Florence Part 1

I’m back with the next post in my series about our trip to Italy! As mentioned in my previous post When in Rome, our next destination was Florence.


In the morning of our third day in Italy, we went to the train station in Rome and traveled to Florence. It’s a high-speed train, so the trip only 1.5 hours, and it goes through beautiful parts of the countryside on the way. We relaxed, read books, and listening to music. And it cost less than $50 total. I wish that the US had more trains like this!

TIP: Buy tickets in advance online. It saved us a lot of time and hassle to have our tickets already.

After arriving in Florence (aka Firenze), we took a taxi to our new Air BnB. This Air BnB was beautiful, but I wouldn’t recommend it for the summer months. It does not have air conditioning, which wouldn’t be so bad if there were screens on the windows. Unfortunately when it got stuffy we either had to deal with the warmth or open the windows and let bugs in. The Air BnB was also quite close to the road. We were able to drown out the street noise with white noise on Derek’s laptop, but it is not be the best place for light sleepers.

TIP: Always check Air BnBs for air conditioning if you’re traveling in the summer! I am a silly American who is used to it being standard and did not check until after we booked. Whoops!

On the plus side, the Air BnB had a great location that allowed us to walk almost everywhere. We set out to explore on foot as soon as we were settled in. Since we arrived in Florence in the early afternoon, we decided to do something low key and check out Piazzale Michelangelo. It’s a square dedicated to – you guessed it – Michelangelo, and we heard it had a fantastic view of Florence.

It took us about 30 minutes to walk there. Be forewarned- it involves a ton of stairs!



After spending the morning on the train, it felt good to get some walking in, and the weather was amazing. It was in the mid 70s and breezy.

People were not exaggerating about the view. It was incredible.



There were beautiful gardens up there as well.


Stopping to smell the roses. 


And of course there was a bronze copy of Michelangelo’s David.


After all of our walking around and climbing stairs, we decided it was time for a pizza comparison. Our Air BnB host recommended Pizza e Carbone Acasamia, which was less than a 10 minute walk from the apartment.

TIP: Italians generally do not eat dinner until at least after 8pm. There was only one other group at this place until almost 9pm.

We started out with a salad and beer, which Derek was quite excited about. Of note, we accidentally ordered an entire pitcher due to our poor Italian. Oh well!


He finally got some beer in the land of wine.

Derek and I both agreed that the pizza at this place was one of the food highlights of the trip and hands-down the best pizza of our lives.


Veggie pizza with bell peppers, tomatoes, zucchini,  and mushrooms. 

TIP: Pepperoni and peperoni (Italian) are not the same thing. Peperoni refers to bell peppers.

We actually went back our last night in Florence because we liked it so much.


Prosciutto, tomato, and ricotta.


On our first full day in Florence we decided to spend the morning checking out a market near our Air BnB followed by an afternoon at the Duomo since we knew it was going to rain later in the day.

Exploring Mercato Sant’Ambrogio was another excellent recommendation from our Air BnB host.


We loved strolling around and looking at all the different foods, flowers, and goods available.

We decided to get brave and cook a meal at the Air BnB for dinner and picked up a few things to take back with us.


Our spoils from the market. 

Trying to explain how much beef and pasta we wanted in our stellar Italian was hilarious for us and the poor guy assisting us. I think we provided his entertainment for the day. Unfortunately I forgot to get a picture of the final product, but it was delicious!

After our morning adventure at the market, we made our way to the heart of the city to see the Duomo, the main cathedral in Florence.

After we got our tickets, we waited in line to enter the building. It started to rain, which cleared out the crowds quite a bit. We were prepared with ponchos and umbrellas and decided to tough it out. However, we thought that a little gelato might help the situation.


Pistachio for Derek and tiramisu for me.

The US really needs to do the whole gelato thing. So good!

After about 45 minutes we reached the front of the line and started the climb inside the Duomo.


