Why travel with us? best tours of Italy
There are many considerations when deciding which is the best company to travel with on an escorted tour of Italy, including:
competitive prices: we include many things in the price that you will pay extra for with other companies, and
personalised approach: we own the company! Your trip will not be led by an employee, but the owners who know the importance of providing a great travel experience to all of our clients. No one has a greater stake in making sure you are our happy and satisfied customers than us!
But to help you consider whether a Viaggio Italia tour is right for you, let us explain our travel philosophy and outline the 5 principles that underpin our approach to travel.
Principle 1: Easy pace
Like a good wine, a good trip benefits from time. When we travel, we like to have the time to appreciate each destination, rather than race from photo opportunity to photo opportunity. It’s all about taking the time to smell the roses... or in this case maybe the pizzas.... or piazzas???
So a Viaggio Italia tour has an easy pace. We aim to give you time in each location: to get a ‘feel’ for where you are; to get to know the neighbourhoods a little, to see how the locals live, where to get the best coffee and where the locals have their meals.
We’ve seen many tours that try to fit in too many locations – 10 countries in 11 days – you’ve seen them too, I’m sure. I get dizzy just reading the itinerary. The poor guests are rushed around so much that everything must just become a blur.
On a Viaggio Italia tour, we try to stay a minimum of three nights in each location: more if we can. Less time spent moving from place to place means more time to soak up the atmosphere and the sights. We want you to feel like a temporary Italian, rather than a momentary tourist!
We also aim to provide the right balance between 'official' tour time and independent time. In each location, we’ll provide excellent guided tours led by local experts, but we’ll also give you time to explore independently. And we’ll give you lots of ideas to help you so you can get the very best out of your time.
Principle 2: Small groups
We usually limit our group sizes to 14 - some tours even less. We like our groups to be small enough to feel like you’re exploring a destination independently, but big enough to create a good social vibe. We’ve found that around 14 is a great number to let you connect with the people you meet without feeling like you’re just a face in a crowd.
Small groups mean you spend less time waiting and more time enjoying. Getting on and off transport, hotel check-in, comfort stops, meals – with a small group everything is quicker and easier. So you spend less time waiting and more time taking it all in!
They also mean more time with your local guides. Imagine one guide having to manage 40-50 people and still answer questions. In a smaller group, you’ll have more one-on-one time with your guides and plenty of opportunities to ask questions and take advantage of their wealth of local knowledge.
Also, big groups are limited to big hotels. Our smaller groups can stay at smaller properties with character, closer to the action.
And finally, small groups are more fun and give you a better holiday experience because you get the chance to interact with the whole group, not just a small portion of a big group.
Principle 3: A personal touch s of Italy
Viaggio Italia Travel has grown from our love of travel – and most particularly of travelling in Italy. When you come on a Viaggio Italia tour, we are taking you with us on vacation. We will be there to assist you every day. And we have a very real stake in our company's success, which in turn is founded on you – our guests – having a wonderful travel experience.
You will be our personal guest!
Principle 4: Value for money
At Viaggio Italia Travel, we acknowledge that for most of us travel is a luxury. One of the reasons we managed to travel internationally regularly for almost 3 decades is that we understand how to maximise our investment in travel and get the best value for money.
We want to give our clients the same value for money. And this starts with our personal selection of accommodation. You can – and we have – paid a fortune for a room in some Italian hotels. We’ve also had great experiences in hotels where we’ve paid a fraction of what you would expect to pay. We’d rather save the difference and maybe extend our holiday.
We have found that great value in Italy can be found in 2 and 3-star hotels. Now don't let that startle you.... let’s start by saying that the way hotels are rated in Italy is not the same as how they are rated in Australia. (You can read more about it here.) The star rating system in Italy is based on a range of criteria such as the size of the lobby, the proximity of the lobby to guest rooms, and whether room service is provided. Many inner-city hotels in Italy have been built in old palaces and the rooms can be restricted by 300 or 400-year-old architecture, and this can impact on their star rating.
So we aren't booking the Versace, but by no means are we booking a hostel either... Personally, we prefer a great hotel that has a touch of history, and through our extensive research, we have found some fantastic 2 or 3-star hotels (and a few 4 stars as well) that have just what we need to make our stay comfortable and enjoyable.
And whilst the star rating can be helpful, we apply our own criteria in selecting hotels for Viaggio Italia tours.
