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Heart of Italy Tour returned 2 weeks ago

Here's a quick review of the Heart of Italy tour my husband and I went on last month.

We had a GREAT time!

Volterra is magical, we enjoyed that more than we expected to. The town pretty much shuts down from 1-3 but our local tour guide, Annie Adair, arranged for 4 of us to have lunch at an Agotourismo nearby which was amazing.

We stayed in Bonasolla, a 3 minute train ride from Levanto so technically not one of the 5 towns of the Cinque Terre but beautiful and uncrowded with a fantastic beach.

The hotels were all great, the Torre Guelfa in Florence being the nicest.

The dinners were all good, each one had one thing that was really great and one thing that was bit of a miss but in the whole good food and a really fun atmosphere.

Everything on the tour is so well planned, the tour guides really work hard to make sure everyone is taken care of and having a good time.

One last thing -- wait until Florence to buy scarves and buy more than you think you should. You won't be sorry!

Posted by
3580 posts

Scarves make good gifts, are unbreakable and lightweight. Bonasolla has been on my list of places to stay. I visited there on a day trip once and was impressed with its small size and charm. There was regular train service to the CT every 2-3 hours.

Your RS tour sounds great.

Posted by
78 posts

Hi Gretchen
We did a RS Best of Europe 21 day tour this year and loved it. Heart of Italy is one we're seriously thinking about next. I have a couple of questions? Was there time to visit the Cinque Terre given you were staying so close by train? How were the hotels? We had some good ones and some that could have been much better.
Any information is helpful. I'm so glad you had a wonderful time. Italy is great to visit.
JoAnn

Posted by
200 posts

Hi Jo Ann,

When we were in Bonasolla the entire day was free. About a third of our group went hiking, some others went into Vernazza (I think) and took a ferry ride and explored the other towns. My husband and I and the couple we were traveling with sat on the beach until about 4 then took the train to Riomaggiore (maybe 15 minutes) then took a boat up to Vernazza -- a 2 hour harbor tour that we arranged before we left. He left us in Vernazza where we had dinner then took the train back to our hotel.

The whole time you feel like you are living in a postcard!!

As for the hotels I thought they were all good. The one in Bonasolla was the least good. Very charming with great service but the furnishings were Ikea type and stuff in the bathroom like shampoo and soap was in short supply. BUT you are staying a 2 minute walk from the Ligurian Sea in a tiny town with nearly no other tourists so I would stay there again in a minute. And truth be told I have Ikea furniture at home. ;)

The hotel in Rome was very nice the hotel in Florence was nothing short of amazing and the hotel in Volterra was nice, centrally located. I opened my window and looked out on this Medieval street and was swept away.

Posted by
853 posts

jpl,

If you are interested in a tour of Italy that goes to Cinque Terre, take a look at Village Italy. It was our first of five RS tours and a top notch tour. It does go to Cinque Terre and some lovely small villages that we had a great time in.Hotels were good and food and wine was great.

Have a great trip,
Mimi

Posted by
106 posts

Thanks for the tip about the scarfs!! Thanks for the excellent recap!!

Just a comment on RS tours. All the planning, packing, worrying, before the tour etc. etc. Once one is on the tour all the anxiety is gone. The tours are so well run and the guides so helpful. It is great to relax and just be along for the ride!!

Posted by
7 posts

Hi Gretchen,
I was wondering about the amount of walking and stair climbing on this tour. My husband is 69, I am 61 and we plan on being in decent physical shape by the fall (when we plan on travelling). Is there a lot of strenuous activity, such as a lot of stairs? I have read other posts and most people say it isn't too bad. We could always opt out of activities that may be too much for my husband. We really want to have a Rick Steves experience instead of the other types of tour groups. Any insight is greatly appreciated!!!

Posted by
260 posts

Nancy: as long as you are in reasonably good shape, no R. S. tours are all that difficult. I also have been on trips where folks who needed a bit more time (to get to a site, etc.) simply left a little early and the rest of the tour caught up with them. That was very considerate on everyone's part!