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Being Black American in Paris

Walking in Paris with La Vie Est Miracle sign

Heading to Paris in 2017 was a pivotal moment in my life.  I originally wrote about the idea of being Black American in Paris in 2019. It’s still a piece that I get a lot of outreach about. So I decided to re-edit the piece and release it again on the blog in conjuction with a podcast episode I have coming out on Paris for Building Home. I’m interviewing floral designer Ryan Norville on her family’s recent move to Paris.

Paris has been going viral, and it hasn’t been positive.

A Tiktoker has made it a brand offering “hot takes” on why they think Paris is overated and the dregs. Malfoy sites the trash, grafitti and says that Paris smells like “piss, cheese and armpit.” The city’s food “looks grimy as hell.”

Of course, like any city, this isn’t the first time Paris has been critiqued and Paris syndrome is a real. That fall, I underwent my own Paris syndrome. But my time in Paris was one of those catalysts for change in my life. It was lonely and beautiful. Those cafes he complained about? I loved sitting in them, outside table, right after that mid afternoon rain and perfect golden sun came through. I fell in love with the canal saint-Martin neighborhood, a baguette a day and trying different Asian food that I didn’t have in New York (helloooo colonization!)

Black American woman sitting along Canal in paris

Paris took care of me when I needed a change from New York. To me, Paris is always a good idea. Here is my experience on living in Paris as a young(ish) Black American woman.

In the summer of 2017 as my mother booked our tickets for an August trip to France, I declared “Just get me a one way. After our 10 days around France, I’m going to stay in Europe.” For the previous 10 years, beginning with studying abroad in Milan in 2006, I spent a lot of time in Europe. I managed to make at least one trip a year. During this time, aided by the powers of Facebook, I managed to scrape together a community and personal life primarily between Italy, France and the UK.

I’m a born and raised New Yorker. While I realized the luxury of “going home” meaning going back to NYC, I had developed a sort of ambivalence to “the city.” I felt as though I were resting on my laurels. I craved a challenge. Late nights at my local in Crown Heights lead to many a conversation with my dear friend and confidante about whether NYC was the right place for us. Maybe I should finally try to live in London. My travel writing career can’t flourish if I’m tethered to NYC rent. 

I chose London because of the community I had built there, loose family ties (the West Indian diaspora) as well as a romantic interest. My crystal healer has always told me about my intense intuition. Years later as I reflect on how much this trip changed my life that extra squeeze and long hug I gave my mom as I put her in a cab to Charles De Gaulle airport makes sense.

I started in France as that happened to be where we were heading in August. I figured, I’d make it to London eventually but what’s more romantic than living in France? Americans have a love affair with the country. The French keep it distant and cool but for a certain part of American culture that love is reciprocated. One of the founding fathers, the US Ambassador to France Benjamin Franklin was a Francophile. His love of the country is well documented. James Hemings, the Black American formerly enslaved by another founding father Thomas Jefferson, introduced America to mac and cheese after his extensive training on French cuisine while in Paris. Yes, there are certain Americans that the French seem to wholeheartedly embrace. Those four weeks that fall, flew by.

In 1984, at nearly 60 years-old, during an interview for the Paris Review, James Baldwin was asked why he had chosen to live in France. “It wasn’t so much a matter of choosing France — it was a matter of getting out of America.”

Like hundred of Black American artists before me, I imagined days spent creating — for me that meant working on my blog — with wine and a baguette. The charm of Josephine Baker, the prose and finesse of Baldwin. This is Paris after all, the city where Black American creatives escaped and were revered. In the era of Trump, Paris would welcome me. Macron welcomes those shunned by this administration! That’s what I saw in the headlines. I had a few introductions of family friends: one woman in Paris who along with her sisters (Black Americans) had made a life in France, with husbands and children for decades. Maybe I’ll end up staying too, I thought.

Paris is a great place to be alone. I can work a room and party like no other but I’m a bookish, only child at heart. In Paris, I could go for days without having a real conversation with someone.

