Cityscape of Florence





Italy by Bus

Introduction

We enjoyed this trip so much that it ranks right up there with the best vacations we have ever had.

Itinerary

The Trafalgar Tours Best of Italy itinerary will appear in this block on each page.

Some General Information

Before we left

We received our travel documents and stuff from Trafalgar just about two weeks before we left. One of the things that was included was a Trafalgar bag for each of us. We had sling packs that we intended to use to carry with us on the tour, but we decided to use the Trafalgar bags as our second carry-on bags.

Randy's photos

A member of our group, Randy, happened to have the same camera that I have. He sent me copies of his photos, and I have used some of them here. I have noted each place where I used one of his photos.

Randy and his wife Lynda had some comments about the trip:

Although we had some good meals and unique dinning experiences on the tour, in the beginning we were a little disappointed in the food. We had read about all of this great Italian cooking, especially from the Tuscany area, and were apparently over anticipating how good everything would be with a high style of presentation. I do feel all of us got a good idea of what the regional foods and styles were and we are glad for this. The experiences were good, I don't mean for it to sound otherwise. We felt the dinner in Assisi was the first really nice (elegant) meal we had...I'm glad it turned out to be on the evening of your anniversary.
We expected to see balsamic vinegar served everywhere, like it is here. In fact one of the most popular regions for fine balsamic vinegar is 'Modena' and we passed near it between Venice and Milan.
The cold cut breakfasts were tiresome after the second day. My wife tells me that just the way it is all over Europe. They need to learn how to smoke bacon so it tastes like bacon. The breakfast timing was odd...always short. Could have been more enjoyable if we could have got in earlier on our own, rather than waiting for a cattle call.
The house wines were refreshing, but thin. We were expecting some big, bold reds. I did buy a few there with dinners and they were good. I also bought some 'Brunello di Montalcino' (Vigneto Poggiotondo 1996) and brought it home...really good! and only $20 a bottle (I'm not willing to pay the price for it here, it would start at about $120 in our restaurants). It's the first time I've ever bought a wine that had a store's magnetic security device on each bottle like department stores put on expensive clothes. I guess it shows where their values are.

Another member of our group had the following comments on the tour:

Anyway, we feel like we got a lot for our money and had a wonderful time. We will probably take another Trafalgar tour next year. Maybe Spain. Haven't decided yet. Our trip to Thailand and Japan in October is not a Trafalgar tour. I will be glad to have something to compare it with. It's an "all inclusive" tour in five star hotels in both countries and very reasonable in price-almost sounds too good to be true. I hope we won't be disappointed.
I thought we had a great bunch of people. I love meeting new people and wish we could have gotten to know everyone better.

The Trafalgar itinerary

As you move through the day-to-day travelogue, you will see the Trafalgar itinerary in a white box with a red border like the one on the right. At the end of the itinerary, you will see codes like (BB), (BB D) and (BB)(HD). These refer to the meals that are included that day. BB = buffet breakfast; D = dinner; HD refers to a dinner in a "picturesque restaurant".

In this box, you will also see the description from Trafalgar of the optional excursion(s) that we took that day.

Some of the optional excursions that we were offered did not match up exactly with the ones described in the pamphlet we received before we left for the tour. In those cases, I have put some explanation of the optional in a different font color, followed by the Trafalgar description of the one that is closest to it.

Map of the overall route

Here is an interactive map of the overall route that we took on this trip.
Be patient, it may take a minute to load.



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Marilyn and Beth

Marilyn and her daughter Beth took the Best of Italy tour beginning on September 7, 2001 and ending on September 20th, 2001. Marilyn documented her experiences on the Trafalgar Tours bulletin board, and I have copied them here with her permission. This will give you a feel for how the trip can be different from one tour to another. On each daily page I have added a section at the bottom of the page with the account of their trip.

I have added some comments of my own in a few places, using a different font color.

General comments from Marilyn and Beth:

The Best of Italy trip was my first "Bus tour" and my first time in Europe. I would do it again. In fact I plan on going to Greece with Trafalgar Tours next September or October and hope to continue on to other countries in the future. However, for those people that want a resort type of vacation this is not it. In order to see everything that is the best of Italy, especially packed into 2 weeks you do have to go,go,go. I would recommend that you be prepared for a lot of walking and early wake up calls.

Hotels

These are basic hotels, a place to sleep and shower. Don't expect hair dryers or curling irons to work the same as home, even with adaptors.

Breakfasts

Adequate, bare basics, not an "American style" breakfast by no means.

Lunches

All were good whether it was pasta, pizza, or a sandwich. You could get a salad at the Autogrills but we stuck to the traditional Italian lunches. No hamburgers or deli style sandwiches but eh you wouldn't be traveling to a different country if you wanted what you could get at home. They do have McDonald's in some places for the fast food junkies.

Included dinners

Adequate, [pile on the pasta that comes with each dinner] & be sure to order the house wines they are good. If you want good Italian specialty foods be prepared to take the optional excursions and/or skip the included hotel dinners and go out on your own.

Bathrooms

Most you had to pay 500 lira [25 cents], and most had sit down toilets for the women, but some did not.

Pickpockets/gypsies

We had no problem and really didn't even see any, except for a few beggars at the churches.

ATM's

We saw them all over and used them with no problem. My bank just charged a $1.50 transaction fee.

Currency

Mostly used cash (lira) for everything except larger purchases, then we used credit cards.

People & language

Everyone seems pleasant and we could make our self understood. I used Italian words whenever I could I loved it and I think it shows respect. In some places you did have to be more "pushy" than what we expect in the US. Our tour director says Italians have to "fill the spaces", no perfect straight line or wait your turn like we do. I felt the Italians were truly happy we were visiting their country.

Phones

We had problems using a pre - paid phone card that we got from home, but others did not.

optional excursions

We did them all and it cost $432 pp.- If you have to skip some due to budgets then skip the ones with dinners.

Shopping

I had plenty of time to shop, but I am not a die hard shopper.

Siteseeing

I got to see everything I expected to see.

Weather

Be prepared for all different kinds of climates, hot, warm, cool, and rainy.

Summary

I had a great trip and we had a nice group of people on our tour and a wonderful bus driver [Guiseuppi] and tour director [Letizia Taddeo].

Hope this helps anyone going to Italy and especially the "Best of Italy". If you have any questions you can e-mail me at:
GoBlueandMaize@aol.com











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Contents © Copyright 2001 Author: Lee Briggs except where noted. All rights reserved.