2019 5TH Reunion – Participants Post Trip Comments in Alphabetical Order (Updated 9/6/19)
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Dave & Nancy Berra from Florida: After experiencing this group trip it is impossible for us to even imagine enjoying such a stress free, heart felt, truly relaxing and rejuvenating trip to Italy or anywhere else by any other means. Bill, you really have put it all together for us all. Nancy and I can now only genuinely express our most sincere appreciation for the time, work, care, organization and the relationships you have developed and cultivated for all of us to now enjoy. All we had to do is decide to join the group. In our opinion anyone with “Genoa” and or “Val de Giust” roots who does not take advantage of this opportunity is truly missing a deep piece of their heritage that we all hold dear through our very nature. God Bless you and Rose for the work you do and do with such pleasure. See you all again in 2021!!!
Phyllis Bey from Wisconsin: A few days into her trip she said, “When I heard that there were people on this trip that have been on it before and some many times, I thought they must be crazy. Why would somebody go on the same trip twice when there is so much else to see and visit? Now I understand and I am not even Italian!! Thank you all for the most unforgettable experience. I am so happy I went to see for myself what those “crazy people” were enjoying!! And now, I am one of those happy crazy people too!! See you all again in 2021!!!
Patti Bresina from Wisconsin: I want to once again give very special thanks to everyone involved in making this amazing group trip experience possible. I love the people of the Val di Giust. Thank you Campodolcino Mayor Enrica Guanella, town personnel, fire/rescue departments, friends/businesses for their on-going efforts to make us feel so welcome by proudly flying the countless U.S. and Italian flags demonstrating our loving relationship. Thank you Ca de Val; everything was exceptional, especially the food. I was so thrilled to have the opportunity to share this experience with my granddaughter Kaylee Gehrt and my dear friends Sue Frei, Pattie Kuehnast and Karen Page. This was my third trip and it won’t be my last…the memories are priceless! Already signed up for 2021, see you all again then!!!
Ninja Cvetkova (De Florian) from Wisconsin: As a savvy traveler (More than 100 countries to date) I knew I could easily travel to Italy on my own but I thought I would never get the same expiernce that this trip seemed to have available – The Family Heritage Expiernce which was exactly what I wanted and hoped for. It was truly all there and so much more. So much more, and it all happened and was enjoyed in the place where my ancestors emigrated from.
Linda DeFlorian-Sherwood from New York: I want to thank our entire group for being so friendly and open. Imagine, 52 mostly “strangers”, living, eating etc. together for over 2 weeks and perfect!!! I always felt as if we were all one big family enjoying a trip together. It is amazing but I truly can’t tell you a favorite part. The Ca de Val staff was delightful, always smiling, and helpful with amazing food every day!! Everywhere we went the Italian people were so kind, joyful and welcoming. Bill you did an amazing job putting this all together. The “free days” were easy to fill and so just as enjoyable as the days with the many wonderful planned activities. Thanks to everyone. All my love to all!!
Angie & Cassie Sorensen, Kathy DeFlorian from Wisconsin: AMAZING country, AMAZING people, AMAZING food, AMAZING trip!! Thank you to all involved in making this trip so special for us and so many others. We loved meeting our relatives and seeing where our ancestors came from and how they lived. A trip like no other! We loved everything!!! All our love to everyone!!
Sue Frei from Wisconsin: I want to express my sincere appreciation to the Cal de Val for their wonderful hospitality to make our stay so pleasurable. This was a trip I never imagined taking but was “blessed” with an extraordinarily adventure with some dear friends. Your part of the Italian Alps took my breath away day after day. So majestic!! I loved it all! The pace was relaxed and we enjoyed so much. Bill, not even being Italian I want to give you the most special thank you for such a wonderful trip! I know you put a lot of work and time into this trip to try to please everyone. Your genuine concern for everyone and their enjoyment of the trip was very evident. My recently deceased husband Don was frequently on my mind being out of my “comfort zone”. I would have never even considered going if Don hadn’t told me before his accident that I should go to Italy with my friends. I feel very fortunate now for going and the fact that you knew Don years ago was a bonus. Now, it all seems it was meant to be! Thanks again to everyone.
