I never tire of coming to Italy. This is my eighteenth visit and our 15th Candelaria Design Tour. I would have to say, Italy does now feel like home, as I have probably been here more than any other place other than home! We have a beautiful tour this year, starting in Florence, a week in Umbria and Tuscany, and then we will finish the tour in Venice with a small group of us on to Lake Como for a special celebration of Isabel and my wedding – our fifth anniversary right at the spot we tied the knot, Villa d’Este!
It has been quite a journey to come back here as we had to miss last year due to my Isabel’s fight against breast cancer and then a brain tumor. I promised her we would return and that she would conquer this battle and be the victor which she has done and she returns now cancer free. We again, thank all of you for your prayers, meals, gracious deeds, etc. that you all did for the two of us during this difficult period. It meant so much to us knowing we were not alone in this fight. It has brought on an awareness of how prevalent cancer is out there and how precious every moment one has as you never know what lies ahead in the road. All we know, is that for NOW, now is all that matters and so we are celebrating every moment of every day and in particular this year’s tour to one of our favorite places on earth, ITALY!
I have so many memories that rush back to me while on this tour, in particular here in Florence. Such a magical place and over the course of the last 18 years I have been coming here it is somewhat awe inspiring to notice the change in technology from those first trips with no cell phones to how easy it is to travel here and navigate around compared to then. It is also reflective to look back at how I have changed since that first trip in 2000. Many of those memories come back to me while walking down the streets of Florence remembering the first time I saw the Duomo or crossed the Ponce Vecchio. It makes me wonder at age 57 if I really have more trips ahead of me or in back of me.
I love sharing this journey with my travelers, this time 22 travelers, many having this tour their first experience traveling to Italy. What an honor it is to share this with them. I have had so many rookie travelers from past journey’s go on to become amazing world travelers because of this Tour. I love that. Travel is amazing – it wakes you up and gets you out of your comfort zone and I love seeing my travelers bring parts of this trip home and into there everyday lives. Americans are always in such a hurry to get to the finish line and Italians celebrate the journey. They are marvelous and beautiful people and truly one of the best joys of coming here. Over the years, I have made so many wonderful friends here and that too I cherish.
Our trip here went without a hitch thanks to the impeccable planning and execution done by my business partner, Evelyn Jung! She makes this tour and all of our tours click! She is our mission control and she is a master at it. We traveled all day Wednesday and arrived Thursday afternoon to the Hotel Brunelleschi to a champagne welcome and check-in. Bravo – that is the way to check in. I love this Hotel and have been coming here for years. They treat us like family and it was wonderful for a number of my travelers already tell me “they feel like they are home” here.
After settling into our rooms, unpacking and freshening up, we all met at the hotel terrace for a welcome cocktail and then we were off to dinner at the Buca San Giovanni Restaurante right in front of the Duomo! What a great spot to kick off our tour with the stars overhead and the Duomo as our backdrop. How can it get any better…..well it does as my travelers will all see.
Following dinner, many returned to the hotel to battle the jet lag and a few of us wondered down to the Westin on the Arno for some rooftop cocktails and then I enjoyed a cigar and some gelato on our walk home. Fantastic start to our 15thTour and I know how special every single moment is.