Review: Italian Explorer
Culture, history and beauty
52 people found this review helpful
My husband and I had always wanted to tour Italy in our campervan but felt the distances were too great as we are in our seventies! When we read about the tour arranged by what was then Treyn we thought it would be an easier and possibly cheaper option.
We travelled by train from Nottingham and were met by the tour manager at Eurostar, St Pancras. From that moment on we were escorted all the way by a very competent guide.
After being driven across a very busy Paris by coach all our transport was by train, with our first night being spent in Mulhouse in N.E France. We had time to explore a little before catching our next train and were lucky enough to see the Ancienne Combattants parading right in front of our hotel and photograph a little girl in her Alsace national dress.
The journey to Rome was quite long involving 2 changes at Basle and Milan but by this time the group had began to gel and the gentlemen were very helpful, lifting heavy cases up the 3 high steps onto the train. We soon realised why we were advised to carry only 15kg of luggage and were grateful for pull along suitcases!
I don't think any of us were quite prepared for the noise and commotion in the station in Rome but we managed to stay more or less together as we dragged our luggage across the busy streets to our hotel ,The Bettoja Hotel Nord Nuova Roma. As we were late arriving we were rushed to eat our dinner in the sister hotel where we saw our very first roof top view of the city. well worth all the effort!
The next day we had a guided tour of Rome, on foot, which helped us all to decide where we would like to spend our free afternoon and leisure day. Unfortunately The Trevi Fountain is being restored so not really worth a visit except for the Ice cream parlour nearby!
That evening we all spent a very enjoyable time in a local restaurant where we were serenaded by a guitarist who seemed disappointed that we knew so few Italian songs! The highlight of our trip should have been our visit to The Vatican but it was so incredibly crowded we failed to appreciate it properly . I "lost" my husband in the enormous queue for the Sistine Chapel when he got stuck behind a group of Japanese! Re-united, he complained he had had no chance to see the wonderful ceiling painted by Michelangelo. It was extremely beautiful but hard to appreciate in such a crowded environment.
We chose to walk from the Vatican to see the Colliseum, passing a number of smaller ruined buildings,many of which didn't seem to warrant an information board. En route we saw a small group touring the city on Segway machines! Outside the Colliseum I was startled to see a group of youngsters holding up banners stating " Young Direction Come to Rome"! After a very hot and tiring time we caught a crowded metro train back to the Terminus.
Our next stop was Florence which I found to be less frenetic than Rome. Unfortunately there was a thunder storm as we arrived and we were met by numerous young men trying to sell us umbrellas and plastic cagoules.Some of our group were unprepared for rain so bought from them. We dragged our cases through pools of water to our hotel, the Hotel Croce di Malta which was situated near a very pretty square.
We had walking tour of Florence which seemed much more compact than Rome but equally picturesque. By this time we had made friends and arranged to visit The Uffizi Gallery, joining a short queue before 8am the following morning. It was well worth the early breakfast and truly exciting to see Botticelli's Primavera and The Birth of Venus among numerous other great works of art. Our only disappointment was when we could not see over the walls of the roof top cafe to photograph the spectacular view.
On our final day in Florence we went by train to visit Pisa and from there to the medieval city of Lucca walking round the 16th century walls. We would have preferred more time to explore Lucca, the birth place of Puccini but had a train to catch back to Florence.
Our next journey was to Venice where we spent 2 magical days. After an excellent guided tour we boarded a vaporetta and saw Venice by night. Our second day was "at leisure" so we bought an all day ticket and went first to explore The Peggy Guggenheim Museum which is full of modern art. Such a contrast to the classical statues and paintings seen on previous days. Fortunately one of our new friends was an artist and able to guide us to the really spectacular exhibits.
We also went by Vaporetta to the Lido which is the beach area of Venice and full of locals rather than tourists. We walked some of the way and found that outside the tourist area Venice was peaceful and very pretty.
On route home we stopped for one night in Turin staying in the Hotel Dock.We found our own way round the city,marvelling at The Turin Shroud in the Duomo.
Our very last day started at 6.30 a.m.as we had an early breakfast and caught the 07.39 TGV which took us all the way to Paris, thankfully with no changes! The scenery was amazing as we travelled through the mountains and time literally flew by as we thought back to all the places we had visited and friends we had made.
Arriving back at St Pancras we stopped for coffee and a sandwich and decided the prices were really not too bad compared to Italian cafes! A further train ride to Nottingham followed by a tram and finally a bus saw us arrive home extremely tired but delighted with our trip.
This sort of holiday is obviously not suitable for people with poor mobility, The steps of most of the trains seemed unreasonably high and lifting luggage onto the racks was far from easy. We walked almost everywhere too. Most of our group were OAPs but the younger ones felt they fitted in well and were, in fact, a great help to "us oldies"!
52 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.