Good Morning Maryellen,

We are back. It was the adventure of a lifetime (but certainly no relaxing vacation :)). Thanks for all of your help. G Adventures said they would be sending a Customer Satisfaction survey for us to complete. I have nothing but good things to say, and want to make sure I get a chance to say them. I am suspect that it may come to you, as you were the email contact. Please forward it if you see it. Thanks again for everything. Nice work. 


Hi Maryellen:

Just wanted to let you know that we returned late Sunday from the Romantic Viking Cruise down the Danube River that Jane won last year in an annual raffle held by the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival (PSF). In addition to our support of the Festival, we always buy two tickets. And, as you know, at the last performance of the season, they draw a ticket and Jane's was drawn. The great part was that she elected to take me along! :-)

We had an absolutely super time!!!

We left in the evening on June 7th for Prague, Newark to London's Heathrow Airport to Prague, arriving later in the afternoon on the 8th - and very sleepy. Along with several others on the Cruise who elected to add a few days in Prague prior to the cruise, we had a great time exploring the city and going on Viking organized tours of the area on the 9th & 10th. On the 11th, Viking took us to Nuremberg to board the ship that would take us down the Danube River ending up in Budapest, stopping at places in Germany, Austria, and Hungary.

The beautiful and historical sites and towns, the food, the new friends that were made, the fun times and shared laughter were just a few of the things that made the Cruise a wonderful experience that will be relived in memories and via pictures for a long, long time. Viking did/does a fantastic job.

Thanks for helping us set up this amazing experience! We're already about taking another Viking River Cruise in the somewhat near future!


P.S. We just received the letter from PSF about this season's Viking Cruise raffle. This season it is a Mediterranean Ocean Cruise. We're sorta afraid to buy tickets on the outside chance we might win again, and winning two years in a row would/could be a bit awkward. Hey, each year we buy 2 tickets and that's a 2 in 400 chance of winning. And, as JP often said in "Angels in the Outfield" when an improbable event was proposed, "It could happen!" :-). Not sure what we'll do…


Just wanted you to know we had a wonderful time in Montreal. Great city to visit. We particularly enjoyed the bike tour (we then spent the next day biking and exploring on our own) and the parks, music in the city, the cool rooftop bars and restaurants. Our hotel was certainly not fancy but very sufficient; as you said well located. It will be better next year. Thanks again for all your help and advice.

Hope all your travels are good. For us, California in a few weeks!
Mark Korman

Thank You Glassic

Dear Mary Ellen and Gene,

Thanks so much for making all the arrangements that allowed us to have a fantastic trip in London and Paris. Everything went great with the flight, the hotels and the ride in the chunnel. We would not have had nearly as wonderful a time without your help and look forward to manny more vacations with you.

Thanks again Hope to see you soon
Doug, Lee, Jonathan and Jillian Reichley

Dear Gene,

I wanted to write you to thank you for the wonderful vacation that Iobst Travel arranged for my husband and me. We have been together for 8 years and we have never been away alone. Our trip to Grand Lido Braco was more he or I could've ever imagined it would be. I can't begin to tell you what a wonderful time we had. The resort was gorgeous, the food spectacular and course it being an all inclusive just made it all that much better. But above and beyond the resort, the food and the drink, I have to commend SuperClubs on the spectacular people they have working at this facility. From housekeeping to wait staff to Social Directors the people were so nice it was just amazing. There were four Social Directors that we got to know pretty well (Zanesha, Hioka, Rohand and Nashwell) and these four people made our vacation unforgettable. They kept us laughing and were as nice as could be. We are planning on returning in November and we will plan on vacationing there once a year if possible. So again, thank you to Iobst Travel and to SuperClubs for making this vacation possible.

Jennifer K. Bergstresser
Special Projects Coordinator
LehighValley Magazine
Tour Company: Collette
Destination: Grand Lido Braco Ocho Rios, Jamaica

Hi Maryellen,

Just wanted to let you know that we had another successful, wonderful trip.Everything went very smoothly. There were 32 people on this tour

In Paris, it was still light at 9:30 at night, so the Seine river cruise was more like a daytime than a nighttime cruise. They did turn the lights on the EiffelTower at 10:00, even though it STILL wasn't dark. Everyone here at work has been asking me if I had anything to do with the fire in the EiffelTower - we didn't even know about it until we got back to the USA.

