This is a long but hopefully helpful overview of our MyWay Italy trip October 2018. Hope it helps you decide whether a MyWay trip is right for you.
First, I would like to say that I don’t understand when some folks on the Rick Steves chat forum say they could do this type of trip on their own for less money. Unless you’ve been to Italy multiple times, I don’t see how anyone but an already seasoned traveler could get the kind of value we received on their own.
To begin, our tour manager, Donato did more than just give us the logistics and basic dos and don’ts, he also gave us little lessons on Italian culture that includes wine, art, history, food and much more making the tour bus almost a literal rolling school bus. The time just flew by. By the time we would arrive at our destination everyone knew not only what to expect as far as hotel logistics (and quirks), but an idea of the best things to do and the most efficient way to go about doing them. Armed with the knowledge of great places to eat, honest places to shop, where to be most wary of pick pockets, and the most interesting sites to see we felt confident of getting the most out of our experience in every city we toured. We gave Donato the nickname of “il professore” because he conducted the tour in true “Rick Steves” style giving us a full package of knowledge for each stop.
Nothing is pushed on you and you can make your own choices. He might say something like “It’s not really a Roman forum like you might expect but feel free to check it out if you like.”
Also we never went wrong going with one of his restaurant or tour recommendations. One of THE best meals we had the whole trip was at the Giglio Rossi (Red Lily in English) in Florence. Sometimes we would strike out on our own with mixed results but you can’t go wrong with his recommendations.
There were also a few casual (mostly BYOB) tour dinners and happy hours which you are free to attend or not, some we did and some we didn’t.
Donato also gave short orientation walks when we arrived at the larger cities and it really helped get us started and not be completely lost and frustrated right out of the gate. In Rome, for example Donato taught us how to effectively deal with Roman traffic, navigate a successful street crossing (it’s harder than you think and I’ve lived in a big city) and hail a cab in addition to helpful bus and Metro information.
Of course on the down side you have to schlep your own luggage to and from the bus to the hotel but Donato makes this as painless as possible. He preps you as to what to expect—flat or stepped terrain, where to turn left or right and for God’s sake don’t pet the cute guard dog at the train station because he bites! If you pack lightly and efficiently it’s not really a problem.
I was impressed with all the hotel choices. I was expecting super simple and basic but most of places we stayed had at least some of the amenities we are used to in the States. Mattress hardness or softness and room size varied but all the hotels we stayed at had clean rooms, travel size soaps and shampoos, hair dryers, good water pressure, and best of all, elevators!
This trip taught me how hard it is to be a tour manager. Donato makes it look easy but the best job description I can think of is: traveling cat herder, fixer of broken luggage, listener of minutiae, answerer of repeated questions, the patience of a saint, and Pied Piper Extraordinaire. I also learned on this trip that yes, there is such a thing as a dumb question, yet Donato treats every question seriously and respectfully. He told us that the one time he would not answer a question is when a woman once asked him how to use a bidet...so you get the picture. Quite frankly I don’t know where he gets the patience.
See "Part 2" below for the rest of my review..