Travel 2017-04-03T00:29:58+00:00

SUMMER IN THE CITY; BRUNCH AT LADURÉE SOHO

Ispahan Rose Macaron Pastry at for Brunch at Ladurée in SoHo, New York City.

If you know me, then you’re familiar with my love for Paris. So it may come as a surprise to you that this summer was the first time I made it a priority to visit the famous French bakery and restaurant, Ladurée in SoHo. Known for their rainbow-hued macarons in beautifully decadent boxes, they now have two locations in New York City alone and are rapidly moving across the globe, expanding their brand into Asia and the Middle-East most recently. You can visit Ladurée in New York via their quaint little boutique in the Upper East Side neighborhood on Madison Avenue for on-the-go macarons, or you can dine at their location in SoHo on West Broadway for a full, fancy French dining experience, best enjoyed al fresco on their beautiful garden patio. Read on for a look into our magical Sunday brunch at Ladurée SoHo!

Brunch tablescape at Ladurée SoHo in New York City
Ladurée SoHo's Garden Patio

The garden is very spacious, and it also has a bar with a menu full of Instagram-worthy cocktails (lots of them are topped with a macaron skewer!). I came for drinks earlier in the summer and even my plain glass of champagne was garnished with a rose petal! Our original plan was to have afternoon tea in the garden, but they don’t allow you to make tea reservations on the weekends and wouldn’t sit us in the garden for tea on a Sunday (they have a small dining area inside, as well), so we asked for the brunch menu and begged for a table outside (there were plenty when we arrived at noon). If you’d like to have afternoon tea al fresco, I’d suggest making a reservation during the week.

Eggs Benedict Ladurée Style for Brunch at Ladurée SoHo

But first, coffee (and tea!). My friend Kristin and I sat under the gorgeous tree-filtered sunlight and caught up while waiting on our meals. I believe presentation is a large part of the formula of Ladurée’s success, so of course our caffeinated beverages were delivered in adorable striped china with saucers, mine with my own silver teapot, and Kristin’s coffee with the cutest serving creamer. It was the perfect sunny Sunday and we couldn’t have asked for better patio weather.

Garden Patio at Ladurée SoHo in New York City
Sliced Sweet Potato with Avocado & Egg at Ladurée Soho in New York City

Kristin ordered the Ladurée Style Eggs Benedict, while I had a sliced sweet potato topped with avocado mash and an egg. We both enjoyed our dishes and they were light enough to save room for the most important part of any meal at Ladurée- the macarons, of course!

Ispahan Rose Macaron Pastry Ladurée SoHo in New York City
Emily Davis of Lifestyle Blog Epicurean Emily enjoys Sunday Brunch at Ladurée SoHo in New York City

I ordered the “Ispahan” rose, raspberry, & lychee pastry while Kristin ordered a round of macarons. I talked her into trying my favorite flavor, the rose, but the vanilla won her vote for best flavor. It’s funny- I’m always tempted to make my box as colorful as possible and often forget how good the plain old chocolate and vanilla are. The chocolate reminds me of the perfect brownie- crispy on the outside, soft and gooey on the inside. We planned on saving half of our treats to take home, but obviously they were too tasty to make it off the patio! We left with full bellies and refreshed moods after our sunny Sunday brunch at Ladurée SoHo.

Macarons at Ladurée SoHo in New York City

Tips for Dining at Ladurée SoHo

  • Make reservations through Open Table, especially if you’d like to dine in the garden. Note that reservations for afternoon tea are only accepted Monday through Friday.
  • If you are unable to reserve a table in the garden, a good way to still take full advantage of the lovely patio is to order a cocktail and sit at the bar. Drinks are pricy (average between $20 and $25), but I think the experience of enjoying the patio is worth the expense.
  • If you’re only interested in the pastries, order from the boutique and enjoy them in the small seat-yourself booths inside. They’re actually slightly up-charged on the dine-in menu, so you’ll save a few bucks, too!
  • While our food was beautiful and tasty, Ladurée isn’t known for their entrées and although this was my first experience dining in their restaurant, I would recommend it for pastries & coffee, afternoon tea, or brunch over lunch and dinner, especially if you’re trying to stick to a budget. The presentation of the food was definitely Instagram-worthy, but for me, the taste wasn’t anything special (my poached egg was a little water-logged) and the prices are pretty steep.