The weather in the center of France was much warmer than we expected, almost 100 degrees for a high every day. But the flowers and the gardens were blooming and it was beautiful and of course the beach was great. Thanks again for all your work!

Carole (Olenwine)
Allentown, PA

Destination: France Escorted Tour
Tour Company: Collette


Thanks so much for all your help with our trip to the RiuPalace in Playacar, Mexico. All our travelers loved it so much that they are asking to go again in two years.
The USA 3000 flights were wonderful. On the way to Mexico, everyone received complimentary mimosas when we were airborne. We were served a hot breakfast with a choice of omelet or French toast, sausage, juice. They also showed a movie (Kate & Leopold). The flight left about 15 minutes earlier than scheduled and we actually arrived in Cancun 1 hour before our scheduled arrival time! On our return flight we were served a hot dinner with a choice of cheese tortellini or chicken with rice and vegetables, roll and cookie. The food was actually very good-not anything like "normal" airline food. The flight attendants were very cordial and friendly. I think they actually liked their jobs!

The resort property is beautiful and meticulously maintained. They are constantly pruning and maintaining the property. There is marble everywhere. The rooms are very spacious, with a large bathroom, refrigerator continuously stocked with sodas & bottled water, 4 bottles of alcohol, sleeping area, double closet, large dresser, 2 night stands, TV, phone, living room area with sofa & table, and patio. The entire staff at the resort is very friendly and helpful and speak English. There are two large pools (one with a swim up bar) and lots of lounge chairs around the pools. The beach is gorgeous with loads of lounge chairs and palm trees.

There are lots of activities available-you can be as lazy or busy as you want. They have all kinds of activities going on throughout the day-dance lessons, snorkeling lessons, volleyball, massages, fitness center, hammocks in the palm trees, boat rentals, to name just a few.

Food is available practically all day long in the form of buffets. There is always a Mexican buffet, and the other buffets varied daily. The have the largest salad bars I've ever seen, with anything you can imagine to add to your salad. All the food was delicious. There are four different restaurants on the property. Since this is an all-inclusive resort, drinks were also included. They had a menu of about 15-20 fruit-type drinks, but if you can't find anything on the menu that suits your tastes, they would make anything you requested.

There are three other Riu Resorts in the area (Riu Yucatan, Riu Playacar and Riu Tequila). As guests of the RiuPalace, we were entitled to use the facilities at any of the other Riu properties, but they weren't allowed to use ours! Our resort was the "quiet" resort: they had entertainment on most evenings, but if you were into dancing and partying late or into the morning hours, you could go next door or across the street to one of the other Riu resorts.

Thanks again for all your assistance.
Diane Wasser
Activities Committee
Air Products and Chemicals
Trexlertown, PA

Destination: RiuPalace
Playacar, Mexico


View of Diamond Head is beautiful.
Beach is great, water is warm.
Having a terrific time.

Cathy and Frank (Donchez)
Allentown, PA
Destination: Honeymoon

Hi Maryellen,

Don't have much time, I'm really busy right now, but just wanted to let you know that I spoke with Steve MacKay when he was on the ship and when he returned. He just could not say enough good things about it, as a matter of fact he absolutely no complaints. He said it was wonderful. Wish I could have gone. I'll talk to you about this later, but I just wanted to let you know. Thanks to you and Nancy for all your help. Talk to you soon.

Sue Mitchell
Executive Assistant to Dirk Kuyper
Corporate Administration
Aesculap Inc., Center Valley, PA

Destination: Western Caribbean
Voyager of the Seas
Incentive Group

Dear Maryellen,

Just a note to thank Iobst for our travel arrangements to Charlotte N.C.A special thank you for getting us another flight home when the ice storm in North Carolina and the blizzard in Pennsylvania changed our plans. We really appreciate your efforts.

Evelyn Carter
Quakertown, PA

Destination: Air Ticket Allentown to Charlotte North Carolina

Dear Maryellen,

We just wanted to drop you a line and thank you for the great job you did in planning and arranging our trip to the United Kingdom. Our trip could not have worked out any better. We were able to go from one step, one connection to the next without any problems, everything just flowed together perfectly.

