This was, without doubt, the best vacation that we have ever had and we cannot thank you enough for planning everything so perfectly for us – we literally did not have to worry about a single thing since everything was taken care of, all we had to do was relax and enjoy our trip. Everything that was promised was delivered beyond our expectations. All arrangements were carried out precisely as described by the itinerary and everything was handled with utmost professionalism by your company. We especially appreciated the cellphone that was provided to us as this was invaluable during our trip through Italy, especially the maps.
The pacing of our trip was great; even though each day was full of activities, sightseeing and guided tours (at our request, of course – we were determined to see absolutely everything!), the afternoons and evenings were ours to enjoy at our leisure. This was the perfect balance for us and not once did we feel rushed or too tired the next day to continue with our planned itinerary. I must say that this was a first for us! You understood our needs perfectly.
Almost all of the hotels that were booked for us were outstanding, each in prime locations within walking distance of most sights, restaurants and shops. We could not have asked for better. Each and every driver that we travelled with was efficient, professional and punctual. In addition, the cars themselves were meticulous. All train arrangements went off like clockwork, no complaints whatsoever.
A few notable points:
1. Hotel La Palma in Stresa was an excellent start to our trip. The views from the balcony in our room really took our breath away. Additionally, the room itself was enormous, as was the bathroom. There was a slight problem with our shower (the lights kept tripping every time the hot water was activated) and we brought it to the attention of the staff, but this was a minor inconvenience that did not affect us in the slightest. The staff was courteous and efficient and provided us with emergency toiletries free of charge since our bags were lost at that point. Our driver for this leg of the trip (Luca) should really be commended for his service. He waited a long time at the airport for us (over 2 hours) while we attempted to sort out the problems we had with our luggage but at no stage did he visibly lose his patience with us for the situation. He was extremely professional in this regard and we really appreciated it.
2. Our guide for the walking tour of Milan, Augusta, was excellent. She was extremely knowledgeable, friendly and accommodating. We appreciated that she took the time to get to know us a little bit and this allowed for a better experience since she adapted the tour to coincide a bit more with our interests. She also showed us a few sights that were off the beaten track that we really enjoyed and would never have found or even heard of otherwise.
3. Emily who met us at the train station in Venice was really exceptional. She was such a warm and friendly lady; she really made us feel welcome in the short time it took her to sort out our transportation to the Hotel. Our guide for the walking tour of Venice, Antonella, was exceptional. She was extremely knowledgeable and friendly. She taught us a lot about the history of Italy itself, not just Venice, which put a lot of things into perspective and helped us understand a lot more during the rest of our tour of Italy.
4. The Bologna leg was by far the highlight of our trip. Firstly, Hotel Touring was incredible and we thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of our stay there. The rooftop terrace in particular was a highlight – we were not expecting that view. In addition, the staff was incredibly friendly and obliging and even provided us with excellent restaurant and street food recommendations for the next part of our journey in Florence, which we thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated. Our driver to and from Maranello was excellent and very accommodating to our needs. The highlight of this trip though was the Food Valley Tour that you arranged for us. Alessandro was without exaggeration the best guide that we have ever had anywhere. Enthusiastic, engaging, passionate, he turned what could have been a very boring, factual tour into an amazing experience that we will be talking about for quite some time!
5. The guide that we had for Florence (I’m not sure if it was Marco) was a bit odd. He was incredibly distracted, slightly condescending, not very engaging or friendly; he gave us the impression that the tour was inconveniencing him. He seemed to be on edge for the entirety of the tour – he did say that he had just come back from a daytrip tour of Pisa, so maybe he was having a bad day? Who knows? Anyway, despite his attitude, we still enjoyed Florence very much. The driver that took us to the airport to collect our rental car, on the other hand, was fantastic. He was actually more informative than the guide and taught us more about Florence during that short car trip than the guide did in 3 hours.
