Traveller Story: Barefoot in Italy
Margot and her husband Kevin travelled on our Italian Grande tour in August 2017. Margot loved exploring the winding, narrow streets of Capri, the boat ride 'through the hole in the rock' and tasting the delicious wines and oils at a beautiful farmhouse in Tuscany. Her advice to other travellers considering this tour is to be ready for fun, laughter and amazing experiences!
What tour did you travel on?
When did you travel?
Why did you select this particular tour?
I have wanted to tour Italy for years. I wanted to visit the places I learned about when I studied Italian at university many, many years ago and to practise the beautiful language I used to be able to speak well. We thought it would be a once in a lifetime trip to Italy and wanted to see as much as possible.
Albatross Tours offered the most comprehensive itinerary we could find. We liked the idea of at least two nights in each place. We also liked the idea of a maximum group size of twenty-eight. We had not heard of Albatross Tours before but our travel agent assured us that others had been happy with you, so we decided to just go for it.
And we are very glad we did!!
Who did you travel with?
My husband, Kevin.
Have you travelled with Albatross Tours previously?
No, this was our first tour. We will, however, be travelling with you again soon.
What was your favourite places on your Albatross tour?
I couldn't choose a favourite place while we were travelling and I am still finding it excruciatingly difficult now. Florence? Venice? Macugnaga? Capri? Spoleto? Stresa? Naples? Cinque Terre? The magnificent Lakes Maggiore and Como? Castel Brando? So different and all magnificent.
I think, though, that my award goes to Capri. What a magical place!
It was a beautiful day. Our time there began with a ferry ride from Naples. We headed straight to one of the buses and began the amusing, slightly scary and absolutely breathtaking little bus ride up to Anacapri. Our local guide kept us amused as we wound our way up the narrow road.
Tempting shops, Villa San Michele of Axel Munthe fame (I remember reading the story as a teenager), the chairlift, stunning views and more delicious gelato.
As if that was not enough, we then descended to Capri where our guide again regaled us with stories of the area. Beautiful, winding, narrow streets, more exotic, tempting shops; a glorious garden; the steps where Sophia Loren stood in the film "It Started in Naples".
And there's more...! A fabulous boat ride along part of the coast of the island and into a grotto or two and through "the hole in the rock". The warmth of the sun on our bodies, the wind in our hair, refreshing salt air and beautiful, shining azure water. What more could we ask for?!
What was the most amazing thing you saw or did on your Albatross tour?
Again, so difficult. Vesuvius and Pompeii? The Leaning Tower of Pisa? The canals of Venice? We saw so many amazing things and had so many amazing experiences.
For me, I think the chairlifts I went on are right at the top. I used to be terrified of going on chairlifts or in cable cars but age and some experiences have helped me conquer that fear to a great extent. And I am so glad that is the case.
We road the Belvedere chairlift at Macugnaga. Sitting beside my (not very well that day) husband with a gentle breeze wafting by, beautiful views below and stunning mountains above was exhilarating and relaxing at the same time. A true mountain experience.
The single chairlift at Anacapri was yet another level. Sitting by myself required a new level of courage - and was worth every bit! The views were unbelievable and gave a superb perspective of the Isle of Capri. Something I will never forget.
Tell us about your most memorable moment on tour?
This has to be in Montecatini Terme. We had just returned to our hotel room. Tired from exploring, I took off my shoes, rearranged the souvenirs in my suitcase for the umpteenth time and stretched out on the bed.
An unexpected sound wafted through the open window. Why could I hear a brass band?
We went to the window, just in time to see the last horse reaching the end of the street.
A brass band was something special but a mounted brass band, well, that was irresistible!
I grabbed my camera and rushed out of the room. I ran down the stairs and, regaining some composure, walked as quickly as I could through the foyer and out the door of the hotel.
There was no time to waste. After all, I did not know Montecatini Terme and the horses had disappeared. The music grew faint and then stopped. Following my instincts, and then the crowd, I hastened through the streets and found myself at the piazza in front of the Town Hall. Some people gave me bemused looks. I thought they found the tourist hurrying to see the mounted band amusing.
I made my way to the front of the crowd and stood, mesmerised, listening to the beautiful music and watching the superb horses standing absolutely still while drumsticks were twirled around their ears and trumpets, horns and trombones were blown by the riders on their backs. I drank it all in - the horses, the music, the exotic police uniforms, the wonderful mix of people in the crowd that had gathered.
Then, during one of the periods of silence between performances, I again became aware of amused glances coming my way. It dawned on me that people were looking at my feet. I found myself explaining that I had left my room in the hotel with such haste that I had not had time to put my shoes on.
That was when I realised that everyone else was wearing shoes, that actually I had not seen anyone without shoes during our whole trip. It then became clear to me, for the beautifully vibrant, earthy people of Italy, going barefoot is strange and, in essence, is not ok!!!
What was your favourite meal on tour?
These questions seem so simple but they are not! I must admit that Kevin and I relied on the meals with the tour because we were too busy exploring in our free time to sit and eat anywhere.
Our final night in Rome? Our first night in Stresa? Naples? All the meals were delicious and there were copious amounts of food.
My accolade, however, goes to the farm where we dined above Montecatini Terme, the Osteria del Vecchio Olio. Welcoming owners who knew their produce and taught us about their wines and oils; a warm, friendly ambience, beautiful views and, oh yes, absolutely delicious food. We loved the whole evening.
What advice do you have for anyone interested in travelling on this tour?
Do it!! Be ready for fun, laughter and amazing experiences.
Take a pair of lightweight shoes that you can wear into the water, so that the stones - particularly at Stresa on Lake Maggiore - will not make getting into the inviting water virtually impossible.
Try to learn a little Italian. The Italian people are, for the most part, friendly and helpful but are even more so if you speak a few words of their beloved language.
Would you recommend this tour to family and friends? If so, why?
Without hesitation! A friendly, informative, well paced tour that took us to amazing places and gave us fantastic experiences; all in comfortable buses with a lovely, helpful driver and a guide we cannot speak highly enough of. Thank you, Albatross Tours. Our trip to Italy was all we hoped it would be and more.