WHEN IN ROME Travelog: Taormina, Pearl of the Mediterranean

Just as Kate Miller, heroine of WHEN IN ROME, wrapped up her sojourn in Italy with a romantic weekend jaunt to Taormina, Sicily, the hubs and I also capped off our 2007 trip by heading down to the “Pearl of the Mediterranean” for a couple days before heading back to the States.

Taormina, and Sicily as a whole, has an interesting history. The site of Phoenician and Greek colonies and later part of the Roman Empire, the island saw its share of warfare as various forces tried to claim this beautiful, rocky land as their own. From Byzantium to the Normans, then the era of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and finally inclusion in the unification of Italy as a plebiscite… and all the while gathering and maintaining a rich cultural heritage that survives today.

Sicily holds a special place in my heart. Three of four sets of great-grandparents immigrated to the US from Sicily, from two small towns in particular (in fact, their families knew each other!). A couple years before he passed, my paternal grandfather had the opportunity to travel to his father’s hometown of Forza D’Agro, a little north of Taormina, meet his uncles(!), and visit the church where his father was baptized. (That same small town also happens to be the filming location for the Italian settings in “The Godfather Part II”, in case you’d like a little fun movie trivia.)

Anyway, the hubs and I were only Taormina for about two and a half days and didn’t have time to seek out my ancestors’ homes. But it was well worth the train fare.

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Because of the seismic activity in the Straits of Messina, it’s an engineering impossibility to build a bridge from Villa San Giovanni to Messina. So they put the trains on the ferries to take them across. Seriously. Pictures or it didn’t happen.

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The view of Messina as you ferry across the Straits. Still a bustling port town after centuries.

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A view of the hillside from the rooftop terrace of our little hotel. Many hotels and multi-level buildings are built into the hillside. You enter on the top floor and then go down to lower levels.

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Gothic church of St. Augustine on IX Aprile Piazza. The hubs and I sat on the front step and ate gelato while a little street band played some traditional music.

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Breakfast al fresco!

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I was ready to move into our hotel for good.

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A view of Mount Etna, not too far from Taormina. We skipped the hiking tour due to time constraints. It actually erupted a few days after we left!

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Awww…. We hiked up to Castelmola the first morning in Taormina. Hardest hike of my life, but so worth the view!

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Taormina is full of archaeological sites, including the impressive Teatro Greco.

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Incredibly well intact, and often still used for concerts and events.

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The original marble stadium seating (similar to what would have been found in the Coliseum once upon a time) remains cool, even on the hottest days.

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Taormina has one of the most famous pebble beaches in the world, Mazzarrò is just a cable-car ride down from the town, and includes….

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….Isola Bella. Once a private residence and nicknamed “the pearl of the Ionian Sea” (must be a thing about pearls in this part of Sicily), now this island is a nature preserve.

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We weren’t sure what this was. Ruins of something (there were steps leading down into the water inside this stone wall). Incidentally, the hilly peninsula in the background houses the Grotta Azzurra (blue grotto) that Kate and Domenic visit in WHEN IN ROME. The hubs and I didn’t have time to take the excursion. It’s a bucket list item.

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I got brave, crawled out on the ruins, and played “The Little Mermaid.”

That’s it for our amazing trip to Italy! I hope you’ve enjoyed these photos. For a full dose of romance, don’t forget to pick up your copy of WHEN IN ROME!

WHEN IN ROME is available now for Kindle – and don’t forget to check out BETTER THAN CHOCOLATE (now available in print from Amazon and Barnes & Noble), the story that started it all!

Three friends. A broken engagement. A surprise elopement. A big secret. A lot of chocolate.

Three friends. A broken engagement. A surprise elopement. A big secret. A lot of chocolate.

Love isn't always picture perfect...

Love isn’t always picture perfect…

Want to stay updated on announcements and upcoming releases? Join my email newsletter and follow me on my socials (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and YouTube).

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WHEN IN ROME Photo Travelog: The Appian Way

No trip to Rome would be complete without checking out the thoroughfare that carried armies, commerce, and travelers to and from Ancient Rome for ages.

