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Contiki Italian Espresso Review June-July 2011!
Guys, I just got back from my Italian Espresso tour and it was really fun! Both the people and workers were great to be around and the sights we saw were amazing! I still do wish we'd have a little more time in Rome, but it was definitely a good mix of things to see! It really is an Italian Espresso, where you get the best of Italy in such a short time! You get a good half a day of free time in Florence, so I'd suggest reserving a ticket before, since some people tried reserving it on the same day and as you can understand, the number of tickets were limited. Definitely pack light, but I'm sure most things you don't even need sometimes! I only had 12kg going there with 15 kg going back and even I thought it was heavy!
Our tour manager (named Giuseppe, I hope you're lucky enough to get him as your guide!) was so great that even if you didn't have anything planned for free time, he'd give you advice on how to use your time in the most efficient time! :) Once, I was the only one who wanted to look at the church and even though he had to get back to his office, he went with me so I wouldn't get lost on my way there. I was surprised at how he really helped each and every person! One thing I'd like to suggest to everyone is be on time! We were always all on time except two girls who were always quite rude, so we actually had to leave them in Rome and leave to Florence. We waited and waited, but we literally can't ruin everyone else's vacation for those two.
The hotels we stayed at, yes, they were smaller than hotels here. I expected that already and I researched them before going to have more realistic expectations. The beds were quite comfy the first two hotels (especially the one in Florence), but was slightly hard for the Venice one. It didn't really bother me though. The rooms were clean and the breakfast had quite a good selection of food (here, the Venice one was really good with all of its' food options). Me, the only problem I had is that some of our rooms in the Florence and Rome hotels didn't have a shower curtain, so it felt a little weird. The one in Venice had sliding shower doors though, so it was nice! Also, it's true that you stay outside of Venice, since the prices are realllly realllyyy high to stay on that island. Luckily, I had a good roommate so I hope you'll all do too!
The optional excursions were DEFINITELY all worth it. They were much better than the included ones at times (I'm talking about the meals, not the tours). The tour guide in Rome was really funny, so I hope you get him as your guide. "Contikiii, Contikiiii, follow the guide!". You'll laugh when he says that!
Before, I didn't want to see the leather demonstration or the glass-making demo, but they turned out to be really interesting! I do recommend you to see them then! I mostly walked with either my group of new friends or the whole tour group, because it was really fun with them. Just be prepared to walk a lot and not sleep too much. The meals in the evenings are yummy, but I couldn't finish my plates because they had so much food! I pretty much survived on only breakfasts and dinners most of the time. Don't forget putting sunscreen on EVERY part of your body that's exposed. I thought that my big hat would protect my neck (it did a noon though, but only then) and I forgot to put some sunscreen on. I got a really bad burn, but some high quality cream from Florence helped me get through it! :)
I can answer any questions you guys have for your tours!
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never mind…the Accademia has more times, so I will just go there. Thanks for all the info you have posted so far, though. It’s been wonderful. I’m so excited to go!
@ Paulique: Well, the time you’ll have in Florence will mostly be on Tuesday and a little on Wednesday evening. Monday, you get to Florence around 6:30 pm. Remember to calculate the days and the schedule well, because it wouldn’t be fun to book on a day that you might not have enough time! :(
I find that the schedule pics that I posted should help you see what Contiki really meant with their intinerary. :)
Either way, good luck and I hope you have a great time!
Does anyone know if the rooms have hair dryers? I heard from friends its not common and i really don’t want to bring one. What type of plugs do they have there?
thanks for the information on the museum! Also, in churches, do our shorts or skirts need to be to the knee or below the knee?
@ Explorer1264693: All of the rooms I had did and I don’t think anyone was missing them in their rooms. :) The hair dryers are kind of weak though, but as long as you kind of calculate how long it’ll take you to dry your hair, you’ll be okay with it I think. :) They have those two prong European plugs, so any European adapter will work. :)
@ Paulique: In churches, our guide said that the limit would be to four fingers above the knee (sideways of course though, haha). It’s just always better to be a bit lower in case some guards/workers might be in a bad mood or more strict churches. :) So to the knee should suffice!
Did you have any free time during your first day in Florence before the dinner? Did you do any exploring?
