Classic Italy (both) - Thoughts and Recommendations

We returned from this trip on 4 June but finally got around to putting down some thoughts on this fantastic trip. They generally follow the itinerary but don't include info for all places visited.

Arrive in Sorrento 1 - 2+ days early.

You'll see more and enjoy it more if you do your homework- read about what you will visit and also figure out the boat, bus, train, etc. schedules so you are not floundering about and wasting time- way too much to see and so little time!!!

Be prepared for crowds almost everywhere. Be prepared for crowds holding 'selfie sticks.' Be prepared for large numbers of rude, oblivious tourist holding 'selfie sticks' stepping right in front of you as you are about to snap the photo of a lifetime! (selfie sticks should be prohibited, especially in places like the Vatican!)

This tour has been dubbed the "ABC" (another beautiful church) tour. It certainly is that and more. You visit many of them!

No one in our group had any problems with pickpockets- never heard anyone, anywhere yell they had been robbed, of course if the pickpocket is good the victim won't know until later!

Be prepared for soldiers in combat gear at just about every major tourist site and town. I actually liked that!

You'll do a lot of walking on this tour- if you don't walk, you won't really see and experience much. The streets and alleyways in the hill towns can be rough and sometime steep. Many have cobblestone surfaces, though they are relatively flat cobblestones- no special footwear is needed, just comfortable walking shoes or sneakers.

If you intend to visit a site on your own that requires tickets (Heculaneum, Duomo in Florence, etc.), you might consider buying them early, if possible, before you leave home.

Typical for Tauck, your hotels are centrally located (so are the ones for 2017) so it is easy to walk to major attractions.

If you plan to leave Sorrento, if you can afford it, hire a driver and (licensed) guide, - to go to Herculaneum and/or the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, Capri, etc. The museum has a lot of the great stuff (statues, frescoes, and mosaics, etc.) removed from Pompeii, Herculaneum and other sites. If you are really into that stuff you could easily spend half a day or longer there.

If you arrive just a day early, visit Capri. It is a wonderful place. Take the high speed ferry which leaves from the Marina Grande- take the cliff-side elevator (not free) which is only a block from hotel, down to the marina. There are three types of ferries- standard (slow), high-speed (big jet boat), and hydrofoil (really fast). It takes about 20 min. to get from Sorrento to Capri on the high-speed ferry. The hydrofoil may or may not run between Sorrento and Capri.

Check out and become familiar with the schedules and, if possible, get tickets ahead of time either online before you leave the US, or when you arrive.

Take the Capri 'round island boat tour w/stop at Blue Grotto- it is a great way to see the entire island and places hard to visit on foot. You will see more of it and more interesting stuff than just the Blue Grotto (which requires a separate ticket)- it is well worth the trip. Do it first thing upon arrival at Capri. With the help of our guide, we were able to step off the ferry and almost right on to the 'round island tour boat. The boat captain/crew provides narrative in multiple languages, but may be hard to hear or understand- another reason to have your own guide. Be aware, the ferry, boat trips and/or Blue Grotto visit (you transfer to a small rowboat) may be cancelled to high wind/seas. It is quicker to get around Capri and to the town of Anacapri if you take a taxi- roofless sedans- instead of walking since Capri is VERY mountainous.


The chairlift to Monte Solaro, the highest point on the island is well worth the time and expense. The views of Capri, Ischia, Sorrento peninsula, and Mt. Vesuvius which dominates the area skyline, are fabulous. While it is not gourmet, there is a restaurant at the summit- relax and dine on a panini with super views!


If you paid attention during your trip from the Naples airport to Sorrento you'll know the trip can take awhile. Though not really far, traffic, especially in the tunnels to Sorrento, can be bad. Keep that in mind if you plan a day trip to the Archaeological Museum, Herculaneum, etc. It is even farther to the Colosseum in Pozzuoli, flagraen fields, Cuma, and other interesting sites in Naples and its suburbs.

There are a lot of good places to eat in Sorrento- I agree with others who have said, "you can't find a bad place to eat."

Frankly, I think the train and walking to and from it takes too long and it is best to have a car and driver to take you to Herculaneum, etc. A car, driver, and guide is the best way to go.

Sorrento is quaint and interesting, but, like Amalfi and Ravello, the towns you'll visit during the bus trip along the Amalfi coast, it is very touristic – the quaint, narrow streets are lined with restaurants, majolica ceramic shops, wood intarsia/marquetry/carved wood shops, souvenir shops, gelato shops, repeat, then repeat again.

Be prepared for major last minute changes to your schedule in Rome due to the Vatican (not Tauck) changing your visit schedule, e.g. We visited the Vatican Museums/Sistine in the evening on our first day in Rome (tour day 3) vice the evening of tour day 4. We visited the Colosseum in the morning of day 4 vice day 5, and visited St Peter's Basilica and Square on day 5, vice day 4. There is even the possibility you may visit the Museums/Sistine in the morning, before it opens. I recommend you make no long range, hard reservations for your free time in Rome.

