Classic Italy Small Groups Review May 1, 2022

With input help from the Mrs. I thought I would write a short critique of our Classic Italy Small Group tour that departed early May. The small group tour differs slightly from the regular group tour as aside from having fewer people (maximum 24) they also utilize smaller boutique style hotels. Our tour had 17 people total. In this post when you see any underlined blue text it is a link that will take you to web sites of the restaurant, hotel or other points of interest.

After a very long 2 stop flight from Seattle to Naples via Newark then Zurich we arrived in Naples in the late afternoon. We went to the designated baggage carousel and waited with all the other passengers for our bags. I should say we waited and waited and waited for our bags. It was about an hour and half before our bags arrived on the carousel. All other arriving flights had the same issue. They blamed it on a staffing shortage.

We then went into the arrivals hall as instructed and looked for our driver. After about 15 minutes of searching, we could not find our driver. We then called the number given to us by Tauck for the transfer company and were told the driver had left because he couldn’t find us. If he would have checked with the airline or information desk he would have discovered that everyone was still in the baggage claim area. He finally arrived back after about 45 minutes and we were off to Sorrento.

This was our pre stay day. This is one reason we like to arrive a day early. Being jet lagged and frustrated we just ate at the hotel tonight the Grand Hotel La Favorita.

Day 1

Slept in then walked around Sorrento, then the usual group meeting and dinner that evening. The dinner was at L'Antica Tratoria and quite nice and also a good introduction to our over abundance of food on this tour.

Day 2
On the bus for a tour of the Amalfi Coast and Revello. Lunch was Tauck provided at Trattoria Da Cumpa'Cosimo.

Day 3
Off to Pompei then to Rome. Lunch today was Tauck provided at Ristorante Il Principe in Pompei. After our lunch and tour of Pompei it was off to Rome.

Late afternoon we checked into the W Hotel Rome. Our one disappointment on this trip is the W Hotel in Rome. We had the smallest room we ever had on a Tauck trip with a not so nice view of the alley. The design of the room was such that it was almost impossible to move around. The shower was designed with no place to put soap or shampoo. The staff at the hotel were nice, the rooms clean and it lived up to Marriott Hotel standards but I believe the demographic the W Hotels are targeting are not the typical Tauck traveler.

No place for soap or shampoo.

Day 4

Touring ancient Rome including the Colosseum, Piazza Navona and the Pantheon. Being early May we were in the pre summer shoulder season but I felt the crowds were already back.

Day 5

St. Peters in the Morning then the Vatican Museums in the late afternoon. The Vatican Museums is the only place we had to show our proof of Covid vaccine.

Day 6

Off to Orveito with guided tour of the Cathedral. Lunch was provided by Tauck at Trattoria la Grotta.

After the tour it was off to our hotel Posta Donini where we also had dinner. Prior to dinner there was a concert in the hotel music room. In our opinion this was one of the nicest and most memorable hotels of the trip.

Day 7

Off to Assisi where we had a guided tour of the Basilica of St. Francis and the historic center of Assisi.

Day 8

Off to Tuscany and the city of Lucca where we had a guided tour of the city center. Dinner tonight was provided by Tauck at Antica Locanda dell'Angelo.
The hotel today was at the Grand Universe Lucca and only one night. The rooms were small however the location was right in the city center and rooms were nice.

Day 9

Off to La Spezia the jumping off point for Cinque Terre. The boat ride to Cinque Terre is weather dependent and we hit it on a very nice day. It was a train ride back from Vernazza to La Spezia for the bus ride to Florence.
It was then off to Florence where we spent the next 3 nights at the Hotel Brunelleschi. We had our choice of included dinner at the hotel on any of the 3 nights we stayed there.

Day 10

In the morning right after breakfast, we had an art lecture in the hotel. Usually these things put me to sleep but I was surprised at how entertaining this actually was.