Julie & Paul Gade from Minnesota: Dear Bill and all the Val di Giust, thank you so much for making our trip a dream. While thinking back, it is impossible to choose a favorite day. Every day had something different to offer and each day seemed to be better and better. I loved Mr. Schopp our guide at the historical tour in Nufenen Switzerland. What an amazing learning experience! The Bernina Train through the best of the Alps was fantastic. Lunch on our Lake Como boat tour surrounded by the mountains, beautiful blue water and the ancient and colorful buildings will always be memorable. And then the helicopter ride up the mountain to Angeloga, landing in a pasture between the homes and the beautiful lake among the cows that even though they were just yards away were undisturbed was truly amazing. Bill, your planning offered something for everyone. We experienced so many things that we could never imagine doing on our own or with a commercial tour group. Staying in a small village gave us a taste of the true culture of Italy both of today and of the past centuries; the narrow true Italian streets, lined with ancient small shops and markets that are still active today, the beautiful stone homes and of course church bells ringing will echo in my mind for years to come. Your idea of wearing the “Genoa Group” reunion shirts whenever we are were in any of the local villages and also while hiking locally was a great way to identify our group. While wearing the reunion shirts the locals felt free to welcome us as continually as if we were family, and we actually were “family”. It was all unimaginable! The staff at the Ca de Val was so gracious and the breakfasts and dinners were wonderful. I could go on and on. My friend didn’t even need any convincing to join me in 2021. Just from looking at the trip photos I sent her earlier, she said, “sign me up!!” Thanks again Bill, Rose and all for the most amazing experience. Not Italian but going again in 2021!
Camille Harper from Arkansas: I want to say a big THANK YOU to you, Bill and Rose. This was a trip that just kept getting more wonderful every day when it just did not seem possible to improve on it! Bill you took such great care of us every day. I loved all the hikes, scenery and enjoyed the local people along the way so much. Each little village was so special, all proudly flying our flags to welcome us, and the people were fantastic!!! Our hosts, drivers, guides, translators etc. were wonderful, helpful and friendly. Like family! Everyone was so happy to greet us! Avero was perfect!! The Mass, spectacular views, very special welcome involving the many smiling children, the food and beverages they prepared for us was the best!! Mass on the mountain in that special small church was just icing on the cake. The welcome at Bondeno by the Felice Ghelfi family and their friends was wonderful and welcoming. They would not allow us to leave, constantly bringing out more and more vino and cakes for us all. Daloo was another favorite involving the people, the welcome, and a most spectacular view. San Bernardo another great welcome with such a tasty meal and festival! Fraciscio, museums, festival, music etc. was terrific. It was special Mass with Fr. Luigi De Giambattista and to meet him. The Genzianella restaurant was all you said it would be – wonderful!! Then the Grappina Festival in Campodolcino was so much fun! The Italian cooking class with Marina Cancuni and Martina Molteni for our group was terrific. The Ca de Val was a wonderful, great rooms, food and service. I enjoyed the hikes, the people and the small towns so much. I am sorry it is not possible for me to mention by name all the great people who contributed to this trip’s great success. Everyone was wonderful! I am so looking forward to doing it all again in two years. Your plans to add new things such as a visit to the Val de Lei etc. is a terrific idea. Going back in 2021!!
Ann Graves from Wisconsin: Thanks again for an awesome trip. Words cannot express how much the whole experience meant to me. Please express my sincere thanks to all the Val di Giust, Franco Zocchia and his wife Anna for their amazing help during the hikes and to so many countless others who contributed to my enjoyment and I am not even Italian. They helped with such care. I understand Franco is 82 years old yet he offered to walk/guide anyone in our group who wanted to, on the Cardinello hike day to hike both up from Campodolcino to Monte Spluga and then back down to Campodolcino, if anyone would like to join him. Impossible, yet true!! They are really wonderful ambassadors for their country and a great example of what life in retirement can be if you stay active.
