Italy.....First time HELP....

Aug 14th, 2001, 06:06 AM
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Barbara & Karen: It sounds like I am in the same boat with you! My husband and I are trying to plan a trip to Italy in late summer or early fall of 2002. We are also trying to decide between a tour or doing it on our own. After reading all the posts on this board - I am really leaning toward doing it on our own. It seems like the train would be MUCH better than being stuck on a bus - and I definitely want hotels that are well located. We have friends that have done tours and have enjoyed them, but I am really hoping we can have more "romantic" time on our own - it sounds like when you are on a tour it is hard to get time on your own. I do have lots of concerns though. We spent several days in Paris a couple years ago - and had a horrible time communicating with people (even though we were trying our hardest to speak in French)... I am worried about being able to get around on our own. Are locals in Italy "tourist friendly". I am very willing to try to learn some basic Italian before we go -- and I am more than willing to carry a dictionary with me -- but I am worried that that won't be sufficient (in Paris is didn't seem to work). My main questions for the seasoned veterans on this board are
1) Can people 'do it on there own' without much knowledge of the Italian language.
2) Should you use the Train to get from place to place -- or rent a car and drive on your own?
3) All the tour companies try to make it sound like getting tickets for different sites is difficult on your own... Is that true?
Thanks in advance for any wisdom!
Aug 14th, 2001, 06:41 AM
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I did the Globus tour that you described last May. You will be in boring hotels, (at least in Florence, 30 minutes out of the city. Nothing to see or do)and you will be eating horrible hotel food. If you don't choose the optional meals (Rome and Venice) then you can have some time to explore on your own. $3600 is what we paid for two people, 9 day tour. We covered alot in a short amount of time, but would never go this way again.

The people in Italy were extremely friendly and helpful (when we weren't with the "group"). Carry a pocket dictionary and you'll be fine.

Aug 17th, 2001, 06:58 AM
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With the economical tours, you do seem to get hotels far from main attractions, making it impossible to go out on your own in the small amount of free time that they allow you. The positive is that you don't have to hassle with directions or cramming schedules to fit all the sightseeing that you want to do. Having said that I would still travel on my own, the four star hotels always have a good concierge, who helps with restaurant reservations, directions etc. And some can even arrange a private tour/tour guide who can give you an option of how much time you want to spend on each location, (if you are not impressed with a museum, have the guide move on to the next itiniery) I thought that my main objective was to see all the sights, but having visited Paris on my own, and with a tour, I found luxury restaurant and hotel made the trip 4x more enjoyable, and I got to see everything at my own pace with the help from the hotel.
Aug 17th, 2001, 07:16 AM
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You can put together your own package and do it for alot less that the $3600 per person. We are doing 3 nights each in Venice, Florence, Amalfi, and Rome.....all at 4-star hotels. Including air-fare from New York and a rental car for the 8 days from after we have been in Venice a bit until we reach Rome it wil be just under $2000 per person; including breakfasts but excluding other meals.
Aug 17th, 2001, 07:22 AM
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Seredipitously, I pointed out to my husband last nigh an article in a back issue of National Geographic Traveller a Head to Head Column on Abercrombie and Kent versus a similar tour of (in this case) Germany and Austria: the price difference was (approx) $1000 versus $4000 for A&K. The article was firm on the 4 major areas of difference. 1. You are allowed to take more luggage on A&K, 1 more suitcase each. 2. The type of person who goes on A&K is more likely to be a retired CEO or professional versus schoolteacher for the other guys. 3. There is a travelling bell-hop/security peron on the A&K tour so you don't have to schlep your own luggage. The hotels for A&K are all downtown 4 star (Ritz was the one mentioned)) and of course the other guys, while pedestrian appeared to have all reasonable amenities, was 3 star, but was in the suburbs and required a trolley ride to get downtown,(must have been Munich). I would imagine National Geo Traveller has its own web-site and I believe this was Jan or Feb or March of this year.
Aug 17th, 2001, 09:15 AM
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That should be "serendipitously" and "night": that typo gremlin gets me every time, but I stand by the rest. The comparitor to Ambercrombie and Kent was Globus and the article only analysed the financials that applied to the European end(i.e. no airfare).
Aug 19th, 2001, 09:13 PM
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Marty Please give me more information on your 2000 dollar trip. I want 4 star hotels, airfare from New York 3 nights in Venice, 2 in Florence, 4 in Rome and 5 in a villa in Tuscany. Please help with suggestions
Aug 19th, 2001, 10:16 PM
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I would greatly encourage you to travel on your own, and enjoy your time planning the trip!

Re use of language, yes, the Italians are very traveller-friendly, though I think the French are too, so maybe my opinion isn't too reliable. I know a little more French than I do Italian (both very little indeed), but find Italian on the whole a bit easier to understand and speak - fewer words with only vowel sounds! I took a short course through the local "free university," learned some Italian and had a great time.

I'm a big believer in car rentals for most purposes (from the Milan airport to Florence is one place I'd suggest a train). You have a lot more flexibility. I find the roads to be well-marked, and having a real good map helps a lot too.

Why would obtaining tickets for a site be so difficult (of course the tour companies are going to make it sound that way)? There are lots of suggestions here for the sites (i.e. the Uffizi) where you want to buy tickets in advance, with instructions on how to do so. Other places, you memorize the word for "tickets," though it'll probably be in English anyway, figure out the price for the number of tickets you want, then go to the window and say the number of tickets you want. In the U.S., when you get tickets for something, you probably don't say more than that.
Aug 19th, 2001, 11:08 PM
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Karen, I tried to e-mail you directly, but AOL says that the addy you gave is "not a known member", so I am posting all the info here. Here is what we are doing: British Airways had a special fare offered in July at $547 each ($1094 for the two of us) from NY (JFK) to Venice via London and return from Rome also via London. We are staying at Starhotel Splendid Suisse in Venice for 3 nights for $712. Then 3 nights at the Grand Minerva Hotel in Florence for 3 nights for $615. Then 3 nights at Hotel Luna Convento in Amalfi for $567. Then finish up with 3 nights at the Colonna Palace in Rome for $642. Our car is from AutoEurope (they broker for Europcar in Italy) intermdeiate with air conditioning and manual shift at $354 for 8 days, picked up in Venice the day before we leave and dropped off 8 days later in Rome. Total for all above is $3985 for two of us....or just under $2000 per person. Let me know if you need any further information.
Aug 20th, 2001, 07:52 PM
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Karen: You may not want to stay at the Grand Hotel Minerva. The Piazza S.Maria Novella reminds me of the South Bronx at night. Day time is less threatening

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