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Italy: What I Missed, What I Will Miss

Leaving Italy each year is always bittersweet. I am excited to get home and indulge in some creature comforts, but I also love being in Italy and I always really miss it!

As I recover from my jet lag, I thought it might be fun to reflect on what I missed while in Italy and what I will miss now that I am home.

What I missed:

Well not all coffee, just Dunkin Donuts coffee! Italian coffee is pretty darn good too.

Food Variety
Italian food is amazing, but so is Thai food... just saying Italy ;)

I know this seems superficial, but I really missed shopping! Quality clothes, that fit well (fit me well that is), and don't cost a fortune are not easy to find in Italy. I much prefer the shopping in the States.

TV (in my native tongue)
I miss turning my brain off with trashy American TV (#nojudgement)

Dear Italians, germs make you sick, not air-conditioning. Trust me, summers are nicer with it! I am ready to get home and crank down my AC while I sleep!

My Apartment
I am definitely a nester and I don't like living in drab and dingy rentals, so I am really ready to get home and maybe even do a little more decorating.

So ready for kitty cuddles :)

What I will miss:

Italian Coffee
While I still am obsessed with my daily Dunkin, there is no denying how amazing Italian coffee is. (click here to learn how to drink coffee like an Italian)

Pasta, Pasta, and more Pasta!
It's so yummy and I can never get enough. Well except my waistline, it has definitely had enough!

Walking Everywhere and Public Transport
This helps with the pasta pounds lol. Also I am really not a fan of driving (except Vespas that is). 

The Countryside
Florida beaches are beautiful but the Tuscan countryside is amazing!

People Watching
I love that it is socially acceptable to stare.

Day Drinking and Prosecco
Wine with lunch? Why not? Also prosecco, aka Venetian water, is probably the most delicious drink. Ever.

Men in Tights
Tuscans love their history and Tuscan men embrace any excuse to wear medieval costumes, complete with tights (#realmenweartights)!

European Adventures
Once you reach Europe it is so easy to travel around. Happiness is being able to take a quick weekend trip to Switzerland.

The History
In Italy you are constantly surrounded by the past. It is in the architecture, the art, the landscape, and the traditions.

I think the key to happily living abroad is to embrace the difference. You have to be able to accept and appreciate what is different, even if it drives you crazy. It doesn't mean you don't miss or appreciate home, but that you also enjoy embracing new things, ideas, and ways of doing things. I think people go wrong and often ruin their vacations by trying to replicate home. New places will never be like home, that's why you're there, because they are new, exciting, and different!

Ashley B
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Vespa Riding in Tuscany: Going Out With a Beep... I Mean Bang!

If you follow me on Instagram, then you know that yesterday was my last day in Italy. And it was quite possibly one of the greatest days of my life! My friend Anna surprised me with a day in the countryside that fulfilled not one, but two of my life-long dreams: 1) drive a Vespa, and 2) frolic through a field of sunflowers!

This summer has been full of incredible days and amazing adventures (Berlin, Switzerland, Venice, Rome, and The Amalfi Coast), but yesterday will hold a special place in my heart because I got to live two of my Italian fantasies. 

As you know, my friend Anna runs a student travel agency in Florence (Florence for Fun). When she heard about my Italian bucket list, she called a partner company she works with - Fun in Tuscany - and arranged for us to spend the day zipping through the Tuscan countryside. Fun in Tuscany specializes in offering travelers truly unique and Tuscan experiences. You ride horses, vespas, or four wheelers through incredible scenery, visit quaint medieval hilltop towns, and dine in authentic Tuscan farmhouses.

Naturally, we started our day with driving lessons. Full disclosure, I have never driven any sort of motorcycle or scooter and I am not great at riding a bike,  so... 

After my first couple attempts around the track, I think everyone was a little afraid I wasn't going to get it (quick tip: turning is all in the hips, not the arms!). But not to worry I eventually caught on and we were zipping down winding country roads in no time. 

I guess Anna had mentioned my sunflower fantasy to our amazing guide Issam when she arranged the tour, because within the first fifteen minutes of our drive to the Medieval town of Certaldo (fun fact - the town Boccaccio is from) we "stumbled" upon an incredible field of sunflowers!

The weather was actually a little gloomy when we started our ride, but as we frolicked amongst the sunflowers (and the bees, so many bees!), the sky cleared and we got to appreciate just how beautiful the Tuscan landscape really is.

Tuscany is always beautiful, but there are some days that are just spectacular and you really get to appreciate that amazing Tuscan light everybody talks about, which makes the sky seem bluer, the flowers more colorful, and the grape vines greener. 

