Italy

Good tips!

or, things one learns the hard way.

Kim: Choose your battles - NO to another "torture" museum. YES to every single request for gelato!

Finn: When "plan A" falls through, "plan B" can often be better (and it usually includes more gelato!!)

At a loss for words. Or not

Trouvaille (n)  origin: French (or maybe Old French or Latin): 

Something lovely found by chance; an experience stumbled upon by luck.

At the start of week two, we head to Italy, through some of the most beautiful landscape of the drive so far.  There's a palpable level of excitement and anticipation in the air!

Having known each other for a week now, and finally remembering everyones names, the tour members seem to have reached a certain level of comfort. Even the kids. We are beginning to feel a bit like a big family...complete with the quirks. 

Venice

The days in Italy were the best part of the tour for me personally. With the second night in Venice being my true "magic moment." We were set to embark on an evening gondola ride as a group. As we all made our way to the meeting point on St. Mark's Square, a storm rolled in. With lightening in the air, it was determined that "Plan A" would have to be nixed. We regrouped under cover and were treated to a gelato by the guides as we came up with a "Plan B."  Several tour members chose to return to the Lido with Matt. The rest of us headed to the lovely Caffe Lavena on the square for drinks and nibbles with Hilbren. As the tide came in and the rain came down, the square began to flood (as it does...) The water barriers went up in front of the cafe. The locals seemed unperturbed as they went about with their dinner and drinks. The band on the square played on as the tourists (us) tried not to think of those final moments aboard the Titanic...

After some time, the cafe staff began ushering groups through the kitchen and out the back door. Our group opted to find a back route to our vaporetto stop rather than wade through the water. 

What a treat it was to cavort through the dark quiet alleyways of Venice with new friends! It took us about an hour but, with a little help from Hilbren's dead-reckoning skills (and a handy GPS) we made it back, no worse for wear, and with a grand tale of adventure to tell!

Tuscany

The time in Tuscany was the most relaxing of the tour. Our agriturismo came complete with ping pong table, outdoor dining and a pool! - nestled in a spectacular setting, of course. We enjoyed a lovely day in the town of San Gimignano where we ate lots of gelato and climbed a tower to see a spectacular view. That night, everyone enjoyed a pasta making demonstration followed by dinner on the terrace and conversation in to the wee hours.

Rome

It was a little sad to say goodbye to our driver Will and guide Hilbren the next day. But, the city of Rome soon chased away most of those feelings!  I had been a bit nervous about Rome. After a bad experience there 20+ years ago, I had developed an image of the place as a dark and somewhat dangerous city. As we pulled into town on the afternoon of day 12, all nervous feelings and dark images vanished. It was sunny and warm and open and...well...even, pedestrian friendly! 

Rome, with all its antiquities and art and lively street scenes, became a fast favorite! After two wonderful days of site-seeing, it was time to say good bye to our tour group who had become like family.  As we did so, Finn and I couldn't help but immediately begin planning for the next trip (maybe even another Rick Steves Tour someday) - and our starting point, we both agreed, would be in Rome.  A big shout of gratitude to all those who participated in this tour. In doing so, you have greatly enriched our lives!   ~Kim and Finn