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Italy September 2009: This time we will make it!

Italy September 2009: This time we will make it!

Nov 1st, 2008, 03:09 PM
  #1  
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Italy September 2009: This time we will make it!

After postponing our 2008 trip to Italy, my husband & I are now set to go in September 2009! We tweeked our itinerary a bit. It looks like this:

Sept 14 fly from Vancouver via Frankfurt to VENICE; stay at LOCANDA ORSEOLO

Sept 19 pick up car; drive to BELLAGIO, LAKE COMO; stay at HOTEL BELLAGIO

Sept 23 drive to SAN GIMIGNANO; stay at HOTEL LEON BIANCO

Sept 27 drive to PIENZA; stay at PICCOLO HOTEL LA VALLE

Oct 1 drive to Florence & drop off car; stay at TOURIST HOUSE GHIBERTI B&B

Oct 5 fly from Florence to Vancouver via Frankfurt

For the very first time, I arranged our flights & the hotels myself, instead of using the services of a travel agent!!! I finally had the confidence to do this myself after reading so many threads written by Fodorites who arrange their own vacations!

We booked our flights using points on Air Canada's partner airline, Lufthansa. We booked the outbound tickets for September 14, 2009 when they became available on its system and we were given a phantom date to return. Once the actual return date was available, we were able to make a change to our flight itinerary for a small fee --- well worth it to secure business class seats!

I booked our hotels by emailing them directly, inquiring about availability & rates. Each hotel replied promptly and required a credit card number to secure our reservations. I was pleasantly surprised that two hotels quoted me a rate that was less than the one on their websites!

The only things left to arrange are the car rental, travel (medical) insurance, and to book entry times into some of the museums we want to see.

We will be spending the remaining days gathering information from here & other sources about the places we will be visiting. I am resisting the urge to over-plan this trip ... after all it will be two years in the making!!! But I have to admit that I LOVE the process of planning and will continue to read about Italy up until the day we leave!

Thanks for all your help & advise along the way!

2010
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Nov 1st, 2008, 03:46 PM
  #2  
 
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Sounds like a wonderful trip. I do all the reservations, research, etc for all of our family trips. One little piece of advice - be sure to stay in contact with the hotels and rental car place to make sure your reservations are always on their books. I also print out the confirmation for each place and put them in chronological order in a folder that stays with us. Its my security blanket as I'm not crazy about fnding the hotel doens't have our reservation! we also get a navigation system with the rental car and plug in all of the destinations before even leaving the airport/pick up area so we aren't doing that at the last minute. Enjoy!
cmeyer54 is offline  
Nov 1st, 2008, 03:58 PM
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What a great trip. Be sure to prepay the car rental and print a voucher rather than just book the car. That way your price is locked in. If you only book but don't prepay then the price can change.

I'd recommend picking up a car when you leave Bellagio for San Gim. You don't need a car in Bellagio since the ferries go to all the nearby towns on the lake and parking is limited in Bellagio. It's very easy to take the train from Venice to Varenna, connecting in Milan. Once in Varenna you have a short walk downhill to the ferry stop, hop on the ferry and you're in Bellagio in 10 minutes. When you leave Bellagio take the hydrofoil to Como and pick up your car rental.
adrienne is offline  
Nov 1st, 2008, 04:33 PM
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I too have been planning a trip to Italy for over two years and its finally coming true!!! I just booked my flights from LA to Rome (Apr 09) and I did a little dance! I could not have done this without the help of this website and all the wonderful Fodorites. Have a wonderful trip!
italy4julie is offline  
Nov 1st, 2008, 10:53 PM
  #5  
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Thanks to all for your replies!

cmeyer: Yes, I have printed out our hotel confirmations and will take them with us! I was planning to email hotels about 4 weeks before we depart just to reconfirm our reservations. Do you advise that I do this earlier?
Also, which company do you rent cars from in Italy? I've read about AutoEurope and gemut.com here on Fodor's.
And thanks for the hint to enter our destinations into the car's navigation system before leaving the rental agency!

adrienne: I will most definitely look into prepaying for the car. How far in advance do you think I should be arranging for a car? Do most cars now have navigational systems or is this something I would request?

italy4julie: I also did a happy dance when my bookings were completed! Where are your plans taking you in Italy? Happy travels!

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Nov 1st, 2008, 11:12 PM
  #6  
 
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Hi there,
I have rented from both Europecar and Kemwel, and prefer Kemwel - cheaper and no hidden costs. The prices go up as the dates get closer.
Go to their website and punch in your criteria. The price which comes up is the price you pay, all in. You also need an International Driver's License - from BCAA (I am also from Van)
You definitely need GPS - I cannot stress this enough, however it could be easier and cheaper to take one with you. Car rental companies do not offer GPS in all locations.
I purchased a Garmin Nuvi 270 online before I left for Italy with pre installed maps of Europe and North America for $200US in June.
It more than paid for itself a number of times and was the single best purchase of pre planning that I made.
My only other concern is your plan to drive to Bellagio. Yes it could be a bit more convenient, but a big headache as well.
I agree with the previous poster that you could pick up your car in Como on your outbound leg.
To get there you could train to Milan, and then either tain to Varena and ferry to Bellagio (not as hard as it sounds and fun -caveat -if you travel light) or get picked up by Giuseppe & Noemi of the Viaggio Sereno Car Service and driven - It would still be cheaper than paying for a car to sit useless in Bellagio for 3 days.
But if you enjoy crazy driving on narrow one lane roads similar to the Amalfi Coast, and ready to meet a bus head on around every turn, then the car can work.
It's all a big advnture anyway.
Have fun
bellalinda is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2008, 07:27 AM
  #7  
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Bellalinda: Thanks for the information about car rentals & GPS! About having a car in Bellagio ... my husband & I have had this discussion about taking a train to Lake Como & then picking up a car on our way out. But he would like to have a car to do a day's drive to Lake Lugano. The Hotel Bellagio has a private garage (fee) so we have a place for the car. That said, I will bring up the possibility of doing as you (and others) have recommended with him.

