first time visiting Italy

We are thinking of a trip to Italy and trying to get a handle on what we should expect the cost to be 14days, airfare from Seattle to NY then on to italy, hotels, food, transportation etc. We do NOT need 4stars but safe and clean. We are seniors and in good health. The prices I am finding on the internet are all over the place. A guided tour sounds good but we also enjoy exploring on our own! what are the 3 most important cities to see and visit. my husband is Italian so we are open to your suggestions! Thank you Dawn

Posted by donna
roswell, ga, usa
996 posts

The first time a trip to Italy even entered my mind was about 10 years ago (I was 50) and was home with the flu and turned on PBS and watched my first Rick Steves Europe through the Back Door show! I couldn't believe that a middle-class person like myself could afford to go to Europe, and I've been on probably 10 independent trips to Europe since that Fine Day! If Edmonton is close to you, definitely take advantage of location and check out his advice. I've been to Italy at least 6 times and first time did the "Big Three": Rome, Florence and Venice. I still go back to Rome every year because I am a religious Catholic and can't get enough of the Eternal City. In Rome, I stay at the Hotel Alimandi Tunisi (a good basic hotel right across the street from the Vatican/St. Peters) with good transportation to the rest of the beautiful city! I usually stay in Rick Steves Mid to even high range hotel suggestions, because the lower end places tend to be for back packers or kids who don't mind sharing a bath! My advice is to buy his Italy DVD (or rent from the Library) and get a good overview of the country! You may find one area more fascinating than another.| I DO love Florence and have gone there three times and spent a whole week in a rented apartment (found doing a search on VRBO) Your husband is Italian, so going to his ancestors home town may be important to you so investigate that. Re costs: Airfare will probably be around $1200-$1400 each round trip ticket.
If you're going to do the "big 3" consider arriving in Venice and departing from Rome which will save you a lot of ground transportation time AND costs! (or the other way around). Buy the Rick Steves Italy Book! and READ it! Most people don't get the guidebook out till after they arrive! PM me if you need additional fino!

Posted by donna
roswell, ga, usa
996 posts

Continued: As for costs, a lower mid range price hotel room in The Big 3 is usually around $200 a night (A Euro costs $1.30 at this time.) Add another $100 day average for meals or more depending on what kind of places you'd like to dine in. Eating can be done quite reasonably in Italy, as pizzas and panini are inexpensive and delicious as is Pasta. (We find lodgings to be very inexpensive in Spain but end up spending more there because the cost of eating is more, and Spain hotels don't offer the included breakfast) Next add on @$100 for each ground transportation (train or bus) to move between the larger cities. Cheaper tickets can be found if you're smart and book ahead and can navigate the website. FINAL Tip!: Go to: roninrome.com He has the absolutely best detailed advice for hotels/restaurants/train use/site advice of anyone in the world regarding Rome. Let us know if you go through with this trip we hope you do!!

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17724 posts

T.Dawn, The best investment you can make is to pick up a copy of the Italy 2013 Guidebook, as there's LOTS of information there on good, reliable budget hotels as well as transportation, sightseeing, restaurants and other information. It would be a good idea to pack the book along during your trip (I usually do). If you'd prefer a bit of help on your first trip, taking one of the RS Italy tours would also be great, even one of the week-long city tours. Following the tour, you could continue on your own, as you will have gained some travel skills on the tour. The tours always provide some free time, so you could also explore on your own. You'll learn far more about the history by taking a tour. Given your location, if you have a spare day you might consider taking a day trip to Edmonds to have a chat with Rick's expert staff, as they will be able to provide you with LOTS of great information and help in choosing the best option. You could also make an appointment for a tour consultation (there's a small charge for that). Some of Rick's staff have lived in Italy and can speak Italian fluently, so they have a lot of knowledge to offer. The three most important cities (IMO) are Venice, Florence and Rome (with day trips from each). You won't be able to see it all on one trip, so best to focus on those. Regarding the air fares, you could check the usual internet sites, but you may also want to speak with a Travel Agent. Happy travels!

Posted by Robert
Liberty, Missouri
96 posts

I am guessing you have the answer close to your own back yard in Edmonds. Rick Steves has a wide range of guided and one unguided tour of Italy from 9 to 17 days long. Just look at the tour tab of this web site. Prices run from $2800 to $4300 per person plus your airfare. There are reviews and complete details available about each tour. There should be one that gives you what you want plus you have really easy access to visit with the staff in Edmonds about any questions you might have about them.

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
3577 posts

T. Dawn, if you haven't seen the "Rick Steves Europe" TV programs, or want to see them at will, look to the right of Robert's post for Rick's YouTube button and click on it. I, too, suggest a trip to Europe Through the Back Door in Edmonds, if possible! You're sooo close...

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

Hiwhen are you thinking of going? Airfare to Italy from here ( Seattle) is much less if you can goin April or October instead of high season ( June through August). May and September are in between.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2820 posts

First, I agree with everyone else that your first step should be to get Rick Steves Italy. Your next step should be to watch Rick's videos; they're on Hulu as well as YouTube, and he just did new ones last year for Florence, Venice, and Rome. He has older ones on MANY other places in Italy. To look for airfares, use www.kayak.com. Choose "multi city" instead of "one way" or "round trip." Put in Seattle to Venice as your first leg, and Rome to Seattle as your second leg. Most people on the west coast prefer to change in Europe rather than in New York or elsewhere in the US, as it's faster. You can play around with dates and cities on Kayak to see what might be less expensive. But beware of the false economy of not flying multi city. If round trip to Rome is cheapest, you then have to get back to Rome at the end of your trip, which costs time and money. As for "what are the 3 most important cities?" how would you answer that for the US? You have to decide for yourself. For instance, on my first trip to Italy, I went to Milan, Venice, and Florence (with sidetrips to Lucca, Pisa, and Siena), but didn't go to Rome. And, while some were scandalized, I'm very glad I did it this way. I had no interest in Rome at the time of that first trip, but the trip itself spurred this interest, so I went to Rome on my second Italy trip (I've now taken 6 trips there, and hope to increase the count soon). So, go to places YOU want to see. And they don't have to be "cities" if that's not your interest. In addition to books and videos, look at tours (Rick's and others) to see where they go. You may get ideas about places to see from these.

Posted by Louise
Seattle, WA, United States
1 posts

T. Dawn,
Even though many airline routes go the US East Coast first, not all dolook at the overall travel time. It is often less time (and cheaper in some cases) to fly to a European city like Frankfurt first (the flights go over the top and so are shorter). We are going through Frankfurt this summer, and the total travel time was much less than any route through the East Coast (or California!). You should follow others' advice to go to the Rick Steves office in Edmonds. Book ahead for the Free Travel Classes (go to News & Events then to the classes) and for a session with one of their consultants. We have used both of those services and are very satisfied! They also have a library of many guidebooksnot just their ownthat you can use while at the office. They don't mind if you stay an hour or two just browsing the books, and you don't have to book ahead for browsing the library! There are lots of restaurants nearby, so you could make a little day tripno problem from Snohomish!