Testimonials – Passion for Italy Reviews from our Clients

Sabrina did a fabulous job booking our trip.  We had very specific itineraries that we wanted to complete.  Sabrina found the perfect guide for us!  All of Sabrina’s recomendations were spot on.  She was quick to answer all of my many e-mails.  She was so nice to work with that I felt completely relaxed before and during the trip, knowing that she was only a phone call away if we needed anything.  And the hotel she recommended was in the perfect location with great amenities and very helpful staff.  Thanks for a great trip Sabrina!
2017 March, Betsy Reid, Davidson, New York, USA


Hi Gemma, I just wanted to say a big thank you, our trip was amazing. Everything you booked was great from the accommodation, private transfers and tours. We were very lucky with the weather  over the whole time, had maybe 3 days of rain overall, the temperature was great for doing lots of walking. We loved everywhere but if I had to to choose I would have to say Tuscany, we just loved it, especially the villa we absolutely loved, and that pool area was just spectacular.
2016 Lisa Buckingham, Brisbane, Australia


Gemma, We can’t thank you enough for helping us plan our wonderful trip. There is so much to share, it would take a novel to write it all. Every aspect was incredible, ran so smoothly and fit our style of travel perfectly. We have so many photos and wonderful experiences that we will remember forever. Such a wonderful experience we could not have done it without you! We have had so many people ask about you and how we planned the trip, we are just passing the info along. Robert
2016 Robert Allen, Ontario, Canada


Okay, we loved the place in Milan it had a wonderful morning breakfast and was bright and cheery. We loved the homemade breakfast and cappuccino!

All of the accommodations were great and some very unique and special – like the Contessa’s apt in Venice. She was delightful and so very helpful. We enjoyed a spectacular and memorable anniversary dinner at the Riviera restaurant.

Lake Como – The Relais was beautiful. we had a whole ordeal just getting there but were saved by a couple of angels. It was pouring down rain which made it more difficult to do much.

We never did take the ferry anywhere, we did take the bus to visit a large estate (also in the pouring rain) – I will have to get you the name of it to recommend because it was quite something. It was very cold there and, as you know, no heat was allowed so I think if the weather was better the place would’ve been amazing. They served wonderful food and we had a memorable dinner down in their wine cellar.

We liked Como very much and loved the Como Hotel. We felt surrounded by the rich and famous not to mention wealthy! You should’ve seen the cars!  The lake is so beautiful! We both would like to return there.

Florence was a bit overwhelming and we left much to be seen… We had a great tour guide for the Uffizi Gallery and The David. I actually liked the location of the apartment in Florence even though it seemed like we were on a back alley – yet when we walked out the door there was our coffee cafe and a darling little restaurant, plus the open air market which had everything right there.

Tuscany and the Apartment at the villa was our favorite, no surprise! Doriana the manager, was amazing and provided the best, absolute best service we have ever experienced! She seemed genuinely happy to help us out with anything and made dinner reservations, set up 2 fantastic wine tours in Montalcino and Montepulciano, (even supplying maps with her suggestions, names and places) and taking me to the Dr. at 7 pm when I broke out in a rash all down my legs!!!  She truly was the best!

We loved Rapallo and enjoyed a glass of wine and their fresh homemade focaccia at the hotel each afternoon. Portofino was one of my favorites – the ferry over, a long walk and lunch with the best homemade “family recipe” pesto we have ever had. Eating and drinking was something we did best and enjoyed.

Hiking Cinque Terre was amazing!

Assisi I loved. I am sorry we didn’t set up a tour there. I feel I missed so much and was frustrated. Hope to return.

You are so right I need to return I missed so much. I definitely want to see Perugia and spend time in Assisi and Umbria. Rome south will be a trip unto itself.

I too loved the people and the culture, the laughter, the family togetherness even how they dressed so nicely. I was really impressed with how conscientious they are about the use of resources, recycling, and keeping their streets and cities so clean. I loved how friendly and helpful and trusting they are and, again, the laughter and the conversation, all the things I love about life.

Thank you so much, again. We couldn’t have done it without you Gemma!

