Thank you so much for a fantastic itinerary! We were completely thrilled with the trip! Below are our collective thoughts on each stop. The transfer from the airport in Venice to our hotel was smooth and convenient, and what a way to arrive! We really enjoyed the water taxi and entering via the private canal entrance to the hotel. Hotel Locanda Vivaldi was great with really charming room features and a thoughtful and helpful staff that helped us with directions, water bus schedules and even an adapter for our US devices. The breakfast buffet was really comprehensive and delicious, helping us fuel up for our long days of sight seeing! The gondola ride was a delight and beautiful right before sunset. Our tour of the Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica was wonderful. Our guide, Monica, was incredibly knowledgeable and fun to talk to, with her (as with most of our guides) it was especially fun to see the sights through the eyes of a knowledgeable local that could share additional insights with us that we couldn’t learn from other guides.
That evening we had one of our favorite experiences of the whole trip with the Venice food tour! We fell in love with the various dishes and local drinks that Isabella showed us and we would recommend the food tour to anyone visiting Venice-it was a must! Isabella also recommended we check out the local fish and food market near the central canal. The next morning, before catching the train, we did and ended up buying some delicious risotto and other pastas that we’ve cooked and enjoyed with friends back home. It was a really nice addition to our experience!
Additional Venice thoughts: One of our favorite memories from Venice was buying tickets to go to the top of the clock tower in St. Mark’s square. We got there before it opened at 9:30 which is great because it can get packed with large tour groups. The view from there was breathtaking and gave us a real sense of the wonder that is Venice, between the canals and the ocean and the individual islands, it was an absolute must and we’d insist that anyone visiting Venice take the time to do it. Additionally, because water taxis are so expensive, it’s definitely worth knowing the water bus schedule and taking it to the train station.
The train to Florence was great, we really enjoyed business class. The B&B was charming and well situated near the major museums and sights. We took the afternoon to visit the Galileo Museum which boasts a fascinating collection of artifacts and instruments that shaped our scientific world. Once again our tour guide was incredible! Laura was so personable, knowledgeable and professional and really made our day special! She even made a reservation for us at L’Osteria di Giovanni, which was one of our favorite culinary experiences of the trip. We would definitely recommend that people visiting Florence make the trip to Piazella Michelangelo, but then continue walking up the steps to the monastery above which gives an even better view to Florence below!
Our trip to Siena was really special and Eduardo was a fantastic driver and guide. We had a great time chatting with him about the area and enjoyed our afternoon in Siena where we climbed the four hundred steps of the Torre de Mangia and enjoyed the view over the Tuscan country side.
Rome was fabulous as well, the hotel was very centrally located which made a difference as the walk to the Piazza de Poppolo and the Spanish Steps was easy and beautiful-perfect for New Years Eve! On New Years Day we stumbled upon an incredible concert at the foot of the Spanish Steps which felt like something out of a movie! We enjoyed some downtime that weekend before our trip to Naples/Pompeii/Sorrento. Sabine, our tour guide at Pompeii, was beyond knowledgeable and really brought the city to life for us, which was so valued because Hesley had studied Pompeii for years.
Our lunch in Sorrento was extraordinary. We loved our driver who took us to a Limoncello factory where we got to taste and buy some of the delicious local liqueur. With so many great options on the list of restaurants, we took our driver’s advice to have lunch at Donna Sofia and were greatly rewarded for the decision! Taking the restaurant’s shuttle through the narrow one-way alleyway was exhilarating and the view from the restaurant was fantastic. The owner Mario and chef Lena were delightful and treated us like royalty as we enjoyed some small dishes and drinks on the house. Would strongly recommend the restaurant to anyone coming to Sorrento.
Back in Rome we lucked out and had a ‘private’ tour of the Colosseum and Palatine hills when the other couple failed to join the tour. Our tour guide, Frederica, was exceptional (frankly all of our tour guides were great, which is fantastic) and answered all of our questions. It felt like we were being given a tour by an old friend! We would recommend her to anyone going to Rome.
The Vatican tour was efficient, but by it’s nature felt like something akin to herding cattle. The museum was packed, as it probably always is, so that feeling is probably unavoidable. The Sistine Chapel was a highlight; however, we could take or leave that particular museum tour through City Wonders.
The Hotel dei Mellini was very efficient, had a substantial breakfast buffet (which is always so welcome after long days of walking) and very helpful staff who made recommendations, gave directions and even mailed a postcard for me. The transfer to the airport was easy and stress free; however, we would discourage people from taking Aer Lingus if possible as the airline was very disorganized and the hassle was not worth the amount of money we saved on the tickets.
Major take Aways:
- The private tour guides in each city were exceptional and made it clear to us that private tours are the way to go. The ladies were incredibly knowledgeable, personable and charming and really cared about our experience. Whether it was giving us advice, suggestions or directions, or in Laura’s case actually calling to make a dinner reservation for us they enhanced our trip immensely! The value they added to our experience can’t be overstated.
- The hotels were very well situated in each city. After long days of walking it’s really great to be a close walk to piazzas or other major sights.
- We would recommend for people interested in vistas and iconic views of the cities to organize or plan in advance because some need specific tickets and/or have long lines.
- The restaurant recommendations were excellent.
- Comfortable shoes and fully charged cell phones to use wifi at cafes when out and about are a must, especially when navigating the city via map apps.
In summary, we loved the trip and would recommend the same itinerary to our friends and family! Thanks again!