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23 Places to Travel in 2023

Here are 23 of the best places to travel in 2023.

2022 was great! I explored parts of Italy and the US I’ve never been before. Checked a bucket list world wonder off my list with Petra. I saw Atlantic sunsets in one of my favorite countries in the world, Portugal. And ate lots of memory-writing meals. Oh, and I got married in Italy so I was able to plan the best group trip ever! I’m ready to continue our adventures in this new year. Here’s my perfect bucket list for 2023: 23 places I’d love to go to and places I can’t wait to visit again.

Me in the Wadi Rum desert

1. Yucatán Peninsula

Wakanda Forever! I need to explore more of the Yucatán peninsula, I’m usually on the other side of Mexic. I’m manifesting beautiful cenotes in my outlook this year and I’ve never been to Merida!

2. Kigali

Speaking of Wakanda, with Rwanda being one of the countries that inspired the movie, I need to be immersed in the afrofuturism of Kigali. Rwanda is more than gorillas. But, I want to see the gorillas too.

3. Cairo & the Nile

I actually love intimate luxury river cruises. A bucketlist experience would be visiting Cairo and taking one along the Nile. Maybe a little Death on the Nile inspired.

4. Santiago de Cuba

I’ve roadtripped Western Cuba and I’m dying to do a little heritage trip to Santiago de Cuba, dancing some son, seeing the center of the country’s Afro-Cubana population and the vibes.

5. The Jura, France

I want to eat my way through The Jura region in France. One of the country’s most important culinary regions that is a little lesser known. Bucolic, beautiful and green.

6. Courchevel, France

Because of Michele, I’m embracing skiing more but I still need amazing food, culture and landscapes for those days when I don’t want to hit the slopes. You may have heard of Gstaad or St Moritz, I’ve heard of Courchevel as a fun elite playground in the French Alps. And I’ve tried a sampling of the gastronomy to prove it. See you there!

7. Grenada

Does Grenada just smell good? It’s called the Spice Isle. I’m expecting to step off of the airplane and just be hit with the smell of cloves, cinnamon, chocolate… rum… on this beautiful Caribbean island.

8. Hokkaido, Japan

Japan has opened up to tourists and those beautiful photos of the volcanoes flower fields and hot springs of Hokkaido are calling my name. Hokkaido’s fresh waters are known for it’s seafood. Sounds like paradise.

9. Western Australia

I’ve never been to Australia and experiencing the Outback is definitely on my bucketlist. I want to check out Western Australia. An ideal trip would be the outback for a few days, sip wine in the Margaret River Valley, learn about 50,000 year old Aboriginal culture and see beautiful beaches. 

10. Santa Fe, New Mexico

From the art, to the jewelry, magical light in the surrounding nature and architecture, Santa Fe has long been a city on my bucket list. Plus it’s a city of chile lovers with a margarita trail… maybe I can convince Soph to do a girl’s trip…

11. Suriname

Suriname has been on my list for years. Images of Suriname’s jungles look like natural perfection and there’s a really cool jewelry culture there. When I went to Dominica, there was this almost perfect peace. I kind of imagine it like that.

12. Hvar, Croatia

Red tiled roofs, old cobblestoned streets, beautiful seaside ports. It’s not hard to see me on a weekend in Hvar.

13. Oaxaca & Guadalajara, Mexico

I guess I’ve been missing Mexico deeply because I have about 5 places in Mexico on this list, but it’s such a beautiful country and my happy place, home of my comfort food. Mole is perhaps my favorite sauce in the world, and to take a lesson on learning to make a kind of mole in Oaxaca would be a bucketlist experience. Many friends from Sayulita were actually from Guadalajara, what they called Mexico’s traditional, cultural capital. I love Mexico City but this slightly smaller Mexican city is making the list for 2023.

14. Oman

Childhood cartoon dreams of desert oases in my mind, I can’t wait to visit Oman. I have a friend born and raised in Oman and it seems like an underrated gem in the Middle East. Cosmopolitan and beautiful Muscat seems to have a stunning souk that rivals Istanbul.

15. Chile

I’m eager to experience Chile’s wine region and the incredible landscapes of Patagonia. The Atacama Desert & Lake District the cultural heritage of Rapa Nui and the wine region of Valle Central are just some of the reasons Chile would be a great place to travel in 2023.

16. Asheville, North Carolina

Once, I reached out to beautiful Biltmore hotel… not in Coral Gables but in Asheville, North Carolina. Since then, Asheville has been on my radar. Tucked away in the peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is located in the middle of the Eastern Seaboard and is known for it’s vibrant art scene. Seems like a cool place to take a weekend trip.

17. Benin

The art work of Benin has always fascinated me, especially the brass figures. My accountant collects them so I see them every tax season when he regals me with his amazing tales of trips to Benin during a DNA tour. I would love to explore Benin and other parts of West Africa like Senegal.

18. Tanzania & Madagascar

Everyday, I wear a tanzanite and I’d love to see more of the beautiful country that is Tanzania. A bucketlist dream is to see Mt Kilamanjaro… I don’t think I’m ready to hike it quite yet. But the beautiful beaches of Tanzania and it’s ancient towns seem like the perfect holiday. Madagascar has always attracted me because of it’s spices and cross section of culture. I’d love to take a trip there while I’m in the region.

19. Wales

Rolling green hills, rugged coastline, and I hear cool things about Cardiff! Wales seems like it would be a perfect natural escape while in Europe.

20. South Dakota

I’m hoping to learn more about First Nation and Native American culture this year and South Dakota has been put on my radar as a very interesting place to do just that. I’ve seen and appreciated beautiful traditions, artwork, crafts of indigenous cultures during my travels and it’s time I explore more of that culture in my home country.

