First Timers in Italy

Old Oct 21st, 2008, 09:49 AM
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First Timers in Italy

My wife and I are beginning to plan a trip to Italy.We are not seasoned travelers at all and would like to get some opinions on a couple of very general topics to help get us started:
1.Escorted tour package or not.
2.Recommended tour operators for Italy.

Thanks



caryuncle_g is offline  
Old Oct 21st, 2008, 10:03 AM
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Look at Untours---somewhere in the middle.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Old Oct 21st, 2008, 10:04 AM
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Depends on whether you are looking for structure (which is what a tour will give you) or the ability to decide for youreslf your itinerary and how you spend your days. I have always been more of a free lance type of traveller. think you get more out of the experience rather than having to adhere to a specific time schedule which may inhibt your ability to spend more time on things you find interesting.
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Old Oct 21st, 2008, 11:22 AM
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Do you speak Italian? If so, you really do not need a tour.
Waldo is offline  
Old Oct 21st, 2008, 11:34 AM
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Actually caryuncle many people go to Italy without knowing the Italian language. The Italians you will most likely be talking with are hotel employees, waiters etc., and they normally speak English.

I can't offer an opinion regarding tour operators as I have never taken a tour.

What time of the year do you plan on going to Italy and how many nights will you have in Italy?

Regarding where to go and things to do I would get a good guide book on Italy. No doubt your local library has some that you could review. If you find one you really like you could than buy the same book.

Once you have an idea as to what interests you two (locations and activities) you could post back and you will find a wealth of information from various Fodorites. Best regards.
LoveItaly is offline  
Old Oct 21st, 2008, 03:38 PM
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I have to disagree with loveitaly. If you speak Italian, it will afford you to speak with a multitude of people, thereby getting information, such as attractions, restaurants and other important facts. If you can speak the language, there is no need for a tour or guide. You can wing it, thereby setting your own pace, and seeing the things and doing the things you really want to do.
Waldo is offline  
Old Oct 21st, 2008, 03:42 PM
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No doubt, you want to get a good guide book for Italy to lay the proper groundwork for you trip.
Waldo is offline  
Old Oct 21st, 2008, 04:51 PM
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I second the suggestion to check Untours (www.untours.com). You will have roundtrip airfare, two weeks in a rental apartment, a rental car, copious amounts of helpful information and support from a local person but also complete freedom to do what you want when you want...all at a very reasonable price.
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Old Oct 21st, 2008, 05:02 PM
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Disagree all you want Waldo but do you suggest that people who do not speak French do not go to France on their own, people that do not speak German do not go to Germany on their own? And so forth.

If one feels more comfortable going on a tour that is there comfort zone of course.

But to tell someone they must speak the Italian language to travel in Italy on their own is absolutely wrong. Knowing some common expressions of course is a good idea..absolutely..but it it NOT necessary to speak the Italian language to enjoy travelling throughout Italy.
LoveItaly is offline  
Old Oct 21st, 2008, 05:31 PM
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Hi caryuncle, I travelled to Italy alone this past year. I did everything on my own, no tours, no guides. I learned a few key words and phrases in Italian, but rarely had to use them. I was able to plan flights, hotels, trains and sightseeing with the help of many fodorites. I am not against tours, I did research them, but found that they were way more expensive than doing things on my own. Also, I don't like to go from place to place very early in the morning. Most tours I saw required that you be on a bus by about 7 or 8 am. I like to take my time and pick out the sights that interest me, rather than the ones that are most popular.
By the way, don't worry about not being a seasoned traveler, I had never gone anywhere alone before and had only been overseas once. Italy is beautiful and there is so much to see. I can't wait to go back. Enjoy your trip.
elcon is offline  
Old Oct 21st, 2008, 05:33 PM
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Either with or without a tour package, you should have a great time. I've been fortunate enough to go to Italy quite a few times, and I've never gone as part of a tour group, though I sometimes book an escorted daytrip. I have found Rome, Florence, and Venice easy to manage with English and a little hand gesturing now and then. However, there was a time in Florence when a waiter was trying to describe what was on a pizza on the menu, and he thought for a bit and said "dog." My shocked expression and query if he meant "arf arf dog" clued him in that "dog" wasn't the right word, and he corrected himself to say it was something like a "hot dog," i.e., sausage. I love experiences like that, and I'd miss those with a guided tour package. If you would be uncomfortable occasionally resorting to hand gestures or occasionally struggling to be understood, an escorted tour might be a benefit there. If you speak Italian, so much the better for doing it on your own.

Once you move into the smaller towns, though, my experience has been less English and more hand gestures, yet still quite possible and fun.

As I mentioned, I have occasionally booked an escorted daytrip in the midst of an otherwise unguided tour, to visit various places I might not otherwise attempt on my own (such as a driving tour of towns around the Veneto). So if you decide to go self-guided, the occasional escorted daytrip would be a possibility.

