Packages offer Italy on a bootstring budget


NEW YORK -- With sharp discounts from some tour operators this fall, agents can sell operatic Italy for a song.

On Nov. 1, Donna Franca Tours, based in Boston, will launch its 2001-2002 Italy On Sale packages good for travel to Rome, Florence, Venice and the Neapolitan resort of Sorrento through March 31.

Priced at $599 per person, double, the tours include round-trip air on Alitalia from Boston, New York, Newark, Chicago and Miami; five nights at three- to four-star hotels; daily breakfast, and taxes and gratuities.

In addition, the Taste of Sorrento package includes car rental (with limited mileage) or private roundtrip transfer to and from Naples' airport.

This autumn marks the fifth year the $599 tours are being promoted by owner Donna Franca, who in 1985 offered $1 week-long stays at her Italian hotel property to woo U.S. tour-ists frightened by terrorist attacks at Rome's airport.

"At that price, suddenly no one was afraid to travel anymore," Franca noted. "This is actually the best time to visit Italy because it's one of the safest places to be."

Art lovers can view Michelangelo's The packages, which must be reserved with a $200 credit card deposit, pay travel agents 10% commission.

For its part, TourCrafters also is selling air-inclusive, $599 fall and winter jaunts to Italian hot spots.

This year, the Libertyville, Ill.-based tour operator added Naples to its roster of itineraries, which also includes Rome, Florence and Venice.

Available from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15, and Jan. 3 to March 23, the Naples package combines five nights' accommodations at the newly renovated, three-star Hotel Garden, with daily breakfast and hotel taxes and gratuities.

Roundtrip travel on Alitalia from Boston, Chicago, Miami, New York and Newark, save airport taxes, is included; San Francisco and Los Angeles departures cost an extra $138.

TourCrafters' Rome package, which includes airport transfers, features a stay at the three-star Hotel Brasile or Hotel Paris, while clients opting for the Florence package can choose between the three-star Hotel Palazzo Ruspoli or the tourism class Hotel Meridiana, which features a self-service restaurant.

The Venice deal, which is not available during Carnival, Feb. 1 to 12, includes five nights at the two-star Hotel Hesperia on the Canareggio canal.

Rates for Rome, Florence and Venice are good from Nov. 1 (at most hotels) through Dec. 15 and from early January to March 15.

TourCrafters pays 10% commission on all packages.

To contact TourCrafters, call (800) 482-5995, fax (847) 816-6717 or e-mail [email protected]. The company's Web site can be found at

For Donna Franca Tours information, call (800) 225-6290, fax (617) 266-1062, e-mail [email protected] or check on line at

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