The first is in the dreaming and planning stage. It's why we're in this business. For our own trips, as well as for those we plan for clients, much of the enjoyment lies in trying to plan the perfect voyage. Sometimes it's relatively straightforward--a place to unwind for the duration--and fulfillment lies in finding exactly the right destination, whether it's a luxurious villa on a private beach, a hotel that swaddles its guests in luxury and attention to detail, or a ship bound for a destination that's been part of a life-long dream. Both for ourselves and for our clients, we draw on our personal experiences, turn to professional resources, read books, and--this is important--turn to the network of local experts upon whom we've come to rely over roughly 40 years in the business. Really, we love this, and one of the great rewards in being an advisor to our clients is finding exactly the right way to make your travel dreams come to life.
The second reward is in the actual experience. Arriving in a new place, or perhaps returning to a favorite locale, and drinking it all it. Personally, those first few moments are so impactful...the scents, the feel of the air, and the euphoric feeling you get from trying to process those whom you encounter who dress a bit differently, speak in a different language, and perhaps seem a bit exotic. It's all wondrous. We're fortunate enough to have experienced much of the world, and while we have favorite places, each is a delight. It seems your soul grows a bit each time you step off a plane or a ship, and come to understand a bit more of the magnificence of the planet. Even writing this, I am smiling as the images flit through my consciousness...riding an elephant in Thailand, hiking to the Tiger's Nest monastery in Bhutan, basking in the warmth of the Peruvian people, and innumerable experiences come to mind.
All of which is the third reward...the life-long memories that we hold in our thoughts and in our hearts. Honestly, the past few days have been a bit rough. Rough for the whole world, and a bit rough as we find ourselves separated from so much that we hold dear. A few tears were shed over the past week over the fact that we've been separated from our son and daughter-in-law. Alex is a firefighter/paramedic. While the term "front line" seems a bit overused these days, it's hard to imagine any group to whom it applies more forcefully than to those who are walking into situations where they are making critical diagnoses and treatment decisions for those who are seriously ill or injured. We miss him. We miss her. We miss our friends and family. We miss you.
Maybe in part to maintain our sense of balance and hope, we've been turning to some of the memories of our own travels, so we popped over to our personal photo album to reminisce about where we were a year ago. As it turns out, we were in Italy...the country we seem to return to more often than any other.
This trip started with Victoria at a conference in Florence. Once the conference wrapped up, Victoria flew to Rome, where Mike had arrived a few hours earlier (we have a great tip or two for those spending time at the airport). From Rome we flew on to Puglia. We were met at the airport by a driver in an immaculate Mercedes-Benz, our livery throughout this trip, who took us to the city of Lecce.
Criminy! Such a warm and inviting place. Our first hotel on this trip was the Fiermontina Urban Resort, a 17th century home that has been converted into an intimate luxury hotel that exudes perfection...absolute perfection...in every detail. There's too much to share in the space we have here, but it was exquisite. One of the great pleasures was meeting the owner, a gent who owns this and another palazzo in the city, and discussing his passion for Lecce.
All of our accommodations, transport, and guides were provided through one of the giants of the travel industry, an undisputed leader in Italian tourism, Andrea Grisdale of IC Bellagio. She is the prime example of how we leverage the expertise of experts throughout the world to craft unparalleled experiences for our clients. Andrea also happens to own a palazzo on Lake Como that we visited on another trip, and opens that property, Palazzo Del Vice Re, to those visiting that part of the country.
There are so many other delights that we experienced on this particular trip that we will share with you over time, but it's not an exaggeration to say that Puglia and Basilicata, which form the "heel of the boot" of Italy, offer experiences you will find absolutely nowhere else. We visited the Trulli, spent time on a dairy farm, ate pizza inside a restaurant within a cave, and walked among ancient homes in Matera, a site of continuous human habitation for thousands of years.
Right now, confined as we are to our cabin in Wisconsin, these memories come flooding back--the humility and magnificence of the people, the tastes of family dishes prepared in tiny restaurants tucked away on hidden streets, the embrace of strangers who in an instant become friends. It hurts a little to be separated from these opportunities at this moment in time, but we anticipate eagerly the time when we will once again find ourselves immersed in these experiences. We know you feel the same way.
Meanwhile, here are a few images of our most recent trip to Italy.