Framed

You would think that the room that you spend a third of your life in would be the first to be beautiful.  But not our master bedroom.  It has been ignored for other projects for too long. And now it since the other rooms are getting closer towards being “finished” it has our undivided attention.

To share with a basement reno and a baby.  Oh and two dogs.

Sure we painted, and made the bed and added some other furniture but it never got past that halfway mark. Because no one ever sees it except the two of us and a lot of the time it holds unglamorous things like laundry baskets of clean clothes we I am too lazy to put away.

Or recently bottles, burp clothes, and pack and plays. Nothing says glamour like cloth diapers for cleaning up baby urps.

Part of the issue is it is a huge room so it is taking a lot to make it look complete. But I am on a new kick and have lots of ideas up my sleeve to make it elegant, relaxing, and personal.  And add some color. 

First up was adding some picture frames or something above the nightstands for some height.  Because the lamps look puny.  See…(yes this picture is from over a year and a half ago but sadly looked pretty much the same until this weekend.)

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And now…

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Not a huge difference, but we are taking baby steps here.  Any guesses what we framed?  Give you a hint…it was cheap and simple and has personal meaning without being photos.

A closer look…

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In keeping with the theme of remembering our trips (like with our Italy gallery wall and maps), I went with our passport stamps.

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It was super simple-just scan them in and blow them up.  I then opened them up in a simple photo editing program and messed with the tint and saturation in a non systematic way until they looked the way I envisioned.  Then a quick print and trim before sticking them in a frame.  All of my stamps on my side of the bed and all of Derek’s on his.

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We had some repeats of course since we do travel with each other a lot, but even those looked different because of the varied backgrounds they were stamped on.

So now as I get ready to turn off the light, I can remember our fond times in Italy Frankfurt, Germany. 

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Long story.

But it still makes me smile.

In the Book

Next up on the Christmas gift list involved a project with zero sewing.  Which was good in the while running out of time scheme of things.

I may have mentioned that we went to Italy this summer.  And that we took tons of pictures.  But at the sake of not covering every wall with vacation photos, I needed to find another way to easily display them without becoming overwhelming.  Enter Derek’s gift….the photo book.

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Just like Mrs. Limestone, I used blurb.com for the book and I love how it all came out.  All professional looking (well in my humble opinion at least).

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Blurb has lots of options for how you want to put together the book and I decided to download their program because it gave me the most control.  I went with the upgraded paper which has a slight sheen to it….especially when you are trying to photograph it.  So in person the colors are so vivid.  Promise.

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Originally I thought about narrating the pictures and adding words all over the place.  But then I nixed the idea and let the pictures speak for themselves.  I could fit a whole lot more pictures that way. And it took a whole lot less time thinking of witty things to say about each picture.  Sorry honey.

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I tried to vary my layouts (which was super easy to do with the program).

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Derek loved it and now all of Italy memories are easily accessible on the side table in the living room.

So all I need to enjoy it is a glass of red wine.  But remember it was a gift for Derek of course….

Disclaimer: Blurb has no idea who I am (other than my order number) and had nothing to do with my post.  I just wanted to share how much I loved their product with all of you.  I think more photo books are in my future.

Italy Memories….On a Wall

I may have mentioned that we went to Italy this summer.

And I may have taken have tons of pictures.

I may have been really tempted to frame all 1457 of them and hang them around the house.

But I knew that would have been just a little overkill.

However there was this big blank wall right behind the chairs in the living room that had “Italy” written all over it.

(Just picture it….it was a blank wall of nothing)

And I just may have had that wall in mind when we planned the Italy trip.

Anyway this what we whipped up….

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Because I wanted a way to remember our trip everyday. Without having everyone that walks into the house thinking that our travel photo album barfed all over the place.

My goal was to make look like we collected a wide array of pictures over a long period of time and make it say “Italy” without using all photos.  I think we achieved it and I am so happy how it turned out. 

It all started with this art that we bought for the old house because Derek really liked it.

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And it hung over the buffet in the dining room for years until we moved.  But at the new house there was not great place for it, so it sat in the closet for the past couple of years.  Sad.

Since it happened to be a painting of St. Peter’s Basilica, it worked out perfectly for our Italy wall.  And it wasn’t a photo.  Good planning 5 years ago.

