Hi - We were looking for a guided version of the 13 day tour (Venice, Varenna, CT, Florence, Assisi, Rome) but found My Way .. which is the only option available. Question ... is this a good way to go for first timers to Italy? Which cities require reservations ahead of time for exhibits? We used the Rick Steves tour book for Barcelona and it was extremely helpful .. but our schedule was more flexible. We'll be travelling around on this 13 day tour and did not want to miss key things to see/do when at that particular location. It would be great if someone had an itinerary which says to do this/go to that .. while on the 13 day itinerary.
Frank, I haven't tried a My Way tour yet, but for first time visitors to Italy one of the fully guided tours would probably be better (IMHO), especially as you "did not want to miss key things to see/do". You'll learn far more about Italy, the culture and foods on the "full" tour, and the group dinners and lunches are one of the best features. Those on the full tours eat well! Keep in mind that with the My Way tours, you'll have to offset the less expensive cost of the tour with the funds you'll spend on Museum admissions and other sightseeing, and it will be considerably more work to plan sightseeing in each location and prearrange tickets where necessary. Regarding "which cities require reservations ahead of time for exhibits", that's difficult to answer without knowing which exhibits you plan on seeing? You can get some idea of sights to see in each location by having a look at the Itineraries of the fully guided Italy tours. That shows what Museums and other locations are included. Could you clarify why the My Way is "the only option available"? Is it a question of when you're able to visit Italy? Cheers!
If you would prefer a guided tour because you are concerned about fitting in all the major sights, why not do the Rome, Florence, Venice guided tour, and then, taking what you have learned, add on Cinque Tere and Varenna on your own? Those two don't have any museums and other sights that require planning and reservations, you just relax and enjoy the scenery. Or do the 9-day Heart of Italy guided tour that includes Rome, florence, and Cinque Terre (and Lucca), and add Varenna and Venice on your own.
Frank, to followup on recommendations to combine city tour with other towns on your own, Assisi is very easy to visit on your own. There are direct trains from both Rome and Florence (2-3 hour ride, as i recall; scenery is pretty), followed by a shuttle bus or taxi up to the old town. The town is easy and walkable. If you are interested in the basilica of St Francis, you can register for a walking tour at the visitor center to the left of the bascilica (nr lower church entrance); it was quite good; you may need to sign up the day before, depending on season, time of day, and language requirement.
I've been to Italy several times and I did the My Trip tour in August/Sept with 2 friends who had not been to Italy before. We went into Milan 3 days early, then train to Venice to join the "tour", at the end we stayed 3 nights extra in Rome and then train back to Milan to fly home on our free air tickets (with airline points). I would say that the trip would be great for first timers. The Tour escort is available to help you do any particular things you would like to do. Several in our group decided to take trains for side trips for the day to places like Lucca, or Ovieto.....
You can also talk to the folks at the travel dept. at Rick Steves office and they can give you additional info.