Questions about tour in Italy

Old Sep 18th, 2005, 09:54 AM
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Questions about tour in Italy

Hello everyone,

My wife and I bought a one-week tour package to Italy for the Month of October (from Oct 7- Oct14) from Expedia. The
package includes round trip airfare and
hotel stays in Rome for 6 nights for about

I thought that takes care of getting there
and where to stay. However, as I did more
research on how to get to different
destinations etc, it occurs to me maybe we
should have
joined an escorted tour. Here is a list of
questions I would like those one of you that
have more travel experiences in Italy to
help us decide whether to go on our own or
join an escorted tour:

Q1. We would like to see most of the major
attractions in Rome and Florence and maybe
Venice (if time allows). Do you think it is
advisable for
non-speaking-Italian tourists to be on
their own or better with the tour group?

Q2. As far as cost associate with taking
trains/buses and entrance fees etc, would
it be more expensive to go on our own?

Q3. Is it safe around Rome, Florence?
Any trouble finding people willing
to help on direction etc? By the way,
both of us don't speak Italian at all.

Q4. Do you feel it is more fun to go sight-
seeing Italy with tour group or on your own?

Q5. Have you use the following escorted
tour groups:
-- Gate1, Brendan, Globus
specifically the "Italy Great Cities"
How did you feel about your experiences
and the tour companies and hotel where
you stay?

Q6. What other suggestions you have?

I think the answers to these questions will
help us make up our mind whether to keep
our Expedia tour or re-book to an escorted
tour. Your help is greatly appreciated.
Hope to hear from you soon.

Thanks so much,


petertsay1 is offline  
Old Sep 18th, 2005, 10:18 AM
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I am planning to take my son to Italy July 2006 and have also wondered which would be the best way to travel. when we traveled to England we went on our own and bought the travel books Fordors & the Dummies ones. The tours I found limited the time at each place and most provide you with afternoons on your own? I also looked at gate 1 and then looked closer at the additional fees for each day and wondered what I would be paying for. I only speak English and was wondering about the language barrier but most tourist locations do have English speaking staff ( yes even here in the US we acomidate other languages as well). Please feel free to contact me at [email protected] with any suggestions you have. Debra
dwntwngrl is offline  
Old Sep 18th, 2005, 10:33 AM
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Peter, there is so much to do in Rome that you will be busy for your 6 nights. It's a major city and you won't have any trouble communicating if you only speak English, but I would learn a few phrases to be polite.

We went to those three cities and managed just fine with minimual Italian. We took the train and felt very safe everywhere we went. I don't like escorted tours because I don't want to feel trapped. We did take an escorted tour through the Vatican and that was nice.
Desert_Sue is offline  
Old Sep 18th, 2005, 10:39 AM
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You will find that most posters here much, much prefer traveling independently rather than with a tour group.

1. With only one week, you should choose at most two cities from among Rome, Florence and Venice. There are very strong opinions here both for and against all three cities. Your choice should depend on what interests you. You say you have done some research; that should give you some idea of where you would like to go.

It is not necessary to speak Italian to travel independently in Italy; most people who have anything to do with the tourism industry speak some English.

It would be good, though, if you could learn a few words in Italian. Here is a thread with a few basic words and phrases:

2. Trains are quite inexpensive in Italy. It's best to take the fast Eurostar trains that connect the major cities. For a trip under six hours, I would suggest that second class is quite acceptable.

Entrance fees to Italian museums can be a little steep, but if they are included in a tour price, you can be sure that you are already paying for them in any case.

3. Both cities are safe, but in Rome in particular you should take the precautions you would in any large city and be aware of what is going on around you. There are pickpockets in Rome but they are almost never violent; they tend to gather at very popular tourist sites and on the buses and the subway. (I personally have never had anything stolen in many, many years of annual trips to Rome.)

There are some areas that are sleazier than others; generally, the area immediately around the main train station is not a good place to be or to stay.

Most Italians are prepared and able to give directions.

4. Answered above. It's a great deal more fun to travel independently than with an escorted tour.

5. I've never used any of the tour companies you mention.

My question would be the following:

You have six nights booked in Rome. It is possible -- but not advisable -- to take a day trip to Florence (it's only 1.5 hours by Eurostar train from Rome), but if you stay in Florence for two or three days, you will be paying two hotels for the same night.
Eloise is offline  
Old Sep 18th, 2005, 10:50 AM
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I second the notion that traveling independently is much more fun. I don't like having my day mapped out for me. A couple of good guidebooks and a phrasebook will get you where you want to go.
It being your first trip to Rome, you'll have plenty to see to keep you busy for the entire week. I'd advise against going all the way up to Venice. A daytrip to Florence, as Eloise suggests, is a good option. That you can play by ear, since you can buy your train ticket the day of. If you decide you have plenty to do in Rome--just stay there.