21. The Guadelupe Valley, Mexico

Is it a road trip from San Diego? Ever since a bartender at the Mondrian in West Hollywood told me about this wine valley in Mexico that he was from, I’ve wanted to explore more of Mexico’s wine country.

22. The Aeolian Islands

While in Calabria, I saw the Aeolian islands in the distance and knew I wanted to visit this area on my next holiday to Sicily. The dramatic volcano of Stromboli, Panarea, with it’s chic vibes and Salina, the second-largest island, is also the greenest and possibly the most beautiful. It boasts a natural preserve and olive and grape vineyards.

23. Banff & Lake Louise, Canada

I love living in a heavy lake region of Italy. Lake Braies is spectacular, and some of the glacier fed lakes like Peyto in the Banff National park look nothing short of miraculous.

When traveling, there’s nothing like visiting a place that keeps calling you back.

Take me back to…

I’ll definitely be back to South County, Rhode Island, some of the best seafood I’ve had in the US and really relaxing New England coastal towns so close to the cities. Sorry Long Island, I might be heading North.

You all know how much I loved the Noto Valley in Sicily. The landscape, people, food…. You’ll definitely see me there again this summer.

Dominica is one of the most beautiful natural islands I’ve been to. I hope to do more wellness travel in 2023 and while in Dominica, I ate fresh and well, deeply and spiritually connected with the culture and nature and got to do really awesome things like forest-bathing.

Visiting the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique opened up a new world about French culture to me and the French West Indies. I love Guadeloupe’s blend of French, West Indian and African culture. In the strength and resilience of the Guadeloupean culture, I see a lot of similarities with Haiti and I’d love to go back to the island and learn even more.

Any places you think would be the best places to travel in 2023? Comment below!

Ciao, Sicilia! Sicily Travel Guides

Ciao, Sicilia! I mean even that alone sounds sexy, no? Dolce & Gabbana built their brand around it.

riserva naturale cavagrande del cassibile

As an American living in Italy, it can be easy to fall into that La Dolce Vita myth. Everything is beautiful, everywhere is magical. Though, being primarily based in Northern Italy, I’ll let you in on something: Southern Italy has my heart. From my time in Puglia in my early 20s, to now, Sicily is decidely my happy place in Italy. Maybe it’s the island life, I know it’s the hospitality, food, people, ‘tude. The people are warmer, their accents more melodic, more swaggy. Tuscany is beautiful, but I truly believe, Sicily is what Americans want when they come to Italy. A lot of Italian-Americans are Southern or Sicilian… so maybe it’s the familiar? Did you know that in 1945 and 1946 a strong Sicilian separatist movement campaigned for Sicily to be admitted as a U.S. state?

riserva naturale del Plemmerio

Black Americans, you might be drawn to Sicily too… from True Romance to Little White Lies, are they those mythic “Black Italian” in American culture. Sicily’s history leads it to be a beautiful example of multiculturalism: Greeks, Moors, Germans, Arabs, just to name a few. For more on Sicily’s multiculturalism check out my post on Black Sicilians.

Nneya Piazza Aprile Taormina by Michele
Piazza Aprile in Taormina

Sicily craze seems to be at a fever pitch due to the popularity of White Lotus. Though, I’d like to say that DREW magazine was ahead of the curve me when I told them “Taormina is for lovers” last holiday season. So, I thought I’d share my favorite Sicilian haunts with you in this series Ciao, Sicilia!

view of Ragusa-Ibla

From the Noto Valley to Messina to Marsala, I’m knew I couldn’t limit Sicily to just one blog post. Nor would I want to. So for the next few weeks, I’ll be frequently sharing Sicily travel guides to aid you in booking your next favorite holiday!

I’ll continuously update this post with links to my different Sicily guides. So here’s what I’ve written about so far.

Perfect Weekend in Taormina Travel Guide

Taormina is for Lovers for Drew Magazine

PHOTOS BY NNEYA RICHARDS & MICHELE SCAGLIONE

Why Do I Love Sicily? Are Sicilians Black?

Are Sicilians Black? No, but the warmth of it’s people, culture, food and multiculturalism makes Sicily my favorite Italian region.

in front of Sicilian ceramics shop in Taormina

While starting my travel series, Ciao, Sicilia, I had a think about why I love Sicily. What was supposed to be three short sentences turned into paragraphs. Yes, Taormina, Sicily was where Michele proposed but even touching down in Sicily, in Catania, immediately, I knew I was going to love it.

It’s the warmth of both the people and climate.

When we first arrived in Catania, it was a hot June afternoon. The heat was oppressive but seeing the ornate balconies of the beautiful Sicilian baroque buildings, I wanted to take it all in and explore. Smart Sicilians had shuttered themselves inside to avoid the mid-day sun. The aged decadent architecture reminded me of Havana.

sandwich guru Andrea Borderi and his son at Caseificio Borderi in Ortigia

The first thing we did was eat and the heaping portions and warm smiles serving the food reminded me of my own family’s West Indian background. On another trip to Sicily, I even spotted a Jamaican restaurant in Syracuse!

Sicily is a cultural melting pot.

The strong influence of the Arabic and Moor (even the story behind the ubiquitous Sicilian moor’s head) culture is obvious in the architecture, art and cuisine. You’ll see Roman ruins and Greek temples — in fact, at one point, Syracuse was more important to the Greek Empire than Athens. Sicily was a big part of Magna Grecia. Sub-saharan merchants came through Sicily, people from Asian dynasties, Germans, Jews. You’ll see churches on mosques on synagouges. It’s spectacular. Modern-day Palermo is home to over 25,000 immigrants and has a thriving Muslim population. One of the most outspoken politicians against Italy’s anti-immigrant policies has been Palermo’s mayor, Leoluca Orlando. 