Lois Haydysch from Wisconsin: Thank you all of the Val di Giust and the Ca de Val, where we enjoyed our many meals and lodging. Your smiles, service, and excellent food will continue to remain in my wonderful memories of Italy. I have been thinking of you all so often–you made such a deep and unforgettable impression on me. I will continue to send you my hugs and kisses overseas — do you feel them?!!! Bill, as I have told you and many others repeatedly throughout my trip, my most lasting feelings about the trip is of our caring, loving group that we had (52 strong) and how all the wonderful Italian people made us all feel so welcome. Thank you, Val di Giust and all involved.
Pat Jankord & Sue Ingersol from Washington: Pat (Jankord) and I were with Phyllis and Amy (Jantz) last week talking about our favorite parts of the trip and what we were looking forward to in 2021 when we return. We loved everything including all of Campodolcino and the Ca de Val. We felt so at home, enjoyed the food at every meal and were treated so well by everyone. While it’s impossible to mention everything we enjoyed without writing a book, we sure loved the Lake Como visit, boat tour and would have loved to have had even more time in Bellagio. The Bernina Train through the Alps and being high in the mountains enjoying the glaciers was fabulous!! Later that day we also enjoyed the cheese and wine shop built in 1492 at Morbegno. There too we would have loved to have had more time to enjoy more of the town and shops. As you can tell, we were never bored!! Always wanted more!! You “trained” us well! The trip was fabulous and I hope to enjoy more of everything the next trip. We just can’t thank you enough for such a well-run, fantastic trip! We also have more friends and relatives signing up for 2021! See you all in 2021!!
Susan Jankord from Kansas: I can’t say enough about the quality of food coming out of the kitchen of the Ca de Val. The food consistently was over the top delicious, varied and high value plus served with professionalism, speed & cheerfulness. I was extremely impressed. I was even honored to be allowed to help in the kitchen one evening. Giorgio gave me a “tasting” bowl, in which he would continually place samples of his tantalizing creations. Those 3 hours were right up there with EVERY OTHER supreme rewarding moment on this trip. Going back in 2021 for more!
Phyllis, Amy & Donovan Jantz from Washington: We loved everything! The hiking was awesome. We could have done hikes every day! Donovan really enjoyed being “the horse” carrying in “supplies” to Avero for the group. Even just enjoying Campodolcino and all the other places we visited was wonderful: little shops, restaurants, families together at their outdoor tables etc. etc. It felt more like something out of Sunset magazine. The countless perfectly cared for flower boxes in so many of the residential windows. The fact that we were able to enjoy so many local festivals was great. Wish we could have stayed much later at the Fraciscio Festival after the fireworks and bonfire. Just could not help wanting to stay longer at everything we did. We loved the drum band which is the brainchild of Roberto Lisignoli, called Bandadram (Google it) being presented to us at the Feast of St Rocco Festival before our wonderful dinner at the Genzenella was such a special treat. We can’t wait to go again in 2021 with more friends and relatives!
Loretta (Kimmet) and Andy Mobley from Minnesota: Because of these trips we have many friends in both Italy and Switzerland and that is the big reason Andy and I have participated in all 5 group trips. Yes, the mountain scenery and views around Campodolcino, Fraciscio, Avero, Como, and the Bernina train route are spectacular. The food and care at the Cal de Val and elsewhere is delicious. We enjoy the hiking on the Cardinello trail, to Avero, to Angeloga etc. However, the main reason for our returning for every trip since the first are the friendships made and then rekindled on each visit. We would especially like to thank the staff at Ca de Val, including the cooks and waitresses, especially our morning waitress who, once she knew our habits, brought our hot chocolate and preferred coffee when we arrived each morning. We were 52 strong and many others said the same thing about the staff. We thank our hiking volunteers, especially Dino, Franco, Anna and so many others. Some years ago our beloved Luigi Fanetti, in his unbridled persistent in pursuance of genealogy information for many of us, discovered the connection of our ancestors (the Penchis from Campodolcino) with the Swiss Pengs in Vals Switzerland which now also brings us back trip after trip. Luigi set up our first meeting with the Pengs, our seventh cousins, four years ago and we have visited each trip since then. This connection now seems it would have not been possible without these group visits to Campodolcino. Andy and I have enjoyed traveling with many members of our own family and other friends. Plus and this is so amazing, I have also met or been reacquainted with various school classmates (from Genoa and Lansing), cousins etc. some of whom I had little or no previous acquaintance. Plus we made so many new and lasting friends from these trips Bill has planned for all of us. We are grateful for all the wonderful and varied experiences. Thank you all & Val di Giust!!
