One of the first experiences Jordan and I had in Sicily was visiting an agriturismo. At the time, I don’t think I fully understood what an agriturismo really is (we were visiting for Maddie’s birthday). So, we recently paid another visit to Murgo with our friends Rachel and Aaron. This post is all about the agriturismo experience; one you won’t want to pass up if you visit Italy!
So, what is an agriturismo? Basically, agriturismi (plural) are working farmhouse Bed & Breakfasts (e.g. “farm-stays”). That is, an agriturismo is an independently-owned farm that you can stay in while visiting Italy. Thus, the owners of the “hotel” or agriturismo, are primarily farmers and your room is in the farmhouse or somewhere along the grounds. This all sounds very “unofficial,” however, agriturismi are legitimate businesses and some can be quite fancy! If you want to know the basic historical rundown, essentially, the Italian government began providing tax relief for family farms that opened their doors to visitors in 1985. However, to be legally considered an agriturismo, more income must be generated from farm activities than the B&B.
I have to admit, I have not actually stayed overnight at an agriturismo. Perhaps we will do this later in Tuscany! However, there are so many near our home that I have made several visits for what I consider to be the best part – the food. As they are working farms, the food is local (most from the farm) and AMAZING!! We have been to several agriturismi, and the food has ranged from 30 to 50 euros per person. This includes all courses of a meal. The menu is pre-planned. Some agriturismi serve meals family style (like Murgo) or individually (like Barone di Villagrande). Some include full bottles of wine or wine tastings from the farm’s winery. It all just depends on where you go!
The one thing that I must note is that agriturismi are generally not conveniently located. Since they are working farms, they are usually out in the country. Thus, transportation to-and-from may be difficult to coordinate. Therefore, planning ahead is essential (I always reserve, even for the meal). However, they agriturismi I have been to have been 100% worth the trouble!!
I snapped a few shots of our HUGE meal at Murgo so you can see what 35€ got us (spoiler: a lot!!!) We also spent some time casually wandering around the grounds with Rachel + AJ, so I’ve also included a few shots from our impromptu photoshoot. Enjoy!
Jordan and I REALLY wanted to go skiing on Mount Etna, but we honestly had no idea where or how (remember the Christmas eve eruption?!). Even with Google translate, I wasn’t able to find much information online, so I decided to share the information I obtained here.
We chose to ski at Etna Nord because we had friends going there on the same day. The pin to the ski lift area is here. If the pin doesn’t work for you, simply use Google maps and type in “Etna Nord Chairlift” HA!
When you get to the ski area, it costs 3€ to park. After parking, you can walk over to the little huts and rent your gear.
I rented skis and Jordan rented a snowboard. You can also rent a sled and go sledding there. Both rentals were 20€ each (I’m not sure of the cost of a sled). Once you have your ski/board, walk over to the lift and purchase a lift ticket. The ticket is 30€ and reduces in price after 12:30.
Jordan and I rented our gear from different outfitters. I preferred the one I wandered into AND they spoke English. Big pro for me. The shop owner also told me I could call her to check the conditions before driving up. If you’d like to call, her information is: Baita Mareneve (shop name) Phone: 3478546266
Also offered are shops with food and a small lounge area. The rental shops also appear to rent apparel and other items of interest. They also sell items like gloves, hats, goggles, etc. There are quite a few shops to select from. With that being said, this is not a typical resort that you would find in the US — you should plan to spend most of your time on the slopes.
I have never been skiing at Etna Sud! Being totally transparent here. I am providing this information just because I know you CAN ski on Etna Sud and if that’s more convenient for you, here is a website that might help. I chose Etna Nord over Etna Sud due to views (but from what I can find, it looks like the skiing is better too).
If you snowboard, you can rent a board from MWR for $25/weekend. MWR also offers ski trips. If you decide to go on your own, chains on tires are required from November through April. We did not use chains (neither did most anyone else) and were totally fine. We do have a four-wheel drive vehicle though, so I would suggest at least having them in your trunk.
It takes approximately 1.5 hours to travel from Marinai to Etna Nord. I’d recommend arriving a few minutes prior to opening (9AM). I believe the resort closes around 4PM.
The drive and entire experience was lovely! I highly recommend going up at least once while you’re here!!
