In this week's Adventure, I'm taking you on a trip through Italy. This trip is a re-creation of my honeymoon hitting three target areas: Rome, Tuscany and Venice. I like this trip because it gives you different views of the country. You start in a very historic and bustling City, exploring all that Rome has to offer. By day, you'll visit all the historic sites like the Vatican, the Colosseum and the pantheon, and in the evening you'll enjoy the nightlife of a thriving modern capital. Heading north, you will go to Tuscany and embrace la Dolce Vita. You can relax and stroll through vineyards, take a bike ride through the rolling countryside and taste some of the best wines Italy has to offer. At night, you can enjoy some of the best cuisine in the region while being serenaded by musicians. The final stop heads to Venice, where you'll get a truly unique experience. During the day, you can taking the wonders of a city belts on an island and marvel at sites like Saint Mark's Basilica and the Rialto Bridge. To escape the crowds, you can take a quick boat ride over to Murano or Burano to enjoy a step back in time. During the evening, you can get lost in the narrow alleyways that weave through Venice, which captured my heart and made me fall in love with the city.
This is not a plan that I am selling, but a post to inspire you to explore different vacation options. With that being said, you can take this idea and adjust it to fit your needs, maybe by cutting nights or even destinations. I list the pricing after tax (except on some transport), and the prices are for July, during the peak travel time. The trip is calculated for a family of four, but I do list what a couple should expect at the bottom. So let's get started. Below are a couple maps of the trip and total cost:
To start, this will be an open jaw flight flying into Rome and flying out of Venice. This really depends on where you're departing from as far as Cost goes. If you have miles to use, that's a huge plus, but if not, I would try to go to a major airport within your region to cut back on cost. The cost of parking a car in a lot for 7 to 10 days can be a lot cheaper than leaving from your local airport. For example, flying from Columbus, Ohio to Rome and then from Venice to Columbus, Ohio would cost me around $1,029 dollars this fall. The same flight is $679 from Chicago and $508 out of New York. Flying out of NYC would save a couple $1,000, or $2,500 if I was taking the whole family! So it is important to price shop around your area to make sure that you score the best deals. I'm budgeting $750/person for airfare, but I think that might be high.
Once in Italy, there's a couple ways that you can get from point to point. The way I traveled was by rail, which is by far one of these easiest ways to get around the country. For people traveling to Europe for the first time, I think it's an easy choice that makes a lot of sense. That being said, I would never do it again.
The benefits of train travel are that it's clean, safe, efficient and can be budget friendly, but there are other factors.
- You have to take a car/shuttle to and from your hotel during every leg of the trip, which does add up.
- The car/shuttle can often be delayed.
- You may need multiple trains to reach the destination. especially in the countryside. Italy has several train lines, but you have
to catch connecting lines.
- If you have motion sickness and get a rear facing seat, it can be nauseating.
My Experience and Advice:
It was a fairy easy to board our train in Rome, but we had issues in Tuscany. To get to Tuscany, we had to connect through Florence because there's not a direct train route from Rome. This went smooth, but once we arrived in Tuscany, the driver I hired was two hours late. So we were stuck there, with our luggage at the train station, and just had to sit and wait. Eventually we got picked up, but to make up time, he sped up the winding hilly roads. My wife was clinging to my arm for dear life and her face turned three shades of green. To put this all in perspective, we left our hotel in Rome at about 8 A.M. and we didn't get to our Tuscany hotel until about 3 P.M., so 7 hours travel when I could've driven there in 1.5 hours. For me, next time I will deal with the stress of renting a car and driving in a different country, than deal with the stress of the connection falling apart right in front of your eyes.
I'm recommending renting a car when departing from Rome, drive to Tuscany (and use it during your stay there), and then return it in Florence after your Tuscany stay is done. I'm suggesting you drive to Florence (spend a night there even) and take the train to Venice because it is probably the easiest way to arrive in the final city. When you get to Venice, you arrive right on the Grand Canal. You'll step out of the station and get on a water taxi.
To summarize: If you're traveling point to point (Rome to Florence, Rome to Venice) use the train. If you are heading to the countryside at all, rent a car between cities.
