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Pasta Imperfect

The discount travel package to Italy seemed like a great deal: Emily Andrew could lead her globe-trotting Iowans on the trip of a lifetime and bring her family to boot.

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Page 5

I studied the holy water font in front of me. In my parish church back home, holy water was dispensed in a metal container the size of a soup bowl. Here, it was dispensed in a marble shell the size of a man-eating clam and supported by two cherubs whose heads were as big as wrecking balls. Weren't they supposed to be itty-bitty creatures with tiny little wings?

Obviously, I'd been confusing them with Tinkerbell.

Page 19

"Emily, you've gotta see this. An honest to gosh Swiss guardsman."

I scurried over, cringing at the idea of having to wear blue and gold striped balloon pants with a matching doublet and spats to work every day. I knew the guards formed a small army that protected the pope, but I figured if they expected to be taken seriously by an invading force, they might need to rethink their uniforms.

Page 87

I massaged the stitch in my side and trained a look up ahead at the multitude of stone steps that spiraled blindly to the top of Florence's famed Duomo. "How many steps... does it say we have to climb?"

She scanned the page. "Four hundred and sixty-three."

(The octagonal cupola at the top of the Duomo with its narrow gallery was the end point of our climb.)

Page 92

Three hundred and forty feet below me, Florence lay in miniature, a jumble of brown and gray buildings squished helter-skelter beneath red terra-cotta roofs -- like a third-grade plaster of Paris experiment that someone had accidentally sat on. Flanking the perimeter of the city, a forest of spired trees and lush Tuscan greenery spread toward the surrounding hills and disappeared beneath a cloud of what looked like California smog.

Page 144

A quick hour and a half later, I found myself in the city of Pisa, gaping at four marble buildings so brilliantly white, I feared staring at them in direct sunlight might cause permanent blindness. They sat perched on a long span of lawn as manicured as stadium grass, with the famed Leaning Tower spiraling upward to my far right, looking like a fancy grain silo knocked off kilter by a gale force wind.
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