6. We did not realize that the charger for the GPS that we used from Avis did not actually fit in the car. This led to some eventful moments during our trip when the GPS battery suddenly died and we had no idea where we were going! Thankfully we had the cellphone that you provided with built-in maps so we were ok. Regardless, it led to some entertaining moments for us.
7. The wine-tasting at Fattoria San Donato was excellent. It was a bit daunting to drive to Albergo Il Colombaio after having one too many glasses of wine though.
8. Castello di Monterone was an unexpected and wonderful surprise – absolutely beautiful hotel that was a real castle, we were tempted to stay longer! The restaurant and amenities were truly exceptional.
9. The Truffle Hunting Experience was another highlight of our trip. Our guide and the host in particular were incredible – friendly, patient, and very welcoming – we learned such a lot. This type of activity is really what makes a trip so memorable.
10. Our guide in Rome (we had her for both the Ancient Rome tour and the Vatican Tour) was brilliant. She was extremely knowledgeable and well-prepared and we thoroughly enjoyed our time with her.
11. La Pasitea in Positano was perhaps the only hiccup that we had in an otherwise fantastic trip. This hotel obviously has some sort of arrangement with the driver that was used (Salvatore) with the restaurants in the area, particularly with one called La Tagliatala. From the moment we arrived in Positano, Salvatore was already priming us with details about this apparently once-in-a-lifetime restaurant and even attempted to make a reservation for us. We declined, because after spending a lot of time travelling throughout Asia, we are pretty well practiced in spotting a tourist scam. When we checked-in at La Pasitea, the concierge immediately launched into the same word-for-word spiel about this restaurant and also attempted to get us to make a reservation, even showing us a list of other hotel guests that were going that night and reinforcing how fortunate we were that there was just one table left and that it could be ours. The porter that took our luggage up and showed us to our room asked us if we were going to the restaurant as well, much to our amusement. After sifting through reviews of this restaurant and the hotel, we discovered that this was in fact a tourist trap. Subsequently, every time we returned to the hotel after the respective day’s activities, we were interrogated about where we had eaten and whether we had eaten at their recommended restaurants and why we had not done so. It got to the point where it just became easier to lie and say we hadn’t eaten anywhere because we visited another town. Seriously, maybe we would have actually eaten at this restaurant had they been slightly subtle about it. Fortunately we did find an excellent restaurant called Next 2 that we dined at for 3 nights because we enjoyed it so much and we would highly recommend to anybody. Apart from this, the hotel itself was disappointing and lackluster. We cannot understand how this hotel has four stars. We aren’t fussy people when we travel and have stayed in some shocking places during the years that we’ve still managed to enjoy because of the service and experience, but when you’re paying for four stars, you do raise your expectations somewhat, especially when you compare it to the other four star places that we stayed at in Italy. The view from the balcony is beautiful. However, the room itself was not properly cleaned since the previous guest’s welcome bag with used map were still present, the air conditioning grate was filthy and has probably never been cleaned, the towels are frayed and have small stains, the bathroom needs a good scrub and the shower is tepid at best; there was no steam even if you only use the hot water. Furthermore, the other older bald gentleman in charge of the front desk in the evenings is the most unfriendly and unhelpful person in the hospitality industry we have ever encountered in any country anywhere. Reception also seemed stunned when we were checking out that we dared to inconvenience them by asking for a porter. In summary, customer service at this hotel was non-existent and we were relieved to leave.
12. Our guide for the walking tour of Naples was another gem who was so warm, knowledgeable and passionate about her city that it really added another dimension to the tour. She tailored the tour to our interests and went out of her way to make it a memorable experience for us.
All in all, this was a truly fantastic trip and we are already planning our return. Thank you again for you and your wife’s hospitality in Perugia and for arranging and planning everything so wonderfully. It was an absolute pleasure dealing with you and we look forward to planning our visit to Sicily with your company!
Jamie and Deshika”
Jamie Morgan Ramsamy (Mokpo, SOUTH KOREA) – SEPTEMBER 2014