10 day itinerary for review and comments

We are flying in and out of Florence from March 19 to 29, 2012. Here's our current itinerary. Any comments or suggestions will be most appreciated. 1. Arrive in Florence and stay for 3 nights. Plan to go to Siena for day trip in one of those days. 2. Go to Cinque Terre for 3 nights. Stay at Manarola. Day 1 in CT: Explore Manarola and Riomaggiore. Day 2 in CT: Take train to Monterosso and hike to Vernazza and Corniglia. Lunch in Vernazza. Take train back to Manarola from Corniglia. 3. Go to Venice for 2 nights. 4. Back to Florence for 2 nights. Not sure if we should go to an agriturismo near Florence (around Fiesole area) and then take a cab for our early morning flight out of Florence airport. I'd really like to see the countryside but alas, we don't have that much time. My initial plan did not include Venice and had longer time staying in agriturismo. Questions:
1. I've had conflicting suggestions about visiting CT at this time of year. My boss was there around the same time last year and said it was pretty good and recommended it. Other people say that March is not a good time to be there and we should just spend more time in Florence and Venice. 2. The 2012 Guide Book said that only the section from Manarola and Corniglia may not be open so I assume we can hike from Monterosso to Corniglia. 3. Should we be doing other things in the CT area? I assume the boats are not operational yet at that time. I was thinking of visiting Portovenere if there was enough time and able to get there easily. Thank you.

Posted by Bobbie
Park Ridge, IL
524 posts

Casey Kudos! You have been doing some great research! On Cinque Terre. March is not a good time to go there, IMHO. With the short time you have in northern Italy, I would not spend the long travel time to go there this visit. See this link from Rick Steves' website regarding flooding in Vernazza and Monterosso and progress in recovery. http://www.ricksteves.com/news/travelnews/cinque-terre-floods.htm I would take your idea of an agritourismo and rent a car and stay in Tuscany. See prior posts for lots of ideas. Or spend a few nights in Siena with day trips to Tuscany. Keep us posted as you work on your itinerary. Bobbie

Posted by Laurel
Rome, Italy
2208 posts

I agree with Bobbie, skip the CT this time. It's awfully risky to go there planning to hike and be rained out as there is almost nothing to do that is not outdoors-oriented. I'd add at least one more night to Venice so you have two full days there. We recently spent 6 nights and still didn't get to everything on our list. Then take your remaining nights and spend them in a more rural setting, with a car. We loved Montalcino as a base to explore some very pretty country. The Slow Travel website has some great Tuscany driving tours.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17783 posts

Casey, Your plan seems reasonably well organized. As you're travelling towards the end of March it may be possible to fit-in a short visit to the Cinque Terre. However there are currently some "limitations" so you may not be able to cover all the activities you were planning. For example: > Vernazza was heavily damaged in the floods of Oct. 25th, so may not be fully open for tourists until later in the year. The other villages should be opening for the season at about that time. The "old town" section of Monterosso was also damaged, but repairs are going well and I'm confident they'll be ready for tourists about the beginning of April. > The local authorities have announced that they plan on having ALL the trails open by Easter, and hopefully they'll be able to achieve that. As of tonight, only the Via dell'Amore from Manarola to Riomaggiore is open. On the trail from Monterosso to Vernazza, damage occurred at the Vernazza end and I'm not sure on the extent of repairs that will be needed. With only two nights, I'd suggest staying in Florence rather than outside of town in an Agriturismo, as there will be more to do in the evenings. There are often lots of street musicians playing in the local Piazza's. Also, you may need a rental car if staying in an Agriturismo. Which airline are you planning to use out of Florence? That's a smaller regional airport, and doesn't tend to have a lot of flights back to Canada (especially in March). Good luck with your planning!

Posted by Casey
Vancouver
4 posts

Thank you to all who have replied so far. I am so torn right now with regards to visiting CT. One of the big attractions of visiting Italy for me is the beautiful scenery of CT. But if we are not able to visit a number of the places, like Vernazza, perhaps I should spend the time in the Tuscan countryside. Which leads me to the next question about driving in Italy. I've never been to Italy before and I have heard horror stories about driving there. Any comments on this? In reply to Ken's question about my flights, I am getting to Florence through Amsterdam. KLM has a flight from Vancouver to Amsterdam but it is more expensive than if I take a flight to Seattle first and then go from there to Amsterdam. Cheers,
Casey

Posted by Laurel
Rome, Italy
2208 posts

I had some fears about driving in Italy when we went last year, but it truly is the best way to see rural Tuscany. You don't want a car in Florence or Venice, though, just for the small hilltowns. Read up on roadsigns. I printed out a chart from Wikipedia which my co-pilot/husband/navigator used to help me. He was also my spotter for ZTLs, and we had NO trouble with them at all. It would be nice to stay in an agriturismo, but it can limit your dining choices. The driver has to abstain from drinking if you are going to dine in town and drive back to the agri, for example. FWIW, we really like Montalcino as a base to see part of Tuscany. Many B&Bs and hotels have free parking, although it might be a short walk to/from your car. If I might suggest, and assuming we've talked you out of the CT for now: - Arrive Florence, rent a car at the ariport and proceed directly to the hilltown or agriturismo of your dreams; 4 nights. This allows you to avoid two separate stays in Florence. - Ditch the car and take a train from Florence to Venice. Take the highspeed train so you get more time in La Serenissima; 3 nights.
- Train back to Florence for your last 3 nights. Happy planning!

