No matter how many times I tried to dissuade them, they went anyway. Without me too!
This story is so awesome that I want to run the entire trip diary, so I broke it into pieces for you. What a trip!
A MOST BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY
Madeline Vitella and Maria Agostini Leps live about 45 minutes from each other, Maria in PA and Madeline in NJ. Because of their proximity, they were able to meet each other several times during the planning process of this exciting trip. But until the day of departure, none of us had met Joan Brenin or Deborah Georgini Beaupre. On May 9, 2015, everyone finally met.
Here’s our story:
More than 6 months ago, we four grandmas from different parts of the US decided we wanted to go to Italy to see the countries where our beloved young men of Il Volo grew up. It all started as a dream, but with enthusiasm and gusto we began to plan.
The first thing we decided was that we needed a guide and driver so that we would not have to rent a car or be dragging our luggage on and off trains and buses. (Once we saw how they drive in Italy we were so glad we didn’t rent a car!). Through mutual friends we had discovered Sicily Routes, a tour company that advertised personalized tours throughout Sicily. We contacted Ciro Grillo, the owner of Sicily Routes. Ciro was very enthused about our plans and suggested other cities we should visit as well, but we were adamant about what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go. As it turned out, Ciro knew exactly what our trip should be like and wanted us to get the most out of our visit. In addition to the towns we had insisted upon, he included some other historical/beautiful/entertaining cities – towns that were famous for certain things and other towns that were just beautiful country. We are so glad we listened to him! We saw so many things we didn’t know existed!
So the plan for Sicily was almost complete. Now, we thought, what do we do about Italy? That’s the very first part of our trip. Well, Ciro to the rescue! He contacted some people he knew in Italy and hooked us up with a tour guide for that portion of our trip. Ciro checked up on our driver at least twice a day to make sure we were getting the most out of our visit.
THE START OF OUR FANTASY TRIP!
May 7, 2015: Joan flew into Philadelphia from FL and Deborah flew to Pisa from TX, by way of Germany.
May 8, 2015: Madeline and Maria finally met Joan in person for the first time at Philadelphia International Airport and the three flew to Rome. Deborah lands in Pisa.
May 9, 2015: Deborah flew from Pisa to Rome where Madeline, Deborah, Maria, and Joan finally met in person to begin the trip of a lifetime!
LET THE JOURNEY BEGIN!
May 9, 2015 – Hotel Cicerone, Rome
Deborah and our guide for the day, Amor, met us when our plane landed in Rome. None of us had ever met Deborah, although we chatted often via messenger and skyped a couple of times. BUT, Deborah was wearing an IL Volo shirt, so we knew it had to be her!!!
From the airport we went to our hotel where we checked in and dropped our luggage then we toured a bit of Rome. Amor took us to Dino and Tony’s for lunch, a restaurant he has been patronizing for many years. We had no menus; they served us whatever they were making for the day. We had appetizers consisting of 2 different kinds of pizza, 3 different salamis, and some fried cheeses. The second course was pasta with pancetta, and another pasta with red sauce; sparkling water and house wine were the drinks. Then they brought out a liqueur, tiramisu, and coffee. The owners were very hospitable and happy to see the 4 Ladies from America, and take pictures with us.
After touring Rome for several hours, we went back to our hotel to finally get settled in our rooms and take showers, etc. Later that evening we had dinner at The Blue Grotto, which was across the street from our hotel.
After dinner we took a walk to a tabaccheria for a gift bag for one of the gifts we brought for the ladies of Il Volo, because Madeline wasn’t smart enough to bring it from home! Unfortunately they didn’t have what we were looking for. We did purchase one later on in Sicily.
Breakfast at the hotel was a typical Italian breakfast – carbs, carbs, carbs – plus much more! The waiters, Domenico and Sammy, were full of fun and enjoyed talking and taking pictures with us.
Our new guide (for the remainder of our stay on the mainland), Christophe, picked us up at our hotel for our 4 hour tour and we were surprised and pleased that he provided us each with bottled water! We didn’t expect it, but he did so every day that he was with us in Italy. He was from France originally and has lived in Italy for several years. Christophe was dressed in a suit and tie and we said…”oh no!!! It’s too hot…you need to get comfortable when touring with us!!”
