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Italy Villages May 2 - 15, 2016. Anyone else signed up?

I am a well seasoned traveler, but this is my first Rick Steves tour. In addition, this is my first solo European trip. I would love to connect with some of the other members of this tour.

Posted by
152 posts

I know you're not asking...but just have to say...we're on that tour now...in Tuscany...heaven..wonderful guide, wonderful group of fellow travelers.

Posted by
33 posts

Yes, Cathy and company, leave some wine for us too. We're on the Oct. 5 Villages Tour. Have fun!

Posted by
36 posts

Oooh,
I'd love to hear from those of you on this tour now!! Please, details! thanks for responding. Any advice for us?

Posted by
152 posts

Did not drink up all the wine....yum! And didn't miss a day without cappuccino and usually gelato...not necessarily at the same time!
My one suggestion is that if it's feasible time-wise, it's great to add a few days in Venice either before or after the tour. We were there for four days prior to meeting the group in Padova, and it was easy to hop on a train at the Venice station...the ride to Padova is less than 30 minutes long. We stayed at the Locanda Al Leon...small and close to San Marco, but not too close! Have a wonderful time.

Posted by
646 posts

I did this tour in 2012. Had a great time. Montone and Assisi were highlights for me, but the entire trip was full of wow moments. While Pisa is not on the itinerary, I did take the train there from Lucca. While very touristy, I don't think you should pass it by when you are that close.

I flew into Milan and spent one day there in order to see the Last Supper and the Duomo. Then took the train to Venice for two nights I'd been to Venice before, so I spent more time on Murano and Burano on this trip.

Posted by
36 posts

Thanks Eric.
I've seen Pisa and Venice, but I really appreciate the advice. I am working on seeing The Last Supper and would appreciate any advice on Milan, as that is where I am going pre-tour.

Anyone else going with me???

Posted by
36 posts

Still hoping that someone who is booked on this tour wants to chat before we leave.

I'd also love to hear from the group who recently went on this tour. What was your favorite part? Any tips?

Lori

Posted by
8198 posts

I went the Fall of 2014. The itinerary has changed slightly, I think, but my favorite part was watching the dog hunt truffles and then the farmhouse meal afterward. Really, this tour is so much fun. There are so many tastings...wine, olive oil (ick), honey, wine, lol. Your guide may have things they like to do so each tour may be a bit different. I loved the small villages (well, that's the point, isn't it?) and the camaraderie of the group. I had been in Italy on a couple of other RS tours (Heart of Italy and 21 Best of Europe) but this definitely had a different feel. Some art, some cathedrals, lots of food, lots of wine! I loved staying in Orvieto!

I also enjoyed Padua and wished I had given myself a full day there before the tour started as I missed a lot. I also stayed an extra night at Orta San Giulio which I would not do again. I would plan to go to Milan the afternoon after the tour ends giving myself the morning to walk the Sacra Monte, have lunch, more gelato at Gelataria Artiginale Eliot on the piazza by the lake and then get a taxi in to Milan. Transportation from Orta is a bit difficult but your tour guide will work out arrangements for everyone. There wound up being 5 of us who were getting transport in to Milan so Trina arranged a taxi pick up for us and we split the bill. Very easy, so budget for a taxi ride. Our van was about 150€ for 5, but if you are alone, I would expect it would be about 100€. We actually took it to the hotel where I was staying as one of the other couples was staying there as well. My brother and SIL and I saw the Duomo area then they caught the Malpensa express out to the airport for the night.

You didn't ask, but my least favorite part was Civita di Bagnoregio. It looks great in pictures but I have a fear of heights and did NOT like the causeway over to the village, plus I had no idea that almost no one lives there any more and it is basically just a day trip destination with lots of stray cats. I know this is a favorite of Rick's and of many others so you may enjoy it!

BTW, on the 7 RS tours I have done, very very few tour members were aware there was an RS forum!

Posted by
763 posts

I took this tour several years ago, starting in the end of April. It was fabulous. Do bring layers of clothing as we had some cool rainy weather and some warm weather too. When cool and dsmp I was cold at times. Some hotels had turned off the heat and nights were cooler than expected; leggings and wool socks with a long sleeved T were my pj's for a few nights.

