Europe & Britain | People & Stories

‘It was exactly how I'd dreamed it would be’: Judy's magical Italy trip

Judy always dreamed of travelling to Italy and experiencing a gondola ride in Venice. After receiving a breast cancer diagnosis in 2010, she endured brutal surgeries and chemotherapy treatments. When she made it to five years with no sign of cancer returning, Judy knew it was time to celebrate with her sister Janet by taking her dream trip. The sisters travelled from Ohio, United States to join our Great Italian Cities tour.

“Going to Venice, Italy and riding in a Gondola had been one of my dreams. After I survived my 5 years after breast cancer, surgeries and chemotherapy it was time to celebrate. So my sister and I contacted Trafalgar and planned our trip. It turned out to be a trip that more than exceeded my expectations. Thanks to Lydia and all the staff for making my dream come true. I am now a 12-year survivor and ready for more traveling, and to see the world. Thanks Trafalgar and God bless all of you.” Judy said in her Trafalgar Unlocked Awards entry. 

We reached out to Judy to find out more about her wonderful trip to Italy, why it was so special to travel with her sister, and where she’s off to next. 

You can read more inspiring stories and entries from our past guests, received as part of the Trafalgar Unlocked Awards on The Real Word blog.

Judy and sister Janet in Florence on Trafalgar Italy trip

Why did you choose Italy as your dream trip with your sister?

One of my dreams was always to go to Venice and ride on a gondola. However, my dream suddenly came to a halt when in 2010 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had two surgeries and months of three different kinds of chemo. I was told that with my type of cancer, if it came back, it usually comes back within five years. Those five years were some of the most worrisome I’ve ever had. My sister Janet was with me through my journey. She was at all my appointments, surgeries, and chemo injections. With God’s grace, I made it to 2015, five years with no sign of cancer returning. It was time to celebrate. 

Janet and I started dreaming and planning for a trip of a lifetime. Our first and most important place to visit was Italy so I could fulfil my dream of going to Venice and riding on a gondola.  We also wanted to visit Rome and the Vatican. We searched the different tours Trafalgar had to offer and decided on the Great Italian Cities trip.

I can’t express how great our guide Lydia was.  She went above and beyond to meet our needs. Janet was having a lot of pain in her foot and was having trouble walking. Lydia arranged for different types of transportation to take Janet to where our group was ending up after our walks. Little did we know at the time that Janet had a broken bone in her foot which she discovered when we got back to Ohio (no wonder she was in pain).

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Judy and sister Janet at the Colosseum on Trafalgar Italy trip

What are some of your favourite memories from your Great Italian Cities trip?

Rome and Vatican City

I have so many great memories of this Italy trip. As a Christian, going to Vatican City was a very special day. Seeing the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo’s frescoed ceiling was absolutely amazing. But the highlight of my visit was seeing the tomb of St. Peter. Wow what an emotional time for me. Being in the same city where St. Peter walked and preached, and then seeing his tomb. In one of our free time periods, my sister and I went to “Peter in Chains Basilica”. This is where St. Peter’s chains are.

Judy at Trevi Fountain on Trafalgar Italy trip

Our next stop was the Colosseum where we were able to go inside and walk around. Then on to the Trevi Fountain where we each tossed one coin into the fountain which means you’ll return to Rome. Next, the group sat on the Spanish Steps and took pictures.

On Sunday, Janet and I went back to Vatican City and were able to join the crowd and listen to Pope Francis’ message. This was a surprise event that I didn’t realize we could take part in. Next, we took a taxi out to St. Paul’s Basilica. We saw St. Paul’s tomb and his chains. Once again I was in awe of being there and was overcome with emotions. 

Judy and group at the Spanish Steps in Rome on Trafalgar Italy trip

Assisi, Florence and Pisa

The next day we took our bus to Assisi and were able to visit St. Francis Basilica. Then on to Florence. We were able to see Michelangelo’s marble statue of the Biblical figure David. We were given time to purchase some gold jewelry, which we took advantage of.

Our bus headed to Bologna, San Gimignano and ended up at Pisa. We were able to spend a lot of time in Pisa. The Cathedral is special to us because Janet’s children’s last name is Pisano and their ancestors came from Pisa. One of their great, great’s (I don’t remember how many greats) actually carved the pulpit in the Cathedral.  We saw the name Pisano quite a few times while visiting Pisa.  

RELATED CONTENT: 7 Christian tours you can take with Trafalgar

Judy on a gondola ride in Venice on Trafalgar Italy trip

Did you fulfil your dream of a gondola ride in Venice?

As we moved on to Venice, I finally got to ride in a gondola. I loved the entire city and was impressed with no cars and trucks. Only water transportation. I absolutely loved the gondola ride and the songs they sang. It was exactly what I had dreamed it would be.

We took a boat out to the island of Burano and I fell in love with this little island and its many little family shops of lace. I purchased a beautiful handmade lace blouse and was able to speak with the lady that made it and we took a picture together. She didn’t speak English but her granddaughter interpreted for us. We visited St. Mark’s Square and St. Mark’s Basilica. Once again I was emotional at the thought of seeing where another of Jesus’ disciples had been buried (or parts of him). This trip included three of Jesus’ followers.  

Janet holding lace blouse in Venice on Trafalgar Italy trip

One of the things my sister and I couldn’t pass up was gelato. It seemed like everywhere we went in Italy there were a lot of gelato shops, and of course, we had to try a different flavour at each one. I actually lost count of how many scoops we had. We also did a lot of souvenir shopping – so much so that Lydia found us a post office and we shipped some boxes home. 

RELATED CONTENT: Beyond Venice and Rome: Explore these off-the-beaten-track Italian towns with Trafalgar

gelato shop in Italy

Why was it so important for you to take this trip to Italy with your sister?

Traveling with my sister and sharing this trip was special because we were celebrating my five-year survival from breast cancer.  She sat with me for hours after surgeries and many hours of chemo, and when I became so fatigued from the chemo she spent time at my house helping me out. There was no other person I would have wanted to share this trip with but her. We were both celebrating.

I also would like to say once again how great our tour guide was. Lydia went the extra mile for us many times. Thank you Lydia.

RELATED CONTENT: ‘My son won. My dad won’: Amy relives her life-affirming trip to Italy

Janet with Travel Director Lydia on Trafalgar Italy trip

What destinations do you dream of travelling to next? 

My next agenda on my bucket list is to visit Turkey and Greece and follow some of the routes that Apostle Paul did as he preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. After that, I’d like to tour Ireland.

As an entrant in our Trafalgar Unlocked Awards, you have the chance to win 2 places on our Balkan Delight tour. Who would you take if you won?

I’ve never been to the Balkans but the area has a lot of Biblical history which would fulfil more of my bucket list. My first choice of who would go with me would be my sister Janet.  We’ve traveled many times together either by ourselves or with our families. We travel very well together and have similar likes and dislikes. We both enjoy exploring new places and trying new foods, especially gelato.

Thank you Judy for sharing your moving story!

Head to The Real Word blog to read more inspiring stories from our past guests, received as part of the Trafalgar Unlocked Awards.

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