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Going to Europe -- Italy, France, or England?

Vi MonksVi Monks Registered User regular
edited February 2009 in Help / Advice Forum
That's the question. I'm graduating from university soon and my mother wants to take me on a trip to wherever I want to go. Well I've never been to Europe but I've always wanted to. I'm pretty big into Renaissance art and architecture, hence the desire to go to Italy. But I'm also an English literature buff so seeing the sights in England would be fantastic as well. And France -- well I've heard it's really nice and I wouldn't mind seeing it. But I can't decide so I'm turning to you, H&A. Which country should I visit? And any must-visits from any of those countries are welcome, of course.

Edit: Trip has been extended to two weeks and it will likely be in the summer.

Vi Monks on
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Posts

  • DJ-99DJ-99 Registered User
    edited January 2009
    Vi Monks wrote: »
    That's the question. I'm graduating from university soon and my mother wants to take me on a trip to wherever I want to go. Well I've never been to Europe but I've always wanted to. I'm pretty big into Renaissance art and architecture, hence the desire to go to Italy. But I'm also an English literature buff so seeing the sights in England would be fantastic as well. And France -- well I've heard it's really nice and I wouldn't mind seeing it. But I can't decide so I'm turning to you, H&A. Which country should I visit? And any must-visits from any of those countries are welcome, of course.

    How long of a trip are you talking? It's fairly easy to hit up all three.

    That being said I would definitely go to Rome. I graduated from college last year and did Prague, Vienna, Venice, and Rome. Italy was awesome.

  • Vi MonksVi Monks Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    DJ-99 wrote: »
    Vi Monks wrote: »
    That's the question. I'm graduating from university soon and my mother wants to take me on a trip to wherever I want to go. Well I've never been to Europe but I've always wanted to. I'm pretty big into Renaissance art and architecture, hence the desire to go to Italy. But I'm also an English literature buff so seeing the sights in England would be fantastic as well. And France -- well I've heard it's really nice and I wouldn't mind seeing it. But I can't decide so I'm turning to you, H&A. Which country should I visit? And any must-visits from any of those countries are welcome, of course.

    How long of a trip are you talking? It's fairly easy to hit up all three.

    That being said I would definitely go to Rome. I graduated from college last year and did Prague, Vienna, Venice, and Rome. Italy was awesome.

    I'm not sure exactly how long the trip is, but for financial reasons and time constraints, I can't imagine it being more than a week.

  • Dulcius_ex_asperisDulcius_ex_asperis Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Hm. You could easily go to england and italy. Ryanair has cheap flights once you're in London, and if you can finagle the trip into being 1.5 weeks instead of just a week you could spend, say, 3 days in london, 5 days in italy, then 3 more days in london, fly home, whee! (obviously you could go to france as well, if you liked)

    edit: flights from London to Rome one month from now are currently at $14 USD...That's pretty fucking low. I'd say give it a go.

    useful sites:
    ryanair.com for cheap flights
    megabus.com for travel within the UK
    oanda.com for conversion rates
    hostelworld.com for cheap, usually nice places to stay (I've had 3 or 4 trips where I booked with hostelworld and was always impressed by the accommodations...just do your research and you'll save a lot of money/be very comfortable. A lot of people look down on hostels because they think they've got to be disgusting, but I've only ever had nice experiences in them, usually paying around $28/night in varying countries)


    Oh, and if you fly into London and then use Ryanair from there, that would likely be the most cost-effective option, as it's a hub for ryanair and flights to London aren't crazy high right now.

    there there, we all have urethras
  • DJ-99DJ-99 Registered User
    edited January 2009
    Vi Monks wrote: »
    DJ-99 wrote: »
    Vi Monks wrote: »
    That's the question. I'm graduating from university soon and my mother wants to take me on a trip to wherever I want to go. Well I've never been to Europe but I've always wanted to. I'm pretty big into Renaissance art and architecture, hence the desire to go to Italy. But I'm also an English literature buff so seeing the sights in England would be fantastic as well. And France -- well I've heard it's really nice and I wouldn't mind seeing it. But I can't decide so I'm turning to you, H&A. Which country should I visit? And any must-visits from any of those countries are welcome, of course.

