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Planning a month in Italy - could really use some help!

Planning a month in Italy - could really use some help!

Nov 27th, 2013, 01:18 PM
  #1  
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Planning a month in Italy - could really use some help!

Hello all, I have begun the tedious task of planning an extended vacation in Italy for my Grandpa and I. His parents immigrated from Italy in the 20's and so we are going to visit their birth places. This trip obviously means a lot to us and it would be great to receive tips from experienced Italy enthusiasts!

To begin with, we are looking to save as much money as possible, considering the length of the trip, so I've pretty much ruled out the summer months. I was considering some time between Feb-April. We will rent a car.

He would like to have a 'base' somewhere near Rome, and we will definitely be visiting Ortona, which I understand is within driving distance. He may want to visit parts of Foggia too, but we covered that one pretty good last time so I'm not too sure. He would like to spend about two weeks in this area, then start moving north. I believe Florence and Pisa will be necessary stops, and Venice will probably be as far as we end up.

Can anyone provide tips as to where to stay for extended periods right outside of Rome (or in Rome if the price is right)? We may need a couple of bedrooms if his brother decides to go. Any tips on restaurants and markets is appreciated. If you have any stops along the way to Venice that you particularly enjoy I would love to hear about it, as we may add it to our itinerary.

The good thing is, my Grandpa is very relaxed and flexible, which makes travel with him a breeze, but it also makes things difficult to plan since he is not terribly specific about anything. He doesn't know how to use a computer so I'm gathering as much info as possible to show him. Admittedly this is a bit overwhelming, especially since he is very spontaneous and decided last night that we need to go asap.

Thank you for any help you can provide.
lbatkins is offline  
Nov 27th, 2013, 02:14 PM
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Ortona (if you mean in the province of Chieti) is on the Adriatic coast, on the opposite side of Italy from Rome. It's over a two-hour drive to get there, so I don't know if you'd want to visit it as a day trip from a base near Rome. Furthermore, Ortona is way south of any of the other places you want to see, with the exception of Rome, so putting together a logical itinerary is a bit of a challenge.

I think the best solution would probably be to start at the point that's farthest north (Venice) and proceed from the there to Florence (where you could visit Pisa by cheap regional train as a day trip), and then to Rome. This entire part of the journey would be much cheaper and faster if done by train. You can get greatly discounted train tickets if you buy well in advance. There are two companies with service on this route (except for the local trains to Pisa). They are www.italotreno.it and www.trenitalia.it . The discounted tickets are not exchangeable or refundable, except for full-price tickets, so make sure you are quite sure of your plans before you buy tickets. However, don't wait too long. Tickets go on sale four months in advance, and the best bargains sell out quickly. If your great-uncle goes along, the train is less of a bargain, but it should still be cheaper than a car, and definitely faster. Also, I wouldn't dream of driving in any of the cities you mention, and finding a place where you can park the car and take the train in isn't always easy.

After leaving Rome, you could pick up the car and drive to Ortona. There are some nice places you could visit on the way (such as Sulmona, and some other very attractive little hill towns in the area). I don't know Ortona at all, so I have little advice about that area.

I would suggest February if you want to save money; April is already high season. In Venice, you could stay on the Lido, which is a bit deserted in February, so you should get great hotel bargains. In Rome, you could stay in Ostia Lido, which is likewise a beach area ("lido"means beach), so there would be bargains there as well. There is a train that connects Ostia Lido to central Rome for only €1.50.

I'm not so sure of a good place to stay to save money in Florence, but you would quite possibly find cheaper hotels in Pisa, and commute into Florence.

All three of these cities are rather expensive, so you'll want to choose your restaurants carefully. Most hotels serve breakfast, and you could eat one meal a day in a cafeteria, pizzeria, bar, or sandwich shop (paninoteca) and the other meal in a restaurant.

Near Ortona, the Pescara airport has daily Alitalia flights to Milan, so you could buy your plane tickets using a multi-city itinerary, flying into Venice and home from Pescara. This would almost certainly save you considerable money on internal travel.

Since the three "northern" cities are rather expensive, I would limit the time in that area and spend more time in southern Italy. There are lots of other nice places you could visit, since you'd have a car for this part of the trip. The less urban the place where you stay, the lower your costs.

You can get driving times and cost estimates (fuel and tolls) from www.viamichelin.com and you can check the price of train fares on the sites I mentioned above.
bvlenci is online now  
Nov 27th, 2013, 06:02 PM
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First of all, I'd be thinking about apartments rather than hotels. Not only would apartments likely be cheaper (esp. if you'll be 3 people), but you can save money by preparing some of your meals. You don't say how energetic your grandfather and great-uncle are, but they may like the option some evenings of staying in and having a small, simple meal after a busy, active day.

I also think you don't need or would want a car for much of your general itinerary. You should research the many day trips that are possible from Venice, Florence and Rome using trains and buses.

You can get a quote for a car rental (large enough for 3 people plus luggage), but also factor in the high cost of fuel, highway tolls, parking fees, etc. Search routes on www.viamichelin.com for estimates on fuel and tolls.

