Love American Style

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If you ever find yourself with only enough frequent flyer miles to get free magazines, I suggest you take advantage of Condé Nast Traveler. In it you’ll find, of course, the fabulous destinations reserved for the rich and famous, but you may also find something that will spark a desire for your own romantic getaway.

That is exactly how I found an exceptional professional to help me create an amazing itinerary to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. Andrea Grisdale, CEO of IC Bellagio, and her amazing team are devoted to customer service. From the very first communication to our “welcome home” message, every detail of our trip that they orchestrated was absolute perfection. With one email I was able to provide enough information for the IC Bellagio team to put together itinerary options from which we selected destinations, accommodations and activities that best met our budget, time frame and interests.

It quickly became clear we were working with people who know how to truly listen and who are dedicated to far exceeding expectations. They did more than “wow” us! They showed us the love, and we love them right back with FREE ADVERTISING FOR LIFE. Thrilling doesn’t even begin to describe the service we experienced. Julie O’Donnell, our ambassador during our visit, provided our final land arrangement documentation, on which no detail was left unattended. She was in touch with us during our visit to make sure everything was going according to plan. Like she didn’t already know. ;) Each day was a dream come true made to order with loving care by IC Bellagio. Thank you all so very much!

Upon arrival in Rome, we were met by a friendly, English-speaking driver who chatted with us on the way to the hotel. Later that afternoon, we met our personal guide for a walking tour. We enjoyed three hours of personal attention, with Barbara as our guide, from the French Church atop the Spanish Steps through this famous international meeting place to the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and so much more, stopping along the way to admire the grandeur of this ancient, yet modern city. An understandably proud native of Rome, Barbara shared the politics, culture and history of her city with us and even called ahead to get us a table for dinner at the end of our tour where we said buona sera to this charming, extremely knowledgeable, confident lady.

Tour Guide Extraordinaire


The next day it was a bit rainy, but that didn’t spoil our Roman holiday Vespa tour. We zipped around Rome with two professional drivers, saw the sights and experienced freedom and glory all in one Sunday afternoon! Belerio, our guide, gave us a passionate account of the life and times of the ancient Romans and their city devoted to Venus, the goddess of love. We took some roads less traveled, witnessed nuns singing sacred Gregorian Prayers and peeked through the keyhole into a country within a country, The Sovereign Order of Malta. We skipped the Bocca della Verita (mouth of truth) – too many tourists standing in line. We opted instead to stop for espresso and pastry.

Chris and Belerio Awesome Vespa Guides

On the third day we visited Vatican City, our guide again was Barbara. We moved through the museum, across a large courtyard and into the long corridor filled with sculpture, tapestry and beautiful architecture that leads to the Sistine Chapel. Barbara knows art; she’s been a guide for thirteen years. She shared her passion and knowledge, plus some interesting facts about Michelangelo’s uneasy relationship with the overseers of his work.

This tour took me completely by surprise. I had no idea my emotional reaction would be so overwhelming. Even though I’d seen photographs, the Sistine Chapel took my breath away. No photos are allowed inside. The place was packed. I tried to stand still and focus on just one section. We finally moved closer to the exit and stood silently. My eyes were drawn to the scene of Adam and Eve being cast out of Eden. Something came over me. Tears began to roll down my cheeks. I wasn’t sobbing, just unable to stop the tears. Original sin, the idea has puzzled me all of my life. I will NEVER understand it. Woman brought wrath upon all humankind? Give me a break! I saw too many penises in Italy to think for one minute that there isn’t more to that story. I could be wrong; I am from time to time.

St. Peter’s Basilica

That was some of the places of Rome. Next are the faces of Rome. More love, more beauty.

Until then…Ciao!

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22 Responses to Love American Style

  1. Helen Ross says:

    Hi Honie. I must have missed this one from last year. Happy belated wedding anniversary wishes. Wow! Wow! Your photos are just so amazing, and very, very professional – leave mine for dead. Rome really is an amazing place. I still have more posts to put up about our Italy travels, but would you mind if I put up a link to your post ‘Love American Style’ on my next ‘Rome’ post. Then any of my interested readers can slip over to your post to view your amazing photos of Rome.

    • Honie Briggs says:

      Be my guest, Helen. You may always feel free to link to any of my posts you wish. I wanted to ask where you stayed in Rome. I saw that you had some great shots at the Colosseum. Can’t wait to read about the rest of your trip. I took about 5000 pics, & could not write enough about the experience. L O V E D every minute of it. Would go back in a heartbeat.

      It seems I completely missed some other comments here on this post. Think it’s too late to reply? HA!

