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Italy Trip report (Venice leg) May 25 2007

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Hi Everyone,

We have returned from our glorious 10 day vacation to Italy including three nights in Venice, 2 nights in Lake Garda and 5 nights in Tuscany.

I'd like to personally thank Bob, Stu, Ira and MANY others for your insight and guidance which made this spectacular first anniversary trip possible. Fortunately I followed most of your advice but I realize now that I should have followed it to a "T" because you all have such valuable travel experiences.

Lufthansa airlines 9PM 747, delayed one hour and 15 minutes due to airport traffic. Thankfully our connection layover exceeded 4 hours. Many passengers had the earlier connection (which we failed to get on) and missed it having trouble even getting on our flight. We connected in Frankfurt which is a nice airport with very friendly people. Though I must say I had trouble finding a decent snack/lunch. Our connection was smooth just over one hour into Venice.

Venice airport was nice and we took a private water taxi for 90 euros which really wasn’t worth it because of the poor weather, but I didn’t want to share a boat because our hotel was the very last stop and it was getting VERY LATE. My husband didn’t exactly realize that Venice is all water and no cars at all. So we had an interesting ride over. We got to our hotel nearly 7pm just in time to change and get ready for dinner.

We stayed at the hotel Danieli near St. Marks square. Due to flooding our taxi could barely get under the bridge to get us to our hotel, but with some VERY SWIFT maneuvering, we made it. I was a bit nervous with all handling of our "heavy" luggage, but they managed it quite well. Arriving into the Danieli, slightly jet lagged we were in AWE of the four story GRAND foyer. (I’ll attach a link to our pictures in another post). It was breathtaking and worth every penny hehe. Check in was smooth and we arrived at our hotel room with a complimentary bottle of champagne and truffles since it was our anniversary. We were happy! Our room was an inside room about 30 sq meters, room 221. It was beautifully decorated including a white marble bath. It was the smallest room we’ve ever stayed in, but we expected it! I must say the amenities, décor and location did make up for the short comings in the room size. We had a great blow dryer (which was a relief since my converter and adapter didn’t work). They had a towel warmer in the bathroom, slippers, robes (of course) and a vanity stool for me to sit on when getting ready. The TV and stations were actually the best we had for our trip, but that was not saying much at all. There was 3 english channels and cnn was one of them. I guess we’re not on vacation to watch TV but its something we’re used to in New York.

The FIRST night we ate at our hotel the Danieli at the rooftop restaurant with some of the best views of the Grand Canal. My husband Chris enjoyed his risotto immensely but I was disappointed with the John Dory I ordered (which is one of my favorite fishes). The service was great but as advised, some of the best meals in Venice, and in Italy are not at hotels, they are at Osteria’s and Trattorias. This is unlike New York and was something valuable I learned on my trip thanks to all here. We walked around and watched a puppeteer for 20 minutes. They seemed silly at first, but were quite talented. That evening we had drinks and listened to music at the Danieli Bar. The martini’s were (gasp) 20 euros and higher. But if you’re staying there I guess we’re not supposed to gasp about the price hehe. The SECOND day we had a light lunch in Venice, nothing spectacular but good enough. That night May 27th was our first anniversary. How quickly the year went! We ate at our Taverna La Fernice and headed to the Casino afterward. The restaurant was completely dead at 7:00pm. We were the first to arrive and were over anxious for other guests to join us because we felt weird dining alone. The food and service was excellent. I wouldn’t run back there but we really had a lovely anniversary dinner. After dinner we headed to the casino and I stress headed! What an adventure getting there. The waiter notioned that it was a 20 minute walk, well 20 minutes by boat would be accurate, 45 minutes LATER on foot we nearly got a divorce. The weather didn’t cooperate so there was high tides and flooding. Eventually I said we need to get directions or head home. Luckily we found the tourist information area and they guided us to get a taxi (for 40 euro) to the casino. The casino was on the northern part of Venice near the train. It was very elegant (jackets required) and most of the people there was high rollers (and we most certainly are not). They request your passport to get and take your picture. They you have to walk up nearly 100 steps to reach the table games (3 big flights of stairs). I felt like an out of shape American by the time we got to the top because I was panting. The casino was stuffy, a bit more stuffy than the Grand Casino in Monte Carlo if that’s possible. It’s a bit more remote I guess. People spoke little English here but we managed. The only negative was ordering drinks. They really didn’t understand vodka martini and after 20 minutes of thinking I was drinking the worst vodka it dawned on me I was drinking gin. Ow well! The third and last day we had the most incredible and delicious lunch in Venice at Ristorante “da Carletto” (calle delle Bande 041 52 27 944). It was tucked away behind a metal gated window on a darker street. A hidden gem! My husband had Gnocchi Venetian style which was in a tomato sauce. They were so light and small, just mouth watering delicious. As a result of this meal Chris and I ended up ordering gnocchi at nearly every restaurant to try to find something comparable (and we did not). Our last night we didn’t know where to eat because of the terrible weather and pouring rain. We made and changed our reservation about 7 times in our room. Eventually we walked around and had a light dinner at a pizzeria restaurant. I thought I’d try prawns but they arrived uncut with heads, tails and eyes. Gross! I couldn’t wait to get out of there. We passed a restaurant on our way home called La Forno which looked incredible. They actually gave us a suggestion for dessert. We ate at All Angelo’s on a street with that name. It was good, very good with delicious wine! (note to all: look at for service charges and cover charges). Our last night we listened to music at the Danieli Bar again. The musician was very talented, we thought we’d sit for 10 minutes and stayed nearly 2 hours. He was so good, we started writing down the names of the songs he sang for our memories.

