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10day itin - first time in Italy

We are taking our first trip to Italy (20yr anniversary) we are taking a Costco package, (incredible price) but planning on detouring from the package and adding stops. can you please review, provide advice & answer questions.
Dates: Oct. 5-15
1. Rome: 2days - figure this is a must; just do the highlights. Q: 1. Recommendation on quaint dinner spots, more local the better
2. Florence: 4days - have hotel for 4days but plan to detour 2days to Cinque Terre and book a hotel there. We specifically picked Florence on the Costco package b/c I want to detour to Cinque Terre. This is my dream part of the trip.

Q:1. Do we just take a train from Florence to CT? 2. Should I book a hotel now or when we get there? I also want to do Sienna or some rolling hills wine day trip, would I take a day trip to the winery from Florence? I've also heard about some great bike trips in that area. any recommendations? We are not really into art or museums (but will do b/c we are there) so Florence is just a holding spot to visit the other parts of that area.
3. Sorrento: 2days - it comes with a day tour of the Amalfi coast, 2nd day just chill.
4. Venice: 2days - recommendations?

Thanks for your help! Super excited, but super nervous too that i'm going to complicate things trying to detour off the preset package route. (but again, the price was so low it was cheaper to do this way than to book alacart.)

Posted by
7633 posts

I'm guessing the 5-15 dates include travel days as well? Days 1&2 will be travel days as you will arrive the day after you leave, assuming you are flying from the US. Day 15 I am guessing will be the day you fly home. Any day you travel to change locations will be 1/2 day spend in checking out/in to hotel, getting to/from the train station plus actual time on the train so not much tour time on that day.

So, it is easier for me to look at how many nights you have in a place because 2 nights = 1 full day to tour. Can you change around the nights on the plan you have purchased? I would add a night to Rome so nights 2/3/4 in Rome giving you 2 full days, 5/6/7/8 in Florence with one day trip to Siena and one day trip to the Tuscan countryside, 9/10 in CT and the last night in your departure city.

I don't think you have time for Sorrento or Venice with your time frame. Others may have a different opinion.

You DO need to book your hotel ahead in CT.

Posted by
21 posts

Thank you Pam, very helpful! I have not yet purchased, so I can add days; I didn't think about the travel days.

Another option I have is to just purchase a 10 (or 12) day to just Rome & Florence, 6days each city and then just detour out of there to other cities? (and book hotels in the other cities) do you think that is a better option? I'm not to terribly interested in Venice, so I could just do a day trip to that city from Florence? would I just take trains to the other cities (venice, CT - maybe Sorrento? could I do a day trip to Sorrento from Rome? - it just looks so pretty i'd love to see it.)

Posted by
6542 posts

Heidi: On your first trip to Italy, you naturally want to see all you can see. But you may be taking on one or two many stops.
I found that Rome is such a great city that it's worthy of at least 4 days. You might want to see if you can short one of the other cities at least one day to add to Rome. As far as a meal, you'd do best to ask your hotel desk manager for a good restaurant.
You could do Florence in 2 days, but 3 are better. The best way to see Siena is on a day trip by taking a 1 hr. bus ride from Florence.
The train from Florence to Cinque Terre would be to La Spezia, which is north of Pisa. From there, you get a slow local train into the C/T city you'll be staying at.

You have mentioned wanting to see Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast. The area is 170 miles approx. south of Rome, and it takes a train ride to Naples (reservations required.) Since the Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast are very much alike, I would suggest you skip Amalfi as it's just too far out of your way. See it next trip, and there will be another trip after you go to Italy once.
I think I've been to Venice 6-7 times, and we never tire of it. It's 150 miles NE of Florence, and a fast train can get you there.

Posted by
3316 posts

Don't try to do too much in too short a period of time. The best bet, imo, is the 12 day option and split it between Florence and Rome. A day trip to Venice from Florence is not practical -- again just my opinion,. On of the things we've learned is that getting from Point A to Point B almost always eats up more time than anticipated.

Posted by
904 posts

Wow, sounds like a great trip!

As Pam said it is easier to think 2 nights = 1 full day of sight seeing. I love Venice and would encourage you to think about a visit.

I don't know your budget but my first trip to Italy we needed to maximize our ability to see things. We hired a guide, a personal guide. We saw many of the highlights of Rome in three days. Two long days to see the Vatican, Roman history, Christianity (including the Vatican), and modern Rome. One day on are own. We saw an a lot of art, but not overwhelming. Consider hiring a guide in Rome and Florence to maximize your time. For a quaint dinner visit Piazza Navona around 8pm and check Trip Advisor for a palce. It is beautiful at night, I suggest Spaghetti alla Carbonara for dinner, that is as Roman as you get.

5 Terre is really a cool place. However, I don't stay there, I do day trips. You can do it from Florence by train. We stayed in Portovenere one night and jumped the ferry to see the cities from the sea. A great experience. I loved the town of Portovenere so much we went back ten year later. However, it isn't easy to get to. We have done train to 5 Terre 3 times.

