We interviewed several travel agents before choosing our agent and this travel company. The other travel agents just seemed to be going through a script and then provided an uninspired itinerary. Our travel agent took the time to listen to our desires and from that created a bespoke itinerary. Our agent excelled in both listening and creativity. He understood our desire to have an artisan experience and that we wanted downtime.
We are a family of both artists and craftsmen, so we weren't looking for the generic tour the typical top 10 things to do. We wanted a curated experience, a chance to meet artisans at work. Through numerous phone calls, emails, and tweaks to the itinerary they made sure it was perfect. Not a single detail was missed from the transportation to the tours to making sure they found a place for us to get Covid tested before flying back to the US.
The tours they provided were amazing, from the artisan tour in Venice, leather making and mosaics in Florence, wine tasting in Chianti, to Italian cooking lessons in Como. What was unique is we got to meet the artisans, ask questions, and learn about their craft. It was not just the artisan experience, but the guides they hand picked to provide the tours were experts in their field. All of them were passionate about their cities and made us feel welcome. They were all so gracious and kind. The other important factor was we never felt stressed or worried about how to navigate in whatever city we were in.
Our travel agent made sure the transportation was always on time and the drivers would always communicate ahead of time. The agent was also always available to answer any of our texts from how much to tip to where is the best Florentine steak at a local's restaurant. Our agent was responsive within minutes and when he was not going to be available he let us know ahead of time. No question was ever too small and he never seemed annoyed by what were probably inane questions.
The itinerary provided was very detailed and included all the contact information for the drivers, guides, etc. We never felt lost or stressed. I have to say it was the most stress-free vacation we have been on. Our entire family agreed this is the best family vacation we have been on, and we have traveled a lot. I would rate our agent and the travel company a 10 out of 10!!! I would not hesitate to use them again and have already referred them to my sister. My only regret is that we couldn't have stayed longer in Italy.
The tours in each of the cities we visited were the most memorable. Our guide for the Venice walking tour was by far the best guide we have ever had. I wish we could have done more tours with her. I would go back to Venice just to spend more time learning from her. She spent the entire day with us (I don't think that was the original plan) and we learned so much about the Venetian lifestyle. We fell in love with Venice and cannot wait to go back.
Our cooking class with another guide was also a highlight. Our guide graciously invited us into her home where we learned how to cook pasta and gnocchi and also got a chance to sample some great wines and Grappa. We felt like we were visiting a friend's home for dinner, as we sat around the table for hours talking. I honestly felt like we made friends for life. The Chianti wine tour was more than just wine, as we learned so much about olive oil too. All of the tour guides selected had the same passion and zest and each made us feel so welcome. We couldn't have asked for a better time in Italy.
And the beauty of Italy was unbelievable. Everywhere you turned in Venice or Tuscany or Como there was another great view. Simply breathtaking and awe-inspiring. A beautiful country to be sure.
We were with heavy hearts when we had to get on the plane to go home. We hope we can come back soon.
The only thing I would do differently is make the trip longer if I could. I would have loved to spend a week in Venice. We had heard such bad press about Venice, but we were blessed to visit when it was nearly empty of tourists. It was so incredibly lovely being there and feeling like you were part of the community. Truly magical.
And the weather was hot, but again, those are not things you can predict. There was an unexpected heatwave, so it made for some very hot and sticky days. Thank goodness all of our hotels had air conditioning!
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