- David’s Blog
The Best of Italy Tour visits favorite destinations situated north of Rome. Beginning in Rome, you’ll visit the essential tourist sights and classic destinations. Then, travel to the delightful villages of the Cinque Terre where you’ll enjoy two days exploring this coastal region where the mountains literally fall into the sea. Volterra, my choice for the quintessential Tuscan hilltown, is sure to win you over to the “la dolce vita” lifestyle. Florence, the “cradle of the Renaissance,” will have you walking in the steps of Michelangelo, DaVinci, and the Medici’s. Venice, the romantic canal laced city, rounds out the big three tourist sites. Finally, we will cap off the tour relaxing on beautiful Lake Como in addition to taking a quick look at Milan’s bustling city center. Your Adventure Start Here!
Rome – 2 nights
Cinque Terre – 2 nights
Volterra – 2 nights
Florence – 2 nights
Venice – 2 nights
Lake Como – 2 nights
Milan – 1 night
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Let’s plan to meet in our hotel lobby at 2:00 p.m. for introductions and a welcome drink. Then, we will set off to explore the sites of ancient Rome. Enjoy a guided walking tour through the Colosseum and Forum, giving an insider’s perspective on daily life dating back more than 2,000 years. Later, we will enjoy a grand “welcome to Italy” dinner at a favorite restaurant. Sleep 2 nights in Rome. Walking: moderate. Dinner.
After breakfast, join our local guide at the Vatican Museum. Enjoy an in-depth tour of this vast treasure trove of the world’s finest works of art, capped off with an awe-inspiring look at Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. Then, enjoy a visit to the massive St. Peter’s Basilica, the world’s largest Christian church. After lunch, we’ll begin our walking tour of Rome’s historic central core visiting the Pantheon and several other sights in the area. You’ll have the remainder of the afternoon and evening to do a little exploring on your own. After an independent dinner, let’s meet up and take a gelato-licking stroll ending at the famous Trevi fountain. Walking: strenuous.
We’ll get an early start this morning on our way up to the Ligurian coast. Train travel in Italy is fun and mostly worry-free, so enjoy the ride. The Cinque Terre is a delightful collection of five little villages spilling from the mountains into the sea. After settling in, we’ll get you oriented to the region and set up with walking and transportation passes. Then, head out on your own to explore! We’ll meet later tonight for dinner featuring fresh food from the region. Sleep 2 nights in the Cinque Terre. Walking: light. Train: 4 hours. Dinner.
You’ll have the entire day on your own to explore the Cinque Terre. Traveling to and from the “five villages” in the region is easy by train, boat or foot. The National Park is loaded with scenic trails providing endless opportunities to get out and explore the outdoors. You may wish to stake your claim on one of the many beaches to catch some sun. Each village has its own character, decor, and ambiance as well as plenty of shopping and dining options. Walking: your choice.
It will take about an hour by train to get away from the coast and meet up with our driver. Then we’ll travel the backroads of Tuscany enroute to my favorite little hilltown. Volterra has become “famous” in recent years for The Lair of the Vampires in the Twilight book series. It has long been known as a quaint and off-the-beaten-path destination for savvy travelers. After settling in, enjoy a walking tour of the historic town followed by a guided wine tasting at my favorite wine cave. By now, you’ll be well on your way to knowing the town, so enjoy dinner on your own and an event-free evening. Sleep 2 nights in Volterra. Train: 1 hour. Driving: 1.5 hours. Walking: moderate.
We will take a short ride to Siena to explore another facet of medieval history and grand scale art. After an informative walking tour of the historic town center, you’ll be cut loose on the world famous Il Camposquare to enjoy lunch and a free afternoon. Returning to Volterra, prepare your taste buds for my favorite dining experience in all of Italy as we experience the cuisine of the Del Duca family ristorante. Walking: moderate. Driving 2.5 hours. Dinner.
Back on our bus and in less than two hours, you’ll be knee-deep in the Renaissance! After settling in at our hotel, join a walking tour linking together Florence’s famous historical sights followed by a visit to the Galleria Accademia, home of Michelangelo’s masterpiece, the statue of David. Then, enjoy more of Florence on your own and with the suggestions of your guide, consider your independent dining options. Sleep 2 nights in Florence. Walking: moderate. Driving: 1.5 hours.
You’ll have the entire day to explore more of Florence on your own. Visit another of the city’s museums, check out the Pitti Palace, get in some shopping, visit the market, or simply soak up the local ambiance. Tonight, join your group for a farewell to Tuscany dinner at a favorite ristorante. Walking: strenuous. Dinner.
We will hop on the train for a quick and easy ride up to Venice. Within three hours you’ll be cruising the Grand Canal and snapping photos faster than the bullet train. After settling into our hotel and taking a break for lunch, let’s visit St. Mark’s Square and its famed church. Then, we will spend some time on a walking tour lacing together several piazzi e ponti. After some free time to poke around on your own, we will meet for a canal-side pizza dinner. Sleep 2 nights in Venice. Train: 2 hours. Boat: 1 hour. Walking: Moderate. Dinner.
