Bassano del Grappa, ITALY

Last week I took a day trip to meet Emma in a city we had visited with friends two years before: Bassano del Grappa. 

Since I would not have phone service, we made plans the night before while we had wifi. We decided to meet at the train station: her train arriving at 9:05 am and mine at 9:20 am. A helpful iPhone app that I’ve used to look up train schedules is Infotreni.

We weren’t sure we would remember how to get into the center, but once we were there, it all came back to us. If you walk straight from the train station for two minutes, there is an entrance into the wall. Once inside the wall, go right. The first thing you will see is this coffee shop where we stopped for coffee.


Caffetteria Toffano is the first place you will see right when you walk inside the walls. Which was perfect as we had planned to find a place for coffee. It was a nice spot with good coffee. 


We walked through the various piazzas and soon learned that a lot of places were closed for Monday. So if you ever plan to visit a smaller town of Italy, keep in mind things will be closed Monday’s, in the afternoon, and for August vacation.



We took advantage of just walking the city and revisiting some of our favorite spots from our last visit. 



One of my favorite spots is this walkway of manicured trees overlooking a green valley. Bassano del Grappa is a small town that’s easy to discover.



I believe off of Via Vittorelli is this cute pane (bread) shop. Delicious for pastries, and they even had some senza glutine (gluten free) options for Emma which isn’t common for Italy. 



In Piazza Garibaldi we found this restaurant Danieli and decided to try it for lunch. We sat outside on the patio, which is typical for Italians. Last time we had visited on a Saturday and this piazza was covered with the outdoor Italian market.




Since the kitchen wasn’t yet open, we started with coffee.


About thirty minutes later we placed our food order. I ordered the gnocchi with mushroom. We spent a couple hours here hanging out and catching up and living the slow paced Italian lifestyle. It’s nice to not force too much into your days when you visit Italy, or to think too much of a time schedule, because then you will have a more Italian experience.


Padova ITALY

I recently visited my friend Marta in her hometown of Padova.  It was so good to reconnect roaming around the city after a couple years apart.


She met me at the train station and we walked toward the Centro di Padova and through Piazza Garibaldi.

We both felt quite out of it, so she took me to one of her favorite coffee shops Pasticceria Nova. It was down an alley off the Centro di Padova. I love that in Italy there are so many hidden food and coffee spots to be stumbled upon in the winding alleys thought out the city. Per usual, I got a cappuccino, and per Italian usual, she got a caffè (espresso).

Afterward we walked into the next piazza Piazza dei Signori in the Centro di Padova and got gelato at Grom. It’s a chain in Italy, so if you see one in a city you visit, definitely go. 




The usual this trip is the salted caramel gelato, but their affogatos are great as well. I have yet to find anything in America that’s as good as an Italian affogato, so take advantage of grabbing a few on your next trip to Italy. 


From the Centro di Padova, we walked over a couple streets and Marta showed me another favorite spot of hers in Padova: the Jewish Ghetto. There were a few fabric shops to peruse. 

Then walking out of that alley we found ourselves on the main shopping road. We tend to go to H&M or Pull and Bear, but this time we went to a new shop for me Stradivarius. Me and Marta love hippy (or as we tend to say “gypsy”) items, so we impulse bought such items: I some sunglasses and her a headband. 


She then took me to my favorite park Prato della Valle. It’s a circular park surrounded by a mote and white statues, and of course Italian cathedrals and buildings. 





The next day, while Marta had a family event that came up, I had some time to find my way into the center again. I came into the piazza we walked through the day before on the way to the Jewish Ghetto, but this time a huge market pop up. And it covered all the piazzas in the center.


I was really hit by the Italian culture. This experience didn’t feel so normal as most of my trip has, and I’m not even sure why. Maybe it was the huge crowds of Italians, or the Vespas riding by, or just walking upon this Italian market in a piazza surrounded by Italian architecture. It all felt so good though. 


Between the piazzas of outdoor markets, there was a large building filled with meat and cheese and pasta markets.