See the gray arches at the top of the dome? We climbed up INSIDE those. It was like climbing a ladder in a tunnel. The experience was crazy/claustrophobic/incredibly cool.

The ceiling art was mind boggling and striking. How did they do that?


And the view at the top was awe-inspiring.


After conquering the dome climb, we spent the rest of the time checking out the actual cathedral and the various museums associated with it.


I didn’t get as many pictures in the museums, but we learned a ton about the selection of art and architecture as well as how the Duomo was built.

After a fun day full of Italian culture, food, and history, we headed back to the Air BnB to cook dinner and rest up for our “Best of Tuscany” trip schedule for the next day. I’ll dedicate an entire post to that day. The places we went on the tour were our favorites of the entire trip.

Air BnB Info

At Ghibellina – Central Florence

Firenze, Toscana, Italy

<blockquote>A 200 metri da Piazza Santa Croce, dietro le antiche carceri delle Murate attuale sede dell’omonimo caffè letterario, deliziosa dimora fiorentina ideale per vivere nel cuore della città e muoversi …</blockquote></div>https://www.airbnb.com/embeddable/airbnb_jssdk</div>

When in Rome

As I mentioned in my Episode 0 post, Derek and I took a very delayed honeymoon trip to Italy. It was an absolutely wonderful trip, and I thought it would be fun to share here on Brown is the New Pink via a series of posts. I’ll also include some travel tips, just in case you’re considering a trip to Italy, too!

We traveled to Rome, Florence, and Venice for a total of 9 full days. In addition to the main cities, we also took two day trips out of Florence to the Tuscan countryside and to Cinque Terra. I’ll kick off the Italy trip series with our first stop: Rome!


The journey begins!


We flew out of the Charlotte airport directly to Rome on an overnight flight. The flight went as well as can be expected for international travel, and we managed to get a taxi and travel to our Air BnB without any issues. We loved our Air Bnb in Rome! I highly recommend staying there if you’re planning a trip. I’ll put some info about where we stayed at the bottom of the post for those interested.

TIP: Driving in Italy (especially Rome) is insane! The lines on the road are really more of a suggestion than law.🙂  Unless you are very confident and comfortable driving in another country, I would suggest using public transport if at all possible.

Given the 6 hour time difference, our 9:45am arrival time felt like 3:45am. We were thrilled to be in Italy but totally exhausted. We ended up taking a brief nap, which was definitely worth it.

After our power nap, it was on to sightseeing! We walked about 45 minutes heading towards the Colosseum and took in the city.


Piazza Venezia


Tiber River

We arrived at the Colosseum late in the afternoon. It was actually good timing because we hardly had to wait in line, and it wasn’t very crowded.


Selfie stick for the win!

TIP: If you’re interested in hearing more about the history of the Colosseum, you may want to consider taking a guided tour instead of the audio tour. The audioguides were just OK here.

It was truly awesome, in the traditional sense of the word, to stand in the Colosseum and talk about its history and significance. Like many places we visited on the trip, there’s just nothing comparable in the US because it’s a relatively new country.


The Colosseum at sunset.

By the time we walked all around the Colosseum the sights were closing, and we didn’t get a chance to tour the Roman Forum. We were pretty bummed about it! Derek double-majored in biology and ancient history (i.e., lots of Roman history), and I took a Roman art class during college so we were excited about the forum. (Is it super obvious that UNC is a liberal arts college, yet?🙂 ) We did, at least, check it out from above. It’ll be on our list if we head back to Rome someday!


Derek looking out over the Roman Forum.

After all that walking and the previous day of travel, we were famished! We stopped at restaurant called Piazza Sforza Cesarini on our way back to the Air BnB. It was a beautiful evening (low humidity, low 70s), so we enjoyed our wine and pizza on the patio.

People were not joking about how cheap wine is in Italy and how often everyone drinks it. I think I found my people!



We both decided on pizza, and it was delicious. (Though the best pizza of the trip was still yet to come in Florence.)


