Everything went really well after the missed flight due to weather from Toronto to Venice.
The Liassidi Palace hotel was the best hotel in the group we stayed. They had connecting rooms and they were big by European standards. The staff there were very nice and the breakfast there was quite good with a good selection of items. The Monna Lisa hotel in Florence (our favorite place to visit) was in an old palace and it was very interesting and charming. The folks there were very nice as well. The Relais dei Papi hotel was in a very good location (as were all the hotels we stayed in), and the hotel front desk was super helpful in restaurant recommendations and ideas for walking tours as we had more free time in Rome than in other places we visited.
We can't say enough good things about all the tour guides and drivers we had. All were on time or early, very professional and all had great fund of knowledge, especially the driver we had from Firenze to San Gimignano and Siena and back. Her name was Mafalda and she was so pleasant and charming and full of useful and interesting information, I felt we became good friends:)
All 3 Rome with Kids tour guides (Francesca (Vatican Museum and St Peter's), Caterina (Rome Underground and more!), and Simona (Colosseum and Forum)) did very well with engaging the kids and I highly recommend all of them to anyone looking for a fun and informative tour. I must say the catacombs tour with Caterina was the most interesting for all of us…my 5 year old loved her playful style and the subject matter was interesting to all of us. It wasn't as crowded as the more famous sites but was very interesting. Really, all the Rome sites were very interesting in and of themselves but the tour guides made them fun and come alive to us and the kids!
Florence was great! I loved the side trips there and just walking around the city. The kids and us had a good time making gelato (chocolate….my 5 year old's favorite…just look at our pictures:) and they were quite proud of making pizza from scratch. Gastone was our guide to see the Uffizi Gallery and L'Accademia/Florence and he was awesome! His fund of knowledge was really great and he was just a nice guy!
Venice was fun to see as well, especially with Monica. She really engaged our 5 and 12 year olds with her pictures and simple games and explanations and if the adults or older kids had questions, she answered them very well too. Francesca was our tour guide to Murano and Burano and we went in a group of about 20 on a water taxi there. Also, very interesting as she is a Venice native and has never left the city to live somewhere else, so she had some great insights on the history of Venice and how it is a wonderful place to live. Thanks for adjusting our schedule due to our weather problems that delayed our catching our connection. We were still able to get to our planned activities, albeit a little rushed but definitely worth it.
I will certainly recommend Cultural Italy to my friends looking for a more customized small group tour…our experience was wonderful and memorable. When I finish our photo album (I need to go through about 2500 photos), I will send you a link to see it.
Thanks once again! The Mendiola's (Victor, Doris, Victor, Sara, Amy, and Cecilia)