I'm sharing my travel experiences, candid opinions and what's on my mind. If you think it's inappropriate for a travel writer to stir up discussion on his blog with political observations and insights gained from traveling abroad, you may not want to read any further. — Rick

Video: Palermo’s Convivial Back Streets

Palermo’s Vucciria Market is lively in the morning — but I like it even better after hours.

It’s my first night in Europe this year, and I’m fighting jet lag by simply being out and about — instead of just sitting on my bed, thinking, “I feel so tired and disoriented.” I strolled away from the busy main drag into Palermo’s characteristic back lanes, where I caught a bohemian-chic scene by surprise. For some reason, this scene taps into the mix of old and young, edgy and hedonistic, crumpled and free…and convivial.

Under the stars, melting into a world where young and old douse the downsides of Sicilian life with a nice drink and some good conversation, I consider the gift of neighborhood togetherness. Many countries have a special word for this cozy feeling of conviviality (hygge in Denmark, gemütlich in Austria, craic in Ireland). Here in Italy, it’s found in the piazza — a place for togetherness that’s affordable, multi-generational, and a little naughty. If you found a time thread peeking up from the shiny cobbles here and pulled on it, it would take you all the way back to ancient Rome.

 

 

This is just the first of 100 nights I’ll be in Europe, and it’s been the perfect welcome. As I travel from Sicily to Iceland, I’ll be sharing daily (or nightly) updates here and on my Facebook page — I hope you come along with me.

Cappuccino with a Capuchin: Kicking off 100 Days of Travel in Sicily

A cappuccino with a Capuchin!

Since the 1980s, I’ve spent every spring and summer in Europe — and I’m back again this year, ready for another 100 days of exploring, researching, learning, tasting, and sipping. I’m starting things off in Palermo — sharing a laugh at a neighborhood bar with my new friend, Brother Antonio. (I can’t think of a better way to kick off my spring travels.)

Rick Steves drinking a cappuccino with a monk

Over the next 100 days, I’ll be making TV in Sicily, updating guidebooks in France and Spain, joining a Rick Steves tour in Portugal, visiting the great cities of Central Europe (Budapest to Berlin), making TV in Scotland, and enjoying Iceland with our newest guidebook: Rick Steves Iceland. And every day, I’ll be checking in with you here and on my Facebook page, sharing an intimate and candid look behind the scenes at my day-to-day life in Europe. We’ll be stoking lots of travel dreams together — so be sure to let your traveling friends know.

By the way, the coffee drink “cappuccino” gets its name from the color of the robes worn by the Capuchin friars. I really, really wanted to drink a cappuccino with a Capuchin, and Brother Antonio was happy to join me for a nice laugh about it. (Like other Franciscans — the “Jugglers of God” — Capuchins are quick to embrace a spontaneous good time.) As I said “ciao” to Brother Antonio, he bid me “pace e bene” — peace and wellness.

Tonight, I’m going to explore Palermo’s back streets. I’ll be sure to post an update — see you then.

Video: Iceland with Cameron Hewitt

I always enjoy reading Cameron Hewitt’s travel blog — and lately, it’s been particularly fun. He’s been sharing lots of stories and tips from the time he spent in Iceland, working on our brand-new Rick Steves Iceland guidebook.

Cameron shares all of his best advice in this 75-minute video. If Iceland is in your own travel plans, you’ll want to find a bit of time, sit back, and watch.

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Video: Scotland’s Highland Games

Planning a trip to Scotland this summer? Consider attending a Highland Games, which is like a track meet crossed with a county fair.

If you’re interested in experiencing one of these “kilty pleasures,” you can find Scots squaring off in various competitions across the country. Each year, more than 80 games take place in different towns, villages, and castles on weekends throughout the summer (May through September). And in smaller towns, you can simply drop in and join the fun. You’ll pay about $10 at the gate and enjoy a day full of sport, fun, culture, and Scottish gut-bomb taste treats. I find that tourists are not only made to feel welcome, they are encouraged to give a couple of events a try themselves. (You’ll see me do just that in this clip from my European Festivals special.)

Before you go, be sure to pick up the brand-new edition my Rick Steves Scotland guidebook.

Video: Easter Celebrations Across Europe

Happy Easter! All this week, I’ve been sharing daily clips from Rick Steves’ European Easter, my one-hour public television special that’s airing now nationwide (check your local listings) and streaming online. And the “He is risen” finale is today’s clip: It’s Easter Sunday, and families in Spain, Italy, Slovenia, and Greece come together to celebrate, just as they have for generations. Enjoy…and thanks for sharing this beautiful holiday season with us.

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