By Ilona Kauremszky

Q: My fiance and I are getting married in October and would like to go to Europe for our Honeymoon. We don't want to go on a tour, however we would like some help in planning routes, stops (ie. Bed and Breakfast) and sightseeing. We are intending on renting a car and travelling through Italy at our own pace. Is there any kind of company/group that would be able to help us?

A: This boot-shaped country that dips its toe in the Mediterreanean has intrigued artists and lovers for centuries. For travellers who don't like structured trips, independent travel is a great option to explore the hundreds of chiesas and villas that dot Italy's countryside.

If you log onto The Italian Government Tourist Board's web site www.italiantourism.com you will see a link on the right hand side of the screen where it is possible to access the whole database of Canadian tour operators and travel agencies that specialize in Italy.

One such company Country Roads & Your Vacation Home (416 484 8573 and villastay.com) is an operator who primarily specializes in private villa rentals. For Tuscany, the folks who head up TravelTuscany.ca, a travel company based in Stoney Creek, are able to assist and customize a trip itinerary to suit your needs.

Owner Sauro Bertolozzi, an expat Florentine and Tuscany specialist, says, "My best friends in Tuscany own some special places. I use to send my clients there, in the accommodations I personally know. With my friends Giovanni, Roberto and Pietro guests are in the right hands and I am always sure they will receive the exclusive service that I want for my clients. I personally supply tips and suggestions and I advise the best restaurants and wineries." Another Canadian based company, MyTuscany.ca can assist in making travel arrangements and booking car rentals.

They also arrange cooking courses, wine tasting, gourmet food tasting, mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, spa days and cultural events in the surrounding cities. Owners Sergio Laterza and Barbara Origoni represent a variety of lodging including villas, farmhouses, residences and castles around Tuscany. "We have carefully selected these properties for their unique nature, splendid sceneries, outdoor activities, culinary programs and proximity to the magnificent cities of Florence, Pisa and Siena," says Sergio.

For more info, call them at 1.866.833.4310 or 905.833.4310. You can also visit your nearest travel agent who can customize trips for your specifications. They can give you the latest pricing on airfare, car rentals and accommodation along with maps and brochures on areas of interest. "That's amore."


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