1st trip to Italy--Mom and 21yo daughter

Jul 8th, 2007, 06:48 AM
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1st trip to Italy--Mom and 21yo daughter

We're planning our first trip to Italy in Jan 2008; 10 day max between the 1st and 15th. Considering flying into Venice (2nights), Florence (3nignts), Rome (3nights), and flying back to the US from Rome. Gate1 offers flight, hotel and train between cities (<$1500pp), but these posts seem to stress the advantages of booking on our own vs a tour company. "Easier is not always better." Any thoughts/opinions are appreciated. These boards have offered a wealth of information, but we'd welcome more specifics (ie. staying in B&B's or apartments vs hotel, restaurants, 'must-see's', etc). My favorites file is growing thanks to these posts!
Gor217 is offline  
Jul 8th, 2007, 06:53 AM
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Hi G,

Have you looked up airfares at www.kayak.com?

Hotels are available at about 110E/nite dbl w/bkfst.

ira is online now  
Jul 8th, 2007, 07:15 AM
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The price doesn't seem too bad, but it depends on the hotels.

Consider that a "good" airfare would be in the $800 or less range, pp. Depending on the quality and location of the hotel, for 8 nights, cost could be between $400 and $1,500 pp. Figure another $100+ pp on trains.

Just be sure to check out the hotels. Just because they say 4*, that doesn't mean 4*. Find some independent reviews.


daveesl is offline  
Jul 8th, 2007, 07:37 AM
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2 nights Venice, 3 nights Florence, 3 nights Rome sounds like a good way to sample Italy's most famous cities.

Going alone or taking a guided tour is a personal preferance. I think it depends a lot on these criteria:
* Are you afraid that you will not be able to do it on your own? Maybe you find difficulty carrying luggage, or maybe you're worried about finding your way around a new country, or just feel uncomfortable being two women alone. If these worries and others may ruin your trip, you're better off in a group.

* How do you feel about sharing the trip with strangers? Do you expect you will enjoy their company? Are you afraid of being stuck on a bus with people you don't like?

* Do you just want to see the "must sees" or will you want to part with the group to visit something else?

If you decide to go on your own, a hotel or B&B is a good option if you're staying just 2-3 nights in every city. If you get an apartment you need to do some shopping to fill the fridge and it's not worth it for such a short stay.
TuscanyDreamin is offline  
Jul 8th, 2007, 08:38 AM
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We're fairly adventurous (she more than I!). I've read a great deal about the ease of train travel in Italy between cities, so think we will try to plan it on our own. How about tranportation within each city (ie; from airport/train station to hotels)? Are cabs or public transportation the best (and safest) way to get around?
Gor217 is offline  
Jul 8th, 2007, 08:47 AM
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In my opinion, the best way to get around in Rome is by public transportation. Any good guide book will show metro maps, and you can find bus routes at http://www.atac.roma.it/
and you can buy three-day tickets and bus maps at tobacco stores. Have a nice trip, and good luck.
sjj is offline  
Jul 8th, 2007, 09:50 AM
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The Gate1 package might be a good choice for you if you have a strict budget and want part of your trip planned for you. It is an independent travel package, which means once you reach the city and check into the hotel, you're on your own to make your choices for the day based on your own interests and timing.

As others have mentioned, the hotels in such packages really are the key to whether the package is better than planning it yourself. Check the location of the hotels offered carefully. Often the cheaper packages use hotels that are outside the tourist centers or in less quaint areas. In Venice and Florence, hte choices probably wouldn't be too bad, since those cities are smaller and less spread out. In Rome, bad hotel location could really influence the enjoyment of your visit.

Take a look at the destination guide on this website to begin your own 'must-see' list.

For such a brief visit and your first visit, I would stick with hotels to minimize the amount of time wasted meeting up with rental contacts, figuring out how things work, and so forth. While there are advantages to having your own home away from home, you sound as if you'd appreciate a bit more ease and local care that a hotel might offer.
ellenem is offline  
Jul 8th, 2007, 10:38 AM
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For an idea about the airfare, from what US city are you flying? How many connections do you have to make with Gate 1, and what is the total travel time to Venice and from Rome? The airfare may not be a bargain if the connections are horrible.

What are the hotels Gate 1 is offering in the fare class in which you intend to stay? Is the hotel in Venice in historic Venice or on the mainland in Mestre? Is the hotel in Rome by the train station or the Vatican, or somewhere more central? Although we all go out and tour, the immediate environs of the hotel one stays in, as well as its proximity to the "sights" can greatly affect how we feel about a place.
lovisa is offline  
Jul 8th, 2007, 10:53 AM
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Hotel choices for Rome: Palatino or Imperiale
Venice: Ai Mori or Carlton
Florence: San Gallo Palace or Adriatico
Any feedback?
Gor217 is offline  
Jul 8th, 2007, 02:56 PM
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Looking at the Gate 1 website, it looks like your package would be leaving on Jan.4, and returning on Jan 14. It also shows that none of the transfers is included in the package, and all the city tours are add-ons. So this is what it would cost to do your own "package" for 2 of you versus the $3,000 cost for 2 on the tour:

Since you don't say where you're coming from, let's assume it's the New York City area. Putting in the above dates and destinations on Kayak, it showed cheaptickets.com selling Alitalia flights in and out of Newark for $578 including taxes; a nonstop out of JFK showed as $671 including taxes.