Let’s let Kate Miller, heroine of WHEN IN ROME, set the scene for us:

The Metro Line stops just inside the old Aurelian wall. Domenic guides me to a transit stop to catch a bus farther south. It’s a short ride, and we get off on a quaint street that looks like time froze somewhere in the mid-1600’s. After stopping in a little market for fresh bottles of water, we walk the cobbled street, passing ruins as well as currently occupied homes, three catacomb sites bustling with tourists, and sun-washed fields stretching toward the horizon. Traffic is light, except for tourists on foot or locals biking. Occasionally a public transit bus rumbles buy, forcing us to step onto the dirt path beside the road that serves as a sidewalk. An hour or so into our walk, the smaller cobbles abruptly end in a jagged line and give way to large, smooth stones.

Domenic comes to a stop. “Welcome to the Appian Way.”

~ excerpt from WHEN IN ROME

The cool thing about putting my characters on an afternoon trek down the Appian Way is that I could draw directly from my own experience. There’s really nothing quite like stepping onto a roadway that’s been around for literally a couple thousand years.

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Picture 323 Picture 325 Picture 334 Picture 342 Picture 344

Next time, we’ll take a jaunt to the beautiful island of Sicily and visit Taormina!

WHEN IN ROME is available now for Kindle – and don’t forget to check out BETTER THAN CHOCOLATE (now available in print from Amazon and Barnes & Noble), the story that started it all!

Three friends. A broken engagement. A surprise elopement. A big secret. A lot of chocolate.

Three friends. A broken engagement. A surprise elopement. A big secret. A lot of chocolate.

Love isn't always picture perfect...

Love isn’t always picture perfect…

Want to stay updated on announcements and upcoming releases? Join my email newsletter and follow me on my socials (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and YouTube).

WHEN IN ROME Photo Travelog: Renaissance Rome

During the Renaissance Era, Rome became something of a center of power. Many of the buildings that remain today, while now occupied by apartments, hotels, retail spaces, and offices, date from this time period and are still stunning. Side streets are narrow and winding, while major thoroughfares are clogged with vehicular and foot traffic. Everywhere, hallmarks of Renaissance artists leave lasting footprints, even on the most mundane corners of the city.

Here are some of the highlights.

From the top of Castel Sant'Angelo, the dome of St. Peter's Basilica stands against the skyline.

From the top of Castel Sant’Angelo, the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica stands against the skyline. In the center foreground, you can see a structure that appears to be an aqueduct, but in fact houses a secret passage linking the Vatican to Castel Sant’Angelo, should the Pontiff ever need to flee to safety.

Here we see one of many bridges that cross the TIber River. Ponte Sant'Angelo is the only one closed to vehicular traffic.

Here we see one of many bridges that cross the Tiber River.

Also visible from the top of Castel Sant'Angelo is the Altare della Patria, a national monument. It's visible from many of Rome's hills, in fact.

Also visible from the top of Castel Sant’Angelo is the Altare della Patria, a national monument. It’s visible from many of Rome’s hills, in fact.

The entrance to the Villa Borghese (or the Borghese Gardens) lies just a little northeast of Piazza di Spagna (more about that in a moment). We could never confirm it, but we guessed that gates once closed off the villa to the general public back in the day.

The entrance to the Villa Borghese (or the Borghese Gardens) lies just a little northeast of Piazza di Spagna (more about that in a moment). We could never confirm it, but we guessed that gates once closed off the villa to the general public back in the day.

Tree-lined gravel paths that make you forget modern Rome? Yes please!

Tree-lined gravel paths that make you forget modern Rome? Yes please!

One of many fountains tucked away in Villa Borghese. Somebody had left a bar of soap on the edge of this one - whatever floats your boat, I guess.

One of many fountains tucked away in Villa Borghese.

Resting on a flower-speckled hill (not unlike Kate and Domenic in WHEN IN ROME).

Resting on a flower-speckled hill (not unlike Kate and Domenic in WHEN IN ROME).

The Spanish Steps, as seen from Piazza di Spagna. Okay, so this landmark dates from the early 18th century, not the Renaissance. But much of the surrounding structures are older. 135 steps. We walked them. Both ways.

The Spanish Steps, as seen from Piazza di Spagna. Okay, so this landmark dates from the early 18th century, not the Renaissance. But much of the surrounding structures are older. 135 steps. We walked them. Both ways.

And I ate some gelato while sitting to one side of the Spanish Steps.

And I ate some gelato while sitting to one side of the Spanish Steps.

