Raise your hand if you know someone who’s been to Italy.
Raise your hand if you know someone who wants to go to Italy.
Raise your hand if you yourself have been or want to go to Italy.
We’re going to guess you raised your hand (mentally) at least once, if not all three times.
To say Italy is a popular vacation destination would be an understatement; with 63.2 million tourists a year (2018), stunning Mediterranean coastline, imposing mountain ranges, Roman artifacts, rich history, and world-renowned art, fashion, and cuisine, it’s no wonder Italy ranks as the 5th most-visited country in the world.
So if it’s so accessible to that many travelers per year, WHY should you take a small guided tour to Italy as opposed to just planning the trip yourself?
What do you get from a hosted tour that you wouldn’t on your own?
Well, well, well, we’re so glad you asked.
On our Heart of Italy Tour, we strive to bring you the absolute best Italy experience you can’t get anywhere else, no matter how hard you Google, or how many travel books and travel blogs you read.
So here it is. Here’s why it’s definitely worth it to travel to Italy on a small guided tour; this is what you wouldn’t get on our own:
1. Connections with Locals
For a popular destination like Italy that can easily be researched online and that you’ve inevitably had a friend visit before, in a few keystrokes or text messages you can find recommendations for a nice hotel, a decent restaurant, and logistical information like where to go, how to get there, where to capture the best picture, etc.
But the one thing that can’t be replicated or transferred is relationships.
We believe you can only really understand a place through connection with its people, which is why our trips are centered around the relationships with local friends we’ve built over the years.
And in Italy, we introduce you to so many of our local friends who have a passion for where they grew up and live: the neighborhood cheese maker, Benedetto; Alain, an amazing pasta chef who is ready to teach you his tricks; Roberto, a pastry baker for over 60 years who still enjoys letting us come into his kitchen to peak behind the scenes.
In Florence, one of the most tourist-heavy places in the country, our friend Gaia gives us an intimate insiders’ view of the city, sharing her personal stories with the local artisans she introduces us to in the neighborhood where she lives.
It’s the personal relationships that make an experience truly meaningful and memorable, and in Italy, our friends very quickly become your friends.
2. Unique, Non-Tourist Experiences You Simply Can’t Find on Your Own
Like we mentioned, many people have been to Italy. In fact, even some of those who come on our Heart of Italy Tour have been to Italy before.
But what they hadn’t experienced before were the unique moments we create for our travelers, like dining in Marika’s back patio with magnificent views and the freshest food picked literally right out of her garden. Like walking through local lemon groves and making limoncello from the lemons we pick off a tree. Like a pasta-making lesson from a local chef in a private Tuscan villa.
One of our travelers mused that he didn’t think he would have any way of relating to his friends’ or coworkers’ experiences in Italy, because his was far different:
“How can I feel commonality with Joe when he raves about the restaurant he went to, when I had dinner in Gloria’s home, overlooking the Duomo in Florence, helping her prepare pesto in the kitchen and listening to stories about her family business? It’s just a totally different side to Italy than seeing sites as a tourist.”
And that’s our goal - to show our Heart of Italy travelers a completely different side to Italy than they would be able to see and experience on their own.
3. No Stress, Absolutely None
How many hours have you spent researching and deliberating over the best hotel in the right neighborhood? Or what type of transportation to take from point A to B? Or which 4.5-5 star restaurant on Yelp is really the most authentic, or what experiences are really worth the splurge, or how much do you need to tip (wait, do you even need to tip? And when?), and where actually can you find the best pizza in Naples??
Relax. Close out of TripAdvisor and your fifty open tabs, we have you covered.
We’ve been there, we’ve put the hours of research in—not just online, but on foot. We’ve already visited all the “best” boutique hotels, we’ve already tried all the pizza in Naples, and we’ve already arranged the cooking classes worth doing and the boat trips worth taking.
No more research, no more deliberating, no more, as one traveler put it, fighting with your wife on a random street corner over where to eat dinner.
He says it typically goes down like this: “I Yelp, she Googles. My friend recommended this restaurant, her friend recommended that one. Eventually, we’re lost, hungry, frustrated, and ready to settle for the next place we see.”
No more settling or being unsure of anything. We pick you up from the airport. We handle all cash and tipping. We make all reservations and payments.
We handle all the stressful parts of travel so that you can just be present and fully enjoy your time abroad.
4. Delicious Meals, Every Time
We do not believe in wasting a meal on a “so-so”, or even a “pretty good” option. Our philosophy is you only have a few precious days on your trip; you deserve to eat and drink the best of the best!
With us, you can be assured that we’re sharing our absolute favorite places—not just the ones your cousin recommended because she stumbled into them starving after a failed Google search on a random street somewhere. No, goodness, no.
We have vetted and refined our list. We taste and taste and taste (it’s a hard job, I know), over and over and if something doesn’t meet our standards anymore, we replace it with a more delicious experience.
We dine at a restaurant with seafood caught by a fishing boat that just came into port. We lunch in a private plant nursery on multiple courses made from their garden. We watch our pizza being fried (yes, you read that correctly, we’re talking fried pizza, friends) before our eyes. We sip on wine made from the vineyards surrounding our table and carefully paired with each dinner course.
Rest assured every meal will be regional, local, seasonal, and fresh. We only choose places where we want to eat—because, after all, we’ll be eating with you!
5. Long-Lasting Friendships
I’ll be honest, one of my (Annie’s) biggest concerns when I started these tours was: what if people don’t get along?
Well, my biggest worry turned into what I’ve enjoyed the most in what we do.
Over the years, we’ve witnessed a sharing of experiences, joy, laughter, and depth of conversation that has brought our travelers together.
We consistently have “reunions” with travelers who want to get together again, and often there are travelers who arrange to visit each other in their hometowns after our trips are over.
There’s a bond created among our groups from experiencing something special together. After each trip, we walk away with friendships with people across the country (and across the world) that we cherish and want to nurture.
We’ve already taken the time to plan your dream trip to Italy that will save you countless hours of stress and planning, that will have you feeling like a VIP, and that will give you a view of Italy that is more than just checking “places to see” off a list.
We have three Italy trips planned for 2020, with only 12 spots available in each. We’d love to introduce you to our friends in Italy … your vacation is ready and waiting.
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