||| useless knowledge of florence | a travel guide |||

Florence Travel Tips & Must-dos

it’s been months since i studied abroad in florence; i’ve had a lovely time reminiscing for this post! it thrills me to be able to share this abundance of knowledge i have of florence. after many facebook message guides to friends abroad, i thought “if only there was a convenient way to collect all my favorite must-sees in florence!”. then i remembered: i have a blog.

the image above includes photos i took of my favorite florentine adventures. from my experience, i’d highly suggest you:

  • climb to the top of the duomo (florence’s cathedral) on a clear morning
    • better than giotto’s tower, in my opinion! the atmosphere is incomparable
  • hang out with the statue of david at galleria dell’accademia
  • browse the galleria degli uffitzi
  • marvel over palazzo pitti & boboli gardens
  • cross ponte vecchio (touristy but fun to see)
    • this is the bridge with all the jewelry merchants
  • visit piazzale michelangelo
    • great views of the city
  • santa maria novella church
    • while you’re there, check out the beautiful officina profumo farmaceutica
  • shop at mercato centrale (i lived near here)
  • take the ATAF bus #7 to the hilltop village of fiesole (gorgeous view of florence & tuscany)
    • it runs every half an hour until almost midnight. the line starts at the santa maria novella train station

…and on to my favorite food experiences:

  • breakfast
    • grab a pastry and espresso at any bar
  • lunch
    • mario trattoria | only open for lunch, so don’t miss out!
    • gusta panino | perfect for a quick sandwich
  • dinner
    • acqua al 2 | great meal with a dessert sampler
    • san michele all’arco | delicious homemade pasta
    • trattoria parione | the restaurant i enjoyed my final italian meal at before my journey home!
    • gusta pizza | grab a pizza and take it to piazzale michelangelo – no use waiting inside for a table when you can enjoy a nice view nearby!
  • apertivo (delicious italian appetizers served with the purchase of a drink)
    • kitsch | begins at 7:30pm | €7
    • negroni | begins at 7pm | €8
    • oibo | begins at 7:30pm | €8

florence is a horrible city to navigate (take it from the girl who wandered three hours dragging luggage on cobblestone streets)… so, I made you a map!
pull the full map (with key) up on your mobile while you have wifi & you can use it around the city!

if you have any questions, feel free to ask!
||| happy travels! | rachel |||

||| summer in chicago | taste of randolph |||

okay, i’m a little behind… but still had to share. how could i not with all of these amazing restaurants? below are our top pics from the taste of randolph this past weekend: thyme & oregano kettle corn from the tasting room, chips & and a hefty helping of quac from de cero, spinach arancini from marcello’s , tacos from belly q & a gorgeous view on the patio of city winery.
Taste of Randolph Chicago collage

||| summer has arrived! | strawberry balsamic goat cheese crostini |||

Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar Goat Cheese Crostini Plate

summer has arrived and we are so happy to see it! nothing spurs creativity like a good craving. with strawberries in season, i couldn’t resist picking a basket up from the farmer’s market! these simple, yet elegant crostinis will be the perfect addition to this weekend’s gatherings.

Sliced Bread Loaf for Strawberry Crostini

these are so simple to make, it’s almost embarrassing. slice up an italian loaf into pieces about a half inch thick. spread oil on the bread and toast at 425° for about 5 min. while cooking, slice strawberries (i chunked & sliced these for added dimension). let cool and spread goat cheese (i used plain flavor). arrange  strawberries and add fresh torn basil, salt & pepper. drizzle balsamic vinegar over the top and voila! these’ll be the talk of the party monday!

Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar Goat Cheese Crostini

||| have a lovely weekend! rachel |||

||| travel tip thursday | la |||


finally, a travel tip stateside! this tip is for those of you heading to la. we had read lovely reviews about church & state, a french bistro in central la, on yelp and had to try it for ourselves. below, you’ll see the bar area, pear & brie flatbread, le cachat, tarte aux champignons & escargots de bourgogne en croûte.

my apologies for the dark pictures, this was the first week with my new camera & we ate outdoors (highly recommended, weather permitting).

||| valentine’s day | my true love |||

happy valentine’s day! today is the perfect day to reveal my true love: restaurant week. this year, we tested out senza. amazing! senza is located in lakeview neighborhood of chicago. they offer a pre-fixed menu that varies by season; $100 for nine courses, $50 for four. senza is a perfect restaurant for those of you with celiac disease; everything on the menu is gluten free!

