In college I was given the opportunity to study abroad in Italy and I simply could not pass it up. It allowed me to combine my studies of psychology with my passion of history and ancient empires. I was excited about the chance to explore the historical monuments and architecture, while learning more about the minds of previous leaders and the artists who lived among them.
During this time, I did not limit my exploration to the cobblestone cities, but I fully immersed myself in Italian culture, one pasta dish at a time. I knew I was right where I needed to be as soon as I heard an Italian tour guide refer to the “historical layering of monuments” to “layers of a lasagna”. I mean, where else in the world can you kick back and drink a glass of Tuscan red wine while listening to live instrumental music and stargaze in front of monuments like the Colosseum or Pantheon? By the time my experience in Italy came to an end, I not only felt like a food connoisseur and certified monument onlooker, but I found that the Italian locals I met along the way were not only passionate about their culture and history, but incredibly inviting to outsiders trying to learn.
I had so much fun discovering this country and the people that I met, that I decided to travel to other European countries and continue to grow my knowledge as I discover the world. This passion eventually led me to a career at Audley as a country specialist in hopes to inspire others in their own life changing experiences.
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Q&A with Mary
What’s the best local dish you’ve tasted?
Italy is known for its pasta dishes, my favorite being the carbonara from the city of Rome. The pasta is thin and melts in your mouth. The cheese is a combo of Pecorino Romano, a salty, grainy cheese, that becomes buttery when combined with egg for a perfect heavy heavenly sauce. The bacon is crisp, yet thick, and as it hits your mouth, it melts. The fresh pepper adds that hard texture cutting up the buttery gooey cheese and melting bacon for the perfect spoonful. This dish will remind you of an upscaled mac and cheese, the perfect comfort food while abroad. Once you have one bite, it will be hard to put it down.
What's your most vivid travel moment?
My most vivid travel memory is sitting on the Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence, watching the sunset. The Piazzale sits on the hillside overlooking Florence, for a perfect panoramic view. After crawling my way to the top, my jaw dropped as I saw the skyline views of Florence. The Piazzale was filled with locals, tourists, vendors, artists, and more as the crowd grew to watch the sunset. As I grabbed a glass of wine and sat on the hillside steps, a local artist played an acoustic Italian song as the onlookers and me gawked at the golden highlights over the city. You could see the sunset reflecting on Ponte Vecchio Bridge and the gleaming rays of gold onto the distant Duomo. A young couple announced to the crowd that they were engaged, and the crowd roared with approval in unison. And as the sun set below the city, it went quiet, and the crowd sat in perfect peace.
Where would you love to travel next?
Puglia, Italy's southern region located at the heel is a desired location for me. Its picturesque landscapes with crystal blue waters and olive trees as far as the eye can see. Puglia has many of the classic Italian reasons for travel such as architecture, history, and food. It is off the beaten path and is a gem hidden on the coast.