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Village Italy vs Eastern France

When the 2022 tours are released, I'm looking to book for June. I'm stuck between the Eastern France and Village Italy tours. If you have been on either of these tours and have some insight, it would be greatly appreciated. I have been on the Best of Switzerland tour and had my Best of Paris canceled last year. 

Village Italy Questions (just wondering because of the heat - these are not deal-breakers): 
- Are there several churches in this tour where we'd have to have our shoulders covered? Knees?  
- Is there a lot of climbing (uphill, stairs)?

Thanks,
Kristen

Posted by
4658 posts

Kristen, we have taken both these tours, and I would happily retake either one of them. Or both.

To answer your questions, I will check my notes to be sure, but I don't remember going into any church as part of the tour on the Village Italy itinerary. We did go into the Scrovegni Chapel in Padova, but I don't remember any clothing restrictions.

Hills and stairs? Oh yes, there are some. The excursion to Civitá di Bagnoregio requires climbing - up the bridge to the old village, and then (worse, because we weren't expecting this) back up a steep staircase to the new village. All the hotels had stairs, of course, but I think most of them also had elevators.

Assisi is steep, as well. and so was Montefalco, a village outside of which we spent a night or two.

Funny, I had forgotten about the climbs in all these place except Civitá di Bagnoregio. I think because having prepared for that one, the others were a piece of cake.

But go anyway. Or opt for the France tour; there's a bit of climbing on that one, as well. Or at least, I only remember a bit. Perhaps I should check my notes for that one, as well!

Posted by
67 posts

Jane,

Thank you for your reply! I'm definitely torn between the two. Whatever I do decide, the other will be a future tour :)

Kristen

Posted by
2102 posts

Would the cost and ease of flights influence your choice? Either one sounds like a great trip.

Posted by
67 posts

Barbara,

I was looking into that, but it's tough with flights only out to March right now. I'm in the Chicago suburbs. Pre-Covid, we could get nonstop to Paris (Eastern France tour) but not home from Marseille; we could get nonstop to Venice (Village Italy) - I have no idea about Milan. Right now for March, there are no nonstop flights. Based on pricing flights out for spring, the Eastern France flights will be more expensive than the Italy flights; however, the Italy trip is more expensive than France. I don't think the financial aspect will matter for picking one tour over another.

Thanks for suggesting that though :)

Dates might determine which trip. I'm a teacher, and my last day of work in 2022 is June 6th. If I remember correctly, Eastern France only ran one tour in June where Village Italy ran several.

Thanks,
Kristen

Posted by
54 posts

We also are looking into both of these. Each is unique in its own way and presents a different cultural/historical experience. As far as air travel you will find a that each of them might get you a non-stop one way but requires a change in the other direction. Travel options from DC are similar from Chicago.
Would be interested to hear which one you finally select and why.

Posted by
8429 posts

I've done Village Italy but not Eastern France. I thought VI was wonderful.

On our tour (2014) we did go into both the Cathedral in Siena and the Cathedral in Assisi as part of the tour. In Assisi we had a local guide do a tour of the Cathedral but in Siena our RS guide just talked about it ahead of time and gave us time on our own inside. In Ravenna we went into several churches to look at the beautiful mosaic work on the ceilings and walls as part of the tour and I might have gone in another one on my own.

I randomly went in to some of the small churches in Monterosso al Mare on my own but they did not have dress codes. I also went in to the Cathedral in Padua (to see the relics of St Anthony) and in Siena I went into the church where the relics of Catherine were on display. I ~think~ I might have gone into a church in Lucca but honestly, I cannot remember!

If you go on VI, I might have something like a pareo you can tie around your waist if you need to cover your knees.

Posted by
4658 posts

Pam, you're right about the churches. I can't believe I forgot them. That's what I get for not reviewing my notes before answering a question. Shame on me!

Kristen, listen to Pam. And I'll reread my trip log, in case you have any other questions.

Oh, wait! I posted trip reviews of both those tours. Let me see if I can find them, and I'll add the links to this post.

OK, Here's Village Italy: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/tours/tour-report-village-italy

And here's Eastern France: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/tours/tour-report-best-of-eastern-france

