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Old 02-08-2013, 11:25 PM   #1
Sunshineminnie
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Italy Advice

Hi there,

We are looking at taking our DD to Italy for her senior trip. It looks like it may be possible, but we are kind of at the edge of our budget. I am really pretty lost as to the best way to do everything and was hoping for some help from my Disers!

Here is the scoop:

We are a family of 4. Me, DH, DD18, DS15. We will be traveling in 2014. Our best dates are the middle to end of July, second choice would be leaving Labor day weekend and our third choice would be spring break around the third week of March.

Right now in researching airfare, it is the killer. Do rates ever come down? Is there a better month to buy airfare? (we would be flying out of Kansas City).

She wants to see Rome and Pompeii. The rest is open.

We will have a week to 10 days depending on the month we travel.

We have cruised before and enjoy it. At first I thought that this would be the way to go, but after doing some research it seems that most people advise against a cruise if you really want to get a feel for the country. The appeal of the cruise is that it's easy and we would visit a lot of different places.

We will not feel like we have to see or do everything while we are there. If we did a land based vacation, we would be happy staying in one or two towns and doing some day trips. We would however, like it to be a fairly easy, no hassle trip. Although we expect large crowds in the big tourist attractions (Pompeii, the coliseum) we would love to get away from it all too as we are not big crowd and city people. We are good for a few days and then really like to get away from everyone.

What is the most budget friendly way to go to Italy? Cruise or land?

Any advice is appreciated.

Thanks!
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Old 02-08-2013, 11:58 PM   #2
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If I was spending all that money for airfare-and we hope to go Europe in 2014 with our family of five from the west coast-scary!- I'd do anything possible to stay longer than a week or ten days. Two weeks minimum. I wouldn't cruise; rather, I'd look into renting an apartment through VRBO or homeaway and staying maybe a week each in two or three home base cities. Rent a car or take the train in between. Then you'll be able to cook some in your room and save a fortune, and spread out some, probably for less a night than you'd pay for hotels. I'd go for June if possible, then September-I think July and August will be your most expensive months.
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Old 02-09-2013, 12:29 AM   #3
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You can do Italy on a budget. Stay away from tourist hotels and touristy areas and you can find reasonable rates. I would not go to Rome or Pompei in July, though. It is very hot and many attractions have limited hours. September would be much better.

If you stay in Rome, you can do a (long) day trip to Pompeii on the express train. There are a few family run hotels within walking distance of the train station if you want to spend the night. If you do take the train, don't get conned into taking a taxi to the ruins. They are an easy walk but the cabbies can smell (literally) Americans a mile away and try to convince you that you need a cab.

If you are renting a car, a trip futher south to the Amalfi coast is a nail biter but absolutely beautiful. You can visit Capri and the Blue Grotto on the way. Heading northwest up the coast from Rome, you can visit the Cinque Terre. I believe you can also take the train from Rome, too.

I personally like Florence better than Rome, but my sister would argue that Venice is much better. Both are awfully hot in July and I cannot stand the smell of Venice in the lower temps. of March, let alone in the summer.

If you are interested in seeing the sights along the coast with a tour of Rome, perhaps a cruise would work for you. It will probably be much more costly than doing a land trip on your own. If you want to visit museums and want to see Rome, Florence, and central Italy, then a land tour can be done very economically.
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Old 02-09-2013, 08:05 AM   #4
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Thanks for the replies!

I know that it would be better to stay for two weeks, but our work schedules and budget won't allow more than 10 days to a week.

Also, I would love to go in September, but my kids will be in school by then.

If you don't stay in the major touristy cities, how would you know what we be a neat place to visit?

Just for a little more information, my kids do enjoy history and art, but they also love the outdoors too. What are the cultural "must do's"? Are there any outdoor activities unique to Italy? Or regular activities that are extra neat because they are in Italy?
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Old 02-09-2013, 08:15 AM   #5
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You need to start with getting a good guidebook. There are also many good travel websites you should read. Start with tripadvisor.com.

Italy in the summer is very hot and extremely crowded in the tourist areas. I would try and visit in March, if possible.

Airfares to Europe are pretty expensive these days. For the summer, expect to pay around $1,200 for a RT ticket, although you can sometimes get a better deal if you run across a sale or an odd routing.

