A Grand Tour of Italy
20 Oct 2023
“The quality of the hotels (all 4*) in Turin, Rome and Chambéry was very good, each being situated close to the main railway stations, which saved considerable hassle at the beginning and end of our stays. The Turin hotel was within an easy walk of the delightful historical centre of the city. The rooftop bar in Rome was a particularly nice touch, hosting a couple of lovely evenings with the group watching the sunset over nearby St Peter’s Basilica. Breakfasts were good at each, especially Turin.
The hotel in Venice was outstanding, more than justifying its 4* status. It had a lovely waterfront bar and, being on Murano, was nicely insulated from the main hustle and bustle of the city whilst only being a 20 minute boat ride away on the frequent vaporetti which operate from right in front of the hotel. Breakfast was truly outstanding, with serve yourself Prosecco included ??.
The hotel in Florence, which is inexplicably rated 4*, was in reality a glorified B&B. To be fair, the breakfast was good. However, there was no bar or restaurant, so no space to socialise, whilst the city was a 20 minute walk away for those wanting an evening meal or drink. Facilities were sparse, indeed one couple in our group endured three nights on a mattress placed directly on the floor. Four stars but no bars? Really?? GRJ penny pinching more like.
The standard and overall experience of GRJ catered meals varied hugely over the fortnight. The restaurant in Turin was a pleasantly short walk from the hotel. The meal was a traditional set menu with no choice, so not everyone enjoyed it to the full. One very small glass of wine was the drink offering. Curiously, there was no printed menu, so no one knew for sure what it was they did or didn’t enjoy on the night. In Rome, the delightful restaurant was directly opposite our hotel, offering an excellent menu choice of high quality. The meal in Florence was again a set menu, but there was huge variety on offer and the food and wine just kept coming. Lovely restaurant but required a fleet of taxis from the hotel to get there. The meal in Venice was particularly disappointing, with no wine included and poor quality food. The water taxi there and back was the highlight of the evening. The meal in Chambéry was good, although the trademark half a glass of wine each for our farewell dinner tells you everything you need to know about GRJ’s attitude to cost cutting at every turn.
The guided tours of Rome, Pisa, Florence and Venice were all relaxing, enjoyable and hugely informative excursions, each being led by friendly, engaging tour guides. By contrast, our tour of the Vatican was horrendously overcrowded, despite starting at 8.15am, and not helped by a bossy, incomprehensible and largely disinterested tour guide. The fact that half our party came home with COVID was doubtless a souvenir of our being crammed like sardines with thousands of others into the Sistine Chapel.
The standard and overall experience of train travel over the fortnight varied greatly. Standard Premier service on Eurostar and First Class on the French TGV trains were a delight, although the experience on Italian trains was mixed to say the least. On some local services we were stood together in cattle class as a group of 25 by the doors at the end of the carriage, so overcrowded were they. More annoying though was on the intercity services where we walked down the platform past numerous empty first class carriages to get to our standard class seats, which had no leg or arm room whatsoever. More GRJ penny pinching.
Overall, this was a hugely enjoyable holiday, shared with a friendly, sociable group and, in no small part, facilitated by the heroic efforts of our truly excellent Tour Manager, Kay Burtenshaw (for whom at least 5*/5). GRJ do however on occasion spoil the ship for a ha'pworth of tar, by inappropriately cutting costs on what is after all marketed as a luxury holiday.
Collected by Trustpilot