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Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour
Old 01-14-2007, 09:10 PM   #1
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Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour

My wife would love to go to Italy, and loving her as I do, I want her to have that experience soon.

Can anyone recommend a company for such a trip? Personally, I am not an art connoisseur [unless it has two or four wheels ... ], and I have never used a tour company ... always have preferred to go our own pace in the past, to the limited extent of our travel.

But for this trip, a tour seems logical.

I note a few tours affiliated with universities, and of course I can Google / Yahoo my way around ... but so much rides on the quality of the company, I greatly prefer a reference from someone with experience.

Would appreciate your suggestions. Thanks.
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Re: Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour
Old 01-16-2007, 07:17 AM   #2
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Re: Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour

No luck?
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Re: Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour
Old 01-16-2007, 07:36 AM   #3
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Re: Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour

Having lived in Europe (and being a frequent visitor to Florence and Rome), this is what I'd suggest: plan your own trip, select a few cities you want to see, and read up a little about them before you go. Once you are there, pick a local guide to tour the monuments or areas you want to visit. There are lots of knowledgeable, English-speaking local folks who hang around these areas and work as guides. I think some of them are even vetted by the Tourist Bureau, and wear some kind of card or badge.

The advantage of a local guide is that you can easily switch to another one if you don't like him/her. S/he would probably know the local scene better (small restaurants, shops, etc) and can point you to a lot of little-known spots worth visiting. And they'll probably be cheaper than going with a full-service tour.

Rome, Florence and Venice are the "classic" cities to visit, but I'd also recommend Verona (where you can visit Juliet's tomb) and Naples.
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Re: Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour
Old 01-16-2007, 09:21 AM   #4
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Re: Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour

If you are willing to do your own planning, the Fodor's guide for Italy is very good. It'll point out the most important art opportunities in each city, a selection of recommended hotels and restaurants. It's easy to get around Italy using trains, and public transportation for local trips.

Audrey
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Re: Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour
Old 01-16-2007, 01:53 PM   #5
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Re: Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour

Charles, you (and your wife) can plan this without a tour company. Your wife will know her specific interests much better than a one-size-fits-all package. Plan it around the major cities, and then look at what museums you want to see and what is involved in tickets and local tour guides (if you need one). I think some reading ahead of time (get a printed guidebook of the specific museum) will help you navigate once inside each museum. Check out the Budget Travel magazine website, they have a lot of good info on Italy. I have some specific information about Florence, having gone in November, if you want some recent experience or suggestions.
Sarah
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Re: Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour
Old 01-16-2007, 02:05 PM   #6
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Re: Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour

Quote:
Originally Posted by mclesters
museum. Check out the Budget Travel magazine website, they have a lot of good info on Italy. I have some specific information about Florence, having gone in November, if you want some recent experience or suggestions.
Charles, sorry for the semi-hijack ...

Sarah, I would be interested in hearing about your recent Florence experience. DW and I are planning on take my parents (70 and 64) to Italy this summer. Both of us haven't been to Italy in quite some time. We both loved Florence, but it's probably changed quite in bit in 8+ years! A little nervous about taking my older parents, but they've never been to Europe and will not go by themselves.


Thanks.
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Re: Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour
Old 01-16-2007, 02:54 PM   #7
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Re: Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour

Wander, this I promise, you DO NOT want to hear about my experiences if you are planning to take a 70 and 64 year old parent to Italy. Oh dear god no, the memories...flooding back....

Took Mom for her 65th birthday-2 week trip all expenses paid, all hotel reservations made up front. The start: 2 days in Florence, then rented a car to go to Tuscany, stayed 3rd night in Chianti. Mom fell down the stone stairs on the way to dinner, hit the stone wall on the way down with her face. Ambulance transport to Florence, nightmare language barriers and socialized medical care (they were nice, but my mom was an RN, and I have pretty high standards). She had/has a major concussion, many broken bones in her nose, broken teeth, the works. We stayed overnight in hospital, with me waiting for a stroke to happen and sure she would die if it did. Got out next day, cancelled all remaining reservations (every hotel charged us full price) and took an expensive flight back to Charleston the following day. She looked and felt terrible for the 9 hours it took to deliver her back to my father. She will still need some surgery for the nose.

