We have been on the VFR tour and really liked it. I would like to go back to Italy. Seems like both of these tours get good reviews but both seem to have a lot of bus time.
I did both tours some years ago. Found that the South Italy tour did have more bus time with two or three half days of traveling. But we saw a lot of interesting sights and visited some interesting places. On the villages tour there was one long day of travel from Lavanto to Lake Orta. A long way for one night at the end of the tour. Orta was beautiful but not sure it was worth the extra travel to and from at the end of the tour.
Overall I would say I probably enjoyed the villages tour more, beautiful villages and towns, great food, long history, good wine, warm and friendly people.
Tim, you might also consider the Sicily Tour, which I was on in 2014. Sicily is a wonderful and very diverse island, great food and surprisingly good wines, and the tour is really excellent. I got interested because of the enthusiastic reviews on the RS web site, and certainly have never been sorry I did!
See Jane's report on the Villages tour under Rick Steve's Tours. This will give you a good overview of the tour and the amount of bus time.
Lesley, I was just about to chime in. Tim, there really isn't much bus time; most bus trips are a couple of hours. The longest is, as someone noted above, the one that takes us to our last village, Orta. And the bus rides are great for resting, visiting, and listening to the guide teach us about Italy. And the countryside is beautiful; I spent all my time just staring out the window.
I have taken all three of these tours (South, Villages and Sicily) and they were all fantastic. You will see three different regions and each one has their own charm. It is hard to pick a favorite and I would take them all again.
I have taken Southern Italy, Villages, and Sicily, they are all great tours and I enjoyed each one. However, of the three and for that matter, of all the tours I have taken, Village Italy remains my favorite. So much so, that plans are to retake it in two years. It is the most active, and interactive tour I have taken. Read Jane's tour report, just click on the blue link to be taken directly to her report. In my opinion, if I ranked these three tours, it would be: #1 Village Italy, #2 Southern Italy, #3 Sicily.
From the responses I am reading, it seems that the Village tour sounds to have a great following. I have not taken this one, but I'm sure it is fantastic. How could it not be with the Italy/Rick Steves combination? But I do have to put in a word for the Best of South Italy tour which I did take two years ago. The bus time did not seem to be that long and the stops were amazing! Each town had its own personality and there was a great variety of personalities! My favorite was Matera, and my husband and sister's vote goes to Vieste. And Naples, IMHO gets a bad rap. It has a lot to offer, and of course there is Rome. Need I say more? No matter which you choose, I don't think you can go wrong!
We have done both of those tours and 3 of the other Italy tours. All have been great but our favorite is still Village Italy. I don't recall there being too much bus time.