Like a smooth leaden boulder, Flight 237 drops out of the night sky skimming onto a well-worn airstrip at dawn, just a stones throw from Roma. It's 6:30am and we on a last minute trip to begin a time-honored sibling act -> couch-surfing at my sister's apartment.

Amy is on a creative sabbatical. And Adisa and John are freeloading for the next 3 weeks.

Italy is not exactly a far-flung destination for anyone these days. In fact, it is currently experiencing a heavy load of curious humans on Spring Break (especially in Florence). But somehow through it all, Italy remains remarkably unchanged. The piazza is still an open air room where La Dolce Vita unfolds daily. Where the locals infuse their passionate energy, arms waving, into the public square each and every day - its magical to witness. In Roma, the piazza of Campo dei Fiori is our favorite - close to everything you want to see, yet somehow tucked away from the migrating hordes of visitors. Sure, Roman museums, churches and palazzi are stuffed with art by Caravaggio, Bernini and Michelangelo. But the real star remains the open piazza, always vibrant and fueled by cafes first serving coffee in the AM and then Aperol throughout the day.

#LaDolceVita is for real.

After weeks of wandering in Roma, Siena, Firenze and a spectacular Bologna, we came back with these three personal life lessons:

  1. More than its art, the story of Italy is told through its rubble.
    In Rome, there is a seamless continuity from ancient to modern. Diving down into numerous underground crypts and the buried rooms of Nero's Domus Aurea, we witnessed the physical layers of history, the sheer tonnage of soil, building fragments to witness one simple but gnarly fact; that Rome is still just barely excavated in 2023. It's due to the complex tangle of modern urban life intersecting with bygone eras/movements/empires each built directly on top of one another. Weekly, modern Italy coughs up buried remnants with each subway and tunnel project. The Roman Forum is only 20% excavated - its rich history is all right there, under our feet, sleeping and waiting patiently. It's palpable.
  2. Do less, consume less -> see more detail, think different.
    Being on a deep(er) mission to discover/learn/appreciate the world for the coming decade, I feel more switched on than ever before. And because of that, I can now experience the best possible version of myself - alive, open, curious. Traveling is my drug of choice. There is always something entirely new around each and every corner. Often, it's small and requiring a moment of pause. And that very moment is also a chance to check in and change the conversation with myself outside my daily rutted routine.
  3. Making new sense of an old place.
    Its true - the most memorable day is always the first day of the trip - when it’s all so very fresh. Eyes wide open and wallets still closed. But on the second day, consider getting a private guide. It massively changed our experience. Guides help you better understand what you are seeing. Deeper context = more pleasure. Because their time is precious - they also circumnavigate crowds and make sure certain signature experiences are possible - like standing on a private rooftop to survey the city while learning about the Medici. So consider starting each and every city with such an orientation. It wakes up the brain to make new sense of an old place. Our private guide Silvia Cardinelli was engaging, animated, eloquent and affordable. She brought a wonderfully passionate and informed perspective - it made the trip.