How to plan a trip to Italy

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Basically, this is a post I wish someone had written when I was planning the trip. Many of my colleagues have travelled to Italy and they were very helpful with everything but there is so much information online that things were very confusing initially. Everything worked out well in the end but here are tips so you can plan a better trip.

Peak period : April onwards. Italians travel outside in August and quite a few shops are closed. June is sunny but pleasant.

Flight cost : Around 50k/head. We booked 3 months in advance through sky scanner. We wanted to travel on our b’days- KC’s is on 7th June and mine is on 11th June. We booked the cheapest days. Flew into Rome and flew out of Venice. For Rome, we took a direct Air India 7 hours flight to Rome and back to Delhi on Turkish Airlines with a short stopover at Istanbul. Try and take a direct flight, if you can. It is less exhausting.

Visa cost : Rs 5000/head. Booked from company travel agent. We checked in a travel agency but they were charging Rs 7500. Visa takes a week. Please get it done a month in advance.

Travel insurance : Mandatory. I think it costs Rs 1300/head. The agent will do it.

Itinerary:

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– The itinerary TT (ex-colleague) had shared did not have Naples and Milan but I added them

– We didn’t want to carry our bags and travel from city to city with them so we decided to stay in Rome for 6 nights and take the train to Naples and Milan

– Venice was earlier 2 nights but it was so expensive that we stayed an extra night in Florence instead

Rome:

Accommodation : Rs 6000/night for a apartment slightly away from the centre of the city. We were staying 6 nights in Rome and preferred a whole apartment instead of a room. It would have been more expensive booking one near the Vatican or Termini. You need atleast 2 days in Rome for Vatican and Colosseum. A 3rd day if you want to see more. If you are staying for only 2 days, book closer to Vatican.

The airport is an hour away from the city. Shuttles and metros are available. Shuttle to termini costs Rs 5/head.

Sightseeing:

Vatican : Please take a guided tour. It will cost 37 Euros per head. Pricey but worth it. Even if you don’t book in advance you will find lots of guides outside. I don’t know if they charge extra though.

Colosseum, Palatine, Roman Forum : Ticket costs 16 Euros/head. A short guided tour of Colosseum costs 5 Euros/head. There are guides outside for 20 Euros. If that is too expensive, hire the audio guides but a guided tour will be much better here. The ticket is valid for 2 days.

There are many other sightseeing places in Rome but we skipped them and preferred to explore the city on foot. Entry to Pantheon is free. You can even check out Villa Borghese which is a park and there are no entry charges.

The buses cost 1.5 Euros and the ticket is valid for 90 minutes. So, we paid only 1.5 Euros/head while travelling from Vatican to our apartment even though we had to change buses. There are full day passes also available so you can make the calculation and buy them.

Shopping:

Nothing really. If you are going to Florence, pick up leather stuff from there instead of Rome since there is a wider range and many flea markets. The prices at Flea markets also start at 10 Euros (700 bucks). I cannot spend so much at a flea market. I did buy a leather purse and wallet and shopped for casuals at OVS.

Food:

The food around the Colosseum is expensive so avoid it. There are cafes around the Vatican where we had decently priced food. Mc Ds, Burger King etc are pricey options. The prices for croissants (b’fast) are higher  at the stations compared to a neighbourhood cafe. We didn’t have a budget for food and ate where ever we fancied without worrying too much about the cost.

That is how much we spent in 3 days/6 nights at Rome.

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Naples:

Train from Rome takes 2 hours. We booked the trains 2 months in advance.

Few rules of booking trains:

– They are very expensive unlike India

– Non refundable tickets are cheaper than refundable ones. So, if your plan is fixed it will cost you less for the train

– Be very careful while booking. KC booked the incorrect dates for 1 travel and that was money down the drain (Not blaming him. It’s ok, it is just money. Not a big deal)

– Book direct trains only. Don’t get into the hassle of changing trains

– Book in advance

– Don’t book tickets too early in the morning. Buses start running at 5.30 am, the night buses are not very convenient and cabs cost a bomb

Naples is a must visit. It is lively, fun and there is a beach somewhere. We loved Naples.

