One year ago today I was anxiously gobbling down a slice of pizza while unwisely over-stuffing a large backpack with clothes, shoes and electric adapters.


Frantically checking and re-checking to make sure I had packed all the essentials – passport, money, plane tickets and travel guides – for the epic journey my husband and I were about to embark on.

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Our i’s were dotted and our t’s were crossed – we were going to ITALY BAY-BEE!!!!


The vacation I had dreamed about taking for as long as I could remember!!!


Little did I know…

36 hours later the aforementioned large, over-stuffed backpack would cause me to fall flat on my face in the middle a busy intersection in Rome. D’oh!


37 hours later I’d be drowning my sorrows in what was the first of dozens of scoops of luscious, Italian gelato.



Three days later I’d be touring the ruins of the Colosseum, where men and beast fought to the bitter end almost 2,000 years ago,



then flipping shiny Euros into one of the most well known fountains in the world.




Four days later I’d find myself not ready to leave the intriguing, unique city that I’d fallen in love with,


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yet eager to make my way towards the picturesque Amalfi coastline that I’d patiently waited to lay eyes on for years.

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Five days later I’d be dining al fresco, sipping wine and eating seafood caught the same day from the crashing ocean less than 50 yards in front of me.




Six days later I’d be climbing up and down ancient stone steps while exploring every nook and cranny of the tiny, impossibly charming town of Praiano, Italy.


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Seven days later I’d have nothing better to do than sip cappuccinos all afternoon while getting lost in a good book, then cap my night off with a big glass of local, red wine.


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Eight days later Ben would have to pry my clenched fingers from the wrought-iron fence overlooking the glittering Mediterranean Sea on our hotel’s balcony, as I refused to wake up from the dream our life had become the last two weeks and go back home to Iowa.


Nine days later I’d be sprinting barefoot through the Paris airport only to see the gate to my Iowa-bound plane shutting…

You know what – lets not relive that memory!

365 days later Ben and I would still be as smitten with Italy as the day we left. That we’d still share our remember when? stories as often as we do. That we’d regularly see things that would awaken memories of our trip, glance at each other and ask, what does that remind you of? – knowing exactly what the other is thinking about.

That we could not WAIT to return someday!


Today, on the one-year anniversary of the best trip we’ve ever taken, Ben and I decided that if we couldn’t get back, we’d reminisce with what we’ve got: the most mouthwatering Italian food in town!

There are at least half a dozen local Italian restaurants that I have been dying to try over the past several months – Tumea & Sons being one of them.

Located on the south-east side of Des Moines, T&S was started in 1998 by Italian immigrants, Joe & Lucretia Tumea, and their American-born sons.

The minute you walk in the door, you’re smiling. You’re home.

First you notice the family pictures and painted scenes of Italy lining the walls, then you pick up on the sound of Frank Sinatra crooning in the background as you sink into one of the deep, maroon booths.

The waitresses are chatting with the regulars, who show up at 5:30pm on the nose, but we’re new, of course, so we’re asked what we’ll have. One God-awful Peroni for Ben and a water for me, thank you very much!

We tore into the warm & doughy rolls that accompany our meal, before cracking open the menu.

It was an easy choice. Cavatelli with sausage and red sauce for her, Canneloni stuffed with cheese, topped with red & white sauce for him.

Before a sip is supped, fresh salads were brought to the table.

Drizzled with the most incredible house dressing we’ve EVER had! (Locals: this beats Bisignano’s dressing!)

A short time later – the main event.


The cheese!

The sauce!

The cavatelli!

The Best!

I nearly slumped down in the booth after tasting Ben’s canneloni though. STUFFED with ricotta cheese, this was one of the best things I’ve ever had.

We knew we needed to call it a night when I started stealing spoonfuls of white sauce from his dish to eat…by itself. NO REGRETS!

Check please!


Stretchy pants, too…OMG!

While we may not be able to make it back to Italy for a few years (there’s so much of the world to see, after all!) being able to devour home-cooked Italian food definitely softens the blow.

Off to find those stretchy pants and question myself as to why I turned down homemade Cannoli for dessert…what was I thinking?!



Have you ever been on a trip that changed your life?

What were you doing one year ago? Is your life different then it was back then?