Andiamo in Italia!!

Ciao, ragazzi!

It’s time to hit the road again and, as usual, we have something special planned. (So what else is new?)

In just a few hours, AAC CPA and I will make our way to JFK where, early this evening, we’ll depart for a 3-week adventure. We’ll start with our usual BA flight to London’s Heathrow airport, and then we’ll make our way to London City Airport, where we’ll board a flight bound for Firenze. 

BA 747
Our winged chariot to fly us across the Atlantic on our way to Firenze

By this time tomorrow, we’ll be beautifully ensconced at the Portrait Firenze, part of the Lungarno Collection. This property is very close to the Ponte Vecchio, a landmark that no visitor to Firenze is likely to miss.

Portrait Firenze
Our digs in Firenze – yup, that’s the Ponte Vecchio practically next door

Florence - Duomo
The Duomo, one of the most famous sights in town

Our original plan was to stay in Firenze for 3 nights, and then fate intervened. The centerpiece of this vacation will be our rental of a villa near the town of Città di Castello in Perugia. We are sharing said villa with our wonderful and very glamorous friends, Christine and Marty. They have been to Italy on numerous occasions and “know the territory”. They’re also great fun.

Anyway, as I was saying – 3 nights in Firenze and then on to the villa. That was the plan until several months ago when Marty asked me for my opinion of James Taylor. I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I don’t have much of an opinion, as my musical tastes run mostly to theatre and classical music. 

It turns out that a good friend of Marty’s is Lou Marinia (a/k/a “Blue Lou” Marini) who, aside from being an extremely talented saxophonist, arranger and composer, also happens to be a part of the James Taylor band. And wouldn’t you just know that JT is touring Europe this summer. And what a coincidence that JT, along with Bonnie Raitt and the band, is going to be giving an open-air concert at the Piazza Napoleone in Lucca the night before we take possession of the villa! And, if Lucca is only an hour away from Firenze, wouldn’t it make sense to attend said concert, especially if Lou offered to “set us up”?

JT and Bonnie Raitt
James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt will sing in Lucca on Friday night

So, between our (now) 2 days in Firenze and moving onto our villa, we’ll have an exciting detour to Lucca to hang with JT, Bonnie and the band (well, maybe not “hang”, but you get the idea).

Alla Corte Degli Angeli
Spending the night in Lucca at the charming Alla Corte Degli Angeli

And, then, onto our Villa!

A word about the villa – AAC CPA and I have never done anything like that before. We’re tried and true hotel habitants. And we like it that way. However, when we started talking to Christine and Marty about spending some time together in Italy, the notion of having our own place seemed irresistible. So we all headed to the internets and one of us (I don’t recall who it was), came up with this place. If the reality is half as good as the pictures we’ve seen, we’re going to have a blast. 

Casa Sant'Anna Exterior - 01

I’ve established a good relationship with “La Padrona”, a British woman named Carole, and she’s been great, answering all of our questions and giving us lots of great tips about the area. 

The villa is beautifully laid out, features a 42-foot pool and a music room with a Beckstein baby grand. As Christine and Marty are in “the show business” and very musically inclined, we’ll have beautiful music wafting through the house. 

Casa Sant'Anna Sitting Room - 01
Our sitting room

Casa Sant'Anna Tapestry Bedroom - 02
One of the two master bedrooms


Casa Sant'Anna Bechstein Baby Grand
Our music room with Beckstein baby grand

Casa Sant'Anna Pool - 02
Our pool with stunning views of our olive grove

We also have access to a personal chef, who will be happy to cook for us on request. As AAC CPA has a birthday while we’re in residence, we’ll avail ourselves of her services.

The closest town is Città di Castello, a mere 8 kilometers away.

Città di Castello
The beautiful Cittá di Castello

After 10 days at the villa, AAC CPA and I will bid a fond “addio” to Christine and Marty and drive up to Venezia, one of our favorite cities in the world. This will be our 5th visit to this enchanted place and, rather than stay at our usual digs, the Cipriani, we’ve decided (on the advice of our very good friend, Billy Z) to stay at the Aman, located on the Grand Canal and just a short distance from the Rialto Bridge. 

The hotel, opened in 2013, is the former Palazzo Papadopoli and, we’ve been told, no expense has been spared. There are fewer than 25 rooms at the hotel and the location is superb.

Palazzo Papadopoli - 1890
Palazzo Papadopoli, ca. 1890

Palazzo Papadopoli - Now - 02
And, now, the Aman Venice with the Rialto Bridge in the distance

Aman Venice - Garden View
The hotel garden on the Grand Canal

Aman Venice Mirror Lounge
The Mirror Lounge

Aman Venice - Dining Room
The Dining Room

We have some really fun escapades planned for our 4 days in town, which I hope to share with you when they happen.