@ Explorer1269135: Do you mean the first day before we had our included meal and the karaoke bar after? That day, I think we arrived in our hotel rooms around 6:00-6:30 and the dinner, we had to meet up around 7pm to go there together. My roommate and I just took that time to relax a little, because we knew we had a long night ahead! :) (Even me, who’s an early person, I got back a bit before midnight for a shower). I sat writing down in my travel journal, because I didn’t really have any time when I was in Rome. Some people might have checked out the local scenery, but not many. The earlier you’ll get there, the more time I guess. ;) Because it always depends on traffic conditions and all that.
Thanks Elena. Yes, the day you had the included dinner. Florence is my favorite city and there are few attractions i want to go to plus do some shopping. Trying to find time to do everything with the limited time we are in the city. With the exception of the day you do the leather demo, is there any other day where you had free time in Florence?
Again thanks for all the info!
@ Explorer1269135: Well, we got back to Florence on the next day, the one with the wine tasting, around 5pm. We had the rest of the time free, so it was nice to explore some more, but most of the big tourist places (such as the duomo and galleries) were closed at either 5 or 6pm. :) I’m happy to help!
I just got back from the tour last night. It was AMAZING!!!!!
Yay! I’m happy you liked it! ;) Be sure to add a small review to this site so that people can see your point of view too! :)
Yes! livestrong you must give us details!
Did you find you had the same experience/itinerary as Elena?
Please do! Did you do any extras that you would recommend? Deets we need. More info better. I leave in less then 2 months :)
Thanks Elena. This topic has been very helpful. Would you recommend buying tickets to Pisa tower in advance? Is there a lot of free time there? Does the bus stop in Verona? I saw that in your pictures but not in the tour description. Is there enough time to see the balcony of Juliet? Also do you remember what was covered in day 4 tour in Florence? I’m considering skipping that to get more free time and fit more museum visits. Thanks again!
My sister and I just got back from the tour on Sunday. It was amazing. I think our experience was quite similar to Elena’s. I really enjoyed the sightseeing in Rome: just the sheer amount of history there was super-cool! We also had a different tour manager than Elena’s and he did a great job, so there’s more than one good one out there. Great sights, great people, great food, and great fun.
We took 400 Euros each and only had to withdraw a little more on the second-last day, in order to have money to tip the tour manager and driver. We also went on all the optional excursions, and enjoyed them. I would recommend doing all the optional tours. It just helps explain the history so much that it’s worth it for the hour it takes.
Bring a lot of shirts, as it is very, very warm, and there’s not much time to do any laundry. Go to the Academia museum. It was very much worth the money. Just call ahead to book: the website told us there was no space left, but that was an error. Yes, the bus stops in Verona to see Juliet’s balcony and we had a little time to wander around, then had dinner there.
Any questions, feel free to ask!
This may be a silly question, but how did you all know which museum tours (not included of course) to book on your own? Like academia museum? I’ve never traveled with a contiki before and definately want to get the most out of the experience. Was it something you did before you even left home or something you did while traveling to the next destination? Thank you!
I’m so glad that you had a great time too, paulique! with all the bad reviews out there… How much free time did you have in Venice? I really want to see Doge’s palace, don’t know if I should get tickets in advance. Did you go there by any chance? Is there anything else you recommend for all the free time that was not mentioned yet? Thanks in advance!
@Aprilrenee: I booked academia tickets after reading Elena’s review. The museums in Florence are really the only thing I think that you needed tickets in advance for (and you can still get them when you’re there, it just takes about an hour). In the Contiki itinerary pamphlet, there is a phone number to call and book the tickets. You can look online to decide which to do. If you really like art, I would recommend both the Uffizi and the Accademia. Uffizi is more paintings, Accademia has a nice mix of paintings and sculpture, and of course, David. You just need to bring the booking number they give you with you to the museums and you pay there. I think it’s about 15 Euros per museum.
@Explorer1271925: I know, the bad reviews had us scared before we went, but as long as you aren’t expecting the hotels to be spas, you should be fine :) In Venice, we had quite a bit of free time. I think the walking tour ended around 11:30, and we had until the gondola ride at 4:45 to do our own thing. We did not visit Doge’s palace, but I don’t think you would have to get tickets. Maybe Google it? In terms of free time, I recommend that you take some time just to wander and get lost in some of the cities, especially Venice and Verona. We also went to a fun karaoke bar in Florence, which had a dance floor/ club attached, so if your group is going out, go along! Take the time to eat a lot of gelato…it is sooo good. Other than that, most of the good stuff is included or in the optionals!
I’m so excited to be going now, sept 30th so close. Just a few questions more. For this trip guys won’t need suit/ties but dress shirts advised right? :) and are backpacks advised to bring as well?
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