Seeing Italy on a bus tour? If you are intimidated at the thought of driving alone through a non-English speaking country, a group bus tour may be the answer. Italy is an amazing country that deserves to be visited over and over again. Bus tours only hit the highlights, but you can use them to get comfortable in a new country and discover where to go on your next visit To avoid the additional solo travel charge you can have the tour company match you up with a roommate.

Bus tours may not be for everyone. You have a regimented schedule and, depending on the tour, may not have a lot of free time to explore the destinations. However, you can also sit back and let someone else worry about all the logistics of the trip.

Trafalgar Tours had a Highlights of Italy tour. It began in Rome. My group had about forty-five people of various ages and from various countries. Being together for 10-days gives you the opportunity to get to know people and make friends. Many of us still keep in touch through Facebook.

Rome

Walking through the street that Roman emperors once trod gives you a sense of how old this city actually is. The juxtaposition of skyscrapers and cars next to two-thousand-year-old ruins is often jarring. Rome is a chaotic place, but you can stroll down a busy street and turn a corner and find a quiet little cafe to sit and enjoy some wine and pasta. Throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain and enjoy some gelato in the evening.

Naples

Naples has a few sights but seemed to be more of a jumping off point for Pompeii, Capri and the Amalfi Coast. The Trafalgar Tour went to Capri. It ust have been the hottest day of the year. (It was August). A funicular takes you to the top of the island where the town starts. The narrow streets are full of high-end shops that you can hardly afford to walk into. The crowds and narrow streets seemed to magnify the heat. Head to the outskirts to get some air and spectacular views of the bay. The views were spectacular. What was more impressive was a boat tour of the famous grottoes and the cliffs around the island.

Venice

The Venice I remembered from my childhood was smelly, crowded and confusing. It’s still crowded, but there seemed to be more directional signs that help you find your way back to the Grand Canal and the Palace. Riding a gondola is super touristy, but you can’t go to Venice without taking a ride. Take some time to wander along the canals and narrow streets. The lines to get into the Cathedral are always long. The line to tour the Palace was much shorter. If you have time, take a water taxi over to the island of Burano. The vibrant colors of the houses on this small island suburb are a photographer’s dream. You can also visit Murano which has the famous glass factory, although there are plenty of shops in Venice that sell the glass and provide glassblowing demonstrations

Lake Maggiore

Lake Maggiore is the second largest lake in Italy and is situated in the Italian Alps. Part of the lake is also in Switzerland. It’s a stunning alpine lake bordered by snow-capped mountains. There are three Borromean Islands in the lake which boast palaces and beautiful gardens. Isola Bella has a small, but over-the-top, baroque palace. Behind the palace are multi-tiered Italianate gardens. Despite its location in the Alps, the lake has a temperate climate that allows the gardens to flourish.

Tuscany

Much has been written about the beauty of Tuscany. It’s a place you have to see for yourself. There are fields of sunflowers, vineyards and quaint little villages which dot the landscape. San Gimignano is a UNESCO World Heritage site that preserves its 13th-century heritage. It has a gelato shop that claims to be the best in Italy. The numerous watchtowers rise throughout the town giving the appearance of ancient skyscrapers.

Art and architecture are the jewels of Florence The Duomo designed by Brunelleschi dominates the skyline of the city. The Uffizi Gallery holds one of the largest collections of renaissance art in the world. For the best view of the city, cross the Arno river and climb up to the Piazzale Michelangelo. You can walk up from the river, take the number 12 or 13 bus, or drive up.

Italy is a country you need to visit more than once. If you can only go once, seeing Italy on a bus tour will give you the flavor of the country. However, there’s nothing like having the time to stay for several weeks and explore the small villages and towns that most people miss when they just visit the larger cities.

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