Ask Harriet: Free time in Tuscany & Amalfi Coast

When faced with traveling to a region for the first time, especially one like Italy, where there’s so much to see and do, it’s hard to decide what to do with your free time. I remember my days traveling after college with my girlfriends and we barely slept, for fear that we might miss something on our journeys! Today I’m a bit more relaxed, but like this first-time traveler, I like to do my research before embarking on any vacation.

Q: I am looking for recommendations for my upcoming trip to Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast. Is there anything great to do with my free time that I shouldn’t miss?

—Kathleen Gerrity, 1-time traveler, Grayslake, Illinois

A:  Hi Kathleen, great question. Although your itinerary is already rich with opportunities for discovery, there are always a few “out of the way” things that we can recommend to you. You didn’t mention your unique interests—art, nature, or shopping, for instance—for me to tailor suggestions, so this would be a great question to ask your Program Director, when he or she reaches out to you before you depart. We also offer Insider Tips from our Program Directors, which may be accessed online by clicking here.

Reviewing your itinerary, you’ll have the most free time in Sorrento. Our top-rated Program Directors Patricia Fannon and Fernando Aversa recommend a few activities there. On Tuesdays, the street market on Via San Renato is a great place to buy local goods, sample gelato or coffee, and interact with locals. Or you could also catch a performance of the Teatro Tasso, one of Sorrento’s long-standing traditions. Personally, one of my favorite things to do on vacation is people-watch, and there are any number of piazzas you may wander through to do so in Sorrento. Piazza Tazzo is one of my favorites. It’s always busy, with lovely little shops (including spots to sip limoncello or coffee and sample gelato), and the church bells ringing out set a marvelous scene.

As always, when you get to Italy, keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities. You can also ask the locals, if you’d like. It’s part of the interaction we like to encourage.

Letters to Harriet

This month’s letter comes to us from a couple who says that their third trip—Tuscany & the Amalfi Coast—with us was truly charming.

Italy was our third trip with Grand Circle. Grand Circle made all of Italy come alive. From Tuscany, to the Amalfi Coast and then on to Rome, we would haven't been able to see one eighth of that beautiful country on our own. We have learned so much from all of our guides about the rich history that only Europe can offer. I am always so amazed of the knowledge that our guides have of the area they take us to. Grand Circle always took care of our every need. It made traveling enjoyable. We always say it is our last trip, but here we are we just completed our third. We love meeting new people. Thanks, Grand Circle, for broadening our horizons.

—Carol & Millard Babich, 3-time travelers, Maryland Heights, Missouri

Hi Carol & Millard,

I’m so glad to hear that you had such a wonderful time—thank you for sharing your sentiments. You chose a great trip, as Tuscany & the Amalfi Coast is one of our most comprehensive itineraries. The combination of the countryside and its wonderful cuisine, magnificent vistas on the Amalfi Coast (and oh, that seafood!), and the highlights of the “Eternal City,” Rome, are great examples of why Italy is eternally appealing. In that country and elsewhere, I too have learned more from our Program Directors than I ever would have on my own; besides their first-hand knowledge, not just passing through but spending several days in each region gives travelers such a sense of terroir, or sense of place. Speaking from firsthand experience, once you visit Italy, it’s hard not to return. Your first trip whets your appetite for more (speaking of which, check out delicious Italian recipes by clicking here for our Global Kitchen). I have a funny feeling we’ll see you on another Grand Circle Trip sooner than you think!

Do you have questions for me about trips you’re taking or vacations you would like to go on with Grand Circle? Please email me at I look forward to sharing what you have to say!