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Insights on My Way Italy

Joining group for My Way Italy in Sept, my first my-way tour. Tour description says 1/2-hour with local guide starts your day & then it's on-your-own. I'm a seasoned solo, non-RS traveler, but I'm wondering, is this sufficient contact for a comfortable group orientation, especially starting out in our first town: winding, circuitous Venice?

Looks like times of arrival in each town leave limited free time on the first day. With 2 nights in each town, this leaves only 1 full day on the 2nd day. Read the sections on all the towns in RS Italy book, but seeking forum posters' hints on best use for first 1/2-day (or less), given time needed for one's personal orientation. Also, any personal insights on his recommended eateries as well as their own discoveries.

Has anyone taken the cooking course(s) in Florence and Varenna? Comments? PEG in PRESCOTT

Posted by
14267 posts

Hi Peg. My experience was the MyWay Alpine tour. We did not have any local guides - we had a (fabulous) tour manager who was with us from beginning to end. From our first evening until the end, she took us on a 1/2 hour orientation walk, which was optional. Except one place that was so tiny we got all the info on the short walk from the bus to the hotel. She also had "office hours" at breakfast every morning and usually for an hour or more once a day at convenient times for our schedule. She used the bus time to tell us about our next destination - all the things we could do and see. Then she went through the bus, discussing individual plans and answering questions one on one with each of us (we were a full group of 27). The bus time was always less than the tour description. I guess there's a built-in cushion for traffic or other delays. She also had recommendations for dinner and several times invited whoever wanted to join her for a meal. She also arranged a happy hour early on the tour - after that, the group had impromptu happy hours about every other day. On our first evening, about half the group made plans with new friends for their evening meal, the rest seemed to choose to be on their own. After that, most of us had meals in groups of 3 to 12.

If you can, spend 1-2 nights in Venice before the tour begins. Venice is a great place to get over jetlag. You can soak up the atmosphere just by riding the vaporetto along the Grand Canal, having a gelato or cappucino and enjoying the view, or wandering the back canals. It's hard to get really lost in Venice. You're never far from the Grand Canal, just follow the arrows. The time allocations for the other places sound reasonable to me, except Rome, but you have the option to spend more time there after the tour ends.

Posted by
4 posts

I was on the My Way Italy tour 4 years ago and it was excellent. The tour manager gave us plenty of info on the buses, at breakfasts and was available for questions at various times in the evening. I would echo the previous commenter regarding going to dinners or day trips with other members of the tour if you so desire. There always seems to be great people to mix with. We always plan several days on the front and back end of these tours to take in extra sights. We will be on the My Way France trip this September and hope it will be as good as the Italy tour.

Posted by
672 posts

Hi Peg, we're signed up for the My Way Italy tour beginning September 25. I was a little surprised to read your mention of 1/2 hour with a local guide. I don't see that in my info and my experience is that these tours employ no local guides. Maybe I missed something? We've done the My Way Alpine tour, but I don't think that our Tour Escort fit the norm. He gave us absolutely no helpful information, told us early on that he would have no restaurant recommendations, and was mostly absent. I know this is not the intent of the My Way tours, but it did teach me that it's best to go well prepared.

In planning for this tour, I looked at past scrapbook entries and I found them to be a wonderful resource. They gave me lots of ideas about what we might expect and what we might want to do at each stop. Unfortunately, they no longer publish tour reviews, which were a great resource for planning. I've already signed up for The Offbeat Tour and The Bar Tour with the much-recommended Alessandro Schezzini.

To answer your cooking class question, I took a cooking class in Varenna while traveling independently. It was at Ristorante Il Caminetto and I had a great time. I had hoped to do it again on this tour, but the one full day we're in Varenna isn't a class day.

My experience on both the regular RS tours and the My Way tour has been that he draws an amazing group of interesting and friendly people. Groups bond fairly quickly, something that has added greatly to our tour experiences.

