We don’t speak Italian. Will that be a problem?
No, or at least, we don’t see it that way. Sure, you will run into plenty of people in Italy who do not speak any English. But in the cities, and in all the areas that see lots of visitors, there are enough people who speak English that it is unlikely for you to have a problem. At your hotels, it is certainly not a problem. At restaurants, there is usually someone available who can help you to translate the menu. Bear in mind that English-speaking people have been visiting Italy as tourists for more than 150 years. You have an advantage over the many people who visit Italy and who do not speak English. Even the French and the Germans can have more difficulty communicating in Italy, and it is not uncommon for them to use English as the common language.
Of course! We are curious why this question is so often asked. For all the years we have been traveling in Italy, we have yet to stay in a hotel that did not have private bathrooms or even to visit such a hotel for an inspection. You would need to go to hotels at the very low end, or to youth hostels, to find rooms without private bathrooms. .
We will send you the website links for your hotels. The only reason we cannot list the hotels on our own website is that we cannot know what hotels will be available for your dates until we check. The hotels we use in Italy are very small by the standards of American and Canadian hotels. Instead of having hundreds of rooms, or thousands, these hotels typically have between 30 and 80 rooms. Searching for availability in our favorite hotels is what we spend so much of our time doing.
When we learn your travel dates, we check the hotels we know and like, and we send you the results in an email which contains the links for each hotel. And since we have inspected each hotel we use, we can tell you about it, from direct experience.
The most popular times for weather in Italy are generally (1) from the end of March through June and (2) from September through the middle of November. In March and November, the weather can swing through a broad range of temperatures, cooler but usually not wintry. July and August will certainly be hot and humid, with temperatures in the 90’s. December through February, temperatures range from the 30’s to the 50’s but are typically in the 40’s. The rainiest time is in the fall and winter, usually starting in October. If we had to guess at the best weather periods, we’d pick early May or late September-early October. But it depends on where you live. Someone from Minnesota will think the winters are mild in Italy, and someone from Florida will think the summers are fine. So if you’re concerned about the weather, give us a call. We’ll try to relate it to your personal experience.
Prices are related to demand. The busiest months we consistently see for Italy travel are May, June, September and October. In the cities, high-season prices typically start around Easter and run to the end of June or middle of July. Then there’s a break in prices for part of July and all of August. That’s because city hotels don’t get many business travelers in the middle of summer, so they reduce their rates to attract more leisure travelers. At the beginning of September, prices pop back up to high-season levels, and stay there to the end of October or middle of November. The winter season starts early in November and runs to about Easter. That’s when you’ll get the best prices of the year. But don’t overlook July and August for hotel bargains.
It’s different in the resort areas. Many rural and resort hotels open around Easter and stay open until until the end of October, and their prices are just about the same during that period, including July and August. That includes the lakes, the Riviera, Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast. Some of those hotels stay open through the winter and offer lower rates.
Most people will choose between three basic modes of travel…(1) trains, (2) self-drive car rentals, and (3) motorcoaches. Trains and cars are for independent travelers, who don’t want to be with a group and who are willing to manage their own travel through Italy. Motorcoaches are for people who want a tour director to lead them around Italy and who are willing to travel with a group, typically of about 50 people.
The trips we do are only for independent travel, using trains. For areas not served well by trains, such as the Amalfi Coast and Tuscany, we provide drivers to fill in the gaps. We do not offer any packages with car rentals, but we sometimes do customized trips which include car rental.
No. All the trips we do are strictly for independent travel, meaning that you will NOT be with a group. You will be traveling through Italy, between your destinations, by yourselves, on a train. However, if you buy one of our packages which includes small-group tours in the cities, you will be with that small group for the duration of that day tour, which is normally a period of up to 3 hours.
No. The travel plans listed on our website do NOT include a tour director or anyone who travels with you through the entire trip. However, your travel arrangements may include private guides or drivers who will join you for a few hours during certain segments of your trip, such a full-day tour in Tuscany, or a transfer from Naples to Positano.
This depends on where you wish to go in Italy, during which season, and what kind of hotels you want. Generally we will not undertake trips starting in less than 60 days. We can plan most trips with 60 days’ lead time. But it’s best to have more time, so that your options for hotels are not reduced. Most of our clients book in the window of 3 months to 6 months prior to their departure dates. At the other extreme, if you wish to travel a year or more in the future, we may not have enough pricing information to quote your trip — but don’t hesitate to ask us. Note that there are some special circumstances. If you want one of the luxury hotels on the Amalfi Coast, better book more than 6 months in advance. The same is true if you want one of the little hotels in the Cinque Terre.
If you book your trip more than 60 days in advance, you will make a deposit which ranges between $200 and $500 per person for most trips. Your deposit may be more or less, depending on the cost and complexity of your travel arrangements. You pay the deposit after you have given us the go-ahead to do your trip and have signed off on the paperwork authorizing us to book your trip.
If you are booking one of our signature packages, all of the cost will be paid in advance of your departure for Italy. If you are booking a customized trip, chances are good that part of your trip cost will be scheduled for payment during travel in Italy.
If you travel on one of our signature packages, that is not an issue, as all the cost of your travel package is paid in advance.
If you book a customized itinerary with us, we may also be able to plan your trip so that all of your cost would be paid in advance of your departure, in US dollars. However, that may limit the hotels we can use, the room category we can book, and the services we can provide That’s because many hotels and services in Italy are not available on a prepaid basis. We have more options, and more control, in choosing accommodations, guides, and drivers when we book them so that you will make your payment during your vacation in Italy. Payments in Italy are made in euros.
No, not all of it. There is always cost to cancelling a trip. At the time you book your trip, we provide a schedule of cancellation cost.