I'm probably in the minority, but I'm not crazy about Italy. There are many other places I've been in Europe which I enjoyed more.
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Old 02-09-2013, 08:22 AM   #6
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Do not go to Italy in July or August! Crazy hot and crowded. August is especially bad because that is when the Italians take their long vacations and so much is closed ( museums, restaurants, etc) DH and I were going this March, Boston to Rome and we paid only $900 for our flights. He took our two kids last summer ( mid June through July 4 th) and we paid $1300 each for those flights. Driving in Italy is also an adventure and a pain in the rear. You cannot drive into a lot of city centers and parking is difficult. And renting a car is very expensive. Your family may be happier in northern Italy. Tuscany would be good.
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Old 02-09-2013, 09:48 AM   #7
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If using a VRBO, pay attention to whether or not the place has air conditioning. Many of them do not and would make for a very unpleasant sleep.
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Old 02-09-2013, 10:09 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jgreco View Post
If using a VRBO, pay attention to whether or not the place has air conditioning. Many of them do not and would make for a very unpleasant sleep.
Wow, I never thought of that! We really like it cool when we sleep! Thanks!
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Old 02-09-2013, 10:43 AM   #9
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A few years ago we did a greece/italy cruise and then a 4 day stay in Rome. We have done 2 other European cruises. There were pros and cons to cruising versus the stay. The advantage to the cruise was that you move from place to place while you sleep. We got a nice taste of a bunch of places and got to see many places on our life list. I agree with people that said if you want to really get to know a country the cruise does not immerse you. When my son was younger, I used to say that we went to a foreign country for the day and came back to the US every night. The food is familiar because you are eating dinner on the ship. Everyone is speaking English etc. It is a nice easy way to travel with young kids. What I loved about it when he was younger becomes a negative as he gets older. The 4 days in Rome gave us a chance to really be in another country. My son loved eating in the restaurants and cafes. Of course it is Italy, everyone loves the food. Walking around the squares at night, seeing the fountains lit up, stopping for gelato, etc. were all things we could not do when going back to the cruise each night. This summer we are probably going to do another cruise, but only because I did not find a land tour that really hit what we wanted to do and don't want to go it entirely on our own. Most of the land tours include a few days in Rome and hit Pompeii. Perfect for you, but we want to see some new places. You may want to look into one of the land options. There are 7, 10, 11 day tours available. Most hit Rome, Pompeii, Florence and maybe Tuscany or Venice.

I understand that cooking in an apartment might be a reasonable option, but eating is a big part of being in Italy and I would not want to cook in an apartment (just me).

Regarding time of year, we went in August and it was hot but not unbearable.
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Old 02-09-2013, 11:44 AM   #10
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My wife and I lived in Northern Italy for several years. We lived in Desanzano Del Garda. It's between Milan and Venice. Beautiful resort town right on Lake Garda. It is about 30 minutes from Verona, Italy. Verona is an AMAZING smaller city. They also have a coliseum that they host concerts in. Verona is on the list of most amazing places to visit in Italy. I can say it lives up to it's reputation! They have everything you could imagine there to see. Restaurants, shopping, tourist ares, museums.....the list goes on and on. Sirmione is another wonderful place that is right on Lake Garda. The actual town is built inside a castle! You actually go into it through the gate. The shops there are fantastic! Food is to die for!

I also would suggest using the train system over renting a car. Not for the money mind you, but because of the driving. It is like nothing you could imagine. The speeds, weaving in and out, skinny roads, and the parking situations can be interesting. Just giving my thoughts on the situation.

Also, I would avoid July and August. Many places do not have air conditioning. It can be very uncomfortable. Especially if you are in Southern Italy. Also, as someone else mentioned, Aug is when many Italians take their family vacations. Many places do shut down. Spring was always our favorite time of the year.

Enjoy wherever and whenever you decide to travel! Ciao!
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Old 02-09-2013, 12:04 PM   #11
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Europe like wdw can be a wonderful budget vacation

I've been exploring Europe for a few years now and find that like wdw it can be a very budget friendly vacation. People get so scared because of the air fare.
So here are a few tips when we did Italy (we did Northern Italy, Venice and Milan)

1) sign up for kayack or other airfare tracking sites. try to be a flexible as possible. We are going to London/Paris in May. we got airfare out of JFK for 650 per person.

2) be flexible in your dates. shoulder seasons are great times to find bargains in Europe. Also late August as the Europeans themselves tend to take holiday.

