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Outfit: Sun Flares and Sunflowers

This past week has been so much fun and a great little summer vacation! My students departed for home from Rome last Saturday. Their airport shuttle picked them up at 5:30 am. Since we were already up, Kirsten and I decided to explore Rome sans-tourists. Our first stop was one of my favorite squares, Campo di Fiori, and since it was Saturday, we were just in time for the fresh market.

We discovered, and promptly purchased, the most beautiful sunflowers. Naturally we spent the rest of the morning taking photos with our sunflowers all over Rome! We nicknamed it Sunflower Saturday (can we get that hashtag trending lol?).

denim jacket (similar) // panama hat (similar) // striped tee (similar) // shorts (no longer available, but I love the solid version) // bag // shoes // monogrammed necklace

But seriously, if you are ever in Rome take at least one morning to explore and take pictures before the onslaught of tourists. It really feels like a different city!

After two days in Rome, Kirsten and I packed up and jetted to Berlin for 6 days (I had a conference and we wanted to sightsee)! More on that Wednesday. All-in-all it was a great mini-break from Florence, but I have to say I am happy to be back!

Ashley B
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Weekend Wear: Hibiscus Floral

I have been debating for months whether or not I wanted to try J.Crew's international shipping. The shipping part is reasonable (15 euros), but the taxes are quite high (about 20%). Since nothing so far this summer has made me swoon, I've resisted. That is of course until J.Crew released this amazing orange and navy hibiscus floral pattern!

sunnies (last seen here) // bag // shoes // top // necklace // skirt

Needless to say I caved and ordered the skirt. Since I was already placing an order, I decided to go ahead and get that amazing laser cut top in navy (of course!). I am really excited to get these items in Florence! Like I've said before, I am not crazy for the clothes in Italy (both the style and cut just aren't right for me), so while I do treat myself to a couple new items over the summer, I tend not to shop as much. So that makes up for the taxes on my J.Crew order... right?

I will let you know how the international shipping goes! Happy Friday!

PS - I am still loving Berlin, and promise to post a recap next week! Until then, follow along here!

Ashley B
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Outfit: Summer in Lilly

The weather in Italy has been a little crazy, and I am happy to escape to Berlin for a bit.

Two weeks ago it was so hot I could barely sleep. Last week, however, it was rainy and chilly. While the break from the heat was nice, I know the hot and sticky Florentine summer is inevitable.

To cope with the rising temps, I usually turn to my favorite Lilly Pulitzer shorts paired with a cool and breezy Elsa top. Instant comfort in scorching temps, yet still cute, fun, and flattering (I hate tight tops when it's really warm out).

top // shorts (similar) // sandals // bag

What do you wear to cope with the summer sun?

Ashley B
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Berlin or Bust!

This morning I am saying ciao to Italy for a quick vacation to Berlin (well part vacation, part conference)!

For those of you who have been following my blog for a while will not be surprised to find out that I am a type-A traveler, who loves to plan out and schedule everything! I am sure this stresses some people out, but for me it ensures that I will get to see and do everything I possibly can! I also believe (and know from experience) that a bit of planning goes a long way in avoiding wasting time in lines or getting lost.

I usually spend a couple days familiarizing myself with the city's map and metro system. I then list all of the sights I want to see and group them by location. Finally, I check online to see what kind of deals there might be or if reservations are required (and it's a good thing I did, you can only go to the top of the Reichstag in Berlin with an appointment!).

Here is my plan for the next 4 days in Berlin!

