First Trip to Italy for my Big Family

Nov 4th, 2016, 01:29 PM
  #1  
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First Trip to Italy for my Big Family

Hi! I am a twenty-something looking to take my parents and relatives to Italy for a group-trip from Colorado. We are all Italian/Catholic in heritage (with no living relatives in Italy unfortunately), but most of us have very little experience with international travel. There will probably be 10-12 of us travelling, and I am hoping that we can hit the most common/classic places, such as Venice, Florence, and Rome. Here are some more details:

-The age range of travelers is 16-70 years, everyone is mobile, but some prefer not to walk really long distances

-We plan to go right after memorial day for 8-10 days (early June 2017)

-Ideally, I would love for lodging to be $40-80 a person per night, total budget of about $3000 a person including flights.

Any suggestions for houses to rent that sleep 10-12 in the areas I am looking at? I am open to Air Bnb/VRBO. Any suggestions on how many days to spend in each location, and how to get between them? We are open to renting some vehicles and scenic drives for sure. Any advice is appreciated! Thanks!
amyfhamill is offline  
Nov 4th, 2016, 02:02 PM
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Welcome to Fodors!

Does your 8-10 days include your travel days to and from Colorado? Knowing this will influence our suggestions. Typically, you will fly in the evening, arriving the next morning or afternoon in Italy, depending on where you are flying from, and some travelers will feel very jet-lagged on this day.

Your departure day is all about checking out of your hotel, getting to the airport, and flying home. And it is safest to stay in the city of your departure airport the night before you depart in case of unforeseen travel problems.

So those travel days should not really be counted as being able to really experience anything.

The three cities are well-connected by trains. This website is the official system for Italy:
http://www.trenitalia.com/

This website will answer most of your questions about using trains in Italy.
http://www.seat61.com/

I think you may find it challenging to find one house to sleep 10-12. Try looking for two apartments that might sleep 6 each. Considering the variety of ages, I suspect you would prefer to be in these cities rather than outside them. That way each person could go out or return to the accommodations when they felt like it. Also, considering you are all new to international travel, a hotel might be a good choice for you, since it will have staff available to help anyone with questions or problems.
ellenem is offline  
Nov 4th, 2016, 02:04 PM
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Just go onto the sites you mention, put in your search criteria (location, number of guests) and see what you find. Then, if in doubt, post listings for those that interest you and see what those here have to say. You have to narrow down the possibilites for us, then we can help.

Think about whether you might prefer using public transport or will rent cars/vans to haul everyone around. It will effect where you'll want to stay (center or likely less expensive larger places out of town) and cost effectiveness will depend on how many moves are involved. And will you have willing drivers.
MmePerdu is online now  
Nov 4th, 2016, 02:15 PM
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If you only have 8 full days on the ground or less, you may be limited to only 2 locations, a half day or more of train travel between the two. So starting with 8 you are down to 7, only 6 with two stops. Flying into one an out of the other would save a day of backtracking. I would search for triple rooms on booking.com. If Rome is included, you can search the Roma Termini Station for a hotel within close walking distance.
RonZ is offline  
Nov 4th, 2016, 02:44 PM
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Speaking from a little experience traveling with a large family group, no matter how cooperative everyone is, it takes a loonngg time to move that many people from point to point. It doesn't matter if you're sightseeing or getting into and out of cars, taxis or trains, eating in restaurants, making pit stops. Anything you do will take longer than you imagine. I suggest you not try to do absolutely everything together all the time. Unless you're willing to split up, do make dinner reservations in advance for every night.

For these reasons and the mobility issue alone, I would choose just two destinations. If possible, fly into one and out of the other. There are many day trips possible using public trans from Rome, Florence and/or Venice. No need to rent multiple cars unless you want to.
Jean is offline  
Nov 4th, 2016, 03:01 PM
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I agree that using public transport and staying in town (2 only) will smooth the course of events. It will, however, probably be more expensive - rents higher, whether hotels or apartments and as many train or other fares as there are people. But even so, I think it will make for a better trip.

It will mean, also, that everyone can see what they want to see in whichever smaller groups and the pace they choose. Nothing worse than killing time waiting for people doing things in which you have no interest - the worst aspect of a bus tour, but without the benefit of the bus.
MmePerdu is online now  
Nov 4th, 2016, 03:19 PM
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I think what you are planning for your family is just wonderful, Amy. I just hope you realize what a task you are undertaking; taking such a large family group, who are all newbie foreign travelers, on such a journey. Not to seem negative, but the possibilities inherent in such a trip could form the script for a really hilarious sitcom.

I suggest you get the various family groups involved in the planning as soon as you can, making each group responsible for planning both part of the travel logistics and research on the history and schedule for the sites you intend to visit. In other words, get much of your fighting and bickering over with before you get on the plane, rather than while standing at the Spanish steps.