Al Prosciutto Fungi

TIP x3:

  1. Italians like to enjoy leisurely meals, and the servers usually do not bring the bill (il conto) unless you ask for it.
  2. You do not need to tip! Most places include a service charge. We often left a small tip out of habit but definitely not as much as we would leave in the US.
  3. Expect to pay for water, and don’t expect ice.

We finished walking home and then promptly passed out. Besides our quick power nap, we had been awake for almost 36 hours straight.  It was some of the best sleep of my life.


After a glorious night of sleep we were well rested and ready to explore.


Looking much more awake!

Checking out the Vatican was our plan for the day.

TIP: Remember to dress modestly for trips to the Vatican. Cover your shoulders and legs down to at least below the knee. (I wore a maxi dress with a sweater which worked out well.)

On our way there we stopped in a little cafe for breakfast. It was one of the few places where we were the only people who spoke English. Ordering was little tricky, but we were able to do it with our shoddy Italian. (By the way if you know any Spanish, it will be helpful in Italy. The languages are more similar than I thought!)

TIP: Most Italians drink coffee/espresso quickly and standing up. Expect to pay more to sit down at some places.


Latte macchiato, cappuccino, pistachio cream pastry, and apple pastry.

I am so bummed that I can’t remember the name of this place because it was one of our favorite meals throughout the whole trip. The coffee/espresso in Italy is to die for generally, and the pistachio pastry was AMAZING.

Next we headed to the Vatican Museums. The audioguides here were excellent, and the museum is HUGE.

TIP: Buy your Vatican Museum tickets in advance. We spent about an hour waiting in line to buy tickets while the people who bought them in advance zoomed right in.


Nearly every room has an ornate ceiling.

The Sistine Chapel was, of course, amazing to see in person. (Though, to be honest, the crowds pushing around in there sort of take away from the experience.) However, my favorite part of the museum were the Rafael Rooms. They were unsurprisingly beautiful, but I most enjoyed hearing about the symbology and history of the rooms. It was fascinating!


Perseus with the Head of Medusa

After several hours walking around the museum, we were pooped and decided to start heading back toward our Air BnB. On the way back we stopped at St. Peter’s Square.

St. Peter’s Square


Views on the walk home.

We capped off the day with happy hour on our Air Bnb’s gorgeous terrace and a relaxing dinner at a small restaurant down the street.


Happy hour on the terrace in Rome. NBD.

The next day we headed to Florence for four days of our adventure. Stay tuned for more trip recaps!

Air BnB Info

Vatican Terrace

Rome, Lazio, Italy

<blockquote>This elegant and bright apartment is located on the ground floor of an elegant building close to St. Peter’s. It has recently been renovated with high quality white oak parquet floors in all rooms….</blockquote></div>https://www.airbnb.com/embeddable/airbnb_jssdk</div>

Be Good For Something

One of those little things that I love about my relationship with Derek is that amidst whatever craziness going on in our lives  we continue to send each other articles, videos, websites, etc. that the other person would enjoy or find interesting. Just last week Derek sent me the following quote:

“Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something.” – Henry David Thoreau

As he anticipated, I love this quote. Being good is about us as individuals, our personal choices. And that’s an essential first step. But being good for something – that is taking action and making a contribution to something bigger than ourselves.


New Year, New Goals II

Holy cow – it’s 2016. I know we’re two weeks in now, but it still hasn’t set in for me yet. Around this time last year I wrote a post called New Year, New Goals, and I thought it would be fun to look back on my goals from last year and set some new ones for this year. These were my goals from 2015 and how I did with them:

1. Floss. – Well, lets just say that I’m still on my dentist’s naughty list. This one is going back on the goal list for 2016.

2. Read more. – I read/listened to a lot of books this year! Some of my favorites were the Cormoran Strike novels by Robert Galbraith (AKA J.K. Rowling), Bossypants by Tina Fey, and Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell.  This goal definitely help me rekindle my love of reading. Actually, I loved this goal so much that I’m keeping a version of it.


