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Florence, Italy

Whether one has seen many places or few, whether one has read many books or few, Italy confounds. The peninsula is a land of contrasts.

To visit Italy, enthralled by its culture, to walk the lasting Colosseum, astonished by its endurance, to consider the Leaning Tower of Pisa, amazed by the incompetence, is to see brilliance and bumbling in brotherly closeness.

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Dodging sleek Ferraris, whose drivers couldn’t go faster, awaiting delicious dinners, whose servers couldn’t come slower, one wonders how Rome, the last ancient empire, rose; walking the old Forum, whose ruins have survived 2,000 years, wearing Bruno Maglis, whose designs are new every season, one wonders how the city, the former fount of innovation, fell.

Death, the final fall, is everywhere in the land of la dolce vita, from the crypt beneath the Duomo di Santa Maria del Fiore, where Filippo Brunelleschi, the architect who designed the cathedral’s magnificent dome, lies, to the Keats-Shelley House near the Piazza di Spagna, where John Keats, the poet who wrote Ode on a Grecian Urn, died.

Italy is life and death. It is smart and slow. It’s great food and lousy service. Italy is everything that’s beautiful and everything that’s base.

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