This tour company was highly recommended for on-shore excursions for our Mediterranean cruise by members of CruiseCritic. Our experience was very positive!
Many emails were exchanged with the staff at Italy Tours about their packages including cost, availability, timeframes, etc. First impressions were that they seemed to be a good company to deal with but, when doing so with a business you only know on the internet, you are never entirely sure.
However, after all emails sent to tItaly Tours were responded to in a very timely and pleasant basis, in excellent English, we gained a high level of confidence.
For the tours that we booked, and one that did not take place owing to a lack of interest, the company gave us a lot of valuable logistical information to ensure that we were well prepared and informed.
At one point, when trying to get on the Cannes/Nice/Monte Carlo tour, the company tried its utmost to ensure it would take place but, eventually, it had to be cancelled. There were simply not enough people to go … and this was at least their second tour of those cities.
Owing to the cancellation, we had the full amount of our ticket purchase reimbursed within a couple of days without any delays, penalties or questions asked. We were VERY happy with the way they managed this matter. It gave us additional confidence that we were in fact dealing with a reputable company.
By the tour ...
July 9th – Naples
We were picked up promptly by our guide and driver at the Port in a clean, Mercedes touring van, and then driven to Pompeii. From the pick-up spot to Pompeii, the guide gave us valuable insight. Although we had a bit of a delay in getting our tickets into Pompeii, we enjoyed an incredible tour with our expert.
Our tour group was small enough that our Pompeii expert was able to speak with us in a normal tone of voice but we wonder if having a head-set would make the communications clearer. The expert was well versed in the rich history of Pompeii and showed us so many things highlighting the architecture and structure of Pompeii. Initially, we were concerned at the short time we had for visiting the site – but again, with extreme heat, 2 hours allowed us to enjoy an overview of the life in Pompeii and then get out of the heat. Make sure you have water bottles for your visit and wear excellent walking shoes because the stone sidewalks/roads are original and uneven, but an amazing part of the experience.
After this great tour, we boarded our bus (comfortably air conditioned!) for a trip to Amalfi Coast, where we visited Sorrento and saw Positano from a road-side lookout, along with a side trip to a Limoncello plant, in this incredible area. We stopped along the way for photos and souvenir buying. It was very relaxed enjoyable.
With all the construction around the Naples port, the journey was slow getting back for disembarking. Our driver masterfully got us back to the Port in a time that allowed us to board the ship when we needed to. It was very close, but we made it on time. Our Guide, Driver and Pompeii expert were extraordinary and well suited to their jobs.
July 10th – Rome
At the appointed time, we were picked up by our driver at the port. We did not depart right away, the driver waited about 15 or so minutes for what turned out to be a “no show” client. With the need to get to the Coliseum (for booked tour tickets) by 9:30 AM, we were concerned that we would not arrive in time.
With heavy traffic, construction and an accident - not involving us - on the route, twe arrived at the Coliseum later than we wanted for our one hour tour. From the time that our driver dropped us off close to the entry, we were able to get into the facility within 10 minutes!! Fortunately, before the cruise, we purchased skip-the-line tickets directly from the Coliseum ticket office. This enabled us to by-pass several ticket lines that were easily over 100 metres long. Without the pre-booked ticket reservation we would not have been able to go into the coliseum. Hint: for a quick, easy way to get in to this site, buy your tickets in advance DIRECTLY from the Coliseum site: www.coopculture.it.
The driver took us past major sights in Rome (Caesar’s Palace, Circus Maximus, Roman Forum) and a quick stop in the heart of Rome for a grab and go lunch. In addition, we had a walking tour to Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and the Spanish Steps. He provided valuable historical information and points of interest as well as navigating the most narrow, crowded streets we have ever seen, with calm expert skill!
Following this tour, we visited the Vatican, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Square, etc. Our expert guide was superb. She was very educated and knowledgeable about everything that we saw (history, literature, art, church history). There were many people in the Vatican on the day we visited, but our expert kept us close and well informed (using audio headsets to ‘whisper in our ears’ as we travelled through the crowded Vatican galleries on our way to the Sistine and St. Peter’s). We learned a great deal on that special day.
The expert and driver co-ordinated very well so that drop-offs and pick-ups at the Vatican were smooth in the crowds and busy streets of Rome. Our driver was then able to get us back to the port in time for our departure. It was a fast-paced, highlight reel of incredible historical sights. The driver and expert really enabled us to see far more than you could possibly cover on your own, and in a short time gain some understanding of the history and richness of the sites we visited.
This tour required good walking skill! Several seniors who joined us for the Vatican tour had great difficulty walking (stairs!!!) in these old buildings (no elevators/ escalators). The day was very hot (bring water bottles) and amount of walking requires good physical ability to cover distances and stairs. Wheelchairs (impossible!) or those requiring walkers will face extreme difficulty.
July 11th – Livorno
Rather than see both Pisa and Florence from Italy Tours, we chose their package to only Florence. While we would have enjoyed seeing Pisa and more of the Tuscan countryside, we were glad in hindsight, that we focused on Florence as there was so much to see in a single day. Again, we were picked up in a clean, new Mercedes touring van from the port by our driver. The journey to Florence from the port, through the Tuscany country-side, was breath-taking.
We met our Expert in Florence who walked us into the university to see, among many other artifacts, the glorious Statue of David. We learned so much from this Expert who had great knowledge (history, art history and artists techniques, literature, mythology, architecture, languages) and a strong, effective way to communicate.
She also worked to ensure that the tour was engaging for several kids (ages 11-15) that were part of our group. She had a marvelous teaching style for the kids and all adults in the group – we could have spent 2 weeks following this lady and listening to her! So gifted! We walked through the Galleria dell’ Accademia to see beautiful medieval and renaissance art works, sculpture and of course, Michelangelo’s David.
Next we ventured through the incredible streets of Florence on a walking tour to see many interesting sites:The Baptistery, Il Duomo – Santa Maria Novella, Ponte Vecchio, Bascilica di San Lorenzo. We also had 90 minutes to explore this amazing city, grab lunch (with a nice gelato!) and shop (Italian leather is the local speciality).
Getting access to skip-the-line tickets, as a part of our tour package, enabled us to bypass many other tourists waiting to get tickets. There were many people at the university that day, but we saw everything in a very calm, unrushed way. Our expert used audio headsets, which enabled her to ‘whisper in our ears’ and provide info throughout the gallery and streets.
Our trip back to the Port incorporated a visit to other interesting sites in Florence especially the Piazzale Michangelo (atop a hill overlooking the city and Arno river), courtesy our Driver. The return trip included this spectacular Tuscany country-side again. It is very obvious now as to why so many people love this part of Italy! It’s on our bucket list to return and spend more time in this lovely city!
Our enjoyment for this day was punctuated by the skill and talent of our driver Expert; both were first class.