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I’m Back!

Hi guys!

It’s been a bit. I took a full month off of blogging here on NAPerfectWorld.com. While I have been creating digital content almost daily, it has lived in the faster consumption space of my Instagram. Yes, it seems ridiculous for me, as a digital creator to not take full advantage of the eyes on me and create to “grow my brand.” To me, as I processed the world coming to a halt, and went through my own trauma, short-form Instagram was all I could give publicly. I haven’t shot as much content in my apartment ever. I also have done a lot of “press” during this time, I’ve been featured in Grazia, on All the Pretty Birds, virtual career days and Bravo-lebrity lives!

It’s been a reflective time. One where I’ve connected weekly for Instagram lives with friends. (I’m going to share those on Youtube and in blog form in the next few days) We talked about issues going on around the world — why Sweden didn’t fully embraced lockdown, the racism in Guangzhou, checking in with Tamu in Italy, to name a few. They were wonderfully healing and a way I could bring you global content, without saying “hey! Look at this cool place, go here!” while the tourism, airline and hospitality industries were crippled.

I shared travel photos few and far between. I couldn’t advocate traveling at a time when upon advice from WHO and international governments, it was safer for many people to shelter-in-place. Is it responsible for me to see you dream explorations while many people’s biggest concern was their next paycheck? I know many of you can’t afford to get to a destination and self-quarantine for a few days or a week before having to come home again. I grappled with the idea of arm chair traveling — I wrote an article on Zihuatanejo, Mexico for a magazine and had a Mother’s Day Travel article furloughed. But ultimately, mentally, I wasn’t ready to flippantly share beautiful destinations and cultures that I think you should experience. Until recently.

Summer’s Cancelled.

Hey now, summer’s my favorite season. My birthday. A time when cities and beach towns are pulsating with life. There’s even a new Italian Netflix show, SummerTime. I love a steamy, Spike Lee hazed summer in Brooklyn — but no one does beachside summer like the Italians. As a people, it’s almost as if they were really made to fully blossom in the warmer months and mass exported the beauty promos of their culture for warmer weather. Dolce Vita isn’t happening in the winter. Giorgio Armani’s perma-tan doesn’t fit with January. Vespa cruising isn’t for snowy sludgy Milan days. So I was inspired for content.

Much of my Italian travels are slow travels: we take the car or a train. This is the way I think a lot of people, internationally are going to be traveling in the near future. I have to go back to Italy eventually — I’m not really looking forward to the plane ride. Moreso out of concern that I may contract Covid_19 and be a carrier to my loved ones. But I am looking forward to summer in Italy and being able to stimulate an industry that’s taken a major hit with this: tourism.

I travel for the people. I was reminded by that and rejuvenated looking at photos from this past summer when I came across this woman. I can’t wait to share what Northern Italian summers look like with you. Have you seen Call Me By Your Name? It’s actually set near where we’re based. Summer’s in Italy can be magical, and I hope you can see them through my eyes.

Travel in Our Minds: St Croix for Bleu magazine

Never before has the quick flight to St. Croix, in the US Virgin Islands looked more appealing. This quarantine has some of the closest destinations seeming like bucket list locales! Covid-19 has hit the world hard and I recognize the privilege I have in being a travel journalist so first and foremost, I wanted to put that out there as sort of a pardon or a mea culpa of a “woe is me.” From baggage handlers to TSA to airline CEO and luxury resort owners, the travel industry is one of the hardest hit by this strain of coronavirus. Even when we collectively get over this curve, there is going to be a new normal, the world will not be the same. I, like many of my colleagues, am pivoting how I think about travel. For some time, New York to Italy is going to be the longest plane ride, at nine hours, that I will take — and that’s only out of necessity.

This time last year, I was heading to St. Croix for the Taste of St. Croix festival and it was glorious: check out five minutes of me eating my way through the island. The US Virgin Islands get a bad rep among a lot of “cool kids” “authentic experience travel seekers. But, as we Perfectionists know: there’s always more than meet the eye in any destination. Each Virgin Island, US vs British, and the islands of each is different from the last. While friends of mine are Virgin Gorda locals, I thought most of the US Virgin Islands were cruise day trippers and retirees.

