An Italy trip in the R&D phase

Old Mar 24th, 2009, 04:28 PM
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An Italy trip in the R&D phase

Hello Europe board, new to this area of Fodor’s but I am sure that you all will be just as helpful as the rest of the boards.

Mrs. Sun has always wanted to go to Italy so I thought I would try to take her there for our anniversary next year. Hopefully by then the dollar will be worth something again.

So here are my questions. One how long should we plan on being gone a week? Two weeks? I would like to take in as much as we can while we are there and I am wondering where we should go and stay etc.

Right now in its very rough shape I was thinking Rome, Venice and the Vatican. However I would really like to see the countryside and more then just the big touristy cities of Italy.

Also as far as the language goes, should I learn some Italian for good measure or can I get by with English? Also I though we would go in September, is that a good time of year or should we go some other time?

Really at this point I am looking for any and all advice you would care to offer.
Sunflowerguy03 is offline  
Old Mar 24th, 2009, 04:55 PM
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September is a very good time to visit Italy. Avoid July and August please due to the heat and high humidity.

As to how long you should plan on spending in Italy I suggest as long as possible.

Learning some polite words and terms in the Italian language would help with your enjoyment of visiting Italy. But as far as conversing with Italians in the Italian language you do not need to worry about that as no doubt you will mostly be talking to Italians that are use to tourists and they speak English.

The Vatican is right there where Rome is located. Venice is about four and a half hours away by train from Rome. To enjoy the countryside (such as in Tuscany) you would want to rent a car. You will need to get an International Driver Permit which can be obtained through AAA to drive in Italy if you want to be in compliance with the Italian law. You will need to take your Kansas drivers license with you and the IDP translates your Kansas drivers license info into Italian.

The best way to visit Italy is to book an open jaw or aka multicity ticket. Fly into one airport and depart from another airport. IMO it is best to fly into Venice and depart from Rome as most flight departing from Venice are very early in the morning and it is easier to depart from Rome.
LoveItaly is offline  
Old Mar 24th, 2009, 05:12 PM
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I’d plan on three weeks if you can find the time. Fly into Venice, fly out of Rome, which worked for us a couple of years ago, when we spent three and a half weeks in Italy. Venice gives a very “user friendly” start to Italy, as you hop off the plane, onto a ferry and get deposited in San Marco. From touchdown to “down town” is about two hours, maybe less, and the ferry trip across the lagoon de-stresses one after the rigours of the air flight. What happened to the romance of air travel, I ask you. We spent six nights in Venice, two in Verona, three at Como (which was a bit marginal, as it was in early January, so not very active, but the hydrofoil trip up the lake, returning by bus was fun), four nights in Florence (with a day trip to Sienna), three in Assisi (with a day trip to Spoletto), and four in Rome (which was not enough). I’ve missed a night or two somewhere, and we travelled everywhere by train.

If you are pressed for time, think about Venice (five nights), Assisi (two nights) and Rome (four or five nights). Assisi is small – you can walk clear out of the town in about ten minutes and be among vineyards and tractors. I’m a bit of a Venice nut-case – others will recommend less time in Venice, though.

You can get by without speaking Italian, but if you do have some language, it will make your trip much more satisfying, even if it is only to order coffees and drinks. Italians respond well to people attempting to speak their language – even if your Italian is as bad as mine.

September is OK, but still pretty busy. October might be better, when the tourist season is tailing off, and the weather would still be OK. When we left Australia, we had hotels in Venice and Verona booked. We booked Como while in Venice, booked Florence while in Verona and so on, keeping one booking ahead of the pace, but still being flexible.

If you click on my name, you’d find a trip report from a recent visit to Venice last Christmas. It’s a bit boring, but I fancied myself as a writer at the time.
Peter_S_Aus is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2009, 05:18 AM
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Love and Peter thanks for the info and I will look into that trip report.

I have a question for you Love, as I am guessing you have been there more then once, if you were visiting for your first time what would you do? Where would you go?

Thank you both for the help thus far.
Sunflowerguy03 is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2009, 06:07 AM
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Sunflower, how much time do you have? As Love and Peter said, the more time you spend in Italy, the better, and the amount of time you have will affect where you should go and what to see. But the short answer is, you should see what interests you.

Also, I know you said you'd like to see as much as possible but you should not try to cram in too much. Especially since this is your first anniversary trip, I'd suggest something more leisurely b/c it will be more enjoyable. Even with 3 weeks you'd just be scratching the surface, so you might as well enjoy what you do decide to see.

Most people on their first trip to Italy include Venice, Florence and Rome on their must see list. Judging from your first post, you are 2/3 of the way there. The Amalfi Coast, which is south of Rome near Naples, is another popular area for first time visitors.

