Tavarnelle – Tuscany’s Hidden Secret

For those with a sense of adventure and a lust for discovery there are bountiful wonders to be enjoyed beyond Florence’s historic old city.  It starts with a southerly trip down Via del Serragli to the massive wooden gates of the Porta Romana.  This, the old gate to Rome, serves as a modern day portal between the bustling streets of Firenze and the Tuscan countryside. As we set out to explore, accompanied by a group of local representatives from the Tavarnelle Tourism Board, our goal for the next three days was simple – to discover and wander the often overlooked wonders, tranquil beauty, rich history, and succulent flavors of the Chianti countryside. Our destination was the commune of Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, which falls under the Province of Florence due to its close geographic proximity.

18 Of Denmark’s Best Instagrammers

With just three hours of darkness during Denmark’s summer nights, the pre-dusk twilight known to photographers as “the golden hour” finds itself morphed from an elusive 60 minutes at the end of the day to a luxurious window that lasts much, much, longer during the summer months.  In winter, when the role of night and day becomes switched and when the days shrink to a mere seven hours most of which is more aptly described as a brighter than normal twilight than a true “day”, the Danish landscape is similarly conducive to incredible lighting and gorgeous photography. Add in cities like Copenhagen with its modern Danish architecture blended seamlessly with historic paved cobblestone streets, multi-colored building facades, century old wooden sailing ships, canals, and wealth of vibrantly colored gardens and you have a city which is an incredible living tapestry.

Copenhagen’s Most Colorful Must-See Streets

Scandinavian countries, particularly Sweden and Denmark, have a long tradition of painting the facades of their houses bright colors. These often change from building to building creating a veritable rainbow of color as one looks down the street. While this practice is somewhat common throughout the city, there are several prime examples hidden away along the city’s historic back streets.  While the most famous of these is Nyhavn which can be found on nearly ever postcard from Copenhagen, the rest are far more obscure.  This list is intended as a local’s insight to showcase locations you won’t find in your average guide.

An Instagram Tour of Chianti in 15 Photos

I recently had the pleasure of spending a week wandering through Tuscany.  As part of the trip, the local tourism boards invited me on a three day blog trip in the Chianti hills focusing on the area around Tarvarnelle.  While the high quality photos from my dSLR will follow soon, here is a cross section of my 15 favorite instagram photos from the trip.  All were shot on an iphone 4s and edited in either the VSCOCAM app or Snapseed.

This is the lion of Florence. Found in Florence’s Archaeology museum is is roughly the size of a real lion and one of the most beautiful pieces of bronze sculpture I’ve seen in the past year. The museum is located in the heart of the city and a great alternative for those of you who are sick of the long lines at some of the city’s more famous locations.

One of my favorite things to see and do while in Italy is to spend time at agriturismos. For those who haven’t had the pleasure yet, these are typically old farms/estates which now offer rooms and locally sourced food almost exclusively grown on the premises or in the immediate area. They also often have their own vineyard and olive oil which tends to be exquisite. This photo is of the patio at the Paganello Agriturismo where we enjoyed fantastic wines and an extremely fresh vegetarian-friendly meal.

Another shot from Paganello Agriturismo/Fattoria Il Paganello, with a view out over the vineyard and of the surrounding countryside. Their locally produced wines (pictured in the wineglass in the photo) include “Quanta Cura” a delicious Tuscan red, as well as Il Paganello Chianti and Chianti Riserva.

For years I’ve stared out the windows of my passing train or bus at all of the tiny hilltop towns that dot the Tuscan countryside. This blog trip provided the opportunity to finally get in and explore many of them. This photo comes from the entrance to the Palazzo Begliomini in Tignano. As you can see, the entrance was guarded by a fierce and ferocious guard dog.

What is a visit to Italy and its vineyards without a good shot of an old wine cellar? This is one of the numerous rooms at the Badia di Passignano monastery.

Another absolute favorite was the Monastery at Badia di assignano. This beautiful old facility has a gorgeously frescoed church, sprawling wine cellar, wonderful views over the surrounding countryside and fortress inspired design.

Another shot of the exterior of Badia di Passignano. Quite the impressive looking monastery ehh? There’s also a high end fine dining establishment owned by the Antinori family situated immediately outside its walls.

Italy has a long and rich history and reputation for craftsmanship. During the blog trip we had the opportunity to get an up close look at how handmade silver pieces are made at Argento Firenze. This photo is of one of the employees (he was over 80 years old) who still does enamel work on things like silver cuff-links. I honest expected the experience to be quite boring and was fairly disinterested going into it. However, watching the craftsmen work and learning about how they do what they do ended up being an extremely interesting experience and one of the highlights of the trip.

As a huge space geek the opportunity to visit the recently opened Osservatorio Astronnomico (astronomical observatory) and to see both Jupiter and the Moon up close and personal was one of the highlights of the trip. It was also extremely interesting because we learned how Galileo modified and built his telescope and used it to chart his ground breaking discoveries. This is a photo taken through the telescope on my iphone, so it doesn’t fully capture just how amazing it is to see the moon in its intricate detail. The experience of being in the dome, and tracking the stars and moon was also an absolute blast.

