Ann’s Tuscany Adventure

I’ve been to Tuscany before, but always with Florence as my home base. Doing day trips to Siena or Lucca, or heading out into the countryside for a day of winetasting before retreating back to the city. When the opportunity arose to spend a whole week in Tuscany, I jumped at it! 

The focus for this trip was romance travel (destination weddings and honeymoons). We had the opportunity to tour some gorgeous properties and meet some fantastic local business owners (florists, caterers, event planners, and photographers). And, of course, eat and drink some amazing local food and wine.

If you’ve ever dreamed of getting married in Tuscany, we can absolutely hook you up!

[Photo: The dining hall of Corte dei Papi villa in Cortona]

But I am really excited about Tuscany in general, and what a different experience it offers vacationers when compared to the big cities.  


We stayed at the Buccelletti Casali and Cantina, in Castiglion Fiorentina. It’s a charming property that has been in the Buccelletti family since 1625. They’ve been growing olives and making olive oil for generations, and they now make wine as well.

They have converted the old farm workers’ houses into clusters of villas and apartments. Plus, they’ve turned the olive oil mill into a stunning event space. It was the perfect home base for a week spent exploring the surrounding countryside.

[Photo: Buccelletti Casale and Cantina]

The accommodations themselves were the first big difference from previous trips to Italy. I was in a cute little house with two bedrooms and bathrooms, a living/dining area and small kitchen, and a private yard/garden.

We could prepare our own breakfasts of farm-fresh eggs, homemade bread, and locally produced yogurt, jams, honey, and fruit. We had bottles of wine and olive oil produced right there on site. And the cuisine could not have been more “farm to table”. So different from staying in a hotel! 

When you’re out in the country at an agriturismo like this, it does help to have a car, so that you can get out to the local shops and markets. But at the Buccelletti Casali, we had a basket of provisions (replenished mid-week) and it was more than enough for breakfasts and snacks.  

The Countryside

We were a group, with a very organized itinerary (and drivers/guides), but I would highly encourage clients to rent a car and enjoy a more independent stay in Tuscany. The roads are great, the traffic is light, and they drive on the right side of the road. It’s very manageable for American drivers.

[Photo Credit: MIP Studios via Shared Adventures – a road in Cortona]

While we were there, we had a busy itinerary filled with site inspections at hotels/inns/B&Bs, guided tours of Tuscan hill towns, tastings at local vineyards, and many lengthy multi-course meals with wine pairings. Brutal, I know.

We learned how cheese is made. We met mayors, hoteliers, restauranteurs, and the fascinating couple who purchased and renovated the villa featured in “Under the Tuscan Sun”.

[Photo: Ann & Kristy at Villa Laura]


Some of the highlights, for me, included: 

  • Cortona – a town of steep streets, gorgeous views, Etruscan history, and tempting shops.
  •  Pici – traditional hand-rolled Tuscan pasta, made from just the “poorest” of ingredients (flour and water).  
  • Podere il Casale – a pecorino cheese producer, organic farm, and farm-to-table restaurant outside of Pienza, where we enjoyed a fabulous meal completely sourced from right there onsite. (So delicious that I purchased and carried home their very heavy hardbound cookbook in the hopes of recreating that magic
  • Brunello di Montalcino wines – made with 100% Sangiovese, bold and fruity, one of the best Italian reds!

The Tuscany Takeaway

Tuscany is all about the slow food movement, slowing down to take it all in, and enjoying the views.

There’s no long list of “must-sees”. You can while away an afternoon (guilt-free) sitting by the pool sipping wine and snacking on prosciutto. Or riding an e-bike through the countryside. Or rolling up your sleeves for a cooking class.  

I realize now that I was doing it all wrong when I visited Tuscany as a quick side trip from Florence. Tuscany invites you to stop, linger, indulge, experience, and enjoy. And I can’t wait to come back and do it all again! 

[Photo: Villa Le Prata in Montalcino]

Florence vs Rome

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These two famous Italian cities are incredible, unforgettable destinations that everyone should visit at least once. But sometimes, depending on what else you’re hoping to do and see in Italy, you have to choose between Rome and Florence, and can’t do both in one trip. Whichever one you choose, you’ll find incredible food, plenty of history, and some famous sites paired with classic Italian dolce vita. But how do you decide? If you can only fit one into your trip here’s a little guide to help you find the perfect fit. 


