Posts Tagged ‘italy’


If you want to step into a colorful dream of a postcard, may I introduce the cheery island of Burano!  Located in the Venetian lagoon in Italy, you can’t help but feel a smile spread across your face as you experience this little wonder of an island! From the beautiful flowers perched on windowsills to the picturesque canals lining brightly colored homes, it really is a photographer’s paradise! Stroll down narrow roads and wander into shops filled with souvenirs, tasty treats and what the island is known for, lace!




If you ever go to Italy, take a day to experience this special little island.

Burano is one of those places that will remain in your heart forever!


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Did I ever mention that I’m 100% Italian…?

(Well…in my heart, that is…)

The moment I set foot in Italy, I knew it was something special.

Even though I’m a mix of French Canadian, Polish, Indian and English (and proud of it!), I’d like to think that in a previous life, I lived in an enchanting, medieval, Italian hill town overlooking the canyon below.

Maybe even a hill town like this…

CivitaCivita di Bagnoregio

On the last leg of our honeymoon in 2010, my hubby and I traveled around Italy, and the one place I couldn’t wait to visit the most was the once thriving, now quiet hilltop gem known as Civita di Bagnoregio!


Once the gateway to Rome, Civita now sits high above a decaying plateau and is connected to its neighboring town of Bagnoregio by a “bring-supportive-shoes-this-is-an-extremely-steep-foot-bridge” bridge constructed when years of erosion, earthquakes and wind took effect and left it isolated from the modern world.  (Hence its nickname “The Dying Town.”)  Now, less than 15 people call Civita home.


Prepare to be transported back in time as you enter the arched gates of the city.  Founded by the Etruscans over 2500 years ago, Civita is untouched by the modern world and is a wonderland for artists and photographers alike.


Charm oozes out of every nook and cranny —
from the lush foliage clinging on arches and walls…

…to the colorful potted plants dotting the staircases.

CivitaRising out of the Umbrian countryside and sitting high above the clouds, Civita provides stunning panoramas that captivate and mesmerize.

CivitaThere are surprises around every corner —
from spiral staircases decending into the canyon’s abyss…

Civita Kitties…to precious kitties snuggling side by side…

Civita…to a chapel deep inside a cave…

…to a secret garden just beyond the gate.

All you have to do is stroll along the cobblestone paths to discover visual treasures.

CivitaCivita was also the birthplace of Franciscan friar and theologian, St. Bonaventure.
His childhood home fell prey to erosion and has since fallen off the cliff into the precipice below.


There are many enchanting places to visit in Italy, but if you have to visit just one, I highly encourage you to experience this modern day medieval fairy tale!  It’s only 90 miles north of  Rome…so why not be transported into this dreamland?

Civita is waiting for you!

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As the train pulled up into the station, I wondered if, in my broken Italian, I was able to explain to Leonardo two hours earlier that I missed my connecting regional train to the small town of Magreglio & that I would be an hour late.  With my luggage in one hand and an umbrella in the other, I stepped off the train into the downpour searching for someone who I emailed a total of five times.

A few people walked by, but no one was purposely looking for me…until I saw a man with a small child walk by.  Our eyes locked, but he just kept walking.  He took a few steps more, but stopped in his tracks & came back to where I was standing.  “Jennifer?”  A wave of relief swept through me.  “Leonardo!!!”  Martino, his little boy, looked up at me.  “Ciao!”

My host family had arrived.

My wonderful host family: Leonardo, Mita and Martino

As we walked up to the entrance of his home, Mita, his lovely wife, opened the door to greet me.  As I walked out of the pouring rain and into their home, the inviting aroma of warm pasta, spices, breads and vino filled the air.  Before my eyes was the most beautiful spread of food laid out on a table decorated with a red tablecloth and flowers.  I was overwhelmed at the trouble they went through to make their guest feel welcome and at home…and they really did!   So this is what Servas International is all about.

