Italy food, gardens and more...

whgille(FL 9b)January 23, 2012

Hello All

I am going to show you some pictures from my visit last week, I will start with the first 3 days in Rome, later on I will show you pictures of the last days.

A street of the center in Rome where we stayed and walked everywhere.

A bakery in the Jewish ghetto, it was so busy that we had to wait outside, they have a burnt look but the breads and pastries were delicious!

We took a tour to the Coloseum, our guide was Guido and was a Historian as a first job

A very good restaurant, mozarella bar

A bakery

My favorite cappuccino

Borguese museum and gardens

The local market

I will show you more pictures later of the coming attractions, you can also ask me anything that you want to know.:)


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I only had a 6'-2" co-worker as a guide - I'm 5'-2". It was June, he walked my legs off, but I saw Rome, and especially the market! He had to drag me out of there and we missed our train back to Naples. Had to take the commuter train and stand in the aisle nearly the entire trip. I would go again in a heart beat!

    Bookmark   January 23, 2012 at 5:24PM
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Boy their food choices sure beat Publix :) I hope you had a nice time.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2012 at 5:30PM
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tomncath(St Pete Z10a Heat 10)

What! No pictures of you and Cheryl? Our tomatoes look better, still, it looks like you had a yummy trip ;-)


    Bookmark   January 23, 2012 at 6:51PM
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whgille(FL 9b)

Cora - After we finished the walking tour of Rome, the plan was to get a taxi to get the fast train to Florence, the only problem was that we did not know that taxis were on strike. We walked again the cobblestone streets with suitcases to get to the newspaper stand at the plaza for tickets to walk again to the bus stop. My energy pumped up just thinking that we were going to miss the train, after we learned that is a fine of 180 euros if you don't have the bus ticket.
We got to Florence and no taxis or buses available, we walked to the Regis hotel.

Amber - The art and the food are amazing!!! it was much better than I could ever imaged. Some places they charge you to sit down, like the cappuccino in the picture cost 3 euros standing up and 6 to sit down, we had a lot of snacks walking or standing.:) There is more to come, stay tuned...

Tom - I took over 400 pictures and Cheryl will have over a 1,000 when she gets back on Saturday but our pictures are going to looked like we never changed clothes,lol. My uniform was at least 3 layers of clothing plus the heavy winter jacket. The good thing going on the coldest weather was that there were not much tourist so we could see all the attractions without lines.

Going to Florence, the beautiful!

The hotel dining room

The room

Views from the room

Tour of the walking city tour, our guide was Sylvia originally from Deland moved to Ireland as a child and did the Masters in History in Italy, I asked her to take me to places for seeds and beans and she said in all the time that she worked as a guide my request was very

The seed store

There is more to come...


    Bookmark   January 24, 2012 at 6:59AM
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Great Photos, keep them coming. So happy you had a good time. Ralph's Aunt & Uncle went and got mugged, so that changed my desire to ever go.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2012 at 7:30AM
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Gorgeous Silvia! I am so glad that it was such a wonderful trip. The seed racks look intriguing!

So, what seeds did you bring back and what was the most unusual vegetable that you ate?


    Bookmark   January 24, 2012 at 8:33AM
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marcia_m(5 and 9)

What a wonderful trip, Silvia! We were in Rome about 10 years ago. Our son knew some Italian and lived in L'Aquila while he was a grad student doing research so he was our guide. I don't think we'd go again unless with a tour group--we don't speak the Italian. :(

    Bookmark   January 24, 2012 at 10:30AM
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whgille(FL 9b)

Kathy - Sorry to hear about the incident with Ralph's family but that can happen anywhere.
I did not see any private gardens in Rome or Florence because they all live in apartments, the guide told me that you have to be rich to own an apartment and private houses were only few castles that are still left. I saw an ad on the window of a real state and they were renting 2 rooms with bath for 1,500 euros a month.

Elizabeth - The owner of the seed shop was very friendly and mailed for me few packets of seeds, also told me about favorite vegetables and he said that he can send me any seeds when I want and I got his address, he said everything but beans because the custom will think they are "bombas"lol
The way they prepare the vegetables is wonderful, even arugula tasted better with the mild dressings, Roman specialty are the purple artichokes that are very good, also liked the grilled chicories that I have some in my garden now and I will be grilling them like they do. Sylvia our guide recommended a restaurant in Florence cheap and good for lunch, they had a fixed price of 8 euros, a real bargain! considering the prices there. The owner was Gigi, a tenor, when he saw people entering the restaurant he sang a made up tune. We ordered the lunch and thought that we were very hungry and could eat anything, when we saw the first dish we knew that was impossible to eat, so we did not finish even half and Gigi came and ask me if I did not like it and I said that it was great but too big for me, the dish was Ribolita and I am going to learn how to make it, I like it a lot!

