Considering my love for pasta (I'm that girl who eat's it roughly 3 - 4 times a week), it was always a surprise that I'd never even visited Italy before. So when I sat on the sofa at Christmas and opened my present from the male, tickets to Florence, I couldn't wait to get on the plane (albeit, it turned into an unpretty sight, because hangover...).
Leaving ours at 4am on a Friday morning, we arrived in Pisa airport at 10.40am and managed to find a bus heading to Florence, for only 24euro return (Autostradale if you're interested). Even arriving to rain, didn't stop us instantly falling in love with the city, and no sooner had we wandered a few streets, did we stumble upon a cute little restaurant and fell into gnocchi heaven (also, what DO they do with their cheese?). We pretty much spent the whole weekend eating our way around the city, drinking endless glasses of wine, and admiring all the quaint streets and spots that Florence has to offer. After all, isn't that what you're supposed to do, in a country that's food is like no other? And also, HOW do they just get it so right?


WHERE TO SEE
- Pointe Vecchio: The most famous bridge in Florence, and undoubtedly a breathtaking sight (whether seen from afar or walking across it). Full of jewellery shops and beautiful views, it's worth a little stroll.
- Boboli Gardens: Located just behind Piazza Pitti, these are one of the largest and most elegant Italian style gardens. The views are gorgeous and in warmer weather, it's the ideal place to have a picnic overlooking Florence.
- Piazzale Michelangelo: Another view point, and ultimate tourist spot. It takes a little legwork, because, lots of stairs. But once you've worked your way to the top, you won't be disappointed with what you'll find at the top. Best for golden hour/sunset!
-Vintage Photobooth: Collect memories and photos in this cute old booth, located on the corner between Via Nazionale and Piazza Della Stazione (near the station basically). After one too many drinks, pop your 2euros in and pull your best pose. The results are worth the five minute wait!
- Mercato Centrale: Food lovers heaven! With downstairs hosting traditional vendors offering fresh vegetables, fruit, meat and the best cheese, upstairs has an incredible food court with five hundred seats to choose from. So that means, eating your way around each stand. Try Il Pane e la Pasticceria for some of the best Focaccia.


WHERE TO SIP AND SNACK
- Dal Barone: We stumbled upon this place, having wandered a few streets looking to satisfy our hungry travel tummy and it did not disappoint. Quaint, cosy and delicious with amazing service. Try the gnocchi dish (perfect thing to start your weekend!)
- Ditta Artigianale: Located in Florence's hippest district (think the cool, lesser-known tourist spot) and a secret gem, Ditta serves some of the best coffee in an incredibly designed space. Ultimate comfort, and a place to unwind (and upload those IG stories) for a few hours.
- La Menagere: Everyone and their mother's will tell you to go here. A concept restaurant, that is romantic, cosy and filled with blooming flowers and tasty treats. Whether it's brunch, lunch, dinner or just some drinks, this place is incredibly inviting. Try the cocktails - winner!
- Trattoria Zaza: Our favourite restaurant of them all. Located in San Lorenzo, with raving review, amazing prices and a true Italian experience to remember. Order everything with truffle, and you won't be disappointed. Just make sure you book, as you could be waiting a while...
- Fuoco Matto: Just outside of the centre, but worth the walk. The decor is simple and understated, with the main focus of food - Pizza! Make sure to try the aged ham, cherry tomatoes and mozzarella for a mouth-watering taste. Plus, complimentary prosecco on arrival? Sold.
- All'Antico Vinaio: Whilst we didn't get to visit, word on the street is that these are some of the best sandwiches in the city. And a tip? Get everything with truffle too. Because, why not!


WHERE TO STAY
- Loft, San LorenzoA perfect find on Airbnb and amazingly located - right opposite Mercato Centrale and above Trattoria Zaza (double win!). Hosts, Annalisa and Leonardo are nothing but welcoming, warming and helpful. Their guides on where to eat and what to see are well and truly thought through, and of course, the Loft, is just pure bliss. Once you've climbed the 60 stairs to the third floor, you'll soon forget as this place instantly oozes design and comfort, with weird and wonderful touches such as the cheeky window on the bedroom floor looking into the shower. Also, make sure to look out of the skylight for some beautiful views of the Tuscan Mountains.
You can read my full view of the Loft, here.


Whatever Italy's secret, they've well and truly hooked me in to their culture and lifestyle. And I can't wait to return again.
Road trip anyone?
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it’s been a long while since I sat down and actually wrote something, for me.
It’s not that I didn’t have anything to say.
I just didn’t know how to say it.

Last year didn’t really start how a year should. All the plans that had been put in place, the excitement of starting a new year fresh - full of travel, aspirations and things to tick off the list, were washed away within weeks of welcoming in the New Year. 

What should have been excitement, warmth, and constant date watching, for the arrival of my new niece, and opportunities, anticipation and nerves for a career change ahead, were no sooner shattered and replaced, with emptiness and grief when the unexpected loss of my little grandad happened. The death of my first grandparent.

In such a short space of time, I felt so many emotions, but mostly I felt lost. 
In myself, and everything I did.

I felt like everything I’d done leading up to this moment in my life, in this now without him, were done wrong. I questioned and doubted every single aspect of life. Everything I ever knew, and loved, didn’t quite feel the same anymore. 
Without him.
I felt like I didn’t cry enough, and then I cried too much. I felt like I couldn’t live quite the same anymore. I couldn’t laugh, or do things that felt too fun. And no sooner, was also faced with remorse and guilt towards my niece, because I hadn’t welcomed her into the world the way she should have been, only a day after his death. I should have been there for her, but I just couldn’t deal with these two contrasting emotions and this grief that I’d never experienced before.

