By: Nina Pihtayanukul, Travel Consultant
I took the Best of Italy with Trafalgar trip with my husband and parents. Our tour was for a total of 13 days and brought us to see the southern gems of Amalfi Coast, the Northern lakes and the jewels of central Italy, Tuscany and Umbria.
We arrived into Rome for the start of our Best of Italy with Trafalgar trip after a few pre-nights in Paris. Once we arrived to the airport, it was comforting to know that we would be picked up and taken to the hotel instead of having to fight for a taxi while lugging all our bags. Upon arrival to our hotel, we were met by our Travel Director, Lidia, who immediately gave us a warm and friendly Italian welcome. Our first evening, we got to enjoy our first taste of authentic Italian food at our Welcome Reception while getting to know our new friends.
On our first day of sightseeing in Italy and in Rome, we saw all the main sights. We started our morning at the Vatican Museum. Even though I had already visited the Vatican Museum three times before, our Trafalgar Local Specialist took us to a completely separate and private access only wing of the museum, where the main feature was the Bramante staircase, which Pope Julius II used to enter his private residence in his horse carriage.
No visit to Rome is complete without a visit to the Sistine Chapel, which was included as part of this tour. With the commentary of our Local Specialist, I found myself discovering new aspects of the fresco coming to life.
Later we had a guided visit to the Colosseum before free time in the city to explore on our own.
On Day 3, we drove away from the bustling metropolis of Rome to the crisp blue seaside town of Sorrento via Pompeii. We opted to take the Amalfi Coast and Positano optional excursions which gave us a glimpse of the gem of Italy, in my opinion. We had some free time in Positano, which we promptly used to run straight to the water and dip our feet into the clear waters. To cool down, we found lemon granita made from lemons as big as my face.
On Day 4, we left Sorrento, and headed off to the famous Isle of Capri. When we arrived, we saw Capri, the best way you can, by boat. We were taken around the island as our Local Specialists pointed out key points such as the white grotto and the welcome statue perched on a rock. He told us that according to legend, if you wave to the statue, life will bring you back to Capri one day.
As expected, we all eagerly waved and wished for our return to the island. Since we had so much fun on the boat ride, we decided to go on own on adventure via boat to the big Blue Grotto. Getting there was quote cumbersome as it took traveling by a bigger boat and a smaller row boat.
However, we knew it was all worth it after our row boat driver plunged us into the dark grotto opening and we opened our eyes to see light refracting off the turquoise water like specks of flying glitter.
After a couple of sun filled days in the south of Italy, we headed north to Assisi, in Itay’s central region called Umbria. Assisi is best known for being the birthplace of St. Francis, a patron saint of Italy, so of course, our visit included going to the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi. Our hotel for the night was a converted Franciscan convent that was so gorgeous and so comfortable as it was recently and fully renovated. Hotel Cenacolo was one of our favorite hotels of this trip.
The next day, we drove even further north to Venice, stopping by Verona, home of Juliet’s balcony, along the way. When we arrived, we went straight away to one of my favorite optional excursions of this trip, the Gondolas and the Grand Canal excursion. We boarded a private water taxi which whisked us away, James Bond style, to the Grand Canal of Venice. Along the way, we passed by the Rialto Bridge, St. Mark’s Square, and many other notable buildings such as the place where George and Amal Clooney got married.
We started our first full day visit of the Venetian Islands with a Murano glass blowing demonstration. After, we were taken by our Travel Director to Venice Island for a half day of sightseeing. Our Travel Director surprised us by getting us tickets inside of St. Mark’s Basilica and a refreshing Aperol Spritz drink before leaving us to explore on our own.
The next stop on our list was to the Italian Lakes region. Here, we visited both Lake Como and Lake Maggiore. Our hotel, Hotel Spendid in Lake Maggiore was right on the lake and had its own beach and pier. Many of us took advantage of this by jumping into the glistening fresh water to cool off.
Lake Como was every bit as glamorous and serene as we heard it to be. We opted for Discover Lake Como tour which took us by boat around the lake to hear the stories and scandals of the most expensive and famous villas on the lake.
Driving through Pisa, we made it to the heart and soul of Tuscany, Florence. I love shopping so Florence was one of my favorite cities as there is an abundance of premium quality goods to shop for in the city.
We also decide to partake in an Urban Adventures day tour called the Florence Foodies Walking tour. Our guide, Violet was a local and super knowledgeable on the best treats and sweets of Florence. Our 3 hour private tour took us to same truffle sandwiches, assorted meats and cheeses, regional wines and gelato of course.
Before finally reaching home for our departure back home, we stopped in San Gimignano for a quick little tour of the ancient town. San Gimignano also quickly became my favorite dessert city as it was home to the best Gelato shop on the world, Gelato Dondoli. No really, its gelato won first at various Gelato competitions. Our Travel Director was so excited to take us there that she treated us all to Gelato so that we could sample their crazy flavors such as a gorgonzola and walnuts flavor or more classic ones such as Strachiatella.
Overall, this trip was one of the best tours that I have done and this Trafalgar tour was the fifth one that I’ve taken with them. Our Travel Director asked us all on the last day if we think we could have seen all that we saw and did all that we did if we traveled independently, and everyone vehemently shook their heads and said “no way”. Traveling with Trafalgar made the trip totally seamless and made it so easy to see all of the things on our bucket list without the stress of planning. I have traveled extensively on my own and you are constantly planning and thinking about what to do next, how to get to where you want to go, how much it’s going to cost and etc. With this Best of Italy with Trafalgar tour, we literally didn’t have to think about any of those things as everything was carefully planned for us!
By: Nina Pihtayanukul
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