I started the trip on my own in Venice and through this forum contacted another couple whom I spent day one of the tour, before the meeting time. I recommendMonasterystays.com for Venice; I stsyed in a large single room about 10 minutes walk from St Marks for less than 70 Euro.

I did spend about 2 nights in Milan after the tour was over, seeing the large Cathedral and it's roof, the opera house and more.

Enjoy Italy.

Posted by
36 posts

Thought I'd chime in again. Would love to chat with some of the people on this tour. It's so much fun to get to know each other in advance and be able to talk about some of the thing we will be seeing. Hope some of you are checking the forums now and would like to talk.

Posted by
20 posts

Hi Lori -
I'm going on the same tour. Have also traveled extensively but this is only my second Rick Steves tour. Looks like a fun one from others comments here!
Maureen

Posted by
36 posts

Thank you so much Pam and June! What great info. I really appreciate it. You made me rethink the packing list and I appreciate the clarification of the taxi arrangements back to Malpensa. I hope there are others who will share the ride, that would be great. Did you use a lot of cash while you were there? I have a special bank account for traveling and was trying to figure out how much I need to put in there. Of course I'll bring my credit card, but I was just wondering.

Glad to hear from you Maureen, I was sort of losing hope ;).

I, too am a well-seasoned traveler, but this is my first Rick Steves' Tour. I have been traveling with my son for many years and have taken him all over the world, but he is 18 now and going away to college, so I thought an RS tour might be a good entre into the solo traveler scene. So I guess we have a lot in common. It will be nice to have another "solo" on the trip. did you buy the single supplement? I did. I thought about it a lot and then went for it. I haven't had a roommate since college (and that was a looonng time ago ;)) I read that the single rooms can be small, but hey, it's Europe, all the rooms are small. lol

I have begun my pre-planning and am having a blast cutting up my guidebook (something I have never done before) and making arrangements for my pre-tour stay in Milan. I also started my spreadsheet. I started doing this when we went to China. It was so complex that I created a spreadsheet with everything on it and have been hooked ever since. I don't look at it very much while I am on the trip, but it's great for organization during planning and a wonderful reference tool if I need it while I am away. I live in South Florida, but was born and raised in NJ. I miss the snow. Will you be arriving early? Where are you flying in from? Are you doing Venice or Milan? I chose Milan because I had never been there before and had been to Venice (although I loved Venice and it was a tough choice).

I have been to Italy a few times and Assisi and Siena will be a repeat, but they are both wonderful, so I didn't care. Quite frankly, put me in Italy and I am happy as a clam. It will be nice to be able to notice some details since I won't be so overwhelmed. They are both overwhelming and remarkable cities. I can't believe that people actually live in Assisi.

Looking forward to hearing from you soon.
Lori

Posted by
20 posts

Lori,
Isn't planning half the fun? I will fly into Venice and go straight to Padova. Since I will be there a few days early I may venture back into Venice one of those days. I have such great memories of what it was like in Venice in November with fewer tourist that I almost don't want to go back in May ;) - but I probably won't be able to resist.
I'll spend an extra day in Milan on the way out. I am also traveling solo and opted for the single room. I shared a room on my last tour and had a wonderful roommate so I think it can work either way.

Posted by
8198 posts

I mostly use cash. I rarely charge anything on an RS tour altho there might have been a time or 2 I charged a bigger dinner. I did this trip with my brother and SIL so a time or 2 one of us paid for the whole meal for the 3 of us. I think Rick recommends having a budget of $50/day or so for meals that aren't covered, wine, gelato, drinks on the patio area at the agritourismo, lol, etc. My gelato (or actually sorbet) budget was pretty high!

I also did the single supp. There was one other solo on the trip and she actually insisted she take me to dinner because with me having paid for the single supp she also had a private room. I thought that was so sweet of her! I think the smallest room I had was in Padova. If I recall correctly the others were all double sized rooms.

