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12 nights in Italy this summer

Hi all-
We are traveling to Italy this summer and will be in Italy for 12 nights. We are a family of 3 (our son is 20) and we're traveling with another family who has two sons (16 & 19) so basically 7 adults.

We are feeling a little overwhelmed with how to plan this and I'm hoping for a few itinerary tips. We don't want it to feel too rushed like we're hopping from place to place with one night here and one night there but we're also realizing that 12 nights isn't as much as you think it is when you are looking at covering some ground.

We know want to see Rome, Florence/Tuscany, and Cinque Terre. Then some of us were thinking we would like to see Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast, as well as Venice. But then others are like, Amalfi/Pomepii too out of the way, leave it for another trip.

I realize we are all over the map! LOL but we're just not sure where to fly into and out of...what makes the most sense? To travel up or down the country? Any tips will be greatly appreciated!

We're also thinking of using Airbnb because in most cases a large apt or house is less expensive than multiple hotel rooms. Is there another service aside from Airbnb that we should check out?

Thanks in advance!!!

Posted by valadelphia
566 posts

These types of questions are more about human dynamics than travel advice, but with that amount of people, I would pick two locations. Those who want to do the longer day trips can knock themselves out. Keep in mind that it will be hot and crowded, so taking it slow makes sense!

Posted by Tim
Knoxville, TN, USA
6094 posts

2 Families don't have to be joined at the hip. Those who want to see Amalfi Coast then go there. Those going in the opposite direction of Venice - then go there. But the short story is you can't see Italy in 12 nights. Rome (Naples,Pompei, Sorrento, Capri), Venice are definitely must-sees.

You didn't say where you were flying into/out of hopefully you picked an open jaw flight because that would allow you to see much more. For example into Naples and out of Venice would allow you to cover the itinerary much easier.

Posted by Jim_in_VA
Virginia, USA
792 posts

with 12 days you are better off to split it between two destinations. Sure you can do a "Griswald" and say "yep there it is' and then leave ...hardly worth it. Between Rome and Florence five days each would be the least amount of time I would spend.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
11613 posts

You can check for vacation homes or apartments, filter by price, location, amenities.

Posted by TC
2859 posts

You want good memories of places and things -- not just memories of train stations and airports. To that end I'd say stick to just two main destinations and do day trips from those locations if you so desire. Plenty of good day trips from can be done from both. Personally we'd fly into Venice, spend about half the time, take the train to Rome (or fly) and fly home from Rome. But then we just love Venice and Rome

Posted by Laurel
Lincoln City, OR
7237 posts

Six nights in Tuscany with a house or at an agriturismo. If you can be near a bus or train, so much the better, but have a car (or two!). Everyone can go their own way for day trips then reconvene at dinner, or just lay by the pool or take scenic drives.

Then six nights in Rome. Get a big apartment (or two) and again, go your separate ways. Long day to Pompeii for some, museums for others.

Moving 7 people around is logistically challenging. Best to limit the number of locations you stay in.

I like, and as Zoe recommends, but there is also for country stays.

Posted by fairegirl OP
Los Angeles
23 posts

WOW! Thank you all for such speedy and thoughtful replies!

We haven't booked our flights yet, that's what we were trying to figure out but open jaw seems like the best option.

I think we need to figure out our "must sees" and go from there. Agreed that we aren't attached at the hip but our friends are not seasoned international travelers (nor are we) so I think we'd all be happier mostly staying together, which is fine, we love them :)
I'm sure the boys will want to go off on their own to a certain extent, two of them will be coming off a backpacking trip in the UK so they're going to want to have freedom to roam. I was just trying to get a feel for what's comfortably doable without it turning into a Griswold holiday! LOL

Sounds like we need to pare down to two basecamps and then day trip, rather than trying to move from place to place.
Agreed that moving 7 people from place to place is logistically challenging....we thought about renting a large vehicle to carry all of us but two smaller will probably be the smarter way to go since it will give more day trip options, and be easier to park and maneuver in smaller towns.

Posted by acraven
Washington DC
9381 posts

From Venice you can day-trip to Vicenza and Padua (on separate days), both interesting (and different-feeling) cities. I'd probably do that only if I had more than 3 nights in Venice, though. It's so great to wander around the back streets.

Remember that the first/partial day isn't usually worth much, though the backpackers coming from the UK shouldn't be jetlagged.