Let’s face it, neither of these cities can be fully experienced in just one day. You could spend weeks or even months in them and keep finding new amazing discoveries. But what is the minimum amount of time you need to enjoy the city and see the most famous sites? 

Depending on how long you have to dedicate to your city, it may determine which one you visit. 

In such a big city, it’s best to spend 4-5 days. Ideally, you’ll have 3 full days dedicated to Rome in addition to your arrival & departure half days.

To see the top tourist sites you need a minimum of 2 days, though 3 days is more ideal. Florence is a much smaller and more walkable city so if you’re short on time you’re more likely to “see it all” in Florence. 

Best Time of Year

Another external factor is seasonality. What time of year are you planning on going? Depending on the weather, you may want to skew your trip further south or north. 


Best Time: Late Spring
Winter: Average: 47°F – cold winds and occasional rains
Spring: Average: 67°F – warmer, a mixture of sunny & rainy
Summer: Average: 87°F- very hot and dry, lots of sun.
Fall: Average: 70°F – the wettest season, starting in Mid-October.


Best Time: Early-Mid Fall
Winter: Average: 45°F- cold & cloudy with high humidity
Spring: Average: 59° F – sunny with chilly evenings
Summer: Average: 80°F- sunny, hot and humid
Fall: Average: 66°F – brisk and cool until November when the chill starts to set in and the rainfall increases.

Overall Vibes

an aerial view of the piazza in Rome

Rome– The capital and largest city in Italy, it is a sprawling megalopolis. Even with its ancient ruins, impressive architecture, and historical sites on every corner, it feels like a city. You’ll have to use the metro, bus, or taxi to make your way around. But it’s still a city with a clear Italian feel. Rome is famous for street food, slow espresso mornings, and late evenings. Rome has a vibrant nightlife and because of its size, there’s a huge variety. If you’re traveling with a group, you are sure to find a little something for everyone, from top fashion, to tourism, cuisine, and cinema. You’ll find everything a modern city has to offer, in addition to the ancient ruins.

[Photo Credit: Caleb Miller via Unsplash]

Florence Duomo and the city behind it

Florence- The cradle of the Renaissance, Florence is a large but very walkable city that has managed to keep its medieval and Renaissance feel. With winding streets, elegant palaces, and lots of beautiful Renaissance architecture, it’s a very cultural city with some of the most famous artworks in the world. Every corner of Florence oozes that old-world charm and you won’t have to worry about taking public transport. Florence gives you the quintessential Italian city feel, plus those Under the Tuscan Sun vibes. You won’t find as much variety in the nightlife or activities, but whichever corner you turn down, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped into a romantic Italian film.

[Photo Credit: Herr Bohn via Unsplash]

Amazing Foods

If you’re a foodie, deciding between Rome and Florence is entirely down to personal preference. Both of these cities have incredible local/regional food, quality ingredients, and innovative chefs. Rome will have a bit more variety and more street food. You’ll find simple but delicious dishes like cacio e pepe, pizza, pastas, and stews. Florence has embraced the slow food movement, with tiny cafes and earthy restaurants. You’ll find pappardelle with wild boar sauce, tripe, gelato, and of course Bistecca Fiorentina! 

Must-try Dishes in Rome

Suppli- rice croquettes
Trapizzino- stuffed pizzas
Jewish-style fried artichokes
Cacio e pepe- pasta with a creamy cheese sauce
Allesso di bollito – simmered beef
Saltimbocca –veal wrapped in prosciutto and marinated in wine
Maritozzi –candied buns filled with lightly sweetened whipped cream
Torta Ricotta e Visciole –sour cherry cheesecake

Must-try Dishes in Florence

Pappardelle al cinghiale- pasta with wild boar
Tagliatelle Porcini e Tartufo- porcini and truffle pasta
Pici- dense hand-rolled pasta
Ribollita- vegetable soup
Coniglio con umido- rabbit stew
Bistecca Fiorentina
Lampredotto- a street food sandwich made with thinly sliced tripe.
Schiacciata Fiorentina- a soft sponge cake covered with powdered sugar
Panforte- a thick florentine containing fruits and nuts

