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Determing Location of FIRST BIG TRIP - Where do go in Italy?

Determing Location of FIRST BIG TRIP - Where do go in Italy?

Jul 25th, 2014, 07:49 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2014
Posts: 11
Determing Location of FIRST BIG TRIP - Where do go in Italy?

My husband and I are celebrating our 10 year anniversary in May 2015 and would like to plan a trip. We discussed Greece, Italy and Portugal, and have determined that Italy is our first choice. I feel very lost in trying to determine where in Italy to go - as we will not be able to do another trip like this for many years, so I need it to be very special. Here are some details - we hope to go for 12-14 days (including travel time - we live in Ontario, Canada), our budget is $7000 including EVERYTHING, we want to see beautiful villages and history, not big on the real tourist spots as it may be overwhelming. We love to walk little streets and we want to feel the Italian culture. We've discussed Rome, Florence and Venice - however, I would also like to fit in the Almfai Coast/Naples and do the island of Capri or Procida. We love the little colourful villages that look like Cinque Terre (which I also see in some of the islands). Venice is a most. After reading everying on the forum I don't want to make the mistake of trying to fit too many things in, which makes planning very difficult. Any advice would be greatly appreciated for this newbie traveller.
dseale76 is offline  
Jul 25th, 2014, 08:23 AM
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I would figure about what your airfare would be and take that off the total before trying to plan the rest. $7000 (Canadian I assume) is only 4800€. If $2400 goes to airfare, that only leaves you about 3200€ (266€ per day for 12 days or 228€). Not much for two people by the time you subtract hotel, food, sightseeing and transport. The more you move around, the more it costs. Be sure to look at open jaw flights (into Naples or Rome and home from Venice).
kybourbon is online now  
Jul 25th, 2014, 08:40 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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<< not big on the real tourist spots as it may be overwhelming >>

Almost every place you've mentioned is a real tourist spot so I'm unclear about your criteria.

If it were my trip I'd visit Orvieto, Spello, Monte Oliveto Maggiore, drive through the Val d'Orcia, San Antimo Abbey, Lake Como (mid lake), and Venice.
adrienne is offline  
Jul 25th, 2014, 09:11 AM
Join Date: May 2009
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keep in mind, you still have plenty of time to plan this, so keep your options as open as possible. for example, I've heard that Portugal is considered fairly affordable, so you might want to keep that as an option in order to get the most out of your budget (not to mention its more off the beaten path, too). At least keep it as an option. Another way to remain flexible is in regards to your departing airport. Ontario is huge, will you fly out of Toronto, or would something like Detroit be an option?

to help plan, start with a spreadsheet. I use Google docs for my vacation planing, since I can easily share it with my wife. In the spreadsheet, account for the following:
fixed costs, such as airfare, and travel insurance if you elect to use that.
Daily costs: accommodations (hotel, B&B, etc...), eating, local transportation, admissions, souvenirs, etc...
Be sure to account for the exchange rate, too

Have a tab for each main scenario (Italy - small towns, Italy - big cities, Portugal, etc...)
With a spreadsheet, you can then adjust number of days, eating allowance per day, etc... and see how it impacts your overall spend.

Also, how flexible are you regarding specific dates? May is the beginning of the busy season, and you can maybe find better rates on hotels and flights if you go a bit earlier. Also, if you have flexibility on the days of the week on which you fly, that can save some money, too. For example, in March, you can fly BA from Toronto to Milan for less than $900 Canadian per person, but its an extra $100 Canadian per person in May. Kayak.com is a great place to test out different scenarios (dates, locations, etc...)

hope that helps!
griz_fan is offline  
Jul 25th, 2014, 09:13 AM
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IN that time you should choose not more than 4 destinations---3 if you include major sites like Rome or the AC. It will be cheaper if you exclude the major art cities---see above.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Jul 25th, 2014, 10:44 AM
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I fear that the places you have listed are the opposite of what you say you want. And the limited time and limited budget mean that trying to get to more than 3 places will be self-defeating.

So - first, figure out what you really want. If you want the places on your list fine - they are the most popular places in Italy since they have so much to offer. But do go early (May at the latest) to avoid the worst of the crowds and heat).

If you really want off the beaten track - then pick those places (and recognize what you will be getting as well as what you will be giving up).

Finally - start shopping airfares now. Next year will be more expensive than this and with your very limited budget you could blow a huge part of it just on getting there. Definitely look at alternate airports (at both ends), trips with a stop to save money (but lose time)and different days of the week. And if you can get more days do it - once you have spent so much to get there the cost of carefully budgeted additional days will be worth it.

And finally - if you think you really wont be going again for many years - think about allocating a little more to this trip - to make the large transatlantic airfare expenditure worthwhile.
nytraveler is offline  
Jul 25th, 2014, 11:30 AM
Join Date: Feb 2014
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Every single place you have mentioned with the exception of Procida is an overwhelmingly big and overwhelmingly touristy destination.