Day 1:
Morning - Arrive in Berlin, taxi to hotel and check-in
11:00 am - Walk to the Brandenburg Gate (There is a Dunkin Donuts nearby!!!!!)
11:45 am - Pics at the Gate
12:00 pm - Stroll down Unter der Linden (towards Museum Island). Turn right down Friedrichstraβe (grab lunch along the way or at in outdoor café in Gendarmenmarkst). Left on Mohrenstraβe, and left on Markgrafstraβe.
2:00 pm - Gendarmenmarkst - Stop at the chocolate place – Fassbender & Rausch – along the way (on Mohrenstraβe) Sip hot chocolate upstairs!
3:00 pm  - Continue north on Charlottenstraβe back towards Unter der Linden, turn right on Unter der Linden to Bebelplatz
Metro back to the hotel for a break? Or continue east towards the River Spree for a stroll before dinner? (see I can relax lol)
7:00 pm Dinner at Gaffel-Haus

Day 2:
8:30 am - Depart Hotel (Metro Bellevue to Friedrichstr.) for the Pergamon Museum
11:00 am - Neues Museum
1:00 pm - DDR Museum (eat lunch there first)
3:00 pm - Berlin Cathedral
4:00 pm - German History Museum
7:00 pm - Dinner at Brauhas Lemlee

Day 3:
8:00 am - Depart hotel for the Reichstag (20 min walk)
8:30 am - Reservation for the Reichstag Dome
10:00 am - Coffee and photo shoot at the Brandenburg Gate
11:00 am - Holocaust Memorial
12:30 pm Check Point Charlie
1:00 pm - Stroll up Friedrichstraβe (grab lunch on the way)
4:00 pm - Berlin Wall Memorial (Head back towards the hotel, dinner near hotel)

Day 4:
9:00 am - Metro to Warschauer – East Side Gallery
Rest of the Day - Take the metro to Adenauerplatz (U7), Stroll east, down Kurfürstendamm, then to the Sony Center, and Potsdamer (this is more of a relaxing shopping day!)

Anybody been to Berlin and have some last minute tips?

Stay tuned for tons of pics!

Ashley B
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Packing For Europe: Summer Travel Edition

Can you believe that tomorrow is the first (official) day of summer? Where does the time go? In honor of the summer solstice, I have put together a packing guide for Europe in the summer, since that's when most Americans travel across the pond.

When traveling in Europe in the summer you are pretty much guaranteed it is going to be warm and even scorching in places like Spain, Italy, and Greece. Northern Europe can be the exception to the rule, although I have found you really don't know what to expect with England! That's why I always pack at least one sweater and a rain coat... just in case!

The Essentials:

  1. Rain Jacket - A light-weight rain jacket is all you need for summer showers. Northface shells are great because you can roll them up and keep them in the bottom of your bag. For more northern climates, you might opt for a slightly heavier rain jacket (I love my Barbour Shore jacket... it has a lighthouse printed inside!).
  2. Umbrella - A travel essential for all seasons!
  3. Comfortable and Quality Sandals - Touring European cities is no easy task and you will want something study, supportive, and comfortable for standing in museums and trekking across town (foot discomfort is no fun when you travel!). A good pair of sandals can be as comfortable as sneakers but look nicer with dresses (no one likes the tourist dress with tennis shoes look).
  4. Sneakers or Espadrilles - If I am going to wear sneakers, I like low-profile sneakers like Vans or Toms over athletic shoes, and I love espadrilles! They basically go with everything and are super comfortable!
  5. Hat - Protect your skin and hair from the sun with a great hat. Panamas are my preferred hate for travel!
  6. Sunnies - Just like your skin and hair, your eyes need protection. Plus a great pair of sunnies hides sweaty summer skin! My rule - if you look bad in a photo, your sunnies aren't big enough!
  7. Scarfs - Like umbrellas, scarfs are a travel essential for every season. They can transform an outfit and you can keep one in your purse to ensure you are always church appropriate (i.e. you can quickly tie it over your shoulders or around your legs).
  8. Nylon Bag - I love nylon bags for travel, they are light weight and supper durable. And of course, Longchamp is the king of travel nylon bags (I mean they fold up!).

The Basics
  1. Light-weight Tees - I love traveling with cotton-linen blend tees. They are breathable and comfortable.
  2. Sleeve Options - Make sure you pack a variety of sleeve lengths to cover all weather possibilities and dress codes.
  3. Neutral Colors - Tees and tanks in neutral colors will match everything.
  4. A Unifying Color - This is the key to versatility. Make sure everything matches (or goes with) one color. For me, this is navy (#navyornothing).
  5. Summer Dresses - Cotton-spandex dresses in solid colors are excellent summer travel staples. They can easily be dressed up or down for any occasion.
  6. Shorts - Shorts are great for warm days, but be warned they aren't appropriate for visiting churches and cathedrals (these pull-on shorts from J.Crew are supper comfy!).

