This summer when the borders opened up some of our team at Trafalgar HQ took to the skies for a long-awaited vacation, to join a Trafalgar tour or take a trip home to visit loved ones. We asked them to share their experiences travelling in summer 2021 – the good, the bad, and what it was like on the ground.
Meet Chris, our Head of CRM, who spent a week travelling around Italy on a Trafalgar tour, meeting guests and exploring his love of ancient architecture and Italian food. In his spare time, Chris can be found doing ‘dad things’ or DIY at home in London or indulging in his very varied hobbies of photography, horology (making automatic watches) or cycling.
Here’s how Chris found his time on Trafalgar’s Great Italian Cities tour.
Why did you choose to travel to Italy?
I’ve never been to Italy but have always had it on my list, for various reasons the opportunity never came up. As soon as Italy was an option with Trafalgar I jumped right in. I’m very interested in history and ancient architecture and technology… where else is better for that than Rome, Florence and Venice?
How was your journey to Italy?
I flew over from Stansted. The 3am taxi was an early one, but meant the queues weren’t too bad. Airport staff are really back in the swing of things so it’s not much different to before the pandemic.
Do you think it’s easier to travel now than before the pandemic?
I had to get a lateral flow test within 48 hours of arrival, but otherwise it was the same as before (apart from masks).
How did it feel to be back on the road and travelling again after so long?
After months of being at home it was a fantastic feeling to see new places, hear lots of accents and to smell the amazing food available on every corner. A particular highlight was wandering the streets and bridges of Venice with an affogato and pizza.
How was the general mood in Italy?
Italy felt very safe on the streets, people were wearing masks in the busy areas and inside. As you need to be vaccinated to travel with Trafalgar, I felt self on the coach and in restaurants. At some of the sites you needed to show your vaccine card but it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the trip.
Did any restrictions dampen your enjoyment of the trip?
I definitely enjoyed the trip as much as possible, there were no restrictions I noticed that took away from my enjoyment. The only thing to note was the use of masks inside, but that really didn’t matter.
Did you feel safe on the trip?
Yes. I’ve not travelled on a guided tour before and I was amazed how well Trafalgar’s Travel Directors and Wellbeing Directors looked after everyone under their care. Everything was clearly outlined and organised so we all felt at ease and could concentrate on making the most of the tour.
Tell us about the highlights of your trip
I have a few highlights but the first one I remember is walking into St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. I had no idea how grand it is inside. I rarely find myself stopped in my tracks by a building but, wow, being able to wander around such an impressive structure was such a treat. I remember speaking to one of the other guests on the tour and he said, ‘Even the floor is amazing, I need to remind myself to also look up!”
Another highlight was travelling back from Burano on the boat to Venice at sunset. All of a sudden St. Mark’s Square started to flood and I found myself trapped between ever-growing puddles of sea water within minutes. We had to make a quick dash for higher ground, which was quite the experience.
Oh, and finally… THE FOOD! I’m already planning how to come back to Italy, as the food around the country is fantastic.
Did you feel like you were able to connect with the local culture and people? Tell us about a memory
In various cities we had free time to explore as we wanted – this level of freedom allowed us all to have our own experiences with market stall owners and locals. The Be My Guest experience with Giada Lendi was very memorable, she greeted us on her lawn and took us to her amazing terrace. We all felt very welcome in her house and her own food served was fantastic.
What was the best thing you ate while you were in Italy?
The food at Giada’s was really good, really simple and authentic. Other than that I had a superb meal at a restaurant in Venice called Vittoria dal 1938 Ristorante. I ate fresh local fish dishes to start followed by cow tongue (which is not something I’ve had before).
If you could do it again next week, what would you change about your trip?
The only thing I would want to change about my trip was the weather for the gondolas in Venice. It was raining a bit which was still fun, but to do it in the sunshine would have been even better. Saying that, it only rained on that one afternoon for the whole trip – so it’s a minor thing!
What was the most enjoyable or relaxing part of your trip?
After months at home it was amazing to be able to meet and speak with people from all over the world again. We are a sociable species and my week away reminded me how good it is to see people in real life and not on a screen. We had a free afternoon in Venice which I spent getting myself lost in the streets and alleyways while listening to some of my favourite music.
What surprised you about travelling again?
I was surprised how normal it actually is out there. All of the major transport hubs are all now set up to keep people safe, with little impact on travelling through.
How did taking an international trip impact you positively?
I felt very lucky to have been able to travel with such a nice group of people to such a fantastic selection of cities.
BE INSPIRED BY: Trafalgar’s Best of Italy tour
Did you travel this summer or are you waiting for 2022? Let us know where you want to go and how you feel in the comments below…