Viva Italia! Italy at Its Finest!

Ah, Italy! Just the name of this country probably brings images to your mind. Are you picturing the gorgeous countryside? The fabulous food and wine? Well I can tell you that it's both of those things, and so much more! 

Exactly a month ago I was traveling the Italian countryside, checking out all that Adventures by Disney has to offer. And let me tell you -- it offers A LOT! The amount of experiences I had in just 8 days still blows my mind. I've tried to write this post many times, but each time, so many words fought to fill the page that I thought it best to do it in podcast form, which I did! (You can click here for that link. )  But now that it's been a month, the wonderful memories have distilled into several key moments, and I can't wait to share them with you... read on! 

So as you read this, just know that everything I did, you can do too! This itinerary works almost year-round, and it is worth every cent. First let me introduce you to my tour guides:

Korey & Alexa

Korey & Alexa

They were amazing! I couldn't have asked for better guides!  This picture really showcases their fun personalities.  On your Adventures by Disney tour, you may have different guides, but I can guarantee that they'll bring the fun! These two kept everything moving seamlessly. They functioned not just as tour guides, but as photographers, storytellers, comedians, and best of all  - FRIENDS.

The lovely Alexa hails from Rome, so she functioned as our local guide. Korey is from the US, and he was our other guide, bringing his amazing knowledge of history and the culture to us. I can't thank them enough for making this trip so incredible.  So as the song says, "let's start at the very beginning..."

Rome

Well in many ways, Rome is kind of the beginning - "All roads lead to Rome" after all! Upon arrival, I was met by Adventures by Disney representatives and ushered through the airport. The process (which could have been overwhelming) couldn't have been easier! We were handed over to our private driver, and then we were met at our hotel by our guides.  Here is our hotel, the lovely Grand Melia Rome!

Later, we were whisked off to see the beauty and awesomeness of the Colosseum:

And yes, I am wearing gladiator sandals. Because, you know... when in Rome! This experience really hit me - the weight of all of the history, the fact that it is literally an ancient building STILL STANDING - it was so inspiring. And well - we didn't wait in one single line. Not one. Oh and did I mention walking through the Gladiators Entrance? That is something that only about 1% of visitors get to do. 

Day 2 began at the Vatican.  The richness of this city-within-a-city was truly a sight to behold. And of course, again, no lines! We were among the first to visit St. Peter's Basilica and the Pieta. 

 

The afternoon had us touring more of this amazing city.  Just imagine... a place where the "new section" was built in the 1800s! Seeing 2000 years worth of history in 2 blocks... I can't even describe it. The Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, the gelato... oh the gelato! So delicious! 

But the highlight of Day 2 had to be touring the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel after hours. Privately. With no crowds whatsoever. AND we got the rare privilege of taking pictures in the Sistine Chapel (this is not something that normally happens... just an extra bit of pixie dust!! Here are some of my favorites:

Completely amazing!

Orvieto

Day 3 had us traveling to the beautiful medieval city of Orvieto on our way to Tuscany. So many amazing places to visit here, including a gorgeous medieval Duomo (that's a church!). But this is my favorite picture:

Orvieto - side street

Orvieto - side street

Tuscany

Day 4 is maybe my favorite. Hard to pick, but I remember every second of this day. Visiting "Sarah's Farm"... real name Fattoria Poggio Alloro. This family-owned farm has gone from just starting to a leading producer of Wines and Olive Oils. Disney fans, it may interest you to know that Sarah herself will be at Food and Wine Festival in Epcot this year!

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The itinerary? Pasta making! And food! And a tour of the farm and winery! And oh my goodness, Sarah was such a ball of joy and energy throughout. She made Tuscany completely unforgettable. And I'm calling this the best meal of my life... 

And it really looks like that! What an incredible view!

Also, shout out to our hotel here, which was a converted farmhouse.  The Hotel Borgo di Cortefreda was amazing!

Florence

Day 5 takes us to Florence, home of the Medicis, and a place where almost every major Renaissance artist stayed! I loved seeing all of the gorgeous buildings and of course, shopping! Two highlights though were seeing Michaelangelo's David at the Academia and touring the Palazzo Vecchio. 

 

Venice

Day 6 & 7 brought us to Venice. Of course, it's a water bound city, so what better way to travel than by gondola? Did I mention a gondola with musicians?

After a quick tour to get our bearings, we were taken to the Hilton Molino Stucky, which is a gorgeous hotel with one of the top rooftop pools in the world!

While in Venice, we had plenty of free time to explore, but we also got to see the Bridge of Sighs and Doges Palace which were both incredible. 

But the highlight here was Venetian mask-making at a beautiful shop called "Tragicomica".  The artisans were amazing! They guided us as we designed our very own Carnivale mask!

So as you can see, we were with a group. And you know what? The entire group still chats... almost daily... in our Facebook Group. I was nervous about traveling with "strangers", but let me tell you, they are now fast friends. I truly enjoyed spending time with them. And not to worry, although these were the highlights, there was plenty of "explore on your own" time. Brady and I have fond memories of exploring roaming Italy by ourselves. We could not have accomplished the amount of things we did without the help of Adventures by Disney... and we certainly wouldn't have felt so spoiled! Of course, I wanted to leave some magical surprises, so I didn't tell you everything.

