Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

I cannot thank Maria Landers enough for planning the perfect trip for my wife and I and our dear friends! Our trip from 9/16/23 through 10/2/23 included stays in Lucca, Siena, Florence and Lake Como. We experienced wonderful tours, cooking classes and wineries. It is impossible to pick a favorite experience because there were so many. We loved our vineyard lunch and tour at Balzini, our private Lake Como boat tour and our private cooking class at Il Perlo with Chef Alessandro. Memories like these are priceless and I want to thank Maria Landers for so many amazing memories! This was not our first trip Maria has helped us with and will not be the last. I hope you are lucky enough to have Maria plan a trip for you!

Lizzy and Jay Bryan | November 27, 2023

We cannot begin to describe the amazing trip we had to Italy from September 23rd to October 8th. It was without a doubt the most memorable trip we have ever experienced. From the moment we were picked up in Rome to the time we were dropped at the airport after 15 days in this beautiful country, we would have changed nothing! The food and wine were incredible, the hotels were spectacular and the guides and their tours were unforgettable. While the trip was overall the most memorable experience of our lifetimes, there are a few things that we cannot go without highlighting:

1. The boat ride along the Amalfi coast was nothing short of spectacular, and our captain and first mate made it truly enjoyable. Swimming in the Mediterranean Sea is something we will never forget;

2. The cooking class and lunch with Mrs. Luciana and Maria Cristina were so incredibly enjoyable and delicious that we wished we could have stayed forever;

3. Watching Benedetto create his masterpiece of mozzarella and burrata cheese and tasting the delicious virgin olive oils, followed by the private tour of his amazing lemon orchard was an unforgettable experience;

4. Our visit to Murano and the Vetreria Estevan Rossetto glass factory was inspirational. To see the centuries-old workmanship of glass making and learning the history of this profession was incredible. We actually purchased artworks made by two of the most prominent glass artisans known to Italy. Walter Furan and Amedeo Rossetto. Our guides, Daria and Piero were so knowledgeable and spent hours teaching us about glass making and the history behind it. Piero is the grandson of Walter Furan and being able to purchase one of his grandfather’s pieces was truly special.

5. And finally, only to keep this review from being too lengthy, trout fishing with Luca. While I did not catch a monster, the beautiful little brown trout I did catch brought a smile to my face, and the lunch we shared and our time together was terrific.

We would like to thank Wendy, Maria Gabriella, Maria Cristina, our fabulous guides, our amazing drivers, and all of the employees and staff at the hotels in which we stayed for their incredible hospitality. We can not wait for our next WOW experience.

The verdant Barolo wine region in Italy.

The verdant Barolo wine region in Italy. Photo: Traveler Joe Lyle

Our late September trip to Piedmont was excellently planned and executed by Maria Landers and her team of knowledgeable and personable guides and drivers. We started in Torino where the highlights were a chocolate tasting and a tour of the Egyptian Museum (which has the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts outside of Egypt). Before leaving Torino, we were treated to a fun WOW Moment: a cocktail class at the Martini and Rossi headquarters outside of Torino.

Then the real fun began as we moved onto the winemaking region of Piedmont, touring its villages, staying in restored castles in Sinio and Guarene, and tasting Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbara and white wines of the region while sampling the regional dishes. We were glad we scheduled some down time between excursions so we could recover. The landscape was amazing: we were always surrounded by hills of lush green vineyards between each village and castles in almost every one. One of the many highlights of the trip was truffle hunting. Watching the dog track down truffles was amazing. Unlike the French, Italians don’t use pigs for truffle hunting. Why? Pigs don’t listen, and they eat the truffles. We found four black truffles and shared them with our guide and driver, who were very appreciative.

Next, we moved onto Stresa on Lake Maggiore. Actually, we were just outside Stresa to avoid the crowds. Our hotel room faced the Borromean Islands in Lake Maggiore. We visited two of the three islands, including the rich palace and extensive gardens of Palazzo Borromeo on the Isola Bella and had lunch on the Isola dei Pescatori.

Maria exceeded our expectations by scheduling private wine tastings with experienced sommeliers and wine experts. We look forward to our next trip to Italy.

We traveled to Italy September 4-20 with another couple who had never been to Italy. We have used other WOW travel planners and Maria did not disappoint. Actually the itinerary was close to perfect and we could not have felt more taken care of, which has now totally spoiled us for future trips. Imagine having someone meet you at the train station and load and unload your luggage when you arrive at the next city. Early on in the trip my friend had severe knee problems, needing a cane and hobbling along. I let Christine (our contact person in Italy) know and she advised our guides and drivers, who were so accommodating and kind. They worked hard so that we could get the full experiences despite some limitations.

Speaking of Christine, she joined us on our first few experiences to help with translation etc. and what fun she was to be around. A definite asset. So glad we stayed in Montefalco, Umbria as it was a charming small town not overrun with tourists, a sense of local culture. Not to be missed is the cooking class just outside of town in a countryside home. The attorney-turned-chef was so charming, the setting fabulous. It is so much fun whether you like cooking or not. The truffle hunting we did was a little silly but had a great lunch on the farm with the staff. Another fabulous day was our trip on Lake Como. Private boat and guide with stop at a beautiful villa and garden and a pre-arranged lunch at a restaurant with a great view, food and without hordes of people. Too many highlights to mention.

The only tour that we found mildly annoying was the Murano glass factory. Enjoyed the demonstration but afterward felt pressure to make a purchase after wandering around their beautiful showroom. Overall, even though this trip turned out to be a bit more expensive than we originally planned, it was so worth it. Maria’s guidance with our itinerary, suggesting experiences I would not have thought of, providing knowledgeable and interesting guides, restaurant recommendations, interesting accommodations made her services invaluable. The trip was seamless. The only thing we would have changed, in retrospect, was a few less tours. We found ourselves with a little information overload and might have been better off with only one half-day activity or tour on any given day. That was no fault of Maria’s, just something we learned about ourselves along the way.

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