“Sunday Brunch at Ladurée SoHo” Photographed by Emily Davis

Spending some time in New York City this summer? Check out my other Summer in the City posts, walking the Brooklyn Bridge, and visiting the MoMA!

SUMMER IN THE CITY; WALK THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE

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While New York City has a reputation of being one of the most expensive cities in the world, there are still a lot of cheap and even free sights to see and things to do. One at the top of my list is to take a stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge. I’ve only ever been during the day, and I imagine it would be especially peaceful in the morning or evening, but I love the contrast between the bright blue skies and the bridge’s brown brick arches. Slather on some sunscreen, throw on a pair of sunnies, and head to the bridge with a friend (or a good playlist), and experience the contrast of the Brooklyn and Manhattan boroughs. If you’re staying in Manhattan and walking across to Brooklyn, DUMBO is a chic little neighborhood off to the left side of the bridge exit. If the trek over the bridge leaves you famished, DUMBO boasts popular New York area restaurant chains such as Westville and Bluestone Lane. While you’re in the area, don’t forget to go to Brooklyn Bridge Park and take a whirl on Jane’s Carousel, then peruse south and walk along the edge of the East River for a breathtaking view of the Manhattan skyline.

Emily
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View of downtown Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian walkway.

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Once you’ve walked the bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn, head to the DUMBO neighborhood and walk along the East River via Brooklyn Bridge Park.

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Jane’s Carousel is a memorable and cheap activity to include in your Brooklyn Bridge experience at only $2 per ride.

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View of downtown Manhattan from the Empire Fulton Ferry section of Brooklyn Bridge Park .

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The Manhattan Bridge as seen from Brooklyn Bridge Park. The DUMBO area of Brooklyn stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. See what all of the NYC neighborhoods stand for here– I had no idea until recently!

Beauty by Earth Natural Mineral Sunscreen SPF 25
J. Crew Tie-Shoulder Eyelet Top in Ivory
BP 55 MM Cat Eye Sunglasses in White/Pink
H&M Short Skirt in Denim Blue
J. Crew Striped Bandana with Palm Trees in Poplin Orange Pink
Amazon Sam Edelman Women's Rowan Mary Jane Flat in Natural Naked
H&M Lace Blouse in White
Nordstrom Kate Spade New York Cameron Leather Lottie Satchel in Toasted Wheat

July 2017

I was wearing;

Nordstrom BP 55MM Cat Eye Sunglasses in White/Pink (linked above)

Forever 21 White Crochet Crop Top (no longer available, similar options linked)

H&M Button Down Denim Skirt (no longer available, similar option linked) Also worn hereherehere, and here

Sam Edelman Rowan Mary Jane Flat in Natural Naked (linked above) Also worn here

DKNY Blush Satchel (no longer available, similar option linked) Also worn hereherehereherehere, & here

“Summer in the City; Walk the Brooklyn Bridge” Photographed by Emily Davis & Niki Hicks

© Emily Davis

SUMMER IN THE CITY; RAINY DAY AT THE MoMA

Summer in the City; Rainy Day at the MoMA 1

The weather has been pretty perfect since Luke & I arrived to NYC about three weeks ago- mild for the most part with only a couple of washout days. However, last Saturday was for the ducks and we found ourselves on our way to Central Park for a bike ride as the weather was taking a turn for the worst. We decided to detour to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) to keep dry. The MoMA is my favorite art museum that NYC has to offer and it was a good indoor activity that allowed us to spend some quality time together.

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From now until October 1st, the MoMA is running an exhibition to honor the world-renowned architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. As a previous interior design student, I’ve admired his work for quite some time but never realized how much of a designer he was until seeing this exhibit. The photo above is the original copy of a magazine cover designed by Wright, and the twelve exhibit sections were full of a lifetime of intricately detailed sketches, concepts, & designs. Frank Lloyd Wright redefined the role of an architect and his creativity and passion for his craft were so evident upon viewing his life’s work on display in the exhibit. If you’re interested in design, architecture, or even just innovation, I highly recommend seeing this exhibit before it ends in October.

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Claude Monet’s huge “Water Lillies” provides a unique panoramic viewing experience.