Florence is noted for its Renaissance architecture, museums with Renaissance Art, and its shopping. It's a small but busy city. Many people don't like it and prefer Siena, which is one of the larger hilltowns in Tuscany and about an hour away. I have always loved Florence.

From either Florence or Siena you can visit some of the smaller hilltowns for which Tuscany is famous. As LoveItaly said, having a car is a nice way to explore the countryside but you can also get to many of the smaller towns by train and/or bus. If you decide to rent a car, you should not stay in Florence, b/c it will be too much of an inconvenience. Also, you will not need or want a car for Venice or Rome, nor will you need one for between cities. Public transportation is the way most people get around Italy.

The Amalfi Coast is a beautiful and scenic area with a lot of little towns built into the coast. Nearby is the island of Capri which is reachable by ferry. Also, the ruins of Pompeii and Paestum, and Mt. Vesuvius.
panecott is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2009, 06:24 AM
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Hi sfg.

>One how long should we plan on being gone .....

Two weeks is very good for Venice (4 nights), Florence (4 nights - Siena daytrip) and Rome (5 nights - Orvieto daytrip)

>....I was thinking Rome, Venice and the Vatican. However I would really like to see the countryside and more then just the big touristy cities of Italy.<
A: The Vatican is conjoint with Rome.
B: There are reasons why the Big 3 are the Big 3.
C: With 3 weeks, you can visit Venice, Florence, Rome, drive through Tuscany and spend some time on the Amalfi Coast.

>... should I learn some Italian for good measure or can I get by with English?

As in all countries, you should learn
Please/Thank you
How much does it cost?
I'm sorry, I don't speak.......
Where is the toilet?

>.... September, is that a good time of year or should we go some other time?
Sept is very good. The porcini mushrooms are in season. The grape and olive harvests are around the end of Sept. The weather is pretty good.

ira is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2009, 06:59 AM
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Ah this is why I love this place, so much wisdom. I think that the most time we will be able to be gone is two weeks. I think I need to get better acquainted with the geography of the nation so I will have a better idea as to how to travel there in.

Ok this is a dumb question I am sure but how card friendly is Italy? I am trying to figure out how much we would want to take with us? Also do you exchange your currency before you leave, when you get there or is it even necessary?
Sunflowerguy03 is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2009, 07:10 AM
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I always just use my ATM debit card to take out a days worth of cash in each place. It gives the best rate. Most folks on here use the ATM card I think.

For 2 weeks I agree that the big 3 is best.
Once you have that settled we will be happy to help with hotel, restaurant, sites, ect....

Italy is unforgettable. The art alone is beyond words.
To see David, The Primavera, The Pieta, or the mosiacs in St.Marks are sights straight from heaven.

I get tears in my eyes thinking of it.
But that happens everytime I say the word Venice too
jetsetj is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2009, 07:19 AM
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I agree with the above. As long as possible should be spent in Italy! It is remarkable. I always recommend it for first trips to Europe as it has everything - history, culture, food, breathtaking scenery, ancient sites, sublime hilltop villages, and on and on.

Having been to Italy many times we are going again in five weeks and October (we like it a bit cooler and less busy). We are doing Venice (again), Rome (again) and spending more time in the south (Puglia). If I was going there the first time I would do Venice, Rome and small towns in Tuscany. Sure, we enjoyed Florence, but it is not one of my highlights (but of course that is where everyone differs). I like the mix of adding small villages to an itinerary rather than spending so much time in cities but I am not a city person. If I were in your shoes I would do Venice, Cinque Terre for something dramatically different and Rome, stopping along the way in Tuscany/Umbria. I would also add Pompeii and even better Herculaneum in addition to Paestum.

We normally fly in to Rome and out of Venice like many others do. After Rome we rent a car and do a week of the countryside thing (unless we are going to Cinque Terre where you do NOT need a car). A car is wonderful for Tuscany, Umbria, Puglia etc. but a big pain in cities.

Sicily is a favourite area of mine but that is an entirely separate trip.
travel2live2 is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2009, 09:56 AM
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Italy is very card friendly, both CC's and ATM's. I always try to charge as much as possible b/c for some reason the exchange rate is favorable that way. For petty cash, ATM's are everywhere.
panecott is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2009, 10:06 AM
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While most people think of the big three, Rome, Florence, Venice, for the first visit, I would suggest only one or two of them and some countryside. I think it gives you a better feel for the country and saves some for the next trip.

If you click on my name you will find several trip reports that will give you ideas.

Tuscany is likes its sunflowers too.

