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Italy Vacation 2011

Milwaukee, WI

Need some info from anyone who has gone on an escorted group
tour of Italy. What travel company is good to book with? What places
are a "must see" in Italy? What do you recommend to buy in Italy?
What kind of food is the "best" in Italy. Thanks in advance for your
helpful info.

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

You must go to Venice, Rome and Florence. What month are you planning on going? Let me look see if I can find info from my last trip there. You may want to go to Spain as long as your there. God, I got all excited and I'm not even going. LOL

Milwaukee, WI

We're planning on going in either Sept or Oct when it's a little cooler. We
were thinking of taking the train and going to France before we return home.
I had heard that leather products are a good buy in Italy.

Rosemont, ON(Zone 4a)

Trains are an excellent way to travel in Italy, just remember that there are sometimes strikes that interrupt the schedule on Sundays, and on Saturdays the carriages can be very crowded. Aim to travel on weekdays, if possible, and buy tickets with assigned seats on the Inter City trains. Buses are also a good way to get to small towns and see the countryside.

From Rome, you can take the train to hill towns such as Frascati or Orvieto. From Sienna, you can take a bus to San Gimignano. From Florence, you can visit Lucca and Pisa by train. From Milan, you can take the train to Cremona, or any of the Italian Lakes, or Bergamo, or Genoa, or Verona, etc. From Genoa you can travel by train along the coast all the way to France.

Food is great everywhere, but more expensive in the big cities. Look for small trattorias outside the central tourist area, places where the locals are eating, to find the best food. Don't just eat pasta - try everything, even the things you can't identify! Drink wine and mineral water with your meals, and order coffee last. Try an espresso with a shot of grappa in it to settle your stomach!

If you are traveling with a tour group, try to use a company that has small groups, no more than 20 people, otherwise you will be staying in large, impersonal hotels and be served mass-produced meals. I have used Susan Worner Tours (a British-based gardening tour company) and Adventures Abroad (a Canadian-based tour company) and can recommend both. However, I like to travel solo in Italy, because it's so easy to get around and I like the freedom to make my own itinerary.

Almost every town, and every neighborhood in the big cities, has a street market on one day of the week - the day varies, so if it isn't mentioned in your guide book ask Tourist Information or your hotel reception staff for date and location. The street markets are great fun, and you can find real bargains, although some of the stuff will be imports so you have to check the labels. Towns have their local specialities, for example Cremona is famous for its flavored mustards and a sticky, white confection.

If you are a mosquito magnet, take insect repellent to Florence and Venice.

Have fun!

Milwaukee, WI

Thanks for all the helpful information. I appreciate hearing
from anyone who has done any traveling in Europe. We
are also thinking of taking one of the Rick Steves tours.

Rosemont, ON(Zone 4a)

I have not taken any Rick Steve's tours, but I love his guide books! I took Rick Steve's guides with me on recent independent trips to Rome and Barcelona, and I found the books not only extremely useful but enjoyable to read.

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

My sister, BIL and I were in Rome for 4-5 days. Very easy for us to figure out. If you 'tour' but have free time, it'll be no problem, all around Coliseum, museums, ruins. We used Rick Steve's downloaded to an ipod for info inside some attractions.
One area had a strip of restaurants with color menus and guys at the entrance working the tourist crowd. We bypassed them and had a wonderful meal around the corner. Really no terrible meals. (except chicken cacciatore, but we think that may be because the Italians don't grow big fat american style birds) We often shared two entrees for three, plus appetizer , always wine.

I would skip Vatican myself, did not enjoy the museum part enough to pay for seeing Sistine Chapel, and St Peters you can get in from the outside anyway, thats impressive.

Florence is much smaller and more homey than Rome and very nice. I walked myself to the Botanical garden at the University for some quiet time. Lots of leather sold around the famous bridge.

Villa D'Este is wonderful, a bus day trip outside of Rome.

(Carey) Austin, TX(Zone 8b)

As far as sight-seeing, cannot recommend the Amalfi Coast highly enough!

Pompeii is also a lovely day trip. Herculaneum was the main town affected by the Vesuvius eruption. Cameos and inlaid wood products are also inexpensive to buy here versus larger towns.

Food is good just about anywhere you travel. Do recommend avoiding the more 'touristy' areas if you want better, less mass-produced meals.

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