We took a lovely gondola ride on the inner canals as the water was choppy. It was romantic and I’d love to do it again, in fact I’d love to return to Venice. 3 nights was too short, we really adored the city. We saw St. Marks square and some sights in the area but didn’t venture out as we hoped because of the limited time and uncooperative weather. We ended up doing a lot of shopping, more than anticipated. They had wonderful men’s clothes and I found some things for myself OF COURSE. It was fun and the shops were so unique. I was sad to leave because it was truly memorable and romantic. The streets and people really make it magical.

We took another 70 euro water taxi (too lazy to take a more affordable one) to Piazza Roma to pick up our rental car from AutoEurope aka Europecar. The process was smooth and incredibly quick. To our surprise, they upgraded our car one entire class free of charge. We got a regular size (c class) and ended up with midsize (e class). It was immaculate and about a year old. I’m glad it was larger because I underestimated just how many pieces of luggage we’d bring (another lesson we learned, try to pack LESS).

We headed to Lake Garda with more favorable weather conditions. Exiting Venice was quite easy (with the help of my Garmin nuvi GPS).


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    Natalie, It is always enjoyable to read the impressions of a young person on their first trip to Venice. I am so glad you enjoyed it. Am looking forward to your Tuscany report, but do us old geezers a favor and use shorter pargraphs so our eyes can focus.

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    Saving this report to enjoy as dessert after dinner tonight.

    Your title suggests that you might post your report in separate sections, according to location. Please just keep typing on this thread, so all sections will hang together.

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    Natalie, it is wonderful to read about one of my favorite places through another's eyes---especially one who has the good taste (and $$$) to stay at the Danieli!!!

    It would make it a little easier to read if you would make some paragraphs. . . just a suggestion.

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    I’m back! I’ve posted my review of Venice this morning and I’ll continue with my trip report of Lake Garda.

    Driving to Lake Garda was much quicker and easier than expected. Leaving Venice its just one main road more than 60 percent of the way. Heading up the North West side of the lake was confused with 20 "roundabouts" but we managed. The lake was beautiful and the snow topped mountains made for an enjoyable trip to our hotel.

    It was quite difficult to find our hotel. I wished I would’ve known. I had my map and navigation but there were no signs telling us were to go. Villa Feltrinelli is very peaceful and secluded for that reason so we knew we were close. The map appeared to want us to head in a direction which was closed for road work. Finding the small unpaved alternate route was quite a nuisance. Though we finally arrived near 5pm.

    As we pulled up to the gated entrance we did not know what to expect or do. We drove to the closed gate and rang the bell. We could see down the road and through that the hotel was down by the lake. Upon pushing the buzzer and announcing our name they opened the gate and we proceeded down the winding roadway with beautiful landscaping. As we pulled up, thankfully in our "nicer" rental car we were overwhelmed. It was marvelous! The staff greeted us outside with flowers and a welcome drink. They spoke English as if it were their primary language.

