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Making New Friends in Florence

Yesterday afternoon I rushed into my friend Anna's office and proclaimed, "I have made a new friend!" I was positively giddy. I felt like a kid and I probably sounded like one. Maybe it's just me, but I have found that as I get older making new friends is really difficult, especially when you are in a new city.

I met Anna three years ago when we started working together with students in Florence. Thus, through working together, our friendship developed naturally. But what if you move to a new city and decide (or need) to make new friends, what then? Are you the creepy girl alone at restaurants and bars? And when I do find someone I would like to befriend, I always fell like I am coming on too strong. I swear, it's worse than dating!

The key to making new friends when you are older is putting yourself out there. This, of course, is not always easy. Most people who have met me would label me an extrovert -- I can easily talk to anyone and I have a tendency to dominate/drive conversations. But I am actually a bit introverted. When I need to be I can be friendly and chatty, but if left to my own devices I would probably stay home in my macaron pjs in my adorable little apartment.

This year, however, I have put myself out there a bit more. Both Anna and I decided we need to make more friends (we tend to work too much and only hang out with each other). We have joined a gym and yoga studio where we have made several new girl friends (the gym/work out studio is a great place to meet new people and make friends). I also met up with Jennifer (my new friend that I proclaimed above) who I first "met" on Instagram.

I think Jennifer and I were both a bit nervous about meeting in person (again this can be worse than dating lol) but based on our social media interactions Jennifer seemed really sweet and I love her style. I think we figured we had enough in common that it wouldn't be super awkward. The minute I walked into the bar, and spotted her in her amazing newspaper coat and bow sleeve dress, I knew we would get along. We sipped cappuccinos, shared our life stories, and then headed to a wonderful vintage expo for a little shopping.

Throughout the process of building this blog and engaging in social media, I have been surprised at the amazing, and very real, connections that can be made online. Of course this can't replace putting yourself out there in real life, but it certainly helps. So I guess the moral of the story is this -- yes, making friends when you are older can be difficult and awkward, but making the effort to take a class, join a gym, or meet someone who you have a lot in common with online is totally worth it!

Do you have any tips for meeting people and making new friends?

Ashley B
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Home Away From Home: My Little Florentine Apartment

One of the most stressful aspects of planning a long period of time abroad (besides the packing) is finding the perfect place to live. I am lucky enough that I was very familiar with Florence, so I knew exactly which area of town I wanted to live. Despite my numerous summers spent in Florence, this was the first time I was finding and securing a place on my own (the university always provided excellent apartments). Like many travel destinations, rent in Florence can be steep, so I had no idea what I could get for my budget. Florence is also full of student apartments, but these are typically large and shared by 4-6 students. I wanted a place of my own, so I had no one else to blame when the dissertation work doesn't get done.

I started looking through local housing agencies, but these apartments were unfurnished, and I didn't want to deal with buying/finding/moving furniture. I then turned to a couple student housing agencies, hoping they might have singles or "monolocali" for non-traditional students. They did, but as I expected, their prices were very high. At this point I started to stress, until my advisor mentioned Airbnb. So I began looking there. At first I was discouraged, because while there were great little apartments, the pricing was designed for people vacationing for a week or two. But I decided to email about a couple of places I liked to see if the renter would be willing to negotiate the price, since I would be there for so long. And as it turns out, they were! Several of the places I liked were willing to make a deal for an extended stay (it's a win, win).

I landed on this apartment because it was in the area I wanted and the reviews said it had excellent wifi, was on a quite street, and I loved the light in the photos. The best part about going through Airbnb is that I pay (in dollars) online through their system and all utilities are included. Of course I was nervous about renting a place sight-unseen, but I had a great feeling about this apartment... and I was right, I absolutely love it and it is perfect for me.

I love the little loft, it is just a mattress, but it's just enough for a visitor!

When it came to decorating my new place (I am a nester, I have to decorate some), I was very strategic with what I packed. Yes, I brought my duvet and my Kate Spade table cloth and placemats from home. In addition, I brought some of my favorite Preppy Printshop pillows (just the covers, I bought the inserts here). I selected these items because they folded flat and were relatively light weight. I knew that these pieces wouldn't take up much space or weight, yet would make a big different in the look and feel of the apartment. I also packed lots of command hooks and hangers, and it turns out that was one of my best ideas. With limited closet and storage space, I have hung these hooks everywhere! I also brought picture hanging strips and some prints from home -- again, lightweight and small but makes a big impact. I new I could easily pick up frames from Ikea or have a little fun with some washi tape. I didn't do much, but I think what I brought really transformed the place and made it feel like home!

What do you think of my Florentine apartment?

Ashley B
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Life in Florence

I have been in Florence for about a week and a half now and I think I have finally settled in. I am starting to get into the rhythm of life in Florence. 

Living in cold weather is certainly an adjustment (I know it could be worse, at least there is no snow, but can we talk about the static in my hair?). It took me a few days to figure out my heating and the perfect temperature in my apartment, in celsius that is. My Ikea run this past Saturday was difficult (I went by bus, #neveragain) but worth it. I finally have everything I need and my apartment is so adorable. I promise to share pictures later this week. I also love my neighborhood in the Santa Croce area. It has everything I need but isn't noisy, crowded, or touristy. 