Rome is Perfect for…

History Buffs

a couple in front of ancient roman ruins in italy

Both cities have deep historical roots on display around every corner. But for history buffs, Rome comes out ahead. Florence’s history is undeniably concentrated in the Renaissance. In Rome, you’ll find everything from ancient Roman ruins to the Medieval period, the Renaissance, and a modern city. Rome is full of ruins, churches, and museums from every era that might interest. It’s also just a day trip away from archaeological wonders like Pompeii.

[Photo Credit: Dana via Shared Adventures Travel – read all about her anniversary trip to Rome here! ]

Top Historical Sites in Rome:

Roman Forum
St. Peter’s Basilica
Castel Sant’Angelo

Fashionistas & Shopaholics

Being a big city, Rome offers numerous shopping opportunities. With huge brands, big fashion centers, and lots of shops this is a shopaholic’s paradise. While Florence is known for some key shopping opportunities (leather, hand-made paper), Rome offers everything from top luxury designers to incredible vintage shops to stunning antique markets. Some of the famous shopping streets are like an art gallery of fashion – perfect for a day of window shopping!

Bucket-listers & First Timers

trevi fountain rome italy

Florence does boast some incredibly famous sites, like Michelangelo’s David and the impressively huge Duomo. But if you’re the type of person who likes to see the most famous and well-known sites in a destination, or it’s your first time in Italy, Rome has more bang for your buck. So many of the most famous Italian sites are located in and around Rome. You can see the places that spring to everyone’s mind when they picture an Italian vacation.

[Photo Credit: Dana via Shared Adventures Travel – read all about her anniversary trip to Rome here! ]

Top Bucket-List Sites:

Sistine Chapel
Trevi Fountain
Spanish Steps

Piazza del Popolo
The Mouth of Truth
Vatican Museums

Florence is Best for…

Art Lovers

a panel of the Gates of Paradise on the Baptistery in Florence Italy

Being the cradle of the Renaissance, Florence is the best place for art lovers. With famous works from Michelangelo, Donatello, Boticelli, and Leonardo Da Vinci, Florence has incredible galleries and art museums! You could easily spend entire days taking in all the amazing works of art around the city. While Rome has plenty of galleries, Florence can’t be beaten in this respect.

[Photo Credit: Liz via Shared Adventures Travel – read about her trip to Florence here!]

Top Sites for Art Lovers:

Michaelangelo’s David at Galleria Academia
The Uffizi Gallery
Boticelli’s Birth of Venus
Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise

Taking it Slow

If you only have three days to see all of Florence, you will have some very full days fitting everything in. But once you pass the three-day mark there’s a feeling of being able to slow down. From hidden side streets and gelaterias to the extremely popular slow flood movement, Florence encourages taking your time to enjoy its wonders. Because the city is so walkable, the more time you have to spend here the more you feel like you can relax into enjoying the city at a slow and mindful pace. You get a chance to enjoy the little details without feeling like you’re missing out on the “big sites”. Taste your way through the Mercato Centrale, wander through the Boboli Gardens, and catch the sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo.

Top Hidden Gems:

San Marco Museum
Todo Modo Bookstore
Oltrarno Neighborhood
Torrigiani Gardens

Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy
Via Toscanella Street Art

Day Trips

a smiling honeymooner on a wall with beautiful rolling Italian hills

If you like to get out of the city or are keen to spend some time in the incredible Italian countryside, Florence is the best city for you. With the beautiful Tuscan rolling hills just outside the city, taking day trips is extremely easy. Visit nearby towns like Siena, Pisa, and Lucca; hop on a train to Bologna; book a cooking class in Chianti; or you can even head to a country villa or farmhouse to see how they make wine and olive oil!

[Photo Credit: Jamie & Matt via Shared Adventures — read about their Italian adventure here!]

So which city is perfect for you? The best part of custom travel planning is being able to pick the perfect experiences for your interest and your style of travel. Inspired to visit Florence or Rome? Or do you have time to see both? Let us know and we can start planning!

