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The Perfect Swimsuit and Cover Up in Positano

The Perfect Swimsuit and Cover Up in Positano

Well, I never thought I would see this day. The day I publish a picture of myself in a swimsuit on the blog! But, I simply had to since this is the best, most comfortable and functional swimsuit I have ever owned.

As a short and curvy girl in a society that praises tall and waif-like frames, I admit that I have never felt confident in a swimsuit. My large chest always made even the most modest of bikinis look inappropriate, and one pieces tended to make me look even shorter and rounder, if not matronly. So, for years I simply avoided going in the water. I mastered the art of the cute coverup and simply gave up on swimwear. That was until I found this Trina Turk suit.

Not only is the sleek shape of this one-piece flattering (and not matronly), it is also comfortable and functional. I felt like I could truly enjoy myself in the water and not worry about losing or falling out of my top. It can be worn on the shoulders for extra support, or off for a more modern silhouette. Off the shoulder it hides perfectly under a cute off-the-shoulder cover up, like this Max & Co. number I picked up in Florence.

I loved this suit so much, I even purchased it in this fun pattern. I have to admit, being able to feel comfortable and confident in a swimsuit is a game changer. I forgot how fun and refreshing the water can be!

More on Positano:
20 Tips for Traveling in the Amalfi Coast
10 Things You Must do in Positano
Fresh Squeezed in Positano


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Ashley B
Pink and Green in Capri

Pink and Green in Capri

I have always been a Tory fan, but this spring Tory Burch really killed it. I loved the entire collection, especially this garden party print, which I got in this blouse and dress (seen here). I scored both during their Friends and Family sale in April. But, good news, almost all of the fabulous spring collection is now on sale! I have rounded up my favorite pieces below.

These pictures are actually from my first trip to Capri this summer (more from that trip with Kate here). While on the island, Kate and I decided to hike up to Anacapri to see the stunning views from the fabulous Caesar Augustus hotel. It did not disappoint. I love the hotel's the terraced gardens, yellow striped decor, and infinity terrace. If we were not short on time, I could have stayed all day! But, the beach and more lemon and orange granitas were calling our names.

You can read more of my Capri recommendations here and here.


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Ashley B
Early Morning at the Spanish Steps

Early Morning at the Spanish Steps

Want to know the secret to seeing Rome at its best? Get up at 5 am! No, seriously, early mornings in Rome are magical. There is nothing quite like seeing rays of light streaming into Saint Peter's Basilica, or the Trevi Fountain without mobs of people, or the Spanish Steps completely empty! Not to mention how incredible the Colosseum looks at sunrise.

I have developed something of an early morning habit in Rome. I get up at 5 and I am out the door around 6/6:30. I pick a famous monument to enjoy and snap photos of, then stroll the empty peaceful streets for a bit. After a couple hours of wandering, I usually stop in one of my favorite piazzas (Piazza Navona or Campo di Fiori) for a coffee. By then the museums and sights are beginning to open and I can be the first in line. Here is the best part of this schedule. After a delicious lunch, I siesta! With a good nap and a couple hours of writing/being productive, I an revitalized and head back out for some late-afternoon sight-seeing and dinner.

Not only does this plan save you from the crowds, it also saves you from Rome's unbearable summer heat. Trust me, there is no better way to enjoy Rome! Case in point, these pictures from the Spanish Steps. Becky and I arrived around 6:15 and how the place to ourselves for about a half hour. Needless to say we made the most of it! I wore this adorable eyelet smocked dress that I liked so much I bought in two colors - black and pink. I also found it in navy here. While it is currently on ridiculous sale (only $40!), it is sadly almost sold out.

You might think I am crazy, but I challenge you try getting up early in Rome at least one morning while you are visiting. I promise it will completely change your opinion of Rome!


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Ashley B
Baroque Art Gelato Crawl in Rome

Baroque Art Gelato Crawl in Rome

dress (also love the top) // hat // sunnies (old) // bag (similar) // shoes

Baroque art and architecture reigns supreme in Rome. Over the course of the 17th century the Baroque visually transformed Rome. In response to Protestant movements, and in an attempt to reassert the superiority and majesty of the Catholic church, seventeenth-century Popes commissioned painting, sculpture, and architecture on a massive scale. The style of this period of intense artistic production, roughly 1600 – 1750, is called the Baroque.

Since Baroque art was intended to defend the supremacy and legitimacy of the Pope and the Catholic Church in Rome it adopted a more dramatic and emotionally persuasive style. It was, after all, an epic battle for people’s souls.

