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First Timer to Italy on a limited budget for 1 week

I'm wishing to take my wife to Italy. She's liked Rick's shows on all of it, but would like to visit the shops. I'm guessing Venice although I thought CT would have been more romantic? Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks.

Posted by
632 posts

Todd,

Nothing is as romantic as Venice...but not when its overloaded with tourists. If you are going after the middle of September and before the middle of June, you will have crowds in the daytime (manageable)...but very quiet evenings. There are friendly crowds at the Rialto Bridge and Piazza San Marco...whatever you do, take her to the Piazza San Marco for a romantic after dinner drink (coffee or whatever)...there are two bands playing classical and popular music and lots of couples dancing in the square. Or maybe an evening on one of the small canals in a gondola with a singing gondolier....

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you. This sounds nice. Especially the gondola ride. I don't wish to go like a pauper but I've heard someone tell me to go for a week and I could really live it up with $10K. At that I thought maybe I'd resort to just watching Rick on television. LOL.

Does anybody have any recent US Dollar amounts that they've done Venice area in a weeks time including flights? I'm trying to figure out how much I'll have to budget.

Posted by
636 posts

This is really off the cuff, but I would allow $3000 for flights, $1500 for lodging, and $1500 for food, and I think that that's pretty generous. And, you could probably still have a great time with a lot less.

Posted by
7678 posts

I think the previous estimate is overly generous. You can get flights to Europe off season for 500 -600 € and you can easily get a lovely hotel or B&B for 80 € or less per night. Excuse me, but $1500 for food for a week? That is $750 per person. What in the world would they be eating every day? I cannot imagine spending over a $100 a day for me to eat. Perhaps $50 but even that would be extravagant. Especially if they were getting breakfast in their hotel. I recommend looking for a nice travel package with an agency, with flight& hotel. Check Expedia, or similar websites.

Posted by
2908 posts

Both your wife and you will enjoy your trip to Italy! To check airfares look online at www.kayak.com for an estimate of the cost.

For rooms get a good guidebook--purchase one at the bookstore (I'm partial to Rick Steves Italy book) or check one or two out of the library. Most guidebooks give ballpark figures for accommodations.

You'll find lots of great info on this website for first-timers planning a trip. You can use the search feature above to look at previous posts to help answer some of your general questions.

Venice is a great destination for your first trip--happy planning!

Posted by
2908 posts

With careful planning you can probably save money planning the trip on your own but Jo has a great suggestion-on a first trip a tour could be perfect!

Posted by
4 posts

Wow! I can't believe all of the wonderful information I've received in less than an hour! You all are Great! Thank you. This is a lot of great info. I forgot to mention that I wanted to surprise her around her birthday. What is it like there in January? Or would it be best during another month? I'd like uncrowded beauty. Who wouldn't right? Thank you all again!

Posted by
20 posts

If your going for romance it has to be Venice. I'll never forget dancing at San Marco under the moonlight. We've been married 37 years and that is up there with the most romantic night we have ever had. As far as a gondola ride it is very expensive and I didn't think that romantic. Just walking the canals at night is better.

Posted by
20712 posts

But keep in mind that Todd is thinking about January. I don't know if you could do much dancing in St, Mark's Square in January. On the water it could be damp, chilly, and stormy. And the flooding problems in Venice are worse in the winter. I would move further south to Florence and maybe Rome. Also if trying hold down costs you might find cheaper tickets into Rome than Venice which will require an addition leg. But neither Venice, Florence or Rome are particularly cheap. I would vote for Florence at that time but Rome would work also.

Posted by
31049 posts

Todd,

Venice and Florence would both be great places to visit. With only a one week trip, you'll need to be very selective (is there any possibility of adding a few more days?). Keep in mind that you'll lose the first day in flight times (on the way home, you'll usually arrive the same day you departed).

Of course the best places to visit will be those that your wife is most interested in. You might find it helpful to sit & watch Rick's shows with her, and subtly try to determine which cities she's most interested in.

I'd suggest not visiting in January, as northern Italy can be cold & miserable at that time of year. Even if you're dressed for the weather, it might not be the best experience for either of you. The spring shoulder season (Apr./May) or fall (Sept./Oct) are good times - not too crowded but usually good weather.

