Mother Daughter Italy Trip

A Gelato a Day

 

Laurie and Donna Travel to Italy

Planning Our Trip

My mother finally made it to Italy!  The journey began in 2014 when my daughter and I began planning a college graduation trip to Italy. We invited my mother to join us; what better way to see Italy than with her daughter and granddaughter. She said, "No". In 2018, I asked her to join me for a week in Paris. Since I was headed to Paris from Copenhagen, she would need to fly alone from Seattle to Paris. She said, "No". The unknown is scary for some people. My mother wanted to go to Europe, but fear of the unknown was keeping her from her first European experience.
Once I returned from Paris, I told my mother that she and I were taking a trip to Europe and I wasn’t taking no for an answer. We talked about what was holding her back. She kept telling me she had waited too late in life to travel. My mother is a very young and vibrant 79. I knew she could not only survive a trip but thrive while traveling. We would take a trip at a pace she could handle.
Where to go? We thought about Spain or the French Riviera but finally decided that Italy and a daily gelato would be the perfect first European experience. Once I saw her list of cities, I knew that the Rick Steves My Way Italy Tour would be the perfect fit! The tour would take care of the hotels and travel and we could see each city at our own pace.

 
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Even a Fashionista can pack light

Even a Fashionista can follow the Rick Steves travel with one carry-on bag rule! My mother, Donna, is always dressed to the nines. She purchases full outfits, head to toe. She doesn’t believe in wearing tennis shoes anywhere other than the gym. She doesn’t believe in mix and match outfits. She is always the best dressed woman in the room. All this to say that when I told her we were traveling with a carry-on bag only she truly believed that this would be impossible.

I began by taking her to a Sarah Murdoch travel light class at the Rick Steves offices. Sarah has her travel light class on YouTube for all to see. To her credit, my mom purchased a Rick Steves bag and took on the challenge. As you can see in our pictures, she didn’t sacrifice fashion to travel light. She was so successful that towards the end of our tour one of the ladies in our group made the comment “I love to see what Donna will wear each day”.


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Beginners Mistake

A beginner’s mistake. That is what we say about our very first European trip, when we booked our flight to arrive and leave on the days our cruise began and ended. We realized our mistake as we flew past the beauty of Copenhagen from our bus window. We didn’t make that mistake again. For our My Way Italy trip we arrived three days early to recover from jet lag and to enjoy Venice. We simply contacted our first tour hotel and booked extra days. We didn’t even need to change hotels or our room once the tour began.

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Every Meal is a Delicious Experience

Each region of Italy has its own specialties to enjoy. We made sure to ask for not only restaurant suggestions but also for a local food to enjoy in each region from our tour manager and at each hotel. We started in Venice by ordering spritz which was a refreshing drink on the hot summer day. The risotto was incredible. In the Lake Como area, we had a wonderful shrimp and avocado salad. Our favorite pasta was in the Cinque Terre where we had pesto on an interesting twisted pasta served with a limoncello spritz. You can't leave Tuscany without eating steak and wild boar. Our favorite gelato was in Rome and remember we tried at least one gelato a day, so we had a few from which to choose.

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Amazing Tour Manager and Travel Buddies

This is my third Rick Steves My Way Tour. One of the incredible benefits is the tour manager. The expert advice, the cultural viewpoint, and some local secrets all elevate the trip. Your tour manager can give insight to living in the country, has some insider knowledge on where to eat and can help to make plans and arrangements for your day. If the worst happens and you are injured on your trip, your tour manager can help you deal with the language barrier at the hospital.
My favorite part of the My Way Tour experience is my fellow travelers. A great variety of people and personalities from all over the U.S. and Canada bonding with a shared love of travel. This group makes for the opportunity to explore a city on your own or to explore a city with new friends. Since I travel in the summer, my group have always been a mix of all ages, from children to senior citizens. My tours have been filled with a variety of families, cousins, friends, and singles. New shared experiences are a great way to bond with a group of people. You will love getting to know your travel buddies. On this trip my travel buddy got engaged in Venice. Nothing more romantic than a proposal in Venice.

