san francisco bridge

A Little Ditty About Meeting My First Blogger in San Francisco

About two years ago I made a wish that I hadn’t had a chance to fulfill. The wish was this: If I’m ever in the same place as another blogger I know, I’m going to meet them face to face.

What was it…ten years ago that meeting someone from the internet was batshit crazy? The possibility of meeting some psycho perv was a real threat. Now, it’s totally legit to meet up.

san francisco travel

I like to think of my good blogger friends as pen pals. Remember those? A pen pal was someone you talked to like nobody else in your life. The distance and anonymity of it all made it a safe space to share true pieces of yourself.

Well, finally it happened. I met my first blogger.

I was at Dreamforce, one of the biggest user conferences in the country. It was my first time, a strange thing to say being that I’ve been immersed in the B2B marketing world for almost three years. Finally, I had a company that sent me to witness the insanity firsthand.

salesforce dreamforce

It’s funny because I remember talking about Dreamforce with one of my close blogger friends who lives in San Francisco around this time last year. The chaos was amplified for her—just as it is for everyone living in a city already bursting with people—when nearly 200,000 businesspeople invade the streets.

I sent an email to my girl, Jilanne Hoffman, with a subject line she couldn’t refuse…I’m in San Francisco! Coordinating was challenging between our hectic schedules, but we made it work.

dreamforce 2016

And by day three of the conference, I was over all things business. It was the focus from the moment I woke up until I went to sleep at night. At least at home there is some down time, but at a conference like Dreamforce, you’re always on.

I was also over crowds. I’m an honorary extrovert, meaning I worked hard to become one in order to survive the real world. It was clear every afternoon when I dropped everything to escape to my hotel for yoga and some breathing room.

yoga in hotel

In other words, I was more than ready to feel like me again. To hang out with a friend and talk about writing and life in a quiet residential neighborhood where people shopped for groceries on a Wednesday night, instead of cramming into a U2 concert.

Yes, I skipped U2 at Dreamforce to go have chamomile tea with a friend. I told you so…introvert incognito.

oakland bay bridge

What’s crazy is on my way to see Jilanne, I had some serious deja vu in the Uber.

Some of you may recall a post I wrote in the spring last year called 1am in a Cab on a School Night. Strangely, it was one of the most popular posts I’ve ever written on this blog.

This time I was in an Uber instead of a taxi, on a clear San Francisco night instead of a rainy Portland one. I was also in a very different emotional state—last year I was saying goodbye to a wild piece of me, and this year I think was missing that wild piece of me.

portland reindeer sign

But the conversation and soundtrack were just as good. I’ll call the Uber driver what he was…a cool cat named Dwight. He was a native San Franciscan, with the knowledge of the city prevalent in his eyes. And, he had great taste in music.

A song started playing as we began our journey away from the madness of Union Square toward the residential sanctuary of Potrero Hill. He seemed surprised when I wanted to talk beyond the formalities.

I asked: “What song is this?”

Dwight raised his eyebrows: “You like this kind of music, Miss?”

“Love. I love jazz.”

“Well, alright.” He laughed. “It’s John Coltrane. Called Equinox. I always listen to it after a long day. It’s the perfect song because of its cool expansive qualities.”

I smiled. Cool and expansive. That’s all I wanted to feel that night after a long day.

I’ll admit I was a little nervous as I waltzed into a Whole Foods cafe away from the mayhem downtown, and it took me a minute to adjust. I texted Jilanne to let her know I was here, and there she was sitting at a corner table with a glass of wine.

After a welcome hug, I slid into a chair next to Jilanne and it felt like we were chatting in our own real life WordPress comment box. It wasn’t weird, it was comforting actually. Years of virtual conversations meant we already knew each other well enough to skip the small talk—and we only had an hour in our schedules, so we had to make it count.

But I still love the first question Jilanne asked me, her eyes wide: “So what the heck are you doing at Dreamforce?”

dreamforce fun

I laughed. It was a fair question. When we know each other as bloggers, we usually don’t know life’s logistics, like occupations. But honestly in that moment, I didn’t know why I was at the conference.