If 'your' Ortona is the one on the Adriatic Coast and not the one in Abruzzo, you could train to Pescara, rent the car there and explore the coast to Foggia. You could likely return the car in Foggia. From Foggia, the train to Rome is 3 hours. Or return the car in Pescara and train to Rome from there.
Jean is offline  
Nov 27th, 2013, 06:17 PM
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bvlenci I like your suggestion to start from Venice. I forgot about the train, I believe we took it last time and it was considerably less scary than his driving! I'm a little leery of going in February; has anyone gone at this time? I've always gone in the fall, right before the cold! Has anyone spent time in Ortona? It seems like a fascinating place.
lbatkins is offline  
Nov 27th, 2013, 06:38 PM
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Jean that's exactly what we were looking for; an apartment. I've found a lot of rentals of course, but I'm hoping someone out there can make a referral to help me narrow down the options some. Could someone clarify for me the different 'Ortona's? I am referring to the one on the coast, 2.5 hours from Rome, province of Chieti, Abruzzo region http://www.comuneortona.ch.it/ I'm confused as to what you meant by the one on the coast and not the Abruzzo region? That would be terrible if I took us to the wrong place! Thanks again for your response
lbatkins is offline  
Nov 27th, 2013, 07:26 PM
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My comment was confusing as both Ortonas are in Abruzzo, one in the center of the region near the mountains and the other on the coast.

Go to mappy.com and search "Ortona dei Marsi Italy" and then "Ortona Italy." The first is a town in the L'Aquila province. The second is in the Chieti province.
Jean is offline  
Nov 27th, 2013, 07:39 PM
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If you want apartment recommendations, you need to give us an idea of your budget, what towns, how many beds and bathrooms, etc. If this trip is just a couple of months off, I think you need to make some basic decisions very soon, like where you'll fly in/out, what order you'll travel, where/when you'll rent a car, etc., not to mention whether the great-uncle is in or out. If it were my trip, I'd avoid Holy Week (last week of March), but that's me. You may feel differently about experiencing Easter in Italy.
Jean is offline  
Nov 27th, 2013, 09:39 PM
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I'm looking for 2 - 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartments in Rome. That is where we will spend the most time; likely about 10 days or so. $3000 is the maximum for that. I assume he will want to stay in Ortona a night or two; I'm not even vaguely familiar with Ortona so any suggestions there are especially appreciated. We will spend 3-4 nights in Florence, and 3-4 nights in Venice. I'm looking for a rate of ~$150 per night on average with hotels. I will be discussing it with him further over the weekend; I just knew I better start pulling something together quick!

We're pretty easy going people. Every time we've gone to Italy in the past, we had no particular schedule, and always had a great time and saw quite a bit. I just want an idea, mostly to hear other people's experiences and where they like to go and what they like to do, that way we don't gravitate toward the familiar too much.
lbatkins is offline  
Nov 28th, 2013, 09:19 AM
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Again, I'd be looking at apartments wherever possible, not hotels. Even for 3-4 nights.

But if it will/must be hotels in Florence and Venice and anywhere else, is that $150 total for one room that sleeps 3 people -or- $150 per room per night?
Jean is offline  
Nov 28th, 2013, 06:30 PM
  #10  
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Per room per night
lbatkins is offline  
Nov 28th, 2013, 07:11 PM
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You can use the map search to see which of these B&B's would be the most convenient to Ortona.

http://www.bed-and-breakfast-in-ital...na&IDregione=1
kybourbon is online now  
Nov 28th, 2013, 09:09 PM
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kybourbon thank you for the link!
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Nov 29th, 2013, 04:39 AM
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In places like Ortona, I would expect it to be difficult to find apartments rented to tourists. On the other hand, hotels should be cheap there.

Also, in the seaside areas I mentioned (Mestre and Ostia Lido), traveling in February, you could probably find hotel rooms for a LOT less than $150 a night. That's about what we pay for a double hotel room in central Rome. For example, I just checked on www.booking.com for rooms in Ostia Lido for a random date in February, and see highly rated single rooms for less than $50 per night, and double rooms for about $60.

February is often very nice, but there are no guarantees at that time of the year. If you wait to rent a car until you're heading to Ortona, you can be fairly sure not to find any snow, except perhaps when crossing the Apennines in Abruzzo. However, that part of the trip will be entirely on the autostrada, so there should be no problem. You're required either to have snow tires or to carry chains for your car between November 15th and March 15th, so make sure the rental car agency provides one or the other.
bvlenci is online now  
Nov 29th, 2013, 05:39 AM
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>>>In places like Ortona, I would expect it to be difficult to find apartments rented to tourists<<<

I don't think that would be hard to find especially in off season. Seaside areas always have lots of self catering places. The link I gave says B&B, but many of those have apartments also or at least a kitchen for guests to use like this one which is only 25€ a night. The rooms don't look fancy, but do look clean. The concern on some of the places would be whether parking is available.

http://www.bbfalcone.com/prezzi.html
kybourbon is online now  
Nov 29th, 2013, 11:17 AM
  #15  
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Thanks a lot for the advice everyone. You have all been extremely helpful. I'll definitely be sifting through those links this weekend.
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