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Venice

Our Adventure Begins

We have arrived excited and exhausted all at once. Thanks to our Rick Steves Tour packet we had detailed directions to easily arrive at our hotel from the Venice airport. Our room is comfortable, and we could relax out of the sun on our private balcony. All our hotel rooms were comfortable. We even had a couple of rooms with incredible views. All our hotels had extremely helpful employees.

 
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Venice and Beyond

Exploring Venice

We began our exploration of Venice on the Grand Canal. Our hotel was very close to St. Mark's Square so we could spend every evening enjoying the beauty and ambiance of music and lights. We visited the Rialto bridge and market. We took a boat ride out to Murano and Burano Islands. We also wandered through back streets to get lost and found again. Venice has our heart.

 

Venice

Venice is simply unique. Getting lost in the maze of streets is truly unique as is traveling only by boat. Classy, vibrant, stunning, and like no other place I've been. In one direction you see elegance beyond description and in another you see the decay that the flood waters bring upon the city. Venice invented shabby chic.

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Our trip out to Murano and Burano

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St. Mark's Square

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Amazing sites on the Grand Canal

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Finding beauty when you wander beyond the tourist areas

 

Padua

Our Side Trip from Venice

Using our Rick Steves Italy guidebook, we took a side trip by train to Padua. We wandered in the university district going through the market, eating gelato and lunch. We hopped on the tram with our all-day ticket and headed to the Scrovegni Chapel and we were surprised by the beautiful garden park area to wander as well as the beautiful chapel. We also walked through the park by the Basilica of St Anthony.

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Basilica of St Anthony

University and Markets

Scrovegni Chapel

 
 

Lake Como

Lake Como is breathtaking from every angle. We stayed at the Villa Cipressi in Varenna on Lake Como. With photo opportunities at every turn, the garden at the Villa Cipressi is well worth exploring. One of my favorite features in Varenna is the walkway along the lake from the old town square to the harbor. We took a ferry boat around the lake and stopped at Bellagio. We walked through the streets of Bellagio going into lovely stores, eating gelato, smelling the flowers, and looking at the incredible views. Lunch in Bellagio came with one of the best views of our trip.

 

Lake Como

Stunning Views Everywhere

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The stunning walk along the lake in Varenna

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Varenna's harbor

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Varenna

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Stunning views

 

Bellagio

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Our view from lunch in Bellagio

Bellagio

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Our cruise around Lake Como

Lake Como

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We wandered the stores and streets of Bellagio

Bellagio

 

Italian Riviera

Cinque Terre

Staying in Sestri Levante and traveling by train into the Cinque Terre was interesting. We spent the first evening in Sestri Levante. Our hotel was on the peninsula, so we had bays on both sides of our hotel. We could see the smaller bay from our room. This beach was full of local families enjoying the summer day. The larger bay had a walk to easily stretch your legs and enjoy the sunset. The old town street was lively in the evening with a lot of restaurant choices.
The next day we hoped on the train to Monterosso al Mare where we caught a boat that gave a view from the water of the hill towns of the Cinque Terre. We stopped at Manarola and walked through town to San Lorenzo and the bell tower. It was a steep walk with amazing views.
Back in Monterosso we had lunch with a view and possibly our favorite meal in Italy: a pesto pasta with a limoncello spritz. I loved exploring the small towns of Manarola, Monterosso and Sestri Levante. My favorite part of traveling is just taking some time to wander and explore between viewing the bigger tourist sites.

 
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Sestri Levante

View from our hotel room

Sestri Levante is a beach town in the Italian Riviera

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Cinque Terre

A boat ride past the Cinque Terre

We decided to view and explore the Cinque Terre by water. The boat ride was crowded but did give us the option to stop and explore or stay on the boat.

Manarola

Our reward for walking up the hill is this beautiful view.

Manarola is one of the towns to explore. you need to either take the train or a boat ride to arrive at each town of the Cinque Terre.

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Monterosso al Mare

View from our favorite lunch.

We took a lunch break from the intense summer heat to relax in the shade with great food and drink.

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Florence

Art is Everywhere

We signed up for a tour of the Galleria Accademia to see Michelangelo's David which is spectacular. A walk down any street in Florence is a treat for the art fan. In Florence, the sculptures and architecture all around you are incredible. We were awed by the Duomo and the Baptistery doors. One of the best experiences in Florence is to stroll through the town and over the Ponte Vecchio in the evening light with people everywhere enjoying the evening.


