Exploring Italy has been a life-long dream of mine, but my plans were always busted by the cost until I noticed the plunge in prices during winter. Italy in winter? My first thought was, “I’ll freeze to death.” My second thought was, “But, I can afford it. At least investigate the idea.” Thank heavens for second thoughts!
I’m a “do it yourself” gal and knew I would dispense with travel agents and plan my own trip. It’s really not so hard to do and lots of fun if you enjoy research as I do. I always begin on Trip Advisor, researching the hotels and looking for just the right home away from home. For this trip, my husband decided to stay at home. (He hates long plane flights.) So, my traveling partner was my cousin, Jean.
What was she looking for in a hotel? What was important to me? Together we set up our criteria. First, we wanted a good location in Rome. That meant a hotel close to at least one major site and near the metro. Second, we wanted comfortable beds and a nice bathroom. Finding a bath with shower/tub combination isn’t always easy in Europe, but I was determined to enjoy a good soak at the end of the day. Last, we wanted free breakfast in the morning.
After spending a few hours on Trip Advisor, I found the perfect hotel for us: The Best Western Spring House Hotel, located very close to the Vatican and a metro stop. Great! The location issue was resolved. Moreover, our room not only had a shower and a tub, the tub had Jacuzzi jets! Don’t picture a luxury Jacuzzi bath. Picture a normal sized tub with jets. Let me tell you! After all the walking we did, that tub got lots of use. What about the free breakfast? Every morning, we enjoyed the most delicious breakfast buffet with breads, meats, cheeses, muffins, boiled eggs, yogurt, juice, and coffee. Don’t forget to pack sandwich bags. That’s how we avoided buying lunch! How much did we save on our hotel by traveling in January instead of July? Over 200 Euros!
Let’s talk about winter weather for a minute. Jean and I prepared carefully without weighing ourselves down. You’d be surprised how confident you feel when you know you’re equipped for anything. We each had an all weather coat with rain hats and gloves stuffed in the pockets. Wear comfortable, waterproof shoes. I bought a pair of fantastic Grasshoppers that were very kind to my feet. Dress in layers. You can easily peel away if you don’t need extra warmth.
We actually found Rome’s January weather to be pretty darn nice! During our visit, temperatures hovered in the high 50’s to mid-60’s. Not bad. We had some rain while walking through the Forum but nothing major.
Oh, that feels so fantastic to be able to toss off the phrase, “while walking through the Forum.” How about, “staring up at the Sistine Chapel ceiling with tears in our eyes” or “gazing in stunned silence at The Pieta” or “kidding around the Trevi Fountain, all lit up for the evening?” Yep. We did all that and more for far less than we would have spent during a spring or summer visit.
During our tour of the Forum and Colosseum, we learned some interesting things about crowds from our Angel Walking Tour guide. By the way, Jean and I were the only ones on his tour. Talk about individualized attention! Not only did he spend extra time answering all our questions, he shared with us how crazy tours become during the high season. Guides are herding their visitors through throngs of people and shouting to be heard. Lines for the Vatican are horrid. Um, we didn’t have a line for the Vatican. We just went inside.
With a little research, imagination, and willingness to take a chance, dreams can come true. Jean and I were able to spend four days in Rome, two days in Florence, and two days in Venice. We were each determined not to exceed our individual trip budgets of $2,000, including the roundtrip airfare! We were successful. So, if you’re searching for a way to afford Italy, consider visiting in the winter. Ciao!