Italy - Tour or Independent Travel


Jan 7th, 2012, 05:41 PM
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Italy - Tour or Independent Travel

I am trying to plan a June trip to Italy and would like to fly in to Rome and out of Milan visiting places in between - Siena, Pisa, Florence, Venice. The trip will be for me and my two kids who are in their late teens. A tour will be between $2,500 & $3,000 per person without airfare. Just wondering how this would compare to independent travel using trains to go between the various cities and probably renting a car out of Siena to do some exploring. Sort of like the idea of having things "taken care of" by a tour, but worry about being herded like cattle and possibly rushed. Would anyone recommend a private guide, in Rome for instance, if we go the independent route? I have never traveled outside of the US, so this will be a very new experience. I have enjoyed reading the other posts on this forum; they are very helpful.
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Jan 7th, 2012, 05:54 PM
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Sorry, after submitting I realized I forgot to mention that the tour is a 10 day tour with breakfast everyday and two lunches and one dinner included. The tour visits the cities I mentioned before along with Verona and the islands off Venice. An independent tour would not have to be quite so comprehensive. Thanks!
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Jan 7th, 2012, 05:57 PM
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With teems the last thing I would do is a tour. they will probably be bored to death with the amount of time sitting on a bus and very early starts (luggage outside the door at 7 am) and not have enough time to do the more active things that they would enjoy.

What the trip will cost depends on your hotels standards. There are many pleasant, modest pensions - esp if you are willing to share bath and do without AC and elevator. Also - it depends on if you can use a family room or will need 2 separate rooms. (Have you looked at tour costs for a single or a triple?)

And if they're in their late teens they will probably want to go out in the evenings to student hang outs - not stay in hotels at the end of hell and gone with a tour group in their 50s/60s and up - often way up. Ask them to start doing some of the research now - and it will be esier to decide what to do. (Head them towards the Let's Go guides and the Thorn Tree section of the Lonely Planet web site.)
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Jan 7th, 2012, 06:01 PM
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I doubt if any tour would satisfy both you and the kids. You can get very good help on this Forum but you need to start with the basics---WHEN, HOW LONG, HOW MUCH$

I feel YOU CAN do it for $9000 WITH airfare, and June is high season for AIRfares---assuming one triple room for accommodations. It will take some homework but you can do it.
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Jan 7th, 2012, 06:43 PM
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I was in your situation 10 years ago. Grab a couple guidebooks from the library, sketch out some major sites and come back to this forum for specifics. There are nice, knowledgeable people here who will help you. You can do this, and when you arrive, you will enjoy the flexibility.

With teens, I would recommend getting an unlocked phone so your teens have a quick link to your hotel room, as they surely will want to stroll in evenings when you are putting your feet up.(And I did pony up for AC, for me.)
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Jan 7th, 2012, 06:51 PM
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You should read Lisa Roberts Trip Report that she has nearly completed.
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Jan 7th, 2012, 06:58 PM
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GuidaP, I have taken many tours which well suit my age and current situation. However, I would NOT recommend a tour for you and your teenagers. Let them do their research and help plan your independent adventure.

Undoubtedly, you will all love Italy..
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Jan 7th, 2012, 09:15 PM
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Thank you so much! I have been doing lots of research and after your suggestions, I think we'll fore-go the tour.
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Jan 8th, 2012, 03:41 PM
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To help you get started in booking, I might do things in this order.
Pick cities and sights of interest in each.
Decide how many nights in each place to get a rough itinerary of where you will start and end
Think about which cities to fly into and out and investigate airfares.
Once airfare is booked and dates set, book hotels.
Look into train schedules between cities- not necessary to book in advance but advanced booking may save a lot if you can get the nonrefundable Mimi fares on Trentitalia.
Investigate options for getting from the airport to your hotel--train, taxi, car service?
Look into booking local tours or tour guides if desired.
Look into prebooking museum or other tour tickets if necessary.
If you are the type that has a list of restaurants you must try, e-mail your hotel and ask them to make reservations a few weeks before our arrival.

