Arrivederci Roma 2016

It’s that time of year again. 

For weeks before my annual pilgrimage home to Melbourne for Christmas and summer holidays, I always put this post on numerous to-do lists. As though it’s a burden; another thing to do before I fly out. How will I find the time to write it and select photos? What if I run out of time? 

And then somehow, it just comes together. 

Because just naturally, a couple of weeks before it’s time to leave, I start reflecting. And thinking. And smiling and crying. I’m one of those people. Those suckers who cry watching the news, at strangers weddings, during powerful election campaign speeches and watching romantic comedies. I’m a goner for nostalgia.

And so here I am, in the dead of the night typing away on the notes in my iPhone. Pulling together fragments, memories and emotions of another year gone too fast, but extremely well lived. Well-lived for me, means good and bad. For nothing really is heartwarmingly good if you don’t have the not-so-good to compare it with.

On the work front, 2016 has been a tumultuous year – full of ups and downs but I’ve come out stronger and happier than ever about the experiences I’ve sought and received and the decisions I’ve made. My blog is stronger than ever and I keep working hard to create freelance writing opportunities because they enable me to share my passions with you. In 2016, these opportunities included writing my first articles for CNN Travel, more work for USA Today and Fodor’s and an exciting collaboration coming up this week as I take over the Condé Nast Traveler Instagram account for the day in Dubai (be sure to watch @cntraveler on 15 December). I participated in press trips and blog trips, day spa viewings, restaurant openings and even a social media management job that had me work with one of the most talented and creative film crew ever across Rome and Berlin (watch videos here). I was also selected as one of Italy’s top instagrammers for a special behind-the-scenes look at Italy’s Presidential Palace! Not to mention interviewing Massimo Bottura – the chef and owner of world’s number 1 restaurant, Osteria Francescana in Modena.

On the travel front – work and pleasure – I’ve visited, explored and dined in more cities this year than in any other year of my life. 

And I got to do it all with my sister. She took a year off from job and life to travel and spend the year in Rome with me. And it’s meant more to me than anyone will ever know. 

Because as much as you try to share and explain to family and friends back home what life is like in Rome, it’s hard really capture the the essence of it. They don’t see what your daily life is like. The good times, hard times, the rewarding moments, the challenges, the fun. But this year, my sister did! She saw it all! 

We shared just about everything this year. Travel, a house, friends, a life lived to the fullest in a city and country we both love. If my heart is bursting at the seams each year when I leave Italy, like with everything else this year – it’s as though it’s times two this time around.

Rome won’t be the same. She won’t be the same. I won’t be the same. But that’s life. It’s how you change, how you grow and evolve. 

I look back on this year as a true blessing. One day we will both reminisce fondly and laugh, smile and even cry as we talk about that year we lived together in Rome.

The memories we have created together will remain emblazoned in my mind and heart forever.

We also had my mum come and stay, which was also special so close to Christmas! 

Finally, as always, thank you. No really, thank you from the very bottom of my humble heart for reading, sharing and commenting on my blog and across social media. If you’re reading this now, you are one of my readers that come from over 100 different countries. On social media you guys now top 25,000.

Because you enjoy and believe in what I do, I’m encouraged always to do more. 

I wish you and your loved ones the happiest of holiday seasons. Eat lots and above all, hug your family and friends and stay safe. 

Without further ado, as I have every year – in no particular order – here is my 2016 in pictures. 

