Posted by: philipfontana | October 15, 2014

Italy 2014

Italy 2014:

Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan & More

September 25-October 5


            Dinner excursion first night in Florence to a fine Tuscan restaurant with some of the group on the Globus Tour.


     Excuse us, for we’ve been out doing a little living in Italy. “Wife Geri” and I are fulfilling 40 years of promises to show each other places we traveled to when we were young that the other had not seen. This year it was Geri’s turn to show me Italy. We had both been to Rome before we met. But Geri had toured Italy more extensively. – – So off we went to see Rome once again and onward by bus to Florence, Venice, and Milan, with stops in between!


Globus Tour, “Italian Highlights”


          Our signature photo of Rome was St. Peter’s Square with St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, in the background. Rome felt like a combination of New York City, Paris, and Amsterdam rolled into one. It was a vibrant street to street celebration of love, music, food, and rich history, art and architecture from Roman times up to the Renaissance and our modern era. It is always thrilling for us to be in the presence of the Vatican and Sistine Chapel, Colosseum, and the Roman Forum once again.


           Siena is a charming medieval town with its impressive, sprawling Piazza del Campo, scene of Siena’s spectacular medieval-style horse race. The Piazza’s town hall adds a dominating presence as people huddle around the Piazza edges in the many sidewalk restaurant cafes.


          San Gimignano was the next stop. Again a medieval town, San Gimignano is considered by many to be the most picturesque of Italy’s perfectly preserved medieval towns. This is attributed to its hilltop location and the spectacular thirteen remaining hilltop towers (originally 60 some towers!!!). I mean TOWERS!!!


           Florence is worthy of a trip in itself as the cradle of the Renaissance! The historic presence of the Medici family can be felt with Machiavelli whispering in their ears. The history, the art, the architecture of the Renaissance are so great they live on and on to this very day! – – The great Duomo and Baptistery with Ghiberti’s famous Bronze Doors called “The Gates of Paradise,” Il Palazzo Vecchio on the Piazza della Signoria filled with sculpture. Here we are at the popular bridge, the Ponte Vecchio! The Uffizi Gallery is a magnificent museum to behold. But the high point for most everyone is the Galleria dell’Accademia with Michelangelo’s overpowering 17 foot-high marble statue of David.


          Pisa is an amazing little town outside Florence. The center of tourist activity is around the Duomo and Baptistry next to the most famous Bell Tower in the world, better known as the Leaning Tower from 1173 AD.


           Castello Verrazzano is a wonderful stop also outside Florence. It is the Chianti wine vineyard of Giovanni Verrazzano & his family. He was born right there in the castle in the late 15th century and went on to become the great explorer of “the New World,” besides being “that little old wine maker.” No ordinary wine tasting here with Mama & family in the kitchen doing the cooking for our luncheon & then the grand tour of the vineyard & castle.


          Venice is truly the city of romance and great history, art, and architecture. St. Mark’s Cathedral is being restored but just as magnificent. The Doges’ Palace and Prison next door connected by the Bridge of Sighs are all a wonder in themselves. Here we are pictured on the sprawling St. Mark’s Square. Laid out surrounding the Square is an enchanting array of shops and sidewalk café restaurants with small orchestras playing to the delight of all. – – All this, plus the canals and gondolas and la musica altogether make out of any person a visiting romantic!


           Burano island of Venice is a quaint fishing village better known these days for its production and sale of every type of lace product and garment conceivable. The colorful buildings and shops replete with Venetian masks for Carnivale are matched by the superb seafood! That’s Geri in the left foreground.


           Then there is the famous Murano island of Venice. For one-thousand years Murano has produced the finest glass blown products from vases to tea/coffee cup sets and wine glasses to decorative clowns, animals, etc., jewelry and even chandeliers. The factories are there in Murano and, naturally, the shops. Expensive!!!


         In fair Verona the streets are narrow and quaint, lined with shop after shop and throngs of admirers making their way to the main event. Verona even has its own ancient Colosseum. But it all leads to the epicenter, epitomized in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet; Juliet’s balcony! Next to it for every Romeo, a bronze of Juliet to caress!!!


         Milan is northern Italy’s New York City of fashion and business with the hustle and bustle to match! The gothic Duomo di Milano is breathtaking. Wife Geri stands in the glass domed mall, the Galleria, fabulously opulent. These coupled with La Scala Opera House and its Museum make everyone feel like a king or a queen!