It definitely seemed out of place to me then as I was meeting a fellow writer at a cafe on a calm evening. Once I was sitting at that table I had shed the “business suit” and the persona that went with it. I was just a writer again in my flare jeans and blouse that mimics floral curtains from the 1960s.

blogging friends

Anyway I won’t rehash our conversation here now, but I will say that Jilanne is just as I imagined her to be—quirky and lovely. If you want to see what I mean, read her post on The Life Enthusiast Chronicles from last year.

That evening talking with a friend was what I needed to return to myself. I left the cafe and climbed into another Uber to head back to my hotel, feeling cool and expansive.

And I made time to hang out with the sea lions before I hopped on the plane back home.

pier 39

Have you ever met a blogger in real life? If not, would you if you had the chance?

wandering venice

The Soul Citizen of Venice Finally Lives Out Her Dream

I’ve had this recurring dream throughout my life where I get lost in the alleys of Venice. This dream started sometime in my early twenties, and I have no idea why.

Was it a movie or a picture that triggered it? I can’t be sure. Maybe I was born with this soul connection that made me an honorary citizen of Venice. A soul citizen, if you will.

things to do in venice

You see, my dreams have been vivid for as long as I can remember—I was the creepy sleepwalker kid that punched my sister if we shared the same bed. I’ve met people in my sleep and never remembered it.

On a positive note, I have seen and felt the most incredible fabrications of reality. And I have a silly habit of “swim flying” in the sky, which is an interesting way to get around.

The only time my dreams were tame was in college, when I was seeing a therapist who doped me up with antidepressants. But those drugs stole my dreams away, left me lost in a fog of apathy instead of the exquisite alleys of Venice.

venice italy travel

When I first met Mr. H, he said: “You’re not depressed. Why are you taking those?”

I said: “I have anxiety.”

He said: “You can beat it without that shit.”

And, he was right.

summer in venice

I got off antidepressants and my dreams returned—sometimes they were night terrors that sent me sprinting across the room in the middle of the night, sometimes they were unconscious explorations that inspired my first novel, and sometimes they were magical and nonsensical, like wandering Venice without purpose.

Yet the crazy dreams were mine, all mine, sensations and visuals my brain conspired to create just for me.

Beyond the dreams, this other Venice thing happened at my wedding over 11 years ago. For those of you that don’t know this fun fact about Britt and Mr. H, we got hitched in Vegas.

Imagine my surprise when my dad gave us a wedding present that we could enjoy right after the ceremony—a gondola ride at the Venetian.

the venetian

Still, we never thought we would see the real deal and we settled for the sparkling chlorinated Venice canals from our wedding day.

Most people would kill to see Venice. As I mentioned in my first Italian travel post, I just didn’t have the bug like everyone else.

venice for couples

When we randomly decided to go to Italy, we did our best to avoid the typical American race across a European country by limiting our stops.

It was a showdown between Cinque Terre and Venice for a day trip from Florence, and Cinque won.

get lost in venice

I had heard negative feedback from other people I knew that went to Venice: It was touristy, pricey, the food sucked. These are all things I later found to be true, including eating overpriced frozen food as our last meal before boarding the train.

Except this espresso didn’t suck…

coffee in venice

And, this chocolate orange cannoli definitely didn’t suck…


But I also feel these things—crazy tourists, high prices, mediocre food—are a given when you go to one of the most fantastic places in the world in the summer.

Hands down, these were the most expensive cappuccinos I’ve ever purchased in my life. The people-watching and live music were pure perfection though.

cafe in venice

That’s why I’m taking the high road with a whimsical perspective on the city so many have visited before me. Because at the end of the day, Venice is TOTALLY a tourist trap.

Exhibit A…

venice clock

There are truly as many pigeons as there are tourists, and sometimes they join forces. Like this young bird woman with a pigeon on top of her hat (crapping on her head, no doubt), dutifully documenting the whole affair with her selfie stick.

