Gilbert Speaks on Tuscany 2016

25 Sep

Marie's group 10-10-2016 001

This year I did something that I dreamt of doing my whole life. I took a trip to Italy. Although it was my first time out of the country, I was not alone. I took the two ghosts that hang out in my attic with me. Did we have fun? Find out after the jump.

Andiamo Francesco!

My father and mother never had the chance to return to their home while alive, so I took their spirits with me when I went on the Leisurely Rome and Tuscany tour offered by Globus and Starr Tours. This was a big step for me for two reasons. I have a compromised immune system, and get if someone sneezes a block away, and I have a habit of getting lost no matter where I am. My husband, who is well aware of my bad sense of direction, kept reminding me before the trip to stay close to the tour guide. Dan was worried that I’d wind up in some other part of Europe. I was excited and scared to death at the same time because I was going alone, but I needn’t have worried. New friends were waiting to meet me.

Tonya, me, Mary, Ken, Virginia

The van ride to the Newark airport gave me a chance to chat with the other New Jersey people who would be part of the Leisurely Tour. One of my new friends, Virginia Mersier, was interested in writing, and most of the ride to the airport was devoted to the opportunities that awaited her. After the long plane ride which included a disgruntled passenger complaining about the food, which I thought was very tasty for air travel, we landed at the Rome airport where we grabbed our luggage and headed over to the first of the hotels our group would be staying at.


The first thing I did as soon as we arrived at the Villa Carpegna was to order a cup of cappuccino. After we were assigned a room, we met with Francesco Nardin, who was to be our tour guide for the entire trip. By this time, Mary and Ken, Virginia, Tonya, Tracy and Sharon and I had become buddies with the other members of our tour group. My fears of being alone were soon gone. I had met the nicest people and the trip had just begun.

Rome and the Vatican were more beautiful than I had expected and I was so excited about seeing the Colosseum. Our tour guide, Francesco, was so learned in the history of this city, but he also had the help of a local tour guide to answer any questions we had about the St. Peter’s Square and the Colosseum historical events.

4 Italy


I was trying to connect with the spirits attached to the Colosseum, without freaking out my new friends. People get strange when they know you can see the dead. I was able to sense the animals that were used in the games at the Colosseum. I saw and heard the elephants, bulls, and lions, but then the multitude of people who died in that place came forward. It was way too many spirits for me to handle at one time. Luckily for me, our tour guide herded us away from the ruins.

Italy 1

The next hotel we stayed in was in Montecatini, but first we stopped at the Vicchiomaggio Wine Cellars for a Tuscany lunch. We also got to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Square of Miracles before arriving at the hotel.

At the Astoria Hotel I was happy to discover that my room had a balcony. It also had a female ghost, quite a lovely woman, who wanted me out of bed the first night I slept there because she needed to make the bed. I convinced her to wait until morning. She told me that she had worked at the hotel a long time ago. She loved the place and so she stayed. There was also a ghost in the dining room.

hotel in Montecatini

She was also a sweetheart who explained to me that she originally lived in a house on the land the hotel was later built on. She was connected to the land, but loved the comings and goings of the guests. Neither ghost bothered any of the guests. They only came to me because I acknowledged them. When I go back to Italy, I intend to stay at the Astoria Hotel again because of its quaint ambiance and lovely hotel staff.


One of the best memories I have of this vacation is when a few of my friends and I played hooky from the main tour to ride the train up to the mountain top to visit Montecatini Alto. Tonya, Mary, Virginia and I spent the loveliest afternoon visiting the old churches and the shops. Our lunch was the highlight of a peaceful day.

lunch at Montecatini (2)

Every day, our wonderful tour guide, Francesco, would take us by bus to visit a new site. When we would lag behind, we would hear him calling out, “Andiamo! Andiamo!” That’s Italian for get your butts moving. Florence was a treat, although we had to watch out for the gypsies. Francesco also made sure that people, like me, who had special dietary needs, were always served the correct food. I have diverticulitis which means that when I eat the wrong foods, I can wind up in the hospital. I was so touched by this young man’s vigilance in keeping his charges healthy. Thank you, Francesco.


The trip to Lucca and Vinci and then to Assisi were magical and again we were treated to a special guided tour by one of the local guides who knew everything about Leonardo Da Vinci. The streets of most of the towns we visited were steep and I actually lost weight from all the walking even though I was eating and drinking my way through this vacation.

leading the group

The last night was spent in Rome at the Pineta Palace. There were no ghosts, except for Fred and Lucy. The Farewell dinner was wonderful as were all the dinners and, we did get to walk through Rome one more time before we left. Tonya and I got to share a special Italian treat; roasted chestnuts. After I got separated from the tour group one too many times, Francesco gave me the flag to lead the tour. I guess he thought he could keep a better eye on me if I was in front of him.


I don’t know why I waited so long to go on this trip, but now that I have gone overseas, the travel bug has been awakened in me.


My father is now pestering me to visit the town of Maratea. This is where his family is from and where our last name comes from. I will eventually make it to Maratea Italy, but first check out the posts on my trip to Benevento Italy. This is the town that my mother was born and raised. Chao!

One Response to “Gilbert Speaks on Tuscany 2016”


  1. Gilbert Speaks on Cruises | gilbertspeaks - October 24, 2019

    […] but it was the third time that I went overseas. My first trip was with Starr Tours’ Leisurely Tour of Tuscany, and the second trip was to Benevento and Amalfi with my 92-year-old Uncle Mario and my cousins. […]

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