ITALY - 1st TRIP FOR US - NEED GUIDANCE

Old Dec 16th, 2008, 10:16 AM
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ITALY - 1st TRIP FOR US - NEED GUIDANCE

Greetings:
My husband and I are planning to visit Italy sometime during the September/October, 2009 timeframe.
We have no idea where to go in Italy for our first trip there,or how to go about planning for it. Hopefully some of you good folks can offer us advice.
Notes about ourselves: love to sightsee, we can't speak Italian, I am limited in the walking I can do, would love to visit the Vatican.
Can you recommend a reputable tour company or two that we could investigate or should we try and do this trip on our own (which sounds a bit scary to me, considering we have never been there before and can't speak the language.)
Thanks.
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Old Dec 16th, 2008, 10:29 AM
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I recommend going independent. Get a guidebook and flip through it to get an overview of places to go. You have time to take an Italian for Travellers course if any are offered in your area or to do independent study.
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Old Dec 16th, 2008, 10:34 AM
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http://www.bobthenavigator.homestead.com/
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Old Dec 16th, 2008, 10:41 AM
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You need to define "limited in the walking I can do".

The usual essential bits of any Italian sightseeing holiday - Venice, Rome and Florence - routinely demand considerable walking. Some bits - like St Peter's and the Vatican Museums - can work if walking's a real problem, as there are wheelchair routes, and they're set up for pilgrims : but even here, the walking distances can be formidable if you're not prepared to to use a wheelchair. Other bits - anything in Venice, and Classical Rome sights like the Roman Forum - are really, really difficult if walking is out of the question.

Since self-driving is completely out of the question, you might need either a private driver (for Rome and Florence) or a specialist disability tour company.

I'd strongly suggest you get a good Italy guide book - if necessary from a library - prioritise what you want to see, then come back here for help in working out how to do that.

Don't underestimate the sheer volume of what there is to see in Italy. Or the real difficulties of seeing a lot of it if you're not nimble on your pins. No-one had invented disability access laws in Ancient Rome or in Renaissance Florence.
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Old Dec 16th, 2008, 11:03 AM
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I wouldn't worry about not speaking Italian. I don't either and have been to Italy several times. Most people dealing with tourists speak enough English to communicate with you.

You need to define "limited walking." Can you walk a mile or two, slowly? Can you stand for any length of time? How about stairs?

How long do you plan to be in Italy. If 1-2 weeks then I would limit the trip to Rome and Florence. There's more than enough sightseeing in these cities to keep you busy for a week each.

In Rome it's easy to get taxis. Your hotel can call one for you and you can hail them in the street. That will help limit your walking. The Vatican is huge and it's quite a walk from the entrance to the Sistine Chapel as you go through the Vatican Museums.

Planning starts with reading a couple of guidebooks. No need to spend money on these as libraries usually have a good selection. You can also search on this forum for information from contributors and from the fodors home page there a section called "Destinations" that gives overviews.

Florence is more compact than Rome and if you book a hotel in the center, near the Cathedral there won't be too much walking from place to place.

If you want an overview of Italy some of the more well-known tour companies are below. You won't see much in depth as the tours cover a lot of territory. I personally would rather see one or two places than keep moving around to another town every day or two.

If you decide on a tour you need to very carefully read about what is included and look at the itinerary. Often the prices seem good but there are additional expenses that can add up.

Elderhostel runs educational tours that include lectures and sightseeing. Sometimes they stay in one location for the entire trip.

http://www.elderhostel.org/

http://www.collettetours.com/

http://www.insightvacations.com/us/

http://www.tauck.com/
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Old Dec 16th, 2008, 11:44 AM
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Although I can't recommend a tour company, I think you should consider going on a tour since you are concerned about language, walking and all of the unknowns. It will give you a sense of security so you can enjoy yourselves more.
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Old Dec 16th, 2008, 01:24 PM
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Here is a start on some basic itineraires that may help. We too are going back that same time of year--it will be our 15th trip to Italy---you too will go back.
BOB the NAVIGATOR’S FAVORITE ITALY ITINERARIES
UPDATED AUGUST, 2006
After 24 trips to southern Europe, and having developed more than 220 customized TRIP PLANS for others, I am now older and hopefully wiser. Here is an updated version of my favorite itineraries & my “Bella Italia” photo gallery. I hope you enjoy.
http://www.slowphotos.com/photo/show...y.php?cat=3827

1. BELLA ITALIA: Five destinations in 15 days—car & train travel
* Arrive in Milan[MXP] & depart from Venice[VCE]or vice versa.
* Itinerary to include the Italian Lakes, Ligurian coast, rural
Tuscany, Florence, & Venice. Suggested timing is 3-2-4-2-4.
* Option: Drop the coast & rent a villa in Tuscany[ 3-7-2-3].
* Best time to go: May & June or Sept. & Oct.

