If you haven’t caught up with the first instalment of my Italy travel diary post, you can find the Rome run down right here – now it’s time to talk about what we got up to for the last two days of our trip.

We’d pre-booked our train from Rome to Florence, which was a good idea seen as it was completely full. The journey lasted about an hour and a half, and the views of the Italian countryside were incredible: I’d do the journey again just for that reason alone.

We were staying in another Air BnB in Florence which was about a five-minute walk from the centre. After getting off the train, we walked the 20 minutes to the apartment through the centre of the city. We were both amazed at how different Florence was to Rome, although some of the architecture was similar.

The Air BnB we were staying in was on a quiet road in a residential district, and the owner lived upstairs so it was really easy to get in touch. He showed us the best way to get around, and all of the sites to see. We quickly changed and went out for a mooch.

The buildings in the city reminded us both of Barcelona’s gothic quarter and were much more dark and striking than Rome. We walked to the Duomo in the middle of the city, which was a dark green colour, and was breathtaking.

The thing I noticed most about Florence is the array of designer shops they had on offer – you could tell that people definitely fled to the city for this reason. We wandered about for around 3 hours and crossed the Ponte Vecchio to the other side before heading back to get changed for dinner.

We thought it would be nice to watch the sunset on the riverbank, so after a couple of glasses of wine in the apartment, we headed out to do this. We went to another bar before going for dinner in a restaurant that overlooked the main square.

 

 

The next day we woke up quite early to take in the views at Piazza Di Michelangelo. The walk up to the top of the hill took us about 30 minutes, but it was worth it. We took our time strolling back through the city before getting lunch and heading for the train to Pisa.

I didn’t know much about Pisa, apart from its famous landmark. Our lovely Air BnB host picked us up from the train station and showed us around the apartment we were staying in, which was bigger than my first flat! He showed us the best route into the city, and what else there was to see.

Our first port of call was the Leaning Tower. The best thing about seeing it in real life was the amount of tourists trying to get the perfect snap. We wandered around the city walls and visited the Piazza Dei Cavalieri at golden hour. We saw the building that Galileo studied in, and wandered down the banks of the Arno river.

Although the pizza and pasta were out of this world in Italy, we were carbed out and decided to try and find an alternative meal for our last one. We settled on a restaurant down a little side street and had one of the best meals of the whole trip. I went all out and got a steak with Italian beans and roast veg and potatoes – it was honestly one of the best steaks I have ever had in my life!

Of all the cities, Pisa was definitely the quietest, but even for a Sunday night, the streets were still full of performers, locals and tourists, which gave it a good buzz. The walk home was very peaceful, even though we passed through the student district.

 

If I’m honest, I wouldn’t rush back to Florence or Pisa: Although they were both beautiful in their own way, I felt as though a day in each was enough and we saw all the sites that we wanted to. I would, however, use the cities as a base to discover more of Tuscany, but overall I was slightly underwhelmed, especially with how highly regarded they both are.

That said, the trip was one of the best ever and Italy still holds the title of my favourite country in the world – I just can’t wait to explore more of it in the coming years.

xx

Last month, myself and Hannah went to Italy for a few days as a late summer break. I’ve been to Italy twice before, but Hannah had never been, so we decided to go to three different cities in the time that we were there – Rome, Florence and finishing off in Pisa to see as much of the beautiful country as we could.

We booked the trip back in January when it was more than ideal weather in the UK, and it was nice to have something to look forward to throughout summer.

I’ve decided to split this post into day 1 and 2 that we spent in Rome, and follow up with what we got up to in Florence and Pisa.

Day 1 & 2

We flew super early on the Thursday to Rome and arrived about 11am Italian time. After a coach journey to the centre, we decided to walk to the Air BnB because it was such a beautiful day, and stopped for pizza on the way, which was delicious. After meeting the host, we unpacked, freshened up and headed out of the door to explore the city.

I’d been to Rome once before about 4 years ago, and we were staying quite close to where we did the first time I was there so I attempted to get my bearings. After a wander around, we found a square called Campo De Fiori, and stopped to have some drinks – luckily, we arrived during the Aperitif hour, which is now my favourite Italian tradition: In brief, it’s basically just happy hour, but the drinks are cheaper and you get given free snacks too, which is great if you constantly crave food, like me.

