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Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights

This winter was the peak of the 11-year solar cycle, the period during which the sun produces sunspots and solar storms, resulting in high auroral activity. Since there’s nowhere better to view the aurora borealis than Lapland, my husband and I stocked up on extreme cold-weather gear and headed north. Way north. We were prepared [...]

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Icehotel, Jukkasjärvi, Sweden

Since we were sort of in the area, of course we had to spend a night at the original Icehotel in Sweden. If you’ve never heard of the Icehotel, it’s exactly what it sounds like: a hotel built of ice (well, ice and snow). Each year, the hotel is built anew. It takes three months [...]

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STF Mountain Station Abisko and Aurora Sky Station

Abisko, Sweden is located 195 km north of the Arctic Circle in the middle of the auroral zone and is considered the best place to see the Aurora Borealis. It’s in the middle of nowhere, so the air is clear and there’s limited artificial lights. Additionally, the sky is typically free of clouds, thanks to [...]

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Tromso, Norway

When my husband and I decided to head to Lapland, Tromso seemed like a good start- and end-point. It is in the middle of the Aurora Borealis zone, there were regular flights to and from Oslo and it was large enough to comfortably spend a few days in the Polar Night, which is the period [...]

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Bologna is a sprawling, gritty city full of red-brick palazzi, Renaissance towers, arcaded porticos (24 miles’ worth, actually) and vast squares. Though it is a wealthy city that serves as the road and rail hub of Northern Italy, it has a very lived-in feel. Bologna is home to Europe’s oldest university, University of Bologna. The [...]

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La Bottega del Nobile, Montapulciano

This was our favorite wine shop in tiny but saturated Montapulciano. La Bottega del Nobile carries more than 300 labels of Tuscan wine- everything from Vino Nobile dii Montepulciano to Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti Classico, Super Tuscans and more. The young sommelier owner, Cesare, was eager to talk about local wines, show off his wares [...]

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I’ve always enjoyed Montapulciano wines, so I was really excited to go to the source of beloved Vino Nobile! It wasn’t surprising that this small town (14,000 residents) was saturated with wine shops, wineries, wine accoutrements and restaurants serving wine. As the town is mostly pedestrians-only, we parked right outside the town walls and walked [...]

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Poggio Antico-2

Poggio Antico, Montalcino

Poggio Antico produces what Montalcino is most famous for – Brunello di Montalcino. We tasted two Brunellos and a Super Tuscan. The microclimate, high altitude and winemaking process contribute to turning out elegant, complex wines. Poggio adheres to the traditional method and refines the wine in barrels for at least three years and in bottles [...]

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We swung through tiny Montalcino to visit a winery and have dinner. It was a quick, but rewarding trip. The town is on a steep hill overlooking the Orcia valley, full of vineyards, orchards and olive groves, surrounded by walls and overlooked by a castle. The many enoteches offer tastings and will sell you as [...]

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San Gimignano-3

San Gimignano, Italy

I knew San Gimignano, a walled town in the province of Siena, was best known for its skyline medieval skyscrapers, but I was still surprised to see them in this otherwise pastoral area. Of 72 original towers, 14 have survived. Most of the towers were built in the 12th and 13th centuries and were symbols [...]

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