Friends of mine who went to Italy during high season a couple summers ago said it was more common to hear English than Italian while they were in Florence, which was a bit of a disappointment. It's part of the price you pay for hitting a destination in high season. Yes, there will be a lot of people. But sometimes you want to be swallowed up in an anonymous mass of people. And think of what summer typically offers in terms of its landscape and climate, and perhaps it's all worth it. Finally, I offer a counterintuitive thought: There is something worthwhile about having a typical travel experience because it gives you a frame of reference. You may do it differently the next time, but at least you know what it's like to have a collective experience, as one of many visitors who becomes awestruck by the Duomo, for example. In the meantime, here are some deals for summertime in Italy.
For a fairly independent package, 1-800 Fly Europe (tel. 800/539-3876; www.1800flyeurope.com) has a three-night hotel stay, roundtrip airfare, three-day economy car rental deal priced from $737 on Alitalia. The price is a bit of a misnomer; packages that depart from New York through May 17 start from $847 to Naples. As the summer progresses, the package price changes from May 18 through September 9, with New York to Florence priced from $1,317 plus airline fuel surcharge. Departures from Boston to Venice during this time period start from $1,059.
Additionally, 1-800 Fly Europe has a summer fare sale that is valid for departures May 26-August 31, but you should book as soon as possible for best selection. The sale is also only valid for weekday travel -- weekends are more expensive. Sample fares include Boston to Venice for $899, Pittsburgh to Rome for $829, New York to Venice for $897 and Los Angeles to Rome for $1,019. This may not look like a big savings, but if you try to just book a flight to Rome from Newark airport for example, in mid-July, the lowest fare is just over $1,200.
Europe ASAP (tel. 415/750-5449; www.europeasap.com) has some packages for Italy and plenty of types to choose from, including a summer fly-drive package priced from $1,169 per person for airfare, seven day manual economy car rental, road map, third-party insurance, and unlimited mileage. (This might be a good deal to pair with the TourCrafters special below on lodging). You must purchase by May 5 and the special is good for June 26 through September 3. The special is valid for six-nights. You can also pick a Tuscany Summer Fly & Drive package priced from $1,249 per person for eight days. It carries the same deadlines and terms -- book by May 5 for travel June 26-September 3, and the price is based on flights from New York to Florence.
For a long weekend in Venice this summer, Europe ASAP's city break deal starts from $1,299, for roundtrip airfare, three-nights hotel with private bath or shower, hotel taxes and service charges, daily breakfast, valid for travel June 26-September 3. You must purchase by May 5.
Go-Today (tel. 800/227-3235; www.go-today.com) is offering a four-night, air inclusive vacation for a Florence Escape at $849 for travel April 28-May 17. The price goes up a bit through early July, but from July 16-August 27, it drops to $1,329 and includes airfare from either Philadelphia or Boston, stays in everything from budget to deluxe accommodations, continental breakfast daily, hotel taxes and service charges and airline fuel surcharges; airport taxes and fees are not included.
Gate 1 Travel (tel. 800/682-3333; www.gate1travel.com) is offering several low-priced trips to cities in Italy, including a six-day Rome vacation priced from $899 for May departures; high season departures in July and August start from $1,189. The package includes roundtrip flights from New York City to Rome, airline fuel surcharges, four hotel nights and daily breakfast. You can upgrade your hotel stay, and add to the trip, but it's mostly an independent package. Airport taxes and optional tours are not included in the price tag.
Picasso Tours (tel. 800/995-7997; www.picassotours.com) has a number of excursions to Italy, including one called Tastes of Italy 2007,which is a seven night trip priced from $1,599 for travel July 17-August 31, based on double occupancy. It includes transfers from the airport to hotel, accommodations in traditional hotels, continental or buffet breakfast daily, transportation by first-class train, three dinners that are designed to give you a sampling of Italian cuisine, a full day of cooking lessons, wine tasting, and hotel taxes and service charges. Airfare is not included, but the trip is available for daily departure so it's pretty unrestricted.
Tour Crafters (tel. 800/482-5995; www.tourcrafters.com) has a special that includes choosing from Rome, Florence or Venice where you can stay three or four nights and get one night free, right in the middle of high travel season, roughly July through early September. Some properties even extend the offer -- stay five nights pay for four, stay seven nights, pay for six, but it all depends. Restrictions and requirements for some properties include a Sunday or Monday arrival; some stipulate no Tuesday or Saturday arrivals. Stay four nights at Rome's three-star Hotel Brasile anytime July 1-August 31 but pay for only three; rate for this property for a July 10 stay, for example, are 100 € (about $134). In Florence, choose among a number of properties, including a four-star Hotel Strozzi Palace, where a five-night stay that will cost you the price of four, for travel July 10 through September 2; at this hotel, for example, a July 10 stay costs € 165 (approximately $220). In Venice, stay on the canal at Hotel Hesperia in the Cannaregio quarter, for about 150 €.
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