Thank you again for arranging our perfect vacation.
John and Carla Sue Morris
Destination: Great Britain
Tour Company: Trafalgar

Just a quick note to tell you of the wonderful time we had at Disney World. Everyone was most helpful and courteous. I used a scooter as I can not walk very far. It was no problem getting on the monorail, buses and the rides in the park.

Our room was equipped with space for my scooter and it could be plugged in at night.

The woman that cheeked us in remarked about the very good tour package we received from your agent, Pamela Gouldy. We enjoyed all the extra goodies we were given.

Thanks Pam!!

Nancy and Harvey Kuhns Jr.
Breinigsville, PA
Destination: Disney World

Maryellen and Gene,

George and I would like to thank you for all your extra efforts to make our vacation a very memorable one. With your help we were able to see and experience so many wonderful things. Without your help guiding us through the maze of airports, rental cars and hotels, we might still be stuck at the rental car counter. Dealing with fifteen personalities on such a lengthy trip is certainly a testimony to your patience and kindness. We're both looking forward to traveling with you again in the future.

Many thanks,
Betsy and George Hillenbrand
Northampton, PA

Destination: Hawaii
Escorted FIT


Sitting here looking at Mt.Kilimanjaro as sun goes down. Everything has been fantastic so far. We leave Tanzania and return to Kenya in AM. There are five in our group. Tell Maryellen the shopping is fantastic. I'm getting to be quite the bargainer. Old T shirts are real valuable.

Regards to all.
Tom (Jensen)
Emmaus, PA

Destination: Africa
Tour Operator A & K


We had a great time in Jamaica! The resort was clean, well kept and had many activities. Our kids, age 21 and 19 had a super time. The activities directors kept them involved until 4am! We had fun with all the water activities and the golf. The scuba guy was a real professional and the kids had a great first time experience.

If you have any other clients who would like to talk to me about the resort first hand, I would be happy to. I know I was a little bit of a pain with all my questions, so thanks for all your patience.

Thanks again,
Brenda Snyder

Destination: Sandals Beaches Resort
Montego Bay, Jamaica


We just wanted to thank you for all of your help in planning and booking our honeymoon. It was an absolutely unforgettable trip. We enjoyed it so much we were definitely in paradise!

Amanda and Chris Nygard
Destination: Hawaii


Overall rate of this trip is the BEST. Service, price, everything included. The only problem was that it ended too soon. We can't say enough good things about this trip's planning. You were great - helpful etc. The entire experience was better than excellent. We will be walking testimonials for Royal Caribbean. We will cruise again.

Mike and Maryann Freer
Emmaus, PA
Destination: Western Caribbean Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas

Dear Maryellen,

I just wanted to write and say a big THANK YOU! For the arrangements you made for my trip to Colorado. I am very pleased with everything. The people at United were very pleasant. Thank you so much for helping me. I had a wonderful vacation with my aunt & our family in Colorado. I enjoyed my flights. Any future traveling plans we will be coming to you and Iobst Travel. Thank you very much.

Barbara Oakhouse
Destination: Colorado
Airline Tickets
First Time Flyer

Italy Trip - Tuscan and Umbrian Countryside - Charming Hill Towns and Rome

Collette Exploration Tours - Travel by Iobst - American Wine Society

August 28 - September 8 2014 Host by Jeremy Elsasser

Travel Guests: Zenna, Rick, Chris, Lisa, Percy, Anne, Gene, Mariellen, Kathy, Harry, Candy and G. Other guests include Cindy, John of NJ and Dan, Deb from Ohio. Great group.

Air Travel: Depart Newark United direct to Rome Leonardo Da Vinci Airport in Rome. Travel time 8.30 hours nonstop. Return from Florence Peretola to Munich Germany travel time 1.25 hours, Lufthansa teal Emberer great plane and staff spacious seating. Munich to Newark by Lufthansa 9.0 hours. Large plane much food and drink service and personal electronics but tight seating.

