My wife and I are completely unable to decide between the Village Italy and South of Italy tours. We've been on three previous RS tours--14 day Best of Europe, Paris and Heart of France, and 14 day Ireland--so we know generally what the tour will be like and we've reviewed the itinerary, listened to the podcasts, and watched the TV shows. They both look great and we're just looking for insight to help us pull the trigger. Thanks!
I've been to most of the destinations on those tours (though traveling independently), and I don't see how you can go wrong either way. These things struck me:
On Village Italy you have a couple of nights at a rural lodging in Tuscany. I'm guessing it wouldn't be too easy to get into a neighboring town if you didn't want to just walk around the countryside.
Village Italy focuses on smaller towns so is likely not to duplicate places you've already been, and having a tour bus to take you to some of those places will make the trip much more efficient. The amount of time in each place seems mostly pretty reasonable, though I'd like to have more time in Ravenna and Assisi. (But those you could re-visit yourself easily on another trip.)
South Italy includes the Gargano Peninsula, a bit of Puglia and Matera--areas that are difficult to see efficiently via public transportation. Puglia would benefit from far more time than the trip allows, however, and returning to do it on your own would not be super-easy.
South Italy includes Naples, which some folks find intimidating. I assume it would be less so on a tour, so I think having it on the tour is a positive.
South Italy includes a bit more than a day in Rome. Will you be re-visiting things you've already seen?
As I said, I would find it hard to choose.
Let's face it, you'll wind up doing both eventually, so if it comes down to it, flip a coin! We took the Village Italy tour years ago and loved it. We flew into Venice, spent a few great days there, then train to Padua. We really enjoyed Padua, maybe worthy of an extra day. The tour was full of fun things-food, people, laughter, much less focused on big museums and cathedrals as on other tours, although you will have some. Ending in the lake area is nice and if we had the time and insight we would have stayed and explored that area a bit more. The Tuscan agritourissimo is a welcome break. It has a pool, very pleasant place to decompress. And the food was terrific!
The simple answer is to do them both back to back. Think of all the money you will save on that airplane ticket to come back to do the second tour.
Okay I know that may not be practical if you are still working. But I have done this a couple of times and it worked out well for me. One set was South Italy followed by Paris and the Loire Valley. The second batch was Berlin, Prague and Vienna followed by the My Way Alpine tour..
The first one I had two or three days from the end of the first to the start of the second. I took the train to Lugano Italy and took the Bernina Express train trip to Chur and then the train to Zurich and then the fast train to Paris.
The second time I had 4 day between tours and took the train from Vienna to Salzburg. Then rented a car at a town just inside Germany for 4 days and visited placed I lived and visited while I was in the Air Force in 1973 & 1974. Then took the My Way Alpine tour from Salzburg to Chamonix.
But my logic is I saved $1300 to $1500 by not having to buy that second airline ticket to take the second tour. (:-)
I would do the South Italy first in May or June as it will probably not be Summer Italy HOT yet. And then it will probably be warm and pleasant in the north of Italy for the second tour..
If I had to I would vote for you to do the Village Italy tour first.
I've done the Village Italy tour and it was awesome. I have not done South Italy but it is on my wish list! I agree with flipping a coin.
"On Village Italy you have a couple of nights at a rural lodging in Tuscany. I'm guessing it wouldn't be too easy to get into a neighboring town if you didn't want to just walk around the countryside."
There was really not time to walk around the countryside on the full day at the Agritourismo. That was the day we went in to Siena. There were a couple of people that stayed at the lodging that day and just walked thru the vineyards or lounged by the pool but most everyone chose to see Siena.
The VI tour had a lot of experiential things...wine tastings, a lunch at a small olive oil pressing coop where the members made the food at home (oh my was it delish!) with tastes of different olive oil, a honey tasting, ceramic factory demo (NO pressure to buy)...lots of things that it would be hard to get to on your own.
If you choose VI, I do recommend you give yourselves an extra night in Padova. I stayed in Venice a couple of nights, then took the train to Padova the morning the tour started which was a mistake. There was a lot I missed in Padova that is not covered by the tour.
Agree about Padova. I was barely able to drag myself away to take a day-trip to Vicenza (which is also great). It would be wonderful to have a few extra days in that area at the beginning of the trip.
I have taken both tours. They are very different tours and both excellent! I would have difficulty recommending one over the other so must agree with the others who have said you could flip a coin. Of course, I do like the idea of doing one after the other but that sometimes is cost and time prohibitive. We took the Southern Italy tour first mostly because we had previously visited several of the places on the Villages tour and not been that far south at all. Our Villages tour was done with our family so that gave that one a whole different perspective. We took them about a year apart. I don't doubt for a minute that you will greatly enjoy either or, better yet, both. That food....the wine.....the ambiance of Italy.....what's not to love?
We have done both of those tours and loved them both. That said, Village Italy is our very favorite of the 9 tours we have taken. You can't go wrong with either one but my vote would be for Village Italy. Either one you will have a wonderful time.
We did the South Italy tour with Andi, the response right before this one. Hi Andi.
I'll vote for Village Italy. I've been on both and both were great, but Village Italy is my all time favorite out of 10 tours. I also flew in to venice, stayed a few days, then took the train to Padua. Threre are great sights to be seen, but the best part is the dinner at the truffle farm; wine tasting lunch; visit to Civita Bagnoregio. The stay at the agrotourismo was a small taste of rural Italy, but ours had a beautiful pool and a little town nearby. Our guide was also the best that Rick Steves has!
I am seriously considering the Village Italy tour next year. It sounds great, and I love Tuscany. It was a toss up between Italy and France. It will be my first solo trip to Europe, so if it goes well, maybe I will do France in 2018. A girl can dream!
My guide on the RS Sicily tour also does the South of Italy tours. I asked her about the tour. Her reply with a big smile and a laugh was if you like Sicily you'll like the South of Italy.
You probably can't go wrong with either. So pick one. I've done the Sicily tour the village tour and I will do the other one at some point.
My wife and I plus 2 other couples are doing the VI tour in May. After a lot of research we decided the more rural aspect of this tour, and the areas it covers were more what we wanted after the river cruise we took this summer on the Danube. Looking for a little less of the ABC (Another Bloody Church or Another Bloody Castle) experience we had with the River cruise. Our plans have us flying into Venice but heading over to Padua for 3 nights ahead of the tour and the 2 days after the tour starts. We were able to find rooms in the same hotel where the tour starts so we have 5 night at the start to get settled and enjoy the area. We may do a 1 day Venice tour with one of the other couples who plan to stay in Venice to start with. At tour end we plan to return to Venice for an AirBnB stay of 3 nights.
What ever you decide you can't go wrong.
We were on that tour in September, and it happens that we were in Padua for 3 days just the year before on our own. You might find that you've planned a lot of time there, since it isn't that big, but it's an easy train ride to Verona, which is nice for a day, and also close to Venice, which can easily take several days--so a day before in addition to your time after probably won't seem like that much. As you said, no bad choices!
Vicenza is also a nice day-trip from Padua if you have extra time. But I found the historic area of Padua fairly large and spent a lot of time just wandering around.
I have taken the South of Italy, Village and Sicily tours. They are all awesome!!
My first RS tour was Venice, Florence and Rome. I instantly fell in love with Italy. My tour guide recommended South of Italy to see Pompeii and a different side of Italy. When I was on the South of Italy tour there were people continuing on to Sicily from Naples. Also, many of the people recommended Village Italy. I took the Village tour next and then later went to Sicily.
You can't go wrong! They all have their special charm.