Posted by
905 posts

I went on My Way Best of Europe in 2013. My experience was similar to the others: escort was interactive during the bus time, at breakfasts and any other time we saw him out and about. He was always willing to answer questions and suggest things to do. He arranged a happy hour as a group where we all brought food and drinks to the courtyard of the hotel where we stayed, the group dinner the night before our departure, and a gondola ride in Venice for those who wished to participate. We paid for all of these out of our own pockets, but doing them as a group made the cost less. I seem to recall he bought chocolates and snacks of some type for passing around the bus, too.
Our bus time was long a couple of days, but we went from Paris to Rome, so we covered A LOT of territory. Even so, we always had time to do things the day of arrival. The days are long in the summer so it was light until 9 or 10 pm. In Rome, we scheduled the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel for the night we arrived because that was the only day they had evening entry. Highly recommend that if it works with your schedule.
We are leaving for My Way France in about a month. We really enjoy this method of travel. I don't have to worry about getting from point A to point B, or where I'm going to lay my head, so I can spend my limited time on what to do when we get there. Once I retire, we will go back to planning it all ourselves, but I don't have time for that in my current work situation.
You'll have a wonderful time, I guarantee! :)

Posted by
16847 posts

As mentioned, most tour members tackle Venice on their own for a day or two before the tour starts, so they're already oriented before the group meets. If you've just arrived, however, a half-hour orientation walk is available on the first night. Your tour escort/manager will later be available to you at breakfast on free days, in the hotel lobby upon arrival, on the bus, by phone, etc., as others have described.

Regarding time in each city, the My Way Italy tour gets into most new destinations earlier than our other tours, not stopping for any significant sightseeing on the way. So while you might be promised your free time in Florence or Rome after 2:00 p.m., we could actually arrive to the hotel by noon. (Be prepared to drop your luggage and take off, as rooms are not always ready this early.) Traffic, Cinque Terre train schedules, and group specifics all can have an effect.

Posted by
40 posts

My husband and I did our first-ever trip to Europe in the summer of 2013 on the Rick Steves My Way Austria/Switzerland/Germany My Way tour. This particular itinerary isn't offered now but it was a fabulous tour. Started in Vienna and ended in St. Goar (not far from Frankfurt). Our tour escort, Ruth Ann, was fabulous. She didn't schedule or plan actual sightseeing but was a wealth of information for suggestions and/or questions. She made sure to spend time with each person, individually, during the bus rides and organized a group dinner for us at our hotel on the final night (we paid but she took care of making the arrangements). She was also available first thing in the mornings during the breakfast time to help group members with any plans or questions they had for the day. In the larger cities she took those group members who were interested on a brief orientation walk of the local neighborhood and in Munich she showed us how to buy train tickets, etc. This was very useful because one takes the train from St. Goar to the airport in Frankfurt and the St. Goar station isn't a manned ticketing station. She said that often the ticket machines at some of the unmanned stations don't work properly so we bought our tickets in Munich where there were plenty of ticket agents. Very glad we did this because some members of our group waited until they were in St. Goar and the ticket machine at the station wasn't working!

Even though the transportation and lodging were arranged, I still did a tremendous amount of research on each city or village ahead of time (months of planning). This was to make sure we did or saw the things that were important to us. Be sure to note the necessity of getting some tickets ahead of time (before you leave the US) for some sights (Vatican, etc.).

We are looking at another My Way Tour in 2017, probably the My Way Italy, and I've already started some pre-planning. I would recommend this style of tour for anyone who wants the freedom of organizing your own activities and all meals but doesn't want to have to plan the logistics of transportation and lodging.

Happy travels!

Posted by
47 posts

Thanks, all who responded with useful, excellent recommendations. I misspoke about having a "tour guide;" I meant to say Tour Manager. Been to Venice twice, years ago; so I'll arrive on day 1 of the Tour and rely on RS maps & recommendations for places to eat. Same with Firenze. About cooking classes, I'm a free-lance food writer, so I'll be signing up for FlorenceTown's class and Il Caminetto in Varenna. Still, I would welcome any suggestions for a 1-day class in Rome.

Just acquired a new "toy," an Android tablet, to be able to download Rick's app, which I haven't done yet as I'm still learning. Not very tech-savvy, so would appreciate feedback. Is it useful only for museums, churches & art/history sites?

Posted by
14267 posts

I've used and enjoyed many of Rick's audio tours on an MP3 player. Print the maps. I think that will be easier than trying to follow the map on a tablet.

If they aren't included in the app, you can get them for free at iTunes.