The Italian Grande
Number of days: 18 Days
Departs from: Milan
Tour Departures: April to October
Tour ends: Rome
Avg distance travelled / day: 165 kms
Beautiful Lake Como - image courtesy of J.Vernon
Tour Reviews for European Summer Tours
Prisca! She was the most amazing tour guide. So well organised, informative, caring and a great sense of humour.
She went above and beyond buying little tastings from local areas, singing to us, and making a fuss about birthdays, anniversaries etc. The tour itself was fabulous. Well planned and it was nice to have more than one night stops. We went to Verona ...it was our favourite Italian city. It would be nice to include Verona as a overnight location as it is so convenient to Venice and would eliminate the need to stay at Castelbrando which was very nice but could be excluded. It was annoying when they had the US Airforce celebrations and did not let Prisca know. We were stranded waiting for the fifteen per ride funicular. The Rome Hotel, whilst central and clean, was a disappointment. Our second floor hall smelt of cigarette smoke and our room shared two walls with the next door bathroom. At first we thought the hotel was continually vacuuming the hall outside our room but it was the plumbing. That aside I would think it would be difficult to find a company as fantastic as Albatross. I would have no problem recommending Albatross and look forward to travelling with you in the future. You have set a very high bench mark. Well done.
David & Rosslyn
My husband & I enjoyed every part of this tour. We were 'first time ' travellers and thought that every place we went to was fantastic. Of course, going to tourist destinations brought 'large crowds' which is always difficult to encounter. This is to be expected.
Mary Hammond (our Tour Manager) could not have been more helpful/thoughtful. She anticipated potential situations & advised us accordingly, she was very informative and taught us a lot about the culture & history. Every time someone on the tour said "this spot is beautiful ' Mary would say " wait til you get to the next destination - it gets even better". Without a doubt this was true.
If all of your tours are as well organised & informative as this one we would certainly do another tour.
The hotels we stayed at were all fantastic/well positioned/clean etc. my husband & I could not have had better rooms if we'd organised it ourselves. We were made aware that there were always going to be different size/types of rooms for all guests but we were happy with every one of them.
Thank you for the excellent experience.
I would give this tour 10/10. Tour Manager was brilliant and hotels in great locations. I think you have got it right with a good balance of tour time and free time. I don't think I would go with any other company in the future. You guys are bellisimo!
You can't see everything in 18 days but this was a very balanced tour exploring different regions and experiences. Our Tour Manager was absolutely excellent and made the tour, free time and our own meal recommendations great.
Thanks Albatross for new experiences, sampling Italian food, history, scenery and culture.
Ab excellent tour, out Tour Manager was absolutely brilliant, very professional, organised, supportive and went beyond their call of duty. The tour gave us a very good insight of Italy covering all the significant sights. We experienced a very relaxing tour/ holiday, met great people and had a wonderful time.
Thank you Albatross!
A very well organised tour. I would highly recommend this tour and Albatross Tours to others. I particuarly like the inclusive factor of excursions and many dinners. I was also impressed with the quality of hotels we stayed in.
This tour surpassed my expectations. I was able to relax with no worries about time and venues. Other travellers were friendly. I enjoyed spending several nights in the same hotel and gaining a more in depth appreciation of the beauty and wonder of scenery.
Our Tour Manager was enthusiastic, resourceful, showed tremendous attention to detail and went well beyong the call of duty.
We were blessed to have a friendly and helpful Tour Manager who ensured that we were all well organised and having fun. All meals provided were of an excellent standard and the itinerary was rich and rewarding. We will definitely use Albatross Tours again !
Andrew & Sandra
I returned this morning from our wonderful trip to Italy. What can I say about Albatross Tours – outstanding – know their stuff. I would rate 10/10!
This tour met all my expectations largely due to our exceptional Tour Manager. Her local knowlege, including historical knowledge of specific sites made each visit memorable. She would have a map ready for us each day we had a visit to a new town, a notice board in a prominent place in each hotel hightlighting times and activities for the days we were staying and helped with booking everything from trains to tours not included with Albatross.
I particularly liked the free time we had in most places to see and experience what interested us - shopping for some, museums or historical sites for others.
Each hotel was different, as were rooms, but I found all to be a good or excellent standard - exactly what was stated in the pre tour information.
Meals were also very good and there were also plenty of opportunities to sample local fare on your own or within the group if you wanted to.
A month on I am still thinking "this time 7 weeks ago"....
Thank you to our travel agent PHT for making us aware of “Albatross Tours” and for arranging our Italian Grande tour with Albatross in 2014.
In Milan we met our Italian born Tour Manager and our International coach driver and 23 fantastic Aussies (all new friends and staying in
Our Tour Manager was absolutely brilliant; he tried to teach us Italian and always looked after us like family members.
Our driver was fantastic, a friendly personality and a professional driver he always made us feel relaxed and kept us safe on the road, especially around the Amalfi coast.
The whole tour exceeded our expectations! Absolutely fabulous with many wonderful memories we will always treasure, Both agree one of our best overseas trips ever!
