We almost were not able to send this to you.  Annemarie had worked out a plan to have Internet service in Italy from a major wireless company, who shall remain nameless, except, to say that we should have known trouble was just over the “Horizon”.   The plan proved to be worthless and after two days we discontinued it in the hopes that we could find Internet service from time to time in our hotels.  Fortunately, our beautiful hotel in the heart of Florence has, among its many amenities, free wireless service.  While in Florence we will still be connected to home and the office.   Our cell phone never stopped working.  Thank goodness for Blackberries!

            After the hustle and bustle of Rome, we had a very pleasant experience in the small town of Orvieto. Orvieto is located on the top of a volcanic plateau in the Umbrian Region and commands stunning views of the surrounding vineyards and farms.  We spent two days and one night in this quaint town and found it very charming and interesting.  One highlight was the tour of the Orvieto underground city that was started over 2,800 years ago by the Etruscans.  It is a labyrinth of caves and tunnels that were first dug in a desperate effort to find water.

            We arrived in style at our hotel in Florence after we decided to forego the hassle of traveling by train which we had experienced on our trip from Rome to Orvieto and hired a private car and driver who delivered us directly to our hotel.  Florence seems more crowed with tourists than Rome. We took a break from the crowds and went on a walking tour of Cinque Terre which is five small towns along the rugged coast line about two hours by train from Florence.

            This will be contentious to some but I do not like organized tours and very rarely have we traveled with a tour group.  I don’t like the set itinerary, the strict schedule and most of all I don’t like seeing marvelous cities from the window of a tour bus.  When we go to any city, we first take the time to walk the streets for hours just soaking up the atmosphere as I used to say to our children. 

With all of the resources available on line, you can find all the information you need about any destination and pre-book tickets for popular attractions to avoid a long wait in line.  We also have the advantage of having a friend who has traveled extensively throughout Europe.  She acts as our travel consultant and helps implement our plan.  I will go so far as tell her what room I want at a particular hotel and she will get it for us.  Our best advice is to do your own advance planning with or without help and then do your trip your way.