Posted by Roberto da Firenze
San Francisco Bay Area (USA)
10668 posts

Can't see all in 12 nights only. You have to choose.
This is my advised minimum nights allocation (from north to south):
Venice only: 2 nights minimum
Venice+Murano/Burano islands: 3 nights
If want to add a day trip from Venice to Padua or Verona, add one more night to the above.
Florence only: 2 nights minimum (3 better)
Florence + Tuscany day trips: add one night to the above for each day trip you want to take.
Cinque Terre: Could be done as a day trip from Florence, but it's a long day and maybe you won't enjoy as much (it's about 2.5 hours each way by train). I recommend 2 nights.
Rome: 3 nights very minimum (4 better)
Naples area (Pompeii, Capri, Sorrento, Amalfi coast): 4 nights very minimum (5 nights better), based in Sorrento or Positano.

As you can see the sum of all of the above exceeds 12, so you need to be selective and choose what you'd like best.

Posted by fairegirl OP
Los Angeles
23 posts

I can see we really need to pare down our itinerary but to quote the man himself, we assume we will return!!

I think we are all in agreement that we'd rather visit fewer places and enjoy more. At one point we thought we'd just stay in a villa in Tuscany the whole time but then someone chimed in that they wanted to see Rome and then someone else said Florence etc...and so the list of sites grew.

We have much to consider...but am I correct in thinking we need to act fast or risk paying way more for hotels? seems like people are already booking their summer holidays...

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
11613 posts

If you are using a booking site, some places don't list until later in the fall, so the "sold out/unavailable for your dates" message goes up. Unless you are looking for a particularly well/known place, you should have lots of options.

Posted by fairegirl OP
Los Angeles
23 posts

Thank you Zoe..I think we're aiming for Airbnbs mostly. When I was looking at hotels vs apts/house, it seemed like the better value for 7 people would be the airbnb. Many of the less expensive hotels didn't seem to be able to accommodate 4 people so my friends would need to rent two rooms....good to know we've got a little time!

Posted by Sherry
Campbell River, Canada
339 posts

Just a comment re: multi- city air bookings aka. open jaw flights . It is recommended by many posters on this site to fly into Venice (or Milan) and out of Rome for the simple reason that many flights out of Venice leave early in the morning and it is not easy to find transportation links to the airport at a reasonable hour. On my next trip to Venice I really hope to fly into the city during the day as I would love to see all the islands from the air. Our minimum number of nights per location is 3 as that only gives you 2 full days to see the sights. For Rome, a minimum of 4-5 nights would be ideal. Re: AirBnB, we have successfully used it once and were happy with our property and our hosts; however since being on the site for other locales, I've noticed in the reviews some times that the host cancels the booking and the client is left high and dry. I think I'd prefer or VRBO (same owners) as I don't notice space being cancelled as often. Enjoy your trip!

Posted by fairegirl OP
Los Angeles
23 posts

Thank you Sherry...having an airbnb cancel would be a nightmare with 7 people! I will definitely check out the other sites you mentioned.

I have looked at flights in and out of Venice as well as Rome and and there definitely seems like there is more variety with Rome

Posted by Kathy
United States
7840 posts

I like the suggestion of choosing two bases for all the reasons already listed. We all have our favorites so there's no right or wrong to it but Florence, IMHO, is a great base for lots of day trips: Lucca, Siena, Pisa, Cinque Terre... Rome would take a lifetime to cover - there's SO much to see there - but you could, as mentioned, day trip to Pompeii, Orvieto and/or Tivoli.

I would rethink getting a car(s)? They can be a real pain to have in the cities, and so many day trips are easily done by train or bus. A car does make sense if you intend to stay in an agriturismo and spend lots of time in the Tuscan countryside but otherwise...

The nice thing about having a base is that you'll have a bit more flexibility to pick and choose some of your activities depending on weather or just how you feel.

It's going to be hot and crowded darn near everywhere so that just is what it is. Be SURE to choose accommodations with air conditioning as it's not as common an amenity in Italy as in the U.S.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
11029 posts

I don't have much experience with apartments - do they have lots of bathrooms? Consider how many people need to share the bathrooms - especially in the morning when you're trying to get an early start. One advantage to hotels is that breakfast is provided. In a flat, you'll have to spend time shopping for food, preparing it and washing up after it. Another consideration is that you may not have anyone to help you with touring. At hotels, the staff are usually very knowledgeable and can answer all your questions - from where's the ATM to how to use the train to where's the supermarket to, well, whatever you need - train timetables, museum hours, translations. . .

