Thank you all for your ideas and thoughtful responses. Kathy, you are right - we have done a lot of independent traveling, and I've been the primary planner for our adventures. We have never taken a RS tour - although we've been fans for years! :-) The appeal of this My Way tour for us is that it gets us to the beautiful lakes region again, to some places on our wish list that might have been more challenging to do on our own (Cinque Terre, Assisi and Venice). Then into the heart of Florence and Rome directly to our lodging places, with the freedom to see what we want to see, and the possibility to explore with new tour friends. We thought that a traditional tour might be more structured and faster paced than we are seeking now - although we've loved some other tours we've taken in the past for the experiences and ground covered. However, we don't want to be exhausted at the end of the trip! :-D
I'm looking forward to having many of the logistics managed for us, and having a guide we can talk with for highlights of each city. I enjoy planning - but right now I'm feeling relieved that a big chunk of this trip planning is done for us, in RS -vetted places. I am sure I will still be researching special things that we want to do in each spot...but we thought "Why not try this tour?" - we read lots of great reviews, and then decided to go.
I completely agree with your sentiments about Rome being a city filled with excellent possibilities for sightseeing...I've been there twice (as a teen in the summer, and as a parent on a school trip the week before Easter), and the second trip was a jam packed "hit the highlights so the teens and their parents could experience a lot in a short time." No doubt that has influenced my feelings about the major hustle and bustle. It makes me a little weary just thinking of that frantic pace we kept! But we sure saw a lot, and it was a great, compacted trip. We wished we'd had a few more days - and the next time that school trip was planned they did add 3 days.
We would be there in the fall this time - and hopefully the crowds would be less than they were on my other visits. So there is a lot of merit in the idea of slowing down post tour, and spreading out the other Rome things we may want to experience over a few days, then heading home. We did that in Paris last fall - but we'd both been to Paris a few times, and knew what we wanted to see with that visit. This might be my DH's only trip to Rome, unless he loves it! We both really like experiencing smaller towns with a slower pace, so Orvieto may be the perfect antidote to two weeks of touring once we are ready to leave Rome.
I appreciate your insights - thank you again!