Thanks Albatross 100/100
Richard & Jan
Really liked the longer stays that enabled us to unwind & look about the area / location & that we had Aussies with us to get to know & exchange experiences with.
Location of hotels were close to main areas we could explore by ourselves.
Ian & Margaret
The Italian Grande itinerary has been thoughtfully compiled to cater mainly to Australians and New Zealanders, who, of course, have to travel vast distances to join the tour.
The first four days in Stresa gave us a chance to wind down after our long plane flights, relax and enjoy the beautiful Italian lakes and have a close encounter with the Swiss Alps. It was a great time too for our small group of 22 Aussies to get to know each other and form a strong bond. However, we were warned not to become too complacent, as the pace would soon be picking up to a considerable degree.
Our amazing Tour Director, Aldo (now an Honorary Aussie) promised us on the first day that he would give us 110% and a lot of laughs and he certainly lived up to his word. He was our mentor, our fearless defender and brave protector, in between thinking up delightful (and sometimes wicked) new ways to make our journey even more special. We were also fortunate to have a fabulous driver, in Mariuccio, who quickly became affectionately known as Maroochydore. His skilful driving through the narrow streets of the medieval villages and the "bendy bendies" of the stunning Amalfi Coast was awesome.
I think our group all found the five nights in Tuscany at Montecatini Terme were especially wonderful and having a free day in the middle was greatly appreciated. It was a golden opportunity to wander around the beautiful village, explore Montecatini Alto, rest or just catch up with the washing!
The family-owned hotels we stayed in were all delightful and a couple were quite quirky in the nicest way. The coach was large enough to allow everyone to change seats if they wished and being able to use wifi while on the road was a real bonus. The local guides were all excellent and there was always free time in each place to shop or explore.
The whole tour ran like clockwork, mainly due to Aldo's organisation which often spilled over into his private time. There were probably many dramas and situations which we were unaware of because of Aldo's attention to detail and his desire to give us the best experience. He was also generous in arranging transfers and making other arrangements for the group, again, often in his own time.
Being serenaded by an Italian tenor in our gondola as we glided down the canals, staying in the magnificent Castelbrando, feeling like one of the locals as we strolled through the streets of Montecatini Terme, taking the ski lift to the top of Anacapri and gazing down on that incredible view, actually seeing the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Michelangelo's statue of David and the breathtaking Duomo in Milan - the beautiful memories will last a lifetime.
Wendy & Grant
Absolutely loved the itinerary and the way our Tour Manager presented the outline of each day's activities and the history of the relevant region.
We both really enjoyed all the little extra touches our Tour Manager added to our trip to make it just wonderful. Her very valuable local knowledge, history, and thoughtful localised treats were all very much appreciated. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and cannot thank both our Tour Manager and Driver enough.
Karen and Colin
The pictures in my camera stand testament to the magical journey that Albatross took me on. Every little nook and cranny peered into, every corner turned, every hazardous bend and twist in the road expertly navigated, presented images to delight the senses. Every day provided something different and exciting - funicular railways, boats, buses and trains all terminated in fascinating places and breathtaking scenery.
Italy has become a mosaic of art, history, colours and creativity. These are gifts I will always treasure.
A very enjoyable experience to share with 20 other Australians. We had an excellent tour leader whose energy was limitless, and who gave my wife and myself help and care far beyond what one would expect on a tour. Organisation was excellent, and tour days were rearranged to suit circumstances like the weather.
My wife and I have just completed the great experience of Italy thanks to a great itinerary and the tireless efforts of our Tour Manager. I would like to commend Albatross for their foresight and planning in putting this balanced tour. With the exception of the standard of some accommodation our high expectations of the tour were met.
Our Tour Manager made a considerable contribution to the success of the tour. Her knowledge of all the places we visited was extraordinary. She ensured that we were not only informed about the historical significance of the sites we visited but also the necessities of life; such as the location of suitable toilets, places to eat and shop to get value, warnings of the activities of thieves and pickpockets and many more. We felt that she made a significant contribution to the success of the tour and made every effort to make certain our well being was looked after.
Our thanks to the Albatross team who contributed to the tour. Well done. We have no hesitation in highly recommending your company and this tour to friends and relatives.
Michael & Susan
Our Italian Grande tour was excellent. I enjoyed staying the smaller provincial towns/cities, while still getting to enjoy all the major sights. This enabled us to see what life is like outside the popular tourist sites. Also, we thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon spent olive oil tasting and afternoon tea at a local farm. It was such a unique and lovely experience.
The tour leader Antonia made our tour the sensational trip it was. Antonia had a wealth of knowledge to impart, was well organised and professional with a lovely sense of humour. We felt very safe with our bus driver who also provided wonderful assistance with our luggage.
The Albatross Tour was excellent and I have recommended the company to many of my friends. We had a lovely group of people the coach was comfortable and the tour well paced. The hotels and meals were wonderful. The guided tours were well done.
Italy is a beautiful country and I hope I will be lucky enough to return one day. Thankyou Albatross.
It is now several weeks since I completed the Albatross Italian Grande and want you to know what a wonderful experience the tour was.