Enjoy a free day on your own in Venice. Your guide will assist with customizing activities to fit your needs. Consider visiting a museum, boating to a nearby island, exploring the many interesting churches, taking a gondola ride on the Grand Canal, or simply wandering and experiencing all Venice has to offer. Walking is your choice.
Most of the morning will be spent getting first to Milan, and then Lake Como. Once set up at our hotel, enjoy an orientation and walking tour of your “home” village followed by independent time on your own. Later, let’s meet for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. Sleep 2 nights at Lake Como. Train: 2.5 hours. Driving: 2 hours. Walking: moderate. Dinner.
The day is free for you to enjoy elegant Bellagio, Varenna and its charming villa, or take a hike in the foothills of the Alps for beautiful vistas. Your guide will be available to assist you with tailoring your plans for the day. Walking is your choice.
We will return to central Milan after breakfast and get set up at our hotel. Then, let’s head downtown for a look at the famous cathedral, shopping district, and opera house. After some free time, we will meet for a grand farewell dinner to recall tour memories and toast new friends. Train or bus: 1.5 hours. Walking: moderate. Dinner.
SPECIAL NOTE: DaVinci’s Last Supper fresco is here in town and reservations are hard to come by. It is wise to make a reservation on your own as soon as you know you’ll be in Milan. The cost is €8 which includes the reservation fee. Guided English tours are at 09:30 and 15:30 and require a mandatory extra fee of €3.50, however you do not have to take the guided tour. I suggest obtaining any entrance that works for your schedule. It is open until 18:45, but show up 20 minutes before your scheduled entry. Reservations are accepted by phone and online beginning 3 months before you visit. To book online visit http://www.vivaticket.it and choose Cenacolo Vinciano. To book by phone, from the USA dial 001-39-02-9280-0360. The number may be busy, but when you get through, choose option 2 to speak to someone in English. There is a better chance to snag a reservation here because cancellations typically do not show up on the online website.
It is easy to reach Milan’s airports by taxi or bus. Your guide will be happy to assist with your post-tour travel needs. Ciao e buon viaggio!
Transportation provided by coach, minibus, and train from your Rome hotel to your Milan hotel.
13 nights accommodation in centrally located hotels, guesthouses, and B&B’s. All rooms have private en-suite baths.
All tips and gratuities to guides, drivers, restaurant and hotel staff.
Guaranteed Small Group with no more than 24 travelers.
All breakfasts and seven of your dinners or lunches.
Traditional and gourmet dining experiences at some of David’s personal favorite restaurants. Eating well is a priority and you’ll enjoy fine regional fare featuring the best each locale has to offer.
All tours and admissions at no extra cost: Guided walking tours in Rome, Volterra, Siena and Florence ▪ Entrance and guided tour of the Colosseum and Forum, Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome ▪ Cinque Terre orientation and a train and trail pass ▪ Guided wine tasting in Tuscany ▪ Guided tour of the Galleria Accademia in Florence (Michelangelo’s David) ▪ Artistic and historical overview of the Piazza San Marco and entrance into the Basilica San Marco in Venice ▪ A two-day Vaperetto water bus pass in Venice ▪ David’s signature piazzi e ponti walking tour in Venice ▪ Lake Como area orientation ▪ Milan orientation and sightseeing suggestions ▪ and much more (itinerary specifics are subject to change).
A fulltime Exploring Europe guide and local experts dedicated to bringing to life the art, history, and culture of the tour destinations.
David’s printed tour handouts detailing each day’s historical and cultural experiences.
Free luggage tags and David’s custom-designed drawstring backpacks.
Our Unconditional Tour Price Guarantee that once locked in will never change.
Comprehensive Travel Insurance providing full coverage for emergency medical, baggage loss, and trip delay from the moment you depart for your tour.
$50 Tour Alumni discount for each David McGuffin tour you’ve taken prior to 2018.
$100 discount if making all payments by check, cash or bank draft.The $400 initial deposit may be made by credit card and still qualify for this discount.
Single rooms for solo travelers are available for an additional cost of $750.
Water is included with all group meals. Sodas, wine, beer and other drinks are your responsibility.
Walking and Physical Activity: We have planned this trip to provide maximum tour experiences. The basic nature of Europe does require some degree of physical activity to get out and see the sights, especially in the big cities. To help you plan, we’ve included a daily projection of physical activity. Here is our key for our walking activity ratings:
Light – Walking done on level surfaces with some hills and elevation gains. Two miles or less of required walking during the day.
Moderate – Walking done on paved and gravel paths and city cobbled sidewalks. To enjoy the full tour experience, some up and down hill walking is to be expected as is standing while viewing sights or museums. Four to six miles of walking per day.
Strenuous – Walking done on rugged and rocky paths and city cobbled sidewalks. There will be steps and stairs. Up to three hours standing in museums or experience sites. Up to eight miles of walking per day.