If Venice is a must, and picturesque seaside villages are a must, then you need to figure out first how much time you are going to give to Venice and how much time you are going to give to the seaside villages. Once you have figure out that, figure out whether you want to go from Venice to the coastal areas south of Rome or whether you want to go to Venice to the seaside areas near le Cinque Terre. After you've decided that, look at what is in between and think about what you want to see.

There are zillions of beautiful places in Italy that are rich in art and history and local culture that are generally overlooked by tourists but which you can easily reach by train (or car) that are positioned in between Venice and your chosen seaside villages, whether those villages are in the north or in the south. So once you have decided the "bookends" of your trip, you can probably get a lot of interesting advice on message boards about discovering the beauty of the local culture and historic towns of Italy, just so long as you ignore all the arm twisting to go the famous "must sees" and popular tourists spots. The other spots are just as beautiful and offer you something the tourist spots have lost and cannot replace.
sandralist is offline  
Jul 25th, 2014, 12:01 PM
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You really have a very short time to spend in Italy, and, as others have said, you have mentioned only places that are sinking under the weight of tourists, and not a single place where you'll be in a small village or experience much of Italian culture.

One of the best ways to keep costs under control is to limit the amount of internal travel you do. You say that Venice is a must, so I would choose Venice and at most two other places, preferably not terribly far from Venice. Venice is perhaps the most expensive city in Italy, so you should probably make your visit there brief. Verona would be one possibility for a second destination, a beautiful city with some tourism, but not a disproportionate amount. Ferrara is another particular favorite of mine, a small Italian city where I wouldn't mind living. It has fewer tourists than Verona, and is a quintessential Italian provincial city.

Rome is one of my favorite cities in the world. I just returned from a flying visit there today, and I was reminded just how much I love that city. However, it's really not a city that I would enjoy racing around in a day or two, so I would really not suggest going there on this trip unless you can spend three or four full days there. (That would be four or five full nights.) I really don't think you have time to take in Rome on this trip.

If you really want to see Florence, you could manage that in much less time than a visit to Rome. Unless you are passionate about Italian Renaissance art, you could see a fair amount of Florence in a brief visit. I took three young nieces visiting from the US there for a day trip, and they loved it. It's unfortunately very, very crowded in the summer, and you hear more English than Italian on the streets.

If you really feel as though you must see the "big three" cities of Italy, I would suggest something like the following:

Fly into Venice and spend two nights there.

Go to Ferrara and spend three nights there, to get some feeling for Italian culture.

Leave Ferrara early in the morning to go to Florence. Leave your bags in the left luggage facility at Santa Maria Novella station and spend about five hours exploring the city. I highly recommend a visit to the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, right near the train station. This church is full of Renaissance art, but it's rather overlooked by tourists who stand in line for hours to get into the Duomo, where there is much less to see.

After the flying visit to Rome, take the high-speed train to Rome and spend five nights there, which would give you time to take a day trip to some smaller town. Orvieto, or one of the towns in the Castelli Romani area, would be obvious choices.
bvlenci is offline  
Jul 29th, 2014, 06:48 AM
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Thanks everyone for all the recommendations, comments and suggestions! VERY much appreciated! It’s very overwhelming to start booking. Perhaps with my budget, I should look into Portugal/Spain or Greece, otherwise we might be cutting it close! I will continue to research and hopefully will make some decisions soon! Thanks again!
dseale76 is offline  
Jul 29th, 2014, 07:11 AM
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So to confirm, the budget includes airfare? It could be a little tight for two weeks, but don't give up on Italy if that is your dream. I have been to Italy three times and not set foot in any of the "big three" yet--no regrets. I blow the vast majority of my budget on food, but that may not be a priority for you. And, though Italy is the most expensive place I have traveled, there are many small B&Bs that are tremendous bargains. You can really get farther with your money by visiting small towns. Apartment rental can also help because you can do some self-catering. With that said, if small town Italy is not your dream, then Spain and Greece are certainly nothing to complain about.
Hit the library and peruse the internet to help you focus. The tourist office websites are often very inspiring for me, for example http://www.italia.it/en/home.html and http://www.italythisway.com/. Enjoy the planning!
yorkshire is offline  
Jul 29th, 2014, 07:11 AM
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In terms of budget, if you are looking at around €230 - €250 , I really don't see this as a problem, paticularly in May, but you might want to cut down of the number of places you use as bases.

We normally travel to Italy in May/early June, or in late September/October and rent self catering apartments. We would normally budget somewhere between €300 and €700 a week for accomodation depending on area. On top of that we would normally spend on average around €100 a day between us.

We are budget travellers, but we normally eat out once a day, and then buy bread/cheese/salami/salad etc from supermarkets.
I have always found public transport to be cheap and reliable.
willit is offline  
Jul 29th, 2014, 05:36 PM
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If you do rethink it, we loved Portugal and would love to go back and see more than Lisbon. You can certainly visit Italy, it just won't be luxury. Agree that you should pare down the number of spots you visit down.
denisea is online now  
Jul 29th, 2014, 05:52 PM
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You could lighten your budget by spending several days in Tuscany at an agriturismo...much less expensive than the "big city" hotels. You would have to rent a car.

