Classic Italy: Venetian Style

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Gondolas at Midday

Italy – what’s not to love about this alluring European country? Steeped in culture, history and tradition, this is one place that keeps me coming back for more. Why? There are many reasons, but perhaps the biggest draw is that I can rely on her to charm me, to sweep me off my feet, striken by her crumbling beauty time after time. And let us not forget the food – the glorious, glorious food! Every time I sink my teeth into a crispy cannoli, I have died and gone to heaven. Perfetto! To me, Italy is the epitome of the Europe that once was. Old world opulence, enormous power and wealth, struggle and strife are woven into the fabric of today’s Italy. And, no city serves as a better reminder of a majestic, lavishly wealthy past than Venice.

No, I am not trying to step on Rome’s toes here. The magnitude of the empire’s wealth and power is without question, but the Venetians deserve a spotlight, too. Behind the commercial facade of romantic…and, ahem, outrageously expensive… gondolas and their operatic-singing Gondoliers, you’ll find a city desperately hanging on to the story of its past. Literally. Every building, every bridge, every piazza is marked by the passage of time. Crumbling plaster in a rainbow of jewel tones gives way to lackluster brick and structural wooden beams. Weathered bridges are stained with green moss, and street tiles are loose and cracked. A once white-framed window with its graceful curves is chipped and slightly dull. And, as if the obvious wear and tear wasn’t enough, this manmade canal city made up of several islands is sinking.

 Crumbling Beauty
Crumbling Beauty

Yet, Venice stands proud. Like a peacock flashing his most impressive plumage, Venice is alive with color and splendour. Getting lost in the labyrinth of canals and unmarked streets is a delight. There’s almost no point in taking a map; getting lost is a guarantee. But that’s fine by me because this is one of my favorite places to simply wander. I need time to take in the smallest detail when I’m here – the frosted pink glass in the lanterns of Piazza San Marco, laundry drying on the line in a quiet canal alley, the reflection of water on a bridge as it glistens in the afternoon sun. There are the iconic stars of every guide book, too – the majestic Rialto Bridge, the true grandness of the Grand Canal, and the ornate Venetian masks that are on parade even when it’s not Carnavale season. Venice may be old, withering, and even sinking, but I think this makes its beauty all the more romantic and quintessentially Italian.

Pink glass lanterns of San Marco

The great news is that all of this can be seen in one weekend. Venice is quite a small city. But, I don’t want to rush myself, of course. It’s not the Italian way. So, I find a small cafe to refuel with a caffè machiatto midmorning. Later on, I relax in a traditional osteria enjoying a spritz and quality time with great friends. What might have started as a quick bite to eat turns into hours of wining and dining on simple Italian dishes made from the freshest ingredients. Did I mention how much I love Italian food?

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In Search of the Little Things

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Happy Hour
Lounging poolside on the bay

I’m sitting on the balcony at my temporary home in South Beach, drinking a Corona and watching a subtle sunset over the bay. The sky is painted in hues of soft pinks and oranges, and each time I look up from my computer screen I find them slipping away to dull greys.
It’s easy to get absorbed into this show mother nature displays each evening. I often refer to it as my favorite time of day, the time just before twilight when the world seems to glow in technicolor. Like when Dorothy first lays her eyes upon Oz, I’m reawakened to the colors of the world and I often find myself running for the camera.

Observing the evening skies in Miami is just one of the many small moments I’m doing my best to savor as this summer zips by. To me, these small moments are what make an experience real. They make a lasting impression when the excitement of a grand adventure begins to fade to the background. There’s no doubt this summer will be fast and furious with no shortage of excitement. With several long haul flights booked, indulging in a 5-star wining and dining weekend in Lake Como, experiencing the glitz and glamour of South Beach, and treking across exotic Thailand and Vietnam, this summer promises unforgettable experiences. It’s my personal goal to discover what lies beneath the surface of each adventure.

The first week of summer vacation I found myself in Lake Como, Italy just outside of Milan. The Kohlhoff family had reunited once again, but what brought us to the lake this time was a cousin’s wedding. A wedding for which no expense had been spared. Wth a fairy tale ceremony and blowout reception held at Casta Diva Villa and a brunch held at the Villa d’Este (yes, Mr. Clooney is an esteemed client), I can say with confidence that I might never experience a weekend quite as special as this again. While attending a wedding fit for a celebrity was unique, my savory moments were found in, what else, the food! But, let’s face it, there’s really no moment that surpassed another on this trip. It’s Italy afterall. Always spectacular.

Fast forward five days and I’ve landed in Miami. Returning to the States is always a little strange at first. However, I immediately found Miami to be comfortable. Why? For starters it’s a Spanish speaking beach town not unlike Barcelona. People are out to see and be seen no matter the time of day. People are casual beachgoers by day and raging partiers by night, and as a visitor who’s still green to how life works here, I have to admit it’s awfully tempting to take part. Jeff’s boss, Michi, has already taken very good care of us and his roommate seems to know just about everyone in this town. So, what’s the one small thing I’ve noticed? In Miami it seems that life is all about who you know. Hmmm, this is going to be good.