After an intense sunflower photo session, we scooted our way to Certaldo and then to San Gimignano, where we sampled the world champion of gelatos. I tried the blackberry and lavender, and it was buonissimo (Italian for really freaking good)! 

That's San Gimignano in the background. They call it the Medieval Manhattan because of all the medieval towers that remain.

As we soon learned, however, vespa-ing, sightseeing, and sunflower frolicking are quite exhausting and by mid-afternoon we had retired to an adorable farmhouse that overlooked medieval Manhattan (aka San Gimignano) for several courses of traditional Tuscan food and wine... lots of wine!

The end of July and beginning of August is prime sunflower-field-frolicking season in Tuscany. If you ever find yourself visiting Florence (or even Rome, it's just an hour and a half away by train) you really should make it a point to venture into the countryside, especially this time of year. Sadly, most tourists simply drive through the countryside in a bus or car and never really get to experience Tuscany.

It really was the perfect way to end an amazing three months in Italy! I will definitely miss it, but thank goodness I will be back in just five short months!

Click here to learn more about fun in Tuscany!

PS - Not only was our guide Issam great at teaching us to ride and leading us around, he was also a really great photographer. He went to great lengths to make sure we got the perfect photos, and I think we did!
Ashley B
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Florence Guide: La Milkeria

What - Morning coffee and crepes at La Milkeria

Where - Borgo degli Albizi, 87 (near the Duomo)

When - Monday through Saturday, 9 am - 10 pm

Wearing - My favorite Sail to Sable tunic dress (last seen here) and my Kate Spade Bella clutch 

Why - Between the charming shabby chic decor, made-to-order crepes, and 100% biological ingredients, this little cafe/gelato shop/creperia makes the perfect spot for breakfast or a mid-day pick me up. The crepes are simple, fresh, and delicious. And unlike other cafes near the Duomo (the cathedral) it won't cost you an arm and a leg!

Ashley B
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Preppy Printshop: New Arrivals

I have finally had some time to create some new prints and pillows for the Preppy Printshop! They are inspired by a mix of things, from my current pineapple obsession to my summer travels. Take a look and be sure to let me know which one is your favorite (I am very partial to the Italia print and pillow)!

Also available in black.

Ashley B
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Weekend Recap: Switzerland and Lake Como

When it comes to travel I am definitely a planner. Sometimes, however, it's the unplanned trips that end up being unexpectedly fun and rewarding! One of my best friends in Florence just happens to own a travel agency (#luckyme). She rarely leads tours anymore, but sometimes, towards the end of the summer when things slow down and her tour guides need time off, she will take on the occasional tour. And sometimes I am lucky enough to get invited along!

That's exactly what happened this past weekend. Anna decided to lead the 3-day trip to Interlaken, Bern, and Lake Como. When she asked if I was interested in tagging along, there was but one answer - YES!

To be honest, Switzerland has never topped my European travel to-do list. Currently Amsterdam, Prague, Vienna, and Budapest hold that honor. So while I was excited to add another country to my travel repertoire, I really didn't know what to expect. Let me tell you, Switzerland exceeded all of my expectations. It was truly one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen... and so much fun! 

Warning picture overload:

Can you believe this was the view from the hotel?
I ate freshly baked bread and homemade preserves here every morning.

My friend Anna's company, FlorenceForFun, specializes in student travel. It is amazing the variety of trips they offer and how traveling with them can transform a 3-month (or summer), Italian study abroad program into a multi-country European adventure (they design their trips specifically so students don't miss class!).

I truly believe in their mission. Most students will only get the opportunity to live and study oversees once, so you should really do and see as much as possible. Take this trip for example. In three days we visited two countries, skydived, paraglided, canyoned, bungee jumped, tasted chocolate, ate real fondue, explored Bern (the Swiss capital), and relaxed in Lake Como. Not too shabby!

I, for one, cannot believe I paraglided! I am not the adventurous type. I like coffee, museums, architecture, and my feet firmly on the ground... not running off the side of a mountain in the Alps! But Anna talked me into it and I am so grateful. Once I got in the air, and realized I wasn't going to fall from the sky, I loved it! 

Most of the students were way more adventurous than we were and they did both the bungee jumping and skydiving. Next year, however, I think I will build up the nerve try canyoning. The students loved it and said they slid down rocks like slip-n-slides, scaled several peaks, and jumped into gorgeous alpine rivers and lakes. 

Anna and I, clearly we had no fun!

I mean it when I say Switzerland was breathtaking. Look at this view! This was my best Sound of Music impression lol. 

