How Do We Top This?

Is there anything more gratifying for a travel planner than to have a client come back from an anniversary trip and say “we have no idea how we’ll possibly top this next year“?? Dana and Kevin clearly loved their anniversary “escape” to Rome and the Amalfi Coast, and I better start thinking NOW about what to suggest next 🙂

Thanks, Ann! We had the most INCREDIBLE trip and definitely feel like we’re having Italy withdrawals now that we’re back at home. We absolutely loved the country, the culture and the scenery, and our itinerary was amazing. All of our transfers, trains, hotel check-ins, etc, went perfectly to plan and helped to make our trip care-free.

When we arrived in Rome the first morning, we were excited but exhausted. Neither of us can really sleep on planes, so we had tried to wake up really early the day of our flight so we’d be tired on the plane. Turns out, we still couldn’t sleep no matter how tired we were. So now we know when we take our next trip to Europe that we’ll just get as good a night of sleep before we leave as possible! We took your advice, though, and powered through / caffeinated ourselves so we could stay up and get on the time zone. We were very happy to not have any specific tours or plans that day so we could just explore and get a feel for the city.

The River Palace was such a great hotel! The rooms and elevators were very small, but we were prepared for that. Everything was beautifully appointed, classy and comfortable. We really liked that our hotel felt like a Roman hotel, and not just any hotel we’d find at home. The complimentary breakfast put those we’re used to at American hotels to shame! It was delicious. They had all sorts of pastries, cheeses, meats, eggs and fruits, made us delicious cappuccinos, and even had a juice bar with complimentary make-your-own mimosas. Definitely a great way to start the day! We found the breakfast at our other hotels to be equally as impressive.

the Trevi fountain in Rome

We did TONS of walking and exploring in Rome. We explored the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Piazza del Popolo, shops, side streets, countless churches and monuments, and of course ate as often as we possibly could. The food and wine were beyond amazing – definitely lived up to and surpassed the hype. I was just in disbelief that we were actually experiencing such a beautiful city that I’d only seen in pictures before. The only downside to Rome were the flower guys who were overly aggressive in trying to get you to take a flower and popping up from everywhere. But we learned to deal with them and certainly didn’t let them put a damper on our fun 🙂

couple standing in front of Roman ruins

The Colosseum and Roman Forum tour we took was so amazing! Before the tour, we sat at a little cafe overlooking the Colosseum to enjoy cheese and wine. It was unreal! Our tour guide was interesting, entertaining and funny, and the 3 hours flew by. Going in through the Gladiator Gate was a really cool experience, and I would definitely recommend it! The Vatican and Sistine Chapel tour we took the following morning wasn’t our favorite, although the city, museums and churches were absolutely breathtaking! We found the 3 hour tour here to be longer than we would have preferred, just because there was such an overwhelming number of people at the Vatican, and the tour dove more into Art History than we were really interested in. That said, we are still really glad we got to experience it! If we did it again, we would probably want to do either fully private (so we could customize the tour more), or self-guided.

After the Vatican tour, we headed for the train station to begin the Amalfi Coast portion of our trip. We completely fell in love with the region; so much so that we started looking up real estate! The Hotel Mediterraneo Sorrento was the perfect hotel, and the sea view room was 100% worth it. The hotel itself was gorgeous, the staff was the best I’ve ever seen, and the room was amazing. We had panoramic views of the sea without even having to get out of bed! We really enjoyed the pool, hot tub and pool bar, and the Vesuvio Roof Restaurant was delicious and absolutely perfect for dinner on our anniversary evening. While in Sorrento, we explored the downtown area, which was probably the most charming city I’ve ever seen. The shopping, restaurants and cafes kept us entertained for hours. Our third day there, we took the Circumvesviano Train to Pompeii, where we did a self-guided tour. The city was incredible, and we really enjoyed the self-guided aspect here as everything was really well labeled, so we got to go at our own pace & avoid the largest crowds of the tours while not feeling like we missed out on information.

For the day of our actual anniversary, we decided to have the hotel book us on a semi-private day trip to Capri. This ended up being one of our favorite days on our trip (which is saying something!). We were on a gorgeous, mid-sized boat with 8 people and a captain. We went to the Blue Grotto first which, even though the cost was steep (28 euro for the 2 of us for about 10 minutes total), we are so happy we got to experience it! We got off our boat and into a small rowboat which held 4 of us and a captain. The entrance into the grotto is only about a meter high, so we had to lay in the bottom of the boat while the captain guided us safely into the grotto. Once inside, the height and characteristics of the rocks and the unreal, glowing blue of the water was absolutely breathtaking. Once back on our boat, we were taken on a tour of Capri, which included the Green Grotto, White Grotto, sailing under the Faraglioni arch, and the most amazing coastline we’ve ever seen. We had about 4 hours to explore Capri, which involved a LOT of stairs and a workout, but the views were beyond worth it. The island itself is beautiful, but also unassuming in its own way while being mega glamorous. On the designer shop-lined streets, it felt like we were on a more exclusive Rodeo Drive that, at the same time, managed to be more welcoming and down to earth. Back on the boat, we enjoyed wine and limoncello while we got a tour of the Sorrentine Peninsula, and got back to port around 6:15 pm – just in time to enjoy happy hour and dinner at our hotel. I’m not sure how we’re going to out-do that day for our 5th anniversary!