I mention a phrasebook mainly because, as has been said, it's polite to make an effort and say a few words in the local language. Most of the folks you'll encounter in Rome speak English, but it's a kind gesture to do what you can in Italian. And it's appreciated.
Buon viaggio!
DejaVu is offline  
Old Sep 18th, 2005, 10:50 AM
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Hi Sue,

Thanks for your reply. I have a few
more questions:

1. Is it advisable to book advance tickets to archeological sites such
as Colosseum etc or can we wait until
we get there? Is there a long wait to
get into Vatican Museum around this
time of the year?

2. For the train tickets, I supposed
we should wait until we get there
rather than book them on-line?

Thanks again,

petertsay1 is offline  
Old Sep 18th, 2005, 11:11 AM
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Hi Eloise and everyone on the thread,

Thanks for your excellent response.
My wife and I went to Paris couple
years ago on our own. And we were
worry about the same thing. However,
the trip turn out just fine.

I have started learning a few important
phrases and should be able to master
it by then.

Thanks again for all the valuable

petertsay1 is offline  
Old Sep 18th, 2005, 11:22 AM
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I agree with most replies to your questions.
My husband and I did Rome, Florence and Venice in early June. We had 15 days.
I'd say 1 week is enough for Rome and Florence.
We had no problem buying tickets for the major sights on the spot.
One exception is Uffizi in Florence. Book on line in advance. It will save you lots of time. Otherwise you may not be able to get in there at all. The Academia is a lot easier to get into. But I would book a ticket (you just reserve it) when you get to Rome. I am an art lover, but had I known, I would skip the Academia all together. David is great and all, but I was disappointed.

Trains are great. They are cheap, fast and nice. Yes, you can buy tickets on the spot. October is not a prime time. It should be a lot less crowded.

You'll have a great time. There is nothing like planning your trip and then savoring it at your own pace and at your own pleasure. Once you develop a taste for it, you'll never go back to organized tours.

Good luck and enjoy Bella Italia!
ana222 is offline  
Old Sep 18th, 2005, 11:28 AM
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There are free tours in Vatican, which you should take advantage of. They are great and very informative. The people who conduct them are history students. They will try to sell you an expensive Sistine Chapel/Museum tour, but I would avoid that, unless you are REALLY into the religious art.

You may want to consider a 2-3 hour guided city tour. Most independent travelers I spoke to enjoyed them a lot.
ana222 is offline  
Old Sep 18th, 2005, 11:32 AM
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Hello Peter, I just saw your thread and sure agree with all the good advice you have been given here. With 6 nights you will have time to enjoy Rome without feeling rushed.

Most people always return to Italy! You can visit Venice next time and also enjoy the northern part of Italy.

Have a beautiful time, you are going at a nice time of the year. Hope you will give us a trip report after you get home and settle in.
LoveItaly is offline  
Old Sep 18th, 2005, 12:45 PM
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In Rome there are some excellent tour agencies that offer guided tours of sights such as the Vatican, and the Colosseum/Forum. Two that are well thought of are ContextRome, and EnjoyRome. Both have websites.
I don't recommend the guides provided by the Vatican, because when I went on one of their English-language tours, our guide spoke incomprehensible English.
In that case, the audio guide would have been a better option.
elaine is offline  
Old Sep 18th, 2005, 12:46 PM
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This superthread Helpful Information for Italy may also be useful to you
elaine is offline  
Old Sep 18th, 2005, 01:23 PM
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I second all the replies on independent travel being much more fun than group travel. My DH and I just got back from a 2 week independent trip to Italy, we had a fabulous time. A girlfriend of mine was there just before we were and didn't enjoy it nearly as much. She felt like she was being herded around and spent a lot of time on the tour bus vs. actually seeing sights and taking her time to enjoy the cities she visited.

In terms of the need to speak Italian I have to disagree with a few of the posters here. Many people it Italy speak English but many do not. I listened to Fodors/Living Language Italian for Travelers before I went and found the little bit I learned from that VERY helpful. There were many situations where we were trying to ask directions or other questions and the person did not speak English (of course you can just keep going from shop to shop and will find someone eventually, but its easier just to be able to ask anyone a simple question in Italian).