Do not underestimate the very real problem of taking older folks anywhere! I certainly never imagined this would happen.
But, uh, having told this expensive tale of woe, Florence was beautiful and all the folks we met in the hospitalwere super nice. One more reason to travel while young(er).
Sarah
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Re: Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour
Old 01-16-2007, 02:58 PM   #8
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Re: Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour

Quote:
Originally Posted by audreyh1
If you are willing to do your own planning, the Fodor's guide for Italy is very good.
On second thought - it might have been the Frommer's guide - or did I use both?

Audrey
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Re: Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour
Old 01-16-2007, 03:05 PM   #9
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Re: Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour

Another guide to Italy is Rick Steve's Italy. You might also check out his book Europe Through the Back Door which might be in your public library. He's good for getting you in the mood to do it yourself too and has excellent suggestions. Check out his web site with lots of freebee advise. He has tour's too which you could look at to get hints for planning your own in terms of places to go and time to allocate. Sometimes PBS plays his travel shows.

We've used his book for the U.K. and are now planning a trip to France using his books.

Les
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Re: Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour
Old 01-16-2007, 03:34 PM   #10
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Re: Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour

Quote:
Originally Posted by mclesters
Wander, this I promise, you DO NOT want to hear about my experiences if you are planning to take a 70 and 64 year old parent to Italy. Oh dear god no, the memories...flooding back....
Yikes! Sorry to hear that. Yeah, I wished I had traveled with them to Europe before since they've always wanted to go. Oh well, we'll see how it goes!
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Re: Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour
Old 01-16-2007, 10:49 PM   #11
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Re: Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour

Great advice, and we really prefer the adventure of finding our way around. Didn't think of local guides at all ... great idea. I'll do a bit more research, and then bring her in on the "secret" ... she can tell me what she'd really prefer for this experience.

Everyone ... thank you very much.
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Re: Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour
Old 01-17-2007, 09:42 AM   #12
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Re: Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour

Charles.. felt it was rude not to chime in, though my advice is modest.

-Don't try and bite off more than you can chew. One could easily spend a entire week really "seeing" what's on offer in any given Italian city. In an effort to "do Italy" you can waste a lot of time in traveling and hotel transfers. Given a week, I would visit 2 places max. Given two weeks, I'd visit 3 or possibly 4. You'll enjoy it more if you have time to stroll, relax and get oriented.

-Once you have a timeframe, establish what kind of art would please your wife most. If Renaissance/medieval, then stick to Venice/Florence (Siena/Assisi). Forget Pisa; the only thing there is the Tower, pretty much. If Greek/Roman antiquities then maybe Rome/Naples/Pompeii/Erculanum, or maybe just Sicily.

-Rome is.. Rome! Plenty of art for a week, but maybe not the most "artistic" of cities in the romantic sense as you have to be willing to bear the crowds and chaos. The Vatican museum is a definite art mecca, but is eternally crowded and rather exhausting. Ditto Naples (Museo Capodimonte & archeological museum 2 of the highlights). You can take a commuter trains from Naples or Sorrento that have stations just a short walk from the excavations at both Pompeii and Herculanum.

Have fun planning your trip!
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Re: Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour
Old 01-17-2007, 11:59 AM   #13
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Re: Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour

On a semi-related topic -- the young wife and I were also thinking of going to Italy this summer. One tour that struck me as interesting was with an outfit called "Country Walkers", where they transport your bags between destinations by van while you walk and see the area in more detail and at a slower pace. We were thinking of an 8-day trip to the lake region north of Milan (Lakes Como, Maggiore etc, the town of Bellagio). Does anyone have experience with this area or with the tour company?

