Overall, we LOVED this trip and we are thrilled we found this company. It was a dream trip for us that we waited to celebrate in honor of our retirement from work. The package was originally more money than what we intended to spend but we loved the ability to help design our own trip and in the end was well worth it! What we liked was that it had first class amenities, no worry guidance throughout and provided unique participative activities. Our agent was a pleasure to work with, and we were so happy that a conference call from her in Italy was a critical part of the planning process. We were very pleased with the quality of the hotels, the guided transportation to each city and the quality of the people we dealt with; the two hiking guides were a definite highlight and your overall customer service/responses from our agent while on the trip was excellent. One of the most unique services we enjoyed was the providing of an Italy based smart phone to use on the trip. This was priceless in terms of communicating with you when changes had to made to the itinerary, plus was an absolute necessity in Venice when we used the map programs several times to find our way back to our hotel! It was also helpful in helping us navigate to some of the other towns sights. By also providing us with some minutes to call, it allowed us to check in with our family a few times. That was a definite bonus! A great plus to your service.
For a more detailed review;
Hotels- Loved your choices! Rooms were Superior or above. Except for Venice, we always had a great view out our deck or window, and most had a cool rooftop bar to have a nightcap and a great view of the city! Stresa , Radda, Florence & Positano were particularly spectacular. Unfortunately the rooftop bar in our Rome hotel was under construction, so we were unable to enjoy it. The Venice hotel, while "on the Grand Canal" had no view and a small bar, and I think this hotel did not meet the standard of all the other hotels. We were also amazed by the size (spacious) and modernness of the rooms in our hotels. Very new & comfortable. By and large also, each hotel offered an included breakfast, which was a very nice way to start each day.
Activities- we particularly loved the guided hikes in Tuscany & Positano! The guides were absolutely welcoming, providing us with great history and local stories. And the fact that they were long hikes, taking several hours or most of the day, made it more special. We were never rushed and we enjoyed every minute with them. The lunch made by our guide, in his backyard, was amazing. He was a fantastic host to us and we enjoyed his company and his homemade food! We still can't believe this was included in the hike. Our guide in Positano was also charming- he even showed us his personal farm, and when we return, we will definitely take him up on his offer to share some of his homemade wine (when in season).
Other guides- we also loved that our guides in Stresa, Venice & Pompeii - our guide grew up in the town (as did our hiking guides). They were very proud of their heritage and it showed in their enthusiastic approach. We learned a lot from them & they were fun to be with. Our guide in Florence was informative, but we didn't get the same feel as the more "local" guides mentioned above.
We were glad we declined the Murano glass factory, perfume factory & the Vespa tour. Unfortunately the private boat tour to Amalfi Coast was cancelled,(which sounded fantastic) but perhaps substituting/offering some other participative activities would have further enhanced our trip.
The stop at the farm in San Gemignano on the way to Radda was awesome! The owners were great hosts-we got to enjoy a fantastic homemade lunch, sampling many of the foods they grow & make there- not to mention the wine! The fact that we were again not rushed, but had almost 2 hours to enjoy the food & company was very memorable, and a highlight. I'd like to have a lunch like that again!
Transit- the trains were very good- clean & comfortable, on time and easy to board & unboard. We loved being dropped off & then met for each trip- it took the worry out of finding our way. Again, worth the extra cost. Other than the mixup at the Stresa train station(we were supposed to be driven to Milan) all went smoothly. (A quick call to our agent provided us with a cab ride to Milan and we made the train).
We also appreciated our agent helping us get to Rome when our return flight to the US via Naples to Frankfurt was cancelled last minute. We are glad that she did the "right" thing by not charging us additional fees- especially given that our boat tour was cancelled in Amalfi & we declined some of the other activities.
Lastly, we also enjoyed the cooking class in Rome. We think there was a mixup somehow that day with the Tour (no fault of yours) and the class was larger than usual (according to them), but it turned out to be fun with the other couples. The place where we had it was spectacular, and we enjoyed learning some of the history of Italian cooking, the chef, the use of his apartment in a movie, and a walk through the Jewish Ghetto. In the end, the food we had was probably the best we had on the whole trip. So fresh.
Tickets/Vouchers- all worked out perfectly. We were glad that we had them and it got us easily into each site and on the right trains.
The hotel in Venice- should look for another choice, with a better view and a better bar. Good but not great.
Positano hike- We were fortunate that we are in good enough shape & health to do the 6 hour hike in Positano. It was strenuous & extremely fun, but was far more difficult than we imagined. With the elevation & cliff issues, we suggest you be more descriptive in your offering in the event your clients are unfit to do such a hike. (The challenge for us, however , absolutely made this a memorable hike for us and we're glad we did it!)
Don L (husband of Beth A)
The Activities-By far, the most memorable times occurred while we were participating in local activities. The hiking , the lunch at the farm and the cooking class were definitely highlights for us. we also enjoyed the hotels with classy rooftop bars with great views of the city.
We would not change a thing! Unfortunately the weather was a bit cool in Positano, so we could not fully enjoy the outdoor dinners & beaches, but this is just timing! We loved the final choices we made in conjunction with our agent.
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