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First time overseas to Italy

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First time overseas to Italy

My husband and I are 60 and will be traveling to Italy in maybe August,September or October 2014 for approx. 3 to 4 weeks depending on finances. We have never been anywhere overseas and are looking forward to seeing this wonderful country. We would prefer not to do the whole holiday with organised tours and would love to stay maybe in an apartment or similar and do our own thing for some of the time. I would like to know when is the best time to go around that time of year. How much money approximately to allow for the trip and any suggestions regarding what to see and where to stay. Lots of questions but we have never done anything like this before. A suggested itinerary would be wonderful. We love the idea of the old Italy, the history and the smaller towns as well. If anyone could point us in the right direction with idea it would be fantastic.

New York City, New...
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1. Re: First time overseas to Italy

Have you been pouring over a good guidebook (and map) yet? If not, you should be. Your question is hugely vague; Italy is very large country - if you can start to determine what sort of adventure you want: seaside, lake district, Renaissance cities/towns, Medieval, Ancient, countryside - a combination of two or such areas.

How much money is completely subjective. There have been plenty of posts here on the Italy forums (another good starting point is glancing through some of the threads here) on traveling in Italy on a budget. Prices - like here in the states - vary greatly for lodging, food, restaurants, sites.

August is very very hot/humid - my choice would be go to go mid-September on - keeping in mind that it is mostly high season in Italy until the end of October and prices reflect that fact.

Old Italy, history and the smaller towns too is still pretty vague since so much of Italy is just that.

In three weeks, if you are inclined to more slow travel rather than rushing around everywhere, seeing little but the main touristy sites, means you could stay in 3 or 4 different places - renting an apartment in each.

I'm sure you have chosen Italy for a reason so maybe you could start by saying which places (there must be at least a few - Venice? Florence? Rome? - that you are of that seem interesting? That would help people help you.

Brussels, Belgium
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2. Re: First time overseas to Italy

Yes, without something to go on this is too wide to answer, except as regards "I would like to know when is the best time to go around that time of year". "That time of year" being August-October 2014, I would definitely avoid August, and go in September and/or October.

Be aware also that renting apartments rather than staying in hotels may require transferring money in advance, and/or handing over wodges in cash: many apartment owners don't take credit cards.

In considering where you want to go to you should also consider whether you would be flying into and out of the same airport, and therefore require a circular or triangular itinerary, or whether you could fly into Rome and out of Venice/Milan or vice versa. Which may also depend on the cost of these options from your departure airport.

You also need to consider how you want (or don't want) to travel BETWEEN cities, which also depends on which ones they are: for example, Rome to Florence is best done by train, which takes about 1 1/2 hrs, but visiting small towns around Florence would be best done by car - and preferably from a base other than Florence, to avoid the dreaded ZTL (http://en.comune.fi.it/mobility/driving.html) and indeed fines for driving in bus lanes etc., as you clearly have no experience of driving outside your own country - whatever that happens to be.

Seattle, Washington
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3. Re: First time overseas to Italy

Are you from Canada? I ask because of your spelling ("organised") and because of your reference to traveling "overseas." If so, I have a guide book recommendation for you.

Rick Steves writes books that are esp.tailored to travelers from the US and Canada going to Europe for the first time. He lays out suggested itineraries, budgets, etc. and gives you a lot of info on possible places and things to see and do, along with his particular recommendations. He's very good at laying out the logistics for you for travel in a particular country, including detailed options on how to get from one place to another. However, he's not trying to be comprehensive like most guidebooks and some people seem to get strangely angry at him for that, as if there were no other guidebooks available.

I suggest buying his Italy guidebook and taking a look through it.

I also like the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide books.

Edited: 31 October 2013, 21:25
Maryland
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4. Re: First time overseas to Italy

Here is a link to Italy Tourist Board's official website http://www.italia.it/en/home.html Browsing through the different regions and cities and towns will give you an idea of what to see and do and where to find them. October is really a great time to go with less crowd and not so humid weather. With some early planning you will be able to find some good priced fares for both airlines and trains. The earlier you look for accommodation also the better. Since this is your first time you may want to use hotels. I will go for the 4 weeks if you can because there is a lot to see in Italy and the more time the better. Not that you will be able to scratch the surface in a month but more days helps.

Planning such a trip on your own takes a lot of time but it is so worth it in the end. Enjoy planning.