Today we toured more of Rome:
- Bambino Gesu Ospital, the Children’s Hospital that was built in the 7th or 8th Century and where all seriously ill children from all of Europe were brought for medical treatment
- St Paul’s, the 1st Basilica
- The Trevi Fountain (which was being refurbished) and the Spanish steps
- The Mussolini Bldg. and Napoleon’s mother’s apt
- The Forum
- We saw the most beautiful panoramic views of Rome – and snow capped mountains in the distance.
We learned that every country in the world has 2 Ambassadors in Italy… one for Rome and one for the Vatican, which is a separate city within Rome.
We toured the Colosseum and the Pantheon. We also saw Circus Maximus, the ancient Roman Chariot Racing stadium; Caesar’s home; and “The Keyhole.” The Keyhole is a door with a small keyhole at eye level; in it you can see 3 cities – Rome, The Vatican, and Malta.
This excursion took approx 3 – 4 hours! When we got back to the car, Christophe told us that Ciro had called to make sure we were being taken care of and that we were enjoying our day!
After touring we went to the hotel and rested a bit until we were ready for dinner. The hotel manager recommended Le Cupole Ristorante Pizzeria, which was a couple of blocks away. He also said they have a specialty – the best Linguine with lobster. Deborah was ready for that. He made the reservation for us, but forgot to ask one thing!! We walked the couple of blocks, were seated and ready to order. We already knew what Deborah was having and of course – lo and behold….no lobster today!!! Deborah was so disappointed, but she made another selection and we had a great dinner!
May 11: Morning
We had tickets for the Vatican tour (which included the Sistine Chapel and Saint Peter’s Basilica). So breathtakingly beautiful! The craftsmanship that has lasted all these years!
May 11: Afternoon – Liberty Hotel, Roseto degli Abruzzi
Christophe drove us from Rome to Roseto degli Abruzzi, to The Liberty Hotel for our 3 night stay. What a great ride we had listening to IL Volo musica!! We believe we made Christophe an IL Volo fan now, as he was singing along with the songs…especially Grande Amore!! He was so funny!!
This hotel has beautiful views of the sea and the mountains. A very popular seaside resort town where people from all parts of Europe spend their summer vacations.
We checked into our rooms and got the important WiFi codes then took off for a stroll on the avenue, which is along the beautiful Adriatic Sea. There are all kinds of clubs here, where we have seen pictures of Gianluca and Erny at the beach many, many times. The clubs are not as you would expect to find in the US. They are basically small shops that serve food and drinks, with tables, chairs, and sofas, and they have chairs and umbrellas on the beach for their guests. It appeared to us that you have to belong to a particular club to use that part of the beach. Our hotel had a section of the beach that provided umbrellas and tables, chairs, etc. The beaches here have pathways to walk on so that you are not walking on the hot sand to get to the water.
Dinner was at La Piccolo RosBurgo. This was a gated restaurant, again, just a few blocks away. When you walked through the gates from the street you walk down a tree-lined path up to the restaurant. As you approach, you see tables and benches outside for dining al fresco, or you can eat inside. We decided to eat outside because it was a beautiful night. We had ARROSTICINI (of course) and pizza. The Arrosticini was delicious, and we wanted more, but after eating the pizza and drinking beer we were all full. We said we would go back another night, as Deborah wanted to see if she could beat Ignazio’s record of 60 that he ate while staying with Gianluca!!!
Everyone in Roseto seems to know each other and it appeared that our hotel was a gathering place to watch soccer on TV and more.
Later that evening, Madeline, wearing an Il Volo shirt, was sitting in the lobby of our hotel with Deborah and Joan when someone came in and was talking to the desk clerk. The man mentioned IL Volo to the clerk after he saw Madeline’s shirt. Madeline asked him if he knew IL Volo and he said he did and that he held Gianluca when he was a baby. He said he owns the Bar BereBene and his name was Emiliano. Madeline was so excited; she told him it was on our list of places to go. She and Emiliano exchanged hugs and kisses as the Italians do, and told him we would see him there! Bar BereBene was previously known as Bar Centrale which was owned by Nonno Ernesto!
THIS IS A DAY WE WILL NEVER FORGET! IT IS ETCHED IN OUR MINDS AND HEARTS FOREVER!
This was the day that Gianluca and his father, Ercole, came to the Liberty Hotel to meet with us.
Wait until you hear about that! As soon as I am able to control my jealousy I’ll run part 2. ~Marie