Italy Recap

Hello, beautiful humans! How is everyone? For me, life has been a bit of a world wind lately, but I’m not complaining. It’s been an incredible and motivating time. Last week, I took a trip to Italy with my sister, and just wow. I found love, and it’s with a country. I hadn’t been to Italy since my junior year of college (two years ago), where I studied art in Florence.

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Being back was like stepping through a time portal. Has that ever happened to you? Where places and faces and smells and views bring you back to a certain period in your life, and all of the sudden, it’s like nothing has changed. Weird. I guess Italy has that effect on people (or at least me). I was instantly reminded of the person I was when I first stepped off that plane in Rome back in the fall of 2014. Some of the best memories I have were from abroad; I made lifelong friendships and chipped away even further to the person that I truly am.

Of course, there were good and bad times abroad, and being back last week, reminded me of all of it. It was surprisingly healing in a way; while I gained a new confidence in myself studying abroad, I forgot that there was still much insecurity when I was there. It’s easy to look back at a memory through rose-colored glasses, and I definitely thought of my time abroad that way. Being back reminded me of those not so stellar times.

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But I’m glad I went back last week. Though I felt the happy and sad emotions, the confused and amazed, and the angered and at ease while walking the streets of Florence, it was also a beautiful indication of how much I had grown since then. I thought I knew myself then, but I feel even more at home with the person I am today. I guess that’s life though, right? It’s a constant journey. There’s always more to learn!

Anyways! I’m sure you didn’t expect a whole reflection, and just wanted to get to the good stuff: things to do and where to eat! Because when in Italia, si fa come gli italiani 😉

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Okay so here we go! A list of place to see, things to do, and where to eat in both Florence and Rome!

Florence:

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Il Duomo

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‘Nuff said. This place is legit. Absolutely stunning. Bonus: you can also attend Mass on Sundays (held in Italian). Going to church in one of the most famous cathedrals in the world? Yeah, that sounds pretty chill.

Il Museo delle Capelle Medicee

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Seriously, this place is underrated. Located next to San Lorenzo Market, it is one of the best kept secrets of the city. Not a lot of tourists mark this on their maps as places to go, but it’s absolutely stunning inside. You get to see the tombs of the Medici family, one of the most powerful families in Italian history- without crowds. If that doesn’t entice you, then I don’t know what will.

Palazzo Piti/Boboli Gardens

Basically the Versailles of Florence (though my Italian friends would be very offended if I called it that because its meaning/reputation is nowhere near that of Versaille), Palazzo Piti used to be a palace owned by Lucas Pitti. Absolutely stunning inside, filled with beautiful art, and just outside is the Boboli garden. Located on the otherside of the Arno (l’altroarno), it’s a must-see.

Piazzale Michelangelo

You know those famous shots of Florence that everyone always sees on a postcard? Well, this is where they’re taken. A stunning panorama of all of Florence- the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, San Lorenzo, Palazzo Vecchio, etc. To get there, however, there is some serious hiking up a hill of steps, so I definitely recommend refueling with some gelato and pizza afterwards! 😉

San Lorenzo/Mercato Centrale

This is where both the Leather Market and Mercato Centrale are located, and it is a must! Literally, one of my favorite activities is bargaining with the leather dealers (I once got a 500 euro leather jacket down to 80 euro!). Once you’ve bought yourself a leather jacket, wallet, gloves, bracelet, and the like, you have to check out the Mercato Centrale! Below is basically a standard (but beautiful) food market and above is an array of different eateries to get fresh pasta, pizza, gelato, pastries, and coffee (think of it like Eataly!).

Il Parione

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Oh the memories at this place. Home to some of the best pasta I’ve ever eaten! The best part is that the people treat you like family. One time while abroad, my friends and I had made a reservation here, and the wait was a little long, so the owner surprised us by bringing out some crostini on the house. They also have gluten free penne pasta! Just ask, and they’ll make it any style for you!

Gusta Pizza/Gustaosteria

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If you’re in Florence, you have to go to one of the Gusta restaurants. For pizza, I’d check out Gusta Pizza, but to sit outside in Santo Spirito while dining on some amazing pasta and prosciutto e melone, I’d say Gustaosteria is where it’s at!

Venchi

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Though it’s a chain, it’s an Italian chain with some of the best gelato in Italy. Try the Cioccolatto fondente with the cremino (basically vanilla gelato with a thick layer of nutella). It’s incredible.

Gelateria dei Neri

We happened to be wandering around random streets (there’s no logic to how the streets are designed in Florence, be prepared!), and stumbled upon this magical little gelateria tucked away on Via dei Neri. It’s far from the touristy sections, so be prepared to speak some Italian and taste some amazing homemade gelato!

