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When In … Florence, Italy

Hi, I am Foy Renfro, owner of Journey To and Fro Travel in Atlanta and professional travel adviser. After graduating from Clemson in parks, recreation and tourism management in 1992, I have had the opportunity to visit several countries over the years, enjoying the wonderlust of travel!

Florence, Italy, is one of my favorite cities to visit, and I have been fortunate to find myself there a few times for both work and play. Located in Tuscany, Florence has the largest population in the region. Let me show you around:

 
 


Duomo di Firenze

Il Duomo di Firenze (Florence Cathedral), the Baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile (bell tower) are in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Florence’s historic district. Work on the cathedral began in 1296 and was completed when the iconic dome, designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, was finished in 1436.

PRO TIP:
Purchase a 72-hour Duomo ticket that includes entry to the museum, the Baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile.

 
 


Ponte Vecchio and The Accademia

The Ponte Vecchio or “Old Bridge” is a medieval bridge that spans the Arno River — Florence’s only bridge to survive WWII. Located in the historic district, it connects the Pitti Palace to the Ufizzi Museum via a private corridor. Since 1593, the pedestrian bridge’s shops have only been occupied by jewelers, goldsmiths and silversmiths. The Accademia is also located nearby, which is home to Michealangelo’s David.

PRO TIP:
If you want to get a bird’s-eye view of Florence, make your way to Piazzale Michelangelo for a spectacular panorama of the city. It’s even better at sunset.

 
 


The Mercato Centrale

This expansive food hall, located behind the Basilica of St. Lorenzo, features many different culinary artisans of Tuscany. There is no need for reservations unless you want to eat in the restaurant, Tosca, or enroll in a cooking lesson. The stands offer pizza, pasta, fried fish, buffalo mozzarella and more — all fresh.

PRO TIP:
Taste the city’s signature Florentine Beefsteak or, if you have a sweet tooth, save room for gelato from Gelateria La Carraia or a sweet treat from Migone Confetti Firenze.

 
 


Santa Maria Novella Apothecary

Visit the Santa Maria Novella Apothecary on via della Scala, which operates in the historic area of the monastery built in 1221 by Dominican Friars, who created luxuriant perfumes, soaps, elixirs and more. Recipes are still used that date back to hundreds of years.

 
 


Day Trips

Florence is easily accessible by train, which makes it a good place to stay and take day trips from as well. Many, for example, visit nearby Chianti for lunch and wine tastings. The Castello di Verrazzano and Antinori nel Chianti Classico wineries are great for experiencing contrasting architecture styles.

 
 


Interested in sharing the best eats and secret spots of your own city with fellow Tigers? Email shutto@clemson.edu for more information.

 

 

When In … Fort Collins

Hello! I’m Hannah Halusker ’17, M ’20, a two-time Clemson alumna who now works in science communications at Colorado State University.

Last year, I traded the Appalachians for the Rockies and moved west to Fort Collins, Colorado. Boasting 300 days of sunshine per year and situated in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Fort Collins is the “Choice City” that many outdoor enthusiasts, like me, call home. Welcome to FoCo!

 

1Poudre Canyon

Starting high up in Rocky Mountain National Park and emerging just north of Fort Collins, the Cache la Poudre River drops 7,000 feet in elevation as it winds through Poudre Canyon. My first Colorado hikes took place on the canyon trails shared with campers, fly fishermen, rafters and kayakers alike.

 

2Bike Paths

When I moved to Fort Collins, a co-worker told me that there are two requirements for living here: owning a bike and owning a dog. I’m still working on the latter, though the bike paths in town are enough to stay occupied. Fort Collins is one of five platinum-rated bike-friendly communities in the U.S., with over 200 miles of dedicated bike lanes and 50 miles of marked or signed bike routes to explore.

 

3Horsetooth Reservoir

Named after the mountain that forms its western edge, the reservoir is surrounded by 1,900 acres of public lands — a go-to for boating, swimming, biking and rock climbing.