Trevi Fountain. We had a terribly hard time finding this beloved landmark. We were, in fact, trying to find the Column of Marcus Aurelius, got lost in some twisty Roman side streets, and found Trevi Fountain by chance.

Trevi Fountain. We had a terribly hard time finding this beloved landmark. We were, in fact, trying to find the Column of Marcus Aurelius, got lost in some twisty Roman side streets, and found Trevi Fountain by chance. We did manage to shoulder our way to the front to toss a couple coins into the fountain.

On our last night in Rome, the hubs (then the BF) and I walked up to Pincio Terrace, which has its owns set of stunning views of Vatican City, Piazza del Popolo, and beyond. But sometimes, you forget all the history and just savor the moment you're sharing with somebody you love.

On our last night in Rome, the hubs (then the BF) and I walked up to Pincio Terrace, which has its owns set of stunning views of Vatican City, Piazza del Popolo, and beyond. But sometimes, you forget all the history and just savor the moment you’re sharing with somebody you love.

Join me next time, when we take a jaunt to the road that leads to Rome, the ancient Appian Way.

WHEN IN ROME is available now for Kindle – and don’t forget to check out BETTER THAN CHOCOLATE (now available in print from Amazon and Barnes & Noble), the story that started it all!

Three friends. A broken engagement. A surprise elopement. A big secret. A lot of chocolate.

Three friends. A broken engagement. A surprise elopement. A big secret. A lot of chocolate.

Love isn't always picture perfect...

Love isn’t always picture perfect…

Want to stay updated on announcements and upcoming releases? Join my email newsletter and follow me on my socials (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and YouTube).

WHEN IN ROME Photo Travelog: Ancient Rome

When the hubs and I went to Rome in April 2007, we spent our first full day puttering round  Ancient Rome, including the Coliseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill.

Like us, WHEN IN ROME heroine Kate Miller explores the major sites. Our photos aren’t as good as hers would be (since we used a little digital point-and-shoot instead of SLR), but I hope you’ll enjoy them anyway. 🙂

Much of the Roman Forum has been left open to the elements, and outside of a few facades, much of it has been lost to history.

The Forum connects to Palatine Hill.

The view from Palatine Hill encompasses the Roman Forum and Coliseum.

The Coliseum itself is impressive all on its own.

Next time, we’ll take our tour through Renaissance era Rome, including Trevi Fountain, the Borghese Gardens, and a few other beautiful views of The Eternal City.

WHEN IN ROME is available now for Kindle – and don’t forget to check out BETTER THAN CHOCOLATE (now available in print from Amazon and Barnes & Noble), the story that started it all!

Three friends. A broken engagement. A surprise elopement. A big secret. A lot of chocolate.

Three friends. A broken engagement. A surprise elopement. A big secret. A lot of chocolate.

Love isn't always picture perfect...

Love isn’t always picture perfect…

Want to stay updated on announcements and upcoming releases? Join my email newsletter and follow me on my socials (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and YouTube).

 

All Roads Lead to Rome

In WHEN IN ROME, the second installment of my Sweet Somethings series, heroine Kate Miller makes a split second decision to join an international photography team as they embark on a photo shoot in Rome, Italy’s “Eternal City.”

The story focuses on the development of Kate’s romantic relationship with fellow photographer Domenic Varezzi, but along the way, Kate gets to check out some pretty amazing sites in and around Rome (and later, Taormina in Sicily).

The fun part is that just about everything she experiences comes from my memories of Rome.

The Coliseum is one of the most recognizable landmarks of Ancient Rome.

In April of 2007, my own Romantic Hero of a Husband (though at the time he was my Romantic Hero of a Boyfriend) and I took a trip to Rome and Taormina when I was off school for spring break.

Awww, look at us!

Now, it’s time for you to join me on a return trip to Rome! Over the next several weeks, we’ll take a photographic journey through The Eternal City, followed by Taormina on Sicily’s Eastern coast. While you’ll have to read WHEN IN ROME to get all the juicy details of Kate Miller’s experiences, I’ll be sharing fun tidbits about my own unforgettable trip to Italy.

WHEN IN ROME is available now for Kindle – and don’t forget to check out BETTER THAN CHOCOLATE (now available in print from Amazon and Barnes & Noble), the story that started it all!