Needless to say, 2018 was a HUGE year for us that was full of exciting change! The moment that topped it all off was our move overseas from Virginia to Sicily, Italy in February. So much has happened over the last 12 months, I thought it would be fun to relive the best of 2018!
I really loved going back through all of my photographs from this year and reliving so many memories! So, without further ado, here is a recap of my 2018 including some of my favorite memories:
The Best of 2018
My life has changed in so many ways over this past year, reflecting back on it all is really actually quite surreal. I think my biggest takeaway from this past year is that you never know where life is going to take you. As a person who was extremely “type-A” for so long, stepping back and allowing life to take over a little bit has helped me to realize that sometimes the best things that happen to us are the unplanned ones. I’ve also developed an even greater sense of YOLO (you only live once, right?!), that I’m a little bit overwhelmed with the fact that I will never get to see or do all the things I want to. So, for 2019, I aim to be more present in everyday life; to enjoy the little moments just as much as the big ones!
Zoe and I met during the SAWS Pet Appreciation Day event which was held in my local community last month. I was photographing people and their dogs in the “kissing booth” and Zoe was my very first customer! So, it was quite fitting that she is also my very first family session client in Sicily!
Zoe, her husband Nick, and their daughter Scarlett are (sadly, for me!) moving back to the US next month. They wanted a way to say farewell to Sicily and commemorate their time living on the island. What better way to do that than with an epic photoshoot overlooking the stunning Sicilian countryside?!
The Costellos are truly such a lovely family and little Scarlett couldn’t be more adorable, teeter-tottering around with her sea blue eyes.
Thank you so much for trusting me to capture your family for this very special photoshoot! Best wishes for a safe journey to Florida!
So you might be thinking… “Wait, I thought stromboli was a food.” Well, it is, but it’s also an island off of the coast of Sicily. Kind of like Turkey, you know?
Anyway, Jordan had an unexpected three-day weekend, so instead of just hanging around the house, we decided to check out the Aeolian Islands. The Aeolian Islands: Vulcano, Lipari, Salina, Panarea, Stromboli, Filicudi and Alicudi, each have their own unique features. When deciding where to go, we read about each island and looked up their main “attractions” online and in a Sicily travel guide we own. When we learned that you could hike up to the top of a volcano AND see it explode, we decided Stromboli would be our first stop.
As a side note, I can’t overstate the utility of buying actual travel guide BOOKS and not just researching what to do online. They are soooo helpful.
To get to Stromboli, we drive north to Milazzo. Milazzo is located in the north-eastern “corner” of Sicily. It took us about 1.5 hours – granted we left home around 5AM, so there was virtually no traffic. Once we arrived, we parked at Garage Delle Isole and they transported us to the port. We arrived at the port around 30 minutes before our hydrofoil. I was surprised at how long the line was for tickets! We purchased our tickets online the day before, so we already had spots reserved. However, we still had to wait in line to pick up a physical ticket. Silly, I know.
Once we picked up our tickets, we boarded the hydrofoil and were off to Stromboli. The hydrofoil stopped at a few of the islands before arriving in Stromboli and it was fun to see how vastly different each island looked.
Stepping off the hydrofoil, the beauty of the black sand beaches and colorful fisherman boats were remarkable. The sheer size of the volcano also hit me in the face and I immediately wondered if perhaps I wasn’t quite ready for this!
From the port, we walked to our accommodations for the night, La Nassa. I was glad we actually had a room reserved, as they didn’t require a deposit, and because of this, I was skeptical. They also didn’t require a credit card on file or ANY money up front. It was a cash payment at the end, which is virtually unheard of (at least in places I’ve stayed). The staff were extremely friendly and accommodating and the room was very cute and quaint.
After dropping our stuff, we explored the town a bit before we went to check in with the tour company.
We also stopped for lunch at Bar Ristorante Pizzeria da Luciano Stromboli. It was nothing short of amazing.
We took a stroll along a black sand beach.
We booked (also no deposit) our night hike with MagmaTrek. The guides at MagmaTrek let us know that, because of the weather, it wasn’t guaranteed that we would be able to see any explosions that night. Since we traveled all that way, we decided to do it anyway. And boy, it was a hike!
