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Venice/Florence/Rome tour in March (Timing?)

I am a retired 72 year old man who loves to travel. For several years I have been planning a solo trip to Italy that includes these three cities, plus Milan and the Cinque Terre. I have been to Rome, Florence and the CT with my wife and her mother, but not the other two. My goals are to see/do some of the things/places I missed when traveling with them, plus see the Last Supper in Milan and experience Venice for the first time. I noticed yesterday that Rick's 10 day tour departing on 3/2 has been discounted $200 and in checking airfare it is substantially lower than May when I planed to do my trip. I can arrive in Milan the morning of 2/27 which gives me a couple of days to see the sights of the city, then take the train to Venice the day before the tour starts to have an extra night there. I'm also planning to depart Rome on 3/14, three days after the tour ends, to enjoy the city alone to see if I enjoy solo travel alone before returning home. Has anyone out there taken this particular tour in March and if so, any thoughts on doing it at that time. Am I trying to do too much with the extra days? I have always planned our trips using the tools on this web site (books, DVDs and this forum) and this is my first ever tour of any kind to Europe. Can the RS office help with reserving a room at the tour hotel for the night before it starts? I plan to pay the single supplement fee because I prefer to sleep alone to save others from my snoring (I know I don't snore but my wife says I do) and I would like to know what kind of accommodations I should expect. Also, what pre-tour information and assistance do you get from their office? Any thoughts, suggestions or personal experiences will be appreciated. Thank you.

Jim

Posted by
5166 posts

Jim I'll take a shot at a couple of your questions. No, the RS tour office won't help you make other arrangements, unless you pay for the additional extra consultation service. However, you will have the name and contact info of the first and last hotels so that you can contact them yourself (email works) and arrange for extra nights on either end. If you let the hotels know you are joining the RS tour, it helps with the rates and also they can plan for you to have the same room that you would have for the tour. Painless. Just make these extra night reservations as soon as you know what you're doing, as they are small hotels and others on the tour will be doing the same.

They provide a small pamphlet on things to do on your own, but also that is why they want you to read and bring the RS Guidebook with you, so that you can see what things might interest you that won't be included in the tour.

Generally the tour office is very helpful at answering questions and have probably heard them all. The tour leader will also be able to suggest things to you for after the tour.
Enjoy the tour.

Posted by
17089 posts

I can't comment on the March weather, but do check the historical temperature graphs available on wunderground.com (use the Monthly tab) so you'll know how to dress.

I think you pre- and post-trip plans are good, but I have a feeling you may end up wishing for two extra days in Venice rather than one. I'm just guessing, though.

Posted by
1609 posts

Jim,
I took the 17 day tour of Italy in Oct 2016. I spent 2 days in Milan before joining the tour in Varenna on Lake Como. I took a walking tour with the Walks of Italy which was 4 hours long through the historic district, includes a ticket to the Last Supper and ends with a walk to the top of the massive Duomo cathedral. The guide was knowledgeable and took us to several old churches I wouldn't have known about. The group was pleasant to hang around with, too. I saw the La Scala museum, I did not see a performance- I waited too late to get a ticket. Also, I saw the Brera Art Gallery with wonderful Old Masters paintings, surprisingly- Caravaggio! The Brera neighborhood is a very interesting and lively area to stroll.

Posted by
17089 posts

Forgot to mention Bergamo as a great side-trip from Milan, though I doubt that you'll have that much extra time there.

Posted by
18 posts

I’ve been in Venice around the time of year (late March, early April 2004) and the weather was comfortable but maybe a little more overcast and rainy than later in the year. I took the 2003 RS Best of Italy tour earlier in the season (end of April, early May) and things were fine weather-wise then as well. The best thing to do is check the web or use apps on your phone to check forecasts (as I’ve been doing on my current trip through Spain at this moment)

As for extra days, that RS tour started on Lake Como and Milan was the inbound destination of choice. My wife and I did just as you’re thinking and arrived a couple days early to see the sights and get past jet lag.

Arriving early in Venice could be helpful too - just be sure to not plan any activities that may be part of your tour RS package unless you want to do something twice.

Having taken two RS tours (1995 France, 2003 Italy) I can say that the accommodations are quite good. I think (as Rick has mentioned over the years) that most of his picks have only gotten better with assorted improvements. To know what to expect check your Itinerary when they send it to you to know more about each (these typically have their own bathroom with shower). For convenience, try to reserve your first day in Venice at the same place as the tour books to avoid having to relocate. In my case I extended the END of our RS tour at the same B&B saving an extra re-pack - also highly recommended.

“Doing too much” is an individual matter. RS tours are clearly marked as to activity level. You WILL be walking, climbing stairs and navigating a lot of old European cities -which it sounds like you’ve experienced before- and hauling around your own luggage through them the entire time. RS stays are wonderfully centrally located from sites but often inconvenient for buses - Venice is a prime example since are ZERO roads beyond the causeway. The only “up-side” to the tour is that you may be able to buy and bring along more purchases in it than you would alone - but then you’ll still have to get them from the final stop(s) home.

As for being overwhelmed by the sightseeing aspect, that too is more about you. I can say that RS tours in general are considerably simpler today than 20+ years ago. The 1995 France BB&B tour was on Rick’s full 22-day itinerary for the entire country. That type of tour no longer exists. In the past decade, the Best of Italy tour is also simpler and shorter than when I took it in 2003. I think this partly due to price and that the 22-day itinerary could become truly overwhelming (even when I was still in my 30s).

The best guide for you is to review the plans for each stop and see what activities will be. They’ve definitely gotten better about communicating this by day. I can say that the retirees I saw on both my tours were able keep up - but some were still surprised that “they weren’t kidding about all the walking and climbing and hauling.” If you’re “physically fit” you should be fine. Otherwise you may find yourself sitting at cafés waiting for the rest of your group to return.

Posted by
508 posts

Thank you all very much for your input and advice. I have decided to take the tour in March and look forward to a new experience, and meeting new people with similar interests.

I went back and read through the itinerary for each city and then made a list of sites that are not included in the tour that I want to see. With the free time on the tour and extra days in Venice and Rome I can see everything I want to see. About ten years ago we did the local tour thing through the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's and I felt like a fan departing through the concourses of a stadium, shoulder to shoulder with other tour groups with guides speaking multiple languages. I like to read about things that catch my attention and always found myself 20-30 feet behind what our guide was describing. I was hoping to go back through it alone, taking my time to enjoy what reaches out and grabs me. Is this possible on this tour? I appreciate all of your help.

Jim

Posted by
5166 posts

Jim, on our 2012 VFR tour, the tour leader oriented us, got us into the Vatican Museum, hung around the Sistine for awhile for questions, and then we were on our own for the rest of the Vatican. We were not led through as a group, and it was not a private tour. Of course we were there with thousands of others, so not exactly alone. The next scheduled thing that day was to meet in Campo Fiori to walk to dinner. So yes it was designed to give you as much time as you wanted. Remember, you can skip any sight or dinner as long as you let the leader know and you can get back to hotel on your own.

Posted by
164 posts

Milan: We spent a couple nights in Milan this past summer before our tour began in Varenna (Best of Italy). We stayed at the Hotel Berna, mainly for its convenient location and positive reviews. From the airport, we took the bus to Milan Centrale (train station), and then walked to the Hotel (great breakfast). The metro station was also within walking distance. If you plan on seeing the Last Supper, keep checking the website to see when tickets will be available.
As someone mentioned, you will probably want to just extend your days at at your tour hotels in Venice and Rome. The office will send you both hotel names. Enjoy.