Here’s my review for the Contiki website:
I booked this trip last minuet on a whim because I had no New Years plans. I’m so glad I went!
Seeing Italy during the winter is a truly unique experience. The cities are a beautifully lit up with sparkle lights and Christmas decor. Ringing in the New Year in Italy you can feel a sense of hope, love and peace in the air. Our trip was lucky enough to celebrate New Years eve in the stunning seaside town of Sorrento, New Years Day in Florence and the Italian Holiday Epiphany in the Cinque Terre. It was fascinating and truly special to celebrate with the locals and see their beautiful traditions.
Our amazing manager Enzo constantly praised us for our decisions to visit his country during the winter. We were often reminded of our luck when visiting towns like Capri and Venice which during the summer are usually impassable due to the high influx of tourists. Seeing how crowded Verona and Milan were in January, I can only imagine that during the summer these places must be miserably crowded.
I come from a mild climate state so the cold weather didn’t really bother me. But many of my Australian tour mates had a pretty rough time on some of the colder days. Apparently it was the coldest January much of the country had seen in 40 years? It snowed in the South!
I think what really makes or breaks your trip is how you spend your free time. I was lucky enough to meet a couple of like-minded people who believed in the Contiki moto #noregrets. We stayed out most nights, met the locals and explored the cities on our own. Some of my favorite memories are when I went walking by myself in Capri and Sirmione. Being in a group is great, but its important to find time for reflection on your own.
I recommend doing all of the me time meal options. I loved the group dinners and most of them provided bottomless wine! The best meal was our final in Rome. The singing waiters were amazing!
I don’t recommend doing the Contiki arranged gondola ride. I didn’t enjoy being in the gondola with 5 other people. I felt like we were going to tip over and only two people got good seats. The rest of us had to hunch over on little stools. Arrange it on your own! I personally am not interested in in-depth lectures on history so I would not do the walking-tours if I went again. There was more “talking” and less walking. Get a guide pamphlet and explore on your own. I felt like these tours took away from our free time.
I was amazed by the size of the suitcases some people brought for our 12 day trip! Travel tip: Pack and then take out half! You don’t need so much stuff! Everyone complimented me daily on my outfits and I had the smallest suitcase of all the girls! Bring only some key items and mix and match. Because it’s winter you don’t need to worry about getting sweaty or smelly so it’s even easier to pack light! Besides you’re in Italy! If you need more clothes you can buy them there!
My favorite things from the trip?
– Boat ride on Lake Garda
– Montebuoni’ Tuscan Dinner
– Electronic Space Disco
– Getting lost in Venice
– New Years in Sorrento
– Chilling with to much wine in the Cinque Terre
Our hotels were all very nice. Some were pretty far from the city center, but all easily accessible by cab or metro.
Our guide Enzo was great. He provided a wealth of knowledge about the history and lifestyle of Italy. He was also very passionate about the welfare, growth and our impressions of his home country. I’ll never forget his daily greetings (insert italian accent) “Contiki…..!!!” His pal and our driver Fabio was quiet but also entertaining. He didn’t speak english but he interacted with us using hand signals and facial expressions. He reminded me of Mr.Bean.
I certainly recommend this trip to anyone looking for a more in-depth and cultural experience. It’s great to spend a 12 days in one country. I feel like we really saw the best of Italy and I know I could go back someday and traverse it on my own! Go on this trip. You won’t regret it!
“The richest people in the world are those who have seen it.”
Review written Jan 2015