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(Left) Detail of Lee Krasner’s “Gaea”. I love when I can see the brush strokes and the layers of oil paint and the colors in this one are totally inspiring me. (Right) Admiring one of my favorite works, “Drowning Girl” by Roy Lichtenstein. Just missing Dave the Minion, who accompanied me on my last visit to the MoMA.

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A testament to his innovation, Frank Lloyd Wright designed the iconic Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City.

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(Left) Even in the rain, New York is still so beautiful! (Right) Drip Detail by the master of the drip paint technique, Jackson Pollock.

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Artist unknown. I was so inspired by the color & texture of this piece.

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(Left) One of my favorite works by Pablo Picasso, “Girl Before A Mirror”. (Right) After the skies had cleared, we hunted for a coffee shop in the area and came across Bibble & Sip, where I had the best (& cutest) matcha latte I’ve had in New York so far. It’s a jasmine matcha blend, so the jasmine cuts some of the bitterness of real matcha and adds a light and airy floral note that you can taste.

Even if you’re only in the city for a limited amount of time, the MoMA is a great option for rainy days (or maybe later on in the summer, boiling days!). Adult tickets are $25, but the museum does offer Free Friday Nights, every Friday from 4 pm until 8. I know I mentioned this in my first post about the MoMA here, but it is by far my favorite New York City art museum and the only one I haven’t visited is the Frick Collection (on my list for this summer!). I’ve got a huge bucket list of activity ideas for my Summer in the City series, but would love to know your suggestions for classic NYC summer activities! Leave your ideas below and have a wonderful summer!

“Summer in the City; Rainy Day at the MoMA” photographed by Emily Davis & Luke Bowes

iPhone Photography Only

SPRING BREAK PACKING GUIDE

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Confession time… I’ve never been on a traditional “Spring Break” trip. Personally, beaches packed with a bunch of rowdy college kids funneling beer and throwing wet T-shirt contests never really appealed to me- I know, I’ll admit that I’m an old lady at heart. If I could re-visit my college days though, I would love to have saved up money for a girls getaway one year for Spring Break. Somewhere tropical, but not too far away, like the Bahamas would make for a relaxing and rejuvenating week off from classes and a memorable time with my closest friends. Although I don’t know when my next trip to the tropics will be, I’ve been dreaming of returning to the beach and basking in the sun’s warmth so I put together this little post including some of my favorite summer must-haves for your next getaway! Happy Shopping!

Emily
Spring Break Packing Guide 2

SWIMSUITS & COVER-UPS

I’ve been getting my swimsuits almost exclusively from Victoria’s Secret for so many years now, I almost didn’t know where to turn this year now that they’ve eliminated swimwear from their brand. I loved VS suits because I never had to worry about whether the bottoms had adequate lining or if the tops would be too sheer. I had certain styles that I knew were most flattering on me, so I would just stick with those and get a new color or pattern every now and then. VS PINK released new suits this season and, luckily, the ones I found are a little more refined than styles I’ve seen PINK release in the last few years! I know lots of people like Target’s swimwear, but I didn’t see anything that really caught my eye. I was really impressed with J. Crew’s selection, though it is a bit out of my price-range. They have several very classic swimsuits, with a few trendy ones for good measure. ASOS had some really cute & affordable options, but many of my favorites were already sold out like this one, and this one. I will have to test out some new swimwear brands this year and report back to you! I’d love to hear about your current go-to suits!

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SUN PROTECTION

Please, please, please do not check your suitcase without packing it up with some mineral sunscreen! I swapped my traditional, chemical-laden sunscreen for a mineral one last summer and I’ve never looked back! Let’s just say it’s almost better to get burnt by the sun’s rays than it is to be slathering your body up with the toxic chemicals these products are comprised of. Learn more about these harmful ingredients and the benefit of mineral-based alternatives here. A little disclaimer; Zinc Oxide/Titanium Dioxide-based sunscreens are more “pigmented” than chemical sunscreens, so don’t expect the white “tint” to fade away completely- a small price to pay to avoid toxins if you ask me!  I have yet to try the COOLA option linked above, but it has rave reviews and it’s one of the only more natural sunscreens with a skin-tone evening feature so this would be a great product to use on your face! I’ve been loving Herbivore‘s products lately and use the Rose Mist before applying my facial moisturizer, so it would be a great product to utilize (in addition to your moisturizer) for restoring hydration to sun-exposed skin and also for freshening up during a day at the beach. Sun hats & sunnies aren’t just chic accessories- use them to protect your delicate eyes and facial skin! Less sun exposure ultimately equals less wrinkles! I’m in love with my Lo & Behold Naturals peppermint lip balm and would probably opt for swiping some sunscreen on my lips before applying it (as it doesn’t have SPF). But the tin is not very beach (or sand!) friendly so I may try this COOLA one on a trip with lots of sun exposure.

