- 15 years together;
- 2 houses in 2 cities, one major, major house renovation project,
- 16 countries visited;
- a road trip around Australia;
- 4 dogs;
- 1 shack and a new farming journey;
- and an engagement photo shoot on the beach;
The whole point of our European holiday was to visit Budoia in north eastern Italy, where my ancestors migrated from in the late 1800’s. Unfortunately there are no relatives left that I am aware of, so it was just a visit to see the villages and the surrounding area and experience the journey of a lifetime.
I had dreamed of visiting northern Italy since I was a little girl and heard stories from my grandparents and Italian neighbours. My Italian heritage is a few generations back so the language and most of the traditions were lost when my great grandfather died at a young age. But I did grow up in a farming neighborhood surrounded by Italians. I heard the language spoken over the back fence and on the street. Every square inch of my Italian neighbour’s garden was used for cultivating edible produce, and I was often found in there as a little girl eating his strawberries, sampling vino or begging him to teach me Italian.
Budoia is a small municipality and is made up of 3 smaller villages Dardago, Santa Lucia and Budoia which are all within a short walk of each other. Most people have never heard of Budoia, even a few Italians that I spoke to didn’t know where it was. It was nearly impossible to find any information out about it before we left and there was no information in the guidebooks.
It really was the Italy I had always dreamed of. A time forgotten, slow eating, slow living, friendly welcoming people, savoring the moment and eating food as close to the source as possible. It is the only place in the world that has felt so familiar. I felt comfortable there wandering the streets and felt welcomed wherever we went even with my limited Italian. Everywhere we turned there was my last name. It was inscribed on walls and religious shrines and monuments to remember and honor those who have past. It was a humbling and inspiring experience and like nowhere else I have ever been.
We stayed at alla Cianisela bed and breakfast in Budoia. It was by far the best B&B we have ever stayed in. We have never experienced hosts like Angelo and Laura, we were welcomed into their home and treated like family. The breakfast provided by Angelo was amazing. The bread was baked fresh the night before and combined with home made yoghurt, jams, preserves, sweets, cakes and home made apple juice. Everything that could be, was sourced from within close distance to the home. They shared their home cooked meals, stories and traditions with us around the kitchen table and it was a gift that we don’t take for granted, everything tasted better because of their hospitality.
If you are going to visit this area I would recommend having a car because there is limited public transport. Then you can explore the surrounding dolomite mountains and take day trips to nearby regions. There is so much to see within a few hours drive such as the beautiful mosaic school and village at Spilimbergo, the nearby crystal clear waters at Pordenone and so much more.
It was an epic journey far beyond any travel experience I have ever had. While it may have taken years longer than I anticipated to get there it probably happened as it should have, when it needed to, with the people we were supposed to connect with. I am so grateful we took the journey and I feel a deeper connection to my family and ancestors because of it.
Towards the end of our Italian adventure we spent 5 days in Budoia. We quickly fell head over heels in love with this gorgeous little town and the surrounding area.
Budoia is located at the foot of the Dolomite Mountains about an hour north of Venice. There is no direct train line any more but you can go from Venice to Sacile and then take a mini van from Sacile train station to Budoia.
This rugged mountain scenery is best explored by car over at least a couple of days, so we picked up a car in nearby Aviano and hit the road. Each day we just picked a new route and drove into the mountains.
The area is full of crystal clear turquoise lakes and beautiful mountains and cute little villages at every turn.
We drove up through the villages of Bárcis, Cimolais, Erto and up to the popular ski resort town of Cortina d’Ampezzo. It was love at first sight and the Dolomites are the most beautiful mountains I have ever seen. The perfect scenery to do some sketching.
After Cinque Terre we had 2 nights in Bologna. We randomly ended up in Bologna because Chris was reading a book where the main character went there and he thought it sounded good. This is the joy of just booking as you go and not having everything planned out before you get to a country. After Bologna we caught the train to Venice.
In Venice we, totally blew our backpacking budget and totally got ripped off every time we ate out;
Wandered the streets without a map and obviously got lost every time;
Admired life on the water where boats are used for taxi’s and ambulance’s;
Fell in love with the colourful houses on the island of Burano. We decided that we would live in a pink house but would change the colour every year. We would also stay here overnight next time we visit Venice;
and sketched the colourful houses;
Admired the little window men and women ornaments;
Grabbed an umbrella and wandered the streets in a thunderstorm;
and managed to capture a lightning strike over the water;
Got engaged on the most romantic night ever, watching the sun set from the roof of our hotel;
and decided that if we ever return we would avoid summer and wrestling with hundreds of other tourists.
There is a beautiful 10 kilometre hike between all of the five villages of Cinque Terre which follows the rugged cliffs leading into the Mediterranean sea. It can be broken up into shorter hikes or completed in one day. When we were in Cinque Terre in August 2013 parts of the walk between the villages was still closed from the devastating floods in 2011.