Our Tour Manager was always so enthusiastic about sharing his love of the absolutely beautiful and enchanting Italy. Each day brought a new experience which I thought could not be beaten. But yes, each day got better and better.
I liked the format of the tour and enjoyed starting in Stresa (how beautiful is the Italian Lakes District?) and travelling down to Rome via Maiori. It was wonderful to experience the changing landscape and culture of Italy as the tour progressed.
Spending 5 nights in Montecatini Terme was delightful and my most favourite part of the tour. Lucca, Florence, Pisa, Cinque Terre, San Gimignano and Sienna were just so memorable. And a bonus to have a free day in Montecatini.
The location of all the hotels was always central although the quality/standard lessened a little in Mairori and Rome.
Meals were all enjoyable and in particular Fattoria il Poggio and a local farmhouse in Montecatini Terme. Delicious!!
There are far too many wonderful experiences and moments to mention but I can tell you I already have the 2014 Albatross brochure and the "Magnifico" Spain and Portugal may be the next Albatross experience.
Thank you again Albatross Tours for a truly wonderful tour of Italy. You have won me!
I was so looking forward to this trip, but did not know what to expect. The minute we met our tour group I knew we were in for a ball. The tour itself could not have been organised better. We hardly ever had to wait for the coach, in line or boarding boats. These just appeared whenever we needed them, the organisation was wonderful.
The hotels and food, we could not fault. However, the main reason this tour was magical, was because of our Tour Guide, Maritza. She was a walking encyclopedia, giving us wonderful insight into all the places we visited. She was always there, helping us to find our way around on our free days, giving general advice pertaining to the city we were in, which made our days more enjoyable.
I have already recommended this tour to a number of people, who are showing great interest in walking in my footsteps. Thank you Albatross for such a memorable holiday. I am so happy my "Dentist" recommended it to me!
We enjoyed having longer stays in each location, had a fantastic tour manager, Reinheld who was very well organised. We would definitely do another tour with Reinheld as the tour manager. The meals were fantastic and were sometimes too large! Great group of people of the tour as well.
The Italian Grande tour was a great way to see Italy, its inclusion of the north west areas of the country that most other tours miss was very enjoyable. Milan & the Lakes District in particular was a joy & everyone loved Stressa.
The the tour had 4 & 5 nights stays at the one location which was outstanding as it took away the stress and rush of packing up & moving on each morning.
We were lucky on this tour [ May/June 2014 ] that we had a good & thoughtful tour guide in Helen and a tremendous group of 28 people who got along famously which made it one of the best holidays possible.
Loved the majority of destinations, especially the Lake District.
This is the first European tour that I have done & I thoroughly enjoyed it. Everything was included in the cost, our tour guide Helen Sheehan was our mother duck who looked after us beautifully, the accommodation excellent and the places we went were terrific. It was also good not to have to unpack and then pack every day - the length of stays were perfect. However sometimes it would have been good to have not gone to 2 places on the same day & stayed longer in some but in saying that how do you choose? I also think this tour should have an extra day on the Amalfi Coast just to chill out & relax. Overall my negative comments aren't really negative and I will say that we met beautiful people and had a ball.
My first visit to Italy was totally amazing thanks to the wonderful tour 'Italian Grande' organised by Albatross Tours, and their wonderful tour guide Maritza who spent an amazing 18 days - guiding us, educating us, teaching us, looking out for us, making us laugh, making us feel cared for, making sure we were never - hungry, thirsty, wet or looking for a bathroom - she even knew the cost of each bathroom stop. The attention to detail and organisation was first class. The hotels we stayed in were very good and Castle Brando in the Dolomites a 2000 year old castle. I thoroughly recommend Albatross Tours and will travel with them again soon.
This was a "'grand"' tour indeed!
Every day was a delight to the senses as the wonderful Aldo exposed us to the history, sights, tastes and sounds of a culture steeped in tradition and beauty. The planning behind the itinerary is insightful and so incredibly efficient. Whenever a connection was to be made, the boat or ferry would be waiting for us so that not a minute was wasted. The all inclusive price and extended stays at excellent hotels ensures that you are relaxed and receptive to every new experience. In fact we felt like royalty especially at Stressa and Castlebrando.
Aldo's interesting and informative commentary enabled us to anticipate with excitement what was about to come and reflect on what we had experienced. He was astute in reading the group's needs and showed real initiative in organising a memorable sunset dinner for us on the shores of Lake Orta. Nothing was too much trouble for him and my husband and I were particularly grateful for his generosity of spirit in navigating us through a day's hospital visit, even though technically it could have been a rest day for him.
I have been on a number of tours but the meticulous detail that is addressed by Albatross makes the Italian Grande, the delight of a lifetime.
I liked our excellent tour guide Reinhard Held and incredibly competent bus driver Carmine. Reinhard on a number of occasions added a little extra excursion to our day's activities which we all appreciated e.g. an unscheduled visit to San Giulio Island on Lake Orta and a stop at the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli near Assisi to see the small chapel St Francis had lived in. We also loved his sense of humour and the knowledge he shared with us.
