Report from the Road: So, It’s a Bit Hot

Buongiorno from Florence, Italy! I’m here on my last day of a Rick Steves Family Europe tour. As I mentioned, this is one of my favorites and this tour hasn’t disappointed. Actually, it’s gone almost without a hitch which makes me a little uneasy…karma is circular in my profession.

But the heat though. It hasn’t been as bad as they’ve predicted so far, although Florence is pretty warm and getting warmer. This is normal for this city in the center of the thigh of Italy’s leg. There isn’t a breeze here the way we have in Rome. So, the cobblestones and palazzi simply heat during the day and radiate all night, and it never cools off. I am curious about whether we could bake a pizza on the sidewalk and just may try this scientific experiment. I think Leonardo would approve.

My group is lovely. I am closely monitoring their water intake and mood because I am a mothering type and I worry about my flock. Thankfully, chocolate and gelato can cure a world of ills. The trick of tour guiding is reading the thoughts of the group and anticipating what they will need and when. I whipped out granola bars this afternoon, just before entering the Uffizi Gallery, because low blood sugar equals low attention span.

There have been some really glorious days on this tour and it has gone by too fast. A good group is like that, I miss them already and they are still here. Tour guides are chess players, really, and I’m already in London in my head, starting the next tour.

I can report that the Swiss Alps are still where I left them and remain divine. I have about a 60/40 track record of clear skies, and we hit it just right, warm and completely clear.

We hiked from Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg as per my usual plan on a clear day. There is not finer (and easier) walk in the Swiss Alps in my humble opinion. I could bore you with a million incredible photos but here are just a few good ones.

I didn’t get my usual lunch of rösti but that’s probably for the best. Hashed-browns covered in Emmentaler cheese aren’t exactly good for the ticker. Instead I took a nap. I still feel guilty about that four days later but man, did that feel good.

These tours always have an assistant, usually a college-aged guide trainee (and often the kids of my colleagues, which is fantastic) but instead I had a Turkish colleague join me. Taylan Tasbasi leads tours of Turkey for Rick Steves and also does his own thing on the southern Turkish coast. He’s been great, and a great assistant makes me a better guide. After all of our conversations, I’m thinking about next summer and considering spending it in Turkey.

Our day off on this tour takes place in the Cinque Terre. I don’t really get a day off, I’m on call, but as long as everyone is fine I can find some time for myself. I chose to spend that precious time with my friend Ruth Manfredi and her husband Christiano. She has a terribly romantic story about how she ended up marrying a local in Vernazza, but she’s going to have to tell that to you herself. (Hmmm, maybe I should start a podcast…)

They invited us to go out boating for the day, which is my favorite thing to do in the Cinque Terre. If you’re going to splash out on one thing in Italy, I’m telling you, this is the thing. As more companies are doing boat excursions, prices are becoming much more accessible, starting around €120 per hour for four people.

We jumped into the water in sandy pirate coves, ate seafood on an island, putted around the coast for glorious views of each town. I feel almost embarrassed telling you this because it was so very much like being a movie star. But Ruth is just so darned down to earth and knows her region. We talk and talk and it’s always good fun. She also gives me great tips that I can pass along to you and to the Rick Steves guidebooks, so it’s all for a good cause, right?? Ok, now I don’t feel so guilty. By the way, I’ve done this before.

Our tour arrived in Florence last night. I haven’t been here in a while, which is super weird for me since this is like another home. I scurried around town last night to reconnect with people that I’ve missed. I also met for a cocktail with Georgette Jupe ( who is a blogger that I respect and have wanted to meet. We’ve been lobbing tweets at each other for a while, and I was glad to finally make her acquaintance. I’m on a mission these days to meet and connect quality writers/guides/entrepreneurs etc. because then I can connect them to you. Success for all!

I had dinner with my tour guide colleague and friend Antonia Lanza d’Ajeta. I will have to tell you more about her another time, but I’ll just say that she is everything that a guide should aspire to be and she’s an absolute national treasure. And I’m not exaggerating. Our lunches last hours and feel too short. It’s spritz o’clock at the moment so I’ll meet with my other guide friends Elisabetta Franchetti and Brenda Cai.

Now I have a few days off to breathe and nap a bit. Back to London to do it again! But with a job like this, who can complain about doing more of it? Spreading the joy of discovery with families is just what I was meant to be doing, I just hope my efforts are worthy of their time.

Sending you light wherever you may be. I’ll have a gelato for you, just tell me which flavor.



18 replies on “Report from the Road: So, It’s a Bit Hot”

  1. Have a lemon or grapefruit gelato for me! The best gelato was in Orvieto right next to the Cathedral.

  2. Hi Sarah, You look amazing in these photos! I really, really like your hair as it’s growing in; but I hope you keep this style because it looks great on you! The picture of you with Talan is great snap. Enjoy the rest of your travels


  3. Texas to London in an hour. Where in London do you hand your hat? Ireland Sunday for 12 days with 10 of us musicians. Most of us hatched up this trip three years ago while rafting the Grand Canyon. Otherwise I’d be on a Rick Ireland tour. Your blogs are sensational.

    1. I like to stay near Bayswater at Vancouver Studios, Or Garden Court Hotel. I’ve been staying at the Radisson Edwardian in Gloucester Road which is well worth it if you can afford it. Definitely hit the Wolseley for tea!

  4. What a wonderful account of so many fun places and people you know, Sarah! It looks like you got all your long hair cut off? Is that true? If so, don’t you just love having short hair? You look FANTASTIC in it!!

    I don’t know if I could handle Europe in this heat, though, especially without a/c. As I get older it’s tougher and tougher to take. That’s why I’m hunkered indoors painting a landscape, given the heat index here in NW Ohio is 97 degrees……

    You are a born tour guide and one of the best! Hope we get to travel again with you.

  5. Spritz o’clock is the best time of the day! Thanks for that nugget and the perspective of a tour guide. Happy travels!

  6. Thank you Sarah for sharing your travels. I’ve been on 3 tours and it’s good to know what the perspective is of the tour guide. A little food and song always makes the travel go better when you’re sitting on the bus as a paying customer, but too pooped to go into one more museum. Happy travels as Rick would say.

  7. Please have a bit of a citrus/chocolate gelato for me…and pistachio for Dail. And give our best to Queen Elizabeth, should you see her.

  8. I can’t think of a gelato flavor I don’t like so anything will be just fine! Yes, yes, yes to a podcast! I already listen to several regularly and would love to add yours to my collection! That’s such a terrific idea! I can tell you are excellent at the “family tour” thing and although I loved Dimitri and wouldn’t have traded our tour with him for anything in the world, it would have been lovely with you as guide, too. Although that said, you probably wouldn’t have had us all go to one side of the tour bus and press our passports up against the windows as we passed through one of the borders!!! Funniest thing ever🤣. Happy 4th of July!

  9. Sarah, I’m reading this latest blog entry on the Fourth of July here on Cape Cod. A dream place to live, but always dreaming of Italy nonetheless. Hoping that another trip will be in our future. Meanwhile, with hope in our hearts, we continue to enjoy your fun, informative blog and wish you the safest and most rewarding travels. Thanks for sharing your “Adventures With Sarah”.
    The Murphys of Dennis MA
    PS – Love your shorter hairstyle!

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