Living La Dolca Vita on Insight Vacations Italian Escapade Tour

Living La Dolca Vita on Insight Vacations Italian Escapade Tour

WJ Tested: Insight Vacations Italian Escapade Tour Review

The phrase La Dolce Vita, Italian for the sweet life, was popularized by Federico Fellini with his legendary movie from 1960. We had a thirst to discover La Dolce Vita for ourselves and knew it would take more than a movie or two. Booking Insight Vacations Italian Escapade tour put us on the right track to quench that thirst.

Colosseum in Rome

Colosseum in Rome

This 12-day, in-country coach tour allowed us an Italian immersion into UNESCO World Heritage Sites, medieval cities, jaw-dropping scenery, regional food and drink. Throughout the tour, which looped and covered a great deal of Italy, we absorbed as much incredible and entertaining knowledge as we could, aptly and expertly bestowed upon us by our remarkable Tour Director, Mark AKA Marco. We’ve travelled with Insight Vacations in the past and once again, we applaud their ability to hire only the best. Our driver, Alberto, also proved his mettle behind the wheel.

Viv and Jill in Positano

Viv and Jill in Positano

Tripping by coach, especially with Insight Vacations which lays claim to The Art of Touring in Style, continues to impress us as a smart way to experience journeys fully-escorted and stress-free. Leave the logistics to the experts, sit back, buckle up and ease into whatever new destination you’re headed. With more legroom and a limit of 40 seats per coach, you’ll travel in comfort as the landscape unfolds before you (this is as close to Business Class motor coach travel as one can get).

Exploring Lake Maggiore

Exploring Lake Maggiore

Our tour was comfortably paced with 2-night stays in Rome, Florence, Lake Maggiore, Venice and Sorrento, and 1-night in Assisi plus the final night back in Rome. The group for this April 30th tour was comprised of folks from the United States, Australia, Canada and Malaysia – 27 adventurers in total that ranged in age from mid-30’s to early 70’s. Over the course of the nearly 2 weeks of exploring Italy, we became a tight-knit aggregate, always watching out for each other.

A brief summary of our itinerary follows:

What better place to kick off the Italian Escapade tour than in Rome? The tour kicked off at Hotel Kolbe Rome (conveniently located next to the Forum) with a welcome reception and a delicious meal followed. The first evening featured a Rome Illuminations Drive optional tour that is not to be missed. We so enjoyed this beautiful night drive around the City of Seven Hills which was founded in 753 BC. Even though we drove past many venues which we would further explore the next day the city and sites took on an entirely different ambiance after dark.

St. Peter's Basilica in Rome

St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome

Thanks be to Insight Vacations, we were able to fast-track into venues throughout our tour. Our first experience of leaving the rest of the tourists in the Roman dust was at the Colosseum. This was followed by the next morning’s visit to the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. We can’t emphasize enough what a bonus this is. Fast-tracking with Insight Vacations literally saves hours of standing in queues wasting valuable time in any trip (even independent tourists that made online reservations prior to arrival had to wait in long queues).

Siena

Siena

After Rome, our tour headed north to the medieval city of Siena (the second oldest city in Tuscany) which we explored for a few hours before carrying on to Florence. Here we spent two nights, allowing us a full day of discovering this fabulous city’s highlights which of course included viewing Michelangelo’s original statue of David. An optional dinner in the Tuscan countryside was a group favorite, with our joy overspilling as we all sang our way back to the hotel listening to Dean Martin (That’s Amore… among others) on the return coach ride.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Leaning Tower of Pisa

The following morning we were off to the Lake District of Northern Italy by way of Pisa with a stop to see the famous Leaning Tower. Two nights at Grand Hotel Dino on Lake Maggiore certainly whetted our appetite for this stunningly beautiful region. We found the setting to be superb and joined the tour to Isola Bella. The schedule permitted time to do as one pleases and we loved being on our own for awhile to explore the area.

Grand Hotel Dino on Lake Maggiore

Grand Hotel Dino on Lake Maggiore

After bidding arrivederci to our little slice of heaven in the Piedmont Region (Lake Maggiore straddles the Piedmont and Lombardy Regions on the south side of the Alps) our coach skirted the mountains on our way to the fair city of Verona. En route we paid a visit to a family-owned wine estate where we learned how Prosecco was made – followed by sampling and antipasti. In Verona, we stood beneath Juliet’s balcony (from Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet) and saw another well-preserved Roman arena. Then we pushed on to our hotel in Venice which we would call home for 2 nights.

Gondola Ride in Venice

Gondola Ride in Venice

Amazing and magical Venice ~ Mama Mia! During our stay we experienced so much in this city of 118 islands. We took a water taxi along the Grand Canal, rode in a gondola with an accordion player and singer, sipped Prosecco in St. Mark’s Square within view of the Basilica and the Doges’ Palace. And let’s remember, all of this was fast-tracked with no waiting in lines, no trying to secure reservations and sans paying an exorbitant cover charge to sit and enjoy the orchestra play at the cafe next to St. Mark’s! We also saw how hand-crafted Murano glass and Venetian masks are made at a studio on Giudecca island. The optional cruise to Burano with its brightly painted houses, along with a lavish seafood lunch proved to be wonderful,too.

An Evening of Prosecco at a Cafe in St. Mark's Square

An Evening of Prosecco at a Cafe in St. Mark’s Square

Leaving the Veneto Region behind we next turned south towards Assisi. Along the way, we stopped near Ravenna and visited the Church of St Apollinaris in Classe with its remarkable mosaics. Once in Assisi we toured the Basilica of St Francis and strolled this lovely town in the Umbria Region. We overnighted here and enjoyed the views looking out over the valley.

Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi

Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi

Sorrento, in Italy’s Campania Region and overlooking the Bay of Naples, was our next destination. It seemed to be a long day’s drive, so the lovely Hotel Regina with fantastic views was a treasure. Albeit a long day, we didn’t miss the optional excursion to a local family farm where we learned the art of making mozzarella, laughed through a lively pizza-making demonstration and dined on a down-home meal while enveloped in camaraderie.

Sorrento

Sorrento

After a good night’s sleep, we were prepared for our boat ride over to the isle of Capri. As gorgeous as one can imagine, the setting is idyllic. We strolled the streets and popped into cute little shops. We also appreciated the optional tour of a small-boat cruise around the island and the incredible colors in the water and cool rock formations with which we got up close to for great photos. On the heels of this, we signed up for the optional tour along the Amalfi Coast out to Positano – where the camera worked overtime!

Isle of Capri

Isle of Capri

Our last full day was as full of adventure as all the others. This day’s highlight was touring Pompeii, the preserved city devastated by the eruptions of Mount Vesuvius in AD79. We fast-tracked into this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Having toured this before on our own, we truly appreciated being at Pompeii with a knowledgeable guide this time.

Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius

Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius

The night (and tour) wrapped up, once again in Rome. After driving to a local downtown restaurant we dined on an incredible 4-course dinner complemented with local wine. During dinner we were serenaded with popular songs and arias from well-known operas and our whole group of new friends joined in the festivities with everyone on their feet singing and dancing! Sogni d’oro (golden slumbers) to us all.

Rome Highlight Dinner

Rome Highlight Dinner

If You Go:

Next: Insight Vacations Italian Escapade Tour – Meet and Greet in Rome!

 

Note: WAVEJourney were guests of Insight Vacations for their April 30 – May 12, 2013 Italian Escapade tour. Read our full disclosure statement to see that this has no effect on our reviews.

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