Trevi fountain rehab is done and it is full of water and working, the Spanish Steps are being rehab'd and fenced off, and the big scaffolds on the Colosseum have been removed (some small rehab work is still going on). We were joined by several hundred of our closest friends at Trevi fountain- get the picture?

Hill towns in Umbria and Tuscany- there are tons of them- many more than I had ever imagined, just along the bus route! After taking a bunch of photos of them from the bus window, I finally put my camera away. We had WIFI on the bus part of the time, so I followed our progress on my iPad and was able to identify many of them.

There is not much to do in Torgiano- take quiet walks around the pleasant little town, relax at the spa, swim in the indoor or outdoor pools. The tour will stay in a different hotel/town in 2017. Here is a good place to kick back and take a break. A recent traveler reports there is a coin operated laundry a short distance from the hotel- since Torgiano is almost mid-tour, take advantage because you probably won't find another one like it for the remainder of the trip.

Be prepared for not visiting Cinque Terre due to wind & heavy seas (you travel there by boat and ride a train back). Our boat stayed in the protected Bay of La Spezia and disembarked in the quaint, uncrowded, little town of Porto Venere. It was not Cinque Terre, but a pretty decent substitute as far as I could tell from my research- some great photo ops. You might want to research it before your tour just in case.

Florence was fantastic! In my opinion it was the high point of the tour. We could have spent many more days there. You MUST do your homework ahead of time to fully enjoy it. You have two free afternoons, but there is still not enough time to do it justice! Have a plan before you go!!

The Brunelleschi hotel in Florence was fabulous and as expected, centrally located (that is an understatement!!! It is literally in the shadows of the Duomo!). It was only a 5 min. walk to the Ufizzi Gallery, Ponte Vechio, Galleria, etc., etc.

Go online to get tickets for Opera dell Doumo buildings- Giotto's bell tower, Baptistery, Duomo museum, and to climb Brunelleschi's dome- you can even reserve entry times for some of them. I called Tauck to get the times the morning guided visits were scheduled to end so I could plan our extra activities. We went before peak season, yet the line to climb the dome was long- our tickets allowed us to go right to the front of the line. The Duomo buildings are not on the Tauck itinerary. The tickets are good for all four buildings and good for 48 hrs from the time of first entry, too, so we were able to fit in the museum late in the day before it closed after we returned from a side trip to Pisa. The museum is home to Lorenzo Ghilberti's famous baptistery doors which Michelangelo called "The Gates of Paradise" and works by other masters- an incredible wood sculpture "Magdalene Penitent", by Donatello and one of Michelangelo's other pieta's reportedly intended for his tomb- oh, did I say Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, Lorenzo Ghiberti, and a bunch of other great Italian Renaissance masters are buried in the Basilica Santa Croce just a few blocks from the hotel- check it out! Again, ya gotta research this place and set your priorities.

If you are an art aficionado, consider staying at the Ufizzi longer (after the tour you have the afternoon free) or getting tickets before you leave home to visit at another time- so much to see, so little time!

We took a Segway tour one afternoon after climbing Brunelleschi's dome. We had a great guide and saw many sites around the area we wouldn't have had time to walk to.

It is possible to visit Pisa during one of the free afternoons in Florence. Viator runs a bus tour- mixed reviews. We reserved a car and driver with the company we dealt with earlier. Yes, we climbed that too and also took the obligatory, but tacky photo of each other holding up the leaning tower. : ~)

Viarregio- there is not really anything to do here, especially if it is before or after beach season. You arrive late in the afternoon. There is a roof-top pool, where you can look up and down the coast at miles of beach clubs and thousands and thousands of umbrellas stands and beach chairs covering every inch.

Venice- get out and about. Walk across one of the four bridges across the Grand Canal- to get away from the cruise ship crowd that typically never makes it more than a few blocks from San Marco Square. Take a water taxi tour which you can arrange with the concierge- not cheap and no guide/narration- but we saw the entire Grand Canal, the back side of Dosodouro and Guidecca and a bunch of famous palazzos. Take a vaporetto to Murano, Burano, Torcello, etc.. Our TD arranged for all who wanted, to go to local glass gallery where we got a tour of their showrooms and a glass blowing demo.

Though different than K&T, this tour ranks up there with the best we have taken with Tauck. If this is your one "trip of a lifetime" or one of your "trips of a lifetime," do it right. Research and prepare for what you will see- you'll enjoy it so much more. In addition to online and library references, here are a couple of good (non-fiction) books- "Brunelleschi's Dome" (self-explanatory) and "The Pope's Ceiling" (Michelangelo and Sistine Chapel), both by Ross King, and John Berendt's "The City of Falling Angels" a contemporary account of the 1996 fire that destroyed the Fenice Opera House.

