10 day trip to Italy - how should we do it?

Hey, my parents, brother and me are trying to get together to plan a trip to Italy in September for 10 days. My parents were both born there but the family has never gone over there together and we want to make it happen this year. Here's the places we would like to hit:

  • Milan
  • Venice
  • Florence
  • Rome
  • Naples / Capri
  • Parents Towns
  • Google Map of Locations

So my questions are as follows:

  1. Is it possible to hit all of these places in 9-10 days?

  2. How long should we spend in each town?

  3. Should we rent a car for the whole trip, or just use trains to travel to different major towns? If we rent a car, do the hotels charge extra for parking? I think we definitely need a car to visit the smaller towns on the map, but I wasn't sure if we should have the car every day or not.

  4. Should we look for some sort of package, or should we plan everything ourselves?

  5. Whats the price range this is going to cost? The airfare i've been seeing has been about 700-800 a person. I am not sure how much hotels cost, food, gas, etc.

Any insight you guys may have would be really helpful. Thanks.

Google Map: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&source=s_d&saddr=milano,+italy&daddr=venice,+italy+to:Florence+Florence,+Tuscany,+Italy+to:rome,+italy+to:66040+Monteferrante+CH,+Italy+to:napoli,+italy+to:Vallata+Avellino,+Campania,+Italy&geocode=%3B%3B%3B%3B%3B%3BFbsecgIdnL7oAA&hl=en&mra=ls&sll=43.253205,12.23877&sspn=5.320561,12.98584&ie=UTF8&ll=42.779275,13.886719&spn=10.721011,25.97168&z=6

Posted by Mark
Henson, Florida, USA
466 posts

Dave, thats a pretty hefty schedule for 9-10 days. You should spend at the least 3 days in Rome as there is lots and lots to see. I would do at least 2 nights in Venice and 2 nights in Florence. I would skip Milan unless it's something that your parents want to do. You don't say where your parents town is???? North, South????? As far as cars, most of the large cities won't let you drive them in and you're risking a hefty fine in tickets if you do. (there has been much chat on here about cars and tickets). I would do eurorail as that is the best way to travel in Italy. If you need to rent a car to get to a small town then do it but you don't want to be worried about a car and tickets your whole trip. Package deals are OK but you are at the mercy of the tour company (remember you are on their time schedule not yours)!!!!! personally I would never do a tour but lots of people do. Prices differ according to what level hotels you want to stay in. I've got a great website for you for places to stay in Rome, Florence and Venice. It"s cross-pollinate.com It's a bed a breakfast and apartment booking service owned and operated by an American family living in Rome. I have used them many times and they are also recommended by Rick in his book on Italy. Other than that, don't run yourselves out of gas getting from one place to another. It's better to do less than run and see everything fast and really not enjoy yourselves. Have fun, happy travels!!!!

Posted by David
Seattle, WA, USA
1414 posts

Way too many places for the time you have. Sorry, not realistic.

First, be honest with yourself about how many days you have. Don't count the day you arrive (you'll be jet-lagged, exhausted and disoriented) or the day you leave. Do any of your "10 days" include arrival or departure days? Most folks are still half zonked out on the day AFTER they arrive, too, but let's set that aside for the moment.

Remember that every day that you move from one place to another, you spend most of that day doing that (all the tasks required take a lot more time than you think they will). Minimize stays of one night - you really can't see much if you're constantly on the move.

You list about 8 locations (Naples and Capri are geographically close, but they're not in the same place), including several that you cannot even begin to see in just one day (Rome in one day - seriously?). It's not worth trying to do that - you'll miss everything except for your hotel rooms.

Honestly, if you really do have 10 full days, I'd say you should limit yourself to 3 places, maybe 4 maximum. I assume that the "parents' towns" are non-negotiable. That leaves you just a couple of other places.

Assuming that the two parents' towns are at E and G in the linked map, then I would probably add Rome and Naples and call it done. All four of those locations are grouped reasonably close together.

