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Paulo Roberto & Lúcia Lima

My husband and I always thought of celebrating 40 years of a happy marriage. Any effort towards this direction would be justified. We chose the northwest region of Italy. I visited some websites to search for information. Certainly a good angel made me find Cieli di Toscana and everything was easy and with the perfection that should be.

I remembered the phrase so common in our dear Northeast of Brazil: What has to be, it brings strength. We arrived in Milan a little later than the scheduled time. A Cieli di Toscana’s driver was waiting who welcomed us in good Portuguese. Listen to our language in a friendly tone in the middle of Europe made us feel calm and welcomed as if we were at home!

In a comfortable Mercedes Benz with bottled water and Swiss chocolates available for us, we received a local “chip” for the phone and good conversation along the way. We started from that moment to enjoy the trip and to leave behind everything other than pleasure, relaxation, happiness and… vacation! In that moment, the celebrations of 40 years living together or even better, our Emerald Wedding anniversary began.

The bigger our expectations were, the more surprises happened day after day for the whole trip, in a demonstration of affection from Cieli di Toscana that deeply captivated us!

At the hotel in Milan, we found a card on our bed congratulating us on our “anniversary”, the first reason of our trip. The same event repeated in other hotels! At Relais San Maurizio, we had an unforgettable gift: a piano audition with the performance of the songs that marked the beginning of our relationship. It was a very special moment! We returned to teenage time and the discovery of love and passion.

The hotels were meticulously chosen, always considering comfort, location, romanticism and excellent gastronomy. This last item deserves specific comments. We ate divinely well at the hotels as well as at other restaurants, as expected in Italy. However, some meals were particularly special, such as: lunch at Casual (5 star-restaurant in Città Alta) in Bergamo, specialized in Mediterranean food, with a beautiful view of the city; lunch at Ristorante Marc Lantieri, located inside Castello Grinzane Cavour, a mix of cuisine from Piedmont and Provance, located in the city of Alba, the “capital” of gastronomy in Piedmont Region; all dinners in Courmayeur in the hotel’s restaurant, Alberge de La Maison, with a breathtaking view of the Alpine mountains with its snowy peaks, perceived through the huge floor-to-ceiling glass windows, making you feel the outside nature in the dining room; finally, dinners at the margins of the charming Lake Como, in the gardens of the elegant and luxurious Hotel D’Este, in Cernobbio.

The tours met our purposes and tastes perfectly: nature (gardens, mountains, lakes, parks, local fauna and flora), city (castles, architecture, historic center, museums, theaters and churches). Parks? Yes, we went to some! In Monza, we visited the 19th century Palazzo Villa Reale surrounded by a huge English garden. Very close to the building, you find the Monza racetrack, very symbolic for us because of the countless victories of Brazilian Formula 1 pilots such as: Fittipaldi, Piquet, Senna and Barrichello.

We had another surprise at the race track by providence or destiny. During our visit, there was a great Formula 3 championship. So, we were able to sit on the bleachers, see the race and enjoy the speed and overtaking of the fast cars.

Another must-see for nature lovers was the Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso, located in Valle d’Aosta, northwest of Italy. The park is surrounded by mountains adorned by the remaining snow of last winter, exuberant vegetation, covered by sunlight rays from the end of spring to early summer, offering a very special colorful landscape. A real gift for photography lovers like me! Another palace on our itinerary: Venaria or Reggia di Venaria Reale, as said in Italy, it was erected in the 17th century. Due its sumptuousness and particular beauty, it is considered the Italian “Versailles”, or Versailles of Piedmont. It was the hunting residence of the royal family of Savoia, a few kilometers from Turin (Torino). Simply a must see! We had lunch at the restaurant inside the palace that, despite not having the right gastronomy, it was worth it. After all, we do not always have an opportunity to eat in an environment of such refinement and over 200 years old of “pure” history! The Grande Galleria, a “corridor” that joins the two parts of the building, right and left, is undoubtedly the most fantastic environment in the entire complex! I was perplexed with the beauty and majesty of that work of art, right there … before me … being photographed by my retinas and recorded in detail forever on my mind. It is hard to find more adjectives to qualify it! The gardens were designed in typical French style, following the example of the true Versailles.

We also visited many religious temples, each one with a motivation or characteristic that is fully justified to be seen and admired. We started with the Cathedral of Milan. Although we had already seen its façade on a previous trip, we could not admire its interior because it was being restored at that time.

“Stars were aligned” this time and we were able to admire it entirely. We went to the Basilica di Superga, dated from the 19th century, located on the surroundings of Turin, at the top of the mount of the same name: Superga. The place has an incredible belvedere that offers us a beautiful view of the city at your feet. This mount was the scenery of some remarkable historical events for the natives. In the basement, we visited the tombs of kings and princes of the Casa de Savoia (Le Tombe Reali) adorned artistically. The Cathedral of Turin, for those with strong religious beliefs, keeps the Holy Shroud. However, we were only shown the urn, because the relic is only displayed to the faithful every 5 or 10 years. Maybe next time!

On the same day, another surprise! We visited the abbey where the classic movie of Humberto Eco was filmed: “The name of the Rose”. It is the Sacra di San Michelle in Val di Susa, almost 3,280ft above the sea. It is a medieval and “magical” construction. We found out that this religious temple is one of the 7 dedicated to St. Michael strategically set in a straight line from Jerusalem to Ireland, passing by Mount Saint-Michel in France, the most famous of them. I confess I didn’t know that! Traveling is also constant learning! 

Among the 15 cities we visited, 14 were Italian and one, Lugano, is located in Switzerland on the margins of Lake Lugano. It is a pleasant place where we strolled in the historic center, despite the rainy day.

The cities of Bellagio, Tremezzo, Varena and Villa Balbinello, were part of a pleasant boat tour on the beautiful Lake Como. Cieli di Toscana provided a private boat for my husband and me. The sun showed up. We went out on the deck and felt the wind blowing our hair. We enjoyed the beautiful scenery of each curve of the lake. Without a fixed itinerary, we stopped where and when we wanted, exploring villages and natural places indicated by the skipper. Along the way, houses of famous people were pointed out, such as George Clooney’s Villa Oleandra, the mansions of the soccer players Adriano and Zanetti, the tenor Feline’s and the movie setting of James Bond’s Casino Royale.

In such a rich and special trip, it is difficult to choose the best days or the most rewarding experiences. Would it be like watching the opera Aida at Teatro alla Scala (Scala Theater) in Milan? Would it be the boat tour on Lake Como? If we could do it, we might choose the moments lived in Courmayeur: the delicate beauty of Albergue de La Maison, its surroundings full of charm with the stone houses, at the foot of the mountain that keeps the Mont Blanc from the French. Granted by an impeccable morning with a vivid blue sky, we climbed the snowy peak of Mont Blanc, traveling in a modern and comfortable cable car up to 13,100 ft. above the sea. Once there, with the feeling of being on top of the world, we were able to observe the entire region.

We fully fulfilled our itinerary, making the dream cherished for several years come true. It remains the necessary words to thank Cieli de Toscana’s team. Everything we were promised was done with extreme accuracy and professionalism. There was not a single delay of the tour guides, drivers and other people who served us. Everyone was very kind and efficient. The quality of the hotels, the recommended restaurants and the very special cars we use in Italy, far exceeded our expectations. The daily contacts, affectionate messages gave us the priceless feeling that we were traveling in the company of old friends.

Thank you Cieli di Toscana.

See you soon.

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