St. Croix proved me wrong and I loved it!

And I’m not the only one. Plenty of newer locals came to the island for work or a vacation and ended up staying; I tell a funny story about that to Bleu Magazine. Read about it and the rest of my travelogue of the island on Bleu’s Issuu Magazine site (see the full spread — how it’s laid out for print, photography by me) or grab a copy on your newsstands!

Have you ever been to the US Virgin Islands?

Let me know if you want to see more!

Love in the Time of Corona

with Michele in Lake Garda last spring — vacation spots like this are currently desolate

In the first days of March, I returned from Lombardia, Italy to NYC to speak at Women’s Travel Fest the following weekend. Days later, Italy was recognized internationally as the fastest growing epicenter of Coronavirus / Covid-19 outside of Asia and put in a state of emergency. Initially expecting to return within a few weeks — I didn’t bring my spring clothes to NYC — Michele and I are realizing that I will probably be in NYC for the next two months minimum as New York State and many states across the US declare a “shelter-in-place” edict. I’ve received a flood of well-wishes questioning where I am and how are my loved ones in Italy as Bergamo, a place that my friends previously only knew because of me is reaching international press as the epicenter of Italy’s crisis. Hospitals in Bergamo are overcrowded. There is a line of army trucks to carry the dead as they’ve run out of room at a cemetery I’ve spent many an afternoon in (cemeteries in Europe aren’t as creepy). It’s a pretty bleak time for the region.

Michele and I are thankful for the well-wishes and know a few international couples that find themselves in the same situation as us. We wanted to make a video addressing how we’re handling the crisis, especially as a couple with its home bases in travel red zones. We are thankful for our health and realize that if this is the worst of our problems, we are extremely lucky. Navigating a relationship and love in the time of Coronavirus can be tricky — it’s something that several people have reached out to me about in the last few weeks. We also wanted to give updates from Michele, in Bergamo, Italy’s Covid epidemic epicenter.

Living between New York City and Lombardia, Italy I’m caught in a long distance relationship as my partner and I quarantine in separate countries. Check out my latest video to see how we’re making it work.

“We Can’t Move Someone for Being Disgusting, Sir” – Traveling During Coronavirus 2019-nCoV

I’m writing this at 7:30am the morning after a flight from Milan, Italy to NYC — that’s right Milan, Italy, the international city in Lombardy, considered the hub of the Italian 2019-nCoV Coronavirus outbreak — and I’ve never felt better after this trip. I just knocked on wood. This is a trip I frequently make, multiple times a year, and with age, I’ve been prone to getting sick during travel. While I observe basic good hygiene practices, wash my hands every time I use the rest room, wash my hands before eating, on a plane use that moist toilette, and even often spray my tray table with disinfectant after reading a news report about them being a breeding ground of bacteria, planes still seemed to be petri dishes to me and no matter what I did I usually ended up with a bit of a sniffle at best, worst, a full blown cold when making this trip in the winter months. This time was different. It was of utmost importance to me that I remain in great health and, in my mind, be let in at the border: I am coming back to NYC for Women’s Travel Fest and am excited to speak on a panel this weekend about responsible tourism. So, hand sanitizer, which I do carry at times, has been my best friend over the past few weeks. Before, I just thought they bred supergerms, but, desperate times…. This was a bad flu it seems, after all. Deadly to those who already had a susceptible immune system, but I can’t afford to be sick this week and the idea of quarantine freaks me out.