Trip Highlights: Tuscany and Umbrian country hillside towns. Rome, Orvieto, Spoleto, Montefalco, Bevagna, Assisi, Florance, Siena, Monteriggioni, volterra, San Gimignano, Monteriggioni

Trip Hotels:

Hotel Imperial - Rome - Prestige location as per Embassy location.
Hotel Clitunno - Spoleto - Charming old town cobble streets.
UNA Palazzo Mannaioni - Tuscan Charming top of hill small family town.

Daily Summary

August 28 - Thursday - Meet at Maryellen's at noon for airport - Depart 5!

August 29 - Friday - Hot 90's - Arrive 8 a.m. - 10-12 Miles - Rome on our own

Arrive at Rome airport service to hotel Imperial very hot at 90 temps. Nice hotel with large room 319, purple and tan colors and modern. Walk to Roman Colosseum past the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fontana, beautiful but under construction. Pass the Solider with no name buildings and the ancient forum ruins next to the Colosseum. Awesome hugh, used preordered fast passes. Tour entire place and only Spanish tour open to see the underground part. Very interesting the below grounds where all operated and man and animals were kept for the show and gladiator fights. Well kept and you can see and feel the size of the arena. Pantheon tour with hole in top, oldest building in world still operating and nice plaza area. Many plazas and food and more smaller fountains in town. Lunch in town off a few streets pitchers of white wine and a mix of meats in a basket. Very nice, music by street player for our table. Vendors in small streets, we watched a possible pick pocketing event of confusion with purse search. Dinner late night at the top of the steps next to hotel outside looking down where the music played next to hotel. Nice cozy hotel, lobby cute, hotel maps, outside dining, street pretty and much close. Bell boy nice and breakfast was very nice with a beautiful room. We walked the stairs elevator small. Safe in room odd, great room and view and all helpful. Very HOT a 10 mile day of walking.

August 30 - Saturday - Rome on own - Collette Tour starts at 5

Walk to many spots again and enjoy the day and views. Off to Vatican City, Museums, art work, paintings, tapestries, outdoor gardens and endless indoor art and true original pieces. Off to the St Peters Basilica to see the Pope courtyard and where speeches are presented. Must have shoulders covered and knees or no entry allowed. Watched changing of the guards of the Swiss, interesting. Vatican three windows, many pics. Pictures of the church inside and out and the tombs in the basement all down below and candles and all carved to look like the Popes buried. Touch the foot for luck inside the church we all waited and when Lisa go there she was moved along, caught all on camera all too funny at the time. Special prayers made. Toured the Sistine Chapel, no pics and very crowded and unbelievable art work in the entire large room by MA, and a painting of him in skin at the front. Toured the court, town, got water called gas all week. Bought my three tier picture on the streets, Chris gave me a religion lesson and learned much, good and evil and more. Walked back to hotel drinks out to listen to music at hotel outdoors. Nice street seats, great music, champagne, wine, music. Owner on motorcycle left and came back as at 11 at night inspectors show up and do measuring out of no where oddly after they told a street vendor to get lost… Measuring, paperwork and calls by waiter to owner who back on bike with a suit on to do paper work again with inspectors who probably were looking for a payoff as we all discussed business in Italy, many stories of crooked politics etc. Stayed up with Candy and G and then home late after story sharing on our Rome. Dinner earlier was at Binettos the owner a mafia type of guy. We had a wine presentation, a fine dinner, music by two with CD option. Grappa a bonus for all of us to try. Strong after dinner cleanse digestive drink. Harry turned red and Kathy was sick earlier. Good times by all there and I got locked in bathroom by skeleton key, bus waiting as I ran and panicked. LOL Another tour bus of over 40 came in we were glad to be only 16 in ours! Great bus orange and black and gray and Victoria our driver. Nice quite type of guy. Again another 10-12 miles and very HOT 90s! Dinner.

