Mille grazie. Thank you thank you thank you, è stato meraviglioso!
We had very high expectations for this trip. You exceeded those expectations and we had an experience of a life time.
You are right. We did not spend much time in our rooms and were very busy seeing the sights, just enjoying la bella vita.
I will send you a longer detailed report so you can see what worked and what could be improved.
We will be happy to forward pictures.
Several of the restaurants we visited were excellent and I intend to post TripAdvisor reviews for them.
Thank you again, so much.
Joseph R. McFaul”
“Dear Matteo – Joe and I had a WONDERFUL time in Italy. It was a trip of a lifetime for me. I am beginning to get back to “normal.” Fortunately I am still on summer vacation (I am an Art Teacher.) My goal was to see the incredible art and architecture of Italy in addition to visiting the country of my heritage as my grandfather was from Rome. I was also hoping for inspiration for my own artwork. I am happy to say that I accomplished ALL of my goals and then some!
It is difficult to say what the “highlight” might have been as there were highlights in each location. The trip was so well planned and organized that I looked forward to each and every day of this amazing travel experience.
Joe is writing a more detailed email and we will both post positive remarks on Trip Advisor and FaceBook. I am including just a couple of pictures in this email and will send more if you like.
Thank you for a perfect vacation!
-Maribeth McFaul “
This is a report on our trip. Our Alitalia flight left Los Angeles about 90 minutes late, which meant that our arrival in Venice would be after a scheduled Gondola ride. I am very thankful that you were in Italy and could make the local arrangements. When we arrived in Rome, you had already made adjustments. That was very comforting to me.
Our pick up at the airport and transfer to water taxi and transport to Hotel Antiche Figure was very smooth. Check in was very helpful. I believe the concierge’s name was Francesca. She provided us a map of the city. We were informed for reasons I didn’t understand that our room had been upgraded. The upgraded room had a very nice bedroom and a sitting room.
Our dinner was scheduled for 8:00 at Restaurant Il Ridotto. We took the vaporetto from our hotel to the San Zaccaria stop. After that, we got lost. We couldn’t locate the address and walked around finally asking directions at a gelato stop. He pointed to the restaurant about 10 meters way. We laughed at ourselves and got to the restaurant. I’ll put a review on TripAdvisor and on Zicasso for the restaurant. We were treated like royalty and the meal was one of the best we’ve ever had.
The next day we went on the postponed Gondola ride. This was a great surprise for me. I expected the gondola ride to be a “tourist attraction” and had low expectations. That was not the case at all. The Prosecco, on a hot summer day, was perfect and the gondola tour took us deep into the side canals. This far exceeded my personal expectations.
We had a quick lunch near St. Mark’s Square and then went to Murano, Torcello and Burano islands. I personally would have liked to see more at Murano, but the visits to the other two islands were spectacular. Burano was a real surprise and was one of the highlights of our trip. Maribeth and I have joked we would like to retire in Burano.
The biggest drawback to a visit to the lagoon islands is that it takes almost half a day that could otherwise be spent in Venice. We still are very happy to go to the lagoon islands but we know we missed a lot of Venice.
I’d also recommend that any visitor to Venice get a multi-day pass on the vaporetto.
When we checked out, our guide arrived at Antique Figure while we were sitting outside the hotel enjoying espressos and watching the canal traffic. We must have passed each other. He patiently waited for us while we also waited for him. The hotel took the blame for the miscommunication. Our luggage was right at the main desk and they were expecting him. They just didn’t connect us to the guide. After about 10 minutes, we did get together and there were no problems getting to the train station. We arrived about 45 minutes early.
The hotel’s recommendation for a dinner restaurant in Venice was Trattoria la Rosa dei Venti. This was a fine restaurant and we had a wonderful time.
The train trip was fun. There are no trains like this in the United States. We were promptly picked up in Florence and taken to Residenza Johanna very professionally and courteously. The wonderful person at the hotel recommended Antica Trattoria da Tito, a short distance from the hotel, for lunch. This was an excellent lunch recommendation.
There was some construction on the premises of the Swiss Consulate next to the Residenza, which affects initial impressions, but the Residenza Johanna itself is wonderful. It does not have a “hotel” feel. It feels like home.
That afternoon, we went on the walking tour of Florence city center and the Academia Gallery. Our guide was Eleonora. She was charming, professional and very knowledgeable. Maribeth was familiar with a lot of the art as part of her training and I was a history major. Eleonora was very informed and adjusted her discussion to Maribeth’s level of expertise. We walked the entire time, visited the Academia and stayed there until it closed. Eleonora was fantastic. Maribeth was extremely impressed.
Learning from my mistake in Venice, I asked the Residenza Johanna clerk for directions on a map for the restaurant at L’Osteria di Giovanni. She didn’t know the exact location but did circle Via del Moro on the map. We could see that Via del Moro was a short street so we shouldn’t have had much difficulty finding the restaurant. Nevertheless, we got lost multiple times. We couldn’t locate the street address and then finally realized we were on the wrong street. We then went over to the correct street and still couldn’t locate the restaurant. We asked for directions several times and I almost called you. After about a half hour of searching, we finally found the restaurant.