We spent a couple of hours moseying around the different bars in the square before walking over to Piazza Navona as the sun was setting. The square was super busy, and the beautiful Italian architecture glistened in the sunshine, making it the perfect backdrop for a few slightly tipsy snaps.

After a wander around the surrounding side streets, we walked over to a wine bar, which was recommended to us by a fellow blogger. We had to make our way through a crowd of people who were drinking outside (apparently indicating that the bar is enjoyed by the locals, always a good sign) and found a table just as a couple was leaving.

This bar was amazing: The walls were covered with wine bottles and they had cured meats and cheese on display. Because of the heat, I went for a chilled white wine and we got a charcuterie board to share between us, which was delicious, and made up feel incredibly fancy. We spent a couple of hours here talking to random people, enjoying our wine and watching the passers-by.

We wandered back to the Air BnB via a couple more bars and bought a gelato to see us through the 10-minute walk (I had Nutella and pistachio and omg so good…)

 

 

The morning after, I wandered to the nearest corner shop to get some supplies for breakfast and we chilled in the apartment for a bit. Last time I was in Rome, I didn’t make it to The Vatican because of the queue, so we aimed to get there as early as possible – a decision that 99% of the tourists in Rome also took. We swiftly decided against queueing in the 26-degree heat and carried on to more sites.

Our first port of call though was caffeine. We found a really cute restaurant to have a coffee in before heading to the Trevi Fountain. As expected, it was teeming with tourists, but we did manage to get a couple of snaps after we elbowed our way through. We then walked to Piazza Navona for lunch and shared an antipasti board and a pesto linguine dish.

We found a little van selling Peroni for 1 euro which was an offer we couldn’t refuse and carried on to the Spanish Steps, beer in hand. After a sweaty 138-step climb to the top, we took in the views before heading to the Colosseum: Luckily the queue wasn’t too long!

After the Colosseum, we went back for Aperitif and got talked into having a Negroni, which, although is a traditional Italian drink, I don’t think I’ll be rushing back to. We walked back to the Air BnB and changed quickly before heading to the Trasvertere region of Rome, which was only about 5 minutes from where we were staying.

My recommendation if you ever visit Rome is to definitely check out this area. It had the vibe of Manchester’s Northern Quarter mixed with the charm of ‘real’ Italy. There were so many fewer tourists, but it was still busy enough to give the whole place a buzz.

After a wander around the streets watching people dancing on the canal bank and finding bars that we definitely wanted to visit later in the evening, we settled on a pizzeria, which we both agreed did the best pizza we had ever had. As we are two of the most indecisive people, we chose two pizzas (Parma ham and steak with different cheeses and rocket) and shared them. The restaurant was heaving, but the staff were so attentive and lovely. When we finished dinner we went for a few drinks in a little bar with fairy lights outside before getting a crepe and wandering back along the canal bank.

The next day we had a bit of time in the morning before we needed to catch our train to Florence so we decided to go back to Trasvertere in the daylight and stopped for a coffee and some breakfast at one of the restaurants in the main square.

Overall, the two days we had in Rome were absolutely amazing. The city is one of my favourites because although it is a capital, you never feel rushed. Italian people have such a chilled way of life and its accentuated through the whole place and they always go out of their way to make you feel welcome.

Come back next week to see what we got up to in Florence and Pisa.

xx

In support of World Mental Health Day, I thought I would share a bit of a mental health update with you all. If you know me or have been reading my blog for an amount of time, you’ll know that mental health is something that affects me personally, and something I am a strong advocate for talking about.

For as long as I can remember, I have suffered from anxiety and depression, but only in the last few years did I do anything about it. When I was younger, I used to have feelings of being completely overwhelmed and powerless with life, but I always pinned it down to going through puberty, and I assumed that every teenage girl felt the same as me.

It was only as I got older and found my feet a bit more that I realised that some of the feelings I was having were not ‘normal’ (which is a term I use loosely, because who the hell knows what normal is anymore?) and I began to open up more.

