Best Sicily Summer Festivals for Cultural Breadth

When I think of festivals, I think of cultural breadth: a shortcut to a destination’s most iconic customs and traditions. While I have already introduced you to some of the best beaches in Southern Italy, today I wish to delve deeper into this region’s culture by showcasing the best Sicily summer festivals.

Best Sicily Summer Festivals for Cultural Breadth

Sicily summer festivals, food

By Dedda71, Wiki Commons

August 15: anywhere in Sicily

Ferragosto is the grand Sicily fiesta no summer traveler can miss.

The main draws of Assumption Day in harbor cities include a vast array of authentic Sicilian foods; firework displays; traditional Sicilian boat races and yacht regattas with the Madonna herself as one of the sailors.

A sample festive dish you might not find any other time of the year? Gelo di mellone: a traditional watermelon dessert in Palermo. Akin to a gelatine pie, it is sprinkled with jasmine flowers and other toppings.

There are other secrets to discover in Sicily however, so you must visit the island to uncover them! 😉

summer festivals in Sicily, Palio

By Vincenzo Fileccia, Wiki Commons

Palio dei Normanni
August 12-14: Piazza Armerina, Enna

Medieval enthusiasts will love the raucous horse races known as “palio.” Particularly, the jousts, full-costume processions, parades, and shows with over 600 participants have regarded the Norman Palio as the most important medieval history reconstruction of Southern Italy.

Being part of the Italian Federation of Historical Games and listed in the Register of Intangible Heritage of the Sicilian Region add to its historical and cultural importance.

Sicily summer festivals, Erice

By MrEHQE 2005 (CC)

Renaissance Music Festival
August 13-15: Erice, Trapani

One of the best music festivals in Sicily is another medieval-themed event. The Renaissance Music Festival puts together not only local, but also internationally-acclaimed medieval artists.

The beauty of this festival is that it intertwines with popular Ferragosto, allowing attendees to enjoy several nuances of Sicilian culture.

Sicily festivals in the summer, Taormina Arte

Taormina International Arts Festival
July-September: Taormina, Messina

One of the longest, most culturally-diverse Sicily summer festivals takes place in and around the ancient Greek amphitheater of Taormina.

With performances ranging from symphonic orchestras and operettas to classical dance, art exhibitions to special cinema viewings, Taormina Arte has become not only one of the most acclaimed cultural festivals in Italy, but the world.

Passeggiata di Giganti
August 13-14: capital of Messina

Passeggiata di Giganti Festival is the feast of the mythical founders of the city, preceding the important procession of “La Vara.”

The legend of the two giants, Mata and Grifone, varies greatly: were they Muslim prisoners taken by the mercenary Ruggero D’Altavilla or the authentic founders of Messina?

Variations aside, they are mostly known as a Saracen soldier (Grifone) who converted to Christianity to finally capture the heart of Mata–and live happily ever after with many children.

Sicily summer festivals, Cefalu

By Oliver-Bonjoch, Wiki Commons

Madonna della Luce
August 14: Cefalù, Palermo

During the Feast of the Mother of Light, Sicilians honor their patron saint and heritage, carrying the Madonna along the seas. The beautiful nocturnal procession, which culminates the festival, typically runs from the coast of Kalura to the Old Harbor.

Burano Island, Venice, Italy: The One That Got Away

Back in 2005, I visited Europe and Venice for the first time. The sometimes stinky alleyways and channels couldn’t take away from the romanticism in the air. Yet, Burano Island, the most colorful, magical Venetian island…is the one that got away…from me! And so, for my long-lost love, this special Travel Bucket List Wednesday post. I’ll come back to you, I swear!

Burano Island photo, Venice

Colorful alleyway of Burano Island, Venice, Italy (Saffron Blaze, Wiki Commons)

Burano Island, Venice, Italy: How to Get There

I don’t know what’s crazier: the fact that my high school group missed out on Burano or that I saw Burano Island photos for the very first time this summer. I mean, it’s only located 4 miles away from the center of Venice!

All it takes is a 40-minute ride on the water taxis or Venetian motorboats (vaporetti, Wikipedia). For instance, LN water bus departs from San Mark’s (€6.5 each way), stopping at Lido, Burano Island, Murano, and others.