Our waiter took some time to come to our table because it was very busy. He stopped to apologize and I told him we were on vacation and just looking for a relaxing time and we were not in a hurry. He had two glasses of sparkling wine sent over while we waited and then came to our table with an order of fried bread(!) and then introduced himself. We showed him the voucher and he got the owner who explained that we would have choices but obviously certain expensive items were not offered on the voucher and neither was the wine. That was stated on the voucher, so I was not surprised. Still, I asked about Florentine beef and they told me that they would discount the beef but would have still to charge. With that, we ordered Florentine beef (where else will you eat Florentine beef?) We also ordered a bottle of wine recommended by the waiter. After dessert, the waiter brought biscotti and Vinsanto, something we had never seen before. Finally, limoncello, something else we had not seen before, was served. Afterwards, the bill was presented and only the wine appeared on the bill! Our service was excellent, the Florentine beef was amazing. L’Osteria di Giovanni overall was outstanding.
We walked all over Florence. We crossed the river several times and hiked to the Piazza Michelangelo for the views. We toured the Duomo, the museum, the Baptistery and Santa Croce. The visit to the Uffizi was amazing and we spent another full day walking all over the city and the Oltrarno. We know we did not see everything.
Aside from Osteria Giovanni, we had dinner at Florenz Pizzeria and at Tiberio Trattoria (twice due to a mixup.) Florenz Pizzeria was fantastic with sidewalk seating, nice beer, great service and fun pizza. Tiberio Trattoria was satisfactory but, compared to the rest of Florence, not extraordinary. Our server recognized us the second time and we had good service.
Our Chianti Tuscany tour with Alberto was outstanding. We enjoyed the winery tour, the visit to San Gimignano and the visit to Greve in Chianti. We even brought three bottles of wine back with us. Alberto was extremely knowledgeable, very fun and exuded enthusiasm and pride in all things Italian. He was a perfect tour guide.
Our transfer and train to Rome went smoothly as did the Rome pick up and transfer for La Settima Luna. La Settima Luna was also not a “hotel” but much more intimate. We were picked up for a walking tour with Azzura and visited the Colosseum, Constantine’s arch and other historic sites. Azzura was an excellent and informative guide. The next day, Roberta was our guide at the Vatican and Sistine Chapel tour. She was also excellent. The Sistine Chapel was crowded but that was not within anybody’s control. To give you an idea of what a great vacation this was, the Sistine Chapel was probably the lowlight of the vacation.
“On our explore Rome on our own day” we walked all over Rome, to the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, the Moses Fountain, Santa Maria de Vittoria and a number of other sites and generally enjoyed ourselves. We discovered that there would be ruins, a major site or basilica just around every corner so we spent the day being pleasantly surprised by walking about. I reserved online tickets for the Borghese Gallery because it was so close to La Settima Luna, enjoyed by Maribeth very much.
The cooking class with Fabio was everything you had promised. It was one of the highlights of our vacation. I would say that the cooking class is a “must do” item. Fabio and Monica are simply amazing.
In Rome we had several wonderful lunches and dinners and I am not sure I can remember them all. We had a fabulous dinner at Osteria Quarantaquattro, near La Settima Luna. The restaurant’s waiter spoke limited English and the restaurant did not present English menus. (Even though I speak no Italian I can order just fine off an Italian menu.) Instead, the owner of the restaurant, in a very excellent suit and tie, came over to greet us and explained each of the menu options in detail and answered any questions. After a discussion, he made personal recommendations for dinner and wine. As other patrons arrived, I observed that this was standard service with all patrons. Both the food and the service were exceptional at this restaurant and I’d highly recommend it to any who stay at La Settima Luna. Osteria 44 is just around the corner.
We told Fabio after the cooking class that we intended to go to the Trastevere for dinner. He made an excellent recommendation, Osteria der Belli at Piazza San Apollonia. We got to Trastevere district about 1800 and sat in the Piazza, watching the district come alive for about two hours before dinner. Osteria der Belli was far more informal than Osteria 44. It looked like family members and teenage friends were servers, but they appeared to have a lot of fun and the service and food were excellent. Fabio stopped in later that evening as we were leaving.
Finally, our dinner at Restaurant La Carbonara was magnificent, highlighted by our waiter, Felice. In an impeccably tailored white shirt and black bow tie, he was a classic Italian gentleman knowledgeable of good food and good wine. La Carbonara had prepared a pork rib cut that we have never seen before. It was a tender smoky rib cut that was simply out of the world.
All the guides, without exception, were amazing. I saw no hint of rehearsed speeches or of any sense of boredom. Each was lively, knowledgeable, excited and very proud to show off Italy to foreign visitors like ourselves. Each added so much to our visit.
All three hotels were also very nice. All were boutique or bed and breakfast types, as you know. They suited us perfectly and the rooms were excellent, tastefully decorated and staff very helpful. For us, they were perfect. I listed the restaurants that we could remember so that you could add or subtract recommendations.
Since we returned from vacation, two of my co-workers told me they are making plans to travel to Italy next year and both are more excited after hearing me exclaim how great our vacation was. I gave your “Initial proposal” to both persons. It doesn’t indentify hotels and restaurants or contain pricing information, because I know all of that can change. It does provide a good idea of your services and I highly recommended you to both of my co-workers.
Thank you so much for a trip of a lifetime. Maribeth and I are actually “homesick” for Italy. I will post a shorter and glowing report on TripAdvisor and your website.
Ciao, ciao! A presto!
Joseph and Maribeth McFaul (Mission Viejo, CA), JUNE/JULY 2013