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. Sometimes they're a good value, sometimes not, but don't believe anyone who tells you they will be the least costly way to see Rome or Italy. Independent travelers can always beat the prices of tour operators. Their biggest selling point, in our opinion, is their convenience. All you have to do is sign up, and the important choices will be made for you: hotels, sightseeing, and sometimes even meals.

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. Accommodations are in nice hotels, and tour directors are well-trained. As with many other companies, the individual day tour guides will usually be whoever is available from a pool of city guides (meaning your day trips could be identical to those being enjoyed by guests of Trafalgar, Cosmos, Globus and Insight Vacations).

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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. 

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  fully escorted motorcoach tours lasting from 1 week to a 36-day grand tour.

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To quickly compare the offerings of tour operators to Italy, and around the globe, look at such marketplace websites as TourRadar and StrideTravelBoth websites compare prices for individual tours, show what is and isn't included, and surfare user reviews.

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.