Please sign in to post.

Heart of Italy Trip for Teetotaler

All - I do not drink alcohol, my wife does, and we have decided that this the best Italy Tour for us to take next summer. For those who have taken this tour, can you give me guidance concerning cultural appropriateness to turn down wine, and, are alternatives offered during the tour?

Posted by
1734 posts

That was our first RS tour, so it’s been awhile. However, on our tour, if you wanted wine at group dinners you paid for it yourself. The exception may have been first dinner and farewell dinner, but it’s never a big deal. The wine tasting Volterra was the only alcohol-related activity on our tour. It’s perfectly acceptable to participate without drinking the wine.

Posted by
8412 posts

Just ask for juice, water or whatever you want. You will be accommodated, not taken to the public square to be shamed.

The tours quite often have children, so providing a non-alcohol beverage is common for the locations. Just let your guide know at the beginning of the tour and it will be taken care of without any 'fuss' at the location.

Posted by
1263 posts

This question has come up before. The answer is that nobody is insulted, or even cares what you drink or don't drink. A total non-issue on any RS tour I have been on.

Posted by
474 posts

As someone who also does not drink, I think the custom should be that anyone who doesn't drink alcohol should be given extra servings of cheese.

Posted by
4211 posts

I think everyone should get extra servings of cheese. . .and wine.

We did the 7 day Rome tour. Alcohol is typically not included on RS tours, however, our guide felt wine was integral to enjoying Italy so his budget did accommodate wine with meals, to a certain point. There was at least one person who did not partake and no one cared.

Posted by
9493 posts

"You could accept a glass of wine if offered, and pass it on to your wife, or someone else on the tour!"

While I'm not teetotal by any means, I do skip wine at times (frankly I need a nap if I drink at lunch!). On the last 2 Road Scholar trips I did (both to Southern France) wine was provided at every group lunch and dinner. TBH, I kind of resented people asking for "my" glass of wine.

On the tour in 2019 I realized one person who I think likely had an alcohol problem was trying to sit next to me at every meal and then asked for my wine every time. I hate to play games but I started trying to avoid sitting next to her just to avoid having to deal with the issue.

I've never had that occur on a Rick Steves tour (in general less wine is provided) and agree with the others that not drinking is a total non-issue.

On Heart of Italy on the wine tasting they had plates of salami and cheese out to taste with the wine. I'm vegan, lol, and after his discussion on how fat on the tongue changes the taste of the wine, yes, I had a taste of salami and cheese, lol.

Posted by
2626 posts

I don't know how the Association of Italian Wine Makers persuaded so many Americans that all Italians drink wine and only wine, or that waiters can't even face the possibility of somebody not drinking alcohol.

But I swear that nobody cares if the zillionth tourist/customer/passer-by of the day drinks wine or not. Waiters just want you to order as soon as possible, so they can take care of another table and go smoke in the backyard.

Posted by
6508 posts

on the RS tours we've been on, the restaurant itself, or sometimes a hotel, have offered a complimentary drink to the tour groups. Soft drinks count.

Posted by
419 posts

We've taken 3 Rick Steves Tours; the first was The Best of Italy. Of the 3 tours, I think this tour had a few times when wine was complimentary with dinner. Really, you could do whatever you feel like doing; accept a glass, and let it sit there and share with your wife; pass and say "No thank you;" ask for a soft drink or sparkling water. No one will care. You have nothing to worry about!

Posted by
4341 posts

“I think everyone should get extra servings of cheese.”

This reminds me of our stop at the beautiful vineyard during the RS Best of Italy tour. We toured the cellar, and we ended in their dining room with the table full of items that went with specific wines we tasted. One of the early items was Parmesan cheese that tasted heavenly! As they progressed through the wines giving details about each one, I noticed that my husband & I kept gravitating back to that plate of cheese for another taste!

Posted by
4748 posts

I've been on two Rick Steves tours as a non-drinker. There were only a few instances where it was ever an issue and even then it wasn't a big issue. I learned to just accept a drink that was provided as part of the meal and then pass it along to another tour member who was quite happy with the extra glass of wine. One tour guide provided alternatives, one did not.

The only time I was made to feel uncomfortable was at a wine tasting session where the owner of the vineyard simply couldn't understand why someone wouldn't be drinking and refused to give me water. There was never any pressure from the actual tour.

Posted by
3658 posts

Another alcohol non-drinker here. I've been on 5 RS tours so far. Except for Istanbul, alcohol has been a part of the culture on all of them (Italy, Scandinavia, Portugal and Spain).

But I don’t remember a group meal on any of them that didn't provide bottled water, both sparkling and still, and usually cold. That's always my preference to any other options, especially since other options are often sweet and served at room temperature.

On the Village Italy tour there was a funny situation where we visited a family winery and there was a wine-tasting like mentioned previously. I was the only non-drinker and had a full 2 liter bottle of warm orange soda all to myself. I requested that I have bottled water instead, but they said they didn't have any. So it was either take in all that sugar or be thirsty, not that the soda helped much with thirst. 🥴

Heads up to RS tour guides, water please, even if it's warm.

BTW, the bus drivers usually have cold water, sparkling and still, for sale on the bus at very reasonable prices. That was particularly welcome in Italy in the summer.

Posted by
385 posts

I avoid significant amounts of alcohol because it triggers migraines at worst or at best makes me tired. It's also unfriendly to an already ruddy, healthy complexion.

I do however love the various tastes and will sample them. I love champagnes and wish they loved me too! I've never had any issues on RS tours and have always found substitutes.