August 31 - Sunday - Leave Rome -> Orvieto - Umbria

Travel to the Etruscan hill town of Orvieto know for its white wine and Gothic cathedral housing a Signorelli fresco. Town on own and will be staying there for four nights. (B,D)

Travel to Orivto, took tram up hill and then on a bus to walk the town of Orvieto to see the Duomo Di Orvieto stunning church with a tour guide Roma. Neat ride up on the box cable car to top. Another hot day of 90 temps. Toured town, church, bought a bottle of Classico at little shop with lady after a tasting. Poured in plastic cups and walked the streets and shops. Enjoyed a chilled wine in the hot day. Many cool doors, arches and old buildings and streets. Church was stunning and the cloth of blood cased for showing and one of the only original gold church incased for viewing, so detailed. Church with strips and a thing of beauty yet built on top of hill so long. Strips of black and white and pink. Eat gelato outside looking at it and cooling. On to our hotel the Hotel Clitunno in the back streets with outdoor seating on both side. Elevator had odd numbers and at times limited on weight. Harry lost and roaming halls, too funny. All sat outside to kick off our stay with a nice pit set happy hour and wine tasting by hotel. Nice out, fun, appys very good mix and wine and champagne too. Dinner outside other side and two large tables and much fun stories and unlimited good wine shared. Dinner was a ten! Dessert hot chocolate lava cake and everything so good. Dinner there is rated high by trip advisor and always busy late inside in the back with the bar. Many end of nights shared there over a grappa or wine and people watching. Jeremy shared stories of 80 countries, cigars, wine, Percy 60 rums story. Cindy and John nice couple who love the Sands and are only one hour away. All so nice and a fun good group for the touring. Hot and walked about 5 miles as transfer day.

September 1- Monday - Umbria - Spoleto - Cooking Class

Walking tour of Spoleto with tour guide Mora. See medieval palaces, ornate Duomo of Santa Maria Assunta and Ponte delle Torri, an aqueduct dating bak to the 13th Century, tour on your own. Visit to a country housed restaurant in the 16th century farm house where the chef provides hands on Umbrian cooking lessons. (B,D)

Heavy rains in the morning, looking for umbrellas and coverage for our walking tour with Mora. Tour is 2 hours first hour in the rain and empty streets with high winds but we did it! Ponchos and winds, towr of area, lunch at nice place with red wine so good we needed to go back. Porcini mushroom pasta with grilled veggies. Dan Deb chin-chin cute wine cellar place. Walked all over and visited the aqueduct 13th century with arches and awesome views and fort and hotel hillside. Many commit suicide at the arched window sadly said. On bus at 3:30 to go to Vallo Naro the town of the dark for our dinner cooking class at the house with restaurant and mini town. Roma the puppy much fun outside, rolling hills small town of 100 people with two mini churches, keys held by a neighbor. The little boy helped Jeremy give the tour and cook. Pasta cooking show and we all made the bread, dinner and desserts with aprons on. John did most of the cooking and we cheered to him. Three desserts, a lot of bread and pastas and some wines but limited. They wanted like 28 Euro for an extra bottle so we all passed. Leonardo 12 years old toured us and cooked for us too. Rain and clouds. Back to hotel lobby for brandy nightcap. RR and chill in our pit set. Cold rain and 5.75 miles for the day.

September 2 - Tuesday - Umbria - Olive Oil - Bevagna - Montefalco

Start day with visit to a local olive oil factory in Trevi. Travel to Vevagna for a tour featuring Roman and medieval archeological marvels. Stop off at Montefalco, nicknamed the Balcony of Umbria. Visit a winery to sip regions most prized wine, the Sagrantino. (B)

Olive Oil factory with the Antico Frantoio Carletto family in Trevi. Father and son gave presentation of great oils and wood burn toasted Brushetta and cheeses. So tasty and much food the boxed white not so good. Big wheel grinder and fire and oils made by pressing discs of coconut plates and using all the oils and seeds become a hard disc itself as per presentation. Nice shop purchased oils and spray and neat bottles but to heavy to carry. Big German Sheppard outside with his ball and they had beagles used for hunting truffles. Pigs use to do it but they ate all them once they found them! LOL. Purchased oils and soaps. Guy looked like Alex Fox in an odd way. Off too Bevagna small town, sampled some wines as we walked the streets told to hold off due to big winery tasting next but we all wanted to sample. Stopped in small place got bottle and samples of salami and bread sticks so good! Only a one hour stop but nice. Lunch, red wine, mushroom dish. Off to the Diongia wine tasting husband and wife team. Great tour, vineyards and pictures across the street as the lady say us trying to get out of a gate. Enjoyed the entire place greatly, great wines and so plentiful and nice mix and grappa! Guy looked like a woody and lisa said that too! LOL. We bought three bottles, one for Victorio and two for our room. L/C got some for shipping home. Great time! Left all so happy and then Rick was talking on the speaker on bus and many singing and laughing. Got back to hotel grabbed cups and a red bottle off to the bridge to enjoy the sunset and take pictures. Deb and Dan joined us and we had a great time and memorable views! Off to Sabitini recommended restaurant by Jeremy for Boar dinner. Had Tempura, bland Veggies…, Boar on lettuce and wine and then a nice finish with a fancy bottle of Lemonchello! Chilled and delicious. Dinner was very good, cozy place and all enjoyed. Montefalco known as the Balcony of Umbria. Winery Sagrantio grape. Need to look at pictures for more detail. Long day, much wine and fun. Cool day, cloudy and another 5.75 miles.

