The travel service provided by our agent at this Italy travel company was customized to fit the things that we wanted to see and do. Virtually every detail was taken care of for us: we had drivers pick us up at the airport and at the train stations. At every stop, we were escorted to our hotel. This eliminated the stress of trying to figure out where to go and how to get there. A private water taxi in Venice made it simple to get to our hotel and check in after a long flight. In each of our stops, our agent had amazing hotels and rooms selected for us and our 2 children. Our personal guides met us at our hotels and had wonderful tours of the various cities and their monuments already planned. Tickets were purchased ahead of time, eliminating waiting in long lines. We found terrific restaurants awaiting us on the "preferred places" list provided by our travel company. Our agent even provided us with a mobile phone that allowed us to contact her at any time with questions or concerns. During the trip, she made calls to us to see how we were doing and how things were going. This was a family trip of a life time, and this travel agency made the experience one that we will all remember!
Venice was an amazing city and our guide was superb. The tour of St. Mark's Square, Cathedral and museum was terrific. We enjoyed our hotel (very quiet rooms!) and its closeness to St. Mark's. Leaving Venice, we took the high speed train to Pisa. The trains are efficient and fast. This is the way to travel Italy! Our driver met us near Pisa and drove us to the town and monuments. He was an amazing driver/tour guide. The entire family enjoyed seeing and talking to him and his insights into Italy and the Tuscany region were much appreciated. Once we got to Pisa, he introduced us to our tour guide. Please ask for her should you tour the Leaning Tower, Cathedral, etc. Her love for the town of Pisa and its sites is evident and her knowledge of the history, etc. is complete. We enjoyed the entire time we spent with her and hated to say goodbye. Our driver picked us up at our appointed time and escorted us to our Castle/hotel in Tuscany. The Michelin rated hotel and restaurant staff were amazing and the food was quite good. Our driver picked us up the next morning and then took us to a winery, where we toured their wine and olive oil production facilities. After the wine tour, we went to the main house where we were treated to a wonderful 5 course lunch, prepared by the winery owner's chef. It was complete with a number of different wines produced on site. This was honestly one of the best times of the trip. We were the only ones in the family's large dining hall, except for the wine master who introduced and described each of the wines and then left, until the next course; an amazing experience! Leaving Tuscany, we headed to Florence. Our driver drove us again and made numerous suggestions of restaurants to go to and museums to see once we arrived. Our hotel was one of the best; beautifully appointed and right on the square. We spent 2 days touring and shopping Florence and got a great feel for an amazingly beautiful city. The Uffizi Gallery is immense and not to be missed. You could spend at least 2 days viewing the works of art, probably longer. Leaving Florence, we headed for Rome. Again, the train ride was fast and smoothe. We were met at the station by our driver Franco, a wonderful and interesting Italian speaker, who gave us an insider's feel for Rome and made us feel at home, right away. Since my son and I are Spanish speakers, we had no problem patching together what each of us was saying! Our hotel was beautiful and the front desk staff treated us as if we were the only guests in the hotel. Our guide met us in the afternoon and took us for a walking tour of the local monuments, including The Forum, Colosseum and surrounding sites. She gave us a very nice feeling for the city and its history. Later that night, we had an amazing experience at the Roman Bath Ruins at Caracalla, where we saw a live performance of the opera La Boheme. All of us enjoyed the production, but the children especially liked the unobtrusive screens near the stage, that provided English sub-titles to the songs. Our tour of the Vatican the following day was led by another, much above average tour guide. She went out of her way to try and engage my shy daughter in conversation about the art and artwork that we were seeing. Leaving Rome, we ventured to Naples and the nearby ruins at Herculaneum and Pompei. The self-guided walking tour of Herculaneum gave us a good feel for what we would see later once we reached Pompei. There, we had a professional guide show us the sites and the important artifacts; a very interesting place. We continued on our trip to the town of Positano. When we arrived, our hotel had planned rooms with beautiful views of the downtown cathedral and the bay, which was full of large pleasure boats. A hotel/bar across the way serenaded us with live Bossa Nova music. The day after our arrival, we took a small power boat and motored over to the island of Capri. We landed in the main harbor and took a local bus/tram to the downtown area where we had a wonderful lunch. Our captain was waiting for us a few hours later and took us back to the harbor in Positano. After a couple of days, we left by ferry for the island of Ischia. We had told our agent that my wife's family was originally from Ischia and that this was her first time to the island. Our hotel was literally a five minute walk from the Ischia boat landing, so we pulled our baggage up to the front desk and checked in. The staff was awaiting us and escorted us to fabulous rooms that faced onto the boat harbor. They had champagne and freshly baked goods awaiting us as well; a very nice touch. The restaurant staff were quite personable and attentive and we give them all (especially the maitre d') many thumb's up! The next day, we hired a taxi to spend half of the afternoon with us and asked that they take us around the island and show us the sites where my wife's relatives had lived: we saw the local churches where her family had been baptized, we saw the church were my wife's great grandparents were married. We were even given a private tour by a lady in charge of that church who kept apologizing that she only spoke Italian. She was lovely and we didn't care that our Italian was as lacking as her English. Finally, our trip ended with a boat ride back to Naples and then a plane flight to the States. Thanks to our agent, our trip will be remembered forever.
There was very little downside to the trip and the things that I list here did not impact our overall rating of the service. We wanted to see alot of Italy and with the time we gave her, our agent did a great job of insuring a nice balance between touring and resting. As a matter of fact, we gave her our initial travel dates and she asked if we had flexibility to change them as she wanted to be sure that we would be met by certain guides that she likes to use. Additionally, she wanted to make sure that there would be availability for us to stay in the hotels that she likes to match her clients with. We therefore postponed our trip for about a month. Unfortunately, I cannot remember all of the guides and driver's names, but our agent will know who I mean when she reads this review. In that way, she will be able to match you up with the best guides available. Again, our guide in Venice was quite good. While there, we took a gondola ride, but unfortunately, our gondoleer spoke no English and had very little personality. We got a generic gondola ride and that was it, but it was still nice. Venice is so beautiful, it is impossible to be unhappy there. When we arrived in Florence, our guide seemed to be looking forward to the end of the tour before it even started. Later, we learned that she was meeting some colleagues for drinks afterwards and did not want to be late. She met us the following day for the continuation of our tour to the Uffizi, Dante's house, etc. and was quite good and attentive. A few days later, we left Rome by high speed train for Naples. In the train depot in Rome, we were stopped by a couple of fellows who wanted to be paid for showing us our train car and helping us with our baggage. They looked like they worked for the train company; wearing official type shirts, lanyards with name tags, etc. These guys are scam artists and should be dealt with carefully. This was the only travel downside part of the trip. Once we got to Naples, our driver was great. After visiting Herculaneum, we told him that we were hungry. He packed us up and drove us to a great restaurant across the street from the ruins in Pompei. The Pompei ruins are a site to behold and can best be covered by using a guide. Our guide was competent and informative, and we enjoyed the tour, but you could tell that he was just doing his job. Overall, most of our travel guides were quite good. When we told them about how interested we were in their city and/or the sites, most of them went out of their way to give us an above average service. Finally, when we were in Positano, we took a boat ride to the island of Capri. The ride was in an open boat; wind blowing and spray flying. Our captain dropped us off on the island and said that he would return at a specified time. Unfortunately, his battery went dead and he had to call in a repair boat to bring him a new battery. We ended up waiting in the very hot sun, down by the water, for an additional hour, until he was able to get the boat going and pick us up. None of us felt this was really his fault, so again this wasn't something that bothered us too much.
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