Minister Salvini isn’t against Muslims, Minister Salvini isn’t against immigrants, Minister Salvini is against Italians. He is against our culture of hospitality, he’s against our Mediterranean soul, he’s against our history.

Mayor of Palermo, Leoluca Orlando

We like the familiar, and to me, Sicily is familiar. A lot of Italian Americans are Southern/ Sicilian. Southern Italian food is familiar to me. Though, don’t get me wrong, I love the food from all the regions. But here’s the most fascinating familiar to me a Black American woman. Maybe it’s that Sicilians are Black Italians? Yea, despite that famous scene in True Romance, that’s not true.

Is she Black? No, she’s Sicilian.

This was a common refrain Lacey Schwartz, director of Little White Lie, heard throughout her childhood. In the documentary, Lacey described how relatives explained away her copper skin, black curls and full lips: attributing them to a Sicilian grandfather. Wendy Williams calls Italian-American Real Housewife of New Jersey, Dolores Catania (née Spagnola), Black Dolores. Wendy explained that sometimes Dolores “looked like a sister.” I see it. And I am often transfixed by Dolores’ beauty. Other Black women definitely see it. The reality star later revealed on the Wendy Williams Show that her dad is 3% Nigerian.

And maybe some of that familiarity is a bit of the opressed recognizing the oppressed — while in Italy, I want to be clear. That distinction is best highlighted in an excellent op-ed in the New York Times that is an enlightening read How Italians Became White by Brent Staples.

In Italy, Northerners had long held that Southerners — particularly Sicilians — were an “uncivilized” and racially inferior people, too obviously African to be part of Europe.

How Italians Became White, Brent Staples, New York Times, 2019

You’ll hear people disparage Sicily for being chaotic, unorganized, terrible trash collection system, a hub of organized crime… and yes… some of these things are true. But for all the beauty, all the good, I’ll deal with the bad. So, are Sicilians Black? No, Sicilians aren’t Black… but ehh… menomale and as Issa Rae said.

And with that energy, my love affair with Sicily continues.

Holiday Fashion 2022

Looks for holiday fashion 2022! Whether you’re going to a quiet holiday dinner or want to turn on the glam for chic fete, I have you covered. A festive dress? A chic suit? I have it!

Women in front of lit carousel in red suit holiday dressing

It’s that time of year! The holiday season gives us all a fun opportunity to elevate our glam. Any excuse to put some fun bling in my wardrobe, I’ll take it! Over the years I’ve built up perrennial favorites that are both timeless and elegant during the season. Here are a few of my favorite holiday fashion pieces for 2022. And 2021, and probably 2023! Click the piece heading to shop!

Women in front of lit carousel in red suit holiday dressing
suit, OTTOD’AME | top, H&M | shoes, MANOLO BLAHNIK, $725 | bag, CHANEL (similiar one shown here), $4,415

First up, a plaid or tartan suit. A plaid suit is timeless and chic. You can dress it up or down and get a lot of where out of separates for holiday fashion and beyond.

J. Crew Willa blazer, $262

J. Crew Kate Straight Leg Pants, $142

Banana Republic Cora Brocade Bustier, $100 (right now it’s 40% off this price!)

Stuart Weitzman Avenue Suede Pumps, $234

Bottega Veneta Red Mini Jodie Bag, $2,650 (a fun update to this look!)

Woman on stone street in Italy in Sequin Skirt, Pink Sweater Holiday Dressing
sweater, SCAGLIONE, | cuff & necklace, ANNDRA NEED | bag, ANNDRA NEEN, $415

The Barbiecore trend is definitley creeping into holiday dressing for 2022! This sequinned silver skirt has been in my wardrobe for years and one of my favorite ways to style it is often with an sweater, sometimes thin monochrome grey, other times, French stripes, it’s always fresh. This year, I’m loving hot pink and fuschia with silver.

Scaglione Hybrid Cashmere Sweater, $295

ASOS EDITION Midi skirt, $170

Love Moschino Velvet Boot, $143

these are just fun and inexpensive enough to be “holiday boots!”

Anndra Neen Oval Clutch with Nazar Beads, $415

Women in front of holiday lights in green satin pants and gold knit top holiday dressing
top & pants, WES GORDON | shoes, TOPSHOP | bag, ANNDRA NEEN, $415

When I found this intricate metal cable knit gold sleeveless from Wes Gordon years ago, I knew it would be a forever top. And it’s been with me on formal occassions and photoshoots everywhere — from Anguilla to Italy. This isn’t metallic coat but made with metallic thread. A little Rumpelstiltskin vibes! I haven’t seen anything link this top before or since — trust me, I look every year for you guys. Wes is at Carolina Herrera now, maybe we can petition him for a revisit! Here are a few selects I found that kind of create the idea. Paired with these jewel toned green pants, the look becomes perfect for holiday dressing.

Pinko cable-knit top, $196

Vitelli metallic-thread top, $615

Larroude Gloria heel, $285

women in front of carousel in green dress holiday dressing

The jewel-toned statement dress is a holiday dressing essential. Emerald green. Showstopping ruby. A brilliant mustard raw silk. Jewel-toned dresses are year long wardrobe staples that feel extra special during the holidays. Throw one on and dress it up with a great knee-high boot.

