October 19, 2012

A Romantic Getaway - October 2012

 Dear Kathy—

What a wonderful adventure! 

We just wanted to tell you how absolutely thrilled we were with our trip to Tuscany. The customized itinerary you assembled for us on very short notice suited our schedule, interests and budget perfectly. All of your recommendations were top notch.

We absolutely LOVED the Bed and Breakfast in Barberino Val d'Elsa that you selected for us. We just couldn’t get over the beauty of the area and the attention to detail in our well appointed room. Breakfast each morning in the covered sunroom/patio felt like an indulgence. Please send our thanks again to the management and staff for making us feel so welcome and comfortable.

Our week was a great blend of private and small group tours of Florence and Siena; including private tours of the Accademia and Uffizi museums, an authentic Tuscan style cooking class and vineyard tour; and time to just sit back, relax and enjoy our vacation. And you were right there for us all along the way. One evening, we found ourselves in the town of Greve ready to find a place for dinner. The solution? Simple! Call Kathy. Minutes later we were at a hidden gem of a restaurant located in the tiny hilltop hamlet of Montefioralle. We were early for dinner but they set us up with glasses of wine and invited us to sit and relax at one of their comfy outside tables. We sipped our wine, watched a dazzling Tuscan sunset and before we knew it—our hosts were ready for us. Let me tell you… dinner was off the charts!  

Our first day started with a private tour of Siena with the guide you had recommended. Susanne was exceptional. What made the tour so special was her eagerness and ability to help us understand what life was like for the people who lived their lives in and around Siena from its ancient beginnings.

Next, we were off to San Gimignano, another charming hilltop city that you had suggested. We took in the sights, had a light dinner finishing with "The World's Best Gelato" and then bought tickets to the “Dreaming Italy” recital that you had also recommended. A part of the Baroque Festival of San Gimignano, it was a great way to end a lovely day. After the concert, we followed the winding roads back to the Bed and Breakfast and fell into bed.

Monday was another highlight. At your suggestion, we signed up for a cooking class at a lovely organic farm and vineyard. The hosts, Silvano and Rita, worked hand-in-hand with our small group to prepare an authentic Tuscan style meal. Using fresh eggs from the farm, we made a “perfect-o” tiramisu, four different kinds of bread, and six different kinds of pasta, all the while sipping a delicious red wine from their vineyard. After a tour of their cellars, we dined on all of our hard work. To finish off our hand-made luncheon, we were treated to a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream drizzled with 30-year old aged balsamic vinegar—right from their cellars—wow!

On Tuesday we were off early to Florence to meet Paola, the tour guide you had scheduled for us. She led us right past the long waiting lines and took us on a customized private tour of the Uffizi, helping us to avoid the crowds and enriching our tour with fascinating details on the Uffizi’s history and the amazing art of da Vinci, Botticelli, Giotto, Titian, Michelangelo and Raphael.

Wednesday was our day off to tour Tuscany on our own. We slept late, then took a leisurely drive through the absolutely stunning Tuscan countryside—visiting the towns of Panzano, Radda and Greve.  

On Thursday we were back for a second dose of Florence. This time for a walking tour followed by a private tour of The Accademia—happy to be reunited with our guide Paola. Again we skipped the long lines and were treated to a wonderfully detailed tour of the world famous museum topped off by a fascinating in-depth explanation and history of Michelangelo’s masterpiece—David. After our tour, we strolled through the streets, visited quaint shops; stopping for a glass of wine, and then found a place for a light dinner.

On Friday, we visited a vineyard owned by friends of ours who we ran into at dinner on our first night! They treated us to a wine tasting and a back stage tour of their Tuscan vineyard at the height of harvest.

Our only regret was that our week in Tuscany passed so quickly. Now that we're back in the US, we're telling all of our friends... "If you're considering a trip to Tuscany, do yourself a favor... call Kathy!"

