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Italy on the cheap

shywoodlandcreature's picture

Any ideas, anyone? I'm looking at mid to late September, for about 10 or 12 days - Venice and Florence are my must-sees, though I'll probably have a couple of days in Rome as well. I'm thinking off-the-beaten track would be one way to see as much as possible for as cheap as possible - i.e., Umbria instead of Tuscanny - other ideas welcome. Does anyone know anything about staying in monasteries or convents? Lots of vague info on the web, but nothing like addresses, reservation information, etc.I'll be travelling solo most of the time (though for part of the time with a friend who's off to a wedding in, I think, Milan.)





"All of life's big problems include the words "indictment" or "inoperable." Everything else is small stuff." Alton Brown


http://costofwar.com/

deejeh's picture

No ideas of any value, since the last time I was in Italy was 30 years ago, but I think you've chosen the very best time of year to visit that part of the world.  I was there in September as well, staying in and around Florence, and I remember that the light was magical.  The tourists have, by and large, gone home and you're there for harvest time.  I know you'll have a wonderful time.


deej

soccermom's picture

You lucky thing! We went to Italy as part of our honeymoon in 1992. We stayed at a convent in Sienna; very basic obviously, but with a beautiful view, and it must've been cheap because we had no money (we did have to show the sister our wedding rings to prove we were legit :)).


We took the bus and trains to get around and had no problems at all. We stayed at a cheap hotel in Florence too. Unfortunately, I don't have the contact information but we followed the "Let's Go" guide at the time. We went to all the major spots but just stayed at cheap places and ate cheaply.


Have you tried the tourist boards of individual towns? They'd probably be able to direct you.


 


 

 

 

Gretchen's picture

You might post on the Fodor's board. There are a lot of knowledgeable folk there and it gets a LOT of traffic.

Gretchen

Gretchen
pamilyn's picture

Do you have a web address?

The purpose of Art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls

shywoodlandcreature's picture

Pamilyn, I just Googled Fodors + Italy, and up popped several good sites. It took a bit of surfing, but I did find a really useful forum on European travel in general, with a lot about Italy specifically. I haven't had time to do any in-depth research into accommodations yet, or settled on a preliminary itinerary (this trip is sort of an ad-hoc adventure) but I think there's lots of info out there .





"All of life's big problems include the words "indictment" or "inoperable." Everything else is small stuff." Alton Brown


http://costofwar.com/

Gretchen's picture

www.fodors.com


Click on "community" or "message board" or some such.  Then Europe.


Gretchen
Gretchen
shywoodlandcreature's picture

Thanks, Gretchen. I just did a preliminary info surf at the Fodor's site - it looks promising! I owe you one.





"All of life's big problems include the words "indictment" or "inoperable." Everything else is small stuff." Alton Brown


http://costofwar.com/

Gretchen's picture

Glad it worked out.  One bit of navigation on it.  If you post to a thread to ask a question, you can find that thread again by clicking on your name at the top of the page (after you have registered, which is required).


AOL has excellent message boards for travel. It might be worth taking one of their CDs for free 3 month membership to use the boards!!


Gretchen
Gretchen
wop's picture

    Well, I guess I can give you some help on this one. first you picked one of the best seasons of the year to go around here in Italy. First you have to decide if you want to see the tourist Italy or if you want to see the off the path real Italy. (note :off the tourist path almost no one speaks anything but Italian or dialect....sometimes not even Italian).


   If you have "must see " places but want to get about as well count on only two days in each city  , Florence, Rome, Venice. In these places a car is virtually useless, but if you want to see small hill towns in Tuscany, Umbria,Marche and Abruzzi  without a car you will see nothing . Outside of cities public transport sucks, it is slow and not frequent ,if you only have 15 days you don't have time to waste on this means of transport.


    As to places to stay , youth hostels are cheap,safe and don't really look at the age of a person so even if you are 50 you can stay there, if they exist where you are going. Regarding convents and such lots of info is available but only in Italian .Reservations way in advance are generally not necessary because it is not a popular way of finding lodging and September is off season .Once you know where you are heading, more or less ,I can find info for you. Also if you could tell me a bit more of what you are interested in seeing I could give you a bit of indication on where to go.


