Donna and I wanted to write you a lengthy email to provide you with a summary of our experiences on this past trip before we waited too long and started to forget. In a quick summary – our trip was outstanding from start to finish. You covered all of the major details and planning so we could really just show up and enjoy our vacation. The locations of the hotels, the tours and excursions, the restaurants recommended, the transportation services were outstanding.
I am now going to provide more detailed feedback. I am going to start with the one detail that did not work out well for us, so I can then spend more time detailing everything we really loved.
Our dinner at Il Latini in Florence did not go well. We arrived at the restaurant a few minutes before our 7:30 reservation. No one asked our name or time of our reservation, but we were taken to our seats in a dining area right about 7:30 with other people seated at adjacent tables. Unfortunately that’s about all that happened. There were plenty of waiters walking around, but we sat there for nearly 20 minutes and no one came to our table. When I spotted a waiter I raised my hand to flag him, but he put up his hand and shook his head as if to say “not now”. So we waited another 10 minutes and still no service. Now in this time they had packed the dining room and there were several young kids shouting and a couple of them running around tables – this probably impacted our experience as well. Again I raised my hand to flag a waiter and again I got the response from a waiter that I understood to mean “not yet”. At that point it was about 8 pm and we decided that was enough and so we told them we had decided to leave. We did find another restaurant very close location – I believe the name was Giovani’s – and even though it was a Fri night and we did not have reservations, they brought us in and provided prosecco until they seated us about 15 minutes later. We had a very nice dinner here.
Hotel Bonvecchiati was outstanding. Great location, really nice room, nice service and easy to get around. We would return to this hotel.
Hotel Atlantic Palace was good but not great. The air conditioning did not keep the room very cool and the bed was uncomfortable (the 2 mattresses kept splitting apart). Again, it was good but not great. We would probably look for something else if we returned.
Castello di Spaltenna was beyond outstanding – fantastic, beautiful, well-maintained and great service. We assume this was an expensive location to stay because it was simply amazing. We would love to return.
La Giada del Mesco had a great location with fantastic view. The rooms are outdated and badly in need of upgrade, but the location, view and service (esp. by employee named Mikel) was outstanding. While we liked the experience I am not sure there is much more to see and experience in this area (considering so many other options).
Hotel Mascagni was outstanding. Same as Venice hotel – great location, really nice room and service. We would be open to return to this hotel or consider something else because Rome is so large in size.
Osteria Di Santa Marina was excellent. Great location, great ambiance and really good food. If we were in Venice we would return.
Il Pievano & Osteria were both outstanding. We loved the ambiance of the Osteria and the food at Il Pievano was great. We would gladly return to both locations.
Hostaria Luce was really, really good and worth the cab ride. I am pretty sure it was the owner that greeted us and had a special table reserved for us. We would gladly return.
Osteria 44 was outstanding (although more expensive than Hostaria Luce) with great food and service. I believe the Owner also greeted us here and had a special table reserved for us. We would gladly return.
We also found some really nice restaurants and cafes walking around, although we did not write down the names of all the places. Everything we ordered was from good to outstanding – I think we knew we would love Italian food.
TOURS & TRANSPORTATION:
All of our drivers were prompt, professional and courteous.
Our tours were very well organized and professional. The tour guides were always at the correct location at the correct time. We learned a lot about the history, locations and experiences through the tours and it increased our enjoyment of what we were seeing. We also booked a few excursions on our own such as Ufizzi Gallery and other locations and had a great time.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OPINIONS:
The cell phone you provided was awesome – primarily related to a few items we had not considered. Even though we have international plans for our cell phones, we both had issues with our phones at times. But your phone worked well. Also we did not realize that many of the alleys and streets (esp. in Venice) are not signed and so it is difficult to know where you are walking – but it was a breeze using Google Maps. It was also a comfort to know we could text or call if we had issues. It was in my pocket the entire trip.
We enjoyed Venice more than we had expected. We heard some negative reviews from other people who had visited, but we were really glad we included that location. It is such a unique experience and not having cars on the streets was awesome. We could see how it could get much busier and have a much different experience.
During the trip we confirmed we prefer to dine outside whenever the weather permits. And we tend to like smaller locations over larger. We will try to keep that in mind on future trips.
The hiking through Cinque Terre was a bit much in that heat and humidity. The amount of vertical elevation (up and then down) between Monterosa and Vernazzo and then also between Vernazzo and Corniglia is quite a bit and the trails were crowded. We enjoy a good hike, but did not expect that many people and it’s not fun walking into a cute town for lunch when you are sweating through your clothes from the hike. We should have taken the train to the end at Riomaggoire and then walked to Manarola and Corniglia because they are shorter and not as much elevation – then taken the train back to Vernazzo and Monterosa. Lesson learned.
Tourists should not drive in Rome – the roads in Rome are crazy.
We had a 25th anniversary trip that we will never forget. Thank you for all of your efforts in planning a great vacation.
Ted & Donna Didas”
Ted & Donna Didas (Sandy, UT) – SEPTEMBER 2019