Archive for Italy Tours

Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel

Friday, July 11th, 2014

July 11

After a string of negative experiences we have taken the Vatican Museums and the attached Sistine Chapel (you cannot visit the Sistine without going through the maze of the museum) permanently off our list of things to see and do in Rome, until they either change things in a major way at the Vatican or they restrict the number of tourists allowed in at any given time.
For more information, visit Trip Advisor, key in Vatican Museum, and look at the bottom three levels of commentary.

We do our best to help our guests avoid tourist traps and negative experiences. There are dozens of churches and smaller museums in Rome where one can enjoy classic art without feeling like a sardine. We will be happy to take our guests to these places so that all may have a more enjoyable experience. Entry to the Cathedral of St. Peter does not require passage through the Vatican Museum, and so, we are happy to take our guests to this place.

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Categories : Italy Tours

The Awful Vatican Museums And Why We Will Never Return

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

Vatican Jam

Vatican Jam

Photo courtesy Dan LaValley

May 2

Pope Francis – please if you have time with all that you have to do add this to your ‘To Reform’ list about the way the Vatican Museum including the Sistine Chapel is operated. Your museum is, in the words of my stepdaughter, a ‘Shit Show.’ Harsh words for an even harsher environment, one that we will never return to unless the people in charge make some very radical changes.

First of all, there is no limit to attendance. What if 20,000 people show up and want to go into these hallowed halls? No problem. Rake in the cash and shove them in. Push them along. Shout at them in the stupendous Sistine Chapel. ‘No photo! No video! Shhhh!’ as oblivious shell-shocked tourists mill about trying to regain some sanity after the long swim upstream through the museums other rooms. Move faster. Do not even think about lingering to admire the incredible Raffaele rooms. That interesting desk? Keep going, keep moving. Keep shuffling along with the river of rude humanity who hold their iPads aloft like they are some kind of holy link between earth and heaven. This place reeks and it is not of history. It reeks of the breath and garlic-infused body odor of your neighbor who is bearing down on you from all sides. You cannot escape. All signs point to the ‘Capella Sistina,’ but it is miles away along hard stone floors it seems and you just struggle to keep from going mad with the crush of the crowd all around you. No one cares to stop and admire the tapestry room, or the map room, or the Borgia Apartments. Everyone is focused on two things – the Sistine and getting OUT.

This terrible situation does not have to be so terrible. Replace greed with sanity. Require advance bookings for everyone, no exceptions. Allow only so many into the museums at any one time. Do not allow your guards to shout at people. Do not allow those who are there to help to glare at them. Do not make them feel like they just threw $30 down the toilet on an experience that is more nightmare than transcendent.

Pope Francis, you have done wonders for the Catholic Church in your short time as Pope. But there is a large and festering problem in your backyard which needs attention. Turn things around at the Vatican Museums and perhaps, just maybe, the next time we bring guests there we will not witness them flee and skip the Basilica built on top of the bones of St. Peter. Run for the exit, just to get away from the crowds, escape and thereby they are skipping the reason they came all this way in the first place.

Thank you Pope Francis.

The Enchanting Amalfi Coast of Italy

Monday, April 28th, 2014

April 28

Even though getting there can be a bit hairy at times with Italians driving far too fast for the conditions, tour buses taking up more than their share of the narrow, winding road which hugs a sheer drop off, the Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy is worth every drop of sweat shed during the drive there.
Stunning vistas and a special quality of light create a jaw dropping scene wherever one looks. We spent from April 20 to 23 there with two first time travelers from Chicago. It is always fun to see a familiar place through a newcomers eyes.

Alatri is a village on the approach to Amalfi from Minori. A narrow road clings to the Cliffside.

Alatri is a village on the approach to Amalfi from Minori. A narrow road clings to the Cliffside.

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Stunning coastline vistas wherever you look

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Views in and around Amalfi

Views in and around Amalfi

A place to dream away time

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First Trip to Europe

Monday, April 28th, 2014

April 28

James was pleased recently to have two guests from Chicago fulfill their dream of visiting not only Italy for the first time, but Europe. The two arrived in Venice to start their two-week adventure which included Tuscany, Umbria, Rome and the Amalfi Coast. James has created a blog with many images from their trip and it can be visited here:

We don’t get many first timers, as many of our guests have tried other services (usually bus tours) prior to coming to us. It is always a pleasure to introduce people to the wonders of a foreign country, and to help them over the little bumps as well.

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Categories : Italy Tours

Eating at Da Carlo in Orvieto a Must

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

April 22

Our clients Steve and Debbie from Chicago with Carlo

Our clients Steve and Debbie from Chicago with Carlo

Those looking for an authentic dining experience should stop their search at the tucked away ‘Da Carlo’ in the heart of ancient Orvieto’s medieval district.

Young chef and entrepreneur Carlo and his ‘mama’ provide not just excellent food in a cozy atmosphere, but their back and forth banter is worth the price of admission (a small cover charge which could be considered entertainment) as they sometimes get into heated discussions about this or that. All gibberish to the ears of the foreigner who is not adept at Italian, but musical and full of the same love and attention that goes into the food.

