When I lived in Hungary I visited Venice 3 times, and Florence once.

An Italian friend in Budapest had a family flat in Florence and invited me to stay with her one summer.  My room overlooked a public square, with several restaurants and cafes where I was able to sample my first real Italian pizza.  It changed my idea of pizza as being something fatty and unhealthy, into a very healthy, nutritious meal.

When I wasn’t enjoying the food, I wandered through the streets.  Locals on motor scooters dodged tourists on foot. No need to honk their shrill horns, the sound of their engines, amplified by stone walls, was warning enough!

Ask any North American why they visit Florence, and they’ll say it’s to visit the museums, which I did, after standing in endless queues, in baking-hot sun, even with pre-booked tickets! It was all worth the wait, though think the winter might be a better time to go.  Maybe that’s why my favorite stop was the music museum, where there was no queue and I was able to view the evolution of the piano!

Educated by Florence, romanced by Venice!

I fell in love with Venice, the floating city.  Noted for the Venice Biennial and Film Festival, the city itself is a work of art: arched footbridges cross canals filled with floating gondolas; magnificent architecture – glittering gems – stud the footpaths and waterways; galleries and museums display all kinds of art from ancient to modern with lush inner gardens filled with sculptural works; narrow streets lead to unassuming cafes tucked in hidden squares – it all works together to create an irresistible labyrinth to explore, time and again.

My first Venetian experience was during a flooded Carnival, but I was undeterred!  Umbrella poised, I waded through the flooded streets to San Marco Square, and quickly sought shelter under the roof of the walkway.  I was immediately drawn to a crowd of people clustered outside Caffe Florian, peering through the windows to view the costume party inside.

Holding my very dated, Pentax K100 camera high, I managed to get to the front of the throng. The doorman let me in... Photo A. Boston Archives
I entered a magical masquerade party and met this friendly trio from Austria. Photo: A. Boston Archives
I also met this musical saw player from California. It was a great party - even if it was pouring with rain outside and the square, which should have been filled with partyiers, was flooded with water! Photo: A. Boston Archives

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