October 20, 2015

Chianti Wine Tour

It was a pleasure meeting this nice group from Finland. The five couples requested a full service itinerary to discover Chianti and its wineries, so we gave them just that. Lovely accommodations at a boutique hotel, a private dinner at a renowned castle winery, tasting tours at some of the area's most impressive cellars and an outdoor lunch at a small, family-run organic vineyard and farm - to really give them a feel of the diversity that exists among Tuscany's wine producers. 
We're very happy to have received their messages telling us how much they enjoyed their visit!

Dear Kathy,

We returned yesterday late in the evening from our Tuscany trip. We wish to thank you for the excellent arrangements and program you designed for our trip. I am certain that this kind of a trip will interest our friends as well. We have visited vineyards before but these vineyards were all different and very interesting. The drivers were also great. 
All the best for your enterprise in the future!

Best regards,
Ismo and Eva S. - Rusko, Finland

Dear Kathy,

Once more many thanks to you for all those magnificent arrangements you had done for us. All the wineries and places were so fine and extraordinary. And the drivers were also so exact and friendly and everything! We really enjoyed our visit in Tuscany! Thanks to you!

My best regards,
Tuija L. - Turku, Finland

October 16, 2015

Traveling Solo to the Amalfi Coast

I just returned from my amazing vacation on the Amalfi Coast planned by Kathy at New Tuscan Experience. As a women in my 50’s traveling alone and going abroad for the first time, I had been nervous about planning my trip because I do not speak Italian and I wanted to be sure my hotel and activities would be safe. Kathy came highly recommended by friends who knew her, had used her services, and said their trips were fabulous. BUT….they were not traveling alone. 

From the moment I contacted Kathy she was really easy to work with, she listened to my concerns and the things I wanted to see, and fit everything in perfectly. She also made several of her own suggestions which all turned out very well. Her great attention to detail and the fact she lives in Italy, speaks the language and knows the ins and outs that only locals would know, ensures that everything runs smoothly.

My 5 day stay in Positano was fabulous. I loved the small hotel Kathy suggested right on the beach. It was immaculate and the room size was much larger than I expected from what I have heard of European hotels (I even had a private little veranda with a view). The staff were very pleasant and attentive and there was a lovely restaurant and a beach café, with stunning views of the sea. While the hotel wasn’t luxurious, it was exactly what I wanted and what I could afford and it was safe and spotless - a place where you go to sleep and wake up with the waves crashing a few yards in front of you. The only caveat is that since it is ON the beach you need to get down to it from the main road by walking A LOT of steps! If you are in good health or walk slowly it is not a problem, but it is quite a bit of mandatory exercise. Luckily, they provide a porter to carry all your luggage up and down the steps.

Since I was trying to stick to a budget, and because of course you can travel by bus, trains and ferries, I was hesitant when Kathy suggested I use a private car service on the coast because public transportation is often unreliable and over-crowded. However, I am so grateful I took her advice. I want to point out that Kathy was really helpful in explaining how to get the trains from the airport in Rome to Naples where my driver was waiting - since it is much cheaper to use a driver from Naples than from Rome. She had also advised me to purchase a flex ticket for the train, in case I needed to make any changes, which proved to be a great idea since my flight arrived an hour early! I contacted Kathy, who jumped into action and called the car service - and like magic, my driver was waiting for me in Naples almost an hour ahead of schedule. That’s the kind of service she provides, exceptional. If I had used a travel agent from the US, the agency would not even have been open and I would have stood around for an hour either in Termini or Naples.

I totally recommend using the wonderful car service she suggests - it was outstanding. The drivers are locals who speak English and know the area. They are professional and experienced drivers, so important on the narrow Amalfi Coast roads where driving can be insane. My driver was delightful; he pointed out many things, and would stop the car, get out and take my picture at beautiful spots.