2014 Myra and Don Kelly, California, U.S.A


A wonderful 7 weeks in Italy, organised and orchestrated by the knowledgeable, and ever helpful Gemma!
One of the cornerstones of our trip was to experience the great opera houses of Italy – La Fenice, La Scala, the Verdi Festival and Teatro Regio in Parma, San Carlo – and we saw great performances in them all! All of the tickets were pre-arranged – heaven!

The tours and guides that Gemma and her colleagues arranged were outstanding. I was amazed at the knowledge of the guides and their capacity to communicate and inspire. We were early at the Vatican (with a surprise visit to a part not normally visited), a small intimate group for the Vasari corridor in Florence, the Doges’ Palace in Venice, the catacombs in Rome, beautiful and surprising Naples, not to mention amazing Pompei….it was all so beautiful and easy.

There is nothing like experience, knowledge and a passion for the country! The places we stayed at were works of art themselves with beautiful views and wonderful staff.  What memories! We will have to go back. We will be in touch, Gemma!

2012 Ifor and Catherine, Brisbane, Australia


Allow me to take a few minutes of your time to listen to our thoughts about our last Europe holiday. It was GREAT! It was MARVELOUS!! It was a BLAST!!!

Thank you sooo much for your time and effort that made our vacation a memorable experience. With endless requests coming from our big family and you tried to accommodate all of them, definitely it was everyone dream-come-true holiday.

The big family was extremely happy and they will definitely refer your service to other family and friends who plan to go to Italy in the future. The hotel, the transport, the tours, also the guides, the drivers and the hotel staff – all perfect! Maybe if we only can change the apartment in Florence, but that’s about it.

Everything was so neatly and carefully organized, and all fit our needs and requirements and standards. I can not thank you enough and I always feel blessed remembering when I decided to choosing you as our organizer for the trip. Truthfully, you have made our vacation beautiful and memorable.

2013 Amelia- family of 11, Jakarta, Indonesia


Gemma’s suggested itinerary and careful planning resulted in a wonderful, month long holiday in Italy with no hassles. There were many highlights. One of the best was the week we spent in week long organised tour package in Umbria . We loved the history and the art and met some very interesting people.

The hotels we chose from the Passion for Italy list were excellent as were the day tour and short guided tour suggestions made by Gemma in the various regions we visited from Venice to the Amalfi Coast. Talk to Gemma if you are planning to go to Italy!” Thanks again for your work in making it such a memorable holiday.

John and Chris, Newcastle, Australia. Four Weeks in Italy


Dear Gemma, We had a fantastic vacation in Italy. We were very pleased and have already told many about the how much we appreciated your assistance. All of the vouchers were accepted without issue and the transportation arrangements were flawless. At the airport were met by our driver for the who drove us to our hotel in a Mercedes. It was a comfortable ride and driver was safe and courteous.

Favorites: The Vatican tour and the guide were great. We were in a group of 4 couples, so we didn’t need ear phones and our guide was terrific. There was so much to see and appreciate in the Vatican that it requires a return visit. This was an excellent tour company and guide, highly recommend.

In Roma the Piazze, the fountains, the architecture, the food and cappuccino were all great.

Tour of Tuscany from Rome to Florence with private driver –
9am sharp, our driver, Fabio, arrived at the Baglione with a Mercedes for our excursion to Florence via Tuscany. Again, irest class like the transportation from the airport.

Choosing a personal driver verses a train to Florence was one of the best choices we had made. Fabio was great explaining the sites and history along the way as we enjoyed the beauty of the Tuscany landscape. Mid-way through the excursion we stopped in Montalcino as requested, there Fabio took us to the winery.

We were greeted by the daughter of the owner who took us on a tour through the family winery and ended with a wine tasting of several varietals of Brunello. Fabio then took us to “the Fortress” which sells a variety of regional wines and provides lunch. We had lunch at the Fortress, a variety of meats and cheeses and more wine tasting which was più delizioso. We must say that the whole experience in Tuscany/Montalcino was one of our most enjoyable and memorable.

Florence Hotel
The views from the terrace were amazing. The vista of the mountains were the backdrop of the beautiful view of Florence. From our terrace you could see the Arno with it’s bridges at our feet, il Duomo and many other landmarks were also visible. The scenery was just amazing! The location of the hotel was convenient to the heart of it the attractions, restaurants and shopping. The staff were exceptionally warm and welcoming, could not compliment them enough. Our walking tour was very good, thanks in part to the guide, better listening equipment and a smaller number of participants. We’d recommend this tour guide and activity.