Duomo

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Baptismal Doors

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Early Evening on our walk

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Galleria Accademia

There is more to the Galleria Accademia than the David. The first time I walked around the corner and saw the David down the hallway illuminated by the natural light I actually gasped. The sculpture is displayed to perfection and I can say it took my breath away.

 I am amazed at the prisoners who truly appear to be breaking out of the stone. The instruments are interesting especially when you have a guide explaining the historical significance. 

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Side Trips from Florence

American Cemetery

The most worthwhile side trip on our trip to Italy is the American Cemetery just outside Florence is honoring World War II heroes.

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San Gimignano

The Beauty of a Tuscan Hill Town

We explored the charming but tourist-filled hill town of San Gimignano. We started in the Piazza della Cisterna and wandered uphill seeing towers and ruins and a beautiful view from the Rocca. One of our favorite gelaterias is in San Gimignano. If you get the chance, try gelato at Gelateria Dondoli. It was a lovely midday stop to stretch our legs, pick up lunch, and enjoy a memorable gelato.

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Assisi

Peaceful and Heavenly

Assisi is a great stop between big cities. Assisi has beautiful churches. The Basilica of St. Francis is not only stunning on the outside but it’s also a delight to view all the stories painted inside the church. The Umbria valley views from the hillside town are beautiful. The streets of Assisi are charming to explore and photograph. We went down into the Umbria valley for a wine tasting and to take photographs in the sunflower fields.

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Basilica of St. Francis

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Basilica of St Clare

 

Assisi

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Assisi

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Arches on Basilica of St Clare

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An amazing variety of nativities throughout Assisi

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Beautiful church door details

 
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Wine Tour

We went down into the valley on a wine tour. A small family-run winery and olive grove. Delicious wine with local nibbles. So fun to order wine and have a little bit of Italy arrive at your door when you get home.

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Umbrian View

Throughout Assisi you will glimpse the gorgeous Umbrian Valley views.

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Sunflowers

Sunflowers abound all over Umbria and Tuscany.

 

Rome

Rome can be an overwhelming city for tourists. The key is to focus your sightseeing. Select just a couple of places a day with plenty of time to wander and enjoy the fact that you are finally in Rome, Italy.
Our hotel was only two blocks away from the Vatican. On our first day we focused on the Vatican. In this area you can spend hours in the Vatican Museums, St. Peter's Basilica, and St. Peter's Square.
On our full day we started with a reservation at the Borghese Gallery and saw examples of the genius of Bernini especially in his sculptures of David and Apollo with Daphne.
After leaving the Borghese Gallery, we made our way to the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, and then to the Pantheon. This gave us plenty of time to spend at each site, take pictures, and stop for lunch, gelato and a refreshing spritz along the way, eventually arriving back to St. Peter’s Square.
I did throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain, so I will return to see Ancient Rome.

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St. Peter's Square

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St. Peter's Square

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St. Peter's Square

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St. Peter's Square

 

Sites of Rome

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Borghese Gallery

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Spanish Steps

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Borghese Gallery and Gardens

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Trevi Fountain

 

Sites of Rome

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Pantheon Outside

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Pantheon Inside

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Piazza Navona

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Tiber River

 

Strolling Along the Tiber River in Rome

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My Way Italy

My Way Tours are perfect for the independent traveler that just wants someone else to deal with the hotels and travel between cities for part of the vacation. There are many benefits to joining a tour group, such as making new travel friends. I love having a tour manager to give advice in each city. Italy has so much to offer everyone: art, churches, architecture, atmosphere, food, and beauty all around. With a My Way Tour I am freed up to decide what to see and do with our days in each city.

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My Way Italy

Back Home

Travel changes a person forever. My mother started this process concerned she had waited too late in life to begin to travel internationally. She was sure she couldn’t survive for two weeks with only a carry-on bag of clothes. Taking Rick Steves My Way Italy trip gave her the confidence to travel. Now, only time and money are holding her back. I got a trip with my mother to remember forever.

 

More About Us

Our Story

I am a teacher in Washington State. Travel is my favorite way to spend my time and money. Donna is a retired banker. Since traveling to Europe for her first time, she is now looking for her next European Adventure.

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