The Italian Riviera called… 📲

Happy Thursday Hidden Gem Travel community! I’m sitting in my family room early on a sunny Saturday morning writing this newsletter and reminiscing about my recent trip cruising the Mediterranean. I sailed along the Italian and French Rivieras to Spain – a dream itinerary which was a pleasurable business aka bleisure trip.

Writing using AI is all over the headlines right now, and I can assure you that a real person is behind these words. In fact, my trip has inspired four newsletters, and you can read the series throughout June in your inbox and also on the Hidden Gem Travel website’s blog section.

Here’s the first newsletter in the series which is about my time in Rome and then the magical Italian Riviera ports of call. Read on for the scoop…

Fantastic Pre-Cruise Visit in Rome

When you add time on land before embarking on a cruise, it’s called a pre-trip, and an important part of the experience. In fact, you should never plan to arrive in your embarkation city for any cruise on the same day the ship leaves. The main obvious reason is flight delays happen, and the ship won’t wait for you. The other reason is that you will want to experience the place where you embark and may not have enough time as part of the ship’s itinerary.

I travel to Italy once a year and was thrilled to spend a few days in Rome in spring! I much prefer Rome in the spring and fall when the temperatures are low. It’s crowded, as it is most of the year, but not dealing with heat and humidity is a huge plus.

Rome never disappoints! From the Colosseum to the Vatican to the Pantheon, there’s so much to explore. And the food – I had many fantastic meals while people-watching in outdoor piazzas (squares). You can’t fit it all in with only 2 days.

But my trip wasn’t focused on fun and games. I visited 20 hotels, tested 4 new tours, and updated my restaurant recommendation list; although fun, it’s work and requires long days. It’s well worth my time because I can guide my clients in how to best spend their time in Rome.

💎Hidden Gem Tip: If a cruise – ocean or river – or a land trip to Europe is on your travel bucket list, let’s talk about the best destinations and itineraries for you.

Cinque Terre – Italian Riviera

One aspect I loved most about the itinerary was that after Rome, we had an overnight in Livorno, a gateway port to Tuscany. Some guests spend an overnight in Florence and others like me (only because I spent considerable time in Florence just last year) visit other areas that are a day trip from the port.

I had a private driver take me to the area known as Cinque Terre, meaning five towns. You’ve likely seen the pictures – the area is a coastline gem with colorful buildings embedded into the hills. Our driver dropped us off, and we took a train to the other towns. There are also hiking trails that run atop the towns called Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.

What is there to do in these pretty hillside villages? There are many quaint shops, yummy restaurants, and relaxing beach areas. Be sure to take a boat ride so you can see the villages from the vantage point of the water. Hiking in Cinque Terre National Park is popular for travelers with more time. The views everywhere are spectacular!

A word of caution – explore as much as possible in the morning as the crowds will be out in force in the afternoon making it the perfect time to relax on the beach or have a leisurely lunch overlooking the water.

Lucca – Hidden Gem Town in Tuscany

The town of Lucca is charming with a fascinating, deep history that isn’t on the ‘top hit list’ for Italy vacations making it a hidden gem. Be sure to take a walking tour with a quality guide to appreciate the history and influences, including the Medici family and Napoleon. It’s also known as the ‘city of 100 churches’ so you will learn about various Italian architectural styles.

One activity highlight is renting bicycles and riding along the circle of ancient walls that surround the old city. Another is shopping – silks, home goods, and other quality merchandise are offered in open-air markets and boutique shops. Don’t forget to get an aerial view of the pretty rooftops! Visiting Lucca is a relaxing day trip and well worth your time.

💎Hidden Gem Tip: If you generally know when you can travel next year, think ahead and begin the planning process this fall for next spring and summer. You’ll get the best pricing and availability by booking earlier than everyone else. Yes, travel in 2024 is expected to be at high levels once again. While your family is together this summer, discuss where everyone wants to travel and what schedules look like. You’ll be glad you did.

Wishing you and your family continued good health,


Bonus pic – me on a rooftop in Lucca, Italy.

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Make your own Wanderlist for 2023! As a reminder, Wanderlist is an online portal where you can research, explore, and create shareable lists of destinations and experiences. Share your list with me so I can make it happen for you.

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Hi, I'm Susan Wilson

I’m the founder of Hidden Gem Travel Consulting. As your personal travel advisor, I craft custom worldwide itineraries that astound and inspire you.


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