I loved the itinerary. It covered everything that I most wanted to see in Italy in the time available. I liked the amount of leisure time to explore on our own instead of being tied down to too many guided tours which can cover lengthy lectures on aspects we are not interested in. The guided tours on this trip were not drawn out and allowed free time. I thought the pace of the whole tour was just right and loved staying more than one night in most places.
We had good hotel rooms generally with the exception of the room at Hotel la Bussola in Amalfi. I believe the single rooms were mostly of a poor standard and that is a problem in that I could not recommend the tour to my single friends until that issue was addressed. As for myself, I loved every minute of the tour and would travel with Albatross again. Thank you.
I think I may have a previous comment however..............the G.T.I conducted by the incomparable Aldo and his great driver Enrico.......was great on a number of fronts....well organised, well balanced in terms of length of places stayed.......we enjoyed it immensely.
Ron and Lana
Professional & caring Tour Manager.
Very capable driver.
Drives not too long.
Hotels very good. Not so keen on Castel Brando.
Well-picked and interesting excursions.
Great bunch of fellow travellers.
I would recommend Albatross to others and intend to travel again with you.
I love everything about Albatross. From the very first meeting with the tour guides through to the final dropping off stage. The accommodation is always good and I like the longer stays at places. The content of the trip is well thought out, yes I like everything about Albatross! My tour guides ALDO and DARREN on these two trips went out of their way to make me comfortable being a single lady on my own. This is the fourth trip I have done and I highly recommend them to anyone who talks travel to me.
Everything!!!! This was my first trip to Europe, I had researched high and low and wanted that first time exceptional trip. I had free advice from all my friends that had all travelled much more than me (all with their fair share of problems mind you !!) but found Albatross myself. I was blown away by what a great time I had. I told the tour guide (Maritza totally enriched my experience!!) every day just got better, she told me I told her that every day, and I was not the only member of the trip that said that to her!!!!
The thing I really liked was what was advertised was what we got. Great accomodation,great locations, great knowledge from Maritza, not all day on the bus, small group, wonderful local guides etc etc and then there was more. Welcome drinks, amazing food (sometimes too much for me!), lovely old boats on the lakes, time to sit and watch life go past in Italy, time to experience as well as " see ". I loved the "balance" of this tour very much, the pace, the information was really wonderful.
I could write forever as my memories are so many, so happy, so wonderful. I waited a long time to go to Europe but have had a fantastic experience as well as a great holiday!!!
Thank you very much.
The locations were just fantastic, the accommodation was good, and being able to stay in one location for a few days was really good. The food was usually good, outstanding in Stressa, some meals were not to my liking but others in the group enjoyed them. Our Tour Manager was spot on with organisation and her knowledge was outstanding, making the tour smooth and enjoyable. The smaller group was good so we could space the seating in the bus and our driver Fabio was excellent!
I Loved it all! Each day got better, with more outstanding places to go! With a personalised touch and the special boat tours and visits to islands, it was fantastic.
Thank you for such a special, fun time with heaps of fantastic memories!
The tour guide was excellent, the bus driver was also great the whole tour and was well organised. We all had a great time and formed a fantastic bond with one another. The accommodation was of an excellent standard and I would rate it very high. Thank you very much for a wonderful time. I would and have already recommended Albatross Tours!
I thoroughly enjoyed The Italian Grande tour with the highlight, if you can call it that, was not having to pack and move every day. I have done quite a few tours both in Europe and in Africa and can say the multiple night stops on your tours I thought were a bonus and the reason I booked with Albatross Tours. I can't decide whether to go on your Spain/Portugal tour or your new An Alpine Adventure tour through Switzerland finishing in a Lake Garda.
Aldo is great. He added quite a few items to the itinerary which we enjoyed. His personality I must say takes a bit of getting used to, but he is a kind soul and certainly looks after everyone and goes out of his way to help you. In the stinking heat of 37 degrees in Florence while we were viewing David with the local guide he walked to the Iffuzi gallery and got me my early morning tickets for the free day off and also organised the hotel to print me out train time tables to and from Florence. Also one of our group was really feeling ill one day and Aldo turned up at their room door with a bowl of soup.
The highlights of the tour for me were the lower Basilica of Assisi where St Francis is buried. This was just magical and very emotional (and I'm not a religious person) and was a favourite for many on the tour. Other highlights were the Italian tomatoes and the Amalfi Coast.
Our wonderful tour director Helen Sheehan and Fabio our incredible coach Driver were truly caring in the manner they treated their 28 new family members.
The fellow travellers embraced the Italian splendours and together with the spectacular views, lovely hotels and yummy food we had a very enjoyable 18 days which sadly had to end.
Don't worry I have got myself a piggy bank ready for the next trip!!!
Not moving hotels often.
The tour leader .. Reinheld ... From Austria. Well organised.Would do another tour with him without question.The meals , although too large sometimes.Meeting other people.
We loved this tour because we saw so much of Italy and all the inclusions were beyond what we expected. Dinners provided in either the hotel or restaurants were outstanding. Sightseeing tours along the way were brilliant. Albatross' choice of hotels great, our favourites were La Palma in Stresa and CastelBrando but all were very comfortable and in great locations.