The trip included a chocolate tasting. Needless to say it was all amazing.

And don't even get me started on the chocolate. Between that and the amazing fondue, I am sure I gained five pounds (#worthit)!

The group spent Friday in Interlaken partaking in all of the crazy adventure sports. So on Saturday it was nice to keep our feet on the ground and explore the capital of Switzerland, Bern. It is an adorable, charming, and super clean (all of Switzerland was shockingly manicured and clean) little medieval town... with a Starbucks (don't judge me, I have been in Italy for a long time now!).

After indulging in a carmel frappaccino (complete with flirty ego booster), we spent the remainder of the day strolling the streets of Bern.

You may not know this but Bern is quite famous (or should be at least). Einstein came up with his theory of relativity there (you know E=MC squared), Toblerone chocolates were invented (and are still manufactured) there, and Swiss Cheese (aka emmental) also comes from Bern! Who knew?

After an amazing two days in Switzerland, we headed south through the Alps to Lake Como on Sunday. In Lake Como we admired renaissance villas and took a ferry to the famous city of Bellagio (yes, the Vegas casino is based on this city). After a relaxing afternoon we headed back to Florence.

The city of Bellagio on Lake Como

I ended up learning some important lessons on this little trip. Sometimes you can't prepare and plan everything. Sometimes the unexpected and unplanned is equally rewarding. And sometimes (well all the time) paragliding (or overcoming your fears) is completely worth it!

I hope this inspires you to move Switzerland up your wanderlust list! Although one warning, it is a very expensive place, but completely worth it!

Ashley B
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Outfit: Skirting the Issue

J.Crew's fluted skirt is probably my all-time favorite skirt (with my floral scuba skirt a very close second). Every time a color goes on sale, I scoop it up! I have navy (of course), flame (last seen here), pale citrus (last seen here), black, and my latest acquisition during J.Crew's most recent sale - neon papaya! This skirt is so comfortable (and flattering) and can easily be dressed up or down. As far as I am concerned, it is a closet staple!

popover (on sale and last seen here) // skirt (many colors on sale!) // espadrilles // tote

Is anyone else obsessed with this skirt?

PS - My J.Crew espadrilles have proven themselves as my most comfortable and versatile shoes for travel. I am definitely ordering another pair when I get home. I have worn this pair so much they are falling apart!
Ashley B
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Pineapples Please

Lately I feel like I have been seeing pineapples everywhere! But I am not complaining, I adore this trend, so cute and fun. More pineapples please!

You know what they say, a pineapple a day keeps the blues away!

Have you jumped on the pineapple bandwagon?

Ashley B
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Outfit: Photo Floral on Photo Floral

You know what they say... go big or go home! Thats exactly what I thought when I decided to pair my yellow photo floral popover with my blue photo floral shorts (both from J.Crew). It's definitely a bold look, but I've got to say, I loved it!

top (old) // purse // shorts (last seen here) // sunnies

Never be afraid to be bold!

PS - If you don't own anything from J.Crew in their photo floral pattern, you should! And they are having a spectacular sale right now!

Ashley B
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New Series - Florence Guide: Moyo

I am constantly receiving emails from friends, friends of friends, readers, etc. who are traveling to Italy and asking for advice and recommendations. I love offering advice, but I always struggle to create a list of restaurant recommendations from memory. Sure, I can give the obvious recommendations, but I would love to have a place where I can send people that has a variety of reviews and suggestions on things to do and places to eat in Florence (as well as other important cities in Italy). So I have decided to create a new series of posts, my "Florence Guide."

Full disclosure, I am completely stealing this idea from Mackenzie, of Design Darling, who routinely posts on places of interest in New York City. I love her posts on New York so much, I decided to replicate it for Florence! Now, instead of stumbling on the spot for recommendations, there will be a tab on the menu bar above. Just click it to see all of my posts about what to do, see, and eat in Florence!

Of course, I should have started this series at the beginning of the summer, but I was so busy with students, conferences, and research. Even though I only having three weeks left, I thought it would still be worthwhile to start now. Fortunately, I can continue the series when I return to Florence in January.

What - Sunday Brunch at Moyo

Where - Via dei Benci, 23 (near Santa Croce)

When - Every Sunday from Noon to 5

With - My Partner in Brunch, Anna

Wearing - My Summer Essentials - Lilly Tunic, Pink Scalloped Shorts, Striped Espadrilles, and my Panama Hat

Why - Because it is the best American-style breakfast in Florence (where breakfast is hard to come by)! My personal favorites, the fresh squeezed mimosas and delicious eggs benedict.

Ashley B
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