Nneya in a green maxi dress

Self Portrait embellished chiffon gown, $485

Stuart Weitzman Avenue Zip 95, $850

Remember when people said “no white after labor day?” We know fashion rules are made to be broken. My favorite winter look are beautiful bold winter whites. It’s a chance to showcase luxurious fabrics. Like duchesse satin and wool crepes, and you know me — sequins. My favorite winter white pants are of course, limited edition by the maestro himself, Wes Gordon, but I scoured some similiar looks for your holiday dressing 2022.

Women in front of large lit Christmas Tree in White Pants and White Sequinned Jacket Holiday Dressing
pants, WES GORDON | sequinned jacket, VINTAGE | scarf, GUCCI VINTAGE

Co Wool Crepe Pleated wide leg trouser, $695

Cinq A Sept Rina sequin trip crop jacket, $357

Sonoran Desert Inn: The Only Non-Profit Inn in the USA

Neoclassical School Building in Arizona Desert
The Curley School in Ajo, Arizona

A way to rethink the way we travel is through sustainable tourism. Travel and hospitality can be a polluting, displacing industry and the concious traveler often wants to put their travel dollars towards righting this. Welcome to Sonoran Desert Inn, the only non-profit inn in the USA doing things a little bit differently.

courtyard of the Sonoran Desert Inn

Sonoran Desert Inn is the only non-profit inn in the country. 

Based in Ajo, Arizona, right on the border with Mexico in the Sonoran desert, this inn is housed in a converted school house of  those once robust, desert mining towns that dominate imagery of the west.

Do you like off-the-beaten-path travel visiting ghost towns, old mining towns or factory towns? Then this place is for you. And you’d be giving funds to marganilized communities.

As a not-for-profit organization, the inn functions to attract visitors to Ajo and the surrounding region. It helps to support Ajo’s economic development through direct employment and partnerships with local businesses, entrepreneurs, and artists. The inn partners with ISDA (International Sonoran Desert Alliance*) to tell Ajo’s rich history in early 20th century America. John Greenway was the manager of the New Cornelia Copper mine. With his wife Isabelle, in 1914, John was inspired America’s City Beautiful movement and sought to build an idyllic town that would keep mine workers and their families happy and productive. Think gargantuan buildings in Spanish colonial and neoclassical style rising out of the desert dust. A beautiful town plaza, a school, huge theatre.

Nneya in front of revival building and stairs Curley School

The school of the town, The Curley School Campus serving childing K-12 that closed in 1995. This is now the Sonoran Desert Inn!

​Now it wasn’t all “happy families.” There was Mexicotown, Anglotown, Indian village​ and still there is loose segregation today that the Sonoran Desert Inn and it’s partner ISDA is attempting to combat. Indigenous food cooking classes, food, art, and artist in residency program. It’s a perfect stop on a Southwest family road trip. While I was there, I met several guests from the East coast who found the space years ago and came back regularly. There were also German travelers!

It was really cool, very charming. I bought a beautiful Jasper necklace from the gift shop there with all of the proceeds going to the non-profit. We had a delicious Mexican food from Lucia’s Sonoran Kitchen. After dinner, we listened to Lorraine Eiler, ISDA board member recount her experiences growing up in Ajo and seeing it’s transformation into an artsy mining community.

fireside chat with Lorraine

Stays at the Sonoran Desert Inn start at $125 / night. The property is 15 minutes away from Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

Happy Indigenous People’s Day!

Here is some of the street art in Artist’s Alley in Ajo.

**ISDA is an alliance of peoples from three Nations: the Tohono O’odham Nation, Mexico and the United States. We are committed to fostering communication, understanding and cooperation among the richly diverse cultures in our region. Our intention is to preserve and enrich heritage in a way that transcends borders and boundaries with thoughtful and non-extractive economic development initiatives.

A Perfect Weekend at Lake Braies & The Dolomites

A vacation to Italy doesn’t have to be beach clubs and sea views! A visit to the Dolomites and the picturesque Lake Braies offers a refreshing mountain adventure and perfect weekend!

Man and woman in brown row boat on Lake Braies and Lake is aqua

Have you heard of the South Tyrol Region of Italy? What about the Dolomites? Pretty beautiful right? But there’s more than just skiing for tourists. 

The Dolomites is a perfect (and refreshing) trip to the mountains during your Italy tour. Base your trip around a visit to Lake Braies. Lago di Braies (Italian) or Pragser Wildsee (in German) is an Alpine lake in a UNESCO world heritage site in the South Tyrol, Italy.

You might hear German in the area. It is as spoken there as Italian and you’ll find a pretty cool blend of Austrian and Italian culture. Bring on the mountain food!

Michele surprised me with this trip for my birthday. I didn’t know where we were going until we were there. Family, couples retreat, trip with the homies: a weekend in Lake Braies and the Dolomites is the perfect escape from the summer heat.

Road in the mountain pass of the dolomites with green on the side and mountains in the middle

Getting there: Heading up to the Dolomites is about a 4 hr drive from Bergamo. From Jul 11th – Sept 10th there are seasonal buses to Lake Braies. Online reservation and pre-payment are neccessary. It takes 20 minutes to reach Lago di Braies from Villabassa and about 30 minutes from Dobbiaco. 

infitinity pool with the mountains in the background
Michele in the pool at hotel

Where to stay: Infinity pool in the mountains, yes please! Michele chose Hotel Andermax because of its location and that gorgeous spa area. Great food, there was even a playroom for kids. We did have to switch rooms. The deluxe room that Michele booked was right on the crowded parking lot. We ended up switching to a smaller room, still partially parking lot views but higher up. The parking lot is definitely an eyesore in an otherwise stunning location.

Hotel on the lake between pines
Hotel Lago di Braies is another option for a stay.

