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Village Italy - Activity/walking level?

Can anyone who has done this tour tell me about the level of activity/walking/hiking involved?

How flexible is the activity level? For example, if a hike through Cinque Terre is part of the trip but might be too strenuous for my mother (in her late 60s, but is very excited about this trip), is it possible to do that day "our way," hang out in one village, and meet up with the tour later that day? We also would not be doing the bike portion (I'm young and in good shape, but don't know how to ride a bike! I know, I know...).

While my mom can certainly walk and is perfectly healthy, she would probably want to sit for a bit after 45 minutes nonstop walking, and she would not be able to hike around. I want to make sure she'd still able to do, and enjoy, 90% of the trip.

Also, what is the average age range for a Rick Steves tour?


Posted by
2251 posts

It's very flexible, as I find all Rick Steves tours. My entire family took this tour last summer-teens through grandparent. As I recall, the day in the Cinque Terrre is a free day and you can plan it as you like. Also, on any of the Rick Steves tours, you should always feel free to opt out of any activity in which you don't especially care to participate. Just be sure your guide and/or your "buddy" are aware you won't be there. You and your Mom will enjoy this tour. If you're referring to the biking on the walls of Lucca , don't worry. You don't need to participate if it doesn't interest you. It's a free time activity that the guide will help you plan, if you want to do it. On that particular tour, the ages ranged from 70 to 15. Everyone had a wonderful time, bonded well and most of us still keep in touch via email. It's a great tour, one of my very favorites, It's actually one of the least strenuous RS tours I've been on (18 and counting...). Your Mom will really enjoy it and so will you!

Posted by
16893 posts

Biking in Lucca and hiking in the Cinque Terre are both completely optional and not usually guided activities. You'll have all day free (when sleeping in Levanto) and will be on your own to take a local boat or train to the nearby towns. It's also possible to opt out of other scheduled group activities, as long as you talk with your guide in advance and know the time to meet them again.

Posted by
1209 posts

Hi. I took this tour in 2011. The hiking in the Cinque Terre is optional. Check the itinerary. It says you may choose to hike. I did not hike. My tour stayed in Levanto, and I spent the day on the beach with several other tour members. I also took the day off, as did some others, when we stayed at the agriturismo. I needed a break.

Really, nothing was a strenuous hike. There are escalators to get up to Orvieto. Walking from the Basilico up to the town of Assisi was uphill, but your guide will spell out options.

Someone from Rick Steves could give you the definitive average age. I have taken 9 tours and have found all age ranges, but my most recent tour was primarily folks in their 50s-60s.

I think there will be options for you and your mother to choose from. Enjoy.

Oh good, I see Laura from RS chimed in. What she says...


Posted by
528 posts

I have been on this tour and you can make it as physically challenging and you wish, as with all RS Tours. You are always free opt out of a group activity, just tell your guide and your tour buddy.

I know, at least for my tour, the guide led those who wished, on the very easy portion of the Cinque Terre. This "hike" took place on the free day. My husband and I decided to do a longer, harder hike on our on. Also, there were several people that opted out of the bike ride, not a problem. This guide also led a walk around the farm land while in Tuscany (day 8). This was strictly voluntary.

Your guide should be able to explain how strenuous a hike or walk is, ask them. If you decide not to participate, they will be understanding.

Posted by
452 posts

My husband and I were on this trip in 2014, in a group composed of 12 married couples, and I believe we were the youngest of the group at ages 58 and 59. Most of our tourmates appeared to be in the upper 60's to low 70's. As others have mentioned, the day in the Cinque Terre is a free day to spend as you wish. We had planned to hike from Corniglia to Vernazza, as that was a trail that was open, but on our day there, it was raining on and off. We didn't want to be caught in the middle of the trail during a downpour, with the path turning muddy ad slippery, so we changed our minds. We had a lovely time just poking around in the villages, taking the train from one to the next and seeing all five in our alloted day of free time. We did walk a little way up the trails over Vernazza for great views of the village and sea, and took some wonderful photos, and that was not strenuous because we were in no hurry and took those steps at our leisure. The biking in Lucca was optional and not at all strenuous. The top of the wall, where the biking is done, is wide and flat and the bikes were the sturdy, fat-tired kind. The most strenuous part of the tour was the afternoon we went to Civita di Bagnoregio. From where the bus dropped us off, we had a very long walk to get to the pedestrian bridge (seems like about 30 minutes of walking), and the uphill walk over that bridge to get to the hilltown was long and steep and quite exhausting. The way back to the bus was much easier. Almost everyone on our tour did join that excursion, although one couple stayed behind because they'd been there before and knew it was going to be a strenuous day of hiking. You will love this tour, creating memories with your mom that the two of you will cherish for the rest of your lives. Have a wonderful time!

Posted by
2402 posts

If biking the wall around Lucca isn't a good option for you, you can very enjoyably walk it instead - probably the easiest access to the top of the wall is a road the goes right up to it, on the north side near the Anfiteatro.

Posted by
13647 posts

I agree with Vickie on the strenuousness of the afternoon going to Civita. I am also a height chicken and I did not understand from looking at the pictures how high the bridge is to walk over to the town. Yikes. I also don't hike at CT, again because I'm a height chicken. I love the day in CT - just on your own going at your own pace.