What’s it like to Visit Florence right now?

Have you been wondering what it’s like to visit some of the most popular tourist destinations right now, when crowds have disappeared? I’ve been fascinated to hear what’s changed, what’s stayed the same, and what kind of atmosphere the cities have. Our marketing assistant, Liz, moved to Northern Italy last year and has spent the 2020 lock-down in a small town near Bologna. When the inter-province travel restrictions lifted in June she decided to make the most of it and take a day trip to Florence in early July! Here’s her experience:

One of the best things about living in Italy is that all these amazingly famous cities are only a short train ride away! Our train to Florence took just over an hour. (Having grown up in the Southwest, where you can drive 4 hours and still be in the same state, this continues to amaze me!) Masks are required on the train and every other seat is blocked off to facilitate social distance. This means even though we booked our four tickets together, each person had their own two-seat row. 

a street scene in Florence Italy

Travel restrictions and regulations have turned Florence from a tourist hot-spot into a typical bustling city. There were still people enjoying the sunny piazzas, the grand churches, and walking along the beautiful Arno river, but fewer crowds and with a more local vibe. We knew this was going to be a quick visit of walking around the city and seeing things from the outside, so we were excited to find this more relaxed feeling. 

looking at a ornately decorated marble church door on the streets of Florence Italy

When you’re walking around Florence it’s easy to really enjoy the city — there’s beautiful ancient architecture and churches around every corner, and now there is a sense of being a local

Of course, there were some noticeable changes…

a woman in a facemask posing in front of Santa Maria Novelle Cathedral and Il Campinello in Florence Italy

Currently, masks are required inside buildings and after 6pm. Out on the streets, you see a mix of people wearing and not wearing masks. We tended to keep ours on in more crowded spots and walked without them where there were fewer or no people. 

Although most businesses were open, a huge change is that the churches are no longer open on the weekdays. With the exceptions of the Duomo and San Lorenzo, most of the churches around the city were closed. Serendipitously this worked out for us since we forgot to dress in church-appropriate clothing anyway. Florence is a city of churches but if you’re a woman with bare shoulders or bare calves you are not allowed inside.

Our first stop was Florence’s most famous attraction: Piazza del Duomo. It’s famous for a reason — an absolute must-see that makes such a huge impact. Here you could really see the difference in the number of tourists. Having been to Florence once before in the off-season, I was still amazed at how empty it was!

a woman standing practically alone in Piazza del Duomo with the Florence Duomo in the background
a street view of the Florence Duomo and the street artists next to it

There are still the artists selling their renditions of the grand cathedral and although we didn’t have the place all to ourselves, we could take the time to appreciate the facades of these amazing structures. There are so many little details to appreciate as you walk around it.

Most impressive was how easily we were able to see the Gates of Paradise on the Baptistery. These amazing golden doors usually have a huge crowd in front of them so being able to go and look at the details for as long as we liked was a treat. 

a panel of the Gates of Paradise on the Baptistery in Florence Italy
a woman lays down in an almost empty courtyard in front of Santa Croce Florence Italy

Like the Duomo, Piazzale Michelangelo and Santa Croce were practically empty.

Piazzale Michelangelo does involve a lot of stair climbing, especially when the bus schedule has become less….scheduled. But climbing the steps up this hill is so worth it. The view is stunning and we were able to enjoy the many many stairs and views of the city almost by ourselves!

a drawing of the city of Florence and the panoramic view to match

Regardless of the tourist levels, I recommend this view. You’re able to see the whole city laid out, really appreciate the massive size of the Duomo, and glimpse the mountains in the distance. 

looking up at the marble facade of the church San Miniato al Monte in Florence Italy

For an extra level of stunning (and more stairs), head up to Abbazia di San Miniato al Monte. This beautiful church sits just a little way up from the Piazzale.