Il Latini

This is where wine is cheaper than water (okay basically all of Italy is like that), and it’s not a bad thing. Very meat heavy, but amazing. The house wine for a big casket bottle is only 7 euro. Also, not many tourists know about it, so when you go, you’ll feel like you’re really eating like an Italian (psst, if you don’t speak Italian, it might be good to have Google Translate up haha! But it’s worth the experience!). When in Italy, do as the Italians!

 

Rome:

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Il Vaticano

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Need I say more? The Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, and so much more. This place is amazing. Be aware though, you must have your shoulders and knees covered! It’s a rule out of respect for the Vatican.

La Fontana di Trevi

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Yes, like from Lizzy McGuire! Okay, so I didn’t get my Lizzy moment, but this place is GORGEOUS! It’s definitely a must see when in Rome! Plus you have so many great restaurants surrounding you too! All of it is in walking distance from the Colosseo and Roman Forum as well.

Il Colosseo/ Roman Forum

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When you go to the Colosseo (Coliseum), I definitely recommend getting a walking tour. It usually takes about 45-60 minutes, and you learn so. much. It’s only about 30 euro per person as well (and you don’t tip- that goes for everything! Don’t tip at restaurants, for services, or anything! It’s considered rude in Europe!). The history of the Coliseum is so rich and deep, and you start to understand more how Italy got to be.

La Soffitta Renovatio

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You guys. This was recommended to me by Jackie from Gluten Free Follow Me, and OH. MY. GOODNESS. Literally the best pizza I’ve had in Italy. And they can do everything gluten free! Pasta, bread, pizza, regular dishes, you name it! Plus everyone who works there is absolutely hysterical and so sweet! If you speak a little bit of Italian, try speaking with them and they’ll appreciate it so much!

Il Chianti

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Just past the Trevi Fountain, this little restaurant is perfect for pasta and people watching haha! My sister and I sat outside, chatted with other restaurant goers (both Italians and other Europeans!), and enjoyed some pasta and wine while watching the skies darken. It was beautiful. Good news: they do gluten free spaghetti any style sauce!

Venchi

They’re found all over Italy! Seriously go.

Il Gelato di San Crispino

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When the line is too long for Venchi, head to il Gelato di San Crispino (just a few steps from Il Chianti), and be prepared for nutella heaven! They have so many different chocolate hazelnut combos (I thought there was just nutella but apparently I’m wrong haha!). It’s absolutely delicious!

 

So there ya have it! A semi-brief rundown on my top Italy go-to’s and my experiences there. While it’s a long travel, it’s worth every minute of it. I’m already itching to get back!

 

 

June In Review

Oh, hey, kids! It’s Friday!

Anddddd the last day of June for 2017. How did this month go by so fast? I normally don’t do this, but for some reason, when I woke up last Sunday, I quickly realized it was the last week of the month and was reminded of the intentions I had set on June 1st.

To say this month has been one of extreme growth is an understatement. I have never felt more myself and am beyond grateful to have come this far. I started off the month with a small set of goals and intentions for how I wanted to live in this moment of time.

Be present and enjoy the ones you’re with.

Paint like crazy.

Write just as much.

Spend time with friends.

Meditate daily.

Live in gratitude for where you are right now in your life.

Okay, so these seem a little bit bigger than “small” intentions, but I was surprised that not only did I keep to these goals, but I also challenged myself to go beyond them. Some of them I did not reach just yet, and that’s okay. I have made great strides towards those goals, and I’m more than okay. In fact, the fear that used to dominate my thoughts is now just a pesky voice that pops up to say hello now and then.

This past month, I realized that as good as it is to set goals, you have to work with the Universe, not against it. You can plan all you want, but if it’s not through love, you’re resisting the Universe. You have to live in love and gratitude, rather than fear and anxiety. Yes, I did things that brought out some very uncomfortable things from my past and pushed me beyond my safe place. But in doing so, I was able to grow into the Britt I was meant to be rather than one who lives within the bounds of my past and society’s expectations. Keep in mind, I’m still growing. But I’m liking who I’m growing to be a lot more than I did six months ago.

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This past month, not only did I get to spend time with people whose friendships mean the world to me (looking at you, Emilie, Sarah, and Sky), but I also made amazing new friends (oh hey, Sarah, Mich, and Shara)- something I had forgotten how to do since my freshman year of college. I attended events in which I had to walk up to people and say, “Hey, I’m Britt, what’s your name?” gearing up for the awkward handshake and small talk. The old voice in my head would come up whispering, Ugh, you’re so weird, Brittany, why did you say that? They probably think you’re a freak, why do you even do this stuff?

