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best hassle free way to visit Italy for the first time

best hassle free way to visit Italy for the first time

Jul 2nd, 2010, 05:48 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2010
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best hassle free way to visit Italy for the first time

Any and all help for a first time traveler to Italy. How difficult is it getting along without knowing Italian? How difficult is it traveling alone without a tour company? Renting a car or not? Need any and all help with suggestions, please!
joysee is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2010, 05:57 AM
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It is nice to learn necessary phrases.

thank you
how much
i would like

Travel Italian courses are offered in some places for people who are just visiting and would like to learn some Italian, but are not interested in taking regular language courses.

It is not difficult to travel independently. Tons of people do it every year. Train service is good thorughout a lot of the country. Renting a car is also an option

Start with a guidebook.
vjpblovesitaly is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2010, 06:01 AM
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As long as you stay within a touristic context, getting along with English is no big problem; but of course, that's not what you should do since you'll enjoy Italy much, much more if you venture into the unspoiled parts of the country. So learning some Italian before traveling is certainly far preferable, though not strictly necessary. (After all, this is true anywhere in the world; if nothing else, you'll certainly be treated better since the majority of people - anywhere - justly thinks it's simply impolite if you don't even try to speak their language when being in their country.) Traveling alone is as easy as in your country, wherever you may be from; it's nowhere easier than in Italy. Whether to rent a car or not depends on your destinations within Italy, no general answer is possible.
franco is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2010, 06:40 AM
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I just got back from a week in Rome with my 16 year old daughter. it was our first time in Italy but I had been to Germany, France, Spain and Austria before. I found it really mixed about finding people who spoke English. I think in Germany more people speak English than I found in Rome. it is definitely a good idea to learn SOME Italian before you go.

My other daughter was on a tour and we met up with them a few times - I am so glad we were travelling independently. Our most enjoyable times were those that were unscheduled and we weren't rushing to or worrying about the time(with exception of Vatican Museums, Papal Mass and Scavi Tour which ).
Amy_Mich is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2010, 08:46 AM
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It really depends on your travel style.

While packaged tours may seem easy, you are at the mercy of their schedules and what they want you to see. Hotels are generally not in the center but outside where the buses can park. To me, that is a big negative.

Then there is the included food. We love the regional cuisines and wine and would not consider dining with a tour group in the type of places that would accommodate.

You might check into Monograms, a Globus company. They provide independent tours and take care of the basics like hotels, train tickets, guided tours, etc. But you are not part of a departure with a group, rather on your own. It might be the best of both worlds for you.

If you take the time to research and read, I believe traveling on your own will be the most fulfilling way to experience Italy.

Re renting a car, that is really a personal choice. We have a couple of times for visting the countryside but have learned that for us, public transport is more enjoyable. If we were to travel with friends that did not mind driving, we would definitely consider that but on our own, we are happy basing an itinerary on areas we can get to via train and bus.

Cars in cities like Florence and Rome are a hindrance.
kfusto is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2010, 09:02 AM
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I have been to Italy twice in the last few years most recently over last Christmas and January, and other than the usual greetings etc I don't speak any Italian. In the cities I would say about 1/2 the people speak English. At all the tourist sites in Rome, Florence, etc the employees will speak some level of English, same with big hotels and rental agencies. If you are shopping in grocery stores even in Rome they probably won't but you will be able to figure things out yourself. In January we spent 2 weeks in Terracina a small town about 1/2 way between Rome and Naples and no one spoke English. However, we shopped in the local markets, ate in the local cafes and were able to communicate fine. Italians are very friendly and you would be surprised how much you of the language you will understand.

We have always traveled independently and rented apartments even when our children were young. If you are touring major cities a car is not necessary and would actually be a bother. It is difficult to drive and to find a parking space in Rome. Parking in Rome is a lot more restrictive than US cities. For Venice you need to leave the car outside the city. If you are in Rome and want to visit Naples or Florence you can take the train for the day. And if you are in Rome and want to go to Pompeii there are day tours. If you don't want to sign up with a tour company but are hestitant about going totally independently, you can make your own travel arrangements and then book a day tour of FLorence, Rome or where ever when you are there. There are so many tours and so many options that you can really do this once you get there unless you want a private tour of the Vatican etc. (I'm sure someone will disagree with that, but unless you want a specific guide/tour its fine.)

In January we had a car with a GPS and that worked out very well especially in the country, but we didn't have it while in Rome or Naples.
meath1 is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2010, 11:54 AM
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<< How difficult is it getting along without knowing Italian? How difficult is it traveling alone without a tour company? Renting a car or not? >>

Most people who deal with tourists will speak English.

I find it very easy to travel w/o a tour company. It's even easier than traveling with a tour company.

As to renting a car, it all depends on where in Italy you're going which you have not told us. If you are going to cities there is no need to rent a car; a car will be a handicap in cities and in Venice you cannot have a car since there are no streets to drive on. If you're going to places that have little or no public transportation then you will need a rental car to get around.
adrienne is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2010, 12:43 PM
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We did it for 18 days in March. Had no problems whatsover and know just basic phrases (where is, hello, goodbye, please, thank you etc). Just did my research before we left.
lrock is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2010, 01:43 PM
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Try downloading My Daily Phrase Italian to your IPod. It's free for the basic lessons, or you can buy extra materials. It's about a hundred separate 5-minute Italian lessons, each focusing on a phrase it's good to know, starting with hello and going up through situations like, "I have locked myself out of my room." it's easy to do and will help you get around.