Three friends. A broken engagement. A surprise elopement. A big secret. A lot of chocolate.

Three friends. A broken engagement. A surprise elopement. A big secret. A lot of chocolate.

Love isn't always picture perfect...

Love isn’t always picture perfect…

Want to stay updated on announcements and upcoming releases? Join my email newsletter and follow me on my socials (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and YouTube).

JulNoWriMo on the Road!

I have to start off by saying that I met my JulNoWriMo revised goal to get my historical romance up to 50k words.

How I got there is a convoluted comedy of errors.

The hubs and I just got home yesterday from a week and a half long vacation around New England, and since I anticipated having a nine-hour drive on the first travel day, I figured I’d get a lot of writing done. I’d managed to get myself up to about 42k words by Tuesday evening, and figured that with all that “captive audience” time, I’d have my work done before we ever reached Bar Harbor, Maine, and I could spend the rest of vacation enjoying the fact that a) I was on vacation, and b) I had met my goal.

This was not meant to be, however. My husband had an A/C inverter that was about ten years old. (Side note for those of you who don’t know what an inverter is, it’s this little gizmo that you plug into the charging outlet in your car (or cigarette lighter if your vehicle is that old), and the D/C power from your car’s battery is inverted into A/C power for any electronic gadget you wish to plug in). We’d used it before, but admittedly it’d been a while. I started off trying to work off my netbook’s batter, but because of the power save features the screen was too dim to see thanks to the glare of sunlight. So I set up the inverter, got my A/C power and brighter screen going, and went to town.

Only to discover in short order that, for whatever reason, the inverter was toast. It shorted out the fuse for that outlet. We tried it on another, wondering if it was just that outlet and we knew the other one worked. Shorted that one out too. So we had to make an unscheduled stop at the Walmart in Montpelier, Vermont, to buy new fuses.

Which turned out to be the wrong size. So we had to go to Autozone, and thankfully they had the right fuses, and my husband had to become a contortionist in order to get the fuses changed. Because I drive a Honda, and Honda doesn’t make anything like this easy.  He also bought a new inverter, which did not short anything out, and I was able to get myself within 4k of my goal before it was my turn to drive.

We camped in Maine, so there wasn’t much opportunity to do any writing. Plus, you know, there was all the hiking and whale watching and eating lobster. (Excuse me. Lobstah. Gotta say it right to sound like a “Bah Hah-bah” native.) However, we had a five hour drive or so to Newport, Rhode Island on Monday, so I hammered out about 3300 words. Only 700 to the finish line! But again, no time for writing in Newport. Too busy sight seeing and checking out Gilded Age mansions and carousing the length of the Cliff Walk.

Our last official stop on the trip was New Haven, Connecticut, and I told the hubs I HAD to get those last 700 words done. So once we got back to the hotel after dinner, he putzed around on the first “real” internet connection we’d had in almost a week while I went to town. And I blew that word count out of the water.

So I’m left with about 30k to finish before the end of the summer, and then I’ll let the inner editor out of her box. In the meantime…

JulNoWriMo goal met!

success baby

Dreaming of Warm Places

The past week has been pretty frozen here in the Northeast.  Since I live in one of the lake effect belts off Lake Ontario, I find the snow annoying but expected.  It’s the cold that gets me.  After a week of temperatures hovering around 0 degrees (the actual temperature, not the wind chill), I’m ready to think about some warmer places I’ve been:

Disney World Magic Kingdom

Disney World. Also the happiest place on Earth

The Colosseum, Rome, Italy

Ah, Rome! 70+ degrees the whole time we were there! Plus ITALY!

 

Taormina, Sicily

Taormina, Sicily, viewed from the Castelmola (on top of a mountain – that was a hike!)

Savannah, Georgia

Savannah, Georgia, of course.

Sandals Regency Resort, St. Lucia
St. Lucia. Ahhhh St. Lucia!

 

And as for the places I’d like to go:

Las Vegas Strip

VEGAS! It’s in the middle of the Nevada Desert. I don’t think I’d want to go there in the middle of summer, but it’s quite pleasant in the spring, I hear…

 

Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon, Arizona. I’ll go when it’s warm. 🙂

French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans French Quarter. Beautiful.

Hawaii

Aloha, Hawaii! I’ll get there someday.