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The Best of 2018

Instagram Best92018 gmcguireinrome

Did the last 12 months feel like 10 years to anyone else? I have always been an information and news fanatic but one of my 2019 goals is to spend less time clicking and scrolling and more time on thoughtful journalism and the stack of books on my nightstand. 

This year we will spend a quiet New Years here in Rome and then we will head north to Venice to spend a few days in my favorite winter destination drinking spritz's, seeing friends and exploring the lagoon islands. 

Here is the 2018 edition of my favorite way of looking back on the year borrowed from my pal Smitten Italy.
I would love to hear what is on your reading list and what you have planned for 2019.


Italy Christmas Gift Guide 2018 {Gillian's Lists of Links}

Spelacchio Rome 2017

Spelacchio Rome 2017

Spelacchio Rome 2017

It's that time of year again and Rome is again struggling with a Christmas tree disaster

All jokes aside, I have spent the last year really trying to shop small. From my grocery shopping to vacationing close to home I have worked to spend my money in places owned and operated by individuals and families instead of corporations. In that spirit here are a few gift ideas that support artists and small businesses. 


7 Pictures You Need to Take in Rome

7 Pictures You Need to Take in Rome

7 Pictures You Need to Take in Rome

I have lived in Rome for over a decade and still, I literally stop and gasp at its beauty. Don't mistake me for starry-eyed expat entranced by ochre buildings that glow in warm Roman light or the charm of a flirty Ciao. I am well aware that this is a city legendary for its chaos and dysfunction but I choose to focus on the pretty. Take my advice and do the same., Whether you are here for a week or a lifetime, it really does make daily life here worth the challenges. One thing that keeps me focused on the positives in snapping pictures of my adopted home. My phone and multiple hard drives are full of thousands and thousands of images. I recently noticed there were some places and things that I had more shots of than others. To help you narrow things down the next time you are out with your camera, here is my advice for the 7 pictures you need to take in Rome. 


La Vendemmia {The Wine Harvest on the Island of Ponza}

La Vendemmia {The Wine Harvest on the Island of Ponza}

La Vendemmia {The Wine Harvest on the Island of Ponza}

I wake up three nights in a row to loud crashes of thunder and electric bolts of lightning that feel like they are landing just under my window. I like the drama even though each violent shudder probably means another change of my plans. I had returned to Ponza to help with la vendemmia, the annual wine harvest. It seems the wine harvest is subject to the whims of the weather, much like life on this island that sits in the Tyrrhenian Sea midway between Rome and Naples. 


Lunch in the Castelli Romani {Hosteria Amedeo}

Where to Eat in the Castelli Romani

Where to Eat in the Castelli Romani

Just outside of Rome is a series of cool, green, villages that are collectively referred to as the Castelli Romani. Here you will find volcanic lakes and Roman ruins and miles of vineyards that produce DOC wines. 

Earlier this summer I was invited to lunch at Hosteria Amedeo, in the town of Monte Porzio Catone. Winding through the country roads it is difficult to imagine that this bucolic setting is only about an hour away from Rome. 


August in Rome - 2018 Edition

August in Rome

August in Rome

August in Rome is a strange month. The city is still crowded, but virtually all of the Romans have left. Italians traditionally head to the sea for at least a few days of summer vacation but I happen to love staying in town. We do spend weekends at the beach or in the country, but most of the month finds us enjoying the empty piazzas and quiet streets, plotting a September getaway.  

If you are in Rome this August, click on over to my updated post for information on where to eat and what's open in town. 


City Guide: New Orleans {What to Do and Where to Eat, Drink and Shop}

New Orleans Travel Guide 2018

A long long time ago I used to spend a lot of time in New Orleans. Before I was married, before the storm, before children.

I went with a high school best pal, tagging along to a conference my father was attending. We stayed at the Hotel Monteleone, thought we were sophisticated eating dinner at Brennan’s, drank hurricanes at Pat O Brien's with rock stars and behaved about as responsibly as you would expect two 17 years old in New Orleans to behave.

For a few years when we were newlyweds, Mark's project in Niger was managed by Tulane University. We came for work meetings and to see friends in graduate school and spent late nights at Cafe Brasil and the Spotted Cat.

