I was scared. Visions of blue-haired, khaki clam-digger-clad grandmas and black-socks-in-sandals-wearing grandpas blasted through my head as I boarded my Delta flight to Rome from Los Angeles. What was I thinking saying yes to a freakin’ bus tour?
Over the course of my life as a traveler, whenever I’ve heard the term “tour,” shivers have run down my spine. Why would I want to be in a foreign land and tied to someone else’s idea of what is important to see and lumped into a flock of braying sheep? No thanks.
I braced myself, thought of my duties to take one for the team as a travel writer, and prayed for plenty of wine to be on the itinerary.
Click the links below to read about how each day on tour was spent:
The takeaway (or, 10 reasons to go yourself)
If you’ve clicked through the days above, you already know: This bus tour was a success due to the high-end accommodations and the extremely hard-working staff who were flexible, yet organized with a flair for herding cats. There are so many additional places, things, eateries we enjoyed on this trip, but I would suggest saving your pennies and joining Insight Vacations to discover them yourselves. Here are the ten reasons I found this tour to make sense for travelers of all ages, energies and interests:
1. The cost is much lower than trying to get the same accommodations, entrance fees and meals. It just is—and if you account for the time it would take to do the research and make the arrangements, you get every penny back and then some.
2. Time. The Insight Vacations team has been doing this for a very long time, and they know how to get value out of every minute of your vacation. For Americans who comparably have extremely limited vacation time – this is huge.
3. Structure with flexibility. If you need to break away, you can. As long as you can be at the mode of transport at the allocated time, you have the freedom to go see, do, experience whatever your heart desires. Or you can just do nothing and enjoy the amenities of your hotel and room.
4. If you’re traveling alone, this is a safe way to enjoy your vacation with less worry—not to mention a wonderful social forum for meeting new people.
5. The reoccurring theme of the Insight Vacations experience is comfort. The buses have been specifically reconfigured by removing 12 seats to provide additional space and with ease of travel in mind. The seats slide sideways and provide distance between seat partners when needed and also recline for naps.
6. The food is insanely good. Meeting the chefs (or Mama) makes the eating experience even better—and this was something that consistently happened throughout the tour.
7. It was the off-season and, as far as I’m concerned, the best time of year to be in Italy. The weather was a little chilly and rainy at times, but we also had an abundance of sun. Italy in summer is brutally hot and incredibly crowded with, ugh, tourists. The autumn weather added a magic to the rich countryside and the shimmering city streets. A smarter way to travel.
8. It’s easier to haggle on Italian goods when the tourism is low.
9. Carlo, our bus driver, didn’t speak much English, but had crazy-great driving skills and always greeted us warmly with smile.
10. The guides speak Italian and know the areas intimately. Italy is their home and passion; because of that, you get the local experience and get to meet the people who have lived in each area for generations—people who are warm, kind, inviting and deeply embedded in the fabric of the culture.