Sunshine, Palm Trees, and Sand

Coming from the Mediterranean city of Genova--or as it's known in English, Genoa, which is located in the Ligurian Provice in Northern Italy--I feel that I cannot be too far from gorgeous, natural scenery; the sea and its seafood; and bright colors. Luckily I got to visit a seaside sunny location for Thanksgiving, Tampa, Florida.

Tampa is a hard working town of working-class folks, universities, and tourism service providers. There's also a growing and healthy affluent community built around some very lovely, privately gated communities and shopping areas.

Tampa is also the location of one of the US' most beautiful beaches (as ranked for a number of years by a variety of magazines and websites), on the natural refuge island of Caladesi. It's on my bucket list!

My family's first visit to lovely Tampa took place in late February or early March of 1999, when my mother and I took our "girls' spring break" vacation to Clearwater Beach. That first visit we stayed at the Hilton. We wanted to make it an annual tradition, so we went back again in 2000 at around the same time, but instead moved over to Sand Key--a quieter more residential area. Alas, I began  working full-time in 2001 and was no longer able to come yearly. But we have come quite a few times since, both together and separately.

Whenever we visited Tampa we daydreamed of how lovely it would be to live there rather than in a place with rather unruly weather *cough*Chicago*cough*.

If the white sand and inviting waters of the Tampa area don't capture your mind and heart, then the lovely sunsets surely will. At Clearwater Beach, there are a variety of boats to take cruises (with meals or without), and for sight-seeing and sunset photographing. Many beach-side restaurants provide a lovely setting for an evening meal while the sun goes down under the sea on the horizon. There's also the bohemian Pier 60 sunset festival each evening, which brings out happy tourists and locals alike for a stroll and maybe some souvenir shopping.

Mom and I are particular fans of the redesigned Salvador Dali museum in St. Petersburg, FL, as well as the Greek sponge diving community in Tarpon Springs, FL.

It's definitely one of the happiest places I've been, considering how far and wide I've been lucky enough to travel in my life. It's also an fiscally responsible destination that can be reached from almost anywhere within the US (both Southwest and Spirit Airlines have amazing deals most of the year).

Here is a photo slideshow made from snaps I've captured in the Tampa area during my last two trips (2011 and 2013).

Cheers to sunny and happy places!