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Walking expectations on tours

We are signed up for the Heart of Italy tour in the fall and are very excited to do the tour. This would be our first tour ever. We have been to Europe a few times and have walked cities for entire days but of course, at our own pace.

I see most of the tours were labeled streneous meaning up to 8 miles of walking a day. I am trying to get a realistic idea of this. If possible, can you please share your experience with the tours. There seems to be a lot of free time so I am just trying to get an idea, if this is something we can do within our ability of if we need to step it up and go to the gym daily ; ) to be ready.

Thank you.

Posted by
16866 posts

This trip should not be much different from your previous experiences of walking cities all day. With a tour group, you don't tend to walk very quickly, but there's more standing (often on stones, concrete, or tile) while you listen to the guide. The hill town of Volterra is rather steep any time you spoke out from the center of town. The Cinque Terre train stations require one flight of stairs up and down on arrival and departure (with your luggage). Some hotels also don't have elevators and others have very small elevators.

The Physical Demands for this tour include:

  • Carry/roll your luggage over uneven pavement (possibly several blocks) and up stairways to reach your hotel, then up several flights of stairs to reach your room.
  • Be on your feet, walking, and standing for up to four hours, indoors and outdoors, in all weather condition
  • Sleep with street noise and no (or weak) air conditioning.
  • After orientation and transportation lessons, be able to navigate towns and cities on your own.
Posted by
11450 posts

My limited experience on a RS tour. .( 14 day Family Europe tour ) was that the tour overstated how much walking there was.. , which I can understand as they want to weed out those who may not be able to keep up, so rather than under estimate they tend to over estimate.

I think any reasonably healthy person can do their tours.. they do not walk the 8 miles in a row.. its more like walk, stop , see, walk stop see, walk , lunch , etc.. its not an 8 mile march.. but just how much you may accumulate over the entire day..

I would suggest anyone taking the tours be "training" by being able to walk at least 2-3 miles in a row. And no, speed is not a factor.. remember the tours are not filled with super fit 25 yr olds.. but just regular healthy fit folks from 10-80 .. ( I think most are between 40-70 , but that's just a guess based on what I have read here.. and if you look at the Tour Scrap Books on here, you can clearly see group make ups vary wildly, with kids to seniors and everything else in between.

The only thing you wont see is princesses.. lol .. pick that bag up and make those stairs.. lol ( ps.. we did have to carry our bags up many hotel steps.. but since RS doesn't do skyscraper type hotels its not too bad.

Posted by
8391 posts

Heart of Italy was the first Rick Steves tour I did and I loved it!

The full day in Rome on tour was a long one. At that time the tour did the Vatican Museums on that day and it looks to be the same now. I spent the afternoon walking around as well so was totally pooped afterward. The days in Volterra and Monterosso were less walking. With Volterra the bus drops you at the parking lot in town (as they can't drive on the narrow streets) so we had to walk a short distance to our hotel. After that we didn't really go down to the bottom of the hill so it was not too strenuous. Monterosso/Cinque Terre, as noted, there are stairs at the train station then you have to walk with your bags to your hotel. One of the hotels was right by the water so it was pretty level but the other hotel (group was split in to 2 hotels) was up a bit (better view and quieter, lol!!). Some people hiked the trails on the free day. Florence is pretty compact and flat.

I would say to be in the best shape you can! Now I try to be able to walk 7-10 miles before I go on an RS tour but that is overboard. Last year I only was doing about 6 and managed, lol. Do walk some stairs as Rome is hilly. The more fit you are the more you will enjoy it! Do remember you can opt out of anything (but who would want to??).

For reference, the most strenuous tour I've been on was the 21 Day Best of Europe. And yes, we went 10-12 miles in both Amsterdam and Rome.

I hope you are planning to get to Rome a day or 2 early! We went 2 days ahead, so had a full day and the morning of the day the tour started. I know better now so I would go 3 days ahead and have 2 full days and 1 partial day there if I were doing it again.