Best of luck, and I would LOVE to read your trip report after you return.
nukesafe is offline  
Nov 4th, 2016, 05:12 PM
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Extend the trip to as many days as possible.

Some airlines may give you a group rate for a large number, but I don't know how many are required.

For hotels and other lodging, book refundable.

Do not pay for anything yourself up front. Work out costs and either let people book flights, etc. for themselves, or have them pay you everything up front.

Renting a house is great for relaxing vacations, but most of your group will want to do sightseeing and with your very short time, may not want to get into shopping and cooking and cleaning up. It would also add a level of complexity to logistics. Keep plans as simple as you can. Between the cities, a train is simple and direct. For most sight seeing a bus or train works fine, but in Tuscany, some people might want to rent a car for wineries or hill towns.

With that big of a group, get places that provide breakfast, make reservations for dinner for whoever wants it, the rest of the day free for sightseeing and lunch on their own.

Look into local tours for whoever is interested and give everybody information on tours and day trips and how to do them.

8 days, do 2 cities - Rome and Florence or Rome and Venice. There are wonderful daytrips from both.
10 days, Venice, Florence, Rome.

If Venice is on the itinerary, fly into Venice and out of Rome.
Sassafrass is online now  
Nov 4th, 2016, 07:59 PM
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Whether your total trip is 8 or 10 days (home to home) . . . pick two cities. I'd personally pick Venice and Rome but any combo of two would do.

You will be herding cats in a way. Even IF all 10/12 of you are totally compatible - you will all be on different body clocks and will suffer different degrees of jet lag.

So pick one city and stay put for 4 or 5 days, then travel by train to the other city for 3 or 4 days (which is all you'll have on a 10 day trip)

If it is an 8 day trip total - you will only have 5.5 days free on the ground so will have very little time for 2 cities but is still doable.
janisj is online now  
Nov 5th, 2016, 03:38 AM
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I would suggest flying into Rome and out of Venice or vice-versa. Also consider flying Lufthansa and if flying into Venice try connecting via Munich which is very close to Venice. Lufthansa is very efficient and highly regarded. It is part of the United grouping so if you can try to use airmiles to upgrade to Premium economy if possible.

In both Venice (obviously) and Rome you do not need a car. But a 10/12 seater minivan would be worthwhile considering for your Florence section. First it would make it easier to see various sites in Tuscany apart from Florence (and Fiesole) itself - Siena/San Gimignano, Lucca/Pisa, Prato/Pistoia, Arezzo etc. Second it would allow you to stay at an agritourism/B&B outside Florence which will certainly enable you to meet your price point. Consider staying at Alla Pagnana B&B which you can find either at Booking.com (http://www.booking.com/hotel/it/alla...al&type=total&) or direct at http://www.fattoriapagnana.it/en/home/ Send an email addressed to Lucrezia. She has always been very helpful when I have stayed.

For Venice an alternative cheaper to the city might be Mestre but you nee to factor in the additional transport costs in and out of the city centre.

Also remember that with all cities you will end up walking much more than you would normally be used to. On top of this is the fact that many walkways are on stone slabs which obviously have no give so appropriate footwear is absolutely necessary. Also in Venice you need to cross many bridges. Plan accordingly.
nochblad is offline  
Nov 5th, 2016, 06:38 AM
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>>I would suggest flying into Rome and out of Venice or vice-versa.<<

If you decide on Rome and Venice -- I'd fly in to Venice and out of Rome. Flights to the States out of Venice tend to leave VERY early in the morning making it difficult/expensive to get to the airport.

If you fly in to Venice and home from Rome you wouldn't have that problem.
janisj is online now  
Nov 5th, 2016, 08:05 AM
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janisj - not if you fly Lufthansa as I suggested. With them you can fly to Frankfurt and then to Denver leaving Venice at 10.30
nochblad is offline  
Nov 5th, 2016, 11:12 AM
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You've gotten good advice above. I won't add anything because this is probably the last thing I would ever do, especially as an introduction to international travel. Frankly, it gives me chills just thinking of it. In your shoes I would probably throw everyone on a bus (which is totally anathema to my way of traveling) instead of trying to "organize" it. I do wish you luck.
StCirq is online now  
Nov 5th, 2016, 01:27 PM
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I too recommend that you stay in 2 cities as you won't have time to do more. In order to decide which 2, it would be helpful if your parents and relatives were involved in the planning. For example, maybe everyone wants to go to Rome, and have tickets to a Papal Audience/Mass. Tickets are free, but as you are more than 10 people you will need to arrange it in advance. If your family wants to do this and its a high priority, look at the schedule for 2017, if its available now, so you will know what days to be in Rome.

I would also suggest that as people have different interests, it would help you to know what they would want to see.. that way the art lovers, shoppers, ancient roman history lovers, can form their own groups and everyone is more or less content.

If you go to Venice, which I highly recommend, you may want to arrange a walking tour for the majority of the group. You can tour the Basilica (St Marks) or view the mosaics during a Mass. Take a tour of the Doges Palace. While there are lots of small bridges, those who do not want to walk as much can get a pass for the public water transportation.