Most mornings I head to the gym with Anna and once a week I treat myself to a training session with the amazing Daniel. Beginning this week, I will head to the archive on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to immerse myself in the documents. Tuesdays and Thursdays I will work from home, managing the archive's social media (feel free to like our FB page!), writing/answering emails, reading articles, and processing the research I gather while in the archive.

I make a point everyday to wander around the city for a bit. Florence is small and enchanting, and strolling this remarkable city is definitely my favorite pastime (I also love hiking up to Piazzale Michelangelo). I typically spend my evenings dining with friends or sipping prosecco with Anna. Tuesday nights are my favorite because that is Mexican aperitivo night at our favorite local bar (the beans and rice and fresh guacamole are amazing).

Speaking of food, I am sure you all are wondering how I am doing on my new diet (I hate calling it a diet... lifestyle? eating habits?). I have actually been quite successful! A couple of times a week I head to the local market and stock up on fresh fruits and veggies to snack on. When dining out, I opt for red pasta sauces and pesto, or my favorite Ribollita soup (which is just beans, veggies, and bread). I also love picking up fresh whole wheat bread and little "focaccioni" from my local bakery. These little delights are just fresh baked focaccia bread topped with veggies--peppers, mushrooms, eggplant, spinach, etc. So yummy! I have also replaced my daily cappuccini with espresso, although I indulge in one or two cappuccini a week. Overall, it hasn't been nearly as bad or as difficult as I expected.

Ciao for now!

Ashley B
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Outfit: Pattern Perfection

Taking outfit photos in Italy is so, so easy. Everywhere you turn is gorgeous and offers the perfect background. I have a particular fondness for the giant, and meticulously carved, church doors (these belong to Santa Croce). While finding the perfect location is easy, the Italians are quite judgy as they past by (as if taking outfit photos wasn't weird enough). I have some hilarious outtakes to share with you soon!

hat // coat (last seen here) // shirt // pussy bow (last seen here) // pants // boots // tote

When abroad, I normally con my friend Anna into taking my pictures, but this year I was so excited to meet Taylor. Taylor is working for Anna at FlorenceForFun and in addition to running their blog, she also runs her own fashion/travel/lifestyle blog Whiskey Ginger. This means I finally have someone to snap pictures with!

We headed out Sunday morning for our first session and had a fantastic time -- again Florence makes it too easy. I wore these amazing J.Crew pattern pants (which by the way, have an elastic waistband... just saying), pussy bow (duh), and grey capelet coat. I've been sporty my Tiny Tote almost daily. It is the perfect size for running around town.

Happy Monday!

Ashley B
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Weekend Reading

Well my first week in Florence has been a whirlwind! Today, I am trying the free shuttle service to Ikea, which means I will finally have my to-do/purchase list complete and I will be fully settled and functional in my apartment!

Most of the week was spent running errands and readjusting to life in Italy (Monday I will get back to work in the archive). So overall it has been a pretty uneventful week, except for my very first earthquake!

Yep that's right. I woke up Friday morning to an odd swaying sensation. Thank goodness I was asleep. I must have incorporated it into my dream because when I finally came to, it was over and I thought maybe I had dreamt the entire thing. But a quick google search informed me that a 4.2 quake had hit just 25 miles north of Florence. Hopefully we can cross this off the life-experience list and not deal with that again. At least the children were happy, all school was cancelled for the day.

Anyways, I'll stop being a baby and move on to some weekend reading:

I adore the woman in this article. Her advice for longevity? Avoid men! #truth

RIP Skymall.

Satisfy your wanderlust with my recap of Morocco.

If you are like me, you live for Amazon Prime shipping, and today only it is on sale (which never happens). If you don't have Prime, now is your chance!

Love me some Emma Watson.

How to eat spaghetti (and other international eating customs).

While abroad, I am trying to diversify and discover new European/international brands - this is a great article about 5 international brands you need to know.

Did you check out the new arrivals in the Preppy Printshop? My favorite - "dress like Jackie, act like Audrey, and party like Gatsby."

I "met" Jennifer on Instagram (she also lives in Florence) a while back. She is a clothing designer (she was on Project Runway!) and sells some of her originals on Etsy. I am positively obsessed with this bow-sleeve dress!

Must do this adorable and easy vase/planter DIY.

Hope everyone has a great weekend, and remember, you can follow my adventures abroad in real time on Instagram!

Ashley B
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TBT: Eat, Drink, See, and Do: Morocco

Now that I am abroad, all I think about is traveling! How could I not? Traveling once you get to Europe is so cheap. Today, I found an overnight train ticket from Milan to Paris for 35 Euros. I mean, come on! Unfortunately, I can't just pick up and leave every weekend, I do after all have lots of work I need to get done here in the archives. So I though today I could indulge my wanderlust in a different way and share one of my all time favorite trips -- Morocco in the summer of 2012.