Your Choice – No matter what your walking ability, we will help you find alternative ways to enjoy and experience all Europe has to offer. To get the most out of our tours you should be able to operate at the light level everyday with spurts of moderate and strenuous.
THE BEST OF ITALY TOUR – The reason we chose David and this tour is because we wanted to be able to take advantage of David’s extensive knowledge of the areas visited to be sure we saw the best Italy had to offer. Having David take care of hotel and travel reservations and many of the meals was a huge benefit to us. Traveling with this size group (13) was great because we met some wonderful people and David is a delight to travel with. – Bill, Daytona Beach, FL
THE ESSENCE OF ITALY TOUR – David’s tours are a wonderful way to see and explore Europe. He does as promises in giving everyone a true local experience and getting you immersed in the culture. You not only get to see the “must see” attractions but he also gives you a look at “real life” in each destination. The dinner’s he provides are outstanding and are all ‘grand feasts”. We found all the accommodations he provided to be wonderful. No complaints whatsoever! – Becky, Panama City, FL
THE BEST OF ITALY TOUR – David’s tours are always very relaxed & friendly, with much walking, touring the best of each city, but allowing time on travelers own to explore or to relax. Being in a smaller group, we became better acquainted while enjoying wonderful evenings of group dinners. David is a very easy-going and relaxed guide who is willing to share his free time with the group. I have never experienced another tour guide who would spend his free evenings with the group, joining with anyone who wished for dinner or for additional entertainment in the evening. – Ramona, Sarasota, FL
THE BEST Of ITALY TOUR – The David McGuffin tour experience was fantastic! I would not have changed a single thing about the experience! I thought we covered all the best cities, tours, etc. that were really important to anyone who may never have the opportunity to go but once. Although we covered a lot I never felt it was a “whirlwind” tour. Always had the time to see what was in each place. – Linda, Gainesville, FL
THE BEST OF SICILY TOUR & THE ESSENCE OF ITALY – As my passion is archaeology and ancient history I was hoping and planning to see many ancient sites, and I was not disappointed. Most tours going to Sicily only cover two or three locations, but David’s itinerary covers pretty much the entire island. Good health and good walking-legs are required, as the terrain is steep and rocky in many places. It is always a plus when a tour leader is knowledgeable and a safe driver, as David is, but more importantly it is essential that he likes good food and wine, even though we couldn’t always eat all four courses. And in one hotel we even had a cooking class especially for us: So much fun! – Mette, Orange, CA
THE ESSENCE OF ITALY TOUR & THE ESSENCE OF IRELAND TOUR- This was my second tour with David McGuffin’s Exploring Europe. It was an amazing trip. A very relaxed pace during the delay that allows you to see the sites and plenty of time to take pictures. Of course, the dinners and meals were amazing. It’s so very nice travel with all lodging, schedules, and transportation already planned. I’d like to add that possibly our group had just too good of a time! Our small group really enjoyed every minute and had an absolute blast with Charlotte (our guide). We just laughed and had fun every day. While that makes for a fantastic vacation…it does make the ‘re-entry’ to normal life just painful. – Patti, Atlanta, GA
PRIVATE CUSTOM TOUR IN TUSCANY – Overall experience was outstanding. David picked us up at the train station in Florence and drove us thru the Tuscany area. He reserved a wonderful place for us to stay in the countryside, a little outside the city which was very relaxing, vineyards surrounded us. Very nice. The guides and tours that were set up for us could not have been better. Not only did he take us to places and explain the sites the guides he set up were outstanding. We have been to Florence before – but our guide Paola who took us thru the Accademia and the Uffizi gallery was so good that she made this experience the best that I have ever had. Overall our experience was just outstanding and I wish we could just do it all over again. – Joe, Jacksonville, FL
THE ESSENCE OF ITALY – This tour allowed us to experience different regions of Italy from small villages to big cities. Andy and his wife, Mary Ada, were the perfect tour guide couple! I can’t imagine learning as much or having as much fun without them! The flexibility and organization of this tour was amazing! We can’t wait to go on another tour! The dinner in Volterra was the best food I have ever eaten! I was not so keen on the seafood mix in Monterosso, I quickly became a vegetarian! I was shocked at how nice our lodging was. The breakfasts, accommodations and staff were great! – Sandra, Port Orange, FL
Now that you’ve decided to join this tour, we are sure you’ll have some questions. Don’t worry, we are here to help you through each aspect of your tour from start to finish.
David and his team have produced an episodic video series detailing many of the destinations on this tour itinerary. They are all neatly organized on his YouTube channel. Watch the complete series or view one episode at a time on his Best of Italy Playlist.
Join David as he shares impromptu moments from his travels in Italy. Watching these short 60 second segments are a great way to experience David’s travel style and adventures. Watch David’s Explore Italy.
David and his team have answered many travel related questions and they are all tucked away on his blog. But, no need to go there, just type in a keyword in the search box at the top or bottom of this page (it’s the gray rectangle with a small magnifying glass icon) and you will get results for your query.
We are happy to answer your travel questions and give advice and suggestions. firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-570-1351.