We started from the very bottom of the volcano.
The hike took a total of about 7 hours from start to finish. First we went through a lot of vegetation and then we did what I like to call, the “rock climb,” where the path turned rocky.
If you look very closely at the top of this photo, you can see the TINY people at the top.
Halfway though our hike, it began to get dark, and I was DYING, so I didn’t take as many photos. The hike up was super hot. I was sweating like no other and I know Jordan was too. As soon as we make it to the top, it was suddenly freezing cold, mainly because the sun was gone and it was windy. So, we all changed into dry shirts and put on our coats. Unfortunately, the layers were not enough for me and standing on the crater ledge for an hour was a little painful.. in more than one way! Our guide also passed out masks, as the air was not very safe to breathe. We had to wear them until we made it back to the bottom.
Once we made it to the edge of the crater, our guide told us to pray we would see something (because it was soooooo foggy!). We got really lucky, because the clouds cleared and we were able to see all of the explosions clearly by the end!
Guys, I SAW A VOLCANO EXPLODE!!!!!!!!!!!
The way back down was drastically different than the way up. After walking down a rather rocky path for awhile, our guide stopped us and let us know that we were about to walk though sand… and that we couldn’t stop because avalanches were possible in this area!! The sand was over the ankle deep and the slope was steep!! Eventually we made it back down to the vegetation area and the path leveled off again. From there, we continued for what felt like forever until were back at Magmatrek.
After the hike was over, I thanked my lucky stars because, holy hell that was H-A-R-D! We grabbed a pizza and a beer and settled in for the night before we retuned back home tomorrow.
Overall, the experience itself was a 10/10. I’d say it was a ‘once in a lifetime experience’ because I probably could not be talked into making that hike again!! A two to three mile run a few times a week is not enough for scaling Stomboli. However, I am ready to visit the island again. It was relaxing, low key, and gorgeous.
I miss your solitude already, Stromboli.
It’s been a month since our Easter trip to visit our friends Jon and Amber in Naples and I am finally sitting down to write about the bulk of our travels. Our ventures in Naples were… well, a little bit creepy at times, but overall, fun!
Jordan had a long weekend off from work for Easter and so we decided it would be a good time to explore mainland Italy. We booked our trip about a week (or less in advance) and didn’t really have much of a plan, except to have fun. And, we did.
We had a really big wish list: Pompeii, Positano/Amalfi Coast, and Naples. The very first day we visited both Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast and on days two and three, Naples. I already talked about day one in two other posts, so I’m going to talk about days two and three here.
We woke up EXHAUSTED from day one, but early because we had things to see!! Jon drove us into downtown Naples and while trying to find parking, we drove into a street market. Common in Italy, but distressing none-the-less. Once he was able to navigate out of the tiny little market streets, we found a parking garage (with no market) and set out to explore Naples.
The first thing we did was take in the general atmosphere of Naples downtown and do a little window shopping! We had planned to go to the National Archaeological Museum, but the entrance line was down the street. We also attempted the Veiled Christ, but again, the line was wrapped around the block (because, Easter). As much as I love lines (I don’t love lines AT ALL), I was happy not to have to wait in these. So, if we ever go back, we will attempt again.
While window shopping and taking in the general scenery, we saw a man singing beautiful Italian songs from his balcony (see top, right photo). It was fun and romantic!
After our stroll and shopping, we stopped in at a little bar (aka pastry shop in Italy) to have a rum baba (small yeast cake filled with cream and saturated in rum syrup). We had eaten them before – but never in Naples. And, they were amazing. I had the pistachio filled one!
Note: not the only sexual statue we saw in Naples.
After our pastry stop, we stopped to check out the random little chapel
And the Naples Cathedral
And then things started to get a little creepy! We decided to make a stop at Santa Maria delle Anime del Purgatorio ad Arco (Saint Mary of the Souls of Purgatory)- also known as the church of the dead. Surprisingly, there was no line for this one! Upon walking in, it looked like just another church. Once inside, we had to pay an entrance fee to go to the church’s hypogeum, or underground crypt… Yep, that’s right – underground crypt. Here, the “Neapolitan Skull Cult” filled the crypt with the remains of the poor and unfortunate for whom were not able to be afforded a proper Catholic funeral. It was believed without a proper burial, their souls would languish in purgatory, so people went here to pray for them.