I remember first going to the doctor and not really knowing what to say: I wasn’t at a stage of crying myself to sleep with worry, but I felt so anxious day to day that I was cancelling plans, shutting out those closest to me, and keeping myself to myself – and because I was such a worrier, I was convinced that I was going to lose everyone because I was doing this.

It was a vicious cycle of wanting to feel ok. but not knowing where to turn in case people didn’t understand or I couldn’t explain myself. Anxiety is quite tough to deal with on a day to day basis and it only gets harder with the amount of responsibility you have of being an adult. Everyone’s experience is completely different, but for me, even the simplest task can trigger it and I feel helpless.

Over the years, I have tried a whole range of things for my anxiety, including hypnotherapy, councilling, online chats and medication. Some days I feel as though I’ve made so much progress with my mental health, and some days set me back to square one, but I have my own ways to deal with it, and opening up is definitely one.

You may be wondering why I’m telling you this? Well, in short, it’s because I’m not afraid anymore. I’m no longer worried about what people will think of me if they know I take medication; I don’t mind if people know I worry and over-analyse every situation and I’m ok with people knowing something about me they might not have been aware of previously.

My blog has always been a place to share my feelings and a place to clear my head and I for one am all for breaking down the stigma that surrounds mental health issues. I know from personal experience how hard it is to talk about mental health, but our society is getting more clued up on the different issues and symptoms surrounding us, which seems like a step in the right direction.

There is no magic way to click your fingers and feel better – if there was, I’d be all over that. The first step is identifying that something isn’t right (which only you will know), and if you’ve had a particular feeling for an amount of time, I would suggest seeking some professional advice.

Don’t be embarrassed to talk; it’s the first step to the acceptance that your mental health is just as important as physical.

xx

Although I might be on my own by saying this, I am really enjoying the darker nights already. October is such a beautiful month in terms of the autumn lighting and colours and it makes me feel so happy and cosy when I spend time indoors – this is the first autumn as well that we’ve owned our own house, which makes it even more special.

1. Lunch

On Monday, I fancied something a little bit different for lunch, so when the girls suggested going out to get a few bits from Tesco, I decided to get an avocado and have that on a bagel with some cherry tomatoes and feta. I’m quite bad with making interesting lunches for work, so it was a nice welcome change to have something a little bit fancier!

2. Wardrobe Clear Out

On Tuesday evening, I came back from work and decided to clear out my wardrobe and get some more of my autumn clothes out as the weather is getting a bit colder. I managed to get a whole bag of stuff together for the charity shop and there is much more order to everything now, which is a weight lifted off my shoulders.

3. Apprentice

It’s no lie that one of my favourite times of the year is when The Apprentice comes back on TV, which was this week. I was out on Wednesday so I didn’t manage to catch it on the night, but it is definitely something I’ll be looking forward to for cosy nights in.

4. Catch Up’s

I was working in Manchester on Wednesday as I was going to a conference in the afternoon, so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to meet up with Hannah for a bit of a lunchtime catch up. We went for a Barburrito, which was delicious, and put the world to rights in the hour we had.

5. Byron

You might recall that I’ve mentioned on here a few times that my best friend is going travelling to South America and then NZ and Aus, and Wednesday was our final meal with a few of her close friends. We went to Byron Burger in the city centre, and it was really lovely to spend some quality time together before she jetted off.

6. Airport Goodbye

On that note, I took Laura to the airport on Friday to see her off on her travels, and although we both got very teary in the car (the fact that it was 4am probably didn’t help…) it made me feel so proud of her that she is following her dreams and I can’t wait to hear all about her adventures.

7. Brighton

After a few more hours in bed after the airport, Jordan and I took a trip to Brighton, which we booked only the week before. We had arranged to go back in August, but the dates didn’t fall so well with me starting my new job, so we postponed it for a bit. I’m going to do a full post about what we did when we were there and why I recommend it as a UK trip.

8. Kiehl’s Mask

My skin and the weather change don’t go hand in hand together, and this year I’ve noticed it more than ever. I’d been using a Garnier clay mask when I felt as though my skin needed a bit more TLC, but I found one by Kiehls that I had kindly been gifted, so I gave that one a go. It is the Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleansing Masque and I already love it.Kiehl’ss products are always so well made.

xx

What have you been loving this week?

