Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

Luisa made our trip to Venice extraordinary. We have been to Venice many times but now we are older and skeptical that we could manage this trip. She made it possible for my husband, who walks with a cane, and me to travel around Venice and the lagoon with private boats, with a charming captain, Michele, and a private guide, Andrea, who was smart, vivacious and a joy to share his artistic knot. Luisa organized a tour of the Museo Fortuny and an amazing artisanal weaving workshop with looms from the 16th century. We saw the Palazzo Grimani (Roman statues in Venice!) and San Giorgio Degli Schiavoni with its stunning Carpaccios. We requested and she arranged a private tour of the Marciana Library. In addition she arranged amazing dining experiences. Luisa was always available by phone for last-minute changes. Grazie mille for enriching our trip to Venice.

Luisa (and Katrina) were right from the start energizing, on-point and accessible. From the very start, they provided multiple options of places to stay and cities to visit. The suggestions of tours were outstanding. I would have never been able to find these hotels/resorts and been able to manage booking these experiences. From a food market tour then cooking class with an outstanding local chef, to a private wine-paring lunch in a winery owner’s own home! The most mind blowing was their ability to find someone who was able to track down the right person in Termini Imerese, in the public records department, so my husband could track down the actual birth records of his family back 5 generations! He followed up the day getting a tattoo in Palermo of his grandfather’s journey to the USA….all booked by Luisa. Well executed and well managed trip!

Tom Redburn

Lisa Redburn during a cooking lesson at Tatjana Ciciliani’s home in Trojir, Croatia. Photo: Tom Redburn

Lisa and I have had a lot of wonderful adventures in our more than 50 years together, but for our 50th wedding anniversary trip to Italy, Croatia, Slovenia and Switzerland, the extraordinary planning of Claudia Schwenger and Luisa Grigoletto took our travel experience to a whole new level. It’s true that Europe was already getting overrun with tourists during our six-week trip, which began on May 23 in Venice and ended on July 4 at Lake Como, but we rarely felt it because time after time Claudia and Luisa arranged guides and outings that took us away from the crowds and to hidden corners we never would have found on our own.

There are too many highlights to include all of them, but some of our most memorable moments were a gastronomic walking tour of Bologna with Giacomo, a guided E-bike ride along the Appian Way in Rome with Gioia, who spontaneously added in a visit to the multi-layered Church of San Clemente when we expressed interest in it, a guided cable-car ride and walk to the top of Anacapri with Melania, and two hikes in the Dolomites with Paola, who revised her plans to reflect our own capacities for strenuous walking (there’s a theme here: nearly all our best guides were women). And that’s just Italy.

In Croatia and Slovenia, we enjoyed a guided walk up Mt. Srd above Dubrovnik, where two women from Piknik Dubrovnik had set up an extraordinary sunset picnic dinner just for us, two guided trips (one by E-bike, the other walking) in the backcountry of the islands of Korcula and Hvar that both included amazing private lunches far from the madding crowds, and an extraordinary tour by the charismatic Mario Bartulovic of his family’s winery and steep-sided vineyard on one of our only rainy days. We nearly cancelled but are so thankful that we didn’t.

And the discovery of the trip, for us, was Slovenia, where we dined at the famous Hisa Franko (a 3 1/2-hour, 18-course tasting menu from chef Ana Ros), with a stay at tiny Chalets Nebesa, which is not to be missed if you are anywhere in the area. Four-room Nebesa (reserve far in advance!) is owned and run by Ana’s charming mother, father, sister and brother-in-law, and enjoys an extraordinary view in the Julian Alps over Kobarid, where there are still trenches from the devastating fighting along a front of World War I.

I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that, with only one or two exceptions, every guide was sensational, just about every accommodation was terrific, and nearly all the reserved dinners were a delight. And that’s not to mention our WOW Moment, sponsored by Wendy, of a lunch and wine tasting at the extraordinary BIBICh Winery, on a day when we traveled from Split to Zadar, right after visiting Krka National Park.

Claudia and Luisa are extraordinary travel planners who I would recommend unequivocally. And based on a couple of other experiences with their team as well, I can’t say enough about the talented personalities they have recruited as travel planners. Luisa and Claudia took my idea of following in some of the footsteps of our original honeymoon trip to Europe (10 months on $6,000 in 1973-74 to Italy, Yugoslavia, Austria, Greece, Switzerland and France) and built it into an equally memorable highlight in our lives together. We spent our actual anniversary at a pension in the car-free Fex Valley in the Engadine that was one of the top places we stayed on our honeymoon, but which now paled in comparison to the numerous hotels/B&Bs (admittedly more expensive but not the well-known 5-star names, either) that Claudia and Luisa found for us.

Despite its length, which could easily have been very wearing, the trip was extremely well-paced, allowing us time for rest and recovery when needed. We looped from Venice down to the Amalfi Coast, taking a flight to Dubrovnik, then working our way up the Croatian coast and islands before heading into Slovenia, the Dolomites and Switzerland. We rented a car twice (from Venice to Orvieto, and Trieste to Milan), but relied on car and drivers and trains when appropriate. We focused mostly on culture and cities for the first couple of weeks, the Mediterranean coast for the middle portion, and ending with mostly outdoors and physical Alpine experiences.

Our trip lived up to everything I had been dreaming about since we first thought of the idea more than two years in advance.

My husband and I travelled to Sicily this past May and Luisa Grigoletto helped us put together an amazing itinerary. She suggested we start with a few days in the Aeolian Islands, a place we’d never heard of and wouldn’t have thought to go. It ended up being one of the highlights of our trip! We hiked, e-biked, rented mopeds and took a boat to Lipari and Vulcano, all while staying at the fabulous Capo Faro resort on Salina.

After returning to the mainland we picked up our rental car and spent time visiting: Taormina, Syracusa/Ortigia, Mount Etna, Ragusa, Modica and Palermo. Along the way we saw spectacular Greek temples and amphitheaters in Agrigento and Selinunte, visited wineries on Mount Etna, made some unbelievable Pomodoro sauce in a private cooking class in Ortigia and saw the incredible landscape artwork, Cretto di Burri, as well as the amazing mosaics at Monreal Cathedral and Villa Romana del Casale. All our hotels were top-notch, the food everywhere was great and the local guides we picked up in various spots really helped bring alive the history of the various peoples who conquered and ruled Sicily over the centuries, all leaving behind architectural and culinary influences. For our WOW Moment we were welcomed into a private home and cooked a fabulous multi-course meal by a professional chef; a very unique and enjoyable experience. All-in-all a wonderful trip; thank you Luisa!

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