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VFR tour-just returned

Our recent RS Venice, Florence, Rome tour was magical! This was our very first tour. Since this travel forum was extremely helpful as we prepared for the trip, I wanted to share some thoughts with you. You know the itinerary, it's all the hidden gems along the way that created the magic led by our fabulous tour guide Colleen who guided us every step of the way--she was working for us 24/7, including a very workable Plan B when there was a 24 hour public transit strike. I won't share the wonderful memories, I want you to create your own. But I do want to share the practical side. We flew British Airways with our vintage RS carryon luggage which is 1 inch longer than BA allows. On our flights from CA and London, we were allowed to carryon but on our return flight we were forced to check the luggage. I had packed a duffel bag for all my treasured souvenirs and they survived perfectly. I am always an overpacker, so it was a real challenge to carryon but I--and definitely my husband--were very thankful we had. Our tour group was a joyful cross generational group, ages 12-79. This included 4 family groups (5 teens) 3 solo travels, and couples who all blended very well. Although I brought laundry gear I rarely used it since we returned to our hotels late at night and I was too tired to do laundry. Our hotel in Florence provided a great laundry service--7 pounds laundry/15 euros. There was a lot of walking, and many steep stairs.I logged 72 miles in the
heat. We arrived a day early which I was very thankful for and left when the tour ended, wish we had taken one more day. Although I had researched and tested many crossbody bags, mine tore upon our arrival. I purchased a lovely Italian leather bag which was not travel proof at all that was perfect. Next time I will pack a travel clock. During our free time, I felt very safe walking the streets alone while my husband enjoyed other sights. We had taken a few Italian lessons before our trip and although most of the Italian people we met spoke English, we saw that our limited Italian was greatly appreciated and respected. Just a few Italian words made a difference.
I'm still experiencing jet lag, so I'm not sure if I've covered all I wanted to. I would be very happy to answer any questions you may have.
Safe travels!
Take care and take joy!

Posted by
1937 posts

Nice report, beachcombernan! You have provided lots of good advice and a nice summary of your tour. It sounds like you had a fun and rewarding experience! I was particularly happy you included the generational make up of your tour. So many who post on this forum are curious about that!

Posted by
2284 posts

Thanks for your trip report. I love how you handled the crossbody crisis - now you have a great souvenir with a story.

Posted by
276 posts

Nice report beachcomernan. I'm curious. There is so much tension and political bickering everywhere did you find any of that within your group or from your guide? RS had made his politics clear and has made some pretty snide remarks in his blog which is his right but I wondered if that behavior carried over to his tours.

Posted by
2580 posts

Excellent report. I also liked that you included the generational makeup. Would you be willing to name the hotels where you stayed and tell a little about them?

Posted by
20 posts

Highlanderct, Before our tour I also wondered about possible political opinions being strongly expressed. It was extremely refreshing to not hear anyone express/discuss politics. Perhaps it was because we were all on vacation experiencing Italy.

Posted by
276 posts

beachcombernan, thank you. So happy you had that experience. I'm leaving September on a tour (not RS) to France and I am so worried about fighting. Such a shame really.

Posted by
20 posts

Dave
Our hotels--
Venice-LaFenice et Des Artistes
Florence-Silla Hotel
Rome-Hotel San Carlo
Location-location-location!
All were centrally located easy walk to major attractions.
Rooms were updated, clean, ample delicious breakfasts included, friendly helpful hotel staff. Not 5 star hotels but I would return to each of them.

Posted by
37 posts

We are doing the same tour July 17...perfect timing!

Your last two hotels are the same as ours...did they have A.C.? How good was Wi-Fi?

What did you opt to do during any of your free time?

Can't wait to hear from you...

Posted by
2580 posts

@beachcomberman: Thanks for giving your hotels. I've always wondered what the RS hotels are like. I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed them.

Posted by
20 posts

leti
In all 3 hotels much needed AC was very good. Wi-Fi was good in hotels in Venice, Rome but intermittent in Florence hotel.
Will get back to you on free time activities. We did not do all we had planned to due to the heat. Our days always began between 8-8:30 and when there was an evening event, we usually didn't get back to our hotels til 10:30 pm. So the majority of the group took some time to rest up for the evenings.

Posted by
6 posts

Thanks for your report. My husband and I are on this tour in October and it is our first RS Tour as well. The laundry info is especially helpful. I hope we have that same hotel in Florence. Won't know until Sept :-) I am finding the carry on size a challenge myself, but I will succeed! I also appreciate the insight on the later returns to the hotel at night and trying to plan our free time activities, specifically Venice and seeing a church concert and or an opera. I'm glad to hear the mix of ages and the "vacation" from politics. I plan to disengage from these conversations should they occur, as I would like to give that cement block tension on my head some relief :-)

Posted by
20 posts

Kvietze
We had preplanned many more free time activities than we actually did. This was due in part to slight RS itinerary changes and our need to take some time out from the heat. We were glad we hadn't made reservations for other activities, but if we had, it would always be our choice to do the RS activity or go with our reservations.
Happy safe travels!

Posted by
218 posts

I had a super time on a VFR tour in June 2017.
Re hotels: Hotel Silla great AC but many in our group had trouble w/ wifi
Hotel San Carlo - great AC and wifi. Very, very helpful front. desk. Great at arranging cabs to airport.
At both of these hotels, it was lovely to eat breakfast on the outdoor patio. However, watch out for the small birds that will alight on your table and even eat from your plate if you leave your table for a minute to get something else from the buffet.

Re political discussions, early in our tour I was unhappy when one of our group made a political statement that the entire group could hear. Thankfully, no one replied. Later I privately told our tour guide that I did not come on the tour to hear about politics. There were no further political discussions when the entire group was present.

Posted by
697 posts

Enjoyed your report......Colleen was our tour guide for our very first experience in Europe...the Best of Europe 21 day tour. I was afraid that she spoiled us but we were equally happy with our tour guide last fall for the Best of Munich, Salzburg, and Vienna tour. Colleen mentioned in social media the challenges with the strike but she sang your praises in being troopers!

We love RS tours and are scheduled for our third tour this fall. I will warn you, they are addicting. I cannot imagine going on our own or taking another company's tours. We manage fine planning our spare time but there is just something about having so much of the logistics taken care of for you! We haven't even ventured on our fall tour yet and I'm already looking into 2018 for our 4th tour. Italy was a favorite of ours and you hit so many of the iconic sites. I'm happy you enjoyed yourselves!