Monday, October 10, 2016

Andiamo Francesco!

This year I did something that I dreamt of doing my whole life. I took a trip to Italy. Although it was my first time out of the country, I was not alone. I took the two ghosts that hang out in my attic with me. My father and mother never had the chance to return to their home while alive, so I took their spirits with me when I went on the Leisurely Rome and Tuscany tour offered by Globus and Starr Tours.

This was a big step for me, especially because I deal with a compromised immune system, plus and this is more important than my illness, I have a habit of getting lost no matter where I am. My husband, who is well aware of my bad sense of direction, kept reminding me before the trip to stay close to the tour guide. Dan was worried that I'd wind up in some other part of Europe. I was excited and scared to death at the same time because I was going alone, but I needn’t have worried. New friends were waiting to meet me.
                      from the left: Tonya, Me, Mary, Ken and Virginia

The van ride to the Newark airport gave me a chance to chat with the other New Jersey people who would be part of the Leisurely Tour. One of my new friends, Virginia, was interested in writing and most of the ride to the airport was devoted to the opportunities that awaited her. After the long plane ride which included a disgruntled passenger complaining about the food, which I thought was very tasty for air travel, we landed at the Rome airport where we grabbed our luggage and headed over to the first of the hotels our group would be staying at.

The first thing I did as soon as we arrived at the Villa Carpegna was to order a cup of cappuccino. After we were assigned a room, we met with Francesco Nardin, who was to be our tour guide for the entire trip. By this time, Mary and Ken, Virginia, Tonya, Tracy and Sharon and I had become buddies with the other members of our tour group. My fears of being alone were soon gone. I had met the nicest people and the trip had just begun.
                                 Francesco, Me, and Wendy doing a photo bomb

Rome and the Vatican were more beautiful than I had expected and I was so excited about seeing the Colosseum. Our tour guide, Francesco, was so learned in the history of this city, but he also had the help of a local tour guide to answer any questions we had about the St. Peter’s Square and the Colosseum historical events.


I was trying to connect with the spirits attached to the Colosseum, but I didn’t want to freak out my new friends and I had to keep up with the tour group...maybe next time

The next hotel we stayed in was in Montecatini, but first we stopped at the Vicchiomaggio Wine Cellars for a Tuscany lunch. We also got to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Square of Miracles before arriving at the hotel.
At the Astoria Hotel I was happy to discover that my room had a balcony. It also had a female ghost, quite a lovely woman, who wanted me out of bed the first night I slept there because she needed to make the bed. I convinced her to wait until morning. She told me that she had worked at the hotel a long time ago. She loved the place and so she stayed. There was also a ghost in the dining room.

She was also a sweetheart who explained to me that she originally lived in a house on the land the hotel was later built on. She was connected to the land, but loved the comings and goings of the guests. Neither ghost bothered any of the guests. They only came to me because I can see them. When I go back to Italy, I intend to stay at the Astoria Hotel again because of its quaint ambiance and lovely hotel staff.
                    From the left: Me, Virginia, Mary and Tonya                                           

One of the best memories I have of this vacation is when a few of my friends and I played hooky from the main tour to ride the train up to the mountain top to visit Montecatini Alto. Tonya, Mary, Virginia and I spent the loveliest afternoon visiting the old churches and the shops. Our lunch was the highlight of a peaceful day.

Every day, our wonderful tour guide, Francesco, would take us by bus to visit a new site. When we would lag behind, we would hear him calling out, “Andiamo! Andiamo!” That’s Italian for get your butts moving. Florence was a treat, although we had to watch out for the gypsies. Francesco also made sure that people, like me, who had special dietary needs, were always served the correct food. I have diverticulitis which means that when I eat the wrong foods, I can wind up in the hospital. I was so touched by this young man’s vigilance in keeping his charges healthy. Thank you, Francesco.

The trip to Lucca and Vinci and then to Assisi were magical and again we were treated to a special guided tour by one of the local guides who knew everything about Leonardo Da Vinci. The streets of most of the towns we visited were steep and I actually lost weight from all the walking even though I was eating and drinking my way through this vacation.

The last night was spent in Rome at the Pineta Palace. There were no ghosts, except for Fred and Lucy. The Farewell dinner was wonderful as were all the dinners and, we did get to walk through Rome one more time before we left. Tonya and I got to share a special Italian treat; roasted chestnuts. When poor Francesco got too weary from losing me, he gave me the flag to lead the tour. I guess he thought he could keep a better eye on me.


I don’t know why I waited so long to go on this trip, but now that I have traveled overseas, the travel bug has been awakened in me.
My father is now pestering me to visit the town of Maratea. This is where his family is from and where our last name comes from.

I'm saving for the next Italy trip, but if I can’t get my husband to go to Maratea, I’ll just do what I did this time. I’ll take Fred and Lucy. I'm sure they'll introduce me to more ghosts when I'm there.


  1. I'm so happy you got to make this trip. I enjoyed all your pictures and stories.

    1. Thank you, cousin. It took forever to save up the money, but it was worth every minute. I want to do this again before I die

  2. Great recap of a great trip! Now, it's time to select the next adventure!! -Tracy.

    1. Thank you. I am planning the next one already

  3. Excellent recap of our Italy adventures. I had such a wonderful time. Hopefully, we can explore future trips together again.-Virginia

  4. Thank you, Virginia. I am looking forward to more adventures with my new friends

  5. What a great story!! Looks like a ton of fun...thanks for giving me a few new places to add to my list!

    1. Thank you, Amy. I am going back again in August to where my mother lived before moving to the States: Benevento, then Amalfi