I know you all know me. I can be more than a teensy bit too disciplined for my own good and the well being of others. Right away, I want to put the myth of Helga the Punisher to rest. Helga is one of my alter-egos, or multiple personalities if you will. I’m betting right now you are all imagining me in my thigh high black leather boots, a Frederick’s of Hollywood designed Tyrolean maiden costume, blond braids looped over my head, cigarette holder clenched between my lips cracking a bull whip over the heads of my three fellow travelers. “You vil get up and see ze sights Schnell!”

Nothing could be further from the truth, honest, just ask ’em.

In all honesty I’ve planned this trip as a vacation, not the Bataan death march through cultural treasures. When the Sistine chapel closes 15 minutes after we entered because the Pope wants to throw a party, I just shrug my shoulders and smile and say “it’s an adventure”. When the kid’s lose interest for the day in the Accademia I say who can blame them. Seeing THE David in all, and I do mean ALL, of his glory, who can top that?

This is not about ticking off the treasures of Italy the way some mountaineers bag peaks. It’s about food and wine, heavenly coffee and losing yourself in this foreign place too. I feel like I’ve fallen face first into a pile of wonderful. I don’t want to get up. So I roll around in it. With abandon. We eat gelato for breakfast – ok we didn’t really do that. But the food is so good, and people eat every meal like I eat at holidays…with conversation, wine and lingering. I want to cry because I’m so happy, but I’m so happy I don’t want to cry. So I just smile real big inside.

Somehow I’ve managed to save enough money to not worry about the little details that have thwarted my other vacations. I can say yes so much it starts to feel like I mean it. Oh, do I mean it!

So we visit Botticelli, and Titian and Veronese and Michaelangelo and cathedrals to God, but we also visit cathedrals to food and living well. Plus it’s sunny during the month when it’s supposed to be the rainiest. I’m thinking Global warming is looking prety sweet right now. I won’t recognize until I leave Italy and enter Switzerland why it’s so different here. I haven’t seen a single Starbucks or McDonalds in either Rome or Florence. Nobody is any the worse for wear.

At this point of the trip we are in Florence, my most favorite place in the world, with some of my most favorite people in the world. Why has it taken me 30 years to get back here?