2. LA DOLCE VITA: Three destinations in 12 to 14 days-car & train
* Arrival & departure from Rome[ FCO] or arrival in Naples
* Itinerary to include Rome, the Amalfi coast, and Tuscany
* Best time to go: Easter to end of October
* Option: Fly into Naples & stay at 2 locations on the coast

3. CLASSIC ITALIA: Three destinations in 12 to 14 days-car & train
* Arrival & departure from Rome—may start trip in Florence
* Destinations to include Florence, Rome & Tuscany/Umbria
* Best time to go: Anytime, but May & Oct. are my favorites
* Option: Consider a weekly rental in Tuscany/Umbria

4. SICILIAN CHARMS: Five destinations in 15 days—car travel
* Connections to Catania & Palermo via Rome or gateway city.
* Itinerary to include Taormina, Siracusa, Palermo & more.
* Best time to go: March to November—May is best for flowers
* See: http://www.slowtrav.com/tr/tripreport.asp?tripid=634

5. THE VILLAGE SAMPLER: My favorite venues for those who enjoy natural beauty and quaint, small villages. Arranged north to south.
* Arrive Milan & depart Rome—car travel-- 3 nites per location
* Itinerary to include Lago Orta, Castelrotto/ Ortisei[Dolomites],
Portovenere[Liguria], Montalcino[Tuscany], & Spello[Umbria].
* Best time to go: May to October for the lakes and Dolomites
* Option: Pick 3 out of 5 and stay longer in Tuscany/Umbria.

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Old Dec 16th, 2008, 02:09 PM
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90 percent of the above boilerplate recommendations are not suitable for someone who is limited in the amount of walking they can do. It's just cut-and-paste.

If you would love to visit the Vatican, begin by planning your trip around that. It is mainly flat, but it is an extensive site and you might want to make more than one visit, and thus plan several days in Rome. Believe me, if you see only Rome, you will see a LOT of what is great about Italian culture.

Since you have a lot of time to plan, investigate both tours that are geared to people with limited mobility AND going independent, which means continuing the conversation on message boards like this.

But if people are going to help you you need to post more information about yourselves. Can you climb stairs? Do you want to rent a car? Would you prefer visiting the Vatican and then relaxing in the countryside -- or seeing Florence (flat) plus Venice (lots of stairs)?
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Old Dec 16th, 2008, 02:15 PM
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Hi 472

Italy is very easy to do on your own.

How long do you have?

What's your budget?

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Old Dec 16th, 2008, 05:37 PM
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I would definitely plan it yourself. Not speaking Italian is not an issue unless you head for some very obscure small towns. And tour groups often require more walking than independent travel (you can take a cab right up to entrances that tour buses can;t get near).

But - ancient Roman sites require quite a bit of walking on rough ground and Renaissancel areas often have uneven cobblestone streets.

How limited is your walking (a couple blocks at a time - or only a short distance)? That will help people give you advice on a possible itinerary and how to handle mobility.
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Old Dec 17th, 2008, 08:50 AM
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I find Venice an easy place to walk. It's flat and compact. Yes, there are frequent bridges, but the steps on the bridges are low and easy to climb. And the bridges aren't very high. Plus you can get a good overview of Venice just sitting on the vaporetto going up the Grand Canal. And see more of Venice from gondolas and taxi-boats.

If you can find a tour company that specializes in tours for the mobility-impaired, that might be your answer. A regular tour might require more and faster walking than you'd be comfortable with.
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Old Dec 17th, 2008, 11:50 AM
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I would definitely recommend a tour for your first trip there. Not only do they do all the planning, obviously, but will take you to the highlights of the country. Look at Globus Gateways or Trafalgar for example. Even if you decide not to go the tour route, you can still use their itineraries as a rough guide.
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Old Dec 17th, 2008, 01:26 PM
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travel472: I travel very often, mostly on my own, but I have also taken tours. Sometimes, it's just the right thing to do. My favorite tour company is Globus/Cosmos. Read the itineraries very carefully so you'll know exactly what you are getting. They offer many optional in city tours, so you can buy them or just wander on your own. Don't expect much in the way of included meals. It's like this with most companies. I tend to use Cosmos more often, because the price is lower with less items included. This way I use the extra money to do what I want, and eat in those great little places I find during my wanderings. Sometimes it's really nice having transportation and hotels set up and ready for you. I have also met many very nice people, who tend to form a bond on the trip. Lots of laughs too. Also don't expect an in depth academic tour . Group tours are more like a "taste of" the various places. Either way, have a wonderful time !
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Old Dec 18th, 2008, 01:54 AM
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Hi everyone,

It´s really great and exciting that you want to visit Italy. Before you plunge into this experience, there´s a few things that you should know.

