“Thank you for organizing our fabulous trip to Italy. Even traveling with three, the accommodations where excellent. At Villa Le Barone we were provided two rooms with beautiful modern bathrooms, and extra privacy with the adjoining hallway between the rooms available for our use, separated from the stairway with a door. The owners as well as the staff were friendly and always helpful, and the meals there quite good. The grounds and views were beautiful. The completely different setting of the Hotel Miramare was even more extraordinary, with private beach and easy access to walk to shops, restaurants, and the bay. The Suite provided a view of the private beach and sea cove, a hide-a-bed in the living space separated from the main bedroom by a hallway with two bathrooms, and again the staff were friendly and helpful. Our final accommodation at the Grand Hotel Minerva was perhaps the most luxurious, with art displays throughout the hallways, and located in the old city but completely modern. The single bathroom and smaller space were certainly adequate for our overnight stay, especially since our time in Florence was limited.
The excursions were wonderful, starting with the memorable trip through Monteriggioni to Siena for the Palio. Although a long day, the sights and pageantry are unforgettable. We really appreciated the availability of the apartment with balcony, since probably could not have survived the crowd and heat in the square, where most did not have the view we were provided. We were lucky to be walking toward the Piazza del Campo when the various factions were marching through the street in full regalia demonstrating their flag routines at the square. The race was more physical than we had anticipated and the rider of the winning horse fell off exactly at our turn. The seats on the balcony were small, being limited within metal frames, and too uncomfortable for our grandson, but standing space was available and I think he enjoyed the freedom of being able to get out of the sun and indulge in the available refreshments as the many teams, again stopping right at our turn, demonstrated their flag routines. It was definitely a comfort to know we had a phone to contact our driver (and you throughout the trip), and have the GPS mapping to guide us back out of the center city through the crowd after the race.
The next morning the hotel staff made coffee, juice and a “sack” breakfast available for our early departure for the hot air balloon ride. The air was calm and the ride smooth as we watched the sunrise over the valley, and saw a fox running through the vineyard and deer in the field next to it where we landed, with a Prosecco salute and breakfast pastry provided by the team. After a brief respite at the Villa, our visit to the Fattoria included a tour of the vineyard, cellar, and tasting of their locally produced olive oil and wine as well as the lunch we helped to prepare. Throughout our stay in Tuscany, Georgios was on time, informative, an efficient driver and pleasant conversationalist – he is a real gem.
Our “hiking” in Cinque Terre did not go exactly as planned, since the hot day and high humidity made it clear that extended climbing up the hills would be unpleasant. Our guide Chiara was very accommodating, and we still walked part of the first planned segment, then back down to the train at Corniglia, and through Vernazza and Monterosso before calling it a day and taking the train & van back to Sestri Levante. Unfortunately as we climbed to the platform the train was about to leave and Chiara would be going the opposite way, so our goodbye was very short and I would have liked to offer her a tip. The next day our tour by motor yacht made us feel very pampered with turns through multiple ports, a brief stop to stretch our legs in Portofino, a brief anchorage to let our grandson take a swim in the sea, and cold drinks (including Prosecco) with a snack before returning on our private tour. Although I was glad to be close to the airport by returning to Florence, our time there was too short and we want someday to return to Italy to see more of the art and architecture there.
Overall it was really a magical trip, and exceeded our expectations.
Robert & Jan Pierron (Buena Vista, CO) – AUGUST 2019