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Nov 2nd, 2008, 07:51 AM
  #8  
 
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You will love Lufthansa Business Class! We too used Aeroplan to get to Venice in BC(business class) in Sept of last year.

Recently, I was monitoring Aeroplan to book Lufthansa BC to Athens for Sept of next year. Despite being both online and on the phone with Aeroplan at 8PM, when Lufthansa seats get loaded, I couldn't get Lufthansa for our date.
We are booked on Austrian Airlines BC for our flights, and coming home from Istanbul, we got Turkish Airlines BC to Munich, then AC BC from Munich back to Toronto. I think Austrian will be lovely, don't know anything about Turkish.

The BEST part is the airport lounges. I don't know if you stop in Toronto, but the Maple Leaf lounge there in the new terminal is wonderful. Frankfurt's is okay, we had a 2-3 hour layover there, it was more crowded than TO's, and not as nice and new.

However, flying Business Class is wonderful, and well worth the difference in points required!

Your trip sounds wonderful!
tropicalkerry is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2008, 10:20 AM
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when you buy travel insurance, check to see if it will includes CDW coverage. that way you don't have to buy it from the rental agency, and we have had damage costs to a car paid with no deductible through our travel insurance!! this was through CSA travel protection.

charnees is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2008, 10:48 AM
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Charnees,
this is a very confusing topic, especially in Italy where CDW is mandatory, so I am sorry you brought it up. However I feel I must add my 2 cents worth.
Your CDW is included in your Kemwel rental, however ( and I only know about visa because that's what I use)if you pay for your rental with your travel visa card and would like to use the travel visa CDW coverage which comes with your card, you must decline the CDW on your rental agreement.
Now, as I said before, CDW is required by law on the car rental contract when you pick up your car, so when the rental agency asks you to sign the papers, just write in above or below your signature - I decline CDW coverage. That is all that is required by visa.
I have done it twice, and neither rental agent really cared what I wrote on the contract - afterall, this is Italy.

bellalinda is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2008, 10:49 AM
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Make sure you book your travel insurance soon. I believe most of them require you to purchase it within so many days of booking your trip, especially, if you need medical coverage.

bfrac is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2008, 11:13 AM
  #12  
 
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ahhhh envy...give regards to Matteo and Barbara at the Orseolo! Fantastic people there! Don't hesitate to ask their recommendations for dinner venues and they will also make reservations for you for the Secret Itineraries Tour of the Doges Palace....just write them and ask. Don't miss out on their chocolate and banana crepes for bfast...yum.
Enjoy yourself .....
russwuf is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2008, 06:04 PM
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Okay. I know that CDW is mandatory in Italy and I know that it will become very evident when someone explains it to me but ... what does "CDW" stand for?

Thanks for your patience!!!

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Nov 3rd, 2008, 06:15 PM
  #14  
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Hi! Russwuf:

Based on a friend's recommendation, we thought the Locanda Orseolo will be perfect for our first stop in Italy! (This is also our first trip to Italy!) You have confirmed this also! Thank you!

It's good to know that they will make reservations (dinner and otherwise) for us. I'll be sure to write & ask for assistance closer to the date.

How far in advance would I need to make reservations for the Secret Itineraries Tour?

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Nov 3rd, 2008, 07:39 PM
  #15  
 
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It would not be necessary to reserve that far in advance ...again the staff of the Orseolo will let you know when they are able to reserve. Write them and ask and see...they will know the appropriate window at the earliest that it would be possible to get the reservation for you. There are normally three tours a day in english limited to 75 persons per tour. The guide keeps the group together and really watches the entire group to ensure no one leans on the walls etc. since the areas that you will be entering will be original unrestored areas...the guide will weave the story of Cassanova and his daring escape from the palace,.....the torture chamber...etc. and after the Secret tour..you will be able to tour the rest of the Palace at your leisure.
You will have to check any bag before the secret tour.
The staff at the Orseolo will tell you what times the english tours are and just let them know which one you prefer.
russwuf is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2008, 09:47 PM
  #16  
 
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CDW means -
comprehensive damage waiver
but what does comprehensive damage waiver actually mean?

dont go there
bellalinda is offline  
Nov 4th, 2008, 06:36 AM
  #17  
 
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I usually email the hotels for confirmation two months in advance and again 3-4 weeks in advance. I'm a little paranoid about arriving and having no reservation found. We use either Hertz or Sixt when renting cars. I am more comfortable with a US based agency in case of an issues, mechanical breakdowns (yes, we had a big one in Italy), an english speaking customer service number to call, etc. My husband used Sixt exclusively when he was travelling to Germany for many years and had good luck with them as well.
cmeyer54 is offline  
Nov 4th, 2008, 08:47 AM
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FYI
Kemwel is a US company based in Portalnd, Maine with 24/7 internet support, and when they're on the phones a real person actually picks up and speaks with a marvelous American accent.
They sub-contract with major car rental companys and I assume because of their volume they are able to negotiate better pricing -my last car was a pick up from Hertz, but booked through Kemwel.
bellalinda is offline  
Nov 5th, 2008, 04:19 PM
  #19  
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Thanks to all for the useful information! I will look carefully into travel insurances and read the fine print on car rental agreements!

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