Also when we at ZGallerie we stumbled on a Rome sign that was also a perfect addition.  I told Derek I could make it myself, but I got outvoted.  Now we had Rome represented.

After we had our two pieces, we bough some random frames and with the use of our area rug and a measuring tape laid out the the display.

By random, I mean absolutely no plan.  We picked a variety of sizes and finishes.  And different mats.  No plan here.  Collected over time was the desired look.

Next, we hung them all on the wall according to our plan on the floor.  And our new best friends smiled at us from their frames for a month (or two) while I picked out the rest of the pictures to complement the art.

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Finally finished….

On the bottom portion we have some photos of course.

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In addition to the normal photos, I also modified a photo of the Cinque Terre to make it resemble a painting.

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I used a filter in Photoshop to in order to achieve this effect.  And if I can do it in Photoshop, anyone can do it because I still have zero skill with that program.  Also if you don’t have Photoshop, there are tons of photo editing program online that can achieve similar effects.

Another “different than photo thing” I did was with some left over Euros that the bank would not take back when we arrived home.

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So of course I had to make something with them.

My first thought was do a rubbing over them with a pencil or charcoal.  And be all all old fashioned and stuff. Bad idea.

So I reverted back to the computer and threw them on the scanner.  I then did multiple random effects in Photoshop and Picnik until I liked how they looked.  Don’t ask me which ones because I have no idea. 

Then there is the top section….

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The top right is actually a retro travel poster from the Boston Public Library’s Flickr Photostream.

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High Heeled Foot in the Door mentioned it awhile ago and I had the link safely tucked away until I needed it.  There are so many fun posters there for all sorts of destinations.  I had trouble picking just one poster and can see this becoming a go-to spot for future trips.  Definitely worth checking out.

And last but not least….our Italian phrase.

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Il bel far niente.

Or the art of doing nothing.

Something we are both terrible at.  And I would like to pretend that having it written in Italian on the wall will make us stop and smell the roses sometime.

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I spent a lot of time with my Italian travel dictionary to try to find the perfect phrase and this seemed like the best fit.

Although there were a lot of great runners up in the “amore” section that I was tempted to put up there and just tell people it meant something nice and romantic.

Non ho mallattie has a nice ring to it don’t you think? (I have no diseases)…..

Or how about “Sono ricco e single” (I am rich and single)….

No?

Oh well…I guess I will have to get busy with the art of doing nothing.

And remembering our amazing vacation daily of course…..

Roma

I have gotten a little side-tracked with the final recap of our Italy trip.  We went to Florence and then the Cinque Terre….and then got sidetracked with other things.  But I forgot Rome.  The third and final stop of our trip. 

We arrived by train from the Cinque Terre and took a taxi to our apartment in the Trastevere neighborhood.  Which was a less touristy portion of Rome. 

Our apartment was the smaller green door right at street level-

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And then this street was our home base-

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We had amazing pizza that night and then woke up the next morning to walk to the Coliseum and the Roman Forum.

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It was amazing to think about the history and just how old it was.  And made me want to see the Gladiator again.  And again it was sweltering but by this point we were used to it.  Well as used to it as you can be.

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The Pantheon was also awe inspiring.  And it was a free which was bonus.

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In case you were wondering what the “crowds of summer” look like in Italy….this was the scene at the Trevi fountain.  Needless to say we did not throw a coin.  I wonder how many pickpockets were in that crowd….

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Just walking around the city was gorgeous.

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But the most amazing part of Rome had to be the Vatican.

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Finding the entrance to the Vatican museum turned out to be slightly difficult…good thing I had my navigator with me.  We should have just looked for the ginormous line of people waiting in the sweltering heat.  The extra Euros we spent on a entrance time were priceless.  In case you are questioning the pants choice when it was 110 outside….St. Peter’s has a strict dress code…..no knees and no shoulders.

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The Vatican museum and the Sistine chapel were amazing….but we followed the rules unlike some people in there and did not snap any photos.

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And the size of St. Peter’s Basilica alone was jaw-dropping. 

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We climbed the dome and got a chance to see the tiny mosaic pieces that made up the artwork up close.

