Yes, both of the drivers we hired were great! The one we hired in Rome was Fabrizio of All Around Italy (email@example.com). Fabrizio had come highly recommended on some of the blogs I'd read. They were right. He has a great personality and is extremely accommodating. He fit in all the things we wanted to do. He even hooked us up with a group tour at the Coliseum and we only waited for 10 min. for the tour to begin. We saw more in that one day then we could have ever seen on a ship's tour (or perhaps even two tours!). Fabrizio has been doing tours for many, many years and was very knowledgeable about all of the sights. (He also knew people everywhere we went!)
IF you haven't thought about seeing the Catacombs, definitely add it to your list. We wouldn't have considered it, if someone else who had visited hadn't told us the same. It was well worth it. We mentioned to Fabrizio that we wanted to eat lunch at a good Italian restaurant that the locals would eat at. He took us to a place where we had a great lunch! We had a fabulous day in Rome with Fabrizio!!
In Florence/Pisa, we used a company called Unforgettable Tuscany (firstname.lastname@example.org). Paolo was our driver. One of the reasons we chose him was based upon his e-mail response to us. We wanted to do several things in this port, including climbing the Tower of Pisa, touring Florence, visiting a castle as well as a winery in Chianti. Paolo told us he had a friend who owned a castle in Tuscany and could take us there (it is not open to the public). It was a great experience and definitely added to our day. He also took us to a wonderful Italian restaurant in Florence. This was also a day we'll never forget. We would highly recommend Paolo as well!
Let me know if you have any questions! We were so glad that we hired our own drivers. It made those days MUCH more enjoyable and we got to do and see so much more than if we were on a bus with 100 others.
Oh, one other thing I forgot to mention in the book I wrote previously (you didn't think there was anything I could have forgotten, huh?!) ;-)
My husband really wanted to climb The Leaning Tower of Pisa. By the time we got around to purchasing tickets online, it was too late. You have to purchase at least 16 days in advance--we were at 2 weeks. I had read how crowded all these attractions got and if you didn't have tickets in advance, you'd wait forever, but Paolo took us there first thing on our day with him. We arrived in Pisa at about 8:40 and there were plenty of tickets left to make the climb at 9:00. IF this is something you both want to do, you may want to make Pisa your first stop on this day. It will also be cooler while you're climbing the 352 steps to the top! :-)
You might be able to get some tips from Fabrizio at: email@example.com. He seemed to know all of the tour guides in Italy--perhaps he knows some in Barcelona as well. You can also do some Internet searches. That's how I found one of our drivers. I researched companies and sent out an itinerary of what we wanted to do, and waited for the responses to come back.
We only had two days in Barcelona, and we purchased the two-day pass to the sightseeing bus and made good use of it. The only cons to this were 1) it didn't run late at night--we wound up taking a subway back one evening, and 2) you always had to follow the route, so if you wanted to go from point A to point F, you had to first go to B, C, D & E. Other than that, it was a wonderful way to see the city.
Good luck! Barcelona is an incredible city (what a mix of old and new architecture!)
I have a friend that has cruised the Med a couple of times and she recommends highly recommends Auriello at BARCELONATAXI. I think this is the email address for him. She has used his services and also someone named Michael that must work with his company. She raved about them and we have decided to try them when we travel to Barcelona in September. He charges by the hour so you can customize your tour and time of tour. Has anyone else out there used their services? ...URL removed by moderator..
Thanks for all the advice! Sep 5th is coming so fast!! Now, I just have to give my clients the packing lesson, make sure they have filled out all their forms, made copies of the passports, and get everyone to the airport!
Originally posted by Debbeck:
I have a friend that has cruised the Med a couple of times and she recommends highly recommends Auriello at BARCELONATAXI. I think this is the email address for him. She has used his services and also someone named Michael that must work with his company. She raved about them and we have decided to try them when we travel to Barcelona in September. He charges by the hour so you can customize your tour and time of tour. Has anyone else out there used their services?... URl removed...
Debbeck - how was it? Did you like Auriello?
What were the MUST sees?
We have just returned from our trip to Europe and I will try to answer your question. We had a wonderful visit to the Naples area. The day we arrived, there were 6 other ships in port so all the tourist destinations were hopping. It was a great idea to have a private tour at that stop. Our guide was Franco. He was a native of Sorrento and was very informative. He was waiting for us with an 8 passenger van at the cruise port and we were on our way immediately. We drove up the Amalfi coast with a couple of picture stops along the way. Our first destination was Positano and it was lovely. It is a very small village that is perched on a hilltop...literally clinging to the side of the hills overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Then on to Sorrento for a stop in the center of the town with time to explore and have lunch. We had pizza, of course and bought Olive oil and Limoncello for friends and family back home at the multitude of shops. Then we headed to Pompeii for a 2 to 2 1/2 hour tour with a private guide. This is not included in the price of the tour but it was worth the extra fee because our time was limited and Pompeii is huge. Our guide showed us the "must see" areas at Pompeii and gave us some time for pictures along the way. We were taken back to the ship in plenty of time. We saw a lot that day and our heads were spinning but it was a great stop and I don't think we could have navigated it on our own. The price was reasonable when contracted through SorrentoLimo. We had 2 vans, 15 people total and the price was about $125 each after the Euro to Dollar conversion. Compare to the ship excursion of $279 for similar stops. Hope this helps....if you are going soon, have a wonderful time. We were on the Norwegian Gem, a new ship....absolutely gorgeous and the staff and crew were wonderful. We can't think of anything that would have improved our trip except having more time to go around again!