After the lecture we had a walking tour of Florence with a local guide. After the walk we went to Piazza Santa Croce for lunch at Finisterrae where the lunch was more than we usually eat at a big dinner.

After lunch we were on our own where we just wondered around Florence aimlessly.

Dinner tonight was on our own and we were fooded out at this point. We decided to go into a local market and buy a chunk of stinky cheese, a baguette and a bottle of local wine and take it back to the hotel. A grand total of less than €10, The clerk did not speak any English, so we just pointed and hope we got something good.

Day 11

After breakfast it was a walk to the Uffizi Gallery.

Piero della Francesca

After getting our fill of art, the rest of the day was on our own.

Day 12

An early morning departure to the train station for our high speed journey to Venice. (Masks Required on the train)

Arrival in Venice for our water taxi ride to the hotel The Bauer Venezia for our last 2 nights in Italy.

Our hotel room was quite nice with a view of the Grand Canal.

The afternoon was a gondola ride which in my opinion is over hyped.

Dinner tonight was the farewell dinner at Antico Martini. This was a day earlier than usual since tomorrow we have an after hours visit to the Basilica of St Mark’s.

Day 13

Today is our Covid test day. Early in the tour our director said the Covid test would be €90 per person administered by a nurse who would come to the hotel. The TD was able to source out another provider which was the Italian Red Cross which was located just off St Marks, about a 5 minute walk from the hotel. The cost for this test was €22 card only, no cash accepted. We waited outside and the results came back in about 15 minutes. Nine of us out of 17 were leaving the next day. All negative. I don’t know the results for those who stayed extra days.

After the Covid test there was a walking tour of Doge's Palace with a local guide.

In the evening we had the after hours visit to St. Marks followed by a light meal in the basement of the facility.

Day 14

Water taxi to Venice airport for our trip home.


  • Thank you for this well written review! Did Tauck arrange Covid testing in Venice for those who stayed a day or two after the tour ended?

  • manycruises1_
    Did Tauck arrange Covid testing in Venice for those who stayed a day or two after the tour ended?

    I know that several who stayed went on to other parts of Europe and I believe they were on their own. I believe that those who stayed in Venice had the TD arrange the appointment for the Covid test.

  • Nice job John. Did you think the Small Group was worth the extra price tag? Aside from the boutique hotels, were there itinerary items not included in the Classic Tour that made it worth it?

  • edited May 2022

    Lovely report John, I think I’ve been to all those places apart from Cinque Terre with Tauck on different fours and I would go back in a heart beat and hope to some day soon, especially Florence and Venice….which should have been in 2020, I’ve yet to rebook the Croatia Venice trip

  • Claudia Sails:
    I will answer your question for John and I.
    I think it is worth the extra price. In the past, before covid, the smaller groups felt more intimate. These days even the larger group tours are smaller. The smaller boutique hotels have been verry nice. The itinerary is very similar with all the same highlights. What appears to be different in this case is the small concert before dinner at hotel Posta Donini. We also got to stay the night in Lucca, where the larger group doesn't even stop there.
    One other observation, there is plenty of room on the bus to spread out.

  • A hint about your visit to St Mark's. If you don't get an after hours tour, go when they are having a Mass or other service. They light up the nave, apse and altar which makes it so much better to see than when you are herded through with the masses. We went on a Sunday morning and it was phenomenal!

  • Thanx Sue. Given how many tour dates are Small Group these days it's important to know what the differences are.

  • John: Great detailed report and images. Thank you so much for posting. Looks like it was a great trip. So glad that you and your wife had a hassle free trip and didn't test positive for Covid. I have only traveled to Venice independently, but would love to see more of Italy.

  • Oh, what a lovely trip report! The photos and links make me sure I want to add this to our bucket list!

  • We did this tour in 2017 and it was a fabulous trip. Some of the itinerary has changed a little but basically the same. There wasn’t anything about this trip we didn’t like except the TD who was rude but we didn’t let her ruin a wonderful trip.