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We also attended mass there since it was a once in a lifetime experience.  Unfortunately some people that were in attendance were not very respectful and the constant taking of photos and video while walking up and down the aisle was incredibly distracting.  I am not a person that likes confrontation, but if we spoke the same language I probably would have said something.

Buy anyway the extra Euros for the dome climb was also worth it.

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The climb to the very top was long, tiring, hot, smelly and not for the claustrophobic….but oh so worth it for the views and the breeze.

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The final day we had in Rome we had plans to hit two more museums before packing up and heading home.  But when I woke up not feeling well, we decided not to push it and that after two weeks we were museumed out anyway.  So we spent the day in our little neighborhood and had a great time.  Then after eating more amazing pizza we went to bed before our incredibly long travel day back to the states. 

And as always if these pictures were not enough stop over here because of course I have tons more!

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Going Back In

Last weekend I realized just how long it has been since we have done an “inside” project.  We had been so busy with outside stuff and Europe prep that the inside has been ignored as of late.

And since I always get some project inspiration with a little wine, some good music and Derek not home to talk me into being more practical and having a plan (hence how the kitchen reno started), the office is now getting a mini-makeover.  Nothing drastic but just a couple of little things that have been bugging me about the space lately.  I am still in the going to Homegoods, returning to Homegoods and buying more at Homegoods stage but I wanted to share a sneak peek at one of the projects that is actually done in the space.

We try to make the decor in our home as personal as possible without going overboard with pictures of the two of us cheesing it up for the camera.  Coming back from Italy, I have been resisting the urge to plaster photos of the trip all over the place, while still putting memorable items on display.  Not so easy.

I saw an idea of displaying travel maps over from Alissa over at 33 Shades of Green awhile ago and loved how it was personal but pretty at the same time.  So I made sure to save all the maps we used during the trip. 

After I had dumped everything off the bookshelves in the office on that Saturday night, I decided to add some frames to the top.  So I messed around with frames I had in various colors and sizes until I found an arrangement I liked.

They were on the smaller side, but I sort of liked just including special sections of the map instead of the entire thing. Also I wanted to change it up in terms of colors on the maps and how they were positioned with mats in the frame.

So I pulled out the maps we used for sightseeing and went to work measuring and cutting with this in mind.

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Since I wanted the maps to “mean something” I got the location of our apartment and some major sights included the sections of Rome and Florence I cut out.  To change it up a little bit, I used a more zoomed out map for Siena…..to commemorate our memorable bus ride of course.   The maps are creased and written on (and probably quite sweaty) but that makes me like them even more.

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IMG_2721And now every time I look in the corner now I can remember Italy and where exactly we stayed.  And the bus ride.  And of course the running joke of why I never carried the maps or navigated the entire trip.  Let’s just say my sense of direction was left back in the States.  If I was in charge of this task we would have ended up back in Germany. 

Memories:).

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Cinque Terre

Now the part of the trip that everyone has been waiting for….the Cinque Terre.

I was gorgeous and relaxing and the perfect way to split up sight seeing in Florence and Rome.  You are feeling stressed and hot on the train wondering how much longer you are going to be in tunnels and then suddenly you come out and all there is blue water and sunshine.  Sigh.

Anyway if you are not familiar with the Cinque Terre, it five small towns on the coast of Italy that are connected by hiking trails and the train.  We stayed in Vernazza and it was perfect.

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The Cinque Terre does not have many hotels because the towns are so tiny, and most people rent private rooms.  We rented from Maria Capellini and her husband Giaccomo.  Our room was in the yellow building right on the square. They were the sweetest couple and made us feel so at home the two nights we were there.

We arrived on a Sunday (when I snapped most of these pics) and so it looks a lot more crowded than it was on Monday.

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We arrived in the afternoon and of course it was hot, so we grabbed our suits, ate lunch on the harbor, drank some Italian beer and went to the beach.  Heavenly.

That night we probably had our best meal of our entire vacation.  The seafood was amazing as well as the views of the Mediterranean.  Of course this was the dinner that I decided “let’s not be a tourist and bring the giant camera bag with us to dinner…just slip the little one into your pocket”  So this is the only picture of the meal we have….Derek’s first course.  Amazing (and under 10 euro).  My seafood spaghetti and sea bass encrusted in sea salt was the best fish I have ever had.  And the Cinque Terre wine was delicious as well.