Baroque art engages all of the senses. It is grand in scale, ornate, dramatic, and above all, evocative. Today, Baroque art and architecture can seem a bit gauche or extravagant, but you have to image that in its day it was the only visual tool at the Church’s disposal, and it proved to be a powerful weapon during the Reformation and Counter Reformation.

Baroque art is also what give’s Rome its unique character today. Thus, I believe that you can’t truly appreciate Rome until you see some of its Baroque treasures, which is why I am sharing my Baroque Art Gelato Crawl. This tour highlights some of the best Baroque art in Rome.

I developed this crawl (or walking tour) over the years in an attempt to keep students engaged and excited while trekking across the hot and crowded summer streets of Rome. It has become one of our favorite tours because it combines just enough art with a lot of gelato! From start to finish the tour takes about 2.5 hours. You will want to do this either early in the morning or the afternoon since most churches in Rome siesta between 12:30 and 3:00 pm. And if you want to see this tour mapped out, I’ve created a Google map for it here.

Art Stop #1
Santa Maria della Victoria (The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa)
Obviously, any Baroque art crawl must feature Bernini – the darling of 17th Rome. Bernini is often credited with founding the sculptural style of the Baroque. Bernini’s sculptures (and his architecture) embody the expressive and dramatic style of the Baroque.

The little church of Santa Maria della Victoria houses one of Bernini’s masterpieces, The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa. When you first see this sculptural vignette you might be a little shocked, because it basically depicts a nun having an orgasm. Teresa was a mystic nun who wrote about the ecstasy she experienced when an angel sent by God pierced her with the “flaming arrow of divine love”… ahem. Unlike renaissance artists, who would have given you a serene portrait of Teresa, Bernini depicts this scene at the height of Teresa’s ecstasy. Like I said, dramatic.

Art Stop #2
The Capuchin Bone Crypt
This stop is not an example of high art, but a great illustration of the period that created the Baroque. In the mid 1600s, the Capuchin Friars of this church decided to decorate their crypt with the bones of their dead predecessors (and eventually themselves). It’s equal parts creepy and creative and reminds us of just how different the relationship between life and death was in the seventeenth century.

Gelato Stop #1
Gelataria Valentino
After two pretty intense stops, it is time for some gelato! While this might not be the best gelato in Rome, it is perfectly situated for a quick stop on your way to the Trevi Fountain, and has plenty of fun flavors to try.

Art Stop #3
Trevi Fountain
The Trevi Fountain needs no introduction since it is one of the most famous sights in Rome. But the fountain also illustrates the intense program of urban renewal in Rome that also characterized the Baroque period. Across Rome various Popes commissioned large boulevards, grand piazzas, and monumental fountains. The Trevi Fountain was symbolic because it was made possible through the revival of Rome’s ancient aqueducts. Not only did restoring ancient aqueducts bring much needed fresh water into the city, it also connected the power and progress of the Papacy to the achievements of Ancient Rome.

Art Stop #4
Church of St. Ignatius
Remember when I said the Baroque was all about grandeur? Well take a look at the ceiling of the basilica of St. Ignatius and you will see what I mean. This is by far my favorite, and most awe-inspiring, ceiling in Rome. Oh, and don’t miss the fake (painted) dome at the center of the transept.

Gelato Stop #2
San Crispino 
Tucked behind the Pantheon (to the north actually) is my favorite gelato in Rome – San Crispino. You can tell it is good artisanal gelato since it is kept recessed in silver containers. Piles of colorful gelato are more about show that taste. While San Crispino has the usual flavors, they also make some really interesting combinations, so be adventurous!

Art Stop #5
Carravaggio (San Luigi dei Francesi)
No Baroque Art crawl is complete without a Caravaggio painting. Caravaggio is probably the best-known Baroque painter. His characteristic dramatic light, intense emotion, and simple compositions inspired an entire generation of painters across Europe. Inside the basilica of San Luigi dei Francesi you will find three of his most famous works – The Calling of St Matthew, The Inspiration of Saint Matthew, and The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew (all in the Contarelli Chapel). In their day, these paintings were the talk of Rome, since they portrayed holy figures as real people, complete with dirty feet.

Art Stop #6
Piazza Navona and the Fountain of the Four Rivers
Both the square and its famous central fountain are products of the Baroque period. While the square is always a delightful stop, for this tour, the main attraction is Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers in the center of the piazza.