    The foyer was marvelous filled with priceless antiques. We know were may have been a bit out of our league staying here but we felt right at home. Upon walking to our room called the "Orientale" we marveled at the architecture in the main building. Our actual room exceeded 40 sq meters. It included three rooms, bedroom bath and walk in closet. The closet was bigger than mine at home. Our room was truly magnificent. The largest room I've ever had in my life. The linens and decor was just as the name implied...oriental in design. It was elegant and romantic. The linens were all Egyptian cotton. The large TV included a DVD player where we could borrow a movie if we wanted. They had a decent selection. Both the bath and bedroom had separate surround sound with 9+ selections of preset music (jazz, opera, classical, pop, relaxing etc).

    The bath was also white marble and included the best rain shower I've ever used. My long hair could be washed and conditioned in record time! Having music in the bath was nice and the thing I like was the window shutters. There were often two or three sets per window. One that opened like pocket doors (guess they'd be pocket windows) one that opened in and a set of shutters outside. I wish our windows at home were made like this it was really incredible!

    They have an unpacking service (which wasn't necessary for us) and they launder and iron all clothes for free. The minibar included numerous beverages, wine and champagne all included for free. They provide food and special requests to the room for free (we found out when we saw our less than anticipated bill). There were three phones in our room. Everything you could possibly imagine.

    While sitting lakeside on the grounds someone was always there to serve you. They never bothered you and most of the time you didn't know they were there. Laying poolside was a treat with wonderful drinks offered, treats, and sorbets to keep you cool. You don’t sign anything on the grounds. You don’t need to show a room card, you simply tell they the room name. It was incredible. I got an outdoor massage by the water. They even massaged my face it was wonderful. They offered laptops for guests to use in the library for free internet access. They really make you feel at home.

    We ate at the Villa the first night. I wish we ate there both nights it was really our best dinner of our trip. We ordered a bottle of wine which we discovered later that was never charged to our bill. We had a five course tasting menu. It was superb! Duck, rabbit, ravioli, etc... Dessert was so unique I plan to email them for a description. During dinner they served an olive pate with homemade breadsticks which was so delicious we ordered more. While speaking with the maitre d we thanked him and expressed just how memorable our meal was. He offered for us to meet the chef, tour the kitchen and wine cellar. We gladly accepted and were thrilled to have a sneak peak behind the scenes. The chef showed me the olive pate that I loved so much mentioning the easy recipe which I was happy to hear. They even sent extra olive pate to our room for a midnight snack! My husband loves chocolate milk and they would send warm chocolate milk to the room for him to enjoy.

    During dinner we befriended a lovely couple who were admiring our dessert. They ordered it as well. We ended up chatting over drinks for an hour. They were from LA and were talking with us about their kids our pets at home and our trip planning. The husband loves to extensively plan their vacations and was laughing about my 70 page PowerPoint presentation including all our trip details. Apparently he travels like that. He mentioned a great guidebook which I hadn’t heard of and even went to his room and got it for me to read overnight. It was interesting! During our conversation they very casually mentioned there daughter writes for one of my favorite TV shows. I had remembered her name which was hyphenated and very common. And just for fun, last night we googled them; turns out the husband who we were dining and chatting with that night founded HBO pictures and headed Tri-Star making movies like Jerry Maguire and American Beauty. Unbelievable! They were such a nice, friendly and normal couple. We were elated last night when we found out. We saw them during the rest of our trip and they always said hello asking how our night was. Amazing!

    After dinner, upon returning to our room, there was a pillow on our bed with embroidery of our dog which is a cavalier king charles spaniel. We looked at each other thinking, how on earth is this pillow HERE. Then we remembered during dinner saying we missed him and telling the couple from CA what breed we had. So the hotel staff put the pillow in our room so that we could sleep with our dog like we do back home. As if that wasn’t enough, when we went to the bathroom they had put roses everywhere including in our actual toilet bowl. I took pictures of course hehe.

    Our second night we ate at La Tortuga. Our hotel shuttled us back and forth (for free). It was a lovely charming restaurant with very good food.

