For almost as long as I can remember, I've had a yearning to go to Italy. Thanks to my dedicated teacher in elementary school who first introduced me to art (yes, in elementary school!) and movies like Roman Holiday, A Room With a View, even Ben Hur, Italy took on something of a mystique--with the sprawling countryside, ancient ruins and the beginning of the Renaissance. In my mind, Italy was a magical land of beauty and culture, rich in history and creativity. It was a dream, and I almost wanted to save my first trip to Italy for something really special, maybe even something like a honeymoon. But this year, this was going to be the year for me to finally make the trip I've always wanted to make--and it had nothing to do with Eat Pray Love (which I've never read nor have I seen the movie). Going to Italy in and of itself is pretty special, and really, what was I waiting for?
Three of my girlfriends and I embarked on our own Italian adventure. Given work schedules and time restraints, we had seven days to tackle four cities: Venice, Florence, Siena and Rome. We plotted out each day in advance to maximize our limited time, visiting churches, museums, historical sites--all the while making sure we also ate the best Italy had to offer. And we were able to get in some valuable shopping time.