What if you could explore Italy without the stress of reservations, tickets or travel planning? What if you had an automatic “in” to the culture, people and language?

A small group tour is one of the best ways to really get to know Italy.

small group tour

On our small group tours you explore Italy with a local Italian guide and a group of eight people or fewer, visiting the kitchens, homes and family businesses of real Italians. Each experience is authentic, off-the-beaten-path and carefully curated by a dedicated tour leader. We like to say our small group tours give travelers the greatest insider access at the greatest value.

But it’s not just us who think so – we asked our clients to share what they loved about their small group tour experience. Each traveler’s story was different, but the same five themes kept coming up again and again.

Here’s why you should choose a small group tour:

1. Small Groups are Fun and Friendly

Our small group tours are capped at eight travelers total. “When they say ‘small group,’ they mean small,” said fellow traveler Sarah. And there’s nothing like traveling together to spark friendship. Linda said her group touring the Amalfi Coast and Puglia was “the envy of other travelers, even Italians! We bonded with our fellow travelers immediately and laughed almost all the time that we weren’t eating.” Other travelers, including Svetlana, ended up liking their group so much, they traveled together again the following year!

2. Travel Like a Local, With a Local

Traveler Lindsay put it perfectly when she said Ciao Andiamo co-owner Max Brunelli “knows everyone in Italy.” As the leader for many of our small group tours, Max builds lasting relationships not only with the travelers, but with the local olive oil producers, cheese makers and guides. Sarah said the welcome her group received at each of their tour stops was “indescribable,” and the whole group was “made to feel like old friends” by the winery owners and chefs they visited on her tour of Umbria and Tuscany. Your tour leader isn’t just showing you Italy, they’re welcoming you into their way of life and giving you an inside-look into the lives of fellow Italians.

3. Deep Dive into the Culture

enjoying a cooking class on a small group tour

If you’re looking for an authentic, one-of-a-kind experience in Italy, small group tours are a great way to go. Your tour leader will take you off the beaten path to destinations you wouldn’t find on your own. “We felt like we were living like true Italians,” Meghan said, and Sarah enjoyed that there were few tourists or buses at their tour stops.

Some of our travelers favorite experiences include hands-on cooking classes led by local Italian chefs. In the town of Alberobello in Puglia, an Italian nonna will teach you to recreate recipes passed down by her family for generations inside a historic trullo home.

A cooking class in Umbria takes you inside one of the region’s first agriturismi (farmhouse restaurants), tucked in the hills between Spello and Assisi, where you’ll join the owner in preparing regional delicacies. In each room of the agriturismo, you’ll learn to make a different course, with the help of friendly chefs and local wine. Make pasta by hand, bake bread in a wood-burning stone oven and use fresh produce from the farm to complement your courses. You’ll experience the romance of country life as you feast on your artisanal creations in a rustic dining room with your newly-formed friends. 

4. Stress-Free Travel

All Ciao Andiamo trips are designed to give you a seamless experience, but small group tours take it a step further with a dedicated tour leader who is on-hand from the moment your tour begins. Your tour leader is there to take care of every detail – transportation, hotels, food and experiences – and give the group flexibility to enjoy each day to the fullest. Beyond being flexible, your tour leader will also spend time getting to know the group and can adjust the day’s activities based on your interests and preferred level of activity. Their goal is to give you the best day possible, every day of your trip.

As Svetlana says, “all we had to do is show up. From the time we  arrived, each day was seamlessly organized, full of surprises, incredible journeys, AMAZING FOOD!, well orchestrated schedules, and provided good balance of personal time and guided excursions through the unique hidden treasures of Italy.”

Our small group tours include accommodations, ground transportation throughout, daily culinary and/or cultural excursions, two meals per day (breakfast plus lunch or dinner) and pick-up/drop-off in a major city.

5. Travel Without Sacrificing Free Time

In addition to daily excursions, your group will have plenty of down time to relax or explore on your own – it’s your vacation! Elaine fondly remembers how Max “arranged free time for us to wander in quaint seaside towns” on her tour of the Amalfi Coast and Puglia, and gave the group “plenty of time to enjoy feasts overlooking breath-taking scenery with the backdrop of a beautiful sunset.”

small group tours

Ciao Andiamo’s Small Group Tours:

Now that you’re in love with the idea of a small group tour, check out the incredible experiences we have to offer!

Explore the beautiful regions of Tuscany and Umbria on a tour of Food, Wine & the Rolling Hills. You’ll taste wine in Montefalco and Montalcino, learn to cook with a hands-on class and tour charming hilltop towns, including Cortona (of “Under the Tuscan Sun” fame) and the medieval settings of Pienza and Spoleto.