When I first started traveling solo, I discovered how liberating & exciting it could be!  I loved the freedom to go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted.  But what I craved was something more meaningful.  I wanted to really get to know the locals, their culture and their daily life.  Sure, I would engage in casual small talk with the locals, but it was usually short lived, and I was on to the next destination.

So before embarking on my second solo journey to Europe, I decided to do more than just sight see.  I wanted to be a part of a host family and join in their everyday life.  Through my research, I discovered Servas International and  decided to join their worldwide hospitality network.

Servas is purposeful travel. Travelers and hosts are united by their desire to help build world peace, goodwill and mutual understanding by participating in visits with individuals and families of diverse cultures and backgrounds.  –

Applying is as easy as it was 5 years ago:

  1. Apply online
  2. Receive Application Packet in the mail.
  3. Fill out Traveler Application. (Included in your application packet.)
  4. Choose your Servas interviewer. (A list of interviewers is included in your application packet.  You can also look them up online.  There are many to choose from, but I just opted for the one closest to my home. )
  5. Meet with your Servas interviewer & be approved as a traveler.  (New travelers and host families are always interviewed.  I felt better knowing this because it gave an extra sense of security for both parties involved.  They also require you have two letters of reference.)
  6. Fill out a Letter of Introduction.  (Once you’ve been approved as a traveler, you are given a validated Letter of Introduction that is good for 12 months.  The host family usually requests that you email the letter to them once they agree to host you, or they ask that you present it to them upon arrival.  The Letter of Introduction asks for things like your name, passport number, email address, phone number, occupation, permanent address, dates of travel, languages spoken, description of yourself and your trip, what learning goals you have for your travels, interests and hobbies, previous Servas experience, involvement with any peace movements, etc…)
  7. Pay your yearly fee.  (For an adult, it’s $85.00)
  8. Get a borrowed host book list.  (Host books give you the information on the host families in the country you want to visit.  They usually provide contact information, their hobbies, location, etc…  This needs to be returned upon completion of your trip.  )
  9. Contact the host family you’re interested in.  (Sometimes they may not be available during the times you request, so just keep looking – you’ll find that perfect host family!)
  10. Get to know your host family.  (I emailed Leonardo a few times before going to Italy just to get to know him and his family a little better.)
  11. Travel to your destination & HAVE FUN!

The next couple of days with my host family were wonderful!

They drove me all around Lake Como and showed me hidden scenic spots since they knew I loved photography.

Mita kindly let me borrow her rain boots because I wasn’t expecting rain.

We went shopping, took a cruise on Lake Como and went to quaint lakeside villages.

I spoke of my life in California, and they talked about their love of Italy and of being a host family.

We gave each other language lessons – Italian for me, and English for them.

Leonardo knew I’d be traveling to Paris at the end of my trip, so he offered me travel tips, a map of Paris and the best way to navigate the city.

The days went by so fast, and at the end, it felt like I was saying goodbye to old friends.  I really felt like we were all bonded by our love of meeting new people, experiencing new cultures and spreading peace and friendship through traveling.

On the last day, Leonardo and his family drove me all the way to the train station in Lecco and treated me to coffee as I waited for my train to arrive.  They made sure I was at the right terminal and that I had my ticket in hand with the right regional train number – they sincerely cared.  We said our goodbyes and gave each other one last hug, and with a heavy heart, I boarded the train.  As it pulled away from the station, I looked back at my lovely host family, & they waved to me for the longest time.  My heart was full.

I will always remember and hold dear to my heart my first Servas experience with my Italian family, Leonardo, Mita and Martino.  ♥

Have you ever hosted a traveler or been hosted by a family?  What was your experience like?  I’d love to hear about it!

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Manarola is one of five coastal gems making up the fishing villages of Italy’s Cinque Terre.   The rugged coastline and cliff-hugging homes make it a photographer’s paradise.  To reach each of these villages, walking and hiking is involved, and it can be quite challenging at times, but when you turn the corner and see a view like this…it’s all worth it!  I can’t say enough good things about Cinque Terre…it’s quite magical, and I can’t wait to return one day!