Marcia - My daughter studied Architecture in Rome for a year and she said that everything was changed since she was there, now it is very expensive considering the changing of the currency from lire to euros. It is very important to have guides especially for the art and history, otherwise you don't know what you are looking at the museums, ruins and other places.

And we continue next day in Florence at the Uffizi museum, where you need the whole day with a guide to see most important things. Our guide was an English woman who lived in Italy for over 20 years and was very knowledgeable, her name was Corina.

Ribolita in Gigi restaurant

The best salmon with grilled chicories

I like the look of even the bathrooms at the Uffizi museum

And now we are going to Tuscany

A ceramic shop were everything was beautiful!

A garden behind the shop

Next stop is a farm and a winery


Can you see the artichokes and the tomato trellis?

The wine barrels, I learn a lot about the making of the different wines, I hope to remember.

A meat shop in Sienna, wild boar is popular

A bread shop, they don't use salt unless you ask for the bread with it, flours are the best!

More vegetables in Sienna

Next stop will be going back to Rome and the Vatican.


    Bookmark   January 24, 2012 at 3:30PM
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Hey Silvia, Long Time NO See ***Waves***
How's it Going, Any up todate Garden Photos?

    Bookmark   January 24, 2012 at 5:13PM
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whgille(FL 9b)


How are you? nice to hear from you again, I was around your neighborhood last week ( not really,lol) and I was cold! Just to see the local women in mini skirts gave me chills. One of our guides was English, very nice and polite.
I don't know when I will have the time to update the pictures from my own garden, I have to do a lot of harvest and some things will be pull out.
Here are more pictures from the trip.

Vatican city views

Views from the hotel Cavalieri where we stayed in Rome


    Bookmark   January 25, 2012 at 7:43AM
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I Loved all the pictures! Looks like you had an amazing time!

    Bookmark   January 25, 2012 at 8:26AM
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What a great vacation you had. Beautiful pictures. Thanks for the tour.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2012 at 8:53AM
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L_in_FL(8B/9A Border, NW FL)

What a lovely vacation you had. Congratulations, and thanks for posting about it. Really lovely pictures.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2012 at 12:08PM
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annafl(z9b/10a Sarasota)

Oh, what a wonderful surprise to see your pictures, Silvia!!! I absolutely love everything you showed, from the first photo of the cars packed in on the street and parked sideways to the seed rack, the markets and the ceramic shop. Not to mention the history and architecture! It makes me so excited for our trip in April. We are also planning on going to Rome and Florence, probably pass through Sienna also. I'd like to stay at a bed and breakfast in southern tuscany. Preferably one where I can get a cooking class. Did you hear of any particular ones? Remember the magazine article you sent me a long time ago? It mentions one in a small town in Tuscany and I am thinking about calling that one.

Silvia, I hope you wore very comfortable shoes with all the walking you had to do without taxis! What was your very favorite thing that you did or saw? What were your favorite foods you ordered besides the ribolita? I'm so glad you had a great time!


    Bookmark   January 25, 2012 at 5:27PM
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pabrocb(Sarasota/Cape Cod)

I went to Italy for the first time a couple of years ago. I yearned for green while in Rome, because everything is stone! Our hotel was near the Borghese gardens and I'd walk over just to surround myself with grass and trees.
Later we went to the east coast and saw farmers with continuous tracks on their tractors because the land was so steep.

Carol B. in Sarasota

    Bookmark   January 25, 2012 at 6:12PM
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whgille(FL 9b)

Ariel - Funnylady - L in FL - Thank you for all your comments, I am glad to know that you enjoyed the pictures.:)

Anna - I came back with so much knowledge about the things that I saw in Italy, it was an amazing experience, everything was unbelievable! so much History, beauty and the greatest food.

