Our Graphic Designer, Paula, had an experience on our Grand Tour of Italy that was made extra-special due to the number of excursions she took part in. On our tours, excursions give you the opportunity to add extra moments and cultural experiences that are truly unique and often difficult to arrange on your own. With so many to choose from, Paula recounts her five favorite excursions and why they deserve to be included in your next Italy tour.
1. Lake Como Cruise & Bellagio
The best way to get the full experience of the picture-perfect views of Lake Como is from a cruise around the lake itself. We floated across the water, taking in the majestic scenery of the surrounding mountains and valleys in the distance and the beautiful gardens and villas along the coast. (Fun fact: You might even be able to spy George Clooney’s villa from the water!)
Later, we arrived in Bellagio, where we had time to explore the classic and charming streets of the town, which were filled with quaint souvenir shops full of handmade crafts. We ended with dinner at a local restaurant where we sampled some of the cuisine from the region.
My favorite moment: We departed for our hotel just as the sun was setting over the mountains of Bellagio. Everything was doused with a soft pink hue. With full bellies and tired eyes we all watched the little town fade away into the distance as we gently cruised into the sunset. This was definitely a scene I will never forget.
2. Gondola Ride: Canal Cruise with Music
After completing our guided sightseeing of Venice on foot, we were excited to experience the time-honored tradition of touring the crisscrossing waterways on a gondola ride. We boarded our sleek black gondolas and took off to explore the canals.
My favorite moment: After cruising through the very quiet and narrow waterways on the gondola, suddenly the scenery opened up and we floated into the Grand Canal. We moved through the hustle and bustle of the Canal as other gondolas passed along our sides. The stunning teal water of Venice contrasted beautifully with the black gondolas, bright blue sky, and puffy white clouds. Everyone’s faces glowed with big smiles.
3. Siena & San Gimignano: Tuscan Hilltowns
The picturesque Tuscan hills and vineyards are truly stunning. On our full-day excursion we started in Siena, where we viewed 16th-century frescoes in the Piccolomini Library, and the black-and-white marble duomo. Then we journeyed through the countryside to San Gimignano where we explored medieval towers and viewed jaw-dropping landscapes of rolling hills and greenery. Not to mention, San Gimignano is the home of the world’s best gelato.
My favorite moment: Later on we headed to a nearby vineyard for a wine tasting. We learned the proper way to taste and experience wine, how to hold the glass, and which foods make for the best pairings. But beyond that, we shared stories, laughed, and ate a meal with the family that owned the vineyard. This is something I was most looking forward to on tour—making deep connections with fellow travelers and locals—and it didn’t disappoint!
4. Capri: A Day on the Iconic Island
I was blown away by the unbelievable colors of the beloved Isle of Capri. We were surrounded by the stark white homes of the locals, sparkling azure water, and beautiful green trees as we climbed the different levels of Capri with our local guide.
My favorite moment: Our local guide took us up to the Gardens of Augustus where we could step out on flower-decked terraces and see panoramic views overlooking the island. It was a nice place for us to pause and appreciate our surroundings during our guided sightseeing. As the sun shone down on the sparkling sea, I was in awe of the colors of the island once again.
5. Dinner with the Tenors
We ended a day in Rome with an elegant four-course dinner, where we were treated to classic opera arias and some lighthearted fun. The food was fantastic: creamy risotto, al dente pasta, and fresh vegetables. The voices of the tenors carried through the room while the pianist’s hands danced across the keys—it was truly a memorable night.
My favorite moment: As soon as the lights dimmed everyone went silent. Glasses and forks went down, and everyone’s attention turned to the stage as the show began to start. The singers’ unwavering voices filled the room—it was moving and otherworldly. The lighting and atmosphere of the restaurant was so beautiful as we raised our glasses to enjoy our last few days in Rome. That night was really something special that we were able to share among our group. Plus, the tiramisu was to die for!