Pleasure to hear from you. We made it back but it’s been a rough transition back to reality! We apologize it took us so long to respond- it takes a while to get back to work and catch up with everything. Wish we were back in Italy already! In the meantime, we are enjoying the nice olive oil and vinegar you so kindly gifted us. Thank you for the gift.
We had an amazing time with our family! We had some good (just some not so good) guides and drivers, great food, and spectacular memories. Thank you for organizing everything and picking some of the best restaurants! Here’s a summary by location:
I think everyone was most pleased with the trip to Rome and the opportunity to attend the papal audience. We had some really amazing tour guides and drivers. In particular, Daniele and Marco were terrific. We will miss them! We’ve attached a couple of pictures of them with our family as I am sure they’d love to see them. My niece Alejandra still asks about Marco!
The hotel in Rome was excellent. We liked the quiet location and vicinity to Travestere. What was most fitting was the name – 47 as my brother turned 47 on the 22nd. It was meant to be! The staff were all helpful – Paola and Stefania come to mind as being very helpful.
We had a wonderful time both for Rene’s birthday and Michael’s birthday. Cantina e’ Cucina was soooo much fun! The owner brought out a large cake with sparklers and a few of the patrons sang happy birthday with us. So much fun! The folks at Brillo Parlante also made a special cake for Michael with sparklers and we spent a very nice time together.
I think overall we were happy not to spend too much time in Florence but rather to spend time in a the quaint and beautiful city of Lucca; Florence is way too filled with tourists Michael and I would love to go back and relax in Lucca!. But being there with family made it worth it of course!
The guide we had in Florence was not great – though he let us take a quick detour from starting the tour for a parade/procession, he kept walking too fast and leaving my family behind not using the time as he walked to tell us new things. Thankfully, Laura our guide for Pisa and Lucca, was terrific and had more time with us and filled in gaps about Florence (while going between Pisa and Lucca).
We do have to say that we did not like the Florence hotel. While it was nice to be across from the Academia, it was really noisy at night and ultimately too far away from the action (too much walking for elderly parents and transportation options seemed limited). We also found that Francesca was in the midst of a renovation and not ready to receive us when we arrived. She was also unable to check us out on time when we left – it was a bit stressful. Overall, we think the apartment accommodation may work better for folks spending more than 3 days but for us the comfort of a regular hotel may have been a bit more appropriate. Also, there was the fact that my brother Rene’s room had a negative spiritual energy and as a result he and his daughters slept in my parents’ apartment all 3 nights. I wonder if anyone has ever experienced issues with room 2C. We did not have a chance to share this with Francesca as she was not around much and the morning we left she did not come out until 10 minutes before our shuttle (we called, knocked, etc).
I think one of our favorite moments was at Santo Stefano with the chef Laura, Natalie and the owner Agostino. We made fresh ravioli, pork meatballs, chicken liver patee’ and cake! See pictures attached. Agostino was a great host; he took us around and even took some time to make a reservation for us for dinner at one of his friend’s restaurants in Florence.
Our last dinner at Il Santo Bevitore was to die for! We had mushroom souffle’, sea bass, asparagus risotto… yummmmm! They set us up in a small private section of the hotel with a beautiful window facing the street. We loved it.
Cinque Terre was awesome despite it being a bit cold. La Giada del Mesco is an amazing place – we had a balcony deck facing the ocean! One day it was warm enough to sip prosecco outside. J The owner, Gianluca and his family were very accommodating and nice. We felt as if we were at home. Diego was also an excellent tour guide and our driver Gianluca was a lot of fun while we toured Portofino, Santa Margherita and Camogli and Chiavari.
Obviously we had a great time overall and we’d like to leave you all a great review. We’ll definitely write you all for the next trip we take to Italy – we are hoping to make a trip to Sicily. Will be happy to speak in Italian next time! 🙂
Carmen and Michael
Carmen Zapata (Falls Church ,VA) – March 2016