The Rings in Rome | Part Two

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Our second morning in Rome started bright and early as we had filled our day’s schedule to the brim with guided tours provided by The Roman Guy. First was the Vatican and St. Peters Basilica tour. We jumped in the car at 6:30am and went out for cappuccino and chocolate croissant prior to meeting our guide just outside the Vatican. Our guide explained that we would be heading straight through to the Sistine chapel prior to it’s official opening. This meant that our small group of 10 people would be the only ones in the room. She went on to say that there were no pictures or talking permitted, and that we would have the better part of 20 minutes to view this incredible masterpiece. She rattled off facts and items of note, things to look for and observe. Then, we were transported from Rome into the Vatican City with just a few footsteps. The Sistine Chapel is breathtaking, and honestly I’m not even sad that you cannot take pictures as they would never truly do it justice. It brought tears to both of our eyes, it’s truly heavy thinking about the blood, sweat and tears that one single artist put into it. Miraculous to say the least.

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We ventured from room to room, gallery to gallery all through the Vatican for hours. I could post a hundred more photos. But it’s impossible to capture the magnitude of this place.

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After a brief break in the courtyard we made our way to St. Peter’s Basilica.
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At the conclusion of the tour, I was just completely overwhelmed emotionally. You can truly feel God’s presence around you here, it’s almost tangible. I am Christian, but not Catholic so I didn’t expect to have such an intense response to visiting the Vatican, but the beauty and importance of this sacred place weighed heavily on me. It was the same for Derek as well, I could feel the tension in his arms wrapped around me, and his heart beating a little quicker when he brought me in for a hug. It was a true honor to visit the Vatican and I cannot wait to return with my boys one day. I hope they have the same passionate response to it as their father and I did.

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As we left St. Peter’s we got an excellent view of the Swiss guards, and couldn’t resist taking their picture for the little guys. We had a brief break before our next guided tour, so we got changed into some cooler and less formal attire, then made our way to lunch at Caffé Propaganda just a short walk from the Colloseum.

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I had the carbonara and it was exactly what I needed to gear up for the insane amount of stairs I was in for next, and a little espresso helped get the blood flowing too!

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Our Colloseum tour was amazing. We walked the underground of the Colloseum, we stood on the gladiators stage, we climbed to the top (my legs caught on FIRE, ha!) but it was worth it!

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We walked from the Colloseum to the Roman Forum and the ruins are truly a sight to behold. It’s mind boggling just how well preserved the architecture is considering how significantly old it is, Derek was completely geeking out. I love him so much when he goes all history nerd on me! 😉

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Our tour guide was seriously so wonderful, if you want to see the best of Rome and get the most information and exclusive access (we never waited in a single line anywhere!) do not hesitate to book with The Roman Guy!

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That evening we decided we couldn’t walk another step (we clocked 30,000 steps that day!!), so we drove to dinner. Our meal at Angelina in Rome was the best we had during our visit. I didn’t bring my camera, we had the best wine, ate WAY too much and we just relaxed after our long, but forever memorable day. The following morning we had breakfast at this gorgeous ivy covered cafe and did a little souvenir  shopping for yours truly. Ferragamo heels from their pre-fall collection that Derek had shipped home for me for my 8th anniversary gift to open when we celebrate in the fall. I couldn’t say no to such a lovely gift that he let me pick myself and now October can’t come soon enough! After shopping it was time to say Ciao Roma, and I was sincerely sad to leave. But the ocean was calling… On to paradise in Positano!

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The Rings In Rome | Part One

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We checked in, freshened up and immediately set out to see the sights and grab a bite… The Rings were in Rome!

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On the drive to Rome we made a short list of three places we wanted to see on our first evening, since we arrived in the late afternoon. The Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon are all a short walk from one another, so they made the cut! Along our path we passed by the colosseum and the Roman forum, but since we’d be touring them in depth the next day, we just took a few pictures as we strolled by. We stopped at the colosseum to face time with the kids, so I took a seat (and my heels off for a second, ha!) Derek was going to attempt a “holding up the colosseum” shot for the boys, but we didn’t have enough service to get a hold of them, so we texted instead. In the meanwhile, it was pretty hilarious watching Derek stand there waiting for the call to go through and holding my heels, haha! We were totally “those tourists” for a minute! 😉

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The Spanish Steps were being restored, so they were partially closed. A little snag in our plans, but nothing a little gelato couldn’t patch up. We ventured on toward the Trevi!

