puglia, italy - august 15-22, 2014

for my first ever european vacation, we took off the last half of august and spent it roaming around italy, eating, drinking, and swimming as much as possible. the glaring sun and hot hot temperatures were a welcome relief from weeks of gray and rain in switzerland. the photos below are from the first half of our vacation, which we spent in southern italy with alex's family. our home base was the second floor of his nonna and nonno's lovely home in san nicandro, from which we poached a lot of sandwiches to eat on the beach (and we went to the beach every. single. day.).

the charming and colorful streets of san nicandro.

we arrived late in the evening on friday (after a lovely 1.5 hour flight to rome and a 3 hour roadtrip south in a rental car) and, after being plied with food, immediately went to bed so we could wake up nice and early to hit the beach.

this beach was called zaiana. you can see on the right of the picture where the cars park, then the winding path down to the beach. our only exercise of the day was descending and then (drunkenly) ascending this staircase. the hallmark of a successful day of beach bumming.

my one comment on italian beaches: the ground is 50% sand and 50% cigarette butts. i still consider this a vast improvement over new york city's beaches (coney island, i'm looking at you), which are 25% sand and 75% syringes/garbage/broken glass. in the photo above, at least, that beer was ours.

as the day wore on we hauled out of the sun to the little restaurant on the beach, and ordered grilled octopus bathed in olive oil, fresh mussels, and beer.

next to alex is his sister, celestina, and her boyfriend, simon. these are their HUNGRY faces.

clean plate club.

after our meal, the sun was setting and we hit the water to frolic in the last few rays.

the next day started at noon with a huge family lunch to celebrate everyone being together in one place.

i'm pretty sure this lunch took something like 3-4 hours. afterwards, we hit up the beach, which was across the street from the restaurant.

celestina and simon on the left, then alex's cousin angelo and his girlfriend valeria.

plus nonna and costa, alex's father.

this picture above is maybe my favorite picture of the whole trip: celestina and nonna with costa and uschi, alex's mum. so much love in that family. <3

some brave souls hit the water (we had maybe had a few drinks...)

the next morning we were up bright and early to get pretty to attend the wedding of alex's cousin. the wedding was in a beautiful tiny church in san nicandro, and the reception was in a ridiculously beautiful and sun-soaked reception hall where something like 12,492 courses of food were served. it was absolutely beautiful and i'm very grateful to the bride and groom for letting me witness such a beautiful ceremony!

i don't have a lot of photos from the wedding because i mostly took videos -- and have no idea how to upload them to the blog, which is fantastic, really a+ job, michelle. oh well. here is alex and i not wearing bathing suits (this is a rarity in this post!).

this was the reception location, where they stuffed us with amazing food and incredible wine and champagne.

took couples' shots while waiting anxiously for the beautiful bride and groom to make their entrance.

then we set out to drink/eat/drink/eat/drink/eat/repeat, FOREVER.

this is alex's aunt lucia and cousin luca.

we moved inside for dancing, and nonna started the tradition of wrapping the bride and groom in colorful paper during their first dance, tying them together. awwwww.

costa hits the dance floor with celestina.

italian version of "i got your nose!"

resting up after dancing! this is my last photo from the night.. and this wedding went on well, WELL into the night. it is a good thing for everyone that there are no pictures of after sundown... ;)

the next day was simon's birthday (WOO HOO!!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY SIMON!!!), and the four of us woke up bright and early to take a boat out to isola tremiti, the tremiti islands, to lay around on the beach drinking prosecco to recover from all the partying.

we took a humongous ferry from rodi, and then hired a tiny water taxi (aka speedy yellow raft) to take us out from the crowds to a tiny little slip of beach nestled into the mountains. below is a raft arriving at our spot to take some folks back to the main island. you sort of have to jump/slip/fall. i was of course effortless graceful at this.

the birthday boy on our water taxi ride!


alex gearing up to go snorkeling.

celestina doing some exploring.

after washing down birthday sandwiches with birthday prosecco, and a long nap on the beach, our water taxi picked us up and took us back to the main island, where we had an hour or so to kill before catching the huge ferry back to rodi.

it was the most crowded beach i have ever been on in my life, full of crazy browned bodies of all shapes and sizes.

we had to get granita di limone (lemon-flavored ice slush) while waiting in the 120,000 degree heat for our boat!

back to the mainland at sunset.

the next day, our two partners and crime left for rome, and alex and i weighed all of our options (1. go to the beach, 2. go to the beach, 3. go to the beach) and decided to go to the beach.

this beach was called lido di pelikano. we rented a couple lounge chairs, cracked some beers, and occasionally did some swimming...

after a day on the beach, we changed out of our bathing suits and into "real people clothes" to go to dinner in peschici. we got a table with a breathtaking view of the sunset.

the food (i ordered the pesce del giorno/fish of the day almost everywhere we went) wasn't too bad either... except that it took 1.5 hours to arrive and 50% of the order was missing. but the fish was FANTASTIC.

BUMPIN'. and this was a wednesday night!

our last day in puglia, we went to the beach again. we drove around doing some beach comparisons before we settled on a spot.

 here's a view of one contender from above...

and another, which we called "secret beach," because it is not really a beach and there are no signs for it, just cars randomly parked along the teeny tiny roads. we ultimately decided not to hang out at this beach, which was tiny and looked amazing, because all of the cars parked outside had $60 parking tickets.

so we ended up back at zaiana, our favorite beach from the first day. no complaints on my end (the prosecco helped with that!). don't fix what ain't broke...

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