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I want to travel to Italy, but I'm scared!

Fort Worth, Texas
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I want to travel to Italy, but I'm scared!

I admit it. I'm a travel-virgin. But I've always wanted to see Italy (Rome, Florence, Tuscany, Pisa). My husband and I have decided we're going to take the plunge and go this year. What's the best time to go? Is a tour group the best way to go for a first-timer? (if so, which one?). Is there one location that we could stay (as a base camp) and go out daily from there to see all the sites? Any help, suggestions, wise words would be appreciated.

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1. Re: I want to travel to Italy, but I'm scared!

Get a copy of the Rick Steves Italy guidebook. It's esp. helpful to first time travelers and helps demystify the whole process. Much better than trying to get general guidance on a travel forum - That's like trying to take a sip from a fire hose.

Happy travels.

New York City, New...
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2. Re: I want to travel to Italy, but I'm scared!

First, can you say what scares you? Italy is a developed country - pretty much everything we have here, they have there except they have an excellent train system and some of the most extraordinary art in the world.

So - pick up a good guidebook and start to learn what some of the cities have to offer. Tell us the length of your trip so people can make suggestions based on that and consider doing it on your own because it is so very easy to do on your own and not be hauled around by a tour.

Not knowing the language is not a problem. Learning the basic greetings (hello, thank you, good bye, and a few others) in Italian is the courteous thing to do when visiting a foreign country but you will be fine. Much of the country has cities that are bursting at the seams with tourists from all over the world and many - if not most - people in the hospitality businesses speak some English - and, many speak it very very well.

If you decided to go to Italy, I assume there was a reason - was it the thought of seeing some ancient sites (Colosseum/Forum in Rome, Pompei, etc) - the unique city of Venice, the city overflowing with stupendous art, Florence; seeing the seaside? the countryside (i.e., Tuscany, Umbria), the lake district?

Guidebook and some online searching will help clarify the places you want to see and what you want to see when you get there.

How many days?

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City of Venice, Italy
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Chicago, Illinois
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3. Re: I want to travel to Italy, but I'm scared!

if you are not panicked at the thought of visiting Austin you shouldn't worry about traveling in Italy.

Tours are a matter of personal taste. Most people on TA are independent travelers and are probably not good resources for info on tours.

You cannot have one Italian base if you want to see Rome Florence etc.

A sensible way to travel is to spend a few days in Rome and a few days in Florence and plan some day trips from each place -- we like to do a week in places like this but you need IMHO at least 5 nights in each place

Another approach -- something we did on our first trip to Italy 30 years ago when we spoke 12 words of Italian -- is to get a place on the edge of a small town in the Tuscan countryside and then use that as a base to tour Tuscany.

on our last trip we spent two weeks in Montepulciano and took day trips in the area about every other day, enjoying the garden and the town on the off days.

Being in a town (with good parking place) means you have access to restaurants and bars in the evening, the charm of the small town and are also well placed to drive out to tour the countryside.

The Rick Steves Europe through the Back Door trip is a great guide for new travelers -- and his specific books like Italy or France give many helpful suggestions for a first time traveler to those areas.

If you want to fall in love with Italy spending a week on the edge of a Tuscan town like Montpulciano, Pienza, Lucca, Lucignano etc is a good way to go.

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Fort Worth, Texas
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4. Re: I want to travel to Italy, but I'm scared!

Thanks for your message. We are looking at up to two weeks for vacation time (that would include travel to/from Texas, USA). My fears are related to the unknown. Neither of us have travelled outside of the United States. So, the idea of going on our own is what is most frightening. Are we being taken advantage of, where's the safest place to stay, how do we get our money exchanged, how do we get around -- that type of thing. Going to Italy is on my "bucket-list". Of course, I want to see everything! But realize that can't be done in such a short time. I would love to see Pompei, Sistine Chapel, Tuscany countryside, Venice, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Rome --- you name it. We really aren't tied to any specifics in particular. All I know of Italy comes from watching the movies. Maybe I shouldn't admit to that -- but it's the truth.

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Venice
Venice
City of Venice, Italy
Fort Worth, Texas
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5. Re: I want to travel to Italy, but I'm scared!

