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Picnic in the Park

Last week was Jen's birthday, and to celebrate we decided to have a little prosecco and cupcake picnic in the Boboli Gardens (I mean is there any other kind of picnic?) The weather had been gorgeous all week and we were both excited to get outside and enjoy it. So Friday after work, I picked up some delicious cupcakes from the nearby American bakery, Sugar and Spice, grabbed some mini bottles of prosecco, and met Jen on the Ponte Vecchio to head to the gardens.

The Boboli Gardens are one of my favorite spots in Florence. The only downside is that as part of the Palazzo Pitt you have to pay to enter. Fortunately, Jen and I both have passes. I guess when you live in Florida you have year-long theme park passes and when you live in Florence you have museum passes lol. I highly recommend investing in a similar tourist pass if you plan on spending a good amount of time in Florence (if you are studying abroad in Florence, you school will likely provide one). I absolutely love my museum pass. It lets you skip the line and pop into see Michelangelo's David or Botticelli's Birth of Venus whenever you like!

If you aren't in Florence long enough to justify a museum pass, I still highly recommend purchasing a ticket to see both the Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Gardens. The palace and adjoining gardens are beautiful and massive. Fun fact, they actually were the inspiration for Versailles. You could spend all afternoon exploring the park, but Jen and I decided to find a shady spot and just lounge. I value friendships that are easy and fun. It seems that no matter what Jen and I do it involves a lot of laughing (especially when Jen popped her first bottle of prosecco and the corked rocketed into the tree above). But in addition to being easy and fun, Jen and I often find ourselves immersed in really thoughtful conversations about feminism, gender, and, in the case of this conversation in the park, vanity and blogging lol.

I am so fortunate to have such amazing friends both at home and in Florence. Happy birthday Jen!

Ashley B
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Biking Around Florence

hat (similar) // sunnies (similar) // top // skirt // bangle // espadrilles (similar)

Last week my friends at Tuscany Cycle let me borrow a bike... watch your toes Florence! 

I love biking around cities like Florence, Barcelona, Munich, and of course, Amsterdam. It is the prefect way to explore an entire city without killing your feet. I prefer to do bike tours in medium sized cities like the ones mentioned. I am a bit too scared to bike Paris, Rome, or London (and I am on the fence for Berlin). But for these smaller, yet still sizable, cities, bikes are the perfect way to make the most of your time.

Now, I am sure you are thinking that Florence is small and definitely doesn't compare in size to Berlin, Amsterdam, Barcelona, or Munich. Yes, the center of Florence is tiny and you can easily walk the entire historical center. By bike, however, you can explore some of the gorgeous countryside and the Etruscan town of Fiesole just outside the city (Tuscany Cycle also offers bike and Vespa tours further outside of the city in the Chianti region). 

My favorite path for biking takes you from the center of Florence, up one of the most gorgeous streets in Florence, the Costa San Giorgio (look for Galileo's house on the right as you near the medieval city gate), around the edge of the valley Florence sits in, and finally up to Piazzale Michelangelo for the best view of the city (this is also my favorite jogging route). 

To begin, simply cross the Ponte Vecchio and head south towards the Palazzo Pitti. Turn left at the Piazza Santa Felicita and take the inclined road on the right. This is Costa San Giorgio. Follow this all the way through the old gate, past the fort, and finally to the first stop light. Hang a left at the light and follow this (larger) road all the way to Piazzale Michelangelo, passing the church of San Miniato al Monte across the street on your right along the way. If you are visiting in the spring, I highly recommend visiting the iris garden just east of the Piazzale Michelangelo.

Along the way you can enjoy beautiful villas teeming with flowers and ivy, and historic forts and churches. In just 15 minutes you've left the craziness of the city and entered something of a more peaceful countryside. The route doesn't take long and even if you stop to snap photos or climb to the top of San Miniato al Monte (completely worth it), it shouldn't take you more than an hour/hour and a half to do by bike. If you don't have much time in Florence, this is the perfect way to get a little bit of the gorgeous countryside in as well. If you do have lots of time in Florence, this path never gets old. I walk or jog it a couple times a week!