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OUTFITS & ACCESSORIES

I’m definitely the type of beach-goer that would be all set for the week with a few bikinis, some sunscreen, and a pair of sunnies because all I care about is laying in the sand all day, every day! Apart from these essentials, I will usually pack some denim shorts, casual graphic tees & tanks (this is another swimsuit cover-up option in a pinch, but I’m not crazy about the combo of sunscreen skin and tight clothing), summery sandals (at least one nice pair of flats and one pair of heels/wedges), and some breezy dresses. I typically don’t even bring jewelry, but I was too excited about the Sugarfix by Baublebar for Target collection not to share these fun and affordable options and I think you could really mix and match them with any and all of the dresses I’ve linked. P.S. I’m calling it now- I think these Steve Madden Jaylen wedges will sell like hot cakes so if you like them, buy them NOW! Chloé originally released this style, then Mark Fisher came out with a dupe last summer that was perpetually sold out (and it looks like the same is already happening again this year). These wedges are practically identical to both high-end pairs for less than half the price of the designer dupes! Yet another reason to love Steve Madden!

“Spring Break Packing Guide” Photographed by Emily Davis

© Emily Davis

ROME PHOTO DIARY; PART II

Rome Photo Diary; Part II 1

While we saw so much during our first day in Rome, we still had lots of landmarks on the itinerary for day two – the Colosseum, the Sistine Chapel, Vatican City & St. Peter’s Basilica, and gelato breaks to squeeze in between all of the sightseeing. 😉  Get ready for one busy summer day in Rome!

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We began our day at Rome’s single greatest monument and one of the “new wonders of the world”, the Colosseum. As I mentioned in the first part of my Rome Photo Diary, I took a couple of art history courses prior to this study abroad trip and it made me truly appreciative of the art, architecture, and history of Italian culture so getting to see all these famous works in person was life-changing. The Colosseum, the largest amphitheatre ever built, has a storied past. I will admit, aesthetically it’s much more pleasing to look at from the outside but being inside where gladiators once violently fought to the death, where animal hunts and public executions took place to provide a spectacle for the public, was chilling. Luckily it’s not what it used to be, but the fact that a place in which humanity witnessed some of the most barbaric forms of entertainment is still standing today, so many centuries later, is absolutely incredible.

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An interior view of the Colosseum.

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In the mid-morning we continued our tour with a walk through the Roman Forum, stopping along the way to snap photos of adorable Vespa’s. The Forum was the center of Roman life in the imperial times, an ancient market and meeting place which also housed many important government structures. There are lots of reminders throughout the city that emphasize just how old Ancient Rome actually is but compared to structures such as the Pantheon and Colosseum, it’s hard to visualize how long this civilization and their creations have actually been around. The forum is a great place to reminisce on the “golden age” of Rome and imagine what it once was – a shining example of power and community.

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We continued our walk through the center of Rome until we made our way to Altare della Patria, the monument built in honor of first Italian King Victor Emmanuel and the spot where the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier resides. An impressive large white marble building, the bottom section contains a museum dedicated to the unification of Italy, but go to the terrace for what most consider to be the best panoramic view of Rome. As seen in the very first photo in this post, you’re able to get a great look at both the Colosseum and the Roman Forum from this spot.

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A group of stilt-walking street performers pose for a photo in one of the piazzas we passed through on our way to Vatican City.

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First on our Vatican City itinerary were the Vatican Museums, a group of buildings with 54 total galleries which house the vast papal art collection. Perhaps the most notable part of the museum is the Sistine Chapel, in which Michelangelo painted the elaborately frescoed ceiling and where his famous “Creation of Adam” can be seen. They don’t allow photography in this area, but I would definitely recommend you visit the Sistine Chapel even if you don’t have time for any of the rest of the surrounding museums. I’m much more of a fan of Michelangelo’s paintings than his sculptures (Nothing compares to Bernini) and this ceiling illustration is incredible and something you just can’t miss when in Rome.

