First Trip to Italy

Old Jan 1st, 2013, 03:22 PM
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First Trip to Italy


I am studying abroad in Oxford in late June-July, and was planning to take a 10 trip in Italy beforehand. I was thinking of ending the trip in Milan (or surrounding areas) and taking the train up to Paris and then on to London. I thought this would provide an opportunity to see the French countryside, but if it becomes too cost-restrictive I would consider flying.

I am an American in my mid 20s, traveling alone, and enjoy exploring cities/towns focusing on culture, nature, and food. This will be my first trip to Italy, and Europe as a whole.

Right now, I am having trouble deciding on several factors. I am on a pretty strict budget (less than $1500). In regards to lodging, the only expensive regions I have encountered is Amalfi, and to a lesser extent Florence. I found a pretty cheap spot on Lake Como.

1.) Is it worth going to the Amalfi Coast and Lake Como? Would you suggest both or just one given the short time of my trip? If just one, which?

2.) Do you think three destinations is too much for 10 days? Here are some proposed itineraries I am considering:

Amalfi- Rome or Florence - Lake Como (3 nights each)
Florence - Venice - Lake Como (3 nights each)
Or combinations of only 2 of any of the above.

Sorry for the long post and thank you to anyone who is able to provide advice! One more note- I am not overly concerned with hitting all the major cities and sites. I plan to return one day for a more thorough trip, and am now leaning towards a more laid back authentic Italian vacation.

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Old Jan 1st, 2013, 03:39 PM
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Your budget is so small, and your destinations are so mobbed and expensive in summer, I suggest that you just adjust slightly to be in the vicinity of the famous tourist spots rather than right in the thick of them.

Instead of the Amalfi, consider staying around Paestum and making one trip along the Amalfi coast by bus or ferry as you leave to see it, but don't stay right in the middle of it. You'll spend 3 times as much for everything.

Instead of Florence, look to stay in Pistoia or even Pisa. Visit Florence from there.

Instead of Venice, stay next door in Padova.

Lago di Como is tough, but try for a b&b in Laglio or near that town.

I think you might find that it is easier to leave for Paris by train from Torino, but I am not sure.

If you really want a vacation, you are including a lot of the mega-tourist sights for a very short time when they will be at their most crowded. You could actually piece together a very lovely trip staying more off the beaten track and in more relaxing places.

You are in your mid-20s, so I don't think you really need to spend 9 days in Italy doing nothing. I actually think it is better that you go to these major historical places, even if you don't spend your time and money inside museums. Just wanted to let you know that even if you are just taking a walk, 90 percent of the people around you will be on a very focused sightseeing march, map in hand.

Also, is there something in particular that you really love in life like soccer, motorcycles, movies, music, shoe-making, scuba diving, pizza, pottery, books, medicine? It can be fun to take some time in Italy checking out something that is a particular personal of yours, even just for an afternoon.
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Old Jan 1st, 2013, 04:02 PM
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Thank you, I will research the off the beaten cities that you suggested.

You are right about avoiding spending my time doing nothing. I am thinking of splitting my time in one major city (or surrounding area) and experience the culture and see the historical sites (Rome or Florence or Venice), and then spend the next half of my trip in a more laid back community with a focus on hiking/nature.

Although I do not know much about soccer, I love sports and think I would really enjoy experiencing the passion of a match in Italy. I love reading/books, pizza, trying new food and things so something like shoe making sounds very interesting!

Thank you for your response it has been very helpful!
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Old Jan 1st, 2013, 04:13 PM
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Amalfi is a bit south of Rome, where you will no doubt fly into if you end up this far south, so it is going to cost you a day, in total, to "get there" and back. Might not be worth it if you want to see 3 places in 9 days and then high tail it to Oxford. And,as you say, it is going to eat up your budget very quickly Beyond the accommodations, you need to take public transport unless you want to stay put in one small town and view the sea - the coast is not very walkable.

If you have any interest in art or Renaissance history then Florence makes sense. You can find cheaper accommodation a little beyond the center. Venice would also make sense if you are going to end up in Como before heading out. I think 3 days in each makes sense.

For your train through France theory, the route from Milan to Paris will not expose you to the "best" of the French countryside. Going all the way to Paris and then changing trains to get to London seems like a lot to do if all you want to do is look out the train window. Check into cheap fares from Milan (both airports - Linate (LIN) and Malpensa (MXP) to London - all 5 airports (LHR, LGW, STN, LUT, LCY). You might find that the air fare is a much better deal than the train.
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Old Jan 1st, 2013, 05:32 PM
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Given your budget and # of available days, I would leave the whole Amalfi area for another trip (few folks go to Italy only once!) I would spend 5 nights in Rome, and 4 nights in Florence with the last night in Milan.