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If you recall in my last posts, we were beginning to think we were the only tourists in Italy. Every where we went felt so exclusive and we absolutely loved it. Well, we found the crowds… They are ALL in Rome! Ha! Amongst hundreds of visitors we found a little corner of the Trevi fountain to have a seat, finish our gelato and take a few pictures.
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We threw in a coin for ourselves and the boys, ensuring our return to Rome one day of course!

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Our final stop was the Pantheon, which was a mammoth of a building in an old palazzo. On our walk home we popped in to a traditional no-name pizzeria for dinner, and brought a bottle of wine back to our room to rest up for our big tour day in Rome the following day! Ciao!

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Hot Springs of Tuscany

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I left off my last post at the conclusion of our wine tasting at Castiglione Del Bosco just outside of Montalcino, from there we were south bound to one of Tuscany’s hidden gems. The hot springs in Bagni San Fillipo are one of the few left in the area that isn’t on resort property and doesn’t get too crowded. We almost skipped the springs altogether, expecting our time in Italy to be brutally warm. We completely lucked into a very mild week thanks to the rain that morning and it was cool enough to make taking a dip in the springs sound beyond relaxing! When we came upon the springs we were greeted by an impressively massive white calcium formation… And a very strong scent (sulfur perhaps?). If you can push past it and head down stream, the smell lessens and the air becomes much more pleasant. Which is exactly what we did!

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We opted to leave our camera in the car, I didn’t want to risk a slip and tumble into the water so you’ll have to forgive my limited iPhone snaps! This was the ideal location to completely unplug, so I didn’t miss carrying it around anyways.

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We found a secluded little spot after a little hike in the completely wrong shoes, ha! I almost slipped several times, which validated my choice in leaving the camera behind entirely. The springs are relatively easy to get to albeit slippery, and once we found “our spot” we took a few pics, tucked our belongings behind a rock and sunk ourselves down into the steamy hot pools. It. Was. Divine.

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We were pleasantly surprised to find the area so secluded, and came to the conclusion that it being a weekday and just before lunch time, we must have timed it just right to avoid a crowd. We felt incredibly lucky to be alone in the quiet of nature in this heavenly place. I felt like we were on our honeymoon, I will never forget how magical it was. We could have stayed for hours, but we were absolutely famished and it was time to venture on!

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Nothing could punctuate a steamy dip better than ice cold Italian beers and prosciutto sandwiches. I love this picture of us, my eye make up is all but washed away, hair is damp, but we’re completely smitten and happy. It’s perfect to me. ❤️  Toodle loo Tuscany! Next up… Roma!

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Tuscany for Two

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From Florence we made our way to Montalcino where we checked into Castel Brunello and were greeted by the beautiful and welcoming owner, Erna. She was lovely and recommended two restaurants just uphill from the Brunello estate.

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The sun was beginning to set on the hills, so we had our luggage put away and went straight to dinner. I captured this watercolor sunset on our way to Trattoria Il Leccio, and sincerely the picture doesn’t do it justice. Simply breathtaking.

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We sat outside the trattoria with only one other couple and a small group having a dinner party (all locals) and were the only tourists to be seen. It was a wonderful experience being able to fully immerse ourselves in Montalcino life. We decided on the chef’s menu, 4 courses and two bottles of incredible Brunello wine later we realized we had been there for two hours and were closing the place down. Italians do not rush their meals, they encourage taking your time and living la dolce vita, so I guess you could say we truly embraced that philosophy and the staff was so incredible and warm, it felt like saying goodbye to friends when we left and the whole town square looked like a movie set. Exactly how I envisioned small town Italy, perfectly dreamy.

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Friday morning we woke up to rain showers at Castel Brunello, so we slowly made our way down to breakfast. The property was stunning, even on a drizzly grey morning.

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We planned our day at breakfast. First a stop back in town for some extra bottles of Brunello Di Montalcino wine (Starting at $50 a bottle these make a lovely gift to bring home to the states for a variety of price ranges. We picked up some for our parents who so graciously watched our babies while we were away, and we can’t recommend it enough especially if you enjoy a dark peppery red). We packed our bags and loaded the car. I mentioned in my Florence post that I’d share more details on our first class ride, a brand new (we were the first to drive it!) 2016 Fiat 124 Spider. If you’re going to do a romantic road trip in Italy… This is how to do it!