And then somehow, tragically, twenty years went by without a single day in New Orleans. I often say it is a place I am always homesick for even though I have never lived there. For part of Noah’s graduation celebration, we decided to show him this town we both love so very much. If you love Italy, particularly places like Rome, Naples, and Venice then you will love New Orleans. So start planning your visit with my guide that is full of my advice on what to do and where to eat, drink and shop in New Orleans.


Da Gino al Parlamento {Eat Like a Roman}

Da Gino al Parlamento, Restaurants in Rome

The friends that an only child make can become more like a family member. When Noah was younger there were always kids in the house playing music, spending holidays and having late night chats with me in the kitchen. These kids are now all young adults beginning their own adventures and scattered about in far-flung corners of the world like Bangkok, Seoul, Geneva, London, and Austin. Luckily, like family, they keep in touch, come home to visit and invite you to lunch.

Given the choice, I will (almost) always pick a simple traditional restaurant over a newer flashier one, so I was thrilled to try Noah’s pal Rolando’s suggestion, Da Gino.


Isola di Ventotene: A Guide to One of Italy's Secret Islands

Guide to the Island of Ventotene

Guide to the Island of Ventotene

There is just something about an island. Italy is full of them. Sicily and Sardegna are the biggest, Procida is the Instagram darling, and you already know how I feel about Ponza. Ventotene is rarely mentioned in the roll call.

Located off the coast south of Rome, midway between Ischia and Ponza, Ventotene was where emperors banished troublesome women and dictators imprisoned their political enemies.
 Windswept and isolated and once known as Pandateria, today it is the perfect escape from city life. Completely absent is the frantic buzz that you find on Capri or even the Roman chic vibe of Ponza.


How to do Nothing on the Amalfi Coast

Where to stay and where to eat in Praiano, Amalfi Coast

Where to stay and where to eat in Praiano, Amalfi Coast

While Boston, Cape Cod, and New York hunker down for their third Nor’Easter in as many weeks, here in Rome after our brief and beautiful snowfall, spring is in the air. I decided to do some digital spring cleaning and wiped twelve months of images off my laptop hard drive, safely storing them away in the cloud and on an external drive making space for this year's travel adventures. 

Weeks in wintery Venice, lazy beach lunches, island vacations, my daily walk to my yoga studio here in Rome, all swept away like when I fold and stack my winter sweaters in neat rows into clear Container store bins. One place I realized I had forgotten to tell you about here on the blog was trip I took to Praiano last August. This trip was all about doing as little as possible. I highly recommend you do the same and cut out about half of your vacation must-do list. Follow my lead for a very relaxing time on the Amalfi Coast. Here is my guide to how to do nothing on the Amalfi Coast.


Venetian Islands {48 Hours on Burano}

Where to stay and eat on Burano, Venice

Where to stay and eat on Burano, Venice

The island of Burano is no secret. Its candy-colored houses and rustic fishing boats lining the narrow canals have no doubt shown up on your Instagram feed at some point. What you may not know is that you can spend the night here and discover that there is so much more to this island than a quick day trip can show you.

Mark and I recently spent two nights at Casa Burano and discovered an entirely different place than we had seen on two previous short visits. In the mornings and evenings, the island is almost deserted. On a foggy November Saturday night, it was zombie apocalypse deserted.

Casa Burano not a hotel per se. It is what in Italian is called an Albergo Diffuso. This means that there are properties scattered throughout the island. Think of it as a very chic Airbnb.There is 24-hour service if you need it, but you have the key to a room in one of those colorful little houses and complete freedom to discover the island. The five traditional island houses have all been renovated with a sleek Italian style and our bed was literally so comfortable we took a picture and plan on buying one for our home in Rome!

If you are looking for an extra special experience in a very special place, book a winter night or two on the island of Burano and discover its charms that extend far beyond what few sunny summer hours can give. Keep reading for a few pointers on how to make the most of your island exploring. 


The Best of 2017


2017 was a challenging year. It felt like the entire world shifted on its axis. It was a year that required staying informed and taking action

I had an abundant year, filled with travel, work, family and friends for which I am unendingly grateful. 

I love the tradition borrowed from my pal A Merry Feast, so here is a brief look back at my 2017. I would love to hear about your highs (and lows) and what you have planned for 2018.