She’s a quick-witted redhead with a passion for traveling and a knack at making us laugh out loud while reading at our computers – and we’re not talking about the Romantic. This week’s jetsetter is Suzy Guese, an American blogger and travel writer who fell in love with Rome after a family vacation and eventually moved abroad to study Italian and turn “Roman Holiday” into a reality. You can read about her adventures here, but first, check her out on jetsetters.
Favorite Place: I think it’s a tie between Sicily and Sardinia. Both Italian islands move me in a way no other place has. Everyone and the kitchen sink have invaded Sicily, creating this mix of cultures and customs so incredibly unique. And Sardinia, she’s just plain beautiful.
More importantly, favorite meal: There is this restaurant in the town of Ortigia, Sicily that I studied abroad. It’s the best pizza I have had in the world, but I think in large part it has to do with the atmosphere. The twenty and thirty something Italian waiters shuffle pizzas in their arms like a juggling act, all while they lay on that Sicilian charm.
The moment you caught the travel bug: When I was younger my family would go on road trips all across the United States. I started putting on packing shows to a pretend audience before each trip. I was so excited to pack that I wanted to share my tips on how to squeeze it all in to your Little Mermaid backpack. Probably on a more serious level, I caught the bug for travel and Italy at 14 while lapping up a gelato at Rome’s Trevi Fountain.
First experience traveling alone: My first completely solo trip, where I didn’t have a friend come meet me to travel, I was to Ireland just this past March. I spent an entire month driving around the country, on the wrong side of the road I might add. It looks much easier than it is!
Ever been (or thought you’ve been) in imminent danger while traveling?: Back in Ireland, I decided to visit this beach I read about. It was pretty isolated, but for some reason that didn’t really click with me until I was on it. I thought to myself, “If something happens to me here, no one would be able to help me or know about it.” So I hightailed it back to the car, got in and locked the doors. As I was plugging into my GPS where I wanted to go next, a rather creeping looking man with a few stray dogs walked by and sneered in my direction. I knew I had made the right decision.
Worst hotel/hostel experience: My worst hostel experience was actually my first. I was studying in Sorrento at 18 years old. A group of us decided to go up to Rome for the weekend. A girl in the group arranged for us all to stay at a hostel on the outskirts of Rome. It was like a campsite with bedding you didn’t want to know when it had been washed and no working showers. I have never felt so unclean in my life.
Best hotel/hostel experience: My mom and I recently went to New York and I think Hotel Elysée was my best hotel experience. You know it is a good sign when you check in and they say, “You have been upgraded to a suite.” The room was gorgeous, very old world and old New York. Marlon Brando and Tennessee Williams are just some of the hotel’s former guests. Most of my Hampton Inn stays are also up there. I can’t get enough of the coffee all day, free WiFi and unlimited ice.
Favorite family vacation: My favorite family vacation would have to be going to Europe for the first time at 8 years old. We traveled throughout England and France. At that point, I had never seen buildings that old or landscapes so different than the United States.
Must-have packing item: Mascara. No matter how tired and gross travel can make me feel, if I have a tube of mascara, all is right with my face and the world.
Most unbelievable travel experience: When I studied in Florence, I lived with an elderly Florentine company. They became my Italian parents. I have gone back a few times to visit them. They even opened their doors to me when my au pair job after college turned out to be a prison. It is an unbelievable travel experience for me in that you can have such strong connections with people half way around the world and living a culture you don’t live.
Favorite “I can’t believe I’m doing this” moment: Walking around the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. A sea mist was hanging over the strange rock formations. I felt like I was in another world.
Place you can’t wait to return to: Would it be redundant if I said Italy? Ok, no. Italy.
Place you can’t be paid to return to: The Il Gargano Peninsula of Italy. It’s very kitschy and nothing like everything I had read about it.
Any exciting trips coming up?: I just go back from traveling throughout the US South and then to New York so I am going to pay my credit card bills on those trips and then see where the road takes me.
Dream vacation: I would love to island-hop in Greece. I always say I will go, but I somehow never make it there.
Favorite tourist attraction: Anything oversized. I love those roadside attractions. In North Carolina, I saw the world’s largest chest of drawers, the world’s largest coffee pot and a giant iron. I was in heaven. In terms of a specific landmark, I love Rome’s Trevi Fountain no matter how touristy it can be.
Favorite “I’m trying not to look like a tourist” attraction: After studying Italian for years and studying abroad in Italy, I would always try to get waiters and shop owners to think I was not American by only speaking Italian. Sadly the red hair and pale skin give me away.
Favorite travel photo: I can’t choose just one, but I really like this image of a woman heading to the train in Florence that I captured on my last day there. To me, it tells a story of the utter essence of travel. She is toting several bags, headed toward some journey. I love how places like train stations and airports are these settings for leaving and arriving. There are so many emotions present.