September 3- Wednesday - Home Hosted Lunch - Assisi

Umbrian family welcomes to their home in the country as they prepare a delicious home cooked meal with wine. Afterwareds head to Assisi birth place of St Francis. Guided walking tour of the old city including the Basilica of St Francis and its medieval streets. (B,L)

Depart for Assisi first due to schedule change which worked out better as much food and drink for a church tour afterwards. Assis at 9:30 high mountain top huge arched church two floors in small town and court. Very clean and nice, Roma provided the tour, St Francis story and history how he changed to help all. Birds, animals and for the people another stunning church and view. Bought a bottle for the bus for the ride at noon. Off to the home of husband from USA who was a chiropractor and was there on a job and ended up meeting his wife and stayed. Only 300 doctors there and is now private and they totally completed their Tuscany villa on the hillside. We took a ride to the top and Jeremy explained the road below is used for quickies for truckers as we saw a car waiting for a customer. We saw this in Pisa as well when we toured. Common in some areas. The house was very Tuscan, archery, volley ball, patio, gardens, and extension to the home where we ate a nice prepared lunch by her mother. Very friendly, nice time and wine and tour of house. Jeremy did his ALS wine challenge and we videoed it all. Rick and Chris dumped the wine and water as we cheered on! Dinner we had the best brochette, simple OOil salad, pork and soup and white wine. Was another cool day, drizzle. Back to hotel, all tired from day before another 7.25 miles. Hoping for warmer weather, all packed for warmth. At hotel all took a nap for two hours, walked town and all around the fort and back to the arched bridge for sunset view. Enjoyed our restaurant again so went back to La Panocella "Balcony" restaurant for the red wine again and this time a nice mix of foods Gnocchi, pasta with mushrooms, truffle omletto, sausage, lemon butter veal, veggies, mushrooms dish and 2 jugs of the 2010 Rosso wine. Picture with chef as he came out with truffle dish and Mama Mia! Our favorite place two times and always over ordered and ate it all! Wood stove place with balcony in the back but to cold to sit outside in damp and rain. Walked back past the fish place, pub and back for grappa. Cool and 7.0 miles.

September 4- Thursday - Umbria - Winery - Tuscany

Travel from Umbria to Tuscany, winery visit the wine cellar, family all women estate vineyards, olive groves and stunning views. Winery's chef prepares an authentic Tuscan lunch and paired with wines from on site. Tour of winery and tastings and fine dining and then off to the Palazzo hotel for the next four days. (B,D)

Leave Spoleto for long ride to Tuscany. Off to a winery "Orica" high on a hill in central Tuscany. Great views from the estate of the Donatella Cinelli Colombini winery resort with pools on a hill top with a church and the central spot of various grape regions. The location is key as much history and views and central to the regions. Osteria di Donatella restaurant nicely positioned to see the view of the valley. Special tour as we are a wine club, the wine maker female gave us a special tour and QA time. Also the owner came by our lunch and we took pictures. An all women run winery as she purchased in 1998 and few male wine makers available at the time. The winery had a concrete tank and big barrels we took a picture for our wine news letter. They have the Brunello wine that Jeremy likes the most and talked about all week. Golden retriever Felix is the main man there great big gentle giant type of dog. Great lunch the meat dish was awesome. Church, two pools with orange accent and views to remember. Two hour ride to hotel Montaione for the next four nights. Tired kept it simple ate pizza in the town with wines in a small little like tent watching kids on in the court and eating pizza and a Stromboli. Fair temps only 3.8 miles long day as travel to new location.