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Growing up, the best part of school was summer vacation.  Sure, not having homework and getting to play away each afternoon was pure bliss, but what I looked forward to the most were the annual family road trips.

The family mobile

There was such excitement packing up the Volkswagen Bus (aka…the “family mobile”) the night before, mapping out our course and setting our alarm clocks for an early start the next day.  Visions of adventure would dance in my head until our alarms chimed in at 3:30am.  Even though my eyes were heavy, the anticipation of the day ahead would keep me awake  so I wouldn’t miss any sights along the way.  Little did I know that this was the beginning of my love affair with travel.

Through the years, my love for travel has grown beyond measure, and with each passing trip, I discover yet another reason why travel brings me such bliss.  Below are 25 of the countless reasons why I love travel.

1.  Experiencing Different Cultures
I love learning about different cultures, meeting the people of the region and learning about their customs and traditions.   Without this amazing diversity, the world wouldn’t be the spectacular place it is!

Transportation on the beautiful island of Santorini.

2.  The Local Cuisine
And I’m not talking about McDonald’s either!  When I travel, I love to try the local cuisine and experience the flavors of that country.  I may not be too adventurous when it comes to sampling anything & everything put on my plate (like my husband), but I definitely have an open mind.

Eating raw herring (the Dutch way) in Holland.
I was applauded by the locals for my technique!

3.  New Friendships
I’d have to say the greatest reason for travel is the opportunity to meet new people & make new friends.  The friends I made across the globe are some of the most warm and interesting people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.  Because of them, I’ve grown as a person and have a deeper understanding of their cultures.

My wonderful host family in Lake Como, Italy.

4.  The History

No text book can provide you with the first hand experience and knowledge that travel can.  Growing up, history wasn’t my specialty mainly because I’m a very visual person, and I needed to be among history to really understand and appreciate it.  It makes all the difference to actually be among ancient ruins, touch a monument or stand in a field that was once a battlefield.  Travel is the text book I always wish I had in school.

History at my fingertips…the spectacular Colosseum in Rome.

5.  The Sights & Sounds

When I visit a new destination, I love spending the day just soaking up the atmosphere of that area, listening to the sounds, watching people go about their daily lives,  and just being a part of it all for that moment…it can be quite magical!

The Spanish Steps is a great place to people watch!

6.  Become More Adventurous
I don’t know what it is about travel, but it brings out the adventurer in me and gives me a confidence I don’t usually have at home.  Maybe it’s because all of my senses are heightened, but I embrace the challenges of the unknown, become more daring and throw caution to the wind…and I like it!

Skydiving in Queenstown, New Zealand.

6.  Inspires Creativity
Being a Graphic Designer, there are times when the creative juices just aren’t flowing.  Sure, I can look through some magazines and the internet for inspiration, but nothing makes the right side of my brain come alive more than when I’m traveling.  The sensory overload races through my mind, and I can’t get the ideas into my moleskin fast enough!  It’s the architecture, the people, the food, the cityscape, the colors, the sounds, the landscapes, the language, the culture…everything inspires me in new & exciting ways!

It’s easy to be inspired in Venice, Italy!

8.  Best Version of Myself
Travel brings out the best in me.  At home, I’m more of an introvert, but when I travel, I’m more outgoing and I strike up conversations easily with strangers.  I want to be more involved in what’s going on around me, my senses are heightened and so is my spirit, and I genuinely feel like myself.  Travel changes me for the better.  I’d love to bottle up that version of me, take it back home & put it into practice!

The best version of myself…even in Death Valley!

9.  Learning New Languages
Would I have immersed myself into taking an Italian class if I wasn’t going to Italy?  Probably not.  But I loved the language, and I actually flourished when I traveled solo to Italy.  It’s a rewarding feeling being able to speak to a local in their native tongue…and actually make sense!  Now I look forward to learning new languages when I travel abroad.