I would also highly recommend doing partial day tour or two in Rome. Context Rome is always highly recommended on this board, but was a bit out of my price range and didn't have the exact tour I wanted available, so we went with Through Eternity and LOVED it. We did the Ancient Rome tour; they also have a very good Vatican tour, as well as evening strolls to get you acquainted with Rome in general. If you pre-book online it is only 22.50 euros each.

Finally, I agree with the other posters that you should pre-book the Uffizi and Accademia if you plan on going there, but that the others are fine to do on site. For the Colosseum, buy your tickets at Palatine Hill - there will be no line and it is the same price as if you buy it at the Colosseum. For the Vatican MAKE SURE YOU GET IN THE RIGHT LINE. One line is for groups and one is for individuals; when we were there quite a few unfortunate individuals got in the group line and had to wait TWICE (and both lines were blocks and blocks long). Also, if you go on a Saturday make sure to go early (we got there at 8:15 a.m.) because the museum closes early and is usually quite busy. Good luck and have a fabulous time!
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Old Sep 18th, 2005, 01:29 PM
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I didn't buy any tickets ahead of time for attractions. We did get the audio tour of the Coliseum, which was good. Didn't go into the Uffizi in Florence, but my husband had to drag me from the statue of David. I sat on the bench staring at his behind for quite a while. I thought Florence was crowded with students and did not enjoy it as much as Rome and Venice.

You might look into day tours from Rome so you get the guided feel, but you can ditch them at the end of the day.
Desert_Sue is offline  
Old Sep 25th, 2005, 04:18 PM
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Hello everyone again,

Thanks for all the good suggestions and
advices. I have a few more questions
and would like to have some

1. Our hotel is about 2 blocks away
from the Vatican. Could anyone
please recommend on where to dine?
And normally how much would one
expect to spend per day on food?
What dishes and restaurants would
you recommend the most? (We are
budgeting about $60 - $100 per day
on food).

2. We are trying to find calling
card so we could use while in Rome
to call U.S..
Does anyone knows where on the website
to find it?

3. Do most establishments accept credit
card such as Visa/Master card? We are
planning to bring enough Euros but
prefer to charge to credit cards.

4. Should we always carry some kind
of I.D. around such as our passport
while in Rome?

Thanks again for the help,


petertsay1 is offline  
Old Sep 25th, 2005, 05:26 PM
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Hi Peter

A good source for restaurants is the Slow Food website. They have good recs for Rome. If you are careful, you can stick to your budget. I like Sandra Gustafson's book Great Eats in Italy for decently priced recommendations.

I have a cell phone for Italy, but before I did, I bought calling cards right in Italy. I always found a good one pretty easily. I suggest checking to make sure that your hotel does not charge a lot for placing calling card calls through the room phone.

Most places accept Visa and Mastercard. We also prefer to charge and usually can.

DONT carry your passport with you in Rome. Lock it in the hotel safe. Read some of the information here on Fodors Talk about pickpockets in Rome. They are clever, and it is best to be prepared. Ditto, for the most part, Florence.

Now, a question from me: do you plan to extend your trip past Rome, to visit Florence, or are you going to pay for double rooms to visit to Florence? If you can extend for a couple of days, that's great. But your trip is already a little expensive, and you could get plenty for your money if you stay in Rome for all the time you've paid for.

I guess I shouldn't be telling you how to save, but Rome is such a great city, with so very much to see, that your 6 days will fly by.

tuscanlifeedit is offline  
Old Sep 26th, 2005, 04:31 PM
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Hi Tuscanlifeedit,

Thanks for the great advice. I am
kind of worry about the situation
regarding pickpockters. Your warning
is about the sixth I heard. We will
be extra vigilant.

We kind of under estimated the time
needed to tour Italy. Plus my vacation
time account is running low. Hopefully
we will have good time and return
there soon. I am just crossing my
finger and hope nothing bad happen and
make this a memorable trip for my wife
and myself. Thanks again,

Best Regards,

Peter Tsay
petertsay1 is offline  
Old Sep 26th, 2005, 05:47 PM
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Don't worry Peter; I don't think anything bad will happen. I posted about theives because you asked about carrying your ID with you in Rome. It is best to be prepared, IMO. I've had hands in my pockets in Rome, but the pocket was empty, so they didn't get anything. I suggest taking the suggestions people post for safety sake, and then relax and have a great time.
tuscanlifeedit is offline  
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