TRAVEL REVIEW - DANIEL (LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA)
I recently returned to Los Angeles after 28 days in Italy. This agent was my personal tour designer and together, we handcrafted a tour of a lifetime. My agent devoted a great deal of her time in discussing my primary interest in having a cultural Italian experience in lieu of a structured tour surrounded by tourists and intense commercialism. I am of Italian descent and was very interested in tracing my ancestry in Southern Italy. In preparation for this trip, I received some tutoring in the Italian Language so that I could truly experience Italian life. The personal attention to details provided by my agent cannot be overemphasized. She was great in handling all the arrangements to include my hotels, personal drivers, first class train reservations and private tours.
During my stay, I traveled to 9 separate cities to include Rome, Positano, Capri, Matera, Ripacandida, Florence, Venice, Lake Como, and Milan. I also logged in over 2,000 miles on Fast Trains, 500 miles by car and walking for miles at each destination. The Italian private drivers all spoke English, but at my request, spoke Italian. I traveled alone and chose to sit in the front passenger seat as we drove to the various locations. We had great conversations during these car rides. The hotel staff that I encountered in each location was very knowledgeable and friendly. Due to efforts and coordination provided by my agent, I never missed a single connection during this wonderful experience.
Each location was fantastic but I developed a special fondness for Matera, Ripacandida, and Lake Como. I kept saying to myself "Mi sento piacere George Clooney "(I feel like George Clooney hahaha) as I walked the streets.
In Matera, I stayed in a Bed and Breakfast located in the Sassi (City of Stones) area. It was truly incredible to walk and live in an area which was originally established in 300 BC. During the visit, I learned that Matera was the film location for the Film titled "Passion of Christ".
From there, I traveled to my ancestral Village of Ripacandida currently inhabited by only 1,800 residents. My personal tour guide and I quickly located records dating back to 1860 regarding my ancestors. My agent took the time to call in advance of my arrival so they were prepared for my visit. Afterwards, we were able to connect with the Former Mayor (he still runs the place) who is in the process of identifying and locating relatives in the area.
Lake Como is beautiful and quiet. It is a very tranquil location with a family atmosphere. It is very safe. I was very impressed of the love openly expressed by parents with their children and friends. I was in Como on a Sunday and watched a Motorcycle Rally, High Performance Boat Racing, Marathon and Walkathon simultaneously within a few minutes of my hotel. The Italians love speed with a couple of exceptions.
Italians are very expressive with their feelings through verbal and non-verbal communications. They are also very engaging and good hearted people. Italy is not a rich country and the people work very hard to meet their everyday needs.
I had such great time visiting sites, eating in local out of the way restaurants, and spending time with the Italian people. The food is fresh and delicious. The Italians know how to live wherein family and relationships are priorities. This trip was not inexpensive, but comparatively worth the value for a personalized handcrafted tour. The Historical Sites I visited were magnificent. It was more meaningful to be one on one with a tour guide or in a small group.
If you decide to tour Italy your way, I would recommend the following:
1. You are a welcomed guest in Italy. Take the time to research the culture and be respectful of their way of life. Presentations on You Tube can be very helpful.
2. Learn to say Thank You (Grazie), Your Welcome (Prego), Please (Per Favore) and a few respectful terms in the Italian language. These simple acts of respect go a long way
3. Travel Light, Light. Light; did I say Light. You will burden yourself with Luggage if you do not heed this advice. The hotel rooms are much smaller than in the United States and cannot accommodate you and a lot of luggage. Most bathrooms are even smaller unless you are at a Five Star Hotel similar to the Mandarin Oriental. Picture yourself showering in a phone booth.
4. If you are taking trains, go first class on the fast trains. It is well worth the few extra dollars. You will notice that train stations are packed with people to include petty thieves. Watch your luggage.
5. Try to avoid public transportation such as local buses which can be extremely overcrowded in the larger cities. Rush hour can be overwhelming. Take either a metered taxi or arrange for a private driver.
6. The quality of WIFI internet connections is available throughout the country at various hotels, bars and restaurants. However, some communication systems are considerably slower than others. Based on my cell phone usage, I would recommend that you rent a personal WIFI hot spot from an Italian Company during your stay. It is very affordable and reliable.
Lastly, my trip to Italy met or exceeded my expectations. I highly recommend this agent and her company for your custom handcrafted tour of Italy.
On my next visit, I am going to rent an apartment for a month at one of the locations with a large bathroom.
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