Hi Dick and Lori,
We’re back from our three week+ trip to northern Italy and want to let you know how WONDERFUL it was!!! The itinerary was perfect: great locations, excellent pacing, smooth transitions from one place to the next. We loved showing up at each destination with the knowledge that we could walk right into the hotel (once we found it, which was occasionally a challenge…) and BINGO! We had a pleasant, comfortable room to settle into.
We loved Lucca and want to go back there, especially to experience it without the effects of jet lag. Such narrow “streets!” Our first plunge into Italy, and a great place to start the trip.
Bonassola was an ideal choice, not as crowded and “buzzing” as the other Cinque Terra towns, until Saturday night. Getting around the area by train was a snap. We swam in the sea everyday.
We enjoyed Fulvia’s lovely B&B in Buggiano, especially her delicious breakfasts in the private courtyard. Staying there was a highlight, thunder storms and all. Great drives around the tiny hill towns of her area.
We really liked Bologna and could have stayed an extra day. Fun to poke around all of the fabulous gourmet shops. We (Dave) bought lots of aged balsamico. Fun taxi ride to the train station.
Venice was fascinating, but hot and quite crowded: a great place to visit, but we sure wouldn’t want to live there. Riding the vaparetto around was the best way to keep cool. Dave was overjoyed to find a deep bathtub in the Giorgione Hotel, which was charming. We enjoyed the Peggy Guggenheim Museum.
By the time we got to Verona, the heat wave that arrived in Italy with us was making us feel wilted, and I was crabby about that sticky feeling, so the Giulietta and Romeo was our least favorite accommodation of the trip (our room was dinky and claustrophobic, but it was air conditioned). No doubt it’s not fair to make that judgment based on the heat factor, but I would probably skip Verona next time, except that we found a pizzeria with fabulous salads and ate there 3 times! That saved the visit there for us.
We loved Follina (had quite the adventure finding it), and the Villa Abbazia Hotel was superb. Manager guy reminded us a bit of Basil on BBC’s “Fawlty Towers.” Our guided tour with Sandro’s sister, Marie Louisa (??) was lots of fun, especially since she did the driving. Another highlight! Good dining in that area.
The Dolomiti were stunning, as we expected they would be. Only regret is that our photos of that area don’t begin to do it justice. The Impero Hotel was fun and folksy, but verrrrry noisy, right on the main drag. Good thing we brought earplugs along. We loved the (ski lodge) atmosphere and the family that owns and operates it are so warm and friendly = good vibrations. We had quite the hiking adventure there, after riding the gondola waaaaaaay up. Laurie’s knees were jello much of the time. Very memorable. No laundromats in the entire town, but plenty of fresh mountain air, and so much cooler than down below, thankfully.
Stresa was the perfect ending to our trip. The drive there from Cortina was mostly beautiful, but long and a bit hairy; again, we needed better regional maps. But we did find the La Palma Hotel, and loved our stay there. It was wonderful to relax at the end before the long flight home. Great boat rides around the lake. Plenty of tourists, but Stresa didn’t feel touristy, odd, eh?
We never found that restaurant book you recommended; our experience with the food was hit and miss. It wasn’t as great as we had anticipated, probably because we really didn’t know where to go or what to order. We asked locals, and that helped. Laurie tried to be brave, i.e., experimental, but almost ordered horse and frog. Those may be tasty, but I couldn’t do it! Some yummy experiences, such as beet root ravioli, but some disappointing ones too, including a gaggy lasagna memory from Cortina. It was all part of the adventure!
I could go on and on, but will throttle back, and just thank you for making all of the arrangements that so well suited our desired trip. I hope this at least gives you a sense of our experience. I have raved about how wonderful it was to have things so well planned, including car rentals and train tix. Our friends and family may be contacting you in the not so distant future to inquire…
Feel free to call or email if you want to follow up on any specifics. We loved our Italian holiday!
Laurie and Dave, Napa