Well we made it back from Italy and had a wonderful time!
Everything went very well except for the small hiccup on the pickup at the Florence airport upon our arrival. But that was resolved very quickly and everything else went like clockwork.
Our first day in Florence was very casual. We did walk around Florence and made it to the Accademia Gallery and saw the statue of David. We also were able to see The Duomo and climbed the bell tower. In the evening, the Pizza and Gelato class was fun with Chef Davide.
The next morning, the Vespa tour of Tuscany was wonderful and it gave us a feel of Tuscany and the beautiful countryside.
We had about 12 people in our group which turned out to be great. We also ran into our Pizza making class Chef Davide during our Vespa tour. He remembered us and it was a nice talk to him again. That night we happened upon one of our favorite restaurants called Da Pinocchio. This restaurant was close to our hotel and the food was excellent and the staff at the restaurant was very friendly.
Our day in Venice was good!
The bullet train to Venice went very smoothly. We loved the canals and the little alleyways with all of the shops and restaurant. Our tour guide of the Doge Palace was very informative. Although the tour of Doge Palace and the church was nice, we would have liked to have had more time touring the city of Venice with the guide, perhaps on the water or seeing Murano. Also, it would have been nice to have known that we were going to go to a church that day so we could have dressed properly. Instead we purchased several scarfs which were hot and uncomfortable. At the end of the day we decided to walk back to the train station through Venice to enjoy the city further. It gave us a better feel of the city outside of the tourist area of St. Marks Square.
The following day we loved the tour of Chianti and the medieval towns. Our driver, Francesco, was wonderful! In fact, he was our favorite driver/tour guide. Although he was not officially a tour guide and did not walk with us during our stops, he was very entertaining in the car and was a wealth of information.
He was very interactive with the kids and they loved him too! Francesco gave us the history of each town and its surrounding area, and also gave us tips on restaurants and town attractions. One of our favorite towns was San Gimignano. Francesco also brought us on a private winery tour with one of the winery owners who taught us about the local wines. By the end of the day, Francesco was like one of the family!
Our stay in Rome was amazing. Although Rome is larger than Florence and Venice, it was amazing to see all of the ruins scattered throughout the city. Our tour guide, Alisondra (sp?), was very good. She turned out to be our tour guide for The Vatican also.
It was great to tour the Coliseum and the Roman Forum in which the kids had studied about and could relate to the history of these artifacts.Pompeii and Naples was amazing too. We couldnt get over how large the ruins at Pompeii were. Our tour guide was very good and she showed us Naples also. We were able have lunch at Sorbillos along the coast and taste authentic Neapolitan pizza.
Vatican City was also nice to see.
Overall a fantastic trip! Thank you and your staff for planning this wonderful trip.
All of the tour guides were very good and professional. Francesco was by far our favorite guide/driver followed by Alisondra. All spoke English very well so we did not have any problems with communication. Our driver the first two days in Rome spoke limited English, but that did not turn out to be much of a problem.
The Santa Maria Novella hotel in Florence was excellent. Very good service, excellent breakfasts and they turned down our beds every night.
The hotel in Rome, Sole al Pantheon hotel, was nice but older and had smaller rooms and spotty internet connection. We had a room facing the square which was nice; however, we could hear the activities in the square until late at night. We would definitely return to the Santa Maria Novella hotel. However, we may try a different hotel in Rome next time.
It is hard to narrow down one specific thing we liked best, but the following would be high on our list:
San Gimignano (beautiful medieval town with shops. Smaller town and not as crowded which was nice)
Tuscany tour of the countryside & winery visit
Venice (i.e. walking the city shops and restaurants)
We did try to go to two restaurants which you suggested in your information book. However, due to the time of season, they ended up being closed. That was a little disappointing and it would have been nice to know that they were closed beforehand.
Overall we enjoyed Italy and would love to go back. You and Ana were fantastic.
Thank you for planning such a great trip!
Andrea G. /Vince W. & Family