moving down (from left to right) we have: a picture of the modern interior, the commemorative restaurant week menu, parsnip soup, grilled lettuce, tagliatelle (with truffles), gnocchi, scallops, white chocolate & spiked apple cider dessert.

i’m trying to stray away from food posts, but c’mon, it’s food.


||| have a lovely night! rachel |||

||| a little love |||

listen. love. feels appropriate, considering the upcoming holiday.

here’s a few things i’m loving this week: loveisafire

||| travel tip thursday | rome |||

dinookay, let’s be honest… most food in italy is outstanding. however, i can recommend the obvious: avoid touristy places/menus with pictures. and, if you can muster up the courage to ask a local where their favorite trattoria is (in italian), you can’t lose.

between italian sentence fragments and hand gestures, we got directions to Hostaria Dino’s Express. they even have a hand-written menu that changes daily, though i’d suggest you take your italian pocket dictionary with you!

open monday-saturday for lunch | via Tacito, 80

||| buon appetito! – Rachel |||

||| travel tip thursday | london |||

dishoomyou know you like a restaurant when you eat at it more than once on a weekend trip. that was my experience with Dishoom, a bombay café in london (two locations: one in shoreditch, one in covent garden)

dishoom provides an eccentric, yet cozy, environment perfect for meeting up with friends or grabbing lunch with a co-worker. their dishes are quite unique (i LOVE unique, it usually means i can’t make it at home); ask your waiter/waitress to give recommendations, i took them and was definitely pleased!

oh, and their pastries are out of this world : )

happy traveling! – Rachel

||| pancake pantry | nashville |||

you’re sure to want an encore of this delicious breakfast in music city.  it really sets the tempo for other breakfast joints to keep up with.  pancake pantry offers a medley of pancakes (as you may have expected).  okay, i’m done. but seriously:

the lines can get extremely long, so arrive early and avoid the crowd (see below).  i ordered the sugar & spice pancakes, and they were the best pancakes i’ve had in my entire life.  it was one of those food moments that makes you want to cry because what you’re eating is so unbelievably good.  i didn’t have my camera with me at the time, so i snagged this shot of the line from their website.

*note: we tasted each others’ pancakes, and it seemed that everyone liked what they ordered best, so trust your instinct and don’t listen to what others tell you to get!* – R

||| favorite post round-up | week of 8.12 thru 8.18 |||

i am an avid blog reader.  i cannot go a day without my dose of blog surfing—thank you bloglovin app—and i try to bookmark my favorites to revisit.  here are some stand-out posts from this past week.

enjoy! -t

||| 1. beauty. |||  a fine frenchy | the beauty department // fabulous hair how-to inspired by a fine frenzy (new album out this october!)…i have been searching for a good french twist tutorial and this one is flawless.

||| 2. food.  |||  pesto party | mrs. lilien // mrs. lilien is just too fabulous for words and i am completely obsessed with this blog.  the layout, the content, the typefaces, the colors…obsessed.  now that i’ve finished gushing, check out her recipe for pesto (yum!) and make it your own!

||| 3. funny. |||  to justin timberlake: our man-date itinerary | hello giggles // man date itinerary for a hypothetical date with jt…a super fun date complete with an itinerary filled with fedoras, thumb rings (maybe…), roller skating, ryan gosling, lasagna, toddlers in tiaras, parents, triscuits with hummus, a dog, an elliptical, and high-5s (“…but not too many times, like, probably just the right amount of times. i think that will probably be 7 times.”)

||| 4. diy. |||  gold studded tray diy | fabulous k // easy, affordable, and completely adorable!  trays are quite possibly the best way to display the knickknacks you have lying around in an organized and appealing way and this post shows you how to create a very fashionable tray for under $15!

||| 5. fashion. |||   stella inspired | coco + kelley // stella mccartney never disappoints and the spring ’13 campaign has all the elements i look for in a collection—leopard, florals, lace, pastels, stripes, and quirky glasses…i’m on board!

||| 6. art. |||  ladies in dior | paper fashion // katie rodger’s blog paper fashion has become a daily must for me—gorgeous inspiration for all of your artistic and fashion forward whims.  this specific post was a favorite this week because j’adore dior, of course!

||| 7. décor. |||  real living: daydreaming in turquoise | the decorista // i am in love with the cognac leather sofa in the second photo (and the shoes to match in the right-hand corner!) and i am a real sucker for wallpaper.  turquoise is one of my favorite colors to incorporate into my home and the images in this post are spot-on.