When thinking about taking a Getaway to Europe, never having been, we made a Wish List. Greece, London, Spain (Madrid, Barcelona, Canary Islands, Ibiza), Portugal, and Paris all made our European Wander List… but at the very top was Rome!
Never having been to Italy (or Europe at all), we did the most BASIC of bookings… Expedia / Travelocity (which we found out b/c of the “issues” we encountered with the booking… are now the same company). The plus side to using Expedia was the insurance we were able to purchase, right along side of our flights, hotel reservations, and several tours that we knew we wanted to take. Never thinking in a million years that we would use the insurance, it seemed foolish to not get it (“just in case”) for less than $50 / ticket. Low and behold, with 90 days until departure, we had to cancel one of our tickets and hotel rooms. Unfortunately customer service was a little bit of a struggle to deal with, but getting a full refund on the canceled ticket and hotel room were not. Best $50 we ever spent, GET THE INSURANCE!
The other plus to using Expedia for our booking was that we were able to pay for some of our tours in advance, rather than wait until we were on the ground. This made planning so much EASIER. Our days were planned out and paid for, confirmations already in hand, and it took the stress out of guessing how much money we would need to carry on the Getaway.
We would definitely suggest you spending at least 10 days on the ground in Rome, so that you don’t feel rushed. We also liked the idea of staying close to the Transportation Center – Termini Station. Although Rome is a “walking city,” and should be explored on foot, the convenience of having the Metro and Buses just blocks from your hotel is definitely a plus!
What we learned, the hard way, was to IGNORE the pictures of hotels that you see when booking online! Or if you are going to try to pick a hotel based on the pictures shown, remember to expect the rooms to be SIGNIFICANTLY SMALLER than they appear to be / what you would expect in the U.S. In fact, this is where we say to stick with a hotel brand that you know and frequent (or that you are a rewards member of) and book with one of their properties. At the very least if you arrive to your hotel overseas and aren’t satisfied with the accommodations, you have options and it will be easier to seek compensation for any “short comings” or issues that might arise.
Italy is a big country, with a HUGE HISTORY. It’s impossible to see it all in one trip, but we knew that apart from touring Rome… we absolutely had to see Capri and Tuscany. We dedicated a day to each of the three (Rome, Tuscany, and Capri) and opted to go on guided tours of each location. Of the tour companies we used, we found www.citywonders.com/en/about-us to be our favorite. City Wonders employs the most wonderful, knowledgeable, FUN tour guides to take you along on the experience of your choice. Even better, City Wonders has 100’s of tours in cities all over the world.
Our Historic Tour of Rome – Rome in a Day, was by far the most affordable way to visit all of the major tourist attractions AND YOU GET TO SKIP ALL OF THE LINES! The day we went to the Coliseum the wait was over 2 hours on line (to buy your tickets and enter). Being that we were a part of a tour (about 15 of us) we didn’t have to worry about purchasing tickets and we didn’t have to wait in line (tour groups enter via a special entrance at most locations). Although there is physically no possible way to see Rome in a Day, we hit all of the attractions on our list and a few that we had no idea about.
Capri and Tuscany both included a private group coach, lunch, and the ability to cover a lot of distance in a short period of time.
Capri was a dream come true. While on the tour we were able to see a completely difference side of Italy, the Almafi Coast. We were provided lunch at the top of a very narrow and windy bus ride, in Ana Capri and were able to add on a small boat ride around the island… stopping in each grotto to take the most amazing pictures. By the time it was time to leave Capri we were checking our schedule to see if we have room in our itinerary to return later in the week.
The Tour of Tuscany included a wine tasting / lunch, drive through the country side, a quick stop at a Grecian Monastery, and several stops (in local villages, with local tour guides) to explore the heart of old world culture and sites where several movies were filmed (like Twilight, Eat Pray Love, Under the Tuscan Sun, The English Patient, etc.).
Lastly, the best piece of advice we can give… PACK LIGHT and bring a great pair of walking shoes! Sneakers were essential aspect, SORELY MISSED, on our Roman Getaway! Ancient cobblestone sidewalks are not easy to navigate in flip flops, sandals, or heels and there is nothing cute about a broken ankle while on holiday, so pack practical footwear. It’s also very hard to resist shopping the streets and boutiques of Rome, so pack a small suitcase (with your clothes) INSIDE a larger suitcase… that way when it’s time to come home, you have ample space for all of your goodies!