  • Thank you so much for your detailed travel report! I really enjoy reading trip reports and all your included photos were fun to see.

  • Hey John, WOW, Thanks so much for sharing all the pictures. We took same tour back in 2014 & absolutely loved it. Your pictures brought back a lot of memories. Enjoy your next trip wherever it might be.

  • We did that trip and absolutely loved it. Our TD was fantastic and made it so special. Glad you had a good time...that's what it's all about!

  • Thank you John, it looks like you had a wonderful trip after a slightly rocky start. Your pictures are lovely!

  • John, I especially appreciate your detailed report. I am looking for guidance from you and other people in this forum who already have been on Tauck’s Italy land tour. We are two couples scheduled on the Classic Italy small group tour in mid-Oct. 2023. One of us has developed back pains that can get pretty severe when walking long distances or standing for long periods of time. He’s not anywhere near requiring a wheelchair and only sometimes uses a cane if walking for a long time on uneven surfaces. But he does need to sit briefly if he’s been standing more than half an hour. Hopefully this problem will be lessened with physical therapy in the coming months. My question: Would you consider the distances and length of time during the Tauck-led tours to be strenuous? What is the longest amount of time that any of the walking tours requires? Thank you very much for any insight you can share.

  • Jim, your friend could take one of those walking stick/seats with him, which is what someone did on our last tour with Tauck. We personally find the slow walking and all the standing quite tiring on the tours. We are used to taking long brisk walks which suits us much better in our current health.
    The pace may also vary depending on the Tauck Director or local guides you end up with. Many places in Italy strictly control where and for how long buses can park. If the driver goes over the time, he is fined. The bus may also have to park a long way from your intended site seeing. I haven’t taken this particular tour so I hope someone else will chime in. But that is how it has been on the three or four other Italy tours we have taken with Tauck.

  • Jim, the trip is certainly doable if one needs a cane for walking. On our trip there was one woman who relied on a cane/walking stick and she had no problems. If one is in a wheelchair then the challenges would become much greater. Tauck lists the activity level of this tour at 3:

    Active components such as hiking, bicycling and walking longer distances may be included, and hills and/or uneven terrain may be encountered on several days. Guests should be able to walk two to three miles and stand for long periods of time with no difficulty.

    I agree with British who recommended that a walking cane with a seat would be good to have. We have been on a couple of Tauck tours where people have had these.

    I have looked though all or our pictures and came up with a few areas that may be challenging but definitely not impossible.

    The tour of Pompeii would be the most challenging. There are cobblestones and uneven surfaces to navigate.

    Visiting the Colosseum in Rome should not be a problem as there were elevators up to the main viewing area.

    Another challenge would be around Cinque Terre where there are uneven and narrow alleys etc.

    Another challenging area will be Venice. Doge’s Palace had some steep stairs. I do believe there was an elevator, however.

    The gondolas in Venice could be challenging. My personal opinion of the gondolas is that they are way overrated.

    I know at the beginning of each tour that the tour directors have you complete a form where they will ask if you have any restrictions or preferences. Also keep in mind that you will be traveling with others in the demographic group who can’t run marathons anymore and many of us have body parts that don’t work as advertised anymore. :)

  • JohnS and British: Thank you very much for your most helpful comments. I’ll be searching Amazon for the cane/seat.

  • edited January 17

    Jim please see my PM, the link will appear in the right hand corner for you. A photograph of the person with the walking stick chair in use

  • Hmmm, 2 flags for JohnS. Is it the pictures or the humorous last comment?

  • I was going to say it’s because he posted photos but then Claudia got a flag too. The flagger doesn’t like certain people.

  • To those with mobility issues- most of Europe, and in-fact, most of the world outside the US does not even come close to what we in the US, call ADA-compliant. Sometimes the TD will arrange alternative paths and and access, but in many places there are none available.

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