If your clients are first-time visitors, they probably want to see
Italy's classic big three: Rome, Florence and Venice.
If they've already been there and done that, they may prefer to
head for the hills of Tuscany and Umbria, filled with towns and
small cities with centuries of history, art and architecture. Or to
increasingly popular parts of southern Italy such as Puglia and
Sicily. Specialized independent programs designed for repeat
visitors remain high in popularity and enable tour operators to
show endless creativity.
The following is a sampling of tour operators to Italy and their
1998 programs. Prices are per person, double, unless otherwise
noted. (Note that "Apulia" and "Puglia" are alternate spellings for
the same region in southern Italy.)
AutoVenture, Seattle, Wa. Since 1971, this family-owned operator
has been specializing in FIT self-drive and chauffered tours.
Renaissance Road: eight-day tour through Rome, Florence, Venice,
Lake Como and Milan.
Price: From $1,995 self-drive and from $5,190 chauffered.
Call: (800) 426-7502.
Avanti Destinations, Portland, Ore. "People are looking for
culturally enriching experiences. They don't just want to sightsee.
They want to interact; to be a participant, not an observer," said
Avanti's president, Harry Dalgaard.
Cooking Program: In response to this trend, Avanti's three-day
cooking programs are offered at the villa Fattoria di Vibio in Todi
for a minimum of four people. The program features three afternoons
of cooking classes. Two mornings are free for self-guided wine and
olive-oil tasting excursions.
Price: From $549, including three nights' accommodations at
Fattoria di Vibio and four days' car rental.
Departures: Through June 30 and from Sept. 1 through Nov. 30.
Call: (800) 422-5053.
Central Holidays, Jersey City, N.J. There is still a great
interest in all-inclusive, motorcoach packages, according to Fred
Berardo, president of Central Holidays. "The combination of hotel,
air fare, transfers and other features makes a package both
economically attractive and a one-time shopping convenience."
Apulia On Wheels: This flexible fly/drive program, to a region of
southern Italy new to most visitors, includes a rental car with
unlimited mileage and seven hotel vouchers. A suggested itinerary
features Bari, Foggia, Monopoli or Torre Canne, Torre San Giovanni
Price: $1,655, including air fare, daily breakfast and local city
and highway maps.
Call: (800) 935-5000.
CIT Tours, New York. CIT is making news this year with its
Project Return, but it also offers more traditional programs.
Sicilian Carousel: An eight-day tour, Sicilian Carousel departs
from either Palermo or Catania and includes visits to Cefalu,
Tindari, Messina, Taormina, Catania, Mt. Etna, Ortiga, Agrigento,
Selinunte, Erice and Monreale.
Price: From $973, including hotels, all meals, motorcoach
transportation and sightseeing.
Departures: Weekly through Oct. 24.
Call: (800) CIT-TOUR
Collette Tours, Pawtucket, R.I. The two major markets to Italy
are first-timers interested in seeing the country's classic cities,
and repeat visitors who want an in-depth cultural experience and a
visit to the smaller cities, said Manuel Paulo, Collette's product
manager for Europe.
Enchanting Italy: The 12-day tour begins at Stresa in the Lake
District and includes visits to Genoa, the Italian Riviera, Parma,
Modena, Bologna, Montecatini Terme, Florence, San Gimignano, Siena,
Orvieto and Rome.
Price: From $1,549, including hotels, 18 meals, motorcoach
transportation and sightseeing.
Departures: Weekly through November.
Call: (800) 225-6290
Donna Franca Tours, Boston. Donna Franca Tours offers a custom
FIT and group service, as well as independent resort vacations;
castle, villa and apartment rentals; self-drive packages, and
combination packages of Rome, London, Venice and Madrid.
Preferred Independent Vacations: Options include an 11-day Lake
Como, Cinque Terre, Florence and Venice package, and a nine-day
Amalfi Coast and Sicily vacation featuring Positano, Taormina and
Price: $1,499 for the Lake Como vacation, $1,279 for the Amalfi
Coast trip. Both include hotels, daily buffet breakfast and bottle
of champagne at the first hotel. The company can also arrange for
car rental for transportation between cities.
Departures: Daily through October.
Call: (800) 225-6290.
Europe Express, Bellevue, Washington. A leader in independent
travel to Europe, Europe Express has enhanced its product line with
the addition of hiking and biking tours.
Treasures of Tuscany: This seven-day biking tour explores the
Tuscan countryside, from Chianciano Terme to Florence. 18- to
21-speed hybrid/mountain bikes are provided. Breakfast and dinners
are provided at accommodations. Daily distances range from 20 to 40
miles over a four to six hour period.
Price: $1,380 for self-guided tour; $1,740 for guided tour.