Chicago, Illinois
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5. Re: First time overseas to Italy

absolutely don't go in August -- mid September is wonderful and October is likely to be -- they are also VERY popular times for travel and so if you do plan on getting apartments, get those lined up very early.

on our first trip to Italy we rented an apartment in tuscany -- this was 30 years ago -- and then spent a week driving to various interesting towns in the region - it was a heavenly trip. We have done that in Tuscany several times since from one to two weeks at a time. I think a wonderful intro to the glories of Italy would be to allocate at least one week to this.

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6. Re: First time overseas to Italy

Thanks Janet. I know I have probably asked lots of questions but I'm trying to gather as much information as I can so that we can enjoy the experience as much as possible. Renting an apartment as you have done sound great and then using it as a base to travel to other places. Tuscany was recommended to me also. What is the train travel like over there? Just a thought.

Sydney, Australia
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7. Re: First time overseas to Italy

Long distance trains in Italy are fast, frequent and comfortable. They are the way to travel between cities. See www.trenitalia.com and www.italotreno.it

Brussels, Belgium
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8. Re: First time overseas to Italy

As already mentioned, if you want to visit, let alone stay in, small towns in Tuscany you will need a car, or else have to make a close study of local bus routes (SITA, in Tuscany). Trains are great between cities but will not take you from, say, Greve in Chianti to S. Gimignano.

If you wanted to do that sort of thing, you would do best to stay somewhere like Florence, to facilitate connections to the rest of Tuscany: greve-in-chianti.com/getting-to-greve/gettin…

Or, consider staying in Umbria along the railway line that connects Rome to Perugia, stopping in Terni, Spoleto, Foligno, Spello, Assisi etc.

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9. Re: First time overseas to Italy

Italy is a large country. So I you might want to narrow it down a bit. I am more familiar with central italy. September is cheaper and not so hot plus more places will be open again after the holidays. Tuscany and umbria are my favourite areas but it depends on your interests and if you want to use a car. Also north lazio for me is interesting. If you can post a bit more what is of interest, one can then give more detailed info.

West Chester...
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10. Re: First time overseas to Italy

As we are similar in ages, hope these thoughts help. Of the major cities (Rome, Florence, Venice, the easiest for a first time trvaeler would be Venice as one can stay away from the worst of the crowded areas (San Marco) and still be in safe convenient locations where there are good hotels and restaurants, as well as the feel of Italy and Venice. Rome and Florence are both major cities and crowded both in the tourist areas but also in the populated areas, so they might be a bit much to start with.

Unless you really love heat and crowds go after August, weather is much milder once you get into September. The countryside will however seem drier after the summer, which is a plus for going in the spring (which I know little about).

While everyone wants to hit all the major "in" sites, there is much to be said for the incredible little rowns and villages that don't have crowds and are much less likely to expose you to pickpockets. Sometimes it seems like 90% of the tourists concntrate in the same places (san Marco in Venice, Duomo in Florence, Cinque Terra...) and miss the best of places. My doctor last week described Venice as in Times Square because they stayed in the crowed San Marco area and was amazed at my description of the rest of Venice he never saw. You might even want to check out some of the gorgeous but less crowded areas like Abruzzo (our new favorite) where there are stunning mountains, shorelines, history from the Etruscans thru the Romans and Medieval times and great food. This is an area where we found using good guides who knew the best places and experts to assist usmade it a great busy but stressfree time. As well as Museum time, try to manage some experiences. Looking back at our last trip photos we could not recall the names on most of the churches, but remember the details of our other great times, like truffle hunting near Teramo, pasta making i Guilianove, watching fresh cheese being made on a sheep farm in Farnese and then being treated to the best of Momma's breakfast and appertifs!

The trains are very easy to use, and when possible avoid the stress of driving. While most roads are good, the driving habits can be a shock at times, especially until you get the hang of the road signs. Google maps was a great help.

The Steve Ricks book is useful but remember that most N American tourists use it and everyone winds up in the same places (we went to what he described as a Gregorian Chant mass in Venice, which turned out to be a real snoozer and attended only by people carrying Rick's book on Venice!). You will have time to double check what is outlined there on the Forum postings.

Don't rule out small guided tours as there can be experiences connected to them one can't do on one's own. We only recently heard about the small boat tours of Venice we would have loved doing, Our tour of Abruzzo was one we were able to plan in detail with the incredible couple who hosted us and since it covered all meals, hotel, transport...made it easy to know what we were going to spend ahead of time (and doing it from home solved any currency change problems) and included little surprises like truffle hunting...