantage” for one’s own personal gain.

Which is a virtue in this country? I’m not sure.

Entrance to Nazi labor camp, 'Struthof' (Alsace, France)

A Nazi Labor Camp With A German (And His German GPS)

What do you get when you mix a weekend in France with two unwitting Americans, a Nazi Labor Camp, and a German friend with a very German GPS? You get a perfectly awkward—if not memorable—encounter that I could not have scripted better myself.

It’s actually a true story…beginning with Jason’s German friend, Volker Haas (first name pronounced like a mix of ‘Valka’ and ‘Falka’). Back in the 90s, Volker had been an exchange student at the University of Washington (Seattle) where, for a year, he and Jason were roommates in the same house.

Fast forward to September of 2012, with me in Strasbourg, France, obtaining my ESOL Teaching Certificate (CELTA) (right before Jason and I moved to Italy), and…wait for it…THIS is where the Nazi labor camp comes in. Oooh, la la…il y en a plus! (there’s more)

View of Naples from above the Spanish Quarter (Italy)

The Beautiful Anarchy of Naples, Italy

Naples, Italy, is a kind of old world stage: another time, another country. Another place.

Jason and I took the train into the city from a nearby town, Aversa, where we were staying with friends. We roamed Naples on foot for two whole days, and left feeling like we could have spent two entire weeks. It wasn’t nearly enough time, but it was grand.


Parked scooter in Naples (Italy)

Accidental Scooter Ride In Naples

Some friends of friends from Seattle welcomed us to their home in Naples, “We’ll order pizza!” they said. “We’ll invite all our friends! Come, come….” And so, thrilled to hang out with some genuine napoletani, Jason and I took the metro to their neighborhood.

And we waited for their call.

When Umberto showed up on a scooter, we hadn’t been prepared to hop on back, one-at-a-time, and weave through the streets and the traffic to get to their apartment. It may be the stuff people dream about when they dream of Italy…’Roman Holiday’ meets the millennium.

But I was palpably terrified. (more…)

Val di Non mountain view, from Fondo (Trentino)

Seattle To Italy In One Not-So-Fell Swoop (Part 3)

This is the final post in the series, Seattle To Italy In One Not-So-Fell Swoop, including:
Part 1 and Part 2.

Today, most of Jason’s remaining Italian family live up north, far from Puglia’s pane e pomodoro. Relatives on his mother’s side reside mostly in Milan, while his father’s relatives are clustered in a valley far off in the northern Alps. A valley called: Val di Non.

To get started on our own immigration process, we knew we would need the help of family, and since Milan was not a place either of us wanted to live, it was: “Apple valley, here we come!” (more…)

French Baguette

Seattle To Italy In One Not-So-Fell Swoop (Part 2)

This is the second post in the series, Seattle To Italy In One Not-So-Fell Swoop, including:
Part 1 and Part 3.

Our original plan had been to settle in France — not Italy.

I found an Intensive ESL Teaching Certificate Program in Strasbourg (yes, it’s France), and while I studied how to be a better English teacher, Jason flew to Italy to urge along his family’s application for citizenship.

For our first month in Europe we were living apart, like this. On either side of the Alps. And it seemed like we might be able to make this work: me working in France, Jason eventually coming north once he wrapped up his citizenship paperwork in Italia.

But plans are meant to be altered. (more…)

Seattle, WA (USA), summer of 2013 from Lake Union

Seattle To Italy In One Not-So-Fell Swoop (Part 1)

This is the first post in the series, Seattle To Italy In One Not-So-Fell Swoop, including:
Part 2 and Part 3 

In the fall of 2012, Jason and I moved from the rainy, evergreen shrouded hills of Seattle, WA (USA) to a small valley in northern Italy, in a region called Trentino-Alto Adige.

Our reason? There are many reasons, many compelling life forces that catapulted us in this direction, but none of them are simple or straightforward or easy to articulate.

We needed a change, I guess. (more…)

On a countryside bike ride in Piedmont (Italy)

Bicyling The Piedmont Countryside

It felt like biking through a Van Gogh painting. The open fields. The poppies. The bucolic, pastoral scenes.

For two weeks in the spring of 2013 we drove around areas of North Italy in search of our new home. But when we realized we’d be in Piemonte (Piedmont in English) for my 32nd birthday, we wanted to make it special.

Yet Piedmont is such a simple place, I wondered. Will this birthday be any fun?

I hadn’t expected it to be a birthday I’d never forget. (more…)

SURVIVING A DOG ATTACK: 3 Things Not To Do (Part 4)

This is one post in the four-part ‘SURVIVING A DOG ATTACK’ series, including:
* The Encounter (Part 1)
* The Aftermath (Part 2)
* The Invisible Wounds (Part 3)
* What Not To Do (Part 4) 

A dog is running your direction. Perhaps it’s friendly, perhaps it’s not — you aren’t sure. It’s getting closer, but its tail is not wagging, and it’s charging, and…holy h#&*! Within mili-seconds, you’re hit with the realization: this dog is on attack.

Most of us react to a scary dog out of instinct (screaming, running), but this will only put you in greater danger. To keep yourself safe, here are THREE THINGS NOT TO DO in the event of a potential dog attack: (more…)

A darkened tree in water

SURVIVING A DOG ATTACK: The Invisible Wounds (Part 3)

This is one post in the four-part ‘SURVIVING A DOG ATTACK’ series, including:
* The Encounter (Part 1)
* The Aftermath (Part 2)
* The Invisible Wounds (Part 3)
* What Not To Do (Part 4) 

dog attack was not on my list of things to plan for in life.

At first so grateful to have survived, to have incurred so little injury and to have just walked away, I didn’t stop to think: there could be psychological repercussions from this. I kept telling people, “It could’ve been a child, for God’s sakes. Or an elderly lady.” Instead, it was me: able-bodied, resilient adult.

Perhaps that’s why I didn’t see it coming. Hadn’t anticipated the shock that was in store in the days and weeks following the attack. A year and-a-half would pass before I put the pieces together, before I understood: being jumped by a German Shepherd had rattled me to the core. (more…)