Because who would believe her otherwise?

pigeons and venice

But if you really want them, I can sum up my Venice tips right here:

  1. To Avoid Tourists  Don’t visit during peak season. Or, spend the night since the crowds thin out after the last train leaves for the day. But be ready to fork over some bucks for a hotel!
  2. To Avoid Overspending  Don’t go to Venice. Kidding, use the vaporetti (water buses) to see the city the way it’s meant to be seen, and wander around (wear comfy shoes!) for a day trip.
  3. To Avoid Sucky Food  Don’t forget to pack your own food. There is too much portable deliciousness in Italy to play the victim here—plan ahead. Unless money isn’t an option and you can dine at the fancy pants restaurants.

venice canals

Anyway, I’ve never been one to ignore my dreams and I felt a quiet pull inside knowing that Venice was within reach as soon as we arrived in Italy. I felt it strongly in Florence, and even stronger in Cinque Terre.

Fate called on the tour bus back from Cinque, after a long day of hiking and swimming, sunshine and seafood. One of our tour guides was giving Venice tips to pretty much everyone but us.

His advice was always the same: “Just get lost. When you go to Venice, that’s what you do.”

romantic venice

Mr. H turned to me and said what we were both thinking…when will we ever have a chance like this again? The pull was so strong that my heart was ready to explode.

Fortunately there was room on the train the next morning and we saw the fabled place I had dreamed about.


Instead of repeating the gondola ride from our wedding, we splurged on a private water taxi. There wasn’t a huge difference in the price, since both options were astronomical.

The main reason is that we were fortunate to have an amazing opera singing gondolier during our Vegas/Venice trip on our wedding night, a memory we didn’t want to taint in any way. The real-life gondoliers don’t exactly serenade you, and you probably don’t want them to try.

gondola ride
Because Venice is meant to be savored from the water that is slowly reclaiming its earthly beauty, we decided the 15-minute private water taxi ride to St. Mark’s Square was worth the (gulp) 65 Euros.

Truly, it was worth every penny.

water taxi venice

venice water taxi

venice taxi

venice in a day

Sometimes we are linked to a place in the world and there’s no need to understand it. So why not take the chance and see what happens—if anything happens at all.

Nothing spectacular really happened to me. I’m just happy to be a soul citizen of Venice who finally got to live out her dream.

venice alleys

Are you a soul citizen of any place? Or, is there a place you visit over and over for some reason?

P.S. This post wraps up my Italy travels and I hope you all enjoyed coming along. Be sure to check out Rome, Florence, and Cinque Terre if you missed them! Next time, I’ll be back to American Britt.🙂

italian coast

I Left My Heart in Cinque Terre

You know those pictures of the bright dwellings perched becomingly by the sea? It’s like some giant in the sky dropped a handful of sweet candies and decided they were too beautiful to eat, so he left them just as they were.

I never knew that place truly existed. It was too picturesque to be real, another place where people lived and did their laundry, hung it outside to be dried and lightly starched by the sunny salty air.

italy by the sea

To them, the beauty was commonplace and mundane. To me, it was heaven on earth. Plus, seaside kitty with deformed ear. Awwww….

mediterranean cat

Cinque Terre. Five villages on the Mediterranean. Unesco World Heritage Site. The Italian Riviera.

No matter what you call it, it sounds as alluring as it looks.

romantic italy

Finding Our Way to Cinque Terre

Rome was relentlessly sunny, well over 90 degrees for three days. Mind you, one of those afternoons we silly Americans attempted a three-mile run in a park. Sucking back end-of-summer park dirt in your Nikes while everyone else relaxes in the shade with a cold drink is really something—you should try it. (Kidding, don’t.)

Florence played nice, with gentle rain that soothed our sunburns and spirits, making the city even more of a looker at night.

With the promise of sunshine and mild temps lined up in Cinque Terre in the middle of our Italian trip, we were giddy the morning we climbed onto the tour bus to make the trek to the sea.

hotel in cinque terre

It was by chance that we even found our way to Cinque. I was looking for day tours from Florence when those bright dwellings perched by the sea caught my eye. And color me happy, it was a hiking tour!

cinque terre train tunnel

Consumed by enthusiasm, my articulation was worse than usual as I rattled off the idea to Mr. H in what would have made someone else think “perhaps English isn’t her first language.”