However much this does sound like the title of a dissertation, it is something that has been on my mind for a while. For the last few weeks, I have been inundated with adverts on my social media channels with celebrities endorsing products, that I will guarantee, they have never used.

Trackback 10 years ago… Celebrities were all over the place advertising drinks, cars, perfumes, haircare, makeup – the lot. They were used to maximise the impact of a marketing campaign and build brand awareness amongst consumers with their recognisability. But fast forward to the present, and these well-known endorsements are few and far between.

Back in the day, when we saw a face that we knew advertising a brand, the teenager in us would associate the familiarity with trust, and with that, we would more than likely purchase the product – easy for big brands to make a sale to susceptible youngsters who want nothing more than to fit in with the masses.

But now, with the more and more brands that there are out there, the harder it is for companies to get into our heads and influence our buying habits, even if they do use a celebrity to try and sway us.

Around eight years ago, something amazing happened to the way that we would purchase items for the foreseeable future – something that was so disruptive for brands, and something none of them knew how to jump on as it was happening – the YouTuber, Blogger hybrid, was born.

YouTube had been around for many years before this, but it was only in about 2009 when girls from all over the world started showing their ever-growing audiences what they had purchased – and the haul video as we know it, was born.

This was such a new way for consumers to see what clothes and makeup looked like on actual, real-life girls and not 6-foot tall, size 4, airbrushed-to-the-max supermodels. All of a sudden, the fashion and beauty industry had to take these new ‘influencers’ into account and try and get them on their side to promote their products.

At first, a lot of these new YouTubers were happy to accept clothes and makeup for free in exchange for an honest review on their channels, but as the industry got bigger and bigger, a lot of them realised that they could make a living by doing this full-time.

However, because of the uncertainty surrounding the blogging industry, a lot of brands didn’t see a future in this and continued to endorse their products with celebrities; but they soon realised that the average twenty-something is much more likely to buy a dress from a face they know and trust, who, at the end of the day, is a twenty-something themselves, telling them the honest ins and outs of a product.

Do you remember back in 2016, where Scott Disick pasted the instructions of what a brand wanted him to write into his Instagram caption? Or when Daley Blind broke the illusion that he actually liked and purchased his new Adidas shirt instead of being paid to advertise it? Brands are now just telling their endorsers what to write showing that the celebrity has no interest in the product whatsoever, as long as they are being paid to talk about it, which makes the blogging industry even more refreshing.

For the past few years since I have been a part of this industry myself (albeit, on a much smaller scale) I have noticed that Bloggers, YouTubers and Instagrammers all have so much more sway on what the 14-30 year-old market is buying because they are people just like you and me.

With the introduction of Instagram stories and the ability to add in links to the products you are wearing (the ‘swipe up’ links that you can only do if your following is more than 10,000) as well as YouTubers linking every product they are talking about in their videos in the description box, it is becoming even more accessible for us to purchase these items in a quick and timely manner – because as a generation, all we ever talk about is our lack of time – so anything that is made quick and easy for us, we love.

To me, celebrity endorsements have been dying out for years, as the evolution of consumer’s buying habits continues to change. We are no longer drawn to Pantene because Ellie Goulding has nice hair; we no longer want to buy L’Oreal because Penelope Cruz looks flawless, and we longer want to shop at Iceland because Kerry Katona told us how cheap it was – that one was a long-shot anyway.

As consumers, we are more likely now to make our own decisions, instead of being swayed by a face we know. We’re not stupid: We know the amount of choice there is out there, so we want to make an informed judgment instead of jumping on the bandwagon.

The honesty and relatability of the everyday girl talking about Topshop Joni jeans, the latest Naked palette and which foundation is the best for night’s out if much more appealing than air-brushed celebrities on our TV screens who have probably never picked up the product in their life.

Maybe I’m wrong; maybe one-day celebrity endorsements will make a comeback: But in my eyes, the new generation of influencers are becoming the celebrities that we recognise and trust, and it’s only a matter of time before we see social media taking over another part of the world.

xx