Italy Advice

Discussion in 'Budget Board' started by Sunshineminnie, Feb 8, 2013.

  1. Sunshineminnie

    Sunshineminnie DIS Veteran

    Aug 2, 2008
    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! :goodvibes

    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.

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  3. limace

    limace DIS Veteran

    Jan 31, 2007
    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.
  4. Kbella's mom

    Kbella's mom Earning My Ears

    May 11, 2009
    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.
  5. Sunshineminnie

    Sunshineminnie DIS Veteran

    Aug 2, 2008
    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?
  6. lost*in*cyberspace

    lost*in*cyberspace DIS Veteran

    Dec 30, 2005
    You need to start with getting a good guidebook. There are also many good travel websites you should read. Start with

    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.
  7. eeyoresmom

    eeyoresmom Guest

    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.
  8. jgreco

    jgreco Mouseketeer

    Feb 2, 2008
    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.
  9. Sunshineminnie

    Sunshineminnie DIS Veteran

    Aug 2, 2008
    Wow, I never thought of that! We really like it cool when we sleep! Thanks!:thumbsup2
  10. robsmom

    robsmom loved it so much we might go back

    Mar 9, 2001
    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.
  11. MrEVILdrPorkchop2u

    MrEVILdrPorkchop2u DIS Veteran

    Aug 1, 2012
    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!
  12. eliza61


    Jun 2, 2003
    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.
    Bon Voyage
  13. esk

    esk DIS Veteran

    Aug 8, 2004
    Visit and --- 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....
  14. OLT2004

    OLT2004 DIS Veteran

    Apr 1, 2004
    Airfare - In addition to try & fare watcher.

    Research &

    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!!
    Good Luck!

    Lodging - On a Budget...Crosti Hotel 54 Via Castelfidardo, 00185 Roma Tel. 064468597
  15. Kbella's mom

    Kbella's mom Earning My Ears

    May 11, 2009
    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.
  16. sixcats

    sixcats DIS Veteran

    Apr 4, 2000
    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.
  17. jmac323

    jmac323 Mouseketeer

    Dec 29, 2008
    So I didn't read all the responses above but here's how I was able to travel and my advice for whatever it's worth :)

    - Try not to go in summer (hot, locals are closed/off which I would rather be with locals than other tourists, higher costs.
    - March might be a bit chillier and rainy (I went in April for 8 days and had some rain)
    - 10 days will definitely leave you wanting more but if you plan well, you can see a lot!!
    - rent a house/apt where you can do meals yourself
    - Rome was my fave. Florence was cool to see but tons of Americans and tourists which defeats why I go abroad (to learn about the culture and locals)
    - You can get a lot of places by train so maybe check out some smaller, less touristy cities too (ex. Cinque Terre is gorgeous but expensive, you can stay North in Levanto and take the train down to visit)
    - I flew into London Gatwick airport and took a smaller Airline into Pisa when I went just because it was so much cheaper, airfare wise. I also took the train from Pisa to Cinque Terre to Rome. So maybe cheeck out flights from your local airport to other major European hubs for something cheaper and then check the smaller airlines.
    - I stayed with a friend and sometimes at home stays or private room hostels. You might find something like that welcoming for families? I loved the home stay as the Italian family we stayed with was amazing!!
    - I met people living in Italy on virtual tourist dot com and was able to experience some really cool things with some really cool locals!!
  18. beansmom

    beansmom <font color=blue>Your dream eludes you? Don't you

    Feb 3, 2000
    i am certainly no expert but i have been to italy and i would agree that if i spent all that money to go, I'd stay more than 10 days. We stayed for a few days over two weeks and still could have stayed weeks longer.

    we went in January and the weather was quite warm in Rome even then. it was lovely in florence and downright chilly in venice. my dh echoes the venice in summer warning...apparently venice gets fragrant in the summertime.

    we went to rome--amazing and wonderful. we stayed at the Hotel Gambrinus which was affordable, clean and centrally located. we always spend one of our first days on the HoHo bus in a town---great way to see the highlights--then we go back to specific sites on other days. If you are interested, you can request tickets to the Papal audience in was very interesting and you are able to carry items with you for a blessing from the Pope. I took rosaries for friends to be blessed.

    florence was lovely. small enough to really get around well on foot and bus. there is, of course, the duomo and the accademia with such wonderful sculptures by Michelangelo. we took a bus up to the Piazella Michelangelo and watched the sunset over the city...words cannot describe.

    venice-ah, venice...a magical place like no other. I could stay for months in venice. We stayed at a lovely little hotel there 'Ca dei Conti'...again, affordable, very nice staff and very near St Mark's and the Doge's Palace. We did the Secret Tour of the Doge's Palace and saw the rooms where Casanova was held and from where he escaped. It was a great tour.

