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Best of Sicily and Southern Italy tour reports

We have just returned from these two back to back tours so I am combining them and sharing some of my thoughts with you. We did the Sicily tour April 26 to May 6 and the Southern Italy tour May 9 to May 21. These were our 4th and 5th RS tours. We chose RS over other tour companies because of the itineraries.

Our guides were Tomasso Pante (Sicily) and Caterina Moore (Southern Italy). Both did an excellent job. This was Caterina’s first tour since the pandemic.

We were on our own in Rome before the Southern Italy tour from May 6 to May 9 and really needed that time to catch our breath between tours. Both of these tours were quite strenuous with lots of hills and stairs. We averaged 5 to 8 miles of walking a day per my pedometer.

The temps ran from the 70’s in Sicily to the low 80’s on the Southern Italy tour. At times it was a bit humid. The only rain of any note was experienced one evening in Rome pretour and some overcast days in Trapani, Erice and Agrigento. It was quite chilly (low 50’s) on our stop at Mt. Etna so bring a jacket or sweater. I had a denim jacket and wished I had something warmer but we were only outside for a brief period so it was fine. There was a lot of clouds and it was a bit windy.

Wildflowers were abundant and the poppies were spectacular.

For those concerned about the food choices on the tour, don’t be. If you have a dietary restriction or aversion such as fish for example, tell the guide. They will accommodate you and find alternative choices. You paid for meals on this tour and shouldn’t be expected to starve. Just be reasonable and not demanding. I really appreciate Tomasso and Caterina accommodating me on these tours and sometimes my meals were better than the rest of the group. On both tours, copious amounts wine was included in all shared meals which was unexpected as we paid for most of our drinks on our previous 3 RS tours. Tomasso called this “rivers of wine” and Caterina said she considered wine to be a “food” so it was included. There was a lot of food and we felt guilty not eating all of what was presented. There were multiple courses and the antipasti itself would have been sufficient. But wait there was more. Despite all the walking, I gained 5 lbs on this tour. All the pastries at breakfast, wine and gelato took their toll although I truly tried to restrain myself. At the water buffalo farm, there was a lot of buffalo mozarella at the shared meal which left many groaning. There was also yogurt and gelato made from the buffalo milk. Caterina treated us to something called “pocket coffee” at one of the rest stops which is a tiny juice box type of thing with chocolate and espresso and sfogliatelle in Naples. Delicious.

Masking was required on the bus - KN95, N95 or FFP. No cloth or surgical masks. We also wore the masks when in museums or in close quarters. You can dispense with the mask when out in the open and at shared meals so in hindsight I am not sure of the wisdom of wearing them on the bus as you are exposed when in an enclosed restaurant. I didn’t love wearing a mask especially when it was hot and humid but at some points on the tour we forgot we were wearing them. We took way too many masks with us and 10 or 12 each would have been enough for a month. Sometimes the ear straps broke on the masks when we were out and about and always had a couple extra in our day bags. We wore the masks as required. We did our best to be sure to test negative for the return trip home.

This is the first tour that I used my cellphone (Samsung A32 48 megapixel) for photography and found myself using my Nikon DSLR far less. The only time the cell phone was difficult was when the sun was in a position to make viewing the screen difficult compared to the DSLR viewfinder. The quality of the cellphone photos was fine for my purposes as I will be using them to create a photo book on Shutterfly. My husband took way too much camera gear IMHO but it was his trip and he had to carry it.

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Part Two of Sicily and Southern Italy tour reports - Laundry was available in Ortigia (Sicily tour - 20 euros for a bag) and Matera (Southern Italy tour - 10 euros for a bag). We did our own laundry at. Speed Queen laundromat in Rome which was a short distance away from our tour hotel during our pretour time. If you do this, get there early in the morning as there not a lot of machines. We carried our laundry there in a RS tote. There is a supposed to be an attendant on the premises but in the early morning there wasn’t. There is a machine to pay. You choose the washing machine or dryer you plan to use and insert cash or credit card. It cost us about 12 euros to wash and dry a load. The washing machine provides the detergent and softener automatically. It was a hoot for the four of us who were there and unfamiliar with the payment machine. But we managed and figured it out. It took about an hour and a half to two hours get our laundry done. I have previously hand washed our laundry as we went along but I decided to give myself a break and avail myself of laundry services. This is a vacation after all.

More reports tomorrow.

