The Washington Post

What a Trip: A three-city Italian tour sets the stage for a novelist

Mom-and-daughter duo Anna and Marybeth Ruefer of Fairfax Station, Va., in front of the Duomo. They traveled to three Italian cities, allowing Anna to visit places she’s been writing about in a novel. (Marybeth Ruefer)

Our readers share tales of their travels around the world.

Who: Marybeth Ruefer (the author) and her daughter, Anna, both of Fairfax Station.

Where, when, why: Rome, Florence and Venice, April 8-16. Anna is writing a novel set in both Rome and Florence, so this trip enabled her to see the places where the action in her novel takes place.

Highlights and high points: For Anna, a highlight was seeing the Villa Medici in Rome, a central stage in her novel. I could see the creative light bulbs going off as we toured the building and the grounds. For me, our bike tour in Rome was a highlight. We were able to cover so much territory via little alleys and back roads and see parts of the city we never would have discovered on our own. Also, wandering around Venice, all the little alleyways, all the bridges and canals — it is truly like no place else!

Cultural connection or disconnect: Anna was captivated by the Sistine Chapel. After learning so much interesting background about Michelangelo from our tour guide and then seeing the chapel ceiling, I could hardly get her to leave. She’s already decided that the next novel will involve Michelangelo in some way. Also, we’d read about the markets in Florence and that haggling was part of the experience, but we were initially hesitant. After watching and listening to the vendors and other shoppers, we jumped right in and had a blast trying to get the best prices on our purchases.

Biggest laugh or cry: Unfortunately, we seemed to run into “the typical American” — the loud, pushy, sneaker-wearing stereotype — at all the major tourist sites we visited. It made us cringe at times!

How unexpected: We found out that you can eat gelato twice a day, every day, and never get tired of it. Also, I was able to take an early-morning run in each city. Seeing the cities when they were just starting to wake up, with empty streets, was so different than during the day, with people everywhere. For that short time, I felt as if I had the city to myself.

Fondest memento or memory: One of Anna’s fondest memories is sitting on the amazing rooftop terrace of our hotel in Florence, eating lemon gelato and watching the sun set on that beautiful city. I will always treasure the trip for the opportunity to spend that much uninterrupted time with my daughter and to experience the adventure with her.

To tell us about your own trip, go to and fill out the What a Trip form with your fondest memories, finest moments and favorite photos.



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