Facilitating memorable experiences is one of the most rewarding parts of my job as a Trip Designer. Participating in them, however, is something truly special, and special is certainly the right word to describe a particular surprise I sprung a few years ago.
In 2010 a wonderful group of Canadian couples requested a trip to experience “quintessential” Tuscany. The group’s leader, having had prior positive travel experience with B&R, gave us the freedom to create an eight-day walking and biking adventure in the Tuscan countryside, concluding with a special finale in Florence.
The week included a variety of tailor-made events including a medieval evening in a 12th-century castle, complete with minstrels, maidens, magicians, fire-eaters and period costumes, and an uber-Tuscan picnic at a friend’s beautiful estate, featuring Chianti wines and a robust menu of regional meat, cheese and breads crafted by local artisans. Each day’s success fed into the next and before we knew it, it was time to go to Florence, where we had a finale in store that would indeed prove a climax.
Years ago I learned of an impressive organization in Florence that raised funds to support the restoration of Michelangelo’s David. In thanks for their generous contributions, a dinner was held for them in the Accademia Gallery where the David is on display. I remember thinking that if I was ever planning a customized trip for the right group…
Through close collaboration with a local contact and the remarkable B&R Guides who led the trip, the unknowing travellers entered the Accademia’s entrance and commenced with cocktails in a grand room featuring a plaster cast of Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabines, surrounded by a valuable collection of paintings on religious subjects from the early years of the 16th century, when Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael all worked in Florence. Our travellers, who kindly included me in the evening’s festivities, were already delighted with the event. It was only when we invited them to move to the gallery adjacent that they understood this would be more than “a visit.”
I can’t imagine a greater sense of satisfaction than witnessing the expressions on the faces of these couples as they moved, quite mesmerized, through Michelangelo’s unfinished nude male statues, known as the Slaves or Prisoners, onward to David, majestically set at the end of the narrow gallery.
A candlelit table, formally set with beautiful linens, fresh lilies, crystal and silver, added to the elegant setting complemented by the live jazz music played by a low-key trio in the background as our guests enjoyed their dinner.
There was a truly magical, once-in-a-lifetime kind of sensation that night. Suffice it to say, among other aspects of the evening, our host David’s determined gaze was forever etched into the memories of his adoring guests.