For group meals you may find it easier to make reservations for two tables of 5 or 6 and people can take turns on who sits where.

The advantage of going to Venice first, is that it is relatively small, and there is no street traffic, except for all the people. In the evening it is quiet as most people only visit for the day especially those on the cruise ships.

You are not likely to find accommodations that sleep more than 5-6 , so you may want to look at 2-3 apartments. and some will only rent for a full week.

you may want to consider a monastery or convent stay. they are generally cheaper and on the no frills side, and may have curfews, but may be well within your budget. a friend and her son did this in Rome and were very happy with their choice.

happy planning
maxima is offline  
Nov 5th, 2016, 03:11 PM
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And now for now so pleasant topics about travel with any group. Unless you have traveled many times with this group, there are many unknowns, some pleasant some not. You really don't know for sure until you start traveling. It is only a guess until that point.

If you go the rental route, you have to deal with the reservation fee issue. Depending on premises, you either are committed to full payment no matter what, partial refund, or full refund. If some of the participants decide to quit after making commitment, do you have an understanding on how the non-refundable cost attributed to the non-traveler get accounted for? Some people automatically assume that the remaining travelers are willing to pickup the cost causing much hard feelings.

Accommodation selection can be a major challenge. Some wants the rock bottom pricing no matter other factors, while others might want the other end, and yet others would consider several factors. If your group consists of people with vastly different accommodation ideas, one size fits all would be difficult to achieve.

Same for the restaurants. Some consider food to be nutrition only and wants the cheapest. Others looked forward to eating the authentic cuisine and is willing to travel, commit to reservations, and pay the price.

What people say before the trip and how they behave after the trip starts can have nothing to do each other. You show them an itinerary, you get, "That's fine," which really meant, "I don't care to be bothered to think about it." Once the trip starts, they can exhibit completely different behaviors.

Being "mobile" for those from the U.S. might not translate directly in Italy. I have seen tours promoted to U.S. travelers where "be ready to walk a lot" meant 3 miles a day. I average about 10 miles per day walking in Italy, some days 14 miles, and minimum is about 6 miles per day. In case you can't imagine this, unlike in the U.S., you just cannot drive from one location to another and park nearby. Obviously in Venice, there is no road to drive. In Florence, you are not allowed to drive inside the city during the day. You end up walking a lot in Italy if you want to go from point A to B quickly unless they are far apart.
greg is offline  
Nov 5th, 2016, 03:48 PM
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>>do you have an understanding on how the non-refundable cost attributed to the non-traveler get accounted for?<<

That exact thing happened on one of my trip -- and we were only (originally) 4 people. One backed out ON THE WAY TO THE AIRPORT. Talk about complicating things!

What was refundable, non-refundable, and how to re allocate costs among the 3 of us for things that were booked but not pre-paid. For example one B&B cost us more pp because one had to pay for single occupancy in a double room. Just thank heavens I was a math major
janisj is online now  
Nov 5th, 2016, 04:16 PM
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Perhaps one group meeting would be useful to you, but trying to get a consensus from so many probably won't work. I also would not want different people doing different things, making reservations, etc. They could research and propose a special restaurant or tour, but only one or two people should be actively doing the business part of the trip.

Like others said, you never, ever know for sure how someone will be as a traveler! I personally have found it best to research a lot, design the trip I want, then post it to everyone who says they want to go. They can go or not after they look at the set itinerary.

I leave it up to them to book flights for themselves. When it becomes clear who and how many are 100% committed, I book hotels by reserving the rooms and letting participants confirm and pay for their own.

In your case, with novice travelers, you might consult with a travel agent or look at some small group tours to see how things are handled. Doesn't mean you are committed to a tour, but knowledge is useful.
Sassafrass is online now  
Nov 5th, 2016, 04:33 PM
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Depending upon how ambitious the itinerary, you are in for a terrific number of hours planning moving this many people, time likely not appreciated by the inexperienced travelers you will be escorting. Even simple things like agreeing on a restaurant will be tiresome, or arranging multiple vehicles for getting to the airport. My advice is to go on your own trip, but if you go ahead with the group idea have low expectations.
tom_mn is offline  
Nov 5th, 2016, 04:48 PM
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>>Even simple things like agreeing on a restaurant will be tiresome<<

Except for maybe one big celebration lunch or dinner (booked well in advance) in each city I would never (ever) plan on all 12 eating in the same place.
janisj is online now  
Nov 5th, 2016, 10:53 PM
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Another comment about rental lodging that came up in one of our trips... If you rent villas or apartments, it's impossible to give everyone equal accommodations. Varying room sizes, bed sizes/arrangements, en suite v. shared bathrooms, etc., make it a challenge figuring out who goes where and who pays what. Some families are more easy-going about this stuff than others...
Jean is offline  

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