Trips, tips & deals: Italy and a cruise

Off-season Italy pays off

Off-season and shoulder seasons are good times to snag deals to popular destinations. That's the case with GreatValueVacations' Tuscan castle vacation for travel in March. If you can put together four people who would like to explore the Italian countryside when weather might be iffy, you'll be on your way for a price starting at just $1,381 per person. That price will cover round-trip air from New York to Rome, a manual-shift compact car for seven days, seven nights in a self-catering, two-bedroom apartment at the Castello di Montegufoni estate and most taxes and fees. The estate is in Montespertoli in the heart of the Chianti region, where the film "Under the Tuscan Sun" was filmed. It's near Florence (20-minute drive), Siena (30-minute drive), Pisa, Lucca and San Gimignano. The package is available from other cities. There is a 25 euro (about $34) per day fee if heating is used and a 60 euro (about $81) cleaning charge. Info: 800-896-4600,

Cruise from Sicily

And, speaking of Italy, how about some time in Sicily, followed by a nine-night cruise visiting Italy, Turkey and the Greek Isles? The package from Enrichment Journeys is priced from $4,199 per person double occupancy, which includes round-trip air from New York. The Sicily portion spends three nights each in Palermo and Taormina. From there, you move on to the nine-night cruise in the Aegean. Athens and its rich history is first up, followed by a stop in Turkey to visit Ephesus' archaeological sites that include the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Then it's on to the Greek Isles. You'll finish by visiting Naples, Italy, before disembarking in Rome. Pricing is for departures May 17 or Sept. 20 if you book by Dec. 15. Other departure cities are available. Info: 888-546-8617,

— Phil Marty, Special to Tribune Newspapers

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