A couple of weeks ago I struck off for Rome for what I now call my tapas tour. Tapas are little bite-sized snacks meant to be eaten with toothpicks or your fingers. Often tapas bars serve up twenty or so different selections meant to give a tasty sample and whet your appetite.
This tour itinerary morphed into a sampling tour consisting of three countries and nine destinations, all in seven days! Not the kind of tour I usually design, but how could I help it? Originally, I planned the tour to begin in Tuscany and finish up in Barcelona, a lot of bus travel, but very doable. Seven days on that route would have given us a leisurely itinerary along the Mediterranean coast.
Then the problems began, first the airline changed the routing to Rome and ultimately departing from Madrid. It made little sense to arrive in Rome, but not “experience” Rome. So, I altered day one to include a “tornado” tour of the Roman Forum and Colosseum, plus a look at St. Peter’s Basilica. As it turned out, the arriving flight from the USA was delayed by two hours, turning our time in Rome to a mere three hours.
We had a peaceful drive up to Tuscany, as most people took a chance to sleep and shake off the jet lag. Arriving in Volterra, we were off the bus and in our hotel by 6:00 p.m., pizza dinner at 7:30, and finished up by 9:00.
The next day was delightful; this is one part of my original plan that did come together. We spent the entire day in Volterra, a place I call my favorite Tuscany hill town. There was a wine tasting at La Vena di Vino which was a big hit for the group. But, mostly, everyone just relaxed in town. That night we dined in gourmet style at Ristorante Del Duca. A smashing success!
The next day, we were on the bus and out of town by 8:30. This, I knew, was the longest day of the tour. We visited Florence, where I conducted a rapid walking tour that took in the San Lorenzo Market, the Duomo, Piazza Della Signoria, and the Ponte Vecchio. The weather did not help matters. About halfway through our walk, the heavens opened up with a torrential downpour, soaking almost everyone in the group.
Later, back on the bus, we all settled in for the six hour drive to Nice, France. Little did I know this would begin the worst “bus driver” experience of my career. Episode two coming soon…