Photos were not allowed here, so I can only tell you about it – but basically there were skulls everywhere lining dark hallways and an alter – with skulls 🙂
We did however, visit two catacombs and a cemetery on day two. More on that soon.
After visiting the underground crypt, we visited Naples underground, where we got to check out the historic old city of Naples, which just so happens to be… underground!
At the end of that tour, we checked out some art and then headed out for dinner.
Day 3 – Easter
My main mission for this day was to check out the catacombs, because ever since I took an art history class in college, I’ve wanted to check them out! Luckily Amber and Jon were down, so the Catacombs of San Gennaro was our first stop.
San Gennaro is an underground burial site that consists of two levels. There were once three separate levels, but now, to my disappointment, there were no bodies there. So, we just explored the crypt space and art.
After visiting San Gennaro, we decided to walk a few kilometers to Catacombs of Saint Gaudiosus. I know sounds really different. Kinda was though.
The Catacombs of Saint Gaudiosus is located under the Basilica of Santa Maria della Sanità. So, as we walked into the Basilica, we actually walked into Easter mass.
Because it was a church service, I only snapped a couple of photos.
We stood in the back for the service. Even though I had no idea what they were saying, It was still a pretty amazing experience to be in one of the largest churches in Naples for Easter service! It was definitely a moving experience.
After the service, we went down into the catacombs for the tour.
These catacombs were WAAAYYY different than San Gennaro. Because there bones were of aristocrats and ecclesiastics… and well, the skulls were cemented in the walls, while the rest of the body was frescoed…. yep.
After that fascinating tour, we ventured to the last stop of the day before Easter Dinner – Fontanelle Cemetery.
This was a cemetery a little different than those I’ve been to before… it is in a cave that is filled with bones of victims of the plague and anonymous remains. Another place for “The Neapolitan Cult of the Dead” to come and pray.
The cemetery was HUGE and holds between 250,000 and 300,000 bodies, apparently.
After our busy day, we decided to head back to Amber and Jon’s car. Once we made the uphill trek back, we realized the garage we parked in was closed. So, we ended up going to the hotel next door to inquire. It was currently 3pm and the garage was scheduled to open again at 7pm. Odd hours right? Well, we had an 8pm flight to catch. So we ended up walking to the train station and quickly buying a ticket and r u n n i n g to catch a train. We then had to switch trains (this was our first time taking a train, by the way) and get a cab to John and Amber’s place. They were nice enough to find us a ride to the airport with a friend. So, we made it to the airport and they were able to get a ride back to get their car later that evening.
So, all that’s well that ends well, right?!
We have called Sicily home for T W O whole months now! Our first month flew by. Month two has felt so much longer and so much shorter all at the same time.
We still want to:
If you read about our trip to Pompeii, then you know about our first trip to mainland Italy where we visited Pompeii, The Amalfi Coast, and Naples. If you didn’t get a chance to read it, then you should because this post would make a lot more sense to you 🙂
After visiting Pompeii, we hopped in Jon and Amber’s car and headed on down to the Amalfi Coast.
I guess the scenery was okay… I mean, if you like sparkling blue waters, cliffside towns, and sheer drop-offs that might make you pee your pants a little. I like those things, so I was glued to the window like WOWWWW pretty much the whole time.
Our first stop was in Sorrento for a gourmet lunch at Restaurant Bagni Delfino. Bagni Delfino is a fresh seafood restaurant that is located waterside.
Here is our view from the table and a few shots of our food:
After our amazing lunch, we hopped back in the car and made our way to Positano.
The drive there was breathtaking.
Once we made it to Positano, we parked near the top, which meant we had to walk down to the bottom. There were A LOT of stairs and they were fairly steep.
Once we made it to the beach, we enjoyed the general splendor while walking around and hanging out on some seaside rocks.
We grabbed some snacks on our way back to the car and then headed back to Naples for some much needed sleep.
It’s been a minute since I’ve posted, but that is because we have been super busy!
