Subject: Back from Italy
Hi All, Just returned from our 16-day trip to Italy, made better by suggestions and recommendations from so many people in this group. Don & Linda's travelogue of their recent trip to Italy was perfectly timed for us to retrace much of our trip again. We were in many of the same places and their good descriptions brought us right back.

Started in Rome with our stay at Giorgio's Hotel delle Musee in the Parioli district. It was lovely and we appreciated his help and hospitality. Also one of the best breakfasts! Met up with Charles and Martha from Atlanta, contacts from this group. We spent a great day at the Vatican with them. The Sistine Chapel was awesome, a highlight of the trip. Walked the city, saw all the fountains. Had a great GTG arranged by Flavio at a boat restaurant on the Tiber, with Charles, Martha, daughter Michelle and two others from the hotel. Thanks Flavio for a fun evening!

We got an early train out of Rome to Terni to pick up our rental car. The drive through Umbria's hill towns was lovely. During our stay at the Agritourismo Malvarina, we visited Trevi, Foligno, Montefalco, Bevagna and Spello. Had some wonderful wines! (Note: Wine in Italy is cheaper than soft drinks-we had fun.) Thanks to Don &Linda for recommending Malvarina. It was a small piece of heaven during our trip. Wished we could have stayed longer. The views from this hilltop setting were spectacular. The host family was more than friendly. Great meals. Our first visit to Umbria and we loved it. We agree with others in this group who have raved about this region. The location was ideal for visiting Assissi, Gubbio and Perugia. Even though these areas had lots of tourists, we enjoyed them all.

My husband handled the driving well. We were ALWAYS passed on the two-lane country roads in Umbria and Tuscany on curves, up mountains, down, etc. Italian drivers like to stay ahead. The lack of road signs into and out of some of the larger cities was frustrating.

In Cortona we enjoyed the views and the town. On our way to Pisa and Lucca we were able to stop in Poggibonsi for a brief GTG with Andrea and Antonella. It was fun meeting them finally. They are thinking about visiting the US. We hope they make it this year!

The leaning tower was still a surprising sight even after all the pictures we've seen. We spent the night in Lucca and enjoyed walking the streets within the walled city. Then on to the Lakes area: Como, Maggiore and Orta where we were able to relax during our last days in these beautiful surroundings. It was a pleasure to park the car and take to the boats. A word about Como- we arrived late in the day and were told by the tourist office that no rooms were available in the city. They did find us space in the small town of Torno about five miles away. A much better choice! We stayed at the Hotel Vapore which is right on the lake. Our balcony gave us wonderful views. The boat dock was practically at our front door. The church was next door and we were able to hear the choir rehearsing our first night there. Dinner, the water, mild weather and music in the traffic sounds at all...what could be nicer?

On our one rainy day while in Como, we found a cozy cafe with a computer for internet use and sipped a cappacino while catching up on our emails. It was convenient having a toilette at hand as well:) We were able to find Internet spots in several of our stops.

Our stay in Stresa on Lago Maggiore was pretty much stressfree. Few decisions to make, lots of shops, restaurants. Lots of tour buses, but plenty of room to enjoy the lake, the islands, walking the streets. We also drove over the mountain to Lago D' Orta which was another gem in the area. Great time of year to be there with the flower gardens in full bloom. On the way we caught an open air market in Baveno.

The people we met were always friendly and helpful. So many strangers gave us good advice and directions. It also helped to have restaurant recommendations. This was our fourth trip, and we still think Italy is a great place to visit, with much more to see.

Thanks again for all the useful information from this group! Pictures of GTGs soon.

Eileen &Al Minneapolis