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3509 posts

I have to agree with everyone else - skip the CT. If the weather isn't beautiful, you won't have a good time. I like Laurel's idea of adding time to Venice. In addition, I'd spend at least one day and night in Verona which has lots to see (Google the Verona Card for a list) and is simply charming in the evening. If you love art, architecture and especially sculpture, 3 days in Florence is a minimum. If not, then by all means explore Tuscany. You will see more if you rent a car, but you can base yourselves in Siena, for example, and take the bus or train to the other hill towns - and a wine-tasting tour (not so much fun if you are driving).

Posted by Toni
Long Beach, CA, USA
356 posts

the CT is great but March might night be the best time, I would probably wait and see CT next trip. I would say do 3-4 nights Venice and 5-6 nights Florence/Tuscany area.
Siena is a nice day trip or you could stay there a couple of nights. There are a lot of day trip options from Florence and Venice if you choose to make them your bases.

Posted by Casey
Vancouver
4 posts

After much thinking (going around in circles most of the time), I have come up with 2 options for our itinerary. I have ditched the idea of renting a car and visiting agriturismos since I could not get past the fear of driving there and the time I need a car would very short. I thought that if we arrive in Florence, we can see what the weather was going to be like in CT and then decide if we want to go there for 2 nights. I am assuming that since it is low season there, we would be able to get accommodations without booking. If the weather is not going to be nice, then we can go with option 2. OPTION 1 Day 1 Arrive FLR Day 2 FLR Day 3 FLR Day 4 CT (Manrola) Day 5 CT (Manrola) Day 6 Venice Day 7 Venice Day 8 Venice Day 9 Siena overnight or just stay in FLR for 2 nights? Day 10 FLR Day 11 Leave FLR first thing in a.m. OPTION 2 Day 1 Arrive FLR Day 2 FLR Day 3 FLR Day 4 Siena (stay overnight or daytrip?) Day 5 Other hill towns Day 6 Venice Day 7 Venice Day 8 Venice Day 9 Day trip to Verona Day 10 FLR
Day 11 Leave FLR Comments? Thanks.

Posted by julie
white bear lake, minnesota, USA
87 posts

sounds like you are still interested in CT. My daughter and I went in early october and stayed 4 nights in Agriturismo Buranco. I wanted to find an agriturismo I could get to without car. it is in Monterosso Al Mare, up a very steep hill from the old city area. We had beautiful vineyard views from our terrace and rooms. The weather was gorgeous when we were there, and it was just before the terrible flooding and damage to Monterosso and Vernazza. You might want to check out the conditions there and also look on Trip Advisor to see if you would like Buranco. Make sure you know what you are getting if you book. Some "apartments" are not what we would call apartments, though some are. Our place was 2 comfy bedrooms, bathroom, and vestibule, no indoor dining or kitchen facilities. Buranco's breakfast area is outside, so that might be a factor for you in March.
One of the great things about Monterosso is that it has trains to places like Milano and Genoa. we took a midmorning train from Mont. station that we learned about on this blog (thanks, people!) that stopped once in Milano Centrale and we had plenty of time to switch to our train to Venice. it was relaxing and a beautiful trip.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1972 posts

You've received some very good advice. Cinque Terre remains in rough condition, and it's going to get them until Summer to dig outand get ready for tourists. I'd abstain from there. It's also a pretty long trip up there from Florence. I understand March temperatures are between 45 degrees F and 65 degreesa little cool. Normal rain is about 1/3 the days of March. You have to be prepared for all weather in March. If you don't have your plane tickets, I would strongly suggest flying open jawed into Venice and out of another city. Many fly to Florence via Pisaa much larger/busier airport. You might consider lengthening Venice to 3 nights, and Florence to 3 nights. The rest of the time could be spent south of Florence at a B&B in the Hill Countrydoing day trips by rental car. The scenery out there is absolutely breathtaking, and accommodations and restaurants are less expensive. ]
Sienna, Volterra, and Chianti provide a bunch of history, more art and places to tour.

Posted by Casey
Vancouver
4 posts

Thank you, David and all the others for all your comments. Unfortunately, I had booked my tickets before I really planned the details of my itinerary, thinking that I should make sure I get seats at a good price before they disappear. At that time, I was not even thinking about Venice at all! Since then, my plans have changed quite a bit. I will have to figure out how much penalty I get by changing my flight booking to see if it is worth not having to take the train back to Florence. Figuring out the train costs is one thing I haven't done yet.