The food was very good although not as good as Rome in general. Our favorite meal was purchasing some meats, cheeses, bread and olive oil from nearby Salumeria and Enotecca, then enjoying them on the terrace overlooking that amazing vista. The breakfast buffet at Antica was excellent too.

Venice-The whole experience of Venice, the canals, boats, shops were all wonderful, unique and memorable. There was not as much to see or do and it seemed to be much more tourist oriented. The room at our hotel was very nice and location was excellent. The view from our window was a beautiful scenic of the ocean.

All in all, we had a fabulous and memorable trip to Italy and thank you for your assistance in making it so.

2013 Marianne and Frank, Pittsburgh, U.S.A


This mother/daughter trip was my Sarah’s 21st gift……….It was the hardest trip I have ever prepared for and also the easiest.This was to be the first time I have travelled without my Husband, on my own, in a country I knew very little of the language. And as Sarah couldn’t find a tour that she liked with a travel agent, and we did try, it was left up to us to organise our own itinerary.

Fortunately for us my husband found ‘Passion for Italy ‘ while searching the net. At first I was nervous about using a company that operated over the internet, Skype. Our meetings on Skype were effective and Sarah and I were blown away by Gemma’s knowledge and enthusiasm to find the right trip for us. Our contact with Helen, the travel agent who booked our flights and train travel was also extremely easy as Gemma had done all the hard work , working out times and dates.

Our trip went without a hitch no dramas at any point, the accommodation Gemma booked was exactly as she had described. Each place we stayed in was clean and friendly, and as we opted for the cheaper end of the price range, they were a good 10min stroll to the centre of town. This was more of an advantage than you may think as we got to see that little bit more of each place.

Things I learnt in Italy; If you’re using a cash passport over there, DON’T pay for your meals with it if you can help it…….they add an extra 10% to your bill that you never see till you check your balance on line. Plus if you don’t want bread with your meal, say no when they deliver it to your table, or you will pay for it, per person……There were plenty of ATM’s in the smaller villas, a little hard to find in Florence other than at the train station. Taxi drivers weren’t that bad, just make sure they are a taxi. 40 or 50 euro is norm to and from the airport. The euro is so good now, I wish I were there again…

2012 Karen and Sara Ipswich, Australia


Our accommodation was wonderful. The connection with the apartment contact in each situation was easy and smooth. The apartments were in great locations and clean. Passion for Italy did a great job for us!
Chris-Family of Five, Sydney, Australia


Sent while on holiday in Italy….”Thank you Gemma. I am really getting your “passion” for this place. I am having an experience of a life time”!

Second trip to Italy – Hi Gemma. Just had to let you know how much we are enjoying this trip. As we say goodbye to each place we have said that nothing can be better and every time we have been surprised. But The Jebel has just well and truly topped it! My husband is in his element. In fact I don’t know how I’m going to coax him out of the hotel!

This itinerary has been so well balanced with frenetic cities (Palermo won hands down) to shear relaxation. In every case we have had a haven to escape to. Love love Sicily! Accommodation has been delightful.

2012 Marsha, Johannesburg, South Africa.


We have arrived back safe and sound from our Italy trip. Thank you. Your villa recommendation was terrific, we had a very pleasant stay, we saw a lot, ate a lot and laughed a lot. Marsha joined us and we thoroughly enjoyed our Villa.
2012 Sue and Graham, Darwin, Australia


My 26yr old daughter and I have had the most memorable 5 weeks in Italy. Gemma’s help and expertise in organising an itinerary that satisfied our requirements enabled us to experience places we may not have found ourselves. The sharing of her vast knowledge and experience of the country gave us tips that I’ve no doubt contributed to our trouble free holiday.

We soon learnt that Gemma’s suggestions whether it be accommodation or restaurant choice were always reliable. My daughter on more than one occasion commented “where does Gemma find them”? I am so thankful to have discovered “Passion for Italy” and know that the fabulous memories I have of our travels would not have been possible had I tried to organise such a trip without Gemma’s expert input. .

