The Northern Italy GCT discovery in April 2013 was all we imagined -- and more. We chose both extensions so that we could have more time in Rome and Venice for this our first Italy trip. Before we even left home, Program Director Lucio called us. And then Francesco introduced himself via email as our Desk Representative in Rome, but he was also our director and guide taking us on walking and bus tours, arranging for local guide Antoinella and a fun dinner in Trastavere, plus a Tanagra dinner theater experience to remember.
Before we knew it, Program Director Lucio arrived at Hotel Victoria (Rome) and introduced himself while greeting new arrivals for the main trip. Lucio is quite the director, always telling us what to expect the next day, making schedule changes (few) to work around weather conditions such as moving the Dolomites discovery by a day to avoid rain. What a historian and story teller is Lucio! He also arranged for local guides who really share what they know and love about Florence, Siena, Rome, Venice, Bolzano, etc. Both Lucio and the guides explained much about languages (do you know Ladino? and that it is taught in schools of South Tyrol Ladinia towns such as Ortesei-St. Ulrich?) and dialects for each region, interwoven with national and regional politics and cultures.
Selected program Highlights: Borghese Gallery (especially the Bernini sculptures 'David' and 'Apollo and Daphne' and 'Aeneas, Anchises, and Ascanius') in Rome; Michaelangelo's 'David' and Simone's commentary in Florence; the countryside, farmhouse dinner and conversation with our hosts Elisabetha and her family in Tuscany; Sta. Margherita, Potofino, and Cinque Terre villages Vernazza and Manarola, all on the Italian Riviera; the Dolomites and Otzi the iceman in Bolzano; the views from San Giorgio bell town in Venice (thank you, Stefania!)
And thank you, our traveling companions! We had a blast and learned much from experienced GCT travelers especially those with thirteen GCT adventures!
Recommended reading and viewing:
Films: 'Enchanted April' set in Portofino; 'Brad and Roses'; 'Roman Holiday'; 'Bicycle Thief'; 'La Dolce Vita'; 'A Room With a View.'
Books: 'Italian Hours' (Henry James); 'A Room with a View' ( E. M. Forster ); 'Death at La Fenice' and other Guido Brunetti mysteries by Donna Leon; 'The Shoemaker's Wife' (Adriana Tagliani); 'The Four Seasons: a novel of Vivaldi's Venice' (Laurel Corona); 'The Passion' (Jeanette Winterson); 'The Savage Garden' (Mark Mills); 'A Thousand Days in Venice' (Marlena de Blasi); 'A Thread of Grace' (Mary Doria Russell); 'Gestures' (H.S. Babra); 'The Marble Faun' (Nathanial Hawthorne).