Every time I remember I missed out on it, makes me want to cry…

Venice photos, vaporetti

Vaporetti along Ponte degli Scalzi, Venice by Gwenaël Piaser, Flickr

Burano Island, Venice, Italy: Things to Do

Bright, colorful architecture

Fun fact: residents of Burano Island must send an official request to the local government if they wish to paint their home, as the change must be pre-approved plus fit with the color scheme of their neighborhood. Crazy huh?!

things to do in Burano Island, architecture

Houses of Burano by Paul R, Tripadvisor

Fabulous lace shopping at Martina Vidal Venezia

Love lace? Martina Vidal Venezia [Via San Mauro 307] is the place to be. As with many other popular shopping districts, vendors here may be pushy, but just be firm and take in the culture.

Not into shopping? STILL go! Voice on the street says that Martina’s place is decorated impeccably, with beautiful views of Burano rooftops and the Venetian lagoon off the terrace. Take many, many pictures.

things to do in Burano Island, Martina Vidal Venezia

Martina Vidal Venezia rooftop photo by Arzana Agency

San Martino Cathedral and it’s leaning tower

Yes, it exists! If you got no time for Pisa, head to Burano Island and experience San Martino Cathedral’s 18th-century leaning tower [Via Baldascare Galuppi].

things to do in Burano Island, leaning tower

San Martino Cathedral and its leaning tower by Gerry Balding, Flickr

Burano’s canals

No visit to a Venetian island is complete without its canals. Make sure you capture that postcard image, including Burano’s colorful houses sprinkled throughout one of its many channels.

things to do in Burano Island, Venice canal photo

Burano Island, Venice canal by Rafal Kiermacz, Flickr

Got more photos or things to do in Burano Island? Share them below!

Best beaches near Rome — and how to get there (photo essay)

Wait…ruins and beaches? People forget how close The Colosseum is to the coast. Even when visiting in the summer, unsuspecting travelers skip the beaches around the ancient city entirely, driving or flying to farther towns for their Italian beach holidays. This week’s Beach Thursday photo essay features the best beaches near Rome and how to get there!

See more Italian beaches: Best beaches in Sicily

best beaches near Rome, Fregene

Peter Casier, Flickr

Best beaches near Rome (in no particular order!)


Did you know that Ostia Antica is actually Pompeii’s less-obnoxious sister? Only 30-40 min. away from the city, Ostia is not only considered the capital’s beach, but it is also a lesser-known point of interest. A worthy day trip from Rome whether you are looking for more interesting ruins and/or a beach escape. I recommend you hit the ruins early in the day, then refresh at the beach after lunch.

How to get there: Take the train (Metro Line B) toward Piramide station. Once there, go up the stairs in order to take the ROMA-LIDO train all the way to the end (C. Colombo Station). If you wish to see the ruins, get off at Ostia Antica station instead. [Source: Lonely Planet]

Extra tip: Since Ostia is quite close to Rome’s Fiumicino International Airport, it might be a good place to spend your last day or afternoon in Italy.

best Beaches near Rome, Ostia

Ostia Beach (•• Federì ••, Flickr)

Anzio and Nettuno

Want a plate of seafood with that beach trip? Only 57 km south of Rome, Anzio is a fabulous fishing port. You may also take a ferry to the Pontine islands of Ponza, Palmarola, and Ventotene in the summer.

How to get there: Take the Roma-Nettuno train from Termini. Once at the station, it is only a 10-15 min. walk to the sea 😀

Extra tip: Make sure you take the express train in order to get to the beach in an hour. You may also get there by bus, but beware: If you are only in Rome for a few days, you don’t want to take a 3-hour bus ride (each way!).

best Beaches near Rome, Anzio

“Near San Felice Circeo, between Anzio and Terracina” (Alessandra Kocman, Flickr)


Visiting Sperlonga is like taking a day trip to the Greek islands. Picturesque white-washed buildings make this a lovely little city. It has two different centers: A pedestrian-only one by the old town (lots of steps, gorgeous views from here!) and a second one open to traffic, leading to the beach. Blue-flagged for meeting high standards of cleanliness and water quality, Sperlonga is without a doubt the most beautiful beach near Rome.

How to get there: Take the train Roma-Napoli via Formia and get off at Fondi-Sperlonga. Once there, take the hourly bus (in the summer; every other hour in the winter) from the train station to the center. Total travel time is about 1.5-2 hours.

Extra tip: Do not rent a car and drive around the city in the high season — it’s unlikely you’ll find a parking spot!

best beaches near Rome, Sperlonga

Sperlonga beach (Alessia, Flickr)

Santa Marinella

Location location location — that’s Santa Marinella. Often quite crowded on weekends, it is not my top choice for beaches near Rome. However, I must admit that it is the most convenient. A stretch of its coast has free access, allowing you to bring your own towel (or chair) and enjoy. Alternatively, you may rent a cabana from one of the resorts and dine at one of the many seafood restaurants. It is a place you go to be social and/or people watch!