Henry is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2009, 10:21 AM
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I really can't add much to the above, but if I remember correctly, you are an avid gardener. On one of our trips to Italy, I bought several packs of seeds for vegetable varieties that one can't find in the US. I did not know if they would be permitted into the US, but if not they were cheap so not much would be lost. I declared them as required and after they were taken to another room for inspection, we were allowed to bring them in. That year we had an Italian vegetable garden that was the envy of the neighborhood.
basingstoke2 is online now  
Old Mar 25th, 2009, 10:33 AM
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I would plan the trip with the intention of going back.

Be prepared to walk a lot unless you want to pay to get around on taxis.

Cars are only needed for driving to smaller towns. Italy's rail system is very useful compared to Amtrack and very affordable too.

With cars, you have to deal with high fuel prices, difficulty in parking and ZTL in most cities which means you have to park outside most towns and hike in a long way.

For a 2-week trip, you're talking about 11 or 12 days (1 day each to fly in and out of Italy). There are day trip options out of the Big 3. Assuming you want to take day trips, you can research the train schedules or use a guided tour service which will cost more but be easier to deal with. I'm talking about motorcoaches, not the private cars where you can spend hundreds of dollars for a day excursion.

Oh and in Venice, you can take the bus from the airport and then take vaporetto. I would try to find an accommodation near the Grand Canal so that you don't have to try to take your luggage to some distant place which would require a water taxi. Would also make getting around easier too. One-week vaporetto pass is not cheap though so use it often.

Most important Italian phrase is "Parla Inglese?"
scrb is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2009, 10:40 AM
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Seeds should not be a problem, especially commercially packaged ones. I have brought in seeds from Denmark and Switzerland with no questions asked (and yes, I did declare them on the form).

Venice, Rome, and some countryside sounds like a great plan. Tuscany? Veneto? Whatever you choose, try to arrange to pick up your rental car outside of the city, or at least onthe edge. Venice airport (Marco Polo) was very easy; maybe the Rome airpport is the same. (But sometimes cars picked up at airports are more expensive so check).

If you are uncomfortable with the idea of driving in Italy you can see a lot by train travel as well. You probably want to decide this question before choosing an itinerary.
enzian is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2009, 10:44 AM
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Wow thanks for the info, I have my reading cut out for me with the reports but I am sure they will be very helpful. You all have given me a lot to consider and a good foundation to start on. Thanks for the help I will report back as I go.

Sunflowerguy03 is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2009, 10:48 AM
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E that brings up a few good questions, how hard is it to get an international DL? Do they drive on the ‘wrong’ side of the road there? If they do is it hard to get used to? I am guessing that the car rental is like here in the States where you buy their insurance etc.
Sunflowerguy03 is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2009, 10:58 AM
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You can get your international DL from AAA. You will need a couple of passport type photos. The last one I got cost $15 plus the cost of the photos - the AAA office took them.

They drive on the same side as you are used to. However, with the possible exception of exploring Tuscan Hill towns, you wont need one.

Buying insurance at time of rental in mandatory in Italy.
basingstoke2 is online now  
Old Mar 25th, 2009, 10:59 AM
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You can get a license from your local AAA club very fast, don't get it too early as it has an expiration date. They drive the same side of the road as they do in Kansas. Book the car rental before you leave. Buy a tourist book on Italy. Read as many trip reports as you can here on Fodors. I used to get travel brochures from travel agencies and get ideas from them.

Sit down with your wife and find out exactly what your priorities are, why does she want to go to Italy, etc. There are many public gardens across Italy where you can visit. I vote for either Spring when everything is blooming or in September/early October for the Fall views and food.

Keep asking ?'s here, people are more than happy to guide you as you can see already.
SeaUrchin is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2009, 11:05 AM
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If you are art lovers, add Florence to your Rome and Venice
itinerary. If not, consider Verona for a few days. It is
easy to get there from any direction. From Verona, you can take day trips by train to Padua, Balzano, Vicenza, or Trento.

Another idea is to use Sienna as a base. From there, you can take a public bus to Florence for the day or your hotel could
help you to arrange a day trip to another town in Tuscany. Sienna is lovely.

Get a good guidebook and arrange advanced tickets to sights
over the internet. You can do this for the Borghese Art Museum. The art museums in Florence and the papl audiences.
A good guidebook will have the Internet addresses.

wanttogo is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2009, 11:11 AM
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You'll need to balance your desire to go particular places that are best visited by car with the expense and possible hassles of rental and driving in Italy. The Autostrada (toll freeway) can be unnerving in a small car. Rentals are fairly expensive there, and I believe it is not possible to waive the CDW so you have to pay that. Also, you need to be comfortable with a manual transmission as automatics are expensive and hard to find.

That said---we rented a car to tour the Veneto and reach Lago di Garda on our last visit, and we really enjoyed the freedom of the car---once we got off the Autostrada!

We normally travel by train in Europe, but if you want to get off the beaten path in Italy, you might want a car for a few days.
enzian is offline  

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