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Summer/Fall 2001 - Italy - Itinerary

The itinerary is below, followed by a discussion of how we made our decisions.

Sunday, September 9: Fly to Naples

Fly Albuquerque - Atlanta - Rome - Naples on Delta Airlines. Arrive Monday, September 10. The Sorrento agency has arranged for a car and driver to meet us at the airport and drive us to Sorrento. It is a long flight. We leave Albuquerque Sunday morning at 11am and arrive in Rome the next morning at 9:30am (which will be 1:30am Santa Fe time after over 15 hours of travel time). Then a short flight to Naples to arrive around noon.

September 10 - 22: Apartment in Sorrento

Just under two weeks in an apartment in Sorrento. Villa Cancelmo booked with Area Vacanze (click on Villas, then Villa Cancelmo to see the listing), an Italian agency based in Sorrento. We have to pay for the full two weeks, but will not be using the first two nights. We did this for two reasons: we arrive Naples around noon and usually you cannot check into your vacation rental until 4pm. If you pay for the day before, you can go straight there when you arrive (we did this in England last year). The second reason is that there were no first class upgrades on flights out on Friday or Saturday. We are using our last free first class upgrades, left over from all our traveling a few years back. On our next trip, we will have to start using our mileage points to upgrade!

Rental Car: Pick up our rental car after a week in Sorrento. I haven't booked this yet, but will book with AutoEurope, who we have used on all our previous Europe trips. I hope they have an office in Sorrento - otherwise we will be driving in Naples!! From our apartment, we can walk to stores for groceries (200 meters), into the center of Sorrento (500 meters along quiet roads) and to the train station (800 meters), so we think we will not need the car that much. There is parking with the apartment, so we will probably get the car at the end of the week we arrive.

September 22 - October 13: House near Pienza

Three weeks in La Fornacina, near Pienza, booked with TuscanHouse. We spent the afternoon at this house on our last trip, in October 2000, and met the owners of the house (Americans who are there only in the spring and fall) and Zak who runs TuscanHouse. It is a very nice house - 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, surrounded by beautiful gardens, on its own several acres, very private, beautiful outdoor patio area, nice views of the valley, big modern kitchen. Friends of ours from Santa Fe may be joining us for part of the time here.

October 13 - 19: Apartment in Rome

This last part of the trip just got changed. Originally we were going to spend the week in the Lazio countryside, but changed our minds. Now we will spend 6 nights in an apartment near the Pantheon from Roman Homes. We will either drop off the car at the airport or in Rome before we check into our apartment. We will arrange for the Roman Homes driver to take us to the airport Friday morning.

October 19: Fly home

Fly Rome - Atlanta - Albuquerque on Delta Airlines. Again, we are flying on Friday instead of the Saturday so we could get a first class upgrade.

Booking Details

Villa Cancelmo: Apartment in Sorrento

We left this booking until March 2001, just 6 months ahead. We could not decide what we wanted to do on this trip. Originally we thought we would spend three weeks hiking in Switzerland, before our three weeks near Pienza. But, we really wanted to see the Amalfi coast area. We have never been south of Rome and running this web site, and all the people we have been in touch with about Italy travel, made us realize how much more in Italy there is for us to see. I will admit, we were a little frightened by the idea of spending two weeks in the Amalfi area never having been there once. Originally we had intended to spend 3 nights there last November, in the off season, at discounted rates, and hopefully smaller crowds. But our fall trip got cut short and we cancelled the Amalfi part. We could not work out a good way to do a few weeks in Switzerland and then just a few days in the Amalfi area. We talked through different trip variations, but none of them felt right. Finally we decided to just book two weeks in the area, in as good a place as we could find. It is the perfect time of year for the region - early September, still warm enough to swim.

So I started my search for Amalfi area vacation rentals. We thought maybe Capri for the two weeks because you don't need a car, you can take boats to the Amalfi coast, Sorrento and Naples, and Capri has lots of good swimming areas. But, the vacation rentals on Capri are very expensive (over $1500/week). I could not justify spending this much money to stay in a place that we don't know. What if we hated Capri? It is supposed to be beautiful, but very crowded with day-trippers and somewhat jet-set. We are not at all jet-set like!! So then we thought about Sorrento. We could stay here without a car. Buses go to the Amalfi coast, boats to Naples and Capri, train to Pompei and Naples.

So then we looked at apartments in Sorrento. We found a couple of nice ones at more than half the price we would pay on Capri (less than $700/week). The first apartment we inquired about was no longer available - it had been rented long term. The agency (Ville in Italia) had another apartment in the building, but it did not have a terrace. We inquired about the next apartment through an American agency (Internet Villas) and it was available, but they only answered a few of my questions, so we were not sure about it.

Meanwhile, I remembered a local Sorrento agency (Area Vacanze) that I found while searching a few months back and actually had listed on my web site. I went to their web site, but most of their listings were not the kind of places we wanted. But, they also had the same apartment that we were thinking of renting from Internet Villas, but for over $200 less per week. We inquired about the apartment, but were told it was no longer available. They sent us a list of apartments that were available, but none were what we wanted. I emailed them again, saying we had been told it was available by the US agency and that it probably had been booked in the meantime and we were very sorry. I didn't want to say "hey why isn't it available now when it was a couple of days ago!", but I wanted to give them the option of having a second look.

Then I started looking at listings in Amalfi and Positano. I finally figured out that we could fly to Naples and have a car and driver take us directly to a vacation rental in Amalfi or Positano. This would allow us to recover in the comfort of an apartment instead of a hotel in Naples. I don't know if we could cope with Naples while jet-lagged! I thought if we found a place right in either Amalfi or Positano, we could get by without a car. But, I am really afraid of heights, and from the pictures it seems like each of these towns is about to slide off a cliff, so I was starting to have my doubts about it all. We once spent 3 days in a mountain town in Switzerland that was built so steeply into the side of a mountain that I felt dizzy just walking down the streets.