Posted by
381 posts

Kristen, we LOVED the Eastern France tour. It is our overall favorite of the many RS tours we have taken. Every day was a new set of great experiences/ geography/ activity. Great food, even greater wine, and daily social hours with the group even on non- group meal days. Think of it…saying hello with a champagne toast, to exploring vineyards and tasting the wine made there, to somber remembering of WW1, to German beer and architecture in Colmar, to the Alps and scooting through the snow, to a Burgundy chateau with gourmet picnic, to a family winery with an incredible homemade lunch in their yard, to Roman ruins in Provence. Man. I think we need to take this tour again! 😉
If you do searches you can find my previous reviews ( as well as those of many other travelers).
We were not big fans of France before as we had only done big cities during my summer teaching vacation. So hot, so crowded. After doing the Eastern France trip we realized that we love France, and prefer the smaller locales and tours full of experiences and cultural immersion rather than just sightseeing/ museums.
( I offer as example based on your RS tour experience, the risotto cooking dinner event lakeside in Lugano on the Switzerland tour and being in such diverse culture/ language regions)
Village Italy is high on our list as it sounds similar to the varied experiences of Eastern France.
As I am eligible for dual knee replacement, we will probably save Village Italy until after I have at least “one good leg to stand ( or climb) on”. Looking at scrapbooks of VI, every location has lots and lots of steep stairs. My stressed joints had no issues on Eastern France.
On the Eastern France tour the taxi from Aix to the Marseille airport was arranged by the tour hotel. We flew Marseille to Paris, then nonstop to the west coast from Paris. Very easy.
If you choose Eastern France send me a private message. I have lots of tips about transport, pre-tour activities, etc.
I would say that Eastern France might have a slight edge because of the exposure to a variety of geography/ culture, but I know you will love whichever one you choose.

Posted by
277 posts

We took Eastern France tour in 2019 and absolutely loved it. Previously we had taken Best of Italy which remains our favorite of the 6 we’ve taken but that is our only experience with Italy. Eastern France ranks second among the 6 tours. Villages and vineyards galore, incredibly good food and wine (which we didn’t necessarily find in Italy) and such interesting sights, with very few churches. Highly recommend!

Posted by
1151 posts

Kristen, the Village Italy tour in 2008 was my first and still favorite of the 7 RS tours I have taken....although Ireland is pretty close. I was lucky to have Tricia and Mario, too, which I think added to my enjoyment. Tricia bonded us more quickly than any tour I have since been on. I think it was the many spontaneous happy hours we had! There were churches, but they were all so different and a big part of visiting them was usually for the art. I don't remember having to cover our body parts. However, I was in Sienna a few years later and had a cap sleeve shirt on and they did require me to cover my arms in the Sienna cathedral. I do remember a lot of climbing and this was 2 years prior to my knee replacement so somehow I managed it. I haven't taken Eastern France, but have been there on my own and loved it, so I really think you should plan to eventually take both. The food was fabulous and as a vegetarian there was never a problem having enough to eat and I usually skipped the secondi course. Wines of course were very tasty.

Posted by
1151 posts

Oh, and do read Jane's fabulous trip reports to get a real feel for the experience. I also recommend looking at some of the great scrapbooks done on these tours.

Posted by
67 posts

Oh my gosh! Everyone has been incredibly helpful!

Jane, thank you for linking your trip reports! So much fun to read!

I think we can't go wrong with either tour. Since the Village Italy sounds more strenuous, we'll plan for that one in June 2022. We'll have to take the Eastern France tour in 2024. Our goal is a RS tour every other year with a DIY trip on the off-years.

I've been far too idle for the last year (excuses, excuses, excuses) - It's time to get on the treadmills and crank up the incline :)

Thanks again!
Kristen

Posted by
919 posts

Kristen we are in pretty much the same boat as you! I am a teacher with last day June 11th and my husband has to work around certain dates in the month so we have a whole line up of tours we are looking at to see what will work in our schedule but still be in June. Best of Eastern Europe, Sicily, Village Italy. Hopefully one will work for us, but if all else fails France on our own. Good luck!

Posted by
1483 posts

When I’ve travelled in Italy, I’ve just always worn clothing that covers knees and shoulders, so as to be able to pop into churches whenever without worrying about dress rules.

Posted by
4658 posts

inbsig, me too, but that's the way I dress anyway.

Posted by
67 posts

I signed up for the Village Italy tour for June! Thank you so much for all of the information that helped me make that decision. The Eastern France tour will have to wait until 2023 or 2024 :)

Kristen

Posted by
234 posts

I was just going to send along a vote for Village Italy when I saw that you had signed up. You will love it. We have done it twice and it is our favorite. We have also done Eastern France and loved it too. You won't go wrong with either.

Posted by
120 posts

We’ve done both tours in the fall. We were able to experience the harvest in several areas in France. During that tour. Weather was great (later September) and this may be my favorite tour.
We went on VI in 2018 in late August and early September. It was warm but not miserable. Post tour we stayed in Milan a few days—mid 80’s. I don’t remember any modesty restrictions in the churches.

We are from SF California and both trips were easy to arrange, though with one connection for each.
Prior to Eastern France we spent 5 days in Paris, then went to Normandy with a rental car. After Marseille we spent a few days in Arles. It was lovely. We arrived in Venice prior to VI from a Scandinavia tour and stayed In Padua. Post tour we stayed a few days in Milan. The tour guide helped arrange transport from our beautiful final stay.

Posted by
67 posts

Thank you for everyone's help. We are confirmed for the Villages of Italy tour for next June. We will arrive two days early and spend that time in Venice since we've never been there. I know that's not much time, but we really just want to check it out and get over our jetlag.

Kristen