Our plan was to go to Milan and Turin for about 10 days each and, again, take day trips to other areas or smaller cities, like Parma, Cremona, Lake Como. We had been to Venice on our honeymoon, so did not have to travel east. North central Italy also gave us access to the Italian Alps, sort of keeping with our theme of taking in mountains and natural sites along with urban excitement.

While in Milan, we realized that travel from Turin to Dijon, France was going to be a logistical problem. There were no direct trains, some routes meant four or five transfers (with heavy luggage, even one transfer to another train within a short time frame was sometimes harrowing), or the departure times would be difficult. So...since Jan had never been to Tuscany, we decided to go to Florence instead of France. I was initially disappointed because I had looked so forward to that part of eastern France and to the food and wine there. Neither of us had ever been, so it would have been wonderful.

As a student at Loyola's Rome Center in 1971-1972, I went to Florence several times with companions; it was about a 3-4 hour train ride back then. We'd go for a weekend at a time and, through the school year, eventually took in all the sites and art treasures. I also went back about 25 years ago as an adult with pals. Accompanying someone there who does not have a grounding in the Renaissance was going to be a challenge, but we were going to spend 10 days there and I was up for being a tour guide. Things didn't go quite as planned, but it was still incredible to experience Florence now and see its treasures through the eyes of someone awakening to so many important examples of Western culture.