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Heart of Italy (2020) - May 22

Hi Travelers,

It's early, but we have booked on the Heart of Italy tour for May 22, 2020! This will be our second RS tour and we very much looking forward to this one (Italy!!!). To help prepare, if any of you have been on this tour and have helpful insights, I would greatly appreciate hearing from you (hotels, elevators, weather, laundry, etc.). Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Posted by
736 posts

Not that early--I've just booked a RS tour (my 8th!) for next Sept.
Heart of Italy was my 2nd (2017), and it was a perfect first taste of Italy. Hotels don't necessarily stay the same from year to year, and I didn't do any laundry on this shortish tour, other than sink laundry. Volterra is VERY steep, but that shouldn't be an issue for people in their 30s. We had perfect, sunny but not hot weather in March. Have a terrific tour!

Posted by
7106 posts

Yea! Heart of Italy was my first RS tour back in 2013. We went about the same time as you're booked for - maybe ours started on the 18th or so but very close.

Hotel-wise, I agree with Liz that they may change. Our hotels were: Rome - Hotel Sonya (had an elevator and a really nice breakfast), Volterra - Hotel La Locanda (don't remember about the elevator or breakfast but oddly I remember who I ate with!), Monterosso al Mare - Albergo Pasquale (group was split between there and the sister hotel Villa Steno. Had an elevator and excellent breakfast. Mama made the lemon marmalade - unbelievable, Papa did the croissants) and the hotel in Florence is no longer a hotel I don't think.

I think people did laundry or had laundry done in Monterosso. I know on subsequent tours where we stayed in Monterosso that was done. I'm a sink wash person so don't pay a whole lot of attention.

Weather - rained a LOT in Florence so take a waterproof rain jacket with hood. It also stormed the first night we were in Monterosso but our awesome guide got us going from Lucca a little earlier and told everyone who intended to do the ferry to the other villages to do it that afternoon as she thought it might not be running the next day due to the storm forecast. She was 100% correct but because of her leadership those of us who wanted to see the towns from the water had the opportunity to do so. She got us to the ferry for the last departure of the day. This was not an included activity so we all paid for our own ferry fare (very inexpensive) but she organized and directed us, lol!

Odds and ends:
- Rome - I'd arrive early if you can. We got in 2 nights ahead and I'd do 3 nights if I were doing it again so I had 2 full days ahead of the tour in Rome. This is a busy tour (well, they all are, lol) so it's good to be over jet lag and be able to hit the ground running.
- Volterra - I'd do more research on what to see here. The Etruscan Museum was really good. I loved the wine tasting here - in a medieval cellar. I was with my brother, SIL and their 2 adult sons (20 and 25) who had never done a wine tasting. The guy was so charming they still talk about it.
- Lucca - In retrospect, I'd pop in quickly and get a takeaway sandwich from somewhere and head up to the park on the walled area to eat. We dithered around too long and almost didn't get a bike ride in on the wall. We had 45 minutes left and did it in under 30 but I felt a little freaked out on time management there. This is a short stop on the transit from Volterra to Monterosso with a walking tour, time for lunch and maybe the bike ride. Very cute town.
- Monterosso - I've got a fear of heights so I've never hiked the trail here. If you plan to hike, low cut trail shoes should be fine and you can wear them for all your other sightseeing. I love eating at Cantina di Miky which is right on the beach. Wonderful setting, wonderful food.
- Florence - I'd add at least another night here if you can. There is so much to see. We all liked the Galileo Museum - very interesting and different from an art museum.

Clothing wise - I am old and don't wear shorts but I needed 2 pair of capris for this time of year. You'll need to be cautious of dress codes when visiting churches as knees and shoulders need to be covered so shorts don't always work. It did cool off in the rain in Florence so I wound up being comfortable in long pants.

This is a wonderful taste of Italy. You won't be able to stay away!

Posted by
736 posts

As an example of things changing from tour to tour, in 2017 our tour stayed in Levanto to visit the Cinque Terre, not Monterosso.

Posted by
7106 posts

Thanks Liz. I suspect at times Monterosso may reach full saturation with RS tours, lol! I stayed in Levanto on the Village Italy tour but also stayed in Monterosso on the 21 Best of Europe.

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you all for your posts! Your comments and suggestions are so helpful. While we know weather may change year to year, those of you that took the tour about the same time of year have given me a better idea of what we should bring with us on this tour. Trust me, our Holland/Belgium Tour in June 2018 was extremely hot, so rain wont be a problem for us! Additionally, going into Cinque Terre its good to know our group may be split up.

Thank you all! - Allison

Posted by
1351 posts

It’s was our first RS tour and too long ago to be helpful with specifics, but I can contribute some thoughts. We went in May and had to buy an umbrella in Florence and then I think we had to buy a second one in Luca. We’ve bought more of those spur-of-the moment umbrellas on trips than I care to remember - drenching rain will do that to you. In those days the tour went the opposite direction, but covered the same territory.

I wish : we had included Venice in our itinerary- many fellow tour mates did.
had shipped wine home from the wine tasting in Voltera - seeing how much a good Brunello
costs in the States, it would have been cheaper/ a wash cost wise
had a clearer idea of what we wanted to see in Rome - Borghese Gallery? inside the Colosseum
Forum? The Capitoline Museum? and made prior arrangements.
I was glad that we arrived early by one day and added one day at the end. Any extra days you can add will be worth it..

Posted by
97 posts

This tour was our first last year, and we loved it. The above tips about Lucca (grab a sandwich, ride the bikes) and three extra days in Rome prior are great. Wish we had done the same. In Rome, try to see the Borghese Gallery early and spend time wandering into random churches as you get over jet lag. Hotels will vary, but all we had were fine. I think I recall an elevator, but it was slow and I think we used the stairs instead. We stayed in Levanto rather than Cinque Terre and had an opportunity for coin op laundry - a bonding experience with some of our travel buddies. The laveteria was next to a park and there was a bar next door where we could drink wine while we waited for clothes. Not bad.

Clothes tips for potentially showery time of year: We just got back from RS Southern Italy tour and experienced three torrential thunderstorms during our 13 days. I was prepared clothing-wise with a Lands End Rash Guard (meant for surfing) that looks like a long sleeve tee shirt with nylon capris and shorts meant for water as well. I got wet, but dried very quickly. I wish I'd been wearing similar shoes instead of my tennies, but with time they dried out. Husband's shoes also go soaked and it was touch and go for a day or so whether they would dry. I was glad, too for a longer waterproof raincoat with a hood. The wind would have made umbrellas useless. Consider also having a purse or bag that can get wet and dry easily.

Also, even though I took our hand of what I thought I needed, I ended up wearing only half of what I took. The other stuff just got in the way and ended up making me grumpy. Check out the minimalist lists in the packing light section of the travel forum. Believe them.

Mostly, have fun! It's a wonderful introduction to Italy with plenty of time to enjoy la dolce vita. We can't wait to return (and we just got back last week!)

Posted by
13 posts

Very good suggestions here already. I want to put in a vote for the value of a moderately wide-brimmed (water proof) hat. Mine had ties so it worked when it was windy. For me, a hat like that is better than an umbrella (it goes where I go). One thing I wanted when we hiked the Cinque Terre path was hiking poles. I saw some German/Swiss tourists who were silver-haired and they were motoring up the hills at a great pace with those hiking poles serving to propel and stabilize them. I now have a pair (that retract so they are packable) and if I expect hills, I take them. We love Italy and Venice and Rome, especially.