I want to share with you some of my wonderful memories of beautiful Italy. My husband and I have been planning and saving for years to go and something always came up to prevent us from going. Well, this year we finally realized our dream and checked one more thing off our bucket list. Views of Rome day and night are beautiful!
When we knew we were finally ready to travel to Italy we visited a local travel agency, Martinelli Travel, Londonderry, NH, and planned our trip out with Faye Sell, the owner and president of Martinelli. Fay was informative and accommodating and arranged a fantastic trip with Trafalgar to the Best of Italy. We left her office feeling lighter than air and very excited about our upcoming trip beginning May 14, 2014. Special thanks to you, Fay, for the tremendous job of planning this trip.
Our first day we traveled eight hours by plane and arrived in Rome a little groggy but happy to feel land under our feet. We met our extraordinary tour director, Barbara Marani, the first day at the hotel in Rome. Barbara is a lovely woman who is skilled in her position to coordinate and insure each day that our travels go smoothly. She did above and beyond what she needed to do in order to insure we were all happy and having a good time. She was kind, helpful and compassionate to me when I inadvertently left behind my Nook in a hotel in Sorrento. I was upset and felt stupid for doing this and was embarrassed when I had to tell her. She got on her cell immediately and called the hotel where they had found my Nook and she arranged for them to mail it to the next hotel we were scheduled to be staying. They sent it four days later to Florence where I found it waiting for me. I never left it out of my sight after that! Picture attached is the Bay of Naples – just gorgeous!
Another way that Barbara is an exceptional tour director is her careful attention to details. I mentioned in my information that I am lactose intolerant. She looked over each meal and insured that I had no cheese in my meal and that the cook supplemented something of equal deliciousness! I never suffered and had excellent pasta without the mozzarella! I have to admit I did sneak a taste of their homemade mozzarella! Delicioso! I can’t thank Barbara enough for her kind attention and for making our trip so special and memorable. I really miss her and could use her to organize all my trips. Unfortunately she only does the Italy trips. Thank you, Barbara. We miss you! Our outstanding tour director and my husband, John.
We stayed two days in Rome, the Eternal City, and visited St. Peter’s Basilica and the Pieta, Sistine Chapel, the Forum, Circus Maximus, and the impressive Colosseum. The Basilica was enormous and very beautiful as was the Pieta. I loved the Sistine Chapel but it was smaller than I expected but no less impressive with all the gorgeous frescoes and ceiling done so expertly by Michelangelo. Some places, The Basilica, Sistine Chapel, and other churches we were not allowed to take pictures, reason why you don’t see any photos of these places inside.
The Vatican Museum – ceilings of gold and beautiful frescoes.
We visited the Trevi Fountain where I tossed three coins and made three wishes which I cannot share. Hope at least one of them comes true. The area around the fountain was so packed with visitors that we had to elbow our way in just to get close enough to toss in the coins. The Spanish Steps was much the same – very crowded. There must have been three hundred people sitting on the steps preventing us from taking a picture of the steps alone. We had to take a picture of these three hundred or so people sitting on the steps. The photo is not worth posting here.
The highlight was seeing the statue of David which was incredibly beautiful and lifelike. His hands and feet were sculptured larger to balance the rest of the statue so our guide told us. David was in danger of falling over so they have had to bring him indoors and reinforce him in sections and glass him in. He was no less impressive to look at! We were not allowed to take photos of the actual statute and had to settle for a copy below.
I especially enjoyed vising the Colosseum and the feel of the past pulled me in as I imagined the gladiators fighting and josting with each other and with the animals. The steps to go to the top of the site were steep and difficult to climb. I used a hand over hand motion on the railing to help propel myself up easier. I noticed others observing my swift climb doing the same thing!
We traveled next to Pompeii to visit the ruins and learn about the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79. We stayed in Sorrento two nights. The remains of the city were shocking and fascinating. There were actual casts of some of the bodies of the people who died still there to view and I can’t imagine the horror they must have felt. Here are some views of Mt Vesuvius and the remnants of victims.
In Sorrento we visited the wood-working factory, Notturno, where I purchased a jewelry box that is incredibly detailed and beautiful! It was being shipped to me and I should receive it soon. I will take a picture and post it later. I can’t wait to get it! Beautiful views of the countryside are in the first picture and the second is the view from our balcony at our hotel.
While in Sorrento we took an optional tour to a local farm where we ate food prepared by the family and watched a demonstration of how to make mozzarella. Four of our group were chosen by the family to prepare pizzas. They did an admirable job and we enjoyed a good laugh at the silly aprons they had to wear. At the dinner afterward we ate (for me a little of the cheese) a capresi salad with the homemade mozzarella and their own grown tomatoes and basil, pizza, roasted chicken dinner, and lots and lots of homemade wine and a sample of their home-made Limoncello. Fabulous time with new friends! The farm family were lovely and accommodating and treated us like royalty. Memorable time for all! Definitely would recommend taking this unforgettable optional tour. I think this was the best time out of the whole tour for most of us. I am surprised we remembered it at all with all the wine we consumed. It went down very easily for me and I am a one drink person at home. This wine was very tasty and had no sulfites which can give you a headache. Here is Maria with her finished product – mozzarella.
We took a walking tour of Positano which is a lovely little and quaint village high up in the hills with shops, restaurants and a beach further downhill. Some famous stars such as Julia Roberts are known to vacation there in one of the villas. This day it rained and was a little chilly but we had umbrellas and raincoats and were somewhat prepared. Got a little damp so we had to stop in a restaurant for a Limoncello (liquor)! Yum! It certainly warmed our insides!
We took a ferry to the Isle of Capri and visited local gardens and took some beautiful photos of the gorgeous view.
Views of the Isle of Capri were absolutely breathtaking as you can see from these pictures.