Finally Area Vacanza wrote back to explain that the apartment we wanted was available, but they had given an exclusive contract on the apartment to a British agency, and they could book it for us, but we would have to pay more (2,750,000 lire instead of 2,400,000 lire). This was a pretty good explanation. I asked them a few more questions about the apartment and they answered them all. We corresponded by both email and fax. Finally, we booked the apartment! This apartment is moderately priced - partly because it is in Sorrento, which is less expensive that some of the other Amalfi towns and because it smaller (1 bedroom). It is 50 square meters (500 square feet) which is a comfortable size for a 1 bedroom apartment, it is in a quiet location but we can still walk to the center of towns, and there is a good outdoor area. It is an apartment in a villa surrounded by orange and lemon groves. Sounds great!

The chart below shows the different prices with the different agencies for the exact same apartment. An amazing range of prices, I think. We did get the cheapest price available, but we had to do a bank wire in Italian lire for 1/2 the amount and that cost around $30 - the rest we pay when we arrive. The other agencies probably took payment by US check.

Area Vacanze we paid Casa Club Internet Villas
Sep 01 - 15 $675 $870 $985
Sep 15 - Dec 22 $525 $640 $725
TOTAL for 2 weeks $1200 $1375 $1510 $1710

Here are some of the listings we considered during our search.

Agencies with listings on Capri

Vacanza Bella has two small houses that look great, but both are over $1500/week.

Home in Italy has two small houses, but they are over $1500/week.

Britalia Plus had a nice house on Capri, but it was also expensive and not available.

All the above listings were 2 bedroom/2 bathroom houses or apartments, so are well priced for 2 couples. I did not see any 1 bedroom listings that seemed nice.

Agencies with listings in Sorrento

Ville in Italia has two apartments in Sorrento, but the better sounding one with a large terrace (Armida - Plumbago) has been rented out long term and was no longer available. The other apartment in the building, which also sounded nice, was only available for one week. They were both a good price - $675/week.

Area Vacanze has many apartments in Sorrento, but are either right downtown with now garden area or terrace or are in modern high buildings. This was not what we wanted. But they did have one great sounding apartment, Villa Cancelmo, which is the one we booked.

Internet Villas has several listings in Sorrento and the Sorrento Peninsula. They also have an interesting listing for a group of apartments in an old farmhouse - La Neffola. The pictures look lovely, but when I searched on the name I came up with other web sites with different pictures that showed the building perched on a cliff edge and surrounded by dense forest. It didn't look as appealing. The description says there are gardens and olive groves. Perhaps we will look for this place when we are there to see what it is like.

Agencies with listings in Positano

Ville in Italia has apartments all over the Amalfi coast and Sorrento Peninsula. In Positano, we liked Casa Collina ($1030/week) but it was only available for our first week. We also like Villa Reale ($1070/week), but it was not available for two weeks. They had many listings along the Amalfi coast, where you would need a car, that looked good, but we did not want to have to drive on the Amalfi coast road to get in and out from where we were staying. I have just heard too many things about how difficult it is to drive and how crowded it can be to want to drive this every day.

I found Il Margherita on a rent from owners web site. The owner has a few interesting sounding apartments in Positano, but all were booked.

Vacanza Bella has some wonderful listings in Positano, but they are very expensive (over $1500/week). They were all 2 bedroom/2 bathroom apartments, so would be more economical for two couples. I found some of his listings at higher prices with other agencies.

Other Possibilities

I found a very interesting listing on VacationSpot.com - Casa di Gabriella, an apartment from the 11th century in the historic center of Salerno, the larger town on the inland end of the Amalfi coast. It was $1000/week and you can rent by the night.

Amalfi Life had a couple of good listings, but they were either booked or were larger, and more expensive than we wanted.

The agency Villas in Amalfi (website not working June 2002) also has many listings in this region.

So what are my conclusions? That it is hard to find 1 bedroom apartments in this area. Most are 2 bedroom/2 bathroom or larger. Prices are higher than in Tuscany. The rest of my conclusions I will know after we have stayed here.

La Fornacina: House near Pienza

We booked La Fornicina more than a year in advance - back in August 2000. We first booked with Zak from TuscanHouse in spring 2000 and loved the house we got from him (Bellavista). Zak has many listings in southern Tuscany, our favorite part of Italy, so we decided to book another one of his houses for a longer stay. We also booked with him again for our last minute fall 2000 trip, but had to cut the trip short and only spent 2 nights in the house we had booked for 2 weeks (La Vigna). It was also a lovely house. Zak arranged for us to see La Fornacina, which we had already booked for the next year. This was a great thing for us because, not only did we get to spend the afternoon with La Fornacina's very interesting American owners, but we got to see in great detail the house we will be in for 3 weeks on this trip. Usually you spend a lot of energy worrying about what you have booked - this has been eliminated for this trip.

La Fornacina is at the top end of the price range for a small house, but we think it will be well worth it for its location and the beauty of the house and gardens. Also, these wonderful American owners have put screens on the windows, a large size water heater for really hot showers, a good heating system for a cold snap, have filled the bookshelfs with English books, and have the best equipped kitchen I have ever seen in Italy (they even have a drip coffee maker!!).

Pantheon Apartment: Roman Homes

We selected a nice apartment in the historic center of Rome for our last week. We have not spent this much time in Rome before and it is the perfect time of year for it. We booked this apartment at the last minute (in August for an October rental) because our previous arrangements fell through. Even though this is the high season for Rome, we still had a nice selection of apartments to choose from - which proves that you can book trips a month or two before!

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