In Rome we used Walks of Italy for Colosseum and Vatican tours. Thought they were great. Guides were very knowledgeable and interesting and the company limits tour groups to no more than 12 people.
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Jan 8th, 2012, 05:38 PM
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All very good suggestions...thank you very much!
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Jan 8th, 2012, 06:41 PM
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GuidaP- there is no way you can do all those cities in 10 days. Please, if you take away any advice from Fodorites, it should be this- a 10-day trip should include 2 cities, possibly 3. But certainly, no more than that.

Remember that 1-1/2 days will be eaten up by travel. If you have the means (and I have budgeted 2-week trip for under 5k for two people- of course, I go "off season"), please see if you can swing a full two weeks.

I would look at what interests the three of you- historical sites? Scenery? Food? I would choose 5 nights Rome, 2 in Florence and the remainder in Venice. (Some people work that from Venice to Florence to Rome, as many flights leaving Venice are at zero dark-thirty)

So, look at "open jaw" ticket, flying into Venice and leaving from Rome. The train from Venice to Florence is around 2 hours. From Florence to Rome, 90 minutes.

Look at the Trenitalia website for Freccia trains (Frecciarosa, Frecciargento, etc). These are the fast (bullet) trains. You can get a sense of what it will cost for the three of you to travel. There also might be discounted "family" rates.

You can rent an apartment in Rome and Venice and it will save you money. 2 nights in Florence might be best at a hotel. (I love the Hotel Casci. Very inexpensive, great service, very clean, big baths and I love their laundry service. It's a good place to have your stuff laundered half-way through your trip.) But I'm sure you can get many, many other fine recommendations for hotels/pensions/B&B's in Florence.

Start looking now. Summer is closer than you think!

You and the kids will have a wonderful time planning this trip.

I'd like to give you the best advice I got here, when I was planning my first trip, years ago:

1) Smile. It buys you a lot.
2) Learn a little of the language. "Thank you" and "please" go a long way in Italian, even bad Italian.
3) Something WILL go wrong- you must have a mindset to move on. Otherwise you risk enjoying the rest of the trip. This was the one I was happiest to practice before my trip. And it worked. Missed a train, got on a wrong train, transit strike, etc. All quickly put behind us... and we had a wonderful time and some funny memories!

Buon viaggio!
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Jan 8th, 2012, 07:05 PM
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Welcome to Fodors! You have come to the right place for expert advice to help you plan an independent trip. Follow the good advice above, to enlist your teens in helping you plan your trip, try to limit the number of cities and changes of lodging and enjoy the adventure. As you plan and formulate specific questions, come back here to read older posts and ask questions. Happy travels, saige.
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Jan 8th, 2012, 10:51 PM
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Why Milan? I would price flights into Venice and out of Rome. If into Milan is quite a bit cheaper than Venice, then book it, but you have to factor in cost of trains from the airport to Milan, Milan to Venice. Sometimes when you add on the train costs, it's cheaper to fly into the smaller city.

Does your ten days include travel to and from the states?

Day 1 - Depart US?
Day 2 - Arrive Venice
Day 3 - Venice
Day 4 - late train to Florence
Day 5 - Florence
Day 6 - Florence (day trip to Pisa or Siena)
Day 7 - Rome
Day 8 - Rome
Day 9 - Rome
Day 10 - Depart
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Jan 9th, 2012, 09:21 AM
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Our family of four went to Italy in June 2009 for 3 weeks. We flew into Venice and out of Naples. We never do a tour as we can save money which allows us to stay longer and see more with the cost savings.

We did Venice (4 nights), Orvieto (1 night), Rome (6 nights), Amalfi (4 nts), Capri (2 nts), and Sorrento (1 nt).

Once there, we traveled from city to city by mostly trains but also used buses.