2011 Julie, Brisbane, Australia


Just catching-up after the holiday…We had a great time in Italy. Everything worked out smoothly and the itinerary was the right pace for us. It was my first time driving in Europe but my wife and I were able to find our way with little difficulty, mostly because she navigated.

Our red eye flight to Venice was hard but it got us there on time and we really enjoyed the water taxi arrangement and were able to easily get to our hotel. Barbara at the hotel was very nice as was Sunil and we enjoyed our stay there.

One of the highlights of our trip was on the first night when we attended a rowing lesson with Row Venice an organization that is trying to  preserve traditional Venetian rowing. It was great fun and a fantastic way to visit the city. The following day we visited some of the other islands and had a wonderful lunch of seafood in Burano, I think at one of the restaurants you recommended.

After that we visited the Doge’s Palace. The tour you had arranged worked well. We did not have any problems finding the meeting point and the docent was very knowledgeable. It was also nice to be in a smaller group. Barbara was nice enough to help us get our tickets for San Marco, which allowed us to avoid the long ones.

Then we took the car and headed towards the estate in Valpollicella. We stopped in Soave on the way and spent a nice few hours visiting to old walled city. We did not make it to the park as we were having challenges with the directions. There seem to be more than one place that shows up in Google when searching that name. Our stay  was very nice also. I would say our cooking lesson, tour and wine tasting was another highlight of the trip. We enjoyed walking around the estate and the neighbouring  villages. We did go to Sirmione and enjoyed the visit on a hot and sunny day.

We then went to the castle that you booked for us, which is an experience onto itself. We enjoyed the hotel and the facilities and spend a good part of sunday in the spa where I was treated for my birthday. We would have liked to visit one or two of Proseco wineries but, contrary to what the hotel staff had advised, tours are only available by reservation or on weekends. So, we spent some time on the Prosecco road and visited the ancient mill in Refrontolo and Fregonia Grotto, which were well worth the visit and interesting.

The next day, we went to Cortina by the back roads and reached the hotel early enough for lunch in the village. We enjoyed visiting Cortina and watching all the shopping going on there.  Everyone at Hotel in Cortina was very nice and we had a nice stay there.

Our guided hike around Tre Cime was another highlight of the visit. We could have managed well on our own but it was very relaxing to know Mauro was taking care of everything. It was also nice meeting him as he is a remarkable young man and truly passionate about the mountains. As you suggested, we visited Asolo on the way to Caorle.

I found Asolo quite nice and certainly worth the detour. We ended-up parking in the town square and having lunch nearby and then visiting the surrounding area by foot. We made it to Caorle in good time. We found the hotel location was a very good one but our room was small and the shower was very tight. I guess that is just the way it is there. It was a good experience to go to a touristy place like Caorle. Although it is not my kind of place it was nice to have a day to put our feet up before heading back. I previously explained how the diner resolved itself.

So all in all a wonderful trip. Thanks again for helping us on such short timeframe.

2013 Gilbert , Philadelphia, U.S.A. 10 Days Food & Wine Trip in Veneto Region


I first met Gemma Green Close at Griffith University when we were completing Italian Studies and have since had the privilege to come to know her well. She has a passion for all things Italian and has a great ability to listen to her client’s brief, so all the trips she organizes for the independent traveler are certainly anything but run of the mill. She has personally visited many ten’s of hotels and villas and if she says she knows a place, she does. Some of the extra activities she recommends, such as the Ghost Tour in Venice are great fun, especially if travelling with children. I have personally travelled with her in the Abruzzo and Southern Tuscan regions and saw some amazing places. Gemma also has a great knowledge of art and culture and a deep respect for the Italian traditions. She is the consummate professional and I have no hesitation in recommending her business, Passion for Italy.
Catherine, Lucca, Italy


From Rapallo, we caught the train to Como via Milan. We found the trains very easy after the first one we caught from Rome to Florence, and we were very grateful for your tip to take suitcases that had four wheels on the bottom, so we could roll them sideways down the aisle.

