Monday, May 21, 2007

More Planning

In the last week and one half we have been considering the Christmas holidays in Italy. Or, perhaps from just after Thanksgiving to just before Christmas. The air fares are lower in the winter than during the "high season" (March through October) and the weather from Rome south is pretty mild. In fact, it compares favorably to the winter weather in Southern California! Before we commit to living in Italy we need to try the different regions in the "quattro stagioni". (my Italian is pretty lousy but I think I just said the "four seasons"). I note fares for late November 2007 around $800 RT from the west coast of the US. From NYC or other major east coast cities the fares are less than $650 RT...both quotes to Roma Fiumicino (Leonardo di Vinci) airport.

It seems that the decision must be made at least three to four months in advance of travel or the fares really jump. That doesn't mean that one cannot find a good fare at the last minute, but the more advance the purchase the better the probability of a good fare...again, maybe not the best fare, but a good fare, at the very least. If you are a gambler, start looking for fares 60 days before your planned might find a super discounted fare resulting from unsold tickets for a particular destination and day of travel. Another tip...if you have accumulated air miles use those air miles to get from your location to a major east coast airport. We have saved more than $300 per ticket per trip doing the latter (traveling from Seattle). Also, if you look at tours, sometimes the combination of airfare, hotel and some meals is a real good deal! And...often one can extend (stay beyond the tour dates) at no extra airfare cost to you...turn a six day trip to Rome into a three week tour of Italy?

Next post...more about our 1984 trip...the one that "hooked" us!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Some first (baby) steps to a great vacation in Italia!

When you start dreaming of that trip to Italy, start the planning...even if you have no idea when you plan to go. Most worthwhile (and a few frivolous) things we do result from the fantasy that we act upon. It seems that the more planning I do for my next trip, the more quickly it becomes a reality and suddenly, the gears mesh and the dream becomes a reality... like the experts have said, your thoughts become your actions (good or bad). So...get busy planning, read books, get on the Internet and learn all you can and make those reservations! This next picture is the result of that sort of thinking...The Bay of Naples from a hotel room balcony in Sorrento!!!

Today my suggestion is... Take the next step once you have made the airline reservation (and paid for it).

Buy a map of Italy and hang it on the wall where you see it everyday, more than once.

Right now, start a list of all the places you want to see in Italy. Use the internet to explore some locations that you might not think about right away. Go to the library and get a few books about Italy, fiction as well as non-fiction...Hemingway wrote a marvelous book "A Farewell to Arms" about his experiences during the First World War as an ambulance driver and later...less well know authors have many great reads about Italy...

These steps will begin the immersion into Italian culture that I believe is so important an ingredient in the excellent experience that is Italy. Italy is truly more than food, art, and antiquities!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

How to assure you will get to Italy!

Just a note on the best way (in my opinion) to assure that you get to a ticket right now for some dates in the future...investing at least $800 in a round trip ticket (from the west coast of the US) or at least $500 ( from the East Coast) most often assures that the trip will take shape and will, in fact, happen. It is hard to take that first step because if one has never done the latter it is a big step into the unknown. Just think about that ticket and start planning a trip that might take you more than 7,000 miles from your comfort zone to a country where they might not speak your language and where the culture most certainly will be, to some degree, different.

Don't think about it...just do it...we all seem to spend too much time trying to act rationally and with forethought and too little time being spontaneous and taking risks!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

More Planning...almost as much fun as the trip!

I went online last night and found a fare from Seattle to Rome for slightly less than $800 round trip. Maybe we will visit Italy again this November/December?

We really must visit the south if we are to decide on living part time in Italy in the next few years. We have seen some of the Veneto, Tuscany, Umbria...some of Emelia-Romagna and a bit of Lazio and Liguria. If you are as nuts about Italy (as we are) you already know that these are only a few of the provinces and that we still have a lot to see. (I hate prepositional phrases at the end of sentences but sometimes it is simply easier...and a bit lazy).

Our friends tell us that we need to spend some time in the south so we will definitely see Campania (we have been to Naples and Pompeii and spent a few hours in Sorrento last trip) but we need to see Calabria and I am fascinated by what I read about Puglia and the Trulli. Others have told us that Sicily is a must but I don't think that I would consider, at least not seriously, living there. Sardinia holds an attraction as well but is a large island and I do like access to large cities so being able to get to Rome or Naples or Florence or Milan or even Perugia quickly is part of the requirement for living part time in Italy. I guess that forces us to be near the main rail lines. If we choose Terni we are half way between Rome and Florence and close to Assisi, so far our favorite destination in Italy. (We are Franciscans, at heart, I guess).

But...let me tell you the events that brought us back to Italy after 20 years...

In the late winter of 2003/2004 we were part of the "team" that facilitated Adult Confirmation at our parish in Seattle. Our class of about 20 young adults included a fellow who was marrying a "Seattlite" and they wished to marry in a church in his town in Italy, Assisi. (Confirmation is required of all Catholics who marry in the church). He was accompanied by his fiance (we learned later they had been married in a civil ceremony earlier...not at all pertinent to this story). Our soon to be new friend was a bit timid about his command of the English language but our fascination with Italy compelled us to befriend him and his fiance and during this class a friendship blossomed...and they extended an invitation to their Assisi...

I am impulsive and a big risk taker so I immediately made flight reservations and the trip was was the research toward the rest of this Italian adventure we were to undertake. Our first step was to order some material from the Rick Steves web site...we got books and DVDs and started our research enjoying Rick's 4 and 1/2 hours of travels in Italy. Logistics and time necessitated that we restrict our travels...we were planning on being in Italy for about 19 days so following the Rick Steves plan we wrote down every place we wanted to see, with the number of days we hoped to devote to the specific site and found that we needed not 19 days but about five pared down the itinerary and settled on Rome, Venice, Padua, Vicenzo, Forence, Assisi, and Orvieto. We never felt cheated by time and we saw everything that we had planned on seeing because we had spent the time researching and carefully understanding and planning the trip. Eleven of the nineteen days were devoted to Assisi and Rome and we still enjoyed the remainder in a relaxing fashion. Two nights in Venice and two nights in Vicenza and Florence with one night in Orvieto. And, yes, we did drive in Italy, from Venice to Padua and Vicenza, then to Florence and Assisi and dropping the car in Orvieto (that's another story all together...another post later on).

Train reservatins were made, as I noted in a previous post and attractions were researched and some reservatins made for these as well.

IN my next post I will start to cronicle this trip (2004) in some detail, perhaps a day each day or maybe a day each week...who knows...some days I just do not feel like writing at all...

ciao for now...