Color, Texture, Pattern, and Shine

Finally add some interest to your basics and essential items with some great pops of color (I am really loving yellow lately), diverse textures (like linen), interesting patterns, and shiny metallics! Finally, don't forget your swimsuit and cover up (and sunscreen of course) for Mediterranean beaches!

What are your summer packing essentials?

PS - click here for my Spring Packing Guide, and here for my Winter Packing Guide!
Ashley B
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Roma = Amor

I love Rome and I am pretty sure Rome loves me. Rome was my first... first Italian city that is.

St. Peter's, 2011 (I think)

I will never forget my first study abroad experience. I was a junior in college and I had never left the country. When my advisor told me about the class he was teaching in Rome that summer, I jumped at the chance to live out my Italian fantasy (art, architecture, gelato, vespas, etc.).

When I arrived in Rome, however, I was incredibly overwhelmed. I wasn't prepared for the culture shock and the size and pace of a city like Rome. Eventually I fell in love with it and got to know Rome well. When the program relocated and I moved to Florence for my summers abroad, I thought Florence was so small and boring compared to Rome.

Of course I came to love and appreciate Florence as much as Rome, but I still look forward to our program's last weekend in Italy - three days in Rome!

Colosseum, 2012

Today the group departs for Rome! Over the next three days, we will marvel at the Pantheon, throw coins into the Trevi Fountain, gaze in awe at St. Peter's Basilica, climb the Colosseum, walk in the footsteps of ancient Romans in the Forum, be creeped out by Cappuccini bone crypt (seriously, google it), marvel at Bernini's sculptures, and take in the artistic masterpieces inside the Vatican.

I don't know how to describe it, but when I am in Rome, I feel like I am at the center of the world - sooo much history. I think students are usually too overwhelmed to really appreciate the city. It is one of those places that you need to visit more than once.

It will be a crazy but amazing 3 days! I get to spend another 2 days in Rome after the students leave, and them I am off to discover Berlin for 5 days!

If you want to tag along, be sure to follow me on Instagram!

Ashley B
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Outfit: Photo Floral

It's about that time in my summer abroad when I begin to hate all of my clothes! Not really hate, I just get tired of everything, and things are hot... and I have eaten a lot of pasta!

Since I have no choice but to make one suitcase work for three months abroad, I have to get creative. When I feel uninspired and tired of my clothes I take everything out of my closet and sort them into three piles: 1) What I have worn multiple times; 2) What I have barely worn; and 3) What I haven't worn at all. I set pile #1 aside and make myself mix and match the second and third piles (focusing on the third). I literally curate outfits on my bed lol.

This does a couple things. It helps me realize the pieces I haven't utilized, and laying everything out helps me to see combinations I didn't see before. Thanks to this process I put together what might be one of my favorite outfits of all times! This light-blue, striped popover and my J.Crew photo floral shorts!

popover (on sale!) // shorts (on sale!) // bag (last seen here) // espadrilles

What do you do when you're tired all of your clothes and feel like you have nothing to wear?

PS - We took these in one of my favorite piazzas in Florence, Santissima Annunziata.

Ashley B
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Venice Recap

Early Tuesday morning we departed for two full days (and one hot night) in Venice! I love Venice. There is really no other place like it, however, two days in Venice is just about all you need.

Venice is an island (actually 118 little islands) in a lagoon (full of more islands!) off the northeast coast of Italy. I am sure you have heard of it! But you many not know that this seemingly uninhabitable salt marsh was first settled after the fall of Rome as locals fled from the mainland of Italy to escape successive "barbarian" invasions.

