Trip to Italy

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mrwarmth
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Trip to Italy

Post by mrwarmth »

My wife and I are considering a trip to Italy, but would prefer not to be part of a large tour group shuffled from place to place on a bus. I've heard of personalized tours with a guide/driver and even a self designed tour. At 62 we are most interested in the food, wine and sights under relaxed conditions. Any suggestions from someone else in our situation would be greatly appreciated as we plan for this trip next year.
If you want to go fast, go slow.
JDCPAEsq
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Post by JDCPAEsq »

I feel there's no more relaxed way than on a cruise. We recently took a Mediterannean cruise that stopped at four ports in Italy from which we took personalized tours. Obviously you won't see quite as much as if you stay in Italy for a week or two, but you will see a great deal under quite relaxed conditions without having to worry where your meals or your bed is going to be for the night.
John
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Raybo
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Post by Raybo »

Are you trying to see the whole country or would you be happy visiting a few places more thoroughly?

I prefer the latter and I would recommend renting a flat in a couple of cities (Rome, Florence, Sorento, Venice, for example) living in these places for a week. If you want to see the surrounding area, use the well-connected train system or rent a car for the day.

By renting a flat, you get to cook, which means shopping for food in the local stores and getting to know the area you are staying in. I've done this in Rome, near Florence, and Bolzano (northern Italy). It is my favorite way to get to know a place.

Ray
No matter how long the hill, if you keep pedaling you'll eventually get up to the top.
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Opponent Process
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Post by Opponent Process »

Raybo wrote:I prefer the latter and I would recommend renting a flat in a couple of cities (Rome, Florence, Sorento, Venice, for example) living in these places for a week.
Ray, can you recommend a web site or other medium for screening options for flats? we're interested in Tuscany/Florence.
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Levett
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Post by Levett »

We avoid large groups, as well (including large cruise ships), but small group travelling can be a terrific experience if you're with people who are open to new experiences, have a lot of intellectual curiosity, and suspend political/religious judgments when they visit countries not their own.

Here's one group I'd recommend unhesitatingly, having done any number of small-group adventures with the Road Scholar, as well as Adventures Afloat, programs.

http://www.exploritas.org/programs/roadscholar.asp

You will not believe the access you get through these programs (and I do mean access to things and people no ordinary tour group will even hear about.)

We've done two Road Scholar/Adventures Abroad to Florence/Siena, as well as the Amalfi Coast. Both were terrific experiences.

We head out in two days for another small group (university alumni) to Israel/Jordan, including time with an NPR correspondent from the Middle East. Bob U.

P.S. For overseas apartment rentals, we've always worked through local agents in the place you wish to stay. Just Google something like "Tuscany villa rentals" and you're on your way!
There are some things that count that can't be counted, and some things that can be counted that don't count.
happycamper
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rental reviews italy

Post by happycamper »

I have found the apartment review area on the slowtrav.com website helpful for finding vacation rental apartments in Europe.
mathu1968
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by mathu1968 »

mrwarmth wrote:My wife and I are considering a trip to Italy, but would prefer not to be part of a large tour group shuffled from place to place on a bus. I've heard of personalized tours with a guide/driver and even a self designed tour. At 62 we are most interested in the food, wine and sights under relaxed conditions. Any suggestions from someone else in our situation would be greatly appreciated as we plan for this trip next year.
I lived and traveled in Italy. It is a beautiful and culturally rich land. Here is what I did in 2001 and 2007. I traveled as a group of four. As a group, we split the car expenses four ways and the rooms two way. I pretty much organized the trip by using (DK) Dorling Kinderley Travel Guides. They have things nicely laid out. They even recommend hotels and restuarants and have them laid out according to cost. But the places are always quality and clean, even the low end places they list. I was never let down.

Now I speak the language so I had that advantage. But Italians are real good to foreigners, that has been my experience. But if you are looking to do it yourself, I can't say enough about those books....and I do not to my knowledge own stock in those books. :)

I would add one thing. I found it most relaxing to take two weeks and to visit just one region at a time. In 2001, we did Venice and the Veneto Friuli region. And in 2007 we did Sicily. There were DK books specifically just for those regions, and in the two weeks we were there, we couldn't see everything. But you leave with a good feel for the area, instead of being here and there and everywhere.

