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juditha.sepers United States of ...
I could write volumes on what a wonderful tour we 3 friends experienced this September. We had only 11 people at the start of the tour and so enjoyed every stop in every city on the way to both Florence and Venice. Times for rest stops and site seeing were just right. The Grand Hotel Adriatico, in Florence, was just a 15 minute walk along the Arno River from the Piazza della Signoria and the Uffizi Gallery. Rooms were spacious and the beds comfortable with huge, fluffy pillows! Breakfast buffet was first-rate with so many choices. Great sweet-shop right next door too!
Our hotel in Venice was the superb Hotel Continental and it was on the island of Venice itself. We had a great room. Dinner as well breakfast was served while viewing the boats passing up and down the canal. Their service too was first class!
Our tour guide, Patrizia, made the trip most enjoyable. Her wealth of knowledge and precise arrangements for our every need was impeccable. She provided a prefect trip from start to finish. Some of our group went on to Milan but we returned to Rome via the high speed train. Patrizia accompanied us to the train station a 5 minute walk from the hotel and got us settled into the proper car and seat for our 3.5 hour ride. Once in Rome, a driver was there to meet us and take us back to our hotel. It was a relaxing, enjoyable trip which is what everyone wants to experience. Ten Stars from us! Grazie Patrizia!!!
WOW, from start to finish of our tour, Nicole our tour leader was the best, she went above and beyond to make everything happen. We had enough time for ourselves to enjoy the cities. Hotels were excellent and food was delicious.
Italy is amazing and all the cities we visited were breathtakingly gorgeous with lots to do - no complaints there.
However, our trip July 10-Jul 13 was soured by the poor organizational skills and rude behaviour of our tour manager. Other things also went wrong and if I am being kind I don't really blame the operator: Our bus broke down and we were stranded at the Sienna church parking lot for 3-4 hours and the air-conditioning at our Venice hotel Angelo Hotel was not working with no apologies from the management it was well over 30 degrees centigrade.
We can endure these first-world problems, but what was extremely disappointing for the entire group was the conduct of the tour manager and how he mishandled every small crises and question that came his way.
He misinformed us on many occasions and displayed shockingly poor communication skills, often neglecting to share crucial information. When asked a question, he was often angry and rude and seemed to be in a sour mood much of the trip, preferring to spend his time with a glass or three of wine.
I was so appalled by the tour manager's behaviour that my family decided to minimize our interaction with him and instead chose to skip the group activities on the last day and ventured on our own in Venice we had a great time.
The positive side of the manager's hostile behaviour was that our group of Canadians, Australians, Jordanians, Lebanese, Americans and others bonded and became good friends by the end of the trip!
Beyond the tour manager's ill-manned demeanor, I was also disappointed by the tour operator's stingy behaviour, given that we had forked over a lot of money for the privilege of being on this trip. The American breakfast buffet was sans frieds eggs and bread in the case of Hotel Angelo.
We were also not given a choice in the dinner throughout the tour and were served TERRIBLE set menus chosen. We had no say in it and often were not told about what's on the menu till the last minute. Some folks who went for the vegetarian option were even more disappointed. Also, the restaurants chosen for the dinners were poor -- shocking, given the abundance of great restaurants in pretty much every nook of Italy.
On the plus side: the group dynamic was great, and the tour guides on each leg of the tour Assisi, Sienna, Florence and Venice were great and knowledgeable. Hotel Adriatico in Florence was modern and pretty good. Hotel Angelo was pretty average.
Overall, though, I would not recommend this trip as I discovered that it's relatively easy to do these tours on your own or break them into smaller trips and guided tours. I would make my base in Rome and do day trips to Sienna and Assisi one day, Florence one day, Pisa one day. and then spend two days in Venice 2 days , you can easily skip Padua. I greatly regret not visiting the museum in Florence, which houses Da Vinci and Michaelangelo masterpieces - you may need half a day for that.
Other tips you may find useful: 1 You need at least 3 days to do justice to Rome - also take every skip-the-line option available at the main landmarks. 2 Also, beware of pickpockets, you may think you are vigilant but those devils are clever. Children are easier prey for them, especially on the subway, which is great but crowded. Take purses and wallets and bags with flaps, and use the inner pockets for really important stuff like phones, credit cards. Leave your passports in the hotel safe. 3 Book a hotel in the centre of the city and close to the subway, rather than trying to save money by being in the edges of the city, as the taxi fares will balance it out.
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