For a visit to the Amalfi Coast and Puglia, join our tour of Southern Italy: Coast to Coast, where you’ll visit the unique city of Matera (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), take a cooking class inside a trullo home, visit the island of Capri, tour the ruins of Pompeii and more.

On our tour of Essential Tuscany, you’ll stay in the iconic Tuscan cities of Florence, Siena and Lucca, visit the marble quarries of Carrara, view the leaning tower of Pisa and explore the walled city of San Gimignano. Learn to cook in a winery in the Tuscan countryside, enjoy a cheese-making demonstration in Pienza and, of course, taste wine along the way. Winter travelers can also enjoy the region’s festive atmosphere on a special Tuscany for the Holidays tour.

Foodies will love Cooking in Italy’s Green Heart, with daily hands-on culinary experiences in the lush Umbrian countryside. Make pizza in a medieval village, craft pasta and gnocchi by hand, tour a cheese farm and create your own delicious gelato.  – all paired with delicious local wines.

Taste your way through Emilia-Romagna and relax on the Italian Riviera on a tour of Italy’s Finest: Cuisine to Coast. Balsamic vinegar, Parmigiano Reggiano and prosciutto di Parma are all on the menu, and you’ll visit the iconic coastal villages of the Cinque Terre.

And, since your tour will start and end in a major city, it’s easy to add more traveling on your own before or after your tour. Some travelers, like Sarah, include a small group tour as just one leg of a longer trip. Ask the Ciao team for a recommendation for making the most of your time in Italy, we’re happy to help!

Don’t see a date that matches your vacation schedule? It never hurts to ask! New dates may open up, or we can recommend another trip based on your interests. If you already have a group of travelers, you can also ask us how to the trip private.

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You’ve booked your flight, your itinerary is set, and you’re ready to savor each and every day of beautiful Italia. But before you leave, there’s a few things you’ll need to prepare to help you have the best trip possible. From the language to your cell phone to power outlets, here’s what to do before you go to Italy:

Learn Some Language Basics

If you want to communicate directly with the locals, don’t worry – you might be surprised how many people will know English as you travel through Italy. But don’t let this stop you from learning a bit of the beautiful Italian language, as it’s a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture, even with some common greetings and basic phrases. Everyone knows Ciao and Grazie, so why not use them? Or, go a step further and add the more formal buongiorno and buonasera to your repertoire for morning and evening salutes. Scusi goes a long way when asking permission, trying to get attention or simply apologizing and of course, cono or coppa is a must-half for your daily gelato-run!

Before your trip, sign up for a free language-learning service to practice some of the key Italian phrases – Duolingo is one popular option. For a deeper dive into the language, the Ciao team loves the Pimsleur method. If you’re not fluent by the time you arrive in Italia, don’t despair! There are translation apps that you can use on-the-go to look up an unfamiliar word on the restaurant menu or respond to a friendly shopkeeper. These range from basic English-Italian dictionaries to apps with audio translations.  Check out iTranslate for Apple products or Italian Translator on the Google Play Store.

Prep Your Wallet and Carry Cash

The best way to pay for un cappuccino at the local bar is with a handful of euro, the currency used in Italy. Carry cash to use for souvenir shopping and other small payments such as the daily city tax charged by most hotels. You can use the ATMs in Italy to get cash, as they typically have a good conversion rate. Check with your bank first about flat fees versus percentage-based fees on international ATMs.

If you prefer to arrive in Italy with a full wallet, you can also get euro from your bank or another financial institution in the U.S., Canada or U.K. However, you’ll typically experience a higher exchange rate than you’ll find in Italy, so we recommend only withdrawing a few hundred euro, maximum.

Most restaurants, stores, and establishments in Italy will take credit cards, especially those with a chip. Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted cards; American Express can be used at some locations, but not all. Before you leave, tell your credit card company that you’re traveling to Italy so you won’t be surprised with a denied card; if the credit card company thinks your card has been stolen, they’ll freeze it.

Make Sure Your Passport is Valid

One lesser-known tip travelers to Italy should keep in mind involves your passport. Italy requires that a passport must be valid for 6 months after the end of the trip, so it can’t expire five weeks after your adventure ends. Make sure to double check the date before your departure!

Prep Your Phone for International Travel

Bringing your cell phone abroad doesn’t just mean remembering to take it with you! Before you leave for Italy, call your current phone carrier and let them know that you’ll be travelling internationally. Most carriers can easily switch your plan to include an international data plan, and potentially a calling or texting plan, for the duration of your trip.

Even with an international plan, using cellular data can get expensive quickly. Be on the lookout for WiFi if you need to use your phone while in Italy, and turn data roaming off when you aren’t using it. If you’re not sure how much data you’ll be using when abroad, don’t worry; you can easily monitor it during your trip and upgrade if necessary.

