High season on most airlines' routes to Rome is usually from June to the beginning of September. This is the most expensive and crowded time to travel. Shoulder season is from April to May, early September to October, and December 15 to December 24. Low season is from November 1 to December 14 and December 25 to March 31.
From North America -- Fares to Italy are constantly changing, but you can expect to pay somewhere in the range of $460 to $1,600 for a direct round-trip ticket from New York to Rome in coach class.
Flying time to Rome from New York, Newark, and Boston is 8 hours; from Chicago, 10 hours; and from Los Angeles, 12 1/2 hours. Flying time to Milan from New York, Newark, and Boston is 8 hours; from Chicago, 9 1/4 hours; and from Los Angeles, 11 1/2 hours.
American Airlines (tel. 800/433-7300; www.aa.com) offers daily nonstop flights to Rome from Chicago's O'Hare, with flights from all parts of American's vast network making connections into Chicago. Delta (tel. 800/221-1212; www.delta.com) flies from New York's JFK to Milan and Rome; separate flights depart every evening for both destinations. USAirways/AmericaWest (tel. 800/622-1015; www.usairways.com) offers one flight daily to Rome out of Philadelphia (you can connect through Philly from most major U.S. cities). And Continental (tel. 800/231-0856; www.continental.com) flies several times a week to Rome and Milan from its hub in Newark.
Air Canada (tel. 888/247-2262; www.aircanada.com) flies daily from Toronto to Rome. Two of the flights are nonstop; the others may touch down en route in Montreal, depending on the schedule.
British Airways (tel. 800/AIRWAYS; www.britishairways.com), Virgin Atlantic Airways (tel. 800/821-5438; www.virgin-atlantic.com), Air France (tel. 800/237-2747; www.airfrance.com), Northwest/KLM (tel. 800/225-2525; www.nwa.com), and Lufthansa (tel. 800/645-3880; www.lufthansa-usa.com) offer some attractive deals for anyone interested in combining a trip to Italy with a stopover in, say, Britain, Paris, Amsterdam, or Germany.
Alitalia (tel. 800/223-5730; www.alitalia.com) is the Italian national airline, with nonstop flights to Rome from many North American cities, including New York (JFK), Newark, Boston, Chicago, Miami, Washington, and Toronto. Nonstop flights into Milan are from New York (JFK) and Newark. From Milan or Rome, Alitalia can easily book connecting domestic flights if your final destination is elsewhere in Italy. Alitalia participates in the frequent-flier programs of other airlines, including Continental and US Airways.
From the United Kingdom -- Operated by the European Travel Network, www.discountairfares.com is a great online source for regular and discounted airfares to destinations around the world. You can also use this site to compare rates and book accommodations, car rentals, and tours. Click on "Special Offers" for the latest package deals.
British newspapers are always full of classified ads touting slashed fares to Italy. One good source is Time Out. London's Evening Standard has a daily travel section, and the Sunday editions of almost any newspaper will run many ads. Although competition is fierce, one well-recommended company that consolidates bulk ticket purchases and then passes the savings on to its consumers is Trailfinders (tel. 0845/050-5945; www.trailfinders.com). It offers access to tickets on such carriers as SAS, British Airways, and KLM.
Both British Airways (tel. 0870/850-9850 in the U.K.; www.britishairways.co.uk) and Alitalia (tel. 0871/424-1424; www.alitalia.it) have frequent flights from London's Heathrow to Rome, Milan, Venice, Pisa (the gateway to Florence), and Naples. Flying time from London to these cities is from 2 to 3 hours. British Airways also has one direct flight a day from Manchester to Rome.
Getting There by Car
If you're already on the Continent, particularly in a neighboring country such as France or Austria, you may want to drive to Italy. However, you should make arrangements in advance with your car-rental company.
It's also possible to drive from London to Rome, a distance of 1,810km (1,124 miles), via Calais/Boulogne/Dunkirk, or 1,747km (1,085 miles) via Oostende/Zeebrugge, not counting channel crossings by Hovercraft, ferry, or the Chunnel. Milan is some 644km (400 miles) closer to Britain than is Rome. If you cross over from England and arrive at one of the continental ports, you still face a 24-hour drive. Most drivers budget 3 days for the journey.
Most of the roads from western Europe leading into Italy are toll-free, with some notable exceptions. If you use the Swiss superhighway network, you'll have to buy a special tax sticker at the frontier. You'll also pay to go through the St. Gotthard Tunnel into Italy. Crossings from France can be through the Mont Blanc Tunnel, for which you'll pay, or you can leave the French Riviera at Menton and drive directly into Italy along the Italian Riviera toward San Remo.