I found my way to one of the other piazzas, this one filled with the fashion, purses and jewelry markets. Surrounding the whole piazza were coffeeshops and people sitting outside having their morning caffè, so I joined in the tradition and grabbed a cappuccino at BREDA.

By noon I met up with Marta to head to Venice. On the way to the train station, we realized we were running too late for the train and had an hour to spare until the next one. So we stopped for coffee at this shop I thought was cute and wanted to try: Balentes Cafe. 


We met the owner Maurizio. He spoke English and had lived in LA for 7 years, so it was really nice to meet and chat with him.


Montebelluna ITALY – Gelati Roberto, Centro Coffee Crawl

Made a return visit to Montebelluna to see Emma a couple days after she arrived back. 


I’d like to side track on some culture. I love living the Italian train culture. It’s so foreign to my usual car form of transportation back home. This was my third train ride alone. I had assumed I’d have a lot of chances to ride with others and learn, but that hasn’t been the case, ands it’s funny how we learn the best by being forced into just doing it and surprising ourselves at what we can figure out in a foreign country. 

She brought some Rose Park Roasters coffee so we had a pour over coffee party. It’s been a month since I’ve been away from home and the coffee making world, so it felt like a piece of home to pour with Emma. Plus, I love Rose Park Roasters so it was exciting that she brought it.



We made plans with Tyler that night to be introduced to their new favorite gelato spot Gelati Roberto.


They both recommended the menta (mint) gelato. It was amazing and I’m still thinking about it.


The next day I did a coffee crawl around the Montebelluna Centro. The first spot was obviously Caffè Cavour. I ordered my usual cappuccino and pastry in more Italian breakfast style. 



Afterward I walked around to find a new coffee spot to try. While walking around I stumbled on this boutique Le Scarpe di Aliss where these yellow leather heels were on sale, so I made an impulse buy.


The second coffee shop I stopped at was one I’d never been to: Bar Alla Loggia. It was under an archway off a main piazza. I loved the vibes: from the outdoor piazza vibes to the loud Italian community how everyone knew everyone, and the cute old man who went on and on in Italian thinking I understood him and how I wish I did, and the shakerato I ordered.

At this point it was lunch time and with two coffees in, I was definitely ready for food. I returned to my comfort spot Caffè Cavour to try their lunch menu. I got the spaghetti with tonno (tuna) and pomodoro (tomato).


I walked back in to the piazza for the third spot Bernardi, a cute french bakery and coffee shop. I spent the time editing photos, being stared at by Italians, and face timing my coffee crawling friend Michelle from back home. 




Montebelluna ITALY – Pizzeria alla Stella, Gelateria Ducale, Caffè Cavour, Caffè Corona

I recently made a trip to revisit the town I used to live in in Italy for my friend Sharon’s birthday. The first place we went was her favorite coffee shop, that I had never tried, Degustazione. 

It was the best smelling coffee shop ever. All coffee shops smell like coffee, but here is was overwhelming, in the best way possible. Sharon got a cappuccino, and as much as a cappuccino is my usual, I had had two cappuccinos already that day so I went for a shakerato. I tend to get cold brew back home when I’m not wanting more milk, but in Italy it’s not really common to drink cold coffee, so my option and go to is the shakerato, which much like an iced americano, is: espresso shaken with ice, water and sometimes sugar. This spot made the best one I’ve had. 


After coffee, we met up with some of her friends for pizza at Stella’s. It was Sharon’s birthday, but I had had such good memories and pizzas here that it felt like my birthday haha. 


I had always wanted to try the french fry pizza, and now two years later and being so hungry, I got it, with sausage and ricotta. A couple points of culture: water at restaurants isn’t free and it’s expected you eat the whole pizza, but the crust is so thin is more doable than it seems.


Much like I left Montebelluna, it was still typical to go to gelato, and we went to Ducale afterwards, which also used to be one of my favorite spots. There is nothing like Italian gelato in America, so it felt too good to be back at Ducale.


