Sunday, October 26, 2014

3 Seasons, 3 Bags

How to Pack: Study Abroad

Packing for study abroad is possibly the hardest thing you will ever do. Not exactly, but it is a pretty difficult task when you encounter seasonal changes over the period of 3-4 months! I have one checked luggage, one carry on luggage, and a backpack that I fit my life into. It is hard to let some of your favorite pieces stay at home and await your return, but you have to be brutal! Here is a small overview of my recommended pieces while traveling or studying abroad and how you can pack light!

Layers, layers, layers. You will need tanks, cardigans, and tees that you can mix and match with almost every outfit. I recommend going for simple colors or sticking to one color scheme so it is easy to put multiple outfits together. It probably helped that I’m really into black and white right now, but I added a touch of blues and maroons in the mix for some more color.
I also think a denim shirt and a white shirt are essential because they are classic pieces that can be thrown over a tank or tee as well as nice on their own. Once again, neutral colors that can go with anything! I threw in two sweaters for the colder months, who doesn’t love a cozy sweater?!

Jeans and leggings are your new best friend.  I brought two of each, a dark pair of jeans, and a light pair, as well as a nicer legging and an inexpensive one. Jeans can be rolled up a bit and paired with sandals for summer, or tucked into boots for the winter. Leggings can be worn on their own with a tank or under a skirt or dress in cooler weather. A nice black a-line skirt is perfect to pair with a tee, sweater, tank, everything (I’ve gotten so much use out of mine). I only brought 2 pairs of shorts since I started school in September, so not much time for warm weather.
For dresses I only put two here, one casual and one for occasions. Even the occasion dress can be dressed up or down, which provides more functionality for multiple events and activities. I brought one nicer dress and a skirt and top that can be mixed around, and I’ve only used the nice dress once so far, so if you need to condense your suitcase this may be a good area. Plus, you can always purchase something new if you need to! I’ve had a lot of use out of my casual dresses because you can change up the cardigan or jacket or add leggings or tights! Plus they are a simple and easy item to pack.

            This is probably the most difficult area for most people, including myself. Since I am studying over the course of three seasons I was worried I wouldn’t have enough shoe options, but I’ve been happy with my choices so far. I packed: 1 pair of sandals, 1 pair of sneakers, 2 pairs of short boots, 1 pair of tall boots, and 1 pair of flats.
            The important thing when packing shoes is comfort! Depending on where you plan on traveling or studying abroad, the streets are difficult to walk on anyhow! I highly recommend packing for comfort, otherwise they will be a waste of space in your bag. Plus, I decided to purchase a pair of hand-made leather sandals in Florence - so as always, save room for souvenirs! I debated between packing rain boots or winter boots, but my tall (fake) leather boots are

            Personally, I don’t wear much jewelry, but if you do, try to keep it to a minimum and bring your favorites or ones you will wear the most. I would stay away from bringing anything too expensive because you don’t want to lose it or have it stolen. Accessories are a nice way to vamp up your outfit, so if you’re into statement pieces this is where you can spice it up. Smaller pieces like rings and bracelets are easy and small to pack. Scarves are also essential and useful to throw over your shoulders in churches on visits or add a pop of color to your ensemble.

Other Tips
            Traveling between Chicago and Philly I am always trying to find better ways to pack. Rolling my clothes has proven to be the best way to keep everything compact. I’ve found rolling my clothes to keep away wrinkles and fit more! But still be conscious of weight and size restrictions from your airline.
            I decided to buy a new coat before I left that was stylish and functional because it has a removable lining inside so I can use it as a light jacket or a full on winter jacket.
            I’ve been lucky enough not to have my luggage lost, but I like to keep an emergency Ziploc bag of toiletries in my carry on bag just in case.

            I absolutely love traveling and I look forward to more adventures in the future. If you have any other tips comment below!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

La Plage

When deciding on what other places I wanted to travel during my study abroad experience France was on the top of my list! I have been to Paris and Northern France with my family about 4 years ago, and I’ve always been eager to explore the south of France.
My boyfriend who is currently studying in Florence as well, at Florence University of the Arts, (FUA) tagged along on the trip. We debated which town we wanted to stay in, mainly between Nice and Cannes, which were our two top destinations. We settled on staying in Cannes because the hotels were more reasonable, and they have sand beaches as opposed to the typical rock and pebble beaches.
Staying in Cannes was absolutely the best choice. Our hotel was a 10-minute walk from the beach and close to all of the stores and restaurants. Plus, the train station was close so we could bounce between towns easily.

