First trip to Europe

Jul 23rd, 2007, 05:37 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 12
First trip to Europe

The kids are finally on their own and my husband & I would like to take our first trip to Europe. I would like to see Italy. Would we be better off doing an escorted tour rather than on our own? Neither one of us speaks any italian. Which escort company would you recommend.
Thanks for any help you can give me.
crissy is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2007, 05:47 PM
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Most people on this forum plan their own trips and do not take escorted tours. I personally have never taken an escorted tour as the idea of going where someone else has planned on their time schedule rather than my own sounds awful. Besides, half of the fun of the trip is pouring over the guidebooks and researching here and on other internet sites to plan the trip.

We have been to Italy two separate times for a total of one month and speak very little Italian and we found that we did fine. You will find many people who speak English if you are going to the major tourist destinations. As long as you are polite and make a bit of an attempt the wonderful Italian people are happy to assist you if they speak English. Just make sure you learn the basic phrases such as thank you, please, good morning, excuse me hello and goodbye and of course learn some of the words for foods you especially like or dislike so you can order your meals.
jdraper is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2007, 06:09 PM
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Crissy, my husband and I took a couple of escorted tours on our first two trips to Europe. Of course, that was 30 yrs ago before Rick Steves and others helped travelers realize they could travel on their own.

We enjoyed our tours but enjoy traveling by ourselves even more. But if you are concerned about the language, you may feel more comfortable with a group.

Some reputable tour companies are Global and Cosmos, Tauck, Brennan and Collette. Prices can vary considerably depending on whether the tours are budget, moderate or luxury. Just be sure you know what's included and ask lots of questions.
bettyk is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2007, 06:15 PM
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crissy, you have come to a forum where everyone likes to plan their own trips. This is probably the best place to find out how to do that. Give us more information and you will find lots of help to plan your own trip, so you don't have to take a tour and be on a bus every other morning at 7:00 and stay outside the city center and eat at restaurants that cater to tourist groups instead of the many wonderful restaurants in Italy. Can you tell I think you should do it on your own?

How many nights will you have in Italy?
What is your budget per night for hotel?
What do you like - museums, churches, art, countryside, architecture, sitting in a sidewalk cafe watching the people, shopping? Or a combination of all this? Answer these questions and you'll get lots of help.
SusanP is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2007, 06:20 PM
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go on your own. having everything planned for you will take away all the spontaneous, funny and odd things things that will happen to you if you go with a tour. just trust yourself to not do or go where you wouldn't at home (this is where the research comes in) and you will build memories to last forever with your husband. My partner and I have had the best of disagreements that we now laugh about with our travels and the best laughs about our travels where we were in total agreement about what we saw, ate, couldn't find, managed to find and lived to tell about.
Quark is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2007, 06:33 PM
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Most people, myself included, are prejudiced against "tours" and bend over backwards to offer advice on how you can do it on your own, better and cheaper. And it will be what you want.

However, as betty indicates, most people here (at least 51%), myself included... took their first trip to Europe as part of a supervised or escorted trip.

We need more information about your intentions. When (2007? 2008? what month?) how long can you afford (financially, or get away from responsibilities?) do you have a rough budget in mind? more or less than a year at a public university? more than two years?

Search here for names like Perrillo or Tauck - - and do not be put off by the spectrum of advice you get. If you want info on a recent escorted tour of Italy (and almost none of us "veterans" can give you that), then just keep asking. You will find others who can give you firsthand experience reports.

Best wishes,

rex is offline  
Jul 24th, 2007, 05:15 AM
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Hi C,

>Would we be better off doing an escorted tour rather than on our own?

Maybe, but probably not.

>Neither one of us speaks any italian.

Atsa no problema. Inna Italia, everywona spikka da englishe.

Enjoy planning your visit.

ira is offline  
Jul 24th, 2007, 05:50 AM
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<< Atsa no problema. Inna Italia, everywona spikka da englishe. >>

Except for those who don't...

Which is about 80% of those over 30.

Now, that's not to say that ira is bearing false witness. A comfortably large fraction of those in the travel and hospitality industries do speak English or know where to find someone, within 15 feet, who does.

Just don't let this be a reason for you to think that you should not, can not or will not learn some Italian before you go. It is hard to underestimate how you will enhance your experience if you learn rudimentary Italian - - say 500 to 1000 words. With a sincere effort, you will see... this is a realistic and attainable goal in 50 to 100 days.

Today would be a good day to start.

Admittedly (depending on your personality and learning style), you will do better in some respects, poorer in others (i.e., reading ability, writing ability, listening comprehension and speaking). But concentrate on what you do best. You'll be amazed at how it can lead to much more enjoyment of taking in the world around you... 99% of which is _not_ in English.
rex is offline  
Jul 24th, 2007, 06:45 AM
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Hey Rex,

OK, so I exaggerated a bit.

Most of the people that the OP will meet will speak enough English for her to get along.

Of course, she should learn hello, goodbye, thank you, etc.

>You'll be amazed at how it can lead to much more enjoyment of taking in the world around you... 99% of which is _not_ in English. <

Now you are exaggerating.