I didn’t have a face-mask but I wasn’t worried about that. During Trump’s address to the union with the Coronavirus multitask force they discussed checks being done at the border/ US airports, limited travel to this area of Italy, and checks being done before you board the planes. As many American airlines like Delta and American cancelled flights to Italy, I feverishly checked Emirates to make sure my flight wasn’t canceled. My friends both Italian and American texted me asking about my flight because of Trump’s “travel ban” on Italy. “He didn’t say ban guys,” I assured them, an odd instance of umm defending Trump? “He just said limit travel and take the precautions for people from the area coming in.” It wasn’t it was a strange idea. I had friends skiing in Switzerland, a family, that had to leave their trip early because the cleaning lady didn’t want to service their room and the hotel proprietor thought it best they eat breakfast by themselves. The area of Ischia didn’t want Lombardy people coming in. Patient 0 cases in Nigeria, Brazil, Dominican Republic, North Africa and many other countries were linked Italians bringing coronavirus in. Northern Italy, birthplace of Lega, Salvini and racist and xenophobic rhetoric, was experiencing their own shaming. Unfortunately the irony was completely lost on those that needed to understand it: sinophobia has continued and hasn’t missed a beat.

I insisted Michele get to the airport early fully prepared for a quick doctor check up. Flying into Italy, hazmat looking doctors scanned our foreheads for fevers. A friend of mine who flew back to NYC during fashion week said that at JFK, they were just checking Asians. Based on what Trump said, I just knew they’d be checking everybody before we even got on the plane. Strange, not one check on this end. In a plane flying from a high-risk area. I was a little annoyed that I came so early expecting it. The airport was relatively empty for Malpensa with only two security lanes open. My plane was flying from Dubai to Milan to NYC and in my section there seem to be a smattering of white and black Italians and Americans and Indian nationals — I’m a passport creeper — I like to see the color different countries use. I was in a window seat, 48A, and there was an older Indian gentleman who just seemed off. He kept trying to push past me as a pair of Italian women figured out their luggage. When the air steward opened the cabin bin for me, he immediately lifted his luggage and expressed disappointment when I put my luggage in. All and all he seemed rude and oblivious.

I get into the window seat, an Italian guy, let’s call him GucciScarf, probably early 30s gets into the aisle seat and we have the seat in the middle free. As we both lather on some hand sanitizer and settle in, we smile. That older Indian gentleman is in the set of middle rows in the aisle seat and 2 seats next to him were free so he spreads out. Flights going well, I listen to a podcast and fall asleep before take off, as usual and heard some people maybe coughing in the background, but I’m not a full on freak it’s ok. GucciScarf and I get the meal service. I must say, it was awkward taking a menu from a woman in a facemask. I settle in and start watching Queen & Slim. Loved it, riveted for over two hours; my meal was delicious two. Grilled chicken with tomatoes and orzo. I doze off a bit after the movie, removing my headphones during this sleep and awaken to someone who sounds like they are hacking up a lung. It was the Indian gentleman lying in 48 aisle rows. He sits up and begins blowing his nose. GucciScarf wasn’t sitting, he may have been in the bathroom. Over the next 5 minutes the guy seemingly blows through his tissues, coughs without cover his mouth into the air, and did I, did I just see him pick his nose. I start spraying sanitizer furiously around me and giving him death stares. GucciScarf comes to sit down and puts his hoody up and gives me a “WTF” look as the man has another open mouth cough. I race to the bathroom and wash my hands up to elbows hoping he hasn’t been in there yet. It was about 4 hours to landing and my logic was if I went now, I might not have to go into a bathroom after him. I could hold it. I fix my scarf like a facemask and prepare to sit confined in my window bubble miserable the whole trip. As I walk back the gentleman is rubbing his face and his eyes and picking his nose. Truly disgusting. I think, is this Punk’d?! Is this a test of how I would treat another human being? Well I failed because I wanted to take a video of him and demand he be tested before being let into the US. If I’m being honest, the only reason I didn’t was because I was reading what was going on in India right now and speaking about it with an Indian national friend. Weird what compassion can make you do. He shouldn’t have been let on the plane. He is a public health risk at any time with poor hygiene, and especially right now. GucciScarf had called over a steward at this point and they were discussing in Italian. They moved to the kitchen area and I walked with them because GucciScarf was gathering his things from his seat and looked at me and said “Sorry, I can’t stay here. It’s a matter of hygiene.” “Move me too! Can I come with you?” I really said it like that. That desperate of a plea. I talk to the steward and he told me in Italian that there are empty rows in the back.