Last weekend we flew up to Naples for our first trip to mainland Europe. It was very fast paced, as I had a whole list of things I wanted to see and places I wanted to go, and we only had three days. After we returned from that trip, Jordan started working nights. If you or a family member have never worked nights before, the best way I can describe it is… confusing. Ha. He doesn’t work every night, and when he does work, he sleeps before he goes to work and then when he gets home. So, we are always confused about what day it is, and when he is supposed to work, and when we should sleep, and what we need to eat, and when. Bleh. It’s just exhausting to type out.
So, other than our trip to Naples and Jordan’s new schedule, we also got our household goods!! This means I now have a couch and clothes and alllll the other things I have missed so much. However, after living out of a few suitcases for the last few months, I now feel quite overwhelmed with all of our “stuff.” It literally just feels like a lot of “stuff” and not things we need. So, I’ve decided to purge a bunch of things just to clear out our home and feel like I can breathe again. As we are putting things away, we are tossing things we don’t use frequently into the “goodbye” box(es), and they will go on craigslist ASAP.
So, that has been us for the last two weeks.
As for our trip to Naples (and surrounding area)….. it was a blast!! We had three main stops we wanted to make while in the area:
1. Pompeii – Who doesn’t want to see Pompeii?!
2. The Amalfi Coast – Probably one of the most popular places on Instagram (if I were to guess)
3. Naples – Duh!
Thanks to our amazing friends (from Virginia that now live in Naples), Amber and Jon, we were able to see everything we wanted to see and more! We can’t thank them enough for hosting us. They really went out of their way while we were there and we can’t wait to host them in Sicily!
When I uploaded photos from our trip, I had 900+!! So, that means each of the three main stops get’s it’s own post.
First up, Pompeii!
There’s a lot I can say about Pompeii, just as there is a lot to see in Pompeii. Pompeii is around 25km (15ish miles) from Naples, so Jon and Amber drove us there early on Friday morning. You could definitely spend the entire day there, walking around and exploring the city. But, because I also really wanted to see the Amalfi Coast, and there was supposed to be only one solid day of our trip without any rain (Friday), we decided to conquer BOTH in one day, What a task.
Like many of the places we have previously visited, Pompeii has a couple large amphitheaters. The weather was perfect that day, so Pompeii was slammed with tourists (like myself, obvi). Here is the first one:
Pompeii is famous because the massive volcano in which the town sits at the foot of, Mt. Vesuvius, erupted in 79 AD, destroying the city (along with Herculaneum and other nearby towns) by submerging them under volcanic debris, and killing t-h-o-u-s-a-n-d-s. It really is a site to behold considering the eruption wiped such a big city off the map.
We got to walk around and explore some of the homes that had been unearthed, along with shops and streets and squares.
Don’t worry – he didn’t actually drink from this “street” fountain.
Apparently these holes were for “fast food”: terra-cotta bowls went into the holes and contained snacks for the locals.
We got to tour the inside of homes – some still had original frescos and mosaics!!! Some were also quite large.
During our exploration, we got to check out the city center which was overwhelmingly impressive.
Mt. Vesuvius in the background.
There were also casts of people (and animals – also seen here is a dog in the elevated clear box. Sad.) that were taken from their bodies of those unearthed there. We were told that the volcanic eruption was so hot, it sucked the moisture out of the bodies of the people there before the volcanic debris ever reached them.
I did tell Jordan, that based on the number of terra-cotta pots that survived, they look like a rather safe place to crawl into…
Here is some actual bread (charred, ofc) from 79 AD. Wow! Still actually looks kinda good.
They also had some lovely gardens, in which I got to capture Jordan and Jon twinning it up. Just observe.
I am also incredibly bad at selfies. Oh well.
The second amphitheater was HUGE, but missing most stairs, and unlike most of the others we have visited, you could not enter (or climb to) the top.
We did not get to see the Villa of the Mysteries or Herculaneum (which is apparently better preserved), but I was satisfied with what we did see.
Just standing on the streets and thinking of all of those who walked there before me…. It was quite surreal.
After Pompeii, we journeyed to Sorrento and then Positano…. Which is a post for another day! 😉
We have called Sicily home for O N E whole month now!!! Reflecting back, it’s been quite a whirlwind.
We still want to:
What are the places you think we must visit while we are living in Europe?? Leave us a comment and let us know!!