          Before taking a look at the Itinerary below, let’s go back to Venice for a moment. Photo logistics are tough if you don’t get a choice double seat. But here is the best we could do for our romantic ride in a gondola on the canals of Venice. The Gondoliers provided us with accordion playing & singing. It’s a less than ideal photo shot, to put it mildly. But to us it looks perfectly romantic!!!


Day 1: Arrive in Rome, Italy.
Welcome to Rome! At 5 pm, meet your Tour Director and traveling companions, and enjoy [LF] a special welcome dinner with wine at the rooftop restaurant of your hotel overlooking Rome. (D)

Day 2: Rome
. Your guided tour focuses on religious Rome: visit the fascinating VATICAN MUSEUMS and SISTINE CHAPEL, world famous for Michelangelo’s ceiling paintings and The Last Judgment. Continue to monumental ST. PETER’S SQUARE and BASILICA and admire Michelangelo’s Pietà. To make the most of your stay, join our optional Roman Highlights excursion, and see the sites and squares of medieval Rome made famous in the movie Angels & Demons. (B)

Day 3: Rome
. This morning, your Local Guide will take you first to ST. PETER IN CHAINS to see [LF] Michelangelo’s famous Moses, followed by visits to the magnificent COLOSSEUM and the ROMAN FORUM, where Roman legions marched in triumph. Then, time to savor la dolce vita and enjoy independent activities. (B)

Day 4: Rome–Siena–San Gimignano–Florence
. In Siena, enter the impressive medieval walls and walk through ancient, narrow lanes to PIAZZA DEL CAMPO, site of the biannual Palio, Siena’s spectacular medieval-style horse race. Then, continue through unforgettable landscapes of gently rolling, vine-clad hills to hilltop San Gimignano, and walk through the most picturesque of Italy’s perfectly preserved medieval towns. Next is Florence, the splendid capital of Tuscany and birthplace of the Renaissance. (B)

Day 5: Florence
. During your walking tour with a Local Guide, visit the ACADEMY OF FINE ARTS to see Michelangelo’s celebrated David. Admire the magnificent cathedral, Giotto’s Bell Tower, the Baptistry’s heavy bronze “Gate of Paradise,” sculpture-studded SIGNORIA SQUARE, and visit SANTA CROCE BASILICA with the tomb of Michelangelo. The afternoon is free to shop for Florentine leather goods and gold jewelry sold by the ounce, which are attractive buys, or to join an optional excursion to the magnificent Uffizi Gallery. And tonight is your chance to try out the culinary delights of a fine Tuscan restaurant. (B)

Day 6: Florence. Excursion to Pisa & Verrazzano Castle.
A fast journey will bring you to Pisa. Here, take the traditional picture pushing back the amazing Leaning Tower, 180 feet high and no less than 12 feet out of the perpendicular. Then, the highlight of today: [LF] hear about the fine art of blending four types of grapes to obtain the famous Chianti at VERRAZZANO CASTLE; enjoy a WINE TASTING and lunch before returning to Florence. (B,L)

Day 7: Florence–Venice Island.
A spectacular drive through the wooded Apennine Mountains brings you to Venice, a powerful magnet for romantics and art lovers from around the globe. Enter its glittering maze of islands, canals, and bridges in style by PRIVATE BOAT to meet your Local Guide. Highlights of your walking tour are ST. MARK’S SQUARE and the byzantine BASILICA, lavish DOGES’ PALACE and the BRIDGE OF SIGHS. Then, enjoy Venice at your own pace or join an optional gondola ride. (B,D)

Day 8: Venice Island. Murano & Burano Islands Excursion.
Join an unforgettable [LF] Venetian LAGOON CRUISE to the islands of Murano and Burano. Glide past the islands of San Giorgio and Sant’Elena, and along the banks of the famous Lido. In Murano, watch a skilled GLASSBLOWER fashion delicate objects in an age-old traditional manner. Then, continue on to the picturesque fishing village of Burano, renowned for its bright pastel-colored houses and for its lace making. Take pictures of traditional fishing boats, still used by the island inhabitants, and enjoy an included lunch with wine at Osteria ai Pescatori. Return to Venice in the early afternoon. (B,L)

Day 9: Venice Island–Verona–Milan
. In Verona, the medieval setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, take pictures of Juliet’s balcony and rub the shining breast on her statue for good luck. Next, admire the Arena, an incredibly well-preserved pink marble Roman amphitheater, where gladiators used to fight. Built in the 1st century AD, it is now the magical venue for world-famous opera performances. Then, on to the dynamic city of Milan, hub of Italy’s economic miracle. Visit the MUSEUM of the famous La Scala Opera House, the glass-domed GALLERIA, and admire the magnificent gothic Duomo. A special farewell dinner with wine at a local restaurant has been prepared as a proper way to say, “Arrivederci, Italia!” (B,D)

Day 10: Milan
. Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning. (B)



       Excuse us for living, but another grand trip for us!