How to get there: From Rome Termini, take train on Roma-Pisa line toward Santa Marinella. The ride takes approximately 45 minutes.

Extra tip: This goes without saying, but I’ll tell you anyway. If you are seeking for a speck of solitude on the coast, Santa Marinella is not the right day trip from Rome for you.

best Beaches near Rome, Santa Marinella

Not the best beach near Rome, but the most accessible: Santa Marinella (pandemia,Flickr)

Did I leave out any of the best beaches near Rome? Comment below!

Best Sicily beaches: Spectacular scenery, turquoise waters (photos)

Unfortunately for us in the Northern Hemisphere, summer is coming to an end and autumn is falling upon us. However, beaches are always on my mind. Today’s Beach Thursday photo essay will focus on the best Sicily beaches. Yes, another beautifully subjective list by yours truly. Next week: the best of beaches around Rome + how to get there. Enjoy!

best Sicily beaches, Castellammare del Golfo

Castellammare del Golfo (Photo: fazen, Flickr)

Best Beaches in Sicily

Perfect for those wanting to squeeze adventure into their beach holiday. Hike volcanoes, natural reserves, and even go diving & paragliding. Rumor has it that the best beaches in Sicily are found on the west coast of the island. Do I agree? Absolutely. Conveniently, the most spectacular scenery and beaches are clustered together:

San Vito Lo Capo

best Sicily beaches, San Vito Lo Capo

San Vito Lo Capo, arguably the best beach in Sicily, is located in a valley, sandwiched by gorgeous mountains (salvatore ciambra, Flickr)

Favignana, Egadi islands (off Sicily’s west coast)

best Sicily beaches, Favignana

The Egadi islands are located off Sicily’s western coast (Sicilia Mare, Flickr)

Eraclea Minoa

best Sicily beaches, Eraclea Minoa

Expansive coast awaits at Eraclea Minoa (valben, Flickr)

Riserva Naturale Orientata and Scopello

best Sicily beaches, Scopello

Scopello, Sicily: Stunning (Vincenzo Giordano, Flickr)

For diving, you may hit nearby Ustica or Scopello. Be warned, though — while the underwater world in Scopello is gorgeous, the rocks on the beach can be cutting. Appropriate footwear is recommended.

Best beaches in Sicily, honorable mentions: Vendicari Reserve, Gardini-Naxos, Castellammare del Golfo, Sampieri, Modica, Cefalu, and Pozzallo.

best beaches in Sicily, Pozzallo

Pozzallo beach (Jacques Zammit, Flickr)

Hope you enjoyed traveling through the best beaches in Sicily! The rest of the series, including other parts of Italy such as Rome, Puglia, Venice, and Tuscany vicinity, will be published next month as Beach Thursday editions.

San Vito Lo Capo landscape, best Sicily beaches

Another one for San Vito Lo Capo: My absolute favorite! (salvatore ciambra)

Have you visited the best Sicily beaches? Which ones?

Euro trip through the eyes of a 17 year old, pt 4: Venice, boys, self-image (photo essay)

The special travel mini series “Euro trip through the eyes of a 17 year old” is back! A compilation of posts & photos from my 2005 travel journal, when I was only a recent graduate from a Puerto Rican high school, still learning English. This was my first major trip outside the island (if you don’t count my Disney World trip in 2nd grade and living in the Dominican Republic with my aunt for a month after elementary school graduation). Hope you enjoy the retrospective!

Want to start from the beginning? 
Euro trip photo essay, PART 1: Germany (countryside)
Euro trip photo essay, PART 2: Germany (city)
Euro trip photo essay, PART 3: Austria

Note: Grammar, writing style have not been edited: That’s the whole point! 😉

Posted on 06/22/05, 3:55 AM on (cont.)

Euro trip 2005


Weeee, Italy. I loved the guys, the buildings, the climate, everything, until we checked-in @ the hotel. First off, we got here @ like 8:3OPM last night so the hotel we were going to stay at (Hotel Vionello) didn’t let us in ‘cause ‘it’s not permitted after 8PM’, so we ended up staying in hotel Kennedy. Lol, some rooms, like Manuel’s, didn’t even have a real shower! I mean, there was just a hole in the flor of the bathroom, a shower head in the ceiling, and that was it! lmao. I WILL show ya the pic Myriam took when she send it my way! Also, in the morning we had cereal and a bagel for breakfast. That was it. The thing as that after we finished, we entered again to look for something, and guess freakin’ WHAT!? The other uests of the hotel were having bacon, eggs, ham, cheese, many bread options, and cereals!!! I mean WTF!? Are we fucking HATED!? Italy def. lost some points by that. But still, Fefi, Laurie, Yari, and I have decided to move to Italy *nods*. Btw, the buildings and sp houses are SOOOO purdy, and some of them just *gorge*. Right now we are on our way to take the Aqua Taxi to go to Venize (we were @ Lido Di Jiolo)

my Euro trip, road trip to Italy

From which Shell gas station will u have this kind of view? *only* in Italy (during our road trip Austria-Italy)

