The Treasures of Italy tour begins in the country's capital, Rome, and ends in the magical city of Venice. It's an ambitious itinerary, particularly the Italian Riviera portion where we made four trips by boat (on rough seas) and one journey by rail (during a labour strike). I wish we could've spent a second day here to see more of the Cinque Terre villages. An extra day might also give tour directors more flexibility in dealing with travel disruptions.
|Tour Boat in Portovenere|
|Cinque Terre Train|
The hotels selected for this tour were clean and comfortable and they all had air conditioning, which I really appreciated because it was so hot. A full breakfast daily and some of your dinners are included in the cost of the tour.
|Breakfast Buffet in Rome|
|View from the Romanico Palace Breakfast Room|
Most hotels were centrally located, had impressive architectural features or came with spectacular views.
|Hotel la Residenza, Capri|
|Grand Hotel Dino, Baveno|
|Our View from the Grand Hotel Dino|
|Boscolo Venezia, Venice|
|Boscolo Venezia Lobby|
I especially enjoyed the Dine Around feature on the island of Capri. We chose from three restaurants and had a credit to order whatever we wanted from the menu. The friendly staff, lovely view and delicious food made our casual meal at Ristorante Capri’s one of our most memorable.
|View from Capri's|
We had a wonderful tour director. She was knowledgeable, worked very hard, and entertained us with her great sense of humor. I was impressed when she made email contact with us prior to departure and answered my questions about the itinerary. She also gave some great tips for finding your group if you get separated while on tour. We put her advice to the test in Florence when we left the group for a quick visit to the Uffizi Gallery. We had planned to walk to the hotel on our own but later decided to rejoin the group.
|Piazza Santa Croce, Florence|
When we arrived on Piazza Santa Croce there wasn’t a familiar face in sight and we had no idea in which direction to begin our search. Remembering our tour director's advice, we waited for another group to come along and asked their leader for help. (It’s easy to spot a tour guide because they're usually holding a colourful flag or umbrella.) He pointed us to the street along the Arno River where the tour buses gathered and we were soon reunited with our Insight family.
|Insight Vacations Motor Coach|
If you’ve ever experienced the traffic chaos in Rome you’ll appreciate that your motor coach is in the hands of a skilled professional. I go out of my way to avoid parallel parking so I was impressed by our driver’s ability to maneuver such a large vehicle into so many tiny spaces.
|Traffic in Rome|
The daily seat rotation gave us a chance to get acquainted with our fellow travellers and everyone had their turn in the front row. Our turn came the day we crossed the causeway into Venice.
|Sitting at the Back of the Bus|
|The Causeway into Venice|
Insight Vacations includes special features on the Treasures of Italy tour, like a visit to the Accademia Gallery in Florence and a gondola ride in Venice. These are extras on many tours.
|Accademia Gallery, Florence|
|Gondola Ride in Venice|
Another special feature of this tour (not open to the general public) is the Bramante Staircase at the Vatican Museums.
|Bramante Staircase, Vatican Museums|
A number of optional excursions are offered and we participated in most. My favourites were the Roman Dinner Party (EURO 60) on Piazza Navona, and the afternoon excursions to San Gimignano (EURO 35) and Isola Bella (EURO 37).
|Dinner on Piazza Navona, Rome|
|San Gimignano, Tuscany|
|Isola Bella on Lake Maggiore|
|Monte Solaro Chairlift, Capri|
Consider arriving in Europe a day or two before the tour begins so you can recover from jet lag. After a sleepless transatlantic flight, our first day in Rome included a late afternoon group meeting and Welcome Dinner, followed by the Illuminations Drive around Rome (optional, EURO 18). By 9 o'clock I felt like a zombie.
|St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City|
Also come prepared with your favourite remedy for motion sickness. We encountered rough seas on the ferry to Capri and again along the Italian Riviera. (Ginger capsules and acupressure wrist bands helped me – and they didn’t make me groggy.)
|The Ferry to Capri from Naples|
From the Vatican to Venice, the Treasures of Italy tour gives both the first-time and repeat visitor a look at many different facets of this beautiful country. (And I haven't even told you about our visits to Pompeii, Portofino and Verona.) So I probably don’t need to take another trip to Italy. But I must admit, I'm tempted.
Visit the Insight Vacations web site for the full itinerary and most current information on the Treasures of Italy tour.