ITALY
CIU Travel | Custom Luxury Travel to Italy

ITALY

We offer services throughout Italy, including Sicily. Our comprehensive itineraries include ground transportation, accommodation, expert local guides, extraordinary experiences, and any special requests that will complete your dream. These private itineraries are priced per person and are created to fit your desires and interests in terms of duration, destinations, your travel schedule and specific requests.
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Wendy Perrin WOW List
Trusted Travel Expert for Italy since 2014

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Condé Nast Traveler Magazine
Top Travel Specialist for Italy since 2006

We've included some general information and frequently asked questions about traveling to Italy below. For further information about specific destinations, experiences, and cultural events please see our blog, Postcards from Italy. In addition, we keep an active social life on Facebook (@ciutravel), Instagram (@negroniandspritz), and Twitter (@ciutravel).

ACCOMMODATIONS

Italy is an expensive destination with regard to accommodations. And don’t look for bargains now because of Italy’s troubled economy. The hotels are operating at high occupancy levels as the dollar/euro exchange rate has grown more favorable to the dollar over the last few years – Americans and other travelers are visiting Italy in droves and the hoteliers are not offering significant deals. Rest assured, we will always pursue the best rates and amenities at every property.

HOTELS - What to Expect

Italy has its own star system, and the stars are based upon available services and amenities at the property. Therefore, you could book a 5 star hotel that may disappoint on every level, but has an elevator, on-site restaurant and fruit and slippers in your room. You could also book a 4 star hotel with lovely rooms that is well maintained with updated facilities, friendly staff, and a great breakfast, but no restaurant on site. Alternatively, you could luck into a fantastic property that does not participate in the star system because it is in a landmarked structure that is designated as a historic residence. Or you could book yourself into a frighteningly shabby accommodation that is also designated as a historic residence. The web sites all look the same – how do you choose?

That’s where we come in. We devote time to visiting hotels and will be straightforward with you about what is worth a splurge, and what is to be avoided. Of course everyone is different, and we will guide you to the right choice based on what you tell us is most important for your trip. Every year we book travelers in over 100 different properties throughout Italy. We are committed to finding the right accommodation for your needs, not ours.

VILLAS AND APARTMENTS - Living like a local

Villas are typically self-contained private residences that are available for rental on a weekly basis. If you have ever researched villa rentals on your own, you know that the quality and cost of these private houses can vary greatly. They come in all shapes, sizes, and locations, with varying degrees of creature comforts. Apartments can sometimes be rented for shorter stays, depending on the owner.

As a general rule, villa and apartment rentals are for those more interested in an independent stay, with fewer staff and services at your disposal. They can also be the most economical way for groups of friends or family to stay in one place for a week - just remember that unless you go for a fully serviced option, somebody has to cook and do the dishes! The rental period is typically from Saturday to Saturday with a minimum one week rental.

We work closely with property owners as well as prominent villa rental agencies based in the U.S. and Italy to create a shortlist of premier accommodations for our clients.

TRANSPORTATION

The following sections provide basis information about arriving in Italy and moving about the country.

PLANES

We do not book international flights, but will be happy to refer you to a colleague who does. We recommend The Cranky Concierge for booking flight arrangements.

THE CRANKY CONCIERGE

Our complete custom itineraries include Cranky's Flight Monitoring coverage during your travels. With this service, you will have a dedicated flight concierge to assist you should you miss a connection or encounter last minute schedule changes or flight cancellations.

TRAINS

Italy's train network is not one of Europe's finest. If you are used to the comfort and efficiency of the Swiss or German systems, you may be disappointed when you ride the rails in Italy. That said, train travel has improved over the last couple of years, and there are many new express trains on the major routes. There are still strikes, delays, and problems with air conditioning, and most stations are dingy and depressing, but there really is light at the end of the tunnel! We can reserve and purchase tickets for you in advance, and we always recommend first class seats to help mitigate some of the problems with overcrowding and comfort.

PRIVATE DRIVER

Having a private driver enhances your experience immeasurably. You will be able to see and do much more than you can on your own simply because you are with someone who knows the ropes. You will have increased flexibility to include off-the-beaten path stops between your primary destinations, without worrying about where to leave your luggage, or adhering to a train schedule.

Many of Italy’s lesser-known gems are not accessible via train service anyway, and unless you are adventurous enough to drive yourself (more on that under Car Rental), you can miss quite a lot. Our drivers are licensed and insured professionals, and they are native to the area where they drive, so they really know their territories. Plus, you have a new local friend as your traveling companion.

CAR RENTAL

Driving yourself in Italy is an adventure that demands for courage, good reflexes, and patience. If your ideal trip calls for driving yourself, you should be prepared to circle roundabouts more than once before deciding which exit to take, drive on streets and through archways that are only marginally wider than your car, and park in impossibly tight spaces. You will also almost certainly receive a ticket for some infraction you didn’t even know you committed, and it could take up to a year for the ticket to reach you in the States. Most rental cars in Italy have standard transmissions - you will have to pay a premium for an automatic car.