I had scheduled my own visit to Pompeii with a group tour during the week, but last minute I ended up following Kathy’s original suggestion and asked the the driver to stop at the site on my way to Positano from Naples. The driver was very accommodating and brought me there for two hours for not much more than it would have cost me to do it on my own taking two buses and a train each way.

I arrived at the hotel with enough time to change before I met the loveliest local tour guide, Lucia, another fabulous recommendation of Kathy’s. Lucia walked me around Positano pointing out some of the local delights and shops, including a gelateria run by a family for three generations. Lucia was well known by all the locals and such great company. She felt like a friend even though I had just met her. Thanks to her studies in archeology, she had a great grasp on the area with information you would never get from a regular tour guide. Lucia is a must have on your trip to Positano. She gets an A +++!

Wednesday, Kathy arranged a full day boat tour to the island of Capri. It was a lovely boat that held 12 people and our Captain, Pepe, was terrific. We stopped at the white, green and blue grottos, and swam on the way to and from Capri with beautiful electric blue fish. Once we got to Capri, we took a bus to the top and then a chairlift to Anacapri where the views were even more breathtaking. It was easy to mingle with people both on and off the boat, and I never felt alone. On the way back, Pepe treated us to homemade limoncello shots which were divine and some great little pastries. You don’t get that kind of service on the big ferry which may be quicker and cheaper, but you miss the complete experience. Another A+ tour.

Thursday was the day I had originally planned to go to Pompei, so I contacted Kathy for some suggestions besides strolling and shopping. Of course she had a fabulous one: to take the bus from Positano to a little town on top of the hill called Nocelle - away from the tourists so you really get a feel how the people live. For 1.80 euro each way, I took the bus up and down with the local people, who were really friendly and wonderful. I hiked around some rural trails with beautiful views for about three hours and found it was a perfect way to spend the day.

The following day, Kathy arranged a full day tour with the driver all the way down the Amalfi Coast. We stopped in Amalfi and went to the paper factory which, believe it or not, was really very interesting. I also stopped in the church which was gorgeous. We continued to Ravello which was lovely and I enjoyed visiting the church and one of the gardens. It was a beautiful day, and at the end of it I really felt I had seen the coast the best way possible, with my trusty driver beside me. Another A plus rating! This is really worth the money, be sure to take advantage of this full day tour.

On my last full day, we went to Sorrento. We toured a beautiful inlaid wood museum which I really recommend. My driver had friends everywhere he went. He took me into this great shop that had all kinds of free tastings and I had a lot of fun.

In the afternoon, I went to a cooking class at a restaurant on the beach that Kathy had booked for me. The class was awesome, there were only 5 of us and it was totally hands on. While we cooked, they kept the prosecco flowing. At the end of the class, the five of us ate what we had cooked in the restaurant with a beautiful view of the sea. We ate and chatted for about 2.5 hours and it was nice not to eat alone. 

My favorite dining experience was at Rada Restaurant. It was fabulous - really over the top. It is a three story building located at the end of the beach with live music on the top floor, sushi and a dining room with really unique fusion foods. The awesome food, view and service make it worth every penny. 

In conclusion, I give Kathy an A+++ for her knowledge, experience and  ability to understand my needs and situation. Everything she booked for me was perfect. If you want a local who knows the ins and outs of how to plan things AND you want an expert who really cares if you have the best vacation possible and does everything in her power to be sure that happens, then there is only one person to contact: Kathy Perunic from New Tuscan Experience - even if you want the total Amalfi Coast experience.

Cynthia M. - New Jersey, USA

October 7, 2015

High School Reunion in Tuscany

I really enjoyed working with this group of friends that chose Tuscany as the destination for their reunion. Former high school classmates gathered from 4 different US cities and got the chance to introduce their spouses and reminisce. It didn't take long for everyone to gel and the fun to begin.  
Thank you, David,  for writing such a thorough review of your experience. It was a pleasure meeting you all!  - Kathy

Eight of us recently spent about two weeks in Florence and Tuscany, and had what was a memorable trip. Much of the credit for this goes to Kathy Perunic and New Tuscan Experience. I began working with Kathy in February of this year planning the itinerary for the trip. Kathy listened to me (all of us, really… I was the voice) and put together an itinerary for the group for the time in Florence and Chianti. There was a lot of back and forth over several months before arriving at the final schedule for the week. 

