I went to Italy because my girlfriend was in Perugia for a month, and my cousin lived near Milan. I had a week to spare and decided to do a small tour of the mainland.
The tour started in Lombardia. I stayed with my cousin in Varese, and we visited Como. I'd flown over the lake on my way into Milan, and it had looked pretty amazing from the air. We got the funicular railway up to Brunate, and walked along a trail high over the lake.
Europe's massive heatwave of 2003 was just beginning to kick off. I got a night train to Rome and slept badly in a stunningly hot and airless compartment.
I started the day tired, but I covered a lot of ground. I walked from the Coliseum, through the Forum, up to the top of the Capitoline Hill, past the absurdly huge memorial to Vittorio Emmanuele II, then down to the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. It was a mistake to come to a very touristy capital city in the middle of summer, and the crowds were unpleasant. It really seemed a bit surreal at the Trevi Fountain. It's a nice enough fountain but it seemed weird to me that hundreds of people were piling off tour buses to see it.
I headed for the Vatican. As I walked into St. Peter's Square, there was nothing to indicate that I was leaving Italy and entering the smallest country in the world.
Seeing the sights in this country would not take long. I wandered into the vast Basilica de San Pietro. The size of the place was stunning, and as full of tourists as it was, it still didn't feel crowded. Sunlight shone in from the top of the dome.
I met up with my girlfriend in Florence. She was in Perugia for a month but was soon going to be moving to Florence for nine months, so we went househunting there. It was phenomenally hot, and massively over-crowded, and I didn't really like it that much. The best thing about the day was the views of the countryside as we passed through on the train.
We spent the weekend in Perugia. It was almost 40°C. The Perugia Jazz Festival was on, and bands were playing around the town. In the heat, it was difficult to do much except walk slowly from cafe to cafe, buying cold drinks, and stopping in shady squares to listen to music.