Not every train had a baggage section at the end of each carriage, so more often than not we got on at the end of the carriage furthest from our seats! Transferring trains was very easy, although we noticed older folk had quite a struggle getting bags on and off the trains. The transfer was ready and waiting for us in Como, as we’re all the transfers you organised for us. The driver was very courteous and was asked if we would be ok on the winding road to Bellagio.

Check-in at Hotel in Bellagio was first class. Very professional, even down to the detail of using a miniature door to show how to use the key wand to unlock or room door. The balcony view was terrific. It was unfortunate the weather was cold and rainy, but we had our umbrellas with us and explored every lane way in Bellagio. The closest we got to seeing George Clooney was a photo of him on the wall inside Bellagio Point.com, a food and wine bar which had an all day happy hour. Very generous complimentary food with apperitivi.

The quality of the room at the hotel was excellent, and I would gladly recommend others to stay there. I was glad we didn’t get a terrace room, as it would have been a waste in such poor weather, and even in good weather, all the lake view balconies look down on the terraces, so not much privacy down there. We ate breakfast in the hotel, which was fine, and on one occasion had lunch in the bar/cafe – the soup was excellent. Mostly lunch and dinner we ate out. Best meal in my opinion was wood fired pizza at Barchetta.

Venice was absolutely wonderful. Once we were out of the train station, we took our time to figure out how to purchase the ferry tickets, and which ferry to take to Rialto. As with most things in Italy, it was a bit confusing, but in the end, as we were getting on the ferry, I asked a staff member “this ferry to Rialto?” Si. “How many stops?”

One. I had taken a GPS device with me, which we used to navigate from Rialto to the hotel, and confirmed our directions with the instructions you gave us. We needn’t have taken the GPS. After the walking tour the next day, we didn’t even bother with maps as it was a delight to get lost in such a wonderful place, and always easy to follow the signs back to San Marco or Rialto. The staff at the hotel were really friendly. We were put in the room halfway up the stairs, which was fine, although next time I’d probably prefer on of the upstairs rooms which might be a bit brighter and I believe have four-post beds. The location was absolutely spot on, and Jenny and I used their recommended restaurants on a couple of occasions, and we weren’t disappointed. Breakfast was very enjoyable, except for the American guest who complained about the music! Then spent all his time at breakfast ignoring his wife and reading out loud from his iPad.

I was glad we only did the one tour in Venice, as we really enjoyed just wandering the streets, shopping, eating, drinking and taking it all in. We didn’t even go to Murano or Burano, as we felt that we had come to see Venice. Not to jump on a ferry and go somewhere else. Maybe next time. The confusion at the start of the walking tour was disappointing, mainly because we had arrived 15 minutes early, and were the last to be checked in due to them cancelling our booking. The tour itself was very good, and our guide was friendly, informative and good natured. I would advise against taking this tour on a Sunday, as the church at San Marco was being used for communion and was therefore closed to tour groups. So our tour started late and finished early.

Nevertheless, it gave us the confidence we needed to get around Venice on foot without a map. We kept an eye out for concerts and on our last night in Venice we went to Chiesa San Vidal where we enjoyed a performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons by Interpreti Veneziani. The water taxi was probably not necessary, but an enjoyable experience anyway, to take us back to the train station on the way out.

Ravello was gorgeous, and the hotel in Ravello was very enjoyable. Breakfast in the hotel was terrific, and  we mostly ate lunch at one of the restaurants in the main piazza. We took a walk through the gardens at Villa Cimbrone, and marvelled at the killer view! I would recommend this to anyone. We had dinner on the second night on the terrace by candle light, overlooking the beautiful valley stretching below us towards the spectacular coastline. Very romantic!

In Positano, I was again delighted by the friendliness of the reception staff at the hotel. They could not have been any more helpful. We arrived quite early and our room would not be ready for a half hour (which was still much sooner than we would be able to get in to most hotels in Australia!), so we just went for a walk down the hill to the Bach while they got our room ready. We had an excellent view from the very end/corner room on the top floor. The hotel breakfasts were terrific, and on the two mornings we needed to be out early, they opened the restaurant just for us so we could have an early breakfast (which we arranged the night before).