Aaron and I in Cannes
We traveled from Florence to Cannes by train - 4 to be exact. Our journey started at midnight and we arrived to our hotel around 11am and spent the rest of the day on the beach. My first experience with the Mediterranean was definitely one to be remembered. Growing up in the Midwest, I’m not used to salt water, and I’ve only been to the ocean a few times. I usually associate the ocean with crashing waves, boogie boards and surfers, but the water in Cannes was gentle and calm, more of my style and easy to relax in.
Our second day we took a train to Nice to spend the day. Nice is a larger city on the coast with loads of shopping, restaurants, and a promenade along the water. There were all types of markets around the older part of town with books, posters, flowers, produce, everything fresh and French you can think of. We found a beautiful view point on top of a cliff, which was well worth the hike up. I’ve never seen such clear blue water, and the sun provided perfect swimming weather, convincing us to go back to Cannes and head to the beach in the afternoon.

The Mediterranean from the top of the viewpoint in Nice
Flowers scouring the markets in Nice
As much as I love all of the Italian food in Florence, it was time for a break, but for some reason there were an overwhelming amount of Italian restaurants in France! Finally we found a restaurant from my trusty TripAdvisor, and we both indulged in a hamburger and fries. This was quite possibly the best hamburger I’ve ever had, the flavors were incredible and it was cooked to perfection.
The most delicious hamburger in France
Traveling around the French Riviera is very easy to do by train. We decided on our final day we would stop in Monaco to see Monte Carlo before our train ride back to Italy. Unfortunately we were not able to visit the casino because of our back packs (should have checked beforehand!) Instead we found a nice spot in a café around the casino, sipped a drink, and drooled over expensive cars as they drove around the boulevard.

Then it was off to the train station for our ride home. The French Riviera certainly met all of my expectations and I had a fantastic time. I definitely see myself returning in the future, once I can afford my own yacht ;).

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Benvenuto D&M! Welcome!

     Hello blogosphere, a new place where I can share my amazing travel experiences in Italy! I’m currently attending Accademia Italiana (AI), a design school in Florence and will begin to blog about my life here as a student. It is currently my fourth week living in Florence, and it has been absolutely incredible so far. I have traveled to beautiful places, eaten my weight in pizza, and continue to learn about different cultures. I anticipate my posts will mostly contain stories of my travel, blogs about fashion, and lots and lots of food. But for now I will give an overview of my most recent trips and experiences!

Siena and San Gimignano
     I am so lucky to attend AI because there are several weekend trips provided through the university. At the end of our orientation week we took a day trip to Siena and San Gimignano, two beautiful Tuscan towns just a few hours away from Florence. 
     Our day started in Siena in a torrential downpour. But even the rain could not take away from the gorgeous views of the hills and town. We met a tour guide who led us through St. Catherine’s Cathedral and then Duomo di Siena. Learning about St. Catherine of Siena was interesting because they have the head and finger of St. Catherine on display, and apparently other parts of her body are in other churches across Italy. 
     The Duomo is a must see, featuring intricate mosaic tile floors depicting scenes from the bible as well as important symbols of Siena and Italy. One of my favorite parts of the Duomo was the “Library” room which holds beautifully hand bound song books and scriptures. The frescoes in the room are massive and all of the artifacts appear in excellent condition. The saturated colors, gold leaf details, and ornate designs place you back in time.
View of Siena
     After a few hours in Siena we were on our way to San Gimignano, a medieval town that is nestled high up in the Tuscan hills. The views on the bus ride of ripe vineyards ready for the harvest. We stopped in “The World’s Best Ice Cream” shop and their sign proved true. The chocolate and coffee flavors were my favorite, but you can’t go wrong when it comes to gelato. I wish we had more time to enjoy the views and the sunset but we had to be on our way back to Florence.

View from the top of San Gimignano
     I will also include a link to a video I made of my first week adventures, including this trip here and below! I hope you will enjoy the video and post! Ciao!