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This spiral staircase is one of the architectural highlights of the museums.

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One of the most famous ancient sculptures ever, “Laocoön and His Sons”, on display in the Vatican Museums.

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If you do have longer to explore the Vatican Museums, there are many great paintings by world-renowned Renaissance artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian, and Caravaggio on display throughout the numerous galleries. I would, as always, advise you to do research about these pieces and artists prior to your visit so that you’re able to truly appreciate seeing them in person. Wikipedia is a good place to start. I made flash cards for my art history classes with a printout of the work glued to one side and all the important information about it on the other and I actually found it helpful to take these cards with me to the museums and cathedrals so that I could quickly refer back to them while browsing the museum.

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The Gallery of Maps, a long corridor with an illuminated ceiling and huge, entrancing Italian maps is another highlight of the Vatican Museums.

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Famished from an eventful day, we stopped for lunch at the first restaurant with outdoor seating that we could find and grabbed some gelato afterward for our walk to St. Peter’s Square.

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A view of Vatican City, the smallest “country” in the world, from an open museum window.

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There are so many adjectives that can be used to describe St. Peter’s Basilica. Grand. Opulent. Monumental. But no combination of words I could string together would do it any justice at all. It is the holy grail of Catholic Churches and the site of which so many historic events have taken place, including the coronation and inauguration of Catholic Popes past and present. Both Michelangelo and Bernini were on the design team of the new St.Peter’s Basilica, a shining example of Renaissance architecture. There was so much beauty to take in that I thought it would be better appreciated from the floor but unfortunately, security disagreed. 😂  It makes for a good story though, right?!

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Bernini’s bronze “Baldacchino” guards the tomb of St. Peter.

We returned to Rome in a daze, still absorbing all that we’d seen throughout the day. We stopped into Ristorante Strega for a late dinner and enjoyed wonderful wine & wood-fired pizza on the beautifully ambient tented patio. We ended our meal on a sweet note with a photogenic and delicious tiramisù.

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Since it was our last evening in Rome, we made one last pit stop to the Trevi Fountain before calling it a day. It’s always beautiful but like most of Rome, it has a certain romanticism at night. We decided it was the perfect ending to the first chapter of our Italian adventure.

Summary of Rome Travel Tips

  • Visit the Colosseum and imagine a time when gladiators once inhabited the arena.
  • Roam through the Roman Forum to get a glimpse of the oldest neighborhood of the Roman Empire.
  • Stop by Altare della Patria for an unmatched panoramic view of the city center, where both the Forum and the Colosseum can be seen.
  • Take a minute to watch and even interact with the street performers. Italy is one of the few places where these talented artists seem to captivate locals and tourists alike.
  • In the Vatican Museums, head to the Sistine Chapel first and spend as much time in the rest of the museum’s galleries as your schedule allows.
  • Make flash-cards to act as your museum guide, loading them up with all the information you could ever want about a particular piece.
  • Stop for gelato frequently. 😋
  • Appreciate St. Peter’s Basilica from your feet, not from your back.
  • Don’t be discouraged to re-visit your favorite spots.

“Rome Photo Diary; Part II” Photographed by Emily Davis

© Emily Davis

ROME PHOTO DIARY; PART I

Rome Photo Diary; Part I 1

Oh Italia… As I began to put together this post, I realized that I went to Italy in 2012 which means it was almost 5 years ago… and that makes me feel REALLY old. But five years later, and this trip still holds a special place in my heart and I dream of the day I’ll return all too often. This study abroad trip was special for many reasons. One of my best friends and I got to go together, it was my first time taking a photography course abroad (and one of my first photo classes), and it was a learning experience unlike any I’d had before in which I discovered so much about myself and saw the world from many differing perspectives, including those of my classmates and professors. Our first destination on our Italian tour was the capital city of Rome, where we imitated Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday”, ate our weight in pasta, pizza, and gelato (well really that happened during the entire trip, but luckily we didn’t waste any time), and fostered a deep appreciation for art and architecture. Here is the first part (of two) of my Rome Photo Diary, including travel tips for your own visit to the Eternal City. Enjoy and, as always, please voice questions/suggestions/opinions in the comment section!

Ciao!