“We’re sorry. We can’t move someone for being disgusting” another steward said. I could tell she truly meant it as the number of complaints about him were rising and he seemed oblivious. I walked straight to be back and had a more relaxed flight for the next few hours. Our flight landed about 30 minutes early, 6:30pm EST and had to wait about 15 minutes. With my Global Entry, I was in a cab by 7:14. Not one check at JFK. There weren’t very many people on my flight with Global Entry it seemed. In the line there was one other woman that wasn’t crew. Still, I’ve never had a faster plane door to cab with checked luggage. Every moment from selecting my plane was flying from Milan at the kiosk, to the guy taking the printed receipt, to before walking through the exit door, I expected to be stopped, at least a fever tested held to my forehead, but nothing. For peace of mind, I’m rationalizing this as an irrational global entry perk. However, as scrutiny heightens I can tell you there is a serious lack of oversight happening between Malpensa and JFK in my experience and with this, it’s only a matter of time before 2019-nCoV becomes the pandemic we’re all worried about. We can’t halt global travel, nor would I want to, but I wouldn’t have minded being inconvenienced by some checks.

Rack Story / Back Story: Stella Jean in the Chitral Valleys of Pakistan

If you’ve followed my blog for a few years, you may know that one of my favorite designers is Stella Jean. I came across the brand many years ago, I think through Vogue Talents while I was looking up young, fresh, Italian design talent. This was before Beyoncé and Rihanna wore her pieces. Stella Jean’s designs, and who she was a person, Afro-Italian, Afro-Carribbean- Italian, stopped me in my tracks. Stella Jeans mom is Haitian and her collection then (and now) celebrated the duality of that Haitian-Roman identity in a burst of colors and patterns. I filled Pinterest pages, wish lists and mood boards with her designs. Referenced her collection to anyone that would listen. Seeing my first show of hers at the Armani/Teatro space in 2014, solidified my fanaticism. While styling in Italy for Tamu McPherson’s All the Pretty Birds, I got the opportunity to pull Stella Jean for one of my favorite looks!

That’s Stella Jean’s motto. Her work highlights and empowers diasporas of women around the world. Including them in globalization and economic trade, giving them agency to showcase their artistry and earn an income from this. She doesn’t just pull inspiration from other cultures but involve them in the creation of beautiful garments often working with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization. Considering all of this, when I was asked by All the Pretty Birds to be photographed for a showcase of Digital Creatives of Color in Italy and to attend the event with Camera della Moda, I knew exactly who I wanted to wear. The package didn’t make it in Rome in time for the shoot but made it in time for the event and some weekend shooting!

I pulled mainly from the Spring 2020 collection which highlighted the artistry of the Kalash women in Chitral region of Pakistan. There are only 3,000 people in these remote valleys and Stella Jean collaborated Chitral Women’s Handicrafts Center, founded by the 22-year-old Karishma Ali on the fabric for this collection — incorporating the over 4,000 metres of fabric in her designs for the collection. This provides economic opportunity and brings awareness to a community that is dying out. This is the first time the embroideries have left the region.

dress, STELLA JEAN (BUY HERE!) | shoes, M.M. LAFLEUR | bag, GUCCI (vintage)
Stella Jean Self Portrait
PHOTOS BY MICHELE SCAGLIONE & NNEYA RICHARDS

20 Perfect Places to Go In 2020

Believe it or not we are well into 2020 and after scouring lists of my favorite travel sites, taking a moment to assess current events (which I know can change at the drop of a dime) and doing a little boots on the ground regarding upcoming destinations at the New York Times Travel Show, I’m ready to give you the NAPW 20 Perfect Places to Go in 2020 list. Some of the places on this list, I’ve been to myself, others are bucket destinations to me as well that I hope to get to in the next two years — I’m really into slow travel not just checking a country off the list and living between NYC and Italy has me exploring Europe more — FUNDS! I started with 24 and wanted to dwindle down to 20, the Coronavirus epidemic and locust plague in East Africa did that with a few for me, so I’ll have them in the honorable mentions section. I also would like to note that this is my international list. This year I’ve made a promise to myself to see more of my own country. I’ve only really explored the coasts and a few select southern hubs. In March, I’m going to Indiana and adding another state to my list. I can’t wait to see more of the USA, I’ve been to 22 states so far. This year, I want to get to 40, and by 2021, 50.