Pattie Kuehnast from Wisconsin: Friends ask me what my favorite part of my trip was since a few of us went on to Rome etc. after Bill’s trip. I tell them it was my time in the Campodolcino area and I am not even Italian! I felt so welcomed there with my “Reunion” logoed shirt, I was clearly not just a tourist!! The Ca de Val went above and beyond in every way they could. The food was delicious and the meals were relaxed and always filled with everyone talking and enjoying being together. It was a special social event every day. I have always locked my hotel room door and even put a chair under the door knob….but at the Ca de Val!! I never even locked my door…. pretty amazing. I felt I got to enjoy “real” Italy, the culture, the people and how they live. The sense of community I felt walking around the town was pretty amazing to me. People sitting in their yards with dogs, friends and when they saw us with our reunion shirts they always waved and said hello. Even people in their windows would do the same. Seeing the ancient homes and other buildings helped me picture what life must have been like so long ago. It was beyond what I could imagine. The festivals were amazing. I also enjoyed Rome and Florence with my friends but if I had to choose only one place to go back to… it would be Campodolcino. I want to thank you Bill and all the people the Val di Giust who made this amazing trip possible. I feel very blessed to have experienced it all!! I could go on and on about all my wonderful memories. I will hold onto the wonderful memories of this trip forever and I am not even Italian!!!
Kaye Lee from Arkansas: Bill, I almost find it impossible to put into words the awesomeness of this trip that you and Rose put together for us. Every day was full of wonders beyond explanation. Our days were so full of so many unimaginable places, events and people. Night after night all we could do before falling asleep while listening to the Rabiossa River just outside our windows was to be so thankful for our day, exhausted and smiling with anticipation for the next wondrous day to come. Campodolcino and all of the Val di Giust and the people will always hold a special place in our hearts. What a beautiful and friendly area! We were allowed to explore to our hearts’ content the open air markets, shops, funicular, trails etc. The five country tour in one day was fantastic. Avventura!! We kept exclaiming day after day. One of my favorite was when we “touched the clouds” in Avero. The families were so warm and inviting, taking us into their homes and serving treats and wine. Very special! I just find it impossible even today to say any one day was my favorite! Every single place we went, everything we did, every meal served was fantastic. The Ca de Val was outstanding. The care and service was excellent and beyond my expectations. The Cooking Class was a great addition to our agenda. You must repeat that. You MUST repeat it all!! Thanks again for constructing this great avventura (adventure) for us all. Val di Giust is a must visit for anyone traveling to Italy.
Dick Levi from Wisconsin: NICE job again Bill, Thanks for another great trip. (Dick has been on all 5 group trips)
Wayne Levi & Donna Benden from Wisconsin: We enjoyed our trip very much. One of my goals was to tour my grandfather’s home, which is now the museum in Fraciscio which we enjoyed very much. It has been preserved exactly as it was when he lived there. We enjoyed many new friends. We want to express our most sincere thanks to all those who contributed to making this trip possible. It was truly a great experience for us and so many others.
