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The gelato journeyOur two week journey through Italy and Greece filled us with knowledge of life 5000 years ago and how it impacts us today. We did this while taking in famous sites such as the Coluseum, Ruins of Pompeii and the Parthenon and some of the most delicious meals! We cooled off after a full day swimming or an evening stroll to a cafe and enjoying the many types of gelato. This became the groups adventure each day- find a new gelato flavor!
Lastly, we made lifelong friends!
The best thing I've ever experiencedThis trip was downright the best thing I've ever experienced, not even kidding. We had a group of around 30 something which included some friends and people I had only seen in the hallways at school. Through the experience I made wonderful friendships and connections that only can come from mutually exploring the splendors of the Mediterranean. All the tours were amazing in their own ways and very informative and interesting. I loved every second of the 18 days and miss them already, even though I just got home 2 days ago.
Non-stop Adventure!This trip has been an unbelievable whirlwind of learning and having fun while doing so. We saw so much in 15 days! It was a great balance of city and country where you would spend hours walking around taking in all of the ancient (and not-so-ancient) sites and the next day you are swimming at an incredible beach or relaxing at your hotel in the countryside.
So much to seeThis trip is filled, I mean FILLED, with many different destinations in just 14 days. We had nine different hotel experiences, including one night on the ferry (which was quite cozy). I can't imagine a more fast-paced and comprehensive trip.
The entire group loved Italy, which encompassed the first week of the tour. When Greece welcomed us, the trip got even better. Both destinations, and the variety explored within them, kept all of our senses active.
Our tour director was phenomenal, and she ensured that everyone enjoyed every minute of the experience. This was my 17th tour with EF, and even though I know what to expect on a tour, this one blew me away. I'd strongly recommend this for the adventurous soul who wants to pack a lot into 14 days!
Wonderful Trip!We really enjoyed our excursion through Italy and Greece with EF! This was my first EF tour, though I've traveled extensively on my own, and I thought the value was wonderful for the amount of things we got to do. I loved having a tour guide to deal with the logistics so I didn't have to! It was so nice to just show up when we were told. I'm ready to go again already, and can't wait to take kids on another excursion with EF in the near future. Thank you!
A Great JourneyThe trip was incredible to say the least. Riding a gondola in Venice, exploring Doge's Palace, taking awful pictures by the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and walking through the Colosseum are just some highlights of visiting Italy, though seeing the Sistine Chapel was a spiritual experience I am likely to never forget. The long bus rides were a great time to catch up on sleep and rest up for the hours of walking ahead. I, surprisingly, really appreciated the history lessons throughout Greece. Learning about the values of knowing thyself and free will in Delphi was simply inspiring. Seeing those pictures in the textbooks come to life is the best, and I feel truly fortunate for being able to go on this trip.
Awesome / Fun Tour, Well Planned / Well RunOur daughter's World History teacher organized this tour with EF. Having never travelled abroad or with a medium to large group (37 travelers), I was uncertain what to expect. What I experienced was a wonderfully, planned, guided and executed trip. Things began with a few short meetings months and weeks before we left to get us focused / prepared / organized. Once there, our EF Tour Director worked hard to keep everything on track yet deliver an amazing experience. This tour is a “Shallow Dive” into the numerous spectacular sights of Italy and Greece rather than “Deep Dives” into any one location – by this I mean single days in places like Florence, Rome and Athens is not enough time to see everything and in detail, but it provides a great way to see many major sights and learn large amounts about the locations; this gives a great perspective and an ability to see A LOT, then wets your appetite to decide where you will return to in the future! It took a couple of days to get used to the tight schedule, but once in the swing of things, the efficiency and preparedness helped ease our stress and maximize the trip. EF / the Tour Director had almost everything covered and set up for us: wake up calls, what to wear, when to be at breakfast, when / where / how to have our bags ready to go and what time to be on the bus in the mornings (especially when we checked out of a lodging), where and what to meet time when we had free exploring time, what to expect during tours and free time (hot, busy, crowded, challenging terrain, how long to get thorough an area, etc.), when to leave items on the bus / at the room or carry with us, what to do if you got lost, general safety, ... At first the details and information almost seemed overwhelming and so strict, but after a day or two I realized I did not have to worry and knew exactly how to plan for each day and night - this allowed investing thought and energy into the tour and what we were experiencing rather than worrying about preparing and planning. Our Tour Director was great at repeating information enough but not too many times such that we heard and understood what we were doing or about to do, even in those times when we were not listening or distracted. She also worked hard to be personal and connect with us while keeping track of everyone, even when we were in the busy and stressful portions of our tour (like Rome and Athens where we could have easily had travelers get lost). She did a great job pacing the tours for our group that aged from 13 to 84. She also made a couple of tour adjustments that allowed us a couple of days to sleep a bit later and chill a bit and you definitely need an occasional break on an 18 day go-go-go tour like this! Almost all the local tour guides were wonderful - enthusiastic, knowledgeable, friendly and attentive to our needs. Our 2 main bus drivers were also simply fantastic - always friendly, answered questions, etc.