September 5- Friday - Tuscan - Florence

Short journey to Florence, "cradle of the Italian Renaissance". Walking tour of city sights of Santa Maria Del Fiore, religious center of the Piazza Del Duomo and the Palazzo Vecchio. Guide tour, local artisans, workshops of leather, gold. Return to Montaione (B,D)

A nice day low 80 temps and a full day for 9.75 miles touring all of Florence. Were to meet with Mike but time was tight and much to fit in. Tour two hours with Emma looks like Barb Z and hard to listen. Duomo again, tour, great leather shop where they make purses, interesting to watch them make it all. Gold store demo, G bought a 3k ring. At main central area again with Dante and straw markets. Bought folder bag, two purses for Annette and myself. Very busy day, fit in a quick lunch on the side street by the Academia David appointment is firm so ate and drank quickly. Beer, wine and salad and pizza and off to the David MA statue. Very big and interesting a key sculpture by MG and now due to the weight and years some fractures being found at the ankles. Half hour tour of various are sculptures in the back room and more paintings all so detailed and memorable. Nice walk along the water and the Ponte Vecchio Bridge of locks again. Water views, Hitler saved the bridge and ruined all the others back in 1944 with German army was blowing up all the bridges. Hitler spared this bridge from his memories in 1939 with Mussolini.

Dinner at hotel, ricotta potato soup chicken and dessert pastry puff apricot. Bar for Grappa, Crappa, Strappa. Met a bunch of Swiss dentist folks in lobby much fun. Went out to pool for nice starry night and Jeremy and Dan talking life. Lisa and I wine and chill time. More Grappa and all back to the room laughing, guys at bar with Leonardo young 18 year old nice young kid on intern. All guys at bar drinking late and more crappa. All back to the room racing in hall ways and Percy beat us. Victorio leaves and Peppe is new bus driver! Nice fun guy! Happy go lucky great guy. Peppi gives us a quick tour stop across the water to get a hill view where there were rent a Ferrari for 15 minutes. Great pics of all Florence. Nice warm weather 82 and 9.75 miles

September 6- Saturday - Tuscany - Siena - Monteriggioni

Travel to Siena, historic piazza famous for the Palio Horse Race two times a year. Continue to the walled town of Monteriggioni for quaint streets. Tuscan pastries at top with shops and wines and pastry samplings.

Day stars with BFest. Chris does his daily cappuccino order and run and lisa does her morning thing. Rick and Zenna never miss a good breakfast and start off with double coffees. All tired from fun night before. Leonardo is serving and so tired, said he is sleeping while walking and working. LOL cute nice fun kid.

Off to Siena, Lisa is our guide a two hour tour. We enter under the nice arch and park at the pysho hospital, bus parks and we walk up another large hill. Tour town, shops and the center where the horse race is held, Palio de Campo. Race is three laps with or without the jockey is the winner. A one minute race and 30K people in and gates close at 5 and all stand in the hot court for the one minute race at 7 at night. Horse is blessed in a church if it poops that means good luck . Siena has 17 neighborhoods all posted on buildings in sections. Best Gelato in world had chocolate and mint and we all tried it and enjoyed it much. Went to lunch at center watched much and very good lunch and more jugs of wine. Bought Italy table cloths at vendor and some cards really liked it there. Lisa was looking to eat at same place, wine glass fell, good food and spot. Smoker left amen.. Off to Monteriggioni small town for wine tasting with pastries in the wine cellar. Bus parked at bottom and we all walked up another hill. We girls pushed Cindy to top but she could not make it and missed much. Nice cute place, shopped at the leather store and got my awesome travel two tone leather bag. It was 109 Euro for 100 Euro and so well made and just what I was looking for. Guys drinking beer with quarter sprite mix as per Jeremy. Wedding in the court, bikers walking, Jeremy hitting on girl, pics of church and eateries. Home to hotel, long day laid low walked to our view spot and the only corner local bar. Had a nice little happy hour of cocktails as wined out and a mix of appys inside. Candy, G, ME and Gene and us sat and chilled and chatted of our day events. Good wine Chianti and Mojitos and Caprinas. Walk to balcony view at sunset with gelato and home by 10 for much needed relaxation. Local town men hang on the corners as a very small town. Sun all day and 6.5 miles. A nice full day and touring in the sun.