My old favorite was Zuppa Inglese which has pieces of cake, but I went with Amareno (cherry) in a “cono” (cone).


Since I was just in town for a few days, I didn’t grab groceries and tried to just catch up on all the old favorites. Like the local kebab shop just a couple doors down from where I was staying. 

I used to love grabbing one and eatting it on the 20 minute walk home though town. One night, I told the guy I wanted a lot of “olio piccante” (spicy oil) and cried all the way home as I ate it, while my roommate laughed at me. So there were sentimental reasons for returning here, much like the other spots on this post.

After kebabs, Sharon asked where I wanted to go that day. She was hoping I’d say Caffe Cavour, and she knew me too well because Caffe Cavour was my favorite spot in Montebelluna and I couldn’t wait to return.


I had made friends with Ada, who owns the coffee shop, back when I used to come every morning for three months for a cappuccino. I was nervous she wouldn’t remember me after a couple years, but when I had the chance to approach her, she lit up with a mutual excitement, and I was too glad to catch up with with this Italian friend.



Their cappuccinos and pastries are so good. This was the place where I got my first cappucino in Italy, but it was the best. I couldn’t find better at any of the other spots I tried in town. I had been craving this pastry for two years, and today I was lucky enough to get there just in time for the last one. It felt so good, and so crazy, to finally be back.


The next day me and Sharon met with our friends Jake and Tyler for lunch. We walked into town to our friend Francesco’s spot Caffe Corona. 


It was a lot of fun and laughs to be together with these friends again in Montebelluna. It felt so surreal and so nice to reminisce.


I got the same as Tyler: a grilled vegetable and fontina piadine with a red mayo. Piadine is like a crepe: made of piadina, a bread closest to a tortilla,  and stuffed with savory items. 


On one of my last days, I walked to the center of town for another visit at Caffe Cavour. As I left, I walked toward the piazza I used to walk through everyday by my old apartment. There a few old Italian men invited me to sit with them for a caffe as they sat at Caffe Centrale. It was a lot of fun to make new friends with these Italians, and so far one of my favorite moments in Italy this trip. 


Millstatt Am See, AUSTRIA

I spent the week at the Schloss Heroldeck castle for my first time in Austria. 


It was rainy most of the time, but I was glad for the escape from humidity. And rainy days are perfect for cappuccinos and shoots anyway. I’d been wanting to try my friend Gioele’s cappuccinos here forever, so the rain provided the perfect atmosphere.



I tend to shoot in harsh sunny weather in Arizona, so the rain and diffused light was fun to shoot a different mood. And a good excuse to be in the rain while everyone sought cover and umbrella. Spent one for the first afternoons shootig with an old friend I was reconnecting with, Tyler. 


The time at the castle was a great opportunity to make new friends. Like Michal and Annie who I connected with so well for our similar life stages. 


I often spent a meal with Michal and Annie, and one of my favorite conversations with them was just prior to this candid in which Michal was dancing. 


While here I got to reconnect with some old friends like Jake and Sharon who I also spent a meal or coffee with, and an afternoon at the lake with. 




A few days in, me and Michal walked 20 minutes into town. 


It was a dark and rainy day. We picked a bouquet of flowers along the way.



Michal knew the tiny town well as she’s been coming every summer for the last 17 years, so she took me around and we walked down to the park and lake.



In the center of town there was a walled in beautiful courtyard and cathedral that we wandered around and shot in. 





She then took me to her favorite ice cream spot. Ice cream on rainy days is my favorite, so I was glad for it, and to return a couple days later through the pouring rain with Jake and Sharon. 



On our last day, I got a snap chat invite from Tyler to go shooting with him and Dany around the castle. It was fun to have one last creative shoot in Austria before leaving. 




Treviso, ITALY

The other day my friend Jake invited me to Treviso to go shopping at H&M. Since just returning back to Italy after a two year abscence, I was glad for a chance to hang out with a friend I hadn’t seen in awhile, well and, Treviso is one of my favorite small cities in Italy, and H&M is a favorite as well, so I was definitely interested in obliging. 



