Planning a trip to Italy in April/May but we're only interested in a guided tour to both Rome and Florence. My assumption for using a guided tour is to have quick access to many of those cities' attractions ( no line waiting) as well as fine dining. We're thinking of 4 days in Rome and 4 days in Florence. We prefer to travel between those two cities via train. As anyone attempted a similar itinerary on a guided tour?
I'm a bit confused. Are you talking about a 4-day guided tour of Rome and a 4-day guided tour of Florence with you providing the transportation between the two? Or a guided tour for 8-9 days that includes just Florence and Rome? Or are you talking about staying in each city on your own for 4 days with guided day tours in each city? Are you wanting a tour that provides hotels and transportation?
We did a RS Best of Rome tour and toured Florence on our own. We did feel having a guide and all the logistics taken care of in Rome was very beneficial (and enjoyable). We did Florence on our own. It was busy, but we obtained timed tickets for the Uffizi and Accademia in advance. We didn't need advance tickets for anywhere else. (If you want to do the Duomo bell tower, you should obtain those tickets as soon as you arrive Florence.) We did purchase the Firenze card, it worked well for us, but people should do their own analysis. It is an expensive card. The advantage you have is that 4 days in Florence is a nice amount, the card is good for a 72 hour period that starts when you first use it. You could pack a bit into that time period and use remaining time to tour at a more leisurely pace. We used the RS app. It contains a walking tour of central FLorence as well as the Uffizi and Accademia. With the timed tickets and the research we did in advance, we did not feel we needed a guided tour of Florence, but of course everyone is different.
Companies like Abercrombie and Kent will customize journeys in any way you want. But you have (and even more so, I have ... ) described a high-priced product. You want all arrangements made in advance, and line-skipping tickets obtained. That is a luxury travel level that many posters here don't need or are not willing to pay for. I hope someone may have personal experience they can use to reply to you.
In pre-internet days, big tour companies were happy to book air tickets and prepay hotels in two cities for what they called "Independent Packages". We did that several times, including Italy in 1988 or so. But you want all of your attraction tickets obtained for you. That costs money (and can result in non-changeable, non-refundable air or rail tickets. Is that acceptable to you?)
Thank you Nancy and Juiles! My first option would be a guided tour with included transportation, access to attractions, and dining for those two cities. However, the option provided by Juiles would also work. Any thoughts Nancy on a full tour package? Julies, what did you like the most of the RS Rome guided tour?
Except for one Viking River Cruise, we've done all our trips to Europe independently, including a couple month long trips using both trains and car rental.
We wanted to try a tour, and in particular a RS tour, now, so that should we feel that tours might become more of a necessity for us in the future, we would have an idea of what to expect. We choose Rome, since it was our first time to Italy and it just seemed that the logistics for sites were difficult due to crowds, etc. We also felt that unlike other countries and timeframes in history, including art history, Italy and Rome were less familiar to us. Meaning we had little background in Roman history, architecture and Renaissance art. It seemed to us that guides would provide needed information and bring those time periods to life, as "they" say. The tour met our objectives.
We really enjoyed every day of the tour. It was fun to be with other people, go to excellent restaurants and have someone else handle details. Even for our free time, the guide would make suggestions of sites and transportation. Despite the fact that we are "foodies" and fairly knowledgeable in regard to wine, we've never done a food tour in Europe. We did one of Trastevere and it was excellent and so much fun! The tours of San Clemente and Colleseum/Forum were excellent. We wished that the time at the forum was a longer. The vatican museum would have been a nightmare without the guides. It was shoulder to shoulder people and a guide was able to usher us through stopping at important pieces. I wished that tour had started earlier so we would have arrived at St. Peter's earlier. Also, there is no talking in the Sistine Chapel so the guide had introduced that before we started. I wish I had remembered that the RS app, has a nice overview of the chapel I could have used while we were in it.
EDITED TO ADD: We were pleasantly surprised how easy it was to use public transportation in Italy. Because we stopped in Siena between Florence and Rome, we used the bus to get to Rome. However, we used the various trains from Tirano to Lake Como and ultimately down to Sorrento. The train websites, machines and the trains themselves are very easy to use.
I will also add, that we found local people to be very helpful everywhere in Italy (except in CT where they seem sick of tourists) Any time we had a question about train stops or other train logistics, people were very willing to help.
Thanks Tim, I will check out those companies.
Jules, where is CT?
CT = Cinque Terre
My first option would be a guided tour with included transportation,
access to attractions, and dining for those two cities
Ron, it looks like you're wanting a fully escorted tour, and even Rick's tours do not provide dinner arrangements for EVERY night of their itineraries. Their idea of "fine" dining may also not be yours.
You also do not mention wanting to have your accommodation arrangements taken care of, the size of group you're willing to travel with, or your budget for this trip. There can be a BIG difference between budget large-group bus tours (you'd very likely have to do without fine dining or 5-star accommodations) and small-group or private luxury tours.
You also haven't given us any idea of your previous travel experience, and how you expect to travel to/from attractions and accommodation in both cities? Are you OK with long walks/hours on your feet or expect to have transport waiting nearby? The more you can tell us, the better we can help you. :O)
Perillo Tours has a Rome and Tuscany tour that might meet your criteria. They also do custom tours that would probably be less expensive than Abercrombie and Kent's.
You don't need a guided tour to see Florence, it is entirely walkable. Get a good guidebook.
I recommend five days in Rome and three in Florence.
Thank you all for your comments and advice. I know have a good idea. At this time I will concentrate on a small group guided tour for Rome and self guided tour of Florence. As far as transportation, I'm leaning to the railroad system between those cities where I can make my own arrangements. One more question, from your experience, which airport, Rome or Florence is better. I can fly to either one.
Interesting comment on CT, from the online photos it appears to be a small congested town.
If I were you, I would plan my own trip, adding in guided tours such as Walks of Italy and Food tours. Choose a hotel in Rome close to meeting points for those tours, but any centrally-located hotel in Florence is within easy walking distance to most sites, unless you have mobility issues. Rome has Uber but Florence did not, as of Oct 2019. We have always flown into Rome until our trip back from Florence this year on Air France, connecting in Paris. I thought that would b e great, but I don't think I would do that again-we had to lug our carryon luggage up steps to get to the plane at both Florence and De Gaulle, whereas you can fly nonstop from Rome to US.
I don't think I would want a bus tour picking out most of my meals in Italy, but the Food tours we've done in Florence(and Paris) are some of our favorite memories.
I agree with geovagriffith's suggestion of splitting 5 days Rome/3 days Florence. I can't help with tours--we have done all of our travel independently. Both cities are great, you will have a wonderful time.
Depending on where you live, you may be able to get direct flights to/from Rome whereas you'll need to connect somewhere in Europe for Florence (same for the nearby Pisa and Bologna airports). That means flights out of Florence connecting to flights to USA depart very early morning. If you want to fly into one and out of the other, I'd fly into Florence and back from Rome. If doing a round trip to/from either one airport or the other, I'd opt for Rome over Florence.