Of course, it was closed. So when we arrived at the top of the steps the entire courtyard was empty. There’s something very relaxing about sitting in the shadow of a huge old church enjoying the panoramic view of the city. It’s a great spot to recuperate as you prepare to walk back down the hill. 

two photos one of the san miniato courtyard and one of the view of Florence Italy from the courtyard

On our way from the Duomo to Piazza della Signoria, we stopped off at the famous Il Porcellino fountain. Superstition says that rubbing the boar’s snout will bring good luck and ensure a return to Florence! We tentatively touched the shiny snout and then immediately sanitized thoroughly.

three women in face masks touching the bronze pig statue il Porcellino in Florence Italy
closeup of the bronze boar pig statue Il Porcellino in Florence Italy

It was nice to participate in a truly touristy Florentine tradition that stretches back to at least the 1700s. But maybe sanitizing after touching a communal boar is a change we should keep. 

There are some areas of Florence essentially unchanged by COVID. Piazza della Signoria was a bustling town square. There were horses available for carriage rides and lots of people sitting around the steps. Considering the Piazza is adjacent to the Uffizi Gallery (which boasted a huge line) this was unsurprising. However, we were surprised to find the wait time for an un-reserved ticket at the Galleria dell’Acadamia was still over an hour! An hour in the hot sun when you only have a day? We decided to try again another time. It just goes to show – no matter when you’re visiting Florence – book your museum tickets in advance

horse drawn carriages and people in Piazza della Signoria Florence Italy

There was only one place in Florence that truly had that crowded, touristy feel: Ponte Vecchio. Families and large groups traversed the famous old bridge and peered into the glittering jewelry shops on either side.

looking up the entrance to ponte vecchio florence italy

There was a rotation of photo takers getting that stunning view down the Arno river. It was a 50/50 split on wearing masks. We kept ours on while moving through the crowds but took them off to snap a quick pic.

three women posing on ponte vecchio Florence

Almost as soon as we reached the other side of the bridge, the crowds dissipated. Once again Florence felt like a bustling and inviting city.

Overall our day in Florence was well spent, walking around 14k (!) in total trying to see it all! We felt safe and enjoyed being able to see the city with more local vibes. There was a lot of construction and I think the city is taking this time to ensure everything is perfect when all travelers are allowed to visit.

Florence is essentially a timeless city, there are still aperitivos (though sadly without the buffet), there are still piazzas and people sitting and enjoying the beauty at every turn.

delicious cone of gelato in Florence Italy

And most importantly: you can still go for some of the best gelato I’ve had in Italy. 

A First-Timer’s Feedback

My friend Clare recently asked me to help arrange a family trip to Italy — for her and her husband, and their high-school-age son, visiting her older son who is spending a semester in Florence. It was their first trip to Europe, and they had an ambitious wish-list, but we hammered out a pretty fantastic itinerary that included something for everyone.

From the feedback below, it sounds like it was a hit. And I very much appreciate her sharing all these details/tips that will be of interest to other first-timers!

Hi Ann-

I am finally sitting down to write something up for you. This is a lot of information, but hopefully it can help someone who is thinking about Italy for the first time.


When we arrived in Rome, the driver you set us up with was ready and waiting and delightful! He dropped us off at Capo d’ Africa around 11 am. The individual at the front desk who checked us in was very friendly and said our room would be ready in about 15 -20 minutes. They also recommended a local restaurant and, though they encouraged us to make evening dinner reservations, we knew we would not make it to start dinner at 7:30!

We had a wonderful lunch that fueled us for the day. We took some time and walked down the Colosseum and some other areas – we basically explored and walked a lot until we were done. It did rain on us but that was okay – we were just happy to be outdoors. After walking around we settled in at the hotel a little more, went out to get some drinks and gelato and then hunkered down for a good night’s sleep!

Sunday we were off for the day and did a lot of walking before the mid-day Colosseum Tour. The surprise of having Brett join us in Rome for Dillon’s birthday was outstanding – he was shocked and SO SO happy to see him.  The Colosseum Tour was really great. Our guide was excellent – great information at a nice pace. Half of our group was an extended family with young kids so they left half way through – which actually made it a small group tour. We finished our day at a restaurant Dillon had picked before we went (from Trip Advisor). Food and drinks were good and it was a nice atmosphere. 