At the same moment, Mr. H was coming at me with the same excitement, saying he had an Italy recommendation for us from someone he met.

italy colorful homes by the sea

Cinque Terre” we both said in our pathetic Italian. And, we booked the day-long hiking tour without a second thought.

Freddie Mercury Returns From the Dead

You just never know what you’re going to get when you go on a tour with a bunch of adults. Is it going to be fun? Cheesy as f*ck? Are people going to pretend you don’t exist, or barge into your conversations?

italy train travel

italy by train

We had a two-hour bus ride through Tuscany, a hike, seaside village train-hopping, a boat ride, and then we had to bus it back home. I was majorly skeptical about how the tour company, Walkabout Florence, was going to pull it off.

But, they did.
hiking tours cinque terre

We were lucky to have two incredible tour guides, Giada and Matteo. They not only magically corralled tourists all day, they injected just the right dose of history and jokes, which included our nicknames.

lunch in cinque terre

Mr. H’s nickname was coined at lunch when a waiter asked me to take a picture of them together after gawking at him throughout the entire meal.

The waiter thought Mr. H was Freddie Mercury, back from the dead.

freddie mercury twin

Right after the celebrity photo with our waiter.

Our guides found out, because the guy was pretty damn excited about the chance encounter. He was telling everyone, jabbing them in the sides with his elbow wearing a conspiring smile: “Freddie, eh? Don’t you see it? He’s Freddie Mercury!”

Er…Freddie wasn’t quite this burly, but yeah…TOTALLY!

how to hike cinque terre

Because our Italian tour guides thought me, Freddie’s wife, needed a nickname too, they continued with the music theme. So, I’ve always been a big fan of hers…but…meet Annie Lennox?

cinque terre sea


Hiking, Swimming, Slushies…These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Anyway, the punchy nicknames and unfairly delicious seafood pasta energized us for the hike. Because we were allowed to split off, we hike-loving Portlanders left our group in the dust, working up a nice Italian Riviera sweat to go with our fluffy humid do’s.

(Remember when you guys voted for my worst San Francisco hair last year? The Hair Basket was pretty epic though.)

cinque terre hike

Tame that hair!

hiking trail cinque terre

Bringing back the fro. So fluffy!

Like the hair, everything grows right before your eyes. You can breathe in the freshest rosemary and thyme on the side of the trail, and pick delicious capers when you need a snack.


Unlike hiking in Portland, the people coming from the other direction didn’t say hi, because they weren’t sure which language to speak. Once we passed them, their melodious foreign chatter continued on, transported down the winding dirt trail by the cool breeze.

cinque terre fun

Halfway, at the highest point on the hike, the sparkling view had some competition. Lemon slushies.

One rickety restaurant sat alone, making bank on the thirsty tourists and hikers staggering inside.

cinque terre villages

The reason we high-tailed it through the hike was less about the workout and more about this…

mediterranean swim

Swimming in the Mediterranean had always been on both of our “wow that would be awesome” lists.



cinque terre beaches

When we heard rumors about seafood cones, we crossed that one off the list too. Check.

cinque terre food

The Cinque Terre You See Online is a Sham

You may have noticed my Cinque photos look different from others you have seen. That’s because—except for the lunch image above, which was too dark—I didn’t “enhance” these images, not even the header.

vineyards cinque terre

The first thing I thought when I stepped off the bus and caught my first glimpse was: Aren’t the buildings supposed to be a lot brighter?

Nope. They’re actually softer, practically pastel. And Cinque Terre in its natural state—like most things—is even more stunning.

relaxing in italy

It’s funny how saturated our world has become with well…everything.

Then we make it a point to saturate the world even more with cool effects and filters in the photographs we share. We try to make things seem more perfect by photoshopping out whatever it is that is taking away from the shot.

kissing in cinque terre

This is one of the first blogs I’ve ever published where I didn’t touch the photos. It doesn’t always work, but Cinque is an easy subject.

When I first saw this image, I considered not using it because my tag was sticking out of my shirt.

cinque terre italy

Then I thought how ridiculous that was. It was a real moment in time—no effects, no filters.

