Shooting: I had initially planned to rent two lenses for this trip – a big telephoto and a wide-angle. In an effort to keep the budget under control, however, I only rented one – a 16-35 2.8 Zeiss wide-angle. I’ve used this lens before and been very happy with it, and it proved its worth again.
Having a good wide angle for the narrow streets (and canals) of the old cities and for the vistas from the Pathway of the Gods trail made it the best choice. I don’t think I would have pulled out a big zoom more than once or twice if it had been in my bag.
No pictures, please: The guards are STRICT about pictures in the Sistine Chapel, constantly letting people have it (of course, these people are trying to be sneaky with their cell phones, too.)
That was the only place in the Apostolic Palace (or anywhere else) that I saw the photo guards come down hard, though – virtually everywhere else was very receptive. If you ask the waiters, you can often get some pictures of the cooks working in the kitchen, which can make for some fun shots.
Food in Venice: Small bar/cafés are popular, and it's easy to get a quick sandwich to go, put it in a backpack and have it later. Pizza by the slice is also a popular snack. Take advantage of the small to-go cafes - they are much cheaper than any restaurant.
The coolest single moment: Walking into St. Peter’s Basilica. Just a few steps in, you can stand where Charlemagne was crowned head of the Holy Roman Empire. Turn right, and there's Michelangelo's Pieta.