To Eat: On the drive we made a delicious lunch pit stop at a vineyard, Cantina Roeno. It was a delicious, light meal in the garden. We’re in the mountains so the food can be pretty hearty. And Austrian. My favorite was a South Tyrolean dumpling-like, canederli with speck in a light broth at traditional restaurant Wiesthaler. A cool place to take in the sunset and an aperitivo, Botanic Wachtler, Bar, Bistro & Shop (0474 913462).

To See and Do:

man in striped shirt walking around edge of lake

Summer in the Dolomites is perfect for hiking, mountain biking, and spa-ing. Enjoy the outdoors. We saw piles of bike at the train station. Rent a bike and go through the area! Lienz in Austria is only 40 minutes away from San Candido!

Made popular by social media in recent years, Lake Braies and renting a rowboat is a bucket list experience. Remember, swimming is not allowed! After rowing, take a walk (about an hr pretty easy) around the entire lake.

man in striped shirt rowing on lake braies
Walking around the edge of Lake Braies

The region has beautiful vineyards that you should experience.

Woman in pink skirt in front of fairytale like Villa in San Candido
view of the Dolomites from San Candido golden hour

Make sure to explore the beautiful town San Candido where you’ll get a glimpse of  lovely Tyrolean style houses and shops and a blend of German and Austrian culture.

woman in boat on blue green lake braies with dolomites in the background

TIP: Boat rental gets crazy (it’s a small lake!) so definitely go in the morning. We were having breakfast at the hotel by 7:30am. Also the benefit of going in the morning, the way the sun reflects on the lake makes it extra pretty!

Like this post? PIN on your travel wishlist!

Italy Announces New Digital Nomad Visa

In order to aid with tourism revitalization and slow tourism in particular, in May, Italy will be announcing a year-long renewable digital nomad visa to non EU citizens.

Years ago, when looking into residency permits in Italy, I found the process a bit archaic in regards to today’s world and digital nomads. One of the standards of self-employment required you to invest a couple hundred thousand euros in a company in the country! More often than not, technology moves faster than bureaucracy and Italy wants visitors to know they’ve heard and received!

The country wants slow tourism and this is another arm of it! Italy’s digital nomad visa will attract talent to the country as well as even revitalize places that have lost residents from brain drain, age, or in the case of Venice, rising housing costs due to tourism.

So who are digital nomads? According to the decree:

“Citizens of a third country, who carry out highly qualified work activities through the use of technological tools that allow them to work remotely on a self-employed basis or for a business, including those not resident in the territory of the Italian State.”

Are you self employed? Proof of your own llc, etc.

Do you work remotely / no longer have to go into your office?

Are you a freelancer?

What’s the catch? Well we haven’t seen the paperwork yet but: 

  • Workers will need to provide their own health insurance.
  • 5% tax rate for self employed remote workers.

Will you be working remotely from Italy?

The Perfect Weekend in Taormina, Sicily

You may have heard of Taormina, a hilltop town on the east coast of Sicily because of its glitzy international film festival or as it’s one of the towns on the magical Mount Etna hiking trail.

The allure of Taormina is easy to understand. It’s a picture perfect Italian town showcasing Sicily’s rich history through its architecture, dating back to all of Taormina’s former rulers: Greeks, Romans, Byzantine, the Arabs, the Normans, the French and the Spanish.

Town scene in Taormina

In more recent years Taormina was a favorite haunt of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton and Jay-Z and Beyoncé. Bougainvilleas and plants in colorful ceramics adorn balconies. Nonnas hang laundry to take in the rays of the sun. Luxury stores dot Taormina’s main drag, Corso Umberto, right next to generations old gelaterie and Sicilian artisan shops. It’s the kind of place you want to stroll hand in hand with your bae down romantic side streets, just dodging a guy on a vespa. The stunning cliffside view of the Ionian Sea’s Bay of Naxos is awe-inspiring. The beaches and grottos below beg for a romantic day of exploration, especially Isola Bella.

Michele in Taormina under the moonlight looking over the bay

Here’s your perfect weekend guide to Taormina, Sicily.

Stay at Hotel Villa Belvedere (Via Bagnoli Croci, 79).

How did I choose it? This was my birthday trip and I knew I had the wiggle room to splurge if only for two nights. I wanted beautiful views and a garden pool. I also wanted a bit of tradition.

Nneya in Pool at Hotel Villa Belvedere by Michele Scaglione

Belvedere means beautiful view in Italian and it’s impossible to have a bad view during a stay at this boutique hotel overlooking the Bay of Naxos. Go in the summer, when the properties beautiful gardens around the pool are in full bloom. From some room terraces you can see the Bay, Isola Bella and Mount Etna. There also was a delicious breakfast!

* mid summer 2021, the Four Seasons Taormina opened up in the historical San Domenico Palace. I’d say it would be absolutely worth it to visit, if only for lunch or a refreshing drink. It’s the location for the next White Lotus.

Right next door to Villa Belvedere on Via Bagnoli Croce are Taormina’s public gardens Villa Comunale, a beautiful green space dotted with sculptures, nooks and pathways lined with fragrant magnolias. The gardens were created by Scottish noblewoman Lady Florence Trevelyan, who settled in Taormina in the 1880s after leaving the UK due to an affair with Edward VII, heir to the throne of England! She arrived in the town, married the mayor and started on this beautiful project, which became town property in 1922.

Lady Trevelyan also owned another gorgeous property in Taormina, the “pearl of the Ionian Sea” Isola Bella. The gorgeous island is about 1/2 an hour downhill from the main town. Now a nature reserve, the island has beautiful gardens, pebble beaches, clear waters and gorgeous coves. If you’re more of an adventurous couple, depending on the activity of Mt. Etna — it was spurting smoke and ash while I was there — plan a hike on Mt. Etna.