    How long of a trip are you talking? It's fairly easy to hit up all three.

    That being said I would definitely go to Rome. I graduated from college last year and did Prague, Vienna, Venice, and Rome. Italy was awesome.

    I'm not sure exactly how long the trip is, but for financial reasons and time constraints, I can't imagine it being more than a week.

    Ok. Well I don't have a lot of cities to recommend, other than definitely go to Rome. I've been to Paris, and honestly wasn't that thrilled, but probably b/c I was exhausted from traveling. Depending on what cities and sites in England you have in mind, you may not be able to see all 3 countries, but I definitely recommend at least 2. If you fly Ryan Air, it costs like $40 to fly from Paris to Rome, for example, so even spending 3 days in 2 countries each would be very doable. I'm sure it's cheap from London to Paris or Rome as well. The Normandy region of France should be pretty, if you're into seeing the countryside and stuff.

    EDIT: Beat to Ryan Air. Can't recommend it enough for cheap travel.

  • Vi MonksVi Monks Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    $14? Are you serious? Do they put me in a duffel bag on a cargo plane or something?

    Regardless, thanks for the awesome websites/travel arrangement suggestions. I just got off the phone with my mother and we can probably manage two weeks so something like London and various cities in Italy seems quite manageable, especially if I can find stuff as cheap as you guys are suggesting -- maybe even visit France as well.

  • Kate of LokysKate of Lokys Registered User
    edited January 2009
    If your reason for wanting to go to England is to see the sights associated with English literature, you're really not going to do that in London. London is a fantastic city, albeit wildly expensive, but it doesn't really have anything in particular to do with Englit. Similarly, the rest of the UK ranges from tacky tourist seaside towns to the majestic fells and dales of the Lake District, but again, there's nothing that really screams "Superb books were written and/or set here!"

    Italy, on the other hand, is a vast deep treasure trove of art, architecture, history, and culture. I've never been myself, but one of my friends spent three months walking through it, and he was absolutely enraptured.

    I've always preferred seeing a few things in detail over the "woo Europe let's hit ten countries in three days" style of travel. Trying to do Italy, London, and maybe France in a week or two would feel awfully rushed to me.

    I'm here to tell you about voting. Imagine you're locked in a huge underground nightclub filled with sinners, whores, freaks and unnameable things that rape pit bulls for fun. And you ain't allowed out until you all vote on what you're going to do tonight [. . .] So you vote for television, and everyone else, as far as your eye can see, votes to fuck you with switchblades. That's voting. You're welcome.
  • bsjezzbsjezz Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    i've done the ryanair thing for ridiculously cheap european flights before and i can't recommend it highly enough. from london to trieste for a whirlwind 24 hours - the ride out to the airport took longer than the flight itself, and if i'd gone by train, it would have cost more too.

    don't expect too many creature comforts and get organized ahead of schedule, but the absolute best thing about visiting europe is realising how easily accessible the countries are to each other

    sig_zps00ca6d07.jpg
  • EskimoDaveEskimoDave Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    From what I've heard you get what you pay for with Ryanair.

    I haven't gone there yet (sometime this year, assuming I can get a second job that isn't mcdonalds). But I've known about a dozen people who've been there and I would recommend Italy.

    I have been to England several times, its boring. Then again its only cause my entire non-immediate family lives there and were all doing family things.

  • TexiKenTexiKen Oh, no. And that's that.Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Speaking only from my experiences, split the difference, go to Amsterdam. Renaissance, the Dutch have it. Architecture, the Dutch have it. Abundance of English, the Dutch have it. Niceness of people (outside of the Oosterpark area), the Dutch have it. Go to Amersfoort, the Hague, the Netherlands is a great place to experience Europe for the first time.

    You could also take a day train trip to northern parts of France, Belgium, or Western Germany. If you only had a week, consider Amsterdam. Any more, go to Italy and get into the countryside.

