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Taking your trip during a less-traveled time is often well worth it -- shorter lines, reduced wait times and fewer tourists snapping photos of the Vatican, the Colosseum and Sistine Chapel at every turn. Many of these packages to Rome and other Italian cities seem to be close in price but read carefully, as each one offers something slightly different.

Go-Today (tel. 800/227-3235; www.go-today.com) is running a handful of specials, but the best getaways seem to be the shortest -- an air-inclusive, four-night excursion "Rome Escape" is priced from a low $399 between November 1 and December 15, and stays at that rate from January 6-March 26. The price jumps up to $599 March 27-May 28. Oddly, it's actually a better price than the Rome Getaway, which only covers three nights and starts at $429. The purchase deadline is November 17. Prices are calculated from a New York JFK or Newark NJ departure; others are available for additional prices of course. Go-Today also has a few specials that combine "Rome and the Amalfi Coast" from$979 plus tax, for six nights, air inclusive travel November 1-December 15, and a "Rome and Florence Special," six nights including three nights in each, from $549 for the same travel period and travel January 6-March 25.

Boston-based Donna Franca (tel. 800/225-6290; www.donnafranca.com) runs tours to Italy, some of which are indulgent, oriented toward specific regions (Amalfi Coast and Sicily, for example) and/or interests (cooking, spas or wine tours). A company representative provided us with information about their new tours for 2005-2006; details will be posted on their website on October 28. Their "Italy As You Like It Off Season" is priced from $2, 299 for flights departing from Boston, Newark, Orlando, Atlanta, Boston and New York, for example. It's available from November 1 to March 31, 2006, with supplements for travel over the Christmas and New Year's holidays (December 15-25; December 28-January 2, 2006). The trip includes four nights in Rome, two in Florence, two in Venice and one night in Sorrento. The hotels in this package are first-class and numerous sightseeing experiences are included. In terms of meals, daily buffet breakfast along with four lunches and eight dinners are covered.

For a strictly Roman experience, "Taste of Rome" starts from $599 per person for departures from Boston, Newark, New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Atlanta. Airfare, five nights at a three-star centrally located hotel, daily breakfast and hotel service charges and taxes are all covered. Packages, however, are nonrefundable and a Saturday stay is required. The dates are valid, with some exceptions during holidays as previously noted, from November 1 through March 31, 2006. Upgrades are possible, as are sightseeing and transfers for a nominal charge. As this package covers airports up and down the East Coast, those who don't live in the New York City metro area aren't penalized by having to tack on additional fees.

Gate 1 Travel (tel. 800/682-3333; www.gate1travel.com) has several vacation packages. Between November 2005 and March 2006, the "6-Day Rome Value Vacation" package is priced from $399 for six days, four nights. You must depart on a Wednesday. The cheapest price -- and these are cash discount prices -- is good for November 9, 16, 30 and December 7, 14. The trip also includes optional half-day tours of the Vatican Museums and Galleries, and you'll have the option to take a day trip to Florence. For Christmas in Rome (December 21), the cost jumps to $539. From January 4 through March 29 departures the price drops back to $399 for starters. For more flexibility in departure dates choose the "5-Day Rome Super Saver," priced from $429 for three nights accommodations, round-trip airfare, and daily breakfast. This package allows you to choose Wednesday-Saturday start dates. The cheapest price is for travel between January 1-March 12 and climbs as high as $649 for a tour that leads up to Christmas Eve (December 16-24), and all prices reflect the cash discount offer.

Europe ASAP (tel. 415/750-5449; www.europeasap.com) has a great deal for a short city break. Their "Rome Getaway" combines round-trip airfare, three nights and five days starting from $549 per person, for flights originating in New York's JFK. The purchase deadline is November 16 for travel November 1 through March 12, 2006 and the deal is good for two travelers. Daily breakfast and hotel taxes and service charges are covered. For an additional fee, you have the option to extend the trip and change your flight. The least expensive hotel option is the Holiday Inn Fiano, but the level of luxury climbs, as does the price, all the way up to the Lord Byron Hotel at $1,099.

They're also offering an 8-day/6-night "Italy Fly & Drive" excursion if you've got your own accommodations in mind, from $470 per person, based on two travelers. The deal is good from November 1-December 12 and January 6-March 12, 2006. Airfare, a seven-day car rental, third-part insurance, unlimited mileage and free roadmap are all included. An international driving license is required for car rental in Italy. And as with their other offer, the booking deadline is November 16.

Tour Crafters (tel. 800/621-2259; www.tourcrafters.com) has a "Rome Winter Hot Deal" running that encompasses airfare, four nights' accommodations plus sightseeing, from $499, based on double occupancy and travel from New York. The booking deadline is October 30 -- if you do, you'll get a free tour of Rome, a $40 value. Valid travel dates are January 6-February 10, 2006. Hotel Brasille, which was remodeled in 2003, will be home base in Rome, and it's situated opposite the British Embassy Gardens and not far from Tremini Station and Porta Pia. Other hotels are available for a price of course and the most extravagant choice, the five-star Regina Baglioni, at $991. Air supplements are available from Boston and Washington, D.C. ($50), Chicago ($85) and Miami ($95), for example.

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