Sorry. I know it's easy to get all excited about seeing venice, Milan and Florence. They're great - but you would need to add another week to your trip.

Rules of thumb: don't count arrival or departure days, and stay a minimum or 2 nights any place that you actually want to see. The rest is easy after that.

Hope that helps a bit.

Posted by Kent
Pacific Northwest
6808 posts

Dave: Unfortunately, no one here has data that permits accurately answering your question #5--we have some data on 2 people traveling but not a group the size of yours. Rick has a budget chapter in his book, Europe Through the Back Door, but again, it applies mainly to a couple traveling together.

98% of people on this forum don't recommend driving in Rome, Florence, Milan, and Naples (but we will authorize driving in Venice and Capri if you can find any streets). Totally unnecessary to drive in those large Italian cities--with a group of 3 or 4 it's sometimes tempting to think about driving to save 3 or 4 train fares, but parking in places like Rome will eat up the apparent advantages of driving. I think the best advice is to take the train, it's what 95% here do for that itinerary.

Answer to your question #1 is NO, for the reasons given by the first two repliers.

Posted by Angela
Chicago/Rural WI
809 posts

Hi Dave,

Not to keep piling on you, but I'd like to chime in and say I agree with the other posters regarding the viability of this itinerary. I particularly agree with David's (Seattle) advice to just stick with Rome and towns south (D,E,F, and G on the map), because realistically, that is about all you'd be able to cover in 10 days. A really ambitious itinerary would also include Florence, but it would have to be at the expense of shortening time spent elsewhere.

If I may ask, what is your parent's preference with how long they spend in each of their home towns? That could have bearing on the itinerary, as well.

As far as mode of transport, as others have said the trains are super easy to use in Italy. However, I'm not familiar with the towns of Monteferrante or Vallata Avellino, but if they are smaller towns not serviced by frequent rail, your best bet for getting there might be renting a car in Rome (preferably on the outskirts of the city), driving to Monteferrante, then going to Vallata Avellino and ending in Naples, where you could drop the car back off and continue with train transportation.

Good luck with the planning, and by the way, thanks for including that handy map link with your post. That is slick!

Posted by Mike
Los Angeles, CA, USA
1447 posts

IMHO, after looking at the map you posted (pretty cool!) your itinerary is not very practical. Yes, you could physically visit all of these places in 9 days. But you'll spend way too much of your time in transportation, which, unless that holds a fascination for you, isn't going to be very enjoyable. Even if you're just going 100 miles it takes almost 1/2 a day to do it. Up early enough to get to the train (for example) by 9am, a 2 hour ride gets you there by 11am, some more time to get from the station to your hotel, check in (if your room is ready, probably won't be until 3pm) or leave your bags, have lunch. It's about 1 or 2pm before you even start seeing anything, and that's with a train ride with no connections. Play on the trenitalia site for a while and you can see many journeys can take 4-5 hours in train time alone.

If it was me with 9 days, I'd pick one of the 2 groups A/B/C or D-G and do that as the trip. And even that is almost a rushed pace, to some extent. Preferences differ here, of course, but these days I like to spend 3 days in larger cities and 2 in smaller ones. For me, I like to have time to savor the journey, enjoy lingering at a cafe or browsing in stores, have time for chance encounters and experiences. Of course that isn't the only way to travel; some people are perfectly content saying they've been to X, Y, and Z even if they only spent a few hours in each. So in the end it comes down to what you want.

I would suggest this; make a chart of your 10 days, and in each box fill in fixed and free times. For example if you know you're not going to be out of the hotel at 8am but more realistically 10am, block out the time before 10am. Spend some time looking up train times or getting driving times from via michelin, block that out too. In the end look at the open boxes that represent your real vacation and decide if its the trip you want.

