Advice on Italy Vacation: PLEASE HELP!

Oct 28th, 2005, 11:55 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 13
Advice on Italy Vacation: PLEASE HELP!

Hi everyone,

My family is looking to spend 5 weeks in Italy this summer. We have it down to two apartments, one in Spoleto in Umbria and the other in Lucca in Tuscany. The apartment in Lucca has air-conditioning and the one is Spoleto does not (although the owner says the walls are very thick). Do you think it will be too hot without air-conditioning?

Also, which location do you think is better for day trips? We wont have a car, but we are looking forward to travelling to a few different places via train.

I would like to be able to practice my Italian a lot, as well. Any suggestions for which location would be better for that?

Finally, there is a big festival going on in Spoleto for two out of the five weeks that we would be there. Is anyone familiar with this festival and do you think that the town would be unpleasantly crowded during it?

Thanks so so much!
kms93 is offline  
Oct 28th, 2005, 02:16 PM
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Hi K,

Since the two towns are rather far apart, what do you want to see on your day trips? Why not split your time?

Also, I think 5 weeks without a car will be hard. You really need a car to see a lot of the places in Tuscany and Umbria.

If you are uncertain about the apt w/o A/C, why not find another choice in Spoleto? Surely there must be others that fit your criteria.

I think you must be talking about the Spoleto Jazz Festival? What a treat to be there for it! Yes, the town will probably be booked solid. Might make restaurant dining difficult without advance reservations most nights. (This from someone who lives in a resort town with it's share of big festivals.)

Others here have probably been to the festival and can say exactly what it's like.

Buon viaggio!
Dayle is offline  
Oct 28th, 2005, 02:21 PM
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You really should consider renting a car for at least some of the time you are there... there are so many wonderful places in Tuscany and Umbria that are not well-serviced (or serviced at all!) by trains and buses.
TexasAggie is offline  
Oct 28th, 2005, 02:41 PM
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Your trip sounds similar to our trip last year. We rented a villa in Umbria (Todi) for one week and outside of Lucca for one week. We went the second week of September, so it wasn't the hottest time, but we never turned on the AC at either place. I would think you would be OK without it.

For day trips....both are fantastic bases to explore. There is not great train service in Umbria, and many wonderful places in Umbria and Tuscany are only accessible by car. Is there a reason you won't have a car? If you are concerned about driving, the countryside is pretty easy to get around. Truthfully, I think much more than a week in Umbria without a car, you might feel kind of antsy. Spoleto itself can be experienced in a day. Although the Jazz Festival would be fantastic. So much out there, and no way to get to it!

As for speaking Italian, we found Umbria to be an excellent place to practice! Many, many people did not speak any English at all, especially the small towns. I think in Tuscany, English is much more common.

Good luck!
issy is offline  
Oct 28th, 2005, 10:54 PM
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Thank for all of your replies! The reason why we did not want to have a car was mainly because of expenses. However, my father will be joining us for the last one or two weeks of the trip and we will probably rent a car then and travel around to a few places.

Pretty much what we are looking for out of this trip is a vacation where we can really experience the culture of Italy and where my sisters and I can work on the language. We have been having some trouble looking for villas within our price range (around $1000 per week or less) and that do not require you to have a car (as I said, we cannot afford to rent one for the entire stay, so we need to be somewhere that does not require one).. If we are going to spend five weeks in one place, we would like it to be somewhere that is somewhat well connected by train or bus for day trips. Can you recommend any towns/cities for us, and possibly any good websites for finding properties? Thanks!

kms93 is offline  
Oct 29th, 2005, 07:14 AM
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Hi again K,

You don't say how many are in your family. Have you done the math to see how much all those train and bus tickets for day trips will cost vs. the cost of a car?

I've had 3 wonderful trips to Italy. I love the trains and use them when it's practical which is often. But for Tuscany and Umbria, I would actually be willing to shorten a trip in order to afford a car.

Many of the places you will probably want to go will only have bus service. Often the bus service to the small towns is very limited, serving more the local people who need to get to work in the morning and home at night. Some of these same small towns are not worth a full day, so what would you do?

You don't say if you have been to Italy before. Is this your first trip? Are you planning to visit any major cities as day trip? I think you will get more helpful advice if you can provide more about your plans.