Kicking off my year with an Australian summer on the Mornington Peninsula
Love a Dubai layover
Seeing one of my fave people in the world – Adam of Travels of Adam
Special moments in Paris with my sister on a Flytographer photo shoot
Collaborating with the City of Paris and the Pullman Tour Eiffel to promote the stunning city of lights. Read More“>Read More
My HeartRome Valentine’s Day photo shoot with the lovely Annie of Scooteroma Tours
Visiting the Capitoline Museum for the first time!
Wine and comfort food moments with special friends
Being invited to a special behind-the-scenes event at the Italian Presidential Palace
Cooking in the Tuscan countryside at a villa in Siena. Read More“>Read More
Seeing how cool Milan continues to be (thanks to the Baglioni Hotel group)
Seeing a Tuscany I’d never seen before at the Baglioni Hotel Cala del Porto (Punta Ala)
Having pavlovas for the first time at an ANZAC day event at the Australian Ambassador’s residence in Rome (sweets by the super talented Toni Brancatisano)
Moving into a new house! New place, same ‘hood!
Celebrating another year older (or wiser?) in Rome with friends and for the first time with my sister
Tasting lampredotto (Florence’s fave street food – basically a tripe sandwich)
Literally ‘hanging’ out with friends
Treating my friends to a traditional and homemade high tea
Easter in Abruzzo & the “Madonna che Scappa” (the Madonna who runs) parade in Sulmona
Amazing tour of Cosmati flooring in Rome by Personalized Italy. Read More
A concert in the ruins – Lionel Richie at the Terme di Caracalla
Lovely weekends away – like this one in Bath, England
Seeing the wonder of the world that is Stonehenge
La Traviata at Teatro dell’Opera with all costumes by Valentino
Ringing in the Roman summer with cocktails and my sister
Tasting a particular sweet of Abruzzo’s, Guardiagrele – Le Sise delle Monache (literally Nun’s Tits!)
Dining at Zuma Rome, Palazzo Fendi
I was fortunate to dine at a number of Michelin starred restaurants around the world this year – here I am at Akellare in San Sebastián (3 stars)
Loved loved visiting the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao
Seeing Adele under the stars (& rain!) at the Arena di Verona
Lunches with friends that go on forever (like this one at my fave Da Enzo in Trastevere)
The sparking waters of Rovinj, Croatia
Trying a rustico for the first time in Lecce (puff pastry filled with tomato sauce, cheese and bechamel). Changed my life!
Mesmerising blues of Gallipoli in Puglia
Beach views like this in Ischia
Sailing on private boats around Capri
Tuscan waters in the Monte Argentario that took my breath away
Using street art in Ostiense as the coolest backdrop
Meeting and working with the most amazing crew on the Arabic language TV show, Rahaalah
Mingling with the stars (Michelin that is!) at the Taste of Rome Festival (Roy Caceres, Heinz Beck, Toni Brancatisano and I)
Hanging with the hot Italian actor, Raoul Bova for a good cause (Amatrice earthquake appeal event)
Working on the coolest project against the backdrop of Berlin street art (photo credit: Otbah Rayess)
The excitement and surprise – trying so many new places in Rome and beyond
Finding signs of live everywhere – like this pretty heart in Oslo
Uncovering, discovering and exploring. This was me in Tallinn, Estonia – one of my first destination features for CNN Travel
Visiting so many places like Helsinki, Finland for the first time
Dining at the world’s number one restaurant & meeting the chef! Read More Here
Interviewing Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana for USA Today
Welcoming friends to Rome from around the world
Meeting special friend in Scotland!
Trying haggis in Edinburgh, Scotland!
Experience the fascinating, yet complex history of Belfast
Dinners with strangers – at none other than Noma in Copenhagen
Uncovering places in Rome for first time – like Palazzo Doria Pamphilli
Sipping on Bicerin in elegant Turin
Walking around the Roman film set that is my Trastevere
Visiting the Vatican on a wonderfully intimate tour with Walks of Italy. Read More
Good times with friends throughout the year
Pizza in the birthplace of pizza – old Napoli!
Always heartwarming to visit my parents’ hometown of birth
Putting up that tree again – help from my mum and sister made it even more special
Special family in time – my mum and sister in Rome at the same time!
Checking out the views from the Pincio Terrace for the first time
Catching the annual Christmas tree at St Peter’s Square
Lunches with my mum and sister in Rome
Catching many a Roman sunset – like this one on my rooftop terrace
Seeing the Christmas lights come on across Rome
My annual tradition of putting up my Christmas ornaments
Catch you from Melbourne for a little while my friends! 

Signing off from Trastevere (for the last time in 2016), 

Baci Maria

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