The 75 countries where English is either the official or predominant language total over 2 billion people (1 billion if you leave out India).

ira is offline  
Jul 24th, 2007, 06:52 AM
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It depends on your own comfort level. You have asked on a forum that is comprised of a majority of die-hard self-planners. If you would be more comfortable with the structure of a tour group, you might want to post again specifically asking that. Rick Steves is a good suggestion. Why I personally do not go on tours is I would hate to get up so early every morning, and have to be with a group of strangers on a bus... even under the best of circumstances.

While I disagree that most people in Italy speak English (they do not), I have never had a problem doing normal tourist things like hotel reservation, train tickets, and seeing the sights on my own.
suze is offline  
Jul 24th, 2007, 07:28 AM
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Definitely do it yourself. Half the fun is planning. OK, well, maybe not quite half. What would not be fun is traveling on a highly regimented schedule, riding around in a bus for countless hours, and having every meal, preorganized at big tourist restaurants, with a bunch of people you don't like. Ick.

My first time to Europe was a trip to Rome and Florence, not on an excorted tour. Do not think that your first time there needs to be with a tour.

Learn 10-15 words - per favore, grazie, scusi, buon giorno, dove, parla inglese. Buy a little phrase book and carry it around just in case, but you probably won't need it.

For your first time, and not knowing what you like to do, I would tentatively suggest that you start with Rome, then train to Orvieto for a relaxing overnight, then train to Florence, then train to Venice, and fly out of Venice. That's at least 10 days. With more time, stay longer in Rome, Florence, or Venice, or add the Amalfi Coast to the front of the trip, or Tuscany to the middle, or Lake Como to the end.

Enjoy your own trip to Italy!
robertino is offline  
Jul 24th, 2007, 08:47 AM
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Thank you all so much. This is the best sight. I always get great advice here. I am going to start planning this trip by myself but will be coming back with questions and needing advice often. You all have convinced me - I can do this and enjoy it!Thanks!
crissy is offline  
Jul 24th, 2007, 08:56 AM
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Way to go, Chrissy!

Go to the Fodor's "Destinations" tab at the top of this page. Find Italy and browse through there. Go to the library and get some travel guide books.
They'll have good maps to get you oriented.

Popular destinations for first-timers:
Amalfi Coast
Cinque Terre
Lakes Region (Belaggio)

Once you get some idea what you want to see, start looking through these forums. Just search on "Rome and hotels" or "Car and Tuscany", for example. Read other people's trip will be amazed at the wealth of information contained in them. You'll soon get an idea of budget, how much time to allocate each place, rental cars, etc.

Happy planning!
JeanneB is offline  
Jul 24th, 2007, 09:48 AM
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When you are comparing a big bus tour to independent travel you will probably need to think about how much it will cost.

The bus tours are pretty much all-inclusive with a few meal on your own. To compare you need to add up air fare, hotels, car rental, car expenses, food and fun.

Go to and put in your destination and the dates you plan to travel to get some idea of air fare. Add about $400 per week for car rental and another $100 for gas and tolls. Then look at hotels on kayak to get a rough idea. After that determine how uch you plan to spend on food per day. Depending on where you go you can add $30-$50 per day for entrance fees for each person.

There was a thread on this board a few months ago about how much people budget for their travel. Maybe someone can find that and direct us.
AisleSeat is offline  
Jul 24th, 2007, 11:21 AM
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>You'll be amazed at how it can lead to much more enjoyment of taking in the world around you... 99% of which is _not_ in English. <

I meant specifically in Italy.

I'll stand by my (guessing) figure that 99% of the printed word, and the spoken word - - in Italy - - is NOT in English.
rex is offline  
Jul 26th, 2007, 03:52 AM
Join Date: Jul 2003
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My sisters and I took our first "big" trip to Italy in June. We are in our 50's and so glad we did not take a tour when we saw the herds of people following someone with a "flag". We were not sure we could do it but with some planning it was great. We got train tickets beforehand which worked well for us.
julieann is offline  
Jul 26th, 2007, 08:34 AM
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 50
Hi, Crissy.

I have been to Europe many times and even lived in Holland for 4 years. I have never taken a tour and have done most of the planning myself. I say "most" because I have been fortunate to have two sisters who have studied in Europe. One spent her junior year in Besancon, France, and the other spent her junior year in Munich. The latter sister also spent a couple of summers in Italy, one in Paris, 6 months teaching English in the the Czech Republic, and other places. So, they took me to a lot of places. But well over half the time, I have gone by myself and really enjoyed planning and exploring on my own (or with friends, when I lived in Europe). I've had few problems; in many large cities, people do speak English, although I have found that in Italy and Spain, this is not as common as other western and central European cities. But, again, I've had few problems. It really depends on your comfort level.
Zermatt2 is offline  
Jul 26th, 2007, 11:02 AM
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 2
Help! I also am new to Italy, and I would like the quickest transportation to Positano from Sorrento. We will have to make the best of Positano quickly as I am the that addee that to our trip so help please...walks,restaraunts, etc....
bol is offline  

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