famous arches and rocks on a blue ocean in Capri, Italy

Back in Rome for our last day, it was fun staying in a different part of town than our first stint in Rome. The Hotel Britannia was lovely and very charming, and was located super close to the train station. The room itself unfortunately didn’t have very good A/C, but the windows opened so it worked out. The room was tiny, but the bathroom was HUGE, so it balanced out and we had all the space we needed for just a one night stay. We spent the last day seeing some more sites, doing some great shopping, and eating as much as possible before we would have to leave the delicious Italian food behind.

All in all, it felt like we were living a dream on our trip. It’s always been #1 on my travel bucket list, and it didn’t disappoint! We can’t wait to go back and explore more of this incredible country. Thank you so much for planning our dream trip! Can’t wait to see what you help us with next!

Dana

Strangest. Souvenir. Ever.

Andrea definitely wins the prize for the most unusual “souvenir” from her Italian honeymoon!! And I absolutely love all the details she remembered to report back to me. My clients truly are the best 🙂

Hi Ann,

Eric and I got back last night and had a GREAT time in Italy! We really appreciate all of your help planning and throughout the actual trip.  Wanted to share a few highlights with you to let you know how everything went 🙂

Our United flight to Rome was really smooth and comfortable.  We paid extra to get the premium economy seats to get the extra leg space and some other perks.  We got a row with just two seats in it.  So Eric got his window and I had my aisle 🙂  It was a pretty comfortable flight.  When we landed we found our driver easily and got settled in the hotel.  The hotel (Giulio Cesare) was very nice and comfortable.  The first day we just walked around and explored Rome.  We found Piazza del Popolo and enjoyed the space and shops.  We had dinner at Su e Giu Cucina Romana, which ended up being one of the best Italian meals we had on the trip.

Our Vatican and Colosseum tours were great!  The hotel was also close to a lot.  If not walking distance, we figured out how to use the metro and used it quite a bit the rest of the time in Rome.

For our next stop, we took a taxi to the Rome train station.  When we arrived at the Rome train station we were those confused American tourists, but figured it out.  There was a “helpful” stranger or two, but just ignored them.  Our train ride to Naples was smooth and comfortable.  Our driver in Naples picked us up and we found him easily.  There was a car accident near Sorrento, so our car ride to the hotel was about 2 and a half hours.  We didn’t mind since we weren’t in a rush anywhere and just enjoyed the view, but to be cautious we bumped up our pick up time when leaving Sorrento just to be sure.

The Sorrento hotel (Grand Hotel Cesare Augusto) was nice, nothing fancy but did the trick! We were a 5 to 10 min walk from shops and the water.  The first night we had dinner at Star Pub to get a break from Italian food (the burger there was REALLY good!).  For our full day in Sorrento we took the ferry to Capri.  The ferry was a little pricey, maybe 80 Euros in total for the both of us, and it was kind of hectic too, since it was so crowded with tourists and the ferry filled up fast.  Nonetheless we made it to Capri, and planned on walking around and spending a few hours there.  Well, when we got to the island we kind of wished we had planned ahead and booked a day tour because it’s a little confusing to book something once you’re on the island.  But we just pulled up Google and read that Villa San Michele/Anacapri

/Scala Fenicia had the best views on the island.  Google Maps told us it was a 25 minute walk.  No problem.  Well, we walked about a 10th of a mile and then there were steps… lots of steps.  We realized that Google Maps doesn’t clearly indicate altitude lol.  The entire rest of our walk was steep cobblestone steps!  Unknowingly, we walked up the famous Phoenician Steps.  After our exhausting stair climbing journey we made it to the top of Anacapri, where we unexpectedly found plenty of cafés, shops, and tourists on a walking main street.  The people walking around did not appear to have just climbed a thousand steps, so we were baffled on how all of these people got here and why no one was acknowledging that we just climbed these steps! Lol.  We later found a plethora of taxis at the end of the main street and realized that this beautiful place was reachable by car lol. While there we enjoyed the view, did some shopping, and refueled with some pizza.  The idea of facing the steps again, even though easier to go down, was daunting.  So we paid 25 Euros for a cab ride back to the port to catch the ferry back to Sorrento.  It was overall a pretty great day at Capri and one of the highlights of our trip.

climb the Phoenician Steps for stunning views in Anacapri Italy

That night we ate dinner by reservation at Ritorante Fuoro.  This was probably our other best Italian dinner in Italy!

