In Italy, traveling with children is more asset than liability, as the country is more hospitable than most when it comes to family travel. So take yours there while the dollar is stronger against the Euro. Many of the companies featured here have significant availability for the summer, and so these websites, specials, packages, and promotions will get you there more cheaply than you might think. Some of them are noteworthy for the guided aspect -- planned activities might be just what the tour guide ordered.
Foreign Independent Tours (tel. 800/248-3487; www.fittours.com) created a special pricing for Frommer's readers who want to travel by train through Italy with their family with their 11-day trip to Venice, Ferrara, Florence and Rome. It is priced from $3,897 (land only) for a family of four, assuming two parents one child is under age six and the other is between six and 12, and includes nine nights of hotel accommodations, train travel, transfers in Rome, and breakfast. Airfare can be added depending on the departure city, but fares are available starting from $500 to about $999 per person. In terms of the itinerary, you'll spend two nights in Venice at Hotel Gardena, which is near the train station, or somewhere similar, take the train from Venice to Ferrara, spend a night there, and then take the train from Ferrara to Florence. Then you spend four nights in Florence at a four-star property such as Hotel Lorenzo il Magnifico, and then go from Florence to Rome and spend two nights there at a property near the train station, such as the Gioberti. The lowest price reflects departures on August 10; you can travel for under $4,000 for the July 27, August 3, 17 and 24 departure dates. If those don't work for you, it's generally possible to travel now through the fall with this package but prices will fluctuate accordingly.
Papavero Rentals (tel. 866/737-0000; www.papaverorentals.com) specializes in all kinds of properties in Italy, from apartments and cottages to villas and castles, and many, many of them are on sale. Take 40% off Villa Laura, a property near Lake Como which sleeps 12 people and was recently renovated. It has five full bathrooms, maid service, pool, and more. Weekly stays are the minimum and start at $7,250 for high season of June 27 through August 28 and $6,786 for low season. It's located about two hours from Milan and the closest towns, Varenna and Belaggio, are about 15 minutes away by boat. It's a tremendous savings -- if you have a full house and go in high season it will cost just $604 per person for a week in Italy -- not inclusive of airfare. If you want to stay near Tuscany, Villa Bicci, about 30 minutes north of Florence in the Mugello area is the weekend house of a clothing designer who lives in the city. The home sleeps 12 people but an additional six can fit in the home's annex. The owners are offering it at 50% off the weekly rental price -- prices start at $7,585 for high season. The property used to be the summer residence for the Medici family and it's well-suited for day trips to Chianti, Parma, Modena, Pisa, Bologna, Siena, and more.
Companies such as Home Away (www.homeaway.com) also rent all kinds of residences to travelers around the world. A simple keyword search reveals that there are many smaller properties for those who are not traveling with an extended clan but perhaps instead just the nuclear unit Some of them start as low as $489 per week and run upwards of several thousand dollars per week, depending on size of the accommodations and when you travel. Similarly, Rentalo (tel. 303/558-5577; www.rentalo.com) has a garden apartment in Venice available from $187 that sleeps four people and is located in the Canareggio quarter, close to shops and restaurants. This rate is available for stays through November 27 but requires a five-night minimum.
TourCrafters (tel. 800/482-5995; www.tourcrafters.com) is offering a 12-day special for families who want to go to Italy and experience both the city and the countryside. The package starts at $587 per person (without airfare) for a family of six. It includes stays in apartments with kitchens, which means you can cook, stay in, shop in Italian markets, and really get a sense of the pace of life in Italy. You can get an up close look at floor plans of the properties by clicking on the "Italy Family Vacations" link.
For a family of our, the package puts you in Florence and Tuscany and includes four nights at the Palazzo Ricasoli apartments in Florence and then seven nights in the countryside near Lake Trasimeno at the Principe del Trasimeno. A seven-day car rental comes with your package. It is priced from $2,559 for mid-summer (July 13-August 31), or $639.75 per person. For a family of six, the price goes even lower, to $587.50 per person, with four nights at Fiesolana apartment, which is very close to the Duomo in Florence, and then another seven at the Principe del Trasimeno.
Untours (tel. 888/868-6871; www.untours.com) is running a big sale on its rental properties in Europe, including Italy. Save about $172 per person on all bookings in Tuscany, Umbria, Sicily East and West for a double occupancy, two-week Untour. The Sicily West trip, which is new for 2009, has departures throughout April and May, and then again in the fall -- this is the least expensive travel period, with rates starting at $2,989 per person for a two-week trip that includes airfare. Or opt for two weeks in Umbria.
A four-person tour in May starts at $2,436 including airfare; June, July and August departures start at $2,698. The nice part about using this company is that their proceeds go the Untours Foundation, which finances low-interest loans geared toward socially responsible developmental such as creating jobs, Fair Trade initiatives and low-income housing. As for the tours themselves: they are basically independent tours with support: assistance from local representatives with years of experience is available if you need it. Both trips include 14-day car rental with unlimited mileage, preplanning assistance, an orientation upon arrival, airport transfer assistance, and a small supply of groceries to get you started in the rental property. Other amenities will vary per property, such as use of pool, bicycles, etc. Â
If you've got lots of cash to spare, and if you are interested in walking through an Italy dotted with villages, Classic Journeys (tel. 800/200-3887; www.classicjourneys.com) has a trip for families to the Amalfi Coast. It includes a trip to Pompeii and walking the rim of Mt. Vesuvius, and visiting beaches and pools and hands-on activities such as ceramics and treasure hunts for littler ones. Children ages 11-16 receive a $500 discount; children ages 7-10 receive a $750 discount, kids ages 3-6 receive a $1,250 discount and children 2 and younger will receive a $1,750 discount when sharing a room with two full-paying guests. This is a significant savings for trips, which are priced at $3,895 per person for April 5 and $3,995 for the June 28 and July 19 departures. The company's trips are guided, thoughtful, and well-planned, with accommodations that are first-class, and include all breakfasts and five dinners, a full-time English speaking guide who will handle all the details for you; a support vehicle, admissions to all special events, sites, and attractions as per itinerary; tips for baggage handling and meals and all land transport once you are in Italy.
Similarly, there's a departure to Tuscany that starts from $3,695 for April 12 and costs $100 more for June 28 and July 19. The same discount applies for the same age groups as the Amalfi Coast tour. The Tuscany trip starts in Florence and then goes to Chianti for six nights, with time in Lucca, San Gimignano, Pisa, and more, with gelato, wine (for the adults), shopping, making pizza and more dotting the itinerary.
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