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September 04, 2009

Win a Week's Stay in a Luxury Villa in Tuscany

Villa Grandi - room
You could win a week's stay in this villa near Cortona, Italy, courtesy of Ciao Bambino and HomesAway.

by Kathryn Maier on Travel Deals

Daily deals Okay, so it's not a deal per se, but you need to know about it regardless: Our friends at Ciao Bambino are giving away a weeklong stay in a luxury villa in Tuscany--a prize worth up to $10,000.

The property is Villa Grandi, a family-friendly, three-bedroom house near Cortona. It's on a large hillside estate surrounded by woodlands, vineyards, and olive groves, and features a terrace with pool, offering sweeping views over the valley below. To say it's the land of Under the Tuscan Sun is no exaggeration: You can actually see Frances Mayes's villa from this property. And you can walk into town along a two-kilometer footpath that is part of the original Roman Road. How great is that?!

For more details and pics, click to the next page.

Continue reading "Win a Week's Stay in a Luxury Villa in Tuscany" »

May 26, 2009

Hotels with Pools in Rome, Florence, and Venice

Grand Hotel Villa Medici, Florence By Kathryn Maier

Seeking hotels with swimming pools in Italian cities? You're not alone. Perrin Post reader Vnarod wrote in with this question:

"My family will be visiting Rome, Florence, and Venice June 3 - 16.  We are traveling with our 3 sons, ages 14, 9, and 6.  I am looking for great deals on luxury hotels with pools to keep the boys happy.  Our budget is about $500 per night.  I would greatly appreciate if you could suggest any properties!"

Hotels with pools aren't very common in Italian cities, but here are a few that might suit your needs: 

Rome: Try the Westin Excelsior.  As Julia wrote earlier this month, it's offering a third or fourth night free. Instead of the usual $489 per night, you pay $326 per night for three nights or $366 per night for four nights, including tax.

Florence: At the Grand Hotel Villa Medici (pictured above), rooms start at about $410 per night in June. The hotel is offering a 20% discount on stays of four nights, and a 15% discount on three-night visits.

Venice: The Hilton Molino Stucky's rooms start at about $345 per night in June, with 50% off your third night's stay.  This hotel is located on the island of Giudecca, but your boys might just love the short boat ride to and from the Piazza San Marco. 

Readers, can you recommend any other hotels with pools in these cities? We'd love to hear your picks.

July 23, 2008

A Foodie's Honeymoon in Italy

by Wendy Perrin

"My fiance and I are trying to plan our honeymoon and are having a hard time," writes Kristiecsu. "We are on a budget, as he is military and I'm a culinary student, but want to go to Italy and do a food and relaxation vacation.  We want to find a tour company that will focus on those two things, taking care of 'all-inclusive' details so we don't have to worry about a thing once we're there.  What tour companies are the best, and how do I avoid paying too much/getting scammed?  Is there a fool-proof Italian foodie vacation?"

Sounds like you're looking for a group tour of sorts--since this would save you money and prevent you from having to cope with travel "details"--but one that does not require moving around much (so you can relax).  One idea might be a foodie cruise along the coast of Italy: You wouldn't need to deal with any travel logistics and you could relax in the hot tub every night, yet by day you could go ashore with a group of fellow epicureans on organized day tours that dig into Italy's culinary legacies. If this idea interests you, check out the Italian food and wine cruises offered by Larry Martin of Food  & Wine Trails. He is one of the travel planners on my 2008 list of the World's Top Travel Specialists, just published in Conde Nast Traveler's August issue.  Larry also arranges food and wine workshops in Tuscany, Campania, the Piedmont, and Emilia-Romagna, but these will be more expensive than a cruise.

Does anybody have other suggestions for Kristiecsu?

July 16, 2008

Question About Getting a Car in Italy

by Wendy Perrin

Might someone know the answer to this question from sleivas?

"Hello, I'm in Italy for three months and am in need of a car badly but can't seem to find a decent priced one! Since the U.S. dollar stinks! Any ideas? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I thought the car sharing is brilliant, but not certain if it's available here. I'm about an hour out of Florence. Thanks, Susie"

Any ideas from any of you Italophiles?

July 11, 2008

Question About Where to Find Sunflowers (!)

by Wendy Perrin

"Dear Wendy,
I love sunflowers.  Can you tell me when and where in Italy or France one can see the biggest fields of sunflowers?
Thank you, Entropy71"

Any of you flower hounds got any ideas for Entropy?

July 11, 2008

Question About Where to Stay in Rome

by Wendy Perrin

Here's a reader's question that, unfortunately, I don't have time to answer. Can anyone else help CMarks?

