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1st Time to Europe

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Jan 2nd, 2013, 11:57 PM
  #1
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1st Time to Europe

Hi, it has been quite an experience reading all of your posts. I am planning a trip to Italy in May with my 9 year old son. We are house sitting in Verona but hope to get out and see some of the Country as well as possibly Spain, Greece, & France.
I would hate to waste anyones time. It has been said that one should research their trip better. Do you have any suggestions on where to begin that research? I have been all over the internet and am worried about the sites being legitimate.
Also, curious about buying train tickets from the US in advance or should we wait until we arrive in Italy? I've seen several options to purchase the select "4 or 5" country pass or "1" Country, is there a better, less expensive way?
I read a post about Soccer matches, We are extreme soccer fanatics here at home and are basing a lot of our trip on seeing the true origin and culture of the sport abroad. Any tips on seeing matches to my 9 year old being able to train or play would be greatly appreciated. Thank you all for your time.
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Jan 3rd, 2013, 12:12 AM
  #2
 
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Try getting a Fodor's guide book. There's a lot more info in there.

We can't answer the train question without knowing how long, where do you want to go, and what do you want to do.

You're another unprepared first time poster. They seem to come out of the woodwork in the first 5-6 days of each month.
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Jan 3rd, 2013, 12:25 AM
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If you re-read your posting, you will probably see why you need help in where to begin. You are beginning your plan by thinking about legitimacy (of???), advance ticket, pass, and soccer matches. Think about what drives your planning. Does selecting a pass help you advance your plan? Probably not, and for that reason thinking about pass at this point is keeping your attention and time away from where it matters at this point. Same for the advance ticket. Tickets to where? I hope you see what you need to be focusing at this time. The basic drivers for planning a trip are usually the destinations/objectives and the constraints, neither of which you have mentioned except for soccer. Italy alone is a big place. You have not mentioned how much time you have.
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Jan 3rd, 2013, 12:39 AM
  #4
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Thank you for your feed back. I will work on the kinks mentioned. We will be house sitting in Verona for 6 to 8 weeks, possibly visiting a friend in Aviano for a week or two. That is our starting point anything from there is open. I want to make sure we arrive in time to catch some soccer so I would like to know if that is still possible in the middle to end of May. Venice, Rome and Florence are places in Italy we'd like to go. Still trying to figure out travel time from Verona to the other cities. Also if there are some northern cities we should consider. We would like to go to Barcelona depending on how long the travel time and cost is. While we are house sitting we will be able to go for 3 or 4 days at a time. If more is possible we will consider it as we go, For now I'm trying to set a budget and the train factor is important for that. If it is better to purchase ahead of time. The website I looked at basically said 10 days in 2 months to any of the 4 selected countries, is it worth it?
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Jan 3rd, 2013, 01:19 AM
  #5
 
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Useful websites to help you

For everything train related http://www.seat61.com/

The German national rail site will help you plan times bahn.com

Are passes worth it? Only by costing your point to point journeys and comparing with a pass can you answer that question. But buying tickets ahead of time nearly always saves money

And for football check out http://fourfourtwo.com/travel/countr...y/default.aspx

which gives info about attending games in Italy
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Jan 3rd, 2013, 01:40 AM
  #6
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sofarsogood Thank you so much!!! The fourfourtwo site is sooo helpful.
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Jan 3rd, 2013, 02:14 AM
  #7
 
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Whether to purchase tickets ahead of time or using a pass depends on WHERE you are heading. First identify possible destinations. Which are possible within your time and budget constraints? Then you have enough data to look at advance tickets and passes which are usage model specific. Without usage model, you cannot make an informed decision on what type of tickets/pass to purchase.

For Rome, Venice, Florence, it would be trains. www.bahn.com is easiest to use. For prices, use www.fsitaliane.it. Use closer months for estimate as May prices are not posted yet. I don't think sales prices posted that far yet. For slower trains, you will have to look at January for schedules/prices estimates. The May schedules are not that different.

For Barcelona, are you confining your trip to trains only? If you use the above mentioned sites, you will see it is a very long trip. If you train to Venice, then www.vueling.com flies cheaply to Barcelona.

I think your first focus is grasping what destinations are possible within your time constraints.
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Jan 3rd, 2013, 05:17 AM
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Outside the forums, this website offers plenty of destination information. Start there. Fodor's pays for this free site so it deserves some attention from its users.
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Jan 3rd, 2013, 05:37 AM
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First you should get a few good guidebooks. Most of the info is on line but it's easier to start with an actual book. But the best sites are the ones from the guidebook publishers, like Fodors which you have obviously found. But Frommers, rough guide and others have almost their entire books on line.

Also google a map of Italy, and of Europe you you can see how far away things are. If you are in Verona then Venice is a very simple day trip, you can do it several times. Go to trenitalia (Italian train) site and you'll see how often and how expensive trips are. For places in the Veneto (the general area you are basing in) trains to Venice, Padua, Vicenza, etc are very frequent and range in price depending on if it's a fast train or a slower regional one. There are about four trains every hour to Venice costing between about 7 and 20 euro. It takes about an hour. From Verona you can also easily visit Lake Garda, Milano, etc as day trips. Florence is about 2-3 hours.

