First and probably only trip to Italy

Jul 12th, 2011, 08:01 AM
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First and probably only trip to Italy

Hi everyone,
I have really tried to get a lot of ideas from all of your great and experienced posts. But, I am trying to organize a 2 week trip to Italy with my sister. We are both in our mid-fifties so we don't run around like we used to. I am not sure which would be better - to see the northern part or the southern part. I don't think we will get a chance to make more than 1 trip there so I would like to make the most of it. I am hoping by the time we get there that I can speak a little italian but I can't guarantee it. Please give me your best ideas and/or suggestions. Oh, we probably won't be going for another 5-6 years. Thanks so much.
KonaKini is offline  
Jul 12th, 2011, 08:19 AM
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This is not nearly enough to go on.

What are your interests and which are the top priorities? Art? Architecture? Nature? Hiking? History? Gastronomy? Doing "nothing" (as in just relaxing somewhere with a view)?

That said I would guess that Rome (4 nights) and Venice (3 nights) would be a good starting point. If you do include Rome/Venice, I would suggest flying into one and home from the other.

Whatever you do, don't stay in one location less than 3 nights - it just doesn't work. In fact, it can turn into something rather unpleasant.
bardo1 is offline  
Jul 12th, 2011, 08:35 AM
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...and probably only...

Perish the thought.

Re: north vs. south... I'd strongly argue against forcing such a choice in the first place.

And the first thing I'd do, if I were in your shoes, would be to choose a time of year for my visit. The second thing would be to get a guide book and read it. And the third thing would be to get a map.
mr_go is offline  
Jul 12th, 2011, 08:57 AM
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...the map and guide book suggestion above is vital...also, key-in Italy (above"View by Country" list) to read any of myriad threads dealing with all parts of the country. I don't think too many forum members wil jump in here with the trip 6 years away. Only in your fifties and already saying ths will be your one and only trip? Think more positive than that and maybe there will be others.
tower is offline  
Jul 12th, 2011, 09:04 AM
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Is that really true - you're starting to plan for trip you won't be taking for 5-6 years from now? I agree with tower - if you have that much time, get thee to a guidebook (or several) and do some homework first.
hazel1 is offline  
Jul 12th, 2011, 09:16 AM
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With 5-6 years on your hands you have more than ample time to devour every imaginable research tool available. Frankly, with more than half a decade to ruminate, I'm sure the north vs. south question can be examined in great detail and, if it even turns out to be a valid question, answered on your own.
StCirq is online now  
Jul 12th, 2011, 09:20 AM
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I am planning my first trip to Italy too. I am also in my mid-50's, but my trip is coming up this October.

There is a whole lot of world I haven't seen yet, and I am limited in my traveling budget, so despite what everyone says, this may very well be my only trip to Italy.

However, I am not trying to do or see "everything" on one trip. Instead I have done loads and loads of research, and I'm still working on the details of my trip.

With as much time as you are planning in advance, I would recommend you do some serious reading about Italy. There are so many great books, fiction and non-fiction, tour guides, photo essays, blogs, trip reports etc....and a lot of them are available free at the library or on line.

I think your trip is still in the dreaming stage, and there is nothing wrong with that. Now is the time to try to plan that dream trip, and then do what you need to do to make it a reality.

Good luck.
Cpelk is offline  
Jul 12th, 2011, 09:36 AM
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mmm - 5-6 years lead-in time does seem a little excessive.

no chance you can just get on a plane and go? with all that anticipation, even Italy might be a bit of a let-down.
annhig is offline  
Jul 12th, 2011, 09:53 AM
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I'm headed there myself in September. I chose an escorted tour company to go with (Cosmos). We'll go to Rome, Pisa, Florence, Milan, Venice, Sorrento, Pompei, Capri. It will be over 12 days so we'll be going at quite a pace but they will handle all the accomodation, transport, some meals, etc. For $3K it think it will be better than trying to plan it all myself.
bbowman is offline  
Jul 12th, 2011, 09:58 AM
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Well, the reason I say 5-6 years is because I have a trip planned in 2014 to go to Hawaii and with trips of this size I need about 3 years to plan and save up. I don't like to take out loans for my trips so I save up and then go. So, after this 2014 trip I want to plan for Italy. The reason I say my only trip to Italy is because like Cpelk, I too want to visit other locations around the globe.