Monday Morning we were out early to the Express Sistine Chapel Tour. Your ears probably were ringing b/c you picked the PERFECT tour for us. Loved the small group – there were 5 of us. Rosa – our tour guide – was great. Her pace was so fast – but it really worked for us! Since Dillon and I don’t love museums – this was a fabulous way to see the Sistine Chapel, Vatican and St. Peters Square. I think LivItaly Tours does it right!  After that were were back to the hotel to check out and head to the train station. We had plenty of time and opted to walk – which took us about 25 minutes. 

NOTES: The hotel was great – room was oversized and we did not feel crowded with a cot. We did have to ask at the front desk how to keep the lights on. Clearly we were rookies! No A/C – had to open windows – which was a little strange with no screens! The included breakfast was good and service excellent. We also loved the location.

LaSpezia/Cinque Terre:

The train ride to La Spezia was beautiful – so much to take in. When we arrived we took a cab to the hotel and our room was ready. We were surprised by the size – Dillon’s cot was in a living room area – so we definitely did not feel crowded. It also had a beautiful view and we saw a few ships come in and out. Again, needed to open windows to cool down the temp! The hotel recommended a local favorite for dinner where we arrived at 7 pm and were their first customers! We walked along the water and just enjoyed the sites and made plans for the following day.

We decided to take the train from La Spezia to the farthest town in Cinque Terre (Monterosso) and make our way back. We had read a blog that recommended the hike from Vernazza to Corniglia – and decided that we would take that one. The blog indicated there were places along the way to stop for food and drinks. Unfortunately, we found out after climbing the stairs to the hiking trail, that it was closed. In fact, the only trail that was open was Monterosso to Vernazza. That was a bit of a bummer, especially since we purchased the hiking/trail pass. Instead we went back into town in Vernazza and enjoyed pizza and beer by the water. We made our way to each town by train. Corniglia we explore along the water, did not walk the 350 stairs to the town. Manarola was our favorite shopping town and we spent a bit of time exploring the shops. We returned to the hotel after a great day, played some cards and went for a walk to find something to eat. Much to our surprise, most places were closed for the night (8:30 or so), and by the time we got to a grocery store – it was closed as well. So we headed back to the hotel and had some snacks that we had in our bags and got a good night’s sleep! 

One thing we hadn’t planned for was having Euros for this location – we needed 15 for each trip to and from the train station. 

NOTES: Next time I think we might opt for the boat transportation from town to town instead of the train. We thought it might be too chilly, but the weather was delightful. Loved being in La Spezia, but if we went back we would probably opt to stay in one of the towns for something different. 


We arrived on time and Brett met us and walked us to the hotel. The room was not to be ready for a while, so we checked our bags and hit the town, It was so fun to be in Florence and I am glad you said to let Brett show us the town since that is where he has spent his semester. We saw many sights and Brett helped formulate our plans for Thursday morning while he was in class. 

Brett made reservations for a nice dinner for the four of us and his girlfriend. Probably in our top 3 meals of the week. Thursday we got up and explored a little earlier at Brett’s suggestion, to see the Duomo without the square being packed. We walked around and went up and enjoyed the views from Piazzele Michelangelo. We met Brett for lunch – he took us to his favorite sandwich shop where the owner knows him and then we saw where he lives. We had picked a pizza and gelato making class b/c Brett only had the afternoon and had already done a pasta class with school. This was a disappointment. The food was good and the boys and I enjoyed our time together, but we felt very rushed. Of the 3 hour experience, we probably only prepared and cooked for just over an hour. It was warp speed. Mark shopped and explored while we were in class. 

We did end up making reservations for our train to Bologna for the next day. Brett was looking online and everything was booking up b/c it was Good Friday. In hindsight, we probably should have booked in advance.

NOTES: Hotel De La Ville – This probably was our least favorite hotel. The room was very cramped with the pull-out couch. And the temperature was hot, with no window to open. I think we also just felt like we were in a cave b/c there was no outside light. The breakfast was good and the service friendly.


Hotel location was perfect for our stay. After checking in we took a walk to the main square area and found a cafe. We sat outside, enjoyed some drinks and snacks and played cards. There was live music on the square, and the church across the way had a choral group perform for Good Friday. Brett had selected a place for dinner, and we headed there on our walk back. It was a small local place. The food did not have “plate appeal” – but Mark said it was his favorite of everything he ate during the trip. 