I have heard that the prettiest section of the hike is between Riomaggiore and Manarola. Unfortunately this section was closed when we were there, but we decided that we would tackle all the sections of the coastal path that were still open.
Our plan was to do all our hiking in the early morning when the first train left from Riomaggiore station (at about 5am). We caught the train to the first village where the walking trail was open (Corniglia on day one) and then walked to the next village and caught the train back to Riomaggiore for breakfast at our hotel. The sun was just breaking through the clouds on both mornings, and it was quiet, still and beautiful.
This plan worked well for us because we are both morning people, it meant that we would pretty well have the path to ourselves, not an easy task anywhere in peak summer season in Italy and it was a lot cooler and a better time to be out walking.
The walking trail snakes through the fishing villages, sometimes not very well sign posted, and hugs the coastline so you get glimpses of the sea as you are walking.
Some of the paths are quite rocky, steep and narrow, which adds to their charm, but could be a challenge if the paths were busy with tourists.
We are pretty fit and fast hikers and were often spot on the times recommended for the hikes. Normally we are a lot quicker than the allotted times. Therefore if you are a more casual hiker then I would recommend allocating a bit more time than is stated on the signs.
You could easily hike between the villages from Corniglia to Monterosso in one day, but you would be hiking in the hottest part of the day. It was much better for us to spread the hike out over a couple of days and spend the afternoons drinking wine and watching the sun sink into the sea.
Visiting Cinque Terre while we were in Italy was high on our list of must do’s and it did not disappoint. The buildings of the five towns that make up Cinque Terre cling to the cliffs for dear life, and are a spectacular sight.
Before we arrived I was worried about which town to stay in, don’t concern yourself with this. All the towns are beautiful and are not that far apart on the train so it really doesn’t matter. We stayed in Riomaggiore for 3 nights, which is the minimum stay I would recommend to be able to explore the surrounding areas, watch a couple of sunsets and hike between the villages.
Monterosso is the flattest (less steep) of the towns with probably the best beaches. It is the cheapest place to go to stock up on some wine and antipasti for sunset viewing on the rocks.
We bought a pass when we arrived because we were staying for a few days. The pass entitled us to unlimited train travel and access to the national park. It was for us very good value for money. While we were in Cinque Terre we, filled our bellies with the best Italian style (don’t waste anything) fish and chips in Riomaggiore;
Sketched the most beautiful village at sunset;
fell in love with the beach umbrella’s and the Italians sprawling beach culture
admired the stunning views over the water and the colour of the water;
got a bit annoyed that people had to pay to use the beach in certain areas;
got up really early and watched the sun poking its head over the hills at Monterosso;
Cinque Terre we fell in love, what are you waiting for go!!
I’m just getting around to posting about our time in Italy on our Europe trip last year. We spent a couple of weeks all up between Florence, Tuscany (a gorgeous teeny tiny village near Montalbano), Sienna, Collodi and Lucca. It is such a beautiful area of Italy to drive around.
We stayed at the most beautiful old stone cottage, ate our weight in gelatos every day, survived driving the narrow roads with crazy Italian’s, stuffed our bellies with delicious wine and local antipasti every afternoon, wandered the cobblestones till our feet hurt and sketched at every chance I had. It was amazing, beautiful and everything we could have hoped for. Happy memories and happy middle of the week everyone.
Naples was gritty and raw and dirty and beautiful and a real city of contrasts for me. I am so grateful that we went there on our trip to Italy.
We stayed at a hotel, our first time not in a hostel or an airbnb stay. It was just what we needed after travelling for 6 weeks, our own bathroom and a tasty breakfast that wasn’t just jam on toast.
We visited Pompeii, had the best pizza of our lives (numerous times), wandered around historic “old naples”, stumbled upon a hole in the wall café that served the nicest beer with the best labels and service, and met the sweetest people who adore their city and what it has to offer.
I haven’t been posting on here for quite a while. I survived the craziness of settling into a new property and planning a wedding in a few short months, but unfortunately the blog didn’t.
The plan is to post a bit more regularly from now on and put something up about 3 times a week. So here’s cheers to new plans and exciting adventures!
We spent 5 beautiful sunny days in Rome for the start of our Italian adventure. I have wanted to visit Italy for about the past 10 years, and it did not disappoint.
By this stage I was getting used to sketching every day and was more comfortable sketching on the street. Rome is a great city to just walk, we walked for miles and miles everyday, admiring the buildings, stopping for a sketch and seeing some of the sights. I never really had any intention to visit Rome in the summer and man was it hot, we experienced the heatwave to end all heatwaves. Not great for walking during the day but the afternoons were beautiful.
We stayed in the Celio district which is within a few hundred metres walk from the colosseum. The colosseum is an amazing place to visit. There are so many more disturbing facts about it though, that I never realised until I went there in person, so crazy that this was considered entertainment. The cartoon sketch pretty well sums up our time there.