    The lake is large and we stayed on the west side. We walked around the neighboring towns which had some shops. It was very quiet and beautiful. It was quite unique and a nice change a pace because Venice was busy and Tuscany was quite intense as well. My husband adored this hotel and area. I was surprised because he tends to shy away from over the top luxuries. I think he enjoyed the outstanding service and peaceful atmosphere which is very different than new york city life.

    Upon departing, I took a bottle of water from the “free” minibar for the road. As we got downstairs to checkout, they had prepared a little goodbye bag for us with two bottles of water. They knew we were traveling to another destination and we it was very thoughtful of them to give just hat. Just SEVEN star service (service in another class completely).

    I would love to return again, staying two nights was a treat, but 3 or 4 nights would be magical.

    I’ll continue with Tuscany soon!


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    Enjoyed your report! I left Venice on May 24, did not realize bad weather was on my heels!

    Omigosh, I cannot believe I did not walk into Hotel Danieli as my apartment was practically next door to it! Next time...

    I LOVED VENICE, it was like being in a magical dream world, sigh.

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    Hi Everyone!

    I'm attaching a link to "some" of my Venice photos. Including shots of the Danieli. I took over 400 pictures, but there are under 100 here. Many shots are not straight becuase I generally do not look into the lense to shoot. I'm hoping with practice, in time..I'll be able to shoot straight. I feel like I look less touristy LOL.


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    I’m back! I’ve posted my review of Venice and Garda and I’ll continue with my trip report of Northern Tuscany (then finish with Southern Tuscany).

    Two day ITINERARY:
    We saw Pisa, and did two of Bob’s favorite day trips including (1) SAN GIMIGNANO & VOLTERRA (2) HIGHLIGHTS OF CHIANTI, (we did Bob’s other 3 favorite day trips in our southern itinerary) Thanks Bob!

    DAY ONE of Northern Tuscany:
    Waking up at 7am was certainly a task (I know its sad). We ate at the terrace and were on the road by 9am. Driving to Tuscany again was much quicker and easier than expected. I’d just like to comment that my husband is a day dreamer. Day dreams while at work, at home, while talking to me of course, while eating dinner and WHILE driving. So I was a bit nervous about this leg of our trip because we’d spend much time in the car (affordable more chances to daydream and fight). He tends to veer off the road a bit or point to something turn and go opps or eeck. I love him to death but it could be scary. He preferred to drive rather than copilot because once again, he may daydream and forget to tell me to turn or something. Just love him though.

    I was unsure if we should see or skip Pisa…it because one of those annoying topics where I said “lets just see it and get it over with”. So we saw, we photographed, we ate and we left. It was a 2 hour event and could I have skipped it: absolutely! But it was still interesting to see in person. The town was a bit dreary I must admit. Mobbed with tourists too! My husband was getting claustrophobic being there so we exited without dessert (which is rare for Chris).

    About 2pm we headed to Volterra. This was a nice town, we had so much planned and didn’t do it…we just wondered around after eating gelato (because we were overdue for dessert). We proceeded to our hotel which again was hard to find. We kept passing right by it. It was just a long day so we weren’t operating on full energy levels. Finally we went up to San G. knowing we were close and asked the gas attendant. I was sooo exhausted that as I thanked him “gracias” slipped out instead of grazie. My husband nearly wet himself making fun of me. I think we were just exhausted from the long day. He made fun of me most of the trip whispering gracias as we left stores.

    We stayed at La Collegiata instead of L’Antico Pozzo. The weather wasn’t that cooperative (raining often) so staying La Collegiata wasn’t as great as I imagined. I thought I’d see the towns come back and lay poolside while the towns shut down midday. We loved San G so much we definitely plan to come back and stay in the town at L’Antico Pozzo.

    The hotel was a former monastery so it was quite unique compared to our other hotels. Our room number “4” was lovely, best room in the place including the only terrace. The bed was a bit older and could use updating/replacing. But it was charming and rustic. The bath was very nice as well. I thought the towels at this hotel were the softest. The large TV had one English station CNN! Ahh!

    Breakfast was good, best American coffee. It was actually delicious! The rate didn’t include breakfast, it was an extra 20 euro each person. They had a wonderful selection of cheese which we enjoyed! I realized now I forgot to report on the breakfasts as Danieli and Villa F.

