Our Delayed Italian Honeymoon

Italy has long been a AAA member favorite destination, with hundreds of Northeast travelers taking vacation in the country every year. When Diana, our Senior Manager of Public Affairs for AAA Northeast, returned home from her recent trip she agreed to share her experiences with all of us. Yes, traveling today is different from just a few years ago, but some changes are for the better.

AAA Travel: Thank you for taking the time to chat with us today. So many AAA members flock to Italy each year, connecting with this beautiful, historic, and photogenic destination. We remember you mentioning Italy as a possible honeymoon location.

Diana: Yes, we had planned to honeymoon in Italy, but like many travelers, and unfortunately many brides, our plans were thrown a COVID-19 curveball. My husband Tony and I booked our trip in January of 2020 for July 2020, with our hearts filled on that magical Italian honeymoon. We were fortunate to have worked with a great travel advisor, and between her efforts and the terms in our travel insurance, we pushed our trip out EXACTLY one year to the day, and replaced our honeymoon with a great trip departing on our first anniversary!

AAA Travel: That is amazing! What a way to turn a tough situation into a silver lining. So you used one of our AAA Travel Advisors to book this trip?

Diana: We did!  I fell in love with an itinerary from Club Adventures of the Amalfi Coast region of Italy, but unfortunately that tour experience wasn’t available during our window or travel time.  My husband is a schoolteacher and must travel in the summer, so we really couldn’t flex our departure dates. With our advisor, we built an itinerary based on the Club Adventures plan I loved. Rather than traveling with a small group, she found guided tour experiences and drivers in each town -just for the two of us!  We didn’t worry about a single detail of “planning”!  Sandra Grejada worked with us in 2021 to make sure our air vouchers, which had an expiration date, were honored.  Thanks to travel insurance and Sandra protecting our investment with tour operators we had almost the same experience we originally planned for 2020. There was one small change, and it was for the better! The hotel we REALLY wanted to stay in while we visited Positano had been full in 2020, but they had an opening for this summer!  We were thrilled and immediately added the spot to our itinerary.

AAA Travel: Now you had been to Italy before, how long did you stay during this visit and was it different than your last experience.

Diana: I first visited Italy 3 summers ago, but Tony had never been.  I HAD to change that! I needed Tony to see the country, and I wanted to be there with him. For that reason I returned to Rome, making sure  he could tour the Colosseum, the majestic Roman ruins, and the feel of Italy in the areas surrounding the Vatican.  I must share, these experiences were DRAMATICALLY different from three years ago, and I am so glad I returned.  Fewer people were traveling, and I found that popular tours and areas were not crowded at all. In more than a few cases, I found there to be no wait times or lines.  Our planning really shined when it came down to our guides. Unlike a medium-sized group tour, our guides were there with only the two of us. It was amazing, and offered a more enriching, educational experience.  St. Peter’s Square and the museums were wide open, I think I counted about 20 other people as opposed to very crowded areas. We felt completely safe and took advantage of the freedom and space to enjoy our surroundings, take photos, and explore.

AAA Travel: Freedom and space can sometimes feel like a luxury, especially when touring popular locations and sites. What locations filled your itinerary?

Diana: We visited Rome, passed through Naples, Sorrento, Capri and Positano.  We stopped for a guided tour of Pompeii too, which was Tony’s favorite experience on the trip!

AAA Travel: All of these locations are so very popular with our travelers. You must have found yourselves staying in a handful of different hotels along the journey?

Diana: Yes we did, and each spot was a unique as the city surrounding it. While in Rome, we stayed at Hotel Dei Borognoni.  This location was truly fabulous. The hotel is walking distance to the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, and Piazza Novona. The staff at Dei Borognoni is extremely helpful, offering insights into dining, must sees, and little shops around the area. We also found our room to be larger than a traditional European hotel room!

While in Sorrento, we wanted something that took advantage of the costal location. We stayed at Hotel Continental, a great spot right on the beach with a pool!  This spot was also highly walkable, as it is just a block from beautiful shops and dozens of local restaurants.

Perhaps my favorite stay occurred in Positano, at Hotel Buca Di Bacco. This hotel may actually be heaven. Tony and I felt like royalty, and shared moments on our private balcony overlooking the beach below.  There was a beatiful walk, downhill to get to the beach, and the path is restricted to vehicles. The walk back to the hotel was more challenging, and I feel as though you have to be in good shape to enjoy this part of Positano. Be prepared to take your suitcases downhill and back up!  Regardless, Buca Di Bacco was was my favorite hotel, as the views are breathtaking and the “on the beach” location was amazing.  It’s also surrounded by restaurants and shops, which only heightened my love for this location.

AAA Travel: It really sounds as though this trip was perfect, but we must know – did you find any restrictions, mandates in response to COVID-19?

Diana: Well, while our original plans were pushed off by one year due to COVID, we worked with a travel advisor.  I could NEVER have managed the time-consuming process of rebooking flights, tours, and reservations and am so grateful we had a professional.  Our travel experience was wonderful, and it’s an example of why people should never invest their hard-earned money into a trip without someone to guide the process. Especially in these uncertain times. Our plans continued to change right up to our departure! In fact, less than a week before we left, our British Airways flights were canceled. This would have sent me over the edge if I had been planning this alone, but our travel advisor rebooked on Air France promptly and without issue.

While we were in Italy, we did come across one museum in Pompeii that was closed for cleaning, and we had temperature checks along the way but nothing was disruptive.

There was a mask policy, both indoor and outdoor, throughout the regions we visited with the exception being while seated for dining. Honestly, a notable difference between Italians and Americans regarding COVID protocols and masks is that Italians don’t complain!  They mask up and carry on- mask wearing is not politicized, just a protocol to keep everyone safe!

AAA Travel: How was your flight?  Did you have to COVID test before or after your travel?

Diana: Masks are mandated on the flight and in the airports. We showed our vaccine cards and negative COVID test results at Logan in Boston. Our vaccine records and negative tests were double checked in Paris, which was our layover airport, at the boarding gate. Tony and I took PCR tests just in case protocols changed mandating PCR and not rapid.

To depart from the Naples airport, we had to show a negative COVID test taken within 48 hours.  We were rapid tested at a pharmacy next to our hotel and were e-mailed the results within 20 minutes!  It was a very easy process, but members should know we had to show our passport for the test internationally. However, when it came time to provide verification, showing these documents electronically, in our case on our cell phones, was fine.

AAA Travel: We’re so happy that you and your husband were able to take this trip to Italy together. With so many disruptions in every aspect of life, being able to reconnect and step away for a few days of alone time sounds magical. Congratulations on your FIRST anniversary and thank you for sharing your Italy experience with all of us.

Perhaps your next adventure awaits in Italy, or a beach in the Caribbean, or the redwood forests of California. No matter your destination, your trusted AAA Travel Advisors are here to help you plan the perfect escape. Meet with an Advisor now.