Get an Adapter

While vacationing in Italy is the perfect chance to ignore your inbox, you’ll want to keep your phone fully charged for taking photos and looking up the Italian words for “more gelato please.” Power outlets in Italy are circular, with two or three cylindrical prongs in a row. An electronic adaptor will allow you to plug in your devices anywhere in Italy.

Some appliances that deal with motion or temperature, like a hair dryer or electric razor, will also need a voltage converter. Check the label or check online to be sure if your appliance is compatible with wall outlets in Italy. You can buy the correct adaptors and converters online or in stores such as Best Buy, Target, and B&H.

Pack Smart

When deciding what to pack for your Italian adventure, consider the time of year you’ll be travelling. To really go in-depth, check out the best tips for what clothing to pack for your Italian vacation compiled by Cristiana, our very own Italy expert.

In general, pack light, neutral colors that you can layer and comfortable shoes, but also keep in mind if you’re planning activities that require more elegant attire. If you’re planning any nice dinners, be sure to pack long pants or a dress in addition to your shorts. Some fine dining establishments may require jackets for men – if you’re unsure, it never hurts to ask! You’ll also need outfits that cover your shoulders and your legs down to your knees in order to enter into Italy’s beautiful churches and basilicas.

Finally, make sure to pack comfortable shoes, but to best blend in with the locals stick with your favorite pair of flats, boots or walking shoes. In most cities, you’ll find people selling umbrellas on every corner – especially when it rains – so feel free to leave yours at home and get a small one only if needed. Instead, bring sunglasses in the hopes that you will be wearing them every day with beautiful sunny weather!

Read, Watch and Get Inspired

In the months counting down to your Italian adventure, consider reading books, watching movies or binging shows that will best prepare you for your trip – be it the delicious food, beautiful sights, rich culture or friendly locals.

For a romantic and hilarious trip to the Italian coast, dive into the book Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, about an almost-love affair between an Italian innkeeper and a Hollywood actress. Elizabeth von Arnim wrote her novel The Enchanted April in Portofino, following four English women – all strangers – on their tumultuous vacation in Portofino’s Castello Brown and their journey to find beauty and tranquility together on the coast.

Pop some popcorn for the classic film Roman Holiday (1953), featuring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck as the unlikely lovers in the midst of Rome. The Trip to Italy (2014) follows two friends on their hilarious culinary road trip from Piedmont to Capri. For a shorter adventure into the cuisine of Italy, watch the first episode of Netflix’s Chef’s Tablefeaturing Massimo Bottura and his innovative food, which he serves at Osteria Francescana in Modena. Aziz Ansari also dines here during season 2 of Netflix’s Master of None, which features Dev’s trip through Modena to learn how to make pasta.

Now that you’re ready to go, you can count down the days until your adventure in Italy. Buon viaggio!

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Reading a menu at an Italian coffee bar can feel like more than just a foreign language – it’s a glimpse into Italy’s culture and identity. Unlike American coffee, Caffè Italiano revolves solely around espresso and the different ways it can be served. Here’s an in-depth guide to your options for all things caffeinated. 

The Basics

Caffè: A simple espresso. Though caffè means “coffee” in Italian, it isn’t your standard American coffee. If you’re unfamiliar with espressos, you’ll be getting a small cup of strong coffee served on a saucer with a spoon.

Cappuccino: An espresso with steamed whole milk and foam, an Italian favorite typically served in a slightly larger cup than the espresso.

Caffè Latte: An espresso with hot milk, served in a glass. Make sure to order caffè latte and not just latte, as you’d be getting a glass of milk from the barista instead!

Caffè Macchiato: An espresso with a bit of foamed milk on top. Macchiato means “marked” or “stained,” so it is an espresso “marked” with a little foamed milk.

Latte Macchiato: A glass of steamed milk with a bit of espresso, or “marked” with a small amount of espresso. If you want a bit more espresso, like a double latte, order a dark version, or latte macchiato scuro.

More Than Milk

Caffè con Panna: An espresso topped with sweet, often fresh, whipped cream. This drink is especially for those who want a sweeter version of the caffè macchiato.

Caffè Corretto: An espresso with a drop of liquor. Popular choices are grappa, Sambuca, or cognac.

Caffè con Zucchero: An espresso with sugar added for you. Most bars have patrons add their own sugar from a packet or container at the bar.

Less Caffeinated 

Decaffeinato or Caffè Hag: A decaffeinated espresso. Hag is the largest producer of decaf coffee in Italy, so some bars will write their name on the menu instead of decaffeinato.

Caffè Lungo: A “long” espresso, when the barista allows the machine to run longer, adding water and making the coffee a bit weaker.

