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Weekend Wear


I may not be able to shop J.Crew right now, but I can certainly dream and put together some fun weekend wear ideas!


I love the watercolor ikat pattern on this top, and the colors are perfect. Not to mention the pop of yellow in the shirt and on the sandals (you all know how much I am loving yellow right now).

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

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Ashley B
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Under The Tuscan Sun


For my students' first weekend in Italy, we ditched Florence and headed out of the city to discover Tuscany. We spent Saturday exploring medieval Siena and Sunday driving through the countryside from winery to winery (sampling along the way of course).



Siena is one of my favorite places to visit. It retains its medieval feel and is surrounded by some of the most beautiful countryside in the world! The movies Gladiator, Under the Tuscan Sun, and Twilight have all filmed in this area.

Side note--I am pretty sure my J.Crew scuba skirt is one of my greatest purchases to date! I have gotten a ton of wear out of it (last seen here) and it is so comfortable, lightweight and wrinkle-free, which makes it perfect for traveling!

I am pretty sure this is what heaven looks like!

The weekend was perfect until Sunday afternoon. On the way to our second winery our bus got wedged on a tiny country road and then blew its back suspension! We were able to walk to the winery, but soon realized we were going to be stranded for a while. There are definitely worse places to be stranded. We made the most of our extended afternoon by sampling (lots) of wine and frolicking through the vines!


Next weekend we are heading to the Amalfi Coast! 

Ciao Ciao for now!

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Ashley B
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Outfit: Going Native


I call this outfit "going native," but let's be real, it's far from "Italian style." But, in my defense, I did buy this entire outfit in Florence! I wandered into Zara one afternoon with the intent of finding something slightly out of my style comfort zone (aka something more Italian).

I fell in love with this zippered, cropped pink jacket, which is a little different from my typical blazer. But then I saw this floral top and high-waisted striped shorts. An Italian woman would have probably paired this jacket with a black top or dress, I on the other hand could resist mixing the stripes and florals and popping it with the pink jacket (#sorrynotsorry). While I failed in my attempt to dress more Italian, I loved the outfit in the end.





We took these photos in one of my favorite spots in Florence, the Piazzale Michelangelo. It has an incredible view overlooking the city and is my favorite spot to watch the sun set and drink prosecco.

Does anyone else struggle to push themselves out of their style comfort zone?

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Ashley B
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#JCrewAddict


Hi my name is Ashley and I have a major J.Crew problem. Here I am, living in one of Europe's most fashionable cities, and I am debating whether or not I should try J.Crew's international shipping, because they just released their June collection and I want it all!


But seriously, this gemstone dress is gorgeous! And this jade drop-waist skirt... and this ikat watercolor popover (you all know my love of popovers)! How am I supposed to resist? To order, or not to order? That is the question! It's a 15 Euro flat rate and I am really curious to try it.

Has anyone ever ordered from J.Crew overseas?

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So much of what you are, is where you have been.


Tuesday my students arrived to Florence not so bright eyed and bushy tailed, but excited none the less. I love having a new group of students every summer, they remind me of all of the cultural differences I have either forgotten or become accustomed to. I get to see Italy through a fresh pair of eyes every year!


After a full day of orientation (covering the dos and don'ts of living abroad for the first time), yesterday, Thursday, was our first official day in Florence.

The first place I like to take students is the Mercato Centrale. Not only do I love to see their reactions to cow testicles, stomachs, and brains, but it is an incredible lesson in the cultural importance of food. Americans have a very strange relationship with food. Our meat never looks like the animal it comes from and our fruits and veggies are harvested early to be shipped across the country (and even hemisphere). Food in Italy, however, is (for the most part) grown and sold locally. And meat and fish are butchered fresh daily in the market.


After grossing students out, I like to remind them that for centuries Italian peasants didn't have the luxury of just eating the breast of a chicken, every part of the animal was consumed and nothing was wasted. Although most students are not game at first, by the end of the trip we get many of them to at least try some of Tuscany's specialties - Trippa and Lampredotto (the first and fourth stomach of the cow) and Fegato (puréed chicken livers).

Following our morning market tour, the students split off into their various classes and I escaped to one of my favorite places in Florence, the Palazzo Pitti (and adjoining Boboli gardens).