From Venezia, we’ll wing our way to London – our last stop – for 4 days. Lucky us – this will be our 3rd visit to London this year. We’ll be back at the Shangri-La at the Shard, our favorite property in London right now. And, over our last few visits, we’ve discovered that it’s located in a great neighborhood.

The Shangri-La, located on the upper floors of the Shard

Allora, that’s the plan. Some familiar things, some new things, and I haven’t even told you about our plans for eating. For the most part, you can’t go wrong in Italy when it comes to food (not to mention wine), but we’ve got some nice things planned.

Stay tuned, amici, and – if you can’t be bothered with these blog posts – you can definitely find me on Istagram – jefftakespix

Ciao, ciao!!

10 thoughts on “Andiamo in Italia!!

  1. Fantastic that you are back writing your blogs which we love. Can’t wait to hear all about your trip and all the exciting things you are going to do. And of course not forgetting our lunch together in London. We are so looking forward to seeing you then. Love to you both. Safe and happy Travels. Lynne and Garry xx


  2. What an amazing itinerary! One can only dream of doing the same. In the mean time I’ll live vicariously through you!! Love you! ❌⭕️❌⭕️


  3. Your trip sounds amazing and I especially love that you’ll be spending all that time with Christine and Marty. We were lucky enough to have just been on the Crystal Serenity with them in Norway. Just wow! So talented and so incredibly warm and friendly! I would love to know if after your rescent (ish) cruise on Seabourn Encore if you are a convert or would you return to Crystal? Symphony looks wonderful after a very long dry dock and re-fit – Serenity about to undergo a similar refurb later this year. But we are looking to change things up a bit and wondering about the Encore and how it compares to Crystal. BTW you will love the Aman in Venice – very special!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Buon giorno!! Thanks for the comment. Yes, Marty and Christine are wonderful people. We’ve known them for over a dozen years and they’re the best. We rendezvous tomorrow in Lucca for the JT concert and, then, onto the villa in Perugia – how lucky are we?? As for Encore: we loved it. At the time, the ship was almost brand new. It feels more like a yacht, beautifully designed but definitely NOT over the top. Great staff, excellent food. The Thomas Keller component is outstanding. Also, because we were traveling in the Middle East, the weather was warm enough for lots of al fresco dining, which was a real treat. Funny you ask about Crystal: we’ll be on the first leg of Serenity’s World Cruise in January and have some trepidation. From what we’ve heard, the open seating has proven to be very unsuccessful and we’re going to miss not having our regular table and service team. Such is life. BTW, our new favorite ship (at the moment) is Regent Explorer – we’ve made two crossings on her over the past year, and will be back on board next year for back-to-back voyages – Lisbon-Miami and then Miami-Miami (Caribbean). (And Explorer definitely IS over the top!) And just 3 months later, we’ll be on Regent Sojourn’s maiden voyage!! PS. Thanks for the comment on Aman – we’re so jazzed to stay there!! Again, thanks for your comment and for sticking with TCT – much appreciated!


  4. Thanks for all the information on Encore and Regent Explorer – that’s the other ship we are looking at too :). We were on the Symphony post dry dock and open seating and it worked like a charm. We loved it and normally dine late but it was so nice to be able to eat when you want on any given day based on how hungry you are, how tired you are etc. They really try to make it work for you so if you want the same server/table they will always try and accommodate. We never had to wait more than a a couple of minutes for a table, even when we had a preference for a section we wanted to dine in. Also, as there are more restaurants to choose from at night the dining room isn’t as busy or crowded and works more like a good restaurant than a banquet hall and the food is all the better for it. They don’t have to prepare 500 meals at 6.30 and 500 meals at 8.30. I think you will find it works well. Off to look at more cruise sites. Enjoy Italia!


  5. Would love to know the name of the villa at Città di Castello where you stayed. My husband’s a composer and we’re constantly looking for places with a piano! If you could email me contact info or just the name of the villa so I could track it down online, I’d really appreciate it. LOVE your site and hope you do more posting soon.


    1. Buon giorno, Diane! First of all, I hope you are safe and well. Thanks for the compliments on TheCulturedTraveler – much appreciated. I’m happy to share the contact information for Casa Sant’Anna. Here is their website:

      We had a wonderful time there, almost 3 years ago! Although the villa has 3 bedrooms, it’s really perfect for no more than 2 couples. We were there for about 2 weeks, and had a simply wonderful time.

      Let me know if you need any other information, which I’d be happy to provide.

      Best regards……


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