Loved our tour manager Maritza she looked after us very well.
We would love to do another Albatross tour in a couple of years. We are thinking of the Croatia tour.
Glenys and Nick
Albatross...this was my first tour (I have always travelled independently) and I cannot say enough good things about the Italian Grande experience. Our tour guide Antonia was fabulous, highly knowledgeable, professional, funny and warm. Big thanks to our wonderful driver Andrea who did not miss a beat. We really experienced a broad view of Italy in all her beauty and I believe this would have been difficult without such a great itinerary. Our group was wonderful, everyone clicked. A fabulous trip filled with lots of wonderful memories. Grazie!!
An excellent tour. Our tour guide had great knowledge of the areas travelled, and was very attentive to all needs. A highlight was the wine tasting and the town of Spoleto. I would certainly travel with Albatross again.
D H from VIC
It was Awesome Awesome Awesome! I loved the start to the end; the only thing I didn’t like was it went so fast!! Our tour guide Maritza was a very caring, knowledgeable, and very safe with us all. If we asked for help she would assist straight away eg. I needed help to get money out of the ATM machine it was in Italian, so she took us there and showed us straight away. We gave her questions like where do we get stamps etc. Everyone on the tour got along so well, we had no "always one in the tour that is a pain", really we all got on so well, and it was good to see we sat with different people every night so we got to know what they did back in Aussie and where they lived.
Now for the tour. I loved how we stayed in one place either 2 - 5 nights so we don’t have to pack up every night, we got to see the little towns where we stayed. The hotels where we stayed in were all good; I loved the La Palma in Stresa the best as we got spoilt with a front and balcony room overlooking the water! The tour was more than what I thought it would be and loved how we didn’t have to hand out any more money, as I have money left over, I can look for another holiday to put it towards to! I was amazed at the buildings, you walk up one street and turn the corner and you go "woooh!". The buildings are so special and are crafted so beautifully. I loved the paintings especially in the churches, I’m not a painting person in real life, but these really got me! Also the churches in Italy are unbelievable, I was interested in the history which the tour guides provided in a fascinating way. Maritza told us a lot of information about each location while travelling on the coach which was very interesting.
What can I say about the shopping! I went with my sister and we were shopping every day till we went "wooh" we will have to slow down or we won’t fit it in the case! But all was well, we made room, I even said that I would throw my clothes out to fit the new purchases in! The food was great, I tried a lot of things that I would not normally have at home, I really enjoyed the different pastas, cheese, olives and wines, also the seafood.
The last thing I can think of is how Fabio the bus driver was an amazing dri. He ensured we were safe at all times even going down the Amalfi Coast.
The organisation was magnificent and our tour guide Maritza was so informative and accommodating, she could not do enough for you, she made our trip!!!
It was the best tour I have ever been on, no one night stays makes a big difference, and no optional extras. Gilberto Bionda was our Tour Manager and he did a wonderful job. Thanks to all at Albatross, can't wait to go on another trip.
The Grand tour of Italy with Albatross was simply amazing. We loved it all. The itinerary was very well planned.
The tour guide Maritza was outstanding. We have raved to all our friends about this Albatross tour.
We loved that there were only 26 people on tour and all the excursions were included.
We had a fabulous time, a holiday we will always remember as the best ever.
Congratulations, you have the right formula.
Great overview of the variety available in Italy. Super tour guide in Maritze. Great bus and driver.
We have just returned from the Italian Grande tour which started on 21st August.
It was a fantastic trip. Gilberto was an amazing tour manager. He went out of his way to help our group and his knowledge was top class.
We also had a wonderful driver- Mariuccio who worked well with Gilberto. They both made our tour a trip we will have very fond memories of.
Congratulation to Albatross for putting together a top class trip.
Jim & Jan
Thumbs up to Albatross! We highly recommend this 18 day tour, packed with so much to see and do, money well spent, with boat rides around the coast, shopping, sightseeing, guided tours, yummy gelato, wonderful new friends and even some dancing, Italian lessons and exploring beautiful churches and cute little Italian villages that just steal your heart with the beauty. The atmosphere and spirit of Italy and you never can get enough and never want to leave.
We loved our 18 days with you Aldo! Your fun, infectious energy and beautiful spirit won our hearts. You were always looking out for us, keeping us safe at all times. Anything we wanted or needed was no trouble. We want you and Carmene who has the greatest driving skills to lead us on our next Albatross trip for sure. You’re just a big cuddly teddy bear Aldo, and you will always stay in our hearts.
Thank you for giving us fantastic memories of a great trip to remember always.
Ciao for now!
Sisters Debbie, Catherine and Gina (The Girls)
The tour was interesting. We had a very good overview of Italy . I enjoyed staying in quiet towns away from the major cities, and we still saw Milan, Venice, Florence and Rome. As the shortest stay was two nights it was relaxing touring . There was also free time to do what you liked. Another plus was most meal costs were inclusive in the price so it was easy to budget for extra spending. After seeing the length of the queue lining up for major attractions it was fantastic to have access with the tour and walk in. The people touring were great and our tour guide Mary was exceptional. Mary went far beyond what was necessary to make sure everyone had a wonderful time. I would suggest two things if booking this tour. Stay two days in Milan before starting and definitely if possible a week in Rome at the end. And or go back to Venice and Florence. And definitely check to see if Mary is your tour guide !