Bonnie Lincicum (3rd trip) and Paul Brozak from Wisconsin: Many thanks to all the wonderful people of the Val de Giust!!! We so enjoyed the greetings every day from the staff of the Ca de Val and the countless locals as they recognized us as “family” while wearing “Reunion Shirts”. Thanks to Bonnie, people would often stop us to talk when noticing the Pedretti, Venner, etc. family heritage names on our ID tags. This was a “valuable” addition to our “wardrobe”. Can you imagine, you are in Italy visiting this beautiful area of the Alps, and you are immediately recognized as not being just another tourist? This being Bonnie’s 3rd visit we also enjoyed very much reconnecting with the Luigi Fanetti family, Anna Ferra and her family in San Bernardo (Where the Pedretti families came from) and so many others. Thank you to Giorgio (Fanetti) and the Ca de Val for the beautiful, authentic and healthy meals. The salad bar was unbelievable! We enjoyed the breakfast buffet each morning to start another wonderful day! Special thanks to our main group photographer Walter Trussoni who has been there for the groups from the beginning with Luigi. We all enjoyed Ciacio Gadola who captivated us all with his singing of the traditional Italian songs. Bill stressed often how so many great people have been there for us from the start. Special thanks to Felice Fibioli who helped us again and has also come forward offering to play an even more active role in the 2021 trip. Bill has of course graciously accepted. The special Mass with the Bishop added history, entertainment and color to our experience. The people, the mountains, rivers, waterfalls, churches etc. of the Val de Giust touched us all so deeply and will never be forgotten. We truly hope these group “reunion” trips to the Val de Giust continue for many years. Thank you all!!!
Carol Meyer from Kansas: This trip was more amazing than I could’ve ever imagined. The food was wonderful at the Ca de val. Giorgio (Fanetti) thanks for the amazing salads! Everyone was so kind and friendly. Everyone on the trip have many stories like this, but one day walking with Terri (Schirk) and Pam (Thuma) a local woman named Leoni Gianoli stopped me and took my hand and escorted Pam, Terri and I INTO her home. It was exactly as Bill told us it would be. We were “family” immediately because we were wearing our reunion logoed t-shirts which to all the locals recognize that we are there because we love the Val di Giust and all it offers!! She insisted we enjoy wine, cookies etc. and then she so proudly showed us a recent article from the newspaper about our group visit which she gave us. Angelo Gianoli was with her also and again just as Bill had predicted would happen, even though we didn’t speak Italian and they didn’t speak English we “communicated” all that was important with ease. You were right, Bill. Wearing our reunion logoed shirts and our name tags really opened up communication and even doors for us all! Michela (Fanetti) Walter (Trussoni), Dino (Buzetti), Roberta (Scuda) and so many others in the Val di Giust working “behind the scenes” for us, we thank you and love you all! Going back in 2021 with my husband along with many other family and friends!
Tom and Kathy Michel from Wisconsin: Thank you to all of our new friends in Campodolcino, all the Val di Giust and the amazing group we enjoyed for making the trip so memorable. Kathy and I enjoyed our time with you so much. Hoping to come back again someday to hike some more trails, learn some more about Kathy’s family history, eat some more memorable meals, drink a bit more vino and converse with our newfound friends. Thank you all!!!
Karen Page from Wisconsin: Bill, THANK YOU for all you did and an amazing trip!!! My love to you and Rose! I miss you guys and all the friends made. God Bless! If space allows you may see me join again in 2 years!!!!
Julie Patrie from Hawaii: I loved everything about the trip, the food, the people, the hiking, the city trips, watching the pace of life there. I very much enjoyed and learned so much about the history and culture of the area. Just being in such a beautiful place, rich with culture, and intriguing people that were gracious enough to show me where my ancestors come from originally. For me a favorite part was the hiking. Hiking the Alps there showed me more of how my ancestors lived and survived all those years ago. What they went through to get to and from their villages and feed their families now seems impossible! I’m still amazed at the places where villages were established! It wasn’t an easy life, but what an amazing life. But really, with all honesty my favorite part was the whole thing! It was worth every penny without a doubt. I look forward to returning someday to share this experience with my children. Special thanks to the many involved that made this group trip possible. Special mention to Dino Buzzetti for sharing his research into my family ancestry. My family will always cherish the knowledge. A hui hou kakou (Until we meet again).