I don't really have complaints, but here are a couple of things that could be a focus to improve an already excellent tour: 1. In busy locations with a lot to do (Rome, Florence, Athens), it would be nice to have had options more in advance to plan for free time. Example, in Florence, we discussed what options we had the day before we arrived while on the bus, and we almost did not get a chance to see David as tickets were nearly sold out (those of us who wanted to go had to skip the dinner we had paid for as tickets were only available during dinner time – I would skip dinner ANY AND EVERYTIME to see David, but if we planned a bit more ahead we could have avoided the conflict; there were no advance tickets available the day prior for the Uffizi Museum in Florence – one had to hope the lines were not too long and that tickets would still be available when we got there if one wanted to go there). I do understand the challenge of too far advanced planning - sometimes the tour schedule changes, so if one has a ticket a week or weeks before the trip, it might not fit correctly into the schedule. Perhaps options and planning a few days in advance would be a happy medium. 2. A bit more details on what is acceptable to wear would be very helpful for packing. Example, any site in where we entered a church or monastery (Vatican, Meteora Monasteries in Greece, Pisa Cathedral, St. Francis of Assisi Monastery, etc.) we had to be sure our knees and shoulders were covered. I packed long pants (2 pair) and nice collared shirts for those days; I learned that covered means just and only that – slightly longer shorts and a sleeved shirt of any kind was fine. So, I carried probably 8 pounds of clothes around Italy and Greece that I never wore – I sure could have used that weight to lighten my heavier luggage on the return trip home – instead, with items purchased (and Limoncello and Ouzo is heavy :) and for whatever other reason things get heavier, I had to battle to get my suitcase to 50 pounds and ended up with quite the heavy carry-on to lug back home, and our tour group was swip-swaping items to try to get luggage weights where they needed to be. Also, carrying 1 or 2 less pair of shorts and shirts and planning to hand wash a couple of times along the way would also be extremely helpful advice in packing weight considerations (though I admit we discussed this a bit during our pre departure meetings, I just didn’t get that as a major point and it should be). There was very good communication about when to wear tennis shoes v. sandals or other (climbing, amount of walking, terrain), no worries or comments on that. 3. While it may be almost impossible due to time differences and schedules, it would be an excellent help to have a video chat meeting with our Tour Director 2 or 3 weeks prior to departing – this would allow us to see and hear our 18 day tour life leader in advance, have her/him explain things to help us understand better, and allow us to ask questions – this would allow us to pack better, be more prepared, and ramp up our excitement for the trip.
I do have to give a huge shout out to our organizer. His pre-departure meetings, guidance on preparation, and the absolutely amazing custom guide notebook he made for each traveler in our group really made the difference and enhanced this already outstanding experience. Also, the experience of meeting and living for 18 days with travelling companions most of which I did not know prior just added superbly to the overall experience – what fun, meeting and having experiences with new friends and creating special memories with them that will last forever in your heart.
In summary, EF Tours ROCKS IT and Splendors of the Mediterranean is nothing short of FANTASTIC. If you are looking for an excellent experience with local guides, almost everything organized and planned, meeting people for fun experiences, and seeing and learning the Italy and Greece you always (or never) heard about – this is it. You do need to be prepared for long days (that usually start very early), lots of climbing and walking, not having extended in depth time in every location, and (for us in the summer) hot days. However, once you get back, you will miss everything and everyone, and you will be immediately wanting to go back again (so don’t forget to toss a coin in the Trevi Fountain :).
Wonderful Italy and Greece TripOverall, the trip was very good. Personally, I feel that if I was able to spend more time in Assisi - we were limited to 2 hours when the original itinerary had us spending overnight in the Assisi area and if the food in Italy was better I would have given it an excellent rating. Though, having said that it was still a wonderful trip and good value. Greece was wonderful and the food selection was better than Italy. The Tour manager/director was excellent. The tour guides at each of the sites were either good or excellent. The buses (1 in Italy and 1 in Greece) were good, though it would have been better if the restroom was available to use.
Too StructuredThe sights and places we visited were amazing and I loved getting in to museums and having a guide. The problem is that everything was structured so much that it made it hard to enjoy. We had so many things to do all the time that I felt like I couldn't enjoy everything. Plus, if the whole group was together we had to eat at the same place, which most of us didnt like. I wanted to be grouped up with other people around my age but there were so many children in the group that I didnt feel connected. Try to be educational but with more free reign.
I didn't want to leave!We were constantly on the move- that's for sure! I cannot believe how many historical places we visited on our trip, and I understand that constant travel was required for that to happen. Overall the trip was once in a lifetime, and it created a deep love of Italy and Greece in me. I personally loved Greece for the natural air conditioning, the beautiful mix of landscapes, and the mythological tales that went along with the places. My favorite part was the Oracle at Delphi just because I am so involve with the myths.
I would say that the only thing I didn't like was that it was kinda overbooked. Maybe if a trip like this was to happen again, there'd be more free time factored in and more days in each place. I understand the price would go up and the time frame, but Italy and Greece deserve it. Having other groups mixed into ours was not the best, being that they were uptight and complained the whole time (they were rich and did these things all the time).
I truly enjoyed my 18 days. I think we hit all the spots and it has made me already plan to visit Greece again!