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Question about Best of Italy Tour

My 70 yr old parents want to see Italy - they have never been to Europe before, so thinking that the RS Tour would be perfect for them.

A couple of questions:

  • With the tour format, will they be able to skip the schedule and just choose to walk around and take it easy, if they so decide? The main reason for the tour is so that they dont have to worry about trains, local transportation etc. But once situated, they might want to slow down and do their own stuff.

  • how international are these tour groups? My parents love to meet folks from other countries and was wondering if the mix of folks on the tour is mainly US based or also from Asia, Europe etc ?

Posted by
133 posts

oh wow - just read about “my way” I think they will love the format! will be sure to share with them!

thanks much.

Posted by
183 posts

I haven't been on that particular tour but I've been on many, including in Italy.

Generally people participant in most/all activities. Occasionally an activity might be skipped if someone isn't feeling well or an activity is more physical than someone is able to do but the guide has to be informed beforehand. We did skip one museum tour in Rome because we had already been to the museum the year before. The guide told us when they'd be done and where to meetup with the group.

There are generally at least a few hours of free time every day. In the morning the guide will post suggestions of thing to do during free time or restaurant options for meals on your own.

If you are just looking for transportation and hotels have you looked at

Typically most tours have a large contingent from the greater Seattle area where Rick Steves is based but there are people who live all over the US. We live outside of Boston.

Posted by
12648 posts

I just did the Best of Italy this fall. I'm 73 but had been on a number of Rick Steves tours and knew what to expect. I think I might have been the oldest member because I generally was assigned hotel rooms on the ground or first floor.

Here's my Trip Report.

I did go off on my own several times. I skipped the group walk in Venice because I'd been there before and skipped the 1st afternoon activities in Rome because again, I'd done it before and was going to meet friends for dinner. There is absolutely no problem going off on your own but they'll want to let the guide know what they are doing as well as their "travel buddies", a RS tour standard where each tour member checks to see if another is there when it's time to leave.

There are some times when they will need to stay with the group, usually that will be on a transit day when you've stopped to see a sight, have lunch on your own and then head to the bus which may be parked a bit away from the city center.

Our tour had 4 Canadians on it but that is the extent to "global" coverage by and large.

How good a shape are your parents in? I was walking 6 miles a few days a week before my tour. I did not do enough stair work for Italy and I knew it going it. There are a lot of hills.

If they don't want something this intense, they might look at Road Scholar and carefully assess the "activity level" for tours in which they are interested. I've not done a Road Scholar tour of Italy but I have done a number in France and England.

Posted by
133 posts

this is all very helpful - ty!

just to provide more context about their plans ( which I am making…)

They fly into Zurich.. head to Interlaken and spend a few days there. I think they can handle Switzerland on their own.

I am thinking from there they will go to Milan start the RS Tour - and then fly out of Rome.

This past summer travelled from Venice to Interlaken - so should be able to provide the details they need.

Planning for Aug/Sept 2023

Posted by
12648 posts

For their pre-tour time, I"d probably have them stay in the mountains either in Lauterbrunnen or up on the mountainside in Muerren or Wengen rather than not in the mountains in Interlaken.

I'd give them 2 nights minimum in Milan depending on what they want to see. If they want to see the Last Supper they'll need tickets well ahead. Buy from the museum itself. I added the English tour for an extra 8E and was glad I did. Very helpful and the tour guide was excellent. They can also get tickets ahead for the Duomo to access the inside of the cathedral, the rooftop, the excavated area under the Piazza and the Museum. There are also interesting museums there if they like.

I'd go to Varenna a day ahead just to get in place and to give them some flex time in case of a train strike.

They might enjoy an extra night or two in Rome although many on my tour left on the last day. I stayed an extra day to see the Aurea Domus (Nero's palace that is now underground) and the Borghese Gallery.

TBH, if they are new to European travel, I'd go with the full group tour and not the My Way. It's easier to manage because someone else is doing the hard work of getting tickets to all the sights, etc.