Just to give you an idea of our budget for the 3 wks for four of us compared to the $2500-3000 you are proposing for the tour, we spent a total of about $8200.00 total for the entire trip. This was airfare from the San Francisco (only two, as two were on miles), all of our accommodations, all transportation, food, entrance fees, souvenirs and lots of shopping and gelato.

We did not do any organized tours as we like to wander about on our own and make our schedule suit "our" needs but I usually pack enough in each day to make sure we are utilizing our time in each place.

Good luck on your planning; that's the most fun of all for me! June is just around the corner though, so you'd better start fast!
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Jan 9th, 2012, 12:28 PM
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Wow, you guys are great. I am going to try to respond to a view things...sarge56 - we may have to extend our time as we will want more than 2 cities. Rome for sure, Venice for sure and some of Tuscany, especially Monteriggioni. I know this is terrible, but the kids don't really care about Florence and all the art. That's OK, we'll see so much of that in Rome (Vatican). So, would it be worth having a base in Florence to take day trips to Pisa, Sienna & Monteriggioni? Or would it be better to stay in Sienna to visit Pisa & Monteriggioni? Found an older post of kybourbon's regarding local buses in that region which probably beats renting a car to get to Monteriggioni. I mentioned Milan because DH (who hates to travel and is staying home) has family near there who we are hoping to see; otherwise I would skip going there; And, yes we are departing from the US - will check flights in to Venice and out of Rome. Thanks again, everyone!
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Jan 9th, 2012, 12:51 PM
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as everyone has said-- travel on your own with teens. i remember so well on our first trip to rome-- we were overcome with the history and charm. stopped in a cute little local restaurant for lunch. a table of mom, dad and 2 teens near us and the teens were just going on and on about how bored they were! we just thought-- wow-- parenting can be a thankless job at moments!!

so travel on your own and do a lot of research on the side on where local teens go in these cities and towns. line up some teen experiences -- i would post the question-- what did your teens really like doing in rome (etc.) i can't help you with that-- but i know other fodorites can!
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Jan 9th, 2012, 01:03 PM
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If the 3 of your aren't interested in the art in Florence, then it may not be a good base city. On the other hand, there's a lot of nightlife there, especially for the younger crowd.

Siena would be a good base for visiting the towns in the area of Siena, including Monteriggioni, but not for visiting Pisa. Why the specific interest in Monteriggioni, by the way? It's a cute little town, but it's tiny, and there's not much there, other than being really cute. If you really want to get around in rural Tuscany, then consider renting a car just for your time in the rural areas.
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Jan 9th, 2012, 01:50 PM
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Lexma90 - There is a restaurant in Monteriggioni that share's our last name and we just have to go there for lunch.
kawh - I know about complaining kids, but somehow I think we'll be OK, except maybe at night; they will want to be out. So they'll just have to give me some downtime to regroup and we'll all go out in the evening together...I can be hip Don't like the idea of them being out alone...can anyone comment on that aspect?
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Jan 9th, 2012, 04:06 PM
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I thought that Kybourbaon had some good ideas. I like to home base out of florence for a few days. Go to On the left side are "on yor own tours".These will get you to a few places on the cheap. I didn't find that spending too much time in pisa is a good idea. If you do, go by train 2nd class, and stop off in lucca. When visiting the smaller towns,you can see two or more if you are not too far from home base. My daughter and I are going back in may. I know that you will enjoy you trip and the memories with your children.
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Jan 9th, 2012, 05:47 PM
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Take a look at this:

It includes 9 nights in Venice, Florence and Rome, plus 1st class trains between cities, plus some sightseeing in each place, for under $1700 per person. The hotels are first-rate. Plus, you can add nights as you wish in each city, and Costco does a good job of getting cheap airfare as well. Siena can easily be seen on a daytrip from Florence.

I did a similar package in November (with the addition of Paris), and it was wonderful to be able to tour at our own pace, yet have hotels and transportation pre-arranged.
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