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Everything You Need to Know Before Traveling to Italy



After the success of my original post "44 Tips for Traveling in Italy" (it has an incredible number of re-pins on Pinterest and it remains my most read post), I have decided to write a follow-up with some more things you should definitely be aware of before you travel to Italy.

Cash is King
Unlike in the U.S. most business in Italy still prefer you pay in cash. Many places won't even let you pay with card if the total is below a certain threshold and restaurants will not split a bill between cards. You will want to make an effort to always carry cash. There are ATMs everywhere so it isn't difficult to get euros. Also, you will get bonus points from Italians if you use your change or give exact change.

No Tipping (But Table/Cover Charge)
Generally, tipping for services or dining is still not expected or required. That said however, there is typically a table charge or "coperto" at many restaurants built into your bill. You do need to tip taxi drivers for large and heavy bags. When you do experience excellent service and want to show your appreciation, it is very nice to leave a couple euros.

Pick Your Gelato Wisely
Not all gelato is created equal and it definitely shouldn't cost more than 2 to 7 euros. You can read more of my tips here.

Cappuccini and Espressi Have Fixed Prices
Like baguettes in France, cappuccini and espressi are fundamental to Italian culture, and as such, Italians expect a certain level of quality at an accessible-to-all price point. So no matter where you are in Italy you will be able to find an espresso (standing at the bar) for 1 euro and a cappuccino (standing at the bar) for 1.20 euros. You will find some places with higher prices, but that is because they are price gouging near major attractions.

Pay First in Cafes
The ritual of drinking coffee in Italy is very different from our own cafe coffee culture. You will need to pay first and then present your receipt at the bar.

The Developing Cafe Culture
As I mentioned above, cafe coffee culture in Italy is very different than our own. It is fast and efficient. Coffee is consumed quickly (while standing at the bar) and then you go about your day. Things, however, are changing. In many of the big destinations like Florence and Rome you can now find American-esque coffee shops where you can get large coffees to go or sit on your laptop while sipping a cappuccino.

Show Less Skin
I swear Italians are made of steel. They seem completely unaffected by unseasonal weather. Even if temps soar in late April or early May, they remain committed to their scarves and even their puffy jackets! In general, Italians show less skin than Americans when it comes to clothing. While you can wear short shorts and tube tops, just know you are going to stand out. And don't forget, churches have clothing requirements for visiting (no shorts or shoulders showing for men and women, and women's skirts must come to the knee). You can see my packing examples here.

WiFi
So Italians have Wifi (or wee fee as they call it), it just isn't great. Expect to have slow and spotty wifi, especially if you are in student housing or a rented apartment. Between the thick, historic walls and shared routers finding well-functioning high speed wifi is rare.

Late Night Dining
I really struggle with the culture of late night dining. In Florida we eat super early, but I can handle a 7 or even 7:30 pm dinnertime. Even this, however, is early in Italy. Expect to eat no earlier than 8 pm. Some places, especially in the larger cities, will open early for tourists.

Make a Reservation
Many restaurants are quite small and have limited seating. If you want to ensure you will get to try the place you've been eyeing, simply call ahead and make a reservation.

A Little Bit of Italian Goes a Long Way
If you want the locals to warm up to you, try the language. It is amazing how far "buongiorno," "grazie," "per favore," and "dove il bagno?" will get you. Even if you butcher it, they will appreciate the effort.

All The Steps
Traveling in Italy is a great workout! Expect to climb a lot of steps. Remember many of the buildings, hotels, and sites you will be visiting are very old and will not have elevators. Don't bring bags you cannot carry or lug up a flight of steps by yourself.

Get Data
Having data abroad is a game changer. I advise purchasing it from an Italian carrier once you arrive. You can read more on how to do this here.

Train Travel
Trains remain the best way to get around Italy. You can find Italy's official train website here.

Remember "service" is a cultural concept
There is one thing that really bugs me when I read reviews of my favorite Italian restaurants. They usually say something like, "the food was amazing but the service was terrible." I always have to remind people visiting me that service is a cultural concept. What Italians define as good service, Americans might think is rude. For example, in Italy having the waiter constantly stopping by your table to check on you is considered invasive. Meals last a long time and should not be rushed. Instead of expecting to see your waiter, you simply need to signal your waiter when you need something or want the check. Finally, keep in mind that many restaurants are family-run, small, understaffed, and constantly dealing with rude tourists. You can find my favorite places to eat in Florence here and in Rome here.

Check Splitting isn't a thing
Asking to split the check is a sure fire way to experience bad service. This just isn't done in Italy and in Italian culture when a group dines out, the final amount is divided equally amongst everyone (no matter what you ordered... are you thinking of that Friends episode?). When the bill arrives, everyone throws in cash. Have I mentioned you should always have cash?

Line, what line?
You will not find a lot of lines in Italy. Not at the bar, not in the crowded bathroom, and definitely not at the airport. It can seem very chaotic and will probably drive you crazy (it definitely drives me crazy). Just remember to stay calm and dive in. My motto, if that Italian woman is going to push me out of the way in the bathroom, I can do the same! Just kidding, kind of. You will have to be a bit more aggressive. Don't wait for a line to form, because it won't!