3. Run in a few fun races. – Womp, womp. I did not run in any races this year! I walked in a turkey trot on Thanksgiving, but no running. I think this is a good example of not making my goal specific enough. This one is going back on the list, but I’ve made some progress already.

4. Clean for 20-30 minutes each day. – I would say I did OK with this goal. There’s room for improvement, but overall I did a better job of spreading out tasks so that I didn’t end up with a DEFCON 1 cleaning situation.

5. Be a supportive spouse. – Obviously, this is a goal that has no stopping point, but Derek and I feel great about the past year. It wasn’t the easiest year with him interviewing and me continuing to work a difficult job, but we both felt supported and happy with each other despite the craziness going on around us. It is such a blessing to know that whatever changes come our way this year, we’re in it together.


And now for my updated goals for 2016 . . .

1. Floss. – I am determined to have amazing gums!! (<– This is an example of things I think to myself but perhaps shouldn’t blog to the world. Oh well.) I already ordered some floss picks to make it a little easier. (My teeth are REALLY close together.) I’ve flossed 4 times this week; I just need to keep it up!

2. Run the Tarheel 10 Miler in the spring and a half marathon in the fall. – I signed up for the 10 miler on New Year’s Day, and I have my training plan on the calendar. BOOM. DONE. Now I just have to actually train . . .

I’ll wait to sign up for a half once I know where I’m living in the fall. It’s weird to think that I could be signing up for a half marathon in New York or Ohio or Alabama. It will be a good way to get to know my new home if we end up moving this summer.

3. Read 4 nonfiction books. – As mentioned above, my reading goal from last year worked wonders. However, I ended up reading fiction books almost exclusively. I really enjoy nonfiction, so I want to incorporate more of that genre this year. I think my first pick will be Sisters in Law by Linda Hirshman. As mentioned previously on the BNP, I’m a fan of the Notorious RBG.

4. Say “yes” more. This is something I started working on a few months ago, and it’s gone well thus far. I have a tendency to be a bit of a homebody, especially since I started working. I’ve always been an introvert, but the addition of working with people all day, and most often people who are facing serious illness and major changes to their lives, made me want to spend more time alone at home. And sometimes, that’s what I need – but I started staying home too much and felt like I was missing out. I’ve found that if I push myself a bit, I end up having a lot fun. My mid-2os are the perfect time to work on self awareness and finding that delicate balance between having memorable experiences and knowing when I need downtime.

5. Stay flexible and open-minded. As I mentioned in my previous post, Derek and I are facing many changes this year, including the possibility of a long-distance move in June. I am a planner, and it’s hard not knowing much about our future. Instead of stressing out about the uncertainty, I want to reframe it as an opportunity to work on being more flexible and open-minded.

Thanks for reading about my goals. I’d love to hear about some of yours, too. I hope that everyone is in for a happy, healthy 2016!

FAQ: January 2016

Happy New Year!! I’m so excited to kick off 2016.

Derek and I were reflecting on the past year, and we decided to describe it as our “grind it out” year. Compared to the excitement of 2014, this past year included a lot of hard, and sometimes monotonous-feeling, work. However, we remain very blessed and thankful for another healthy, happy year, and we still managed to have a lot of fun along the way.

It’s been a LONG time since I last blogged, so I thought I’d catch you up by answering some frequently asked questions in the life of the Pinkertons.

FAQ: January 2016

Is Derek a doctor yet? 

Not quite. He’s very close though! In just four months he will graduate from medical school. I am so incredibly proud of him to the point that I can’t even talk about his graduation because there’s a 100% chance I’ll start tearing up. Yes, I am pathetic.

What kind of doctor is he going to be? 

Derek decided that his speciality will be Combined Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. Most people call it Med-Peds for short. He’s actually following in his dad’s footsteps and will be trained to care for both children and adults.

Derek residency photo

Derek’s residency application photo. 

How long is his residency? 

Derek’s residency will be four years. It’s a pretty good deal considering the categorial medicine and pediatrics programs are both 3 years. They basically squash 6 years of learning into 4 for this speciality by doing away with a lot of electives.