Thank you so much for the great advice!

Fort Worth, Texas
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6. Re: I want to travel to Italy, but I'm scared!

I'm off to get the latest and greatest travel guides! Thanks for your help

New York City, New...
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7. Re: I want to travel to Italy, but I'm scared!

Again - get a good guidebook - all the logistical information is included in them and what isn't, is online.

If you have those sorts of concerns and you think they will ruin a trip for you, then you might consider doing a tour where it is all done for you.

But - using an ATM card to get euros is the same as going to an ATM machine in your hometown - same code number, just the money comes out in euros and not dollars. There is nothing all that mysterious about travel overseas. But - read up on it - and then you can decide whether going on your own or doing a tour is the best thing for you.

It just sounds like you have yet to dig into some books to get some understanding of traveling there - train is the best mode of transportation and it is efficient and frequent, etc.

Once you decide, people here can offer some useful suggestions but it seems you need to make that choice first and to do so, I personally think you need to just do some reading up on it before you do make your choice.

Italy is very safe - very little violent crime generally or against tourists. You use the same common sense precautions regarding your personal stuff as you do at home in terms of keeping it close and keeping an eye on it; as to being taken advantage of - people here can give you some advice when you ask specific questions about prices you are being told, etc. - whether you get taken advantage of when there - well, it can and sometimes does happen as it does absolutely everywhere on the planet.

If nerves and anxiety are too great, then go for a tour.

Brussels, Belgium
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8. Re: I want to travel to Italy, but I'm scared!

If you have never travelled independently outside your own country, you might well feel happier going with a group. I've done many group tours but unfortunately can't recommend tour operators in your country (I generally use a company based in France that specialises in cultural tours - in French). You can always do-it-yourself the next time, when you have a better idea of what sort of things you might need to consider.

I'd suggest you go to a travel agent and/or look around the internet for tours to Italy that either depart from the U.S. (which will include airfare as part of the package) or are aimed at Americans coming from different places, when it would be up to you to organise your flight from wherever to (probably) Milan or Rome, where the group would come together.

If you would be organising this yourself, consider where you want to fly from and to, for example American Airlines flies direct to Rome from Chicago O'Hare, for other possibilities see skyscanner.net/flights/us/fco/130122/130129/… - also whether you would need a return ticket (e.g. US-Milan then Milan-U.S.), which would require doing a circular or triangular tour in Italy, or would wish to fly into one Italian airport, e.g. Rome, and out from another, e.g. Venice. You may also find cheaper deals with airlines that require a change at e.g. London Heathrow or Frankfurt, but then you would need to consider which is more important, cost or journey time, etc.

If you are considering an escorted tour, I would start by reading …usatoday.com/tours-italy-34973.html and then compare as many brochures (online or physical) as possible to whittle down what you want to do and come to some conclusions as to the best way to do it. The place to ask about specific companies or tours (products), as opposed to destinations (how to get from A to B, what is there to do in C, etc.), or find reviews of those products, is not Tripadvisor but a consumer website like epinions (epinions.com/Tour_Operators--destination_eur…). However, there is some general information here tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g187791-i22-k59729…

Don't be nervous about travelling, it can be a hassle and things can go wrong (one reason for starting out with a group tour is that at least if a hotel has had to close down or flights are changed - e.g. because another Icelandic volcano blows - it is someone else's responsibility to sort out the problem), but it is definitely worth it!

Edited: 08 January 2013, 21:13
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Milan
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Melbourne, Australia
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9. Re: I want to travel to Italy, but I'm scared!

To give you an idea of how safe Italy is - my doctors have given me the ok to go by myself for 26 days and I have had a heart transplant. I have been fortunate to travel a lot with family so am aware of the processes like getting through customs etc but honestly, you don't have anything to worry about. Of course things can go wrong anywhere, but once you read up on the logistics and practicalities, you will feel more comfortable about doing it yourself. Knowledge is power! :)

Fort Worth, Texas
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10. Re: I want to travel to Italy, but I'm scared!

THANK YOU EVERYONE!!! You've given me some very valuable advice! I will take the time to pour over the travel guides and sites you have suggested. I already feel more confident just having visited this site and being encouraged by your comments.