I think our guide paid for bike rental in Lucca but I had done that before so I chose to walk around the wall which I loved! I went early - right after breakfast - and it was so much fun to see how much the locals use this park area. There were what appeared to be PE classes from the high school out there doing different activities, really fun. If I remember correctly the bike shop had a list of tour members and you just went by , had them check off your name and off you went.

I will be 67 soon and am headed out in 2 weeks for #8 RS tour. I do walk a lot before my tours but that is just me. The youngest person on any of my 7 tours was one of my nephews who was 20. The oldest was probably upper 70's but he golfs daily and walks his course so was in pretty good shape.

I think some of the most tiring activities are big museums, which you don't really do on Village Italy. There are city walking tours which are usually about 2 hours but often don't have a place to sit while you are listening to the guide talk about something.

This was not the most strenuous RS tour I have done but WOW was it fun!

Posted by
308 posts

I have not gone on the RS Village Italy tour, but I have been on two RS tours (Best of Scandinavia and Paris & Heart of France) so I can answer the age question. On the Paris & Heart of France tour, my husband and I (we were 38-39 at the time) would have been the youngest people on the tour except for the 19-year old daughter of another tour member. On the Best of Scandinavia tour earlier this year (we were 41-42) we would have been the youngest people except for a young newlywed couple. There were several other couples in their 40s though.

But I want to stress that age really doesn't matter when it comes to RS tours. What matters is that everyone has a like-minded travel philosophy. We also find that tour members come from different areas and different professions so there is always a lot that you can find in common with each other.

Posted by
740 posts

I did the Village Italy tour in 2012. You are going to have a great time.

Even if you decide not to go hiking in the Cinque Terre, please think about walking at least the Via dell'Amore from Riomaggiore to Manarola. It's an easy 1 km walk on a mostly flat, wide path. You can take the train from Levanto to Riomaggiore and then return on the train from Manarola. Personally, I would make a stop either coming or going in Vernazza.

I find hikes are a lot easier on my legs and feet than standing in one place for 15 minutes.

Posted by
4 posts

Wow, thank you all so much for your helpful replies! More importantly, I shared them with my mom and we agree that, if the response here was any indication, the people who go on Rick Steves' tours must be awesome and incredibly nice people -- definitely the kind we'd like to travel with.

Posted by
2251 posts

EuroBound, I just bet you will find that to be true on your tour! I have met many, many interesting people on the tours I've taken. Everyone has an interesting story of their own to tell. I travel quite a bit with my daughter and her family, my son and his family and my (unmarried) son, not necessarily all at the same time. I love going with them and your Mom will love going with you. We found there were several opportunities for just "chilling out" with or without other tour members on this particular tour. I know you will have a great time.

Posted by
2697 posts

The key will be your communication with the guide. I have found them pretty good at sizing up the abilities of the group within a few days. But, it helps to be proactive and let the guide know your mom might have limitations. That way, you don't set out on an adventure only to find her flagging half way. We have had folks in their 80's on our tours. Most of them had been on RS tours before, and the guide helped arrange taxis, gave them heads up when a particularly long walk was ahead, etc. For now, get her walking every day!

Posted by
84 posts

There is a level, paved path along the shore from Levanto to the next town about 2 miles. Formerly a train track, the tunnels remain. A pleasant, long walk with view spots, but no comfort stations. Take a water bottle and then have refreshments at next town or upon returning. Look for the WWII gun battery. A good alternative for all ages and fitness levels. Enjoy!

Posted by
3509 posts

Any activity on any RS Tour is optional, except for getting on the bus to go to your next destination. And you could even skip that if you have an optional means of transport. ;-)

But seriously, anything you feel you can't or simply just don't want to do you can skip. Just make sure as a courtesy you tell your guide as soon as you have made your decision so that any ticket or admission for that activity doesn't get bought for you.

I had to skip a couple items on my last RS trip due to a recent medical condition I have that flares up unexpectedly. I met up with the group later in the day when I was feeling better and no one minded that I missed out except for me (they all expressed their concerns and I thanked them and we moved on).

Posted by
80 posts

I went on the Village Italy tour last year (2015), and I had some health challenges at the time. The most difficult walking day for me was the Civita day. The hike is strenuous and steep, but I made it, just give yourselves some extra time. The Cinque Terre is a free day, so spend it as you like. We got on the boat and enjoyed being on the water and seeing Italy from the sea, with a stop for coffee in the morning and a four hour lunch. It was a fabulous day, with little walking for me. My only concern with your post is when you say your mom will want to sit after 45 minutes or so. There were several days that we were on our feet for an hour or more, not necessarily hiking, but touring a church or on an orientation walk. I think it is totally doable for you and your mom-you can always find a place to sit or get some help from the guide to avoid some walking-but maybe try to use this as motivation to increase your walking stamina. You will come home with stronger walking muscles than when you left, so you may as well start now. On my tour there were some things that I just couldn't do, but I am so, so glad I went! It was worth every aching muscle and sore feet, but before my next trip I am going to increase my walks a LOT so I can hit the ground running. Have fun!