I’ve always said that an empty nest is like Just Married With Money, and the time to reap the benefits of all those long work days. This trip we’re planning is a preview of Retirement – that ever-elusive Elysian state of relaxation and puttering.

First, all the arrangements have to be made. Since I have no desire to stay in something “cheap and cheerful” due to Vlad’s lack of patience with researching, I volunteered to do the work needed. This way I know I’ll find places to stay that are comfortable and have a reasonable degree of luxury. Call me picky, but I want a comfortable bed without critters, and a private bathroom.

I started online research on several US and European travel-rating sites. Boutique hotels are the only ones I’m looking at, and while that is OK for the big cities, I’m coming up with a big, fat goose-egg in Cinque Terre and Siena. All that I can find is a sub-species of B&B with reviews that make my skin crawl. I don’t want “quaint” or “rustic”. What’s wrong with “elegant” or “exceptional”?

Typically, several of the ‘inns’ I found require you to email to find availability, along with instructions on how to light a candle and say a prayer to St Jude that someone answers you.  After all, this is Italy – the country where anarchy works but people do not.

I did hear back from a few of the innkeepers, most of which emailed back funny versions of No Vacancy. My personal favorites were “So sorry for our fullness” and ‘No rooms for you’, which evoked visions of one of my fave Seinfeld episodes. One actually chided me for daring to visit during Labour Day.  Well, excuse me!

After many trials and tribulations, I did find what I hope will be a good set of boutique hotels in Italy.  I hope Vlad will like them – my reputation as a trip planner is on the line.