To conquer their new and inhospitable environment, the early Venetians drove larger wooden piles into the 118 islands created by salt deposits in the lagoon. These wooden piles formed a base on to which Venetians laid the foundations of their buildings (you can read more about how Venice was built here). Venice doesn't float, however, it does battle rising tides every winter (if you go in the winter or spring, bring Hunter rain boots!).

By the 9th and 10th centuries, Venice had established itself as an independent state and maritime powerhouse. Venice was ruled by a Doge, who was elected from the most elite and noble families.Thanks to its location and dependence on the sea, Venice quickly became a trading capital that specialized in importing spices and luxuries from Asia into Europe. This wealth produced some of the greatest works of art and one of the most beautiful (and truly unique) cities in the world - La Serenissima (as the Venetians called her). If you want to know about the history of Venice, I highly recommend this book.

Today, Venice survives on tourism and very high-end shopping. Most Venetians can't even afford to live in Venice, which is why I say you really only need two days to experience Venice.

Day One:
We hit the road early Tuesday morning and arrived in Venice before lunch (it's about a 3.5-hour drive from Florence). We walked from our hotel (near the train station) to the most famous and important square in Venice, St. Mark's (aka the one with all the pigeons). Just off the square we watched the ancient glass blowing techniques of Murano (a neighboring island), toured the famous Basilica of St. Mark, and hopped on gondolas for a ride down the grand canal.

I swear I am working!

That evening we walked across the Accademia Bridge and visited the old customs house, which over looks St. Mark's Square. I recommend grabbing dinner on this south-side of the island. You can get a wonderful seafood dinner on the water for half the price you would pay on the main part of the Grand Canal. Warning: Venice is so expensive, choose where you eat carefully! To finish up your day, hop on the Vaporetto (aka the water bus, number 1 or 2) from the Accademia Bridge for a cheap evening tour of the Grand Canal.

Tip: Gondola rides cost more after 6 pm!

Day Two:
We spent the morning getting lost! I promise it is so much fun and you will stumble on adorable little bridges and canals with picturesque views. After a morning of wandering, we headed to the fish market (actually just behind the fish market) for a great lunch with a view. I like to sip on Prosecco, which the Venetians refer to as "Venetian water," as I watch the tourists and gondolas pass by (while I relaxed most of the students were off buying masks and souvenirs). After lunch we spent our afternoon exploring the incredible palace of the Doge (I highly recommend the "secret passages" tour). And that evening we headed back to Florence! The best in Venice in two days!

I must admit, Venice was very warm this year and I was happy to get back to (slightly) cooler Florence.

Is Venice on your bucket list?

Ashley B
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Reflect Your Style

It is no secret that I love decorating! And One King's Lane is one of my favorite decorating secrets. They always have an amazing selection of decorative objects, pillows, faux floral arrangements, and even furniture. You can get some really cute things at an even greater price!

I've been wanting to transform my bedside table into a proper vanity (I usually have the decorating bug when I return from Italy) and when One Kings Lane contacted me to participate in their "Reflect Your Style" campaign, I jumped at the chance to create my dream vanity!

I love my current gold table (you all know about my gold spray paint obsession), but it's a little small. But I still love the look of gold legs and a glass table-top. And of course I want to stay with my favorite color palette, pink and blue. When browsing One Kings Lane online, I immediately fell in love with this pink bust. How cute would it be for displaying a statement necklace? 

I also think that faux floral arrangements are worth the investment. Cheap florals look terrible! Since faux florals won't die, and thus rarely need to be replaced, I don't mind spending a little more to get something that looks great and has people questioning whether or not they are real.

Besides floral accents, I love little trays and boxes for holding lipsticks, jewelry, and other odds and ends. I am positively obsessed with the greek key detail on these stackable boxes and the pink agate accent on these little lucite trays (seriously, so cute and they come in so many colors!).

Of course, the center-piece of any vanity is the mirror. I love this frameless option, since it allows you to more easily mix and match metallics. But if you are looking for something more ornate, don't worry, One Kings Lance has lots of great mirror options!

What are your vanity must haves?