A woman, alone at a restaurant is part of Paris’s fabric. One week when I went on three Bumble dates, a lot at the time; I was so starved for conversation. I devoured the beauty of  Paris, walked along its boulevards, ate, ate and ate some more. I went to a farmer’s market every other day. It was during these walks that I saw the other side of Paris. The Syrian refugees who made their home in the parks and under buildings along the canal, washing up in the fountains in the morning.

It was also at one of these markets where I realized the strange and precarious place I occupied as a Black American in Paris.

Hand picking up a French dessert

I’ve been on wonderful press trips with the French tourism board — my favorite among those being to the islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe and the city of Bordeaux. It was during these trips that I really began to piece together the complexities of colonization from all angles, tracing the triangle trade as I munched on my favorite Bordeaux dessert, cannelés. My face flushed as an unassuming “French food expert” discussed how the desert’s creation represented 1700s France and Bordeaux’s richness. The new commodities of rum and sugar being introduced into the economy and funding Bordeaux families. No mention of the slave trade. Martinique and Guadeloupe were indeed a wonderful blend of all things French, Caribbean and West African.

If you look hard enough you can see the cynicism in a Guadeloupeans eyes as they tell you this. Guadeloupe was the island that rebelled the most between the two. The French West Indies are just another, albeit further, department of France they remind you. No different than Nouvelle-Acquitaine or Brittany. In Paris you see it. Young people from the French West Indies studying in Paris, or newly living there fill Paris’s cool hotspots. They too occupied a strange place in the French racial hierarchy vs. my black American otherness or someone from Sierra Leone say. 

With French President François Hollande playing Jay-Z & Kanye West’s Niggas in Paris during his 2012 election campaign, it’s no surprise to note that Black American culture is still revered in France. In the recent century you can date this affinity from the post war GIs bringing Jazz, food and well, that Black American je ne sais quois.

Being from New York City, in Paris, that put me on a whole other pedestal, but my skin color is indeed my skin color and makes it super difficult for racists! How can they tell?! Back to the market. 

I was standing in line, waiting to ask the farmer “how much for the melons” in my broken French. I hadn’t said anything yet, but I knew I was being ignored. Three white French women came and were served before me. Finally, I interrupted and asked “c’est combien…” I lost my nerve. But weirdly, the look of disinterest, maybe even disgust, soon turned into a smile as he corrected my French and asked where I was from. “belle New York!” As he rattled off his dreams of New York, I walked away. I didn’t need melons from that stall.

When I told this story to our family friend, the youngest of the sisters, Desiree, she wasn’t surprised. She shared her experiences living in France and raising a mixed race son. I picked Desiree’s brain about her life in Paris. She took me to her favorite haunts from her days as a student. We got into real talk about what it’s like being Black in Paris. Sure, I could capitalize on the exotification of Black American culture but this was a strange time: the era of Brexit, Windrush backlash, immigration and the raise of those figures like Marine Le Pen. Desiree, while fluent, doesn’t speak perfectly pronounced French and that has shielded her from that specific colonization racism. Much like what I felt from the fruit vendor. This was the Paris where Hermes wouldn’t let Oprah Winfrey buy a handbag.


Egalité, Liberté” I jokingly screamed with French friends while watching fireworks in the harbor of Bordeaux, and later, again with a large French crowd while watching the World Cup in London. As declared by King Louis X in the fourteenth century, “France signifies freedom.” He also declared that slavery was not authorized on the French mainland and any slaves setting foot on French soil would be free. Thomas Jefferson worried about this with his favorite enslaved peoples he brought to France. During the French revolution of the 1790s this freedom was extended to the French colonies as well, though in some places, it was ignored.

America, too has freedom in its DNA. Yet we have kids in cages and are still fighting for systemic equality. No place is perfect. Did I feel the freedom that Baldwin, Baker, Wright, Kanye West and so many Black creatives, American creatives before me felt? Yes. Did I take it with a dash of hypocrisy knowing it was not readily extended to brethren that looked just like me? Absolutely. 

In 1986, a psychiatrist coined the term “Paris syndrome” to describe the stress that some Japanese tourists experience when they discover that Paris isn’t the charming paradise often depicted in films and magazines. While I still love Paris, I know it’s not perfect. That fall, I underwent my own Paris syndrome. As I present to you romanticized versions of Paris in writing and photographs, please keep this in mind, and the luxury I had in experiencing this.