Kirsten, my TA, and I enjoyed a fun afternoon in the gallery gazing at Raphael portraits and selecting our favorite fashions at the "history of the hat" show (I always "preview" museums before taking students, just to make sure things aren't closed or rearranged, which they often are!). Afterwards we strolled through the famous gardens snapping pics and soaking in the sunshine. All in all, I would say it was a pretty great day!

Today is another one of my other favorite days with students - the first time they see Michelangelo's David. David never disappoints! Hopefully I can sneak an illegal pic on Instagram!

Arrivederci!


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Hello Yellow


You might have noticed lately (here, here, and here, and all over my Instagram) that I am currently obsessed with pops of neon yellow - or bright citron as J.Crew calls it. It is so fun and summery and I love the way yellow pairs with almost everything! Of course, the shade or hue of the yellow really matters, I prefer a more neon or citrus yellow. Here are some of my current favorites:


I find that people have very strong opinions when it comes to yellow (whether or not they "can" wear it). While a primary yellow (think big bird) is definitely hard to pull off, neon, pastel, and citrus yellows are relatively easy to wear and add really pop a summer ensemble. And if the store windows in Florence are any indication, yellow is going to be a big color this summer!

Do you wear yellow?

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Outfit: Stressed but Well Dressed


With the students arriving tomorrow, I am definitely more stressed as I try to finalize everything for the program. But just because I am stressed doesn't mean I can't still be well dressed. This tee says it all!

So many churches, so little time!





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Where to Eat in Florence + General Rules for Picking Restaurants in Italy


Florence, unlike Rome or Venice, is a fairly easy place to find a good meal. When in doubt, however, I have three rules for selecting restaurants that I give Americans when they are traveling to Italy:
  1. Never eat at a restaurant with pictures on the menu.
  2. Avoid restaurants that sit on main piazzas or next to major attractions.
  3. Unlike at home, look for places with smaller, less complicated menus (this will ensure they are cooking fresh seasonal meals, and have to change their menu often).
If you follow these rules you are pretty much guaranteed a good meal anywhere in Italy! After years of eating my way through Florence, however, I thought I would share some of my favorite places, should you ever find yourself here.


  1. The Central Market (il Mercato Centrale) - From the amazing sandwich shops (you must try the centuries-old recipe for the "boiled beef panino" at Nerbone), to the fresh fruits and veggies, traditional meats and cheeses, and newly opened fancy food court upstairs, I find myself eating and grocery shopping at the Mercato multiple times a week. You won't find fresher or more delicious items at a better price! 
  2. Kitsch - Tuscany has a wonderful tradition of "aperativi." Basically you pay for your alcoholic drink and they provide a buffet of Tuscan delights. Kitsch has one of the most elaborate and delicious spreads in Florence and you will be hard pressed to find an equally delicious and extravagant meal for just 10 euro. It is also a great way to try new things!
  3. Birreria Centrale - This little restaurant comes highly recommended by locals and serves traditional Tuscan dishes. It has a quaint atmosphere with reasonable prices and a great location in the center of the city!
  4. Alle Murate - The history nerd in me loves this restaurant for its location - you dine in a 14th century palazzo with original frescos! It's pricier, and should be saved for a special occasion, but is definitely worth visiting once.
  5. Brunori Salvatore - This local favorite serves fresh baked breads, pastries, and focaccia. They also make delicious and made-to-order panini for a steal (starting at 3.50 euros). But be warned, this place is so local they speak very little English. Think of it as a great way to practice your Italian!
  6. Il Teatro - This warm and friendly traditional Italian eatery is one of my students' favorites. They make the best fried balls in Florence (also known as cocoli)! Cocoli are basically fried dough you lather with the most delicious cheese (called stracchino) and then wrap in fresh prosciutto. Like all Tuscan food, it's simple yet amazing! Besides this incredible antipasto, they also serve a great selection of traditional dishes (I really like the prosciutto and panna tortellini).
  7. Cantina Gelato - What Italian food list would be complete without gelato? My absolute favorite in Florence is Cantina Gelato. It is a tiny shop just south of the river. But don't let its size fool you, they have a great selection of interesting and delicious gelato (you must try the "cookies" and marscapone and nutella, the cinnamon and whisky is another crowd pleaser).
  8. Gusta Pizza - The best pizza in town, hands down. I have blogged about them before and I will do it again, it is that good! But get there early, it gets crazy. My favorite is their signature "Gusta" pizza, which if you are lucky, they will make in the shape of a heart.
  9. Caffe Giacosa - My one and only love in Florence. Caffe Giacosa makes the creamiest, frothiest cappuccinos (ever!). I will travel 15 minutes out of my way just to have one. The caffe itself is very chic and fashionable, I mean it was once owned by Roberto Cavalli! The caffe is also historic. Founded in 1815, it was a popular salon for intellectuals, and fun fact, the famous negroni was invented there!
  10. Antellesi - Another traditional Tuscan trattoria, Antellesi serves a great Florentine steak (called the bistecca Fiorentina) at an even greater price. I also highly recommend the truffle pasta, delicious!
Buon Appetito!