Posted by Dave
NJ, NJ, United States
26 posts

Thanks for the replies, I was expecting to hear what you guys were saying. My parents towns are very small and we don't expect to be in them for more than a few hours each. If done right, we could do both in one day. Would definitely need to rent a car to get to those towns. We planned on taking a red eye out on a Monday to arrive early morning on Tuesday in Italy. We would have Tuesday to a Thursday or Friday. I've been to Rome before so I think I am familiar enough with it to go through in 2 days. The rest, I am not too sure about.

Posted by gina
OLD WESTBURY, NY, usa
77 posts

I know you want to do it all in 10 days, everyone does, but the whole point of going to Italy is be like an Italian, take your time, drink wine in the piazza, take in the art and sights. You will spend more time in the car or on a train then actually sight seeing. Skip the package and buy Ricks book.

I would do less and enjoy more. Skip Milan, do Rome and south, or Rome, Florence leave from Venice, 3 days in each.

You will have much more fun when your not rushing to get there, rushing to get through it and rushing to get out, that would be sad. Have fun!

Posted by Ken
Dalton, GA, USA
6 posts

I think you are underestimating the amount of time you will spend in your parent's towns. What do your parents think you will do? If you have any relatives in town, do they know you are coming? Depending on how long ago your parents left, you will see people who remember them and want to ask questions about life in the U.S. I have done the "visit the old family homestead" route a few times and you always spend longer than you planned.

Posted by Bob
Gettysburg, PA
1364 posts

Forgo Milan & Venice and it can work. Try US Air out of Phila or NYC for a cheaper and nonstop into Rome.

Plan on about 6-7K for 4 of you, if you are thrifty.

Posted by Ron
Carbondale, IL, USA
1201 posts

Dave - my suggestion would be to stay at least overnight in your parents' town. Even if you have been there before, it will be a different experience with all of you together.

Posted by linda
Clifton Park, ny, usa
109 posts

Hi Dave,
Very cool map. In my opinion, this itinerary is not the least bit doable if you intend on enjoying yourselves. 2 previous posters, Ron and Ken gave you good advice. you are underestimating how much time you will spend in your parents' home towns and you should stay overnight. Also you may be underestimating travel times between these cities.
We have a home near Sora, in the general direction of Monteferrante and i believe it would be at least several hours drive from Rome.
If I were planning this trip, I would stick to Rome, the Amalfi Coast and the parents' hometowns. That would be MORE than plenty to fill 10 whole days. Rushing from city to city is not fun.
Plan a more relaxed trip, enjoy the time with your parents in their native country and keep your plans flexible enough that you can extend your stay in the hometowns if the desire arises.
Are there any people or places your parents would like to reconnect with?
Speaking from personal experience, I think by far, most Italians LOVE to reconnect with families who have left for the new world, no matter how remote those connections may be.
I would bring family pictures current and pics your parents might have from their child hoods to share with them. Maybe even bring extras to give away.
Check out the local cemetery. Not in a gruesome way but for clues to your family history.
My parents tiny town has a WWI memorial that is inscribed with numerous names that belong to various aunts, uncles and cousins here in the US!Amazing to see for the first time. It is a very moving experience to search for and find your roots.
Also, let someone know you are coming.

Posted by Dave
NJ, NJ, United States
26 posts

Thanks for the advice - we thought about it and came up with this itinerary. Randomly, we received a wedding invitation in Italy for some family on a Monday.. so we would like to try to be in Milan on this Monday.

The plan now is this..

  • Leaving on Tuesday to arrive in Rome on Wednesday morning.
  • Spend Wednesday and Thursday night in Rome.
  • Fly to Venice on Friday morning, and spend Friday and Saturday night there.
  • On Sunday, leave for Milan via train and spend Sunday and Monday night there.
  • Monday morning, fly back to Rome and spend the day there.
  • Wednesday rent a car and drive to one of my parents towns and spend the day there.
  • Thursday drive to Naples or Capri and spend Thursday and Friday night there.
  • Drive to my fathers town Saturday morning.. spend a few hours there and then drive back to Rome.
  • Spend Saturday night in Rome, then leave for home on Sunday morning out of Rome.