Sicily Travel Itinerary – 2 Week Road Trip

Are you heading to Sicily this summer? Here’s a great Sicily travel itinerary for a two week road trip, primarily focused on the east coast.

I shared this on my Instagram (check it out on @nneya for some great videos) but for you guys, my NAPW day ones, I’m sharing my ultimate Sicily travel itinerary with where we stayed. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing more details on each location, but here our roadtrip guide to get you started.

2 Week Road Trip in Sicily Itinerary

Day 1

We flew from Bergamo to land in CATANIA. For this Sicily road trip, we of course, suggest you rent a car and book well in advance. The city of Catania is a short drive away from the airport. Take a beautiful drive through Catania’s old town and have an OG italian ice: the Sicilian granita. Catania’s old town can be superficially explored in an afternoon. Enjoy!

Drive to SIRACUSA. During this trip, we’re not heading to Taormina. Catania is in between Taormina to it’s north and Syracuse to it’s South. It is 50 minutes to each. If you want to add an extra day onto your itinerary and do Taormina, here’s my guide.

2 nights at Hotel Gargallo (Via Gargallo, 58, Ortigia) A great location in the center of Oritgia modern, recently furnished rooms, good breakfast and a good rate. Expect to carry your luggage from parking near the water. Hotel Gargallo is on a small street. Also notable properties Algilá Ortigia Charme Hotel and the airy Ortea Palace Luxury Hotel.

Day 2

Wake up and explore beautiful ORTIGIA, an island that’s the historical center of Syracuse.

Day 3

Time for a day trip! Drive to the beautiful canyon and lush lagoon-like area RISERVA NATURALE CAVAGRANDE DEL CASSIBLE

Day 4

Spend the morning at RISERVA DEL PLEMMIRIO and drive to Ragusa Ibla to begin your stay.

2 nights in Ragusa-Ibla at Intervallo Boutique Hotel (31 Via Scale, 97100). Beautiful modern accomodations at a great rate. Closer to a B&B with the manager full of information. Breakfast has a stunning view of the city and UNESCO Sicilian baroque architecture.

Day 5

It’s hot in Sicily and most of our explorations of the towns and cities were done in the evening, around aperitivo time. We found this best with the sun not to hot and shops open! However, definitely try to explore a few options during the daytime.

Spend the morning checking out the town of Scicli and return for the late afternoon and evening in Ragusa-Ibla.

Day 6

Explore countryside of Noto Valley during your drive to the hotel and evening in MODICA.

6 nights at agriturismo Masseria Cianciò (C.da Cianciò-Graffetta, 97015 Modica), a mom and daughter run, stunning Provence inspired masseria. Equipped with a beautiful garden, the restaurant is farm to table and we had a delicious meal on property one night. Eager for breakfast each morning, it was one of the best breakfasts we’ve ever had. We booked the dependance suite. Great for families, we can’t wait to bring the baby there. Best of all, there’s a pool!

Day 7

Beach day and TONNARA DI VENDICARI visit and the evening in NOTO

Day 8

Beach day and evening in Noto. Get into the Sicilian way of life!

Day 9

Beach day (we have parking down to a science now) and dinner in one of the coastal towns of Scicli.

Day 10

Beach day and evening in MARZAMEMI, this seaside town is the perfect place to visit for a golden hour aperitivo.

Day 11

Beach day and Modica coastline sunset. Here, we had one of the most magical aperitivo’s I’ve ever had in Italy. I won’t tell you where! You’ll have to do some work to find it!

Day 12

Drive to AGRIGENTO and visit the VALLEY OF THE TEMPLES archeological park.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Nneya-Richards-Valle-dei-Tempi-768x1024.jpg

Spent 2 nights at B&B Palazzo Bibirria (Via Duomo, 60 92100 Agrigento)

Day 13

Spend a beach day at SCALA DEI TURCHI

Day 14

Ciao ciao Sicilia! Drive to Catania airport!