After I tried on every hat, and Jake had shopping success at H&M, we roamed around Treviso. 

My last stay in Italy I got to adventure a lot of small Italian cities, even one of my favorite days hopping on and off trains to see a few in one day, and from that, as much as I love Venice and Rome, I’m a firm advocate for experiencing the smaller town life of Italy. They are easy to get around quickly on foot with lots of stumble upons, and they aren’t as touristy so you feel like you are getting a more local or authentic Italian experience. 



I always love taking the advice of a local on where to eat and drink, so when Jake said he had a favorite spot to lunch, I was excited to try. We went to Bar Oasis Cafè for their sandwiches. Across the street was his favorite coffee shop, but it was closed for August. August is a big vacation time for Italians, so the smaller cities might have some spots closed, and the larger cities might be a little extra packed; that seems to be my experience so far since being in Venice the day before.


So after lunch we went down to the main center piazza to find a coffee shop. 


One of my favorite Italian experiences is sitting outside in a piazza drinking a cappuccino like today at Beltrame… Or eating pizza or gelato. It doesn’t feel more like Italy than that. And this piazza was the first one I sat in for pizza the first time I came to Italy, which is also probably why I feel so connected to Treviso. 



Next time you travel to Italy, definitely do all the famous cities, but consider hopping off the train at a random stop for an afternoon to do and experience something no one has told you about.

Venice, ITALY

I found out about a month ago that my friend Perry and his sister Shelly would be in Venice the same time as I’d be in Italy, so we made plans to meet for a day. We made plans the night before as without having international phone plans, we wouldn’t be able to communicate the next day. My train arrived at 8:18 AM so we met then on the train station steps over looking this gorgeous welcoming view.


Perry had read about a coffee shop for us to try, so per our typical coffee crawling/blogging ritual together, we stopped for coffee first at Torrefazione Cannaregio.


As we stepped into the tiny space packed with people, we felt the confusion of not knowing where to order. We assumed we were in line waiting our turn, but as Italians passed us for the bar to order, I remembered that the Italian style is to walk up to an open spot at the bar to order and drink, all while standing at the bar. There’s not always an option to sit, and rarely an option to take away.


We hopped into a spot as soon as it opened and when the barista approached us, we ordered a couple espressos, a cappucino and a shakerato (cold coffee). The cappuccino was one of my favorites that I’ve had in Italy. 



After caffinating, we started to roam the city. Our goal was to find breakfast, but we were more successful at getting lost and taking pictures for the next hour or so.



You could even say we were successful at getting lost at dead end roads with docks and getting kicked out of gardens by sweet smiling Italian grandmas who told us we were tresspassing. 


The bakeries are easy to spot as their windows are lined with pastries, and we eventually stumbled upon one for a traditional Italian breakfast.


We continued wandering through Venice making our way to the Piazza San Marco, the popular square often seen in pictures flooded with pigeons.



In the Piazza San Marco, there’s a museum called Museo Correr. We went inside for a view of the square, and to purchase tickets to go to the top of Torre dell’Orologio, the clock tower.



We walked through the museum and grabbed some sandwiches so we didn’t have to go back out into the humidity and crowds in search of lunch. This was also a good opportunity to take advantage of restrooms and outlets for charging phones and cameras.


We had a couple hours left until our tour for the clock tower, so we went to a spot recommended by Perry and Shelly’s hotel. On the map, it’s the island just south of Piazza San Marco. We found some gondolas for €2 that would take us across. 



Once on the island we made our way to the point, where there was a panoramic view of Venice. 


At 4 PM we took our tour to the top of Torre dell’Orologio with a view of Piazza San Marco and the cathedral.