We went to Tuscany, San Gimignano, Sienna and Monteriggione with a driver Luigi and the tour guide who was born in Denmark but lived in Italy for a long time, studied History there and married an Italian. Because we spend the whole day with them we got to talked about everything including our lives here in Florida, I got to know that the strongest perfume for men that I smelled when I landed at the airport in Rome is called Roma and they were listening to Barry White,lol. I said but he is dead! who is popular now and they said Eros Ramazzotti, Laura Pausini and Gina Nanini who is from the famous Nanini business where we bought the very famous pan forte and my hazelnut turrone (nougat), Sasha our guide said that she was over 50 and expecting a baby and that was scandal,lol

The 3 cities are not to be missed that is where the pilgrims go since Medieval times and the other one is where the plaza hold the horse races again since Medieval times. One of the most intriguing churches that I saw was in Sienna and had a gothic style. I have pictures for everything, some time when Cheryl gets back, I know that we will put them in order together with the ones that she took.

At the farm in Tuscany, the owner and wine maker was Donatella, who owns 3 hotels in the area. She also did the cooking for us and made us sample her wine with every dish. I will get all the info when Cheryl gets home this weekend.

Anna, the only thing that I can advice you is to prepare everything in advance, the more the better. Cheryl did all the arrangements before we went there and it was like clockwork, except the taxis,lol. I wore my sneakers and did not care that people around town were very elegant, saw a lot of fur and big designer names.

I brought with me a lot of food to be enjoy and remember the good time that I had. I particular like the roasted hazelnuts, giant raisins with the seeds. In the market we bought some wild strawberries out of this world! And we both love the pizza that were done in real oven that your hand got a little bit black, 2 outstanding ones were made with Porcini mushrooms (I brought some with me) and the other one with zucchini flowers. From the pasta dishes the ones that were homemade were delicious, all the cheeses that we sampled were amazing! The bread and the pastries were to die for, I don't think that I ever repeated any of these. Because there were so many choices and so little time, I would asked for the most popular one.

The Chianti wine was surprisingly excellent not like the Chianti that I had here, I asked them why so they gave me the name of the distributor to contact him, they said that changes in temperature can change the wine.

The last day in Rome after the Vatican city tour with an Italian Historian, we went back to the hotel and had appointments for the best spa in Europe but first we stayed in the Turkish baths that had walls made of amethyst and the whirlpool, I had the ayurvedic massage that I really needed after all that walking.

I will send you all the info so you can make the right tour for you. Guides are very important because you get all the knowledge that they have about very important facts that otherwise you would not know. I have never seen History come alive like I saw this time in Italy, there is just so much to see and food to eat.:)
The Vatican no matter what religion you are is a treasure to see and not to miss!


    Bookmark   January 25, 2012 at 6:34PM
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whgille(FL 9b)

Carol - I did not see your posting, I was so busy that I did not missed anything.:) Hope that you came back with good memories.

Anna - You must see the David in Florence, it is impressive! Also before you go, the guide at the Coloseum said that Stanford University had the files on over 250 wild plants from that time. We had the books I think is Frommers with maps but the hotel had better and more up to date.


    Bookmark   January 25, 2012 at 6:59PM
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tomncath(St Pete Z10a Heat 10)

Sigh, as an end-boomer I can only dream of trips like that...I'm a generation behind with the $ :-(

    Bookmark   January 25, 2012 at 7:07PM
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whgille(FL 9b)

Tom - Don't feel bad that you did not go, Willy did not either.-( If he gets upset with the things that I ate I remind him of the walking,lol.
Here are some more pictures for you.

The wild strawberries

Hazelnuts vendor, they also had the best chestnuts!


Cold cuts are really good!

There is water every where and you can drink good water out of the faucet

Trevi fountain


    Bookmark   January 26, 2012 at 1:17PM
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Your trip reports are always so interesting, Silvia. Thanks!

    Bookmark   January 26, 2012 at 7:18PM
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annafl(z9b/10a Sarasota)

Fantastic, Silvia! Your photos are great. I love seeing all the marketplaces and the famous sites. The food sounds incredible too. How did you go about finding tour guides? Is that easy or do you have to do that in advance? Did the tour guides drive you around southern tuscany? Did you rent a car or how did you get around besides on foot? We are thinking of renting a car to explore, but it sounds a little scary. Were the drivers crazy?


    Bookmark   January 26, 2012 at 10:16PM
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It is funny that you mentioned how good the chestnuts were. I was going to buy some chestnuts for roasting at one of our local veggie stands this past November. The guy at the register (one of the owners I think) who sounded Italian stopped me from buying them. He said that they were from Florida and I should wait until he got Italian chestnuts in because they are so much better. He told me that you can tell them apart in the store because they are bigger and darker. Did the ones you have fit that description?

    Bookmark   January 26, 2012 at 10:29PM
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whgille(FL 9b)

Writersblock - You are welcome, I try to take you to the places the same way that I saw them and what caught my attention. I am glad that you liked them.