Emily
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We arrived at our convent (yes, we stayed with nuns, which was super cool minus the 10 PM curfew) late in the day, so I jumped in the shower to freshen up and our whole group went out for a pizza party. We wandered back to our Roman residence slowly, entranced by Rome’s lively evening activities. Entertainment is provided in every piazza by night from flame-throwing performers, spray-painting artists, to even a few silent mimes. We had just landed in Italy less than 10 hours prior and we were already so in love with the vibrance of Rome that we discovered during our indirect route “home”. This was the first trip that really showed me the importance of exploring your neighborhood upon arrival. It’s helped so much in my own travels to be able to know the distance and relation between monuments, my residence, and other points of interest. I also encourage that this time to be dedicated to discovery – no pulling out a map (grab your hotel’s business card to hand to a cab driver in case you walk too far), no zig-zagging to see all the things you’re most excited to see (you’ll have time for those later), just be in the moment and see where your feet wander because that’s when your fondest travel experiences will be created. (Right) Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi in the center of Piazza Navona, a popular meeting place during the day and at night. You’ll hear more about my love for Bernini later. 😍

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One of our photo assignments in our class was to choose a subject to make a “series” of photos about, and after just 24 hours in Rome, I knew that I would be seeing plenty of vespas and cute cars. However, to make it feel a bit more “me”, I chose to document the ones I saw in my favorite color (it’s truly Tiffany Blue – hence the logo and color scheme on the blog) but I brake for anything remotely sea-foam hued and teal, too. This little Volkswagen was parked right outside the convent and I just had to stop and snap it. Rome, Italy in general honestly, is a wonderful destination for photographers and artists. There are so many beautiful details to be seen if you take your time wandering through the cobblestone streets. It’s easy to get side-tracked on the way to your destination, but I think the little minutiae of a place often times tell a better story than the most famous landmarks.

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Italian selfie before our first day of Roman adventures! We got ready early and headed to San Pietro in Vincoli, a Roman Catholic church close to our convent that houses Michelangelo‘s “Moses” sculpture. I’m not sure if it was because we were there so early, but this was one of the emptiest cathedrals we visited on our entire trip, and a visit is definitely worthwhile. It’s a beautifully simplistic (compared to the many more elaborate Roman Catholic cathedrals) church and it’s probably your best opportunity to see a Michelangelo piece that everyone isn’t crowded around.

First up on our class itinerary for the day was the Pantheon. Being able to go to Italy was especially exciting for me during this time as I had just taken art history courses the previous year, so I had extensively learned about all the things that we’d be seeing. Reading up on these amazing buildings, artists, & pieces is the only way to have a truly enriching and inspiring encounter when seeing them all in real life. At first glance, the Pantheon may seem rather plain in comparison to the many frescoed (painted) and gold leafed domes you will see in most of the cathedrals. If you didn’t know that it was built in the 2nd century and has been in continuous use since the 7th century, it may seem rather boring. If you weren’t aware of how the oculus (dome) was constructed by layering differing formulas of ancient concrete on top of each other so that each layer was lighter in weight than its predecessor in order to create a sound structure long before the invention of modern concrete, then you may think the Pantheon is rather uninteresting. You can probably gather that I’m quite fond of this particular structure – it was one of my favorite places in Rome, but my point in all of this is that these sights are only as interesting as you make them. You can look at pretty paintings and intricate buildings all day long but your visit is much more meaningful if you know the story behind why this art was created and the incredible power and relevance that it still wields so many centuries later.

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We were dying to see the Trevi Fountain so we made our way there during our free-time between the class-scheduled activities and fell in love with this Roman landmark. To make our time with the Trevi even more exciting, an editorial shoot was wrapping up upon our arrival and we witnessed a team of people primping a tall, fur-cloaked model between the photographer’s shots (Look closely in the bottom right corner and you’ll see the model!). Even though it was during broad daylight, I was immediately overwhelmed by a wave of whimsy that I’d soon associate only with this magical fountain. We returned a handful of times during our week in Rome, and each time we left more enchanted than the time before.