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Thank you. We'll be on back-to-back Best of Italy/Best of South Italy tours in September and October so look forward to your reports. Was the 5 to 8 miles per day of walking partly optional or was most of that part of normal tour activity?

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Tour report continued - Covid precautions and testing - We wore our KN95 masks on the bus and in crowded situations and museums but not at the group meals or outdoors. One tour member absented herself from all of the group meals. I am not judging her as we all need to do what makes us comfortable but also protect others at the same time. We brought 6 BinaxNOW test kits with us. We used the first two on the day we arrived in Palermo for our required pretour test. We found the BinaxNOW process a bit confusing and cumbersome, and in hindsight, getting tested at a pharmacy would have been easier and less stressful. We had packed the remaining BinaxNOW test kits in our luggage. After four weeks on the road, the packaging was crushed and unusable. In the end, we ended up getting a proctored test in at a pharmacy in Naples for 15 euros each for our return home. Our guide Caterina took the five of us who needed to be tested to the pharmacy on our last day in Italy and served as interpreter although the pharmacy technician spoke English well enough to get by. Caterina waited with us for the 20 minutes until we had our printout results. All of us tested negative thankfully. I also had the government issued test kits which I had removed from their boxes with me and tested myself a few times during the trip to be on the safe side. I didn’t want any unwelcome surprises at the end of the trip.

Transportation during the tours - We had a tour bus that seemed smaller than we had used on past tours. We were told the bus was the same size as before but had less seats for added leg room. This meant that we were not as spread out as much as on earlier tours. Plus we had 28 to 29 people on our tours. If you are prone to motion sickness, take whatever medication you might need to mitigate the effects of being on a bus on twisting roads. Because the larger buses could not go on certain roads which were too narrow, at times we transferred to smaller minivans with our luggage to get to our destination hotels or the hotels brought our luggage to and from the tour bus and we walked to the hotel. From the hotel in Rome (Hotel Smeraldo), we needed to walk about 1/3 of a mile with our luggage to get to the tour bus for our journey to Vieste; several blocks to the tour bus from the Hotel Ambasciatori in Palermo; several blocks from the tour bus to the hotel in Trapani; and a small hike from the ferry dock in Maiori to our hotel. So pack as light as possible for the times when you need to hoof it with your luggage. The tour bus dropped us off at the dock in Salerno and a small boat took us toMaiori. We then had a nice tour of the coastline as far north as Amalfi and then backtracked to Maiori. The boat ventured in and out of several sea caves which seemed to be impossible when we were going into them. Excellent boating skills on the captain’s part.

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Tour report continued - Hotels - All of the hotels were fine although we liked some better than others. Room assignment on tour is fairly random. The guides try to mix it up so that everyone gets a view room from time to time. We had a room with a balcony with a wonderful view overlooking the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento as well as a room with a balcony and view in Vieste. Many of the hotels had rooftop bar/lounges with nice views. The Hotel Continental in Taormina was especially lovely with a view of Mt. Etna. This was also where we had our breakfast in the morning. The Hotel Locanda di San Martino in Matera was a “cave” hotel and really nice as well as unique and had a large bathroom. Hotel breakfasts were basically a lot of pastry (too much pastry), coffee, juice, fruit, eggs, cereal and sometimes bacon/pancetta. The staff at the Hotel Smeraldo in Rome were super. They were so helpful on the few days that we were in Rome on our own. They arranged for a taxi for us to the Borghese Gallery and gave us instructions in Italian to give to the taxi driver to avoid a certain route under construction saving us on our taxi fare. They also gave us info on walking to St. Peter’s which is a brisk 30 minute walk from the hotel.

We hadn’t traveled to Rome, Naples or the Amalfi coast in 21 years and found it incredibly more crowded. If you want to visit St. Peter’s, the Pantheon, Capri or Ravello get there really early before the crowds. 21 years ago, you could just walk up to the venue at any time of the day and waltz right in.

