Where to begin?!
Our recent very much delayed honeymoon to Italy was an absolute dream. First, Derek was the calming force when we had to push it back not once, but twice due to COVID, and I’m so glad we decided to keep our plans because it was definitely worth the wait. The following is a review of our hotels and tours by cities.
We flew into Rome and stayed at a boutique hotel that Derek chose for us that was as a driver said “in the back of that palace”. That palace ended up being in the heart of Piazza Navona where we even had breakfast at our hotel restaurant that had a terrace overlooking the beautiful fountains (see pic). The hotel was in walking distance to all major sites in Rome, and Derek arranged for a semi-private tour of the Vatican. The semi-private tour consisted of my husband and I and one other person as well as the lovely guide. It was the perfect intimate tour and I was thankful we did not decide to do a large group tour as we enjoyed getting to know our guide and her extensive knowledge of the art in the Vatican.
Next, we took the train to Naples and a tour of Pompeii and then to Positano. This was one of my favorite tours and having a private guide made it so much more special. At Positano, we stayed at seaview boutique hotel that Derek chose for us. The hotel only had 25 rooms so the staff was extremely attentive and we loved the feel of the small hotel. We had a beautiful terrace with a view of Positano and there was also a rooftop pool as well as a restaurant (get the gnocchi here) that had a similar view. It was also a good walking location to anywhere in town. There was a wonderful breakfast each morning and one night we opted to do the wine tasting at the hotel which was lovely as well. One of the days in Positano we did a driving tour along the Amalfi coast which ended up being one of my favorite tours. Roberto our driver who became more like a friend took us to the town of Amalfi where we did a little shopping and then to what ended up being one of my favorite towns, Ravello. Ravello is apparently a favorite place for local Italians to stay the weekend. I would never have thought of visiting here if not for Derek.
FYI: the train is my new favorite means of transportation - very smooth and relaxing, and we enjoyed seeing the countryside and landscape on the way. We chose to upgrade to business class which was worth it as it was very roomy and relaxing.
After Positano, we took the train from Naples to Florence. We stayed at a very nice hotel which again was very central to everything in Florence. At every town, our drivers would even comment at what a nice hotel and location our travel agent had chosen for us. While in Florence, Derek arranged for a private tour of the Academia and Uffizi Gallery which we thoroughly enjoyed with our local guide, Andreas. One of the days in Florence, Derek arranged for our driver, Sauro, to take us on an all day tour of Tusancy. We went to the beautiful Dei winery and then visited the medieval towns of Montepulciano, Montalcino, and Pienza. Derek arranged for a lunch at Taverna del Grappolo Blu in Montalcino which to our surprised when we arrived had a Michelin star. As foodies, my husband and I very much enjoyed the local cuisine this place offered.
After Florence, we took the rail went up to Venice where we were picked up by a private water limousine. Such a fantastic way to arrive to our hotel in Venice and one of our favorite experiences seeing Venice from the water. We stayed at a beautiful converted palace Derek chose for us, which was a historical building with beautiful ballrooms and fresco paintings everywhere. They ended up upgrading our room and we had a rooftop terrace with breathtaking views of Venice. The historical take-you-back-in-time feel of this hotel made it one of my favorite places to stay. It also had a beautiful restaurant with a terrace on the canal where they hosted breakfast each morning. For us it was central if you wanted to walk to everything in Venice but there was also a gondola/water taxi station right next door as well.
Bellagio, Lake Como
Our final stop on this dream vacation was to head to Lake Como. Derek chose a small town called Bellagio which we found out is named “the pearl of the lake”. It was about a 45 minute windy drive from the town of Como where we got off the train, but once we got there, we knew it was worth the drive! We stayed at the beautiful hotel, which was a huge historical villa that was at the heart of town. The hotel had a gorgeous pool that overlooked the lake and the mountains, beautiful ballrooms, lounges, and a couple lovely bars and restaurants including a Michelin star restaurant Each night they had a piano player at the outside terrace that would then move inside and play in the gorgeous lounge area outside of the restaurant. The hotel was also few minute walk to anything in town. This hotel was so gorgeous that it was even included on a stop on some of the famous villa boat tours. Derek really chose the perfect spot to end our dream honeymoon.
As a final note, when we decided to go to Italy, I talked to a few travel agents that had “standard tours” set up, but my husband and I really wanted to customize a trip to what we wanted and that was when Derek was recommended to us. When I spoke to Derek, we only had an idea of some of the cities and places we really wanted to see and the type of hotels we typically enjoy staying at. Derek really listened to all of our wants and preferences and was able to take what little info we gave him and curate a dream two week vacation for us that I know was not easy as there were many, many moving parts! Derek was worth every penny and more!
Grazie millie, Derek!
Jaclyn and Gary S.
(images provided by clients - Thank you!)