      • Helen Ross says:

        Honie, we stayed at the Hotel Alexandra in Barberini district – about 1 minute’s walk to the train station. It was in a great area – 5 -10 mins walk to Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps and close to the Hop off, Hop on bus stop. The Hotel room was small but comfortable and clean, and catered well for people, like me, with food allergies. Was close also to restaurants, bars, etc. Would stay there again. I took over 3000 photos so wow to 5000. Yes, we would also go back in a heart beat – loved every minute. Thanks for my link request. Will put in my next post.

  2. mabukach says:

    Wow. Amazing photography, Honie! I’m going to dig around for more.

  3. Wyrd Smythe says:

    I saw the Sistine and St. Pete’s way back in 1972, a simpler and less crowded time. We stayed in a cheap hotel near the Trevi Fountain and bought bottles of Chianti for what amounted to 0.25 USD. (We were in high school, so it was quite the experience.)

    All that amazing religious art, especially when you have a sense of its age, is really very impressive!

  4. Wow, I feel like I just took a vacation! Thanks for the “up close and personal” on Italy. Gorgeous!

  5. Ahh, Roma. I really have to go to Italy one day. Great photos, Honie!

  6. Brigitte says:

    Oh Honie, this is soooooooo beautiful and I’m so jealous. You take great pics, btw. I can’t wait to get there one day and I’ll have to check out the service you recommended when we do. Ah, to “zip around” Italy on vespas. I’m so glad you had a wonderful time with the love of your life in Italy — what a fantastic way to celebrate such a wonderful milestone. Thank you for sharing it with us. xxoo

    • Honie Briggs says:

      Thanks Brigitte! I’m so happy to share this experience. I loved being there and feeling like I was part of the city, not just a tourist, even though I really was just a tourist. We talked to so many people all the way from Rome to Florence and along the Almafi Coast that were passionate, knowledgeable and so eager to share. Everyone was friendly, not just trying to sell us something, but genuinely friendly. Truly an experience we will cherish.

  7. WOW – this is amazing – it was a pleasure for the team and I to work with you and create this incredible Italian Experience for you …

  8. What a wonderful post, amazing photos.I always love the roofs and skylines. Your pics are really masterly, Rome is quite gob-smacking, but then so is all of Italy… no wonder Italians do the least tourism of any nation – why would they with it all there! – plus the food!!!

    • Honie Briggs says:

      gob-smacking! Yes, most definitely gob-smacking. I know what you mean about the skylines. Some of my favorites shots are of roof tops, against a cloudy or sunny sky it makes no difference. That’s where dreams hover. And yes, exactly, why would they want to travel away from the heaven they have right where they are? :)

  9. artsifrtsy says:

    Lovely shots Honie – I’m an art geek – seeing St Peters and the Sistine would be a dream come true – it’s on the bucket list:) The expulsion from the Garden is one of the saddest images in art. I remember seeing it in a book as a child and wondered why the couple was so sad.

    My art history prof said that during the Victorian period the Vatican had an art student remove, cover, and catalog all of the penises on the statues – she spent a whole career removing them. When they were replaced in the middle of the 20th century it took years to figure out which ones went with which statue. I’ve always wondered if it was true.

    • Honie Briggs says:

      Thanks. It was a dream come true. I was floored by the size of the collection. The wealth and (power) of the space is hard to comprehend. Wall Street can’t hold a candle to it! Our guide told us that much of the gold once used to adorn the buildings as well as the art, that has now either worn away or been “recycled”, as they say, came from America via Spain. “Grazie,” she said. “Prego,” I replied.
      Of course time has had is effect on the gilded grandeur, but not the majesty, truly worthy of the word awesome. Built not over decades, but CENTURIES. Yes, awesome is the correct word. Paid for with taxes as well as great personal wealth.
      As for the penises, I’m not sure if one student could have done it alone, but it is true, for the sculptures as well as the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. “Puritans,” our guide said. One particular sculpture had to be reworked to support the retro fit of an appropriate garment. The things people do for “propriety”….funny. When you have the opportunity to go, GO. :)

      • artsifrtsy says:

        I had an opportunity to spend a semester in Florence – but had a hard time convincing the folks it was worthwhile – today I know I should have moved heaven and earth to make it happen. I’ll get there for sure. I love hearing about the wonders of art from actual viewers instead of from books. I’ve seen a sketch of the Last Judgement as Michelangelo intended – made by a student before the figures were primly covered – the whole lot of them nude – Michelangelo was a bold thinker:)

  10. These are amazing shots! I’m so jealous…Italy is my dream vacation, and Rome would – of course – be a must-stop. Looks like you had an amazing time (and I’m glad you avoided the McDonald’s).

    • Honie Briggs says:

      Thanks Mark. Yes, it was an amazing time and this is only from the first three days. We took about 5000 photos and since I’m only just today feeling completely human again, I have a lot of sorting to do to get more posted. You’ll get there if you want to, I know you will!

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