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What to Watch Set in Sicily

Town scene in Taormina

White Lotus is what drew you to Sicily and the Four Seasons San Domenico Palace in Taormina. Here are other films and shows set in Sicily. The perfect backdrop to get you in the mood for your vacation in Sicily!

Remember the beautiful views of Teatro Greco and the Ionian Sea from the DiGrasso’s visit?

Over the years tons of international productions have used the beautiful landscape of Sicily as their backdrops. One of my favorite destinations in Italy, this Meditterranean island is a vibrant and diverse in scenery as it is in culture. Maybe it’s dramatic Mount Etna or the beautiful cascading “stairs” of Scala dei Turchi going into the turquoise sea. Then there’s the baroque architecture and the ancient Greek ruins. Sicily is always a good idea. Here’s a run down of films and shows set in Sicily to get you in the mood for your next Sicilian holiday.

The White Lotus Season 2 (2022)

The HBO runaway hit The White Lotus returned for a second season. For season two, the action takes place in the renovated San Domenico Palace in Taormina, Sicily — a real life Four Seasons Hotel. The San Domenico Palace is a 14th century Dominican convent first converted into a hotel in 1896. Ethan’s morning runs through Taormina in the morning light showcased the town magically. Make sure to mark Valentina’s visit to Bam Bar for a delicious granita!

The opening beach scene is actually filmed in Cefalù, a seaside city (one of Italy’s most beautiful villages) on the north coast of the island Visit Cefalù by flying into the Palermo airport and driving. Creators of The White Lotus chose Cefalù’s sandy beach vs. the rockier beach of Taormina. What you might not realize is that Taormina is a cliffside town. It’s similar to many seaside luxury hotels on the Amalfi coast, like Ravello. “Beach access” is actually a short drive from the hotel and sometimes, built within the cliffside. The show takes some liberties with how fast the characters would get from the hotel to the beach and that made me laugh.

I really love and appreciate Sicilian wine, especially those grown in the area of Mount Etna. The winery that the couples visited is the Etna Winery.

courtesy of HBO

In episode three Daphne insists that everyone tells her “you have to visit Noto!” and she is absolutely right! The Noto valley makes for an incredible roadtrip through these sundrenched Italian towns with baroque architecture. The scene where the men circle Harper for a moment is a reference to a 1960 Michelangelo Antonioni film L’Avventura filmed outside of Noto’s Cathedral, Cathedral San Nicolo.

Note that the palazzo where Daphne and Harper stay is actually in Palermo, Villa Tasca. And the palazzo that Tanya heads to in Palermo is actually in Noto, Villa Elena!

If you’ve fallen in love with Noto Valley from watching The White Lotus, watch The Young Montalbano, a light detective series set in the Noto Valley.

The best way to explore Sicily is by car — and maybe a Vespa a la Tanya and Greg! I’ve actually done that Messina coastline shown in Tanya and Greg’s Vespa ride with my husband as we drove from Taormina to Messina to take a ferry to Calabria!

Ocean’s Twelve (2004)

Ocean’s Twelve in Scopello, Italy

OK! This is on every must watch list for filming places in Sicily. And I do agree, caper film Ocean’s Twelve is an excellent watch for travel porn, the beautiful natural pillars of Scopello, Sicily only appear for a few minutes towards the end. Instead, watch for dramatic shots of Lake Como (filmed at George Clooney’s villa), Amsterdam and the everstunning, Rome. Though brief, Scopello is so eye-catching it’s not a surprise that people constantly refer to that scene from the movie. Scopello is about a 45 minute drive from Palermo and definitely a must see! The stars stayed in Trapani during filming and made a lot of news!

me in Scopello, Sicily

From Scratch (2022)

From Scratch beautifully captures Sicilian market life

Based on author and actor Tembi Locke’s incredible true story, in Netflix’s From Scratch, the main character, Amy’s love story begins as in Florence, while studying abroad. Leading man Lino is originally from Sicily and the series takes us through his scenes of his family in Sicily as well Amy and Lino’s honeymoon in Sicily. And there we have Cefalù again! Different from his real life counterpart Saro Gullo, Lino in From Scratch hails from the town of Castiglione in the Catania area.