I'm thinking fly into Rome, spend 4 nights. Then 5 or 6 nights in Tuscany. Turn in the car in Florence, train to Venice for last 2 nights. Fly out of Venice.
JeanneB is offline  
Jul 30th, 2014, 02:25 AM
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Generally speaking it is not hard to find very favorably priced b&bs in Rome and Florence that are charming, comfortable, clean and have all the mod-cons. There are plenty of tips on TripAdvisor and Slow Travel for just such places. Even in Venice you can stay under 120e per night even in high season.

There are so many deals available for buying train tickets in advance in Italy that I no longer think it is true that "the more you move around the more expensive it is." In fact, sometimes staying days and days in Venice and not getting out of there can be more expensive than getting on a train to someplace else.

I love all the countries you are considering, but there is really no point in spending money to go anywhere unless you see and do what you really want to most see and do. There is actually one kind of trip to Europe that some people enjoy taking that is mainly simply about being in Europe and enjoying its great historic sights and the different flavor of a European country and it really doesn't matter a whole lot which European country that is. That can be a lovely trip full of wonderful times and surprises.

However, it can also be simply fantastic to accomplish a wish of specific heart's desires. If you are really yearning to see the great dome in Florence, and the Colosseo in Rome and the canals of Venice, and to see the sunset on the Mediterranean, it really makes sense to make sure your first dollar goes to doing as many of those things as you have the energy and time to do.

Everybody approaches travel differently. Some people just don't feel right about going to a destination unless they can "do it justice" by spending several days there seeing "everything" and knock it off their bucket list. A lot of possible think it wouldn't be "worth it" to make all the effort to get to the seaside "just" for one day or 2. That is fine. They shouldn't travel differently, and if you are that way, don't kid yourself you'll be happy taking on town hopping.

But many, many people have come to Italy on a budget and without a tour and have seen just exactly the things they wanted to see in several different locations. Italy is not huge, and it has a pretty good train system (fabulous even at times) and the payoffs for getting places are huge. Yes, sometimes people spent hours on a train just to spend a few hours somewhere accomplishing a big dream to see a special sight. But they report back it was totally worth it.

If you come to Italy on a budget you won't starve, you won't sleep on the streets, you won't be unable to afford the sights you want to see and you won't be stuck in "second choice" locations because the big cities are too expensive.

If the dream is really about relaxing and exploring in Europe and not worrying about money, you've got lots of great choices. If the dream is about seeing some special places in Italy, as others are saying, if you don't luxury, you can still comfortably do it if you are willing to do some detailed research.
sandralist is offline  
Jul 30th, 2014, 04:52 AM
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If you want to control your budget and visit the smaller places then you need to focus on places that are linked by train so much as I like adrenne's Orvieto, Spello, Monte Oliveto Maggiore, drive through the Val d'Orcia, San Antimo Abbey, Lake Como (mid lake), and Venice. I think I'd have to look at some other small places.


Siena (mountain top walled city), Parma (where the ham comes from), Bologna (covered walkway food capital), Ferrara (walled ancient bicycling city, a small car is named after it), Ravenna(ancient post Roman capital) and Chioggia (Venice only better). People will say that you cannot get to Chioggia by train, but you can get there by ferry.
bilboburgler is offline  
Jul 30th, 2014, 04:59 AM
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Actually you can get to Chiogga by train from Rovigo, which is a nice little town and is on the line from Ferrara into Padua (see "taming of the shrew")
bilboburgler is offline  
Jul 30th, 2014, 05:01 AM
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What do all these cheaper places do to your budget, well they open up lots of E60 good quality hotels, which with food budget say E30 each tops and sensible trains (remember slower is cheaper and do not require reservation, wild panics running across cities etc) really helps.
bilboburgler is offline  
Jul 30th, 2014, 05:16 AM
Join Date: Mar 2010
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You may have your heart set on Italy, which is well and good.

But Portugal is wonderful, and has many places that fit your criteria, of walking little streets in picturesque towns.

It's also cheap, compared to most of the rest of Europe. With 12-14 days, I would make your "bookends" Lisbon and Porto, although you could make a loop from Lisbon and fly in and out--distances are not huge. Renting a car to drive to Porto either one-way or return, making an itinerary that included some beautiful other towns and countryside, would make a very nice trip. Trains are also easy to navigate, so you could do a train-only itinerary quite easily.

Portugal is full of amazing architecture and beauty. Food takes a bit of getting used to, do your homework first so you know what to expect. People are very friendly, but somewhat reserved at first. Great wine.

I believe Air Transat has a charter into Lisbon in the summer, not sure about May.
WWanderer is offline  

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