Good luck with your decision and have a great time in Italy!
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Old Oct 22nd, 2008, 04:59 AM
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escorted tours can be fun and I have used both Titan Travel and the more expensive Kirker for both. However, as a first timer most of the fun should be had by being a bit more adventurous and discovering thigns for yourself. Buy a decent guide book. NOT the rough guide as it is very negative try Fodor's or the DK ones. then contact an italian specialist with an ATOL licence and have them do all the running!
www.iliostravel.com www.independenttraveller.com www.qualityvillas.co.uk
or if you are better off than I am www.expressionsholidays.co.uk
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Old Oct 22nd, 2008, 06:18 PM
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Given that you are not seasoned travelers I suggest you consider a "hosted" tour for all or part of your trip if you are ambivalent about doing it all on your own. This is a tour package that usually includes flight and hotel (preferably some options to choose from), intercity transfers if needed, airport transfers and an overview city tour for each city you visit. This way you have some help getting oriented before and during, but you're not locked in to a detailed schedule with a bunch of other people which may or may not work for you.

I bought these kinds of packages from airlines several years ago. You can do a search of several tour companies options at affordabletours.com.

...and after you take your first trip to Europe, with or without a tour group, you will probably find that you would enjoy the planning and details of your next trip on your own.
hamlet is offline  
Old Oct 22nd, 2008, 06:31 PM
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My husband & I just returned from 24 nights in Italy on our own. We have traveled to Europe & Asia several times, with & without a tour group. While on this trip, every time I saw a tour group I was so glad to be own my own! The only times I wished for an escorted tour were when I had to carry my luggage up & down steps at the train stations!
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Old Oct 24th, 2008, 02:39 PM
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Caryuncle: We took our first trip to Italy this past year and did not go with a planned tour group. After looking into some, I felt that we would have much more freedom to plan our own days. It's a lot more work to plan your own trip - and there were many times that I wondered what I had gotten myself into - but with the help of my fellow fodorites I am so glad that I took this route. None of us spoke Italian - other than a handful of the basic words & phrases and we never had a problem. We did book a tour guide for a day trip out of Florence - but other than that we were free to dictate our own schedule. We had an amazing trip and can't wait to go back! Good Luck!
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Old Oct 24th, 2008, 02:47 PM
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I'll take a wild guess here they don't speak Italian. In my opinion that has not much to do with the decision.

If you enjoy trip planning and doing the research you can plan on your own.

But for many people the convenience of having everything arranged thru an organized tour makes it more enjoyable for them.

Each way of traveling has its pros & cons.

I think the comments about speaking a foreign language are irrelevant. Sure that's be great if you do and you can talk to locals and get around easier but most people do not and still have a fabulous experience traveling in Europe.
suze is online now  
Old Oct 24th, 2008, 03:03 PM
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You're right Suze - each way of travelling has it's pros and cons. That's why this site is so great - you can get opinions both ways! And although the comment about speaking a foreign language may be irrevelant - as stated in a previous post, you don't have to speak the Italian language to travel on your own in Italy.
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Old Oct 24th, 2008, 03:24 PM
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I live in Italy and 99 percent of what I do every day I could do without speaking Italian -- that is, I eat very well, sleep very well, take buses, trains, rent cars, read the newspaper, get my shoes repaired, do my laundry, deal with immigration authorities and shop at IKEA.

Carryuncle,

Where do you want to go in Italy? If you want to go to Venice, Florence, Rome and the Amalfi Coast, you only need one of the many good guidebooks that are published for these places, and some fine tuning on this message board. (And if you hear any Italian spoken in Venice, let us know). If you want to go to the famous Tuscan hilltowns in areas like Chianti, you might want a driver or a tour for just that portion of your trip, but you can do it on your own if you are willing to drive a car.

If you want to go into unusual areas, you probably won't find a tour guide.

One thing no one has mentioned is that tours seldom take their clients to the great restaurants unless it is a food tour. It is shame to come to Italy, where food is so good, and not get good food. For that reason alone, you should consider planning your own trip.
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Old Oct 24th, 2008, 04:30 PM
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There are other options besides tours and DIY. Something like a www.go-today.com package that has airfare, hotels (you choose by price/quality/location from their lists), but no meals included (except breakfast). They offer other options such as a rail package or sightseeing tours (you pick the ones you are interested in). They usually include an orientation tour for each city, but the rest of the time you are on your own or one of the tours your picked.
http://www.go-today.com/site_gtweb/index.asp
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Old Oct 24th, 2008, 04:37 PM
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Also I believe the complexity of planning depends entirely on what you want to see and do.

For example, it is quite easy to put your own trip together... say flying into Venice, taking the train to Florence, then train on to Rome, and fly home from Rome. All you really need for that is a plane ticket, three different hotel reservations, and a guidebook to read on the plane ride over.

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