If you settle on Venice and Florence, you might fly open-jaw - into Venice and home from Milan. You might want to pick up a copy of Rick's "Italy" book to get some idea on lodgings and restaurants (an E-mail to the Hotel to arrange for flowers in the room on arrival might be a nice touch!). You could also scope out some ideas for romantic restaurants. The Guidebooks also list lots of sightseeing ideas, opening & closing times, admission prices, etc.

Regarding your budget, $10K should be more than adequate for a week (keeping the exchange rates in mind, of course)! I find Venice to be more expensive than Florence, but it's such a unique location it's certainly worth a visit.

As this is your first visit, and you'll probably travel from Venice to Florence via rail, I'd suggest reading the "Rails Skills" section in Europe Through The Back Door as well. It also covers language issues, safe travel (wear a Money Belt!) and other pertinent items.

Good luck with your planning!

Posted by
1313 posts

Jo mentioned a travel package--depending on your temperament, knowledge, and comfort planning a trip, you might consider signing up for the RS 10 day Venice, Florence, Rome tour.

If you are comfortable putting the trip together as a surprise on your own, good for you! I think winter is a fantastic time to visit Italy, although I haven't gone to Venice.

Posted by
632 posts

Yep...Venice in January is not the same. I think the best of Italy in January is probably Rome...it has everything...the weather is likely to be bad no matter where you stay, so you should go somewhere that has lots of indoor sites and activities.

Posted by
1449 posts

January can be a cold time to visit Europe. Why not tell her of the trip on her birthday but go in May? Better weather, still not crowded.

If the main focus is your wife's enjoyment, why not draw out of her what regions she'd like? Kind of like "If Rick Steve's show had a drawing where viewers could win a trip, where would you want to go?"

I think you should also look at the Amalfi coast area. The scenery is beautiful, you can stay in Sorrento and do day trips down the coast and over to Capri. You could combine 4 days there with 3 in Rome (which also gives you a major airport to fly to/from).

Posted by
4 posts

You all have sold me on the fact that as much as I'd like to do it for her birthday, This may only be a one time thing due to affordability. I think we will try a differnt Month at a slower time.

Posted by
4555 posts

Todd...April or May are usually nice months in either city (although I might try a Rome-Florence combo to get more bang for your buck) and airfares are still relatively low. If you decide on that, then give her a birthday card in January with a photo of the Forum or something similar enclosed....then she'll think of you and your wonderful present right through the months leading up to the trip (brownie points for 3 or 4 months!)

Posted by
3540 posts

Go off or schoulder season and stay in Venice. There is nothing more romantic!

Posted by
389 posts

Todd, may I suggest booking a trip to Venice for late April or early May and presenting her with the airline tickets on her birthday. She not only will receive the best present she could her want but she'll have the next 4-5 months to dream about the trip. The best part of any trip is the anticipation of it. Also, this way you'll be taking her when the weather and lack of crowds couldn't be better.

Posted by
70 posts

We booked a month in advance back in March of this year for $1500.00 round trip. you may consider off-season travel to save $$$.

Posted by
7678 posts

ok, just for fun, I went to Expedia and typed in, one week, starting 2 April, from Salt Lake City to Venice. The prices started at 1500 € with 2000 € or so being the average. This is for 2 people, flight AND hotel. So, you are looking at about 800 - 1000 € per person, excluding food. Is something like this in your price range? Rome during this period was more expensive. I would look on the website and play around with different time periods, also with arrival dates on weekdays as opposed to weekends as this is sometimes a huge price difference. Also check some different cities too.

Posted by
189 posts

We were in Venice in late July and my (12-year-old) son says he will live there when he grows up and buys his own boat to get around. It is wonderful, but I love the water having lived on a boat in Sausalito. About flying open jaw, we found it cheaper to fly round trip into one city, take trains or shuttle flights to other places we wanted to visit and then back to the original city to fly home.

I also echo the fondness for Florence.

Wonderful sights in both places and the environment is charming. Have fun!

Posted by
194 posts

I was in Venice in early January a few years ago. It was cool to cold, and a bit wet (St. Mark's was flooded the first day we were there), but not crowded at all which I really liked. I think it just depends on what is "cold" to you. Temps in the 40s (or so) and rain to me isn't cold--10 degrees and snowy, which it's usually like in Wisconsin that time of the year, is cold!

