Beginning to think about our next RS tour and Best of Italy and Village Italy are what we're considering. Besides a couple of nights in Venice before our Best of the Adriatic tour, we've not really been to Italy. I'd love to hear thoughts from those who've been on one of these tours, or better yet, been on both, and can share what you loved (or maybe didn't love). We will most likely attach a few day on to the front and back of whatever tour we do, so keep that in mind with your tips! :-)
Hi Katy, my husband & I did the RS Best of Italy tour back in 2006, and I have been back to Italy seven times, revisiting most of those cities again, and also I have been to a lot of cities that are more the size of the Village Italy tour. When I was going to take my first independent solo tour to Italy in 2018, my husband suggested the Village Italy tour, but I had already been to almost all of those locations on independent itineraries.
My advice would be to begin with the Best of Italy tour. It gives you a mix of large cities & smaller towns, places with water & the gorgeous Dolomites, the big draw “must see” sites & the quaint local-feel experiences. I feel like the Village Italy itinerary gives a subset of those criteria.
The Village Italy locations are great and would be perfect for a subsequent trip.
One resource to view is the Tour Alum Scrapbook area of the RS website to get a better feel for which tour would appeal more to you and traveling partner(s). My wife and I have been to many of the cities and villages on both tours and in hindsight prefer places like Lucca and Orvieto over the larger cities but that is After seeing the big places first. You do get Varenna and the Dolomites to start the 17 day tour which is a great start. Flip a coin until you get the desired outcome :).
I heartily recommend Best of Italy if you really haven’t seen a lot of Italy before. Every day is a major hit after hit, my husband and myself were gobsmacked over all the things we saw and did. It really gave us a good feeling for the country.
I've done Village Italy as well as Heart of Italy and I'm leaving Sunday for the Best of Italy. I started my RS Tour Career hahaha, with Heart of Italy as I was going with family who could not take off enough time to do Best of Italy. That tour worked perfectly for the time we had. I've also done days in Italy on the 21 Day Best of Europe tour.
However, now doing Best of Italy I'm repeating a number of locations but I particularly wanted to do the Northern part of Italy (Lake and Dolomites) and see Otzi the Iceman in Bolzano (yes, I'm aware I could do this on my own). I'm experienced enough now that I've got the ability to work out my own itinerary for days in some of my repeat cities so will skip some of the basic stuff I've seen a couple of times.
I loved, loved, loved Village Italy but it's very different from the tours that include the big Italian cities. I'd probably vote for Best of Italy first, then come back the next trip with Village Italy. Give yourselves at least an extra night or two in Padua ahead of that tour!
Returned from a much loved Village tour in June. Chose this as we had already been to Italy numerous times on our own and this tour went to many locations that we hadn't already seen. If you've not been to the biggies I'd do the "Best of" first as well. Follow up with Village later.
Katy, ideas for your days before & after the Best of Italy tour:
We went to Verona for three days before meeting up with the group in Varenna. Verona is a nice city and very tourist-friendly. We took the train there: Malpensa-to-Milano Centrale, Milano Centrale-to-Verona Porto Nuova.
Another option that would be a great addition to your tour would be Bergamo. I was there in June, and it’s a wonderful choice and much closer than Verona. The train would be would be Malpensa-to-Milano Centrale, Milano Centrale-to-Bergamo. Be sure to stay up in the Citta Alta portion of the city. Take a taxi from the Bergamo train station up into Citta Alta. I recommend Hotel Piazza Vecchia or if you want to splurge, the Gombit Hotel was extra nice. Both had wonderful breakfasts. There’s gorgeous architecture, fun lanes to explore, good restaurants, ground funiculars, a nice art museum, spectacular church interior, etc.
One more if you like classical music is Cremona, But I would suggest this one only if you are there during a weekend. The Stradavarius museum has a wonderful 30-minute concert in an attached modern concert hall on weekends where they rotate playing one of his violins. The main piazza to enjoy is wonderfully authentic, and the clock tower has a solid interior core in case you don’t like open heights when climbing. The frescoes in the duomo are breathtaking! The train is Malpensa-to-Milano Centrale, Milano-Centrale-to-Cremona. I stayed at the Hotel Duomo Cremona which is a half block from the piazza - very nice breakfast and a good restaurant, too.
For your time after the tour, there is so much in Rome to do! Stay there for a few days to be able to enjoy more of it! Besides the center core of Rome, Ostia Antica is very interesting to see.