Italy Tour: Jean & Bill O'Brien

Umfulana and Dr. Jerry Crippen arranged our 17 day vacation in Italy and it was fantastic. All went smoothly, from the rental car pick-up and return, to the reception at our hotels and B&Bs. Our itinery allowed for a leisurely pace in “seeing the sights” and enjoying the culture of our host country. The locations and comforts of our hotels were outstanding – we were able to park the auto in the cities and enjoy a comfortable walk to the historical and cultural attractions, while in the rural areas we were a short drive to places to see. The best recommendation that we can give is an answer to the question, “Would we use Umfulana again?”, and it is a resounding “Yes!”.

Here are my specific comments:

1. Avis Auto Rental – Excellent. Provided us with a new Ford station wagon that suited our needs very well. Happy we went to the Group E size as we needed it to accomodate our luggage. We decided to return it in Rome (near the Hotel Modigliani) rather than having to take it to a public garage on our last night and have to drive from downtown Rome to the airport on the morning of departure. The hotel arranged for a van in the morning to take us to the airport, cost 70 euros for the 4 of us.

Before leaving home, I updated my GPS to include Italy and Southern Switzerland, and it was fantastic in getting us to our destinations in urban and rural areas with no trouble. Suggest that any who travel by auto in Italy either do the same or rent a GPS.

2. City Hotel in Rome- we gave it an excellent rating for several reasons. We arrived from the airport a little after 10:00 a.m., and were immediately checked into our rooms. This was quite good as it allowed us to nap after the all night flight from the States. The hotel staff is very accomodating to client needs; the hotel is clean and well appointed, and breakfast was very good with a variety of foods. It's location close to the Piazza Barbarini allows for a comfortable walk to many attractions, or a taxi ride at a reasonable cost.

3. Vineyard near Vagliagli – one of the best stays that we had – give it an “A+” rating. Upon arrival we were treated with a complimentary glass of wine in the garden, and also a complimentary bottle of wine in our rooms. The rooms are large, clean and quite comfortable. Ate our evening meal in Dievole's restaurant – food and wine was excellent. Also, breakfast was excellent. The owners noticed from my passport that one of the days that we were there (April 30th) was my birthday, and on our departure they presented me with a bottle of their olive oil – nice touch!

4. In a Palazzo in Firenze – good location next to the U.S. Consulate. For security reasons, the street is closed to through traffic, which allowed us to park on the street in front of the hotel at no cost. Also, with no traffic, the area is very quiet at night. The residenza is clean and neat; rooms small but adequate. Roberto our host was helpful and accomodating. Small selection of breakfast foods and a bit bland, but adequate.

5. Castello in Anscona – very good location along the lake-front. Hotel was one of our favorites – well appointed, clean and comfortable with free parking in the rear. We would rate it as a 4 Star. Breakfast was excellent with a wide variey of foods. Ate one evening meal in the hotel and we rated it as excellent. After the hectic pace of Firenze, we found Anscona a place to relax and re-charge our batteries!

6.In a Villa over a lake- our favorite! Catia and Raphael were superb hosts. Upon arrival, Catia provided us with a bottle of wine on their patio, along with with olives and potato chips. Our rooms were spacious, clean and well appointed with a magnificent view of Lake Garda. While we rested after arrival, Catia make reservations for dinner for us at a ristorante in San Michele and arranged our menu of antipaste, noodles with truffles accompanied by wines of the region – it was excellent and reasonably priced. The next evening she made dinner reservations for us in Bogliaco at the Ristorante Allo Scoglio which specialized in fish. Excellent and reasonable, only 71 euros for the 4 of us which included our wines. There we met the chef; he treated us to after dinner drinks and took us on a tour of his kitchen.

You may want to warn future travelers to Dimora Bolsone who are using a GPS to follow your directions rather than the direct route given by the GPS. The GPS took us up a narrow, winding and perilous route that was quite nerve wracking.

The breakfast served by Dimora Bolsone was by far the best we had on our travels. The eggs from their chickens, fruits and herbs from their garden, olives and olive oil from their trees – it was really fantastic. After breakfast there, we didn't need lunch!

7. In a hotel next to the Canale Grande in Venezia – our least favorite accommodations. I have a bad knee, so the 43 steps up to and down again from the hotel entrance was not pleasant. Our rooms faced on a side canal where the garbage barge came to collect the trash from the area in the morning; hence it was very noisy early in the morning. Water pressure in the shower was unreliable and several times as we showered it slowed to a trickle. Breakfast, while served in our rooms, was spartan with a high concentration of carbohydrates. We would have gladly paid 100 euros more a night for better accomodations in Venezia as we were very pleased with our city-wide experience there. The islands of Murano and Burano are not to be missed, as well as a visit to Lido, where we had an excellent lunch, as we did in Burano.

Your recommodation on the parking garage was quite good and easy to locate. Also, pleasantly surprised that our 3 day parking fee only came to 30 euros.

8. City hotel in Bologna – again, an excellent hotel; well located, well appointed, clean and comfortable and of a 4 Star class. Breakfast was excellent with many choices of food and drinks. A nice touch was the free internet service that the hotel provided in the lounge. Very pleased with our stay there.

9. Our last night in Italy was another very pleasant stay at a City hotel in Rome.

That concludes my report on the accomodations in which you arranged for us to stay. Again, you did an outstanding job, and we thank you for your efforts to make our experience comfortable and memorable.