For the hotel options in this adventure, I’m including a fourth pricing tier, the ultra lux. I wanted to show some really high end options that you can explore. I am also adding my “Exact” option, which shows you the pricing for the hotels that I actually stayed in while on my honeymoon.
For the Rome hotels, the options range in price and location. The Via Veneto area of Rome is a little more upscale, so if you're looking for an area with high end shopping and food, this might be a good option for you. If you would like to stay near a park so you can unwind with an evening stroll, I would highly recommend Rome Marriott Grand Hotel Flora. If budget is your idea, or want to stay in the middle of everything then the Hotel Nazionale. Another centrally located hotel (not on the list) is the Hotel Raphael. It's a charming hotel tucked along a small street with reasonable (moderate) rates.
The Albergo Ottocento was a good option for location. You’re close to the Spanish Steps as well as the Trevi Fountain. You’re also within walking distance of all the major sights in the city. Most importantly for us, it was in the more upscale area of Via Veneto, which just added a sense of safety. The hotel itself was, for us, made special by the front desk staff. The gentleman that was working there was one of the nicest people I think I’ve ever met.
For Tuscany, picking the right hotel is all about what you want from this part of the trip. If you’re more interested in just relaxing and doing nothing, then a hotel with more amenities (or a spa) might be your best bet. If you’re the type of person always on the go, then picking a hotel near a city or close to more sights might be better.
The Castello la Spaltenna, located in Giaole en Chinati, was beautiful. The 12th century castle turned hotel was something so different than anything that I had ever experienced to that point. Our room had wood beams above, an elaborate bed and a modern bathroom. The best part of the hotel was the inner courtyard at dinner time. The candlelight filled the space, the stars twinkled above, and the soft music made us want to dance. It was special.
For Venice, the hotels are mostly located along a canal, some on the Grand and others off one of the smaller canals. If you want to be closer to the sights, I would recommend staying near St. Mark’s Square, as we found ourselves making our way down there quite often.
The NH was the last leg of the vacation and it did not disappoint. You right on the grand canal, in between St. Mark’s and the Rialto Bridge. I will mention that we did upgrade our room option here, and reserved the main suite of the hotel. This option comes with a private terrace that spans the entire fronting of the hotel, with spectacular views of the canal. The terrace was absolutely amazing. When I go back to Venice, this is where I’m staying, because I just don’t think you can beat it. We purposely budgeted moderately priced hotels in the other two locations, just so we could fit this room in our budget. I can not understate what a homerun this option was for us. Aside from that, I would still recommend this option as the location is superb. Again, the staff here was amazing. My wife had some down with a cold during the last part of the trip and the front desk prepared a care package for us when we went out for lunch. It was the nicest gesture and made us feel at home at a time we were getting a little homesick.
Itinerary and Activities
As normal all activities that are listed in the itinerary are included in the cost, so if you don't want to do any of the activities listed, than your cost would go down.
That said, I think these activities are good bucket list items for when you go to Italy. Going into the Coliseum was an amazing experience. Walking through the the stadium and looking around to sit all the brickwork, I loved seeing the ancient ruins. There's actually tours where you can actually get onto the ground floor of the Colosseum which I think is one of the coolest experiences.
Another activity that is Fail-Safe is the Vatican. Yes, its so crowded and there will be lines, but it's definitely worth the adventure.
Other activities that aren't to be missed such as going to going on a gondola ride or a wine tour Tuscany. In Venice visiting the island of Murano was a fantastic getaway from the thick crowds of Venice.
I have built-in about $150 per day which I think would be enough to get breakfast, lunch and dinner. That said, you could spend a little less, but you could also spend a lot more. I think $150 is a safe midpoint.
Things to consider:
In Italy, You have to purchase beverages at each meal (including water) and there are no refills. A bottle of water costs about $10 to $12, which we would share between the two of us.
Another thing to factor is that some restaurants serve multiple courses for dinners and sometimes lunch. This can make the bill higher than expected.
Trying to eat cheap in Italy is not the same as in the US. I remember we tried to find a cheap place to eat in Venice, and came across a cafeteria. It was a place you just selected a dish that was under a warmer. We chose a few items and it came out to be $50!
Thanks for stopping by and reading through my latest travel plan! If there's a region, or a trip, that you would want me to feature, just let me know!