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When planning our trip to cruise the British Isles, I came up with the brilliant idea that we could go a couple of days early, and visit Rome. When we last visited, Dot and Russ were rushed through the important parts of the trip, and Dot really had her eye on a book they sell to tourists with beautiful pictures of the whole area. Time did not permit her to pick up a copy of the book, so I figure a quick visit to Rome – since we’re in Europe anyway, and everything in Europe is so close to everything else (did I mention I got a D in Geography?) – will allow them the chance to maybe see the Pope and get that book.
Of course when I came up with this great idea, I gave no thought to the fact that we would be in Rome. In a hotel. Carless. Clueless. Oh, and we don’t speak Italian. Among the 7 of us, Granuaile is the one who most closely sounds like she COULD be speaking Italian sometimes (well, at least we don’t always understand her); and among the rest of us, we know how to say Pizza; Pasta; and Orangiata (this will get you an orange soda in some places). So now we have to find a car, a driver, and an English speaking tour guide. I head to the web, where all the world has to offer can be found, and I start to browse Rome, limo services, and tour guides. I find a bunch. No, really, a bunch. Like way more than you would want to have to weed through if you have a whole year to plan. We only have a few weeks.
While browsing, I come across the website for Limousine Service in Rome, and there is an adorable video on the site. Of course, Manilo is handsome and Italian. And handsome. And Italian. Oh, and handsome. And the video has beautiful Rome in the background, with the beautiful sound of Church bells in the background. And handsome, Italian Manilo doing the talking. I send an email, and in no time at all, I am on the phone with Manilo to get some of the details.
Now, I will tell you that from the time I first talked to Manilo, we went from just getting transfers from the airport to the hotel, to adding a day of touring on Saturday, to adding a day to see the Pope in Castel Gandolfo on Sunday, to cancelling Saturday, to touring Saturday. Yes we made an adjustment or two to the itinerary. Through it all, Manilo was patient, helpful, and never once cursed at me in English OR Italian for not knowing what the heck I wanted in the first place (this is not to say he didn’t curse after he hung up the phone or backed away from the computer, but he was considerate enough to keep it to himself!).
The first thing Manilo did was advise us that because we were coming in August, and our big tour day was Sunday, that we should not expect to see Pope Benedict at the Vatican. He spends the month of August at his vacation home in Castel Gandolfo, a fact we completely overlooked. Had it not been for Manilo, we would have missed the opportunity to see the Pope at all, but it turned out that we were so much closer to His Holiness in the more intimate setting of the courtyard of his vacation home than we would have ever been at St. Peter’s Basilica. Not only that, but Manilo arranged a WONDERFUL lunch for us at il Ristorante Bucci, with a view that was beyond breath taking. But I am getting ahead of myself…
We spent Saturday seeing things that everyone goes to Rome to see – the Forum, the Coliseum, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain – and at each place, Manilo is able to bring us up so close that most of the time, even Dot can get out and enjoy the scenery, despite her mobility issues. Even with increased security concerns around St. Peter’s, Manilo is able to allow us to get out without too much of a walk to the square, and he makes it back to pick us up. That was so appreciated! And then we see things that we have never seen on our past visits to Rome, like the keyhole view of St. Peter’s. It was an amazing day, riding in absolute comfort. The girls even all fell asleep during the tour, they were so comfortable.
Then on Sunday, Manilo arrived bright and early to transport us for the wonderful day at Castel Gandolfo. As I said, he chose a restaurant that was so wonderful, we will be talking about it for years to come. He arranged a perfect table for us, and when we invited him to join us for lunch, he ordered a meal that was quickly copied by nearly everyone at our table, much to their delight.
After a wonderful afternoon, Manilo took us for an amazing hilltop view of all of Rome, and had us back at the hotel in time to wash up, relax and get ready for dinner.
Manilo also did a VERY early morning transfer back to the airport for us on Monday morning – an arrangement I had not made ahead of time. We were grateful, and lucky, he was available.
If you ask my 7 year old daughter what her favorite part of the entire 2 week vacation was, she will tell you it was the two days with Manilo. He speaks English beautifully, so we never had any difficulty understanding him; and his knowledge and expertise regarding the history of Rome and the must see locations is incredible. We never felt unsafe or uncomfortable in his car, and despite doing several organized group tours in Rome before, we feel like we got a much better view of this beautiful city through Manilo’s eyes.
I would not hesitate one second to use this service again – and since we threw our coins in the Trevi Fountain, I believe we are guaranteed a return trip. We cannot wait until the opportunity to go back to Rome presents itself again. We only hope Manilo is available then to show us his wonderful city.