An Unexpected Pit Stop in Venice

That evening the bus back to Florence was very different from the ride out to Cinque Terre. A day of bonding by the beautiful sea can break down anybody, even the most stubborn adults.

With the navy Tuscan scenery flowing effortlessly in front of our heavy eyes, everyone was talking about their next stop…Venice.

espresso in cinque terre


It wasn’t on our itinerary. We had chosen Cinque Terre as our one day trip from Florence to avoid racing from place to place. Mr. H and I turned to each other, shrugged, and said…

What the hell? When will be here again?

Stay tuned for the last gorgeous leg of our Italy trip to Venice. You can read about Florence and Rome if you missed those wonderful cities.

florence italy

Beautiful Florence and the Renaissance Butt Movement

Any time I mentioned that we were heading to Italy for a vacation, people wanted to know all the non-gory details. I dutifully listed off the travel itinerary in order:


Ah, Rome!


Florence?! Oh, Florence is so beautiful!

florence windows

It was interesting, because everyone that had visited Florence called it beautiful. Nobody said that about Rome.

Rome has plenty of other descriptive words to attempt to do it justice—”beautiful” not being the typical reaction, because its stunning qualities leave us at a loss for words.

So, I wondered what it was about Florence that made it unanimously beautiful. Being that it was a mere 90-minute high-speed train ride away from Rome, we thought…why in the hell wouldn’t we go there?

train to florence

I kicked back and watched the Tuscan countryside whizzing by, with the perfect soundtrack to complement the picturesque scene, courtesy of the great Billie Holiday.

Side note that Grandes del Jazz 8 is one of my all-time favorite Billie albums, and though I listen to it religiously in the bathtub, I made an exception for the Florence train ride.

beautiful florence

I felt the energy from Rome slide out of me onto the train flooring. I imagined it seeping onto the tracks before being swallowed up by the rich hills, turned into a sharp herb or fat produce, and eventually—a mind-blowing meal.

I sighed loudly. The beauty had already begun…the butts came later.

WHY I Call florence Adorably Beautiful

When I first saw the city, I didn’t think Florence was beautiful. I thought it was adorably beautiful.

Perhaps I was jaded after being in the powerful grip of Rome for three days, but the city was a lot smaller than I expected. Still the culture, history, and food seem to burst from the pocket-sized city limits.

florence church

There are colors that I find adorable and they graced some of the most intricate architecture I have ever seen.

The Duomo di Firenze reminded me of The Nutcracker, Act 2 specifically in the Land of Sweets. I kept aiming my camera at the church to catch the Sugar Plum Fairy pas de bourree by a window, but sadly it never happened.

florence streets

Since we used Florence as a travel base for Cinque Terre and Venice, we didn’t get to see as much of the city as we would have liked. There are so many lovely nooks and crannies that I imagine anyone could spend plenty of time soaking in the culture and food.

Speaking of, the food (oh man, the dessert!) was excellent in Florence. Not a single place, even in the tourista zone, disappointed us.

However if you’re short on time like we were, there is really only one food mecca you need to visit…Mercato Centrale. Spend hours there, share and try everything—you won’t regret it.

florence dessert

I know, I know. Where’s the art already?

Now don’t bring out the pitchforks, but I’m not much of a Renaissance art buff. Give me Hitler’s bunker or a Communist museum and I’m the inappropriate weirdo that jumps for joy. This can be a bit of a problem in Florence—because, good morning—Renaissance art is kind of a big deal.

But, there is other art for the taking…plenty of it! Unfortunately the dedicated exploration day we had in Florence was a no-go with the two attractions we wanted to see.

Mr. H is a huge Dali fan, so we hunted down an exhibit that was supposed to be happening—supposed to be. Alas, we found an empty outdoor gallery. I won’t show you the picture, because it was too depressing.

florence bridge

Nice hair. : )

The Museo Galileo was closed by the time we arrived from Rome and got settled in our apartment—at 1pm on a Tuesday. Sure, why not?