Chatting with a few Romans  🙂

10.  Capturing Memories
I admit it…I’m a photo junky.  Photography has been a passion of mine since I was a child, and it continues to be a part of my life today especially when I travel.  When I experience the warmth of a different culture, a beautiful sunset on another continent, or the vibrant pulse of an exotic city, I capture these moments through photography so I can look pack at these moments and relive the magic.

Glorious sunset in Holland.

11.  New Experiences
There’s always something new and exciting to experience when you travel.  Even if you didn’t plan on a particular experience, why not give it a try!  It might turn out to be the highlight of your trip!

An invigorating experience…a Turkish bath!

12. To Find Yourself

I didn’t initially start traveling to find myself…but to my surprise, I did just that!  It was traveling solo that helped me discover that I am fully capable of achieving much more than I thought possible.  It shaped me into the person I am today.  If you want to discover something about yourself – just travel!  There’s really no better learning experience.

I also learned that it’s not wise to wear shorts whilst glacier trekking!  LOL!

17.  Rest & Relaxation
You can’t deny the chance to just exhale, recharge the batteries and enjoy the experience at hand.

A little R&R overlooking the Mediterranean.

20.  Planning the Trip
Yes, you read correctly.  I can’t help it – I love planning the trip!  Some people would consider it “work”, but not me.  Sometimes it’s almost as fun as the trip itself (I said ALMOST.)  I love plotting our course, tracking down that amazing online bargain for flights, researching all of the things we want to do & see, booking our stay at some quaint b&b…or maybe rustic lodge…heck, even surfing on someone’s couch, and looking up train & bus schedules.  It’s nice to have things like accommodations & transportation planned, but I’m not the type of person who has to have every second of the day planned…part of the fun of traveling is…

No trip to Paris is complete without a stop at the Eiffel Tower! 

21.  Spontaneity!
You may have your trip all planned out, but a bit of spontaneity may enrich your experience even more!  We weren’t planning on going wine tasting in Orvieto, Italy, but after a trip to the visitor center, we discovered that Custodi Winery was just a bus ride away.  My husband called to confirm the time we’d be there, &  through his broken Italian, he somehow got his point across, and the owners (husband & wife) waited for our arrival.  We were the only ones there, & their daughter (who spoke English) gave us a personal tour of the winery, & we also enjoyed olive oil & wine samples.  She even personally drove us back to the Orvieto hilltop!  We wouldn’t have enjoyed such a pleasant afternoon or filled our bags with yummy wine had we not been open to spontaneity!

Spontaneity took us to Custodi Winery in Orvieto, Italy.

22.  Packing!
I’m not joking!  Ok so I used to hate packing because I would always pack way to much into one suitcase.  It was a chore hauling around this overstuffed suitcase wherever I went, and it lessened the joy of traveling.  One day I saw a backpacker moving around easily and freely with one small pack on his back.  I thought, now there’s a clever guy.  From that moment on, I learned to pack lightly with the bare essentials and clothing that I could mix & match.  Now I look forward to packing to see how “light” my bag can be.

My husband is an expert light packer!
(And packing light helps when you find yourself in confined spaces!)

23. I Feel the Most Alive!
Travel makes me feel alive and reminds me that I have a pulse.

Cruising my way to Ensenada, Mexico.

23. Romance
C’mon…I couldn’t leave that one out.  Whether it be with your honey or maybe a chance encounter on the road, travel does bring out that spark in people.  Travelers are more open to opportunities and adventure, and that is an attractive quality…don’t ya think?  🙂

My husband & I on the Grecian island of Hydra.

25. To Have Fun!
Enough said  😉

Fun in Cannon Beach, Oregon

So that concludes my list of why I love to travel (although that’s just the tip of the iceberg!)    I’d love to hear the reasons why you love to travel.  🙂

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