June 8, 2017

Visiting Italy With Insight Vacations (And My Florence + Venice Photo Diary).

     Today I am beginning to wrap up my blog posts from my March trip to Italy with my mom! As I previously mentioned, we chose to travel to Italy through Insight Vacations tour group instead of going completely on our own. This was not our first time traveling to Europe with a tour company- back in 2013 both of my parents and I went to the UK over the holidays on a tour with Trafalgar, which I believe is a sister company to Insight.

      Since tour groups are a unique way of vacationing to a foreign country (or even in the US- many tour companies do offer domestic vacations as well!), I thought I would use today's post to talk a bit our experience with seeing Italy via Insight Vacations, how it compared to our Trafalgar experience in 2013, and if I would do another tour in the future. (Just to clarify- our vacation and this blog post isn't sponsored/comped at all by either of these companies! I just want to give an honest review of our vacation experience for y'all.)


      I'm also going to be sharing a lot of my favorite photos from Florence and Venice, the other cities that we visited in Italy! We were in Rome the longest so I was able to write a detailed travel guide blog post, but since we were only in Florence and Venice for a couple days each and most of our time was spent on guided activities, I don't have too many recommendations for those cities to share. But I still wanted to share all of my photos!


     And if you would like to catch up on my previous Italy blog posts, check out:







      The Insight Vacations Italy tour that my mom and I went on was called Easy Pace Italy. "Easy Pace" meant that this tour offered more free time and more optional excursions then some of their other tours, so that you feel more in control of your vacation. (To compare: the Trafalgar tour that my family did in 2013 was NOT easy pace. Most excursions were mandatory, we had to be on the tour bus most mornings by 6 am, and there were many long days of travel in the bus.) Our Italy tour focused on three cities: Rome, Florence and Venice. There were also day trips and rest stops in other Italian cities and towns, including Pisa, Verona and the amazing island of Burano (I'll be sharing photos from there in Monday's post!).


     Rome was the city that we were in the longest, and we chose to fly in an extra day early as well to kill of jet lag, so we really had a full taste of Rome. Next we headed to Florence and lastly Venice, and we were in each of those cities for three days. Below are a few photos from Pisa, which was one of our first day trips! We stopped there en route from Rome to Florence.


   







      Immediately one of the biggest pros of traveling to Italy with a tour group that I can think of is the added feeling of security. It's no secret that safety is currently a top concern with destinations all over the world, but especially so right now in Europe. If you travel with a tour group, your guide will be a local (or at least very well seasoned visitor) to the regions that you're traveling through, so that if God forbid there is a threat to security or some sort of attack, you will be able to find some sort of safety amongst your group instead of just fending for yourself in a foreign country. The added safety bonus applies to smaller situations too, such as pick pockets! Theft is a huge concern in Italy, and I always felt more secure when visiting the museums and monuments to know that I was in a tour group with local guides rather than just my mom and I fending for ourselves (where we would probably still out like sore thumbs so badly as Americans!).



   

      Another big pro of traveling to a foreign country with a tour group is for some of the benefits related to excursions and day trips. For one, your tour guide will organize visits to places that you might never have thought to see on your own. The above picture is from when my mom and I got to visit an Italian winery and attend a wine tasting (which was in the same day that we went to Pisa, en route from Rome to Florence), which is something that was super fun, but my mom and I probably wouldn't have done on our own if we were in Italy without a tour group!

   
     And as far as visiting major attractions- being there with a tour company will help speed up the process majorly! At many of the museums and historical sights that we visited, such as the Colosseum in Rome and Galleria d'ell Academia in Florence (where the famous David sculpture is), our tour guide had already pre-purchased tickets for the whole group, so all 40+ of us were able to bypass the long lines that many tourists were stuck in.







   


     Above are a few photos from museums and sightseeing during our days in Florence! A highlight of Florence for my mom was getting to spend time during our free day in the city visiting the famous Uffizzi museum, which is one of the best art museums in the world for renaissance art.


     The last and most important pro that I can think about to traveling abroad with Insight Vacations or another tour company is for the relationships that you make with other travelers on your tour! This didn't happen quite as much on my family's UK trip a few years ago, but my mom and I got very lucky and had the nicest tour companions and tour guide on our Italy trip. We made new friends from all over the US and all over the world! Our tour guide, Julie, was absolutely fantastic, and she knew so much about Italian culture.