The Florence art gods seemed to be playing with us and we were sick and tired of it. And, that’s how we ended up in Poop Corridor.

Poop Corridor and the Italian Toilet Debacle

Feeling that it was blasphemous not to go into at least one museum, we paced in front of the art mothership, Uffizi Gallery, while plugging our noses.

Why? Well, in front of the glorious museum, it smelled like shit. Assuming it was an “old city sewage in the summer” kind of deal, but I didn’t inquire.

I felt bad for Machiavelli, who lives in Poop Corridor for all eternity. Assuming by this pose, that he’s masterminding a prison break with the other statues.

machiavelli statue

Being that the wait was well over an hour we decided we just couldn’t do it. So, we bolted away from Poop Corridor and wandered into Palazzo Vecchio, because…

1) The obligatory Florence rooftop shot seemed attainable from inside.

florence thunderstorm

Up yours, ominous thunderstorm! You won’t ruin our Florence vacation. You will make our rooftop images even more beautiful. Muah haha!

2) Alright truthfully, we needed to use the loo.

I will digress here for a moment by declaring that the Italian bathroom culture both intrigued and horrified me, and when I got home, I had to research the subject (thankfully, I’m not alone in this declaration).

Trying to find a public bathroom was freaking impossible in both Rome and Florence. It’s truly a great business model, because you have to buy something from a cafe to use the WC.

You might think this loo will somehow be nicer than the public toilets you’ve squatted over in some midwestern park, but it won’t be. Ladies…don’t count on a lid. You’re better off paying for a museum admission as these toilets are bearable.

Or better yet, see if you can get invited into some Italian’s home, since unlike public toilets, here everything is immaculate. Bonus, an astounding 97% of Italians have bidets in their homes for those who are into that sort of thing.

Okay, anyway the other reason we ended up at Palazzo Vecchio…

3) This beautiful angel fountain in the entryway sucked us right in, which of course didn’t help the aforementioned loo situation.

florence architecture

What I did love is that you don’t even need to go inside one of the many, many museums to enjoy the art. Incredible statues greet you everywhere as you’re walking around the city, and this is an example that I would love to see more cities following across the world.

I understand that not all art can survive outdoors, but the kind that can should be available to the public, without an admission ticket.

The Moment You’ve All Been Waiting for…Butts

If you’ve made it this far, nice work! Don’t be bashful—if you just wanted to read another “Florence is beautiful” post, you certainly wouldn’t have clicked on this one.

So, butts. I’ll never apologize for the observations I make, because hey, I’m a writer. If a writer saw the world in a remotely sane way, any reader would be bored out of their mind. Right, right?

medici palace

Somewhere in the Palazzo Vecchio, I came to this startling conclusion about the art in Florence…a fascination with butts.

Horse butts, angel butts, god butts, child butts, man butts, but…no lady butts, just tatas. Fun game: see how many butts you can spot in the above picture!

florence attractions

I turned to Mr. H, my forehead wrinkled as I stared at yet another floor to ceiling painting with this common theme. Even as a grown ass woman, I still don’t understand how to use an inside voice, so my observation echoed throughout the museum:

“Hey, did you notice there are a lot of butts in here?!” (The “butts in here” part was the echo, I swear it.)

florence art

I threw my hand over my mouth right after it escaped. Whoopsie.

Distasteful loud-mouthed American woman, some might say. Luckily, my man continues to love me for better or worse after 11 years of marriage.

romantic florence

So, Mr. H laughed and nodded. “Yeah, babe. There are a lot of butts.”

See? Actually here, read this article called A Brief History of Butts in Art, so I appear smarter than I actually am.

Florence Brought Out our Ass Side as Well

Because I just went from the no-frills toilet discussion to my compelling observation about Renaissance era butts, I’m going to take the ass idea a little further and say that we acted like complete asses while we were in Florence too.

Not really sure what got into us. Butt inspiration was everywhere, so when in Florence…

statue pose

turtle statue florence

gold turtle

I can explain…these are our turtle faces.

museum fun

florence lions

florence activities

All butt jokes aside, the time we spent in Florence was truly awesome, and I have nothing but nice things to say about the city and the people there.