If you don't want to drive such distances, ask a travel agent to book you on a Motorail arrangement where the train carries your car. This service is good only to Milan -- no car or sleeper expresses run the 644km (400 miles) south to Rome.
Getting There by Train
If you plan to travel heavily on the European rails, you'll do well to secure the latest copy of the Thomas Cook European Timetable of Railroads. It's available online at www.thomascooktimetables.com.
Electric trains have made travel between France and Italy faster and more comfortable than ever. France's TGVs travel at speeds of up to 320kmph (200 mph) and have cut travel time between Paris and Turin from 7 to 5 1/2 hours and between Paris and Milan from 7 1/2 to 6 3/4 hours. Italy's ETRs travel at speeds of up to 280kmph (174 mph) and currently run between Milan and Lyon (5 hr.), with a stop in Turin.
Eurailpass -- Many travelers to Europe take advantage of one of the greatest travel bargains, the Eurail Global Pass, which allows you unlimited travel in 18 Eurail-affiliated countries. You can travel on any of the days within the validity period, which is available for 15 days, 21 days, 1 month, 2 months, 3 months, and some other possibilities as well.
The advantages are tempting: There are no tickets; simply show the pass to the ticket collector, then settle back to enjoy the scenery. Seat reservations are required on some trains. Many trains have couchettes (sleeping cars), for which an extra fee is charged. Obviously, the 2- or 3-month traveler gets the greatest economic advantages. To obtain full advantage of a 15-day or 1-month pass, you'd have to spend a great deal of time on the train.
Eurailpass holders are entitled to considerable reductions on certain buses and ferries as well. You'll get a 20% reduction on second-class accommodations from certain companies operating ferries between Naples and Palermo or for crossings to Sardinia and Malta.
Prices for first-class adult travel are $685 for 15 days, $879 for 21 days, $1,089 for 1 month, $1,539 for 2 months, and $1,899 for 3 months. Children 4 to 11 pay half fare; those 3 and under travel for free.
A Eurail Global Pass Saver, also valid for first-class travel in 18 countries, offers a special deal for two or more people traveling together. This pass costs $569 for 15 days, $745 for 21 days, $925 for 1 month, $1,309 for 2 months, and $1,615 for 3 months.
A Eurail Global Youth Pass for those 12 to 25 allows second-class travel in 18 countries. This pass costs $439 for 15 days, $569 for 21 days, $709 for 1 month, $999 for 2 months, and $1,235 for 3 months.
The Eurail Select Pass offers unlimited travel on the national rail networks of any 3, 4, or 5 bordering countries out of the 22 Eurail nations linked by train or ship. Two or more passengers can travel together for big discounts, getting 5, 6, 8, 10, or 15 days of rail travel within any 2-month period on the national rail networks of any three, four, or five adjoining Eurail countries linked by train or ship. A sample fare: For 5 days in 2 months you pay $429 for three countries. Eurail Select Pass Youth for travelers under 26, allows second-class travel within the same guidelines as Eurail Selectpass, with fees starting at $279. Eurail Select Pass Saver offers discounts for two or more people traveling together, first-class travel within the same guidelines as Eurail Selectpass, with fees starting at $565.
Where to Buy a Pass -- In North America, you can buy these passes from travel agents or rail agents in major cities such as New York, Montreal, and Los Angeles. Eurailpasses are also available through Rail Europe (tel. 888/382-7245; www.raileurope.com). No matter what everyone tells you, you can buy Eurailpasses in Europe as well as in America (at the major train stations), but they're more expensive. Rail Europe can give you information on the rail/drive versions of the passes.
For details on the rail passes available in the United Kingdom, stop in at or contact the National Rail Enquiries, Victoria Station, London SW1V 1JZ (tel. 020/7278-5240). The staff can help you find the best option for the trip you're planning. Some of the most popular are the Inter-Rail and Under 26 passes, entitling you to unlimited second-class travel in 26 European countries.
Italy Train Passes -- This pass may be a good deal in that it grants unlimited travel on the national rail network of Italy (3 days of unlimited travel within a 2-month period). Travel days may be used either consecutively or nonconsecutively. The pass sells for $249 per person in first class or $199 in second class. Children 4 to 11 pay $125 or $100, respectively.