We're contemplating our 3rd RS tour for 2019 - thinking Italy. We've been to the "big 3" (Venice, Florence, Rome) twice already - once on our own and once on the 14 day BOE. Debating between Southern Italy and Village Italy and curious what those of you who have been on one (or both) think. For what it's worth we spent one day several years ago on a cruise stop in Naples visiting Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast and loved it, which makes Southern Italy (with so much more time in those areas) sound good. But we also love the small towns and the food aspects of Village Italy, so very torn. Any and all advice appreciated!!
My wife and I have been on both of these tours recently (May 2017 and May 2018) and loved them both. The Village Italy tour stays in the north and visits no large cities, although Milan and Venice are handy at the beginning and end of the tour, if one wants to bookend the tour with one or both of these cities. The Southern Italy tour visits both Rome and Naples briefly, inviting one to bookend the tour in those two great places. I recommend going on both--the Village Italy tour first, as we did, and then the Southern Italy tour. Both are wonderful cultural experiences.
A)- Toss a coin, either side is a winner
B) - Do both .... why be 'torn'
Disclaimer- I have not done either-- Did the 17 day Italy tour then added 10 days on our own to visit ancestral villages in the southern half of the country , so imagine there is no wrong or bad choice. Part of our time was in Sorrento before going inland to grandparents village
My husband and I went on the Village Italy tour in 2017. We started by flying to Florence for two nights, took the train to Venice for three nights, then it was an easy 30 min train ride to hook up with the tour in Padua. We thoroughly enjoyed every minute, and felt fortunate to be on a tour that offered such a amazing opportunity to be a part of such a diverse itinerary. It is a busy tour, so be prepared to be on the move for the full two weeks. Enjoy!!
I have been on the 17 day best of Italy tour in 2016, covering a variety of big cities, smaller hill towns, the mountains (Dolomites), Lake Como, the beach (Cinque Terre) and a winery and resort outside of Orvieto. But, mainly in the north, ending in Rome.
My vote is for South Italy 🇮🇹 which will take you deeper into the South. This will be a different experience. Village Italy, while very popular, concentrates mainly in the North.
South Italy tour - my vote.
Village Italy was a great tour. Flying into Venice and spending a few days before was just ideal. S. Italy is on our list of “to do” tours and was on our short list this year (Rome and Sicily won out). Flip a coin, you’ll likely do both anyway.
We did Village Italy last year. We flew into Venice, but immediately headed to Padua, where we had three great days before the tour started.
This was one the the best tours of the 12 we've taken. I recommend it wholeheartedly. It is full of experiences. I did a tour report; I'll post a link to it. https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/tours/tour-report-village-italy
That all being said, our next Italy tour is going to be Southern Italy. We've been to several of the places on that tour (Positano, Paestum, Sorrento, Amalfi) and are eager to learn more about them and the other places we haven't seen.
I have done both tours. I did enjoy them both. But, I am retaking the Village Italy Tour in 2019. The Village Italy tour is, by far, my favorite tour and I have taken quite a few.
Guess I’ll find out which I prefer next spring, when I take Southern Italy. Loved, loved Village Italy a couple years ago.
Joe 32F and I are of like mind; "do both". I have done that and while I thoroughly enjoyed them both for different reasons, I would have to give a slight edge to Village Italy. The main reason for that is because I was traveling with my kids and grandkids! Keep in mind the tours are very different: South Italy for the most part, does not cover as populated an area as even the "Villages" visited on the VI tour. The exception is the visit to Rome at of the beginning and final couple of days of the SI trip. With a wonderful variety of sights, sites and sounds, both tours are full of sensory experiences, all of which are very different. I am tempted to say it's like comparing apples and oranges so good luck choosing. Do both! I am very happy I did.
I know you didn't ask about Sicily, but have you considered the RS Best of Sicily tour? Since you've already visited the big city sites, Sicily might cover your desire for a southern Italy style of tour, but still be unique in its own special way. Like you, we took our 3rd RS tour last fall. We decided on Sicily because it hadn't been fully "discovered" as a tourist destination yet. It was fabulous beyond my most optimistic hopes. If you're open to another option, it is worth considering.
We have been on both those tours and we enjoyed both of them. However, Village Italy is our very favorite of the 10 we have taken. In fact we liked it so much we are leaving next week to do it again. If you have already been to Rome, Naples, Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast I would definitely pick Village Italy.
Thanks for all of the responses - and now adding Sicily into the mix, my goodness!! I hadn't even considered that! I may just end up flipping a coin (DH has told me he'd be happy with either, so he's no help!!) - and you're right - we'll probably end up doing both at some point :) Right now Southern Italy is edging out Village Italy just because of my desire to go back and spend more time on the Amalfi Coast, but still torn. I'll keep checking back, so if anyone is reading this and wants to continue to leave comments, I'm happy to get them.