Whoa! Venize was *awesome*! Soooo many great things, soooo many HOTTIES! I mean arn, I was perturbated, in pure AWE! Lol. Oh and, here was the *climax* of my self-esteem boost *nods*. All those hotties looked @ me and let me tell ya, it felt sooo nice lol. We 1st went on a lil’ trip in *gondola* through the city for like half an hour. Darn, it was raining, so the day turned all crappy and REEALY cold! It was odd! Butt, @ the end of my lovely trip in gondola, this one guy, a “gondolero” (guy of a gondola), brought his hand to me to help me get out of the gondola, like one of those romantic moments of corny movies, lol. And his hand was sooo comfy, and he gave me this sexy, but totally sweet and respectful look…*melts*. Not only that, but also I got a pic of us! *nods again* aaaand he grabbed me by my waist REEEALLY tight and very close to him (quickly I didn’t even really touch him I just standed there at his side for the pic and then all of sudden he just grabbed my waist and brought me reeeally close to him! I didn’t even had time to actually have the thought myself [:p]) soooo…we also went to this palace called *Palazzo Ducale*, which was really gorge as well. There was also Plaza San Marco I believe and close to it we also went to a Murano glass demonstration @ the original store of Murano. That was outstanding, I mean the maker is *so* talented; now I know why Murano glass is SO expensive, and with REASON! After that we had some awesome lunch (I had a HUGE platter filled to TOP of paste penne in a tomato sauce and a generous slice of lasagna by the side, all topped with a lot of melted cheese AND parmesan cheese :D). THEEEN we went around the city for like 3-4 hours, all by ourselves 😀 I was with Laura, Yarielis, Fefi, and Myriam. It was soo funny, ‘cause darn, all of these hot guys, and all of them turned back to look at me, and even one of them told me “hooola, bon apetit” in a very sexy voice, since I was licking a nice coffee gelato. Lol. Myriam and Laurie wanted to buy a bag to put it in my head they said. Lmao

Venize hilights, facts

I had a MAJOR self-esteem boost here due to all of those hotties looking at me sexy and melting me + the cashiers/workers @ the Murano Glass place were talking about how amazingly beautiful I was (LM over-heard them and told everyone at the bus loud: “María has caused sensation in Europe” then N went sooo mad and replied “”she that actually BELIEVES it?”” and then LM replied quickly saying ““ay, but it’s soo true not only ‘cause of all the guys that has been looking at her, but ‘cause the ppl @ Murano were talking about her beauty and how they have never seen someone as gorgeous”.” She went WHITE *Lmao*). SOOO, CALL ME CONCEITED, but darn I mean, u would feel *really* good if all those European and Italian guys were looking @ ya from head to toes and if like 1O persons were talking about how they find your natural beauty outstanding (while u were actually wearing no freakin’ make-up AT ALL!)! I honestly didn’t know how to react; I have NEVER ever gotten so many BIG compliments like those in my entire life! :I

Venize is NOT flooding; the SEA LEVEL is rising. Did u know? 🙂

Ppl are overly VERY nice and polite, but that ol’ lady @ our hostile hotel Kennedy pissed me off with the whole breakfast thing and how we couldn’t even GO OUT of the hotel if we weren’t wit our parents. None of us seniors were. WTF?! Plus, in Italy u are an adult @ 16, darn it

-THE BSB WERE FREAKIN’ THERE!!! They sang some songs at a festival in a place I actually VISITED THAT SAME DAY! Darn, I couldn’t see them, ‘cause I found out they were here when I was switching channels checking out Italian programming

-Gelatos are YUMMY

my Euro trip in Italy, Venice arrival

Venice arrival!

my trip to Europe, Venice arrival 2

yay yay Venice!

Pics that could be taken at the Palazzo Ducale (only out of the windows or in stairs, since cameras inside were not permitted)

my European holiday, Venice Palazzo Duccale balcony

Palazzo Duccale balcony

euro tour in Italy, inside Venice Palazzo Ducale

Quick secret snap! Shaky tho =(

my trip to Venice, Palazzo Duccale statue


Venice trip to Europe, Palazzo Duccale plaza

Palazzo Duccale plaza?