The two nights we came stumbling back from the train station to our apartment after long days exploring, we always felt at home. It’s a rare place that can make a weary traveler feel that way in only a few days.

florence at night

Maybe that’s a hidden part of Florence’s charm, beyond the obvious. Maybe that’s what really makes everyone say it’s beautiful.

Missed the Rome blog last week? You can read it here if you’re still in the Italian mood. Onward to Cinque Terre next time!


They Call it The Eternal City Because Rome Gets Inside You

Rome. Just the name of the city spoken or written does something all on its own. It gives us a rush, a sensory high that hits hard, leaving us in a state of wanting.

The Rome I knew was from textbooks, lectures I yawned through because I’ve never been the ancient history kind of girl. Later in life a predictable attraction with Rome happened through films, as the city’s boisterous seduction came at me through the screen.

Want to listen to this blog instead? Hear Britt butcher Italian (and some English) by pressing play…

…OR, if that idea terrifies you, carry on!

scooter in rome

I began to wonder what the real Rome would be like. Truthfully, I thought it was overrated and it was never high on my wanderlust list.

Seemed like everyone I knew had been there or wished to be there, and at the very mention of the city, a whimsical daze fell upon them as their busy minds surrendered to the alluring distraction.

“Rome is the city of echoes, the city of illusions, and the city of yearning.”
– Giotto di Bondone

rome wedding

After a layoff this year, for some crazy reason I knew Rome was the place I needed to escape to. I wanted to see the city they called “eternal,” because I’ve always liked that word. To me, it means surviving beautifully.

That’s what I wanted to do after a rough year. Survive beautifully—to scrape up a little grace and live on.

rome river

But, I wasn’t prepared for Rome’s everlasting pull.

Days later, typing up this blog post in my robe on my couch—with the Portland drizzle letting me know there’s not a chance in hell for an Indian Summer—I can still feel the golden sun soaking into my eager bones, see the woman’s bare olive arms wrapped around her man’s torso on a zippy scooter, hear the honking melodies and the jeering Italian conversations that sound like fighting when they’re only discussing the next delicious meal.

When you visit Rome, it’s not about what you do. It’s about how you savor it.

selfie sticks in europe

How to Savor Rome’s History

While I’m more in the “live like a local” camp while traveling, tourist attractions are attractive for a reason. In Rome the exploration options are endless, and you will turn a corner to catch a random site that will stop you right in your tracks.

Choose your top must-see site and a few secondary sites—but don’t choose them all. Be sure to spread out your adventures, so you can truly soak in the majesty.

If you’re cramming in too many attractions, you can’t fully digest the experience and you’re being counterproductive to the reason you’re traveling in the first place.

colosseum metro

For us, the Colosseum was our top must-see site and we splurged on a VIP tour with Walks of Italy to be able to see the underground and third tier. Included in the tour were the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill to round out a very hot summer afternoon that was chock-full of tales and tidbits over the course of 3.5 hours.

walks of italy colosseum

The tour guide, Angela, was cute as a button and she managed to keep us entertained and energized—despite the fact that we all felt like we were being slow-cooked in a fine coating of ancient dirt.

colosseum history

How do you know if you’re truly savoring Rome’s history? You will get emotional.

palatine hill rome

I teared up multiple times while we were walking across the ruins. I wasn’t prepared for it, how well everything was preserved, the painstaking details, the jaw-dropping size of it all.

These ancient sites should get under your skin a bit. Because if you stop and feel the history right beneath your feet, it’s pretty damn humbling.


Secondary sites for us were more of a drive-by rather than racing through the interior of each. The Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, the Mouth of Truth, and the Spanish Steps all fell under this category.

pantheon rome

trevi fountain rome

mouth of truth rome

Be prepared for a letdown, because invariably there will be a site under restoration. Case in point, me pouting in my new pretty dress I wore just for the Spanish Steps, my illusions shattered before the Plexiglas.

spanish steps rome

How to Savor Rome’s Food

The main focus of our Italy trip (and pretty much any trip for that matter) is food. While it’s easy to get wrapped up in Rome’s bountiful history, you are doing yourself and the city a disservice by merely treating food as fuel.