What are your favorite cities to tour by bike?

Ashley B
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Nice and Colorful

Tunic and shift dresses are so easy and comfortable to wear. While I love the idea of a shift dress for strolling the beach and exploring a new town like Nice, France, the boxy shape of these dresses is not the easiest to wear if you are short with curves. Because of this I usually steer clear of this style. I was pleasantly surprised, however, when I found this super-comfortable yet flattering patterned tunic dress at a local boutique back home. It just goes to show you really do need to try things on.

I knew this dress would be perfect for travel, especially for my weekend in the French Riviera. It was the first warmer weekend of spring and I couldn't wait to go sans tights. You will notice, however, the Italian man sitting behind me in some of the photos still wearing his puffy jacket. Italians crack me up with this. No matter the high temperature of the day, they dress for the temperature when they leave the house in the morning. So even though the sun was out and it was about 72 degrees when we took these photos, no Italian would dare go with out their puffy jacket if that morning was chilly (which it definitely was lol)! I, on the other hand, fully embraced wearing my long sleeve tunic dress complete with new espadrilles purchased in Barcelona.

Unfortunately, I can't find this exact dress online, but I have rounded up some similar options. I love the shape and color of this dress, and it also comes in a beautiful floral pattern. I also like the easy feel of this dress and the fun pattern of this one. The espadrilles were also a local purchase (you can shop online here), but I am loving these Soludos.

Happy Monday!

Ashley B
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Florence Guide: Konnubio

What - Konnubio

Where - Via dei Conti 8r (near the Medici Chapels)

When - Daily for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

Wearing - This dress for a lovely evening with girlfriends

Why - Because they have the most amazing vegan lasagna!

Jen had been raving about this restaurant for weeks. I was curious to try it because she said they had the best selection of vegetarian and vegan entrees she had ever seen in Florence. So we figured it was the perfect place for dinner for our girls night out last week. 

Konnubio did not disappoint! Not only was the selection of vegan and vegetarian dishes vast (much of the menu, in fact), but they had the best vegan lasagne I have ever had. Honestly, if I had not known that it was vegan, I am not sure I would have been able to tell! But don't worry, they have traditional non-vegan, non-vegiterrian options as well.

Konnubio is a modern take on traditional Tuscan cuisine. They use only organic and "zero distance" ingredients. They also serve breakfast and lunch, which I can't wait to try. It is definitely not cheap, I would say it is mid-range pricing for Florence, but well worth the money for a nice evening out. If you want to save a bit of money when traveling, I always suggest going to nicer places like this for lunch. You will get the same quality food at a lower cost.

Happy Friday!

And don't forget you can see all of my Florence favorites by clicking the tab "Florence Guide" in the menu bar above.

Ashley B
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Lately in Florence + Exciting News

To say Florence in the spring is beautiful is an understatement. Warm temperatures, blooming flowers everywhere, and clear blue skies have been daily occurrences. And I am loving it. I typically only live in Florence in the summer when it is sticky and hot. So this gorgeous weather is a welcome change. Top on my spring to-do list here in Florence is to have a picnic in the Boboli Gardens. 

Not only has the weather been wonderful, but I've also had the luxury of staying in town the past two weekends, which has allowed me to relax and catch up on life. Of course this is all about to change, since this weekend I am headed to Rome for the Spartan Race (a crazy 5k full of obstacles and mud) and the following weekend I am headed to Munich for Spring Fest (I am super excited to wear my dirndl). The weekend after that, I am headed to Amsterdam (I'd love to hear any of your recommendations for Amsterdam)!.

