Trip Coach: July 25, 2006 Budget Travel editors answered your questions about travel Budget Travel Tuesday, Jul 25, 2006, 5:04 PM Budget Travel LLC, 2016
 

TRANSCRIPT

Trip Coach: July 25, 2006

Budget Travel editors answered your questions about travel

Budget Travel Editors: Welcome to this week's Trip Coach. Let's get to your questions!

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Las Vegas, NV: We would like to visit Turkey. We are wondering if we would be better off (financially) to tour on our own, or take one of the many tours available. We can't afford a high end tour. We would like to stay in quaint places, and see the major highlights as well as funky fun places. (The problem with tours is being stuck with slow people and having to eat meals you don't want, go places you don't necessarily care about). Looking at going next Spring-- what is your take on how safe it is for Americans?

Budget Travel Editors: Turkey is truly a fascinating destination--a real crossroads, and it can be very affordable. And while we can't make any guarantees, it's generally considered safe for westerners. In fact, Istanbul is a very western/international/cosmopolitan city. Turkey's also been working hard to make itself attractive to the European Union in hopes of becoming a member, so visitors get to reap many positive benefits of those efforts--better infrastructure, international signage, etc.
 
Regarding whether to tour on your own or with a company, it's really up to you. I might suggest if it's your first time to Turkey to do both--a short escorted tour (with highlights that interest you), followed by independent time on your own with extra nights at a place of your choosing. You might consider getting off the beaten path to say, Cappadoccia, with an escorted tour, and then creating your own itinerary for Istanbul. There are parts of the country where it'll be more advantageous to travel with a guide who knows his/her way around. That said, I suggest you look into what Foreign Independent Tours has to offer. The company specializes in that part of the world and has an excellent reputation with vetted ground operators. And keep in mind, if you're not in the mood for sightseeing or a group dinner, you can always bow out. For more information on Turkey, I also suggest perusing the highly informative TurkeyTravelPlanner.com.

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Chicago, IL: My friends and I will be taking a 7 day Greek Island cruise in two weeks. We plan on staying two extra days and would like to go to Florence for a day. What is the best route to Florence from Venice? What sights can we see in one day as we must return to Venice for the return flight home. Thanks

Budget Travel Editors: The best/easiest route/way between Venice and Florence is by train. The trip takes about 4 hours, and is quite scenic in parts. When in Florence, I suggest seeing the Duomo (main cathedral); the Ufizzi Galleries and the great works of Botticelli and other masters; the Ponte Vecchio bridge; and the Boboli Gardens. The Palazzo Vecchio and the Pitti Palace are both fascinating in that you get a glimpse of how the Medicis lived, and then there are smaller points of interest, like Brunelleschi's beautiful "minimalist" church in the Altrarno, Santo Spirito, the bronze wild boar at the Porcellino market (whose nose you rub for good luck), and the ancient, narrow Estruscan street of Borgo Pinti. I also happen to be a fan of the gorgeous, colorful (and recently restored) frescos by Beato Angelico in San Marco church. Of course, you can't miss the David and other works by Michelangelo at the Academmia, either. As you might have noticed, it's hard to prioritize!
 
I might start with the Duomo, a walk down shop-lined Via Cazaiuoli to Piazza Signoria, go to the Uffizi Galleries, then head to the market, and then over the Ponte Vecchio bridge and have lunch on the much quieter (and more charming) other side of the Arno River, followed by a stop at Piazza Santo Spirito, and then a walk in the Boboli Gardens. If you have time, then poke your nose in the Pitti Palace, and then hit the Academmia and San Marco on the other side. Piazza Santa Maria Novella, adjacent to the train station, also has a very important fresco by Masaccio--The Trinity--the first painting to ever show perspective.

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Chula Vista, CA: I've been to Europe once and I did the Eurail-backpacking combination with 8 others. However, this time around, I'd like to rent a home or condo on the Italian coastline. In a previous issue, you had mentioned 5 towns within walking distance of each other that had villas for rent, but I don't recall the names of those towns! We plan on going next August...please help! Jennifer

Budget Travel Editors: Here's a link to our article called "Villa Rentals Around the World" -- it lists a great number of agencies that rent homes, condos, villas, etc. in Italy, and beyond.
 
Perhaps you were thinking of another story, but there's no mention of the 5 towns you can walk to....However, I suspect you're thinking of Cinque Terre (literally, "five lands") five small villages on Ligurian coast that are connected by goat paths (and accessible by train).

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