Judy Puckett from Kansas: I had a wonderful time. You did a fantastic job of organizing everything. So enjoyed meeting you and Rose: and everyone. All the people were so nice. Loved everything we did. My daughter wants to go in two years and we are not even Italian!! Congratulations on organizing another successful trip. God bless.
Terry Schirk from Kansas: I would like to thank all the people of the Val di Giust. So many examples of what one usually never finds visiting a foreign country. For example; The Italians welcoming us and joining us in photos, the unexpected community wide welcomes for us prepared for our visits to Bondeno, Avero, Isola, Starlegia and the amazing tour, tasting and food provided to our group at the Francoli distillery and winery. Very special thank you from us all to Alessandro Francoli and his family who all came in to give us one of the best welcomes while their employees were all off on holiday!! Unimaginable for them to do this for a group of 52 people that they had never met before!! The “welcomes” seemed to never end, like the lady at Bondeno who invited us in to show us her house that her husband built. All the beautiful ancient churches that the locals enjoyed sharing with us were a special treat. Hearing the church bells in Campodolcino echoing through the Alps throughout the day was like in the movies. We enjoyed a festival at Bellagio on our lake Como visit that included a lunch of our boat. Whenever we stopped at the many restaurant and bars for a drink they would also provide great snacks for free. And yes, we all were proudly wearing our reunion shirts and that was all if took for us to enjoy so much. More special treats that we enjoyed were the Boee Festival at Prestone, The festival of Ferragosto (Assumption of the Virgin Mary-National Holiday) at San Bernardo, the San Rocco Festival at Fraciscio with the precision drum corps and a most fabulous dinner at the Genzianella Restaurant in Fraciscio. I’m truly at a loss for words to express my appreciation. Going back again in 2021!!
Pam Thuma from Kansas: This trip was so fascinating. I so loved the Alps and all that most amazing nature we all witnessed, the hikes, the weather and such surprisingly breathtaking views. The activities perfectly introduced us to the Italian culture and the wonderful people. So many children in every village enjoyed the gifts Bill put together and were carried to Italy by so many. I enjoyed using the translation app allowing us to easily communicate with all the locals. Words cannot express the feeling of comfort at the Cal de Val and the wonderful food, clean rooms and the joyful spirit of the employees. My huge thank you to everyone involved for the trip of a lifetime. I will be back.
Judy Trussoni from Wisconsin: My children thought I was crazy to sign up for this trip and I sure had my doubts too. My daughter was worried because it seemed impossible that the cost I was quoted would really turn out to be true, but it certainly was. I still can’t believe all we got for the price. But, like Bill said, it costs what it costs and no one is being paid to make it all happen. I don’t get around like I used to and my daughter warned me when I was considering the trip that if something happened to me in Italy she was not coming over to get me but before I left she assured me she would. Now being back after a 17 night visit I still can’t believe it went so fast. It seemed to so many of us that we just got there and then all of a sudden it was time to go home. Everyone on the trip with us was so “together”. Everyone was so kind and took such care of us “old people”. I loved the helicopter ride to Angeloga but did not want my children to see my expression caught on camera while going up!! I loved it all. Lots of us helped bring gifts Bill and others put together for our friends. I was honored with the “task” to hand out some gifts to the children at some events which made me the proud “official” grandmother of the children of the Val di Giust!! One child, after hesitantly accepting a teddy bear from me, looked at his mother and after getting a nod of approval came over to me and gave me a hug. That hug alone was worth everything I paid for this trip, to me. As Bill said, these children will grow up remembering their friends from America who did not know them but brought them gifts. This wonderful trip made me feel even closer to my recently deceased husband Jerry, just knowing and thinking about that this beautiful spot in the Alps was where his family emigrated from so many years ago. Thank you, Bill and all for helping me make this amazing trip possible.
Connie Zienkewicz from Kansas: This trip has allowed me to see so many amazing things that we would never have experienced on a regular Italy tour. We have met so many locals in many of the villages who have been so generous and kind to us without even knowing us. Without this trip and the way it is designed, we would have never been able to interact with so many wonderful people, see, touch and enjoy the true Italy. Thank you for all the best!!