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So back to the trattoria and wine shop we went, and while we were there I decided to snap a few pictures of the dreamy little village where we had eaten the evening prior.

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It was just as, if not more picturesque by day. I could live here in a heartbeat.

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Of course mid photo-sesh the rain decided to return, so we tucked into a stairway as it passed. Remember when I said earlier that I felt like I was on a movie set?  Well getting caught in a mid morning shower with this handsome man in Montalcino took it to total rom-com status and pretty much took my breath away!

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The sprinkles quickly subsided and we got on the road to Rosewood’s Castiglione Del Bosco for a wine tasting. Castiglione Del Bosco is in one word, stunning. We had some time before our tasting which allowed us to tour the enchanting estate.

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The pool and view of Tuscany was awe-inspiring. What a magnificent place!

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Derek was braver than I and climbed up a ruined bell tower…

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While I personally opted for the stairs, ha! After our leisurely tasting we departed for our next destination just a quick drive away.

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More about the perfect retreat on a cool afternoon in my next post on the thermal hot springs of Bagni San Filippo… Ciao Montalcino!

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Florence in One Day

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This weekend we caught up on sleep, and laundry, then walked to our neighborhood gelato shop after church and wished we were back in Italy, ha! In an effort to cure the post vacay blues, this week I’ll be sharing our Italian road trip in the exact order of our stops right here on B&B. We flew overnight and arrived in Milan bright and early on Thursday morning and picked up our rental car, then promptly left for Florence. We opted to drive instead of having to deal with train schedules so that we could really make the most of every minute in Italy, but I should warn you… Driving in Italy is NOT for the faint of heart. Everyone is driving well over the speed limits (despite the speed cameras that are everywhere, Italians do you pay your speed tickets? I’m curious! Ha!) and the tolls are not cheap, but if you’re  up for an adventure, a skilled driver (or traveling with one like me) and are willing to spend a little more on a fabulous Italian car that makes the experience even more magical (more on this in my Tuscany post) then a road trip is an incredible way to see Italy on your own schedule. And getting back to our itinerary, we arrived right on schedule in Florence!

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It was a cloud covered early afternoon in Florence, and the city was quiet. It felt as though we had the whole town to ourselves. We parked on the street across from the Basillica Santa Maria Novella, a small but beautiful church and immediately began exploring Florence on foot. To be perfectly honest we didn’t really “plan” out things to do in Florence. I had some sights and bites pinned to my Italy travel board, but hadn’t mapped them out and figured we would sort of figure it out as we went along.

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We walked the prettiest cobblestone streets and passed by the all big designers you’d expect to see in a high end shopping district… Balenciaga, Ferragamo, Dior, Cavalli and Louis Vuitton. And we passed them all to do some shopping for our boys at Zara where I literally bought one of ALL of the new fall little boy things they had. Back to school shopping, CHECK! Then we had our hearts set on something sweet, a stop at Perché No! was an absolute must.

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Espresso and chocolate. Try it if you find yourself at Perché No! You won’t be disappointed!

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Our next stop was lunch…Can you tell we hadn’t eaten since stepping off the plane? Ha! We stumbled upon this precious little place on our way to Ponte Vecchio. It was so delicious. We had a beautiful meat and cheese platter and the service was divine. I didn’t take a food pic because we devoured it. We highly recommend Osteria Vecchio Vicolo!

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We continued our stroll to Ponte Vecchio, the beautiful bridge your bound to have seen in every Florence guide ever. It was just as lovely as we expected, so we decided a view from the top was in order. And up to the roof of Hotel Continentale we went for cocktails and kisses with a view at La Terraza Lounge Bar.

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We toasted to the beginning of a wonderful trip, we made out like teenagers and we took some elevator selfies I won’t ever be posting, ha! It was just a great time, all around. And when we were done I begged Derek to commandeer this bicycle for me… To which he flat out declined, so rude. 😉 I mean I honestly need this bicycle. Can you blame me? Even the bikes are chic in Italy!

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Since Derek refused to become a bike bandit on my behalf, our walk continued. We decide in interest of saving time and skipping lines that we’d head to the Piazza Della Signoria and see the “fake” version of Michelangelo’s David. Despite not being the real deal, it was still beautiful as were the other sculptures in the piazza.