Accra, Ghana. Ghana has been on my travel bucket list for quite some time now after seeing beautiful imagery of the country and reading about its booming economy. The country has experienced a surge in black American tourism after last years “Year of Return” campaign culminated by Afrochella around new years. This year the country is focusing on “After the return” and keeping that connection between African Americans and the country going.

Tbilisi, Georgia. Do you ever have a feeling a country is calling your name? That’s happening with me and Georgia. A visit to the doctors lead me to chat with a temp originally from Georgia and suggesting I visit. She briefed me on the countries almost ancient wine traditions as well as its delicious cuisine. A few days later, over drinks with my cousin, he suggested we go on a hiking trip to Georgia! Seeing photos of Tbilisi’s old town, it seems to be a romantic jumble of winding streets, beautiful villas and crooked churches.

Madagascar. Michele’s parents went last year and I’m desperate to go to the island in the Indian ocean. Like Australia, it’s a beautiful unique pocket of biodiversity and you can find some beautiful animals not found elsewhere on earth. I’m also eager to try the food of Madagascar at the crux of the Indian-African spice trade, the cultural make up of the island would lend to delicious cuisine!

Oaxaca, Mexico. Speaking of cuisine. Mexico’s culinary capital of Oaxaca has been on my list for quite some time. The city is known for its seven classic varieties of mole sauce — I’m a mole-fiend and that alone is worth a visit to me. However, this UNESCO World Heritage site is recognized for maintaining a quaint and charming small town vibe within a big city. Sierra Norte and Puerto Escondido are just a few of the natural charms of the region giving me the ability to do beach and mountains in the same vacation. I can’t wait!

Vancouver, British Columbia. No, it’s not because Meghan and Harry escaped there, we’ve been hearing about the natural wonders of Vancouver for decades and not just avid ski-bunnies that love Whistler. Mountain biking trails are less than 30 minutes away from the city! Rivers, beautiful forests lead to some of that peaceful Canadian positivity. The port city is considered among Canada’s most dense, ethnically diverse cities. Which is always a good sign on the culinary scene!

Remaining skeletons of trees, which are believed to have died 600–700 years ago, are now black because the intense sun has scorched them. Though not petrified, the wood does not decompose because it is so dry. This creates a particularly fascinating and surrealistic landscape, that appears in innumerable pictures and has been used as a setting for films and videos.

Namibia. I would love to see the Namib desert, the oldest in the world and from what I’ve seen, possibly the most breathtaking. Lions hunt seals on the beach, dessert adapted, elephants and giraffes, the wildlife of the country is incredible. Photos from my friend Lisa were reason enough for me to add this to my list.

Sicily. So close, but so far. Sicily, the other Italy. Italian American culture is heavily Sicilian and certain traditions that are so familiar to me growing up in NYC, Michele, as a Northern Italian, has never heard of. From its beaches that have managed to escape tourism to its cities and architecture touched by the Romans, Greeks, and Africans, and of course the food. Sicily is calling my name!

Lesotho. As a geography nerd, I’ve always had a deep fascination with this country, landlocked by South Africa. Then, when Marvel’s Black Panther came out, it took my fandom of the country to a whole other level as the geographical inspiration for the country was taken from this mountainous nation bursting with natural beauty. And I love a messy country, I mean hello, American here? And other faves, the French, remember a few years ago when the President of France’s wife was put out by finding out about his affair and busted up with presidential palace? Well get ready for some very intriguing and sad mess from Lesotho currently developing. The current first lady has been arrested for killing the former wife of her husband! I still want to go to Lesotho and stock up on some beautiful blankets. The tradition knitwork of Lesothans is gorgeous and can be find in many South African designers collections.