The only season I have not experienced in Florence is the fall. And good news, that is about to change. I recently found out that I will be staying for the fall! This will give me basically a full year of research in Florence. I am so grateful and relieved. Time in the archive is precious and having uninterrupted time is priceless. I will, however, get a little break in August. The archive closes for a couple weeks, so I will take advantage and head state-side to fill up on Dunkin, kitty cuddles, shopping, and time with my friends and family. 

Don't forget you can follow my Florentine and European adventures in realtime on Instagram!

Ashley B
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Let's Get Nauti!

I am a sucker for nautical accessories! I just can't help myself when it comes to navy stripes, anchors, and pops of bright turquoise, coral, and yellow. Even though nautical styles reappear each spring, they always manage to feel fresh. Probably because it is a timeless style. With spring in full swing and summer fast approaching, I thought I would share what is on my nautical wish list.

I have a mild obsession with stripes, and they are one of my favorite prints to mix with just about anything. I am also loving that boater hats are making a comeback this spring. I found an adorable one with a bow in the market here in Florence that I can't wait to wear all summer. Especially since walking around under the Italian sun can do a number on the color of your hair. I also live in espadrilles in the summer in Italy. They are comfortable, lightweight, and can be paired with skirts and dresses. I highly recommend Soludos and they come in so many adorable styles and colors, like the ankle-tie ones above!

What are your favorite nautical styles or pieces for spring and summer?

Ashley B
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Outfit: Spring Layers

dress (old, similar and love this one) // popover // denim jacket // shoes // bag (similar)

I can't believe it has already been two weeks since I was in the French Riviera and Barcelona. Where does the time go here? Anyways, we really lucked out with the weather on this trip - not overly warm but not cold, and nothing but sunshine. I find dressing for spring and fall tricky, since I am not really used to actual transitional weather in Florida.

But this outfit was perfect for a day of exploring Barcelona. I layered a long sleeve popover under one of my favorite summer dresses (last seen here) and topped it off with my favorite denim jacket. Remember, dresses are just as versatile for travel as separates. Since we were doing a lot of bike riding and walking, I wore my incredibly comfortable slip on Supergas. Supergas are actually an Italian shoe company, but I can't seem to find the slip on style here. I am going to have to order more from the U.S. because I have already almost worn these out (Italy is rough on shoes!).

I get lots of questions about how to travel with style and still be practical and comfortable. I think this outfit is a great example of just that. The colors and patterns are interesting and stylish, while the shapes and fabrics are easy to wear and flattering. And don't be afraid to pair you skirts and dresses with comfy, low-profile slip on sneakers when traveling. Your feet will thank you! You can see more of my suggestions for travel footwear here.

Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend!

Ashley B
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Preppy Printshop: New Arrivals

You may have noticed some new arrivals in the Preppy Printshop. I am really excited about these new prints because I have wanted to incorporate photographs in my shop for a while now. And what better subject to start with than Paris? It has been tough balancing travel, research, blogging, Etsy orders, and creating new prints. But I hope to add some prints of Florence and the Amalfi Coast soon!

I also created this fun illustration to celebrate my love of reading and dancing, because I think all women deserve to be voracious readers and fantastic dancers. Well, I am a fantastic dancer in my mind at least.

Are there any prints or photos you would like to see? Which new print is your favorite?

Oh and happy Friday!

Ashley B
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5 Books That Changed the Way I Thought About the Past and Present

People always ask if I am nervous about my career prospects when I finally finish my PhD. I would be lying if I said I wasn't. Despite this uncertainty, however, my graduate education has changed me in more ways than I can count. If after all is said and done, I don't end up with my dream job in academia, that's ok. Because my in my opinion the education I've received was worth every moment and has completely changed the way I understand myself, the past, and the present.

