Buon Giorno Kyra!
Again, thank you so much for the most beautiful trip of our lives. Truly spectacular!!
Our flight to London was comfortable and without incident (no one took the seat in between us so we had the row to ourselves). We both really liked British Airways! Upon arrival in London, we were picked up by our driver who was waiting exactly where you said he would be. He gave us such a wonderful first impression of Italy! He answered a bunch of questions we had, and offered up advice on driving in Rome (watch out for scooters, etc.). The highlight of the ride in was when he said he had a "small surprise" for us and took us to a small gate where we were able to peek through a peephole and see these beautiful gardens and the top of St. Peter's Basilica! We were very grateful for his extra steps in making our arrival special. His personality was a fantastic welcome to such a beautiful country.
We were greeted warmly at the Mecenate Palace Hotel and our room had an amazing view overlooking the Santa Maria Maggiore. The front desk agent was extremely helpful and knowledgeable in every way. They gave us each a complimentary drink at the rooftop bar. Over the course of our stay, they helped us find a bank, explained to us how to take the subway to the Vatican and called us a cab when we checked out. We especially liked that they had coffee in the room (which none of our other hotels had). We loved the breakfast on the rooftop! We think we would happily stay here again. Rome has so many great places, but this hotel was fantastic.
Regarding the private Vatican tour, we loved the tour and were very pleased with our guide's knowledge of the museum, Basilica, etc. Another couple we had met was able to go down into the catacombs to see the tombs, without a reservation, and as part of their tour. We weren't sure if that was something that could be added or looked into for the future.
The next day we took a cab to Hertz and were very excited when they upgraded us from a Ford to a Mercedes! They were very helpful with directions out of Rome and even let us leave the car parked at the gas pump while we ran into the bank across the street. Everything with Hertz worked like clockwork. Fantastic to work with.
We took our time driving to Cortona and stopped in Orvieto (spectacular!) for lunch. It wasn't difficult navigating the highway and we would suggest driving through the Tuscan countryside to anyone debating between car and train. Driving up from Rome to Cortona was a highlight of our trip!
The drive up to the Villa di Piazzano was tree-lined and beautiful and the receptionist gave us mint lemonade while we checked in. There was champagne on ice for us in our room and a sweet congratulatory note from the Wimpole family. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay and probably slept better here, than anywhere else (the peace and quiet was a nice shift from the hustle and bustle of Rome). When we weren't in the car, we enjoyed walking around the property and using the free wi-fi (only hotel we stayed at to offer it). The breakfast at the villa was top notch (amazing cakes and eggs!) and we had dinner there our last night. We would most definitely stay here again, as we felt very at home and relaxed. Our only regret was that it wasn't warm enough to enjoy the pool :) Oh, one other thing--they let us take the bikes out free of charge and it ended up being one of our favorite "Italian" experiences.
The cooking class was FANTASTIC. The owner of the property, actually instructed us, and it was a blast. There were six of us in the class, and we were served wine and cheese throughout the lesson. Adrianna was such a sweetheart. We are so glad we decided to take the cooking class here versus somewhere else (like Florence), since there wasn't as much to do and see in Cortona. It was the perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon :)
Our last full day at the villa we drove up to Greve in Chianti and had the most amazing wine tour and tasting at Castello di Verrazzano. The tour guides we met, were fantastic, especially in showing us around and explaining how they make the different types of wines. After the winery, we drove south to Siena and spent a few hours there before heading back to the villa.
After checking out the next morning, we decided not to drive up to the Maranello to see the Ferrari Museum (which worked out fine because there was the Mille Miglia in Florence!) and did laundry at a nearby laundromat instead. For anyone staying in Cortona, this is a great recommendation if someone needs to do laundry. The Star Wash was fast and effective. Our drive into Florence was much more challenging than exiting Rome, much to our surprise, and it took us awhile to find the Hertz location. We were especially glad in our decision not to drive north that morning, as we probably would not have had the car back on time!
Nevertheless, we found Hertz and turned the car back in with no trouble. A taxi took us to the Hotel Albani, and since we weren't pleased with the room they initially put us in, they switched us to a much nicer wing of the hotel in our opinion (the first room was neon green with a view of an alley, while the second was brightly lit and overlooked a lovely courtyard/garden). The bellman, was especially helpful in making sure that our room met our liking and was the sweetest person. He made sure that everything went well for us and took care of our bags upon our arrival. Please make sure to thank him for us. The breakfast here was also very good and we thought the location of the hotel was convenient. It was especially helpful that it was just a block away from the train station, which we navigated easily.
Thank you again for pre-booking our tickets to the Uffizi and Accademia Galleries. I think if we could change one thing about our trip, we would have also booked a private tour for the Uffizi. The Duomo in Florence was AMAZING. It was one of our highlights and favorite memories in Florence. We would recommend that anyone traveling there take the time to walk to the top of the Duomo. Beautiful!! The train ride to Venice was quick and easy. The train system is Europe is far and away better and efficient than anything here in the States.
Regarding the hotel in Venice, there were things we liked, and things we didn't. Overall, our stay was comfortable, next time we probably would like to stay somewhere on the Grand Canal.
Any dissatisfaction we felt in Venice, was quickly erased when we reached Lake Como, however! The Grand Hotel Tremezzo was AMAZING!!! It was the most expensive of our accommodations, and worth every penny. We had a beautiful room with a recently renovated bathroom overlooking the lake. We were greeted with champagne on ice and fruit in our room along with a note of congrats from the hotel (and from you!). The front desk staff was so polite and friendly in every way. We were checked in very easily and then the next day made sure that John's dress shirt and slacks were able to be pressed on time for dinner that evening. We took the ferry to Bellagio one afternoon, but spent the rest of the time in the hotel. It was the perfect end to our stay, honestly.
As we discussed before, it was quite rainy, so we just enjoyed our gorgeous room and view, as well as other hotel amenities such as the indoor pool (WOW) and billiards room. We are still speechless about the indoor pool at the hotel and the staff at the spa. So relaxing! We had dinner both nights at the hotel and loved both meals, probably the one in the wine bar the most (complimentary with our stay). It felt so good just to stay put and reflect on our trip while enjoying a little luxury. We will definitely return to Lake Como and the Grand Hotel Tremezzo! Oh, and I forgot to mention the breakfast...the spread was HUGE and had lots of indulgent choices (and champagne!). There really is no reason to ever leave this hotel.
But leave we did, and in style. Our private transfer to the airport was very necessary (as you said) and we were so grateful for the stress-free departure. The car was big and comfortable and the driver had water for each of us. We ran into some pretty nasty traffic at one point, but he pulled off the highway and took us down some smaller roads to get us to the airport on time. This was probably one of the best decisions we made! Please recommend this car service and the driver to your future clients. Worth every penny.
You pieced together the trip of a lifetime for us, and for that we are forever grateful! Please know that we will definitely consult you for any of our future travel plans. You made our honeymoon absolutely.....PERFECT.
Ciao for now!
Annie and John A., Denver, CO