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How to Travel Alone (and why you should!)



I am always surprised at the reaction I get when people discover that I almost always travel (at home and abroad) alone. I usually hear things like, "aren't you afraid to travel by yourself as a single woman?" or "you're ok eating dinner alone?" 

I think it's interesting that in our society it is completely normal for men to travel alone frequently and typically for work, while I, however, get looks of pity, as if my life is so sad because I travel alone! Well, I have been to England, Germany, Spain, and Turkey by myself and I've got to tell you, I had an incredible time! If you are going to have pity, have pity on the women who don't adventure on their own because we allow are society to tell them it's unsafe or sad.

Of course as a single woman I do need to be careful when traveling abroad alone, although I would argue that men would need to be equally careful when traveling solo. Here are some of my tips for going it alone:
  1. Research, research, research! I always study the map and research the city (or cities) I am traveling to. I make sure I arrive in the morning (or at least during daylight hours) and that I am familiar with the public transportation system(s), or have arranged transport to my hotel. I also take extra care to understand the layout of the city and where the safer neighborhoods are. In my opinion it is worth paying more for a safe hotel in a good neighborhood when traveling by yourself. Also, by staying in a more reputable hotel you can get to know the hotel staff who can be very helpful and accommodating.
  2. Safety should come first. There are just some things you shouldn't do when traveling by yourself (especially abroad). And one of those is partying all night. If that's the type of trip you are looking for, you should really go with friends. But if you are looking to learn and explore a new culture, there is nothing better than immersing yourself, by yourself. 
  3. Capitalize on daylight hours. I get up early and see as much as I can before sunset. If I want to go out after dark (which I rarely do) I always splurge for the taxi. Typically though I spend my evenings socializing at the hotel, or relaxing in my room (I love to explore new cities on foot, so I am usually too tired at night). One final note on safety - always be cautious of who you befriend and what you tell them. I rarely reveal I am traveling alone. When asked, I usually joke that my fiends are party animals and I just want to visit the museums.
  4. Be confident. Because I research before I depart I already know what to expect and how to get around. Having that kind of confidence will make you less of a target. If you look competent and like you know what you are doing, no one will bother you!
  5. Trust your instincts (I call this my gut). I always trust my gut when traveling, even if my reaction seems irrational. If I feel uncomfortable at anytime, I remove myself from the situation. Your gut, however, is much more reliable when you make the effort to constantly be aware of your surroundings. For example, one evening in Florence I was stuck walking home alone after dark and through a not-so-nice part of town. I noticed there was a guy following me. Now, he could have been simply heading the same direction, but my gut told me to be careful. I knew there was a 24-hour McDonalds around the corner and I ducked inside until he was well out of sight. Another trick I love if someone is harassing you, simple walk up to a group of tourist and act like you belong!

Of course there are times when I travel that I get lonely, frustrated, or worried, but I highly doubt these are emotions only solo travelers feel. The reality is that there are rarely like-mided people with the same means and schedule as you to travel. I am lucky enough to live abroad in the summer. None of my friends or family can afford to do that, so I have embraced solo travel. I love being able to explore as many churches, museums, and historical sites as I want, eat when I want and where I want, and sleep and relax without worrying about anyone else! Don't let the fear of being alone keep you from seeing the world! 