FUN FACT: Much of the water provided to eastern Colorado is diverted from the Western Slope under the Continental Divide and through a system of dams and canals. Water rights and conservation are hot topics as water becomes a more precious resource.

 

4Old Town

Put on the map when the railroad came to town in 1877, present-day Old Town was the business district of historic Fort Collins. Today, it’s the place to go for a night out, with more than 80 restaurants to choose from.

PRO TIP: Get an ice cream cone from Churn, a shop designed after an antique ice cream churn bucket, and stop into Sense of Place for a gift to take home.

 

 

5Breweries

The Napa Valley of Beer, the Brewmuda Triangle, the Craft Beer Capital of Colorado — there’s something about that Rocky Mountain water that attracts breweries to Fort Collins. The city ranks fourth in the nation for number of microbreweries per capita, with some of the big names including New Belgium Brewing, Anheuser-Busch and Odell Brewing Company.

 

Interested in sharing the best eats and secret spots of your own city with fellow Tigers? Email shutto@clemson.edu for more information.

 

 

When In … Little Rock

Welcome to Little Rock! My name is Ray Owens, Class of 2002, and I work for the state of Arkansas, where I oversee the state’s Federal Tobacco Compliance Program.

In Arkansas, you will find acres and acres of parks and forests and endless miles of hiking and biking trails. There is also lots to see and do in the city, including great places to eat and landmarks to explore, and it all comes with Southern hospitality! I am proud to say I am a Little Rock local. Here are my top five recommendations for things to do in the capital:

 

1The Arkansas River Trail
If you like to be outdoors, the 88-mile River Trail is perfect. There is a 15-mile loop that runs through the city and along the banks of the Arkansas River. Also, there are several smaller loops and gardens to enjoy.

Pro Tip: There are three bridges — the Clinton Presidential Bridge, Junction Bridge and Broadway Bridge — that pedestrians can use to cross over the Arkansas River into North Little Rock.

 

2Museums

The Old State House Museum, the oldest surviving capitol building west of the Mississippi River, is my personal favorite. It has been the site of many important events in Arkansas history. Other museums in Little Rock include the Historic Arkansas Museum, Arkansas Arts Center, MacArthur Museum of Military History, Esse Purse Museum, Mosaic Templars Cultural Center and the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum, to name a few.

 

3The River Market

In the River Market District, the William J. Clinton Presidential Library is a must-see. Put political affiliations aside, if you must, and visit this amazing collection of artifacts, replicas and digital media dedicated to our 42nd president. The district also hosts the Museum of Discovery and Kilwins, both perfect outings for families. Live music is frequent because of the River Market Pavilions as well as the First Security Amphitheater.

Pro Tip: Park for free in the Clinton Presidential Library lot!

 

4Dining

Little Rock was recently named one of “Five Secret Foodie Cities” by Forbes Travel Guide. Little Rock’s craft brewery scene offers premier establishments, such as Flyway, Diamond Bear, Lost Forty and Stone’s Throw. Our family’s favorite restaurant is Iriana’s Pizza, located in the River Market District. If pizza is not your thing, try a delicious farm-to-table dinner at the Root Café or grab a steak at Samantha’s Taproom.

 

5Rock Region Metro Trolley

The trolley line is only 2.5 miles in length, but it goes through the historic downtown area and the River Market District and crosses the Arkansas River into North Little Rock. From the line, you can also easily walk to Dickey-Stephens Park and see a minor league baseball game. The trolley operators are city historians and will point out many interesting things along the route.

Pro Tip: Keep an eye out for surprise announcements of reduced or free trolley rates.

 

Interested in sharing the best eats and secret spots of your own city with fellow Tigers? Email shutto@clemson.edu for more information.

 

 

When In … St. Croix

My name is Julie Abbott Hayne, class of ’94, and I am the owner and innkeeper of Coral’s Edge, a boutique, adults-only bed and breakfast on the Northshore of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. My husband is our on-site chef, and I have fun pairing everything with wine and cocktails. I left corporate America behind to open our small business and love sharing island life with folks who arrive as guests and depart as treasured friends who love St. Croix as much as we do!

