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Experience Italy 3 different ways, from $849

Experience Rome three different ways: over a leisurely week at your own pace, paired with Florence, or as part of a guided tour with side trips to Florence, Naples, and Pompeii.
/ Source: ARTHUR FROMMER'S BUDGET TRAVEL

Florence and Rome, air/hotel/train, 5 nights, from $849 per person
The real deal:
Round-trip airfare on a major carrier, five nights accommodations, breakfast daily, first-class rail tickets between Florence and Rome, and fuel surcharges, from $849 per person — plus about $90 in taxes.

When: Departs Jan. 16, 23, 30, Feb. 6, 20, 2009; add $100 for Jan. 9, Feb. 13; $200 for Feb. 27, Mar. 6, 13, 20; $400 for Jan. 2.

Gateways: New York City; add $28 for Chicago, $37 for Miami, $94 for D.C., $95 for Houston, $161 for L.A., $197 for Seattle, and $202 for Denver; additional gateways available.

The fine print: Does not include taxes of about $90 per person. Based on double occupancy; single supplement from $200.

Book by: No deadline; based on availability.

Contact: Gate 1 Travel, 800/682-3333, gate1travel.com.

Why it's a deal: Looking for the convenience and value of a travel package, but don't want a scheduled group itinerary? The Florence & Rome by Rail package arranges all the transportation and lodging for a visit to two favorite Italian cities and leaves you to explore on your own. For comparison purposes, we did a Kayak search and found a $559 round-trip flight between New York City and Rome in mid-January (Continental). For $380 more per person, Gate 1 covers airfare as well as five nights of accommodations and the train trip, all in one click.

Lodging: The elegant 331-room Grand Hotel Mediterraneo in Florence, along the Arno River near Santa Croce, and the Hotel Portamaggiore in Rome, which has a roof garden and is named for the ancient arched city gate it faces.

More: Add tours from $45 per person. There are also upgrade options for hotels from $30 per person. Other two city combinations (among Rome, Florence and Venice) are available.

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When: Departs daily Jan. 3 to March 31, 2009.

Gateways: New York City; add $54 from D.C., $99 from Chicago, $121 from Dallas, and $204 from L.A.; additional cities available.

The fine print: Does not include airport taxes of about $30 per person. Based on double occupancy; single supplement is $225. Note that these rates are based on a March 2, 2009 departure and that rates may fluctuate.

Book by: No deadline; based on availability.

Contact: American Airlines Vacations, 800/321-2121, aavacations.com.

Why it’s a deal: If you want time to really begin getting to know Rome, on your own and with the help of a guide, try this package. A five-night stay at the hotel would cost about $427 per person including taxes; add that to the sample Kayak airfare of $559, and you could expect to pay about $986 when booking independently. That's exactly what you'll pay for this American Airlines package, which also includes a sightseeing tour of Rome.

Lodging: The Hotel Diana in Rome near Termini Station and the Teatro dell'Opera. One year-round perk: a roof garden and restaurant.

Included highlights: On your included tour, you'll see monuments such as the Sistine Chapel and the Colosseum.

More: There are a few hotel upgrade options: Add $20 per person for the Hotel Oxford, $48 for Hotel Regno, $58 for the River Palace Hotel, $220 for Hotel delle Nazioni, and $764 for Parco dei Principi.

Rome, air/hotel/guided tours, 6 nights, from $1,799 per person
The real deal:
Round-trip airfare on Alitalia, six nights' accommodations, hotel transfers, most meals, sightseeing tours by bus and the services of an English-speaking guide, from $1,799 per person — plus about $95 in taxes.

When: Daily departures Jan. 3 through Feb. 13, 2009; add $60 for March 16-31; $100 for Feb. 14 through March 15.

Gateways: New York City and Boston; add $60 for Chicago and Miami; additional cities available.

The fine print: Does not include airport taxes and fees of about $95 per person. Based on double occupancy; single supplement varies depending on departure date.

Book by: No deadline; based on availability.

Contact: Sceptre Tours, 800/221-0924, sceptretours.com.

Why it’s a deal: This package is best for those who want a guided trip with lots of sightseeing arranged for them. The trip price breaks down to $316 per person per night, and for that, all the details are arranged for you, including transfers, sightseeing tours and all meals, except for two lunches.

Lodging: The Hotel Diana (also used in the American Airlines package described above).

Included highlights: Three bus tours of the city (one focusing on imperial Rome, one on classic Rome, and one on Rome at night) and a visit to the Vatican Museum. You'll also take excursions to Florence on one day and to Naples and Pompeii on another. See the full itinerary.

Before you go: U.S. citizens will need a valid passport for travel; a visa is not required. The temperatures in Rome will range between the mid-30s and mid-50s Fahrenheit in February.

Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.