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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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Kamloops, BC...
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11. Re: I want to travel to Italy, but I'm scared!

I haven't read through all the postings so I apologize if I'm being repetitive - when you're getting Rick Steves' Italy guidebook, get his Europe Through The Back Door, as well - it's the how-to book that allowed an entire generation of frightened Americans to travel to Europe and back unscathed. It's very difficult to make any really terrible mistakes when you have Rick directing you step by step.

Edited: 08 January 2013, 22:34
Melbourne, Australia
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12. Re: I want to travel to Italy, but I'm scared!

You may also be interested in watching Rick Steves' lecture on Italy - one is on travel skills:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0g9vEeA0VM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZMPAzURHLc

San Antonio, Texas
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13. Re: I want to travel to Italy, but I'm scared!

I also recommend Rick Steve's Europe Through the Backdoor. I bought the 2011 edition at Amazon for 3.99. It's not a destination specific guide (which you will need) but provides excellent easy to understand explanations for all the scary things you are stressing about ( and rightly so until you get a handle on it).

You will need a destination specific guide and the most current edition would be helpful.

Read or skip through his book and then follow up on TA with specific questions.

Edit: Those youtube videos are excellent. Start there.

Edited: 09 January 2013, 01:07
Florence, Italy
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14. Re: I want to travel to Italy, but I'm scared!

Once you've done some homework and started to formulate an itinerary, here's my most important advice: don't try to jam too much into your time here. If you do, you'll run yourselves ragged and it will all blend into a big fuzzy mess. So give yourselves time to just stroll, sit in a caffè and chill!

For travel between major cities - Naples (Pompei), Rome, Florence, Venice - take the fast trains: Freccia (www.trenitalia.com) or Italo (www.italotreno.it). You can find deeply discounted fares on the Italo website.

Above all, relax and enjoy. This is Italy!

Melbourne, Australia
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15. Re: I want to travel to Italy, but I'm scared!

And invest in some decent light and durable luggage. Samsonite has a great range of suitcases, some of which only weigh 2.6kg for medium size.

Vancouver, Canada
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16. Re: I want to travel to Italy, but I'm scared!

Renee...Eugene is SO right. Many "first timers" plan itineraries that would kill a marthon runner. There are 3 ABSOLUTE rules about travelling in Southern Europe (particularly Italy and France).

#1 - Slow down!

#2 - Slow down!

#3 - I'll let you guess #3! :-)

Italy DOES NOT operate at an American pace...don't try and visit it with an American pace in mind.

Italy is about a lazy cappucino in the morning in a piazza and watching the world go by...

Italy is a stroll in the evening in a lovely hill town...with a gelato.

Italy is a glass of wine poolside at an agriturismo in Tuscany.

Sure, there are terrific sights and museums and all that. But if you approach those things with a "dolce vita" attitude, you will have a wonderful time!

Edited: 09 January 2013, 02:09
Adelaide
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17. Re: I want to travel to Italy, but I'm scared!

For first timers a tour group may be easier as it takes a lot of the stress out of the planning and logistics such as traveling from one place to another. I suggest you go and speak with a good travel agent and research what tours are available and see if they suit you. Some are reasonably paced so you're not packing suitcases all the time. Will this be your 1 and only trip to Italy ?? A tour will familiarise you with all the sights and I'm sure you'll then have to conficence to do solo trips in the future, picking out your favourite sights to spend more time exploring. Hope this helps !!

Los Angeles...
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for Venice, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur
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18. Re: I want to travel to Italy, but I'm scared!

You could pick one of those "highlights of Italy" group tours and likely drive by or very briefly visit most of what is on your list to see, all in 10-12 days. You will also be asked to be downstairs of your hotel by 7:00 a.m. with your luggage, spend day after day on the tour bus, and be dropped by another hotel by 11:00p.m. Ok, maybe not that brutal but close.

I think you can do it on your own. In the two weeks' time, excluding travel, you could start in Venice, train to Florence, train to Rome, and fly home from Rome. If you can spare another two days, and if you are willing to rent a car, you could spend a few days in the Tuscan countryside. I would put off Pisa until the next trip, unless you absolutely have to have the photo holding the tower up ;)

While you are shopping for the guide books, take a look at Michelin Green Guide for Italy. You might also like to pick up some of the individual guides, such as Top 10 Venice, Tuscany and Rome by DK Eyewitness Guides, which are super user friendly, compact guides, perfect for the first time traveler, overwhelmed by so many options.

As far as money, yes, ATMs are your best bet. I would get some Euro (whatever you think would make you feel comfy) from a bank before I left, so that I am not fumbling upon arrival at the airport with an ATM machine. It may cost you a few $$ extra in terms of the exchange rate, but it is a measure of self-preservation, IMO.

If you end up renting a car, bring your own portable GPS (English speaking) with Italy maps downloaded on it. Yes, you can do maps and you will bring those too, but this is another self-preservation measure, takes the edge off the stress.

You will enjoy your trip. I am pretty sure of it!

Edited: 09 January 2013, 06:13
San Francisco...
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19. Re: I want to travel to Italy, but I'm scared!

the more knowledge you accumulate before you go, the more comfortable you will feel. like anna, i would suggest more than one source as a guide. (i've never read rick steves and yet have managed to visit more than 15 countries--some more than once--and come back unscathed)

i too like the Michelin Green Guides, and the beautiful DK Eyewitness (tho, apart from their compact Top Ten series, they are heavy to carry along. you can always download it on your tablet)

if you would truly feel more comfortable with a tour, perhaps you could find one that merely gets you from one place to another (so, handles the logistics) but generally leaves you on your own at the destinations. something like this (and i'm sure there are other tour operators who do the same):

tours.ricksteves.com/tours/italy/my-way-italy

for me, planning the trip is half the fun, so i would not turn that over to someone else. but, that's me. you have to find the balance that works best for you (but a suggestion, first do some research, then decide) Italy is a very easy country in which to begin overseas travel.

i know you will have a great time!

tucson, az
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20. Re: I want to travel to Italy, but I'm scared!

A tour might be a good idea and I second going and talking to a travel agent- if you belong to AAA go talk to one there. They are usually well informed and well-travelled and have lots of tour brochures. Even if you decide to do it yourself it's nice to have talked to an expert, so to speak, face to face.

If you do think tours seriously I can recommend Monograms tours. The one we took had 3 nights in each city, there was one guided tour per city and then the rest of the time we were on our own.