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April "Best of Italy in 17 Days" Tour - Advice & Helpful Hints?

We'll be going on Rick Steves' "Best of Italy in 17 Days" tour beginning April 12. We've done two RS tours previously, so we basically know what to expect. We've been to Venice, Florence, Tuscany, and Rome once before as part of the "Best of Europe in 14 Days" tour, so those destinations won't be totally new to us.

That said...

If you've been on this "Best of Italy in 17 Days" tour previously, especially at this time of year, do you have any suggestions, tips, helpful hints, advice that you wish you had known in advance? Perhaps something definitely worth doing or seeing (or not doing) that doesn't get a lot of publicity? A great restaurant you discovered during one of your non-group meals? Best suggestions on when or where to have laundry done? Should we pack swimsuits for any reason? Any and all suggestions are appreciated.

Thanks,
Rick Johnson

Posted by
25 posts

Hi Rick,
We went on this tour April of 2015.

We flew in a couple days early to take a local tour that included "The Last Supper" in Milan. The tour also stopped in front of the Duomo (no tour inside) and the La Scala Opera House and Museum. The tour also stops at the Sforza castle.

Also in Milan, but on our own, we visited the Da Vinci National Science Museum (nice if either of you are techy). Models of his designs are on display. We took a ride out to see a replica of a large horse designed by Leonardo Da Vinci (the largest equestrian monument in the world). We took a ride out to the Monumental Cemetery, worthwhile for the beautiful sculptures (lots of walking).

We experienced our first squat toilet at the Varenna station. Before the first group meeting, we went to the Castello di Vezio. Make sure you have a warm layer for the Dolomites (thermals/hat/gloves).

You will enjoy your tour!

Posted by
1006 posts

I went on this tour in October, 2016, it was fantastic. I also went two days early to Milan, then took the train to Varenna. I did a Walks of Italy tour that went through the historic district, The Last Supper and ended with a walk to the top of the Duomo, the 4th largest cathedral in Europe.

I toured the la Scala Museum and walked through the Galleria. Did a tour of the Brera Art Gallery and explored the surrounding neighborhool. Milan is full of history and is enjoyable but with a totally different vibe than Rome. I was glad I spent some time.

It snowed in the Dolomites when we were there - mid-late October, be sure to bring a warm layer for that possibility. We encountered Acqua Alte in Venice, with 2 days of rain and flooding in St. Mark's Square. Don't let that scare you - we still had a fabulous time.

In Rome, my debit card was stolen so my advice is not to go to an ATM alone if you are a female. Probably applies to men also. It was a Sunday afternoon and clear sunny day in the ATM alcove at a bank. This man rushed in and I became flustered and he grabbed my card and absconded with it. I thought the machine ate it, didn't realize until Monday that he had taken it. The bank manager said my card was not there in their vault or wherever the cards go when the machine eats them. Also, now my rule is I only use my ATM card on a business day when the bank is open in case there is an emergency.

Otherwise, just soak up all that Italy offers and enjoy la dolce vita!!

Posted by
2 posts

If your schedule permits, I recommend going to Ostia Antica after your tour ends. It's about an hour train ride from Rome. It was a great way to cap off a wonderful trip.

Glen

Posted by
1006 posts

Rick,
I second going to Ostia Antica if you are going to stay a day or so after the tour ends. We went there as a day trip as part of my 7 Days Best of Rome tour and it was so interesting. Almost more so than Pompeii. Yes, I did both the 17 Day Italy tour in Oct. 2016 and then 7 Days in Rome in March 2017. I couldn't get enough of Rome.

Or, you could go on to Naples and Pompeii if you have 2 - 3 days post tour. The Archaeological Museum in Naples has fabulous original artifacts from Pompeii - I toured there first and then spent a day at Pompeii. Fascinating!
You will love Italy!!

Posted by
1359 posts

I did this tour in April quite a long time ago (2006) and recall the weather was quite variable - rain, sun, wind, cold (snow in Dolomites), quite warm in Rome. So pack layers and a lightweight waterproof jacket. Zero need for a swimsuit. I had laundry done in Cinque Terre, but some people had theirs done in Florence (closer to half way through tour). Things not on the tour that I enjoyed: Milan cathedral pre-tour, Science Museum in Florence, Borghese in Rome.