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After our morning of sightseeing, we stopped at a street-side trattoria and had more than enough bread, olive oil, and pasta to power us through the rest of our jam-packed itinerary for the day. I’m *sadly* not exaggerating when I tell you that I actually gained 10 pounds in Italy (over my month-long visit), but all the incredible food I ate was more than worth it. True Italian cuisine is hard to find anywhere outside of Italy – take advantage during your visit. I brought Rick Steves’ Italy Guidebook with me and while I didn’t use it much for scoping out sights (as most of that was already planned out for us), I did use it almost exclusively to find incredible restaurants. There wasn’t a single eatery he recommended that was bad. If you’re going anywhere in Europe, I highly recommend using the resources provided by Rick Steves.

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Next up was San Luigi dei Francesi, a Roman Catholic Church which, most notably, contains three paintings by Baroque “master of light”, Caravaggio. This cathedral is pretty spectacular itself but seeing Caravaggio’s work in person was breathtaking. I discovered  “The Calling of St. Matthew” and its significance in my art history course and being able to study it with my own eyes was beyond magical. His work is relevant even as a photographer. I recall one of of my professors showing his images in class a year after my trip as an example of how light can be dramatic, yet controlled and manipulated.

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Incredible ceiling of San Luigi dei Francesi.

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Our final stop of the day was at the Galleria Borghese, which was hands down my favorite museum/cathedral in Rome, and definitely among my top 3 of the entire trip. I mentioned Bernini earlier and his works are what make this museum so memorable. Bernini’s legacy can be seen throughout Rome, including in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican city, in several piazza fountains, and in Santa Maria della Vittoria (yet another cathedral worth a visit). The pieces on display at the Borghese gallery, which were commissioned by Cardinal Borghese when Bernini was in his early 20’s, are truly revolutionary. No artist had ever captured movement frozen in time through a slab of marble like this young sculptor and his work is so incredibly rendered with every single detail that it actually brought tears to my eyes. I was enthralled by all of the Bernini sculptures in the Gallery, but “The Rape of Proserpina” always comes to mind when I ponder on the talent that he possessed. To create the grasp of Pluto’s hand on Proserpina’s thigh – to make something that realistic out of marble… Observing that sculpture first-hand had me in a puddle of tears. So if you only have time for one museum when in Rome, make it the Galleria Borghese. P.S. The gallery doesn’t allow photography (the above photo is from a mystery church in Rome… PLEASE comment below if you know which one!), but even without documentation, I will always remember the incredible art I had the pleasure of seeing at this small jewel of a museum.

Rome Photo Diary; Part I 12
Rome Photo Diary; Part I 13

We ended our first day in Rome watching the sunset from atop the Spanish Steps and witnessed the Italian sun drown the western-facing building facades in a warm summer glow. Almost every square, piazza, open public area is great for people-watching but the steps create the perfect atmosphere to do as the Romans – slow down and appreciate life.

Rome Photo Diary; Part I 14

The Trinità dei Monti hovering high above the Spanish Steps.

Rome Photo Diary; Part I 15
Rome Photo Diary; Part I 16

Summary of Rome Travel Tips

  • Take a neighborhood walk upon arrival to grasp your bearings.
  • Don’t get too obsessed with all the famous landmarks and sights that you fail to notice the little things.
  • Visit San Pietro in Vincoli to see the lesser-known (but nonetheless incredible) Michelangelo sculpture, “Moses”.
  • Do your research. Know the history and significance of the art and architecture you want to see to make your visit 100 times more meaningful and inspiring.
  • The Pantheon is a non-negotiable, so be sure to include it in your list and thank me later.
  • Visit the Trevi Fountain. Fall in love. Go back every day, tossing a coin held in your right hand over your left shoulder each time.
  • Eat lots of pasta using Rick Steves as your guide to the best restaurants at any and every price point.
  • Visit San Luigi dei Francesi for a beautiful example of an elaborate Roman Catholic church, and to see three of Baroque superstar, Caravaggio‘s famous paintings, including The Calling of St Matthew.
  • Reserve Galleria Borghese tickets here and visit this museum over any others in Rome. If you will have time to do several, then others are definitely worthwhile, including the Vatican Museums, which I’ll cover in Part II. But make Galleria Borghese a priority over the many more popular gallery and museum options.
  • See more of Bernini’s sculptures in Roman Catholic cathedral Santa Maria della Vittoria.
  • Observe the hustle and bustle around you while taking some time to reflect on your day seated on the Spanish Steps.

“Rome Photo Diary; Part 1” Photographed by Emily Davis

© Emily Davis