September 7- Sunday - Tuscany - Volterra - San Gimignano

Volterra known for Alabaster, a former Etruscan city sits high above the Tuscan countryside. Visit an Etruscan museum, the Guarnacci museum. Travel to San Gimignano city. A city with once 72 towers of which 14 remain from the 13th century. Stroll Piazza del Duomo and della Cisterna. Farewell dinner at Carpe diem and final night in Montaione. (B, D)

Volterra great Alabaster shops. Very nice quaint streets and visited the museum of tombs carved faces. Lovely outdoor garden and view. Tour was detailed and we went outside a bit. She spoke of the tall skinny boy like figures and the case of the husband and wife sculpture too long. Enjoyed this small town, Deb and Dan got lost and we had to wait 20 minutes, they were all the way down the hill and ran and were extremely upset for their mistake. Our tour guide lived on the corner house at the entrance and it was damaged this year due to rains. Very nice town, we ate at an outdoor small picnic style had pizza and olive oil bread and salad. Cindy and John sat next to us and we enjoyed the wine and chill time. Nice spot. Dan took pics of all of us. Very cute town.

Off to San Gimignano in the afternoon. Big town, mid evil feeling and many awesome big doors with stone work. Arches. Walk to top, had the BEST Gelato in country here not the other place… Tasted Verniccho white wine, shops, views outstanding. Today hot 85 temps, last day, taking it all in. Jeremy tells us the best group he had ever and laughed much and a good time. Hopes to visit us in the states. Survey time and our farewell dinner at the Carpe restaurant. We all walked many pictures, great view and very nice place. Plenty of wines but not that much food had to request more as not much or we were very hungry. Peppe and Jeremy we had great pics and will remember them well!

All back at hotel for more Grappa and Percy missing camera, money and charge card the next day. Finds it in luggage at home, was a fun night and a great way to finish off the trip!

September 8- Monday - Travel back to USA

Bus service to airport, left at 7 am. Much traffic but made our short flight with time to spare. Airport small and waited for our small bus to board the Ember plane and pilot waving. Great teal seats, very nice staff and service. Sat at exit doors, roomy and much service. Wine for breakfast provided and tuna sandwiches. Views of the alps and clear and scenic. Short flight. Teal plane like new!

Landed in Munich and had four hours. Shopped at duty free for work, shop and enjoyed beer and pretzels at the local airport brew pub. Hit the next spot for overpriced chardonnay and sandwich pre flight snack was tasty. Boarded large plane, many people tight seats long flight. Service very good, seating very tight and uncomfortable. Smooth flight and glad to land in Newark. Bus service waiting home in an hour. Home at 9 but really 3 in the morning. Glad to be home and dogs were so happy to see us! Cosmo excited and then gave us his lecture of where were we why did we go so long. Wish I would have video him as he was talking and really meant it! LOL was so cute and memorable.

Key Notes:

Buon Giorno, Sera, Notte, Arrivederci, Ciao, Paria Inglese, Male, Cosi-Cosi, Si, No, Grazi, Prego, Gappa, Chin-Chin, Dov-e toilette, Vino, Salute, Pane, Burro, Sale, Pepe, Caffe, Birra, Acqua, Gas, Carne, Pesce, Pollo, Pasta, Frutti, Insalata, Dolce, Torta, Salami, Bianco, Nero, Rosso, Rosa!

Vatican, Vatican City, Sistine Chapel, Tiber River, Siena, Pisa, San Gimignano, Florence, Frescoes, Olive Trees, Stone houses, Duomo(catherdral), arches, passages, Leonardo painter, Medici family, groves, vineyards, brushetta, antipasti, Mussolini, Ponte Veccho, David 1503 17ft, Pieta Scupture, Primi, Secondi, Dolci, Vino, Pickpocket, Assisi, Basilica St Francis, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Panethon, Coliseum, Chianti, Michelangelo, Dante father of the language, Palio Race, ALS Challenge to name a few! Grappa! Crappa, Groppa!

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