    England is nice, but London doesn't feel like the NYC of Europe. It feels very satisfied with where it is now, and due to it being the hub to/from Europe, they don't have to try. I never went to France but would like to visit the Southern part, and Italy I have heard is good, especially for sights, but English is not as abundant as other Western European countries.

    ohno_zpsdb826db6.jpg
  • Dulcius_ex_asperisDulcius_ex_asperis Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Ryanair is very stripped down, but honestly, besides being cheaper it's not that different from US Airways/American/Continental/Southwest. It's a low-priced airline meant for Euro travel and commuting. The company uses planes that they buy used from other airlines, and have not had a single accident since their inception in 1985. Just to make you feel safe.

    IMO, it doesn't really matter how you get around, it just matters that you get there, and since it sounds like you don't want to spend an arm+leg, Ryanair honestly is a really good and low-priced option.

    Also, if you go to England and you want to see literary sights, go to Oxford. Go to a few museums in London, too (British Museum, British Library) but Oxford is my favorite UK city. Amazing. Also only like ~1 hour from London so not too hard to get to. Small enough to tour in a day, definitely. Just set up a tour of the city. Evelyn Waugh, Lewis Carroll, Aldous Huxley, Oscar Wilde, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Graham Greene, Phillip Pullman, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Donne, W. H. Auden...all studied there.

    there there, we all have urethras
  • Vi MonksVi Monks Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Ryanair looks cheap enough that I would be able to visit both England and Italy pretty easily -- not sure if I'd want to cram France in there as well. I generally like to spend a good amount of time in each place and not feel so rushed to see everything in a couple days. The suggestions have been a huge help so a thank you to all and keep them coming.

  • PongePonge Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    I'm going to get a reputation as a mad scotsman for recomending Scotland in every similair thread but...

    How about Scotland?

    Depending on what time of year you're travelling it can be nice, Ryanair fly to Prestwick airport and Easyjet fly to Edinburgh I think.

    Edinburgh is a blast and most of the countryside as you get further north is amazing.

    If you plan to fly from London it'll take you 3 hours total, a train from london would be 8 hours.

    Just another thought. I prefer Edinburgh to London (but then I lived there most of my life so I'm blatantly biased).

  • BobCescaBobCesca Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Scotland is amazing (and no, I'm not just boiased 'cos I lived there for eight years and my better half is Scottish). Though I prefer Glasgow to Edinburgh (though that's to live in, Edinburgh is probably better for the casual tourist).
    You can fly from Scotland to nearly anywhere in Europe very cheaply with Ryanair, but they tend to fly from airports in the middle of nowhere, so you'll want to factor that into your costs.

    If you'd like to see as much as possible, one idea would be to get one of those European train passes. You can start in London and essentially get the train to wherever you like. If you could organize to fly in from one town and fly out from another (not sure what this would do to the cost) you could then travel through Europe. Also, youth hostels are very cheap, and quite often you don't need to book in advance or anything, so you could choose your own route on a day-by-day basis (obviously making sure to get to your final destination so you don't miss your flight home).

  • mynameisguidomynameisguido Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    This has been ten years or more, but when I went to Europe for a whirlwind two-week trip London was my favorite part, to be honest.

    Venice was nice as well, but though I liked parts of Florence I didn't like it very much (though it didn't help that I was very, very sick when I was there)----but Rome was a fairly forgettable experience outside of seeing the Sistine Chapel---it had neat parts but I just didn't find it to be a very interesting city.

    steam_sig.png
  • KalkinoKalkino Buttons Londres Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Any big capital in Europe is going to be chock full of the art you seem to want I think.

    I think a week in London would be worth it - The Tate Britain, National Gallery, Royal Society, Victoria & Albert and the British Museum could take you say 3 days. Then if you did the palaces/other sites of note say another two days. Then leaving two days for day trips out of London (Stratford upon Avon/Bath/Oxford/Cambridge or one weekender to say Edinburgh)

    Freedom for the Northern Isles!
  • DarkCrawlerDarkCrawler Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Rome and the Vatican are out from this world. I can speak from experience. Must visits from there? St. Peters, Colosseum, and the Pantheon are top three. You seriously don't realize how big they are until you stand right next to them. But this is Europe. You are big into amazing art and architecture - pretty much all our capitals have it. You just have to pick which you are most interested in. I honestly can't wait until I graduate and go interrailing and I can finally explore them all.

