Roma – Day 1

Friday, September 7, 2012

Arriviamo a Roma!  At the Fiumicino Aeropuerto, we gathered our Denver/Charlotte group and our luggage before attempting to find Anne (flying from Vermont/NYC), Mary (Des Moines), and our limo/taxi drivers.  After the whirlwind of activity surrounding our Denver to Charlotte flight, our arrival went off without a hitch. The Passport Control agents in Rome seemed to have no interest in even checking our passports, let alone stamping them, much to Amy’s chagrin, since this is her passport’s virgin voyage.

But we loaded the two FacileTaxi cars and were eventually deposited at our hotel, the Hotel Smeraldo.  First order of business . . . catch our breaths, get situated in the rooms, and then gather for lunch and our Hop On, Hop Off bus tour.  I purchased the bus passes from the hotel, before scurrying off to Piazza Navona to secure the Roma Passes at a news kiosk.

Today’s plan would be for all of us to sit on the two-level bus, sit on the upper deck, listen to the mediocre narration and see the city.  While some people could barely keep their eyes open, we all got the trip around, and disembarked at the Colisseum.  Once on our feet again, we realized how exhausted we were, and made our separate decisions about actually going into the giant ruins.  Some of the group got back on the bus, four more stops, and exited the bus closer to our hotel to take naps.  Ann, Sarah and I decided we might as well explore it now, since it was standing right in front of us in all its glory. And the lions ate the Christians . . . "What would Jesus do . . . ?????"

No matter how the afternoon ended for each of us, the evening began with a stroll over the Tiber River to Trastevere and dinner at Taverna Trilussa before returning to our hotel.  Trastevere is a very hopping place, especially on a Friday night, but my very tired ducklings declined the festivities this time . . .

5.47 miles logged today on my pedometer, before a long awaited sleep after our first day in Italy!

Off to Italy!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

I can’t believe our Italy trip is beginning, but here is the limo driver knocking at my door, and three women are waiting in the stretch white car, as well as the three that are chatting at my kitchen island, all ready to go.  Am I?  I think I have everything, and probably more than everything I need.  The weather generally is mild, and I’ve packed lightweight items for the relative heat of Rome in early September, as well as the long pants and long sleeves I will need after a few days.

Two and a half weeks of soaking up the Italian sunshine, some of the best art in the world, exquisite cuisine, and the company of one another.  Ten of us . . . in Rome, Siena, Florence, Lucca, and Venice . . . and I hope to give you a taste of our adventures right here on this site, day by day, as often as I possibly can.

Ten years ago I took my first group of women to Italy, and I love the country more each time, especially when I can introduce others to some of what draws me to it.  Yes, I know, I’m part Italian, so perhaps that counts for something, but there is an exuberance in Italy that I don’t find anywhere else.  I plan to get my fill of it!

My info packet, the staple of each travel adventure, is full, each page of reservations, phone numbers, and maps tucked into its proper section of the binder:  Trains, Planes and Automobiles; Rome; Siena, Florence, Lucca; Venice; and Miscellaneous.  I announce to the women, “If I get hit by a train or fall over in a dead flop, just know that this clear binder has all the information you need for the trip.  You can step over me and move on to Roma!”

Then my cell phone began to ring with the US Air updates . . . updates telling us our flight from Denver to Charlotte would be an hour late . . . and then two hours late . . . and we only had a one-hour layover in Charlotte for our flight to Rome.  Clearly we wouldn’t make it, and I have two travelers arriving from other places, with no cell phones so no contact.

The very, very short story is that US Air had an earlier flight, for which we had ALMOST enough time to board.  We were booked on the flight, luggage quickly checked, and a U.S. Air ticket agent RAN us to the security line, past the hundreds of waiting passengers, to the front of the security check point, while dumbfounded passengers watched us buzz through ahead of them.  One man looked toward me and asked, “Who ARE all of you?”  It took everything I had to stuff my mouth so I wouldn’t respond flippantly, “The CIA!”

The gate agents were ready to close the doors, had already cleared a stand-by passenger instead of the last of us, and I was afraid Sarah wouldn’t be on the plane.  Certainly I wouldn’t have left without her.  But that US Air ticket agent communicated with the gate agents, and the stand-by person was booted off the plane, making room for Sarah and me.  We got to Charlotte with three hours to spare, and bushels of gratitude for the airline, for a change.  After meeting up with our Charlotte traveler, making introductions all around, trolling the concourse for croissants, coffee, sandwiches and bottled water, we headed for the sign that said:

We head for this door, like iron filings to a magnet . . . now eight travelers, and soon to be ten, as we meet with our Iowa and Vermont friends in the Roma airport.

