Country Roads: The Redheads of Maranello | ©Tom Palladio Images

It’s been a little over a month — real time, not virtual — since I was aboard Insight Vacations‘ motor coach, 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 23 international travel writers and photographers, christened the “band of merry media,” 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] corks.

Country Roads: Venice at Night | ©Tom Palladio Images

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/concierge/storyteller, named Belinda, who kept the “band of merry media” on schedule and well-informed with her flawless narrative.

Country Roads: Scraping the Skies of Medieval Italy | ©Tom Palladio Images

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 Paese.

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.

Country Roads: Paparazzi at the Osteria | ©Tom Palladio Images

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 with us 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 experience.

Country Roads: Touching the Sky in Orvieto | ©Tom Palladio Images

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.

Our “band of merry media” experienced Rome by night; received the VIP treatment in the Vatican Museums; learned how to make homemade tagliatelle with the 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; toured a world-renowned winery with roots dating back to the Renaissance; 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; slept like babies in a sprawling Tuscan villa-estate; fell in love with a bevy of redheads in Maranello; walked underneath the porticos of La Rossa; were mesmerized by La Serenissima; got the inside scoop from an anonymous Venetian; witnessed glass turned into art; dodged the infamous Aqua Alta; and, glided through a narrow riello into the sunset on a gondola.

For detailed information on Insight Vacations’ 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.

Take Me along, Country Roads | ©Tom Palladio Images

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” — like Michelangelo had 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?

Country Roads: Paparazzi at the Osteria | ©Tom Palladio Images

I look forward to receiving my next invitational travel letter from Insight, 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 motor coach. Pretty please?

©The Palladian Traveler

Borsalino w/ props SMALL | ©Tom Palladio Images

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Written by The Palladian Traveler

Tom traded his hometown St. Louis Cardinals' baseball cap in the United States for a Borsalino and he now hangs his "capello" in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy. A veteran print and broadcast journalist, with well-worn passports that have got him in and out of 49 countries and counting, Tom fell in love with the "Bel Paese" years ago. As he notes, "I'm inspired by the beauty I find in all things that are very, very old, and reliving history, or at least meandering along cobblestone streets that were laid down over a thousand years ago and just looking up and marveling at what occupies the space still today, really gets my 'Vespa' running." Tom has a good eye behind the lens and is a graphic storyteller, but he'll let you decide as he keeps his camera batteries fully charged and the posts flowing from his creative hideaway somewhere in the Veneto. You can also follow his dispatches from the cobblestone at TravelingBoy.com and ItalianNotebook.com.

17 comments

    1. Thanks, Janet. Well, looks like I’ll either be sailing around the Po River or off to Bohemia within the next few months. Whichever invite comes in first. I just hope they don’t overlap. You’re welcome to come along on both, virtually.

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