Visiting Capri - We had the opportunity to visit the island when we were in Sorrento. We felt we had missed out on our previous Amalfi coast visit. Caterina walked a large group of us to the dock in Sorrento at 8:30 am and facilitated the ferry ticket purchase (35 euros each round trip) with a set return time so as not to miss the family meal in Sorrento. We caught the 9 am ferry and were in Capri at around 9:30 am. We chose to take the funicular to Capri (about 2 euros each round trip) while others took other means of transport to Anacapri. We visited the Giardino Augusto which was a well sign posted walk past shops, restaurants and hotels. The garden had spectacular view over the Faraglione rocks and the Mediterranean. On our way back we encountered hordes of tourists headed in our direction so we were glad we went to the garden early. We had lunch at an overlook near the funicular with gorgeous views. Then we headed back down the funicular to Marina Grande for a one hour boat tour around the island. I had pre purchased the boat tickets (20 euros each) that morning. We skipped the Blue Grotto as did almost all of our tour group. We made it back to the dock with about 20 minutes to spare to catch the 3:20 ferry back to Sorrento. Was Capri worth the visit? IMHO, no. Other than the garden or the chairlift in Anacapri and Villa San Michele, there isn’t much to see there. And our time on the island was severely limited. You can only do so much in the time allotted. The boat ride around the island was basically the same as the boat ride from Salerno to Maiori and the boat ride in Vieste.

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Tour report continued - Visiting Ravello - We had been here before 21 years ago. We took the ferry from Maiori (15 minutes) to Amalfi, bought bus tickets near the dock and took the twisting road up to Ravello. We love Ravello for its spectacular views and the Villa Cimbrone and Villa Rufolo. My suggestion is to see the Villa Cimbrone first which is the prettier of the two gardens and then the Villa Rufolo. Both have great views. The walk to Villa Cimbrone is mostly uphill going there but worth it. Go to Ravello early to beat the crowds as you will be vying for space on the Belvedere of Infinity at Villa Cimbrone. After lunch on the main piazza, we took the bus back down to Amalfi for a little time there to get a gelato and revisit the duomo. Getting on the bus from Ravello was chaotic with a lot of people pushing and shoving to get on the bus. Others in our group went to Positano that day and some attempted to see Amalfi, Ravello and Positano in one day which is too rushed. Positano is mostly shops, hotels and restaruants. It has gotten a lot of hype so it’s very popular but Ravello and Amalfi have more to offer.

Visiting Pompeii - You will have about a 3 hour visit there which is not enough time to fully appreciate this site. We spent most of the day there 21 years ago and obviously saw a lot more at a more leisurely pace. However, as with any tour, the time is limited and I am not sure my 70+ year old body would have held up to all the walking and heat this time around. A fellow tour member found the site underwhelming but I attribute that to the fact that they barely scratched the surface of Pompeii. The museum on the premises was new to us as it didn’t exist 21 years ago. I would have really liked more time there.

Special unexpected moments on the tour - On arrival in Maiori, there was a special Carnevale happening with a parade with huge floats, lots of confetti and streamers, really loud music and dancing. This festival had been postponed from February due to covid. It was wild and fun and I am glad we didn’t miss it. The Southern Italy tour used to stay in Positano but it has gotten too expensive.

Other than the Carnevale event, Mairori itself was nothing to write home about but it is convenient to get to Amalfi and Ravello or Positano. I much prefer to stay in Positano although it is touristy.

Other favorites - Visiting Maria Grammatico and making cookies and a wonderful lunch there. The buffalo mozarella farm where the buffalo live a spa life. The buffalo decide when they want to get milked at an automatic milking machine, go to a massage machine whenever they feel like it, eat and sleep whenever they like and listen to classical music in the morning. Contented cows produce better milk so they say. All good until they meet their ultimate fate in 15 years. The dinner with the family in Sorrento. The beautiful Benanti Winery and lunch at the foot of Mt. Etna. The trip to the Salt Flats and lunch. Visiting with the Contessa in Palermo. The boat ride in Vieste and from Salerno to Maiori. The Borghese Gallery is not to be missed.

Least interesting for me was Hadrian’s Villa and the Capodimonte Museum in Naples.

Lessons learned on the tour were the critical method of crossing the street in Rome. Traffic won’t stop for you. You have to stride confidently into oncoming traffic while making eye contact with the drivers and hope they will stop. Our Capitoline museum guide Francesca told us not to cross the street like squirrels (darting and stopping in the middle of the street). Just go for it. Don’t be a squirrel. LOL! Also when ordering from a café or bar, scope out the wares first and decide what you want, tell the cashier what you want and pay for the same and then take the chit to the counter and get your pastries, coffee, etc.