Buon viaggio!
Dayle is offline  
Oct 29th, 2005, 07:21 AM
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There are five people in my family, but only four of us (my mother and two sisters) will be there for most of the time. My mother and father have been to Italy before, but only once for ten days. My sister's and I haven't been yet. We definitely want to do some of the major cities (Rome, Florence, Venice). We are also interested in visiting the Amalfi Coast.

Thanks again for your help!
kms93 is offline  
Oct 29th, 2005, 07:40 AM
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I agree with Dayle. If you really want to see Umbria, perhaps shortening your trip a little to pay for a rental car for part of the time may be a considertion for you. Umbria would be difficult without a car. It's much more rural than Tuscany. After reading your latest reply, however, maybe you should delete Umbria as a base and focus on the big three: Rome, Venice, and Florence. It's easier to have the larger cities as a base. You can spend several days exploring each city and then do day trips: Orvieto, Lucca, Sienna, etc.

You can practice your Italian anywhere, and the locals will appreciate it.

I have no suggestions for finding a accomodations that sleep up to 5 for less than $1000/week. That seems a little low, but other Fodorites might have other ideas. Maybe try vacation rentals by owner (

Good luck.
issy is offline  
Oct 29th, 2005, 07:52 AM
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Although we had a car in Umbria, I understand that there is an active bus service thorughout hte area. A friend's son spent a month in Todi last summer and he traveld around quite bit-I know he went to Spoletto for some of the music festival, and he also traveled to Orvietto, Assisi, Perugia, Derutta, etc. It will be a wonderful way to meet local people and to practice yoru Italian. Go for it!

Only you can determine how important AC is. I would be miserable in the heat, but I'm over 60 from a northern climate. If heat is an issue for you, maybe you shoudl consider finding another villa with AC- I don't think you can count on thick walls or a hope for cool days if the summer heat is opprsseive.

Good luck, Margret
justretired is offline  
Oct 29th, 2005, 07:59 AM
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If you want to see Venice, Florence, Rome and the Amalfi Coast, it doesn't make much sense to stay in a villa in Umbria for the whole five weeks. You will spend a lot of time getting to these places, espcially with having to work around the bus connections (or train if available, plenty of towns don't have train stations). The Amalfi Coast especially would be too far for a daytrip from Umbria, hardly worth the trouble for the short time you would have there.
SusanP is offline  
Oct 29th, 2005, 08:08 AM
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Hey guys, Thanks for all of your quick replies.. I just want to explain a little bit about our intentions for this vacation. As I said before, it will mainly be my mother and sisters and I for 3.5 out of the 5 weeks we are there. When my father comes, we plan rent a car and take some day trips to Rome, Florence, etc. and maybe an overnight trip to the Amalfi Coast. However, for the first 3.5 weeks of the trip, we would really like to be in a large town or small city where there are some attractions to visit and where we can really just become a part of the landscape. This is why we were considering the two places in Spoleto or Lucca. However, we were hoping to stay somewhere that we could take SOME day trips (to Perugia or Assisi from Spoleto or to Florence or Siena from Lucca) during the time when my dad isn't there. Do you guys think this sounds like a good plan, or do you have any advice?
kms93 is offline  
Oct 29th, 2005, 09:01 AM
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As for AC, I am not sure if your area would be cooler, but when my husband and I took our first trip to Rome in the summer there was a heat wave and it was unbearable. We are from Florida and used to the heat so it says a lot that we were uncomfortable.

I would opt for AC just in case.
Dejais is offline  
Oct 29th, 2005, 09:09 AM
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As I said earlier, I think your plan makes sense. Staying in one or 2 places for a few weeks will be wonderful, and I think that you can visit most of the places you mention by public transportation. For me, one of the issues would be whether to be in or out of town- the quiet of the country versus the centrality of a village. I wish I had that problem! Lots of luck.
justretired is offline  
Oct 29th, 2005, 09:22 AM
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I would definitely recommend Lucca. It is a charming town, and on a railroad line, very close to Pisa and Florence. You can also easily go by train from Florence to Rome or Venice.

I really don't know about public transportation to Spoleto, but I'm pretty sure Lucca is much better located in that respect. It also is not too far from the coast, if you should want a day on the beach.

Check the Italian train web site ( to find out more about the train service to and from Lucca. Generally you have to pretend that you are actually going to book a train in order to see the ticket price, but of course you don't have to go through with the purchase.

If the trains go to the places you want to see, they really are the best way for getting around. You won't have to hassle with parking and finding your way around the Italian roads, which can be very confusing.
nonnafelice is offline  

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