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Last year I took a trip to Italy with my Master’s Program. It was sixteen days of pure bliss in the land of my forefathers. In this trip I discovered my own heritage, the beauty of the land, and the mystery of the Renaissance. It was the best trip of my life.

A friend emailed me yesterday asking for help for those who were going this year. I sat down and began to compile the list of things I thought people needed to know who are going to Italy. This is my list.

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Here’s my Renaissance recommendations.

1. Eat Slow – The Italians have discovered that food is not really the thing, even though its a great thing. They eat slow so that they can slow down from their hectic lives enough to meet the person across the table from them. The have somehow realized that people are what make life really interesting and if you have a great bottle of wine to share its all the better. Restaurant owners have somehow discovered that they are the meeting places of the heart and they fully embrace their role as stewards of community.

2. Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously – Any group of people that could design so many statues of naked people get that life is just too short to miss laughing with each other. They understood that the little children walking through the piazza needed something to snicker at because their parents were just to stuffy sometimes. Maybe Michelangelo understood that we needed humor in our lives.

3. Drink Art Deeply – The Italians gave us the Renaissance because they surrounded themselves with what makes us great as human beings. We create exquisite reflections of humanity and beauty when we allow ourselves the freedom to feel. Take the time to sit with the art, especially David, Leonardo, Rafael, Boticelli.

Here’s my Top 10 Practical Recommendations

10. Who ever has the balcony room at the top floor of the hotel in Florence should host a group night. We did this and it was one of my best memories.

9. On the off day visit Cinque Terra. Walk from station 3-5, but bring good shoes, water and a camera. Breathtaking. Stop in Pisa for dinner on the way home.

8. Eat lots of Gelato at midnight. The best conversations are at this time.

7. Watch the Medici documentary from PBS before going. It completely alters the experience.

6. Learn to enough Italian to be dangerous (please, thank you, where is…?). It goes a long way to the locals.

5. Ask the local store owners where their favorite restaurants are. Trust me they know. They will most likely call and get you in too.

4. If you ask for a café latte in the morning at the hotel they will make you one but you have to ask.

3. Rome is interesting but Florence is life.

2. The sign that says “Sistina Capella” with an arrow pointing around the corner does not mean its around the corner.

And the number one recommendation for those going to Italy is:

1. The cell phones don’t work no matter what they tell you.

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