The cost as I recall, including travel, rooms and food, were $2100 per person in 2001, and $3000 in 2007. Again, that is if you travel as a group of four. You need to be able to handle a manual.

Buon Viaggio!
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Raybo
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Post by Raybo »

Opponent Process wrote:Ray, can you recommend a web site or other medium for screening options for flats? we're interested in Tuscany/Florence.
I always start with Vacation Rental by Owner at vrbo.com . If that doesn't work, simply google the city you want and something like apartments. I'm sure there are many Italian/European websites you will find from Google.

On a recent trip to Vienna, Austria, I found a great apartment that my wife and I rented for 4 nights using google.

Ray
No matter how long the hill, if you keep pedaling you'll eventually get up to the top.
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LH
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Post by LH »

If you are going to see venice, consider staying in Lido instead. Its a short and very cheap water bus ride 10 minutes or so to venice, and its much cheaper there.
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Stuart01
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Post by Stuart01 »

We have done Italy four times - first was a Pan Am quickie tour of Rome, Paris, London, vis air using hotels many years ago. More recently we did trips on our own to various cities using the Eurorail, plane or rental car. Have rented a flat in Tuscany and also used hotels in Florence and Rome. Both worked well. We found Italy to be quite interesting and delightful with friendly people. Good luck and watch your euros! :D
sailor234
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Post by sailor234 »

For finding villas in Europe I will second the recommendation of www.VRBO.com. These are also useful:

http://www.holiday-rentals.co.uk/

http://www.homeawayconnect.com

For Sorrento, we rented a villa last June, right on the cliffs overlooking the marina.

http://www.holiday-rentals.co.uk/p93043
Villa Donna Elisa; Ms. Elisa is the owner and lives on the first floor; she is a charming woman who is available to help but otherwise disappears. The second floor is a comfortable 2BR/2BA apartment. Fabulous location; walk to train and town. If you send an email you will deal with Bruno, who represents a few villas in the area.

Once you've identified a place of interest, I suggest you ask lots of questions and get references. You can even ask for additional pictures if some rooms aren't shown; they may provide or explain why not but it's all additional information. I've rented a few villas in Europe with great success. Only once got into a tangle with the owner, who lived in Spain; after I asked a few questions he decided to cancel our reservation, but then was slow with a refund. After I directly contacted his bank my deposit refund came through.

Enjoy your trip!

Ray
dbonnett
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Post by dbonnett »

google Residence Arianna, Rosia Siena. Close to Siena and a real value.
InvestingMom
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Post by InvestingMom »

It is very easy to do it yourself. I recommend the Rick Steves books. I am pretty sure he has recommendations for more personalized tours, but you could get a room (see Ricks recommendations) and use his book as a guide!
You don't say where you are interested in going or how healthy you are, but if you are say staying in Rome you should just walk everywhere (and take the subway (I forget what they exactly call it but it is an underground train) to the Vatican. Also Florence is very walkable. Get the Rick Steves books (and watch for his shows on TV.)
I ran into him in London...he is a great guy. I love him!
over65
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Post by over65 »

I am a hotel person, don't care much for the Villa expierence. You could rent a central located hotel in Rome for 4 nights and take the standard (Vatican, St. Peters, Ancient rome) tours and still have some free time for exploring (or the catacombs). The last thing you want in Rome is a car.

Use trains to get from place to place in Italy. From Rome go to Florence. Two nights in Florence will let you see most of Florence. Set up tours into Toscanny for beauty and for wine and also Pizza. Then train to Venice. Don't try to save money by staying outside Venice. Venice is an Island and you will spend time and money to get on the island every day.

BAck to Rome and then to Sorrento (at least 3 nites) for Pompei.

This is the BASIC Italy. Buy as much here in U.S. Dollars befoe you go. The Euro is a killer right now. P.S. Hotels in Italy are not cheap.
ME
Rubiosa
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Post by Rubiosa »

I second the vrbo.com recommendation.
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