We spent the evening by another famous area: the Rialto Bridge. There’s a hole in the wall pizza spot there that sells huge slices for €3 so we did that for dinner. I recommend having a plan for food: doing research and figuring out the good spots and what you are willing to spend. Venice is a big tourist city, so there’s a lot of low quality expensive food at restaurants that charge a cover. We tried to go to coffee in Piazza San Marcos and one coffee was €10 plus each person had to pay €6 for the live music, which wasn’t worth our budget.

Phoenix AZ – Matt’s Big Breakfast

Matt’s Big Breakfast is probably the first breakfast spot a Phoenician would recommend to you. Actually, I think it was one of the first local Phoenix spots I tried. So I’m excited to finally post on the blog to recommend it to others!


I always try to listen to recommendations that locals make, so when my friend Chris who lives in Downtown Phoenix recommended the Thursday special Eggs Benedict, I was so excited to try. 


We met our friend Vince there early on a Thursday morning to be sure we were there before they sold out. 


The Eggs Benedict was well worth the waking up early and driving through morning commute traffic to get. And I felt like my search for delicious Eggs Benedict in the valley was finally satisfied.



Mats is located in Downtown Phoenix, and if you start your day here, I’d recommend exploring more of the area by foot, that is anytime between November – May. Some nearby spots that are already on the blog: Phoenix Public Market, Roosevelt Row, Welcome Diner and Heritage Square (Pizzeria Bianco and Royal Coffee Bar). 

Or, if you are feeling like coffee and only want to walk a couple minutes like my time post-breakfast at Matt’s: try Velo, a bike shop slash coffee bar, for their Press Coffee offerings. 


Phoenix AZ – St. Francis

Another favorite Phoenix spot for me is St. Francis. This restaurant is owned by Chef Aaron Chamberlin, who also owns Phoenix Public Market (see separate blog post). 

Some of my friends Rob and Christina ( @newdarlings) and Diamond ( @pariselsewhere) had never been so we made a day to visit.


We went on a Sunday and I was so excited to see that they had brunch until 2:30 PM on the weekends. While we looked over the menu, our waiter Daniel let us know that Chef Aaron had put in some starters for us: a fresh tomato and sweet corn flat bread and oven fries. The kind hospitalality from Chef Aaron and our waiter was so welcoming and refreshing. 



By Daniel’s suggestion, I got the Eggs Benedict with pork loin and avocado. The pork loin was a delicious addition. St. Francis works with local community to source their ingredients locally, and it’s obvious in how fresh everything  tastes.



I tend to visit at dinner time, so I have to recommend my favorite item: Moroccan Meatballs . This dish baked in the wood oven is so popular that it has been featured on Phoenix New Times.

The space itself is gorgeous and a nice atmosphere for brunch or dinner: lots of natural light, brick, mirrors and wood. The space is actually a modern take by architect Wendell Burnette on a old office space built by architect Harold Ekman in 1955. Highly recommend this spot for the food and the space.


Phoenix AZ – Windsor & Churn

One of my top favorite spots  in Phoenix is Windsor & Churn. It’s one of the first places I mention when recommending spots in Phoenix. So I’m excited to finally post them on the blog. 

Me and Michelle had only had plans on our day off to grab coffee at Provision Coffee (see post), but it turned into a spontaneous long day of coffee crawling, and eventually meeting Angel at Windsor & Churn. 


The first thing I ever tried at Windsor is their Picnic Kebobs, and they were so good, that I literally must get them every time I go! The Kebobs come with chicken, pork, shrimp and veggie skewers on a wood platter with pita, spicy pepper dip and gold sauce. Recently I also tried the loaded chips (house chips with caramelized onions, bacon, blue cheese and chipotle cream) and am sold that it must be that no matter what is ordered here is phenomenal.

Next door to Windsor is Churn. Definitely a top favorite ice cream shop. I tend to get either the Vietnamese Coffee, Coconut or Peanut Butter ice cream in a cone with toasted marshmallow fluff on top. After a trip to CA and experiencing toasted marshmallow on ice cream, I was determined to find a spot at home that did it,  so I was pretty excited when I found that Churn does.