Europeans are much better served by rail, for the most part, than most of the United States, where the automobile is king and we prize our ability to spontaneously jump in the car and go somewhere. In Europe, traveling around a country, or among several countries, is feasible, affordable, and offers a little bit of old-fashioned travel romance. And in light of Vatican's City's recent "ten Commandments" issued for drivers -- which seeks to bring humanity back to the roadways -- it's not a bad idea to leave the transportation to someone else. We found some packages that might be perfect for those who want to get from city to city without car rentals, expensive petrol stops, and navigating traffic.
Foreign Independent Tours (tel. 800/248-3487; www.fittours.com) has a great deal for three Italy by train packages, for 9, 10 and 11 days, and the trip includes various combinations of Rome, Florence, Venice and Bologna. The price starts from $1,659 based on departures from New York-JFK; the price reflects the August 4 trip specifically. Other departure cities are not possible, so you must get yourself here. There are some really specific caveats here; the trip you select will determine when you can travel, but in general, there are departures possible on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday or Sunday. Fuel surcharges are included, but taxes and fees will probably tack on about $150 more. The sale is valid based on availability, July 1 through the end of September, and breakfast daily is included.
For the nine-day trip, you fly into Bologna and then take the train from there to Florence, where you spend four nights at the Framon Anglo American. From there, you take the train to Venice and spend two nights at the Hesperia, located on the Cannareggio canal, and finally, go back to bologna for an overnight at Jolly De La Gare. The ten-day trip, priced from $1,849 (for August 2 departure), flies you out on Thursday or Sunday and you'll start off in Rome for three nights, take a tour of the city, and hop on the train to Florence where you'll stay there for four nights. Finally, from Florence you head to Bologna for an overnight. Finally, the eleven-day trip starts from $1,999 (for the August 7 departures) and breaks it up so you have two days in Rome to start, four nights in Florence, two nights in Venice, and then your last overnight in Bologna. The Framon Anglo American in Florence has wireless Internet access in the rooms.
According to Diane Panasci, manager, marketing and product development for FIT, the train offers numerous advantages. "The traveler not only has the chance to avoid traffic and crazy driving, but also to watch the wonders of Italy go by the window. In the summer you can see the lush countryside alive with fruit of the vine and delicious vegetable stands, and farmer's markets in towns," she says.
In addition to the trips offered by train, Panasci says they have several other trips, such as an 8-day Wine, Chocolate and History tour of Umbria and Tuscany, which can be converted into a train trip, from about the same starting price of $1,899. "However, since these are more rural destinations, you may want to discuss the option with your travel rep first for more detail," says Panasci. You'll also need a taxi but the company can arrange. That package is valid for travel September-December based on flights from New York-JFK to Rome, six nights accommodations -- three apiece in Tuscany and Gubbio, breakfast daily, tours of wine cellars, special tasting events and a trip to the chocolate factory of Perugina included.
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