Me during and after our lil’ trip in gondola through Venice. I know, MY HAIR LOOKS LIKE CRAP. I mean it caught a lot of humidity and rain, then dried just like that. Eh.

Euro trip, Venice gondolas

me and Venice gondolas!

Euro trip, Venice gondolas 2

me with Venice gondolas again!

Euro trip, Venice gondola ride

Venice gondola ride!

Euro trip, Venice gondola ride 2

so happy!

Euro trip, Venice and Italian cutie

Me and the gondolero I told ya about. Ignore me please I looked like crap. But look at him. And what it’s even more unbelievable is that he actually looks even better in person. Oi, and watch closely how he is holding me (watch my WAIST) 😉 haha =P

Euro trip, Venice Plaza San Marco

Me @ Plaza San Marco! Gorgeous, eh?

Euro trip, rainy Venice

Me right before going back to the Aqua Taxi. See how crappy the weather was? 🙁 too bad

My thoughts after reading this travel journal entry, 7 years later: I can tell how damaged my self-esteem was back then. You can see how I have to reiterate, to remind myself constantly on my own journal about how the Italians found me pretty. I used to be the hated nerd in high school for being different. I also attended a private school my mom could barely pay for just so I could have a better education…which meant I was “the poor one.” My school years were quite tough and spent, mostly, in solitude. It wasn’t until my last year or two that I had — wait for it — three friends. But now, looking back, I know all the struggles truly made me stronger and gave me the drive and determination I currently have. They allow me to continue with my crazy plans, and actually succeed, no matter what others say. If you are bullied or ever feel less than what you’re worth, remember: The sun will shine brighter soon! 🙂 **Never give up**

Euro trip, Venice Doges Palace

Euro trip: Venice Doges Palace (Photo: Andrew Balet)

Did you ever take an Euro trip during your youth? What did you learn?

Christmas traditions around the world PT 2!

CLICK HERE for pt 1 of Christmas traditions around the world! learn about the FESTIVE customs and traditions of even more countries.

Christmas in Italy

Christmas traditions around the world, nativity scene

Presepe: Nativity scene in Italy (Photo: Davide Papalini)

Thought Christmas were longer only in Latin America? Think again! In Italy, Christmas officially starts on December 8th with the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception and then, families typically start to decorate their homes with lights. Gift giving, however, does not happen until January 6th or Epiphany, a tradition shared with many Latin American countries. That 12th day of Christmas is when it is believed that the Three Wise Men (aka Three Kings) visited Baby Jesus and showered him with gifts. As such, just like in Latin America, the main Christmas decoration is the Nativity scene, or as it is called in Italian: The presepe.

Christmas in Jordan

Christmas traditions around the world, beef and bulgur

Minced beef and bulgur, a traditional Christmas dish in Jordan (

Christmas in Jordan is celebrated with great fervor by the Christian minority there. What surprised me the most, however, is the tradition of soaking dry fruits in rum, brandy, and cognac by women in early December! I can’t wait to go back to the Middle East an try those! 😉 Then on Christmas Eve, a cake is baked, while Christmas Day dinner consists of grilled eggplant, vine leaves in tomato sauce, stuffed turkey, and minced beef with bulgur

Christmas in Martinique

Christmas traditions around the world, shrubb

Clément Créole Shrubb, a popular one in Martinique (

Christmas in this creole tropical island is a mix of Caribbean and French flavors. Their most distinct Christmas tradition, however, is the making and drinking of shrubb, a fine liquor made of white rum, sugarcane syrup and dried peels of tangerines and oranges, which are abundant at this time of the year.

Christmas in Mexico

Christmas traditions around the world, posada

Posada procession in Oaxaca, Mexico (Photo:

Mexican Christmas (or “Navidades”) officially start on December 16th with a tradition called “Las Posadas,” which last all the way until Noche Buena or Christmas Eve. This tradition involves the recreation of Mary and Joseph’s hard journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, trying to find shelter to give birth. A different part of the journey is recreated every night, culminating with a party at a neighborhood. Children dress as angels, shepherds, and also as Mary and Joseph in such processions, with their parents following with lit candles.