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Vernazza at night-

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The next day was the hike.  We decided to take the first train out to start by 7:30 and try to beat the heat.  Also the trail from Monterosso to Vernazza was supposed to be the most physically strenuous so we wanted to start with that.

Monterosso is the morning was deserted but gorgeous.

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Then we started the hike.  Let’s just say the first leg was a little more physically demanding than we expected.  It was very steep and the whole “let’s try to beat the heat” thing…well that did not really work out.  I am not a sweater and my shirt was soaked within in the first half hour.  I consider us to be in reasonably good shape (I run three days a week) and honestly this first trail kicked our butts. 

At this point the blog actually came up.

J: You know Emily from Imperfect?

D; One of your blog friends?

J:Yes (gasping for breath)…she did this hike at the end of her second trimester.  It was not 105, but she still did it successfully.  So if we can’t do it we are total wimps.

So everyone needs to tell Emily what a rock star she is.

Anyway we ended up completing the hike and it was so worth it for the views and after the first leg it was much easier.  The last leg was so flat that it was paved.  But in some ways I liked the first leg the best as Derek and I were the only ones there and was very peaceful.  But enough talking…here are the pictures-

Monterosso after we started hiking into the hills-

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Our first glimpse of Vernazza-

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Coming into Vernazza-

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After going through Vernazza, we came to Corniglia-

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The views were amazing

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And the water was so blue

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The town of Manarola-

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Finally to the paved part.  No pics of me will make the blog because at this point I looked just a tad sweaty.  A lot of women were wearing just their bras to hike in.  Not swimsuit tops or sports bras…just regular bras.  Not sure if that is a European thing, or I am so hot that I don’t care and I will never see these people again thing.

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Anyway we stopped in the final town Riomaggiore for a late lunch and more Italian beer.  Then we hopped the train back to Vernazza and went back to the beach for our last afternoon in the Cinque Terre before heading for Rome in the morning.  I took at lot more pics and if you would like to see more go here.  Hope you enjoyed seeing the Cinque Terre as much as we enjoyed relaxing there!

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Florence

I could write a month’s worth of posts on our Italy vacation….but don’t worry I won’t bore you that much.  Instead I am thinking on doing three posts since we went to three different locales and then a final post on packing and planning and stuff because while most of you do not care, I loved the Europe packing list one of my old favorite design blogs, Decorno.
And no I am not a genius and figured out photoshop in a day….I decided that I will worry about that for pictures we decided to hang around the house and not for the blog.   Much less stress.
So anyway-Florence.  We arrived in Florence with some major jetlag and an entire day in front of us.  We did a jetlag no-no and took an hour nap and honestly it was the best decision for us. And then we opened up some wine.IMG_1238
Our entire trip we decided to stay in apartments rather than hotels and since we were going to be in Florence for a week, we got one with amazing views and a great terrace.  Our apartment was not large, but it had a kitchen and the property management company we worked with, Italy Perfect was great.  Highly recommend them.
See that red circle in the picture….that is our bedroom with 360 degree views.  The Ponte Vecchio is in the center and the Uffizi Gallery is the tan building to the right.IMG_1234circle So we had views like this-IMG_1669
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And of course we loved the terrace.  We ate out there many evenings.IMG_1446
And we loved Florence.  
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The ceiling of the Baptistery across from the Duomo.IMG_1292
Just strolling around was fun….IMG_1649
And Piazelle Michelangelo was the perfect place to spend a sunset picnic-IMG_1751
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And Mexican beer.  I swear we drank Italian beer the rest of the trip when we were drinking beer which was actually quite good.  But after sweating all day and roasting your buns sitting on hot stone steps a Corona from the street vendor was perfect.
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Since we were in Florence for a week, we took a couple of day trips.  One of these was on a wine tour through the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany.  Our first plan was to rent a car and do this on our own.  But after researching fun things like insurance we decided to join a tour instead.  Best.decision.ever.  We went on a tour with eight other people and given by the Tuscan Wine Society.  Rebecca was an amazing tour guide (and she has a blog).  We learned a whole lot about wine.  We loved this tour and had a great time so make sure you check it out if you are going to be in Florence.  We started at 9:30 and did tastings at three wineries.  At the first winery we got a full tour which was very interesting.
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And then of course the wine-
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We had a delicious lunch prepared at the second winery before heading to the third for some more wine.  Derek learned he is not a grappa fan at lunch.  We also stopped in so cute Tuscan hill towns in between.
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Sadly US customs only allows a liter of alcohol per person through customs so we could not bring that much back with us.  But happily both bottles made it home in one piece and are waiting to be enjoyed for a special occasion.
On our last day in Florence we planned on taking a day trip to Siena.  At to this point we had a relatively smooth trip.  All flights were on time, had successfully navigated the city, found grocery stores and restaurants etc. 
Then we got on the slow bus to Siena.  Which I thought would not be that bad because it is a little more time on the bus…but oh well.  Except the A/C an the bus was not working…..and the bus was very full of people…and it was 102 outside….and the windows did not open….for 2.5 hours.   So when we finally got to Siena we were not in the best shape.  And then as were we trying to find some water, I realized that I had forgotten the guide book on the bus.  NOOOOO!  So we had no map and not really an idea of the plan.  Luckily we were leaving the next day for the Cinque Terre which was in a new guidebook safe in the apartment so it was not that bad.  So we were without my security blanket but ultimately had great time in Siena. 
Even though it was the hottest day all week.  But we did get on the correct bus on the way home.
The town square where the famous horse race is held….sadly we missed it by a weekend.IMG_1841
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The next day we got up early for our train to the Cinque Terre which was amazing….and in a new post.  If you want to see more pics or videos, go to  my flickr page here (or click “my photos” at the top).  I did not include details about everything we did and did not do because most museums did not allow pictures and I did not want to bore people.  (David was amazing though.) But if you interested shoot me an email.  We are planners and that means spreadsheets.  Ciao!
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We’ re Baaa-aaaaack