We cannot offer many of our authentic local experiences to self-drivers as many of them are in hard-to-find corners, and we definitely don’t organize vineyard visits or experiences involving wine for self-drivers.

We recommend AutoEurope for car rentals in Italy.

UNIQUE EXPERIENCES

CIU Travel itineraries include private comprehensive experiences, developed according to your own wishes and specifications. All feature charismatic local people sharing their expertise and love of Italy, and cover a range of themes including gastronomy, art, architecture, archeology, and history.

TOUR GUIDES

Prior to working in the travel industry, we had always considered ourselves to be independent travelers. We had proudly visited many destinations without benefit of a guide and thought we were doing fine with our myriad travel books and clipped articles. We now humbly acknowledge that we didn't know what we were missing until our first guided visit to a tiny Umbrian hill town. We had in fact visited the town several times and thought we knew the place like the back of our hands. We were flabbergasted by the end of our 3 hours with a licensed guide. A native guide with a wide range of knowledge and interests can bring insights and perspectives to an experience that our own backgrounds don't allow us to imagine.

Official guides are a revered and protected species, and for good reason. They undergo rigorous examinations on a variety of subjects including art, history, political science, language, and architecture. Unfortunately, not all guides are created equal. We have interviewed and auditioned all of the guides that we recommend. All of them are licensed professionals with affable personalities and strong English skills.

THE ICONIC AND THE EXCLUSIVE

Of course you want to see the stars of the Grand Tour – the Coliseum, Venice’s Basilica San Marco, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, etc. These iconic monuments are such because they are incredible and worth seeing. It’s how you see them that makes the difference.

Indulge in a private guided tour of the Vatican – you won’t have to wait on line and you won’t have to move through the galleries with the herd. Cruise along the Grand Canal in Venice in a private water taxi tour with a local resident guide, explore an ancient hill town with a favorite son or daughter of that locale, join the winemakers for a private wine tasting and homemade lunch in Tuscany, tour an Umbrian vineyard on horseback, or see the ruins of the Roman Empire with an archeologist.

If you’re seeking exclusive experiences, reserve the Vatican Museum at night for only your family and friends, visit one of the restored houses in Pompeii that isn’t open to the public, tour the Vasari corridor in Florence, helicopter to Ravello and spend the day on a private yacht off of the Amalfi coast, or have a Venetian palazzo to yourself complete with candlelight dinner and string quartet. Carpe diem!

FAQ

Have questions? Below, we've compiled answers to some commonly asked questions.The best way to learn about how CIU Travel can help you make the most

time in Italy is to contact us.

Will my trip be "cheaper" if I use your services?

If you are on a very restrictive budget, or are interested in visiting Italy in the least expensive way possible, then using a travel planner may not be the best use of your resources. We add value in terms of adding experiences and local contacts that you could not find on your own, and getting upgrades for you because we have relationships with hoteliers and service providers. Our itineraries are customized to each traveler and are private - we do not offer group tours or canned itineraries.

How do you charge for your services?

After you have contacted us with the particulars of your trip, we like to schedule a telephone conversation so that we can understand more about your trip and what you'd like to do, and you can ask questions of us. We will then create an outline of what we might suggest for you, including destinations, accommodations, private experiences, and services. We do not charge a fee for this initial outline - after all, how would you know if we are a good fit without seeing an example of what we might do for you? Upon your decision to book your private CIU itinerary, we request a deposit of 50% to confirm your confirmations and arrangements. Your itinerary balance is due 60 days prior to your departure. If you confirm your itinerary within 60 days of travel, full payment is due upon booking your trip. The itinerary's per person price includes your accommodation with breakfast and all taxes, private professional guides and drivers, private experiences and any meals associated with an experience (e.g. a cooking class or vineyard lunch), and our fee.

Is there a minimum price for working with you on an itinerary?

We don't have a fixed minimum. The cost of an itinerary depends upon your choices - duration of your trip, specific destinations, hotels, and the number and kind of private services included. As a general rule, the minimum cost of a curated itinerary is $800 per couple per day. This is the approximate minimum for a basic itinerary, with a minimum of private services.

I have designed and booked my own itinerary and just need services for one day when we travel from point A to point B. Can you help?

We do not provide single day trips within an itinerary that we haven’t designed. We generally require a 3 night minimum for a custom itinerary of accommodations and services.

Should I purchase Travel Insurance?

When we first started working in the travel business, very few travelers purchased travel insurance. Now, almost everyone does. Travel insurance can protect your travel investment under all kinds of circumstances, including cancelled or delayed flights, which have become all too common these days.

I don't speak Italian, is that a problem?

The short answer is no, this is not a problem. In well-visited destinations (e.g., Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast) and big cities (e.g., Rome, Venice, and Milan), many local people in shops and restaurants speak English. In 5 star hotels, most of the staff speak English, and in hotels in general, there are staff members who speak English. The guides we organize for you will speak English and in most cases, the drivers will also (unless you are with a guide as well for an excursion, in which case we may be able to reduce the cost of your service a bit by using an non-English-speaking driver). We can also provide Spanish-speaking guides in most destinations upon request.
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