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Inspiration and Relaxation in Greece and Italy

Karin Jacobson about me inspiration travel

Like so many small-business owners, I tend to think of travel as an opportunity to get caught up on work. I’ll be away from the studio! I should use my vacation time to let the creative juices flow and brainstorm all kinds of new jewelry designs! It’ll be the perfect time to soak up inspiration and put my free time to good use! Sometimes it works out that way, and hours on the beach or at the cabin yield ambitious sketches and ideas … but sometimes those best-laid plans go sideways.

For instance: I just spent two weeks on vacation in Greece and Italy, and didn’t do a lick of work. It was glorious.

I brought my sketchbook and journal along with every intention of brainstorming, but found that what I really needed was some good, old-fashioned relaxation! I completely unplugged from work and put my business brain on pause. It felt invigorating and rejuvenating to be so present in each moment, so I focused on soaking up the gorgeous scenery and indulging in phenomenal food. I’m back home now and happily preparing for the busy holiday season, but before I leave my vacation memories behind, I wanted to share a few highlights.

Family, fun, and fantastic food in Greece

The first week was spent on a wine-tasting adventure in Santorini, Greece. My husband Adam and I accompanied my parents and a group of their friends on this expedition, with the shared goal of sampling the distinctive wines and eating the delicious foods of Santorini – all while enjoying fabulous scenery! We visited nine of the 17 total wineries on the island, and learned a ton in the process. We got an in-depth lesson on Santorini’s dry, mineral-infused whites; light-bodied and acidic reds; and famous Vinsanto dessert wines, which are imbued with the rich flavors of sun-dried fruits. Santorini is just as bright, welcoming, and visually stunning as its tourism-board imagery would lead you to believe, and created the perfect setting for this tasty and enlightening journey.

Karin Jacobson Design Blog post travel in Greece
Clockwise from top left: Adam and I enjoying a glass of wine with a view; wine tasting room in the cave at Hatzidakis Winery; the gorgeous tasting "room" at Gaia Winery; sunset dinner with the group on a terrace in Oia, Santorini 

Plus, I got to spend quality time with my parents and husband, and travel with a smart and entertaining group of companions! And with the exception of trying to stay on top of my email for about five minutes a day, I left my work entirely behind. Turns out, that’s exactly what I needed most.

Karin Jacobson Design Blog post travel in Greece
Clockwise from top left: after a (sweaty) hike up Profitis Ilias; enjoying the blue-green waters of the Mediterranean on a catamaran; Mom, Dad, Adam, and I with our furry new BFF

Flavors of Northern Itay

After Santorini, Adam and I went on alone to Bolzano, Italy, in the wine region of Alto Adige (also known as Südtirol). We were drawn to this specific area of Northern Italy because it has a fascinating mixed heritage: Nestled in the southern Dolomites, Bolzano has alternately been part of Austria and Italy throughout its long history. Many of the locals speak both German and Italian, and many restaurants serve both Austrian- and Italian-style foods as well. The white wines from this region have a definite Austrian influence, which means they’re deliciously dry with floral and fruity aromas. And the Italian-style reds are lighter and more acidic than California Cabernets, but just as full of flavor. We loved being able to sample the light, fresh flavors of Italian wines and cuisine, then dive into the richer, sumptuous tastes of Austria at our next meal.

Karin Jacobson Design visiting Bolzano, Italy
Clockwise from top left: enjoying an early evening snack and wine in the town square of Bolzano; most of the center of Bolzano city is pedestrian only; sampling some Gewüstraminer at Erst + Neue Winery in Alto Adige; the market in Bolzano

Bolzano is renowned for terrific hiking and biking trails, which we enjoyed on a daily basis. (Had to work off some of those calories!) To access a few of the more remote areas, we took cable cars up the rolling hills into little villages that looked extremely Austrian, right down to the quaint Alpine chalets.

Karin Jacobson Design Blog post travel in Italy
Clockwise from top left: riding the funicular into the mountains; the very Alpine looking village of Soprabolzano; mushroom dumplings are a Tyrolean specialty; high above one of the vineyards of Südtirol

After four days in the idyllic countryside, we headed for Venice, where we enjoyed incredible sightseeing, more amazing food, and the region’s most famous wine – Prosecco! And our stopover in this gorgeous and romantic Italian city could not have been better timed ...

Karin Jacobson Design Blog post travel in Venice
Clockwise from top left: shortly after our arrival in Venice, we enjoyed a glass of Prosecco; one of the beautiful Venetian canals; a view of the city from on of Venice's water buses; the waterfront near St. Mark's Square

Gorgeous gems at Venetian museums

We were incredibly lucky to visit Venice during a time when two world-class jewelry exhibits were on display. This timing was also perfect, since I was just starting to ease my brain back into work-mode. The the exhibits were so exciting and inspiring that they actually made me look forward to getting back to my studio!

The first one we saw was a retrospective of the works of Italian jewelry designer Gianmaria Buccellati at the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, and it was simply stellar. Buccellati is best known for developing a “honeycomb technique” in which delicate patterns are hand cut from the metal, creating pieces that are lightweight and appear almost transparent. I was blown away by the intricacies and minute details of his work.

 Karin Jacobson Design Blog post travel in Italy Buccellati exhibit
Some of the stunning works of Gianmaria Buccellati - note the "honeycomb technique in the earrings in the lower right hand photo.

The second was the Treasures of the Mughals and the Maharajas, an equally engrossing exhibit housed within the Al Thani Collection at the Palazzo Ducale. This show featured Indian (and some Indian-inspired) jewelry that was so dazzling and gem-laden, it gave new meaning to the word “encrusted.” The designs were stylized and absolutely jaw-dropping, featuring mainly diamonds (huge ones!) as well as emeralds, rubies, and sapphires (also either enormous or many in number). Unfortunately, photography was not allowed at the Al Thani exhibit, but you can see a few images via the links above.

After drinking in all of this design inspiration, I came home refreshed and excited to get back to work. I might not have done any work while I was away, but I’m primed to dig back in now with more enthusiasm than ever. I think that makes it just about the perfect vacation!

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