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Summer’s end (& Friday Links)

I’m starting to see first-day-of-school photos being shared and the college students are trickling back into town. Those photos of smiling students in new clothes and backpacks almost always make me feel a little emotional—it’s as if you can see all the love and hope that’s gone into this shiny little person, usually one of your friends or family’s children you’ve been watching grow each year, and sent off into the world! We’ll be doing it ourselves in a few weeks, but I’m glad we get a bit more time.

We’re driving up to Lake Tahoe today, escaping the high temperatures in the valley for the mountain air, and soaking up those end-of-summer feelings together.

Are you still having summer days? Or has the fall routine begun?

Here are some links of note I’ve been keeping in open tabs. Hope you have a nice weekend! 

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Hold on to your hats

I have a serious weakness for stiff, wide-brimmed hats. It feels like it wasn’t too long ago that they could feel a little costume-y beyond the beach, so I’m loving their surge in popularity.

Last year, in Santa Fe, I got my head measured at O’Farrell’s Hat shop, where they hand-make custom fur felt hats, and have been doing so for 30 years. Each hat takes about six months to make. I loved getting a lesson in the different materials they use—rabbit or beaver or a blend. At one point a woman who worked there explained that rarely do you really need the most expensive—beaver fur—because “you and I are not going to be standing out in the rain.” That sort of blew my mind—these are $500-$1000 hats and it didn’t even occur to me that, if I had one, I’d go near water with it. But of course! If you’re out riding, your hat is an investment; it’s a practical tool that needs to be water repellant.

To be honest, I’ve found some of my most-used hats in much less auspicious settings—like Whole Foods!—but I do appreciate feeling the difference in a really well-made hat.

Here are some favorites I’ve taken notice of, of late, from a range of sources… 

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Beyond Cinque Terre: The Italian Riviera That’s Waiting to be Explored

My friend, Laura Giannatempo, is always traveling to the dreamiest places in Italy (and, in fact, has just started her own travel company, ViaVai Travel) so I asked if she would share one of her favorites with us—some place we might not have heard about… 

I was riding the train counting the minutes until the next stop so I could get a little relief, since a small army of people was pressing against me on all sides, sticky arms against sticky arms, heavy beads of sweat running down the sides of my temples. No, I wasn’t riding the New York City subway in a car with no air conditioning. I was on the local train that connects Monterosso to Vernazza—two of the Cinque Terre—some time in August of last year. And the people on my train weren’t commuters, they were tourists.

Growing up, I spent most summers in Liguria, in a town not too far from the Cinque Terre. For me—a girl from foggy-in-winter, hazy-in-summer Turin—Liguria has always been a strip of eternal sunshine where temperatures never fall below floral-dress-fluttering-in-the-breeze level, where an endless stretch of blue sea flickers in sunlight, and where food and wine have a special sensuous quality—especially when your meals are relished in a front-row seat to the Mediterranean.

My summers were spent in the small coastal town of Bonassola, just two towns removed from Monterosso. But while Monterosso and the other Cinque Terre villages are quite literally invaded by tourists, especially in the summer, Bonassola has managed to retain a local kind of charm—and with that, a slow pace reminiscent of another era. Even in the dog days of summer, Bonassola clings anachronistically to a comfortable provincialism, a decidedly small-town vibe varnished with only the thinnest layer of city-folk chic, thanks to visitors from Genoa, Milan and Turin.

This is the Italian Riviera I want you to know; the one that rarely makes it on Instagram. With over-tourism now plaguing the Cinque Terre (as I clearly witnessed on my train ride last year), I think it’s important for all of us to be more responsible travelers and diversify our destinations. I also think it’s more fun and interesting to explore paths less trodden. That’s when you really get a feel for a place, its people, its food. That’s when the experience is more authentic and feels genuine. And that’s what I strive to do at ViaVai Travel.

So if you’re thinking of traveling to the Cinque Terre, consider looking beyond and adding some lesser-known but equally charming places to your Ligurian itinerary. Here are a few of my favorites…

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