Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

Elaine and Gregg Patterson on the rooftop of the Marrone Winery in La Morra, Piedmont, Italy after a lunch in their restaurant and before the private tour of the winery.

Elaine and Gregg Patterson on the rooftop of the Marrone Winery in La Morra, Piedmont, where they had lunch and a private tour.

My husband and I just returned from our fifth trip to Italy with Maria and Brian. We had been to different parts of Italy about a dozen times before we started working with Maria and Brian and quickly learned that they can deliver itineraries and experiences that we could never arrange on our own. (And I say that even though I love doing travel research and have planned dozens of trips for us over 40 years.)

For this trip, we gave Maria our wish list of Turin, Piedmont wine region, Genoa, Portofino and Lake Maggiore. Having worked with her before, she knows our favorite kind of hotel, activities, and restaurants and her recommended itinerary checked every box. Wonderful hotels with spacious rooms and beautiful views, private vineyard/winery visits (most with amazing lunches), and the best tour guides who were great travel companions and also helped us plan our free days. I think great guides help you fall in love with a place, because they love it, and that’s exactly what happened to us in every location.

Maria’s recommendation for a day on a private boat in Portofino was magical in every way, the restaurants she suggested were all local, delicious, and down to earth, and all the transportation arrangements (excellent drivers, comfortable vehicles) were totally seamless. Our WOW Moment—a private lesson making cocktails at Martini headquarters near Turin—was completely unexpected and completely fun! We learned so much and have so many unforgettable memories from this trip thanks to Maria & Brian and their network of exceptional people on the ground. We’re already thinking about where to go next with their help.

My husband and I just returned from two weeks in northern Italy, visiting the Piedmont region, Lake Como, Lake Maggiore and Milan. Our WOW travel specialist, Maria, designed and executed an amazing itinerary for us. Each of the four properties we stayed at was exquisite! In the Langhe region, we stayed at the most spectacular hotel that used to be a monastery, with a view of the surrounding hills that cannot even be described — it was that incredible. Our hotels on Lake Como and Lake Maggiore were well-located with unbelievable views. We loved the elegance of our hotel in Milan.

We especially enjoyed three private vineyard tours and wine tastings. The cooking class and dinner that Maria arranged in Bellagio was to die for. All of our private tour guides and drivers were knowledgeable, a lot of fun and could make anything happen. From elegant lake villas and gardens to authentic Piedmont towns to vineyards to islands on Lake Maggiore, to the rooftop of the Duomo in Milan and, finally, to the viewing of the Last Supper on the first day of Passover, this trip had it all! I highly recommend Maria and her team!

Kathryn's son frolics in the hills of Umbria during their truffle hunt, Italy.

Kathryn’s son frolics in the hills of Umbria during their truffle hunt. Photo: Traveler Kathryn Blaze

I cannot say enough good things about our recent trip to Italy planned by Maria Gabriella Landers. I traveled with my husband and 9-year-old son to Umbria and Rome from April 1-10 during our school spring break. We loved our accommodations, the drivers and guides were all absolutely fantastic, and the communication and assistance during the trip itself was incredible.

Cristina — the operations manager + direct contact while in Italy — was incredibly responsive via text. When we had to make a few last-minute shifts (food poisoning, oversleeping, adding people to a reservation), she accommodated it all seamlessly.

When Maria recommended making restaurant reservations in the weeks before our trip, I was too overwhelmed to even begin to choose, so asked her if she could just book for us. We had wonderful meals every night (not a tourist trap in sight), and not having to stress about where to go was priceless.

Also notable was that a number of our (amazing!) guides mentioned that they typically have their own businesses etc, and they currently will only do tours for Maria, a true testament to her relationships in the area.

The details:

We started off with 5 days in Umbria — based out of Montefalco at the Palazzo Bontadosi. We all fell in love with this intimate hotel right on the piazza. It was quiet (but not too quiet), intimate (but not awkwardly so) — and we often felt like the only ones there, while still having attentive service whenever we needed it. The staff was so lovely, helpful, and incredibly kind to my son.

This was the perfect jumping-off point for daily excursions — during our time we toured the nearby towns of Perugia, Assisi, Spoleto, Spello and Orvieto. Our tour guide, Marco, was with us each day, and simply remarkable — not only knowledgeable, but also just a lovely person to spend time with, and so patient with a (sometimes impatient) kid. My son is still talking about how he misses him…

Standout moments were:

– A truffle hunt in the hills above Spoleto. We loved getting to hike thru the hills of this beautiful farm, trailing behind the truffle dogs. It was the perfect antidote for a child who was getting sick of churches and history tours…. He frolicked in the hills following the dogs, watching the sheep, horses and cows. After the hike, we sat down to lunch with the farmers and enjoyed an incredible 6-course meal with food from their farm and local area.

– A wine tasting + meal at an Enoteca in Spello. One of those absolutely perfect evenings (which happened to be my husband’s birthday)… We had the place to ourselves, dined outside, a perfect temperature…and a truly incredible menu that paired perfectly with the wine poured for us by a master sommelier and his sommelier son. Unforgettable.

We then moved on to Rome, where we stayed at another lovely hotel — away from the crush of tourists, but just minutes away from the action.

We were worried about how our son would handle the Vatican tour, but thank gosh we kept it on the itinerary b/c the guide was AMAZING. She was so passionate and turned the whole experience into a game to keep him engaged, giving him things to seek out and assigning points when he succeeded.

Maria was also able to get us (very hard to come by) soccer tickets for the Rome vs. Lazio derby — and even better, had a lovely local fan accompany us to make sure we stayed safe during this emotionally-charged match!

We also had an AMAZING walking food tour with the loveliest guide (yet another expert who only does tours for Maria).

Clearly, I have MUCH to say about this trip, and am incredibly grateful to Maria and Cristina for making it such a seamless, wonderful experience for us.

Can’t wait to plan our next one!

A terrific time was had by my husband Ed Moulin and me. There were a couple of glitches and it was wonderful to have help from our concierge. A drastically delayed flight was no problem when the driver could be easily contacted and kept apprised of our ever later arrival in Milano. The hotels were exactly what we wanted. When the B-and-B that we had chosen in Mantova was not to our liking, Christina found a truly spectacular alternative. And Asolo, which we never would have known about, was a definite highlight for its charming serenity.

Our private tour of the Maculan vineyard with Federica was probably the standout excursion. Fausto Maculan is a wonderful gentleman who, finding Ed to be an informed, serious wine enthusiast, spent 2 hours talking grapes and processes with us. It was a joy to watch Ed with Fausto.

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