While you’re in Italy you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to the sightseeing options! There’s everything from ancient historical monuments and archaeological sites, to Renaissance art, stunning rural scenery and the lively bustling hubs of the culture in the cities, such as Florence or Rome. You can also visit charming local markets, wonderful restaurants, festivals and cultural events.
So you’ll never be short of spectacular things to see and do but you might be wondering what the best way to go sightseeing is while you’re in Italy. You have a good range of choices for sightseeing that will depend on what you want to see, how much freedom you want in terms of your scheduling and whether you want to meet new people along the way.
Sightseeing by Yourself.
Exploring the wonderful culture and scenery of Italy is one of the most enjoyable things you’ll ever do and if you choose to travel alone, or with your family, then you’ll have the most freedom to create your own itinerary.
The following are some of the advantages and disadvantages of sightseeing by yourself in Italy:
Great for Personal Growth.
When you take on the responsibilities of arranging your own itinerary, booking all your tickets and planning your route you will grow as a person while you navigate the country on your own. You’ll need to pick up some basic Italian phrases, if you don’t already speak the language, so you can better communicate with the locals who may not always speak English.
Getting outside of your comfort zone is a guaranteed way to grow and evolve as a person; and so, sightseeing by yourself is a good way to test yourself as you travel around the country.
No Need To Compromise Your Plans.
If you have decided to sightsee on your own then you won’t have to compromise your plans or schedule with anyone else. This means that you won’t have to traipse around a museum that you’re not interested in or visit archaeological sites you don’t want to see – as you might have to on a group tour.
You’ll have the absolute freedom to tailor your sightseeing to the exact things which you want to visit and so you’ll end up creating a better experience than if you were to go with a bus tour. You can choose to take a day off and sit by the beach or if you prefer you can go on a grueling hike in the mountains! Whatever you want to experience you can make it happen while you are travelling solo. You can also change your plans as you go and adapt your schedule as you discover new things along the way.
It’s Easier to Meet People.
As you travel and sightsee in Italy on your own then you are bound to meet more people than you would if you were in a group. Not only will you bump into fellow sightseers but you’ll also have to interact more with locals. There won’t be a tour guide making all your arrangements for you so you’ll get a much better impression of life in Italy.
It can be a little daunting to strike up conversations with strangers but the Italians are very friendly and welcoming – especially if you’ve made the effort to learn a few basic phrases like ‘thank you’ and ‘have a nice day’.
More Time to Reflect and Take in Your Surroundings.
When you’re travelling on your own you can decide to take your time in some places and rush through other attractions that aren’t so interesting to you. This gives you the chance to spend time reflecting on your surroundings and the culture of Italy without having to worry about a strict schedule.
Allowing yourself the time to reflect and just take in the view will also teach you more about yourself. You can drop into a cafe for a coffee on a whim or sit in the town square and just watch the world go by.
No Local Knowledge.
One of the biggest problems of arranging your own travel in Italy is that you won’t have the kind of local knowledge that a professional guide will have. You can overcome this lack by doing a good deal of research in advance of your trip but even then you may not know the best places to eat, to visit and explore while you’re in Tuscany.
A helpful trick is to study the routes of bus tours and find out what their itineraries are so that you can incorporate some of these items into your own travel plans.
It’s More Expensive.
It’s usually going to be more expensive if you travel on your own as opposed to with a group or a bus tour. Group tours receive discounts from the hotels, attractions and other places that they visit in their tours whereas you’ll have to pay full price. You can get your costs down by staying in budget hotels or hostels however if you do want to stay in better accommodation then you’ll have to pay a little more than if you were on a group tour.
If you’re travelling on your own, or with your family, then you may accidentally find yourself in situations that are dangerous! For instance, while you’re exploring a city, such as Florence, you may get lost or wander into the ‘wrong part of town’ without realizing it! This kind of situation does not happen when you’re with a guide because they have the local knowledge and experience to know where to avoid while sightseeing! However, as a general rule, Italy is extremely safe and so you shouldn’t let safety concerns put you off travelling alone although you should still be aware of the issue.
It Takes More Time.
For the same itinerary, it will take you more time to see the same exact places if you are doing the trip yourself. You will have difficulty with directions, parking, finding alternative routes etc. Also, if you have a drink or any alcoholic beverage in one of your stops, you have to make sure that there is someone with you who can be the designated driver. If not, you have to make sure that there is enough buffer in your itinerary.
Take Bus Tours Of Italy.
This is an excellent option for families, couples and solo travelers. You can join a bus tour and sit back and relax as your guide handles all the arrangements and the itinerary of the trip. You can choose to go on a bus tour with a local company or with a large one such as Globus or Trafalgar (I have taken many Trafalgar tours of Italy.
I would recommend Trafalgar to anyone who is visiting Italy for the first time or is new to Italy). Taking a tour with an established provider will often give you the best results although it can also be good to support the local economy and travel with a smaller operator.