Oh and p.s. that whole "omg you eat alone" thing - if you are really that concerned about it you can book a local dinner tour/show, eat at a bar, or if you are really worried, order room service! There is always an alternative!

Would you travel alone? Where would you go first?


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Ashley B
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Outfit: Preppy Abroad


When I arrived to Florence the weather was terrible - cold and rainy (thank goodness I brought my Hunters!). Fortunately, the rain only last a couple days and the sunshine and warmer temps have arrived, and it appears they are going to stay! 





I love J.Crew popovers for this type of transitional weather. They are long sleeve, so you aren't cold in the mornings and evenings, but still lightweight enough so when you truck up your four flights of stairs with groceries, you aren't sweating uncontrollably when you reach your apartment (#italyproblems).

The Italians, however, are very funny in this type of weather. They seem to dress in the morning, with jackets and scarves, and refuse to remove any of their layers as the day heats up. Only the Americans are walking around in shorts and tank-tops right now lol.

What's your go-to article of clothing for transitional weather?

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Outfit: Max and Co.


I rarely buy clothes when I am in Italy (shoes, however, are another story). I think I have a pretty strong sense of style, and it's basically the opposite of Italian street style (I am calling my style #preppyabroad lol). 

But there are a handful of clothing stores in Florence I do love. Max and Co. is my favorite and when I saw this dress in the window (on my second day in town no less), I knew I had to have it! Also I just couldn't resist the matching yellow bag! From the looks of the summer store windows and catalogues, yellow will be a big trend this summer.






I have come to the realization that I am never going to look Italian, so I embrace my bright style, at home or abroad!

Buona fine settimana!

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Kate Spade New Arrivals


Ok I about to say something that will come off a little ridiculous. But when I am abroad for the summer, I really miss shopping at my favorite U.S. stores like J.Crew and Kate Spade (I miss the mall in general lol)! It only makes it worse when they send me emails announcing their latest and greatest new arrivals.

Kate Spade's new Rio line is adorable as usual! I love the bright colors and it makes me so sad that most of these will be unavailable by the time I get back to the states (#thestruggleisreal).

The pattern and colors of this dress are stunning! And it comes in a little sneaker? Yes, please!

Love how they paired this with a mint shoe.


I am also loving the perforated look of the handbags:


But I am especially angry about this last one:


I mean seriously, navy stripes and a bow on a rain poncho? Why couldn't this have come out before I left for my summer abroad, where I actually need to carry around a rain poncho? Life just isn't fair sometimes lol.

And finally, I love their new "on purpose" collection. Not only is it a great cause, this bow clutch is fabulous! I get to help empower a group of young women in Rowanda and I get an amazing bow clutch, it's a win, win!



Which piece is your favorite?

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Eataly Florence


As I mentioned in my last post, I love revisiting my favorite places as soon as I arrive in Italy. But I also love discovering whats new since my last visit since, despite my best efforts, life in Florence doesn't cease when I leave.

espresso cup chandelier

Eataly is the latest edition to the Florence food scene. It's like an Italian Dean and Deluca. Kirsten my assistant (yes, I have an assistant... I feel so important lol) and I visited the other day for lunch and we were not disappointed. Not only do they have a fancy selection of Italian specialty foods, coffee bar, bakery, and an excellent selection of gourmet pre-prepared meals, they also have a fabulous terrace restaurant that serves Tuscan specialties. We split the crostini Toscana and the papa al pomodoro. I did not tell Kirsten what the crostini Toscana were until she ate them all. Once she proclaimed they were delicious, I informed her that the bit on top was puréed chicken livers, a Tuscan specialty. Trust me it's delicious (FYI she is not mad at me)!



Kirsten, still smiling after the crostini Toscana (aka chicken livers)!

Besides the delicious food, the ambiance and the design of the space were the perfect mix of modern and classical Italian. My personal favorite was the espresso cup chandelier (above).



Fun fact - there are ten Eataly locations in Italy, thirteen in Japan, two in the U.S. (New York and Chicago), one in Turkey and one in Dubai.

Buon appetito!

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Florence Favorites


Greetings from Florence! I always forget how much I love Florence (and Italy in general). I arrived exhausted Thursday morning, because I am not capable of sleeping on the plane, and immediately grabbed the high-speed train from Rome to Florence.