3) Check surrounding airports. I live in Philly but for some reason flights out of JFK are always 150-200 dollars cheaper. don't know why. with 3 people even if you have to stay overnight at a cheapy hotel it maybe cost efficient.

4)Pick up Rick Steves guide to Italy. He has absolutely the best advice on travelling Europe on a budget.
5) sign up on Fodors web site. they have forums very similar to this one that give excellent advice. I got so many "tips" the first time we did France

You'll love it.
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Old 02-09-2013, 06:32 PM   #12
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Visit slowtravel.com and slowtalk.com --- they have an Italy forum, some villa/apartment reviews, etc. "Slow travel" is based on the theory of staying in one place and "spoking out", like a wheel....just like the Dis, the discussion board has it's share of holier-than-thou folks who will chastise you for "trying to do too much" and not "being slow enough" but there is GREAT info on there.

We did Tuscany for a week and stayed outside Florence in a villa, also did further south near Puglia, staying in an agritourismo. Have visited Venice 6-7 times, never found it smelly but it is really too far from Rome/Pompeii, you'll spend all your time going to/from (7 hour drive from Venice to Tuscany, depending on traffic).

Love Italy, plan to go back....
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Old 02-09-2013, 07:06 PM   #13
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Airfare - In addition to kayak.com try yapta.com & travelocity.com fare watcher.

Research slowtravel.com & slowtalk.com

Airport Transfers - Leonardo Express - e11 Each
@ Train Station- Go to the tobacco shop right in front of the trains Or Use
CC @ Kiosk -
You take the train ON THE MIDDLE TRACK to Termini.
BEFORE you board the train, you stick your ticket in the YELLOW machines
at the train platform
for validation. e50 Fine If Not Validated BEFORE Boarding!
Train Leaves @ 5 & 35 Past The Hour
Travel Time is 30 Minutes
Arrives @ Platform 25 in Termini

You Have a trip planning challenge before you...
I have been there and done that...You can do it!!
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Old 02-09-2013, 08:13 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sunshineminnie View Post
Thanks for the replies!

I know that it would be better to stay for two weeks, but our work schedules and budget won't allow more than 10 days to a week.

Also, I would love to go in September, but my kids will be in school by then.

If you don't stay in the major touristy cities, how would you know what we be a neat place to visit?

Just for a little more information, my kids do enjoy history and art, but they also love the outdoors too. What are the cultural "must do's"? Are there any outdoor activities unique to Italy? Or regular activities that are extra neat because they are in Italy?
If I had a choice between going in July or after Labor Day, I would go after Labor Day. Easter in Rome is very crowded but it is an exciting experience for some.

What I meant by staying away from tourist areas is getting off the beaten path and stay in Italian hotels, not ones that cater to Americans. I guess it depends on how culturally immersed you want to be. True, you won't have A/C just like you have here, but as they say, "When in Rome..." When we lived there we were routinely asked if we wanted heat in our room -- for an extra charge. You asked if it could be done on a budget, and yes, it can, but you might have to give up some of the creature comforts of the US and experience Italy like Italians.

Rome has it all -- museums, ruins, churches, beautiful gardens. However, DH and I are not fond of the city, so we stayed for a few days, happy to escape to Pompeii and then back home to the Abruzzo region. That area is home to the national park, which is beautiful. It is one of my favorite places.

I love the coastal areas and there is much to do there, too. The Cinque Terre is truly unique. If you are outdoorsy, you can hike between the towns and take the train back to Rome (at least you could when we lived there).

I would recommend Rick Steve's Europe Through the Backdoor or any of his guides. That will give you some idea of what to expect.
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Old 02-09-2013, 09:09 PM   #15
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We went to Rome with our kids in August a few years ago. The only downside was that some restaurants were closed during that month. We spent three days in Rome at a great hotel, Albergo del Senato. We did a tour of some attractions with Context Rome, other places we walked to on our own. We loved Rome.

We rented a car and stayed at a villa in Tuscany. While it was lovely, we spent a lot of time driving to and from the other towns we wanted to visit. If we go again, I would drive to places we are interested in and book if we wanted to stay on the fly. The driving didn't seem bad at all, but we are used to NY driving. I wouldn't want to do much driving at night. We felt as if we just did not get enough time in some of the smaller town we stopped at because we wanted to be back at our base before dark. We stumbled across some beautiful places by just going for drives.
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