Italy - 1st time visit for 40-somethings

Mar 13th, 2008, 06:18 PM
  #1  
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Italy - 1st time visit for 40-somethings

My husband and I are planning a 7-10 day visit to Italy in July. We would like to see the key cities (likely Rome, Florence & Venice). We are trying to decide on an organized tour versus time in each city with various local tours. We realize we will not see everything, but would like to make the most of our time and thought an organized tour would be best for that. However, we are nervous about too rigid a schedule. Any thoughts or experiences to share would be appreciated. Thanks!
FamilyTraveler4 is offline  
Mar 13th, 2008, 07:44 PM
  #2  
rex
 
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You're likely to encounter any of several biases that are very prevalent here: biases against tours, biases against July (as a bad month for any part of Italy other than the Alps), and lamentations (not so much biases) against going anywhere in 2008 because the dollar is so weak against the euro.

That said, I believe that previous polls taken on this forum reveal that the majority of "veterans" here took their first trip to Europe as a "tour".

I did - - in 1969, the summer before I turned 16.

So I'll disqualify myself for giving you advice.

I have also never been to Europe in July since 1969 (not strictly true - - went June 15 to July 2 in 2000, I believe).

24 other trips have always been in every other month from March through October, including number 25 this summer.

Best wishes,

Rex
rex is offline  
Mar 13th, 2008, 08:14 PM
  #3  
 
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My first visit to Italy was 10 years ago with my husband and children ages 9 and 14. Since then I have been back 4 times...never have I gone with a tour. It is far too easy today with internet, etc. to successfuly plan your own trip. I never wanted to go on a tour because I value the independence and flexibility you have when you travel on your own. It is extremely easy to travel in the cities you mentioned because English is spoken quite well by most Italians with whom you will come in contact. Make use of this valuable forum and you can plan the trip of your dreams. My vote is go for it!!!! Italy is a piece of heaven on earth. As the other poster mentioned however, if you can go any other time than July or August...do it. I have had friends visit Italy for the first time during the summer months and I believe it tainted their view of this lovely country. Heat and crowds can spoil any trip. These are just my opinions...there are many others who will offer up conflicting advice. Best of luck in your planning!
caroltis is offline  
Mar 13th, 2008, 09:28 PM
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First time in Italy, in the summer months I would suggest a tour. Yes it is rather structured but it is a good way to get your bearings if you decide to go back on your own. Also, a tour will have the tickets and what have you which may decrease the amount of time waiting in line. They know the ins and outs of where you will go and will have done the preplanning for you. And if you look at the itinerary of different tours they allow you free time.

That said, if you do go on your own there are tour guides you can hire. But I think in the cost of things, especially now, a tour would be cheaper.
litefoot is offline  
Mar 13th, 2008, 09:35 PM
  #5  
 
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I meant to add, as a suggestion, if you are not regularly exercising, start a walking exercise now to prepare for your trip. Whether on a tour or on your own, you'll be doing a lot of walking.
litefoot is offline  
Mar 13th, 2008, 09:40 PM
  #6  
 
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Our first trip to Italy was for two weeks in October of 2004 and we returned for another two weeks this past September. We traveled independently; however, with much help graciously offered by Stu Dudley of this forum.

I think that independent travel provides flexibility in every respect, e.g., dates of travel, number of days to spend in each location, where to stay, what to eat, sequence, etc. It can be done but you would have to spend some time planning versus showing up at a designated date and time.

Anna Roz
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Mar 13th, 2008, 11:20 PM
  #7  
 
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Hello Family, I am one that is a nontour person so my thinking is against tours, for me that is. I don't like the idea of having so much time at a location when I want to linger longer. To not have the time to sit in an outdoor cafe with a drink that overlooks a piazza and "people watch". To not have the time to go into a shop that has catches my eye. To chose where I want to have a meal. To have to get up at a certain time and be ready to go at a certain time whether I feel like it or not. But that is me and perhaps that would not be a problem for you and your husband.

I would suggest you think long and hard what will work for you. Some people love to go on tours and have all the details handled by someone else. If that is your style than a tour would be suitable for you.

But in that you state "we are nervous about too rigid of a schedule" than I would suggest that you do some research and think about travelling on your own.

If you decide to travel on your own and can take ten days versus seven days that of course would be best. You could fly into Venice and after the time in Venice train to Florence and after Florence train to Rome and fly home from Rome. That is called an openjaw or multicity fight. It keeps you from backtracking to the airport that you arrived at so quite a time saver. Since it is easier to depart Italy from Rome versus Venice as most flights out of Venice are quite early in the morning I consequently made the suggestion of arriving in Venice and departing from Rome. And getting to the airport in Rome is much simplier and easier even if your flight does leave early morning.