Best regards,
Dennis & Barbara K. – Westchester County, NY

Five Couples Discover Tuscany - September 2012

Hi Kathy,

We are home safely… and I wanted to give you some feedback about our trip. You did an excellent job. We all are impressed with your attention to us and how quickly you addressed every question we had over the months of preparation. We also agree that we were very, very lucky to find you. We are all so grateful for your help in recovering the lost luggage. Your collaborator, Francesco (our driver) is a remarkable person and his willingness to help was so appreciated. He is a fantastic source for driving and guiding....always prompt and "nothing is a problem" with him.

Our transfers from Florence to Montepulciano were perfect (and helping to reschedule for our stranded couples who arrived late was appreciated). Dinner in Monticchiello was excellent.

Sun. We had the most fun experience in Arezzo with a local festival and art fair. Cortona had wonderful views. Francesco took us to a delightful restaurant with quick service and fabulous food. For dinner Francesco took our orders for pizza and delivered them to us.

Mon. The wine tour with Donatella was great. She was adorable, helpful and fun to be around. The visit to the organic farm was very interesting. The cheese maker went into detail about the cheese and we had the best lunch and views with all the animals on a beautiful afternoon. It truly was an experience which we all enjoyed. Unfortunately we had a bad storm hit us soon after we arrived in Pienza, so we didn't get to enjoy or shop. Donatella was fantastic as she waited for us in a great spot to rescue us from the storm.

Tues. I think you know how we much loved the cooking class!!!! Truly just about everyone said it was their favorite day. And of course getting the luggage back at that time was a relief.

Wed. The trip to Siena was long, but Susanne was a wonderful guide and the tour of the church was incredible. Francesco took us to a delightful restaurant in the hills with quick service and wonderful food.

Thurs. The group loved Assisi. They had lunch overlooking a beautiful lake. The Etruscan villages were also beautiful. 

Fri. The wine tour with Francesca was good, we enjoyed both wineries. She took us to a restaurant for lunch where the food was plentiful and great.

Sat. We were so busy throughout the week that very little shopping was done. So when we got to the guide at San Gimignano, she was bombarded to allow us some time to shop....she did. Francesco took us to a country side restaurant for quick service and great food and then onto Florence.

Your initial comment to us when we were in the planning stage was that out itinerary was "busy". Yes it was. But we all had a fantastic time and we recognize that Tuscany is very large and spread out and to see all that we planned requires van traveling time.
Thank you!! Thank You!! All of our group agreed that you will be recommended to anyone who inquires and when we return to Italy, we'll be in touch with YOU.

My best regards,
Barbara R. - Pittsburgh, PA

See our blogpost for more photos of the groups' fun cooking class in Chianti!

The Ladies' Getaway - September 2012

Hi Kathy,

We had a wonderful time in Italy and it was all because our trip was so efficiently and creatively planned!
Thank you so very much, you were great!

All the best,
Laurie G. – Pennsylvania

Family Vacation - July 2012

Hi Kathy,

Aaaah our beautiful villa! Wish we were still there. It really was an experience we will remember and hopefully repeat. Tuscany is magical! Thanks again for all your hospitality and help with our wonderful vacation. You really went above and beyond – especially helping us to resolve the problem of our missing suitcase. Much appreciation.

Patty M. – New York, NY

Family Vacation - July 2012

Hi Kathy,

Thank You!! We absolutely loved the villa – it was beautiful! The villa owner stopped by on the first afternoon and he was so nice – he brought us fresh vegetables and eggs from his chickens!

Dinner the first night at the villa with the chef was fabulous!!!!! Amazing, extraordinary, just a few adjectives!

The next night, the restaurant in Artimino was excellent – the view from the terrace was amazing.

Our cooking class with Gianni was so much fun! We all had a great time and the meal was delicious. It’s something we’ll never forget!

The wine tour in Chianti was great! Olivia was super friendly, informative and passionate.
The wineries were unique and special.

We totally enjoyed our private tour of Florence with Sara. She was so informative and wonderful! The girls really had a good time too.

The day in Siena and San Gimignano was fun and the tour guide was very nice.