You’ve probably heard warnings about the tourist traps, with English menus and the salesy host casting his wide net in front of the expansive patio to see how many hungry tourists he can catch. This is all true.

piazza navona fountain

And—she admits with her eyes glued to the floor—we ate at a couple of these restaurants when we were too desperate to care. As expected, we paid extra and the food was so-so, but thankfully nothing was terrible.

On a positive note, the service was decent enough and the scenery and people-watching were terrific, since most of these restaurants have commandeered Rome’s historical center.

So, my dear foodies, you know what to do.

Though your English-speaking will be far from coddled, head to the neighborhoods. Feel free to gawk at everyone’s laundry on display, which for some unexplainable reason is completely mesmerizing.


We stayed in an amazing AirBnB in Pigneto, a Southeast neighborhood they call Rome’s Brooklyn. (Huge shout-out goes to Fabrizia and Antonio for being the best hosts…EVER!)

Though several of the restaurants were closed for the August holiday, we found great cappuccino at Bottiglieria and even greater mortadella sandwiches at Dar Ciriola, which thankfully opened on the last day of the month so we could try their yummy food before traipsing off to Florence.

dar ciriola

The Jewish Ghetto should also be a non-negotiable stop, because believe it or not, Italian food lovers—you will be totally sick of pasta and pizza after a few days.

Thanks to our hero Anthony Bourdain, we were armed with restaurant knowledge to avoid any mishaps, and enjoyed a mind-blowing lunch at Nonna Betta. The fried artichoke looked as beautiful as it tasted, and everything else we tried, from the fish of the day to the potatoes, made us smile like absolute fools.

jewish ghetto

Where’s the pasta, you ask? Well…

It took us a while to find pasta worthy of a photo after several misses in the tourista zone. But a few blocks away from the Spanish Steps, we hunted down one of Rome’s classics, Cacio e Pepe—a seemingly simple spaghetti dish with olive oil, pecorino cheese, and black pepper that will move you when it’s done right.

italian pasta

I can’t tell you which restaurant this lovely pasta came from, because we paid with cash and I was too spaghetti drunk to remember. Like we did, you’ll just have to try all the pasta in Rome until you find the right one.

rome travel

How to Savor Rome’s Gelato

Not all gelato is created equal, so I challenge you to try as many Gelateria as you can. I didn’t think there was a such a thing as lackluster gelato, until I had a forgettable fruity cup near the Colosseum.

The one tourista zone you will find excellent gelato at though is Trevi Fountain. Competition is fierce here and each quaint shop is hell-bent on wooing you with a cheerful canvas of creamy, colorful gelato piles.

You will seriously be dazzled by the window displays, because they are like art installations.


Gelato isn’t supposed to be eaten inside, as it is designed to be enjoyed while you walk around the city. Choose your weapon—cup or cone—but I vote cone, for the guaranteed sense of childish joi de vivre.

trevi fountain at night

If you struggle with doing multiple things at once, find a perch next to a fountain to slowly devour your gelato. You’ll know you’re savoring your gelato properly when your hands are sticky from the drips that overcame your flimsy napkin.

Favorite flavors for me: mint chocolate, tiramisu, and nutella. And yes…I’ve been having gelato withdrawals since coming home.

the eternal city

Rome is really too much for words, so I won’t go on anymore. For me, the hidden layers inside the city competed easily with the most popular attractions.

If you don’t know what I mean, walk into the smallest cafe and drink a proper cappuccino standing at the bar. Lick the most incredible milky foam off your lips, listen to the lyrical Italian language mingling effortlessly with the city’s energy, and then you’ll understand.

Rome just has a way. It gets inside you.

Stay tuned for upcoming posts on Florence, Cinque Terre, and Venice. Because there is no way to fit all of the gorgeous photos and videos from this trip into a blog, check out my Instagram this month for more on Italy.

P.S. If any of you crazy kids decide to listen to the audio version of this blog, I’d love to hear what you think! It’s all part of my “less screen time” campaign.🙂