Examples of scrumptious and imaginative choices to start with are:

La bruschetta near orvietana al pate di fegato
(Bruschette with black pate made from liver)

Il pecorino di Fossa con confettura di fichi
(Fossa cheese with fig jam)

Moving on to more substantial fare:

Gli Umbrichelli ‘alla Carlo’ baffo, finocchietto e pecorino
(Hand made pasta with pork cheek, fennel and pecorino cheese)

La Pappardelle della nonna
(Grandma’s recipe of hand made pasta with Bolognese of wild boar and beef and a healthy covering of parmesan cheese grated over)

Meat dishes include:

Il pollo ruspante
(Free range chicken in cacciatora sauce)

Lo stinkco di maialino al forno con trito di odori di campo
(A very long way of saying roasted pork knuckle with herbs)

The menu changes daily with specials and surprises. After all, the question mark is Carlo’s identification sign on the outside of the trim little restaurant with outside dining when the weather cooperates.

Find Da Carlo, and find your appetite reawakened with the luxury of excellent food prepared with love.

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Just ‘Ri-Married’ in Tuscany

Monday, April 14th, 2014

April 14

Our current guests Steve and Debbie had a dream to celebrate their 20th anniversary with a special trip to Italy. Not just any trip, but a renewal of vows in Tuscany trip. With help from the staff of a beautiful and romantic country inn just outside of Montepulciano we made it happen, and celebrated on a gorgeous spring day with a lovely ceremony in a tiny chapel, prosecco to celebrate in the garden and then a drive through the rolling Tuscan countryside from one hilltop town to the next in a 1972 Volkswagen Beetle convertible. A day to remember on Steve and Debbie’s inaugural European trip.

Toast to you in the garden of our Tuscan villa

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Plan Your Perfect Trip to Europe

Friday, December 13th, 2013

With expert help from the seasoned guides of European Focus Private Tours. We work with singles, couples, families and groups of friends who have common interests. Best of all, your tour is led by the designer! No fumbling around, no getting lost, no wondering what hotel to use or where to eat or what to do with your precious vacation time. We take all of the unknowns out of travel and eliminate the thousands of details which go into a fun, stress-free vacation. All you have to do is get onto the airplane and let us take care of the rest. Booking now for 2014 and beyond.

A busy father and his two sons enjoyed a stress-free vacation in Germany and France in July, leaving the planning to us while they carried on busy lives and careers back home in Oklahoma.

A busy father and his two sons enjoyed a stress-free vacation in Germany and France in July, leaving the planning to us while they carried on busy lives and careers back home in Oklahoma.

2014 calendar update

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Updated January 15, 2014

Thinking of a dream trip to Europe?

So are these people. And, they have made their reservations already for travel in 2014. Don’t wait to fulfill your dreams of easy and relaxed travel in Europe.

April 11 to 25: Tour for two, renewal of vows in Italy, first time clients Steve and Debbie with James
April 20 to May 3: Tour for two, second time for our clients Dan and Amanda, who traveled in Germany with us in 2012. This time it is Italy. (Jenean’s tour)
May 1 to 19: Second tour for Peter and Gayle, who toured in Germany with us in 2013. This time it is parts of France and Spain with both James and Jenean leading the way from Paris to Santiago de Compostela

Carol, left and Art, right will join us again this year for a trip, this time, to southern Portugal and southern Spain.

Carol, left and Art, right will join us again this year for a trip, this time, to southern Portugal and southern Spain.

May 22 to June 6: Seventh trip for Art and Carol who toured with us most recently in Spain and Portugal in 2013. This time it will be other areas in Portugal and southern Spain with James and Jenean.
June 17 to 29: Dennis comes back for more family history research, this time in Denmark, Sweden and Norway. His first trip with European Focus was in 2013 and it was concentrated on Germany. Dennis first took our business card in 1998. (James’ tour)
June 18 to 26: Family of four starting in Paris where they will meet Jenean, continuing on to Strasbourg, Lucerne and Munich.
June 28 to July 12: Tour with a family of four starting in London and continuing on to Normandy, Reims and on to Germany where we will retrace some of the steps taken by the parents of two of the members of this group during their time in Germany decades ago. The trip ends in Munich. This will be the first European Focus Private Tour for these Texans. Jenean starts the tour and James meets the group in Normandy.
July 16 to 28: Tour with a family of four from Tucson to Germany and Austria, the Czech Republic. This will be Tim’s third tour with European Focus. James will lead this tour.
August 5-13: A couple come for their first trip with European Focus in Germany, mainly visiting ancestral villages.
August 25 to September 5: John comes on his second tour with us, this time in England on a combination ancestral discovery tour and honeymoon. (James and Jenean)
October 4 to 19: Pat and his wife come from Australia for their first tour with European Focus in Germany. Part of the tour will concentrate on family history and part will be slow travel tourism. Pat will meet with relatives in Berlin, who will travel there from Poland.
(James will lead this tour)
October 20: Mariane C. fulfills a lifelong dream of visiting the village of Appenzell, Switzerland. James will pick her up at her hotel in Lucerne and take her to nearby Appenzell for the day. The timing just works perfectly for this long-awaited journey. She will be ending a river cruise a few days before in Basel.
November 23 to December 3: A family of nine comes over to visit some Christmas Markets (starting on Nov 28) and other places of interest which the patriarch of the family enjoyed during his time in the service in the 1960s. This tour will be led by Jenean and James.

Available dates are in July, August and September plus the last part of October and first part of November for trips led by James or Jenean. For trips in Germany, Austria and Switzerland we can accommodate you through our partners, ask for available dates.

Guiding tours in European for over 20 years