Thanks for everything, from the planning to the welcome shopping and all your help during our stay. It was lovely to meet all of you and we hope to be back again!

Linda P. – Boston, MA

A Romantic Getaway - June 2012

Hi Kathy,

Thanks for all of your help, we had an amazing stay!
We loved being picked up directly at our hotel by Riccardo. He was so sweet. He was very accommodating and provided chilled water throughout the day at each stop which was welcomed in the excessive heat. He also stopped at the train station on the way back so our friends could pick up their train tickets which we appreciated. The morning guide in Florence was Helen, who we adored!  Being British made it easy for us to understand her and she is very well-studied and was able to share some very fascinating stories to bring the places we visited to life. Helen also came across as very confident and in charge keeping us on schedule yet allowing us time to enjoy the sights and ask questions and not feel rushed.

The guide in Siena, Costanza, was also very well-versed in her knowledge of the area and she shared some interesting stories. 
The lunch at the organic farm with Silvano's spectacular hospitality and amazing food and wine stole the show as the highlight of our day and trip to the Tuscany region. The vineyard has so much to offer from the organic food, farm fresh eggs with truffle oil, aged balsamic vinegar, wild boar with fresh hand-rolled pasta and his wife's wonderful cooking. Not to mention the incredible wines. We now have a new appreciation for Tuscan wines. We were pleasantly surprised by the simply elegant lunch. We contemplated signing up for the "luxury" lunch and were thrilled to have what we found to be a stellar lunch. I am very curious to know what they would serve for the "luxury" lunch since ours was impeccable! Silvano is definitely a great salesman, but his vineyard and amazing products sell themselves. He graciously shared his wife's Tiramisu recipe and instructed us on how to whip and fold in the eggs for perfection. We are going to try to make it back home.

I have passed your information on to several friends. Hopefully I can send a few in your direction. Thank you again for all of your help in making our Italian vacation a memorable one!

Gwen A. – Philadelphia, PA

A Family Vacation with Young Children - June 2012

Thanks Kathy!!

Everything was great - the kids so enjoyed Capalbio with the garden and pool.  We thank you for all your valuable assistance!

Best regards,
Stuart C. – Ghana, Africa

A Couple's Getaway - June 2012

Hello Kathy!

I’m so sorry for the delay in getting your feedback…. Reentry after being away for 3 weeks has not been easy!

The day in the Tuscan countryside was AMAZING!!! The driver was very nice, he helped us connect with the Sienna tour guide. She too was great!  At different points she discussed what we would be more interested in – going into churches or not - and she was very accommodating when we did change our minds with the Duomo.

The lunch/wine tasting was the highlight of an already great day!! The lunch was great, the views – amazing and the wine!!! It was great experience to do it all on our own and they did not rush us.
We bought two vinegars (they were brilliant!) and a bottle of his wine!

Our next stop, San Gimignano, was beautiful but to be honest after the lunch we did not have much energy to explore too much - but it was worth visiting.

Thank you again for arranging everything! We will definitely spread the word.

Cynthia H. – New York, NY

A Family Vacation - April 2012

Hi Kathy,

Our vacation turned out to be just what we had hoped! From the start you were so helpful and informative, answering all my questions.

Our villa was beautiful! Everything was perfect, except for the weather!

Thanks for your help in rearranging the wine tasting tour through Chianti, so we could do it without the thundershowers. The tasting tour was great! The guide was interesting and fun.

The tour in Florence was wonderful and the guide made the city and the museums come to life.

All the services you provided were excellent. Gianni was a great chef! The meals he cooked for us at the villa were delicious and the cooking class with him was wonderful!

Thanks for arranging our welcome food shopping on arrival, and for all your suggestions regarding restaurants, outings etc.

Our transfers were all perfect – and the drivers very friendly and professional.

You were a great resource. You made our vacation stress-free and totally memorable! Everything went smoothly and was just as promised.

I have already recommended you to friends!

All the best,
Sara D. and family - Long Island, NY