   

    As far as cons to traveling with a tour company, there are a few. I definitely think the pros outweigh the cons - at least for the needs that my mom and I were looking for in our Italy trip! But I will still be honest and address the few cons anyways.


      Since a tour is a a more expensive price up front (since you're paying for lodging, ground transportation, some meals, and most excursions), you will feel more compelled to take advantage of everything offered since it a lot of it was prepaid for, and probably not cheap! I was actually not crazy about all of the meals that were included on our trip. A lot of the restaurants that our whole group ate at for dinners a few of the nights of the trip did not have the best food, which was disappointing. My favorite meals in Italy were definitely the ones in smaller restaurants that my mom and I discovered ourselves. One group meal was a pizza dinner in Florence... and the pizza was terrible. I hate saying that since I was in Italy and Italian pizza is supposed to be the best in the world (and I did have the best pizza in the world in Rome!), but in this case it was just not good food! Of course the company and conversation was enjoyable since we were with our whole group, but on repeated occasions I remember not enjoying the food at restaurants that were apart of group dinners.


     Another con is that on travel days, your time is very constrained to the group agenda. Most of the travel days have a very early start, and the only thing that I remember being very frustrated with in Italy is that I kept trying to rest in the bus, but every time that I was just on the verge of napping, we would arrive at a rest stop and our tour director would ask everyone to get off the bus so that the bus driver could also rest. (Which is totally valid! There were just a lot of rest stops so it was impossible to rest  much on the bus). Since our Italy trip was considered easy pace though, we only had a couple of long travel days. When my parents and I went to the UK, the focus of the trip was seeing England and Scotland in as short of a time as possible, so a lot of that trip was spent on the tour bus.




     Alright - I think about sums up the rest of our Italy trip! I have one more blog post for the trip about a very special day trip excursion that my mom and I got to go on... that post will be live on Monday! (As well as all of the video that I filmed while there that I need to find the time to edit into vlogs... hopefully I can do that soon!)



     Thanks so much for reading! Feel free to email me if you have any specific questions!



      God Bless,



      xoxo Annaliese (or Charlotte XO on the radio!)











15 comments:

  1. I'm definitely open to planning a trip with a tour group for some of the reasons you listed in this post! I would feel so much better being with someone who knows how to get around and speaks the language. At the same time it's fun to explore on your own. Sometimes you have to get lost to find the best spots! Sounds like you and your mom made the right choice with the style of tour you chose to take advantage of your free time! These photos are breathtaking! I'd love to visit Venice.

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  2. I definitely think I would prefer an easy pace tour if I traveled with a tour group. I actually haven't traveled with a tour group on any of the trips I've been on (with the exception of trips with my school in high school). My Aunt is really well traveled so I usually turn to her for advice and suggestions like she's my own personal tour guide haha. Your trip to Italy seems like it was really great overall, I do get being annoyed on the tour bus and by the bad food spots (I mean it's Italy there is no excuse for them not to give you a decent meal haha).

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  3. Looks like such a beautiful trip! You definitely captured all of the beauty of Italy in these photos :)

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  4. looks so beautiful!! you and your mom look so similar!!

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  5. These photos look amazing! I do have to agree about the security and how its good to be in a group, which is sad. But your trip sounded amazing!

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  6. Italy is still one of my favorite countries and Venice being my favorite city so far! It looks like you had the best time!

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  7. OH man! I want to go to Italy! I'm so glad you had the best time!

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  8. Your pictures are so pretty! This trip looks like so much fun! I had no idea that there are tour groups you can choose to travel with.

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  9. ahhh Venice is one of my favourite places in Italy and your photos are making me so nostalgic!! I've never been on a tour group but it sounds like a cool way to see a country if you're unfamiliar with it!

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  10. Absolutely amazing photos! I'm gong to be starting to slowly plan a trip to Italy in the next year, so i'll definitely be coming back for a refresher as that gets closer!

    Molly // www.missmollymoon

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  11. Lovely photos! It's sounds like you had a great trip. Going to Italy is definitely on my bucket list!

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  12. Wow, Images you shared is simply awesome, I love to be there on next vacation. Thanks for sharing with us.

    Kim | http://www.condorny.com

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  13. Looks like you had a great time! Italy is at the top of my travel bucket list!

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  14. Oh I loved Italy, dying to go back with my husband!

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  15. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along.expat I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

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