Ashley B
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Outfit: Sail to Sable + Capri

About a week before I departed for Florence, I made one last stop to my local Lilly Pulitzer signature store in Tampa, The Pink Palm. I was hoping that some of the summer Lilly items would arrive before I left. Unfortunately they did not, but I did stumble upon this adorable Sail to Sable tunic dress. It instantly reminded me of the Amalfi Coast and the bright umbrellas that dot the shore line all summer long (it actually inspired this print).

I knew I wanted to save it for our day in Capri. Of course, this was difficult since I love the dress and I was dying to where it. In the end I stayed strong and debuted it in Capri paired with my Kate Spade Capri themed clutch. It was seriously the perfect outfit (if only I had had these lemon earrings)!

Sail to Sable Shady Days Tunic Dress (no longer available online, but this sleeveless version is just as cute) // Kate Spade Clutch // Michael Kors Sandals // Karen Walker Sunnies

This is my second Sail to Sable tunic dress. I was hesitant to buy my first one, let's face it they aren't cheap. But the quality of the fabric was superb and I was surprised how flattering it was on, given that it's a looser, tunic style dress. I wore my navy fringe tunic constantly in Barbados, so I didn't feel too guilty when I fell in love with this one.

In my book, you can't go wrong with a comfortable, yet flattering, dress in a bright umbrella print! Has anyone else tried Sail to Sable's tunics and dresses?
Ashley B
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Modern Prep Gazette Guest Post: Dressing for the Perfect Day in Florence

Ciao belle (hello beautiful ladies)!

Today I am guest blogging over at Sloane Ranger's Modern Prep Gazette! I am sharing not only what I would do for my perfect day in Florence, but I am also sharing my style secrets for dressing while sightseeing abroad.

Be sure to check it out and have a great weekend (buon fine settimana)!

PS - I am obsessed with this new Sloane Ranger tote!

Ashley B
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Weekend Recap: The Amalfi Coast

What can I say, my job is rough -- last weekend in Tuscany and this past weekend in the Amalfi Coast! I absolutely love the Amalfi Coast, and I think our three-day weekend there is my favorite excursion (Venice is a close second).

We begin our weekend in Capri, with a boat ride around the island, lunch on the beach, and a limoncello tasting in the afternoon. Students always love climbing on the rocks and jumping into the crystal clear water (warning, there are very few sandy beaches in Italy).

Goofy group pics are a must.

The next day we head to the adorable and picturesque town of Positano for a relaxing beach day. This day is my absolute favorite! Nothing beats sipping little bottles of prosecco, eating fresh strawberries, and looking at this view:

What I wore - Lilly Pulitzer Tunic (similar) // Lilly Pulitzer Shorts // Local Hat
Clearly we had no fun!
Of course, no trip to the Amalfi Coast is complete without a visit to my sandal man! He hand crafts the most beautiful Italian leather sandals (right in front of you). I usually get something sparkly, but this year the leopard was calling my name.

For our final day, we tour the ruins of Pompeii and hike the volcano that destroyed it, mount Vesuvio! 

What I wore - Zara Top // J.Crew Factory Shorts // Target Hat (similar) // Max and Co. Bag // Lace Toms

The hike up Vesuvio is relatively easy, the bus drives you up ⅔ of the way and you finish it. I think it's really fun (not all the students agree) and there is nothing like staring into the crater of an active volcano!

We got yelled at for this photo op. Notice the "do not climb" sign, but it was totally worth it.

While it was a fun weekend, it was tiring and I am happy to be back in Florence! You can read more about the Amalfi Coast here.

Ashley B
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Outfit: Say Yes to New Adventures

Oddly enough, I found this adorable graphic tee in a random shop in Florence. I knew I had to have it. I just love the phrase "say yes to new adventures." As you know I am a big believer in the power of travel. You can read why I think every American student should study abroad here, and how (and why) to travel alone here.

I couldn't help but pair this shirt with some quintessential travel accessories - my Panama hat, camera bag, and, of course, a map.

top (similar) // hat // skirt // bag // glasses bracelet // bangle // watch // sandals

Remember, always say yes to new adventures!

Ashley B
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