    DANIELI: breakfast was excellent, included in our rate. It was served at the rooftop overlooking the Grand Canal. It was wonderful eating up there. They served eggs benedict at the buffet everyday. I love them! VILLA Feltrinelli served breakfast outside on the terrace beside the lake. They made the best omelet’s I’ve ever eaten. By Far!
    …back to Tuscany

    We ate in San G. at La Vecchia Mura. Although we had an 8pm reservation no one seemed to care or notice. It took nearly 10 minutes to even get someone to look at us as this place was packed. After finally sitting down, we ordered and had a good meal. It was a bit crazy earlier so it took some time for us to settle down to eat. Chris had osso bucco, his favorite and they made it in a sauce which I use frequently. Its paprika based and delicious! All and all, a good place but it was insane!

    DAY TWO of Northern. Tuscany:
    We woke up delighted to see sun, which only disappointed us and left shortly thereafter. We drove to Chianti today on a mission to buy china from Ceramiche Rampini. Our first town was Radda where we walked around and had lunch. We couldn’t decide where to eat and BOY did we pick a great one. We ate at Al Chiasso Dei Portici in Radda 0577 738774. It was one of my favorite meals of our trip. I had a goat cheese salad with delicious “lettuce” and my entrée was seared tuna. It was beyond scrumptious! I was chewing so slowly savoring every bite. I nearly order a plate to go, seriously and I’m a foodie. Chris enjoyed his meal and especially pane cotta for dessert.

    We wanted to spend the early evening in San G which we adore. It’s much quieter after the day trippers leave. So we left our room and headed downstairs. It was nicer out fortunately. As we were about to leave the hotel, my husband who was walked towards the door noticed something in another room and it took his attention away for just a second. And BAMM! He walked right into the glass door to exit our hotel. I don’t know how he did it, but it was actually hilarious! He didn’t get hurt at all, it was just funny! He said it looked open. I just replied “didn’t you see the big door handle?” What a laugh!

    For our second night we ate at Trattoria Chiribiri. We heard about it online and figured why not. Unfortunately it appeared to be tiny and it was packed at 8pm. A couple from Berlin was waiting for the next table just outside the door. We stood chatting with them and actually had a wonderful conversation. We didn’t care that we sat 45 minutes later because the time just passed chatting away. Finally the couple from Berlins table was ready and had a table beside them ready and just asked if we could sit together, which we LOVED. So we had dinner with them and chatted the night away about the differences in European culture versus American culture. It was really nice meeting them and we ended up eating for over 3 hours to stretch the night! We love to mingle while away and this was one of our FAVORITE nights. We swamped email addresses and I promised them I’d send the photo taken of all four of us.

    We had breakfast the next morning savouring the best American coffee we’ve had on our trip! We spent two enjoyable (but not great) nights at La Collegiata. We headed south to Siena and Le Crete to our next hotel La Saracina.

    I would love to return again to San G., staying two nights was good, next time I’ll stay “in” San G for sure!

    I’ll continue with Southern Tuscany soon!


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    I’m back! I’ve posted my review of Venice, Lake Garda and Northern Tuscany and I’ll conclude with my trip report of Southern Tuscany.

    Three day ITINERARY:
    We saw a great deal of the southern Tuscany region. We also enjoyed Bob’s favorite day trips including (1) SIENA, LE CRETE, AND ABBEY MONTE OLIVETO MAGGIORE:

    DAY ONE of Southern Tuscany:
    Waking up at early again we ate at the hotel and were on the road by 10am. Driving to MONTERIGGIONI and then Siena again was much quicker and easier than expected. We headed to MONTERIGGIONI first and walked around the small storybook town. We were able to walk up steps and walk along the actual walled fortress to enjoy beautiful views of the area. We spent about 40 minutes and then headed to Siena. It was the smallest town we visited during our trip. But charming! In Siena, we parked on the northern most part in a lot. It was very safe and indoors. WE had tons of luggage and did worry, but it was quite safe. It cost less than 10 Euro I believe for a few hours.

