Story and photos by Tom Weber
been a little over a month real-time, not virtual since
I was aboard Insight Vacations' motorcoach, reclined in my business-class
legroom seat, rolling through Umbria and Tuscany wondering what I'd
see, smell and taste next.
Part of a group of international media,
23 travel writers and photographers, I was invited along this premium-escorted
journey to sample firsthand a portion of one of Insights "Country
Roads of Italy" itineraries and was pampered every kilometer of
the way with a healthy dose of the three Cs: culture, cuisine and [wine]
Traveling on Insight's euro, not mine,
I was "drafted" to experience what paying guests get for their
money, and it's quite a lot: five-star luxury hotels, fine dining, expert
art-history local guides, arrival and departure transfers, all local
transportation, baggage handling, surprising "signature moments"
when you least expect them, and, most importantly, one sterling tour
director-slash-storyteller, named Belinda, who kept our band of merry
media on schedule and well-informed with her flawless narrative.
A subsidiary of The
Travel Corporation USA, Insight lived up to its billing of giving
its guests a taste of what it's like to travel in style around the Bel
You have to be pretty proud of your brand
and bold enough to invite the press along, whose job it is to criticize,
good or bad, the services you're promoting. And from the invited scribes
and lens crafters aboard this eight-day journey, it looks like thumbs-up
all around for Insight.
With over 35 years of experience in the
travel industry, Insight seamlessly took care of everything, from first
arrival to final departure, with nary a hiccup in between. You really
are in good hands with Insight.
So, how much does this "traveling
in style" cost, you ask? Well, luxury doesn't come cheap, but John
Boulding, Insights' Global CEO, who was along for the ride part of the
way, explained that when you break the total per-person price down to
a per-day cost, the journey's an excellent bargain at only 220€.
Still not convinced? One of the gold-level properties we stayed in charges
between 900-1,500€ per night for a standard room, and that's obscenely
higher than Insight's quoted per-diem rate for an entire 24-hour journey
For those of you who tagged along with
me virtually, you already know how much fun I had. But, for those of
you who didn't, here's what you missed.
My band of merry media experienced Rome
by night; received the VIP treatment in the Vatican
Museums; learned how to make homemade tagliatelle with
Etruscan Chef; touched the colorful sky in Orvieto;
went underground in Perugia;
toured saintly Assisi;
found a real virgin in an olive
grove; whiled away an entire afternoon-into-evening around la
tavola in Spello;
meandered under the Tuscan sun in Cortona;
visited a world-renowned Chianti
winery; and, lunched with an Italian nobleman
and toured his "humble" abode.
But, wait, there's more!
We went back in time to Medieval
Manhattan; were humored by a world champion gelato
maker; tasted superlative grape and ate just like the locals
during a dark
and foodie night; fell in love with a bevy of redheads in Maranello;
walked underneath the porticos
of La Rossa; were mesmerized by La
Serenissima; witnessed glass
turned into works of art; dodged the infamous acqua
alta; and, glided through a narrow riello and into
the sunset on a gondola.
For detailed information on Insight's 12
Italian premium and luxury-escorted itineraries complete with
surprising, behind-the-scenes "signature" moments and
over 100 journeys throughout Europe, just click HERE,
or call toll-free (888) 680-1241, or contact your travel agent.
This was my very first experience as an
imbedded journalist and it could not have gone better, thanks, in large
part, to having Insight as my "patron" similar to Michelangelo
and the Medici for the maiden trip.
Look, someone has to tag along, document
the experience, write about it and let the paying public know. And,
those duties might as well fall into the lap of this independently minded
wordsmith rather than somebody else's, don't you think?
I look forward to receiving my next invitational
travel letter from Insight Vacations, or any one of the other travel
brands of The Travel Corporation USA, that, collectively, operate in
60 countries out of 35+ offices with more than 10,000 experienced team
members at the disposal of 1.5 million+ guests annually.
Hey, my bags are already packed. I'm ready
to go. Just put me back on that motorcoach. PLEASE?
Rua: Vicenza's Wheel of Fortune; Piazza
dei Signori, Vicenza; The
Little Village Atop the Hill (Castelluccio di Norcia); Norcia,