Christmas in Morocco

Jemaa el Fnaa

Jemaa el Fnaa Square. Marrakech, Morocco

As a Muslim country, Christmas is rarely celebrated in Morocco. Yet, due to the strong French/European influence in the country, along with a growing expat community, you will find Christmas lights and decorations sprinkled throughout the big cities. Days vary, however, depending on the faith and background of that minority. For instance, members of the Orthodox Christian Church celebrate Christmas on January 6th; while the Coptic and Armenian Churches celebrate the holy day on January 7th. Last, but not least, the Catholics typically attend a special evening mass on December 24th to start Christmas.

Christmas in Panama

Christmas traditions around the world, Panama

Left: A traditional pollera dress; Right: Light show during Panama City’s Christmas Boat Show (Photos:

Christmas in Panama is quite lively and several great events are held, specially in the capital Panama City. Festivities kick off the 2nd weekend of December with a big Christmas Parade. Gorgeous floats pass by and women dress in very bright, traditional dresses called polleras. Also, at night, an amazing boat parade showcase a light show that is truly spectacular!

Christmas in Puerto Rico

It is tough to decide what’s your favorite tradition of a Puerto Rican Christmas. Is it the fact that they begin on Thanksgiving Day in November and don’t end until the end of January? Is it the party after party throughout the whole season and how virtually everyone decorates their homes with hundreds of lights? Or is it the food and plena music?

Coming from the Island of Enchantment, I can tell you that the most unique and fun Christmas tradition in Puerto Rico is the parrandas! In essence, they are drunken Christmas carols! Learn more about Puerto Rican parrandas here.

Christmas in Spain

Christmas traditions around the world, Pavo trufado

Pavo trufado: A traditional Christmas dish in Spain (Photo:

Naturally, Christmas traditions in Spain are very similar to those in Latn America. Thus, I have decided to switch it up a bit on this entry and leave ya with a recipe of a traditional Christmas dish in Spain: Pavo Trufado de Navidad (Christmas Turkey with Truffles)!

1 turkey of 4 kg.
½ kg. minced lean pork
1 kg. minced veal
Salt and ground black pepper
1 glass of brandy
1 large glass of dry oloroso sherry
3 tins (of 90g) truffles (mushrooms)
150 g “jamon serrano”
200 g belly of pork in rashers
6 eggs [click here for the rest!]

Christmas in Switzerland

Christmas traditions around the world, Swiss ringli

Ringli: Typical Christmas treat in Switzerland

A special Swiss Christmas tradition is to await the arrival of Christkindli: A white angel wearing a crown full of jewels, which holds a face veil over its face. This angel is the one that brings the presents. These, by the way, come in a basket, which is carried by Christkindli‘s child helpers. Also, another Swiss Christmas tradition is  to eat ringli (homemade doughnuts) with hot chocolate.

Christmas in St Thomas (US Virgin Islands)

Christmas traditions around the world, St Thomas sweet bread

Photo recipe: (click to enlarge)

One event to look forward to when spending Christmas in St. Thomas is the Challenge of the Carols outdoor concert. It is infamously glorious! While at it, grab some Johnny cakes (traditional holiday sweet bread). Click on the image above for a traditional recipe to bake at home!

Christmas in Vatican City

Christmas traditions around the world, Vatican

Vatican Christmas Tree (Photo: Sunshine city, Flikr)

Naturally, the Pope delivers his traditional Christmas speech and directs mass to thousands of fervent believers. This service, called “midnight papal mass,” actually begins at 10 PM on Christmas Eve in St. Peter’s Basilica. The papal speech, however, is delivered around noon on Christmas Day.

What are your favorite Christmas traditions around the world? Why?

My travel bucket list, part 2 (photo essay)

Whether you call it a bucket list, or travel bucket list, or things to do before I die; or if you simply call them dreams or goals: Everybody has one of those “lists,” either written on paper, on a computer, in their mind, or in their heart. My bucket list has always involved traveling, and so I have called it the travel bucket list, and this shall be part 2! (click here for part 1). It contains my written dreams and goals yet to accomplish. However, in the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to cross some “items” out! And so here, for the first time ever, I make it openly public! Btw, all crossed-off items on this entry are clickable! So if you wish to hear more details and tales about each experience on this travel bucket list, click on any bullet point (opens in new window, btw)! So I present you with items on part 2, in no particular order:

* Get diving certification aka PADI certified

my travel bucket list, diving in Egypt Red Sea

Elacatinus evelynae cleaning my teeth! @Canyon Gardens

After many years of hesitation I finally crossed this item off my bucket list in spring 2009. Diving in Egypt was definitely one of the highlights of my year living there. Nothing rivals the Red Sea and its vast beauty! Lucky me, I got to dive some of the top diving sites in the world as part of my PADI certifications: Open Water and Advanced! In less than 2 weeks and for under $600 US dollars, I got both PADI certifications, paid for accommodation and meals. Still can’t believe it!

