2017 End-of-Year Photo DUMP

What joy it brings to look back on a year in (iPhone) photos. This clump of a zillion photos is basically just for me, to look back on the truly awesome and unforgettable, from Cairo and the great Pyramids on New Year's Day 2017 to spending Christmas in Scottsdale with my family before ringing in 2018. It makes it look like nothing bad, sad, or challenging happened the entire year, which of course, is complete hogwash (but wouldn't that be wonderful). I think this is going to be a big year of change. Taking one, two, three deep breaths...

Past years: 201120122013201420152016

Now I want to move to Florence

View from Villa Cora's rooftop - Florence

View from Villa Cora's rooftop - Florence

I just got back from Florence and now want to move there. Not really. But maybe? It was perfect from start to finish. Here's my updated Italy guide, if you're interested. I scoured many sources, and found some new favorites to add to my old standby's (like Trattoria Cammillo. Please, please go to Cammillo!). 

A Little Bit More of Heaven - Villa San Michele, Italy

The Loggia RestaurantThird day in a row of Villa San Michele posts and I bet no one's getting sick of it. But this is my last one, a final batch of photos - after my room and the cookery school - of this glorious hotel perched in the hills above Florence in the tiny town of Fiesole, that I just had to share. Let's all go back one day and take a pasta class together okay?

Exterior that Michelangelo apparently designedSunshine in the gardens

Wonderful place to start the day with breakfast!

Another room type that I saw That view of Florence againWent to a concert at Villa San Michele one night...didn't understand a word but still nice!

The Cookery School at Villa San Michele, Italy

I took the photo above as our class began at Villa San Michele's cookery school without even realizing it looked like the Italian flag. How appropriate. Basil, garlic, and tomatoes. From now on, that's what the flag means to me. Isn't that what Italian cooking means to so much of us? The sizzling smell of garlic in the pan of olive oil, letting tomatoes bubble until the skin bursts, and topping it all off with fresh basil. At the cooking school, we made gnocchi from scratch, which is surprisingly easy, a simple sauce, and a tiramisu. All with Chef Attilio di Fabrizio, who has headed up Villa San Michele's dining for 25 years. I love to cook but cooking with a panoramic view of Florence before me and not having to do the dishes makes it even better. We finished the class with Tuscan wine and eating everything we had prepared. Bellissimo! My dream is to go back and take one of their Symphony of Pasta courses, with three classes and three nights included in the program.

An apron is included in the classMy station set upChef Attilio di FabrizioRolling out gnocchiReady to cook


Setting up for tiramisu

My Room at Villa San Michele Above Florence

THE VIEW outside my roomMy room deserves its own post. After I wrote this for Forbes on the luxury adventures that Villa San Michele organizes, from the cooking school to truffle hunting and fresco painting classes, I started drooling over all my Villa San Michele pictures again. When I walked outside my room, I had the spectacular view above of Florence and the Tuscan hills before me, as well as the terraced gardens and flowers that Villa San Michele is known for. My room itself, one of the junior suites, was like a Tuscan flat without a kitchen, but with a desk, dresser, couch, giant bathroom, and table for two where I had tea each evening after dinner. I loved the entrance to the room, with a private balcony in front to enjoy the view. Doesn't the door just look like there's something magical beyond it? I used my heavy, real key to push open the weight of the door - and to push it open in the early morning to see the sun roll out over Florence.

Entrance to room Table for two with my gorgeous key

Other view from my balcony