We wish to think our travel specialist from the travel company for a fantastic trip to a beautiful country! It all started when I inquired on the Internet for a reputable travel agent. I was directed to our travel specialist and sent her a communication to which she promptly telephoned me. She asked a few basic questions and outlined a tentative trip. After minimal back-and-forth the trip was finalized. Airline reservations were separate, and we made those. I contacted our travel specialist as the trip approached to confirm that everything was OK – which is was of course.
Hotels: All hotels were well chosen. They were in the center of activity. Within walking distance of necessary sites. Always air-conditioned and comfortable. In many we had balconies which we especially appreciated an the Amalfi coast and Venice as they overlooked the water. All hotel fees were paid including breakfast and taxes. In one hotel we used their laundry service which was efficient and timely. At another hotel we used their packing so we could ship souvenirs home as we had exceeded our luggage capacity. Hotel staff was always friendly and helpful.
Transfers: At each location we were met at the airport or train station and transported to our hotel. In like fashion we were transported back. In some instances we were transported to and from our tours. All drivers drove Mercedes vehicles which were clean and well kept. The drivers all spoke good English and were very friendly and helpful. Although their job was not as a tour director we did learn much about Italy from them. Porter service was included in Positano which was a must! We had delightful boat tours in Amalfi and Venice including a trip to the island of Capri and the Five Lands near Florence.
Tours / Guides: We had tours in each city to see the major sites. These were combinations of walking, driving or boats (The boat taxis in Venice were particularly exhilarating). All tour guides were outstanding English speakers and most had advanced degrees in topics related to our visit such as a degree in Artistry. We enjoyed each and every one of them very much and appreciated our time with them. We found the tours to be perfect in length. Not too long and not too short. Nothing seem to get redundant and we were always excited to see the next thing on the agenda.
Trains: The high-speed trains were on time and comfortable. We had reserved first class seats together. Very few stops. Very efficient transportation.
Special Activities: Our travel specialist arranged such things as an elegant tasting meal with wine pairings, an Italian cooking class, several beautiful lunches and many other delights. All were well executed and enjoyable. I would say of our meals the cooking class was our highlight. We enjoyed a lovely gondola ride in Venice and were amazed with the water taxis! We went to Capri and had a boat tour of Como. So many special activities!
Food: We found the food in Rome and the Amalfi coast to be most pleasing to us. Different than the United States and seemed very fresh with simple spices. As we got further north it seem to be more Americanized but still very good. We focused on the pastas primarily and the many variations available. We had limited beef and fish which was our preference. You won’t go hungry!
Shopping: My friend’s favorite part of the trip! Although there is great shopping everywhere, we did most of our shopping along the Amalfi coast in Positano. Lots of beautiful boutiques there which had Italian made items. Did not seem overly priced and we enjoyed the variety. Many of the other stops seemed to focus on typical touristy type items and although we bought our assortment doing so was more mandatory than fun.
Destinations: We had a lovely trip of Rome, the Amalfi coast, Florence, Venice, and Como. Our itinerary had adequate time to see all the major sites in each location along with time for relaxation, shopping, eating, etc. At every location we had skip the line tickets for efficient use of our time with our excellent tour guides.
Tipping: Not as customary in Italy as in the US. We tipped all guides and many others based on their level of expertise and the time amount of time we spent with him. Our tipping at restaurants was hit or miss. Interesting that when you pay by credit card you cannot add the tip to the credit card charge.
Money: We chose to use ATMs to get cash in Euros. They were usually conveniently available. Most major purchases were made on the credit card.
Dress: Dress in Europe is casual and similar to that of the United States. The only qualifier is that you must cover your shoulders and knees to go into most of the churches.
Phone/ Internet: Before leaving we made sure we were on the international plan which was a few dollars a day extra. This gave us full use of our phones, Internet, texting, etc. All hotels had Internet available as did many other places.
Driving: We did not rent a car nor try to drive and I would recommend against it in any of the major cities. Much more congested and very much a free for all compared to the US.
Problems: We had one issue that we had to deal with. Our travel specialist was very helpful in getting this resolved for us. She had to go to some trouble to accomplish this so it was very much appreciated. She is certainly a professional at her work.
Our travel specialist and the travel company: This was our first time using them. They were very professional, helpful, set up a great itinerary and executed it in a flawless fashion. In addition our one stumble was completely resolved. Highly recommended! Thank you to our travel specialist for a once in a lifetime experience in Italy!
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