Nneya Michele Teatro Taormina Kissing

The Greek theatre, Teatro Antico (Via del Teatro Greco, 1) dating from 3rd century BC is definitely worth a visit — it’s where I got engaged! The amphitheater’s stage — still used for concerts and movies — is framed by Greek columns with a backdrop of the Mediterranean. My partner says he chose this spot with the theatre and the Bay of Naxos below as a celebration of endurance and beauty. Yup, he’s Italian.

Take in a sunset granita on Piazza IX Aprile, one of the best viewpoints in Taormina with panoramic vistas spanning the bay and Mt. Etna. Its checkerboard stone surface with the baroque church of San Giuseppe is emblematic of the town. We went to Caffè Wunderbar (Piazza IX Aprile, 7).

Mulberry Granita by Nneya Richards
Nneya Piazza Aprile Taormina by Michele

But for the best granita, head to Bam Bar. Locals say it’s the best granita in town. Sample the creamy slushy delight in flavors like mulberry, peach, and of course the classic coffee or pistachio. (Bam Bar, Via Giovanni di Giovanni, 45)

Scenes of Taormina by Nneya Richards

It’s hard to eat poorly in Sicily and that killer Sicilian hospitality means a waiter will certainly guide you well with the menu.

Giardini di Babilonia by Michele Scaglione

Giardini di Babilonia has this: excellent food, exceptional service. But what sets this restaurant apart is the actual gardens when you go through the gates. The restaurant is nearby to the Teatro Greco and on a clear night you can catch the moon framed by cypress trees and the ruins of the Teatro Greco.  (Giardini di Babilonia, Via Timoleone, 10)

Crudo at Giardini by Nneya Richards

Walk the main street, Corso Umberto I and you’ll see the glitz of Taormina with high-end, chic boutiques, but they are indeed mixed with local artisan ceramics and picturesque side streets.

Nneya in Taormina Town

I didn’t know what to expect regarding Taormina based on what I heard about celebrities, the film festivals, a stop for mega yatchs. I thought it would be like Saint Tropez, Cannes, even Portofino. All charming when you scratch the surface but definitely too glitzy to do so on a short weekend. Taormina was glitzy, don’t get me wrong. We had dinner next to a footballer who docked from his yacht. But he was with his family and dog. The restaurant was charming and quiet with the waiter bouncing back and forth between our tables one and the same.

Taormina’s locals haven’t been bought out by luxury apartments. You’re still welcomed with a granita and a smile. Every moment in Taormina seems to be perfectly curated towards the true dolce vita.

Nneya-Porta-Messina-Taormina-by-Michele

Getting Around

Taormina is very walkable and many of the sights are within minutes of each other. We flew into Catania’s airport (post coming soon) and drove a very scenic route to Taormina that took a little over an hour.

Like this guide to Taormina? Be sure to pin it!

Nneya-Porta-Messina-Taormina-by-Michele

Guide to Black Owned Italy

Last year I introduced Tripadvisor’s audience to my dolce vita with a Guide to Black Owned Italy. But that was just scratching the surface. Immediately after I found out about more businesses and many of you sent me others. The response was exciting and inspiring.

Want to know one thing I wish people knew that I have learned while living in Italy? How diverse the country is.

In both its ancient history — the diverse Roman Empire — to recent history like Italian Somaliland to immigration now, Italy’s diverse population influences much of what it means to “be Italian.” Coffee from Ethiopia and Marco Polo’s China expeditions contributing to the origins of pasta are far too often ignored and unknown. Often, this history is “hiding” in plain site: William Shakespeare’s Othello, Blackamoor art, the stories of Alessandro de’Medici, the Black member of the famed Florentine Medicis. There was even a Black Roman emperor, Septimus Severus from 193 – 211.

To say “there are very few black women in Milan and Italy as a whole” as I saw one Black American blogger living in Italy do speaks to the erasure that Black Italians face on a whole, even from people that look like them. Designer Stella Jean and I had quite a conversation about that blog post.

Maybe you’ve made a commitment to support Black-owned businesses. Why not extend this pledge to how you travel and shop internationally? Italy-born citizens are made up of a variety of ethnicities from Sicily to the Austrian borders. Visiting businesses and exploring goods owned and created by these varied ethnicities can give you a deep dive and range of untold Italian stories. Here’s my guide to exploring Black Italy creatives, business owners and talent throughout a few Italian cities. Currently living here, my dolce vita is encountering more of these voices and sharing them with you. 

As soon as the Tripadvisor article came out I discovered more Black-owned businesses in Bergamo and some of you sent me more. So in efforts to get this running list from my notes app to you, here’s my Black Italy Guide!

The one to know.

Tia Taylor – based in Milan

Published Author, Creator, Consultant living in Italy since coming to University here, Tia is for the culture and has been a Godsend to me here navigating cultural norms in Italy as a conscious Black American. Want to know the good, the bad, the bureaucracy of being a Black American woman living in Italy? Tia’s as real as it gets and beautifully bridges a lot of cultural gaps. Tia Taylor is an expat that has lived in Milan, Italy since her undergraduate studies. Follow Tia for tips on navigating Italian bureaucracy, navigating home ownership, and financial literacy. Tia takes her audience on a journey discussing everything from managing working papers, her first Italian job, handling racism, to recently, the process of purchasing a home in the country! She’s fast becoming a go-to in financial literacy for Italian young people with her IGTV, Una Donna Che Conta

Fashion. Because what’s a visit with Italy without it?