Train fares on an ES express train Venice to Florence is 44 Euros first class, 30 Euros second class; Florence to Rome is 47 Euros first class, 33 Euros second class ($124 or $86 per person for both fares).

So assuming you bought airfare for $578, and train tickets for $86, that would leave 2 of you about $1672 for 8 nights, or $209/night.

All of your listed hotels have lots of reviews on www.tripadvisor.com
So read the reviews, check prices, and see what you want to do.
lovisa is offline  
Jul 8th, 2007, 03:16 PM
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We just went to Prague, Austria and Germany at the first of June. We got airfare for $625 a person and that was in the summer season.
I planned the entire trip on my own with the help of the great people at this forum and had no problems the whole time. We used tripadvisor.com to find our hotels. We did our travel between cities by train and this was our first time to do it that way. Our hotels were very helpful with the train schedules. They would print the trains we needed in the language we needed.
My point to all this is that you should do it on your own. I also agree with the other posts that you'll want more time in each city. We spent a week in Rome when we went. There's so much to see and do in that city, you'll be amazed.
Enjoy your trip!!
littlehouse is offline  
Jul 9th, 2007, 11:27 AM
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I'm convinced! We fly out of MSP; found an airfare for <$700. Looking at the hotel reviews on trip advisor points to alot of great options. There is a ton of info about train travel on this site, so that can be managed as well. Thanks so much all the help. I'll keep reading all the valuable feedback.
Gor217 is offline  
Jul 14th, 2007, 04:28 PM
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Which airport is easiest (most convenient) to fly into for Venice/Rome?
Gor217 is offline  
Jul 14th, 2007, 07:35 PM
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FCO (Fiumicino/Leonardo da Vinci)is the Rome airport that accepts international flights from the US. There are many airlines that fly nonstop US to Rome. For MSP I'm not sure if you can fly nonstop.

For Venice, the airport is VCE (Marco Polo). Fewer flights and fewer ailrlines are available to VCE nonstop.

If you'll have to make at least one stop to change planes, you might fly through almost any European airport (London, Paris, Frankfurt . . .) to reach Venice or Rome, rather than going through another US airport.
ellenem is offline  
Jul 14th, 2007, 07:52 PM
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You are getting some very good advice here. I think in January you can certainly do centrally located hotels in the this price range on your own.

I have looked at air/hotel packages often, but they never seem economical when I look at the fact that two of us are sharing the room. I can almost always do better on my own, and can always do better in terms of hotel choice/location.

There are a lot of hotels in Florence and Venice at very good rates. Rome can be a little more difficult, but there are good choices, and if you plan to budget the other two cities so that you can have more cash for your Rome hotel, you'll be fine.
tuscanlifeedit is online now  
Jul 15th, 2007, 09:36 AM
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My Italian is hopeless but I do my visits myself. The trains are pretty efficient (normally the carriages will stop within a metre of where they are supposed to and leave exactly on time. Using Trenitalia is relatively easy and you can pick up train tickets at the machines having ordered them frm the web site. Hotels again good but always book direct not through agency unless very confident.

Back to trains, if going away from the main sites note that with the heavily folded landscape some smaller towns will have up to 3 unconnected stations but the cities will not be a problem.

January will be cold and wet with short days.
bilboburgler is offline  
Jul 15th, 2007, 10:21 AM
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Make copies of your passports/tkts/credit cards. Wear a neck pouch and money belt. Don't carry anything and be aware of the "gypsies"!!
Pago is offline  
Jul 21st, 2007, 05:09 AM
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What will be our challenges planning things on Jan. 6? Will many things be closed, trains limited, etc.?
Gor217 is offline  
Jul 21st, 2007, 05:27 AM
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San Gallo Palace is an excellent hotel and good value. It is a bit out of the center (20 min walk to Piazza della Signoria).

January is a great month for Italy IMO and you can easily put together a trip on your own.

Check into Il Villino and Tourist House Ghilberti for reasonable and central accomodations but also check San Gallo website for winter promos.

I would only do two cities in that time frame personally, as you will be spending a good bit of time travelling (more than just the train ride involved).

I see no reason for an apartment for short stays, personally, but I generally prefer to have a place where my room is made up daily and I get fresh towels. I like some amenities.

Good luck!
kfusto is offline  

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