The weather in Positano was quite cool (around 18C max), mostly overcast, rain at times, windy and rough seas. The first full day, the ferries to Capri etc were cancelled due to rough weather. The forecast for the last two days however looked much better (sunny and 23C) so as we were already booked on a Pompeii tour on the Monday (2nd last day) we booked a boat tour to Capri for the Tuesday. Both tours were excellent.

The Pompeii and Vesuvius tour was one of the highlights of our time in Italy, well worth the long, winding road journeys there and back! We opted for a smaller boat rather than a ferry to Capri and were glad to avoid the throng on the larger boats. We finally had a swim in the Mediterranean.

Had the weather been more conducive to laying on the beach, the five days in Positano would have been perfect, but given the weather, I felt it was a day too long. The locals said it was really unusual to be so cold in May. I think next time I would probably travel in September, as I suspect coming out of summer, the weather may have been just a few degrees warmer.

Anyway, our final night at the beautiful residence in Rome was wonderful. Again – so friendly and what a gorgeous room. We went back to a restaurant called Toto, just around the corner, where we had been for dinner just over a month before. The waiter remembered us, and asked how my speaking Italian had gone. As we were returning customers, we were treated like VIPs, given complimentary prosecco before our meal, and limoncello afterwards.

After dinner we walked back down to the Trevi Fountain so we could see it by night. It was a beautiful evening. Amongst the crowd of people, we held hands and tossed our coins far into the bosom of the fountain, ensuring we will return one day to Rome and la bella Italia.

I can’t stop singing your praises Gemma whenever anyone asks me about how we chose where to stay in Italy. Your advice and selections were absolutely brilliant. Thank you for helping make our 25th wedding anniversary celebration an experience of a lifetime.

2013 Brad & Jenny, Adelaide, Australia, 25th Wedding Anniversary, 4 Weeks


 “Gemma’s suggested itinerary and careful planning resulted in a wonderful, month long holiday in Italy with no hassles. There were many highlights. One of the best was the week we spent in Umbria with a package tour.   We loved the history and the art and met some very interesting people.

The hotels we chose from the Passion for Italy list were excellent as were the day tour and short guided tour suggestions made by Gemma in the various regions we visited from Venice to the Amalfi Coast. Talk to Gemma if you are planning to go to Italy!”

2010 John Holt, Brisbane, Australia


 What a magnificent Italian experience – thanks to Gemma and her passion for Italy. The hard work of discerning and booking accommodation was taken care of…leaving us to arrive at each destination (not an easy feat) . Gemma took on board our budget and desire to mix up accommodation styles…booking for us a great value hotel in Rome, quaint beachside Bed and Breakfast, a
perfectly positioned (not too many steps) family hotel on the Amalfi, a peaceful Monastery and the dreamy Villa in the Tuscan countryside. Perfecto!
2010 Kaylene Benson, Brisbane, Australia


Gemma’s enthusiasm is infectious and I highly recommend Passion for Italy to anyone wanting to design a personalised holiday to one of the most beautiful and captivating countries in the world.

Nothing was too much trouble and Gemma went out of her way to provide for my interests, arrange comfortable authentic accommodation, and offer valuable advice on all aspects of my travel. Gemma’s thorough preparation made my holiday an absolute joy. I think about my holiday often, and also dreaming of my next one!

2009 Jacqui Dalwood, Brisbane, Australia


Dear Gemma,
We have finally returned from our Italian odyssey and want to thank you for all of your help in creating a wonderful holiday.

The accommodation which you booked for us in Florence, Chianti and Rome was excellent. In every case our special requirements were met and exceeded.

The villa in Chianti was superb. It fulfilled all of our fantasies about staying in a romantic Italian villa and was fantastic value. We loved the village and its great restaurants and the fact that we were so close to a multitude of scenic and interesting excursions.

Your expertise and thorough knowledge of Italy made so much difference to our trip. All of your tips were valuable and made travelling easier. We are sure that your inside knowledge gave us access to an Italy which we had not experienced before.

All of the accommodation was of a high standard and considerably cheaper than staying in the usual tourist hotels. It also gave us more real contact with locals and local way of life.

Thank you, Gemma, for your help, expertise, patience and advice. We are happy to recommend your service to family and friends seeking help with planning the best way of visiting Italy. We hope that we can use your service again.

2006 P. Reynolds, Wollongong Australia