Again, your ears should have been ringing all day Saturday – that Food and Ferrari Tour you booked for us was SO FUN! It ended up being a 10 hour day – but it was relaxed and so enjoyable. Our guide was excellent – very funny and very knowledgeable. We had 18 people and it was a great size. We opted not to drive a Ferrari – 150 Euros for 10 minutes seemed crazy. Although if all 4 of us could have gone in one car we would have done it! The family restaurant where we had the meal at the end was great – delicious food at a relaxed pace. The location was beautiful farmland. This was definitely a highlight of the trip!

NOTES: Unahotels Bologna Centro – this hotel was fine – and they turned on the AC for us! woohoo! The guy at the front desk must have been used to angry Americans b/c he was flustered and apologizing through our check-in. We just kept smiling and telling him there was nothing to apologize for. Rooms were clean and basic. I would compare to a Fairfield Inn. The size of the rooms was generous and the breakfast was good.


The high speed train to Venice was fantastic! Very comfortable and kids were happy for WiFi! Again, we arrived early and the hotel checked our bags – it was going to be a few hours until our rooms were ready. We left the hotel armed with a map and walked around the city. We checked the menu at the place we had made dinner reservations at and the kids said to cancel it. Ha ha. We made our way to where we knew we needed to be Monday morning and hit a lot of dead ends – but enjoyed ourselves walking around. We grabbed a bite to eat in the main San Marco square (tourist trap!), enjoyed some live music and relaxed. We headed back to the hotel and checked in, and got settled. After that we walked around some more and picked a place for dinner. This probably was our least favorite meal of the trip, but the service was good. 

Monday morning we were off to the Murano, Burano and Torcello Tour which we really loved. We decided to buy water bus tickets for the day – and that is how we got to the meeting spot. We liked being the first tour group of the day – it meant smaller crowds in Murano. The Glass Blowing was fun and we did some great shopping. After we were done we took the water bus around and saw Venice from different perspectives, and got out a few times and walked. It was a fun way to explore! We grabbed some food and made our way back to the hotel so Brett could pack up and catch his train.

Hotel Santa Chiara – Great hotel (our favorite showers of the trip!). Clean and friendly. It was a nice location. They also were willing to turn on our AC. 🙂 The only person who was not friendly was the person at the desk at 4:15 AM when we checked out. No wonder he is on the overnight shift! ha ha.

We were leaving before the buses started service – so they assured us that taxis are always out front. We waited in the rain for a few minutes and then I asked the hotel to call one for us since it was raining pretty hard. We made it to the airport in plenty of time to get some breakfast and relax. 

The flights home were fine – though we were late into London and had only about 25 minutes from when we deplaned to get to our connection – and it was a hike. It took us about 35-40 minutes to get through security and get to our gate. But we made it! 

Here are some things that came up that we didn’t expect:

  • Public restrooms are few and far between in most places. When you have a chance to use one – use it. And make sure you have small denomination Euros on hand to pay for them! (I’ll pay a buck for a bathroom anytime if it is as clean as the ones we used were!)
  • We planned for 250 Euros – and did have to take more out. I would probably have planned for 350 next time. 
  • The A/C – or lack there of. We found that most hotels do not turn it on until it is 78 degrees outside. We were thankful that our last 2 hotels saw a desperate woman in her 50s! Ha ha.
  • Hotel rooms were larger than we expected.
  • Language was not a barrier. In fact, everyone we had to speak to spoke English. That was a relief.

How can we thank you??

  • The organization of all of the documents for us was amazing. It is just how I would have done it if I planned myself. THANK YOU.
  • You picked perfect tours/experiences for us – the only one we didn’t like was the one I reserved! Ha ha! 
  • Lots of good advice in the information you sent us that made us feel prepared.
  • Also – what we loved overall was that each of the places we went felt different than the last place. So we really had 5 different experiences. And while we are not accustomed to that much moving around – it all felt very well planned out. Only an expert could have planned this for us!
  • It was the perfect trip for a first time to Italy. We know we’d go back to Cinque Terre. And then explore other southern locations next time. 

And now we need to start thinking about our next adventure!

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)