Italy trip Fall 2008 260

Here are some travel tips that I always pass on to my clients.

  • Make 2 copies of your passport – take one with you and leave the other copy home with a family member.
  • I suggest everyone get a visa debit card – if you do not have please apply for one as soon as possible. Alert your bank that you will be using your visa debit card in Italy. Otherwise your account may be frozen and you will not be able to access euros.
  • Use the visa debit card to obtain euors while in Italy.
  • When making purchases use your credit card
  • Make two copies (both front and back) of your credit card and visa card. Bring one copy with you and leave the other copy home with a family member.
  • Expect cool mornings and evenings so be prepared to layer your clothing.
  • Always bring an umbrella. I cannot guarantee sunny weather.
  • Wear or bring comfortable shoes since we will be doing a lot of walking.
  • You may wish to buy ear plugs to use during the flight to Italy.
  • You may wish to go to your bank to obtain a few euros before you leave.
  • Travel insurance is highly recommended. Purchase Travel Guard here.
  • Verify your medical insurance coverage before you leave the states.
  • Leave copies of your itinerary and copies of your passport with responsible individuals at home.
  • Access the State Department website for current information concerning your proposed travel locations.

While in Rome during one of my tours, I felt everyone needed to go to a Roman pizzeria.  Pizza in Rome is quite different than pizza in Naples.  Let me explain.  Roman pizza is very thin litte sauce and cheese while pizza made in Naples is a little thicker, has more of a crust and definitely charred on the bottom.

So, one evening there was a small group of us, five to be exact, that decended on Da Remo in the Testaccio section of Rome.  We arrived by taxi and many people were congregating by the door but we managed to get ourselves noticed and asked for a table.  The fact that many people were waiting to eat at this place was a good indication of the good pizza we were about to encounter.

We were seated at the table, given the menus which we carefully read, and we were also given a chit and pencil so that we could fill out what we wanted to order.

After much discussion we placed our order.  Within a few minutes everyone had their personal size pizza!

Since everyone ordered something different we had the chance to sample many of the different offerings that Da Remo has on the menu.  Each and every one  of the pizzas were delicious and not smothering in sauce or cheeses but just right! Full of flavor and done to perfection.

This was worth the experience and I would definitely return to this local pizzeria.

Just look at this wood burning oven.  I wonder how many pizzas they make in one day?

Hint:  When going out for dinner in Rome and you need to get back to your hotel, best to have the restaurant call you a cab!  Sometimes it can be difficult to find a cab on your own and this is the best solution.

A little stressed out?  What do you do?  You go to Puerto Rico!  My daughter decided she needed a break and left me an email that read:  Wanna go? with the web link of El Conquistador, which is owned by  Waldorf Astoria and Hilton.  So we searched for flights and in less than a week we were sitting by the pool.

Pool at Conquistador

Between the sun, palm trees, a little breeze, and a cocktail it was easy to relax. It sure felt good!  Our time there was brief but we managed to do a lot:  Toured and hiked the Rain Forest ( well worth it), took the ferry to the beach, and booked the spa!

The rain forest was quite interesting and our guide was very informative.  The hike was about 2.5 miles so put on your hiking shoes if you plan to go!  The bus departed at 9am and we did not return until 2pm.  So I had my exercise for the day!


The next day we decided to take the ferry to the private beach.  What a location!  It comes equiped with a restaurant/bar, water sports, beach chairs and more.  Just bring your sunblock!



After relaxing in the sun we took the ferry ride back to the hotel and hiked to the spa for our treatments.  What to treat yourself on vacation?  Book a spa treatment at the Golden Door Spa.  After 80 minutes later we were refreshed and ready for the evening!

We both enjoyed our stay at this hotel of over 700 rooms.  We would be concerned if the entire complex would have been filled to capacity which it can be during certain weeks of the year.  Great place for families.

We definitely would go back to Puerto Rico again but stay in another hotel to get the chance to experience another part of the island.  Puerto Rico is a great 3.5 hour flight and a lush and green island. This island has so much to offer and some wonderful hotels.  Oh and let us not forget the golf courses!

While taking a short break this March my daughter, Elana, and I headed to Puerto Rico.  We stayed at El Conquistodor (more about that in another post) and decided to venture off the grounds and go to a fabulous small restaurant not far from the entrance to the hotel grounds.

La Estacion is owned and operated by Kevin Roth, a Culinary Institute of America graduate and his wife.  Both have many years experience in the restaurant business.  After many years in NYC and vacationing in Puerto Rico they decided to move to Puerto Rico and open La Estacion.  This restaurant bar was once a gas station hence the name La Estacion.  The chef uses only the freshest and local  ingredients.  The menu may change a bit according to the season.

We took a chance and hired a taxi to take us to this restaurant.  It was crowded and they told us it would be a 2 hour wait.  That did not discourage us at all.  We sat at the bar and had a drink to pass the time.

We had the Jumbo Shrimp Pinchos and the Grilled Red Snapper which was enough for three people.

