Group Travel in Italy
In April, I had my first experience traveling as part of a group tour to Italy. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I have spent a lot of time in Italy; I lived In Florence when I was nineteen and had the opportunity to explore many parts of this beautiful country. In more recent years, my husband and I have spent 4 weeks traveling around Italy.
After my overnight flight from Salt Lake City, I met our tour leader and the rest of the group in Rome. We enjoyed a four-course welcome dinner at a local ristorante.
In the morning, we boarded our state-of-the-art motor coach to begin our exploration of Rome. We met with an excellent licensed tour guide who led us through Vatican City. I am always in awe of the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. I have been to Rome nearly ten times, and I learned so many new things from our guide that I hadn’t heard before. After lunch we went to tour the colosseo. Our group was privileged to go into the arena through the Gladiator’s Entrance. We also enjoyed a visit to the Roman Forum.
Other highlights in Rome included visits to Piazza Novona, the Pantheon, The Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain. Rome has such a fascinating history!
The next stop on our tour? Florence! Once again, we met an amazing guide who had an apparent love for her city. She took us to see Michelangelo’s David, the church of Santa Maria Del Fiore (the famous Florence Duomo), and Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise. We visited several piazzas and had free time to explore the city on our own.
The next morning, we began our journey to Venice. Along the way we made a stop in Pisa to visit the Field of Miracles (home of the “Leaning Tower”). I loved climbing to the top of the tower.
Our tour leader had local Italian friends everywhere we went. We were able to duck into the cutest little sandwich shop where I enjoyed some salami and focaccia!
After leaving Pisa, we enjoyed the beautiful drive to the “floating city” of Venice. Our first order of business was a gondola ride through the Venice canals. The next morning we met our local tour guide at Piazza San Marco where we learned about the Basilica, Doges Palace and the famous clock tower. We took a tour of a glass blowing factory, and then spent much of the day with free time to wander Venice.
In the late afternoon, we boarded a chartered private water taxi to take us to the charming and colorful town of Burano. We had free time to explore the fishing village followed by a group dinner with outgoing cooks and waiters. It was definitely a highlight of the trip!
After an overnight stay in Mestre, we were on our way to another city. This time we traveled to the Umbrian region, to the town of Assisi. The city was oozing with charm. There is a medieval castle on one end, and the Basilica of St. Francis on the other. After going through the Basilica with a guide, we had hours of free time to enjoy this picturesque city. In the morning, we went to the valley below Assisi to visit the Basilica Santa Maria before traveling to Orvieto.
Orvieto is a city known for its ceramics. We had free time and we used it for exploring, shopping and lunch before making our way back to Rome. In Rome, we enjoyed a Opera Dinner Show at Ristorante Tanagra.
After a night in Rome, we began our journey South. We went on a driving tour through Naples with a stop for authentic Napoleon Pizza; it is the birthplace of pizza after all.
We stayed in the beautiful seaside city of Sorrento. We were there for 3 nights. Highlights included a day trip to Capri, a separate visit to Positano, and driving along the amazing Amalfi Coast. During our time there we also visited a working farm, La Sorgente, where we watched mozzarella being made before our eyes, along with other demonstrations and a lively dinner. I also enjoyed going to a gelato making class during our time in Sorrento!
As our trip began to wind down, we made a stop with a tour guide in Pompeii, which is a very fascinating city that was preserved in ash following the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.
We ended our night in Rome, where we flew to our home cities the next morning. I LOVED traveling with this group of people! I feel like I have a bunch of new best friends. We spent a lot of time laughing in our time together. It wasn’t uncommon for someone to buy a bag of Italian treats to pass around the bus. There was a great atmosphere of friendship among the group.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from a group tour, but it was a wonderful experience. It was so nice to have all of the details taken care of, especially since I spend hours and hours planning my trips. I didn’t have to worry about anything! We also had amazing English-speaking guides everywhere we went and I learned so much about the different sites and cities we visited. The bus was comfortable and safe, and it was nice to be able to leave our belongings there and know they were being watched after. e had the best driver who was willing to serenade us on gondola rides, and lead us in “tante augrui a te” to those who were celebrating birthdays. Our tour leader, Keri Evans, was amazing. Her love for Italy is contagious, you can’t help but get excited about the country she loves so much.
She has a similar tour coming up in September and it comes highly recommended: alanmckaytours.com/europe/september-2017-the-best-of-italy/