What is the best thing about Rick Steves’ tours? Clearly it is the people - the excellent guides, bus drivers, and of course the fellow travellers.
Our Guide Trina
What can we say about Trina? Trina was awesome! She has a passion for Italy and having lived there herself for several years, she knew how to make our trip great. Organized, efficient, and fun, she always kept the trip going. Italy can be a rather chaotic place with all of the festivals, strikes, and soccer games. There is always something to adapt to and Trina did all of this without missing a beat. Each evening we would look forward to seeing the itinerary for the next day, which Trina would hand-write and post for us in the breakfast area. She would often sit down with each group at breakfast and check in on us. She would ask if we had any questions for the day and would give us helpful pointers on how best to maximize our free time. While travelling from place to place, Trina would give us lectures on topics ranging from Etruscan history to contemporary Italy as well as basic Italian language lessons. Each topic was relevant to the places we were heading, and you can tell she does her homework.
Adrian, that’s ‘Ah-driahn’, not ‘Ay-dryan’ - we couldn’t have asked for a better bus driver. The sharply dressed and always thoughtful Adrian quickly became a good friend to us all with his fully stocked cooler and his great sense of humor. Not only that, but he delivered us safely to each destination and often joined us on hikes and dinners. His hard work deftly navigating the chaotic Italian traffic made our travels to each new destination feel seamless.
The Local Guides
Sometimes there is nothing like a little insider knowledge, and these expert local guides had all the right knowledge and connections. Most of our guides were locals hailing back generations with a true sense of belonging to the places they spoke of and this clearly showed in their walking tour lectures. Many of these guides have been longtime fixtures in Rick Steves’ tours and they had expertise as historians, archaeologists, and art experts. Their expertise and cultural understanding provided a real depth to the trip. They took us on tours of the streets, churches, and ruins of Italy, all the while giving us the “Europe through the back door” experience characteristic of Rick Steves’ tours. This meant going to local club houses (see the Seinna page for more on this), to meeting with local craftsman (Venice and Seinna). Often we would would walk out of our hotels into the city centers where we would meet our respective guide and begin our walking tour. They were always great about answering questions. These guides were true guides - they were never about selling something to us and instead always focused on teaching and answering our many questions.
From perfect strangers to surrogate aunts, uncles and cousins… at least that’s what it felt like by the end of the trip. What kind of people do Rick Steves tours attract? People who love to travel, all of whom are young at heart and adventurous. I think this might have to do with the “no grumps” rule. Our group was a mix of young and old, couples celebrating their multi-decades wedding anniversaries, to those of us celebrating a multi-day wedding anniversary. We enjoyed sitting down for meals and getting to know everyone, sharing stories of how we met our spouses as well as details about our careers, travels, and hobbies. Travelling by yourself can be enjoyable, but we felt that having the group around was so much fun. We would often meet up during free time, whether accidentally crossing paths or intentionally. It’s amazing how in a place as large as Florence you can keep running into the same people. Trina was good about encouraging each of us to branch out and sit with new people at dinner and on the bus. Its a shame we couldn’t bring everyone back home with us, but maybe it is better, now we have great friends scattered throughout the US and Canada!