I will never forget my first graduate school seminar -- Analysis of Historical Knowledge. I had no idea how naive and unprepared I was. The course ended up shattering any preconceived notion I had about the discipline of history and how the past is understood and constructed. I was fortunate to have an amazing professor that semester (who ended being my advisor) who challenged me to reevaluate everything I thought I knew. Our reading list that semester was incredible, and week after week I felt like I had huge ah-ha moments. So I thought it would be fun to share the books that have had the biggest impact on me.

Book: The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, Vol. 1
Author: Fernand Braudel
Realization: The impact of the environment of the development of societies and culture.

Braudel's book is a massive (and I mean massive, you don't need to read vol. 2 unless you really want to) history of the "Mediterranean." Braudel, as a member of the Annales School, conceptualized time in three categories -- the fast and dramatic events of politics, the cyclical nature of trade and exchange, and the slow, almost imperceptible, pace of the environment. It was Braudel's understanding of the continuity of the environment and the effects it had on the development of culture and society that most impacted me. Before reading Braudel, I had never considered the effects of space and climate on the actions of people. Today, people question Braudel's environmental determinism, but his contributions have left an indelible mark on the way historians understand the relationship between people and their environments. An interesting contemporary adaptation of Braudel's theories is Elisabeth Pavan's Venice Triumphant

Book: Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977
Author: Michel Foucault
Realization: Power is everywhere!

I feel like every graduate student has a love/hate relationship with Michel Foucault. I vacillate between thinking he is completely brilliant and not understanding the point he is try to make. He is definitely not an easy read. Foucault is a French theorist whose work has been highly influential on the social sciences and humanities over the past three or so decades. He basically revolutionized the way an entire generation of scholars thought about the nature of power in society. It was through Foucault that I first began to understand the nuances of power, and that power is everywhere -- not just in institutions and politics, but in language, manners, and customs.

Book: The Cheese and the Worms
Author: Carlo Ginzburg
Realization: Truth and culture are not monolithic or universal concepts.

When I began studying history, I thought it was all about uncovering the truth. I have since realized that there isn't but one truth when it comes to the past. Sure an event occurred but not everyone would (or could) interpret and experience one event in exactly the same way. What causes individuals or groups to have differing experiences and understandings is what Ginzburg called a mentalitè, or world view. Using Inquisition records, Ginzburg's fascinating book reconstructs the world view of a sixteenth-century Italian miller name Menocchio. Ginzburg's work taught me the importance of micro history (based on archival research) and how though small scale analysis we can break down monolithic understandings of culture and recognize that cultural production can occur at all levels of society.

Book: City of Dreadful Delight: Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late-Victorian London
Author: Judith R. Walkowitz
Realization: The myth can be just as, if not more, meaningful than the "truth."

I was very excited when I started reading Judith Walkowitz's book about Jack the Ripper. I wanted to know who he was and why they were never able to catch him. I was quickly disappointed, however, when I realized that Walkwitz had no intention of fingering the real Jack the Ripper. Instead, Walkowitz used the story of Jack the Ripper as a prism to understand the cultural dynamics and social struggles that created the narrative of a monster who targeted and gruesomely murdered prostitutes in Victorian London. Walkowitz demonstrated how these narratives were constructed to serve the purpose of reinforcing traditional notions of gender relations and the role of women. Walkowitz concluded that Jack the Ripper provided a moral message—the city of London is a dangerous place for women who dare to enter public spaces. Walkowitz's work taught me the importance of looking at how and why myths and meanings are constructed. The gendered language of the myth of Jack the Ripper exercised power over women and the spaces it was culturally acceptable for women to enter (Foucault would have been proud).

Book: Orientalism 
Author: Edward Said
Realization: The existence of "othering" and the cultural biases that sustain it.

The best part of graduate school is that it teaches you to look critically at everything and re-examine intellectual traditions. That's exactly the purpose of Said's book Orientalism. He challenges everything you thought you knew about the history of the "middle east" and European colonization/imperialism. Said exposed how patronizing perceptions and fictional depictions of the “east” were perpetuated by “western” societies through language, imagery, and even scholarship. Like Foucault, Said’s work inspired a new generation of scholars to re-examine their own culturally embedded biases. Like any seminal work, Said's work has attracted much criticism (especially given recent political contexts), but what I love about the book is that it challenges you to think critically, even of intellectual traditions.