I think Morocco is incredibly underrated and if you are studying or traveling in Europe you should really consider adding it to your list. The history nerd in me was in heaven. Morocco has long sat at the crossroads of Africa, Arabia, and Europe, giving it a fascinating history and an unique culture. To entice you, I've pulled some of my favorite photos from the trip and made a list of the top things you should eat, drink, see, and do in Morocco.

I stayed in this adorable historic Riad in Marrakesh.

Oh the colors... everything is a vibrant color!

The snake charmers in Marrakesh

Embracing the local style

My camel Aisha 

The leather tannery and dying factory

Overlooking the city of Fez

During my trip, I visited the cities of Marrakesh and Fes (and took the train between the two). You can easily (and cheaply) fly from Pisa, Italy to Fes! I didn't bother with Casablanca, since most people said it is very modern and industrial. I wish I had spent more time in Marrakesh since it was definitely my favorite, although both cities are full of amazing historical and cultural sights. I loved shopping in the massive Souqs, exploring the maze of the medina in each city, riding a camel outside of Marrakesh, people watching in the Djemma el Fna (main square in Marrakesh), exploring the historical palaces, and seeing (and smelling) the tannery in Fes, which might have scarred me for life. You do not want to know how they treat/soften the animal skins. Just say ok when they hand you a sprig of mint to hold over your nose!

Dates, vegetables, camel, and anything cook in Tajine (or Tangine) clay pots

Mint tea (and yes hot tea is great on a hot day!)
Freshly squeezed orange juice

The amazing architecture of the historical palaces and mosques (and university in Fes)
The incredible handmade silk textiles
A leather tannery (although warning, you will never look at leather the same way again!)
A snake charmer in action

Take a steam in a traditional hammam (bath house)
Stay in a historic Riad
Go on a camel ride in an Oasis (or overnight in the dessert if you have time/are feeling adventurous)
Shop in the Souq (or Bazar)
Get lost in the maze of the medina
Buy lots of amazing spices 

Realize everyone is trying to sell you something... always, and no gesture or kind act is for free (but that's ok, if you know that going in, you can be careful and go with it). Tipping the snake charmers was totally worth it! 

It is very warm (I mean it's basically the Sahara) but you still need to dress respectfully. Plus it's a very dry heat (temps were in the 110s when I was there). It was definitely hot, but strange without the humidity I'm used to. Also remember to drink plenty of water!

If you want to do a little more research on visiting Morocco, Frommers has an amazing (and free) guide online here.

Would you visit or have you visited Morocco? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Ashley B
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Preppy Prinshop: New Year, New Arrivals!

I don't know if you've noticed, but there are some fun new arrivals in the Preppy Printshop! In addition to new prints, I am also offering two amazing deals on 8 X 10 inch prints - 4 for $40 and 6 for $60 - and both deals include free shipping (U.S. only)!

I am obsessed with the pillow version of this print.

I brought several of these new prints with me to Florence and I can't wait to hang them in my apartment, especially the Paris map print and the Oh, the places she will go print.

In other exciting news, I am hoping to add photographs of my favorite European cities to the Preppy Printshop. I plan on snapping tons of iconic pics in Paris, Rome, Florence (of course), Amsterdam, Vienna, and London. Stay tuned!

Which is new print (or pillow) is your favorite?

Ashley B
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Greetings from Florence

I have officially been back in Florence for 2.5 days. So I thought I would share some of my snapshots and what I have been up to.

My little corner of Florence.

I arrived Saturday afternoon, checked into my apartment, and immediately went for drinks and dinner with my friend Anna to catch up on everything I had missed in Florence over the past five months (sadly the city doesn't stand still while I am away). We indulged at one of our favorite restaurants, Il Teatro (I had the pesto pasta in my attempt to limit animal proteins). Of course, as dinner progressed I quickly began crashing from the jet lag and lack of sleep, but I forced myself to stay up until 10pm.

The next morning we decided that some fresh air (the weather has been gorgeous) and a vigorous walk up to Piazzale Michelangelo was just what I needed to beat the jet lag. There is no better way to reacquaint yourself with the beauty of Florence than the view from Piazzale Michelangelo. 

After our walk we grabbed breakfast (wheat toast with honey and bananas, and a side of mixed berries) and I ran as many errands as I could before the stores closed (so many random items to pick up!). I was pleasantly surprised to find a great variety of soy yogurts, almond milk, and tofu in the supermarket. Sunday evening was low key as I attempted to unpack (I seriously need an Ikea run) and catch up with everyone back home.

Monday morning Anna introduced me to her fabulous trainer and we did a group workout session. I was really worried about staying in shape while in Florence (I already miss my Les Mills classes), so I was relieved that I liked the gym and my new trainer (I am already sore). 

After our early morning training session, I decided to explore my new neighborhood. It is important you locate the necessities -- best coffee spot, closest supermarket, flower stand, fresh market, and bakery. I absolutely love living so close to the fresh market! I think I will find myself there most mornings. There are several good coffee contenders, so I will have to do some serious taste-testing all week (#roughlife).

My goal this week is to unpack completely and get settled in my apartment. I can't wait to share my adorable little Florentine apartment with you all sometime next week, so stay tuned!

A presto!

Ashley B
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