Posted by
6 posts

This is in response to your question about costs. My husband and I just got back from a ten day trip to Italy. With everything included we spent a touch under $5000 (USD). We went to Florence, Venice and Rome and didn't feel like we skimped on anything (e.g. airconditioning and separate baths in the hotels, night-time gondola ride). We did plan ahead to make the most of our money---the Rick Steves guidebook has great tips on passes and other things that can save some money. I think with $5000 you could have quite a lavish week long trip!

Posted by
15 posts

I agree with the previous poster. I could do a week in Italy for roughly $4000. Budget $2000 for flights and the rest for lodging and food. I went on a tour of Italy last year and found it completely unnecessary. Next time I'm doing it myself!

Venice was so romantic and so was Florence. Italy, to me, is the ultimate destination for romance. The food, the language, the wine...

You and your wife will love it!

Posted by
586 posts

Much depends on the time you have AND the time of year you'll travel, but I agree that Florence and Venice (about 3 hours via train) are two great places for a couple. And with Florence, you could always visit Siena for a night or Cortona or another Tuscan town, just for flavor/history, too. Even a short trip would be great with 3 nights in Venice, a morning train ride to Florence, with 3 nights in Florence and perhaps 1-2 nights in Siena or Cortona. You could fly into Venice and out of Florence (or the other way around). The last few Italy trips we've taken (twice this past year), we spent an average of about $45 per hour there in Italy, including 24 hours per day (including everything, air, hotel, meals, trains, shopping, museums, etc). Using Steves' medium-priced hotels and restaurants and some shopping, this is a fair estimate of expense. 8 nights cost us more than 8K (just over $1,000 per day, with airfare included). If you were to stay at hotels below e100,00 per night, shop a little less than we did, and perhaps have one sitdown meal per day, I'm certain you could shave off about 2k. Italy is worth every penny, if you can do it. Would be happy to email you our itineraries as Word Documents if it would help. Just shoot me a message if you want them. Buon viaggio!

Posted by
19 posts

Some budget tips for Venice:

  1. Consider a two or three star hotel on the mainland along the bus lines since a similar hotel on the actual island will cost you at least $50 more per day.

  2. Purchase an all day canal bus pass to see the tourist venues which are located in the more distant locations of the city.

  3. Let the Gondoliers come to you for gondola rides and not the other way around. When you walk past an idle one, he'll probably offer you a price. Seem surprised at how expensive it is. (You may need no help on this since most were offering an 80 Euro [$120] ride for my wife and I during August) I had one guy voluntarily drop his price to 60 Euros [$90]. We decided that the ride was still not worth the price, but if your wife is the romantic type, trying to haggle down the price more may be worth it to you. Remember, supply vs demand. Ride them when they are the ones lining up for customers.

  4. There are shops everywhere. Be patient and ask them to mark down their shop on your map if you see a good price for an item and come back only after you've conviced yourself that it's the best price.

*Note that restaurants in Italy will charge you at least a one Euro per person fee for sitting down to eat. Water in the restaurants are not free. A service charge of 10% or more will probably be added to the cost of your food. ABSOLUTELY make sure your bill is correct since more than once did we have them overcharge us.

*Although approximately 1 Euro = $1.50, expect to pay twice the amount that you would normally pay here in the U.S. throughout Italy for just about everything.

Posted by
20 posts

Hi Todd
Regardless of the weather both Florence and Venice are great places to visit. If you want to save money (I do on my trip) have a look at this great site www.monasterystays.com. May not suit if you are shopaholics but the monasteries/convents in both cities look to be good value, central and are safe. Organisation seems reputable from the comments on the website. I'd give it a look.

Posted by
192 posts

Venice is perfect for a romantic week. Make sure that you stay in the city itself and not on the mainland. The idea of giving her the tickets on her birthday for a spring trip is great. Anticipating and planning things to do on the trip is really half the fun. The tourist sites can be really crowded during the day - 9:00 to 5:00 but will be almost deserted otherwise. Explore the rest of the city or the islands while the day trippers are in town and then hit the sites. For $10,000 you can stay in Italy for a couple of months. I have done it several times.