I planned on getting some books and maps and doing quite a bit of research but it's always an added bonus to hear directly from people who have been there and felt like sharing their experiences whether they be good or bad.

We will not be hiking. We would like to see some art, architecture, (which would encompass history) and some beautiful scenic vistas. Just experiencing some of those quaint little towns that you see in magazines would be charming. I was just looking for some of your expertise in what you thought would be more worth my while.

Thanks again
KonaKini is offline  
Jul 12th, 2011, 10:03 AM
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I've thought about going with a travel company too bbowman but I was afraid that there would be someplace that I really liked and wanted to spend a little more time in and we would have to leave with the tour. It's something that I will have to weight.
KonaKini is offline  
Jul 12th, 2011, 11:25 AM
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I completely understand having a long "List" and looking for somewhere to get started. However, "worth my while" may not be worth YOUR while, and vice versa, so all the suggestions about looking through guidebooks and seeing what really appeals to you are right on. I've also found the trip reports here to be very helpful (they're the threads flagged with a little yellow book). Those will give you an idea of how long different people spend in different places, what they liked about those places and what they didn't.

Italy is pretty easy to plan on your own if you're remotely self-confident. You don't need a tour company, unless that's how you'd prefer to travel.

Just to get you started, one idea for two weeks would be Rome (art, architecture and obviously history) + Florence/Tuscany (art, smaller towns) + either Lake Como (or one of the other lakes, for the vistas), or Venice. Wherever you go, I wouldn't do more than three places in two weeks, especially since you mention up front that you "don't run around like you used to." And definitely look for "multi-city" plane tickets.

Five or six years does seem like a pretty far ways off. I just went for two weeks in May and had mentally been planning that trip for about a year and a half, with a pretty good idea of what we wanted to do, and things still changed a good bit between the initial thoughts and the actual trip. All that to say, I just wouldn't get too set on an itinerary yet - keep reading and looking and seeing what appeals to you. What you want could change a lot in five years!
jent103 is offline  
Jul 12th, 2011, 11:55 AM
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Looks like you have been wanting to do this since 2007.

Here are some other thoughts.

The constraints you mentioned are fund and the time to travel to other places. One of the major contributor to the overall cost is the time of the year. Flights, hotels, and other transportation are seasonal. By timing your visit to match what is available, you have significant control on your cost. Here is where you need to do your research -- finding places that interest you and the season when the destination is open and likely to have favorable weather yet don't have to pay the peak season flights and accommodation prices.

The another factor is your physical ability to travel. There are many places in Italy where you have to walk alot. Venice is one of them. From now and in 6 yrs, if you or your companion can no longer walk distances or climb stairs, would you still intend on going to Hawaii first then Italy? I think Hawaii is much easier place to visit for people with mobility issues.
greg is offline  
Jul 12th, 2011, 11:57 AM
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Konakini, I suggest that you spend some time reading the current threads here which are reports of trips to Umbria.

it sounds as if it would be an ideal starting point for your planning.
annhig is offline  
Jul 12th, 2011, 11:58 AM
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In a more practical vein, look for Italian conversation courses at a local senior center. (The one I go to accepts anyone over 50.) If not, sign up for an evening course at a local junior college. And you could also download 100 5-minute Italian lesson podcasts from My Daily Phrase Italian to a computer. If you have an Ipod, you can load them on there and listen to them anywhere. They cover the most basic phrases you need. But do try to find a course somewhere. Italians will love you if you speak a little of their language, but in the cities and many towns you will find many people who speak some English, so it isn't a problem.

Secondly, try to avoid high summer for this trip. In July and August it is beastly hot, and in Florence, for example, there can be so many tourists you can't get across the Ponte Vecchio in less than 5 minutes (it's only about 300 feet long!) In August, half of Europe goes to the beach -- in Italy! And the crowds from the cruise ships arrive by bus about 10 and swamp the city until about 4 when they all go back, so staying in the central areas allows you to see the place when it is less crowded.

A good place to look for info on Italy is Slow Travel ( Look for articles about getting along in Italy.