     Where are you flying into and with who? Look at KLM for flights great service for the price.


                                                                    Philip

shywoodlandcreature's picture

Philip, I was hoping you'd chime in here. Thanks so much for your suggestions. As my Italian language skills don't exist, my plan for an off-the-beaten-path trip may have to be revised.

As I said earlier, this is kind of an ad hoc adventure - i just decided this week to do it. I'll be flying Air Canada, probably into Rome. Sometime over the next few days I hope to hammer out at least a rough itinerary. I'd prefer not to drive, and certainly wouldn't even attempt it in any of the major cities. Can I email you off the board when I know more about what my plans are?





"All of life's big problems include the words "indictment" or "inoperable." Everything else is small stuff." Alton Brown


http://costofwar.com/

ouzo's picture

You still have time to learn a little italian before you go.....  you'll have so much more fun if you know even just a few words. 


You also have time to see the films Italian for Beginners and Enchanted April.

  No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted - Aesop, The Lion & the mouse

wop's picture

   Sure e-mail anytime you want. Note that I'm on vacation most of this month, I'm only home these three days between destinations we just got back from hiking in the alps last night, day after tomorrow we're going diving in the far south of Egypt ,then at the end of the month we're climbing Monte Rosa. As such it may take me a bit to reply when you e-mail.


      If you want suggestions of places to go let me know.


                                                                                        Philip

Risottogirl's picture

We have traveled a bit off the beaten path in northern and central Italy, with nothing more than a good dictionary (well maybe a couple weeks of Italian lesson tapes) and a proper attitude. It wasn't as EASY as it is for me in France, but it was fun and funny.


One time we rented a farmhouse way up in the Chianti hills in the off season (very, very cheaply) from an Italian property company for three weeks and we traveled all around the backroads and villages. No one spoke any English, especially the owner of the house who lived nearby (she grew up in the farmhouse but now she lived with her husband and kids in what was his family's farm). I can understand a tiny bit of Italian and I can read a bit more, but I really cannot speak. She expained everything in Italian and with hand motions and it was fine.


EVERYONE we encountered in rural Italy was friendly and helpful regardless of our inept language skills. Of course we never ever "expect" anyone to speak "our" language in "their" country. Even in big cities like Rome, people are nice and helpful, though you do see some of that brusque attitude present in any big city (especially some of our cities). Overall, I think Italy is the friendliest European country we have traveled in, with Belgium and Germany tied for a close second (and I cannot read, write or speak a syllable of German).


Water is a great ingredient to cook with, it has such a neutral flavor


Bobby Flay

Water is a great ingredient to cook with, it has such a neutral flavor - Bobby Flay

Collier1's picture

I haven't been lucky enough to get to Italy yet but I found Spain and Greece to be very very friendly countries. 

KarenP's picture

I haven't been lucky enough to get to Italy yet but I found Spain and Greece to be very very friendly countries. 


  I consistently hear that Spain and Greece are American friendly.  My sister has a nephew that is living in Spain that I doubt will never live in the USA again.  Course, we have our Evelyn and there again is proof about Greece. 
  Last winter I met a cooking teacher/cookbook writer/American living in Italy.  Her description of their move was somewhat like that of anyone moving to a small town in the US.  Who are you related to and whose house did you buy.   That house will be known as the "old <enternamehere> place" until long after you're dead, but somewhere in there, you became of the place  and not just living there any longer.  Unlike here though, some of those homes were and the stories that go with them were built before 1700. 

Collier1's picture

People in Spain are very very fun loving and start their evenings very late.  I went to some weird disco bar there and ordered a gin and tonic and it was the US equivalent of $20!!!!! YIKES   A nice local man paid for it -- I honestly did not have enough money in my pocket.  I was refused service at a restaurant late one night but I spoke in my horrid Spanish and within moments I was eating paella and drinking sangria.  Just make an effort when it comes to foreign language is what I say. 


