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Early Italy, Monaco, France trip..boy do I need help!

Early Italy, Monaco, France trip..boy do I need help!

May 19th, 2008, 05:00 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 20
Early Italy, Monaco, France trip..boy do I need help!

I have never been to Europe. It will be myself, husband and our 16 year old son.
We would like to do Venice for 4 days.Is that too long? Long enough? Do I really have to hire a guide? We don't really like escorted tours?
Train to Florence for 3 days. Should I hire somebody to escort us to the train so we don't get lost and look like complete idiots, that we possibly are?
Should I hire a driver to take us to Chianti, for the day?
Now....We want to got to Santa Margarita Ligure and stay at Grand Hotel Miramare for 2 days. How the hell do we get there? Hire a driver? Driving isn't an option for us as we like to partake in the grape, and not knowing where we are would start a husband and wife car yelling match- that could disrupt our trip.Enough said on us driving. Now after doing Santa Margarita and Portofino. We would like to go to Monaco and stay in Monte Carlo for 2 days. Is that too long?And, how do we get there?
We will be flying out of Nice? A taxi to the airport?
I was trying to do this with a travel agent but when she came up with a price tag of $20,000 for 3 star hotels, way too many 'tour's and drivers and not including airfare. I though I better get cracking and ask people who really know!
Thank you for your help
Moogalah is offline  
May 19th, 2008, 05:23 PM
Join Date: Apr 2005
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I have never hired a guide for anything. You do not need someone to escort you to the train station. If you know the time of departure and train number, you will have no trouble. As for Chianti, I have never been there so I can't help.

You can easily take the train from Florence to Santa Margherita. When you get there, you can either walk to your hotel or take a taxi-I walk. Portofino is accessible by bus or boat. CHEAP-no guide needed.

As for Monaco-take the train from Santa Margherita. I do this often, only I stay in Nice. I have taken a taxi to the airport in Nice once. It cost about 35€. If at all possible, I go by Direct bus for 4€.
scatcat is offline  
May 19th, 2008, 05:44 PM
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You don't need a travel agent and you don't need guides. Italy isn't a developing country. It has roads and maps and train stations located in logical places.

Get a guidebook. Get a map. Go to www.trenitalia.com or the Raileurope website for train schedules (don't buy from RailEurope,just use them for info). Read up on what you want to see and do, then chart it on a map. Ask questions here. Plan a route. Look into renting a car versus taking trains. Learn some very basic Italian.

This isn't rocket science. The people here at Fodor's will give you all kinds of help, but you have to do some basics like get out a map and plan a route and figure out how you want to get from one place to another.

How do you plan vacations elsewhere? It's no different just because it's Italy
StCirq is offline  
May 20th, 2008, 04:29 AM
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I suppose I was just going by what the travel agent said...that train stations are confusing and you will get lost.She put a real negative feel on it for me.Probably so I would go through her and pay through the nose!
Moogalah is offline  
May 20th, 2008, 04:34 AM
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Change your travel agent
Steve_James is offline  
May 20th, 2008, 04:56 AM
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No kidding. A travel agent who thinks train stations are confusing and you'll get lost is either in the wrong business or just out to take your money, or both - and considering the $20,000 price tag he/she put on your trip, sans airfare, I'm leaning toward the latter.

Train stations are, as in the USA, in central locations. They are large buildings, with loads of signage. The signage includes big billboards with the numbers of the trains, the times of departure, and the track number. There are cashiers where you pay for tickets if you don't already have them. Certainly you should allow yourself extra time to figure it all out, but it's pretty intuitive.

You don't say how many days you have total for this trip, but assuming you've got enough to go to all the places you've mentioned, you should fly into Venice and out of Nice. While in Venice, go to the train station and buy all the tickets you plan to use for your various train trips (after having researched the schedules, of course).

If you give us some idea of your budget and the kind of accommodations you are looking for, we can help you break this trip down into manageable segments and offer suggestions for hotels and sightseeing and transportation for getting around the various places you'll be visiting.

