Ask Harriet: Visiting Italian art museums

I love hearing from fellow travelers who enjoy art as much as I do, which is why I was delighted to receive this question.

Q: We will be on the Rivieras cruise from Florence to Nice, and would like to visit the Uffizi museum if possible. It seems there is time on Day 4 if the Chianti optional trip is not taken or on the afternoon of Day 5, listed as free time. The listed hotel (Albani Firenze) appears to be in walking distance, but of course, it is possible we could be in another hotel. Could you please offer suggestions? Is getting tickets in advance advisable or can the Program Director handle that? What other hotels are used? Thanks.

—Raylee & John Butkovich, 6-time travelers from Gold River, California

Hi Raylee and John,

Thanks for writing. This is a popular question among travelers who travel on our Rivieras cruise—I’m sure they’d appreciate you reaching out. The Uffizi is such a great gallery—the view of the narrow courtyard formed by its two wings evokes the feel of a 16th-century street, and I just adore the tapestries and frescos. They’re truly in a league of their own. I have some good news for you. Tickets may be purchased in advance for a specified time, so you don’t have to stand in a long line and can make the most of your discoveries during your free time. I recommend that you ask your Program Director for advice in advance (if possible, before you depart the U.S.) about the best way to purchase the tickets. While Program Directors cannot purchase tickets for travelers, they can assist you by making a museum reservation. They will give you a reservation code to enter the museum at a specific time and you can pay for the ticket at the counter upon arrival.

You are correct in assuming that the Uffizi is an easy walk from the Hotel Albani Firenze, about a mile, or a 20-minute walk depending on your pace. The other Florence hotel you may stay at depending on your departure date is the Croce di Malta, which is actually an even shorter walk—about half a mile. I hope you enjoy your visit to one of Europe’s most singular galleries, and your Rivieras Cruise Tour.

Letters to Harriet

It’s always great to travel, but when you’re celebrating an important occasion, your trip takes on more significance. This month’s letter is from Barbara & Russell MacDonald, 5-time travelers from Blacksburg, Virginia, who along with another couple, marked their 50th wedding anniversary on our Treasures of the Aegean: Greek Island Cruise, Athens & Istanbul Small Ship Cruise Tour.

What a great trip! It was extremely interesting, beautiful, and educational.

Our group leader, Maria Charalampidou, was the best of any that we have had on our previous three trips with Grand Circle, and that is saying a lot. She was so well informed and was able to impart the information to us in a very useful and enjoyable manner.

She also handled a couple of potential problems due to a public-workers strike, so we saw everything and were able to leave as scheduled. She emailed and called us from Greece before the trip, and [after the trip] she sent us all by email a beautiful 25-page day-by-day journal of where we went, what we saw, why it was important, and fun personal details of happenings to individuals each day.

It was our 50th wedding anniversary, and Maria and Grand Circle did a beautiful job on honoring us and another 50th anniversary couple.

We did the Ancient Glories extension in Greece and it was well worth it. The ship and its crew were superb as was the food. The hotels and included meals were equally wonderful.

Can't say enough good things about it!!!

Congrats to you both—I’m so glad you enjoyed your trip! I always feel like the Mediterranean region makes for a romantic trifecta, along with Italy and France. Both marriage and travel are filled with unforgettable experiences of love and discovery. As someone who's been married for over three decades, I'm proud that you can enjoy your special moments on our trips.

Have you celebrated a special occasion on any of our vacations? I’d love to hear your story. Please email me at