Departures: Self-guided tours leave daily April through October.
Guided tour is on October 4.
Call: (800) 927-3876.
Perillo Tours, Woodcliff Lake, N.J. Besides showcasing Italy's
classic cities in their tours, Perillo Tours has also been
successful with combined tour/cruise programs. This year it has
introduced two new ones in conjunction with Costa Cruises, said
The land tour visits Rome and Florence, followed by clients' choice
of an eastern or western Mediterranean cruise.
Italy Tour/Mediterranean Cruise: The seven-day land portion,
featuring Rome and Florence, is followed by a seven-day cruise. The
western cruise, leaving Genoa aboard the CostaRomantica, calls on
Naples, Palermo, Tunis, Palma de Mallorca, Barcelona and
Marseilles. The eastern cruise, departing Venice aboard the
CostaVictoria, calls on Bari, Katakolon, Kusadasi, Istanbul and
Price: From $3,559, including air fare, hotels, daily breakfast and
dinner on land and all meals aboard ship, sightseeing and
Departures: Weekly from May 5 to Oct. 20.
Call: (800) 431-1515.
Stay & Visit Italy, Washington, D.C. Started in 1993 with
the intention of allowing visitors to experience a specific region,
Stay & Visit Italy offers day trips from local hotels.
Wine & Ceramics Tour: 13-day tour of Tuscany and Umbria
including stops in Florence, Pisa, Sienna, Assisi and Gubbio. Tour
includes guides, all meals and accommodations in two four-star
Price: $2,400, land only.
Departures: June 11, July 23, Sept. 8 and Oct. 17.
Call: (202) 237-5220.
TourCrafters, Libertyville, Ill. TourCrafters has a variety of
programs geared to adventurous and repeat clients, said president
Mauro Galli. These mostly FIT programs focus on both off-the-beaten
track destinations and activities like cooking and biking.
Among these is "Puglia in Farmhouse," a group program last year
that is now available to FIT clients. The program features stays in
masserie, historic farmhouses converted to hotels. Clients choose
from special interest itineraries including ceramics, cooking
lessons and archeological training.
First-time clients can enjoy the "Italian Touch of Class," a deluxe
escorted tour featuring luxury hotels and gourmet dining.
Italian Touch of Class: This 13 day-tour features Rome, Naples,
Pompeii, Amalfi, Capri, Caserta, Canalicchio, Assisi, San
Gimignano, Florence, Rivarotta and Orvieto.
Price: From $3,595, including air fare, deluxe hotels, daily
breakfast and eight gourmet meals, motorcoach transportation and
Departures: May 2 and 16, June 6 and 20, July 4 and 18, Aug. 22,
Sept. 5 and 19 and Oct. 3 and 18.
Call: (800) 621-2259.
Touritalia, Chicago, Ill. Gino Di Nallo, Touritalia's president,
said the company specializes in independent programs, helping
agents create flexible packages customized to their clients' needs.
Among these are special interest, hotel, rail and self-drive
Tuscany and Umbria are particularly hot destinations now, and
self-drive packages are the ideal way to see these regions,
according to Di Nallo.
City Treasures -- The Italian Riviera: The program allows agents to
tailor a client's trip by choosing the hotel and length of stay and
adding a variety of sightseeing tours. Hotels are featured in Santa
Margherita Ligure, Camogli, San Remo and Genoa.
Price: Examples are from $79 per person, per night at the Cenobio
Dei Dogi in Camogli, and from $137 per person, per night at the
Royal in San Remo. Daily buffet breakfast is included.
Call: (800) 848-6276.
Tourlite International, New York: Valerie Athans, whose father,
Nicholas Athans founded Tourlite in 1970, said they are both very
excited to be re-including Italy among their offered destinations
after a 13-year hiatus. Of the seven packages which include Italy,
four include visits to Greece and Turkey or Croatia.
Greco-Italian Breeze: An 11-night tour including two days in
Venice, a seven-day cruise of the Italian and Greek islands and two
days in Rome. Package includes a daily buffet breakfast, all meals
on the cruise portion of the trip and a half-day sightseeing tour
Price: From $2,389 including air and rail fare.
Departures: June 3 to Oct. 21.
Call: (800) 272-7600.
Travel Bound, New York. Travel Bound has been operating since
1982, specializing in FIT, custom groups and trade fairs.
Introducing Italy: An eight-night tour starting in Rome and
traveling by rail to Florence, Venice and Milan with a half-day
excursion to Pisa. This package is offered in four categories:
superior tourist, first class, superior first and deluxe.
Price: From $699 per person, double occupancy, including rail.
Departures: April 1 through Oct. 31.
Call: (800) 456-8656.