Oriana and I just came back from a trip to northern Italy where we visited Padova, Trento, Venice and Verona. I'm, of course, not qualified as a writer to appropriately describe the Italian experience, so I'll stick to what I know. Some pictures can be found here.
The reason we went to Italy was to visit the University of Trento, where I was recently asked to serve on the advisory committee of the computer science department. It's quite an impressive place! In about 7 years they built a Ph.D. program from scratch and it now has about 200 students. They've also hired quite a few excellent young faculty. They are able to attract students from all over the world (the courses are in English) and it's a very dynamic place. They also have quite a bit of interaction with local industry. If you're looking for a place to do a Ph.D. (and have great coffee in the meantime), this is a great place.
Which brings me to the second topic. Northern Italy is the mecca for my favorite drink, the macchiatone. Whereas in other places in the world I typically need to explain the concept and get a bad approximation of the real thing, in northern Italy you can walk into any cafe and get a great macchiatone. We even visited the original Caffe Del Doge in Venice (and I'm still recovering from the 5.50 euros for that macchiatone). Later I found out that if you drink your coffee standing, then in most places it will cost a mere 90 euro cents! The official explanation I got for this phenomenon is that in Italy coffee represents a short, intense emotion. This trip has given me quite a bit of material for my coffee project (but I'll explain that elsewhere).
Finally, social networks are really cool when you travel. I was able to collect good recommendations on what to do and where to eat through Facebook (thanks, Andrea!). I enjoyed the comments I got on my status messages and uploaded photos during the trip.