I first went to Italy in the summer of 2008, as a belated-sweet 16, early high school graduation present trip with my grandparents and cousin Molly. We did it through a tour company, so we flew into Rome and then went on a two-week whirlwind through the country, busing from city to city. Venice, Florence, Milan, Capri, Pisa, Verona, Pompeii... you name it, we probably went there. There was even a quick stop in Lugano, Switzerland, where we spent a day in the Alps. We spent the entire time eating copious amounts of gelato, trying not to die of heatstroke, and putting our rudimentary Italian skills to use by trying to read Beijing 2008 results in local newspapers.
(Note: the only time I will ever be okay with missing almost the entirety of an Olympic Games is an international trip. I was home for the opening ceremony and a day or two of competition, and we arrived back in New York on the night of the closing ceremony. I was jet lagged beyond words, but if you think I wasn't going to prop my eyelids open with toothpicks in order to stay awake for the closing ceremony, we clearly don't know each other very well!)
It was an absolutely awesome experience of a trip. Most Italian hotel rooms are only equipped for two people, not four, so for the first time in our extensive history of traveling as a foursome, Molly and I had our own room together. I'll never forget the night we accidentally flooded our bathroom... and the night we found ants in our bathroom... and panicking when the motion-sensing light in the bathroom would turn off when you were in the shower... okay, apparently we had a lot of bathroom adventures. (And that's not even mentioning all the bidets!) This was my first taste of any sort of grown-up travel, and it was a blast!
Unfortunately, my computer's hard drive crashed not long after this trip, so I lost all photos except the ones I posted to Facebook. Luckily I did post a lot of them to Facebook, but they're nowhere near their original size. So, apologies for the abnormally small width. Sigh.
I went back to Venice when I was studying abroad in London (as a part of Eurotrip 2012), and I can wholeheartedly say that Italy does not lose its magic. I just wish I remembered more from those six years I spent learning Italian in school. Oops? Mi dispiace, Italia!