Is this still too much? any thoughts? Including travel days, it would be Tuesday to the next Sunday. (13 days - 11 actual usable days in Italy)

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17736 posts

Dave,

The last Itinerary you posted is an improvement, but I still believe it needs further revision. A few thoughts:

  • Flying from Rome to Venice won't save you much (if any) time. By the time you go through all the usual airport hassles, fly to Venice and then get into the city, you'll probably find that going by train would have been much faster. Using the EuroStar Italia the trip is only about 4.5 hours. That's the method I'd use.

  • On the same theme, I definitely wouldn't fly from Milan to Rome! Travel time on a EuroStar will be as short as 3.5 hours.

  • You'll need a Car to get to the small towns your parents are from, given the time frame of your trip. However, don't rent one in Rome, but rather somewhere on the outskirts (trust me, you don't want to drive in Rome!). Note that to drive in Italy, you'll need an International Driver's Permit. You can be fined on the spot for failing to produce one if requested. These are available at AAA offices for very reasonable cost. Each Driver will need an I.D.P.

  • It's difficult to estimate the driving time to & from the towns shown on your Map. Hopefully one of the others can provide some information on that? Those towns are a fair distance south of Rome, so be sure to allow adequate driving time (expect the drive to take longer than estimated, as that always seems to be the case).

  • I'm not sure if "driving" to Capri is a realistic idea. There are Cars on the island, but I suspect the cost to take a car there will be "steep". You could certainly park in Naples and take a boat to the island. You'll have to decide what you most want to see.

  • Under the circumstances, I'd probably limit Naples to one day & drop Capri in order to allow extra time to get to your parent's towns.

  • Be sure to budget for the cost of fuel, CDW Insurance and tolls on the Motorways. Also BE VERY CAREFUL of ZTL zones or you'll get a ticket!

Good luck with your planning!

Posted by NanC
Orange County, USA
155 posts

I just got back from visiting the place my grandparents came from in 1878 or so. No family is left but 2 years ago I met a man who I call my Alpine Guide. He took us all over the place, the church my grparents were married in, the old house, etc . This year I went with my grdaughter and I met still more people. They had a dinner for us and almost 20 people came. Valerio says just about everyone in Bugliaga is related and they love to see someone come back to check their roots.

I think you might really be shortchanging yourselves by allowing just a short time in your parents home towns. They will love you all to death and you will love it.

I took a photo album with photos from Italy, the houses, etc, and then photos of the family in America. They loved it even tho there was no direct connection, just a vague, maybe one.

Of course this all depends on how your parents feel, too. Have a wonderful trip.

Posted by Dave
NJ, NJ, United States
26 posts

So again some more revisions...Good news is that we booked the flight.. its going to be from a Sunday to a Friday.. leaves us 11 days in Italy without the days of the flight. We unexpectedly received an invitation to a wedding for some family who lives right outside of Milan, so we sort of planned this around that.

Here's what we came up with for now:

Sunday: Depart on the flight to Rome.
Monday: Arrive at Rome at 8AM
Tuesday: Rome
Wednesday: Rome
Thursday: Rent car, drive to one town (3hr drive). Spend day/night there.
Friday: Drive to the 2nd town (2-3 hours) spend the day there. Drive to Naples for the night. (2hrs)
Saturday: Take the ferry to Capri for a few hours since we are there for the day. (Maybe). Take a flight to Milan (seems to be the only way to go that far without wasting a lot of time or $$)
Sunday:Spend in Milan
Monday: Attend the wedding in Milan (they have weddings on Mondays there? )
Tuesday: Train to Venice in the morning.
Wednesday: Venice
Thursday: Train back to Milan
Friday: Leave from Milan to get back home.

How does this sound? We are still flexible with this schedule and open to ideas... is it too much moving around? I don't see any other way of getting Rome, the two towns, Milan and Venice in the same trip without a flight from Naples to Milan and the train between Milan and Venice. Flights in/out of Venice were $800 more per person so that wasn't an option.