Caffè Americano: An espresso diluted with hot water, the closest drink to American filtered coffee you’ll find in an Italian bar.

Caffè Americano Decaffeinato: A decaf espresso diluted with hot water, the closest drink to American filtered decaf coffee.

Cold Coffee

Caffè Shakerato: An espresso shaken with sugar and ice, typically served in a martini or cocktail glass. Some bars add chocolate syrup for an extra layer of sweetness.

Caffè Freddo: An espresso served iced or cold, typically served in a glass. If you order a caffè freddo alla vaniglia, you can add vanilla syrup or vanilla liquor to the mix.

Granita di Caffè: An espresso-flavored icy slush, typically with added sugar, almost like a coffee snow cone. Not all places will have this available but some ice cream shops will!

Regional Specialties 

Espresso in Naples typically comes with the sugar added. If you don’t like your coffee sweet, order un caffè sense zucchero. Or try caffè alla nocciola, an espresso with froth and hazelnut cream, for a special local treat.

In Milan, coffee bars serve an upside-down cappuccino called a marocchino. Served in a served in a small glass sprinkled with cocoa powder a marocchino starts with a bottom layer of frothed milk and is finished off with a shot of espresso.

The Piemontese enjoy a traditional drink created from layers of dense hot cocoa, espresso and cream, called bicerìn.

Now that you’ve perfected your order, read our guide to mastering the Italian coffee bar and enjoy your Italian caffè! 

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From espresso to caffè latte, Italian coffee is famous throughout the world. The delicious roast and small shots of caffeine are ubiquitous to Italy – and necessary for a jet lagged traveler! When in Italy, make your way to the local coffee shop (called a bar here) and order your favorite. Ordering coffee in Italy is taking part in an ingrained ritual of Italian culture. Here are five tips for getting your caffeine fix – the Italian way.

1. Milk is for Mornings Only

A cappuccino and pastry, the perfect Italian coffee to order for breakfast

The only people drinking coffee with milk after breakfast time are surely not Italian. The rule? You shouldn’t drink any coffee beverage that includes milk, be it a cappuccino or caffè latte, after 11 am or after a meal. Italians believe that the combination of hot milk and food in your stomach has an unsettling effect, so make sure to order your cappuccino before you start your day. Many Italians will have a breakfast of un cappuccino and a pastry, like a brioche al cioccolato. After lunch Italians order un caffè which means a normal espresso or at most un caffè macchiato, which is an espresso topped with a dollop of foamed milk. 

2. Stay on Your Feet

If you’re ordering un caffè in an Italian coffeehouse, you’ll probably notice that most Italians are standing and drinking their coffee. In Italy, cafés are known as bars, and for good reason – Italians order their coffee at the bar, drink their coffee at the bar, and pay for their coffee at the bar, all while standing. This is for a variety of reasons. For one, the coffee is short and taken almost like a shot. There’s no need to sit down and nurse an espresso cup. Not only that, but Italians usually have their morning coffee with just a small pastry or nothing at all, so there’s no need to sit down. Finally, some bars will even charge a bit more if you have your coffee at a table!

3. Pay Like a Local

Different bars have different methods for their patrons to pay for their coffee. Some cafés have you order and pay at the register before bringing your receipt to the barista to make your drink. Others allow patrons to order and drink their coffee at the bar first, and then tell the cashier what they had to pay before leaving. To be certain, take a look at what the other customers are doing and follow suit.

4. Know Your Order

When ordering your coffee, there’s no need to say espresso – a single espresso is un caffè. For those unfamiliar with espresso, you’ll be getting a small cup of strong coffee served on a saucer. If you ask for a latte, you’ll be getting a tall glass of milk. Order a caffè latte instead. There’s also typically no extensive list of flavored coffee, so try to keep your order simple. For a more detailed list, check out our guide to Italian coffee.

5. Become a Regular

Italians typically don’t drink un caffè doppio, a double espresso, but it’s not because they don’t consume as much coffee. Rather, Italians visit their local bar multiple times a day to drink several small cups of coffee, often chatting with the barista before going to their next appointment or errand. There’s no better break during the day then a visit to the local coffeehouse. In just a few minutes customers share information, make business deals, gossip and reset for whatever comes next in the day, all with a delicious sip of Italian coffee.

If you don’t have the Italian coffee rituals memorized, don’t worry – the servers will be there to assist you, as most of them are friendly and happy to help.

Enjoy your caffè!

In love with Italy’s food and wine culture? Taste your way through Parma and the Emilia-Romagna region, a food lover’s paradise, before heading to Liguria to visit seaside towns and feast on pesto and seafood caught fresh that day on our mouthwatering Reveal on the Riviera trip.

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