Where will you go for his residency? 

We don’t know yet, but we’ll find out on Match Day (March 18th).

What’s Match Day? 

Every year, on the third Friday in March, senior medical students across the country find out where they will be going for residency. At UNC, everyone and their loved ones gather in a large auditorium, and they call students up one at a time and hand them an envelope, which contains the name of their residency match.

Wait, what?? You don’t pick where you go? 

Well, sort of. After Derek goes on all of his interviews (he’s going to 10 places), he will turn in a rank-order list of the programs. The programs will also rank order the applicants. The process is blinded, so neither the applicants nor the programs know the orders submitted.  After the lists are submitted, the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) uses a complex algorithm to “match” applicants to programs based on the rank-order lists.

Tl;dr: our future is ultimately determined by a computer.

Woah, that is crazy.

Yes, yes it is. But it’s also exciting! Everyone once in a while I feel a little overwhelmed by the lack of control, but I remind myself that Derek and I have input, and 80% of applicants get one of their top three choices. I also figure it doesn’t do me any good to worry; instead, I’m usually find myself getting excited about all of the possibilities and opportunities for our future. We also try to remind each other that we’re in it together, which makes it a little less daunting.

Where do you want to go?

We’re not sure yet. In fact, Derek still has one more interview later this month. We probably won’t reveal the exact order, but these are some of his favorite programs (in alphabetical order) thus far:

  • University of Chicago
  • University of Cincinnati
  • Indiana University
  • University of North Carolina
  • University of Rochester

What are you up to? 

I’m still working as an inpatient medicine social worker at a local hospital. It’s hard to believe I’ve been there for 1.5 years already. I finally feel like I know what I’m doing (most days)!

What’s next for you? 

I’ve officially completed 2,220 practice hours and 74 supervision hours towards my license, so I will hopefully beat the clock and get my license before we (possibly) move in June! (FYI: In North Carolina, 3,000 practice hours and 100 supervision hours are required to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.)

Once I’ve obtained my license, I’ll be looking to make a change, which is good timing because we might be moving anyway. I’m hoping to stay in medicine but find a position that is more clinical. I’d love to work in hospice or palliative care if possible.

Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?

I have a few goals in mind, actually. I’ll be dedicating a separate post to them though, and I’ll be taking a look at how I did with my goals from last year.

Beer, Bourbon, & BBQ Festival Fun

About a week and a half ago I went to a Beer, Bourbon, and BBQ Festival right down the road in Cary, NC.


My parents happened to be passing through town on their way home from a beach trip, and my dad is a big bourbon fan (hello we’re from Kentucky) so we thought it would be a fun adventure.


Our friend Steven, who’s in medical school with Derek, joined us as well as a couple of my parents’ friends.


The festival was held at Koka Booth Amphitheatre, which was a beautiful venue. We were all thankful for the shade from the trees considering it’s constantly 90+ degrees here in North Carolina during July and August.


When we got there we received our tasting flutes. I was surprised that these were actually nice glasses with the logo on them. It’s hard to tell from the picture, but their motto “Drink. Eat. Relax.” is on the back side.


The tickets covered tastings for the 60 beers and 40 bourbon available. There were booths all over the place.


By the way, as much as I want to like bourbon, I’m just not a fan. Fortunately many of the bourbon booths had delicious spiked teas. Woodford Reserve had a particularly delicious peach bourbon tea that I’d love to recreate at home.

It’s a bit of a bummer that food wasn’t included with the tickets, but we definitely weren’t disappointed with the barbecue we got. So good!


I seriously get hungry just looking at that picture. If we move out of North Carolina next year, the barbecue around here will be sorely missed.

It was a fun day for us all, and I would certainly recommend it for other people in the area. After all, what’s better than sharing a few drinks and good food with family and friends?


P.S. Don’t worry, we took an Uber to and from the festival after all those adult beverages.🙂

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