"We are taking a Mediterranean cruise in November! We are flying into Rome - then going to Greece, Turkey, parts of Italy, and then back to Rome. We are going to stay an extra day in Rome and are looking for a decent hotel. I don't know if we should stay near the airport or IN Rome for that extra night. Any hotels you can suggest would be wonderful because looking at them online is a daunting task."

March 27, 2008

Beware Italian Road Fines

Planning to drive in Italy this year?  It can be pricier than you've banked on.
Photo: William Abranowicz, Conde Nast Traveler

by Wendy Perrin

Since a slew of Perrin Post readers seem to be heading off to Italy this spring and summer, I figure I should share a warning that's come in from a reliable source who spends much of her life there and knows it like the palm of her hand. Italian villa specialist Mara Solomon of Homebase Abroad writes:

"The Italian government has installed sensors and cameras on highways to clock road speed, capturing license plates so that they can remotely charge fines for speeding. Every time you trip the counter, you get a fine. You can get as many as six tickets between Tuscany and Naples. There are two stretches of the A1 in particular to watch out for: the Chianti stretch north of Chiusi toward Florence and the stretch between Naples and the Amalfi Coast. (The up side: The fines have slowed down drivers and reduced highway deaths in Italy.)

We've heard from three parties who traveled with Homebase Abroad last year and, several months later, were hit with charges on their credit-card statements that they did not recognize. The charges make their way onto the renter's credit-card bill via the car rental agency and appear to come in two parts: First, a paperwork processing fee of some 30 euros. Then a fine of 97 euros. These fines show up between one week and six months after a trip.  The Italian government is also cracking down on the fines within historic districts; these begin at 83 euros per infraction."

Good to know. Thank you, Mara, for sharing this information with us.

August 06, 2007

Luggage Roulette at Rome's Airport

Off on a Roman holiday?  Think twice before checking luggage at Fiumicino.
Photo: Imagestate, Jupiter Images

by Wendy Perrin

"Baggage Chaos at Fiumicino" is today's headline in Italy's newspapers Corriere della Sera and La Repubblica. Apparently about 10,000 checked bags failed to get loaded onto planes out of Rome this past weekend alone, and sabotage is suspected.

One of Conde Nast Traveler's key on-the-ground contacts in Italy, Brian Dore of travel planning firm Concierge In Umbria, emailed me this morning so I could apprise everyone . . . and, thankfully, he translated the articles for me: 

Seems the president of the Italian Civil Aviation Authority suspects that the baggage-handling machines are regularly sabotaged by workers who, to make their work easier, block the conveyor belts ten times a day. Inside sources claim that the baggage handlers use chewing gum, Coke bottles, and other luggage to cover the sensors and stop the belts so that they can have a coffee, smoke, or chat. The bags are then delayed in their delivery to the aircraft and left behind. Great.

Continue reading "Luggage Roulette at Rome's Airport" »

July 23, 2007

Getting Into Rome From The Cruise Port

Piazza di Spagna in Rome, Italy
It's easy to take the train from the port of Civitavecchia into Rome
and then catch the subway to the Spanish Steps (above)
Photo: Index Stock Imagery, Jupiter Images

by Wendy Perrin

Question from reader Rosie Lee of Naples, FL:

"What would you recommend as the best (and cheapest) way to get from the port of Civitavecchia into the city? Three healthy, well-traveled, retired ladies on a budget wonder about taking a train (is there one?) into the city, then a taxi to our hotel. The cruise ship charges $85 per person at least."

You're smart to opt for the train rather than pay an outrageous price for a bus ride that will take longer, what with all those cruise passengers being loaded on and off, not to mention the traffic you can hit. As I advised in "Ten Tips For The Perfect Port Call" in Conde Nast Traveler's August issue, research whether you can get a train, bus, or ferry from the pier to the place you want to see.  The train is how I myself got from Civitavecchia into Rome, and back again, during a port call on a Windstar cruise several years ago. The station is an easy walk from the pier . . . as long as you're not lugging a ton of baggage.

Continue reading "Getting Into Rome From The Cruise Port" »

May 15, 2007

Flights with Dogs

Sadly, you'll need a chartered plane to give your dog this level of comfort. If Spot has to settle for coach, check out the great tips at PetFlight
Photo: Roman Fleysher at PetFlight

By Tara Kyle

Question from Conde Nast Traveler reader Nina A. in Manhattan:

"I need to fly with my dog to Milan this summer. Can you tell me which airlines allow pets in the passenger cabins or point me toward a comprehensive source of info?"

I'm afraid your dog may have to fly in cargo.  American, Continental, and Delta -- all of which serve Milan and have pet-friendly policies on domestic flights -- do not allow dogs as carry-ons on transatlantic flights. Furthermore, pets brought into the European Union require a Veterinary Certificate.