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Tour report continued - As previously posted on the forum, my husband’s sole contribution to our trip planning was learning the lyrics to That’s Amore. It turns out that Caterina had us learn this song to sing to at the family dinner in Sorrento. And at the final tour dinner in Naples, a street performer sang and played the guitar for us. And what did he play at the end? You guessed it. That’s Amore which we all sang along with him. A very fitting and memorable end to our month in Southern Italy.

We had far more ambitious plans for our free time on these tours but time constraints and energy levels dictated what we could reasonably accomplish. Plan ahead but be flexible. We needed a day of downtime between tours in Rome to recoup.

Pack your patience and tolerance with others. After 2+ years with little social interaction, it was a little difficult for me to get back in the swing of things. As for our guides, kudos to them for a job well done in these trying times. It can’t be easy dealing with all of these different personalities and the constantly changing tour conditions and manage to keep a smile on your face and not lose your patience.

Let me know if there is something I haven't covered here that you would like to know.

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@Jim The miles walked included some of the time on our own as we didn't want to spend our precious travel time in our hotel room. And, of course, you need to go out and find a place to eat when not with the group so more walking involved.

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Hi Mary — thanks so much for all this information! We are scheduled to take the Southern Italy tour in September. Were there specific days/bus rides that would be challenging for someone with motion sickness, or was it pretty much every bus ride? I do experience motion sickness (can’t go on certain amusement park rides, had a bad bout on a boat ride in choppy waters) but have been okay on the bus on our two previous RS tours….although there really weren’t any especially windy roads. Where were smaller buses used on the Southern Italy tour?
If you had it to do over again, what would you have done rather than going to Capri? Did you swim or go into the water anywhere (trying to decide whether to pack bathing suit, water shoes, etc)? Did you discover any restaurants, pastry shops, gelato places, etc. you’d recommend at any of the tour locations? Thanks!

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Hi Ruth,

The latter part of the bus ride from Rome to Vieste and then the beginning of the ride out of Vieste en route to Matera are challenging as well as the road taken out of Maiori on the way to Pompeii. I take Bonine as a matter of course whenever I am going to be on a bus as I don’t want to get motion sickness. And then you may or may not be on a boat tour in Vieste and en route to Maiori from Salerno depending on the weather conditions. The week before we were on this tour the seas were rough and all ferries (and I would assume boats) were canceled.

I took a bathing suit and never used it. You may have an opportunity to swim at the beach in Maiori depending on the weather and water temps.

We took a small bus from Maiori to meet up with the larger bus on the way to Pompeii (a larger bus would have difficulty navigating that road out) and also from Sorrento to the Capodimonte Museum in Naples. The only other thing to do on your free day in Sorrento is Sorrento which one of our tour members did. You would have to look at the RS guidebook or talk to the guide as to what to do in Sorrento. If I did go to Capri again I would skip the boat ride around the island if you have already done that in Vieste and en route from Salerno. It’s basically the same thing. I perhaps would take a hike to Villa Jovis on Capri if time permitted as that is a 50 minute hike each way or take a jaunt over to Anacapri and take the chairlift ride and see Villa San Michele. We went to Capri as it is so famous and have FOMO (fear of missing out). Would you regret not going?

Gelato was good everywhere. On our last day in Naples we ate at a place called Etto with our guide Caterina which is fairly near the archeological museum. It was really good. We had “salads”. You will need a phone with a scan code as there is no paper menu. On your walking tour of Naples you will probably stop at a bakery selling sfogliatelle which are little croissant type pastries filled with sweetened ricotta, little bits of candied orange peel and vanilla. Delicious. I believe they have them on offer at breakfast at the hotel you will be staying at.

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Thanks for the reply Mary. Sounds like a rigorous tour. Like you, we'll be on back-to-back tours with three days in between in Rome. Sounds like it'll be important to spend time resting.

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@Jim Give yourself a day of doing absolutely nothing. We tried to set out one morning in Rome (between tours) and my husband was simply to beat to go on. We went back to the hotel and slept. It was the smartest thing to do. We have another back to back tour in August and plan on doing nothing but eating and sleeping the day before the second tour starts. We have ambitious plans but need to realize that our bodies have another agenda.

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Thanks for the wonderful trip report Mary. Lots of good information there.

We've taken the RS Sicily tour, and I've contemplated taking the Southern Italy tour, although I've seen a majority of the sights offered on that tour while traveling independently. But, I haven't done the Amalfi coast, so I still might consider it.