Sightseeing:

The underground tunnels or the underground city tour are a must visit. Once in a lifetime experience. You can go to the volcanoes or the Amalfi coast too but it is quite expensive…. 50 Euros per head for each, I think. So plan accordingly.

Naples deserves a visit of it’s own. It is quite a change from the super dull Rome.

Food:

Supposedly, has the best Pizzas in the world but I disagree.

Shopping: 

Nothing really. There was a sale at Alcott and KC bagged a great jacket for some 10 Euros but there is nothing to shop here.

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Milan:

The only reason Milan was on my itinerary was because my boss pushed me to visit it. So worth it. Amazing city. Truly a fashion capital.

Sightseeing:

Leonardo’s Last Supper but you need to book tickets 1-2 months in advance. We didn’t. The duomo is also quite amazing. Worth every penny. The view from above is very Dan Brownish. Instead of going to 2-3 sightseeing places in 1 day, we just explored the area around the Duomo.

Travel:

You can take the all day pass for the tram which crosses 13 sightseeing places and hop on, hop off everywhere. I think it costs some 13 Euros/head.

The train to Milan from Rome is quite expensive but oh, so posh.

Shopping:

If love coffee, visit the Nespresso store and buy the French press and some coffee.

If you love brands, this is the city for you.

For everyone else- nothing much really.

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Florence:

Must visit. A fabulous city. Try and stay as close to the duomo as possible because everything is at walking distance from the duomo.

2 kinds of travellers come to this city:

  • Those who find 3 days too short to cover everything it has to offer
  • Those who come here only to visit Pisa which is 45 mins by train

Don’t be either of these. Florence deserves 1 full day and 1 night atleast. At the same time, 3 days is too much.

Sightseeing:

The Duomo. It is crap from inside and that is why entry is free. Looks awesome from the outside. There is some bridge which is famous but it’s not worth all the walking. We visited the Michaelangelo piazza which has a great view of the city. There are museums too which have entry costs. We skipped those and just walked around the city.

Food:

Lots and lots of cafes which serve good pizzas and pastas. We had gelato on a stick here- not to be missed.

Travel:

Walk everywhere. Buses took so much time to come that we just walked instead.

Shopping:

Buy Lindt chocolates at the store near the Duomo. Flea markets for leather stuff- belts, wallets, jackets, purses etc etc. If you can shell out 100 Euros and more, you will get a pretty good leather jacket from some boutique.

Pisa:

There is a local train to Pisa from Florence at every 15 mins interval. You don’t need to book tickets in advance for that. Do not forget to validate the ticket at the station. We ended up paying 10 Euros as fine on the train for this.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is simply overrated. Don’t even bother spending money to climb it. So not worth it. You can happily skip Pisa, according to me.

There are duomos and stuff for sightseeing in the city but we decided to spend more time at Florence instead.

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Venice:

Not a bad city but so expensive. We stayed only for 1 night and skipped all sightseeing. We just explored the city on food. There are 2 main markets- San Marco and Rialto. We were staying equidistant from both. You have to take the bus boat from the station. Our host recommended walking but it would have taken atleast an hour on foot. The charges for standing and sitting in the boat are separate. If you are here for a short period, stay in the city… if you have more time, you can stay slightly away at a cheaper place. I think a full day travel on the bus costs some 20 Euros/head. Calculate and pick the cheapest option.

Shopping:

Do check out morano glass stuff. I bought a beetle pendant for 10 Euros and love it. You will find it only at Venice.

Food:

Pricey.

The airport is far from the city and there is no other option but to take this freaking expensive ferry for 16 Euros/head. And then you have to walk quite a bit to reach the airport. Pretty fuckall, if you ask me.

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All in all, we spent 2.7 lakh (approx) for 2 people minus the shopping for a 9 nights in Italy which is pretty decent. It could be cheaper if we had stayed in cheaper places and eaten within a budget. The details below are only for 2.5 because I cannot figure out where we spent the balance 20k.

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Italy, I think, is a pretty affordable and interesting international trip. I was told there would be tax of 3.5 Euros/night/person for stay but none of the hosts charged us. I guess you do save that money when you book a homestay instead of hotel.

Please let me know if you have questions or if there is something I didn’t cover.

 

 


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