Most people here and on Slow Travel don't like tours, for the reason you expressed, plus the fact that many of the accommodations are not in the central part of the cities so it's hard to get to places of interest when you do have a free afternoon or evening. And the food at the hotels may not be the greatest -- or at least not very Italian.

Finally, if you can arrange to spend 3 or more days per city, plan to rent an apartment, so you have a "home" to retreat to and spread out, and where you can eat some meals. It also means you go grocery shopping at local stores and farmers' markets. Within a day or two, merchants remember you and greet you, and sometimes give you little extras, of salami or produce, or whatever.
charnees is offline  
Jul 12th, 2011, 12:45 PM
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You are already getting some good tips on starting your planning, and even about going to Italy before Hawaii. I heartily agree with that one. I have been to both. My advice: Go to Italy first, and go asap, like 1212. Greg is so right about not knowing what the future holds for one physically. I did not used to feel this way, and won't go into all the reasons I feel this way now, but I would even say to borrow the money to go to Italy, and go to Italy, even if it means not getting to Hawaii.
Sassafrass is online now  
Jul 12th, 2011, 12:59 PM
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For a first timer non-world traveler, I think hotels are better than apartments. At hotels you will have the front desk staff for assistance, which you will probably use regularly for directions, transportation questions, tours, etc.

For our first trip to Italy we did a tour (Globus). We very much enjoyed the other people on the tour, value for amount of territory we covered was great, hotels ranged from excellent to ok but none were bad, meals the same - but then we didn't worry about hotels (as long as clean & no bugs!) or food - we just wanted to see as much as we could & we did! It was so easy to have a guide to inform us, a bus to drop us off/pick us up at the door, our luggage handled always, tours arranged, etc. We did not worry about not having enough time in a place we liked, because looking forward to the next day's adventure was always exciting & something we did not want to miss. If you only plan to go once, you will see much more of Italy on a tour. If you go on your own, you will not be able to move as fast from city to city & while in the city, therefore you will see less of Italy for your one time only trip. We visited Capri, Naples, Pompeii, Rome, Florence, Siena, Assisi, Venice, & some smaller towns in 12-14 days (forget which). We saw all of the main sites in each city, plus many adventures we would not have had on our own, such as dinner at a winery with more food & wine than one can imagine - food served family style & a local Italian band to entertain us while we dined & danced the night away. IMO, a second & more trip(s) is when you stop & smell the roses along the way.

If you decide on a tour, still research for the time given to go on your own - take maps for those times. In my research I found Globus & Trafalger to be the highest rated for that price range. We were very pleased with Globus. The optional tours during the trip amounted to about $100-$200 per person. We took all of them because they were very unique.

With a tour & the many times on our own, we never had a problem because we do not speak Italian. But then, while on our own, we did not stay in any of the small villages where English is rare.

Have fun planning & on your once in a lifetime trip.

JulieAgain is offline  
Jul 12th, 2011, 01:16 PM
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Without arguing the merits of tours versus independent travel, that statement simply can't be true.
StCirq is online now  
Jul 12th, 2011, 01:41 PM
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if you really are going to take 5-6 years in the planning, you have time to become pretty fluent in Italian by the time you go. start with Michel Thomas's Complete Italian course, and if possible, daytime/evening classes too.
annhig is offline  
Jul 12th, 2011, 04:25 PM
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StCirq, that's a strange comment. Surely you are aren't being rude & saying that I am lying......?

Of course, what I posted is true. Pompeii & Naples were day trips. We stayed one nite in Assisi. Siena was a day trip. Pisa was a day trip. We stayed one nite in Montecacini (sp?) or something like that (in Tuscany where we had dinner at the vineyard). Rest of the hotel stays were divided between Capri, Rome, and Venice. It was a great trip, we fell in love with Italy, & we followed it with once & twice a year trips to Italy for several years.

Go to this site & you will see there's a similar trip being offered now, but not as long - under $2500 pp, "Best of Italy", although only 11 days looks like our same itinerary.

BTW, KonaKini, if you book a tour, book thru and get 10% discount. While on the trip, those booking via A.T. are not treated any differtly than others. Before we booked with A.T.s, I called Globus & they said A.T.s is legitimate & we had no problems, just saved 10%. Looks like now they have a special going on with more than 10% discount.

JulieAgain is offline  

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