Bahamas. The last time I visited the Bahamas was my senior year of high school for Spring Break. Needless to say, now, I’m looking for a considerably different Bahamas trip and use my tourism dollars to give back and visit a place that was hit pretty badly during the last round of hurricanes. There are 700 islands in the Bahamas, each as beautiful as the last with that perfect shade of turquoise waters. This year, I’d like to visit, deep diving not only into the islands beautiful pink sands but it’s cultural history!

Brazil. Brazil’s president’s racist policies are pretty abhorrent and they say tourism to Brazil is a bit down and site that as a potential cause. Whether it’s this or theft and violent crime on the rise, I would understand if Brazil is not on your list to visit this year, but after chatting with friends who just returned from Rio and Sao Paolo the country and the beautiful people who make it up seem to be still beautiful and vibrant as ever. With $160 visa restriction being waived for US citizens, Japan and Canada in hopes of encouraging more of an exchange between the countries, maybe now is indeed the time to go!

Indonesia. One of my best mate’s mom is from Indonesia and she was born there. Over the years I’ve learned about Indonesia through her strong appreciation for her maternal culture and I’m hoping this is the year we go to the country together. A trip with Naomi will show me the Indonesia beyond Bali, the natural beauty, home cooked food and everything else!

Taiwan. After the New York Times Travel Festival and Taiwan’s beautiful and convincing PR push, I was sold on visiting the country — seeing it’s beautiful mountains and countryside and great cuisine. During the press conference, they even addressed the Corona Virus and assured us that at the time, there were no cases in Taiwan and Taiwanese officials are taking the proper precautions to keep it that way. Unfortunately, over the last three weeks, things have changed.

Ethiopia. Living in Italy, Ethiopia comes up. Whether it’s their failed conquest of the country or coffee culture, Italy has more ties to Ethiopia than they’d care to admit. And I guess, so do I. I’ve been fascinated by the country for quite some time and its millennia old kingdom and royal family — some say the oldest in the world tracing to the biblical Queen Sheba. My Jamaican roots and the Rastafari religion also tie me to the country and I’ve been keen to explore Shashemene, the area of the country where a lot of Jamaicans made Exodus.

Rwanda. Rwanda has recently been labeled as one of the fastest growing African economies and is in the midst of a major revitalization. The country is shedding being known for its cruel past of the 1994 Rwandan genocide and in the last few years, the country has been more synonymous with things like gorilla trekking. What a great way to welcome in a new decade and a time of rebirth — maybe even in a gorilla naming ceremony!

Ayampe, Ecuador. Pristine beach, sleepy surf town, Ayampe, Ecuador is right up my alley — the kind of place I like to escape.

Political Battles Inconvenience Traveling New Yorkers

On February 5th, the Department of Homeland Security announced effective immediately that it would ban NY State residents for applying for Global Entry and other Trusted Traveller programs (SENTRI, NEXUS, FAST) due to New York’s status as a “safe haven” state. The Trump administration says it’s responding to New York’s Green Light Law that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses and bars agencies like ICE from accessing these DMV records without a court order. The Trump administration says it is freezing New Yorkers applications for Global Entry and renewal in efforts of national security, but many (myself included) are calling BS on this. Governor Cuomo is reviewing the legal status of this ban that essentially is politicizing travel.

As a frequent traveler, I revel in the ease of Global Entry saving, at this point, hours in security lines at the airports. To me, Trump is punishing a state politician he’s in a pissing contest with and a majority of voters he knows did not vote for him. For some time he has expressed ire towards safe-haven states, threatening to cut California’s federal funding for example. DHS Chad Wolf cites that the state of NY is asking the federal government to vet NY residents for these trusted traveler programs without all of the information, i.e. background checks, criminal histories etc. A fair assessment if that is the case. When I got Global Entry it was seemingly an easy screening but then again I don’t have criminal or dodgy history, I was born in NYC and I travel for work. At the time, not countries I visited were on the then president’s travel ban, or raised cause of alarm or concern.

