My First Photo Tour to Italy: A Success!

I know it's been awhile since I last posted, which makes sense considering how busy it's been in the "off-season." It's fitting my last post was about Italy, since I just returned home from there again. I led a photo-tour to the big 3: Rome, Florence & Venice for just over a week in March. 

 Gondolas during blue hour before sunrise - it was snowing!

Gondolas during blue hour before sunrise - it was snowing!

 A photo during sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo, overlooking Florence.

A photo during sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo, overlooking Florence.

I was a bit nervous to have the responsibility to guide first-timers around these places with BlueHour. This tour was the first of its kind, since nearly every tour we do is almost solely focused around landscapes and landscape photography. Italy is very, very different, especially when it comes to tourism sites like Rome. We were able to fit in the very best these cities had to offer in a short amount of time. I was really happy with how it all came together! Though, with some changes, which we will be implementing in the future. 

I'm proud of the shots I managed to make on this trip! I was looking forward to visiting Burano most, since I had never been and it was a stop I missed on the first go-round to Venice. Even though it was raining on that day, the rainbow-painted houses are a sight to see!

I also made a timelapse this time of the Colosseum at night:

I think one of the best parts about Italy, and I don't think anyone would disagree, is the food. I was able to revisit some of my favorite restaurants again, with the addition of trying the famous Florentine Steak! We even did a wine-tasting outside of Siena, which are always so much fun. I learned something brand new over the course of that day - all about Balsamic Vinegar. I had no idea how "the real thing" tasted, and I didn't know I would like it. We got to sample 12-year and 20-year aged Balsamic, and I think it might have changed lives!! I'll never look at Balsamic the same way again, and no more cheap stuff for me! I made sure to take plenty of photos of our culinary experiences:

 St. Peter's Basilica & The Tiber River after sunset.

St. Peter's Basilica & The Tiber River after sunset.

And, the blog wouldn't be complete if I didn't mention our stop at the Florentine leather school, where I bought myself a nice leather trench coat, and our tour-goers made some quality purchases as well. If you're going to buy leather goods anywhere, Florence is the place to do it.

The Aventine Keyhole

The making of the keyhole photo - It just looks really silly doesn't it - photo by Paul Nguyen

After the conclusion of the tour, Paul and I stayed an extra couple of days to scout out new locations for a new Italy tour. Our next stop will be Southern Italy, where we'll take photographers to locations like Sorrento, Capri, Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast (it will be warmer there too!). It was a nice change of pace to visit the much quieter Amalfi & Positano, compared to the likes of Florence and Rome. 

 The classic perspective of Positano.

The classic perspective of Positano.

I even made a "cat series" of photographs, since Italy, especially southern Italy, has so many of them scurrying around. They'll make a nice addition to my existing ones!

Interested in our 2019 tour? Send us a message so we can put you on our 'shortlist,' and we'll email you details when we're closer to our tour announcement before anyone else!

Italia: I Went, I Saw, and I’ll Be Back Again Soon

Not quite how that saying goes, but it works as a title.

From Centro Storico, Perugia

I have long wanted to revisit Italy since I studied there at the Umbra Institute in Perugia four years ago (I can’t believe it’s already been that long…). I decided that this year I finally would. I set aside two and a half weeks to mill about Perugia and the surrounding towns, and also to explore the Val D’Orcia, a part of Tuscany I have known about for years but never was able to visit in the past. I booked my tickets early on in 2017, and with everything else I’ve been busy with, I nearly forgot I was going!

But, November 10 arrived and I was up for another marathon-of-a-day in planes, trains and buses. The best part about international flights is they come with a pillow, blanket, multiple meals – and free alcohol! I admit, I was particularly nervous about this trip since I hadn’t travelled alone in quite some time, but as soon as I saw that we were approaching Rome, I couldn’t keep the smile from my face, and the nerves faded.

The first thing I did when I arrived after the bus into town was to order a cappuccino & cornetto – the breakfast of champions. Well, maybe not, but, it was perfect. Instead of English, everyone around me was speaking Italian; I had missed hearing it. (I really should have brushed up on my language skills before coming). Already, even in the train station, people sounded different, looked different, the smells were different. There’s something exciting about being somewhere completely different from what you’re used to.

