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Report 822: Rome, Tuscany, Amalfi, Sort of Solo

By Lynne Zielinski from Alabama, Fall 2004

Trip Description: In mid-October of last year, I embarked on a 22 day Grand Circle tour of Rome, Amalfi and Tuscany, but I did it my way. Once we arrived at each destination, for the most part, I broke away and roamed alone. I doubt anyone on the planet had more fun. I mingled with the locals, broke security at the Vatican and "dolce'd" my way through this grand country. Basically, by using this tour, I am now confident I can go completely solo next time.

Destinations: Countries - Italy; Regions/Cities - Amalfi Coast, Rome, Tuscany

Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Sightseeing; Package Tour; Single Traveler

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Page 1 of 20: Crossing the Rubicon

How can a woman with limited funds, zero travel experience and the language skills of a pigeon manage to journey solo in a foreign land?

One method is to book with a “slow-travel tour” company. Not slow travel as in strolling along with the old folks, but as in leisurely exploring specific destinations, either on your own or with a small group; a swell way to get from point A to B without the hassle. I’ve always wanted to visit Italy; particularly Rome, the heart of Western civilization. So, after intensive online “Google-ing,” I found, Grand Circle Travel, a slow-tour company that seemed to perfectly suit my needs. With a pre-trip of six days in Rome, seven in Sorrento and the Naples Bay area, topped with another week in Tuscany, this tour provided enough time to gain a comprehensive overview of the varied nature and culture of Italy. The clincher was that I could easily visit Pompeii and Herculaneum; as an armchair archaeologist, I couldn’t resist.

Once booked, helpful information, itineraries and airline tickets trickled in on a timely basis. All hotel, transportation, breakfasts, three lunches and 11 dinners were included. Total cost, including insurance, taxes and a single supplement charge came to $3800.00. Not bad for twenty-two days.

Other than a weekend in Canada when I was sixteen, I’d never been out of the USA, so my excitement was immense. I began packing two months before departure. I also intensely researched what I would do, where I would go and what things would cost.

I came across an interesting controversy about excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum and, with the gracious help of the Italian Ministry of Culture in Washington, I arranged to interview Professor Pietro Giovanni Guzzo, Supervisor of Archaeology for the Vesuvius area, upon my arrival in Sorrento. Not only do I find the subject fascinating, but any articles I write will help defray my trip expenses.

One week before the big day, I had another big day. Our seven married kids, their spouses and all seventeen grandbabies gave me a surprise birthday party with, of course, an Italian theme.

After a lasagna dinner, al fresco, they sat me in a chair and presented me with a loaf of Italian bread. “Ha ha, how cute,” I exclaimed and began to set it aside. “No Mom, open the bread, open the bread,” they all shouted. So I did.

Inside was a lovely trinket box. I opened it and found a wad of money! Everyone yelled, “Count it, Mom.” I began to count and ... when I got to $800 and still more to go, I began to cry with a smile. This was a major sacrifice on their part. Through my tears, I looked up at all those people circling me; each one with a big fat proud grin and at that moment I realized they were as excited and happy for me as I was ... even all my children-in-law! Life doesn’t get better than this.

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