Adventures by Disney, Personal Story, Travel Tuesday

Adventures by Disney: Viva Italia

Best. Trip. Ever.  100% not exaggerating.  This was the best trip I have ever taken and I can not say enough great things about it.  I do not even know where to start.  The beginning was so polar opposite from the end… so I guess let’s start there.  How did I even end up on an Adventures by Disney vacation?  Simple: Convenience and my ridiculous paranoia. My husband and I wanted to celebrate our 10 year anniversary with a special trip.  We tossed out various ideas and nothing would stick.  My husband had never been to Europe and while Europe quickly became our first choice, we were hesitant to travel abroad.  We have done cruises abroad or gone to Canada, but Europe just left an uneasy feeling for some unexplainable reason (… probably all the news I watch and read).

I definitely had some sticker shock, to say the least.  I had studied and knew a lot about Adventures by Disney, but did not know anyone to personally take a trip.  I read blogs about it and read tons of material, but honestly did not gasp what it was going to be like.  I initially thought this would be a great splurge for an anniversary, but I am not something we would do often.  Little did I know I would start a wishlist and already be planning our next Adventure (soon)

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The adventure guides are amazing.  We had by far the best people on the planet to lead our group.  They were full of energy, laughter and pure, contagious joy.  If you get so lucky to get Giselle or Michela (“Miki”) as your adventure guides, you are in for a treat.  They both hold a close place in my heart for how unbelievably stunning they made this trip.

Adventures by Disney handles everything.  There is so much included with the cost.  We were met at the airport and transported to our hotel in Rome.  The driver and driver’s tip were already included in our travel package.  We arrived at the FABULOUS Gran Meliá Rome Hotel and it was picturesque.  I honestly did not expect the hotel to be as nice as it was.  I felt like a movie star just lounging by the pool and sipping wine.  I could not have asked for a better first day.

We met our two guides Giselle and Mickela (“Miki”) as soon as we got to the hotel.  Again, there are not enough words to express how amazing these two women are.  Giselle is from Washington state and incredible.  The amount of knowledge she contained and the energy she exuded was breathtaking.  Miki is a local Italian who lives in Rome and had attended school at an American school.  Miki is equally as much a ball of energy as Giselle.  She is full of local knowledge and recommendations and eager to answer my millions of questions.  She made my husband and I some dinner reservations when we wanted to go out on our own, gave us directions and even her cell number and checked in on us.  The guides are PHENOMENAL!  By the end of the trip, these two were family.img_0668

While in Rome, we saw it all.  St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, the Parthenon, the Colosseum and so much more.  I think my favorite part of Rome was seeing the Vatican Museum after operating hours ended with just our little group of less than 30 people.  We were able to see all of the art up close and without a crowd.  We were even able to take pictures and really enjoy the stunning beauty of the Sistine Chapel.

The food in Rome was amazing.  One of the group meals was at a rented out restaurant with the most amazing pizza I have ever had.  We had a gelato stop along the way (courtesy of our adventure guides) because if you don’t have gelato in Rome, did you really even go?!?  Rome has some of the best gelato, so definitely eat all you can while you are there.

Our next stop was the little town of Orvieto on the way to Tuscany.  It was a great break in the drive and there was an absolutely stunning church there and some very fun, quaint shopping.  We also had a group lunch at a little restaurant again with absolutely wonderful food.  I know I keep saying the food was wonderful, but it was and I eat at some high quality restaurants of James Beard Awarded chefs…. trust me, the food was delicious.  I was a little concerned the included food was going to be lacking of what I wanted, but it was all wonderful.  My least favorite meal was our group meal at the hotel on the first night, however I was happy to just eat at the hotel that night and then go to bed, so it was thought out well.

Next we arrived at our home for a couple days in the beautiful Tuscan countryside at Hotel Borgo di Cortefreda.  It was everything I imagined about the Tuscan countryside.  I felt like I was in a movie.  It was relaxing and breathtaking and exactly what I wanted to experience.  On our first day, we visited Fattoria Poggio Alloro for a pasta-making activity and wine-tasting in Fioroni family winery (if you didn’t want to do the wine tasting they did an olive oil flavoring activity).  While I am all about cooking, my husband was not particularly looking forward to pasta making, but he ended up having a lot of fun.  We enjoyed it so much we even wanted to bring our newly learned skills back home to teach the kids.  After learning how to make our pasta, we ate pasta (thankfully not what we just made) and it was again, super tasty food.  The scenery for lunch was amazing (see picture of Hubby and I below with Tuscan countryside in background and medieval towers of San Gimigano).  After a full day of activity, we headed back to the hotel for some relaxing time by the pool and things on our own.  For the evening we went to a castle… No really … A CASTLE.  We enjoyed walking around the castle grounds and then enjoyed a banquet set in the 15th-century Medieval castle complete with fun, musical entertainment and I was even serenaded by the musicians.  It was truly a memorable night of fun and singing.

