Italy | July 2017

Italy. It’s alluring, fragrant, and possessive. When I say possessive, I mean it is a country with pride. They own their food, their language and their history and they give zero fucks about anyone telling them otherwise. For two weeks, I ran around a chunk of this country with my mom, aunt, cousin and 20 something new friends led by our leader, whose name I can’t make up, Roma.

Rome | Pompeii | Sorrento | Amalfi | Cassino | Assisi | San Marino | Venice | Burano | Verona | Sirmione | Cinque Terre | Florence | San Gimingnano | Siena

There’s so much to tell, and I’ll slowly recount bit by bit in time. For now, one of my favorite moments was our night in Sirmione. The hotel we stayed at was hosting "Western Night." After dinner, we see a group of Italians dance their night away to American country music. I never thought I would hear "Cotton Eye Joe” in Italy - let alone non-ironically. Cowboy boots included. And if you know my mom, no surprise, she joined in on the fun. For a country so proud of their own heritage, it was honestly endearingly hilarious to see them kick up their boots and grasp at their belt buckles as if they were in the middle of Texas.

Cinque Terre. Five small towns hugging the coast. Four of those towns sits right on it, and one, Corniglia sits high, overlooking her sisters. When I stepped off the shuttle in Corniglia, I’ve never smelled a town so aromatic. Fresh basil, everywhere. It never left, anywhere I walked I could still smell it. Everything about this town felt so pure and the least visited of the five towns. Thankfully.

When Roma told us the citizens of Cinque Terre only came out before 8am and after 6pm, my heart sank. Thousand of tourists every year come here, treating it like a theme park. Riding the train or hiking, bopping to each town, taking the same instagram photo only moving a hair strand or arm. I’ll admit, I only knew about this place because of social media. The obligatory Rio Maggiore photo from that designated spot showing the town and that freshly painted red house on the far left. It was around this time in our trip that I realized I’m traveling for the wrong reasons. I love to travel and explore new lands, but I was also documenting live and looking at this country through my phone. I was sharing to my friends where I was at the exact moment. It didn’t occur to me that I should wait until the end of my day, or even trip to share. This was an experience for my, and my family and I need to be in the present and truly feel being here. Disconnect …almost entirely (I mean, I am a photographer. My way of documenting is holding a camera up and shooting what excites me). In Veranazza, I climbed up to a viewing point and looked down. A smile crept in, just naturally. I listened to the waves come in and out, I felt the warm sun on my shoulders, and I watched the people jumping into the water while the small rowboats rocked back and forth on the other side.

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Cassino & Assisi

San Marino

Venice and Burano

Verona and Sirmione

Cinque Terre

Florence, Tuscany region and Siena