One Week in Italy
It would be easy to spend a month in Italy without running out of experiences, but with just seven days you must stay focused. You can get the gist of the country (and not spend forever in transit) by visiting three major cities: Rome, Florence, and Venice. From art and history to food and romance, these three offer an excellent introduction to all things Italian and are easily accessed by train, making it possible to get the most out of an inevitably magnificent week.

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St. Peter's Square, the Vatican, and St. Peter's Basilica

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One of my most memorable stops in Rome was of course the Piazza San Pietro and with it, the Basilica, and Vatican City.

This huge square was laid in 1657 and holds the 400,000 worshippers and visitors who crowd this vast area in times of celebration.

There is a colonnade with columns and 140 statues of saints on each side of the piazza. They seem to frame the square.

At the center and head of the square is the Basilica. St. Peter's Basilica is an immense space that holds 60,000 people. It is open daily. This magnificent building holds many works of art in the church proper and in the treasury. Michelangelo's "Pieta" is to the right of the entrance in the Basilica.

Don't miss a visit to the crypt underneath the church where you will see the simple tomb of Pope John Paul II. But most tourists will visit the tomb of St. Peter, the first Pope.

You can take the elevator and walk around inside the dome. You'll find a coffee shop on the roof.

Visit Vatican City. It is the smallest state in the world. I went to the book shop and Vatican Post Office and mailed postcards from their own post office.

Vatican City is the papal residence. The Sistine Chapel was a must-visit for me, as I wanted to see the ceiling in person. Michelangelo's "Creation of Adam" was magnificent.

I also went to a general papal audience, which was very rewarding as I had a seat about 8 rows up toward the front.

Make sure you go with a guide or bring a guidebook, as you don't want to miss anything.

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