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10-12 days in Rome/Florence/Crete

We are meeting my brother in law in Rome , who is quite familiar with the area... He plans to take us around Rome and Florence... Then we will travel to Crete..( he is not familiar)... Any suggestions on best place to
Visit in Crete with short time frame... We really would like to hang at beautiful beach / clear water one day and see the true Culture while there... Don't want to rush around major landmarks... Just relax at beach and see true culture... Any advice? It will be me and my husband and brother in law.. Thank you . Julie

Posted by
2416 posts

Cannot give advice unless you give dates for Crete .... advice may differ radically if its June vs early August or lte September. What does "short time frame" mean? 2 days? And where do you go from Crete? Back to Italy?? What is your transport idea ... to fly direct from Rome to whatever airport (there are 2) taht you can get in Crete? Or fly to ATH airport and then Crete. If it is the latter, I suggest flying to Western crete Airport (Chania) and finding some beach place nearby.... until you say when, cannot advise fiurther.

Posted by
13 posts

We will be going the last 2 weeks in September... Will fly from US to Rome ... Then by train to Florence... Then fly to Crete... Then back to US prob via Rome ... We are unsure how much time we should spend in each location as we have never been... We will be leaving Sept17.. Returning September 30

Posted by
19 posts

Your timeframe for your trip to Crete is still not clear, but I would advise to spend your time in the western part of the island, which is less touristy than the east (which has the resorts).

In Chania, there is a lovely hotel right in the old town called "The Amphora" - it is right on the waterfront and the service there is fantastic and very personal. And you can have breakfast on the terrace, overlooking the area.

Enjoy the beaches there, they are fantastic. One thing to remember though - those are European beaches, so they are nothing like the ones we have in the Caribbean, or the Mexican coast. They are usually organised with transats and umbrellas, and the transat areas are usually 4 chairs deep by 20 chairs longs. If you want to have a little more quiet, you'll have to bring a towel and "rough" it a bit, away from those packs.

If you choose to go to Balos, keep in mind you'll be dependent on the boat schedule to get there, as there are no roads accessing it. Personnally, I did prefer going to Falassarna and Elafonissi, which are accessible by car. And there are many smaller and lesser known beaches in the are that are as beautiful (and quiet!) as the next,and many naturists beaches. Just ask the locals - they will gladly help you.

Posted by
2416 posts

Julie, it would also be helpful if you'd share where you're coming from ... it DOES make a difference in your options, depending on whether you're in NY or the Northeast, or whether you're from the West Coast, because of airlines involved. Not knowing I can't advise on that, but I certainly suggest you try if possible to get an "open-Jaw" ticket flying In to Rome, and back from ATHENS. This will eliminate wasted time in back-tracking. I'm guessing that your brother-in-law will be taking the lion's share of your 2 weeks, so 5 days will be all you have for Crete, thus you cannot waste one single precious hour in transit!

If you succeed in booking such, then you can complete the circuit and again, avoid time-wasting transit by (ideally) finding a flight direct from Italy to Crete... and (again ideally) a flight not to Heraklion (central-East) but to Chania (Western Crete). If Heraklion is the only choice, then you would consider renting a car, and driving on the Very Scenic and modern highway all along the North coastline (just 2 hours) . At the end of your stay, you can fly from Chania airport to ATH airport; there are several daily flights. I would suggest rather than have a nail-biter that lands shortly before your homebound flight, you get a 6pm flight the night before, stay at a little charmer of a B & B (St. Thomas B & B) 15 minutes from the airport.

Next: where to stay in Crete?? There are good beaches on either side of the island, but the area east of Heraklion, sadly, has been overwhelmed by purpose-built concrete "holiday houses" for the UK package-tourism crowd. You don't want that scene. Chania in the West has great charm and history, and is the loveliest Old Town in Crete. And just West of town ... literally 15 minutes away... is the perfect place for you. Hotel Ammos -- http://www.ammoshotel.com -- is 5-star lovely withOUT 5* prices. Directly on beach, with pool as well (a combo rare in the area), a noted Cretan cuisine, wonderful service, absolute RAVE reviews from Trip Advisor etc. Only bad new: just 30 rooms so very hard to book. Sometimes people reserve a year ahead. Good luck on this! ... and if you cannot get in, another excellent choice in nearby location is http://www.corinna.gr -- This is bigger, and buildings surround it, but also right on beach, with pools.