Posted by
43 posts

My wife and I did the Rick Steves Italy My Way tour in 2012. The most difficult portion was the first day landing in Venice, making our way to the island, and finding our hotel. We arrived two days early before the tour started. We did far too much walking those first few days as we had never been to Italy before and wanted to take it all in. As for the tour, you can skip any or all suggested activities in each city. Yes, you will need to walk to the bus with your own luggage and climb stairs at the hotels. In Monterosso in the Cinque Terre region it is a bit of a walk from the train station to town where the hotels are located.

We just recently completed the Best of Europe in 21 days tour with Rick Steves which of course is a guided tour. (Our guide was Andy Steves). Comparing that to a My Way tour, we now prefer the guided tour as we missed so much being on our own each day. However, if you are concerned about how strenuous these tours are, perhaps My Way is the best choice. You will enjoy Italy either way.

Posted by
6172 posts

We took the RS Best of Italy tour and absolutely loved it!

Here’s a few things to consider:
If they’re going to take the My Way Italy tour, to begin in Venice, I would recommend taking the train to Stresa for two nights and then take the train to Venice. That would split the train time in half. Stresa is very relaxing and has a gorgeous garden on Isola Bella - a 5-minute ferry ride, and a beautiful setting of grand historical hotels.

If they decide on the Best of Italy tour, they can head to Varenna after Switzerland.

Taking the My Way tour, they will miss the gorgeous Dolomites that are on the Best of Italy tour, but they will have spent time in Switzerland’s mountains already.

Would they be tired if they were taking a 2-hour active walking tour of their nearest large city? If so, definitely choose the My Way tour.

If your parents love to meet people from other countries, they will be meeting local Italian tour guides on the Best of Italy tour in Florence, Assisi & Rome. Learning as much Italian as possible before their trip (and using it) while doing the My Way tour can also help.

Posted by
7557 posts

About those "walking tours". My experience last summer on two different RS tours was that they quickly became "standing tours." Not an issue if standing is not difficult for your parents, but I found that standing that much began to wear on me. Near the end of the second tour I was opting out of the last hour of these types of tours when held in a museum.

I do agree that you learn a great deal on a guided tour and that most of the local guides are excellent in what they present. I just had a few too many of these walking tours by the time I had done 2 back to back tours. I also found that some of my tour mates would ask "rabbit" questions and the tour guides would follow those rabbits for about 10 minutes while we stood there. I am pretty sure that even the person who asked about local smoking habits never anticipated a 10 minute answer involving the history of cigarettes.

Posted by
215 posts

If it’s there first time, I’d recommend the guided tour. The guides and the local guides really add to the experience in my opinion.
While I’ve not done Best of Italy, my husband and I have been on several tours, our last one at age 71. We walk regularly and have never felt like any of the walking tours were too much. Most of our tours have included several members 70+. Several times members have skipped a scheduled tour due to being tired, not interested, other plans, etc. in Switzerland, one woman with a heart issue stayed at our hotel (it was a vacation day and she was worried about doing too much at the altitude) and our tour guide arranged for the hotel to provide lunch. Regularly there have been tour members using a cane and no issues.
If they like planning, do the My Way. If they prefer the guides, do the regular one—they will still have time on their own.

Posted by
5927 posts

Hi, Steve:

You've had plenty of comments about being 70 on the tours, and being able to skip group activities. I wanted to comment on the mix of folks. Yes, the vast majority of tour members will be from the US, and a large number of those from the Seattle area.

But... we have also had tour mates from Canada, the Philippines, South Africa, Iran, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Australia. We have had guides from the US, England, France, Scotland, Greece, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, and Germany.

We've met Americans from states ranging from Alaska to Florida, Arizona to Massachusetts. And we've been on tours with people ranging in age from 9 to 85. Singles, couples, families, gay, straight, black, white, and brown.

Have them sign up; they'll fit right in and have a wonderful time.