st pete street art
Less than twelve hours after returning home from Italy, I hopped over the Atlantic to embark on a week-long rediscovery of St Pete in Florida.

As I’ve mentioned before, my go-to approach when getting to know a city is walking as much of it as I can so was pleased to schedule myself in for Florida CraftArt‘s St Pete Mural Tour as an adult introduction to a part of America I hadn’t seen for over ten years.

The two-hour tour took our small group of enthusiasts, locals and tourists through the backstreets of St Pete’s ‘Arts District’ – centred, appropriately, around Central Ave – and matured into the most inspiring city initiation imaginable.

Though I would never have expected it (based on misconceptions I will delve into in an upcoming blog), St Pete’s arts scene is thriving. During the recession, the city’s artists took the opportunity to own and rent studio space cheaper than ever before and manifested a progressive community of their very own.

With government assistance, the city’s walls have become powerful canvases. A compelling collection of metaphorical graffiti art, societal commentary, and love letters to the city from the esteemed likes of Ricky Watts, Sebastian Coolidge, Man Made Murals (their comic-inspired “Saint Tampasburg” is an illusory feat), and more.

Personally, highlights included the giant shark mural by LA-based Shark Toof, a ‘Man vs. Ape’ collaboration between artists Bask and Palehorse (much of Bask’s contribution was influenced by the themes in George Orwell’s 1984), and a touching memorial to St Pete’s own Bill Correira. The latter – dedicated to the artist better known at Woo – began as an overnight portrait project from friend and fellow artist Derek Donnelly as soon as word of Woo’s unexpected death hit him in 2012. In the four years since, members of the city at large have contributed personal pieces to the memorial, immortalizing Woo in a glorious underwater permanence.

It took less than the two full hours to feel intoxicated by the creativity, community, and art in St Pete, and this was only the beginning…

st pete street art
st pete street art
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leaning tower of pisa
I cannot remember a time when I didn’t know what The Leaning Tower of Pisa was. It is as engrained as my penchant for all things unicorn.

When our trip through Venice and Florence drew to a close, The Boy and I’s most convenient airport – Pisa – created an opportunity to make a day of the city and “see the sights”.

To put it nicely, Pisa threw me for a loop.

After hopping off the train and storing our luggage, we set off by foot for the Leaning Tower and everything we could discover in between. Which turned out to be…not a lot. A few gelateries, a few more closed restaurants, and very little otherwise.

The best find, naturally, was a local coffee shop – Filter – bustling with local students and set far enough away from The Tower that it felt untainted by the cons of tourism.

Thankfully, The Leaning Tower exceeded expectations. With its highest point set twelve feet off its vertical, the ‘lean’ really takes your breath away in person. We wandered the Square of Miracles, savoured the cake-tiered architecture, and people-watched until an adequate number of visitors fell into hysterics over their companions’ attempts to support the infamous structure.

If it is as easy for you to fly out of Pisa as it is a different airportI would recommend a day trip but wouldn’t advise adding it to a time-sensitive itinerary. Realistically, there are an abundance of cultured, unique and charming (read: better) Italian cities to explore.

Tip: Ride the sign-posted bus to the airport from the train station. Google Maps would suggest the journey s walkable but the airport – like many – is not designed for easy pedestrian access.

leaning tower of pisa
leaning tower of pisa
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pulia london
I’ve never heard a single soul say they don’t enjoy Italian food and I am no exception to the rule. During recent trips to Venice, Florence, and Pisa (which you’ll hear more about tomorrow) I never strayed from local faire.

Unexpectedly, it gave me a newfound respect for my less-than-local Puglian favourite – London’s Pulia.

Hidden in a side-street of Borough Market that I have only run through on the way to meetings, Pulia is a diamond in the gentrified rough. I discovered the restaurant through their burrata (it was served at Emma Spitzer’s EatAbout dinner and is still the best I’ve ever tasted) so first visited with the highest of expectations.

With a glass of Aglianico in hand, my lunch date and I tackled the fresh Puglian menu as best we could: focaccia, panzerotti, crocche’, rustici, vegetables pate’, mixed charcuterie, mozzarella, impossibly fresh pastas, copious amounts of home-made olive oils, burrata heart, and even more burrata (for good measure).

Though our table was so overloaded plates were quite literally teetering over the edge, I would recommend nothing less than such gluttony. The menu is simply too fresh, too authentic, and too delicious to hold back.

Upon the recommendation of our waiter, we capped things of with Pasticciotto (a warm shortbread cake filled with custard or chocolate & hazelnut) and drenched it in our choice of ginger-infused olive oil. Don’t knock it ’til you try it (hint: it’s un-knockable).

With more meetings standing between me and the rest of the menu, I grabbed a flat white to go and found myself with yet another reason to return.

For all the epicurean romance I have felt throughout my recent travels, it is wonderful to know I have such a bona fide little slice of Italy in London.

pulia london
pulia london
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