Anna - We have friends who rented a villa in Italy for 4 couples, some are chefs and they were cooking some of their meals with local ingredients, they gave us the names of the tour guide they had in Tuscany. Cheryl made all the calls and compared prices for the same quality tour and took different ones. We had 5 different guides and they were all good in their own style and stayed longer than the time we agreed. One tour ended 4 hours later! which we were happy of course. Sasha and Luigi drove us around Tuscany and took us shopping, I was talking to them about our lives in Florida and the garden and that I made pickles and preserves and she was so thrilled to hear all, she kept saying Madonna! lol.
Driving outside the cities is nice but in the city like Rome, it gets complicated! you only see small cars, motorcycles and bicycles and everybody walked, most people are very fit. The Italian dogs walk very fast and they don't bark. I told my dogs when I came back how rich and spoiled they are having a backyard,lol
If you are interested in History, Art, Architecture, you do need a guide to give you in a small time some of his knowledge. I will send you by mail all the info, the more you prepare in advance, the happier that you will be.
We walked from the time we got up till we went to sleep, except the day we went to Tuscany with Luigi, the driver and Sasha the guide.

Derbyka - The chestnuts that I had roasting at the streets in Italy were only comparable to the ones that I had roasting at the streets in NY around Christmas time. Even the ones that I bought here in BJ's and said from Italy we did not like them.
The chestnuts vendors and the ones at the market did not looked Italian, so I asked them and he told me they were from Bangladesh, very courteous.
Some more pictures for you.

January and July are official sale dates in the stores, here are some of the designer shops.

Sasha told me that her Italian husband cooks at home and one of her favorite food at the market were the greens mixed, they have some for salad and some for soup, artichokes are everywhere.

Look at this door in Florence

One of my favorite places in Florence is called Verrazano and they have everything! and you can sit down and have a capuccino, pastries, bread or pizza. The oven, I had the grilled vegetable focaccia

When I asked Guido what he ate in his house, he said pasta with a simple tomato sauce, he only ate meat 2 times a month, and outside when working he had a panini or pizza, he said you have to be a criminal to ruin pizza! lol. Well, their pizza don't run oil like the one here, cheese and flours are excellent in Italy.

Mushrooms at the Florence market, I bought a bag of porcini

Wild boar at the market

The museum, Uffizi

The Vatican, love those marble floors!


    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 7:11AM
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Silvia,I'm glad You had a great trip.Excellent pictures,as always.I love the way the cars are parked in the first pic-very practical use of space.I've just rented the second season of "Spartacus-Gods of the arena" on DVD,so after seeing the pics of the colosseum & all the good food,I think I will have to make a fresh seafood marinar to make my "dinner & a movie night" complete.Welcome home :)

    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 8:55AM
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whgille(FL 9b)

Darcy - Thank you. When driving from the airport to the hotel, I thought that I was in the Indy car race,lol, I was holding tight in my seat. Walking on the very narrow streets means to watch your back, front, and sides. And I don't know how they maneuver to walk some in high heels, cobblestone streets are for flats.

Guido our guide, had a History degree and his mother was an Historian also and they work for the city as such. He told us that now when we watch Roman history and movies based on that we will remember what he told us. The Coloseum is bigger than life, such strong structure. There are a lot of paintings and names of gladiators and by the sign of the fingers you could tell if they survived the battle or not. I asked him if they had women gladiators and he said yes but they made them fight with dwarfs, can you image? They had an elaborate sort of elevator to bring the animals to the arena. He said that Smithsonian produced an issue together with Italy and is very good and that we could get the past issue.

Here is the Coloseum entrance lined with trees, a lot of olives and bay, smelled lemony around there.

Enjoy your movie and dinner, I am also going to see sometimes Spartacus.:)


    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 1:28PM
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tomncath(St Pete Z10a Heat 10)

Great pictures Silvia, I can tell Cheryl set up an unforgettable experience.

Were they selling those citrus trees? How in the world did they protect them from the cold and have them fruiting now?


    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 8:51AM
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whgille(FL 9b)

Thank you Tom, Cheryl is coming back today with all the goodies that we bought, I will be eating and remembering :) it was for sure an unforgettable experience! She even showed me the building where she lived when she was a student at Cornell, everyone complimented her on her Italian.