The next morning, we headed back to the Naples train station by the driver.  The driver was great! We just caught our train in time since we’ve been unlucky with Sorrento traffic and of course it was a rainy morning causing traffic.  Our train ride was comfortable, smooth, and pretty easy since we were now experienced Italian train riders 🙂

When we arrived in Florence it was easy to take a taxi to our hotel (River Hotel).  We checked in… well then you know the rest from there about check in. lol.  After some back and forth with the hotel, the third room was a charm, and we were quite comfortable the rest of the trip, but highly recommend only the renovated modern rooms that you booked for us.  The second room they put us in was an unrenovated room (what they call to be “classic”) and was really out of shape and bathroom was beyond outdated.  None of the rooms have controllable air so were still advised to use the breaker panel to turn off the air if we got cold.  But there’s not too much you can do if you’re hot since there’s no way to lower the temperature.

We did quite a bit of walking in Florence. The hotel was tucked away in a more quiet area, and about 1.5 to 2.0 km from the central restaurants and shops we visited.  Bus and taxi didn’t seem very viable since the streets are flooded with tourists, so walking was our mode of transportation (which was our rationale on why we could get extra gelato, lol). The Dan Brown Inferno Walking Tour was really good.  Our tour guide was great and we had a small group of only five people.  I never saw the movie, but I definitely want to now.  The tour only spent about 10% of the time on the movie, the rest was history and was very interesting.

After the tour we had the day to explore – well, we ended up exploring a dentist office.  I had an old filling that ended up falling out of my tooth (lovely, I know) and had an urgent dental matter.  This was quite an anxious search for a dentist because foreign country dentistry is a world of unknown. We found an English speaking dentist (who had high Google reviews – because what else do I go by for an emergency!) and he ended up being fantastic.  The office is Studio Odontoiatrico Firenze Guasti e Massai if you ever need to give a client a dental recommendation, lol.  The dentist office was a general dentistry and the doctor spoke well enough English to get me through.  The receptionist also spoke decent English.  Comfortingly, everything about my dentist visit was comparable to a trip to an American dentist, minus the fluent English speaking.  440 euros later I had a new filling and it’s actually really good!  My Florence souvenir was a new filling I’ll cherish forever.

The next day we had nothing officially planned and decided we wanted to see the leaning tower of Pisa.  We didn’t book a tour, and just took the train as you recommended.  It was only 16 Euros round trip per person and we got to see the tower in person and get photos.

a honeymooning couple in front of the leaning tower of Pisa

The next morning we took a 15 euro taxi ride to the  Florence train station to head to Venice. The train ride was easy and comfortable. Once we got out of the train station and ready to head to the hotel we assessed our options. The water bus was about 14 Euros total, while a private water taxi was asking for 70 euros.  So the water bus it was.  The ferry system from the train station to the island is a bit confusing, but your instructions and map were clear.  We didn’t end up taking the water bus number 2 to San Zaccaria, by our own fault.  We took bus number 5.1 which also had a stop to San Zaccaria, so it worked out.

The Venice hotel, Hotel Bisanzio, was great.  This was our favorite hotel for location, staff, room, etc. from our trip. (Our next favorite hotel was Rome).  For our first day in Venice we decided that we needed a break from hotel breakfast (all the hotels’ breakfasts were pretty similar), but there really weren’t many place in Venice for breakfast or brunch.  We found a cute café called the Florian.  It’s pretty fancy and pricey, but you get what you paid for.  They have a cover charge of 6 Euros per person which they call their “music charge”.  There’s a live music group with piano, violin, singing, etc. while you eat.  Kind of reminded me of high tea in London.  There’s lots of little sandwiches, specialty coffees, hot chocolates, teas, etc. while you relax and enjoy the music. After Florian we headed to our tour and gondola ride.  There was rain in the forecast so they had us do the gondola ride before the walking tour.  It was pretty awesome!  The tour afterwards was just about an hour and was nice to hear some history and other information about the city.

For our final meal in Italy, we spent it at the Hard Rock Café of Venice lol. We needed a change from gnocchi and lasagna.  Our last night we debated between the Alilaguna Ferry and private water taxi to get back to the airport the next morning. The ferry was cheap (17 Euros per person), while the private water taxi was 120 euros.  The ferry would take 1.5 hrs because of all the stops, while the private water taxi takes only 25 minutes.  We knew we had a long day ahead of us with flights and a connection, so we splurged and did the private water taxi.  They picked us up at the water way right behind our hotel and took us directly to the airport. In my opinion, it was well worth the money… Eric needed a little convincing but I think he’s glad we did it. We had a long day of flying and got to our house by 10:30 pm EST Saturday and went straight to bed.

We had an absolutely fantastic honeymoon! Everything went SO smoothly.  We even said multiple times – thank god Ann planned this all out because there is no way we would have figured out any of this! We are both so happy with our trip and will forever remember it for our lifetime!

THANK YOU!

Andrea & Eric

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)