    Italy was amazing. And outside of the airfare, can be affordable. I don't think there's too much hope for cheap airfare unless you can do one of those last minute things...which we are not free to do at this time in our lives.

    there are also hostels in europe that accept families as well as students...might be worth checking into. whatever you decide, i will bet that it will be a trip you remember forever (and probably want to do twice!).
  19. Ciao Mickey

    Ciao Mickey <font color=brown>Kind of makes you want to run th

    Mar 16, 2007
  20. Sunshineminnie

    Sunshineminnie DIS Veteran

    Aug 2, 2008
    Thanks everyone for the great advice. I have really had a fun time researching this trip. It looks like there are so many ways to go. We are going to choose a couple of must sees and then try to hit some more out of the way places to get a feel for the culture.

    I think the must sees are Pompeii, the ruins in Rome and the Vatican City. We will also try and see some art but not sure where.

    We would like to find a place to fish, maybe dive, take a cooking class and just see the country.

    I am really confused about where to stay though. I know that we don't need our own kitchen as we really want to enjoy the food. Although it would be nice for breakfasts. I am leaning towards B&B's but there are so many choices, I don't know how to narrow it down. I know that we don't want to stay in modern hotels.

    Does anyone have any suggestions on what "type" of place to stay. Which way is more economical?

    Thanks again!
  21. ZephyrHawk

    ZephyrHawk Confirmed Disneyphile

    Feb 15, 2007
    Hello! I took a European trip with my husband last year and I thought maybe I could help a litlte.

    1. I agree with pretty much everything said before this post. Get a guide book, don't go in August and although cruising Italy is fun (I've done that too), it won't give you an in depth look at the country or the culture.

    2. I can't advise you as to what type of establishment to stay at, as we always stayed in "modern" hotels. Understand, however, that these were not Hiltons, just small hotels that had air conditioning and Wifi (my two requirements). You can find spots that have an intimate feel, but which are not necessarily B&Bs or rented apartments. The one word of advice I would give is that if you're planning to go to Venice, try your best to find lodging on the islands and not the mainland...and understand that lodgings on the islands will cost you a lot more. The hotel I booked for Venice was the most expensive hotel of my 3 week trip by about 100E per night.

    3. Although everyone would love more time, the Italian "highlights" are totally do-able in 10 days provided you work the train schedules. You have to delete 2 days for plane travel, of course, but if I were you, I'd do something like this:

    Day 1- Travel to Venice
    Day 2 - Venice
    Day 3 - Travel to Florence, tour Pisa and Florence (Pisa is a one trick pony, you can be in and out in a couple hours)
    Day 4 - Florence
    Day 5 - Cinque Terre (this is a bit ambitious, but DH and I totally managed to travel from Florence in the morning, hike the 5 lands, and return to Florence at night)
    Day 6 - Travel to Rome and tour Rome
    Day 7 - Rome/Vatican
    Day 8 - Rome and travel to the Amalfi Coast in the afternoon/evening (I like Sorrento for a home base)
    Day 9 - Pompeii
    Day 10 - Head home

    4. Florence is the place to see art. I'm not sure it would be economically worthwhile for you (given the time you're likely to be there) but the Florence tourist board has a pass you can buy that will get you entrance into most of the museums in Florence. This is especially important for the Accademia and Uffizi galleries because they are a pain in the butt to get into (huge line), unless you have a super-duper pass that gets you to the front of the line automatically! Rome and Venice also offer similar passes to their museums/ruins that you might want to look into. Skipping the line at the Colleseum was also a life saver. The Naples tourism board has a pass too, but I don't think it would be worth it for the amount of time you'll be spending there.

    5. Although you can day trip to Pompeii from Rome, and there's lots of tours to help you do so, I don't think it's a good way to really see Pompeii. The tours that are offered commercially (as opposed to individual guides you can hire at the site) offer you a very limited view of the ruins. Most will never take you to places like the amphitheatres, the colliseum, and the Villa of the Mysteries. Pompeii is HUGE. My suggestion would be to stay nearby (so you can get there fairly early), get a map, go directly to the back (avoided by tours) and work your way to the front. And don't miss the Villa. My parents have been twice and still haven't seen it.

    As a side note, Herculaneum is also really cool, though smaller.

    Hope this helps!

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