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Any words of advice from Heart of Italy alums?

SO looking forward to our Heart if Italy tour in September!

Any alums have some words of wisdom. restaurants you liked, things you wish you had packed or left behind?


Posted by
14288 posts

I went in May of 2013. At the last minute...literally as we were leaving the house...I picked up a waterproof jacket and was so glad I did! Now I will always pack it no matter where or when I go!

In Volterra I loved the Organic Bistrot Dioniso, a delicious vegetarian restaurant. We also ate at a terrific place which I can't remember the name of, on a piazza near where we did a wine-tasting, run by some sisters (sister sisters, not religious sisters). They had a very limited menu on a chalk board, but it was wonderful. I hope you have Annie for the walking tour of Volterra, she is awesome. Her husband did our wine tasting and he was awesome as well!

You will probably be offered the opportunity to have laundry done in Monterosso, so when you pack up from Volterra sort things so you have your wash handy. If you are in Albergo Pasquale, do know the train runs during the night (freight trains) so use your ear plugs. It really is not bad and OMG, the view is amazing.

Don't buy scarves in Monterosso as you will see the same ones in the San Lorenzo Market in Florence at a less expensive price.

I loved Cafe Miky on the beachfront in Monterosso, in fact I ate there twice.

If you stop in Lucca for a walk and bike, check with your guide ahead of time to see if you will be having a bathroom break soon after you leave Lucca. We didnt realize we would stop soon, so at the last minute were racing around to find a bar, slam down an espresso to we could then use the bathroom and make it to the bus on time. Our time was shortened in Lucca as our guide wanted to get us to Monterosso before the last ferry left as she anticipated bad weather moving in and was worried that the ferry would not run on our free day. She was right on all points. She got us to Monterosso, we rode the last ferry of the day and yes, they did not run the next day due to rough seas. And THAT kind of foresight/experience is why you pay for a guided tour!!!

I really loved this tour! I hope you have an absolutely wonderful time.

Posted by
32273 posts

I loved Cafe Miky on the beachfront in Monterosso, in fact I ate there twice.

Just to clarify, I believe the post mentioned above was referring to Cantina di Miky, which is just down from the train station. Don't confuse that with the more posh Ristorante Miky which is the same general area (although you could certainly dine there also).

Posted by
14288 posts

Yes, Ken is right! So sorry I gave wrong information. Serves me right for posting near to bedtime, lol.

Thanks for catching my error and correcting it.

Posted by
7 posts


Just returned from the Best of V, F, and R ten-day tour. Check the weather report. I was so happy I brought a rain slicker and an umbrella. I spent more in cash than expected. Not a big deal, but have an ATM card just in case you need to get money. The women in my group were good dressers, I wish I had brought a dress or skirt. Not that this is by any means a requirement, but I just wished I had stepped it up a bit. Most days we walked eight miles. I wish I had another pair of shoes by the end of the week. My shoes were comfortable, I was just sick of them by the end. I had brought two pair, but the second pair was not eight mile worthy so they were not really worn. I was happy I had brought a pen, highlighter and pad of paper/notebook. Also we used the electronic system quite a bit so I was happy I had brought my own headset, which is more comfortable than the ones provided. I also brought my own dual voltage hair dryer which came in handy. The ones at the one hotel were horrible. The other hotel didn't have them in the rooms, but there were available at the front desk, just a pain to have to go get one. Also, I brought my fitbit to track steps.

Hope this helps.


Posted by
2788 posts

We took the Village Italy tour and certainly enjoyed the opportunity to visit small Italian towns after spending so much time in cities. I hope you have checked out RS Packing List found elsewhere on this web site. We have taken 12 RS tours and on only one of them have any women dressed upscale. My wife, and most every other women, seem to dress "travel casual", perhaps saving a nice top and scarf for any special occasions - including the last tour dinner. I assume you have checked out the weather for your tour so you can select your clothing accordingly. We always carry a light weight rain proof jacket in our day packs as you can never count on sun all of the time even in Italy in September. Happy travels.

Posted by
14288 posts

Just wanted to add that none of the women dressed up on either of my RS tours (Heart of Italy and Ireland). Most of us did wear scarves and if people didn't start out with them, we had all purchased them by the end!

Another thing I did just in general after that first trip was to get a plastic document folder from Staples. I have one that is an envelope size that holds my current documents while I travel. I fold them in 3rds and then use the small sticky notes across the top as indexes for my airline itinerary, the reservation confirmation for the first hotel, instructions on how to travel from the airport to the hotel and anything else I will need that first day. It helps to have it all sorted out so I don't have to fumble around for paperwork when I am jet lagged. I goofed on my last trip and forgot instructions on how to get to a hotel in a small Belgian town. I had walked it on Google but was surprised that I actually remembered how to get there. I am 100% sure we could have stopped anyone and asked directions but it was nice to find it myself.

I also have a larger plastic document folder that holds a flat sheet of 8.5x11 and have my tour itinerary, list of tour member names (bring that with you to the first meeting so you can start learning names), subsequent hotel reservations and any info for plans after the tour.

And double ditto what Marie said about shoes and making sure you can walk distances in them.

Posted by
119 posts

I forgot to say that I did take a few scarves which did dress up the tops for evening sometimes.

Posted by
2238 posts

We did the Heart of Italy. It was our first RS as we had previously traveled independently in Europe.

Here's what I learned:
1. I would street- view the hotel in Florence and note the surrounding landmarks. We stayed at the Hotel Accedemia and it was hard to find the first time.
2. Buy scarves in Florence at the outdoor market; they were cheapest of our trip
3. If you buy anything packaged at the Florence indoor market, have someone. ( guide) translate directions. The google-translate doesn't translate well.
4. If you want/like those big marble mortars ( mortal and pestal) buy it and carry or ship it home. Haven't seen ones that size here.
5. If you like the wine you have at the wine tasting in Volterra and he will ship it, do it. It's much better and is ( was) much cheaper than in the States.
6. We bought an umbrella when it poured in Florence (May) dumped it as we didn't want to carry it, and had to buy one again when it gushed in Lucca. Good news is umbrella sellers come out of the woodwork the minute it rains.
7. Use money belt or neck pouch. One of the guys on our tour lost his wallet on the subway.
8. I wish we'd have made the effort to get to the Borghese gardens in Rome in our free time.
We usually ate at one of the restaurants suggested by our guide and were never disappointed. Eat gelato everywhere.

You will love this!