While Italy is a universally popular tourist destination, what draws each traveler there is unique. Art lovers come to explore the Brera Picture Gallery, the National Gallery of Umbria and Uffizi Gallery. Catholics often tour Rome, visit the Holy See and linger at the Vatican Museums. Foodies like to eat their way across the country, stopping for sustenance in Florence, Bologna and Tuscany. Whatever your reason for visiting Italy, its likely there's a top-rated tour to meet your needs. With some detective work and advance planning, you'll be able to locate the best tour for your needs. The following steps are recommended.
Obtain brochures from or visit the websites of the top companies offering Italian tours to get an idea of tour lengths, amenities, accommodations, pricing and themes. Recommendations from Frommer's include Perillo Tours, Globus, Insight Vacations and Abercrombie & Kent. Other well-known options include Epiculinary and Road to Italy. Conde Nast Traveler recommends Tauck Tours as well.
Determine the type of tour you want to take. General interest tours include stops in the popular tourist areas such as the Amalfi Coast; the Renaissance city of Florence; Italy's capital, Rome; the historic city of Venice and the island of Sicily. Many companies offer culinary tours such as Perillo's twelve-day "A Taste of Italy" tour, Globus' seven-day "A Taste of Italy Tour" or numerous cooking tours offered by Epiculinary. Shopping tours focus on the fashion-conscious cities of Milan and Rome. Religious tours include "Catholic Italy," "Route of St. Francis" and "Route of St. Benedict." The "best" tour is the one that suits your interests.
Determine when the best time is to schedule your tour. Lonely Planet advises visiting during April through June before the serious heat sets in and before most Italians are on holiday themselves -- during July and August. Italian tours will be cheaper during April through June as well before prices rise during July and August. Frommer's suggests visiting Italy during mid-September through the end of October as well for milder temperatures and dwindling crowds. A tour is more enjoyable when you have room to move and the ability to view the sights without having to elbow your way to the front.
Gather opinions before you make your final decision and book a tour. Check websites like tripadvisor.com, virtualtourist.com and epinions.com to view feedback from those who have actually taken tours offered by the company you're considering. Investigate recently published guidebooks of Italy and see which tour companies come highly recommended. Contact any tour companies you are considering, and ask them to provide references from others who have participated in their tours. Obtain contact information, and follow up to gain their opinion of the tour.
With more than 47.7 million tourists a year (2013), Italy is the fifth highest tourist earner, and fifth most visited country in the world, behind France (84.7 million (2013)), United States (69.8 million (2013)), Spain (60.7 million (2013)) and China (55.3 million (2013)). People mainly visit Italy for its rich art, cuisine, history, fashion and culture, its beautiful coastline and beaches, its mountains, and priceless ancient monuments. Italy also contains more World Heritage Sites than any other country in the world. Tourism is one of Italy's fastest growing and most profitable industrial sectors, with an estimated revenue of € 136.1 billion.