I knew I wanted to hit some of the major touristic cities of Italy for my very first visit there. My Fiancé had 2 weeks of vacation in April and we decided Italy would be a great place to go as he would already be in France for work and I could meet him there from Halifax. We started in Marseille and then took a short flight to start our 8 day tour with Intrepid in Venice. The “Highlights of Italy” trip is a great tour for first time visitors to Italy.
This 9 day tour is a “Basix” style of Intrepid’s 1 of 3 travel styles. Their Basix trips are meant for travellers on a budget who want amazing experiences and the logistics taken care of when they travel. The accommodations are simple, centrally located, and very clean. We were never far from major attractions and the city centre. There was a lot of free time which gave us the flexibility to decide what we wanted to do in each city. We spent about 2 days in each location.
Here’s a few things about this Intrepid tour:
Transportation: We used trains for our transport. Our Intrepid Tour Leader had our train tickets ready for us when we arrived at the train station in the morning. The trains are comfortable and are the fastest and most efficient way to travel around Italy. We had assigned seats so we all sat together in a group and bonded with our leader and other travellers while looking at the beautiful Italian vista scenery.
Group size: The group size was 10 travellers on our trip which was a perfect number for getting to know everyone. The majority of travellers on the trip were Australian. We were the only Canadians; we liked it that way so we could get to know a bit more about Australia and their culture from our new friends. Intrepid’s tours are small groups of approximately 8-16 travellers.
Tour Leader: We loved our Tour Leader Andrea. He is from outside of Venice. What I like about Intrepid is that they source local leaders. Most of them will be from the country you are visiting or have been living there for awhile. Having someone local was great because he recommended specific restaurants and places to go that he knew first hand would impress us. If we ever needed anything he was more than happy to help us. In each city the first morning or afternoon we had an orientation walk provided by Andrea. His walks were very informative and he gave us some great info on historical and general facts on Italy. Once we had our walks we had a good idea of the city layout and made it easy to be on our own for the rest of the afternoon or the following day.
Urban Adventures: This is a company owned by Intrepid Group. They offer day tours in various cities of many countries lead by locals. In Italy they offer Urban Adventures in all locations we visited and in other parts of Italy. We did a 4 hour wine tour in Florence and visited 3 local wine tasting locations plus we were so full by all the aperitivos accompanied by our wine. We were able to purchase our excursion online in Canadian funds when booking our trip; you also have the option of booking excursions in local currency with the help of your Tour Leader.
Here’s a few things about Italy:
Pasta, Pizza, Wine & Dine: One thing that surprised me when in Italy was the food and not regarding the taste as I knew that would be good and of course it was amazing! How I felt after eating a full pizza or dish of pasta was not sick or too full. The fresh ingredients they use make you feel good after and restored. I drank wine every night with my meals. In Italian restaurants you can decide how many ml/l you want if you don’t want a full bottle of wine. It was cheap to have the house wine coming in the size of 500ml which was about 2 glasses for both my fiancé and I. We didn’t find good quality Italian restaurants expensive. A good pizza or pasta dish costs about 8 – 12 euro. Dishes with meats such as lamb or beef accompanied by vegetables costs about 12 – 16 euro on average.
What to bring: Pack light for your trip to Italy or use a hiker’s backpack. There are lots of cobblestone streets that aren’t good for bags with wheels on them – especially Venice and Florence. Some hotels won’t have elevators and have lots of steps to get up to your room. On the trains there’s space for large pieces of luggage but there may not be space to keep your luggage in the same compartment you are in.
Precautions: Pickpockets are very common in Italy. Especially on and near the train and subway. In the streets there are a lot of what don’t appear to be pickpockets walking up to you asking you for money. They are very slick to grab your wallet without you noticing and sometimes they work together in a group of 2; one to distract you and one to grab your belongings. Also don’t buy knock off brand bags on the streets. It’s illegal to purchase these and you can get a serious fine if the police catch you buying one.