Day 1. The car renting at Milan was no problem but we lost one bag for a week. They finally delivered it at Bauer Hotel in Venice. We landed in Stresa in about 40 minutes and Borromees Palace was incredible. It is one of the most beautiful places we have ever stayed in the whole world. Luckily they put us in a big quad room and charged us 430 Euros per day. I would rate that hotel as a 10. We drove to Switzerland side the next day and after that driving to (in the Alfa Romeo) Verona was about 3 hours. But finding the guide was quite difficult once inside the city. I stopped at the train station and called the guide to come and get us. The guide was good, spoke decent English and because it was hot, he drove us around for about an hour explaining the history. We loved it. The hotel Accademia Verona was in downtown and was ok, no good view though (rating 6). Walking in the evening around the center square was fun.
Day 4 we drove to Cortina and loved the Dolomite mountains. I wish we stayed there one more day. The hotel was ok (rating 7) but there were other 4 star hotels situated with better mountain views. Day 5 we drove to Venice and dropping of the car was ok. There is no sign for rental cars at all. We took the private boat to Bauer hotel. Hotel was good but the std room had no view at all and we felt it was too expensive for the overall convenience. The breakfast was served in a beautiful location though. I would rate it as 7. The Gondola ride was ridiculously expensive at 140 Euros for a 50 minute ride but we had to do it once.
Day 6: The tours to Murano and Burano were excellent thanks to the guide. He was very good and honest and began at 11:15 AM and completed at 5:30PM. He was also the owner of the tour company. The walking tour in the morning was ok, we were a little late and started at 9:20AM but she rushed out at 11AM. You can easily skip that and advise us to walk around on our own. She made us avoid the long line to the inside of San Marcos basilica and that was the only advantage.
Day 7: Guide to Trieste was ok, but the tour to the caves was good. The ruins were very interesting.
Day 9: Taking train to Florence was fun and Bauer hotel booked the tickets. There was a taxi strike and we had to walk to the hotel. But that was not too far. The hotel De La Ville was very good . Walking around in the city was fun.
Day 10: No problem going to Pisa by local train. Came back by 5 pm and went to see David and other sculptures. Had to stand in hot sun for tickets for 1.5 hours. We should have booked the tickets in advance through the hotel.
Day 11: Morning we checked out and went to another sculpture museum which was very good, we missed one more important museum so we should have stayed one more day. Renting the car took 2.5 hours because of their inefficiency and we left by 5PM and drove to Assisi.
Day 12: Assisi hotel was beautiful (rate 8) and so was the town. Left for Paganica by 2:30PM. Instead of taking three hours it took 6 hours because the roads are small and we got lost many times when we hit small towns. We found that Paganica is not at the edge of Abruzzo national park. It is the entrance to another park called Gran Sasso. So we missed Abruzzo completely.
Day 13: We drove around in Gran Sasso and visited a couple of medieval ruins way up in the mountains (Castello Rocco). That stay requires one more day even for Gran Sasso. In the evening we drove to Rome airport and dropped our car by 10PM. There is no sign again for rental return so we lost one hour trying to find it. We paid 53 Euros to get to the hotel by 10PM and the taxi driver was excellent. The hotel Colonna Palace was good (rate 7).
Day 14 Morning guide to Roma was very good, she was from Sweden. It was worth it. Afternoon guide to Vatican was the best, a real professional.
Day 15: Guide to Ostia Antica was ok. The ruins were great to visit though.
Day 16: We were driven to Pompeii in the morning and reached there by 12 noon. The guide showed us the highlights only and missed showing us the second group of casts of bodies as well as the largest arena. It was not important to go for big lunch and after that they decided that it is easier to travel to Naples than go to Sorrento. We reached the ferry at about 4:40 PM and took a 5PM one to Capri. Hotel Luna at Capri was beautiful and but we did not have sea side room. We badly missed it. I rate the hotel as 8.
Day 17: Capri was beautiful and we rented a boat for 150 Euro to take us around the island for 3.5 hours. The boat guy was very good and let us swim in the ocean on three different times. That was the best 150 Euro we ever spent in Italy for a tour. You can not really miss seeing the blue grotto there. Overall Isle of Capri gave us the best value and fun.
Day 18: Ferried to Naples and was received by the guide at the ferry terminal, rushed to the museum. She was very good and showed us the highlights but that was enough. In the afternoon we went to visit Herculaneum because of Pompeii's unconvincing visit. That was great. It cost us 100 Euros for a taxi for the full 4 hour trip. We thoroughly enjoyed the trip.
Day 19: Flew to Catania without a problem, got received at the airport by the guide. She showed us the town but it was hot and a bit boring too. The visit to baroness was great though. Even the guide was thrilled and complimented Angela, our tour contact. The hotel at Taormina Villa Diodoro was beautiful, my rating is 8. Taormina is the city we loved at night to walk around. The cooking class that night was exotic and great. Thank you for that. We went there by 6:30PM and ate at 10:30PM.
Day 20: Drive to Ragusa was good, Lunch at baroness was fantastic. She was very welcoming, She made sure her American neighbor came and spent time with us during the entire lunch. I would love to go back for lunch again! She also runs bed and breakfast (as well as cooking lady) and we wish we had stayed there for a day!
Afternoon guide at Syracusa was very good.
Day 21: Morning visit to Mt Etna was great. Guide and the driver was energetic and very good. So it was a waste returning for just lunch. We should have skipped it and trekked Mt Etna. He was very willing to spend the whole day with us and we were ready.
Day 22: Island of Volcano and Lipari visit was great, we loved it. The guide was very good and tried his best to make us happy. We climbed the volcano as well as we toured the island in the boat. But most importantly we found that there was an island nearby called Stromboli that continuously put out lava and best visible at night. There was a boat leaving at 8PM from Volcano and Lipari and returning back by 10:30PM. But that requires a stay in either Lipari or Volcano island. If we only knew it, we would have jumped at the opportunity to do it. We could have skipped seeing Catania the first day and spent that night there. The second day we could have taken cooking class. The overall experience at Sicily was very good.
Day 23: Going to Taormina airport was no problem but it was a zoo out there. We barely caught the flight.
It was a wonderful experience especially when in Sicily they take it so easy. I found that they are not stressed because the towns are built in a way they can walk. Next, they have no medical insurance scare. Thirdly they spend very little for college education. With those three combined with the desire to keep the old buildings maintained, not rebuild them, makes it a stress free life.
Like I said, we had a great time overall I will be happy to recommend you to my friends, I rate you as 10.
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