We have not been on the Village tour, but can tell you that the Best of South Italy is one of the most memorable trips that we have taken! We saw things and experienced things that we had never dreamed of! Our guide was absolutely fantastic and made our time in Southern Italy phenomenal! the weather was beautiful and we visited the large cities of Rome and Naples and tempered them with the beautifully relaxing cities of Vieste and Alberobello, and I found the the ancient city of Matera to be a fascinating and magical place. As you can tell my vote goes to Best of South Italy although I'm sure that the village tour is wonderful as well Which ever tour you chose to do in 2019 I'm sure that you will have a great time. Enjoy!
My husband and I went on the South of Italy tour this past May. Steve who wrote the first reply above, was also on our tour. It was a great tour. Vieste was probably my favorite stop but I liked them all. Our guide, Catherina Moore, is a former restaurant owner and teaches cooking classes in her off-season. I especially loved all the opportunities to learn about the regional food. Before the tour, we flew into FCO and took the train to Orvieto for the weekend. Next year we are going on Village Italy tour, most likely in September.
For those of you who might be interested, after much back and forth, we finally decided, and I just put the deposit down for Village Italy next August!! So, thanks to everyone who responded, and to those of you who have done Village Italy and have any other thoughts, suggestions, etc., let me know (either here or through a message). I'm so excited - always LOVE to be planning a trip!!
Louise, good for you! It's truly a wonderful tour. I highly recommend spending a few days in Padua before the tour. We bought Padova Passes which entitled us to free public transportation and entry to almost all Padua museums. We had a great time there.
Great choice! I agree with Jane!! (no surprise, I always do, lol!) Give yourselves some extra time in Padua. VI was one of my early tours and I didn't realize that you should do some research in to what's available in the smaller tour starting points before you have your travel plans in place. I had us (myself, brother and SIL) spend a few nights in Venice and then go out to Padua on the day the tour started. I definitely felt we short changed Padua so if you can, spend 2 or 3 nights there ahead of the tour.
At the end we stayed an extra night in Orta San Giulio. That was kind of a waste but we also had torrential rain in the afternoon so we retreated to the hotel. I would maybe plan to spend the AM in Orta, have lunch and then have a taxi for say, 2PM to take you to Milan. We also shortchanged Milan. We traveled in the AM (torrential rain, lol) so just had the afternoon. We saw the cathedral but it was a closed day for The Last Supper so we missed that. In retrospect I'm not sure why I didn't stay longer, but Oh, Well.... Anyway, a half a day in Orta to see the Sacro Monte (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacro_Monte_di_Orta), lunch and then move on.
The guides start working on the exit strategy from Orta pretty early on in the trip. Ours organized shuttles/taxis for everyone that was returning to Milan or going to Malpensa and grouped us so we could share costs. Don't worry about this much but also DON'T plan an early flight out of Milan on the day the tour ends. It's about an hour to Malpensa (it's on the Orta side of Milan). It's just difficult to get there really early.
Start working now on fitness and hills/steps. You'll thank yourself for this! I took this at the end of a long trip, this being my 3rd RS tour in a row (21 Best of Europe/Best of Paris/VI) and I was in good shape by then for hills and steps. There are other times when my fitness is not to that level and I would have struggled at times.
Have a wonderful time!
I almost forgot about Milan! (Thanks, Pam!) After our VI tour, we headed to Milan, and stayed another 4 days. Milan is beautiful, with some super museums. The Duomo museum has been re-interpreted, and is wonderful.
I just returned from the VI tour, which was wonderful. Our guide arranged taxis for all of us to Malpensa or Milan, much easier than public transportation from Orta. We took the train from Milan Central station to Varenna and spent three days at Lake Como, then returned to Milan for three more days before heading home. We were blessed with sunny, mild weather (late October) throughout the tour and our extended stay. If you can afford the time, I encourage you to consider this option. Lake Como was beautiful and relaxing, and Milan offered many fine diversions in addition to the main sites. For example, check out Villa Necchi Campiglio, an art deco mansion maintained by FAI, Italy's version of the National Trust: https://www.fondoambiente.it/villa-necchi-campiglio-eng/
I've been on 10 RS tours and when asked which has been my favorite I always say "Village Italy". I have not, however, been on Sicily (very popular) or S Italy tours.
We did what smy did after our VI trip (loved it). Three days in Lake Como on our own was wonderful, and easy to get to on the train. Especially since we were already traveling light for our tour :-)
Village Italy was so much fun: incredible guide, great driver and tour members that almost immediately felt like family (in a good way), oh, and Italy was OK too. Love the countryside and small towns. Hiking in the Cinque Terre is one of my favorite things. We spent 3 days in Venice before the tour and 3 days in Milan after. Perfect. We took the tour (our 2nd RS) in 2015, and I cannot imagine a more enjoyable tour. That said, we plan to take Southern Italy next year and expect it to be just as great.
Just realized that my husband commented on this thread in Dec. Yes, indeed, booking a few days on either end of a tour to freelance around a smaller area (using RS books, of course) is a great way to get the most bang for your travel bucks. We're excited to have just made reservations for the Southern Italy tour for Sept. Village Italy and Heart of Italy were our previous adventures and they were so good we can't wait for the next one.