The food was so good we decided to go again the next night and again we had to wait a bit but who cares.  We were on vacation!  We sat at the bar and ordered each a Fajardo Sunrise (Tequila, Passoa (local passion fruit liquor), passion fruit juice and guava juice).


Before long we were seated and we decided to go local this time as both taxi drivers suggested we order Mofongo.  Elana had the mahi-mahi with shrimp and I ordered the BBQ chicken.  Mofongo is a garlic mashed plantains.  Of couse this evening we had a wonderful bananna dessert with ice cream.

We went back to the hotel full and happy!

Pinchos at La Estacion

Grilled Red Snapper

If you happen to stay at El Conquistor Hotel I do highly recommend you dine at this unusual restaurant.  You will not be disappointed at all.

Italy trip Fall 2008 260

Are you headed to Rome for Easter?  I hope you have your itinerary planned as it is a very busy time of the year to be in Rome.  It can be very exciting despite the crowds!

By the time Holy Week begins there should be a new Pope in place.  If you are in Rome during this time enjoy the excitement when the new Pope is selected.

Sunday March 24 is Palm Sunday and Passion of the Lord.  This is the start of the Holy Week with a mass at St. Peter’s Square in the morning.  This mass is a very long mass and can last about three hours. In Italy the Easter tradition of palm is replaced with olive tree branches.

Holy Thursday is celebrated with two masses in Rome.  This first is at St. Peter’s Basilica in the morning and the second mass is at St. John Lateran in the evening.  Both masses can last more than two hours.

On Good Friday there is another mass at St. Peters in the evening with the Stations of the Cross.  Later in the evening about 9:15pm there is the Way of the Cross, where the Pope traces the Stations of the Cross from the Coliseum to Palatine Hill.

Easter Vigil on Saturday begins at 9pm at St. Peter’s Basilica.

Easter Sunday Mass is celebrated in St. Peter’s Square at about 10:15am.

Tip:   Tickets are necessary so I hope you have planned ahead to get yours.

For more information go to this site:  http://www.papalaudience.org/papal-mass

Enjoy and write me when you return!


I recently had a conversation with one of my suppliers and we were talking about the fact that many travelers are upset that they cannot take the complete Vatican – Sistine Chapel tour as the Sistine Chapel is closed and they would like a refund.


Get a grip people!  This is Italy and all of the tour guides in Rome can manage changes like this.  You must be flexible when you travel.  You will be in Rome during the making of history!

I remember taking a small group to Italy and the day we left for Italy the pope died.  I knew there would be changes along the way but it did not bother me.  I was thrilled to be in Rome during this event.  And an event it was!    We arrived in Rome on the day of his funeral.  The private bus had to leave us two blocks from the hotel which was located on the Vatican side of Rome.  We dragged our bags along the cobblestone streets and when we entered the hotel we left our bags and joined the crowds.  We still remember the experience and still talk about to this day.  We also were scheduled to see the Sistine Chapel on our tour but it was closed!

What did we do?  We continued with your plans and enjoyed  the rest of the tour which included the Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica.

Enjoy Rome people! Be a better traveler by immersing yourself in the local culture rather than being a tourist!

Any of you readers experience changes in your itinerary while in Italy?  What was the outcome?  Did you still enjoy yourself?

Sights and Flavors of Northern Italy

Dates:  October 19 – 27, 2013

Price Includes:

  • 4 nights at a 5 star hotel in Verona
  • 3 nights at a 5 star hotel in Tremezzo – park view room
  • Breakfast each morning
  • Private transfer to and from the Milan airport
  • Visit the famous Giusti Gardens in Verona
  • Private  tour of the Duomo in Milan with time for lunch
  • Highlights tour of Verona with wine tasting in the afternoon
  • Visit a villa and wine cellar with tasting of Amarone wines in Valpolicello
  • Afternoon demonstration cooking class at Villa del Quar
  • Visit Lake Garda with a private boat excursion to an island on the lake
  • Visit the town of Bergamo and stop at a wine cellar for a tasting
  • Time to visit Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo
  • Visit and guided tour of  the town of Como by private ferry
  • 4 dinners
  • 2 Lunches
  • 3 Wine tasting
  • 1 Cooking class in a Villa
  • Hotel City taxes included


  • Airfare
  • Travel insurance
  • Personal expenses at the hotels
  • Meals not mentioned in the detailed itinerary
  • Boat excursions and entrance fees to the villas, parks and museums
  • Wine not included in all meals

Itinerary is subject to change.

Cost:  $4200.00 per person based on double occupancy

$450.00 single occupancy supplement

Deposit:  $500.00 per person – non refundable!

This itinerary is based on 10 people minimum.

In order to reserve your booking you must submit a non-refundable deposit in the amount of $500.00 per person due immediately along with a registration form click here! 

Mail your checks to Gourmet Getaways at

45 Eagle Nest Road Morristown, NJ 07960

Remember that space is limited
so if you are considering this tour please submit your deposit in a timely

For more information on the day by day itinerary click here!