Should you take a group tour of Italy? Is an organized tour the best way to see the country in a short amount of time? Some travelers really look down on group tours as inauthentic travel. I don’t mind organized tours as long as I feel it’s a quality tour. Here are some pros and cons of taking a group bus tour of Italy to help decide if a tour is right for you.
The Pros and Cons of Taking a Group Tour of Italy
Now, I’ve previously been to Italy when I studied abroad in college. My friends and I were able to do Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan, and Zurich, Switzerland all on our own in one week, so I’m able to compare this tour to seeing Italy on your own.
Pros of Group Travel
The best part of an organized tour is that you don’t have to lift a finger. Everything is planned out for you, everything is booked for you, your transportation is provided, and you don’t have to make any decisions. You know exactly where you’re going and when you’re doing what.
Most tours will have built in free time, of course, so you can explore on your own if you like. But even then, you don’t have to if you don’t want to!
The tour we were on even made sure the extra excursions you could buy wouldn’t overlap, so if you wanted to purchase everything the tour had to offer, your day would be completely booked and planned for you.
You see the top sights
Group tours are designed to be comprehensive. They want to make sure you see all the top tourist sights — they know what you came to Italy to see. They’re even able to pack more into the itinerary because everything is so meticulously planned.
If you went on your own, you may get lost or run into other snafus that would limit what you get to see in a day.
You might even get to see some sights you didn’t know about. Often, a tour’s extra excursions of sights and events that you didn’t even realize you wanted to see until you heard about it from the tour.
You have instant travel companions
You can make friends really quickly on a group tour. You’re all riding on the same bus, staying at the same hotels, and touring the same sights all day after all.
Organized tours are a great way to meet new people. And if you’re traveling solo, that’s an instant plus.
Your guide is there for any questions you may have
For our tour, we had the overall guide who got us from one place to the next, and then we had additional local guides for the city and museum tours.
All of these guides can be a valuable resource. If you have questions about the itinerary, about the culture, or about the history, just ask! They’re experts on Italy and you can learn so much from them.
You don’t have to worry about the language barrier
I have zero foreign language skills, so I know how anxiety-inducing traveling to a non-English speaking country can be. Sure, most people in Italy speak English and a lot of the signs at tourist attractions are in English as well, but it’s nice to not have to worry about that.
Since everything is pre-planned, you don’t have to go translating Italian to find your way around the city. And you can pick up some Italian phrases from your guide along the way.
A group tour can be safer than being on your own
This is especially good for solo travelers who might not feel safe on their own. In a tour group, someone is there to make sure you make it back on the bus, you don’t feel exposed walking around, and you aren’t worried about being swindled trying to take a cab or purchase tickets.
If something goes wrong, like a lost passport, you have someone to turn to who knows what steps to take.
Cons of Group Travel
Group tours can be expensive
This was my biggest problem with the Italy tour we took. Kevin’s parents planned it and we paid for our part, so I wasn’t able to do any research or compare prices.
It’s difficult to not be in control of anything when it comes to the price — the flights were booked by a travel agent, the hotels were predetermined by the tour company, and you don’t know the breakdown of what each attraction costs. And any additional excursions you want to book just adds on more and more.
I was able to see four cities in Italy and one in Switzerland on my own, and in the same amount of time, for less when I studied abroad. It’s very frustrating when you know you can plan a trip cheaper.
You might feel rushed
You have a lot to see and keeping to the schedule can be pretty rough. You’re rushed from place to place so that you can fit everything in, and so that you can get your money’s worth, but it can be exhausting.
Sometimes you want to take a little longer in a museum. Or sometimes you don’t want to get back on a bus immediately after eight glasses of wine.
When it’s all go-go-go, you don’t really feel like you’ve had the best chance to enjoy just being in Italy.
You don’t have the freedom to explore as much as you’d like
With all that rushing, you don’t have time to explore whatever you want. When you book a group tour, you’re giving up a certain amount of freedom over your schedule and the price of things.
Anything additional you want to see, you have to fit into your free time. If you want to see Pisa and it’s not on your tour, you probably won’t get the chance to travel out and see Pisa.
You have to be okay with seeing this narrow scope of Italy.
Group tours can be exhausting and you may be too tired to do anything else
Some of our free time we spent just napping. You might have just paid a lot of money for this tour to end up napping the afternoon away. And that’s fine if the only things you want to do are already covered by the itinerary!
But if you want to see the most and do the most, it’s very difficult after a packed day on a group tour.
You visit a lot of shops and have products pushed on you
These can be fun if something is actually demonstrated before they herd you into a shop and try to sell to you. But sometimes it falls flat and you feel like you’re wasting your time being marketed to.
For instance, we had a gold demonstration in Florence where the woman held up a necklace, said she loved this piece, and then threw it down and picked up another one, then another one; this isn’t a demonstration, this is just you saying you like jewelry.
You don’t get the local feel
When you’re on a group tour, you’re with a bunch of other tourists. If you only stick to the itinerary then you don’t have a chance to connect with the locals.
If you’re hoping to get a truly local feel of Italy, you would be better off booking a private tour with a local. You’re certainly not going to get an immersive Italian experience on a group tour with a bunch of other Americans.
Should You Take a Group Tour of Italy?
There are a lot of reasons to take a group tour. If you’re a solo traveler, if you’re trying to wrangle your family on a trip, if you need the accessibility an organized tour can provide, if you just want everything taken care of for you, then a group tour of Italy is a great option!
Personally, I’m a fan of the group day tour route — you have your transportation for the day and a short itinerary taken care of, but you’re in charge of finding flights/trains, accommodation, and food. I find this to be a better deal for my money. I don’t have a problem getting from one city to another on my own, but if I wanted a vineyard tour of Tuscany, then I’d definitely look for a group day trip.
It all boils down to your personal travel style. Whatever is the best way for you to tour Italy is the right way!
Group Tour of Italy FAQ
The benefits of a group tour are that you don’t have to worry about planning your entire trip, you can make new friends, you don’t have to worry about the language barrier, and group tours can be safer than traveling on your own.
The disadvantages of a group tour are the cost, that you may feel rushed or overwhelmed by the schedule, that you don’t have the freedom to explore on your own, and that you won’t get the local feel of the place you’re traveling to.
The best times for visiting Italy are April to June and mid-September to October. During these times, the temperatures are more mild and there aren’t too many crowds.
For seeing the main sights in Rome, Florence, and Venice, I recommend spending 7-10 days in Italy. There is so much do see in Italy beyond these three cities, but for most travelers on their first trip to Italy, these are the main cities to visit. Once you’ve sampled what Italy has to offer and have fallen completely in love with the country, then you can plan more week-long trips exploring the hidden parts of Italy!
More Things to Do in Italy
Make the most out of your vacation to Italy! Check out these other Italian travel guides to plan your perfect trip:
- 2 Days in Venice, Italy Travel Itinerary
- What to Do With 1 Day in Florence, Italy
- Wine Tasting in Tuscany Should Be on Your Bucket List
- How to Spend 3 Days in Rome, Italy
- 5 Things You Have to See in Milan, Italy
- Top 5 Tourist Destinations in Italy
Ready to visit Italy? Plan your trip with these tips.
- Book your flight to Italy: Find the cheapest flights using Skyscanner, my favorite flight search engine.
- Find Accommodation: You can find top hotels in Italy using Booking.com.
- Get a Guide Book: Check out the guide books from Fodor’s, Lonely Planet, or Rick Steves for in depth info about traveling to Italy.
Have you taken a group bus tour of Italy? Let me know in the comments!