       Comments: Please!






  1. Incredible photos, it looks like someone had a great time. I so very jealous. 🙂

    • Dom, You are so kind! Thanks for the comments & taking the time to look at this! Phil

  2. Great Album taken from my favorite part of the world!!!

    • Robert, We knew you would like this one!!!!!!!! You are right….Italy being your favorite! We felt right at home, almost as if we were not in a foreign country. After all, it’s OUR country! Right???!!! Thanks! Phil

  3. Oh, that looks such fun!
    And having just returned from a trip to Spain with a side trip to visit my mother in England, how I would have appreciated someone to organise it all…so that all i had to do was hop on a comfortable coach and enjoy!

    • Helen, Yes, we rely on Globus Tours. But it is rigorous; up at 5:00AM & on the bus by 7:15-8:00 AM every day!!! But worth the exhaustion! Many thanks & great trip you had!!!!!!!!! Phil

      • I’d take 5.00 am like a shot….I always seems to be getting buses and taxis at 1.00 in the morning…

  4. Ecco! Un bellissimo viaggio in Italia! Si danno descrizioni molto bello dei tuoi viaggi! Wish I could have been there! I’ve been to Milano, Murano, Venezia, Firenze, San Gimignano, Siena, and I lived in Pisa (actually Rigoli, vicino a Pisa). This was a nice walk down memory lane for me, Phil. Thanks!

    • Chip, Your Italian is always superb! You’ve been to everyplace on our trip except maybe Burano island, Venice, with all the lace products! If you’ve been there too, excuse me. Burano, so colorful are the buildings & quaint & the seafood restaurants so excellent!!! Thanks for the good review & comments as always to my Renaissance man himself!!! You should see ALL my photos of the ” David”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Phil

      • I have to admit that I always double check my Italian with Online Translator. I always make mistakes, having leaned most of my daily Italian from the village folk in Rigoli. They may speak the Italian of Dante in the cities, but in the country, it pure dialetto. I learned to say “la harne” for “la carne” and piashe for piace. I do love Tuscany!

  5. Loved it-Loved it! The only places i have not been to is Verona and Milan…thx for the photo journey!

  6. Marg, You are our expert on our trip….You knew where we were going & where you have been!!! No one else takes such care & interest but you! Many thanks! Erin keeps us up on how you are doing after your procedure now that she is back home from FL.. So glad you are well & are recouping on schedule!!! Thanks! Phil

  7. Oh boy. Pictures are amazing. I love that you are fulfilling this promise to each other. I have only been to Ireland and England… But it is on my bucket list! Love you Phil and Gerri!

    • Heather, Thanks for looking here!!!! Promise fulfilled but Geri & I NOW think it is better to travel along the way when you are younger over the years until retirement. It’s harder when you are older! So to hell with bucket lists & work on a “to do list” NOW!!!!!!!! The problem for younger people is time & money, I know!!! You have a good start with Ireland & England. And when you are younger, you can hop a plane & play the rest by ear….much cheaper than this $10,000 trip! Phil

  8. Chip, I never knew about Online Translator!!!!!!! You devil! I sure know about dialects. So you parla Tuscano!!! Similarly, even my high Italian is spiced with some sounds of my ancestral Sicilia with “u” sounds for “o.” I just picked it up from the family. And it seeps into my pronunciation! Phil

  9. Love this post! 🙂
    Thank you for taking us along with you. Awesome pictures and very interesting!
    Hugz & Love to you and Geri! ♡

    • Patty, Patty, Patty, I’m getting there!!!!! This is done & now I can start turning to proofing. Glad you like Italy 2014. This time I jotted down a few brief notes each night before bed while on the Italy tour city by city. And, I made sure I had photos of the two of us at the major places! Thanks for the encouragement & affection back to you! Phil