The advantage of both these is that, on the landward side of the hotel, is the local road leading to Chania, served by a local bus route. In fact, if you fly in to CHania and book either of these, you would not need a car for your full stay, just if you want one for a day of exploring, a drive down the rim of a crevasse, or to mountain scenery. Chania itself is fascinating, tiny winding lanes, Venetian architecture (golden stone, terracotta roofs), delicious foods, scenic harbor sunsets.

Your key elements in this order would be (1) Booking "open-Jaw" flights (2) Determining Crete time and booking flights to/from (3) securing on-beach hotel. You need to lock these in ASAP... then you can think about "seeing the true culture."

Posted by
16764 posts

I loved my time on Crete, but if you're not looking for specific sightseeing there, maybe an Italian island would serve as well and be more convenient. For instance, Sicily is served by many direct flights from Rome with Vueling, EasyJet, and Alitalia. Sardinia also has good flight options and a reputation for beautiful beaches.

Posted by
13 posts

We will be originating from Nashville, TN. We haven't booked any flights yet. We are still in planning stage, but Greece is a place I definitely want to visit. I've heard the food and culture is amazing. However, if anyone has any other recommendations we are open to them. I'm wanting to gather as much info as I can to make it a special trip ! Exploring the cuisine in various cultures as well as marketplace for shopping is at the top of our lists. Also, we love to walk around very eclectic towns with less touristy areas, exploring more of the true culture of the country with local favorites as well. Any hotel, shopping, restaurant recommendations are wanted in any of these areas including Rome, Florence, and Crete. If anyone has any other thoughts that might should be investigated, we would love to hear them. Thank you Julie

Posted by
2416 posts

Since you say you are still in the information-gathering stage, I strongly suggest that you go to the largest library (branch or central or university) in Nashville, and check out an armful of travel guides ... you can get the essential backgrounding there, so that an online forum does not have to provide all the information. We're not substitutes for basic travel information, what we do best is, when you've come up with a rough scenario, is helping you choose between highlights that look good to you... rather than spelling everything out. As u asked, we can give advice, about the places you have looked up.

Posted by
743 posts

I am not sure if there are any direct flights from Rome to Crete so you may have to do a connection in Athens. If that is the case then I wold suggest you choose to fly to Chania. In my opinion it is the most beautiful citiy in Greece with its Venetian era harbour and maze of back alleys. In Chania you can easily imagine yourself in the past.

For hotels we like the Theotokopoulou street area. It is a pedestrian only street just lined with hotels in every class and price range. It is back a block from the harbour so it is quiet at night but just a minute walk to the action.

Chania http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632117917828/
Theotokopoulou St area http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632118491316/

Chania does have a decent beach about a 10 minute walk along the sea shore to Neo Chora. Images are at the end of the Chania album

Chania is well situated for day trips to places like Ancient Aptera. It is spread out over a mountain top. It takes a good 4 hours. Don't miss the Roman vaulted cisterns. They were very cool. Images 38 to 47
Other excursions would be the boat trip from Kissamos to Gramovossa and Balos. This day trip includes two beaches and a hike up to a pirate fortress. Images are number 58-73
Rethymnon is also a good day trip it is similar to Chania but does have a very intact Venetian era Fortezza to explore.
Western Crete http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632115757899/

Enjoy your trip

Posted by
4207 posts

I agree with the others about Chania being your best bet for a Crete destination. There are direct flights to and from Athens. You may want a car for a day or two to explore that end of Crete.

That said, it would be a shame to miss the National Archeological Museum in Heraklion and the Knossos Palace nearby, where you can see architecture and artifacts that will take you thousands of years back before the wonderful things you'll see in Rome and Florence, and help you understand why they are the way they are. Example -- a small statue of a bull-dancer in the Heraklion museum may be the first known sculpture showing the human body in motion. A day trip to Heraklion (you can do by bus) and a tour of Knossos could be very rewarding if you have time for more than beaches and such.

Have fun, sounds like a wonderful trip. And be sure to try raki!