Assisi was our next stop to visit the Basilica of St. Francis. The chapel was emotional and stirring as we viewed the frescoes depicting St. Francis’ life, a much-loved saint. He was known to be able to talk to the birds. My husband purchased a St. Francis Statue to put on our mantel. He thinks of himself as a feeder of birds but no saint! We couldn’t take pictures inside the Chapel so here are some from the outside.
Onto Venice to cruise to St. Mark’s Square and view the Bridge of Sighs, Doge’s Palace and the Basilica. We watched a demonstration of glass blowing on Giudecca Island. Here I purchased a stunning necklace of royal blue glass with matching earrings.
Then another cruise across the lagoon to the island of Burano where we enjoyed a delicious seafood meal with many courses. Food was wonderful and it kept coming and coming. We couldn’t move and had to take a walk around quaint Burano to feel better. Burano is lovely and colorful. The houses are all different colors as you can see from the picture below.
Venice is fascinating with its canals and 101 islands. It is amazing how a whole city sits in a canal on top of an island and on posts of wood which become petrified thereby supporting the structures. They told us the wood posts do not sit in water otherwise they would break down and get water logged.
We stayed on Lido Island in a lovely hotel. We took an optional tour and experienced what it was like to travel down the Grand Canal on a Gondola. We even had an Italian singer serenading us with beautiful Italian songs. We had lovely weather but I am sure it would have been a soggy ride in the rain. The Canal can be a little smelly in the heat but luckily we had weather in the 60’s and 70’s which was very comfortable there and no any unpleasant smells were picked up by my bloodhound of a nose.
We visited Verona the home of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers. The balcony was small and build just for us tourists to have something to look at. Moving on to Milan for a walking tour with a local guide to see the Gothic Duomo, La Scala Opera House and the famous Galleria. The Opera House was lovely and I whispered “la la la” to hear the sound it made with the wonderful acoustics. The opera singers would have done a much better job. Oh well! My friend, Charlotte Hoather, a lovely opera singer would have sounded magnifico!
Next on our itinerary was Lake Cuomo where we took a private boat to an island on Lake Maggiore and dined at a private restaurant, Be My Guest, where we had lots of wine and food and fun! The food outside of the hotels was excellent. The hotels have a lot to learn from the local restaurants about cooking good food. Lake Maggiore was absolutely beautiful. The view from our room was incredible and the hotel was outstanding.
We took a private launch to the Borromean Islands to visit the palace of the Borromean Princes which was enormous and very ornate in furniture and wall hangings, not at all homey if you know what I mean. The grounds were beautiful and we saw a few white peacocks. This day it rained very hard at times but we perservered and managed to get some foggy pictures. Luckily we remember how beautiful it all was. We were very fortunate to have good weather up to this point. Could have used some Limoncello here too! But, alas, none to be had! Lol!
We traveled on to Pisa to see the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa which was strange and exciting to see in person. Everyone was taking pictures, posing with their hands holding up the tower. I tried it too several times but never did get a perfect believable picture of me holding it up. I didn’t bother to post it here.
Florence was our next stop, the birthplace of the Renaissance. We had a walking tour always with local guides who were all excellent to see the Cathedral and Piazza della Signoria and view Ponte Vecchio. We stopped at a viewing site for spectacular panoramic views of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo. We visited a leather factory/store for lovely jackets, purses, wallets, etc. Very expensive but lovely just the same. I did buy a pocketbook later in Siena which is very different and distinctive of the region, picture attached and view of Florence.
We viewed the scenic Tuscan countryside and visited the medieval town of Siena, famous for its exciting Palio horse race. This is where I bought my pocketbook in one of the shops. This was our last night together as a tour group so we had our farewell dinner at a local restaurant. The group was made up of 49 people who were a fun and lively group even if some of them were older. They ranged in ages from 20’s – 70’s. Everyone got along well much to the delight of our tour director, Barbara, which made her life a whole lot easier.
Here is our group picture at the Colosseum.
With all trips there are optional excursions which we partook. We took the following optionals – guided tour of Magnificent Rome, Roman Evening with Dinner (magnifico), Positano and the Amalfi Drive – Sorrento (lovely and quaint), Isle of Capri Island Tour – Sorrento, Dinner and entertainment – Sorrento, Traditional Neapolitan Evening (fantastic time) – Sorrento, Canals of Venice (quite an exciting experience). Every one of these optional tours were well worth the money and were thoroughly enjoyed by all. I know I must have left something out because there was so much to see and do. But you will just have to travel there to experience the thrill and beauty of the old country.
I will always treasure our experiences in Italy and all the pasta and pizza I consumed – out of this world! The Italians really know how to cook pasta – al dente! Perfecto! Alas, I have more weight to lose but it was all worth it! Lovely pizza, spaghetti, fruit and bread – all part of a beautiful country – Italy! I miss you!
This was a trip of a lifetime and it will always be remembered in my blog with my pictures if not always in my fading memory bank (brain). The most amazing thing about going on a tour with Trafalgar or any other company you meet strangers and become like a family at the end of the tour. We made some wonderful new friends with whom we will keep in touch and possibly travel to other lands together. Hi Gloria & Roy and Joni & Brian! Miss you all! Here is our last night together with our new friends.
I would recommend a trip to beautiful Italy while you are still able to walk and tour. It is a very active and busy trip which includes many stairs, steep hills and long treks to get to different areas of attractions and sites. I am getting up there in age and had no trouble climbing the steep stairs of the Colosseum. But I am glad that I didn’t wait until I was older.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my trip and looking at all the pictures we took. Next trip will be to sunny Aruba.
Blessings to all! Thank you for stopping by! Please come back again soon.
Thought for the day: Take a trip that you have on your bucket list and enjoy yourself – life is too short!