But somewhere deep down, I found the strength to push that voice aside and embrace the moment fully. I am here, I am proud of who I am, and I love myself. Coming from someone who has spent the last 22 years of her life telling herself how unworthy she is, annoying, a burden, etc., this was pretty monumental. I haven’t felt comfortable making new friends in years, and now I find myself so excited to meet people from this wonderful community and beyond, as well as nurture the friendships I’ve made from years prior. I finally feel that I’m a good person and I deserve to have friends that mirror those same values.

It took a while to get there. Meditation has played a big role in that, though. I started my meditation practice officially in April, but since the beginning of this month, it really has shifted to be a daily practice. Now, I need my time sitting in the field just as much as I need to pound the pavement on a run. Both are therapeutic, but in different respects. Both are forms of self-love, but present themselves in unique ways.

This month, I’ve really connected with the Universe. I’ve shifted how I view my reality from fear and self-doubt and judgment to excitement and love and joy. Not only is it much easier and feels so much better to live from this state, but it also helps to actually manifest what you want in your life. When you send out vibrations of happiness, gratitude, and love, you open yourself up to receive those same vibrations. But to do so, I had to let go of the stories I used to tell myself. I had to own up to the negativity that I was still holding onto and honor that this was a process.

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That was most notable in the art that I created this month. For years, I had a specific idea of who I was as an artist. I was precise, diligent, and could render a scene immaculately on paper or canvas. Over these past few months, I’ve been working with my teacher to break those conceptions and to own my voice as a painter. My teacher once told me that in her opinion (and I agree with this), God already made the world we live in perfect. Why try to recreate that? So I started to paint with emotion. While I’m still sticking with landscapes and figures, I’m working more from memory and how I feel when I’m there.

I’d be lying if I said this was easy. Letting go of a story you’ve told yourself since birth is pretty damn hard. It must be precise. No, it doesn’t look like that. You’re so not talented, why do you even try? Where are you going with this? But in painting through the difficult moments, the moments of uncertainty, unfamiliarity, and unease, I trusted the Universe and myself that I would find my way on the canvas, and I did. It’s just like when I go for a run. There are miles that just feel like hell and then all of the sudden- poof– I hit that runner’s high and I’m golden. Okay, now I’m making it sound easy, but once you get the hang of it, I really do think it is!

And so, with all of these changes, both external and internal, I need to honor what I’ve done and sit in gratitude for where I am. I’ve let go of friendships that were no longer serving me and opened myself up to the ones I want to nurture and the new ones to come. I don’t sit in the negative anymore, but rather shift my mindset to what feels good. I now feel confident in myself as a person when I’m doing what I love. And I’m not ashamed of who I am anymore.

So I welcome July with gratitude and excitement as to what’s to come. I want to solidify all that I’ve worked to change this past month and enjoy where I am.

Let’s make July another good one. Summer, I’m ready for ya.

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From the HeART

The past few weeks have been go-go-go, but I’m not hating it! I spent the last two weeks of May travelling with the family, visiting home in Connecticut, making a road trip to D.C. with my boyfriend, and working with my painting mentor in the studio…now, I’m jetting off to Seattle to visit college and study abroad friends (Firenze forever!). All amazing things, and I’m so grateful for each and every one.

Even though I literally live an hour away from where I grew up (Brooklyn may seem like an alternate universe at times, but I promise you, it is still in New York), going back always brings out the nostalgic side of me.

Hey, remember that time M+D left us with the babysitter and we had a macaroni and cheese food fight?

Oh look! That’s where we used to take Boo and Moose to the dog park!

And there’s David’s Tea, where I had my first job!

But for some reason, I was feeling extra sentimental the other day (I seriously never get like this, ask Jared), so I decided to go snooping in the basement storage for my old artwork from high school.

And boom! It was like I was back in Ms. Eskell’s Drawing I class (oh, the days of high school). When you see my current style, you’d probably be surprised by where I came from: rigid, precise, cautious, and diligent. In fact, most of the work I found was created when I was in the pits of anorexia. But looking back, I didn’t feel triggered or sad. I actually felt joy because when I make art, I always feel whole, even through a period of struggle.

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Though I still like to air more on the side of representational art rather than abstract, I used to thrive with classical art instruction. I absolutely loved color theory, as it shattered my perception of how I previously saw the world. An apple was not red, but maybe a mixture of oranges, purples, and even blues, if the light reflected it.

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When I was taught human anatomy in my first figure drawing was when things really shifted for me. I was starting to find my voice as an artist and as a person. When you’re in the throws of an eating disorder, one of the only voices you hear in your head is the comparison one; it judges your body, her body, his body, and everyone’s body. But when I started to draw the figure, my perception changed yet again.

Someone was brave enough to stand up in front of a crowd of strangers, buck-naked. No loincloth, no bra, all skin. And they did that because they knew that the human body is beautiful, incredible, and perfect in all forms. Those dimples on your butt highlight beautiful shadows. The droop of a breast accented a delicate curve. Suddenly, I realized just how amazing the human body was, and all judgment and comparison of my body to theirs dissipated and has yet to resurface.