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We returned to our car to drive out to the Boboli gardens, our last stop before leaving Florence! When we arrived to the gardens they were closing and the woman at the gate could sense my utter disappointment. I couldn’t believe I didn’t check the hours for the gardens, and as we started to turn away the woman gestured for us to come in through the gate and said that while she couldn’t sell us a ticket we were welcome to step in for a few pictures before she locked up. Her kindness was so appreciated, I could have kissed her!  For that I am forever grateful for my few shots of the Boboli garden, and it’s the first stop on my list for when we return to Italy again!

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The first day of our Italy vacation, was one for the books… And it wasn’t even over yet! Farewell Florence!

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A Minimalista’s #NSale Picks

We are back in Dallas, home sweet home from our most incredible vacation!  Before I jump into my Italy recap posts, I thought I’d touch on the one thing everyone is talking about this Friday… the Nordstrom anniversary sale of course!

Over the years my style has evolved so much and my wardrobe seemingly becomes more classic and minimalist with each passing season. With having just seen many of the new fall window displays all over Italy, I am left even more inspired by classic/traditional style with a twist, “minimalista” if you will! So it’s no surprise that I only picked up a small selection of key pieces from the #NSale… Five items to be specific, focusing on additions that would enhance my existing fall wardrobe in lieu of replacing it. Here’s what I picked!

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Faux leather leggings by Spanx, these had amazing reviews saying they were so flattering and easy to wear. Leather leggings might lean more trendy that traditional, so I’m loving how much more affordable they are than actual leather. I believe they will be on heavy rotation come this fall, even though it may not be a “forever” piece it’s fun!

Rose gold lariat necklace by Gorjana, I have been needing a delicate and sweet “everyday” necklace and I am big into mixing metals so I felt rose gold would mix in nicely with my other daily wearables.

Hudson distressed black skinnies, I love how edgy and cool these feel. I will most likely pair them with a crisp white blouse or cozy cashmere sweater, taming them down just a bit! 😉

Nike white tennis shoes, this pair in particular feels so classic to me. The textures and sportiness will be great with denim.

Vince Camuto lace up heels, I actually own the taupe peep toe version of this shoe and I get tons of compliments whenever I wear them, happy to snag a fall  friendly pair of one of my favorite date night heels!

And that’s a wrap! I’m sure I’ll be sprinkling in a few more fall pieces when the weather cools down and my favorite places receive more fall/winter in store, but for now while it’s still 100 degrees in Texas… This is about as much fall fashion that I can muster, ha!

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Going Away Gifts

Being a mother is so very complex. I feel as though I’m constantly juggling self care and healthy “adult time” with the constant demands of mom-ing. I’m admittedly head over heels in love with my little boys, so sometimes it’s hard to strike a balance and take that time to myself.

This New Year’s Eve my husband and I made a resolution for regularly scheduled date nights and it’s been amazing. We’ve gotten to know our city and each other in a whole new way, thus bringing us closer than ever and even influenced us to take somewhat of a second honeymoon… a week in Italy! I’m so beyond thrilled to be experiencing this adventure with my number one guy, and I know that the time off will be great for my mama soul too.

Now, that our boys are well into late toddlerhood we feel confident leaving them with their incredible grandparents for more extended overnight stays, and the boys are pretty excited about spending some quality time with them too! To build on that excitement and to help them understand a bit more about where mommy and daddy will be while we’re away, I’ve put together a little “going away gift” I know they’re sure to enjoy.

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I love books, and often snag a book for many gifting occasions. Our oldest beau is geography obsessed and collects books from the Miroslav Sasek “This is the World” collection, so we had to get him the one for Italy’s capital city of Rome. Expanding on Rome and one of the bean’s favorite story characters, Madeline and the Cats of Rome also was a must have.

And because they will need something to pack those new reads and other essentials for their time away, a whimsical pair of Vespa scoot-cases were simply irresistible! In their favorite colors, red and blue! I am seriously in love with these, so very Italian and fun.

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The evening before our departure we set up the boy’s little surprise and told them all about the plans for the upcoming week. They adored their gifts and Emerson was thrilled to follow along with our journey across the globe and read all about Rome, while Sawyer was happy to just scoot around, ha! Love them so!

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