I have to applaud you for being able to do two back-to-back tours. I'm younger than you, but I just remember those RS tours exhausting me. While on tour, I remember telling my husband that I was actually looking forward to those long bus rides, just so I could rest and maybe fall asleep! lol

We're scheduled to take the Best of the Adriatic tour. Lots of bus time on that one - I suspect I'll welcome it for the same reason mentioned above!

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Thanks for the report. We're seriously considering the Sicily tour for next year. We've been on one RS tour so far and loved it, and all of the RS tour vets on that one raved about the Sicily tour calling it one of the best.

I noted your comment about using your phone's camera instead of the DSLR. I'd been only using my phone for a few years until last summer when I brought my DSLR again and really enjoyed it. Now I'm torn if I should repack it-but not the extra equipment. Is your hubby still convinced the DSLR is the way to go?

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Hi Allan,

Sicily was a wonderful tour. I highly recommend it. It had a really good itinerary and diverse sightseeing. It hit all the right notes. Was it you that mentioned an aversion to fish in one of your forum posts? I mentioned food preferences in my report as frequently forum posters are concerned about certain food choices on the tour (vegan, vegetarian, dairy free, gluten free). I cannot tolerate fish at all (I know it’s very fishcentric in Sicily) and the guides were very accommodating. Just don’t be demanding. I didn’t demand specific food choices but the guides provided a reasonable alternatives such as a salad, veggies, etc. and I really appreciated it. You have paid for meals on the tour and are entitled to have something to eat. The fish market in Catania was not a problem odor wise as fresh fish does not smell and the fish there is fresh.

My husband says he will continue to take his DSLR because the cell phone does not shoot in raw and, therefore, he can do more in post with his images. You have more options as far as lenses go from wide angle to telephoto. The DSLR will do HDR in camera. It allows you to change depth of field. You can shoot in manual when necessary. You can change your shutter speeds. I guess it all depends on what you want to accomplish with your travel photography. I may continue to take my small DSLR and one “normal” lens on the next upcoming tours to Scotland and Ireland. We are just starting to look at our photos from the trip and will have to do a side by side comparison of the cellphone shots vs the DSLR shots and make a determination.

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Was it you that mentioned an aversion to fish in one of your forum
posts?

Yes, it was me. Even the smell is enough to make me gag. If it swims or walks in the water i want nothing to do with it. Glad to hear that the guide was accommodating. I was fully prepared to go my own way for meals if I had to.

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“Yes, it was me. Even the smell is enough to make me gag. If it swims or walks in the water i want nothing to do with it. Glad to hear that the guide was accommodating. I was fully prepared to go my own way for meals if I had to.”

Allan, don’t do that. I hate asking for any special treatment myself but my husband insisted on it and the guides were very gracious.

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Enjoyed your report Mary! I would love to do either one of these tours. Since you are an RS tour veteran, how were the group dynamics? You mentioned having trouble getting back into the social swing of things. Was that related to the group at all?

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Hi Tammy,

I enjoyed our Sicily group (first tour) more than the southern Italy group. I had expectations that we all knew what we signed up for with regards to masking rules and being good tour members in general, etc. One tour member on our Sicily tour felt the need to constantly impose her political views on my husband and myself. I didn’t respond to her but just said that my mother taught me that there were certain subjects that we don’t discuss in polite conversation. On the southern Italy tour the masking thing became an issue for many of us with regard to those who were skirting the rules. And then there was another couple who was consistently late for our morning departures. I tried to tell myself that perhaps they had some extenuating circumstance that made them late. But they never apologized for being late. Near the end of the tour I was tired and losing my patience for those people who felt they were so entitled. I have done many tours with RS and other companies and rarely encountered such inconsiderate behavior. Maybe it’s just a sign of the times and I should just lower my expectations. In the meantime we are getting ready for two more back to back RS tours so we will see how that goes.

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Hi Mary- Thank you for all of your tour guidance. I am leaving in 4 days for the Best of Sicily Tour. This will be my first RS tour, so your
helpful tips,and what to expect on the tour are very helpful and appreciated.

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Hi Mary,
Dana is my cousin and we will be on the Best of Sicily tour with 10 other family members. Your posts are a tremendous help; thank you. I live in Reno too! What part do you live in?