    We saw the fabulous Duomo and wondered around. We did a lot of shopping for my husband and got the most incredible pair of Italian brown leather shoes. Spectacular! I got two pairs of shoes myself…couldn’t resist! We had lunch somewhere, but I cant remember so I guess it was average. It was very crowded for a Saturday afternoon. Hard to walk around without bumping into other tourists. But it was a lovely town/city.

    About 3pm we headed through 438 Le Crete to Asciano and were mesmerized by the golden rolling hills. This was by far the most beautiful sights we saw on our entire trip. We skipped taking 451 (which I do regret) and preceded to our hotel which again was harder to find. We were so tired!! Finally we arrived and were excited at the unique hotel.

    We stayed at La Saracina in the Malvasia suite. Although many of the rooms appears just as spacious (as far as we could see). The unique aspect of this hotel was that it was family owned and operated containing 5 rooms and the owners lived just upstairs. Simonetta and her husband own it I believe. Her sister Gabiela also works here. She was so nice and helpful during our entire stay. What a great family! They also had two friendly boxers, Aflie a puppy and Iza the older brother. They were playful and lovable. My husband and I enjoyed visiting them. There was no traditional front desk or services aside from breakfast in a warm and inviting room. The hotel was charming and quant and the grounds were magnificent. Again the weather wasn’t great and we would have preferred to lay poolside every afternoon, but just spend one day doing so.

    Breakfast was good, very light with biscuits, croissants, cereals. The rate included breakfast, which was very nice. They had a wonderful selection of cheese as well. Very common breakfast food in Italy.

    We had an 7:30pm reservation at Osteria La Porta. This was in Montichiello and one of the best restaurants during our trip. The food was delicious and the service was wonderful. I had this delicious goat cheese salad and a lamb entrée. They gave us complimentary after dinner drinks. It was Florus Mostcardello di Montalcino. It was so delicious I bought a bottle upon leaving. We also bought a 2nd bottle in Montalcino. Simonetta had given us directions to Montichiello recommending a quicker route to town during daylight. It was a direct windy road. Quite scary, but breathtaking. We were happy to have seen it and relieved to have survived it. Returning home we took a less direct route through Pienza.

    DAY TWO of Southern Tuscany:
    We enjoyed breakfast at La Saracina and were mingling with some of the guests. We met a lovely couple from Australia, who were telling us there adventures driving on the “wrong” side of the road (and car). But luckily after a short while the husband got used to it. I don’t know if I could, but was glad to see he stayed on his side of the road. I would probably have a heart attack if I saw him coming right at us. Haha! My husband was talking with him about some of the aggressive driving we noticed… and the husband didn’t seem to realize or agree. Which was odd, but in our experience so many locals zoom past and around you. We found ourselves pulling over constantly to let them pass. They would do it on turns as well, brave!!

    Unfortunately our second day in Southern Tuscany landed on a Sunday where many shops were closed. I knew visiting Pienza would be best as they are known to be open all days including Sunday. Fortunately we arrived and found this to be true. We did some shopping and sampled the famous pecorino cheese. WE bought two chunks which we ate in our hotel room the rest of our trip. It was delicious. The shops let you sample a few ages and buy and choose as you please. It was nice. We dined at Latte di Luna which was recommended on this board. We were pleased and enjoyed our food. It was a busy place… decent size for the southern hill towns where many restaurants are quite small. We figured we’d head back through Montichiello to see this town during the day. It was picturesque; all windows in town had flower pots with pansy’s and other flowers. It was beautiful. Unfortunately nearly everything in town was closed so we headed Montepulciano which was partially open. Some shops do stay open most of the week like Pienza, however, many were closed today. We enjoyed this town immensely. I’m sure we would have loved it if we could experience it on another day. This was a large town which was on a steep hill, I was happy to be wearing sneakers this day. This is unusual for me. .

    For our second night we ate at La Grotta which was one of the more dressy places during on our trip. It was lovely! Impeccable service, lovely décor in a spacious restaurant just outside Montepulciano. My husband ordered the Florentine steak which is only served at 1000 grams. I said I’d share it, but I planned to wrap it up and take it back to our hotel to give to the two boxers at La Saracina. They of course enjoyed it immensely. We cut it in half for them to share.
    Gabriela was happy to accompany us as we gave it to them.