  10. Reblogged this on Just Us Owls and commented:
    Please check out my Paisano’s latest adventure!

    • Ed, Many thanks again for the reblog! WordPress did not notify me that this comment from you was here!!!!!!! Maybe WordPress posted here for you, perhaps! It was great of you! Thanks again! Phil

      • It was my pleasure Phil. You had such a great story there I had to share. 🙂

  11. Loved the photos and commentary! So glad you had a wonderful trip. Looks like weather was beautiful. Took our grown daughters on a similar trip in ’07 & ’08. Had a ball. Look into website if you ever want to go on your own without the tour. We did this and with confirmations for hotels, rail, and site tours in hand, not one problem. Gotta say my favorite place was Siena. The “striped” cathedral was awe-inspiring! On to your next trip!

  12. Marti, Many thanks for your informed, experienced comments! Yes, our weather in Italy was good for the most part. sounds excellent. After 5 Globus tours in 5 years, we have had enough bus tours….Only one was a riverboat cruise. Up too early & to bed too late! For next year we booked a riverboat cruise down the Rhine. Siena was lovely, just too short a visit there for an hour or two. It was so good to talk to you!!! Still recouping from the trip & Reunion!!! Amazing I got this posted!!!! Thanks so much! Phil

  13. And I thought we were friends. Yet you go on this spectacular trip and didn’t invite me along. I could have even earned my way – I’m a very good photographer, I could have carried all that luggage, kept the Chianti flowing, finished off all those overflowing bowls of pasta, and kept all those lovely Italian maidens at arms length. Jeeze!

    • Jim, Now I’ve thought of that! How great it would be for a couple like us to have a personal photographer along!!! And all the other amenities sound perfect except don’t keep the young girls way from you & me! Great comments! Phil

  14. Amazing! Love the pictures, you both look great. There’s something to be said for a great travel partner! Of course I hope your adventure feeds your imagination for awhile what a beautiful place to go and man you guys crammed a lot into ten days!

    • M, You know God only made one of you! Love the comments! It sure helps when two people agree while traveling with all the decisions to be made on the spot! –Not only the imagination, but the journey, the stimulation, energizes you! You are not kidding…up at 5AM, to bed by 11AM, guided tour time & a free few hours here & there to see your own “hit list” of sights. It was our 5th Globus Tour 5 years in a row, all by bus, one bus & Ocean liner cruise combined, one all riverboat cruise which was our favorite. No more bus tours….too exhausting. Last summer booked a riverboat cruise down the Rhine for fall 2015. Thanks for the genuine comments!!!! Ciao! Phil

      • If you were going to spend one week in just one area?

  15. M, In Italy…….One half week in Florence & the other in Venice!!!!!!!!! And that’s if you want to get the best in art & history in Florence & the romance of Venice!!! Phil

  16. just beautiful experience – wonderful images – I remembered when I toured with my band last year. Beyond words!!

    • Mino, Appreciate you visiting here. Honored! Glad you liked this of Italy! Just back 2 weeks ago! Wow! Your band toured Italy! Fab! Phil

      • Thank You Mr Phil – for your kind comments – I was jealous after reading your article about the trip. Next time I will be joining your group. Welcome Back and I hope to see you again on my blogs!

  17. Hey Phil, I can’t find a post I haven’t been on – so here I am letting you know at least I tried!! Have a great weekend!!

    • gp, You are something else…”a trooper”!!! You seen EVERY posts here!!!! Guinness Book of Records for “Excuse Us…” I am now doing a post every other month. Also life get in between like the tracker trailer that smashed our fieldstone walls, curbing, fence, mailbox, etc., last Saturday night!!!! Our 1885 Dutch Colonial front of the house sits 11 ft from the roadway, Rt 202, a busy route. I have had a post ready to go for two months. Thanks, gp! Phil

  18. Oh, how I envy you and the trip. Father’s side are Romans and Mother’s Sicilian but the closest I’ve been to Italy is reading this post. Christmas regards.