Castiglione is a gorgeous hillside village on the slopes of Mount Etna and at one point it was offering one euro homes! From Scratch beautiful captures Sicilian town life, from the community ties, to even the vibrant scenes at the farmer’s market! While the promo from From Scratch heavily features Florence, no doubt of the series appeal to American audiences, Sicily, is the true heart of the Italian story in the show.

The Godfather (1972)

courtesy of Paramount Pictures 1972

The Godfather trilogy is one of the most referenced films in the history of cinema. The Sicilian origins of the fictional Corleone crime family sends tourists flocking to Sicily. It is one of the most iconic of the films and shows set in Sicily. By the time of filming in the early 1970s the town of Corleone was too modern. Coppola created the dreamy sepia toned Sicily of yore using the Sicilian town of Savoca, near Messina.

courtesy of Paramount Pictures 1972

Dating back to the 1100s you can see the history of Sicily in this town with architecture influenced by Romans, Byzantines, Normans and Arabs. Olive groves and vineyards surround palazzos that were home to the nobles of Messina. You can visit the beautiful church of San Nicolò, where the wedding between Michael Corleone and Apollonia was filmed. Bar Vitelli, one apart of Palazzo Trimarchi dates back to the 1400s. This charming bar is filled with Godfather memorabilia. You’ll remember it from several scenes in the Godfather part 1 as the bar of Apollonia’s father Signore Vitelli. This is where he proposes the idea of marriage to Apollonia’s father and where there’s the wedding celebratory lunch! You’ll also find a Francis Ford Coppola statue in Savoca.

courtesy of Paramount Pictures 1972

The town Forza d’Agrò between Taormina and Messina subsitutes for the town of Corleone in parts 1 and 3 of the trilogy. The Godfather III showcases Taormina’s beautiful checkered floor train station. The Castello degli Schiavi, just outside of Taormina is probably the movie’s most famous backdrop. It is even featured in The White Lotus! The castello and cloisters serve as Michael and Apollonia’s Sicilian home (or that of Don Tomassino) in Parts 1 and 3. By the way, Francis Ford Coppola owns a hotel in Basilicata! In contrast to some of the previously mentioned films and series, The Godfather takes us to the ancient dusty hillsides of Sicily. This is what, I think, until recently, informed many American’s view of the island. Subject aside, it’s Coppola and The Godfather trilogy is a beautifully shot travelouge ode to Sicily.

The Mafia Kills Only in Summer (2013)

Set in 1970s Palermo this dark comedy is a must, especially if you’re looking for authenticity and a mafia movie. If you swear by The Godfather, watch this. The Palermo airport is the Falcone Borsellino Airport. It is named after Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Emanuele Borsellino. They were the Sicilian judges and prosecuting magistrates assasinated by the Sicilian Mafia in the 1990s. Organized crime has deeply effected the lives of many Sicilians. This film offers an entertaining nuanced perspective on that set in Palermo through the 1970s – 90s. It follows adolencent aspiring journalist Arturo Giammarresi as he grows up and pursues a career in journalism and love. The film is set against gorgeous cityscapes of the palazzos and neighborhoods of Palermo and gives you a great option of films and shows set in Sicily from the perspective of a Sicilian!

A Bigger Splash (2015) dir. Luca Guadagnino

I highly recommend this film from Palermo-born Luca Guadagnino. He is the famed director of Call Me By Your Name — another excellent travelouge film of Italy. A Bigger Splash is based on the 1969 French thriller La Piscine. In this talented cast, Tilda Swinton plays a rockstay on holiday with her filmmaker boyfriend on the Italian island of Pantelleria. Their secluded holiday is interrupted by a music producer old friend and his daughter.

Beautiful scenes showcase the ancient village of Scauri and the coastlines of Pantelleria — an island between Sicily and North Africa known as the Black Pearl of the Mediterranean. Beautiful places and practices like slathering yourself in volcanic mud from Lago di Venere are seen. The sunwashed buildings and dry landscapes are remniscent of North Africa as well. The film also references the refugee crisis faced by Sicily as well. As in his previous films, the volcanic island of Pantelleria becomes a protagonist itself.

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

Sicily Itinerary – 2 Week Roadtrip


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?