Rome, If You Want To

Instagrammer of the Week: Nicolee Drake

The photographer behind the best Instagram account in Rome spills on how she got there.


“I first met Nicolee over fried artichokes in Rome’s Jewish quarter a few years back,” says Sam Horine. Sam, a Instagram photographer world famous for his iconic shots of New York City, took over The Daily Beast’s Instagram last week. This week, he’s passing that baton to Nicolee Drake (@cucinadigitale), who produces travel photography at its finest.

“Since then we’ve spoken on panels together and traveled up and down the coast of her adopted homeland of Italy, as well as overland across Turkey on a grueling twelve day trek from Istanbul to Ani,” says Horine. “It’s always a pleasure to see her unique perspective on her surroundings, the photographs are often infused with hidden meanings and beautiful subtleties that only reveal themselves upon a deeper reflection.”

Well put, but here’s a little bit more from Drake herself.

GALLERY: Nicolee Drake

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from, what got you into photography?

I live in Rome, Italy by way of Encinitas, California.

How did you get started with Instagram?

I downloaded the app in March of 2011, but I didn’t really get into it until around December of that year. Instagram was a creative space that just made sense to me. And I loved the challenge of creating and editing everything on my iPhone.

What is it like to have more than half a million followers? How did you get to that number?

Well, it’s definitely part of my daily life. I’ve also put in lots of hours beating the pavement and learning to grow with the app.

What is the craziest experience you’ve ever had thanks to your pictures?

Climbing to the top of Mount Nemrut is at the top of my list. Mount Nemrut is one of the highest peaks of the Eastern Taurus mountain range in southeast Turkey. It’s something like 7,000 feet above sea level. A group of us piled into mini vans and were shuttled up the steep mountainside to a parking lot and then hiked the rest of the way to the summit. At the top is a tomb built by King Antiochos I (69-34 B.C.), topped with giant heads of decapitated statues of Greek and Persian gods. It’s sort of unforgettable to experience, a once-in-a-lifetime event with a group of friends you met through an app. It was a magical experience. We sipped Turkish wine and watched the sun set over the Euphrates River Valley. That doesn’t happen every day.

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What advice would you give to regular folks who want to take great photos with their phones?

Practice, show your best work, and interact with the community. There are so many amazingly talented people out there to share your experiences with.

What kind of images are you drawn to create?

I tend to be drawn to create simple compositions.

Who are your favorite Instagram accounts?

There are so many that I love, it’s hard to choose favorites. I follow people with a variety of styles all over the world, from Lindsay Crowder in Brooklyn, Samah El Ali in Sydney, to Hanni Gharib in Copenhagen.

To see some of Nicolee’s work, check out our Instagram account, @thedailybeast, where she will be taking over for a couple of days.