Trump himself blasted the conditions of New York airports. A great deal of renovations have been made in recent years, but yes, I have been to developing nations with airports on par with JFK — the airport welcoming millions of people into the great country of America. Global Entry was just one less stress navigating this airport. I don’t want to give it up.

As of now, TSA Pre-Check isn’t effected. Currently Global Entry, SENTRI and NEXUS users are not affected but will be when it comes time for re-enrollment.

Perfect Guide to Verona

Arena of Verona

My relentless pursuit of “off the beaten path” sometimes has me miss out on the most obvious of locations. And the fun discovery of truly making them my own. For example, Puglia is having an international moment right now. I first went there and fell in love with the region about 10 years ago. Luckily, my partner’s pride in both his culture and my work leads me to exploring Northern Italy and sharing it with you! Here’s a quick guide and photo diary to get you started on a great trip to Verona!

Naturally, the first thing you think of when one mentioned Verona is the story of Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare probably chose the city as the setting for this beautifully tragic play as it was based on an old Italian tale. The Montagues and the Capulets were indeed two real life aristocratic Veronese families.

Whether this is Juliet’s famous balcony is highly unlikely as the balcony was added to this 14th century house in the 20th century, but the backdrop of the city in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 Romeo and Juliet highlighted modern day Verona. But the del Capello family did indeed live in the famed site, Casa di Giulietta.

Today hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to Verona annually to see Juliet’s house; many more write letters, from around the world, to the Juliet society. Juliet has become a sort of deity for lovers giving this Italian city the honor of being considered the most romantic in the world.

Now that we’ve gotten all the Shakespeare references out of the way… There’s more to Verona that the star-crossed lovers.

view from Castel San Pietro

The city is beautifully set on the Adige river connected by many bridges. Two of Verona’s oldest and most characteristic bridges are the Ponte Pietra and the Ponte Scagliero, both destroyed during World War II but rebuilt using the original materials.

sunset on Verona’s Arena

Did you know Verona has an arena as well? Not as big as Rome’s Colosseum, but impressive nonetheless. You see Verona’s Arena as soon as you walk through the impressive medieval city gates into the historic center. Be sure to also visit the city’s Roman gates dating from the 1st century AD Porta Borsari.

Verona’s medieval city gates

Like many Italian cities, the architecture is Verona is incredible. Michele dragged me around marveling at Verona’s famed torre built by ancient aristocratic families. My favorite was the Lamberti Tower and it’s brilliant stripes built in 1172.

bell tower on Piazza delle Erbe

The wealth of Verona is also seen in its beautiful preserved frescoes throughout the city – you don’t even had to step foot indoor or in a private gallery to have an eyeful! Start at Piazza delle Erbe. You can’t help but to look up! During the Roman Empire, Pizza delle Erbe was a part of the town’s forum. A lively square Piazza delle Erbe is a great place for people watching in one of it’s buzzing cafes and grabbing an apperitivo. It’s also home to the beautiful baroque Palazzo Maffei and the Arco della Costa with it’s hanging whale’s rib. Walk under it if you dare. Legend has it that it will fall on the first just person to walk underneath it. Another must-see Verona piazza is Piazza dei Signori with it’s statue of Dante Alighieri. This square was the former seat of power in Verona for the Scagliere family (rulers of Verona from 13th and 14th century) with its government buildings.

piazza dei Signori

Stunning painted frescos dot the buildings and archways along both of these piazzas.

You know I’m morbidly obsessed with high-design tombs and cemeteries so it was a happy surprise stumbling on the Scagliere Tombs, gorgeous Gothic works. The gate around this tomb is a call to the della Scala family (of the stairs).

Another great church to see Chiesa di Santa Anastasia. But really, get lost in Verona. There’s something really magical in every part of the old city.

Take a great (and a bit exhausting!) walk up to the Castel San Pietro.

I always wonder, if you have a cute house, do you get tired that you can’t just sit in the window without someone coming by to take a photo? I liked how these homeowners handled it, A MIRROR!

