Package deal makes Italy affordable for independent travelers

Chicago Tribune

Italy is a wonderful destination, full of natural beauty, history, culture and lovely architecture. While it can be an expensive destination, it doesn't have to be. Great Value Vacations has myriad Italy packages that include air, lodging and a rental car that in some cases come in at little more than $1,000 per person. These are packages, though, for independent travelers who prefer exploring on their own, rather than being part of a group. And, to get the best prices, lodging is generally modest and travel dates are best off-season, which also means you can avoid summer's crowds. An example is Tuscany, Italy's Heartland, which is priced from $1,184 per person, double occupancy, for an April 9 departure from Chicago. That includes round-trip air, a seven-day manual transmission car rental and six nights' lodging in a villa, where you also get a wine-tasting and pizza-making session. With the villa's location, you're within day-trip distance of highlights such as Florence, Pisa, Siena, Arezzo and more. With Great Value Vacations packages, you also can easily add days, get the use of an automatic transmission car and change dates or U.S. departure cities. Browse the options at

Airport transfer

La Compagnie, the airline that offers business class-only service between Newark, N.J., and Paris at a very low price, will be changing its airport in Paris to Orly from Charles de Gaulle. Orly is considerably closer to the Paris city center and much more compact than de Gaulle, which is the second busiest airport in Europe and the 10th busiest in the world. While Orly should be much easier to navigate, it obviously won't provide the access to as many other destinations as de Gaulle. The change will take place sometime this summer. La Compagnie runs frequent promotions offering round-trip, business-class fares as low as $1,600 per person.

Racy package

Female would-be race-car drivers might want to look at the Women at the Wheel package being offered by Winvian Farm, a AAA Five-Diamond property in the Litchfield Hills region of Connecticut. Winvian has partnered with Lime Rock Park, the famous roadcar-racing track that dates from 1957. Participants in the Women at the Wheel deal will get a private half-day race-training class with a professional driving instructor on either the infield course, which is rated easy, or the more challenging road course. The package also includes two nights in a Winvian cottage, a bottle of Champagne and a three-course dinner for two. The package, which is offered on specific dates, is priced from $4,440 per couple for the infield course, with just one getting to do the racing instruction. The price is lower if you use your own vehicle and higher for the road course. Info: 860-567-9600,

Phil Marty is a freelance reporter.

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