The next day we took a day trip to Florence, which is such a beautiful city.  I wish we could have spent more time here. (NOTE: The new itineraries stay in Bernini Palace Hotel, which is an amazing hotel and gives you more time there.  We visited it while in Florence and loved it).  We saw Michelangelo’s David in the morning, did a walking tour of all the major sights of Florence and then a special VIP tour of Palazzo Vecchio.   For the evening, we were on our own and our fabulous adventure guides made us reservations at Acqua al 2, which was so good that I sent my sister here when she went to Italy with her husband.  Again, my only wish for Florence was that I wanted more time here.

Next day we were off to Venice.  One of the most wonderful things about Adventures by Disney is how they handle your bags (with extra Pixie Dust).  We had our bags set outside our door the morning of each hotel change and they magically appeared inside our next hotel room waiting for us to arrive.  We never had to touch our bags at all.  This was a fabulous perk for our trip entire trip, but especially for Venice.  Why?  We took the train. When we arrived at the train station, other travelers are juggling bags and loading on the train and some in a chaotic fashion, but our group just has our little sack lunch and personal bag/purse and easily hop on and off the train.  It was perfect and made the train trip easy as can be.

Venice was beautiful and so unique.  Venice is known for being the “City of Water” and the “City of Bridges”.  The amount of bridges is astonishing and makes the city a truly unique beauty.  I felt I was constantly taking pictures of different bridges and how pretty they were.  It was such a fun city to intentionally (or unintentionally) get lost.  When we first arrived, we took a gondola ride to our next destination.  With a special guest in our gondola, He and I instantly became good friends as I again was serenaded.  This time I easily sang along because of my uncharacteristic knowledge of Dean Martin’s classic Italian songs (thanks, Dad).  Once we disembarked and said our goodbyes to our new friends, we began a walking tour of Piazza San Marco.  We concluded our day by arriving at Hilton Molino with a welcome reception and absolutely stunning rooms overlooking Venice.  We did dinner on our own with some recommendations and reservations made by our adventure guides.

Our last full day in Italy did not disappoint…. well, other than it being our last day.  We started the day with a tour of Doges Palace and the Bridge of Sighs.  After our tour, we went to the Venetian Carnevale mask-making.  This was by far the one thing I was not looking forward to on the itinerary.  I am an artsy person, but when I read it, I just didn’t have an interest and considered just skipping it.  OMG! I am so glad I did not.  It was an absolute blast and to top it off, it is an amazing and very meaningful keepsake. I keep my mask in my office and look at it almost every day.  This activity is absolute proof that Adventures by Disney knows what they are doing when they plan these itineraries.

For our final activity, the Jolly Roger met us right outside the hotel and we boarded it for a sunset dinner cruise around Venice.  It was the perfect icing on the cake for this trip.  It was romantic, it was delicious and it was a blast.  The wonderful sunset cruise was concluded with a DJ and dancing and of course, in true American/Southern/FenWay Park fashion a group rendition of “Sweet Caroline” (I might have been the orchestrator of this one…LOL).  It was a great way to end the trip and to sadly say goodbye to all our new friends near and far.

Our flight out of Venice left at 11am. We said goodbye to Miki and Giselle at the dock and were whisked away in true James-Bond-speed-boat style to the airport. (Again, all arranged by Adventures by Disney).  Overall, this was by far one of the best trips of my life.  I would do it all again in a heartbeat.  I think about it all the time and the memories we made on it were truly priceless and everlasting.

If you are interested in doing and Adventure by Disney Vacation or have questions, please contact me.  I can not possibly recommend this enough and it was such a blessing to be able to go on this trip for my anniversary.  Adventures by Disney has a lot of other wonderful itineraries.  For a full list, click here and let me know what your wishlist trip is in the comments.

Overall Review: WORTH EVERY PENNY.  I enjoyed this vacation like I imagine my children are able to enjoy all vacations.  The Adventure Guides were essentially my “moms” and they had snacks, water, hand sanitizer, wipes and anything else in their bags to help us with any situation.  They helped answer any question and helped make sure we made it where we needed to go.  I was able to completely shut off my analytical, planning and structured mentality and just enjoy being in the moments.  That feeling in and of itself is indescribable and what makes me want to do another Adventures by Disney trip.  My biggest recommendation is bring more cash to tip your tour guides.  I literally gave them all the cash we had left because they were just that amazing.  The only tip not included in your vacation package is tipping these two amazing guides and they deserve every penny of the recommended amount ($9 – $11 USD: Per Adult/Child/Per Adventure Guide/Per Day) and more.

 

 

 

 

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