As I mentioned in a previous post, Airbnb is offering a stay at Casa di Guilietta and there is a boutique hotel inside the courtyard, Il Sogno Di Giulietta but I absolutely fell in love with this hotel Michele and I stumbled on, Hotel Gabbia D’Oro.

We first went to Verona on a bank holiday weekend so the main shopping street was flooded with visitors. Where you want luxury brands at Al Duca d’Aosta or contemporary brands like Maje, Verona has it. A few side streets had local Veronese shops that I would love to explore more of.

Michele and I often travel for food and Verona was no exception with our initial plan being to go there for a late lunch or early dinner. Ristorante Greppia was on our list, then we hiked up to Re Teodorico near the Castel San Pietro for an apperitivo with a view. BUT, due to it being a bank holiday, many prime dining locations were closed and starving, we ended up having pub food.

Fast forward to the following weekend, after a day at the lakes, we were able to enjoy a true Veronese meal with friends. The evening started as we enjoyed a 5 euro spritz under the colorful frescoes of Casa Mazzanti at Casa Mazzanti Caffé in Piazza Erbe. Then we headed to renowned Antica Bottega del Vino and I tried the classic Verona dish made with Amarone wine, Amarone risotto! It was a delicious distinct taste that I would definitely order again, but very strong and is a sharing dish for me.

I know we’ve only scratched the surface of Verona, but this is more than enough to get you started for a day in the city. Even with the crowds, Verona lives up to its reputation of magic and romance. If you’re in Northern Italy, it’s absolutely worth a day trip!

PHOTOS BY NNEYA RICHARDS & MICHELE SCAGLIONE

Win a Trip to Verona for Valentine’s Day!

Mine and Michele’s self portrait on a side street in Verona

So I just got an email that Airbnb is giving away a night at Juliet’s Verona house this Valentine’s day! 

William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet is one of my favorite plays. Give me a few margaritas and I’ll recite the opening lines for you. Actually just ask. I love to flex my Shakespeare. One night outside of a bar on the Lower East Side in NYC, my friend Halley and I shouted “A plague on both [their] houses” in reference to some boy drama…. We were those weird Amherst girls. And I love the Baz Luhrmann film version, with Leonardo DiCapro & Claire Danes just as much as I love the 1968 Franco Zeffirelli film. That’s where this AirBNB in Verona comes in. The winning couple will get a stay in the 13th century building (now a museum) complete with the bed used for the film!

Casa di Guilietta

Verona’s Juliet Club has answered letters to lovesick scribes for decades and to win, you have to write a letter to Juliet saying why you’d be perfect and submit to airbnb.com/juliet. The winners get the night of Valentine’s stay. A Michelin star meal in Verona, tour of the city and some other fun stuff.

I am in no way partnering with Airbnb but thought this was cool to share with my social friends as I’m covering Verona this week on the blog. I’m so looking forward to seeing who wins!

You only have until February 2! Apply now!

New Forbes.com Feature! 43 Affordable Places to Travel in 2020

2020 is starting off right! I’m very proud to announce my first feature of the new year which came the first week of January for Forbes.com. I lent my travel expertise to the 43 Cheapest Places to Travel in 2020 write up, contributing THREE locations: Bergamo, Italy, Guadeloupe, French West Indies and Zihuatenejo, Mexico. In fact, my write up of Bergamo topped the list. Now for Bergamo, I got one or two people with some backlash, I know my fellow contributors of places like Hawaii got some as well. However, it was pretty funny when I responded to the commenters, it was ugly Italian rivalries raring their ugly head — they had a fondness for Southern Italy and considered Bergamo pretty expensive when you could go to places like Albania. Well, sure, Bergamo is more expensive than Albania, a non-EU country that I am sure is gorgeous, but would be considered a developing economy. However, in terms of hotel prices, meals and drinks, and what you get for your value, Bergamo gives you a LOT of bang for your buck. This is especially true when comparing the prices of Italians cities on the standard tourist track like Venice, Florence, Rome and even nearby Milan!

Check out Bergamo, Guadeloupe, Zihuatenejo and the other cities on the latest Forbes list and video. Let me know if you have any other suggestions of affordable places I should visit this year!