    I recommend Rome, though.

  • KalkinoKalkino Buttons Londres Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Rome and the Vatican are out from this world. I can speak from experience. Must visits from there? St. Peters, Colosseum, and the Pantheon are top three. You seriously don't realize how big they are until you stand right next to them. But this is Europe. You are big into amazing art and architecture - pretty much all our capitals have it. You just have to pick which you are most interested in. I honestly can't wait until I graduate and go interrailing and I can finally explore them all.

    I recommend Rome, though.

    I am going end of the month for a week - Did you do any day trips from Rome?

    Freedom for the Northern Isles!
  • corcorigancorcorigan Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    You could comfortably kill a week in London (and presumably Rome too), so just do whatever takes your fancy. There'll always be more to go back to.

    Ad Astra Per Aspera
  • L*2*G*XL*2*G*X Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Don't go to Amsterdam unless you really like weed, don't go to London unless you really like drinking. In either case you could just stay at home, you know.
    For culture, Italy would be best. Paris is something you should do with your SO.
    I think the old eastern european states are great, too. Certainly Prague, but also Budapest, Krakow, you name it.
    However if you go only to one place, and you should take your time to get into the 'feel' of Europe, make it Italy.
    You don't need an itinerary. Get up early every morning, have an 'Americano' and call ahead to the next youth hostel.
    Fuck, if I were ten years younger...

  • BogartBogart MR. Lady Anime Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    L*2*G*X wrote: »
    Don't go to Amsterdam unless you really like weed, don't go to London unless you really like drinking. In either case you could just stay at home, you know. Paris is something you should do with your SO.


    This are silly. Amsterdam has plenty of culture alongside the sleazier aspects, admittedly not on the same scale as the other three capitals you're thinking about. London is jam-packed with great museums, galleries, parks, buildings, palaces and such. It also has a great selection of theatres and there's usually something great on somewhere (Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan doing Waiting for Godot this year for one thing). It's also got a great nightlife. And Paris offers roughly the same with or without an SO.

  • L*2*G*XL*2*G*X Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Bogart wrote: »
    L*2*G*X wrote: »
    Don't go to Amsterdam unless you really like weed, don't go to London unless you really like drinking. In either case you could just stay at home, you know. Paris is something you should do with your SO.


    This are silly. Amsterdam has plenty of culture alongside the sleazier aspects, admittedly not on the same scale as the other three capitals you're thinking about. London is jam-packed with great museums, galleries, parks, buildings, palaces and such. It also has a great selection of theatres and there's usually something great on somewhere (Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan doing Waiting for Godot this year for one thing). It's also got a great nightlife. And Paris offers roughly the same with or without an SO.

    Ok, perhaps it's a bit harsh to dish London, but recently I've heard nothing but complaints from people coming back from A'dam. Even the Dutch feel enough is enough.

    Paris really is great, but it's better with an SO. In fact I never liked Paris at all, finding it a dreary city with an understandable hatred of tourists as well as an overwhelming desire to distribute crepes to said tourists, sneering. The stuffed bookshops, the undead musea, the grey windy vistas, the battered cars stinking up the streets, all things to be found elsewhere, Prague for one.
    But it does magically transform when one is there and romantically involved. Even though the visit with my SO was a romantic disaster, ever since I've loved Paris. Hence my advise.

  • TrippyDKTrippyDK Registered User
    edited January 2009
    I took a flight on RyanAir from England to Spain, and you do roughly get what you pay for. Their bag constraints are picky, so expect a surcharge on that. Other than that, I really had a decent experience with them. Their safety manuals are embossed on the seat ahead of you, and you can buy shots of alcohol in plastic bags. Just try to be first in line, so you can get the sweet, sweet emergency door isle seats.

  • Anarchy Rules!Anarchy Rules! Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    To be honest I'm not really a fan of Italy. On paper it has everything to make an amazing experience but it was all just 'meh'.

    I went interrailing last summer and the city atmosphere just doesn't capture you like other cities (Venice is an exception). The Vatican museum (Sistine Chapel inc.) costs an arm and a leg to get into, as do most other museums.