Enjoy this wonderful trip!


  • Can you recommend a guide for Capri? Do I need to arrange this ahead of time and did your guide continue on with you after the boat tour?

  • edited July 2016
    Elayna wrote:
    Can you recommend a guide for Capri? Do I need to arrange this ahead of time and did your guide continue on with you after the boat tour?


    Personally, I always like to arrange things like this well in advance (months in advance) and not take a chance. Some guides work independently, but I believe many (most?) work through a tour company or booking agency. We selected Driver in Italy, which is headquartered in Rome, based on the recommendations of a fellow Taucktourian, 'ndvb', who occasionally posts here. He has utilized their services on several occasions. We were very pleased with the quality of the company's services (excellent communications and coordination) and of their drivers and guides- they get 5 stars on TripAdvisor. They offer canned and custom tours for just about anywhere in Italy and have recently become a full service tour company for the Mediterranean. You can Google them for more info. Their website lists a toll-free US number, but due to the time difference I communicated mostly by email, though they called me twice while we were working out details of our three separate excursions. Our Capri ('city') guide was Alessandro. Like the guide they provided for Herculaneum the previous day, he was licensed and did a super job.

    Allessandro, was with us for the entire day. He met us in the Lobby of the hotel, then we all walked to the cliff-side elevator which took us down to the marina. He actually went in the ticket office (tour guides-only entrance?) and got our ferry tickets. He did the same at the ticket office on Capri to get our 'round-island' boat tour and separate Blue Grotto tickets. He rode with us around the island, but did not transfer to the small rowboat to enter the Blue Grotto. Of course, he provided narrative the entire day, from the moment we met him in the lobby until we boarded the ferry back to Sorrento (except when we actually entered the Blue Grotto).

    I don't want this to sound like an advertisement, though we were really pleased. I just want to give you an idea of what you should expect from a good company and guide. Within reason, they will try to accommodate your desires, which you should clearly identify.
  • Wow. These are excellent tips and suggestions. We are going in October. We just came back from England Scotland Wales and a couple of people had been on Classic Italy. They loved it too.
  • Would you mind giving us an idea of the price range for the Capri tour?
  • We are going in September and contacted Driver in Italy for a Capri tour. The quote was 350 Euros plus we pay for the fee for ourselves and guide on the hydrofoil plus a boat tour around the island. The guide meets us in the hotel lobby at 9:00am and we get back to the hotel by 4:00 PM on the day the tour begins. Should b e fun!
  • edited July 2016
    We just contacted the same company for information about a tour on 9/21. Is the 350 euros for a private or a group tour?

    I've also requested information for a day trip to Naples. My husband's family came from Naples and he'd like to see the city. We haven't made up our mind which tour to take.
  • I am pretty sure by the info Alan provided and past mentions of this company that this is for a private tour and that you can customize it to your preferences.
  • Effie wrote:
    We just contacted the same company for information about a tour on 9/21. Is the 350 euros for a private or a group tour?

    I've also requested information for a day trip to Naples. My husband's family came from Naples and he'd like to see the city. We haven't made up our mind which tour to take.

    I don't have our fee schedule handy and I really don't want to quote prices since your requirements and the amount of time you will spend on Capri may differ. They provide standard and customized private individual, very small group (2, 4, 6 people), or larger group tours. Prices are usually quoted for the entire private group, not per person. This not VIATOR, you won't be traveling by bus or touring with any strangers. Prices depend on what you want to do- standard or customized, half day or full day or number of hours, car + driver, car + driver + licensed guide, etc. You can just get a car (Mercedes) and driver to take you around (what we did at Pisa), a car + driver + guide (what we did for Herculaneum and Naples), or just a city guide for a walking tour (which is what we did on Capri.) Meals and tickets are extra. If you want they can purchase tickets for you and add the amount to the invoice. We had them purchase tickets for Pisa because they had a better idea on timing- time to drive from Florence to Pisa.

    Again, it is really hard to be more specific on cost, since your requirements may be totally different.

    Go to their website to check out the prices for their standard tours, or send them an email or give them a (toll free) call, and let them know your requirements. They will have all the answers.

  • If you do intend to stay longer at any of the ticketed sights on the tour, make sure to let your (local) guide know at the beginning of any guided tour. Several of the guided tours are followed by free time so you can stay longer if desired.

    Our local tour guide at the Vatican led our group back outside the ticketed area at the end of the tour -- meaning that those with plans to go to later religious services were not able to go as that would have necessitated their standing in the long, long line to buy tickets for re-entry. It would have been very simple for her to direct those wanting to stay to quit following the rest of the group at a certain stop had she known.

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