Staying a number of nights up to 5 in one location at family run hotels giving us a more personal touch to the country particularly as the hotels are out of the major cities. This enabled us to immerse ourselves in the local culture and cuisine which would not apply if we were merely in a big city.
Without packing and unpacking constantly with early morning starts the tour was much more relaxing. I also noted that the upper respiratory ailments that plague many tours did not occur and can only attribute this to the more relaxed pace (our groups ages ranged from mid 30's to 80). The range and variety of the hotels was exceptional, rather than the chain hotels that are virtually the same all over the world.
We also enjoyed the fact that our tour guide was not reminding us on a daily basis about what we should be tipping he and the driver as of course Albatross have already paid all the gratuities.
We enjoyed the mix of scenery gallery's the transport bus, boat and train making for a good variation.
How marvelous to have welcome drinks and dinner at every location, yes we did feel spoilt! The bonus was our small group bonded together quickly and become good friends, which then leads to more cooperation and more bonhomie.
Gilberto our tour guide (how lucky were we to get him a real treasure) was marvelous and so patient. Having been on other tours with a different company what we noticed was when we had to go with a local tour guide, Gilberto came with us too always making certain that those that had stopped to take photographs, shop for a gelato or were just a little slower walking were kept in the loop and did not get lost. He was constantly answering a barrage of questions either from those that could not quite hear or missed out what had been said by the local guide. The tour we did with another company our tour director just had a free day, the subtle difference of attention to detail..
The design of the tour was excellent and that includes staying at strategically placed bases for 2 to 5 days at a time rather than have to have 'bags in the hallway' at the crack of dawn each day. The design of the tours are based around a central location each day to visit all kinds of desirable locations some known, some unknown to mainstream tourists.
Having some relatively relaxing days in our first base (Stresa in the Lakes District) was just what we needed after long flights from the other side of the world. Lots of boat trips, nice food and wonderful tranquil and grand scenery of lakes and snow-capped mountain backgrounds soon fixed any jet lag. Winding our way eventually to the east, to stay several days in a medieval castle, and then down south through scenic Tuscany and eventually as far south as the highly appealing Amalfi Coast just added scenic riches on riches. We were spoilt by many visits to wonderful old Italian cities like Siena, Assisi, and ancient ruins like Pompeii, and some other hidden gems of Roman times in unsuspected places just continually piled sparkling gems on top of sparkling gems.
The hotels were all of excellent standard and the food was great, whether in-house, or in some fun restaurant or winery. And the opportunities to occasionally search out our own eating places, often with a few hints from the tour director, all resulted in fun and memorable nights out with the group, or just with a handful of people. As for the group - we had a total of 26 in ours and the relatively small group size was a huge plus.
Underlying it all, was our wonderful tour director - by far the best and hardest working of any director we have encountered over quite a number of different tours. She got the biggest 'brava' of anything or anyone on the tour. Overall we rate this tour several stars ahead of any other we have done, and it significantly overshadowed the one we did (with a different company) in France just afterwards. If we won the lottery we would spend the rest or our retirement travelling with Albatross!
Particularly liked the organisation in relation to bookings. Value for money and the quality of accommodation, meals. The Tour itself and the variety, places of interest.
Our Tour Guide Maritza and our coach driver Fabio. Both excellent people on such a tour, could not fault their professionalism. The time frames, punctuality, nothing but excellent. My first tour in Europe, always travel to South East Asian countries but this was a beautiful experience! Cannot fault from start to finish...I believe value for money. Recommend to anyone contemplating an organised tour!
The talents of Gilberto together with a perfect itinerary & small group made it a tour we are recommending to friends.
Gary & Jan
This tour was excellent value for money. While the places we visited, the extended stays and the planning was top class, the ingredient that was the icing on the cake was our excellent Tour Guide Mary, not to mention our bus driver Mariuccio.
I've never had a tour guide who made themselves so readily available at all times. Nothing was too much trouble, even staying up late at night to assist those making online bookings for extended stays in Rome, and all done with grace and a positive attitude.
Unfortunately we had unpleasant weather while in the north in the lakes district which meant there were some things that we were unable to do, but Mary's positive spin and very entertaining stories made up for it. Mariuccio, driver extraordinaire, also added to the excitement and fun when negotiating narrow bends and steep climbs on the Amalfi Coast.
The places we stayed were fabulous and it was much more relaxing to be able to have extended stays. The dinners which were provided exceeded expectations with more than enough food, and some would say, more than enough wine!!
Staying at Castel Brando was one of the best experiences I've had ... so unique. I can now brag that I've stayed in a 2,000 year old castle - imagine that!
I can't fault this tour, and while it may look more expensive than some others advertised, it's not so. Everything - and I mean everything - is included, so all you have to worry about is taking enough money to spend in the fabulous shops and markets.