Venice is a bit off the beaten path when you have a limited time or budget.

There is so much to see and do in and around Rome and Florence then the last night in Milan would give you the opportunity to see the Last Supper.

I agree with Aramis that a flight from Milan to London would beat all that time on the train. Good luck with your planning and trip.
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Old Jan 1st, 2013, 05:54 PM
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hugh, since you are traveling solo and on such a tight budget, do consider staying at monasteries and convents. They are extremely budget-friendly. You will get a clean bed, a choice of your own bath or sharing a bath. No phones or tv's, but if you are just sleeping/showering there, it could serve your budget needs.

Some also serve a minimal breakfast with the room. Like bread/butter/coffee. And do please note that some have "curfews", because, frankly, a nun or monk has to lock the door after you come in. Most of those would be 11pm or Midnight.

Here is one possible website, but please do some internet searches yourself:

You will have a wonderful time. Italy is a magical place!
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Old Jan 1st, 2013, 07:56 PM
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Aramis- Thank you for the tip on the train! After some research, flying makes much more sense.

pctraveler- Yes, I have decided to leave Amalfi for another time, perhaps in the off season when it will be cheaper and less crowded.

sarge56- I looked on the monastery website and they definitely have great deals! I am going to hold off booking through them until I know for sure what my itinerary will be as they have non-refundable payments at the time of booking. I had not thought of that at all though and it looks like a great option!
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Old Jan 2nd, 2013, 12:50 AM
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It would also be worth looking at some of the HI Hostels for reasonably priced accommodation, together with the opportunity to meet some fellow-travellers.

The Florence hostel is out of the main centre, but looks terrific for a warm-weather stay:

(I looked at this for our recent trip, but being winter and travelling with family, it was actually cheaper for us to stay in the heart of the City.)
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Old Jan 2nd, 2013, 12:52 AM
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I am envious of you studying in Oxford. I was lucky enough to be up there for a short trip for a Conference - it is magical, and I wish I'd been able to spend more time there!
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Old Jan 2nd, 2013, 03:52 AM
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hi again hugh

Since you need to be in Paris, I think staying in Northern Italy saves you a lot of money and travel time.

Venice might fit very well into your plans of mixing a big cultural immersion for some days with some real relaxation in scenic places. Even though Venice is crowded. it doesn't have any cars, so it doesn't feel hectic. It also has tremendous variety in the sights that it offers when it comes to art, craft and architecture. It is expensive, though, but if you can find a hostel or other cheap stay, plus eat in the bars, where the Venetians have a tradition of eating small plates with a glass of wine for dinner, you can get by for a few days.

Before or after Venice, you can enjoy your cheap spot on Lago di Como and relax in the grand tradition of relaxing Italian lakeside. From there, it is easy to get back to Milan and head to Paris or get a train to Venice.

I should have checked before mentioning soccer, because everybody is headed off to Turkey for the June-July season. But you sound curious and up for everything, so I think you will find Italy amusing and passionate enough without a football match. Have a great trip.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2013, 08:20 AM
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As others have said a tight budget.
1) Hostels or monestries will keep prices down
2) staying away from the trad high spots will keep prices down
3) use trains and even go on the Regionale trains rather than the highspeed will really knock the cost out but they are slower.

I think the whole Padova thing looks good and there is also Soave if you go West or the opportunity to see Ferrara or Bolgona if you go south. Given that you want to see culture, nature, and food this line of cities is a real eye opener, have a look at this link just to get an idea (it is a bit bike fixated but it follows train tracks). For Venice, I advise stay in Mestre, I know that everyone will shout "no" but it is a 10 minute bus or train ride away and basically half price if you are only sleeping there who cares.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2013, 08:30 AM
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ref the cost of staying in Venice proper, i recently found a hostel room in Cannaregio for less than €40/night.

there are loads of others, and a youth hostel too.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2013, 08:39 AM
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No one has suggested the Cinque Terre for the hiking portion or is that not on the list of "Fodor's recommendations"? It would seem to me that splitting the time between Florence for art and then the CT works well and would limit monies spent on transportation. In the CT accomodation costs should not be high or stay in a modest hotel / hostel / monestary in LaSpezia. Then find a low cost flight from Milan to London? Happy travels!
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