Italy Women – September 6-23, 2012

Italy Women 2012
Rome, Siena, Florence, Lucca, Venice
Ah, Bella Italia!  Wouldn’t we love to explore her majestic art, architecture, and cuisine, her serene villages and vineyards, her romantic coastlines and waterways for half of the rest of our lives?  Well, on this Women’s Adventure, we’ll have to settle for just a bit less than that, taking in some of the spectacular sights in the top half of “the boot”. 
We’ll begin in Rome, one of the most cultural cities in the world, and we will stay four nights here.  We’ll visit the Colosseum, the Forum, and the Vatican.  Throw your pennies in the Trevi Fountain and make your wishes come true.   Spend a leisurely evening eating dinner on the edge of the Piazza Navona or the Campo di Fiori (or both!).  Shop on the exquisite Via Condotti, sit on the Spanish Steps, and spend an afternoon at the Borghese Gallery, where Bernini’s statue of Apollo chasing Daphne will take your breath away. 
Then we’ll travel by train to begin our stay in Tuscany, beginning with one night in Siena, where the Palio is held each year at the Campo.  We’ll have a half-day private tour with my friend Viviana Girola, and explore the walkways, churches, shops and alleys of this old world town. We will then stay five days in Florence, strolling on the Ponte Vecchio to the other side of the Arno, listening to the monks chant their 5:00 Mass near the Piazale Michelangelo, stopping at a frutta e verdura market for a fresh afternoon snack.  After a half day private walking tour to get a feel for the history of Florence, we will visit the old masters in the Uffizi Gallery and the exquisite statue of Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia.  Franco treats us like queens at Il Porcospino, a local ristorante near the Medici Chapel.  And always there is espresso, cappuccino, gelato and other delicious culinary delights.
Day trips to Fiesole and Vinci will give us a taste of some northern Tuscany towns, and are easy to reach by train or short bus.  If we have time, we might even have a language lesson or two, taught by my Italian tutor, Leonardo d’Amato.
After kissing Florence goodbye, we will head to one of my favorite old Tuscan towns, Lucca.  Nestled just near Pisa, our Lucca stay (two nights) will allow us time to stop in Pisa on the way, to see the Leaning Tower, of course, as well as the Baptistry and the Duomo.  Siena and Lucca have become the happy substitute for Cinque Terre, since quite a bit of the Cinque Terre villages were damaged or destroyed by flood and mud slides last month. 

Finally, we will again travel by train to the waterways of Venice, where the common substitute for a car is a long boat called a vaporetto. Walking in Venice across the hundreds of footbridges is a treat, and easier with your StreetWise Venice map, a must in this maze of canals.  We’ll have a half-day tour here, through the Church of San Marco, the Ducal Palace and the Bridge of Sighs.  Mask shops abound, and I’ve discovered a little place that makes and sells wonderful journals for those of you who like reflective writing. 
If you choose, you can take a boat to Murano and Burano, famous for beautiful Venetian glass and lace.  Or you can just sit in any café that appeals to you and watch the people go by.  After four nights in Venice, we’ll bid farewell to the welcoming residents of Italy and head for home.
Our trip will include AIRFARE FROM DENVER, sixteen nights’ lodging (double occupancy), RailEurope passes, other private transportation and/or transfers to and from our hotels, Roma Passes for major sights, A Vatical visit, walking tours in Florence and Venice, vaporetto tickets in Venice, a half-day trip to Pisa, sixteen breakfasts, three lunches, seven dinners, Rome, Venice and Florence Street-wise maps, travel journals, and ME, your planner, guide, and all-around fire extinguisher!
Cost for above, (including airfare from Denver) is $5950.00**  A $500 non-refundable deposit holds your space. A referral discount of  $250 is yours for early registration by December 1 OR for bringing a friend not on my list . . .
For questions, please contact Joannah L. Merriman, Lifeprints, 970-481-6339 or 970-226-5676.  E-mail me at and check out this blog, for samples of previous trip adventures!
**Double occupancy.  Single occupancy available for additional cost. If you are flying from somewhere other than Denver, or if you have miles you’d rather use, please talk with me about arrangements.  Travel insurance is a must, I’ve found, but I will offer a group rate or individual policy for the full value of your trip as well as for lost luggage, trip delays, medical coverage etc.  Details about that upon registration.