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Escorted General Interest Tours

Escorted tours are structured group tours, with a group leader. The price usually includes everything from airfare to hotels, meals, tours, admission costs, and local transportation.

The biggest operator of escorted tours to Italy is Perillo Tours (tel. 800/431-1515; www.perillotours.com), family operated for three generations. Since it was founded in 1945, it has sent more than a million travelers to Italy on guided tours. Perillo's tours cost much less than you'd spend if you arranged a comparable trip yourself. Accommodations are in first-class hotels, and guides are well qualified.

Trafalgar Tours (tel. 866/544-4434; www.trafalgartours.com) is one of Europe's largest tour operators, offering affordable guided tours with lodgings in unpretentious hotels. Check with your travel agent for more information on these tours (Trafalgar takes calls only from agents).

One of Trafalgar's leading competitors is Globus+Cosmos Tours (tel. 866/755-8581; www.globusandcosmos.com). Globus has first-class escorted coach tours of various regions lasting from 8 to 16 days. Cosmos, a budget branch of Globus, sells escorted tours of about the same length. Tours must be booked through a travel agent, but you can call the 800 number for brochures. Another competitor is Insight Vacations (tel. 888/680-1241; www.insightvacations.com), which books superior first-class, fully escorted motorcoach tours lasting from 1 week to a 36-day grand tour.

Special-Interest Trips

For special-interest travel, a good overview of what's out there is available from Specialty Travel (www.specialtytravel.com), which issues a biannual magazine devoted to special-interest tours. Contact information is provided for some 400 tour operators, including those operating in Rome. Everything is covered, from details on art classes to how to explore the history of Rome. Contact them at P.O. Box 458, San Anselmo, CA 94979 (tel. 888/624-4030).

Tennis fans set their calendars by the events that transpire every year at the Italian Open, which is held in mid-May at the Foro Italica, near Mussolini's Olympic site in Rome. A California-based company, Advantage Tennis Tours, 33 White Sail Dr., Ste. 100, Laguna Niguel, CA 92677 (tel. 800/341-8687 or 949/661-7331; fax 949/489-2837; www.advantagetennistours.com), conducts tours to the Open that include 6 nights' accommodations in a deluxe Roman hotel, Center Court seats at three sessions of the tournament, city tours of ancient Rome, a farewell dinner, the organizational and communications skill of a tour hostess, and the opportunity to play tennis.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.