This is a great tour to start with. One word of warning...you will likely become addicted to RS tours! Excellent itineraries, terrific guides and really fun groups of people. (It sounds like I am a shill, but really I'm not, lol!!)

Posted by
1607 posts

This was our first tour as well. Back then my husband was pre-knee replacement. The only time he had any trouble was the day we walked from the bottom one town in the Cinque Terre to the top. The tours tend to get tweaked from one season to the next and sometimes one tour to the next, so it's hard to give specific details. Hotels can change and where once there was a climb, now there is a different hotel. There are no forced marches and the guides all seem to have a knack for how to pace the walking portion - where and when to stop so people can take a breath.

Posted by
4645 posts

I had to chuckle, thinking about some of our experiences on RS tours. Our first RS tour was to Florence (please, RSE, bring that tour back!) After the initial group meeting, our guide Cecilia gathered us together outside the hotel, and said "Don't worry, I don't walk as fast as Rick does," and immediately took off like a shot, leaving most of us standing there with dropped jaws. We did manage to catch up, although we almost lost a few folks at a stoplight.

On our Belgium/Holland tour, we met a local guide in Delft. As she took off to lead us somewhere, our tour guide, Hans, called to her "Slow down! These are Americans!" And this after a number of our tour mates had been grumbling because they thought Hans walked too fast. (DH and I thought that tour was rather leisurely, perhaps the least active tour we've taken.)

I agree with Pam that the 21 Day BOE was the most strenuous. My personal bête noire is hills - I had to stop and rest a moment on the hike up to Neuschwanstein.

But as several people have mentioned, while you may walk up to 8 - 10 miles a day, it's piecemeal. And most days don't have that much walking - at least on the tours I've taken.

We do make sure we get out and walk as much as possible before a tour, and try to incorporate hills and stairs. Failing that, I found it very helpful last year to wear a daypack with 10 - 15 pounds of stuff in it on my practice walks. That helped get me in shape without having to add many more miles.

We have made a kind of vow, though: if it ever comes to the point that we can't keep up with the guide, it'll be time to quit taking RS tours. So far, so good!

Posted by
8391 posts

Jane's post reminded me of something my 21BOE guide, Dimitri said. Someone had complained to him that he was going too fast. He said, I am walking a moderate pace. If you think I am going too fast, you need to be right behind me because the further back in the pack you are the more you have to scramble to keep up. I thought that was brilliant and he was right! I started watching and yes, it was much easier to keep up with his pace when you were right there behind him.

Hills are a killer for me too. I had to stop a couple of times heading up from St Goar to the castle. Last year on the GAS tour I opted out of the Neuschwanstein visit since I had been there before and enjoyed a really nice "flat" walk around the lake!

And yes, I would love a Florence tour! I would also love to tour with Cecelia!

Posted by
4645 posts

Pam, we've toured twice with Cecilia - Florence, and Rome; she's great. We're hoping we get to see her in Orvieto on the Village Italy tour.

Posted by
8391 posts

Oh yes, I hope you get to do a wine tasting at her vineyard!! That is where I met her and found her to be charming. The house, wine, ancient cellar, view and food were wonderful too!!

Posted by
297 posts

I agree with other posters. Usually you walk a while, stop, listen to a guide, then either rest or walk a little more. When you are standing for a long period of time, try flexing your knees or do a squat to loosen your muscles up. Two of my 3 RS tours have been in early September. When My husband and I prepare for the trip, we walk at the mall. Instead of taking the ramps, we take the steps. I have a torn meniscus in my knee and I wear a copper knee brace that helps. I will probably get a steroid shot in my knee this year right before I go go on my RS trip this September. The longest day of walking we have had were in the Dolomites on the "Best of Italy" and the alps on the GAS tour. Both of those were on our free days. Usually you have free time every other day, so you can take it easy on those days.

Posted by
33 posts

Thank you for your stories! I feel much better now. It actually reminded me of the college tours we had to do a few years back when visiting colleges for the kids. I got distracted quite easily sometimes and found myself running after the tour. LOL! I think we will be hitting the gym and practicing stairs. Good thing the spring is coming and we can get out and walk more.