One question about the hills & stairs. Are they intermittent throughout the day or continuous (back-to-back). And, can we navigate them at our own pace? Thank you again, very helpful information.
Lynda

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Hi Lynda,

We live in the Somersett area. How about you?

At the Hotel Ambasciatori, you will take the elevator and then a flight of stairs to get to the rooftop where you will have your first group meeting, breakfast and the group dinner. It is a lovely view of Palermo from there. There are stairs to get from the bus parking to Monreale and back. There are also stairs at the Contessa’s place in Palermo. At Segesta, a bus takes you up to the ancient theater and there are stairs there as well. You can opt to take the bus back down to the bottom of the hill or walk as there is a wonderful view of the temple from the road if you want to photograph it. At Mt. Etna, you can do a climb up to the rim of a volcano which isn’t really too strenuous. The hotel in Taormina is really lovely but you will need to go down steps (and of course back up to the hotel) to get to the town. There are also steps at the Ancient Greek theater in Taormina. We chose to visit Isola Bella in Taormina and although there is a funicular part of the way to get there and back, there are numerous steps to get down to the beach and back up from there. Combine all these stairs with all the other walking you will do and it is quite a workout. None of these stair climbs are a death march but you do need to keep up with the group. We tend to push ourselves as we don’t want to miss anything. This is a wonderful tour and you will enjoy it. We were there April 26 to May 6 and the temps were moderate. It may be a bit warmer when you are there so check the weather before you go.

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Small world indeed! LOL! We are on Great Basin in Canyon Pines. We could easily walk to each other’s house. It would be fun to meet this summer after you get back from Sicily. There is another forum member here in Reno besides us. It might be a good idea to edit your post and delete your email. You can pm me as well.

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135 posts

Mary, this brings back so many memories. My husband and I did the Sicily tour followed by South Italy back-to-back. There were 2 other couples on both of our tours! We were there April into May, but it was much cooler than I expected—my buddy even bought a puffy jacket.

The itinerary has changed a little in Sicily as they used to do a winter and a summer tour. We got to experience Holy Week in Sicily—quite interesting. Rome was a little more crowded due to Easter, but it was ok. We were there for the birthday celebration of Rome, I think a celebration of the WWII liberation, May Day and one other holiday. Most of the extra crowds were Italians on holiday—fun.
We have also done back to back tours several times, usually with 3-7 days to get from one to the other. The toughest was BOE (21 days) followed by Scotland. We spent a few extra days in Paris (laundromat day—ha,ha) and then went to Bruges, then flew to Edinburgh. It is hard to transition from a good cohesive group to on your own, then adjusting to a new group.
We will finally be going to Portugal this fall, linking it with Ireland. It is a reschedule of our April 2020 trip to Portugal and the Loire Valley. Fingers crossed that it will happen.
Have fun with your second trip.

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What a great review and it brought back lots of memories of both tours. I have wonderful memories of the views in Vieste and the boat ride with the wonderful caves as well as time spent in Ravello.

We also found that the Binex proctored tests did not survive the month traveling in the suitcase. The did pretty well for the first 2 weeks but we unusable by the end. It was so much easier to just get it done at the pharmacy. I also took too many masks and did use the surgical ones at all.

Sicily was special and I am so glad we did it. Imagine my surprise when we ran into Sandra and Tom at the train station in Monterosso!

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Hi Mary
Thank you so much for this wonderful, timely trip report! My husband and I have been trying to decide whether to resurrect our 2020 & 2022 plans to take the Best of Sicily Tour in the Spring of 2023. Our 2020 tour was canceled 2 weeks before we were to leave so we booked again for May 2022. We had to cancel 2022 as my husband was diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo some radiation. So, now our concern for 2023 is " Are we too old (76 & 78) and can we hack the physical demands?" Obviously, no one can decide that for us, but having your detailed information about the tour is very helpful, especially about the hills & stairs (which is something I struggle with as I have mild COPD) We have looked at other tours that are less strenuous but nothing appeals as much as the Sicily one. It would be our fifth RS Tour. Your positive description and helpful hints have encouraged us to go ahead with the tour next year! I will likely PM you with some questions if you don't mind. Once again , thank you for such a detailed report.
Lynne
P.S. - Laughed out loud when you described the bus lineup to Ravello! We experienced this same thing in 2003! My husband grabbed onto the bar on the bus door to block others so our family could get on and almost got his arm broken!