Don't panic. This is not that difficult, and think what you'll be able to do with all the $$$ you'll save!
StCirq is offline  
May 20th, 2008, 07:51 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I agree with the above posters, you don't need a guide. Buy the best possible maps you can. 4 days in Venice might be a bit too long. It's amazingly beautiful, but fairly small. You might want to try an overnight in Tuscany with the free night - perhaps Sienna or Montepulciano. Having a car in Tuscany is a real asset, but there is a good bus system.
As for getting lost and confused: if this is your first time to Europe, I can guarantee this will happen to you many times. Venice and Florence can be extremely confusing to find your way around, even with the best of maps. However this is part of the fun, just go with it and realize you are on vacation - adventures happen! Definitely bring an Italian/English dictionary, and try and learn at least a few basic phrases. Many Italians speak little or no English.
Nice is a real fun city, and you can easily get to Monaco on a bus or train from there in less than 1/2 hour. Monte Carlo is a 'been there done that' kind of destination - 2 days might be a bit much. However, I could easily stay in Nice for a week. To get to the airport from Nice, there is public transportation or a taxi. The airport is quite close, and right on the beach.
zootsi is offline  
May 20th, 2008, 08:13 AM
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When are you planning on going?
Weadles is offline  
May 20th, 2008, 07:00 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 20
Okay..I am bagging the travel agent idea! Thank you for all your advice!
We are going next March.
From all of your ideas and help. I will have it figured out by then.
Hotels in Venice? Thinking about the Westin Regina ( Cause of our starwood points)?
Same with Florence Firenze Sofitel-( Again points)
Santa Margarita- Grand Hotel Miramare and fairmont in Monaco or should we stay in Nice?
Anybodys sugestions are so so welcome!
Thank you for all your help so far. Our wallet thanks you too

Moogalah is offline  
May 20th, 2008, 07:04 PM
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I would stay in Nice not Monaco.
danon is offline  
May 20th, 2008, 07:08 PM
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scatcat is offline  
May 20th, 2008, 07:08 PM
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Why Nice instead of Monaco?
Just too small and you can only look at casinos for so long?I was thinking that Monaco should possibly be a day trip.
Where to stay in Nice?
Moogalah is offline  
May 20th, 2008, 08:49 PM
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Posts: 82
Moogalah - the only advice I'm qualified to give you - book the hotels you're using points for ASAP.

morgiesmom is offline  
May 20th, 2008, 09:55 PM
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Hello Moogalah, for the English language version of the Italian Trenitalia website go to:


LoveItaly is offline  
May 21st, 2008, 04:14 AM
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Nice instead of Monaco because Nice is a bustling city chock full of interesting sites and cafes and restaurants, and Monaco is a kind of glitzy but sterile port good for people-watching and yacht-sightings and casinos and not much more. A half-day there has always been more than enough for me.
StCirq is offline  
May 21st, 2008, 07:05 AM
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Trains for the newbie in Italy:

Stop by the train station the day before your trip to buy your tickets and walk around to get the lay of the land. Note there is a big sign that says which train is on which track (listing destination and departure time).

To buy a ticket, wait in line at the window that says Biglietti (Tickets). Greet the person with: PARlay inGLEZeh per faVORay? (Please speak english?).

Then, in English, say how many tickets you want, your destination, and when you want to travel. When finished, say GRAHTzee (thank you).

There are also sometimes ticket machines with instructions in English -- you can use them instead of an agent.

There are different types of trains, and you may get to choose between a slow regional train with many stops (less expensive) or a faster express train (more expensive).

In some cases, you must buy a ticket with a reservation for a specific train time and maybe specific seats.

In other cases, you buy a train ticket good for travel anytime, but it is possible to pay a little extra for a coupon with reservation for a specific train time and seats. This saves you having to stand if the train is full.

If you don't have reservation, just the generic ticket, you should validate your ticket by punching it in the little yellow machine next to the train track just before you board. This stamps a time on it so you don't try and use the ticket more than once. The conductor will check.

(Bus tickets are also validated upon boarding, either at a little machine or by the driver. )

You can board the train a few minutes before it leaves -- listen for a garbled announcement that you can't understand, followed by a general movement of people towards the train.

Conductors (standing outside the train cars) and locals can help you find your reserved car and seat (if you have one). Just keep saying ``Per favore, Fierenze?'' (Please, is this the train to Florence?), and ``Per favore, dove?'' (Please, where? showing your car and seat number) until you are settled. (Prounounced FirENZay and DOHvey.)

capxxx is offline  

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