    All of the best museums and galleries in London ar free and excellent. I also find London has a more enveloping atmosphere.

  • RevolutionaryRevolutionary Registered User
    edited January 2009
    General Europe advice: Why go now during the Winter? I'm on exchange in France right now and we're getting loads of grey cold days/cloudless blue sky days which are even more cold. Convince you're mum to wait until summer perhaps?

    Be warned, if you do so there'll be more tourists walking around and flights/hotels will be more expensive.

    Also the Louvre is very expensive - and big. You cannot see the entire exhibit - most take a tour to see the big sights in a shorter amount of time.

  • KalkinoKalkino Buttons Londres Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Most cities have some sort of multi day gallery or museum pass - so for somewhere like the Lourve you can easily, and for not too much get to go back until you've had your fill. Do your research before you come and then you will know what bits you must see and what you can avoid. If its your major then this perhaps will be an easier exercise that for most.

    Of course London's museums are almost all free, or largely free. Unless you go entirely private

    Freedom for the Northern Isles!
  • Mr BubblesMr Bubbles David Koresh Superstar Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    I don't get all the love for London

    London is a horrible place

  • The_Glad_HatterThe_Glad_Hatter Rogue Jpeg Jockey Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Since you're guessing your trip will only last a week, i'd hit up Rome first, and finish off with London.

    Lots of great stuff concentrated together in rome, i guess that would get you the most out of your time/ money.

    Also: ryanair! altough the flight advertised as $14 will usually end up costing about €40. But still. cheap and it gets you there... (note, their airports never actually are in the capital it's named after. flying to glasgow? you'll land in prestwick. arriving in Brussels? that'll be charleroi airport...).
    still.. cheaper than any train, ferry or bus i know.

    ozr4h81a0maq.jpg0lwmzl3bfzok.jpg
  • KalkinoKalkino Buttons Londres Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Mr Bubbles wrote: »
    I don't get all the love for London

    London is a horrible place

    London is nice - Plenty to do and see and the museums are free.

    Freedom for the Northern Isles!
  • Vi MonksVi Monks Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Thanks again for all the tips. Just to say again (I'll add this to the OP too), the trip has been extended to two weeks and it will (in all likelihood) be in the summer. At the moment I'm definitely leaning towards England and Italy. Definitely want to hit London, Oxford, Rome, Florence, and Venice -- and, time permitting, I'd like to see Stratford-upon-Avon and Naples as well, though that might be a bit much for two weeks. Can anyone point me to a website that would list all the major museums/sights in a given city? That would be a huge help in planning this shin-dig.

  • Mr BubblesMr Bubbles David Koresh Superstar Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
  • thisisntwallythisisntwally Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    I can't speak for London beyond the Airports (they were awful, and the food was wretched), but with the pound so high, it will surely be more expensive. While I personally love Amsterdam, you would probably get more out of visiting there without your mom.

    On to Italy, where I am a bit more of an expert... my father is a native, and I've been half a dozen odd times. Italy rocks. Plus its relatively warm this time of year. During the off season, you can stay in FANTASTIC hotels in the middle of Rome for a very reasonable price. There is plenty to see and do in Rome, but in the summer it can be hard to navigate, as Italy becomes rather crowded with tourists. Venice is dirty, sinking, and a giant tourist trap. Florence is amazing but you tend to run into many Americans studying abroad (usually for art). The Tuscany area is beautiful. Go up onto the hills outside Florence and you will be rewarded with out of this world views. Milan is interested, but as one of the few industrial centers in Italy, its kind of cold compared with the rest of italy. The trains run on time, but the food is not as great. (its still awesome, just not as awesome. Exceptions would be steak, you can really only get a fine steak up north, and Veal Milanese (Weinerschnitzel to the stuffy neighbors furthur north).

    IF YOU LIKE ROME, keep going south, Naples is the essence of Italy. That being said, if Rome is too hectic for you, don't bother with Naples as you will find it much moreso. The pizza in Napoli is bar none. The mozzarella is made from waterbuffalo, and GOD DAMN IS IT GREAT.