And if you are studying abroad in Italy this year or semester, be sure to read my study abroad tips here!

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Boca Grande











look one: striped top // shorts (on sale!) // purse (similar) // sandals (old) // sunnies
look two: dress (I have been living in this dress) // tote // sunnies


After two weeks of being held up in my apartment writing, I decided to take a little break. Emily was in town and suggested meeting in Boca Grande for a little getaway. I had never been, so I jumped at the chance. I am terrible when it comes to traveling in the US and especially Florida. As much as I love traveling outside the US, I have to remind myself I live in a pretty spectacular place and I need to appreciate it more. I have decided to make more of an effort to see my own state. And I started with Boca Grande.

Boca Grande sits on a beautiful little island (Gasparilla Island) off Florida's west coast, south of Sarasota. It is mostly a vacation town full of snowbirds, so we basically had the place to ourselves (the "season" begins in October and ends in June). We road bikes around the banyan-lined streets, visited the historic Gasparilla Inn, sipped prosecco on the beach, paddle boarded, and indulged in some delicious fresh grouper tacos at The Pink Elephant.

The island is an interesting mix of Old South and New England prep. This is mostly thanks to the historic Gapsarilla Inn, which was built as a resort to attract wealthy East Coasters to the area. It opened its doors in 1911 and marked the beginning of the island becoming an elite vacation destination. It has hosted J.P. Morgan, John Singer Sargent, and Katharine Hepburn to name a few. Today, it remains a hugely popular destination and the Wall Street Journal even dubbed it the "preppiest place on earth" (although I am not sure I'd go that far).

Boca Grande is a truly beautiful and unique little Florida gem. If you're looking for your next vacation destination in Florida, I highly recommend it!


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Win A Trip To Paris!




Do you want to win a trip to Paris? Sound too good to be true? Well, it isn't! One of my favorite tour companies in Paris, Fat Tire Tours, is giving away a FREE TRIP TO PARIS!

This is Fat Tire Tour's fourth annual giveaway. And the grand prize includes two 1,000 euro Air France vouchers, airport transfer, five nights of accommodation, VIP access to their amazing Creative Rendezvous, and unlimited Fat Tire tours from June 18-24, 2017!

Even if you don't win the grand prize, you should still consider attending their Creative Rendezvous. It is a week of social activities and workshops geared towards creatives. Sign me up for the floral arranging lesson and pastry baking!

You can enter below and you can find learn more about Fat Tire Tours here and more about the giveaway here.

Bonne chance!

Free Trip to Fat Tire Paris Rendezvous


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90s Chick









look one: hat // sunnies (via Ditto) // choker // dress // bag (old, similar) // mules
look two: sunnies // dress // bag // wedges (old, similar)

Ok, what year is it? Chokers are back in style, Juicy Couture velour tracksuits are trending (or so they say), and Abercrombie & Fitch is cool again? I am having serious flashbacks.

Abercrombie & Fitch! Oh how I spent much of my youth saving up for (or begging for) their clothing. Everyone I knew coveted it. I remember my grandfather explaining to me one Christmas when I got the shirt I wanted that he used to shop at Abercrombie (it was a mail order sporting/leisure brand then). Needless to say the company has quite the fascinating history.

I also vividly remember the company I loved transforming into something awful. The clothes went from plaid preppy essentials to overly-sexual, ridiculously small (they refused to sell anything over a size 10), and trashy over-priced sweats, shorts, and tees. The transition was slow, but by the early 2000s the company, headed by Michael Jeffries, was espousing a pretty horrible misogynistic and racist brand in an attempt to be "cool and exclusive."

Thank goodness Americans began rejecting this brand, teens wised up, and the company's sales began nose-diving by 2010. I think we all thought it was just a matter of time before Abercrombie & Fitch closed its doors for good. If you want to read more about Abercrombie's rise and fall, this is a great article.

Fast forward to last week. I was sitting on my couch with Brittany watching the Olympics and reading Buzzfeed. Britt chuckled when she read an article about how 2016 is really just 1996 because track suits are back and Abercrombie is cool again. When she question if Abercrombie was indeed cool again, I responded that I had recently seen one of my favorite bloggers, Mary Orton, wearing an Abercrombie dress that was actually cute. Intrigued, we decided to take a look online. We were shocked to find an array of cute, non-skimpy clothing. I was even more shocked by the prices. Within 10 minutes I had two dresses in my cart. I didn't, however, want to support the company of recent memory, so we did a little detective work.

Apparently, while no one was paying attention, Abercrombie ousted its controversial CEO, Michael Jeffries, in early 2015. Since then it appears that the brand has undergone a transformation. Instead of focusing on nearly-nude male models drenched in cologne in front of stores, the company is focused on the clothing, bringing in new designers to class things up. My teenage self is so happy to see Abercrombie turning things around. So, I decided to take the plunge and give them a chance.