What books have been the most influential in your life or education?

Ashley B
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My Weird American Habits (According to Italians)

One of the things I love most about living abroad is how it makes you reflect on yourself and where you come from. You would think that when immersed in a foreign country your focus would be on that culture, which you inevitably do, but it also stimulates a lot of introspection. I love noticing what is "American" about me.

1) I have wet hair, and I don't care.
I have no problem letting my hair dry naturally (also it's healthier to lay off the heat). And since I have a lot of hair this can take a while. At home, nobody looks twice when I leave the house with damp hair. In Italy, however, I get so many stares! Italian women wouldn't be caught dead in public with damp or wet hair.

2) I dress for the high temperature of the day.
I dress for the temperature of the day, not the season. This means that on a warm day in April (like yesterday), I am wearing a skirt, espadrilles, shirt, and denim jacket, while the Italians are still wearing puffy jackets, boots, and scarves. Italians wear a lot more clothing (even year round) to protect themselves from "bad air." Italians believe that sudden fluctuations in temperature will make them sick (this is why they eschew air conditioning and leaving the house with wet hair). I really don't know how they do it. I start sweating just looking at them in puffy jackets when it's 70 degrees out.

3) I love lines.
I am really into lines. There is something about queuing that eases my anxiety and assures me that everyone will be served in a timely and orderly fashion. The lack of queueing in Italy seriously stresses me out!

4) I am always smiling.
This might be partly because I am from the south, but I smile at everyone, always. Some Italians find this endearing while others seem more perplexed. But, I have no intention of stopping!

5) I dress loudly.
Sorry, all-black everyday just isn't me.

6) I need lots of personal space.
I never realized how much personal space I required until I started living abroad. And for all of my time in Italy, I am still not 100% comfortable kissing strangers or cozying up to random passengers on a bus.

7) I am deceptively polite.
As an American I feel obligated to ask how you are doing. But often when Americans ask that, we don't really want to know, we are just being polite. We often give the canned reply "Good, thank you. How are you?" It's funny that when I ask in Italy I get honest and often more in-depth answers to this question.

8) I am always eating.
First, I am always hungry. Second, I eat when I am hungry. Thus, unlike Italians, I don't stick to a regular meal schedule, I like to snack all day!

9) I am always on time.
I am not just on time, I am often early. This of course is unheard of in Italy.

10) I have no patience for smoking.
Since smoking is (thank goodness) a dying habit in the U.S., I forgot how much I abhorred it, especially the smell!

Anyone else notice anything about themselves that was decidedly American when studying or living abroad?

Ashley B
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Outfit: Bardot-ing Through the French Riviera

top // skirt (similar) // jacket // bag (last seen here) // sandals (similar)

Is there any better top to wear when traveling through the French Riviera then a Bridgette Bardot inspired tie cropped top? Nope! It was so nice to officially ditch the tights and embrace some spring clothing (although I will admit I was a little chilly at times). Not only is this top adorable, but it is completely reversible! That's right, two tops for the price of one. I can't wait to wear the floral side with a striped skirt.

After weeks of long days week days in the archive and weekends gallivanting around Europe (Prague, Paris, London, Dublin, and Barcelona) it was amazing to finally have a weekend off in Florence. And I made the most of it. I caught up on laundry, emails, blog posts, workouts, got my hair done, and finally made it to the grocery store! I feel revitalized, and while I don't regret any of my travels (my motto - I'll sleep when I'm dead), it was nice to take it easy. I even created a new print for the Preppy Printshop!

But don't worry, I can't stay put for long! Next up? I think it will be Munich... stay tuned!

Happy Monday!

Ashley B
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