My Sunday dinners as a kid were filled with pasta, the smell of fresh basil and smiles from my 'nonno' and father as they were enjoying their evening espresso together.
At that moment I had no idea there would only be a few more precious years to savor a moment such as this one. I never could of imagined that by the age of 19 I would of have lost them both to cancer.
Did you ever notice in life that we often think "it will never happen to me." It is SO crazy that we have this mentality.
This post is not intended to be depressing by any means but I did just want to start out by saying: I no longer believe this "it will never happen to me" theory. Instead I try to the best of my ability to live each day as it was my last!
Today my father would of been turning another year older but just 56 years young. Unfortunately, cancer took his life in his early 40's.
The reason I am sharing this personal story is because the loss of my father brought me to life.
Sounds crazy, right? But really it has. His death inspired me to rediscover where I came from (my Italian heritage), where I am going (towards my dream no matter how may challenges come my way) and where I want to be (a business owner with a fulfilling happy life).
The crazy part is I had no idea I would end up where I am today. After his death I began to travel. Which eventually led me to following my heart and intuition. Now here I am at Travel Italian Style.
The cool thing is he didn't just inspire me! My father Joey was an average guy who was into sports, weight lifting and music but actually he has had a lasting effect on others (whether he realized it or not). When I talk to his friends and family they remember him smiling even through difficult times, talking and joking with strangers and even discussing motivational speeches such as the ESPN video that we are sharing below by the legendary Italian-American Jimmy Valvano.
Since you personally never got to meet my father, I thought to honor him today I would share this video. My hopes is that you too will be inspired!
I always loved this speech. Especially when Jimmy V shares what he believes are the 3 most important things we should do everyday & why we must know "where we started, where we are and where we want to be."
Sadly Jimmy Valvano passed away just a few short months after this ceremony.
However, both him and my fathers legacy lives on! Today I will be saluting my father and Jimmy V for being a reminder to me and all of you to keep our dreams alive!
I am sure if you are reading this right now there is something that you have always wanted to do. Whether it be travel to Italy, start a business, study a language or maybe even skydive. Whatever it is, do it today! Honor your dreams and follow through with the commit. I am not saying it will be easy but it sure will be worth it.
I promise you will be truly amazed to see the outcome once you take that first step!
"How do you go from where you are to where you want to be. I think you have to have an enthusiasm for life. You have to have a dream, a goal. And you have to be to willing to work for it."
Cassandra Santoro is the CEO and Founder of Travel Italian Style. As a personal trip planner and luxury small group tour operator, Cassandra is an expert in slow-travel and authentic and inspiring experiences throughout Italy. She also leads motivational talks and can most recently be found at
TEDx DHWBMannheim. Cassandra is currently writing her first book and lives between NY & Florence. Follow her adventures in Italy on Instagram.