I found Greeks to be more than nice.  They would do anything to give me directions if not lead me there themselves.  And the food?  I almost pass out just thinking about it.  LOL 


 

KarenP's picture

 OH all right..I'll go!

shoechick's picture

Sandra, I've got a lot of guide books on Italy.  Next time we're out you're way, I'll give you a shout and drop them off.


If Shopping Doesn't Bring you Happiness, You're in the Wrong Store.

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.  ~St. Augustine

shywoodlandcreature's picture

Thanks! I appreciate that.





"All of life's big problems include the words "indictment" or "inoperable." Everything else is small stuff." Alton Brown


http://costofwar.com/

Sackville's picture

Cinque Terre is gorgeous, I'd estimate about 3 hours north by train from Rome. Five little villages strung together by a seaside hiking path. It can be very touristy in the summer but should have calmed down by September. Lots of chance to try great wines and sneak into local restaurants :)

shywoodlandcreature's picture

I am loving this thread! Thanks everyone. Given my time limitations, I'm really tempted to settle on one spot (city or area) and just devote myself to seeing/doing whatever it has to offer, rather than exhaust myself and spend precious time travelling between cities. There will always be a "next time"!





"All of life's big problems include the words "indictment" or "inoperable." Everything else is small stuff." Alton Brown


http://costofwar.com/

butterscotch's picture

You know, this a great strategy. And it's easy to make day trips. The Italian national bus line (CIT? I think that's what it's called) facilitates day trips. From Florence, you can take very comfortable coaches to interesting nearby towns like Pisa, San Gimignano and Siena. They're staffed by well-informed tour guides/simultaneous interpreters who discuss the sights in English, French, Spanish and German. Once there, you can wander around on your own and come back to the bus just before departure time. I found these trips a huge help on my first trip to Italy where I wanted to spend most of my time in Florence but also wanted to see some of the other towns nearby. I was travelling by myself, there were itermittent heavy rains, and I didn't want to be driving on unfamiliar roads, or changing hotels all the time, so whenever the weather cleared, I would take a CIT trip for the day.

ChrisfromCA's picture

"...Given my time limitations, I'm really tempted to settle on one spot (city or area) "


Very good idea!  This is the way we always travel.  Check out www.slowtrav.com and the associated message board at http://slowtalk.com/eve/ubb.x for scads of good information about Italy travel, especially slow travel.

shywoodlandcreature's picture

Wow! That is a great resource! Thank you. My travelling partner and I are meeting up sometime this week to try to hammer out Plans A through D, and I'll have a slightly better idea of what I'm doing/where I'm going after that. This whole thread is just wonderful.





"All of life's big problems include the words "indictment" or "inoperable." Everything else is small stuff." Alton Brown


http://costofwar.com/

shoechick's picture

Is Peter able to handle your flights?  if not you might look at going through London and then getting an EasyJet or Ryan Air flight.

If Shopping Doesn't Bring you Happiness, You're in the Wrong Store.

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.  ~St. Augustine

shywoodlandcreature's picture

Yes, I get to book through Peter, so the air travel is a bargain. As for the rest - well, I figure my will is going to read "I owe much. I have nothing. The rest I leave to the poor," anyway, so, why not stretch the credit card a little further...  






"All of life's big problems include the words "indictment" or "inoperable." Everything else is small stuff." Alton Brown


http://costofwar.com/

butterscotch's picture

I'm married to an Italian and travel a lot in Italy. I think your idea of staying in convents is a great one. I haven't done it myself, but I do know a few people who have and enjoyed their experience. I believe there are some English-language publications that discuss how to do this. Some of the big guidebooks (Frommer's, Let's Go, Lonely Planet) mention a few convents/monasteries. Also, check books that focus on cheap accomodation.s. I think I remember a series called "Cheap Sleeps" that might include convents.  If you don't find a convent to your liking, you might think about staying in a soggiorno--a stripped-down kind of inn. I have nice memories of some I stayed at years ago in Florence in the Piazza Santa Maria Novella, near the central train station. Mine provided a very good-sized clean private room that had no closet--just a big wardrobe. The bathrooms were communal but were not shared by many people as the place only had about 8 guestrooms. Guests had to provide their own soap. It was back-to-back with a very well-known and popular restaurant, so the night air was filled with sounds of breaking crockery, as the dishwashers hurled dishes by the hundreds into the into the industrial-size dishwashers. But it was a very good value for the money ($8 per night in 1984) and run by English-speaking Italians who had lived in Australia for many years.


