A part of my daily routine that I thoroughly enjoy is reading through questionnaires our guests complete on their return home. It offers us great insight and ideas that we can implement right away on the next departure in a region.

This week, the mailbag included an email from four guests for whom we arranged a custom Private Journey to Tuscany & the Cinque Terre over the summer. In it, they let us know that one of the ladies had taken the liberty to post an entry on Trip Advisor recapping their experience with us. She wrote such a candid recap of what took place during the week that I thought other guests might find her comments helpful. So here you go! “We took this tour in June of 2009 as a private group of 4 people (two couples). We had a fantastic trip! Classic Journeys (CJ) did a wonderful job in customizing our trip. Thanks to Julie at CJ for planning the trip.

The hotels were great, 4-5 star. Our tour guide was wonderful, knowledgeable and connected. I would highly recommend this trip to anyone wanting to see these local destinations on foot. Here are a few customizations to the trip that we made. Pre-tour: We arrived in Florence 36 hours before the tour began to explore and shop on our own and CJ added one night to our accommodations. It also allowed us some rest time (which will be needed). We went to dinner at great restaurant in Florence, L’Osteria Di Giovanni for dinner, which a friend recommended. The tour began the following midday with a Florence sites walking overview. (If you want to do any shopping or museum tours, plan to do it on your own time or allow extra pre/post day). The next day we left for Tuscany. Walking the roads into Chianti Classico Region starting with an Abbey/small village and then continued on to Greve was everything I had hoped it to be. We ate lunch in Greve at Caffe le Gogge and we would highly recommend. The hikes, which we enjoyed and were prepared for were just a little more challenging then we expected, but not overly difficult if you are in average to above average shape. You are after all hiking over hills and dirt roads (light hiking shoes highly recommended). The following days were filled with lots of walking and village overviews (very little to no time to go into museums or shops, so you must carve out some tour time and/or discuss with your guide how to fit that in if it is important to you. The hotel in Chianti, was wonderful. It is run by a very nice family, who goes above and beyond to make your stay enjoyable. We toured a local professional potter and got to watch him at work. (The town Colle was on the tour and I would have skipped it because we did not go into a museum to see how they make crystal, but did walk through the town.) We also added a cooking lesson in Tuscany with chef Massimo at his private castello. We had a great time and great food. I would add this to your tour if you can.

Pasta ingredients

Next we drove to Santa Margherita, stayed at a beautiful hotel on the water. On our open dinner night in Santa Margherita, we had one of the best meals we all have ever had out of all of our collective international travels at “Da o Batti” on (via/street Ruffini 2. The best item we had there was the mussels and lasagna pesto, wow!). Don’t miss this casual but fine dining experience. This part of the trip we walked to Portofino and walked parts of Cinque Terre. Lastly, we stopped in Pietrasanta and discovered that great sculptors that have their work reproduced here to a large scale, by local artisans.

Don’t miss this tour. Two of the best things about of this tour were that after all the wonderful food and lots of wine consumed none of us gained weight because of the walking/hiking, (the two gals each lost a pound); and it is a romantic getaway! We can’t wait to go back and Classic Journeys has the insight and resources to get you into intriguing places that you would not get into on your own. It was a trip of a lifetime for each of us. So what are you waiting for? Regards – PVB travel friends.”

That’s Jalene’s posting. If it’s sparked any questions about our Tuscany & Cinque Terre trip, our Private Journeys way of traveling, or our style of travel in general, drop me a line at blog@ClassicJourneys.com. Feel free to also read our blog on the floods that impacted the Cinque Terre in 2011 and the MSNBC article written about the region’s recovery here.