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Aahh...Italy, a country for all seasons and no matter what time of the year you visit, or how many times you've been there, Italy always delivers on its promise of beauty, history, romance, fine wine, culinary delights and did I mention the shopping?

Winter is low season so you won't find a cheaper time to travel to Italy and even with oil price increases, this year is no exception.

Foreign Independent Tours (tel. 800/853-6453; www.fittours.com) is a company with 20 years of travel experience that specializes in escorted group tours and vacations to Europe and the Middle East. It currently has a "Rome, Pompeii and Florence" package on sale from $899 from New York (or add $125 from Los Angeles or San Francisco). This eight-day package includes round-trip flights to Rome on Delta or Alitalia, airport transfers, six-nights at the Portamaggiore Hotel in Rome, six buffet breakfast, two lunches, sightseeing and the services of English speaking local guides.

Trip highlights include a panoramic tour of Naples, a full day tour of Pompeii with lunch, passing the famous Abbey of Montecassino, a stop at a coral and cameo factory, a full day excursion to Florence with lunch including visits to the Galleria dell'Accademia, home to Michelangelo's sculpture of David (not the copy that stands in Piazza Signoria), the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, with its magnificent Brunelleschi dome, the Baptistery with the Ghiberti's bronze doors and Giotto's bell tower, and the Church of Santa Croce, featuring the graves of some of the most prolific Italians in history -- Michelangelo, Galileo, Rossini, and Machiavelli. The $899 price is for a January 19, 2006 departure only, but other dates are available starting at $939 for travel December 1, 2005 through March 23, 2006. Pricing may vary by date and holiday surcharges will apply. This deal must be booked by December 15, 2005. Gate1Travel (tel. 800/682-3333; www.gate1travel.com) has a special on at the moment that lets you take in two highlight cities in a short period of time. The "Seven-Day Rome and Florence" package is priced from $699 per person. This deal includes flights from New York, Chicago, Philadelphia or Boston to Florence and returning from Rome, airline fuel surcharges, five nights accommodation (two in Florence at the Meridiana and three in Rome at Center 1,2 3), train transportation between cities in standard class (or upgrade to first class for additional cost) and breakfast daily. This price is valid for departures on December 2 and 9, 2005; January 6, 13, 20 and 27, 2006; and February 3, 10, 17 and 24, 2006. The price goes as high as $999 for the December 16 or 23, 2005 departure. Add $2 from Miami and approximately $63 from Los Angeles with other departure cities available for additional cost. Taxes of approximately $149 are additional. Packages that take in the same cities in reverse order, or Rome and Venice, or Florence and Venice also start at $699 during the same period. There is no "book-by" date, but space is limited, so you'd be advised to reserve as early as possible.

Tourcrafters (tel. 800/621-2259; www.tourcrafters.com) is currently offering a six-day "Venice Winter Hot Deal" priced from $459. This low price includes round-trip airfare from New York, four-nights accommodation at the two-star Hesperia Hotel and breakfast daily. This price is valid for Saturday and Sunday departures from now until December 15, 2005 or from January 3 to February 16, 2006. Please refer to package number 1079 when making bookings.

Their eight-day "Florence and Tuscany Countryside" package is priced from $659 per person plus taxes based on double occupancy. This deal includes round-trip transatlantic airfare from New York to Florence, three-nights accommodation at the four-star Fenice Palace in Florence, three-nights in Cortona at the four-star Villa Aurea Hotel, three days car rental, breakfast daily, hotel service charges and taxes. Departure dates are from now until December 15, 2005 and from January 2 to March 10, 2006.

For a touch of Sicily, take advantage of the six-day "Catania Sunny Breaks" package that includes round-trip airfare from New York, four-nights accommodation at the three-star Excelsior Palace Acireale in Catania, daily breakfast and hotel service charges and taxes. This deal is priced at $679 plus taxes.

For all these deals, add $50 from Boston or Washington, D.C., $85 from Chicago or $95 from Miami. Other departure cities available on request and these deals must be booked by November 30, 2005.

Go-Today (tel. 800/227-3235; www.go-today.com) offers a number of well-priced Italy combination city deals. Their six-night "Rome and Milan Special" includes round-trip airfare from New York, three-nights at the Tempio Pallade Hotel in Rome, flight from Rome to Milan, three-nights at La Residenza Hotel Milan, continental breakfast daily and hotel taxes and service charges. This package is priced from $549 plus taxes per person for departures from January 4 to February 22, 2006. Add $50 for travel between now and December 15, 2005 or from February 23 to March 25, 2006.

Their "Rome and Venice Special" is priced as low as $499 and includes round-trip airfare, three-nights accommodation at the Serena Hotel in Rome, a flight to Venice, three-nights accommodation at the Diana Hotel in Venice, continental breakfast daily and hotel taxes and service charges. This price is valid for departures from January 11 to February 10, 2006. Add $100 for departures from now until December 15, 2005 or January 4 to 6, 2006 and February 25 to March 17, 2006.

Add $50 from Boston or Washington, D.C., $100 from Chicago or Atlanta and $180 from Los Angeles, San Francisco or Seattle.

1-800-FlyEurope (tel. 800/FLY-EUROPE; www.1800flyeurope.com) features a super discounted Rome Fly-Drive package from $384 this winter. Act fast to reserve your Winter Rome Fly Drive Package and enjoy a great price for midweek departures now through December 10, 2005 and from January 10 to March 10, 2006. Packages include round-trip airfare and a car rental for three or seven-days. Rome car rentals include VAT, airport surcharge, CDW, and theft insurance. These deals must be purchased by December 31, 2005.

Sample base prices to Rome for round-trip airfare and three- or seven-day economy rental car with manual transmission include:

  • New York: $384/$448
  • Boston or Washington, D.C.: $429/$493
  • Chicago: $441/$505
  • Miami or Orlando: $458/$522
  • Los Angeles or San Francisco: $535/$599

Rates do not include car taxes of up to 19.6%, fuel surcharge up to $110, US and foreign airport departure taxes and fees.

Also if you book any car rental, airline ticket, or rail pass through 1800 Fly Europe by November 23, 2005, you will receive a free international cell phone rental for the duration of your booking. Rental includes activation charges so all you pay for is shipping and air time charges.

Talk it up with fellow Frommer's travelers by clicking this link to go to our Italy Message Boards.