A sweet tour manager, Claudia, guided 47 Chamber of Commerce guests all around Tuscany in just seven days. We toured Florence, Lucca, Pisa, Siena, San Gimignano, Cinque Terre, and Pistoia. Paula and I extended our trip by traveling to Rome and did it without a tour manager!
Claudia, our tour manager
I will have to write a blog post for every day just to help me remember where we were and what we experienced. Today, I'm just reflecting on several things overall....
Paula's husband, Bill, drove us to the Spokane airport and we arrived three hours early! We met up with other members of our local Chamber and all wondered why we arrived so early considering it would be 16.5 hours before we arrived in Florence.
Phil and Marilyn Irvine
Mona McRoberts and Carole Asbury
I told the Montecatini hotel clerk, "we Americans are so spoiled," when she tried to explain why their WiFi was so slow. Several times throughout the week it didn't work at all.
We had breakfast everyday in our hotel, including bacon and eggs. We were a bit surprised to be charged for a bottle of water at our first meal, so we saved the bottle and re-filled it with tap water for subsequent meals. The dining room tables were set so beautifully for every meal. We noticed only salt shakers on each table and eventually we discovered one pepper grinder to be shared by all 47 of us. What? Italians do not season their food with pepper?
Coffee came from a machine and one could choose regular, latte, cappuccino, or chocolate. I thought the regular coffee was a bit too strong so I drank a lot of cappuccino every morning. Our room had an electric tea kettle, but no coffee or tea. Starbucks does not exist in Italy....at least we never found one. The coffee shops we visited served cappuccino in small cups and espresso in even smaller ones. I wonder what Italians think of our super-sized coffee servings??
My companion, Paula, endured my impatient moments (long, inefficient lines) and my need for a little wine every night. She delighted me with her interaction with strangers.... She loves people and had no trouble making new friends on the plane, the train, at St. Peter's Square, in the pizzeria, or on the street. She teased a young man on the airplane, appearing to steal his wine, because the hostess ignored us. She learned he was traveling to Africa to surprise his family that he had not seen in two years! They became fast friends throughout the rest of the flight! She thanked all waiters profusely, finding out about their birthplaces and families. We met servers from Bangladesh, Egypt, Romania, Holland, Croatia, and London. She had the ability to get people to help us with our luggage, find our way when we were lost, and share their stories!
We ate Gelato every day, sometimes more than once, sometimes as our bedtime snack. You can buy it in small little take-away cups and the servers give you three choices, even for the smallest cups. We could get Gelato in bars, deli's, restaurants, pizzerias. Lemon became our favorite choice. We found out the difference between our ice cream and their Gelato courtesy of Huffington Post:
Spring arrived at my house while I was away. Everything, including the Lewiston Hill, is green. That, along with my own bed, made the homecoming so sweet.