Stella Jean – based in Rome

Haitian-Roman designer Stella Jean has made waves in the fashion industry since her launch almost a decade ago. Wildly recognized as Giorgio Armani’s protege Jean’s designs are sold all over the world and has been seen on the likes of celebrities like Rihanna, Beyoncé and Zendaya. Embracing both sides of her heritage you can see Italian tailoring and pop art as well as Ankara prints and Caribbean scenes in Jean’s pieces. From fangirling to meeting Stella and considering her a friend, I can say she’s truly extraordinary. In the last few years, if I’ve been wearing something eye-catching statement piece you’ve absolutely loved, chances are, it’s Stella Jean. Wearing a Stella Jean coat around NYC, the amount of compliments I get from everyone I truly feel like Stella’s designs are brightening people’s days in these wintry streets.

Laurus & Obi Okoronkwo

Definitely watch this space. Laurus is fast becoming a new name in Italian luxury… for those in the know. Want a fine leather bag but not so into logomania? The Laurus is that bag. It brings back the true essence of luxury with slow fashion. You may have seen them on Whitney Port, Tiffany Haddish and Saweetie. The name Laurus comes from the Greek and Latin words for triumph and this brand is definitely winning. Hopefully soon, you’ll see it on me! I have my eye on one or two styles.

Edward Buchanan & Sansovino 6 based in Milan

Designer, luxury consultant and educator, Edward Buchanan became design director of luxury fashion house Bottega Veneta shortly after graduating New York’s Parson’s School of Design in 1995. In 2009 he launched his luxury cashmere label Sansovino 6. Committed to furthering inclusivity in Italy’s fashion system, you may have noticed his political and eye catching scarves on the neck’s of international fashionistas with slogans like “Resist” and “We Are All Migrants.” During the fall of 2020, he partnered with the Italian Fashion Chamber, Stella Jean and Michelle Francine Ngonmo for a video highlighting 5 BIPOC Italian designers, We Are Made in Italy.

Michelle Francine Ngonmo & Afrofashion Week Milan based in Milan

President of the Afro Fashion Association Michelle Francine Ngonmo was born in Cameroon and raised in Ferrara, Italy. After multicultural studies in France and Belgium she sought to create a platform for cross-cultural exchange through a non-profit, the Afro Fashion Association, fostering the creativity and potential of emerging designers of color. She empowers POC in fashion schools and communities throughout Italy, aiding them in careers in the notoriously tough fashion industry.

Amina Seck, model, based in Milan

I actually met Amina through her modeling for SCAGLIONE! Stunning Amina is killing the modeling game in Italy and runways throughout Europe. Shooting in Italy? Want to cast a stunning BIPOC model? There are a lot of them! You can start with Amina.

Tamu McPherson, based in Milan

Girl about town would be a short sell on internationally known Jamaican born, NY raised Tamu McPherson. Her partnerships with major global luxury fashion brands like Gucci and Zalando (her campaign with the German multi-brand retailer covered a wall of the Duomo last fall) have paved the way for Black content creators. Creator and publisher of All the Pretty Birds is Milan to the international fashion jet-set. Having lived in the city for over a decade after law school in NYC, her seemingly effortless integration into Milanese culture — which she often credits to her Italian mother-in-law — while keeping true to her Jamaica roots and New York City grit is every American’s dream for their own dolce vita.

Pizza and Pasta!

eating pizza with Winta Black Owned Italy
eating pizza with friend Winta, an amazing visuals person in Italy

Ibrahim Songne & IBRIS pizzeria Via Camillo Cavour, 36, 38122 Trento 

There are few foods I like more than pizza so I’m thrilled to add IBRIS pizzeria in Trento to the list. My friend Nina sent me this NPR article and I pretty much yelped with glee. Pizza is so inherently Italian and it’s not very often that you find a Black pizzaiolo. Check out the article; Songne details the honest truth about dealing with racism in such a traditional field as pizza making. IBRIS is definitely on my list when I head to Trento.

Dahlak Restaurant – Via Borgo Palazzo, 82/l, 24125 Bergamo

For a smaller city, the northern Italian city of Bergamo has quite a few Michelin star restaurants. It’s safe to say that the people of Bergamo know great food. Highly rated Ristorante Dahlak is a delicious family-run Eritrean restaurant in Bergamo’s lower city. With mouth-watering Eritrean specialties served on enjera bread, beautiful, authentic Eritrean decor, great conversation with Andom and Haitanot, the husband and wife owners and family photos, you will truly have the feeling that you’re in a family’s home.

Exau Olive Oil, made in Calabria

You may have seen this Calabrian olive oil on Oprah’s list of favorite things for 2020! Black American Skyler Mapes partnered with her husband Giuseppe who’s family has been producing premium extra virgin olive oil from their seaside family estate for almost 100 years. Tradition runs deep in Calabria and a Black American woman in the family business is a novel site! Delicious enough for Oprah, you can take a piece of Calabria and Black Italy home with you!

Kefa Koffee, Via Pignolo 10, Bergamo

Soon after submitting my story to Tripadvisor, I found what became one of my neighborhood gems, Kefa Koffee. I also love to show off Kefa to any friend’s visiting me in Bergamo, honestly even Michele! Owner, Hiwot is very cool and full of stories and the cafe (which also serves delicious food) attracts an interesting creative and international community in the neighborhood. On one of Bergamo’s oldest streets, Borgo Palazzo, Kefa Koffee is also a charming place to people watch on a nice day! Order a cappuccino, fresh squeeze orange juice or a delightfully aromatic infusion. Often, I schedule my errands to make sure I have time for a coffee and chat with Hiw!