The verdict? I love my new dresses! Bonus, the price was ridiculously good. With discount code and promotion, I paid a total of $52 for both. I was pleasantly surprised by the fit and quality of the dresses. Although, I did size up one size (I figured they probably still ran a little small, both of these dresses are mediums).

What do you think of the Abercrombie and Fitch reboot?


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PhD Chic






skirt // top (short sleeve version) // sunnies via Ditto // bag (old) // wedges (similar)

Well, this week marked the start of my 24th year of school... yikes! And this year will probably be the most important and stress-filled of my academic career. Especially the next couple of months. I have to finish 3 chapter drafts, apply for grants and post docs, and assist with an online course all while traveling to California for a fellowship and attempting to have a life. I would be lying if I said I was not freaking out as I face, what could potentially be, my last year of school.

Best case scenario I will receive a dissertation grant for next year and I will be able to relax a bit and not have to scramble to finish writing. Worse case scenario, and the scenario I have to prepare for, is I will have to finish writing and defend next summer, oh and find time to apply for jobs. No problem? I pretty much feel anxious about this year and next all of the time.

Honestly, it felt like I would be in school forever. I never really thought about the finishing line, since it always felt so far away. You would think it would be exciting. But, nope. It is terrifying. All I can do is put myself in overdrive for the next couple of months and try to write as much as I can! Of course, I want to write without giving up my life, friends, and any sort of fun.

Since returning from Italy, I have spent most of my days in pjs writing away. So it was nice to put on this Kate Spade skirt and leave the house lol. I like this skirt because it is so easy to wear but still feels very chic. You can dress it up with a blouse for work or down with a t-shirt, a denim jacket, and sandals. I don't have to be on campus much this semester, so the latter will likely be worn more. Finally, how amazing are these new Karen Walker shades? I love them. It was really nice to restart my sunglasses subscription when I got home (you can learn more about Ditto's Endless Eyewear program here).

Anyone else facing school-related anxiety?


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Big Sleeves, Mini Dress








dress // hat // bag // sunnies // wedges (old, similar

So, clearly I am obsessed with sleeves this fall. Big sleeves, ruffle sleeves, bell sleeves, I want them all! I spotted this dress at Nordstrom recently. It doesn't look like much on the hanger, but once you get it on, it has a surprisingly flattering shape for such a flowy silhouette.

It comes in several colors, and I won't lie, I contemplated buying a second color (love the blue). I think it is important if you are going to embrace dramatic sleeves and flowy silhouettes that you balance your look with a short hem line or skinny jeans. Too much fabric can overwhelm most shapes.

I couldn't wait to find something to wear this hat with. I purchases it when I was still abroad, that is how much I loved it. It is by Lack of Color, the same brand that made my favorite straw hat, which I wore basically everyday this summer. Sadly this soft pink is sold out, but it is still available in beige.

I look totally ready for fall in these photos, too bad it was a zillion degrees when we took them. This is a more accurate image of what it is like to try and take blog photos in Florida in August lol.

Are you all about the sleeves this fall? And speaking of flowy dress with great sleeves, I just discovered this gorgeous chiffon number at Target!


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Palma de Mallorca











Three of the ports of call on our Mediterranean cruise were knew to me -- Cagliari, Marseille, and Palma de Mallorca. Of these three, Palma de Mallorca was by far my favorite (of course, overall Amalfi was my favorite). I was surprised to discover this little island was full of culture and history.

The island has passed through the hands of the Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic Empires giving it an interesting and complex history. The architecture and art reflect the diverse and multi-ethnic culture of the island. The massive gothic cathedral sits nestled within the old Muslim quarter. The city feels like a cross between Santorini and Morocco.

Today, Palma is a resort town and a popular cruise port. There are beautiful beaches, winding cobblestone streets, a royal palace, markets, and lots of historic sites to explore. The vibe of the city is what you would expect for a Mediterranean island, relaxed but festive. It's the perfect place to wander, sip some cava, and marvel at the complexity of the past.

If you ever find yourself visiting Mallorca you won't want to miss the stunning gothic cathedral, Palau de l'Almudaina (Islamic fortress turned Medieval palace), the contemporary art gallery (Es Baluard), the historic Islamic baths, and the beautiful boulevard, Passeig d’es Born.

Is Palma de Mallorca on your wanderlust list?
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Dressing for Fall



As I shop for fall, I have noticed that I keep gravitating to (and buying) a very particular look -- a boho dress with full or bell sleeves. I did not even realize I was basically buying the same silhouette over and over again until I laid out some recent purchases and chuckled at the similarities. But honestly, I'm not sorry!

It is such a comfortable and easy to wear style of dress. No wonder I am obsessed. Add in a cute choker and boater hat and you have a chic, on-trend, but super comfortable and functional, look for fall. Oh and don't forget the over-the-knee boots for when the temperature starts to drop.

I have rounded up a bunch of my current favorites below. The best part? More than half are under $150!

What is your fall obsession?


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