Jason DuSautoy recently travelled through central Italy with Cosmos Tours to bring to life for us everything Italian. Think a guided tour may not be your thing? Read on!
This was my first Cosmos tour and I have to say it exceeded my expectations. The coach had ample leg room and since our tour was not full, there was plenty of personal space for everyone. We stayed in three hotels, two nights in each of Rome, Capri and Sorrento followed by a final night back in Rome. Each hotel was at least a solid 3 star and comfortably appointed not too far out from the main points of interest (even in Rome). In Capri and Sorrento we were right in the heart of the action. Two of the three hotels also offered free wifi (as did some of the restaurants) so staying connected was easy. These three destinations offer so much of interest, its not surprising that there are a few early starts, but they are also punctuated by days of leisure where Cosmos gives you free time to relax or explore at your own pace.
Rome and The Vatican have so many “must see” sights that to see them all (or at least most of them) in a couple of days requires a well planned itinerary. Cosmos tours certainly take care of that, with well informed and characterful guides.
Being a pre-booked tour group also means you bypass the seemingly endless lines at every entrance. At the very least you get enough of a taste of the city to know that a visit back to Rome has to be in your future plans.
When we left Rome to head south to the island of Capri, we had a lot to see so this was our earliest start; on the coach by 7am. Our first stop on the way was Mount Vesuvius. The plan was to climb the final 200m or so to the top of the crater, but the weather was not on our side and a thunder storm had forced the closure of the trail. So, off to Pompei, still being excavated from the tonnes of volcanic ash that suffocated and buried it back in 79 AD. We had an included walking tour with a local guide who brought to life the city that was frozen in time. Having been to many ruins around the Mediterranean, I was surprised how much of the city was still preserved and how little imagination you needed to picture it as it must have been two thousand years ago.
Next, off to the port of Naples to catch our 45 minute hydro foil crossing to Capri. Our bags had already been transferred, so after a ride up the furnicular to the main town from the harbour, we had a leisurely stroll through the charming streets and alleyways to our hotel. The next day I took a couple of optional tours, exploring Anacapri (upper Capri) and the harbour then taking a cruise around the stunningly beautiful coastline. Its no wonder that the jet set flock to the island every year.
After two nights in Capri we took the short hydro foil trip across to Sorrento where we then took a drive up the Amalfi Coast, through Positano and on to Amalfi itself where we had ample time to explore and feast (be prepared to put on a few pounds on this trip, the food is absolutely a constant highlight).
Back in Sorrento for the late afternoon, this is the place to shop, people-watch and to soak up the relaxed Italian rhythms of the day. Don’t forget to toast your new found friends on the tour with a cold shot of local Limoncello.
Our last full day is the 3 hour or so drive back to Rome. We don’t want to arrive before our rooms were ready, so we have a leisurely start to the day, with time to savour a cappuccino in a favourite nearby cafe. Back in Rome in the early afternoon, its time to head back in to the city to find those must have souvenirs or simply to wander the streets discovering hidden gems.
On the last night we had a farewell dinner; swapping stories and remembering all that we’ve seen and done in the week. On the one hand, it feels like we’ve seen so much and on the other, that time has flown by and we’ve barely arrived.
Thanks to our engaging Cosmos tour director and the various local guides. I feel like this week has really given me a sense of life in southern Italy, both now and through the ages. I’ll be back for sure.
Ciao, for now!