Also, off-the-beaten track is good. I don't think any place in Italy is truly cheap any more (except places that would be unsafe for you to visit).  But  prices will be lower and you will get a much better value for your money in the smaller Italian cities like Orvieto, Perugia, Bergamo, Udine, Padua, Bologna, etc. These places have great charm, too, and you'll be able to avoid the hordes of drunken teenagers who frequent the centers of Florence and Venice.  Venice, in particular, is notorious for being outrageously expensive and full of tourist traps.  Also, both Venice and Florence are now so popular with visitors from all over the world that the lines to get admittance to the major tourist attractions can stymie even the most energetic. (4 years ago, we were told it would be a 6-hour wait  in stifling June weather to see the interior of San Marco in Venice. We passed, having seen it other times in better circumstances. But I'm still angry that our DD, who was on her first trip to Venice, missed it.)


Finally, I agree with everybody who's said you've picked the nicest time of year to visit and the "off season". But 2 things I've found about September: it can still be very hot and humid and autumn is a favorite time for big business groups to hold meetings and conventions in Italy.  Some of these events are so big they can eat up all of the available hotel space, even in a city the size of Milan. And  if you decide you'll stay in smaller cities, don't assume that they'll be empty because it's the off-season. You need a reservation wherever you're going. I'll never forget being homeless in Verona on a rainy Wednesday in mid-April because the international vintners' convention was in town.


Have a lovely trip!

wop's picture

    Actually there are still a number of places that are still relatively cheap. We just spent a week in June in Abruzzi staying in 2 star hotels and eating in Trattoria and we spent less than 50 Euro per day per person.


   To get into San Marco with out waiting in line just go to mass, they can't even refuse to let you in.I've done this twice when I was taking friends around.


   If you are traveling by car you don't need to worry about hotels even in the smaller cities because of conventions or trade fairs . You just drive 20km out to a small town and you will find something, usually cheaper as well.


   I hear you about the hoards of drunken teens. A few years back I took my brother and family to the Cinque Terre assuming that it was as always (sleepy little costal towns).Well it had been discovered by Americans, it was like a colony of New Jersey.


                                                                            Philip

butterscotch's picture

Thanks for your wise words, which I'll keep in mind the next time we're there. I wish I'd thought of going to mass when we couldn't get into San Marco.  And I was interested to hear about your experience in Abruzzi. We haven't been south of Rome in quite a while. My husband is from Milan, and usually wants to go home for awhile, so we start out in the north and often don't get past somewhere in the middle. l think the best value for little money for hotels and restaurants that I've experienced has been in southern Sardinia, within 75 miles or so of Cagliari, where many of my husband's cousins live. And I know you're right about staying in hotels in small towns, too. I didn't suggest this to Shy Woodland Creature because it sounded like she wouldn't be driving.


Too bad about Cinque Terre being overrun, but since you live in Italia, you'll be able to wait out the tourists.  A few years ago, I remember Lucca, too, being almost impassable. I wonder if it's any better now?


Have a wonderful vacation. 


 

wop's picture

      If you want to try a nice drive toward the south take the autostrada to Rimini then drive by San Marino on the regular roads to San leo,Urbino the down through Marche. On the coast just below you find Sirolo in Parco Del Conero nice place it's te only high ground on the Adriatic coast. Loreto is right near by too ,a major Catholic tourist spot. Then on by Gran Sasso into Abruzzi. Parco Nazionale delle Abruzzi is great with really pretty scenery and towns.Try i some time


                                                          Philip