For most travel arrangements we make, re-scheduling is the same as cancellation. All the vacations we do, even including our signature packages, are tied to specific dates and specific hotels. So if you change your travel dates, we must cancel everything that was in place and start over, planning a new trip entirely.
It all starts with your choice of a vacation itinerary and your decision about when to travel. If you’re not sure about where or when to go to Italy, you can give us a call. We may be able to help. Be sure to have a look at our list of itineraries (click here) to get ideas about travel plans and cost.
When we know your specific travel dates, the vacation plan you want, and your budget, we email to you a detailed price quote, which includes the hotels and all the services we will provide. Then you give us the go-ahead, and we prepare our authorization paperwork, which spells it all out again — what you’re getting and the terms and conditions. We do not charge you any cost until we have your written authorization.
If your trip is more than 60 days in the future, you will pay a deposit. Then, at 60 days prior to your departure, we will send a request for final authorization. If your trip is within 60 days, we will go directly to the final authorization.
Everything that you pay in advance is paid by credit card. We can take Visa, Mastercard or American Express.
If part of your vacation is to be paid in Italy during your trip, we will provide statements for each of those costs, so that you know exactly what is due to be paid and to whom.
We will send you a documents package including a detailed itinerary with names, times, telephone numbers, addresses, and reservations for all your arrangements. Documents packages are normally sent by second-day Fedex at approximately 10 to 12 days prior to your departure for Italy.
Yes. We use hotels we know. We’ve been there.
We send you the hotel name and a link to the hotel’s website. We do that as soon as we find out which hotels are available for your travel dates.
Most of the hotels we use have 4 stars, as rated by the Italian government. They are otherwise known as “first class.” For luxury trips, we use 5-star hotels, otherwise known as “deluxe.” A few of our favorite hotels in Tuscany have 3 stars. Some others are not rated with stars, due to being historical buildings.
No. Sometimes we do give you a choice of two or more hotels. But what we normally do is give you the best hotel we know that is available and which fits your requirements. Anyone can give you a list of all the hotels in Rome, Florence or Venice. Most people come to us to get hotels we have carefully chosen to use. There are very few hotels that fit our requirements for location and quality, certainly not enough of them to make a big list.
Yes. Central hotels are the only kind we use. And our definition of central is a lot more strict than what you get elsewhere. Take Rome, for example. More than 80% of all the hotels in Rome are too far out for us. The same is true in Florence and Milan. In Venice, every hotel we use is close to St. Mark’s Square. You won’t find us proposing any of the Venice hotels that are by the train station, or in Mestre.
Yes. When we quote you the price of your trip, we ALWAYS include breakfast at the hotels. Most hotel breakfasts in Italy are cold buffets, which means an assortment of breads, cheeses, meats, fruits, yogurts, and cereals. Some are hot buffets. Some 5-star hotels do not include breakfast in their room prices. So when we quote a trip with those hotels, we add the cost of breakfast to the numbers we give you.
Probably not. We do some trips with rail passes. But for most trips we do, a rail pass is overkill, and it costs too much. So we go to the extra effort of ordering “point-to-point” tickets. They are easier to use, and they save you money.
On most trips we do, you will have reservations for specific seats on specific trains. We will give you the train number, its departure time, the number of the rail car, and the numbers of your seats.
Yes, for most trains, we ask for your preferences for train departure times. There are a few cases where we cannot ask for your preferences, such as when a certain train must be used in order to coordinate the time with a vehicle transfer or a tour.
No. You will carry your luggage onto the trains and stow it yourself. Most train cars have overhead storage bins. Some have areas on the floor for luggage. We highly recommend packing light for rail travel.
Transfers are the transportation links between airports and hotels, between hotels and train stations, and — for people taking cruises — between ports and hotels. They are usually done by vehicle, but in Venice, they are done by boat.
If your package includes a transfer from the airport to your hotel, you will meet your driver outside the bagage claim area. Your driver will be holding a sign with your name on it.
If your package does not include transfers, we can advise you about alternative transportation you can arrange when you get there. For example, if you do not have airport transfers, we’ll tell you about taxis or buses or airport trains you may be able to get. Some of our packages include what we call the “key transfers,” which are the ones you will most appreciate having arranged in advance. We usually do not include transfers that can be done by short and inexpensive taxi rides.
If your package includes a private guide, your guide will come to your hotel and meet you in the lobby at a time that will be shown on your itinerary.
That depends. In some cases your guide comes with specific marching orders, such as to go with you to the Vatican Museums in Rome or to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, in which case the plan is already established. In other cases, if you have specific places you wish to visit with your guides, it’s best that you discuss your requirements with us when we design your trip, to be sure that we can accommodate them. But if you do not have any specific requests for your time with a guide or or driver, don’t worry. The people we arrange to meet you in Italy know what most people want to do. They will talk to you about the possibilities and do their best to customize the time to suit your expectations.
Lots of people go to Italy and do their own sightseeing. It’s a good way to save money. It’s best if you do some reading before your trip, and we can recommend a good introductory book. But if you don’t do any advance planning at all, you will still have the benefit of the tips we will send you, which include our ideas about what to see in Rome, Florence, and Venice. You can also get us on the telephone and talk about how to organize your time. And if you need help with reservations at galleries or museums, we can get many of the key ones for you, such as at the Uffizi Gallery, which is something we do for all our clients without charging anything extra. We can also tell you about the kinds of sightseeing tours you may be able to buy after you get to Italy.
In today’s travel news… History of the Vatican Museums The Vatican Museums originated as a group of sculptures collected by Pope Julius II (1503-1513) and placed in what today is the Cortile Ottagono within the museum complex. The popes were among … (read more)
The ItalySource “Top 8 or 10 or so” list. We love these trips, of course, but we’re not sure why they’re selected more than others. Maybe one of these will become a fave of yours?