Breaking Free From the 9-to-5 to Explore Sicily

It was mid-December in the Mediterranean—a bright, sunny, blue-sky day, brisk and perfect for a light jacket—and I was on a quest for the best cannoli in town.

Cannoli, in case you haven’t had the pleasure, are delicate, crisp pastry shells filled with lightly sweetened cream made from ricotta cheese and sometimes topped with candied cherries or pistachio bits. The treat originated in Sicily—and experts say that’s still where you’ll find the best of the best.

The ones I found at a tiny, hidden cafe in the Sicilian cliff-side city of Taormina fit this description perfectly. Every bite was a joy. And I found them, not in a bustling city-center cafe, but in a tiny, two-table shop hidden away beside a grocery store. La Pignolata Guinness serve the lightest cannoli. They pipe the sweet, creamy filling fresh when you order so they stay crisp and melt in your mouth.

Taormina is much-loved by visitors for its sweeping ocean views, charming town center, and massive Greek amphitheater overlooking the coastline. Here, I climbed staircases to castles, explored cobblestone alleyways, shopped for warm winter scarves and locally-made, heavenly-smelling lemon soaps, and ate plates of lobster pasta and Sicilian lamb on charming restaurant terraces.

I love to combine my passions for food and travel by hunting for the best local specialty in each new place I discover, the premium pizza in Rome…the best crepes in Biarritz, France…the finest Swiss chocolate in Zurich…

I’ve also spent time exploring castles and lush, verdant gardens in France’s historic Loire Valley, buying still-warm baguettes as the sun rose over Paris, spending winters in walled Spanish fortress towns, hiking the rocky rooftop of the Italian Dolomites, and walking the colorful fishing villages of the Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera.

When I tell people about my travels they wonder how on earth I can afford to spend my winter in Sicily chasing pastries, or my spring on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast exploring resort towns and my summer in the lush, green mountains of Eastern Europe.

The answer is my portable income as a freelance writer. All I need is a laptop and an internet connection and I can work from pretty much anywhere… French beach retreats, Swiss Alpine villages, glamorous European capitals, Italian country towns…they’ve all been my home and I’ve earned money while exploring and enjoying all they had to offer.

This year, I’m already planning new adventures in Rome, Venice, Austria, Croatia, and even lesser-known gems in places like Bosnia and Herzegovina and Slovenia.

I’m so glad I took the plunge and found a way to fund my adventures. Today I have a whole world of possibilities, it’s hard to imagine my life any other way.

Image: ©iStock.com/gbarm

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