Posted by Skip
Atlanta, Ga
149 posts

definitely more doable. I would personally skip naples and capri and head to positano and ravello
since you will have a car.
your trip is ambitious, but given the fact you seem to be Italian with family to see in various places and you have never been, I say GO FOR IT.
It will help you decide where you want to go back and what you want to skip the next time.

Have fun.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17736 posts

Dave,

Now that you've booked the flights, that somewhat limits the options.

One point to mention concerning your last post. For travel from Napoli to Milano, I'd still recommend the train. The travel time on the EuroStar Italia is only 5H:35M and you'll be travelling to and from the centre of each city (these are direct trains although possibly a few short stops in Roma, Firenze and Bologna).

I really doubt that you'll save much time (and perhaps not much money) by using a budget flight. You'll have to budget for both time and cost to and from each airport, possibly excess baggage weight charges and of course the time and aggravation of check-in, going through security, waiting at the baggage carousel, etc.

Under those circumstances, I'd definitely be using the train!

Cheers!

Posted by Dave
NJ, NJ, United States
26 posts

Each train ticket is 84 euros, costing $473 for all four of us plus the 5hr 35min ride. The easyjet plane I saw was $345 for all four of us and would only be a 1.5 hour flight. If we have to get to the airport an hour before, we are still saving 3 hours and $140. Is a plane really that much of a hassle?

Posted by Dave
NJ, NJ, United States
26 posts

Also the other choice would to be to shift the trip around a little bit and end up back in Rome on Saturday. Rome to Milan on the plane would only be 1hr 15 mins and cost $157 for all four.

Posted by Dave
NJ, NJ, United States
26 posts

So can anyone suggest a hotel in Rome? What location should I be looking in? There are four of us and it seems like there are no 4 person rooms over in Rome, which is sort of a problem since it will cost much more for two rooms than one. If this is the case, I want to find a clean hotel room in a good location that is about $100-150 USD a night ($300 or less for two rooms) in Rome. Is this the case for the other Italian cities too? If so, I need to be looking for the same setup in Rome, Milan, Venice, and Naples. Any suggestions? Also.. should I book the hotels now, or wait until I am there?

Posted by Dave
NJ, NJ, United States
26 posts

So we might be flying from Naples to Venice, then train to Milan to avoid the additional train ride.

What would you suggest for hotels? I was looking in Rome and there were some nice hostels that were pretty cheap. I found one with very high rating for about $160 a night for 4 people, 2 beds, bathroom, etc. Is something like this okay for a family of 4 adults?

Posted by Mary Beth
Pittsburgh, PA, United States
22 posts

You itinerary seems to be pretty set, so I will speak to the hotel questions. I would absolutely book as many hotels as you can before you go - you don't want to get stuck searching for a hotel with your parents in tow. We used trip advisor.com to search for hotels, just put in the city. There were many reviews that talked about getting family suites. In Rome we stayed at the Hotel Napoleon - they have some really good reviews on trip advisor and some ok ones as well. It was no 5 star hotel, but resaonable, clean, included breakfast (had scrambled eggs and bacon along with lots of fruit, yogurt and pastries). They have family suites that could fit 4 people - we didn't need one, but I know they have them. The hotel is a little outside the city center - one metro stop past the Termini train station, but if you book on their website they have a "come easy" transfer deal and they will pick you up at the airport in Rome and bring you to the hotel - this was well worth it!!! There is a metro station literally right outside the door of the hotel, very convienent for getting to the Vatican and the Termini where you can also get buses around the city. We were very happy there (and since we were on our honeymoon the hotel gave us complimentary champaigne and flowers in our room). We stayed for 4 nights and it was 486 euro, but that was for a standard room, the family suite would be more. It will be hard to find a room for less than $150 U.S. a night, but you may find family suites for less than $300.

I am pretty sure you should be able to find family suite rooms in Venice as well, I am not sure about the other cities, but if you use Trip Advisor, you should be able to find some.