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Finding my old work was a gentle reminder as to why I even create art. I spent a good few hours just studying my old strokes and bringing myself back to those moments when everything just clicked. I think it was Picasso who said that you could start out with a room full of people- your family, your friends, your significant other, the dog, etc. – but as he painted, each and every being disappeared until it was just his canvas, his subject, and himself. That’s when art is created, and that’s the moment I always aim to find time and again when I pick up my brush.

I guess it really is a form of meditation after all. And here I spent years thinking I couldn’t meditate! I think that state is also why I’m so obsessed with running. You just hit a point during your run when everything feels light and obsolete and like you could just keep running. Art, meditating, yoga, running, whatever it is that lights your soul on fire, it’s all a means to transcend the physical state of being. But then again, what do I know? I’m just some chick with a serious addiction to sweet potato waffles and coconut butter 😉

I wasn’t sure what to call this post at first, but I think this pretty much sums to up. A few thoughts straight from the heart. Enjoy your Friday and happy weekend!

*If you would like to inquire more about my work and any available pieces, please feel free to contact me directly by email: thebananadiaries5 (at) gmail (dot) com. Thank you!

Painting from the Heart

I seriously cannot believe it’s Friday already! This week flew by, and now we’re officially in June. How did that happen?

These past few weeks, I’ve been spending a lot of time at home where I grew up, mainly because it’s just been a busy time filled with a lot of activities that involve the family (vacation to Florida, my mom’s 50th birthday, and graduation parties!). I do miss Brooklyn a lot, but I’m definitely not complaining about it because that means more time running along my favorite place in the world.

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I know it doesn’t seem like much. To be honest, it’s not even an ocean; it’s the Long Island Sound. Yep. But this beach holds a lot of memories for me: summer days and packed lunches with the family when we were little, running around on the rickety wooden playground with friends (of course, the town finally deemed it unsafe after loads of us kept on getting splinters, so they rebuilt a new one only after we outgrew it), “beach hangouts” when we thought we were cool teenagers and could finally hang out without parents, endless miles of running, rain or shine, barbecues for the Fourth of July to watch the fireworks, walking to El Viras for deli sandwiches in nothing but our suits and bare feet…I’m not sure anyone understands how much this little strip of sand means to me.

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*STILL WORKING* Needs some details!

So when I was getting out of my painting rut recently, my (wonderful, brilliant, strong, compassionate, and extraordinarily talented) mentor told me to get back to painting by painting from the heart. Paint something that embodies my identity, that gives me joy, that makes me feel at home.

I had to paint Compo. In all of my years (okay, I’m not very old, but still) of painting, Compo was never one of my compositions. Trust me, I’m still trying to figure that one out. But once I started, I felt like my soul was just reawakened.

Everything made sense again.

So I started with a simple oil study. Traditional. Art School-ish. One that, for me, is kind of fun to get back to. I actually really like to paint representational art, it’s a fun challenge, but I also know that there isn’t much of my voice in it. It doesn’t stand out and scream, “YEP, THAT’S BRITT RIGHT HERE!” So I went bigger. 1200 square inches bigger.

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This one felt like I was a bull ready to break free from the cage. I just let loose and went with anything I felt. I collaged. I splattered. I threw in wonky colors just for the hell of it. I needed to get it all out and leave it on the canvas. Everything I felt these past few months being pent up and feeling like my creativity was being stifled was amplified. I blasted rock music and just let the feelings flow.

And when I was done, I was done. I put the brush down, and I stepped back. It was more my voice, but not entirely there. I definitely felt like I had emptied all of my energy, all of the emotions I had been suffocating while trying to act like I was all right. It honestly felt so good, and while it’s not my favorite piece, I don’t regret a single brushstroke or tear of paper.

But now I needed to let Britt do her thing. I needed to paint from my soul. It was clear and ready to go.

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This one is it. This is my voice.

I started this painting with the vision that it would be entirely pink for some reason, but I didn’t let any preconceived notions of what is should be tarnish its potential. Once I started, I honestly had no idea where it would go, but my mentor just told me to keep going. After all, it’s only paint.

With every movement, I trusted myself more. I trusted that I knew what I was doing, that I might not have seen where I was going, but that I knew it would be okay. I trusted that I had the skill and the passion and the love to express who I was on a canvas.

So this one is it. “Daybreak,” I’m calling it. Every time I look at it, I just feel alive. It gives me this weird feeling in my stomach that’s indescribable. I want to say that it’s like I’m home, but it’s not so much what it’s about as it is the emotions behind the strokes that give me that feeling. It’s the start of something new, something that feels just so me. And I’m beyond excited and grateful to be on this journey.

Happy Friday, friends. Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!