We just got back from Italy where we have been sipping wine, sight-seeing  and sweating the past two weeks.    We had an amazing time and I can’t wait to share all the details with you.  But right now jet lag, laundry and editing 1543 pictures is standing in the way.  Not to mention my google reader that contains two weeks of blog posts to catch up on.  That probably will take an entire day by itself.

We had no internet and very limited cell phone over there which in some ways was nice as it really showed us how much time we waste every day doing nothing.  But it was weird not to be able to check the weather (hot) or have any other English TV channel other than Fox News.  So if Fox was not reporting it in the last two weeks, we know nothing about it.

The waiter at the sports bar in Charlotte where we had a couple hour layover after our 11 hour flight from Rome must have thought we had a very non-communicative marriage.  We immediately sat down, ordered cold drinks and whipped out our phones and really did not speak much for the next hour or so. 

Here is a couple unedited pics while I try to get back in the swing of things-

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View of Florence from our apartment bedroom

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Overlooking Tuscany

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View of Vernazza from the hiking trail

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Our neighborhood in Rome

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Italy Here We Come (in 5 months anyway)

The flights are booked.  Deposits have been made on the apartments.  It's official: we are spending two weeks in Italy this summer.  And while I promise not to be blogging about our upcoming vacation constantly, I did want to share some pics like I promised and then shut up about it.

Anyway... we splurged a little bit on amazing views on the apartment in Florence in order to be enjoying these for an entire week.






 
 
 

Yep those were all taken from some area in the apartment. Can. not. wait.

Our apartment in Rome is much less spectacular but in a good location.



And while I wish this was from the terrace, it is actually taken from a spot close to where we will be staying.


We went the apartment route in the hopes of being able to prepare some of our meals and in the process save some euros.  And to have the experience of shopping in an Italian market.  The website we used to book them was Italy Perfect.  They have had great reviews on TripAdvisor and the BBB.  And they have been very responsive so far to my husband's million questions and emails/phone calls.  They have a lot of great properties in multiple price ranges and for different numbers of people.

Our hotel in Cinque Terre is not booked as of yet.....but I also wanted to share these gorgeous pictures.  Hopefully the couple of days we spend here will be relaxing and full of hiking.







I loved all your comments and suggestions from my previous post on Italy and places to see.  Keep 'em coming!  And now I promise to stop being the girl that keeps talking about her vacation....well until June at least.
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