For what you describe I would not buy rail passes. For shorter trips just buy your tickets the day of travel, for longer one if you know the date a few days or weeks ahead of time you can usually get cheaper tickets. Once you get to that stage of planning there are techniques for how to get promo and other cheaper tickets. There have been several threads on that subject in the past month or so.

Spend some time on this forum reading trip reports, there are hundreds of them and they often have lots of practical info. Also once you have specific questions posting them here will get answers. I've visited that region several times and done trip reports, click on my name and scroll down. You may get ideas of towns you can easily visit as day trips.
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Jan 3rd, 2013, 05:53 AM
  #10
 
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You havaen't been too clear on how much time you can spend away from your housesitting responsibilities. If 3 or 4 ddays at a time, how often? Can you travel further afield before beginning the housesitting or after? Seems to me that you will have to spend a fair amount of time in Verona from which you can take day trips.

I would start with a good guidebook and map of Italy. You can make many 3-4 day trips in Italy alone. Flying to Barcelona for 3-4 days would work.

You need to plan a few destinations and then see how it goes. France and Greece would take a lot of time; I would suggest trips to either until you have a better idea of time and cost.
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Jan 3rd, 2013, 06:11 AM
  #11
 
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>>>I've seen several options to purchase the select "4 or 5" country pass or "1" Country, is there a better, less expensive way?<<<

I doubt a pass is your best option for the countries you listed. You would use the budget airlines as Greece, Spain and France are too far to attempt to take the train for long weekends. There are a lot of budget airlines in Europe and you can fly cheaply (you often see fares in the 30-50€ range). Look at www.whichbudget.com and www.skyscanner.com for budget flights.

For traveling around Italy, you can get discounted tickets on the Italian train website Trenitalia. The fsitaliane (mentioned by greg) is the same Trenitalia website.
http://www.trenitalia.com/cms/v/inde...0080a3e90aRCRD

You can book super economy tickets for as little as 9€ on the fast trains. You can also get family tickets.
http://www.trenitalia.com/cms/v/inde...003f16f90aRCRD

On Trenitalia, you purchase 120 days in advance, but you would need to nail down your itinerary. Current schedules run through the first week of June. Summer schedules won't be loaded until close to that time.

You have to remember that a railpass doesn't include the cost of seat reservations (mandatory in Italy except on the slow R trains) which is 10€ and other supplements (such as overnight trains). Sometimes the pass supplements are as high as a regular ticket on certain trains. Also France restricts the number of passholders on some trains. I would not think the 4 country pass would be practical for your list. Budget airlines make more sense and perhaps an Italy only pass (you would need to figure out your travel within Italy to see if it's cost effective).

Sometimes buses are the way to travel in Italy (trains don't go everywhere). For some connections, buses are just as fast and cheap.
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Jan 3rd, 2013, 06:59 AM
  #12
 
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If this is your first trip to Europe, be prepared for some culture shock! So many things are just 'different' in Europe like trains, driving, restaurants, etc. A good place to start would be the slowtrav.com and ricksteves.com websites. They both have some very helpful basic info for first time travelers. Also get some good maps to help you plan your trips.
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Jan 3rd, 2013, 07:33 PM
  #13
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Thank you all for your help. I'll be working on my research and coming up with more questions I'm sure.

sofarsogood Thank you so much!!! The fourfourtwo site is sooo helpful.
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Jan 3rd, 2013, 08:57 PM
  #14
 
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This site explains a great deal about train travel in Italy: http://www.slowtrav.com/italy/trains/tickets.htm

Since your son is under 12, he will either be able to ride free or for half price, look for Familia specials, good for one adult and a child under 12.


Get some guide books from your local library to help you decide where go within Italy, and then look at the websites. it will be less confusing that way.

Soccer in Italy is divided into leagues the top being Serie A , then Serie B and Serie C,
There are teams in Verona, so you can see about getting tickets to a game. The season is through May. look at some of the Italian soccer websites.
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Jan 4th, 2013, 02:07 AM
  #15
 
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I am insanely jealous that you are getting to house sit in or even near Verona. It is my favorite city in Italy (great food, great scenery, plenty of stuff to do, near lots of other good places. good transportation). If you can't go, would you recommend me ?

The guidebook advice is excellent. You might want to read several of Tim Parks's books to understand Italian ways of doing things. He is English, married to an Italian, and lives near Verona. "Italian Neighbors" and "Italian Education" are hilarious as well as informative, and "A Season with Verona" is about following the Verona soccer team!
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Jan 4th, 2013, 10:39 PM
  #16
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Ackislander thank you for the book suggestions! So excited to read up. I was getting a little nervous at the thought of "living" in Verona for a length of time with my 9 yr old. We are truly blessed to have this opportunity. If anything comes up I'll keep you in mind
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Jan 5th, 2013, 06:03 AM
  #17
 
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I'd get the Rough Guide for Italy
I'd take advantage of the italian train system, based in Verona you have loads of great cities to visit all just a couple of hours away. Venice, Vicenza, Padua, Bergamo, Ferrara,Palma, Trento, Mantova, Bolgna and Milan and Ravenna a little further away. Most of these cites are in the very flat Po valley
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