As a small business owner, I have made many personal sacrifices in the name of my business and one big one has been that I haven't taken a fully unplugged vacation since I first started Ready to Stare in early 2012. When my family started talking about taking a trip to Sicily to meet our family there for the first time, I knew that hell or high water, my ass was going to be there.

Being 100% third generation Italian-American, I have always had a deep connection with Italian-American culture; in fact, I've written about it here. But after studying abroad in Rome during college, I already knew that I was pretty disconnected from Italian culture in Italy today and I certainly had no idea about Sicilian and Southern Italian culture where my grandparents immigrated from. While I was studying abroad, I intentionally did not visit Sicily even though it's a 45 minute plane ride from Rome. I wanted to go there with my family and not going there with my friends to be a motivation to return. Fast forward, six years and I have an opportunity to go back to Sicily with my family. It's like putting that out in the universe all those years ago and never losing sight of my passion for travel turned that dream into reality.

With the help of one of my grandfather's cousins, Angela, we made plans to connect with my grandfather's first cousins and their children and children's children. Angela is really the reason this whole trip happened as she invited us to come with her. I am forever grateful to her for that invitation.  This is an experience I have always dreamed about and actually meeting family in Sicily was everything I imagined it would be even with the language barrier. I'll never in my life forget being at Sunday dinner with the family I've known my whole life and the ones I just met.

In addition to this connection, we decided to tour around Sicily with Niche Italy --  who creates personalized tours to fit your needs. Anything we asked of Marco and the Niche Italy team, they seemed to make happen. Thanks to Marco and his team, we not only got to see a ton of Sicily in only seven full days but we never had to worry about transportation, language barriers or knowing what to order on the menu. But what was most impressive was that Marco was able to take my maternal great grandmother's maiden name and not only get my mom and I a meeting with the mayor in her hometown but honorary citizenship! Plus, he was able to round up my mom's cousins that she didn't even know she had and arranged for them to show up at the ceremony. Both my mother and I were overcome with emotion from that entire experience.

Between Angela and Marco, our family was truly in great hands. We tasted the freshest of Sicilian food. On this short trip, I felt more emerged in Italian culture than I ever did during the four months I spent studying abroad. What struck me most about the people of Sicily was their passion. They lived their life with such vigor. Everyone I talked to from tour guides to chefs talked about their passion for what they do. As a passion driven person living in a money driven society, I felt at home in Sicily. I could literally go on and on about this trip but I'll just let the photos do the rest of the talking!

Day 1: Bagheria & Aspra with Angela and the Sciortino Family

Day 2: Agrigento & Temple Valley

Day 3: Palermo, Monreale, and Dinner with the Duke & Dutchess Nicoletta



Day 4: Family Dinner





Day 5: Modica



Day 6: Ragusa & Taormina






Day 7: Cefalu, Caselbuono, & Abazzia Sant'Anatasia






This post was originally posted on August 27, 2015.