I want you to know that I have written a response to Zicasso as you requested. Here are my comments to you and Cultural Italy regarding our trip. Thank you SO very much for a wonderful trip!! My heart remains in Italy.
This was a beautiful place with the Amalfi Coast and all. So blue, so beautiful! Our driver was prompt and Rennauto was our guide/driver to the coast. He was fun, knowledgeable and helpful. He recommended [and I believe it was on your list also] a restaurant, Donne Sophia for dinner. It was great. The hotel was amazing! We loved it there and especially liked the outdoor garden area for breakfast. How lovely it was to sit outside. Nadia was our tour guide to Pompeii. So knowledgeable and personable! What an interesting place to visit. Our driver got us to the train station and within a few steps of our train track the next day.
Our hotel was very nice with a lovely breakfast area. The bar area was small but the bartenders were very nice and accommodating. Our room was lovely too. Valerian was our tour guide for the Colosseum [Flavian Amphitheater] and Roman Forum. Again, he was very knowledgeable and helpful even after the tour. We had a funny incident with the public bus and he was helpful with that. Also he recommended restaurants in the Jewish Ghetto so we went there and found one that served a fried artichoke [Valerian’s recommendation]. The next day was our food tour with Andrea. Fantastic! We loved it. Going to the fresh market, the butcher shop and cheese stores. So good, but so informative. Bought some balsamic vinegar and olive oil to bring home. Of course we had so much fun making the pizzas together and then the dessert – cannoli. Yummy!! He was a terrific guide – fun, knowledgeable, and very friendly.
The next day we were with Patrizia for our Vatican tour with about 10 other people. With it being on a Saturday, the Vatican/Sistine Chapel was very busy. She did a wonderful job before entering the Vatican of explaining the history and exactly what to look for once we were inside. At first I was sorry she did that because I wanted her to point it out when we were inside but with the number of people and the silence needed in the Chapel, I was happy that she told us/showed us what to look for. Because of the crowds, they had us take a different path with more stairs and 4-5 of our group had to leave since they could not walk the stairs. Patrizia was very apologetic [it was completely out of her hands] but we were able to reunite with them just outside the Sistine Chapel. Patrizia handled herself very well and very professionally. The tour was amazing. Because of the food tour, we decided to purchase some bottles of wine, cheese, fruit, bread, crackers, olives and cookies on our way back to the hotel. We then had “dinner” on the terrazza in the form of our own little picnic. It was wonderful to look out over the city. It saddened me to see all the graffiti on the buildings in Rome. So much history and beauty and then the graffiti. We have it also in big cities in the U.S. but not so much in the small town where we live. It took me by surprise but the experience was worth it.
Again the fast train, this time to Florence. Wow! It’s fast! We showed up for the boat tour that evening but found that it had been cancelled. Not sure why. We rescheduled it for the Tuesday evening. Our trip on Monday to Sienna and San Gimignano was lovely. I thought San Gimignano was so quaint and lovely. Our guide, Eduardo, told us to where to try the BEST gelato and he wasn’t wrong! Olivia was our guide for the Accademia and the statue of David. She was a wonderful, knowledgeable guide as well. [I must tell you, seeing David and Michelangelo’s accomplishments brought tears to my eyes. So moving]. That evening we did our water tour near the Ponte Vecchio and it was lovely too. We found a fabulous restaurant “La Cantinetta Osteria con Cucina”. Their food was amazing, as was their wine. I would recommend it.Our guide for the tour of the Chianti area was charming, handsome, funny and his name was Andreao. I loved, loved, loved this part of our trip! I guess I am a country girl at heart because the peacefulness of the area just stole my heart. The small, family-run winery he took us to for tasting and food was SO amazing! Charming people and wonderful wine. Yes, we sent some home and I can’t wait for it to arrive here. It was a full day but so very, very lovely. I believe we prepared another little “picnic” dinner that evening for ourselves.
Venice is a place like no other. Our hotel was quaint and even though the rooms were the smallest ones we had had to date, they were clean and lovely. Luckily we were only on the 1st floor because there were no elevators. Although there was a bar near the front door, there was no bartender and very little alcohol available. This was not a big deal because it made us go out and find a place in the city. We found the meeting place for the evening gondola ride. As we were leaving on our ride, there was another boat coming in with a many playing a concertina and another baritone singing. How lucky were we? We ate dinner and as we were heading back to our hotel, we came across a newly opened restaurant/bar called Shiraz Food and Wine. We found out later it had only been open about 2 weeks. We were placed at a large table across from 2 lovely young Italian ladies. We had so much fun with them. They restaurant also gave us some food to try [shrimp risotto]. Very good food and terrific drinks. Not sure how long they will remain in business because they undercharged us for our drinks and when we tried to tell them that, they just waved us off. The next day we met Monica, our guide for the walking tour of Venice. I can’t say enough about how friendly and knowledgeable our guides had been. She was wonderful and so helpful with the waterbuses and taxis. She was also our guide for the trip to Burano and Murano, which was the next day. She adjusted the schedule for the day in order for us to avoid large crowds and we appreciated it. We were leaving Italy very early the next morning so we ended our day early.
Because we had to be up so terribly early to catch our flight to Paris, our first day there was short. We picked up our tickets for the museums but we were tired and hungry. We ate dinner, explored a bit but then called it a night. Monday we spent riding a sightseeing bus and the afternoon at the Louvre. Unbelievable! You could spend a month there and only see a small part of what is there. That night was our anniversary dinner at Los Ombres. I cannot say enough about that evening. We got there at 7 p.m. so it was still light out. We were right near the Eiffel Tower!! We took pictures and then went in for dinner. With the glass ceiling we saw it light up. Incredible! Our food and the service at the restaurant were truly amazing. I am so glad we asked for recommendations from you and Alissa. It was an anniversary night I won’t soon forget. We all loved it!! The next day we had our guided trip to Normandy. Harry and I had both read up on some of the history of that part of the war but we were looking forward to hearing more about it. There were 8 visitors and 1 guide in our van [it was quite snug]. Her name was Natalie. She had a headset microphone but with the squeaking and rattling of the van along the roads, and just plain “road noise” we were having difficulty hearing her. Her accent was heavier than any of the other guides we had experienced and with the microphone we still were not able to understand her. In fact the couple that sat in the front seat with her said they had difficulty understanding her. She was lovely and helpful but unfortunately we missed a great deal of what she told us in the van before we got to Normandy. Despite that, it was a memorable, emotional visit there. We are all glad we experienced it.
I have dreamed about going to Italy for 25 years. This trip, thanks to Cultural Italy and you, met all my expectations. It was the perfect amount of organized tours and free time. It gave us all a flavor of your beautiful country and helped me figure out – if I am able to make a return trip – just where I want to spend my time. But if I don’t ever return there, I will have felt that I saw all that I wanted to see. I have told many people about Cultural Italy and what a wonderful job you did in preparing this trip for us. I will continue to recommend you to anyone who is thinking of going to Italy. Thank you so much for making this dream trip come true for my husband, my friends and me.