* The Great Migration in Tanzania, hot air balloon in Kenya, Big 5 in South Africa..etc etc

my travel bucket list, Great Migration

Great Migration, Masai Mara from the air by T. R. Shankar Raman

At a very young age, I “digitally witnessed” the Great Migration from my living room in Puerto Rico thanks to National Geographic. But now that I am old enough, I wish to witness it LIVE through an African Safari. I wish to do a full-blown safari in Tanzania, while seeing the great Migration up from the air in Kenya on a hot air balloon ride. Also, I wish to go down south to the highly-acclaimed South African reserves and see the Big 5 down there on a different season. And, most importantly, kiss a giraffe, pet a tiger, etc. etc…can’t wait to do all this!

* Take a break and chill at Lake Malawi

my travel bucket list, Lake Malawi

Lake Malawi beach by JackyR, Wiki Commons

Continuing with my African dreams, after I do all of the above in one single trip, I’m sure I’ll be tired as heck. Thus, chilling around Lake Malawi will be the perfect break. According to a RTW Guidebook I read several years ago, this spot is up there with Dahab, Egypt (which happens to be my favorite spot on Earth) on chillaxation and guilty of trapping travelers for weeks to an end. Oh yes please, trap me. Seduce me. I’m so down

* Paragliding in Fethiye, Turkey

my travel bucket list, Fethiye paragliding

Paragliding in Fethiye, Turkey by

OK, I’ll admit it: I don’t have the balls to do hangliding. Really, I think I would die. But gliding through the heavens was still a dream of mine, and as I looked for alternatives, I found paragliding! Yay for adding some risk to my travel bucket list! =D Don’t know what makes me feel safer about this, but I’m down! And Fethiye, Turkey seems to be the beautiful, perfect spot for the feat. Ahhh, one day!

* Make the 40-day Turkish itinerary I wrote down 3 years ago a reality…

my travel bucket list, epic Turkey trip

Turkey map by Thomas Steiner, Wiki Commons

Speaking of Turkish delights…I was supposed to go on a 40-day Turkish Odyssey, couchsurfing and road tripping throughout the entire country, circumnavigating it from west to east and back (and note: I planned all by myself for months) back in 2008. What happened, you may ask? Well, I was engaged and studying abroad for a year, so I thought, what most *delightful* surprise than to go visit my fiance for Christmas, when he’s not expecting to see me until June? Bought the flight from Egypt to America in October. Come December, exactly 10 days before my surprise flight–and fiance breaks up with me. Yeah, talk about major OUCH. Still, low and behold, I got my travel bucket list itinerary and months of research saved for when I finally go for the Turkish invasion!

* Dive submerged ancient sites, especially in Italy and Alexandria, Egypt

travel bucket list, diving Alexandria Egypt ancient ruins

Underwater ruins in Alexandria, Egypt by

So back to the water indeed. I love it, reason why my mom called me “little fishie” when I was young. Grew up in a Caribbean island, kind of expected! So yeah, another diving item on my travel bucket list is to wander through submerged ancient cities and sites. Mix water with history and I’ll get so wet without thinking about it twice (literally)

And that shall be it for my travel bucket list, part DOS! I think I’ll make it habitual and every Wednesday post will be about my travel bucket list. What do you think? =)

What’s on your travel bucket list? What have you crossed off already?

My Travel bucket list: Manatees swimming, Abu Simbel temple, Rome!

Whether you call it a bucket list, or travel bucket list, or things to do before I die; or if you simply call them dreams or goals: Everybody has one of those “lists,” either written on paper, on a computer, in their mind, or in their heart. My bucket list has always involved traveling, and so I have called it the travel bucket list (part 1!). It contains my written dreams and goals yet to accomplish. However, in the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to cross some “items” out! And so here, for the first time ever, I make it openly public! Btw, all crossed-off items on this entry are clickable! So if you wish to hear more details and tales about each experience on this travel bucket list, click on any bullet point (opens in new window, btw)! Here they are, in no particular order:

* Visit Egypt and see all the Pharaonic temples, particularly Abu Simbel

travel bucket list, Abu Simbel temple

Egypt – check!