A good source of info is  PetFlight's index, but be careful: The Pet Incidents section could leave you a little paranoid.  DogFriendly -- which has loads of advice about hotels, dining, beaches and hiking -- offers a basic guide to pet-friendly airlines.

Continue reading "Flights with Dogs" »

March 15, 2007

Italy for Easter

Doge's Palace in Venice, Italy
The Doge's Palace, just off the Piazza San Marco in Venice, Italy.
Photo: Steve Allen, Brand X, Corbis

By Wendy Perrin

Question from reader MarcMehl:

"My wife and I are planning a trip to Italy during Easter vacation from school.  Is there any good way to check what will be open on Easter weekend (April 7-9) in Rome or Venice?  Will museums be closed the Saturday before Easter or the Monday after?"

Whenever I'm headed to any foreign country over a holiday, I check two sites:
1., for national holidays when banks and government offices are closed (which does not mean that museums are closed, but is crucial trip-planning info nonetheless). Fri. the 6th and Mon. the 9th are Italian public holidays.
2. What', for colorful local events and festivals that might be fun to attend.

Continue reading "Italy for Easter" »

March 12, 2007

Successful Italian Monastery Stay

By Wendy Perrin

We love feedback!

I just heard from reader Deanna DellaVedova, who wrote to The Perrin Post a couple of months ago requesting advice for staying in a convent in Italy. Deanna was headed to the town of Manopello to trace her family's history. 

At the time, another reader suggested Deanna use the Monastery Stays booking system.  Deanna reports that the system worked like a charm. 

She enjoyed her stay at Santurio Volto Santo and says she's "very happy to have been successful in tracking down [her] family heritage."
The Santurio Volto Santo.

Deanna also sent in snapshots of the bedroom and bathroom at the monastery, which is located in the hills of Italy's Abruzzo region.



It's always great to hear back from readers, so please keep your comments and follow-ups coming! 

March 06, 2007

Seeking A Cheap Hotel In Rome

St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican
St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, Rome.
Photo:, Jupiter Images

By Wendy Perrin

Question from reader Jeffrey Manfredi:

"I am looking for a budget double room for four days in May -- something under $150 --  in either the Vatican or Trastevere area of Rome. I've tried the San Pietrino and Trastevere House, but both are already full.  Any suggestions?"

My favorite tool for finding inexpensive rooms in European cities is (which I've written about several times in my Perrin Report column in Conde Nast Traveler: see Finding European Bargains and Travel Resolutions).  For each European city, you can pull up a map, click on a specific neighborhood, and get a list of accommodations there -- everything from luxe hotels to budget B&Bs and pensions. Here are Venere's 2-star choices for the Vatican, in order from highest rated (by fellow travelers) to lowest rated:  Hotel Silla, Hotel Angel, Hotel Lady, Hotel Prati, and Hotel Giuggioli (which is actually rated higher than two of the Vatican's 4-star properties).

Continue reading "Seeking A Cheap Hotel In Rome" »

February 07, 2007

Reasonably Priced Hotels in Venice

The charming and affordable Hotel Monaco & Grand Canal in Venice, Italy
Hotel Monaco & Grand Canal, Venice, Italy

Photo: Hotel Monaco & Grand Canal

By Wendy Perrin

"I'm looking for a very nice, reasonably priced hotel in Venice, Italy," writes reader Jdthead.  "Must be within walking distance of St. Mark's Square.  Would appreciate any suggestions."

It's been 15 years since I was last in Venice, which means I can no longer vouch for the relatively cheap yet charming place where I stayed (the Hotel Flora; doubles from $182). So I've asked around the Conde Nast Traveler offices for you.

Continue reading "Reasonably Priced Hotels in Venice" »

February 06, 2007

Bad News For Delta Biz Travelers, Part 2

The Piazza di Spagna (or, Spanish Steps) in Rome, Italy 
The Piazza di Spagna (or, the Spanish Steps) in Rome  
Photo: Index Stock Imagery, Jupiter Images

By Wendy Perrin

Yesterday's post about Delta eliminating business class on its Cincinnati- Rome route led reader JSG to post this:

"I beg to differ that this is bad news for business travelers. It appears that whilst the entire aircraft is being sold as economy class, the front cabin is fitted with domestic-style business-class seats. These seats are available to those with status on Delta (e.g., its business travelers) while on an economy ticket."

Does JSG work for Delta or something?! Joe Brancatelli of
digs up the real story:

"JSG is wrong and makes the kind of sloppy assumption that dooms arrogant travelers all the time....

Continue reading "Bad News For Delta Biz Travelers, Part 2" »