    • CARL!!!! You MUST go with your family ancestry! I’m Sicilian on both sides & I hesitate to go there!!! But all I studied as a history major BA & poli sci MA, & art history & music 101, & Italian in high school & advanced Italian Lit at Rutgers, all came to fruition in Rome, Florence, Venice, & Milan, plus the stops along the way. –And our ancestral cuisine & vino!!! It was our 5th trip abroad & Italy felt the LEAST foreign!!! It was like coming home; catering to tourists as their #1 industry, Italians knowing English, & the Italian I know to get by. Florence!!! –To walk the streets & palaces of the Medici Family & Machiavelli!!!!!!!!! — To visit in Florence the church of Sante Croce where on both sides as you enter are the crypts of Sante, Galileo, Michelangelo, & Machiavelli! I could go on & on with the artists & architecture & so much more. WHEN ARE YOU GOING??????? Eleven days, $8,500 TOTAL, Globus Tours by bus. “Merry Merry”! Phil

  19. I have visited Spain twice, Portugal once, and Paris twice. I hope to get to Italy some day. My grandfather was from a small town near Rome and my grandmother was from a small town in the north. I’m sure you had a great time!

    • Kendall, Thanks for the “Like” on this!!! With both grandparents from Italy, no doubt you will get there! Wife Geri & I have not been to Spain & Portugal together…..Geri was to Spain 40+ years ago. We must go! Paris!!!!!! We fell in love with Paris in 2013….Take a look at “France 2013” on my “Excuse Us…” website under “Travel” at the bottom of the right margin!!! Paris is so special for all it is & offers & so “sight seeing” friendly to find one’s way along the Seine!!! Thank you so much for telling me of your travels! This summer will be our European trip #5 together in retirement down the Rhine by river boat cruise from Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland! Before we met 43 years ago, we each traveled extensively through Europe in our early 20’s. We cannot get enough of European travel & look to travel the USA in the near future with some regret. —sounds terrible! I know we will return to Europe! When you get to Italy, FLORENCE for the art & history & Venice for the romance plus art & history as well!!! So good to share travel experiences. Phil

      • You are welcome! Your travels sound great! I’m sure you will enjoy all your future ones and I agree, Paris is great! I do hope I get to Italy some day and I would prefer to see Florence and Venice! Have a great day! Kendall

  20. Kendall! YOU MUST PLAN TO GET TO ITALY!!! Please, do it! After 5 “tour company” trips, Geri & I have the confidence to just book the airfare, say, to Florence, then a reasonable hotel, show ourselves around with guide book & map, train to Venice, & repeat the above with airfare home from Venice. –All booked online from home, even the train. The only thing is “transfers,” i.e., transportation from airport, etc., to hotels. Taxi or mass transit (more time but less money). You can do it this less expensive way if you like. Phil

  21. This is incredible! And it looks like you and your lovely wife had a beautiful time 🙂 Seeing all of these pictures and your itinerary makes all that more excited for my first ever Italy adventure next year! Did you get the chance to see the coastal town of Capri?

    • Kait, Thanks for all your replies to my comments & your “Likes” on “Excuse Us…” Glad you saw “Italy 2014”!!! Yes, great time! I can hear you excitement for your trip next year! No, our Globus Tour did not include Capri. But Capri & the Amalafi Coast must be great! If you are going to attempt to see “all if Italy,” it will be a trip of at least 15-18 days or more….Hard to do all of Italy in one trip! Thanks for the comments!!! Phil

  22. Hello! Great post and I loved the pictures! I’ve been to Venice but I’d love to go to Rome and some other cities (on my bucket list). I’m glad you and your wife enjoyed yourselves. 😀

  23. Vashti! Here on my “excuse Us…”!!! Thanks for coming over! You are right! There is so much to see in all of Italy….It takes a few trips, maybe even 3-4, just to see it superficially.–Or, stay for a month & keep moving!!! Thanks so much for looking at out trip! This fall we do a riverboat cruise from Amsterdam, down the Rhine, to Basel, Switzerland. Phil

  24. What a wonderful itinerary! And wonderful pictures and scenery. The only place we have visited from you itinerary is Florence – it was beautiful! And we got an insider tip for a small local restaurant (meny in Italian only) that had the most delicious Italian food!

  25. Girl Gone Expat, Yes, the itinerary was basic but special & important to us for the art & history. Great that you hit a small local restaurant in Florence! That’s the way to do it!!! Ciao!!! Phil

  26. I thought you might enjoy these tales about my brother.

    • annebell, George’s story of service & ultimate sacrifice in 1945 as told by your sister is not only an important family document to preserve your family history but is part of the fabric of the American history of WWII. I am sure you are so very proud of him! Phil

      • Thank you for your encouragement and kind words. That is exactly what you are doing for your family!

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