I have no hesitation in recommending Albatross Tours and have already done so to my friends. An added bonus is that it's an Australian company.
Thanks again Mary, you made all 18 days fun and exciting and I sincerely hope that you will be my tour guide again sometime.
My husband and I happened to be the only Americans in an all-Australian group taking the first Italian Grande tour of 2013. We were very lucky to be surrounded by 25 wonderful people, who were like one big family. Such friendly atmosphere in the group was created by our wonderful tour manager Aldo Jaworski. It was Aldo’s amiable and caring attitude that prevented us from feeling outsiders.
It requires high professionalism and a lot of effort to be able to blend so many people of different backgrounds and disposition, keep them all in high spirits and in good terms for almost 20 days. Besides, Aldo is an educated person with a vast knowledge of culturally significant things, which also added an extra touch to the pleasure of the tour.
Regarding the tour - everything was excellent: the hotels, the choice of the cities visited and stayed in, the food, and especially the pace. We saw and embraced ITALY, not just the overcrowded tourist attractions!
Special thanks to our fantastic driver Mario! His professionalism as a driver is beyond any words! Besides, he was always friendly, neatly dressed, modest, though always there, when you needed his assistance.
We have enjoyed our trip immensely and have already recommended Albatross Tours to our friends and family members. Thank you!
The Italian Grande was our third Albatross Tour, and like the others we were not disappointed. Firstly, our Tour Manager (Aldo) was exceptional and by far the best we have experienced over many tours with different groups. His knowledge, people management skills and caring attitude were a credit to Albatross Tours. Secondly, the content & inclusions of the tour were first rate, right down to providing wine with many of the meals and, as with the other Albatross tours we have done, the tour program is always very interesting. Finally, the accomodation provided was of a very high standard (as were the meals). Would I travel with Albatross Tours again? Just try & stop me :)
The trip was marvellous. Mary Hammond is something more than a tour guide - her knowledge of, and passion for, all things Italian is infectious. A truly remarkable woman. The coach driver, Fabriccio was also extremely caring, helpful and protective of his people.
The whole experience was more than we had hoped for and I will happily recommend Albatross travel to anyone considering a tour. The "leisurely" coach tour is a winner - keep up the good work!!!!
Richard & Judy
This was our first coach tour and we weren’t sure of what to expect. Now it’s all over we are extremely happy with the experience. We got to see a lot of Italy in a relatively short time but it was a comfortable experience.
Gilberto was our Tour Manager. He has really spoilt it for us going on any other coach tours as we could only go on tour with him now! Gilberto displayed great knowledge about Italy and imparted this to us in a way that we will never forget. He truly loves his country. He was so organised, we always knew what time to be ready, where we were going and what to expect when we got there. He always provided us with information, maps, and directions. I could go on and on about Gilberto but instead I will write some words that truly describes him. Knowledgeable, helpful, great communicator, sense of humour, patient, caring and considerate with everyone, makes sure we were all comfortable, goes over and above with his customer service, he even sang to us on occasions!
Andrea was our bus driver. He had so much patience, calmness and courtesy when driving especially on some of those very narrow roads and streets we had to go down. We all felt very safe with him at the wheel.
We are now saving for our next tour and it will certainly be with Albatross. We really like the idea of staying in one place for 3 - 4 nights and the limit of 30 people. Thank you Albatross for designing this tour, we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Jan & George – The Italian Grande
We were lucky enough to go on your Italian Grande tour. We had a wonderful guide and a very safe and professional driver. We found this tour to be exceptionally good as we had longer stays in most places and much more leisure time than on other tours that we had done with other companies. We were very impressed with the way Albatross had planned this tour and would recommend to our friends.
The tour group gelled together really well and 30 or less people is a great number to travel with. Mary was a real gem and a tour guide par excellence with a real love for the job. She and Marco our driver got on really well and his driving could not be faulted. Highlights were the great camraderie of the group and the visits to Lucca, Assisi, San Gimignano and the Lakes District.
This has been our first fully guided overseas tour and has exceeded our expectations in both content and management. Mary our tour manager together with Marco our driver made an awesome team and soon earned the respect and affection of all 29 group participants on board.
We were fortunate to have such a wonderful tour manager, who was by far the best we have ever had. Her dedication and passion for the job were beyond reproach. The highlights from the tour for us included the oil tasting at the farm house, the boat trips, the welcome drinks and food and La Palma and visiting Lucca, San Gimignano and Positano.
Merryl & Bill
We would like to say that the Italian Grande tour was everything we wanted, giving us a great cross-section of Italy. The accommodation, in our case, was first class everywhere and some of the special meals provided especially in Tuscany were exceptional and on the whole the hotel meals were quite acceptable.
It is impossible to say what the highlight of the trip was as each area visited had their great points and wonderful memories for us.
We must make mention of our tour leader, who was just amazing in her organisational skills, her general knowledge about all things, her ability to provide interesting information without too much overload, her friendliness and happy disposition even when under the pump. Our driver had incredible driving skills and not once did we feel uneasy on the whole trip. They were a great pair who looked after us with care.