1Cane Bay Beach
Only a half-mile bike ride from Coral’s Edge, Cane Bay Beach is perfect for lounging in the Caribbean sunshine, snorkeling or scuba diving St. Croix’s famous “Wall” just offshore.

Pro Tip: Enjoy a cocktail at the beach bar with live music by local musicians.

2Buck Island
Buck Island is a national monument off the East End of the island that you can only enjoy by boat. Take a catamaran or hitch a ride on a powerboat to amazing snorkeling.

3West End Beaches & Sandy Point National Refuge
There is no better place to treasure a gorgeous sunset than the westernmost point of the island, where you can also enjoy snorkeling with sea turtles, a sunset cruise on a catamaran, the Frederiksted Pier and some amazing restaurants!

Pro Tip: Islanders love to be greeted, and in the evenings, the authentic greeting is “Goodnight!”

4Point Udall on the East End
Point Udall is the easternmost point of any U.S. territory. Hike to Isaac’s Bay and Jack’s Bay to experience gorgeous views, stunning cliffs and warm waters.

Pro Tip: St. Croix is home to one of the world’s rare bioluminescent bays. Be sure to schedule a nighttime kayak tour.

 

Interested in sharing the best eats and secret spots of your own city with fellow Tigers? Email shutto@clemson.edu for more information.

 

 

Winter 2021 Travelers

Minnesota: Long-time friends Chris Bruno ’04, M ’06 and James Robilotta M ’07 reunited in Minneapolis just after the first big snow in October 2020. They toured the University of Minnesota campus and snapped a picture in front of the Golden Gophers stadium with their Tiger Rag — the day before the first Minnesota football game.

When In … Maui

Aloha, and welcome to Maui!

My name is Alex Urban, class of 2011. I majored in political science and minored in communications studies at Clemson and now work in professional golf as the executive director for the Sentry Tournament of Champions played at Kapalua each year on the PGA Tour. I have been living on Maui for more than two years, and the beauty and spirit of the island has captivated me since day one — let me show you around the Valley Isle!

 

1 | The Plantation Course at Kapalua
Of course, I am biased, but there is no better place to kick off the new year than the Plantation Course at Kapalua during the Sentry Tournament of Champions in January each year. Located on West Maui, Kapalua hosts the winners of the PGA Tour, and if you make it to the tournament, you can be just feet from the stars of professional golf. If you aren’t on Maui in January, make your way to the Plantation Course for a world-class round of golf.

 

2 | Honolua Bay
For the surfers out there, Honolua Bay is one of the most legendary surf spots on the planet. When the waves are pumping, it is common to see hundreds of surfers in the water, including the world’s top professionals.

 

3 | Lahaina
Just down the road from Kapalua is the town of Lahaina, a former capital of Hawaii and whaling town that is now a hotspot of restaurants, shops and culture. Grab a drink and some food from Down the Hatch, and if you’re a music lover, try Fleetwood’s on Front Street. Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac calls Maui home, and his restaurant is a great place for rooftop cocktails at sunset. If you’re up for an adventure, you can take a sunset or snorkel cruise out of Lahaina Harbor. 

 

4 | Kapalua and Napili Bays
These two bays are right next to each other and feature two of the best beaches in the world. Maui beaches boast crystal clear water, soft sand, great snorkeling, water sports and easy access. When you have finished up a day on one of these pristine beaches, head over to Merriman’s for a sunset mai tai on their lanai. 

 

5 | Haleakalā and the Upcountry
Haleakalā National Park is home to the tallest mountain on Maui and is known for its spectacular sunrises (don’t forget to make a reservation in advance!). The park has numerous trails and lookout points, and you can even rent bikes and take a guided ride on the twisty road to its summit. On your way down from the peak, Kula Lodge is the perfect stop if you get hungry. Don’t worry about any eruptions; Haleakalā is dormant — the largest dormant volcano in the world, in fact.

 

Interested in sharing the best eats and secret spots of your own city with fellow Tigers? Email shutto@clemson.edu for more information.