The following are some of the advantages and disadvantages of sightseeing Italy by bus:
When you take a bus tour you can really relax and forget your worries! All the details, scheduling and itinerary will be arranged on your behalf by the experienced professional guides. Your tour guides will handle all the travel, hotel bookings and activities during the tour. To get on board you simply need to arrive at the departure point at the right time!
When you travel with a tour company they are able to keep the costs down by benefiting from the economies of scale. Tour operators get hefty discounts at hotels, tourist attractions and even restaurants; all of which will save you money while you see the sights in Tuscany.
Better Access to Destinations.
Tour operators can often get special entry permits to busy tourist sites that allow you to jump the lines and sometimes even gain access to places that the other tourists cannot! Check with the tour operators before you book your tickets to find out about the special perks that they have obtained on behalf of their customers.
Stress Free Sightseeing.
When you’re travelling around a foreign country or a place that you don’t know very well it can quickly become quite stressful to manage all the travel arrangements and details of your itinerary. However, you can remove all this stress from your sightseeing by booking your seat on the tour bus! Your guide will help show you the best places to eat, give you tips on what to do at sightseeing spots and point out the must see photo opportunities along the way.
Your Tour Guide Has Plenty of Local Knowledge.
There’s no way to replace genuine local knowledge, something which your tour guide specialises in! When you travel with a well informed tour guide you will get a lot more from your visit to the top sites as they explain the history, cultural significance and interesting details that make it a special place.
Meet New Friends.
Travelling in a group, on a bus tour, gives you the opportunity to meet new people along the way. Some tours are more geared towards creating chances to interact with your fellow travelers although regardless of the nature of the tour you can still chat on the bus, while you’re looking around a historical site and over dinner in the evening.
Less Flexible Itinerary.
You will have to keep up with the pre-planned itinerary of the tour and there may be moments when you wish you could stay for longer at a particular place. It all depends on what you’re looking for from your sightseeing trip though. The bus tour will have to stay on time and keep within their schedule so you won’t be able to deviate from the planned itinerary.
You Get Less Free Time.
As you travel with a bus tour the operator will usually try to fill the available time with as many sites and stops as possible. There will usually be some allotted time along the way for shopping, a walk around the town square or to relax for an afternoon on the beach; however, nonetheless, you won’t get as much free time as if you were travelling alone.
The Schedule Might Not Suit You.
There’s a wide range of tours available that can be very relaxed and meandering or extremely busy and fast paced! You will need to be up and ready to go at the prearranged time each morning and so if you prefer to lie in and sleep until lunch then a bus tour might not be the best choice for you!
Less Choice in Accommodation and Dining.
When you sign up to a tour then you won’t be able to choose which hotel you will stay in and where you will eat your dinner. For many people this is no problem however for some it could be an issue. You won’t be able to change your mind once you arrive and sometimes the accommodation might not be up to scratch.
Although you can meet some great people there could always be some personality conflicts that occur within the group. You might find yourself with a person, or some people, that you find very difficult and if you are quite sensitive then this could spoil your trip.
Several years ago I took a bus tour from Rome to Sicily. It is a beautiful and long drive. Unfortunately two American passengers got into a heated argument about what we should do about potential threat to our environment!!
Combining Sightseeing by Yourself and Bus Tours.
You can also combine sightseeing by yourself and also sightseeing by bus. It is one of my preferred ways to do it if I am visiting a larger city. I like to take public transportation to Florence from Volterra and use one of the tour operators to sightsee Florence. This way, I don’t have to worry about getting around in Florence, parking and getting tickets to the various museums.
Major Tour Operator or Viator – Which Should You Chose?
Many people chose to take their tour with a major operator but increasingly, people are choosing to use smaller sites like Viator to create their own sightseeing schedules.
Viator is not a tour operator but they do help you to create your own sightseeing experience. Viator is a subsidiary of TripAdvisor, and is dedicated to helping you to find activities and tours that you can book in advance.
Why Choose Viator To Book Your Sightseeing?
- Super flexible booking and free cancellation options which gives you complete control over your itinerary while letting you create your ideal, tailor made sightseeing adventure.
- All the tour guides and activities leaders are vetted by Viator to ensure that you get the best experience without any disappointments.
- It’s easy to browse through thousands of tours, activities and experiences so you’re bound to find what suits your tastes and expectations.
- Viator will show reviews, ratings and feedback from others who have purchased these trips.
- Viator provides 24/7 support so you can always contact the company to double check a booking, make a cancellation or find out other details about your planned agenda.
- Book tours and activities at the last minute to create extraordinary sightseeing moments.
Italy’s is Just Waiting For You To Discover It!
No matter how you decide to sightsee in Italy, one thing that is for sure is that you’ll have a wonderful experience while creating memories that will last you a lifetime!
Before you decide whether to go it alone or join a tour group you should weigh up the pros and cons and have a good think about the type of trip you want to have.
Alternatively, you can get the best of both worlds by sightseeing on your own and then joining local tours and activities by using a versatile platform such as Viator. This will give you the flexibility to create the sightseeing holiday that perfectly fits your hopes and expectations for the trip.