*Corey’s Soul Chicken, featured in my original Tripadvisor article is unfortunately closed. However, while I was in one of my favorite places in Italy, Sicily, in Siracusa, I spied a Jamaican restaurant, Emberlee Jamaican Food. And from the photos, this place seems like the real deal with Chef Emberlee being from Jamaica! I see a lot of similarities with Jamaicans and Sicilians so I love this for Chef Emberlee and I can’t wait to try it when I’m back in Sicily!

*Another mention, Abi Pastificio Artigianale is no longer open as of January 2022, but with pasta so beautiful it’s almost a shame to eat, I’m definitely watching the space for future projects. It’s a perfect Italian marriage of beauty and food.

Italians have been doing it for centuries… The Art World

Mr. FLOWERheadZ / Hugh Findletar Murano, Italy

You may have seen Jamaican born Italy-based portraitist and artist Hugh Findletar’s or Mr. FLOWERheadZ’s Murano-glass vases — one of a kind three-dimensional portraits — in the chicest homes in the pages of high design magazines. They are breath-taking. His long career in photography is ever-evolving into different art forms in his Venice studio. Informed by his childhood in Jamaica and old Italian glass working techniques, his pieces are remarkable collector’s items.

Caterina Monda, based in Milan

A fellow New York of Jamaican-Italian background, Caterina Monda is an international PR consultant. She’s worked for top firms and major clients in the art world in both New York and Italy. Keep up with Monda and her clients’ work for a diverse range of art talent in Italy.

Dr. Tamara Pizzoli & The English Schoolhouse based in Rome

Founder of the award-winning boutique publishing house Dr. Tamara Polizzi is an author based in Rome. Her children’s book Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO is currently being adapted for screen by Gabrielle Union’s I’ll Have Another Productions. From Roman goddesses with luscious fros to learning the alphabet through city names like Djibouti, Polizzi takes kids throughout Italy and beyond.

Music

Paola & Pamela Ameyibor

Want to hire a DJ for an event in Italy? Few can get the party started like twins Polly and Pammy.

Tommy Kuti based in Mantua

Signed with USA recording label Universal, AfroItalian rapper Tommy Kuti is an activist, rapper and major talent in the Italian music scene even drawing the attention of controversial Italian politician Matteo Salvini with his lyrics. Through his art and depictions of social realities for many AfroItalians, Tommy Kuti is reaching a wide audience and paving the way for Italians of color in the music industry.

Check out his EP #AfroItaliano

David Blank based in Milan, Italy

Son of a pastor, R&B & Nu-Soul musician David Blank grew up in the Italian seaside region of Marche. Having toured Europe as a background singer with famed Italian singer Laura Pausini, Italian-Nigerian Blank is a must-know on the Italian music scene. Singing about love, growing up, feeling lonely, as a Black, queer man in a small town in Italy, David Blank’s soulful music resonates with a wide audience. 

Special mention? Nati at Texture Hair Salon comes highly recommended from Tia and I had a friend recently go to him during Milano Fashion Week.

Venice Will Charge Tourists to Enter the City Soon

Starting sometime this year, Venice will charge tourists to enter the city.

Black woman looking over her shoulder in floral dress in Venice with water and gondolier in background
Visiting Venice in the summer of 2019

There have been murmurings of this plan since around 2018. Now updates have been announced that the Italian city of Venice will charge tourists to enter the city, particularly, day-trippers later in 2022.

Most Americans visiting Italy stay around 7-10 days with their time divided between Florence, Rome and Venice (add Capri or the Amalfi Coast in the summer). The city welcomes around 30 million tourists yearly and this has totally changed the social fabric of it.

gondoliere veneziano, tourists and ponte by Nneya Richards
Quiet lane in Venice with tourists renting a gondola

The negatives that you’ll hear? Crowds, floods, the price gouging of tourists, misunderstood inhospitality or lack of true Venetians in the city (around 50,000) are just a few. But guess what? Despite all of this, Venice is absolutely worth it. I will never say Venice is overrated because… just WOW. The floods? They just add to the urgency of “Venice is sinking! Get there now!” During my mother’s last pre-pandemic visit to Italy, despite a train strike, being exhausted, I insisted we go to Venice. “Mom! It’s a world wonder. You can’t come here and not see Venice!”

Michele hasn’t been into Venice since he was a kid. I last went in the fall of 2019 and I’m dying to go back and visit a few workshops in Murano and other Venetian islands. Venice is close enough to us in Milan / Bergamo that it is an easy day trip. But, if Venice will charge tourists to enter the city, will that change some regional tourism?

If you saw those videos of dolphins in the lagoon during 2020 (they were fake by the way), it seems that Venice received a much needed break and clean up in these last years. If you’re going to go there now, be prepared for some changes that the city hopes will combat over-tourism.

  • Sometime this year the city will begin requiring tourists to reserve a ticket in advance of visiting.
  • This would not apply if you’re staying there over night, in a hotel, airbnb etc.
  • How much? From €3 to €8
  • The Goal? “to discourage day-tripping and encourage high-quality, experiential tourism” – Venice City council member Simone Venturini told this to AFAR
  • How will they enforce it? There are discussions about an app for booking. Turnstiles are also on the table. 500 CCTV cameras will be installed throughout the city and the police will use mobile data to monitor tourist comings and goings.
  • Downsides of the turnstiles? This isn’t cute! What is this an airport? Disney World? Why not something like the Green Pass?
sunny day reflection in Venice

So, what do you think? If Venice will charge tourists to enter the city, do you mind? Will a charge and reservations change your idea of a last minute day trip to Venezia while you’re in Italy?

See my video of Venice’s city scapes and just how crowded it can get, particularly in the summer high season. So, with a fee, is it worth a day trip?

I’d say absolutely. But let’s distinguish between an open air museum and Disney World.