DONE! Some tough decisions, sacrifices and several drafts later, I won a $20,000-dollar scholarship to go live in Egypt for a year and study Arabic full time (2008-2009). It’s been, so far, one of the most challenging, yet most amazing experiences of my life. I learned so much not only about the world around me and Islam (at a particularly tough time), but also found myself there. Granted, the only thing planned about this was my dream of visiting Egypt ever since I first saw a picture of Nefertiti [CLS essay stuff here]. I prefer the modified package, though! *wink* =D

* Swim with Manatees

travel bucket list, swim with manatees

Swim with manatees – check!

You heard all about it the other day! This item was crossed off thanks to one of my best friends, Josh. We headed to Crystal River (Florida, USA), rented a boat, grabbed a map and went were they were! Gentle, adorable mammals who don’t mind being close to humans =)

* Swim with dolphins…and whale sharks and manta rays and seals and…

My list of swimming with marine creatures is so long that it could easily serve as my entire travel bucket list itself. While I could easily cross off dolphins by going to any aquarium it seems like these days, I do not want to condone keeping these creatures in captivity. Namely, I want to swim with them in the wild–wouldn’t that be more amazing anyway!? With the dolphins I plan to play with when I go back to Israel, as around Eilat there is a place where dolphins come and go as they wish and the love interacting with humans, called Dolphin Reef Eilat. As for whale sharks, I think I want to go far far away–like Palau or Indonesia =D for manta rays, I hear Manta Ray city in Grand Cayman is quite popular, but I may head to a different place where I could do it at a lower cost *wink* seals? Probably a good one to cross off while diving in Galápagos Islands. As for other creatures, I can’t think of all of them right now, but if you got some write them down in a comment because some might escape me!

travel bucket list, Old Jerusalem

The Holy lands: Check!

* Visit the Holy Land, Israel & Palestine

I know, disputed territories and decide what’s the actual “proper” name — I give the name to both and that’s it, people that want to fight can keep fighting if they want–I won’t! Anyhow, this item has been on my list ever since I first heard about Jesus and performed my very first prayers. Raised as a Catholic, but now a non-denominational Christian after some soul-searching, this is a special place for sure. In fact, no matter what religion you are or are not part of–Jerusalem and the Holy Land have a different vibe to it that makes it truly unique. Even if for history’s sake, these lands must be in several travel bucket lists I’m sure–and with a reason. I am so happy I was lucky enough to visit twice in 2009, and one of those times was during a special Muslim holiday, Eid el Adha. You may click here for details about my first trip or on the bullet point above to read about my experiences during both of my trips there on my Travel The Middle East website.

travel bucket list, Backstreet Boys cruise

Backstreet Boys? Check! Im in the white-and-blue dress!(click for full size)

* Meet the Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, and the Spice Girls

So you might be thinking, how is this possibly travel-related? Well, the way I met them! I went on a Backstreet Boys cruise. You heard right: A Backstreet Boys cruise. Not only did I meet all of them several times, but I also got called on stage during the beach party to limbo dance with them and had some, umm, intimate moments with one of the members, HOWIE! Yes, you can laugh and point at me and call me teenybopper all you want, because *makes Arnold Schwarzenegger accent* I don’t caaaare! lol. Unfortunately though, I haven’t met Ms Spears nor the Spice Girls; though I did go to a concert and see the Pop Princess pretty up close. Soooo, Spice reunion pending!

travel bucket list Colosseum, Rome

Rome – check!

* Visit Rome & as many parts of the ancient Roman empire as possible, sp Tunisia

I can’t begin to explain my obsessions with Rome. Just like the Egypt and its pharaohs, the Roman empire made its way into my heart at an early age as well. While the empire was huge, I at least have already made it to its center: Rome. Couldn’t have been any more exciting when I finally made it there! I traveled solo, as I usually do, and Couchsurfed for about 4 days. All in all, an unforgettable experience indeed =) still though, many other locales to go!

And that shall be it for my travel bucket list, part UNO! I think I’ll make it habitual and every Wednesday post will be about my travel bucket list. What do you think? =)

What’s on your travel bucket list? What have you crossed off already?

Colosseum Rome video and photo-bomb! (My solo adventures in Italy)

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my solo adventures in Italy! Not only did I Couchsurf in a beautiful suburb (and had my own bed!), But I got terribly lost before finally being able to record this Colosseum Rome video and photo-bomb 😀

Colosseum Rome video: a QUICKIE!

Now, onto the most epic photo bomb ever…

Photobomber on the left, sporting brilliant silver hair and bright red jacket. Maria aka latinabroad on the right, with black attire:

Colosseum Rome video and photo

Colosseum Rome match results: Photobomber – 1. Maria – 0

My cute smile could not rival his mustache. Bummer.

Have you been to the Colosseum, Rome? Post the link of your best shot!