I've long said that Italy is my favorite country. And, as the land of bel caos (beautiful chaos), Italy is also the European country most deserving of a great tour guide. It's an intoxicating pilgrims' punch of cultural quirks: a deep respect for tradition, the passionate embrace of romance, the juxtaposition of insanity and serenity, and the fine art of living in the piazza. And it's even better with a good guide, who provides context and meaning to tie it all together.
For many years — decades ago, in the earliest days of our tour program — I led tours in Italy. I was enthusiastic and thought I knew my stuff. But in retrospect, I paled in comparison to today's guides: I pushed on doors marked tirare (pull) and introduced myself by saying, Buon giorno, io sono capa gruppa ("Good day, I am a female tour guide").
These days, we've dramatically raised the bar, and our team of 150 Rick Steves guides are true experts. Some people still sign up for our tours hoping to have me personally lead their group. But once they've seen their guide in action, they're beyond thrilled to be in the capable hands of a specialist (who has mastered the difference between tirare and springere…and so much more).
For 2020, I've already signed up to join one of our tours myself: our flagship itinerary, the Best of Europe in 21 Days tour. In fact, I've booked the entire bus. My daughter, Jackie, is getting married, and I'm filling the tour with the families of both the bride and groom, so we can all get to know each other. And I'm entrusting the entire gang to the leadership of one of our amazing Rick Steves guides…who also happens to be my son, Andy.
Whether you're celebrating a milestone with loved ones, or just in the mood to embrace life with abandon in 2020, we have over 40 itineraries covering all of Europe for you to choose from — each one led by a guide I'd entrust with my own family.
This month's Tour News is designed to tempt you with some great offerings, starting with Italy. You'll join me on a cliffside hike high above the Cinque Terre, get a taste of our Italian tour itineraries, and read rave reviews about our talented Italy tour guides. You'll also get to meet Bread for the World, a Rick Steves Climate Smart Commitment grant recipient that's working to raise awareness in Congress about climate change and its impact on poor countries.
If you're dreaming of a European vacation, we'd love to help turn that dream into smooth and affordable reality. (And if you've got a busload of new in-laws you'd like to get to know better, I'll let you know how our adventure turns out!)
Happy travels in 2020!