    DAY THREE of Southern Tuscany:
    Our third and sadly last day of our first anniversary trip was spent enjoying the Tuscan hill town of Montalcino after a lovely drive in the Val D’Orcia area at the recommendation of Bob.

    After breakfast we got into our car alongside our new friends from Australia. They were just ahead of us SPEEDING down the dirt road. We got a chuckle out of it. We were heading west on 146 with our friends ahead and we noticed they were further and further ahead. Then the funniest thing happened, suddenly we see our friend gun it and pass another car. It was hysterical. We were laughing so hard we nearly pulled over. We remembered at breakfast the prior day talking about aggressive driving and the husband not quite agreeing. I guess HE WAS the aggressive driver. It was truly funny!

    So we began driving to San Quirico, Bagno Vignoni, Abbey Sant Antimo ultimately finishing in Montalcino. The picturesque roads had my dear husband pulling over ever 100 meters. We took so many lovely shots heading to Bagno Vignoni. We wanted to hear the chanting monks (before 11am) at Abbey Sant Antimo. Unfortunately when we arrived we were really unsure where to go. At one restaurant it took 15 minutes to find someone to speak to in English and we were unsuccessful in finding the monks. It was a joke all day long. We think we found the town, but there were no signs of life or monks anyway. I’m not sure what happened. But it was an adventure.

    We headed north to Montalcino for lunch at Grappolo Blu. This again was arguably one of our favorite meals during our trip. Since it was our last day, we ordered 3 pastas and one polenta dish for lunch and shared them. We didn’t eat it all thank goodness but wanted to try it all. To my surprise, I enjoyed the polenta most. It was spectacular, made in a tomato sauce with garlic, mushrooms and eggplant. It was the only dish wiped clear. The restaurant was charming and we are hoping to return one day. Montalcino was a lovely town. We sampled the famous Brunello wine and did some shopping. On our way back to our hotel, I was determined to take a picture hugging the hay. I don’t know why, but I just adore the landscapes filled with hay. So we ventured off a road and my husband took a few pictures of me and my HAY HUGGING. Haha! It was fun!

    For our last night we dined at La Chiusa. It was very upscale, pricey and not quite what we had wanted at that point in our trip. I wanted to dine at this restaurant because it was the only Michelin rated one in the area. It was enjoyable, food delicious, but eating at Osteria’s and Trattoria’s are a must in Tuscany. Eating elsewhere can be good of course. Upon making the reservation, I had mentioned it was our anniversary and the owner Dania herself presented my husband and I with an extra dessert. She sort of startled us giving it to us, but nevertheless it was nice. We had ordered the pane cotta, and Dania gave us her favorite chocolate cake as a second complimentary dessert. It was a wonderful evening!

    We checked out the prior night. Gabriela mentioned that she could make us cappuccino before getting on the road. We woke up at 6:00am and drove to Rome Airport after our cappuccino. It was extremely easy. The A1 entrance and exit was the most beautiful entry and exit I have seen in my life…lined with cypress trees. Spectacular! Also the roadway had flowers along the divider. It was really beautiful. I wish we could do that more in the US.

    We got down there in 90 minutes however, spent an hour in traffic on the loop. We expected it and still arrived before 11:00am for our 1:20pm flight. It was great. We drove to Europcar, and in 90 seconds we departed the drop off area and headed to the terminal. It was the quickest and easiest experience. I would certainly use AutoEurope/Europcar in the future.

    We boarded our Lufthansa flight on time. As before, our experience was very nice. The crew is the nicest I’ve experience in my life, but I think it compensates for the poor in flight entertainment. I don’t know if I could ever fly them again in coach knowing they do not have individual TVs for passengers. The flight was empty and my husband and I were able to get a row of 3 “each” and lay out comfortably. We were fortunate in that regard. Landing was smooth and quick. We were home to New York as scheduled.

    Our trip was MAGICAL! That is the best word to describe the feelings we had in Venice, Lake Garda and Tuscany. It was the perfect way to celebrate our first anniversary.

    Thanks for reading.

    THE END!

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    Thanks to you too Bob. My husband and I really sincerely benefited from all the terrific advice you gave us. We are heading back to Rome, Positano and Capri end of Summer. I've been to Rome before and visited Capri and Positano for day trips. Cant wait! If you have any suggestions, fire away!


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