The guide will offer to batch people together that have similar departure flights so there will be some shared cabs. We also spent an extra night in Orta and in Milan and there was a couple who was doing the same so all 5 of us shared a cab in to Milan at the end. It worked out really well, but you do need cash for that as well.

As you tear apart your guidebook, so be sure to take the index! I didn't the first time I went and in the bigger places it was difficult to find things in the book. I've converted to an e-guidebook on my iPad Mini which I like a lot.

BTW, I ~loved~ the guide we had at the cathedral in Assisi. Wow, he was so good!

I know both of you will have a wonderful time!

Posted by
36 posts

Thanks Pam,
I hadn't thought about the index. I'll go back and check. I divided the book into towns where we will have free time and put them in clear report covers with the slider to hold it together. I appreciate the info on the single rooms. There was some discussion on the boards of the single rooms being tiny. So it's nice to know that it may not be that way. Thanks for the heads up on the budget. That was very helpful. There are a lot of meals that are not included. My wallet is mildly upset about this, but my logical side realizes that this is a great opportunity to try some better restaurants or ones that are highly regarded. Tour meals tend to be good, but are prepared for large groups. I've gone on Trip Advisor and have some recommendations for the towns we will be on our own. (In addition to Rick's recommendations). Glad to know about the cash for the taxi. I really appreciate you taking the time to write so many great details.

Maureen,
You are so right! I have such a good time researching and prepping. I don't usually pack this light so I think I'm going to do a practice run to see if I have too much or have room for more. I was in Venice in May and it was wonderful! The weather was perfect. Yes, there will probably be a lot more people there, but I tend to sort of erase them in my head and focus only on the place I am visiting.

I'll be arriving in Padua the day the tour starts. I booked a noon train, but may change my mind and leave earlier. I didn't realize that May 1st is a holiday in Italy, so we will be faced with a national holiday and a Monday (most museums are closed on Mondays) during our pre-trip. I've made arrangements for a couple of private tours the day I arrive and will most likely ask the guide for recommendations during the two "down" days. If nothing else, walking through Milan would be amazing. I don't think I'm going to the Lake region unless someone says that it's something I shouldn't miss.
Lori

Posted by
152 posts

Lori and all~
Just want to throw in a thought for you...
There is a Puccini concert held almost every evening in a lovely little church in Lucca (his hometown). You don't need to be an opera buff to enjoy this....it's a nice way to spend an evening and you can follow it up with a yummy dinner. The hotels in Lucca have tickets and can pass on walking directions.

Cathy

Posted by
36 posts

Cathy,
Thank you soooo much. I will absolutely be doing that!

Maureen - sounds like a fun evening. Maybe we can do it together.

Lori

Posted by
36 posts

I have begun to put my suitcase together (I know it's early - but, hey, it's half the fun to prep). I have never attempted to pack this lightly and it seems like it might work, but I suspect the "last few items" may not be as few or as small as I am anticipating. I've also begun some research for when we have free time. I'm getting more excited with each day.

Posted by
152 posts

I'm seriously not trying to hijack this thread, but I always appreciate knowing good things ahead of time. You'll be in Deruta at a wonderful, wonderful ceramics workshop. Their prices are great and we have had purchases shipped home twice and everything is lovingly packed and arrives in perfect condition. If this is something you're interested in, it's such a great opportunity to find some lovely pieces... I regretted not buying more the first trip (concerned about shipping) but more than made up for it the second trip lol!
Ok, will try not to "chime in" again!

Cathy

Posted by
12 posts

My sister and I will be going on the Villages tour in June. I have never been to Italy and she has not been overseas for 20 years. We are flying in to Venice two days early. How do you get from the airport to your hotel?

Posted by
152 posts

After arriving at the Venice airport, you can take a vaporetto to a stop near your hotel, or, for an expensive but wonderful arrival, you can take a water taxi. There are threads on the "Italy" forum that address this and were very helpful when we flew into Venice last year. Have fun!

Posted by
12 posts

Lori
How was your trip? I will be going on the Villages tour in about 3 weeks. I would love any tips you have to offer.
Denise

Posted by
20 posts

We had a great trip - sorry I am speaking for your too Lori ;) - and a wonderful group of fellow travelers.
Maureen