All in all a wonderful trip for both of us,
John and Rae
John & Rae
My friend Jean and I were on the June Italian Grande tour. We had a fabulous time and just wanted to let your team know and to say thank you.
We were very lucky to have a great group of people on our tour (we all got on really well - amazing considering our different backgrounds and ages). Our driver Marco was great and fitted in very well with the group. The star of the tour was Aldo Jaworksi, our fabulous tour director. Aldo was very patient and kind to all the group - nothing was too much trouble for him. He was organised yet still flexible to fit in what the group wanted to do (where possible of course). He was lots of fun - I don't think I have laughed so much every day - wonderful!! Aldo was very caring when my friend Jean got sick and he was so considerate and helpful. I really can't speak highly enough of him. I would love to do another tour with Aldo leading the way.
The actual tour was really well balanced. The hotels, the food, the coach, the itinerary, the extra special dinners were all terrific - no complaints, we were extremely pleased with all of it.
Jean and I have done a lot of independent travelling over the past 15 years and this was the first organised tour that we have done. We were quite hesitant that we would find it hard to be "organised" each day but we really found it was great - there was enough flexibility to do what we wanted as well as hitting all the highlights with the tour.
Jean saw the advertisement for the Albatross tour in the RACV magazine - she immediately rang me and we booked the next day. Jean said that surely it sounded too good to be true but we now know what was promised was all true.
Thanks very much to the team behind the scenes as well - nothing this well done happens without the hard work. Please pass on my compliments to Aldo and Marco....thanks for a great holiday.
We will be recommending Albatross Tours to our friends and family and will be looking to see what other tours you have coming up next year as well.
We commenced our Albatross tour immediately after two Insight tours in France so we have used them as a yardstick. Although the ‘up front’ cost for Albatross was considerably more expensive it included more dinners and NO extra on tour costs – so value for money was slightly in favour of Albatross.
Hotel standards on the Albatross tour were at least comparable to Insight’s, and the location of Albatross Tours’ hotels were generally better particularly Castelbrando in the Italian Dolomites and in Stresa in the Italian Lakes region.
Albatross had the best driver and easily the best tour guide.
John – The Italian Grande
I thought you may appreciate some feedback on the Italian Tour we recently completed. To say that we were completely satisfied would be an understatement. The arrangements your office made for us worked out very well with no hitches whatsoever. The tour itself was well paced. Having the ability to stay in one place for several nights at each location made a great difference to travelling and allowed one to soak-up more local flavour, sights, food feeling etc than whistle stop tours. I think this is a one great advantage of the Albatross'way of doing things.
Also I would like to offer a word of commendation for our Tour Guide. Nothing was too much trouble for her. Her knowledge and organisation skills are first class. I would like to think that she will get some feedback from Albatross on this additional to the end of tour feedback sheet. The bus driver was also very skillful and helpful. A delightful person who did his best to accommodate our needs. With a team such as this you are on a winner.
We will happily recommend Albatross as a tour provider of choice and will come back to you again when we next plan an overseas tour/holiday.
Everyday was a highlight. The tour exceeded my expectations and our tour manager and driver were fantastic.
Our tour manager Mary was exceptional. Due to her knowledge, humour, generosity and kindness we feel it is the best tour we have been on. Marco our driver was superb. Everyone felt safe. He was very helpful and always had a smile on his face.
I spent 3 months searching for the perfect tour and found it - Albatross's 'Italian Grande'! The all inclusive nature of the tour was excellent but I was so happily suprised by limoncello and candy of the bus, welcome drinks in each hotel plus wine with dinner many nights. The many boat trips were a major attraction for me - I have spent my life in them and enjoyed each boat trip. Every day was diverse and interesting. Mary is a precious gem and Marco expertise and sense of humour engendered our complete trust and regard.
This was our first trip overseas and we think we have hit the jackpot. Albatross Tours 'Italian Grande' was everything we hoped for. Our tour manager Mary was brilliant and very knowledgeable and Marco our driver was very kind and considerate.
I recently had a wonderful holiday on your 'Italian Grande' tour leaving Milan on 1 June. My friend and I had not one single complaint. Everything was perfect!
Our tour manager, Aldo, worked very hard to ensure that everyone knew exactly where they had to be at certain times. He is very professional. The tour went like clockwork.
The hotels were centrally located, of a high standard and the rooms were very comfortable.
The planning of the tour was superb and I felt that we had seen the very best of Italy. In fact I loved every minute.
We met some great Australians and will keep in touch. Thanks again.
When I read your brochure I said 'It sounds to good to be true'. But it was true. Congratulations.
Just wanted to drop you a line about our tour; It was a great tour, very comprehensive but not too rushed. Our tour guide Rinehard was fabulous - well organised and professional, as was our coach driver, Marco, who really went above and beyond the call of duty. Together, they were a great team. We got to do things on the tour that we probably would not have done otherwise, such as the visit to the olive grove in Tuscany, which included a lovely tasting (meal actually) of the food produced and cooked there. Loved everywhere we went and enjoyed the excursions we took.