Posted by Laurel
Lincoln City, OR
7237 posts

You can find apartments that are very large in Roma: 3 bedrooms, 3 or 4 bathrooms. Or perhaps 2 apartments with 2 bedrooms each in the same building. It is possible, but I would jump on reserving as soon as you are sure. Many apartment hosts will provide information/advice either in person or in the form of materials they leave in the apartment. (Sometimes more than I want!) We have always been left info on shopping, pharmacy, etc.

It is awfully nice for a long stay to have a little room to spread out, especially for a family, and a bedroom door to close when someone wants to sleep but others wish to be up reading, visiting, watching TV. It is also nice to have plenty of horizontal surfaces for devices and charging. :-) And it usually is less expensive.

Posted by Jay
1368 posts

Fairegirl, all of the posts here are from pros who have been there, done that. If it were I for 12 nights...

...I'd fly into Florence, having found an air-conditioned hotel within walking distance of the Santa Maria Novella train station. Two rooms, three rooms, whatever, for 6 nights. I like no higher than 2nd floor, as elevators ('lifts' as they call them) are not guaranteed. You will probably get an American-style breakfast every morning, along with the Italian meats & cheeses. Construct your daytripping plans in advance--Fiesole, Siena, Lucca, even Venice (2 hrs) if you have a jones for seeing it, all easily done by train or bus. And maybe a winery tour or cooking class in Tuscany--a private company would work best for you there. FYI, however, make sure you enjoy this magic town as well. Last time we were in Florence, February 2015, we had all these daytrips planned but grooved on the Florence vibe so much we stayed put the whole time, and loved it.

Pack up, train to Rome (1 hr 25 min Freccia train). Here's where you rent an apartment, or two. I'd really start handicapping this now, although as stated upthread some places don't come online for next summer until November/December. Learn your neighborhoods, the bus and Metro system, where the attractions are, all the while reading the apartment reviews on VRBO (my choice for this), more to get a sense for common complaints that come up for first-time apartment dwellers in Rome, so you know the potential pitfalls upfront, although the pros of renting a place definitely outweigh the cons in my book. We've done it once--near Campo de' Fiori--and just enjoyed the heck out of it. Having a PayPal account allows an easy way make a deposit to the landlord. What you do in Rome for 6 nights is up to you, but suffice it to say we stayed six nights at a tiny apartment in March and could've stayed a month, no problem. It's that good.

Then you fly home out of Fiumicino, so it's into Florence, out of Rome. Enjoy your planning!

Posted by Nestor
301 posts

12 days seems like a lot but you have to consider that 7 adults have to travel from place to place and each time you move you use at least half a day. (If you are like me that I always find a way to get lost, that could be more.) Last summer we did Italy and only visited Venice (3 nights), Florence (3 nights with a day trip to Sienna) and Rome (4 nights). That seemed long enough without moving too much. In order to go in a straight line we flew into Munich from the US and caught a budget airline to Venice. Venice to Florence and Florence to Rome on train. We flew out of Rome. I would guess that you have more choices flying out of Rome. Have fun.

Posted by lsd1980s
53 posts

Having done what your family and friends want to do but instead of 12 nights we did it in 18 nights. And 18 nights was just nice.

So I would recommend

-Fly into florence
6 nights in Tuscany/ (tons of day trip one can do - to Pisa , Lucca, florence,Chianti,Siena,monterriogioni , cinque Terre and even Venice! etc) (or 2 nights in florence and 4 nights in Tuscany)
-Train to Rome
-6 nights in Rome (u could do a really Long day trip to Pompei! - but the amount of time and hassle u save of not changing base would probably amount to about the same)
-Fly from Rome

With these two bases - those who want to see venice can do day trips and the same with pompei.

Posted by fairegirl OP
Los Angeles
23 posts

So many choices/decisions to make! LOL

I love putting it together though, and figuring the best itinerary and places to stay etc...
I need to reconvene with my friends and see what they're thinking and feeling about the various suggestions...

I really cannot thank you all enough for taking the time to respond so thoughtfully!
I'm sure I'll have more specific questions as we get closer but I truly appreciate all the helpful info you've all shared.

Posted by Richard
Pleasant Hill, CA, USA
204 posts

Another vote for vrbo/HomeAway. I’ve used them many times in our travels. Italy is our favorite country to visit.