Constructed in 1651, this fountain represented the four known continents. Each continent is represented by a personified river – The Ganges (Asia), The Río de la Plata (America), The Danube in (Europe), and The Nile (Africa). The positioning and body language of each reveals European perceptions of an emerging global world. The Ganges figure looks away from the church since Asia was seen as spiritually ignorant. Conversely, the Rio figure throws his hand in the air towards God, symbolizing the acceptance and conversion of native peoples in the new world. The Danube, of course, sits stoically, since it represents civilized Europe. And, finally, the Nile covers its face indicating the mystery surrounding the source of the Nile and the perceived ignorance of Africa.

Gelato Stop #3
Tre Scalini
You’ve made it! Reward yourself for appreciating all that art with one final gelato from the historic and famed Tre Scalini. Prices in the Piazza Navona are high if you sit (you’re paying for that premium view and people watching) so I always advise people to get it to go.

And there you have it. Art and Gelato, what is not to love?!


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Ashley B
The Best of Renaissance Rome

The Best of Renaissance Rome

While Rome is full of amazing ancient sights to see and explore, it is important to remember that Rome offers more to see than just ancient ruins. The city remained an important commercial and cultural center of western Europe throughout the medieval and early modern periods. This was thanks in large part to the church.

The "renaissance" may have started in Florence, but it was quickly imported to Rome by the Popes. Eager to display their knowledge, culture, and wealth, renaissance popes collected and commissioned some of the finest examples of renaissance painting, sculpture, and architecture. Even if you don't make it to Florence, you can enjoy plenty of renaissance art in Rome. Below are some of my favorites:

The Vatican Museums
What constitutes the Vatican Museums today is actually a collection of former papal apartments/palaces, most of which date from the late 15th to 18th centuries. So naturally, you will find excellent examples of renaissance art collected and commission by the popes here. Not to be missed are Raphael's frescos on the walls of Julius II's apartments (these include the famed School of Athens) and, of course, the Sistine Chapel. It is not just the ceiling, however, of the Sistine Chapel that you should see. The walls were frescoed by a team of Florence's most famed and illustrious renaissance artists dispatched to Rome for the Pope. In addition to the Papal apartments, you will find other great examples of renaissance painting in the pinacoteca, or picture gallery.

Villa Farnesina
Designed for the wealthy Papal banker Agostino Chigi by Sangallo and Peruzzi, the Villa Farnesina was an urban palazzo modeled after suburban villas. In addition to stunning renaissance architecture, the villa also boasts frescos by Raphael.

Via Gulia
Consider one of Rome's most beautiful streets, the Via Gulia was commissioned by Pope Julius II and designed by Bramante. It is a delightful street for strolling and admiring renaissance palazzi.

Palazzo Spada
Another gorgeous Renaissance palazzo, the Palazzo Spada has a lovely renaissance courtyard and famed optical illusion by Borromini. Playing with the latest innovations in perspective, Borromini created what looks like a long corridor lined with columns that leads to a life-size statue and garden. In reality, however, the corridor is only 30 feet long, the statue at the end is only about two feet high, and there is no garden!

Santa Maria della Pace
This peaceful and beautiful little church tucked in the back streets around Piazza Navona hides a splendid Raphael fresco. This sweet fresco, however, is not without controversy. Michelangelo actually accused Raphael of plagiarism when he saw it!

Campo di Fiori
This square is one of my favorites in all of Rome. Not only is it the ideal place to pick up some fresh flowers, fruits, and vegetables, it's the perfect place to grad a drink or dinner and people watch. While the square is not completely renaissance in style, the area surrounding it was heavily built up during this period.

The Tomb of Julius II
No renaissance tour or Rome is complete without paying homage to Pope Julius II, the warrior pope responsible for the rebuilding St. Peter's, and who kept Bramante, Michelangelo, and Raphael (among others) incredibly busy! His tomb was intended to be Michelangelo's greatest masterpiece - a colossal structure with some 300 figures. Despite Michelangelo's best efforts, the original tomb was never realized. Instead a smaller, but equally beautiful tomb was created and installed in the church San Pietro in Vincoli. The central Mosses figure by Michelangelo is considered one of his great sculptural triumphs.

shirtdress (also love this one) // hat // sandals (similar) // bag, c/o (similar) // sunnies 

More on Rome:
Rome's Hippest Hoods
Where to Roam in Rome
How to Conquer Rome in Two Days
44 Tips for Traveling in Italy
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Ashley B
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