    With two weeks take time to walk the Cinque Terre. Its on the Riviera and while it is a tourest hotbed, its relatively unmodernized and people who go never seem to regret it.

    I have family in Rome Naples and Milan, and friends in Florence, Verona, and Venice. If you choose to visit Italy, I can keep dumping stuff at you. Also get a Rick Steves/Lonely Planet. Rick Steves specializes in Italy and really provides a wealth of information.

    #someshit
  • thisisntwallythisisntwally Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Vi Monks wrote: »
    Thanks again for all the tips. Just to say again (I'll add this to the OP too), the trip has been extended to two weeks and it will (in all likelihood) be in the summer. At the moment I'm definitely leaning towards England and Italy. Definitely want to hit London, Oxford, Rome, Florence, and Venice -- and, time permitting, I'd like to see Stratford-upon-Avon and Naples as well, though that might be a bit much for two weeks. Can anyone point me to a website that would list all the major museums/sights in a given city? That would be a huge help in planning this shin-dig.

    http://www.ricksteves.com/graffiti/graffiti_menu.htm

    #someshit
  • KalkinoKalkino Buttons Londres Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    I can't speak for London beyond the Airports (they were awful, and the food was wretched), but with the pound so high, it will surely be more expensive. While I personally love Amsterdam, you would probably get more out of visiting there without your mom.

    On to Italy, where I am a bit more of an expert... my father is a native, and I've been half a dozen odd times. Italy rocks. Plus its relatively warm this time of year. During the off season, you can stay in FANTASTIC hotels in the middle of Rome for a very reasonable price. There is plenty to see and do in Rome, but in the summer it can be hard to navigate, as Italy becomes rather crowded with tourists. Venice is dirty, sinking, and a giant tourist trap. Florence is amazing but you tend to run into many Americans studying abroad (usually for art). The Tuscany area is beautiful. Go up onto the hills outside Florence and you will be rewarded with out of this world views. Milan is interested, but as one of the few industrial centers in Italy, its kind of cold compared with the rest of italy. The trains run on time, but the food is not as great. (its still awesome, just not as awesome. Exceptions would be steak, you can really only get a fine steak up north, and Veal Milanese (Weinerschnitzel to the stuffy neighbors furthur north).

    IF YOU LIKE ROME, keep going south, Naples is the essence of Italy. That being said, if Rome is too hectic for you, don't bother with Naples as you will find it much moreso. The pizza in Napoli is bar none. The mozzarella is made from waterbuffalo, and GOD DAMN IS IT GREAT.

    With two weeks take time to walk the Cinque Terre. Its on the Riviera and while it is a tourest hotbed, its relatively unmodernized and people who go never seem to regret it.

    I have family in Rome Naples and Milan, and friends in Florence, Verona, and Venice. If you choose to visit Italy, I can keep dumping stuff at you. Also get a Rick Steves/Lonely Planet. Rick Steves specializes in Italy and really provides a wealth of information.

    The Pound has declined substantially against the Dollar - it is about 1.5 USD to 1 GBP - whereas 3-6 months ago it was around (iirc) 2:1. So if you are traveling on the USD then its a good time to visit the UK.

    Freedom for the Northern Isles!
  • thisisntwallythisisntwally Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Kalkino wrote: »
    blah blah blah

    The Pound has declined substantially against the Dollar - it is about 1.5 USD to 1 GBP - whereas 3-6 months ago it was around (iirc) 2:1. So if you are traveling on the USD then its a good time to visit the UK.

    WOW thats a cheap pound! Last winter it was 2.5 to 1! I guess I should be keeping up on this sort of thing before I go running my mouth...

    #someshit
  • Vi MonksVi Monks Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    I can't speak for London beyond the Airports (they were awful, and the food was wretched), but with the pound so high, it will surely be more expensive. While I personally love Amsterdam, you would probably get more out of visiting there without your mom.