July will be hot and humid. Pack accordingly. And be aware that airconditioning in Italy is usually not up to the standards of airconditioning in the US which I assume is where you life.

A good way to deal with the heat is to get up early, enjoy the morning, have a leisurely lunch around 1:00pm or so and when you feel you need to escape the heat and crowds go back to your hotel and rest. Later take a cool shower and return to the streets and again enjoy Italy. Go to dinner around 8:30pm to 9:00pm and relax and enjoy your dinner and than take another walk after dinner when it is cooler. You will find Italians are out and about too.

Stop at a cafe and have a cool drink when you need to rest (use the restroom when you do this as they are not as available as they are in the US). And of course enjoy the fantastic Italian gelato.

Whatever you decide, a tour or travelling on your own, have a wonderful time in Italy!
LoveItaly is offline  
Mar 13th, 2008, 11:29 PM
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Venice, Florence and Rome are cities of which the information is 'at hand'. Internet gives you opportunities to confirm your entire trip. I don't see a reason to do an organized tour.

Furthermore, groups are always too big, in which case you're always running to be up front and still miss quite some information, or they are too small, in which case you have to get along during 10 days with the other "members" of the group. And do believe me; morons do travel...
The organized tour means I would still be obliged to eat the tourist menus of every tourist restaurant the guide has a "financial advantage" with... which, beside this, seems totally ludicrous to me in a country where you can eat so well...

I could maybe accept an organized tour to do the Kilimandjaro, or the yurts of Inner Mongolia, but your destinations are so "touristically normal", have been done zillions of time before, and will be done as long as there is petrol to come over with by plane...
baldrick is offline  
Mar 14th, 2008, 03:10 AM
  #9  
 
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Another vote for taking the trip on your own. If you spend some time reading about and planning the time in these cities, including review of suggested itineraries on this and other websites, you should be able to organize your time well.
You have identified one of the potential problems of an organized tour--a rigid time schedule. I also think (from observing tour groups) that many tours try to cram in too many sights with very brief stops at each place. When my husband and I lived in Europe we took bus trips from Germany to Paris and Barcelona as an inexpensive way to get a package of transportation and lodging. However, we took off on our own to explore the cities.
Vttraveler is offline  
Mar 14th, 2008, 05:44 AM
  #10  
rex
 
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<< ...we will not see everything, but would like to make the most of our time...
...we are nervous about too rigid a schedule. >>

<< ...many tours try to cram in too many sights with very brief stops at each place... >>

This is one of two factors that will make the decision for you, and it's a paradox that many first-time travelers have to decide... which path to take?

I think you need to look at good vacation experiences you have had in the US, or elsewhere. Is the "figuring it out" and "stumbling through", at a discovery pace... an experience you can enjoy, even if it means you see two major attractions in one day? or are you likely to be envious if you happen to sit for a coffee by a tour group and hear that they are "hitting" 4 or 5 "places" most days?

Some of "us" liken a first-timer's trip to Europe like a trip to the zoo, where the visitor is intent on "checking off" - - I saw a lion, I saw a zebra, I saw a hippo, I saw a giraffe, I saw otters, I saw interesting birds...

Or would you rather learn something about the actual "biology" of what it means to be Italian? What are your plans to learn Italian? You have well over 100 days to prepare - - a vocabulary of 500 words is a very realistic goal between now and then, and can go such a long way towards enriching what you take home.

There IS the second factor - - do you think you might enjoy learning how to plan a trip, how to book lodging and intra-Italy transportation, and how to choose restaurants (in a few cases before you go, but usually on the fly once you are there). Some first-time Europe travelers are overwhelmed by this prospect. Here on this forum, "we" believe that we can infect you with the love of immersing your life in the trip - - starting today - - and living and breathing all things Italian in your preparations.
rex is offline  
Mar 14th, 2008, 06:09 AM
  #11  
 
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I just returned from a 2 week trip to Italy. We did an independent tour of Venice, Florence, and Rome. We were on our own and met up with a tour guide for excursions. We were very disappointed in the excursions provided by the tour company and liked the things we saw on our own so much better. I was apprehensive about going on my own as I had not been to Europe in 10 years. But it was so easy to get around and you can buy tickets ahead of time to any musuem you want to visit. I am planning a trip to Spain for Summer 2009 and will definitely not use any type of tour company.
SFA_Jacks is offline  
Mar 14th, 2008, 06:17 AM
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My wife and I visited Italy in September 2004. We had visited Europe the two years previous, so had some independent travel experience under our belt.