If you just want to see the most famous spots, fly into Venice for a few days, take the train to Florence for a few days, then train to Rome for the longest part of your trip. Buying train tickets at the stations is easy. But you do have to load your own luggage onto the train, so you have to travel with luggage you can handle easily.

You cannot drive your rental car into many of the central parts of cities without a permit and will get a whopping fine a few months later after your license plate is tracked back to the rental company. Besides, finding your way around those places in a car is very difficult. The streets are narrow and jammed, the names change every few blocks, the street names are often on the buildings up at second-story level and hard to see. and parking is impossible.

If you do want to go to some less-popular cities like Bologna, Lucca, Orvieto, Perugia, or Siena, you can still go by train. If you want to go to the wine regions, then you will need a car. You may still have to park on the outskirts and walk or take a bus in.

Try not to go between mid-June to mid-September, as it is beastly hot and crowded.

Buy a good guidebook and look at the maps, read about the areas, etc., and decide where you want to go. Keep watching these travel boards. Also try Slowtrav.com. Then come back here and ask specific questions.
charnees is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2010, 02:10 PM
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Our GPS was very helpful and we just came back from a trip in which we drove all over Italy and up to Switzerland as well. The tolls can be confusing until you figure them out. Fortunately you can use your credit car in almost all of the the tolls. People spoke English in the main hotels, however, the people who we met for our apartment rentals did not speak English. Fortunately -- I speak some and my husband is completely fluent.

As for the heat -- make sure to find out ahead of time if you will have air conditioning or not.
chickenlittle is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2010, 03:14 PM
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It depends what you want to see and do. I think it's very easy to plan a trip to Venice, Florence &/or Rome on your own, without speaking the language, and using trains to get around.
suze is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2010, 04:44 PM
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If you want hassle-free, there's a lot to be said for booking a tour. Everything is planned. You don't have to figure out what you're going to do every day, how to get there, where to stand in line and buy tickets, etc. You'll have tour guides everywhere you go. You won't need to decide where to eat. Tours are perfect for hassle-free.

Some companies are better at it than others — with Tauck Tours and some others, for instance, they go to great pains to make it feel like you're on an individual trip.
travelhorizons is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2010, 04:55 PM
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IMo the hassle of being stuck with other travelers whom I did not choose is a giant hassle.
jubilada is online now  
Jul 2nd, 2010, 05:00 PM
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Yes... and the hassle of NOT BEING ABLE to decide where to eat! Isn't choosing restaurants half the fun of traveling?
franco is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2010, 05:16 PM
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English is fine (but do learn 10 or 15 words of greeting/politeness) unless you head into very small towns.

Planning your own trip is very esy (and we think a large part of the fun) but it does involve significant research.

Car or train depends on your itinerary.

If you decide to take a tour depends on which you value most (less research up front, not dealing with luggage, just sitting and having everything pointed out to you) balanced against the inconveniences (lots of early morning (7 am) starts, long hours sitting on a bus, hotels at the edge of town, and meals that are not typically Italian - and often not that great).
nytraveler is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2010, 06:22 PM
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It would help if you can suggest where in Italy you are going. I'd definitely plan on 2 or 3 days in Venice, getting to/from Venice via train is easy and smart. Where else are you going and are you from US or otherwise?
docdan is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2010, 05:38 AM
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You could also consider a private driver for the parts of Italy that are not that accesable by train or bus. We are going to Tuscany in Oct. and plan on doing Florence on our own, training to Siena where we have hired a driver for 6 trips around Tuscany and Umbria and back to Florence on our own. Will let you know how the driver works out when we return.
ama22 is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2010, 07:25 AM
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"Yes... and the hassle of NOT BEING ABLE to decide where to eat! Isn't choosing restaurants half the fun of traveling?"

The only people I know who did not enjoy Italy went as part of a tour group. They complained about the wine, the banquet type food, the location of the hotels. Food and wine are a huge part of the experience for us.

As for a private driver, we have done this often for visiting the wineries. Drinking and driving is a serious offense in Italy so we arrange for a car and driver for our visits into the Tuscan countryside.
kfusto is offline  
Jul 4th, 2010, 03:13 AM
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Italy (and France) used to be places where Americans came, bought a cheap car or a train ticket, bought a guidebook, a map, a phrase book and went touring. None of them died. All of them saw fabulous things. If anything, accommodations have improved and become more plentiful, and you can get internet access most every place.

You can still do that.

Or you can have trip planners, drivers, tour companies, GPS, cruise ships, walking guides, excusions, downloadable Ipod chatter, computer printouts, etc etc etc. It's a billion dollar industry -- but I don't know that the people who do all that have a better time than the people who just go.
zeppole is offline  
Jul 4th, 2010, 05:10 AM
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Go a lot recently back from a 3 week jaunt all over

Italian Pocket phrase book helpful

but lots of english speakers no worries

train on regional trains

like a local on regional trains cheaply buy from small

machines at station from 2 euro/hour

Nice hotels booked cheaply day of on www.booking.com

at big discounts..avoid cars expensive more hassle.

www.eurocheapo.com good food budget tips for all your cities

Have fun,
qwovadis is offline  

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