    On to Italy, where I am a bit more of an expert... my father is a native, and I've been half a dozen odd times. Italy rocks. Plus its relatively warm this time of year. During the off season, you can stay in FANTASTIC hotels in the middle of Rome for a very reasonable price. There is plenty to see and do in Rome, but in the summer it can be hard to navigate, as Italy becomes rather crowded with tourists. Venice is dirty, sinking, and a giant tourist trap. Florence is amazing but you tend to run into many Americans studying abroad (usually for art). The Tuscany area is beautiful. Go up onto the hills outside Florence and you will be rewarded with out of this world views. Milan is interested, but as one of the few industrial centers in Italy, its kind of cold compared with the rest of italy. The trains run on time, but the food is not as great. (its still awesome, just not as awesome. Exceptions would be steak, you can really only get a fine steak up north, and Veal Milanese (Weinerschnitzel to the stuffy neighbors furthur north).

    IF YOU LIKE ROME, keep going south, Naples is the essence of Italy. That being said, if Rome is too hectic for you, don't bother with Naples as you will find it much moreso. The pizza in Napoli is bar none. The mozzarella is made from waterbuffalo, and GOD DAMN IS IT GREAT.

    With two weeks take time to walk the Cinque Terre. Its on the Riviera and while it is a tourest hotbed, its relatively unmodernized and people who go never seem to regret it.

    I have family in Rome Naples and Milan, and friends in Florence, Verona, and Venice. If you choose to visit Italy, I can keep dumping stuff at you. Also get a Rick Steves/Lonely Planet. Rick Steves specializes in Italy and really provides a wealth of information.

    Awesome advice. Thanks. Italy is looking very promising (no surprise there). And thanks for the links, thisisntwally and Bubbles.

  • NPNP Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    RyanAir is a cheap deal, no doubt, but you gotta take into account a couple of things when you're flying with them..first off, their prices don't include taxes, fees, etc..when you go to their website to book the flight, you'll keep hitting the next button and they will keep adding random ass fees. I took a flight from Dublin to London that was advertised as literally "Free" but it ended up costing me around 25 euros after all the taxes and fees.

    On top of that they charge for any luggage you want to check in (which you will likely have if you are coming for 2 weeks). On top of that, they usually fly to an airport that's really far away from the city, so you gotta pay a decent amount to get in/out conveniently, plus you have to allocate a little more time (someone posted earlier that it took them more time to get to the airport than to fly, this is very true). You also don't get assigned seats, so you gotta be there early, especially if you're traveling in a group and want to sit together.

    In the end my $Free flight ended up costing me about $90-100 per person, which is still not terrible, but it's not as cheap as you'd initially think. Even with all that it's still a pretty good value, and worth looking into.

  • DHS OdiumDHS Odium Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    In college I got to go to London and Edinburgh, Scotland. Both places were really great and I recommend them fully. Flew in to London for a few days, got to see the sites, then hopped on a train to Scotland, where I had 2 weeks of courses there at a local art college.

    My parents traveled to Rome and France, and said the locations were nice, but the people weren't. I found everyone in London and Scotland friendly towards me (I'm American).

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  • witch_iewitch_ie Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Just got back from a two-week trip to Italy in October. We went to Rome, Florence, and Venice. I would suggest you definitely invest in a Rick Steve's book to find good places to eat and check out tripadvisor.com for reviews on hotels and such.

    To plan our trip, I looked through travel websites and books and identified the places that we wanted to visit and then looked up the information (cost, location, hours) for each so that we could hit them without too much of a schedule. This worked out well so that we didn't have a rigorous schedule and could enjoy ourselves and prioritize what we wanted to see. I've listed some of our favorites from each city below (forgive my bad memory in spelling some of these places), but if you want more information, feel free to pm me.

    Rome: Coliseum, Trevi Fountain and the park above Piazza di Popolo, La Rusticella (restaurant near the Vatican)
    Florence: Dante's House
    Venice: Doge's Palace, glass blower demonstration on Murano (not part of the museum - just walk around the shops and you should be able to find one), getting a multiple day pass good for the boats and buses

    I've also heard from friends who visit Italy at least once year that it's very hot in July and August and also crowded with tourists during the summer months, so be prepared.

  • Dulcius_ex_asperisDulcius_ex_asperis Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    NP wrote: »
    RyanAir is a cheap deal, no doubt, but you gotta take into account a couple of things when you're flying with them..