I hope that this taste of "Viva Italia" and Adventures by Disney has inspired you! There are so many itineraries to choose from! I'd love to answer your questions about Adventures by Disney, and your Upon A Star Agent can help you find the perfect match for your family! 

Until next time... Ciao!

VIP Tour Experiences at Walt Disney World® Resort Part 2

A couple of weeks back, I posted about some of the amazing VIP Experiences that are available at the Walt Disney World® Resort.  Of course, Part 1 focused on my favorite topic - food!  Again, more detail can be found If you want even more detail, check out the Divas Dish Podcast where I shared live from my hotel at the Grand Floridian (Episode 68). Click this link, or grab it on iTunesI Heart Radio, or Stitcher.

So today, let's focus on a VIP Tour.  Simply amazing. If you want to truly feel like a Rock Star, this is the way to roll! Your Tour Guide is a very knowledgeable Cast Member who will be your personal escort through the parks. Basically, they ensure that you see what you want, when you want, with no waiting.  They will take you into the FastPass line of every attraction - even the most popular!  You bypass bag check.  You are driven right to a special entrance, where your band is scanned and you walk right into the park with no lines.  It couldn't be easier!

Yep - I went to Tower of Terror first!

Yep - I went to Tower of Terror first!

And did I mention SNACKS?! Private VIP guides really do think of everything!  Our guide, Kirk, was phenomenal.  So knowledgeable and friendly! It was fun getting to know him and fun getting to ride the rides with him! He found out that I love Hidden Mickeys, and so he spent time pointing out the hard-to-find ones.  Did you know that there are 3 of them in Soarin' Around the World™? I bet that 3rd one is the one you'll struggle to find! 

Oh you know, just your normal Tower of Terror selfie...

Oh you know, just your normal Tower of Terror selfie...

Kirk even helped us park hop! We went from Disney's Hollywood Studios® to Epcot®  - again no bag check line or line to use the touch point. In the space of 2 hours, we had done 4 big ticket attractions!  The amount of time saved was amazing.  

Private VIP Tours are available for up to 10 guests. If you are with a larger party, you'll just add another guide -- this ensures that the personalized experience stays, well ... personal! The cost varies based on season from $400-$600 per hour (7 hour minimum).  This cost is well-worth it, especially during those extra-crowded times of year! Your Upon A Star Agent can book this for you or even add it into your package. 

There are also half day VIP Tours available that are not private; they will, however, take you through the parks to focus on either "thrill rides" or "classic rides".  These are not personalized to your family, but they are a great way to tour if the full VIP Private Tour isn't in the budget this time around.

More to come - watch for Part 3 about "Early Morning Magic" at Walt Disney World® Resort!

VIP Disney Experiences - Dining Events (Part 1)

What a fun but crazy month! We here at Upon A Star Travel have been hard at work planning magical vacations and checking out new offerings for our clients!  I had the opportunity to check out some VIP Experiences down at the Walt Disney World Resort this past month, and let me tell you - I am super excited to share.  If you want even more detail, check out the Divas Dish Podcast where I shared live from my hotel at the Grand Floridian (Episode 68). Click this link, or grab it on iTunes, I Heart Radio, or Stitcher.

Of course, the magic of Disney is unsurpassed; but, if you are someone who likes just that extra special touch, never fear! Disney has it covered! So, let's start with one of my favorite topics ... FOOD. 

Of course, thinking of upscale, VIP cuisine in Disney, your mind may go immediately to Victoria & Albert's.  This is a 5-Diamond Restaurant located on the 2nd floor of the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. I've often heard about the amazing food, and this is a place that had always been on my bucket list.  Let me say - it lives up to the hype! WOW!

So first of all - GO HUNGRY.  This is a 7-course meal, and it can be done with or without wine-pairings. Everything was absolutely delightful. Even if you aren't sure about a particular dish, trust me - it will taste amazing. 

And they even had this really cool way of brewing coffee for dessert - and as a coffee snob - trust me when I say it was fabulous!

Looks like a science experiment, right? Very neat to watch.  

Now we ate in the dining room, but there is also the option to do the Chef's Table. 

Speaking of Chef's Tables... did you know that you can request a special Chef's Table? Whether you're heading down for business or just having a special family gathering, Disney can coordinate a beautiful experience. 

It was such a neat experience watching the chefs prepare your food at the On-stage Kitchen. The head chef then described each and every course - it really brought the food to life! Oh, and as you might imagine, it was absolutely fabulous!

I also experienced the dessert portion of the "Highway in the Sky Dine Around" on the roof of the Contemporary.  The desserts were perfection, and of course, so was the view of the fireworks!

Another fun dining experience was "Savor the Savanna" at Disney's Animal Kingdom... but that's a post for another week! Stay tuned for more of this series very soon!
 

Interested in booking one of these experiences? Contact your Upon A Star Agent today!