And so I put my all into work, I focused on the new. 
And I fell in love, with a career.
I began to feel happy in my work life. I put my all into everything, because I wanted to succeed and do well. And most importantly, I was being praised for what I was doing - I was respected. 
I realised, that for the first time ever, I was officially career driven. 

My relationship was strong, stronger than ever. The support, and the love was there and whilst the doubts came from the grief, I never for once thought it would fail. And with that, it only grew stronger.
To what it is today, real genuine love.
Quality time was a whole new thing. In one sense we became selfish, wanting to spend time with just each other, but equally wanted to be surrounded by the ones we love. Helping family out, when times were dark and hard. Spending numerous times walking up and down hospital corridors, waiting for things to get better. Endless hours driving around the country ensuring that everyone was seen, everyone was content, and everyone was healthy. Because they mattered.
People mattered.
Love mattered.
Life mattered.

No sooner had the summer arrived, and it felt like those darker times, were years back rather than months. It became one of the best summers we had. Work was blossoming, with events every other night, socialising and exploring. Living on 5 hours sleep because commuting life was just the norm. The best trip of a lifetime to Miami that will never be forgotten. Constant plans in the diary, from week night dinner dates with friends, to weekend staycations with family. The complete adrenaline and buzz.
Summer just felt so. 
Until I went back to my hometown. Every time.
And we’d drive past the house that was no more.
Guilt washed over me, like I shouldn’t have done the things I was doing. I should have grieved more openly. I should have talked about my feelings more.

It never left me. 

And, it brought out a secret. A secret that I’d been hiding inside of myself for a very long time. One that I ignored, and put to the back of my mind. But this grief, just overcame me. It stood out, and it made it a bigger problem. 
A problem I couldn’t hide from anymore.

I hated every aspect of my appearance. Not a day would go by in the Autumn, where I didn’t cry or feel anxious in the morning.
I couldn’t stop comparing my face to others.
I couldn’t stop feeling sick everytime I caught sight of myself in the mirror.
I could stop picking at my scalp, and pulling at my hair, wishing it to be different.
I couldn’t stop thinking my body was disgusting.
I couldn’t stop the voices in my head, telling me I was ugly. That I looked like a boy. I wasn’t pretty.
And I couldn’t stop, wondering why I even worried so much about the way I looked.

And it took me until this time, to admit to a few of my closest people, that this was more than just a social media comparison. A vain feeling. This was real life. This is mental health. 
This called for help.
_____

Life tests us, in more ways than we can ever imagine and describe. But we can only learn from it. And grief taught me a lot. It tested me, but it really opened up my eyes to the things I needed to address. A year on, and I’m finally coming to terms with things that once weren’t so relevant but really reflect on me as a person. I realise how important family and friends are, more than ever before. And I believe hugely in gratitude.
I am thankful, for this life. The path that we pave ourselves.
The opportunities we are given.
And the fact that love, it doesn’t cost us anything.

That’s the most wonderful thing.


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There is a saying on Stand By Me, that stuck with me ever since I heard it..
"I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve"

I'd always promised myself that I wouldn't let that quote be the same for me, I tried to tell myself that actually, I WOULD have the same friends when I'm older, watching them as they walk down the aisle, having children who play together, and looking back at the school days fondly.
But reality is, is that it really doesn't always happen.
And it's OK.

There comes a time in your life, when you've grown up with friends and maybe you were put together because of family circles, or you buddied up at school because you played the same sport, or you took dance class together. You had the same interests when you were ten, and you liked doing the same thing. You liked the house they lived in, and enjoyed cycling together on the weekend. But as you get older, your views and interests change. You don't have the time to dance on a weekend, or spend Friday nights in the pub because you have responsibilities. You move away, because you meet new people and you realise that you were friends because your parents were. What you once had in common with a friend at thirteen, may not be quite the same as you do when you're twenty seven.
You begin to lead different lives, and all of a sudden those messages exchanged daily, turn into once a week, and then before long the 'Hey Stranger' comment appears, and you realise in that moment that months have passed. The connection you had with someone you classed as a close friend, someone who had your back and who you really believed would be there when you're older, sitting in the park with your children and hosting dinner parties together, can disappear almost as quick as friendships start.
And just like that, friendships fade. It is no longer there.
And you question why, you wonder how it got to that stage. Whether there was more effort from one party more, or if they disliked you for some reason, or if they simply just didn't want to hang around with you anymore. And it can hurt. But it doesn't reflect on you as a person, or as a friend. And it doesn't mean that you are disliked. It's just simply that sometimes, some things, we cannot always control.

We have certain chapters in our life that end, to begin new ones.

Friends come and go. Friends change.
Only you're expected to feel nothing. Not know a reason why the friendship fell apart, and just continue without having an explanation and quietly avoiding the subject again. Brushing it off when questioned why you two parted ways, and making excuses about living away/change in lifestyle, when all along, you just don't quite know yourself either. There is no answer. Except life.
You don't live together, you don't have children to raise, and you don't share money like you do with a partner, and you can't help but hold on to something because it should be easy. It should be easy to be friends. Everyone can be friends with anyone.
It's harder to walk away from a friendship. Because you can either feel like you've let it down, that you didn't put enough effort in or you weren't ever a good enough friend, but also when you feel like the friendship isn't healthy anymore. You constantly feel like you're trying to impress them, to be wanted and liked by them, and they may put you down, instead of supporting you, but instead it only brings negativity with you. With that friendship.
So it's hard to know when you should let go. Remember it for what it was. Not what it is.
Just like in a breakup.

And actually, it's a pity, because losing a friend I think, is far more painful than losing a partner, a lover.
You're never quite prepared for it since you simply invited someone round for tea.

"It might take a while to realise but eventually you'll find the good in goodbye."

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