    My experiences with Ryanair were: flying from London (Stansted) to Vienna, Austria, then coming back via Salzburg: ~60 USD with taxes, fees, and maybe another 10 euro in additional travel to/from the airports, and from London (Stansted) to Barcelona, Spain and back via a small town in southern spain, costing approximately 80 USD, and yes, the airport for Barcelona was actually in Girona (about 30 minutes to an hour away)...but anyway, the $14 fare (which was after taxes and fees) I found was more than a month from now and it's the off season now so of course things will be more expensive in summer. I can't recommend enough going in mid-autumn if at all possible (like October or something) because the tourist season is waning then and rates will be cheaper altogether. If you can do it, go in the fall. Fewer people, cooler (but not cold) weather, altogether more pleasant.

    Good luck!

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  • GMaster7GMaster7 Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    I'm living in Italy for the year, studying abroad at the University of Bologna, and your plans are really exciting - I'm glad to see that lots of people have contributed solid advice in this thread! RyanAir is really cheap, and my friends use it (though I haven't), and yeah, as someone said, London isn't really connected to English literature, but it's still a fun place - I just visited last week, and had a good time walking around, seeing all that I could in 3 days (the Palace, the parks, Big Ben, the Globe Theater, churches, etc.).

    Now, as far as Italy - The typical touristy Rome-Florence-Venice trip is busy and hot and, well, touristy during the summer months, but there's a reason that it's so popular. I visited Venice a few years ago, and found it to be... kind of off-putting and un-Italian. It probably has something to do with the fact that I'm Italian, and that I was in a "visiting my roots" mindset on my Italy trip, and then ran into this psuedo-Austrian, colder climate and culture where the food wasn't as great and the people I talked to seemed almost elitist. I hear, though, that if you see it on the right day, it's beautiful.

    You'll love Florence and Rome, without a doubt, because of the wealth of beautiful art and architecture, and for the culture. Definitely see the sights, and travel around the centers, but don't forget to detour a bit outside of the center for the "real" Italy. Someone in the thread mentioned that Naples is the "real" Italy, but I mean, it's subjective. The south and the north are two very different beasts, but though the food and the smaller towns and pretty views are gorgeous in the south (on the Amalfi Coast, for example), I'd consider that less necessary if you're just doing a "European" trip that includes England or France.

    Someone else (sorry about these vague references) mentioned Cinque Terre, and though it's an exhausting hike, it is absolutely worth the day trip (from Florence) to see... But I went during the summer. I don't know if it's as worth it at this time of year, because it would be cold and gray out. It's a 5-hour hike along beautiful seaside cliffs, stopping at 5 small towns along the way, and though I'm terribly unathletic, I was glad I went by the end - alternatively, you can take a trolley between the towns to see all of the pretty views, and not every leg of the trail is arduous. If you were waiting until the spring, I'd say it's a must-see. Maybe not so much for your first trip, but keep it in mind.

    Other beautiful things to see (I mean, if you want to take day trips from Florence) would be Pisa (I was more impressed than I thought I'd be) and Siena. What's nice about Italy is that most of the stuff-to-see lies in the center of these places, but you can also find the more obscure stuff ahead of time and seek it out easily. A plus for you is that in the most touristy places, you can usually find someone who speaks English. I'd recommend stopping up here in Bologna, so that you could visit Parma and eat for days on end, but I don't think that'd interest you so much. Regardless, I hope this helped a little. The trains here are relatively cheap, and run very often, so you can head to a central spot and go from there - Good luck with your trip!

    Oh, and when you get to Florence, look up a restaurant called "Acqua al 2" - I don't remember it being a cheap meal, but they have a delicious steak with blueberry sauce that is a must-have for tourists, students, and locals alike. PM me if you have any questions about anything - I lived in Florence this past August and happy to answer any of your Italy-related questions!

    EDIT: I realize in reading what I wrote that I sound kind of cynical and negative at certain points - Rest assured that I'm just trying to figure out what's best for you, because it is a little cold and dreary during this winter - but it's like that everywhere, right? We still have beautiful sunny days, and you'll have a blast seeing the world!

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