We found the villa in Tuscany fairly quickly with Kathy’s help, and it turned out to be as advertised, and perfect for the group. One of the things that stood out throughout this process was Kathy’s intimate understanding of the area, and the fact that she was American and spoke English, which sounds silly, but made it so much easier. There was really no detail that was too small for her attention. She did not just focus on the big stuff because the devil is really in the details, and trips can be made or unmade by the small things that go right or wrong. She clearly gets that.

Kathy met us on arrival in Florence and took us on a walking introduction to the city, then joined us for dinner. A great way to start. It made a new and unfamiliar place (to most of us) far more familiar. We then spent two days in Florence focusing on the history, art and architecture of the city. Kathy arranged for two guides (Joanna and Helen); one focusing on the city at large, and the other on the Uffizi and the art. Both were spectacularly good at what they do and absolutely made those two days meaningful. We came away with an understanding of Florence and the artistic traditions of the city that I do not think many other visitors achieve.

Our driver for the week, Simone, met us at the hotel on Saturday and took us to the villa outside of Florence where we settled in. Simone was perfect. Always cheerful, careful on the roads which seemed rare, and an excellent guide. Each day he showed up at 8, ready for the day. How he got into and out of some pretty tight spots in the hilltop towns of Tuscany I will never know, but he did.

The week was varied with something planned for each day. Most of it involved food and wine, but not all. Again, the guide (Antonella) that worked with us on three of the days was outstanding. Very knowledgeable, great sense of humor, and quite Italian which we all enjoyed. Without her we would not have come away with the depth of understanding we achieved. We also would not have found the good gelaterias.  

Kathy scheduled us for a couple of wineries each day on several of the days and always made sure that they were different from each other. One large, one smaller. Invariably, we preferred the smaller, more intimate option. One of them in Montalcino, Poggio Rubino, was the highlight of the trip. The guide, Anthony (an American!) was the best….so entertaining, but also so full of knowledge and so able to convey how the area surrounding the vineyards was going to create the wine in the end. We way overstayed there, but we just could not leave. Lunch was served on a beautiful patio/pavilion, and the wines were excellent.

Finally, the chefs for the week. We decided to have chefs (Leonardo, Monica, and Stefania) come in each night to make dinner in the Villa, and it was a perfect choice. I recommend that to anyone considering a stay. They made beautiful Tuscan food each night after talking it through with the group in advance, were personable, and became something that we all looked forward to. We did not have to think about what to do for dinner after being out and about all day.

Were there problems during the week? Yes, but so small that I am having trouble remembering what they were now. Kathy took care of most of them, and followed up on the others to make sure they do not repeat. If planning is a strength of hers, follow up is no less important and she does it so well. 

We would work with New Tuscan Experience again in a heartbeat, and I have a feeling we will have that chance. Something to look forward to. 

David H. - Washington, D.C. 

October 3, 2015

Tuscany Vacation with Friends

Hey Kathy - 

Thanks so much again for organizing everything. We had a great time and loved the villa. 
The owner was super nice, the place was super clean and kitchen off the charts. Could have spent a month there! 

Great wine tours you arranged! Super selection and diversity. Lunch was a place I had wanted to check out also so perfect that worked out.

Lucca was also fabulous. Loved the town and the food and great biking north of there. The apartment was fine for us for a couple nights. Not much of a kitchen, but plenty of easy, close food options there. The manager was very nice and we enjoyed our time there.

Also, thanks so much for the recommended hotels in Florence.  Quite enjoyed our night there.   

Will hopefully be back soon!

Mike C. - West Vancouver, Canada