NEW YORK -- Spring is high season in Italy, and this year is no
exception, notwithstanding the conflict in Kosovo, according to
For the most part, deals are only available to clients willing
to wait until summer, particularly July and August.
One exception Travel Weekly found is a new Italiatour fly-drive
package from Alitalia's soon-to-be-opened San Francisco gateway.
The package, which must be ticketed by June 14, includes roundtrip
air fare to Rome, Milan, Naples or a number of other cities in
Italy. Also included are a car rental for seven days with unlimited
mileage, 19% VAT and insurance. The rate is $829 per person from
June 3 through 14 and from Sept. 1 to Oct. 31.
The price rises to $1,039 from June 15 to Aug. 31. Add $120 per
person for bookings ticketed after June 14.
The special was designed to promote the gateway, set to open
June 13, rather than as a response to any decrease in bookings,
according to Rosario Mariani, managing director for North
Paolo Rubino, general manager for North America for Alitalia,
confirmed that the airline increased capacity by 38% and added
capacity to Rome from Chicago and Los Angeles for the summer. He
acknowledged that the conflict in Kosovo has had a psychological
effect on some American visitors. However, he said, "we are not
suffering much from that. On the contrary, in the month of April,
Alitalia [traffic to Italy] grew by 12% from North America over the
previous year," he said.
Hotel deals kick off in summer, ranging from value-added
packages to deep discounts on room prices. "A lot of our properties
cut the prices in August automatically," said Jesse Estevez, a
company administrator at Small Italian Hotels, a division of Group
Travel Enterprises, based in Columbia, Mo.
The company represents small one-, two- and three-star hotels
throughout Italy as well as villas, castles, apartments and
farmhouses. "In Rome, for example, we have a property called the
Hotel Cesari that costs about $210 for a double room in high season
and drops to $145 in August."
According to Estevez, the Kosovo conflict has had a negligible
impact on bookings. He disputed the notion that Venice is a trouble
spot, saying, "We have been booking Venice since the company was
founded, and this is one of the busiest May and June periods I have
At the other end of the spectrum, JDB Associates, which
specializes in four- and five-star properties in Italy, also is
experiencing a strong season. "Business has slowed a little from
the boom levels of January to March, but overall our numbers are
very strong this year," a spokeswoman said. "We have not had many
cancellations and [have had] no group cancellations [since the
start of the conflict]."
Summer specials offered by JDB include a package at the Grand
Hotel Duomo in Milan, available in June, July and August, that
includes a dinner with wine at the hotel's rooftop restaurant. The
special is available with any room category. Rates begin at about
$318 per room, per night, double; $412 for a junior suite. Prices
include breakfast; 10% tax is additional.
A Summer in Florence package at the Hotel Helvetia &
Bristol, available through JDB during July and August, offers a
welcome bottle of spumante, one lunch per person at the Winter
Garden restaurant, a daily English-language newspaper and late
checkout. The special is valid for stays of four nights or more and
costs from $306 for a superior double, $341 for a deluxe and $430
for a junior suite. Prices are per room, per night and do not
The Hotel dei Mellini in Rome has designed a three-night special
for JDB clients, available in August. Guests receive accommodations
with an upgrade when available, a daily buffet breakfasts, a
welcome fruit basket and a gift. Also included are entrance to the
Borghese Museum, a daily English-language newspaper, tax and
Children under age 12 share their parents' room at no additional
charge. The rate, about $245 per night for two, also is available
Nov. 26 to Dec. 23. All rooms are commissionable at 10%; 12% is
paid on suites and an additional 2% for prepaid FIT bookings.
Other summer specials include the Gourmet Venice package at the
Hotel Cipriani, available through the fall. The package includes
accommodations, American breakfasts and the choice of two lunches
or dinners at the hotel and two in other well-known restaurants in
the city. The package costs about $3,870 per room, double. A
honeymoon package, priced at about $3,367 per couple, also is