An off-season “escape” to Italy

I just received a trip report from some great clients who visited Rome, Florence, and the Amalfi Coast in Nov/Dec. Definitely not the peak time of year to visit Italy, but there are some terrific bargains to be found in the off-season. And as you’ll see in their review, they had a lot of fun despite running into some rainy weather!

 

Hi Ann,

Sarah and I returned home from our Italian journey this afternoon. It was great, much more than Sarah and I expected. We would rate this experience a 10, the only downside was the weather which was just bad luck.

Our round trip flights were pretty good on Alitalia, the only problem was the food on the airplane, which was awful, but service and comfort were positive.

The Rome transfer was good.

Hotel Borromeo was perfectly located. We got there around 7:30 a.m. and the staff instructed us we would have to wait until 2 p.m. When asked where we could store the bags, he told us there was a room in the hallway. It was actually a closet w/no security feature as anyone could have walked in and taken anything they wanted to. When we came back at 1:35 p.m. the staff guy looked at the clock and told us we would have to wait until 2 p.m. because that was the earliest you are allowed to check in. I guess I just expect the staff to go out of the way a little bit. The room was really, really small which wasn’t a big deal and the safe did not work and we were told it would be to our disadvantage to switch rooms just because of the safe. Of the three hotels we stayed at this was definitely the least impressive.

The two Dark Rome tours (walking tour and Vatican City tour) were amazing. The tour guides were very nice and very knowledgeable and fun. We even booked an additional trip through Dark Rome (Catacomb tour), which turned out to be a real gem. We were able to visit a basilica that they had found to be built on top of another basilica which was built on another church which was built on a house from the 1st century, it was great.

We ate at a restaurant in Rome that overlooked the Coliseum, it was pricy but definitely worth it.

The train rides were great, we had heard a lot of horror stories about gypsies etc, but we actually enjoyed the train rides and the 1st class business atmosphere.

The transfer to and from Sorrento was more than we expected. The driver was knowledgeable and friendly and would answer any question as well as offer up info about history, etc.

Hotel Antiche Mura was a 5-star experience. They upgraded us to a suite that was bigger than our downstairs at home. The inside and outside were beautiful and the staff was bubbly and very, very helpful. I would definitely stay there again.

We traveled to Positano via bus. Because of the twists and turns, the rain, the gas smell of the bus, it is not for the weak of heart. Sarah and I were both very nauseated to and from the town. However, the town itself was perfect. It was beautiful, cute and we actually can’t wait until one day we can visit there again and stay at a hotel on the coast during the summer.

The Florence hotel was very classy. The room and the breakfast were just what you would expect from a 4 star hotel. The staff was helpful and overall it was a nice hotel.

The Uffizi gallery wasn’t our favorite but the cooking class was the highlight of our trip. The chef was comical and very knowledgeable and we met some fun Americans and it was just like spending a night with friends from home. We made eggplant parm, gnocchi, a vinaigrette chicken and a strawberry desert. We loved it so much we almost booked it the next night which was his “pizza and desert” class. The Tuscan hill town tour was a downpoint as we were told on Friday night that it was cancelled because we were the only two on the tour. It ended up working out okay because we enjoyed an extra day of eating and shopping and relaxing.

Tips/Advice for other people: we still are not sure whether or not to tip waiters in Europe? We tipped between 15-20% on everything but we were told by a student in Italy that we should not be tipping???? [Annie’s advice: tips are generally included on the bill in Italy, but you can certainly add a little extra for great service] Also we learned that you have to ask for the check — unlike here in America, they don’t rush you out and will let you stay all night at the restaurant which is a nice change. The food was great and the restaurants would give us what we called “presents” which ranged from free appetizers, to free shots, to free chocolate, it was nice

We have a bunch of ideas for our next trip, we just have to narrow them down, we are thinking around May-June, but we will definitely book through you again, you made everything very easy for us, those Rome and Florence books you gave us were AMAZING!! Very, very helpful. Thank you for your time and if you want any pictures for your web site let us know.

Sincerely,
Bryan and Sarah

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You provided excellent guidance for us. I appreciated that you really had us think about what was most important to us when we were selecting the right cruise – and not to totally focus on what other people had to say. THANK YOU for helping to make this a memorable trip for our family! It really was a trip of a lifetime!

Clare and Mark (family cruise to Alaska)

The level of service we experienced was out of this world (and we did NOT make it easy on Ann). We weren’t quite sure where we wanted to go, when we would be able to go, or what “vibe” we were going for. After asking us some key questions (what we liked, didn’t like, why, etc.) Ann helped us narrow down our trip details and planned the honeymoon of our dreams. She helped book some of our excursions, answered some emergency questions while abroad and was always available/willing to help. I think it’s safe to say we won’t be using anyone else for future travel planning – Ann is a rockstar!

Carli (Italy and Spain)