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@Lynne Glad the report was helpful. I’d be happy to answer any questions if I can. My suggestion would be to give yourselves a break and not feel that you have to be on the go every waking minute. If something looks too difficult for you, skip it. The two toughest parts of the trip were the stairs up to Monreale but the guide takes it slow and the stairs back up to the hotel in Taormina from town but I am sure you can handle it. Our guides’ favorite saying was “piano, piano” meaning slowly, slowly. We really pushed ourselves to see as much as we could on our own time especially since we had been stuck at home for 2+ years. FOMO. Getting on that bus from Ravello back to Amalfi was sure a challenge for us Americans who tend to be polite, wait your turn types. It was a lot more crowded than when we were there in 2001. As our guide on the southern Italy tour said, we had to “get our Italian on” meaning claim your space.

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Loved all of the great insights posted. I sent a message into the general email but I am curious. I am traveling solo (which I am good with). But after coming off the last 2 years building a business I am feeling a little concerned about being on a schedule. I'm looking at Sicily in October and while I may do a lot of the guided things. I love venturing off in my own with my camera. I wish they offered a My Way Sicily option.

My question is . . . Do you HAVE TO do all of the group tours or can you opt out of some of the items except for being on the bus 🚌, train or boat when changing hotels/locations?

I haven't done a RS Tour. Did a Gate 1 tour in 2017 and one day I had enough and just wanted to be by myself. Thank you!

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Hi Dawn,

Welcome to the forum. No, you do not have to do all the group tours so you can opt out of some things. You just need to let your tour buddy and the guide know that you won’t be going. We had one woman on our tour of Sicily who opted out of every group meal unless it was a stop on the bus drive. We did everything as I have serious FOMO. And you will have time on your own on the tour. Not every minute of every day is scripted. Also be advised that this tour is very strenuous with lots of walking.

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Mary thank you for the great trip report and for sharing so many details. Although we are not on the same tour you were on, we will be in Italy this fall. I really needed to read about a positive trip as I was becoming overwhelmed reading about Covid and masks etc. and disappointing tours. I’m especially relieved to hear about the guides being so instrumental with food preferences. We will be traveling with my daughter who has Celiac and my husband who is type two diabetes. We have purchased the dietary restriction cards in Italian but again reading your post really helped me to rest assured that our guides are on our side (so to speak). We will also heed your advice to lay low when possible because although we have the desire to push on, our bodies are constantly reminding us that they are opposed to such feats, lol.

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1739 posts

Linda,

If your family has serious dietary concerns then you certainly need to inform the guide. The guides are very understanding and accommodating. They will work with you. Trust me on this. They do not want anyone getting sick on their watch and they don’t want you to starve either. Just don’t be demanding. You can opt out of activities if you are too tired to press on. You just need to be on the bus when getting from point a to point b. But I would still caution you to wear your masks properly when on the bus and in crowded situations. If you are out in the open air, you can probably safely remove the mask. We did.

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4 posts

Mary,

Thank you for the note. I am training for this at OrgangeTheory Fitness so I should be good with the walking. Power walking on inclines 😊. It is a reward for the hard work of losing 60lbs during COVID. Hope I don't gain it all back with pizza, wine and Gelato. 🤣

Dawn

Posted by
2318 posts

Wow, congrats on the weight loss. You deserve to be proud and you deserve some gelato.

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1739 posts

@dpoteau Wow! Good for you. I know how difficult that is.

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2329 posts

Mary, I’ve enjoyed reading your trip report here, as I was on the wonderful RS Sicily Tour back in 2014, also with the marvelous guide Tomasso. Erice was not on the tour itinerary at that time, but I spent 2 nights there before the tour began, and it was my favorite spot of all, and some of the best food too. Loved that Couscous di Pesce!
I’ve done 11 RS tours in all, between 2013 and 2018, in various countries, often back-to-back, all excellent! Have not done the Southern Italy tour, but did a week of it on my own post-Sicily.
I had great plans to spend 40 days in Italy in the spring of 2020, including the RS Tuscany Tour, but of course those plans all went “poof!” with the pandemic. Months of detailed planning, then a few days unraveling all those plans.
Dawn, congratulations on losing all those pounds during the pandemic! Unfortunately I think I found some of them here in California! To salute La Bella Italia I have been diligently following the P & G diet, you know that one I imagine. (Pasta and Gelato!) Two years of that and you pay.