If you can rent a car and drive around Tuscany you can see all the hill towns and wineries you want. You can even park in Siena and visit it on a day trip. If you do that, you can get a hotel room in a smaller town (even Siena) and enjoy the Italian culture a bit more than the big cities.
I would not include the Amalfi coast this trip. It is a time eater. If you are dead set on that save it for another trip and dedicate a week to it. It is worth it.

Posted by
30932 posts

heidi,

First of all, congratulations on your anniversary!

A few thoughts and questions regarding your travel plans.....

  • The places you mentioned are not arranged in the most efficient order, but I assume that's determined by the tour so you'll have to go with it.
  • Does your 10 days include your two flight days?
  • Two days is going to be "light" for Rome, as there's so much to see there. Keep in mind you'll be jet lagged so may not be up to full "touring speed". See if you can find a copy of the Italy guidebook and plan your touring carefully!
  • Four days in Florence (with two in the Cinque Terre) should work fine.
  • For your stay in the Cinque Terre, you'll first have to decide which of the five towns you want to stay in. Each of us here have a preference (I like Monterosso best).
  • Regarding your hotel in the Cinque Terre, I'd suggest getting something booked SOON, although in early October you should still be able to find something. The guidebook also has good suggestions for hotels there.
  • Yes, travel by train from Florence to the Cinque Terre is the easiest and quickest method. On that route, there will be two or three different trains with changes. You can check all the solutions on the Trenitalia website. It's impossible to suggest a train without knowing which town you're going to (more on trains below).
  • Does the tour provide transportation between each location?
  • What type of "recommendations" are you looking for in Venice?

Regarding trains and other public transit in Italy, there are some potentially expensive "caveats" to be aware of. If you need more information on that, post another note here. As this will be your first time in Italy, one thing you'll need to prepare for is "changes", which usually involve getting off one train, checking the electronic board to determine which platform your next train is departing from, going downstairs to a transfer tunnel and then back up stairs to your next platform. In some cases, there's only a few minutes between trains so don't stop for coffee!

Posted by
7124 posts

If you are deviating from a package offer then I am curious to know what are the transport that's included for you.
Is it an organised bus, or independently by train? You could be running a serious risk if things go awry.
Also, it seems a waste to be doubling up by booking alternative hotels.

Posted by
21 posts

Thank you all!
I know I am trying to cram too much in, its so hard when its your first time and who knows if we'll get the opportunity to go again. I appreciate you all for taking the time to give me tips. David, we will skip Amalfi since CT is similar feel - and I really hope to do a day trip to venice, we can rest on the 4hr round trip; b/c not sure we will ever go there again.
Gordon, thanks for the idea on the ferry in CT - that sound lovely! Thanks for the idea on renting a car for Tuscany, b/c I really do want to see Siena and San G. and other little towns, which I prefer to the big cities. I'll start a new thread on that.
Ken, I up'd the days in Rome to 3, I am going to book a hotel in Monterosso, any suggestions? I do have the Rick S Italy guide book so i'll check there as well. thanks for the train info; I will check out that website. Again, thank you all!

Posted by
961 posts

Hi Heidi,
If you start booking more hotels and transport, there goes your great deal. Since this is your first time in Italy I would just stick with the hotels that the Costco package has to offer and do day trips. I agree that you may make this too complicated.

Rome- Stay all 4 days, there is much to do and you can book tours of all the important sights. We are using Walks of Italy for walking tours in the city, they also offer a day trip from Rome to the Amalfi coast.

Florence: There is a tour company called "Walk about Florence" that offers day trips from Florence to Cinque Terre that will take you on the hike of all 5 towns, they also do a day tour to Tuscany with a lunch at a winery, all very affordable.

As far as not being a museum person, I don't consider myself one either, but how could I go to Florence and NOT see David? Or the Ufizzi? In Rome, the Sistine Chapel?? I am more of an outdoor (sighs, sounds tastes) kinda girl, but I want to see the great works of art since I spent so much money and time to get there!

Posted by
30932 posts

heidi,

For hotels in Monterosso, my absolute favourite is Hotel Villa Steno. It's a very comfortable "home" in Monterosso and the owners are wonderful. The hotel is located uphill from the old town, and it's not difficult to reach but you'll have to walk unless you have a large budget for taxi fare. Unless something has changed, Taxis can't drive through town, but have to take the "long way around" through the neighboring hills, which takes about 30 minutes. Once you're checked-in, you can access the town through the garden which is much easier (card key required to get past the gate).

Villa Steno has a "sister property", Hotel Pasquale and they're also excellent. It's more accessible, just on the other side of the tunnel leading to the old town. I'm sure you'd find either one very comfortable. If there are no vacancies at either one of those, post another note. If you have a large budget and want something with a pool, you could also consider Hotel Porto Roca.

Posted by
540 posts

Just a quick update on Ken's last post--taxis can drive through town now. We took one from and to the train station this past April. It was pretty quick and the cost was reasonable. We took it upon arrival because of not knowing the extent of the hill and stairs to Villa Steno (would have been walkable, but a lot easier in the taxi.) We took it leaving to make sure we got to the train station on time. Matteo contacted us ahead of time to let us know we should reserve it ahead of time through him, if interested, because there are only one or two in town.