Italian Lakes, Venice, Florence, Rome small group May 12, 2016

My husband and I will be on this trip, and we would like to talk to others who will be traveling with us. We will be arriving in Bellagio a day early and staying an extra day in Rome. I am working on ideas for the extra time, and I would welcome suggestions. I will look forward to meeting all of you.


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    We enjoyed this trip in July. Took the ferry from Bellagio to villa Carlotta and enjoyed the lovely gardens. Then to Varenna which is charming village where we enjoyed lunch. Very easy to travel on lake Como. These areas are not on tour. Fontana bellagio was excellent casual restaurant that we enjoyed twice!!! In Rome we hired a private driver with another couple ,all arranged by our wonderful tour director , for 3 hours on a free afternoon. We gave him a list and Marco took us in comfort to our places of interest and places he suggested. This is a fabulous trip.
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    You'll love this trip! I took it last May. There's not a whole lot to do in Bellagio except see villas and shop (and eat), but the location is so gorgeous that you can be happy sitting and reading overlooking the lake. That said, there's a self-guided walking tour of the town that takes you to some sights. I forget where we picked up the map -- maybe at the hotel. The gardens of the Villa Melzi are beautiful. You can walk there from the hotel along the lake. You can't go into the villa itself (at least we couldn't last year) but there is a small museum of Napoleonic history within the grounds of the garden. After the huge lunch on Isola Comacina, I went back to the hotel to rest, but my sister took the ferry over to Villa Carlotta. Because we didn't need much (if anything) to eat that evening, we went to a cute wine bar, Cava Turacciolo Enoteca that night for wine and appetizers. It's at the other end of "downtown" from the hotel.

    I would highly recommend that you go to the Borghese Gallery in Rome. I cannot over-emphasize how magnificent the Bernini sculptures are. You think that you're looking at flesh, not marble. You can take photos right up close. I encourage you to spend time looking at his David and comparing it with Michelangelo's David that you will have seen in Florence. You should get tickets on line before you leave home. You have to reserve your entry time, and entry is tightly controlled. The Gallery is located at the end of the Borghese Park, which makes for a nice walk. You can sit and enjoy a gelato in the park. We walked from the St. Regis to the Borghese. (Actually, we walked pretty much everywhere!) I also enjoyed walking through the Piazza Navona and spending time at the Pantheon. There's a little church around the side of the Pantheon called Santa Maria sopra Minerva that doesn't look like much from the outside (except for the obelisk on top of an elephant) but includes a Michelangelo and the tomb of St. Catherine of Siena. (You will have seen that her head and thumb are in Siena.)

    I also encourage you to take some of your free time in Florence to go to the Baptistry and Santa Croce. Santa Croce is magnificent and includes elaborate tombs of many famous people, including Galileo, Dante, Rossini and Michelangelo.

    I know that I'm mentioning places that you can find in guidebooks, but I do think they're worth seeing. It's been fun to re-live my trip by writing this. Let me know if you have questions.
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    To MCD
    Thanks for your very good suggestions. We do want to go to the Borghese Gallery. we have two afternoons free, one after the St. Peter's Basilica four and the other after the orientation drive and Colosseum. Each day we have to be fresh and changed to go to dinner or the Vatican. Which day woukd you recommend for the Borghese? And about what time to allow for getting there after lu ch and back to hotel in time to change? I want to get the reservations before we leave Dallas, as you suggest, but I don'T want to make a timing mistake.
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    Dixie Chick -- I am so sorry that I somehow missed your response and your question! I hope it's not too late to tell you that we went to the Borghese Gallery the day that we went to the Colosseum. We took the bus back to the hotel and walked from there. It was our final day in Rome and the farewell dinner was that night. We had plenty of time to manage everything. (We did skip lunch but had a gelato in the Borghese Park.)

    The day that we went to the Vatican in the morning is the day that we left the bus (at a scheduled stop) and walked to the Piazza Navonna and the Pantheon and Santa Maria sopra Minerva and other places.

    Have you already taken this trip? How did you enjoy it?
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    Thanks a lot for the advice. We leave May 10 to go to Lake Como, arriving one day early. The trip actually begins May 12. I am getting really excited to get to see things that I have read about for years. I hope the weather is good and that Italy remains terrorist free.

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