About the trees that is the first thing that I noticed, not only they were fruiting and not protected but had an amazing taste and they were in containers, I should of asked them about their mix, they were incredible, even the peel was good I had some bread with honey and orange peel on top, delicious! And yes that was a shop what we would call a nursery here and had a different plants for sale.

When I was at the winery, they told me that they never water the grapes that they were dormant now and sometimes they used a cover crop of fava beans. I asked the owner about her vegetable garden and she said she is going to send me her favorite seeds that some of her veggies were perennial. Remember the seed store? yesterday I had the package in the mail, do you like different chicories?

About the magazine article about the history I made a mistake and is not the Smithsonian but National Geographic.-(

Here is the Borghese gardens where there were a lot of citrus, also had them as spaliers.


    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 1:06PM
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I'd love to know how they do that, too. A couple of years ago I was in Ghent, a little later in the year but it was still about -4 degrees centigrade (lower 20s Fahrenheit), and the garden shops/florists all had the most beautiful little citrus trees with both fruit and blossom, and also fruiting olives.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 3:56PM
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tomncath(St Pete Z10a Heat 10)

Just blows my mind Silvia, sure wish we knew what that soil mix was and how they're getting them to to fruit in such cold conditions.

We like chicories but it's so buggy here I have no idea how they would do....


    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 5:07PM
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I have only one more question; when a well traveled friend learned I would be working in Italy/Europe for a brief time, she warned me to take at least one roll of American toilet tissue. I'm so glad I did! Hopefully, that situation has improved over the past 25 years?

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 5:42AM
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whgille(FL 9b)

Writersblock - They had some beautiful flowers at the hotels that we stayed and the tables at a lot of restaurants had fresh flowers. Outside in the streets there were flowering bulbs in boxes. The Cavalieri hotel had some beautiful orchids around the lobby together with the biggest collection of art of any hotel in the world, it took us at least an hour to see all the paintings and they gave us an audio guide.

Cora - I don't know how it was 25 years ago, but things change and a big no, it is not like that today, public bathrooms charge you a fee to use them.-(

Tom - Cheryl is back and she said that is going to snow next week, she had more time to visit wineries and other interesting places, we are going to look today at the pictures that she took. She bought some leather goods at the Florence market, the best place to shop for that.
The last day at the hotel we looked at the prices for breakfast and had a lot of names on the menu that we did not recognize and the price was 200 euros, so we decided to have them packed a breakfast box from the free breakfast buffet to take it to the airport and it was good.

Here are some of the things that she brought, pan forte is wrapped in paper like gifts and they told us that last at least 1 month. In fact anytime that you buy baked goods they wrap them nicely even with a gift string. Now that I am reusing the plastic bags I noticed that they are of a different stronger material.
A lot of beans, dried fruit, chocolates, wine and cheese is in the fridge.:)


    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 8:34AM
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Thanks for sharing your wonderful trip!
I love Italy!

    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 7:39AM
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OK Bit of a Strange Question...
But do You have any Close ups of the Centaurs on that floor?
Please and Thanks
Centaurs ROCK!!!

    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 8:24AM
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whgille(FL 9b)

c9pilot - Thank you and is nice to know that you love Italy.

NC - I don't remember getting close ups of anything because the guide was always telling us about all the things that we saw and it was very interesting! I took very fast pictures,:)

Here are some more pictures in Florence


    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 9:15AM
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Looks like you two had a beautiful trip, Silvia. I hope so much I'll be able to go there some day.


    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 6:25PM
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whgille(FL 9b)

Hi Bill

We had a great time! and I am glad we are not there this week with all the snow and bad weather. It is a trip of a lifetime in my opinion, I learned a lot and had fun at the same time.

I put the chocolates away from me,lol, they are the best!


    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 6:41PM
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Sylvia, what great photos, I enjoyed looking through all of them and reading of your journey.

I love the idea of having a guide and wonder if you have any suggestions how one would go about making arrangements to find such a person in other areas of Europe? How awesome that your guides were historians as well.

I can sure see the advantage of having Cheryl's skills involved in your planning, what an asset she was!

Thank you for taking us along.


    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 10:12AM
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whgille(FL 9b)

Hi Kathy

Thank you. Planning well before in advance makes the trip a success. When the places have history, art and other attractions it is very important that somebody explains what you are looking. All the tour guides that we had were very knowledgeable and we got the benefit of some of their knowledge in a very short time. Cheryl told me that she arranged the individual tours through But if you are looking for other type of tours and cities in Europe some good places to check would be:

Hope that any future journey is successful and remember planning is the key.


    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 1:48PM
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