With a bit of planning, we found that our vist to Rome and Venice (we skipped Florence for that trip, opting to spend more time in the other two cities) was OUTSTANDING! Our favorite trip yet.

Rome is quite compact for a large city, at least the central historic district is. If you secure a good hotel in the city center, you can walk anywhere you want to go. We were in our 40's when we visited, and never took a subway or cab.

Venice is much, much smaller and magical. You can obviously walk everywhere there, but taking the vaporetto (public water taxi) is an awsesome experience and a terrific way to view the city, especially at night.

We have taken several group tours during the past couple of years, and even though we enjoy them, the flexibility of traveling on your own cannot be beat. You can easily take in as many or more sites on your own - and each configured to exactly what you want to see, how long you want to stay, etc.

We found that Italy, more so than any other country we visited, demanded that you take your time, sit and drink wine, watch the world go by, people watch, and just generally slow your pace. You will enjoy it much more if you spend more time in fewer cities and try NOT to see all the sites on your first visit!

Feel free to contact me at dwzemens AT comcast DOT net if you have any specific off-board questions.
dwzemens is offline  
Mar 14th, 2008, 07:05 AM
  #13  
 
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10 days is OK for going to Venice, Florence & Rome. Fly into your first city & out of the last. Travel between cities by train. Take tours within the cities if you want to. That would be very easy to self-plan. All you really need ahead is plane tickets and 3 hotel reservations. You can purchase a train ticket at the station easy enough as you go.

If 7 days is all you have, I would do only 2 cities (Venice/Florence would be my choice because I am highly partial to Venice myself, and think Rome needs more time than only a couple dayas because of its size and intensity).

suze is offline  
Mar 14th, 2008, 08:04 AM
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As PP pointed out 7 days is rather a short time - Rome plus a few side trips would do it.
Considering the heat, one cannot be " out" doing thing for a good part of the day.
Ten days may give you a bit more time, but keep in mind that each time you change cities and hotels , half day will be lost.

For the first time traveler to Italy
and an ambitious schedule in a short period , an organized tour might be a good solution for you.
danon is offline  
Mar 14th, 2008, 08:12 AM
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SFA Jacks, do you mind sharing what touring company you were disappointed with?

Anna
anna_roz is offline  
Mar 14th, 2008, 12:58 PM
  #16  
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Thank you all for so much information! I am locked into July since that is when my daughters will be at sleepaway camp. The thought of standing on line to get tickets for all the sights is one reason I would lean toward a tour. Perhaps I will consider daily tours for each city and get my own hotel and transportation. Any city tours to recommend?
FamilyTraveler4 is offline  
Mar 14th, 2008, 01:18 PM
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Rome Walks (google the name) for well.. Rome. We loved the Forum/Colloseo and the Vatican tours. You can easily enjoy just strolling through the Borghese Gallery, or rent earphones for more background.

You will do fine on your own in Florence with, perhaps, a little prior read on what would interest you most to see at the Ufizzi.

Venice? You could busy yourself with visits to museums and churches, or you could just be in Venice, both options equally wonderful.

If you are interested, I have a calendar of places to see and things to do which I prepared for our trip to Italy last fall. If you e-mail me at [email protected], I will attach a copy.


Anna Roz
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Mar 14th, 2008, 02:54 PM
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I am British and would recommend Cosmos Tours. They are very experienced in European tours and I know they are well known in America. I have used them several times in both America and Europe. They have several tours in Italy and cover all the popular cities eg. Rome, Florence, Venice etc. My favourite city in Italy is Venice but perhaps not in July!!
BarbBelle is offline  
Mar 14th, 2008, 04:39 PM
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My granddaughter and I are planning a trip to the Amalfi coast. Everyone seems to do the Rome, Venice and Florence scene. We are photographers and just want to concentrate on the coast - Naples, Sorrento, Amalfi, Isle of Capri, staying in Positano. We're going the first week of October and hoping for good weather. We're traveling on our own so we can do what we want for 10 days. We've booked a great place to stay, but any help or suggestions would be appreciated.
Shiningshirley is offline  
Mar 15th, 2008, 06:58 PM
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I think the best way to explore Italy is to rent an apartment in Florence and take day trips. The train system is highly efficient.
Your able to see Venice, Pisa, and Cinque Terre, each in a day. Although I attempted Rome in a day, it's best if you rent a hotel for one night and spend two days.
Since you'll be lodging in Florence you can spend your days off exploring the city.
I found an apartment on vrbo.com.
Good luck!
mrsffonky is offline  

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