When travelling to a different country, there are a few ways to ensure that you have the best possible and most authentic experience. One of these is to join a tour operator who has the experience, local knowledge and relationships that will be able to take you behind the tourist curtain and the well-worn path.
When it’s time to select an Italian cycling tour operator, we believe that one that delivers tours for small groups is best, and here we have listed the reasons why. We’ve also highlighted some points that are best factored in when first making your decision on who to travel with.
1. The Guides are the Owners
With a small group tour company, you are more likely to be dealing with the company owners who are also often delivering the tour.
This is a big plus because they not only love the region you choose, but have also been immersed there for years and have a deep understanding and connection to the culture and people. In some cases, they also live in the area and are locals.
2. Higher Guide Ratio
When you join a small group cycling tour, you get to enjoy a tour with a maximum of 12-14 guests. This delivers a higher guest to guide ratio, which means that you will be able to spend more time with the guides who can share with you the inside stories, places and information from each area.
When the guides also speak the local language, you will experience great comfort in knowing you are being well looked after.
3. Safety, Space and Covid
With health and safety now being an even higher consideration on the back of covid-19, smaller group tours offer you an experience that provides participants with more space and room in all aspects of the tour from vehicle travel to accommodation and in restaurants. It also minimises the number of people you will regularly be in contact with, which can provide greater peace of mind.
4. It’s a Fluid Experience
With bigger groups, itineraries and booking are often set in stone, whereas with smaller groups, if things need to change, they can; if an opportunity presents itself, the schedule can be adjusted easily to accommodate the new experience, or if we find out about a local activity that is of interest to our guests, we can arrange your visit or participation quite easily.
5. A Family Affair
A smaller group means we have more options for dining and accommodation. How is this possible? With a smaller number of people, we can reserve all the tables at a small family run osteria, or all of the rooms at a family run B&B, making the entire property our own. In our opinion, the experience you feel at an establishment that is family run and where we are their only guests, is one of warmth, openness and true immersion. Our hosts have a love for their town and region that they want to share with you.
6. Safety on the Road
When you have a smaller group of riders on the road, it gives us greater flexibility to split the ride group into smaller groups, each with their own guide. Each smaller group can then either ride faster or slower, longer or shorter, and enjoy a great experience with riders at their level.
7. Less Waiting
With a maximum of 12-14 guests on one Italian cycling tour, there is less time waiting around for check-in, getting in and out of transport, being seated at restaurants, receiving your coffee at the mid ride stop….and the list goes on.
The experience of a smaller group is more cohesive and makes for a much more enjoyable time.
8. More Nimble
With a smaller group size, we enjoy the ride in smaller, 9 seater vehicles which are able to reach and stay in the centro storico (old centre) of the many towns and villages we enjoy on tour, and also reach beautiful country properties hidden away on hilltops that are not reachable with larger buses.
This dimension of a tour that takes you to places in the heart of it all or away from it all, in an exclusive experience create memories that stay with you forever.
9. More Time Living the Experience and Less in the Van
Being able to stay in the beautiful old central parts of Italian villages or on unique, family-run properties also means that you spend more time sightseeing, meandering along cobblestoned streets, enjoying private mini-tours within the tour and being exposed to experiences where you feel you are truly living local life. For us, this is a whole lot better than spending time in vehicles travelling to sites and restaurants that are on the beaten track.
10. Travel with Responsibility
By being able to eat, drink and stay with smaller operators that are run by locals, you not only receive a more authentic Italian experience, but you are actually spending money that will stay in the local community rather than being sent to the corporate HQ of a large group tour company in a different region.
We believe that the essence of travel is to get as close as possible to the people and the culture of the places you are visiting – and staying in less places for longer, so you truly experience a place or family’s hospitality.
While there are times that you are able to do this on your own and enjoy the experience, there are other times where a guide or Italian cycling tour operator that is passionate about cultural experiences as much as they are about the riding, is able to show you a depth of experience with personally selected partners that you would definitely not experience by doing it on your own. A lot of this comes down to the culture of the tour company – the attention to detail they put into every day on tour and their commitment to keep the tours small and highly immersive for guests.