The best view in Florence can be found at the Piazzale Michelangelo which overlooks the city. With a beautiful tulip garden, and a view that encompasses the palace, duomo, and ponte vecchio it is ideal for enjoying a glass of wine and watching the sun set.

Located just outside Florence the new Antinori Cantina is an incredibly unusual building. A mixture of active vineyard, restaurant and museum the building has an ultra-modern design which was completed in 2013. The wine is fantastic and the facility is well worth a visit to explore its highly unusual architectural personality.

The picturesque charm of Tuscany’s rolling hills with their low hanging clouds and orderly vineyards just outside the town of San Donato in Poggio where we stayed at the Del Giglio B&B which was one of the cutest B&Bs I’ve seen in a long time and which had lovely owners.

One of the trip’s greatest surprises was Arezzo. Situated an easy and convenient train ride from Florence the city was nearly empty while Florence was positively overflowing. It is home to a stunning cathedral, beautiful Sienna-esque square, and lovely mixture of views and history.

While the Ponte Vecchio gets all the glory, Florence’s other bridges can be equally photogenic. Particularly late in the afternoon as the sun’s yellow hues brings out the color and textures of the local stone.

Mush! – Weekly Travel Photo

Dog Sledding in Churchill

When the news arrived that I had won a trip from Denmark to the sleepy town of Churchill, which sits nestled along the banks of the Hudson bay in central Canada, I was excited and unsure what to expect.  A few weeks later I found myself standing astride a dog sled as a pack of extremely well cared for, energetic, and absolutely lovable sled dogs eagerly pulled us across an old dirt road covered in the first snow of the year.  The skies were a gorgeous blue while at times sun dogs could be seen as sunlight reflected off of ice in the atmosphere.  The actual experience of dog sledding was fascinating.  The dogs are incredibly graceful, playful, and so skilled at what they do that mid-stride it is not uncommon to see them play around or scoop up a mouthful of fresh snow. The experience of sliding across the snow on the sled is also on par with that of skiing.  Much quieter, smoother, and more graceful than I ever would have imagined.

If you have the chance to try dog sledding make sure you research the provider you’ll be using to ensure they treat the dogs well. Once you’ve done your research, go for it! It is a fun experience that is quite unique!

Make sure to head over to flickr to see the rest of the album.

Would you like to see previous Weekly Photos? View past travel pictures here. This photo was taken on a Canon T3i (600D) Camera.

A Taxi Adventure Gone Right

Taxi Adventure

This post kicks off a brand new series of youtube videos which I’ll be posting over the next few weeks.  In them I delve into my trove of travel adventures, dig out some of my favorite stories, and share them. The goal?  To keep the stories short and to tell them in a fashion similar to how I’d tell them if you and I were sitting in a small traveler’s pub enjoying a pint after a long day of exploring an exciting new city.

First up?  My Guatemalan introduction to colectivos (communal taxis).  It features incredibly awkward moments, breast feeding, culture shock and a wealth of other fun experiences. So, without further elaboration, I’ll let you dive straight into the video!  If you enjoy it, make sure to subscribe to my youtube channel so you don’t miss future updates!

Why Scotland Is Europe’s Must See Destination [Video]

Scottish Traffic Jam

Europe is a wealth of gorgeous destinations. To pick one as a favorite is impossible and yet, there is one country I find myself returning to over and over. It is an addiction, and one which I gladly embrace. Out of all of the countries in Europe, the natural beauty of Scotland’s north western coast is hands down my favorite when it comes to breathtaking natural beauty, magical moments, and that sense of wonder that pulls you from reality and transports you into a series of moments that invigorate and inspire you. It’s also home to the best fish and chips in the world.

The Scotland Road Trip Map
The route, color coded by day, I took during my road trip through the Highlands.

The above map highlights the route I took during my road trip through Scotland.  The trip occurred in August, and as a result the weather was warm, but not terribly damp. As an added bonus the hills were covered in blooming flowers and the subtle purple hue of blooming heather.  I’ve combined my footage from the trip into this brief 2:40 video.  Enjoy the view as I wander through the Scottish highlands past incredible castles, dramatic Scottish lochs, and face off with sheep in a game of rural chicken.


Questions about the trip?  I’d love to answers them!  Have a favorite story from your own visit to Scotland?  Do share in a comment!

Rain Soaked Textures In Bloom – Weekly Travel Photo

Flowers Blooming After Rain

I discovered these flowers covered in fresh raindrops just after a Scottish drizzle raced across the small village of Durness in Scotland’s far north western reaches.  The vibrantly colored flowers were in a small garden beside the road and I found myself separated from them by an ancient stone fence.  As I paused to snap this quick shot, I was forced to continually keep one eye on the flowers and the other on the small single lane country road that hopped over a small hill, turned a corner, and then raced along the coast with only a few feet on either side to spare.   Far from ideal, but never the less it did add a bit of excitement to an otherwise peaceful moment!

Make sure to head over to flickr to see the rest of the album.

Would you like to see previous Weekly Photos? View past travel pictures here. This photo was taken on a Canon T3i (600D) Camera.