View of the Duomo from my apartment!

Once I arrived in Florence, I checked into my adorable little apartment, with great views of San Marco and the Duomo, and got to work revisiting my Florence favorites. People always ask what they should see and do in Florence, so I thought I would share some of my favorite things in Florence, some famous and some off the beaten track.

Favorite Museum - Palazzo Pitti
Florence is home to tons of museums. The more famous ones, like the Uffizi and Accademia are always crowded (but still worth the wait, I mean you have to see Michelangelo's David), but the Pitti is usually much less crowded, although no less significant. It is a sprawling palace with immense gardens and a world-class collection of art (it actually inspired Versailles). And if you go early enough, odds are you will have the place basically to yourself!

Favorite Aperativo - Kitsch
Aperativo is like an Italian buffet and a budget and diet friendly alternative to large pasta-filled dinners. You pay for the drink (usually wine, a cocktail, or beer) and have unlimited access to a buffet of Tuscan delights. Kitsch has the largest, tastiest, and most famous aperativo in Florence.

Via Tornabuoni

Favorite Street to Stroll - Via Tornabuoni
Not only is it lined with the most fashionable shops in Florence (think Prada, Roberto Cavalli, Gucci, Dior, Ferrragamo, etc.), which makes it perfect for window shopping, but it was recently renovated with grand paving stones and large flower pots.

Favorite Clothing Store - Max and Co.
I am not the biggest fan of Italian fashion (more on that later) but there are a few stores I love. Max and Co. is definitely one of them (there is only one in the US and it's in San Francisco). You might be seeing an outfit post featuring Max and Co. soon!

Favorite Coffee - Cafe Giacoasa
Hands down the best cappuccino in Florence. It's a mystery how they get the milk so frothy! It's also just off my favorite street, via Tornabuoni.


Favorite Pizza - Gusta Pizza
Naples is the home of the pizza, not Florence. But fortunately for us three Neapolitan brothers moved to Florence and founded Gusta Pizza - it's the best in town (IMHO)!

Favorite Cheap Eat - Nerbone
Nerbone (in the Mercato Centrale) serves the most incredible beef sandwich for only four euros! It is supposedly a centuries-old recipe, and is served on a bread roll with a pesto and a spicy sauce. I am telling you it is the best meal ever!

Favorite Gelato - Cantina del Gelato
Gelato in Italy is incredible, but after years of searching I have finally found the one! And there are two flavors that you must try - marscapone and Nutella and their signature "cookies" flavor.


Favorite Activity - Walking
I know it seems silly, but I love that you walk everywhere in Florence. It allows you to see the sights, people watch, and burn calories in the process. My favorite walk is through the city-center, over the Ponte Vecchio, up Costa San Giorgio (where Galileo once lived), and over to Piazzale Michelangelo for the best vista of the city.

Favorite People Watching - Loggia dei Lanzi
This open air loggia sits in the most famous piazza in Florence (the Palazzo della Signoria) and just across from the Uffizi and the Palazzo Vecchio. This central location makes it ideal for people/tourist watching. Not only is it entertaining, but it is one of the few places that has seating and is filled with famous Renaissance and Baroque sculptures!

I am so happy to back in Florence. I may or may not have already purchased a dress (#sorrynotsorry), and as I write this post the entire city is enthralled in the football match (aka soccer game) between Florence and Naples! I plan on spending tomorrow morning on my favorite walk/hike up to Piazzale Michelangelo, followed by a delicious brunch with friends! Monday I have to get back to work in the archive.

Ciao for now!
(PS - for realtime updates on my Italian adventures, follow me on Instagram!)
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Ashley B
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Outfit: Midi Moment


Remember that adorable French Connection top I featured last month in my Sporty Spring Stripes post? Well, I also mentioned in that post that they made a matching midi skirt. I was hesitant to try this trend (since I am so short), but I decided to go for it, and I love it! I actually think the length works!




Obviously, I took these pictures before I left for Italy. I was worried the skirt wouldn't arrive in time, but thankfully it arrived just in time. Don't worry my first update from Florence will happen tomorrow, so stay tuned!


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