Like any real estate, it’s location, location, location.
We believe that when you are in a big town or city, you need to stay near the centre and, if necessary, close to transport options. Not only does that mean we don’t need to travel far to get to our daily guided tours and to see the main sights, but there are also other benefits.
Travelling can get tiring, and it’s great to be able to return easily to your hotel to put your feet up for an hour or so during the day before heading out again. There’s nothing better than being able to do this several times during the day or evening to recharge the batteries.
Italian towns and cities come alive in the evening, as the locals take their passeggiata, stop in one of the many little bars for an aperitivo and finally find a ristorante for dinner. You need to be part of that. We’ve lost count of the times we have heard from people who have booked a hotel outside the centre – either to save a few dollars or to get a higher star rating (or that is where the tour company has booked them) – only to find themselves stuck in the outer suburbs and needing to pay for taxi fares to get to and from their hotel. Indeed, this is the number one lesson we learned early on in our own travels.
This comes a close second: the rooms must be well cared for and regularly cleaned.
Now, bear in mind that hotels get a lot of traffic, and this is especially true in Italy. Over the season there will be luggage bumping on walls and the like. We can accept that. But we have personally inspected every hotel where we stay with our guests because whilst we are prepared to compromise on some things, cleanliness is something we will not.
This is important but comes in around third. We’ll sometimes be prepared to pay a little more, particularly if the hotel is in a great location.
Giving you value for money is also evident in the transport options we use on our tours. For some legs, we use Italy’s fabulous high-speed rail network – usually the Frecciarossa – to travel between the bigger cities. Why? Well, for a few reasons.
Firstly, they are called 'fast trains' for a reason. Using the high-speed rail network can greatly reduce travel time and be much quicker than driving. For example, travelling from Naples to Florence, takes under three hours by train. The same journey by car would take around 5 hours – and that’s assuming no holdups on the motorways. Two fewer hours on the road gives you two more hours for exploring Florence. Using the high-speed rail network is also convenient, as we depart and arrive in the centre of each city. And for most legs we go First or Business Class and sometimes have the entire wagon to our group.
The high-speed trains have great facilities – comfortable chairs, Wi-Fi, restaurant cars, etc – and are an adventure in themselves.
Now, don’t get me wrong – Italian motorways are exceptional and we use them when we need to, however they are designed to be a fast way to get from A to B by car and are not the romantic scenic drive you might get on the secondary roads (which take a lot longer). As well as monotonous, they can also get quite busy, and extended traffic jams - which can slow the journey considerably - are not uncommon.
We also use small private buses or vans where appropriate, as well as taxis and even boats: whatever is the best and most efficient means of transport. We will even introduce you to local public transport at times, such as the Vaporetto – or water bus – in Venice and Rome’s modern Metro – or underground rail system.
A further way we give you great value for your money is by structuring and pricing our tours so you know upfront what is included and what is not.
All guided tours noted in the tour itinerary are included, along with any entry fees. There are no hidden costs - you do not pay any more. The listed meals are also noted in the tour itinerary, as well as the City Tax for every hotel. (Local councils require hotels in most towns and cities to collect a tax of up to $10 per person per night as a tourist tax. Many companies require you to pay at the hotel. That really annoys us, so we have factored it into our prices.)
Principle 5: Great expert partners
By joining us on a Viaggio Italia guided tour of Italy, you will get the benefit of our years of international travel experience, and our personal selection of the hotels where you will stay, the local tour guides you will meet and the restaurants where we will eat.
In particular, at times you just can’t beat the detailed knowledge a local expert can provide. For this reason, in every location that we visit we have personally selected excellent local licenced and experienced tour guides to give you a truly local perspective and experience. If we visit the Colosseum, we go with someone who is an expert on the subject and licenced for the location. The same person, however, may not be an expert on the Vatican, and if so we will have a different local guide to help us there.
We also leave airfares to the experts. It is not hard these days make your own bookings online and we would not discourage you from doing that if you wish, however we do believe it is often prudent to use a registered travel agent to book your airfares. On one hand, they can sometimes get an even better deal than you can yourself. Secondly, they can sometimes arrange preferential seating for you (this has occurred for us on many occasions, with the agent being able to unlock seats that weren’t available to us online.)
We have worked with several travel agents for airline bookings. If you wish, we can provide contact details. They can also advise you regarding travel insurance.