First, you need to make your plan tailor made to your preferences and tastes. This is the secret recipe in making your trip a memorable and enjoyable experience.

Secondly, once you´ve established your interests, you should visit and participate in activities that support your these.

You won´t get anywhere if you rush through all the most famous attractions of Italy. In fact, you run the risk of making your experience a miserable one if you just rush through your trip.

Take the above mentioned tips as a way to organize and making an experience that is specifically tailor made for you.

Carlos (Oh-holidays)
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Old Dec 18th, 2008, 07:59 AM
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You might consider the route we took for our first trip to Italy. There are several companies (we used American Express) that offers an "independent" tour, in which the company provides the basics (i.e., airfare, hotels, trains between cities and a few other minor services).
We chose that route because we were a little nervous about doing it on our own the first time, but at the same time, didn't want to be tied down with someone else totally planning our itinerary.
With the "independent" route, we were able to pretty much see and do most of which was on our A list, while at the same time have the security of knowing that the basics were taken care of.
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Old Dec 18th, 2008, 09:42 AM
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Hello all:
I read each and every response with keen interest. So many of you recommended that we get a guidebook first and read it carefully before making any concrete plans. This makes a lot of sense and what we will do.
As for my comment on "limited walking" . . . I can walk an hour or so with no problems, and can do a mile or so at a slow to medium pace.
We are going to do our homework first (reading a guidebook or two) and then get back to you for more advice once we can further define what we would like to see and do on our first trip to Italy.
I'm getting excited already! Okay, now I'm off to Borders to pick up some guidebook reading material.
Thanks so much!
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Old Dec 18th, 2008, 10:11 AM
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Also, spend time at slowtrav.com for good basic info and tons of trip reports--hard to beat.
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Old Dec 18th, 2008, 11:59 AM
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I think a tour is a good idea. I would recommend Tauck Tours (www.tauck.com). I have taken 2 tours to Italy with them (Classic Italy which is 14 days & Venice, Rome, Florence and the Lakes which is 10 days). Both were wonderful. They stay at 5-star hotels, most food is included and is usually a la carte (except for the large breakfast buffets), you don't have to handle your luggage, and the tour director will address any issues you have.

I just returned from a Tauck tour to Budapest, Vienna & Prague. While I like to explore, do my own thing and walk like crazy, there were people on the tour who had mobility limitations. The tour director always arranged for a taxi (at no extra cost) for those who needed assistance.
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Old Dec 18th, 2008, 12:16 PM
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Again, you haven't said how long you plan to spend -- or really what all you want to do or see.
But if you are talking about two weeks or a little less, I think you can be very happy doing it on your own and hitting the "big three" -- Rome, Florence, and Venice. Train travel between the three is a piece of cake. If you can fly into Rome and fly home from Venice -- that's ideal as well. You can hire a guide if you want in the individual cities.

If you'd be happy visiting those three cities then I don't really see the point of a tour. If on the other hand you want to hit a new town every day and if you do want the "luxury" of someone taking care of things for you -- then the tour could be fine. Be aware though that the thing some don't like about most tours is that you must be up at the crack of dawn every day and go at their pace -- not for everyone, but necessary when you're checking off half a dozen destinations in a short time.

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Old Dec 19th, 2008, 08:02 AM
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What a wealth of information you good folks are providing - and a bit overwhelming, to be sure, but I am reading everything slowly so as to absorb it all. I'm really glad we aren't going until next September/October because I realize that I need all of that time to decide and plan on just what we want to do! Since this is our first trip to Italy, I figured a tour would be the way to go. However, now I'm not so sure. My husband and I love to go off and explore on our own, and I'm now thinking maybe we should try and put together a trip ourselves rather than a tour. However, that requires a lot of research, work, time, etc. and I don't know if I can - or want - to do that. We shall see.
NEOPATRICK: After reading the feedback everyone has given us, thus far, I think the three places we would like to visit for the first time is Rome, Florence and Venice. I'm hoping to go for between 10-14 days but it will depend on the cost. I love the idea of train travel between each place. What do you think about renting a car?
BOBTHENAVIGATOR . . . you are a wealth of information and the "slowtrav" link you mentioned is so informative. Thanks for recommending it.
I'll keep everyone posted as I slooooowly go about searching the internet and reading the guidebooks I bought yesterday (on your recommendation!)
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