Oh hey! It’s jetsetter day is here again! Today’s jetsetter is Francesca of Working Mom Travels, and pretty much what we want to be when we grow up. CALM DOWN, EVERYONE (mom). We are clearly not on the fast track to mommytown, but we love love love that Francesca didn’t change her wanderlusting ways for baby. Also? We are always team-local-vacation, so all sorts of bonus points for you, Francesca. Enjoy her interview below, and then pop over and say hello to Francesca on Twitter @WorkMomTravels!
Favorite Place: I’m always reluctant to pick one place/city/country, because every place I’ve traveled holds something special. But if I’m forced to pick just one, I have to go with Italy. I know Italy is loved by many for the food, the history, the people – all reasons I love it. But what puts Italy ahead of the other places I’ve been is that’s where my roots are. I feel so connected to the country because of my Italian heritage.
More importantly, favorite meal: Having been to foodie hot spots like Italy and Turkey, I’ve enjoyed plenty of amazing meals. But the one I still dream about (and drool over) is sweet potato pancakes with warm praline syrup at Pancake Pantry in Nashville, Tennessee. I would fly back to Nashville right now just to have those pancakes again!
The moment you caught the travel bug: It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment but I was young, maybe about 8 years old. My parents had just bought a set of World Book Encyclopedias with my siblings and me in mind, figuring they would help us with our school work. I devoured each volume; I studied each page, captivated by the pictures of and facts about places I’d never even heard of. My wanderlust was born. I decided then that I would one day see first-hand all the places I’d dreamed about thanks to those books.
First experience traveling alone: I was 20 when I set off for Sydney, Australia for an overseas study program through my American university. It was the first time I’d left North America, and I was all by my lonesome. I did not know anyone else involved with the program, and I definitely did not know anyone in Australia! That semester abroad was the greatest learning experience of my life, with the most valuable learning happening outside of the classroom.
Ever been (or thought you’ve been) in imminent danger while traveling?: Luckily, no. Not that I know of.
Worst hotel/hostel experience: Terminal Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya. Thankfully, I stayed there only one night. It’s a budget hotel so I honestly didn’t expect much, but I definitely didn’t expect the whole room to flood when the shower was turned on in the bathroom, nor did I expect to have a plant growing from the drain in the sink.
Best hotel/hostel experience: The best place I’ve ever stayed is The EDITION Hotel in Istanbul. I had never seen a hotel so luxurious and I’d never experienced such genuine, personal service. The EDITION also is home to one of Istanbul’s award-winning spas. I didn’t take advantage of any of the spa services, but I did enjoy the pool, the sauna, the steam room, and the snow cabin! Such an amazing hotel. I cannot say enough about it.
Favorite family vacation: Growing up, I was lucky enough to spend one month each summer in Clearwater Beach, Florida, with my entire family. Some of my happiest memories – not just vacation memories, but overall childhood memories – are from time spent there with my family. We ventured mainly around the Tampa Bay area, but we also got to go to places like Disney World and EPCOT multiple times.
Must-have packing item: Not so much a packing item but one thing I do not travel without is a St. Christopher medal that my mom gave me years ago. St. Christopher, the Catholic saint, is the patron saint of travelers. I wear that medal every time I travel and, so far, it’s kept me safe.
Most unbelievable travel experience: Five-day camping safari in Tanzania. Still it seems like a dream. I’ll never forget the first day of safari when I saw my first elephant. I didn’t know if I should cry or jump for joy. The next day as we drove through Serengeti National Park, it hit me: I WAS IN THE SERENGETI. Never in a million years did I ever think I would see that place in real life. I was sure my Serengeti experiences would be limited to television shows and pictures in National Geographic.
Favorite “I can’t believe I’m doing this” moment: Going skydiving in Australia. It seemed like a fine idea at the time. I thought, “I’m in Australia. Why not?” It was such fun!
Place you can’t wait to return to: Yellowstone National Park. I got to live and work in Yellowstone after college and, aside from the semester abroad in Australia, it was the most amazing experience of my life. There is a part of Yellowstone and a bit of the person I was back then that still live inside me. I can’t wait to go back with my husband and my daughter and to introduce them to a place that is so important to me.
Place you can’t be paid to return to: Florence. I’ve been twice and I still don’t know why I went back for a second visit since I disliked it the first time. Whenever I say I hated Florence, I always get, “WHAT?! Are you crazy?” No, I’m not crazy – I mean, I could be – but I know that Florence is way too crowded for me, and there is no sight in that city that could ever lure me back.
Any exciting trips coming up?: Sadly, there are no definitive travel plans on the horizon.
Dream vacation: Fly fishing in places like Montana and Mongolia.
Favorite tourist attraction: The Colosseum in Rome. Just the sight of it makes my heart pitter patter. I remember the first time I saw it in person. It was my first time in Rome, on my first night there. I was in the backseat of a taxi. The driver was flying through the almost-empty streets when we came around a turn and there it was, right in front of me, lit up in all its ancient glory. I was awestruck and still feel that way every time I see it.
Favorite “I’m trying not to look like a tourist” attraction: I love being a tourist in my own city (Chicago) and it’s most fun to do so when I’m hosting visitors from out of town. Without looking too much like a tourist myself, I can take them to the super touristy places that I love, like “The Bean” (Cloud Gate sculpture in Millennium Park) or Willis Tower (formerly known as Sears Tower).
Favorite travel photo: Again, it’s so hard to pick just one! But I love this one of my husband, Mark, and me and our daughter, Lucia, in San Gimignano, Italy last year. The entire trip was incredible, and we all especially enjoyed San Gimignano.
We’ve had some pretty amazing jetsetters lately, no? Wanna join the ranks? Drop us a line! We accept checks & money orders. JOKES.
We only take cash.
the romantic & the wino