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When in Italy…

Author: Colleen Romanauski


I recently embarked on an educational journey to Italy, focusing on the enchanting southern regions. This curated experience was organized by I.D.I. Travel Italy & France, leading us through the captivating landscapes of Rome, Amalfi Coast, Matera, and Apulia. Our group consisted of six travel advisors and two representatives from I.D.I Travel – a harmonious blend that made it feel like we had been friends for years.

My journey commenced with a flight to Rome on Lufthansa Airlines. The flights were seamless, and I was pleasantly surprised by the complimentary food on board. While I flew in Economy Class to Rome, my return to Chicago saw an unexpected upgrade to First Class. The amenities and service in First Class added an extra layer of luxury to my journey, making the return flight memorable. For those seeking extra legroom, I recommend considering Business Class/First Class or securing exit row seats.

Over the course of the trip, we stayed in five distinctive hotels.

  • Rome: The Six Senses offered a wellness-focused and environmentally friendly experience. The spa, featuring a sound therapy session and Roman baths, was a rejuvenating highlight.

  • Positano: Le Sirenuse provided one of my favorite views from the balcony of the water and city. Our evening was enriched by conversations with owners and local hoteliers.

  • Amalfi: Hotel Santa Caterina, perched on a cliff, treated us to a spectacular seafood dinner.

  • Matera: Sextantio, a one-of-a-kind cave dwelling lit by candlelight, left an indelible impression.

  • Lecce: The Risorgimento Resort, although undergoing renovations, fell short of the meticulous attention expected from a Signature hotel.

Around Italy, we traveled by a private driver and local guides. I highly recommend using a private driver for the ease of traveling. The driver picked us up at the airport with a sign with our name on it, escorted us to the vehicle, and helped with our luggage. We had the same driver the whole time, and his extensive knowledge enhanced our journey as he shared interesting facts about landmarks we passed.

I.D.I Travel curated exceptional experiences, from an evening vintage car tour in Rome to a pizza-making class and exploring the less crowded Ostia Antica ruins. A rain-induced change led to a private tour of a lemon farm, an olive oil tour, and a captivating demonstration of mozzarella cheese making in Amalfi. Matera revealed its charm through a walking tour of Sassi and an evening Tuk Tuk excursion. In Apulia, we explored a unique Masseria and ancient olive groves, some trees dating back over 3,000 years. One standout experience was our visit to Sternatia, where we enjoyed a city tour guided by two local elders and a private meal in a castle prepared by two gracious local grannies.

Italy's culinary scene is a true delight, with each city offering a distinct gastronomic experience. From indulging in Rome's pizza variations to discovering the nuances of olive oil, our hotel chefs showcased local recipes and products. Wine pairings at lunch and dinner, followed by Espresso after each meal, heightened the culinary journey.

For practical tips, using ATMs in the destination is recommended over airport exchange counters. Tipping is not obligatory in Italy, but for exceptional service, it is warmly appreciated. With no built-in tipping line on bills, having Euros on hand is essential. I would suggest a small cross-body bag that you can keep in front of you while walking around the city to prevent theft, although we did not encounter any issues.

As I reflect on the unique experiences enjoyed in the cities, I look forward to assisting others in planning their unforgettable trips to Italy!

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