Thanks.
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Re: Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour
Old 01-19-2007, 05:03 AM   #14
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Re: Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour

Chiming in a little late as I had no tour recommendations.
Last year we went on a two week trip. I second the Rick Steves guidebooks. We stayed in his recommended hotels in Rome, Florence and Siena. We took the train between each. Language was only a small barrier.

Pack light. We travel with carry-ons only. Unless you are staying in a best western type hotel you may be lugging your bags up several flights of stairs. Not very handicap accessable, but many streets and alleys are the same as hundreds of years ago. I would not miss the Vatican and Sistine Chapel. Climbing to the top of the Duomo in Florence as well as St. Peters in Rome is worth it. Knowing the story of Michaelangelo will greatly enhance your time at the Vatican.

Before you go, I would recommend reading "The Agony and the Ecstacy". This is the story of Michaelangelo and it gives a great history not only of the artist but of Italy and the Renaissance as well. Also, "Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture" by Ross King. Then climb the dome. Find out about Ghiberti's doors to the baptistry in Florence.

I also like Eyewitness guides for planning. We ask people at the small hotels we are staying for restaurant recommendations. Off the beaten path we have found the best family restaurants, although English is not often spoken well. The best food I have ever eaten.


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Re: Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour
Old 01-19-2007, 07:10 AM   #15
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Re: Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gumby
On a semi-related topic -- the young wife and I were also thinking of going to Italy this summer. One tour that struck me as interesting was with an outfit called "Country Walkers", where they transport your bags between destinations by van while you walk and see the area in more detail and at a slower pace. We were thinking of an 8-day trip to the lake region north of Milan (Lakes Como, Maggiore etc, the town of Bellagio). Does anyone have experience with this area or with the tour company?

Thanks.
Gumby:

we've taken about 10 vacations to this area ( we lived in Italy, so wasn't that much of a haul). This area and the Piedmonte are my favorite in Italy b/c of climate, close proximity to Switzerland, and the textile mill outlets.
We have never used a tour company, but planned our own trips.
I recommend the website slowtalk.com for food and bed recommendations while Rough guide is good for ideas on getting around.
For an 8 day trip in the area, I would fly into Milan, and rent a car for a week or 8 days. This is so you can get out on small road trips and will give you much more flexibility than a tour company; most places you'll stay will have parking areas/permits that you can use.
If you really intend on staying on the lake for all 8 days, then you may not even need a car and could just take the train to Lake Como and rent a bike to cycle around the lake or use the ferries to get around.
We preferred having a car, as we enjoy driving around the lake, and to get to those aforementioned outlets. Maggiore is probably the cheapest of the three, but very quaint and pretty, Como the largest, Bellagio very pretty. There are Roman ramparts on the outskirts and medieval remnants in Maggiore, walkable from city center.
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Re: Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour
Old 01-19-2007, 08:13 AM   #16
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Re: Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour

A great resource online is www.slowtrav.com which is made up of people who believe in staying put for a week or so and exploring the nearby sights. Started particularly for those interested in Italy, but has expanded to the rest of the world.

Lots of travel hints for Italy, recommendations of local guides, hotel, apartment and restaurant reviews and a message board of very friendly people. Excellent trip reports, too. Takes a while to explore all that's there. There is occasional discussion of "all-inclusive" or "group tours" as well.
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Re: Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour
Old 01-19-2007, 09:42 AM   #17
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Re: Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour

P.S. and cnb46:

Thanks for the suggestions. Looks like we have a lot of reading to do.
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Re: Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour
Old 01-19-2007, 06:56 PM   #18
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Re: Italy: Best Company for an Art Tour

Hi Charles
I'm a little late to the party but I think you should look into Globus. We went on the Italy at leasure tour that went to Rome, Florence,Venice and Milan and it was one of our top vacations ever. This tour allows you to stay in the same city for 2 to 3 nights in a row and see a lot of cool stuff easier than if you were doing it by yourself. They take care of all your luggage. Check it out.

Stephen
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