I’m planning my dream trip to Italy after the coronavirus outbreak
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If you’re reading this, you’re probably dreaming about your next adventure. I’m right there with you.
Like you, I’ve spent the last few weeks thinking of the big things: Flights I want to take, hotels I want to stay in and cities I want to explore. I’ve also found myself longing for the little things, like the energy in the TPG office, after work-drinks with friends and — dare I say it — even the subway. They feel like relics from another life.
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Also like you, I’ve had some additional time on my hands. If there’s a silver lining to this crisis, maybe this is it for me.
I’ve been thinking a lot about where I want to go when all of this is behind us. It will be behind us someday, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now. It’s going to be a different world, no doubt, but that gives us all the more reason to go out and see it for ourselves.
Ultimately, I landed on Italy.
I’ve been to Florence, Rome and Venice before, but have had my eyes on the Amalfi Coast for quite some time (I blame Nick Ellis and his epic trip there during the summer 2018). Plus, after being cooped up for weeks on end, I know I’m going to be craving some city life as well as some vitamin D, not to mention pasta. Lots and lots of pasta.
Italy, one of the nations hit hardest by the coronavirus outbreak, fit the bill perfectly. And the country will surely need tourism dollars more than ever after it reopens to visitors.
I’m a big fan of transferring American Express Membership Rewards points to Aeroplan, Air Canada’s loyalty program. Aeroplan shows award availability, or where you can use your points to book flights, on Star Alliance airlines such as United, Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa and Swiss.
I’ve racked up a ton of Amex points in the past few years, thanks to my American Express® Gold Card and The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express (translation: I spend a lot of money on food and clothes). The information for the Amex EveryDay card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Back in 2018, I used Aeroplan to fly Turkish Airlines in business class to Croatia — and I’ve been itching to fly it again. I mean, dining by candlelight at 35,000 feet never gets old, does it? Depending on availability, I would also consider legs on Swiss or TAP Air Portugal for 110,000 Amex points and about $90 in taxes for a round-trip business class flight.
I looked at some test dates in September, and availability was plentiful, especially on Swiss, Austrian and TAP Air Portugal.
I was also able to find availability on Turkish Airlines for the return leg on the test dates.
All of these flights include one stop in each direction, but I’d still prefer one of these itineraries over those offered by Alitalia and Delta, the only airlines with nonstop options from New York-JFK to Rome Fiumicino (FCO). All in all, I think they offer a better flight experience.
Florence and Rome are the easy parts here. I have Diamond status with Hilton as well as Gold status with Marriott, but I’m not really loyal to one chain over the other. I typically book based on the property as well as where I have more points or credits.
In Rome, I have my sights set on the Waldorf Astoria. It’s slightly outside the city center, so you get a reprieve from all the hustle and bustle, complete with breath-taking views of the Vatican. Soccer fans take note: It’s also about a 10-minute drive from Stadio Olimpico. I might just have to see a game for myself while I’m there.
The main draw, though, is La Pergola. It’s the first and only three-star Michelin restaurant in Rome. I’m hungry just thinking about it.
Rates here start at 80,000 Hilton Honors points per night, and I’m crossing my fingers for a Diamond upgrade, too.
In Florence, the St. Regis is the obvious choice. It’s right along the Arno River, and a quick walk to some of my favorite restaurants (looking at you, La Giostra and Osteria Santo Spirito). It’s also around the corner from the famed Il Profeta and the “John Travolta pasta” — I’ve been to Florence twice and haven’t had it yet, so I have a hunch I’m going to make a visit this time around.
I’ll also be making time to eat at Osteria delle tre Panche, the mega-popular spot that hosted a pop-up in New York City earlier this winter. Did I mention I wanted to eat pasta?
Rates at the St. Regis, a Category 8 Marriott hotel, start at 70,000 points on off-peak nights, and 100,000 points per night for peak award availability.
As I mentioned, the Florence and Rome hotels are the easy part. Points hotels are notoriously few and far between in the Amalfi Coast, so I’ll end up using either the Chase or American Express travel portals to put my points to good use.
The former is part of the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts program, which I have access to thanks to The Platinum Card® from American Express. Thanks to this program, I can get perks such as a complimentary room upgrade (if available), noon check-in and 4 p.m. checkout (when available), daily breakfast for two and a $100 property credit. Considering rates here hover around $1,000 per night, these perks would really help to offset the cost.
I could also redeem my Amex points, though, which would require about 130,000 per night.
Il San Pietro is also available through both the Amex and Chase travel portals. I looked at some test dates in the fall, and it’s pricing as almost 192,000 American Express Membership Rewards points but only 89,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points, so there’s a clear winner here. The hotel is not part of any Amex hotel program either, so I wouldn’t be giving up any additional perks by going with the cheaper price.
There are still so many variables and so much unknown, so of course, I’m not booking anything until we make it to the other side of the mountain. But I know we will get there, and that the view is going to be pretty spectacular … especially if it’s from a hotel overlooking Positano.
Editor’s note: The team at The Points Guy loves to travel, but now is not the time for unnecessary trips. Health officials say the fastest way to return to normalcy is to stop coming in contact with others. That includes ceasing travel. We are publishing travel guides because we should all use this time to think about and plan our next adventures. TPG doesn’t advise booking trips for travel until later this year — and even then, be mindful of cancellation policies.
Feautred image courtesy of Lina Harb/EyeEm/Getty Images.
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