I only had one day in Rome before making the trip to Perugia. I walked all over the city. I took a few pictures, and went to see an Oasis cover band perform. I made a great decision, because somehow, I met my good friend Cory’s college roommate completely by chance. What are the odds of that happening? We could have spoken all night without knowing about the mutual connection. Crazy!

I packed up my too-big-for-Perugia suitcase, made my way to the bus station and was on my way. I stayed at a hotel just outside the city center for a whole week – something I never get to do. Of course, it was Sunday, and rainy – not a soul was out in the center. It was really surreal being back, but even more so seeing it in the off-season.

I spent the whole week walking around familiar places, eating at old and new restaurants, and spending time with friends from way back when. With the passage of time, things were different, but also the same. I’m glad I was able to come back.

Umbricelli alla Norcina

I also met someone who I’d like to think I’ll keep in touch with for a long time. He showed me his hometown, took me to the waterfalls and the lake near his home, cooked me meals (he is a chef! Can’t get better than that) and even introduced me to his friends and family. It was probably one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me and I’m so grateful for such an authentic experience.

Marmore

Carbonara & Red Wine Linguine

Though I loved being where I was, it was time for the next part of my trip. My friend from home, Heather, was coming to join for this part! She had never been to Italy so it was exciting to be able to show her around and explain how things worked, or what things were. I met her in Florence, where we walked around the city, ate lots of pasta, drank lots of wine, and went shopping (how could you not?).

Fiocchetti alle pere

Desserts & pastries everywhere

We had rented a small apartment in an agriturismo (a ‘hotel’ if you will, but on a working farm) between the tiny cities of Pienza and San Quirico D’Orcia. It’s the place you think of when you think “Tuscany.” We rented a car outside of Florence and drove about an hour and 40 minutes south in the night. When the sun came up – we both spent the morning just walking around the property, looking around. Every single property here is a farm and they are all located some distance away from one another atop a hill lined with cypress trees. Amazing. Though it was late in the year and the soil was being tilled, it didn’t matter.

The driveway to our agriturismo

Cypress in Montalcino

There were also 5 cats on the property, which Heather and I both took the liberty to pet and play with them. We’re cat ladies.

I would feel super guilty if I didn’t be a ‘mofo photographer’ for at least one day while I was here. I woke up at sunrise on two mornings to scout out locations and photo spots for future tours! The best part about where we were staying is that every spot is within 30 minutes of each other.

I was treated to this amazing sunrise; I made a timelapse too, though I wish I had started earlier.

 Podere Belvedere

Podere Belvedere

I will for sure be returning in the Spring at some point to photograph the wheat fields and flower blooms.

Oncoming storm & Cypress rows

Bagno di San Filippo

The rest of the time was spent exploring and relaxing. Heather and I spent a day at the Spa in Bagno Vignoni, where we got a red wine hydro-massage bath and took dips in the thermal water. And in the same day, went to Bagno San Filippo and Fossa Bianco for some admission-free  hot spring relaxing, locals-style. We visited Montepulciano, which is most famous for their ‘Vino Nobile,’ or ‘Wine of Nobles,’ which carry a special denomination. We did some wine sampling, and our Christmas shopping at the Christmas market. We had arms full of meats and cheeses. And on our last day,  we took a cooking class, and learned how to make Pici (the traditional Tuscan pasta) from scratch, a tomato sauce and a pear & ricotta pie. Mmmm.

Needless to say, I had a wonderful time and I can’t wait to go back.   

Molly & Ryan

My last wedding of 2017 was for Molly & Ryan at the Sturbridge Publick House Inn, MA. The day went painlessly thanks to the work of the coordinators and staff! Though November is late in the year and a little chilly, the atmosphere was warm and the couple's friends and family couldn't have been happier for the newlyweds. 

Here are some of my favorites from the day and evening:

The little details are always a favorite for me to photograph

The lacing on Molly's dress was beautiful!

The royal treatment - Molly rode in a golf cart on her way to surprise Ryan for their 'first look' pre-ceremony

The first look!

The whole bunch of 'em

My second shooter really captured the silliness of the groomsmen! Love the selfies shots.

Getting ready to walk down the aisle

The ring exchange

And of course, the kiss.

Congratulations Molly & Ryan!