13 night itinerary: Rome, Tuscany, CT, Venice

Hello, We are flying into Rome and out of Venice for a 2 week trip (13 nights) in February. We have never been to Italy before and really want to see as much as possible, since we will not be able to afford a return trip for a very long time. I'm struggling with our itinerary, especially the middle portion in Tuscany. 4 nights in Rome 2 nights in Cinque Terre 4 nights in Tuscany/Florence**
3 nights in Venice I'm thinking 2 nights in Florence (we want to see David and spend time in the city, but we are not huge art people) and 2 nights in an area where we can be somewhere with beautiful scenery and go to vinyards, etc. If we train from Cinque Terre to somewhere in Tuscany, should we pick up a rental car for 2 days? Then train to Florence? Please help. :) *We don't mind moving around a lot, we crammed 4 countries into 2 weeks our first time in Europe.

Posted by Laurel
Rome, Italy
2208 posts

If all you want to do in Florence is see the David, why stay there? Stay in Siena and go to Florence for a day. Use the bus, Then rent a car in Siena and go see some hill towns: Volterra, San Gimignano, Cortona, Montelpulciano, Pienzs, Montalcino are all within reach if you have a car. Or stay in any one of these hilltowns and tour to others. With only 4 nights in Tuscany, I would not waste time changing my lodgings and staying in two towns.

Posted by Laurel
Rome, Italy
2208 posts

BTW, the train from teh CT to somewhere in Tuscany is not very efficient: Can mean lots of changes depending on destination. Since you need a car, rent one in La Spezia, drive to your Tuscan destination and maybe hit a nice town like Lucca or Volterra on the way. Better use of time IMHO.

Posted by Lindsey
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
5 posts

We really want to see Cinque Terre, and we won't be back to Italy for a very long time, so that's why we are still squeezing it in. Is there a reason besides the cold to not go in February? Is 3 nights too much in Venice? If I took a night away from that I could do 3 nights in a hill town and 2 nights in Florence...

Posted by Lindsey
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
5 posts

Laurel, Thanks for your help! We do want to see more in Florence than just David, we just aren't huge museum buffs so we don't need more than 2 nights in the city. We do want to stay there at least one night because we've heard it is amazing, and we enjoy just exploring a city and taking in the architecture. Perhaps we should stay just one night before Venice then? Your train/car rental advice makes sense. 4 nights in Rome train to CT 2 nights in Cinque Terre train to La Spezia to pick up car 2-3 nights in small hill town drive to Florence, drop off car? 1-2 nights in Florence train to Venice
3 nights in Venice Does this make sense?

Posted by LaRae
spokane
472 posts

Your itinerary looks very good. I wouldn't change a thing.

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
3342 posts

Itinerary is good. Florence actually has more stuff to visit than Venice but I'd have 2 nights in Florence and 2 in Venice if you don't care about art much. Avoid one nighters since packing/unpacking/checking in out is a time waster. Also I agree that if you are already in Tuscany with a car, you might as well visit Florence from your small town location. Just choose a town that is close enough to Florence (in the area between Florence and Siena would be perfect) and you could visit Florence from there. Just drive to one of the carparks outside of the city center and visit for the day. You can do so for two days as well. Just commute to the city. By doing so you'll avoid having to change hotels too often. Choose a town that is reasonably close to the freeway that connects Florence to Siena and you'll have access to all of Tuscany and Umbria within a 2 hr drive in each direction.

Posted by Richard
Los Angeles
633 posts

Based on what I have read....I wouldn't go to CT in February. I'd add a day to Rome and Tuscany.

Posted by Laurel
Rome, Italy
2208 posts

As someone who has spent 15 nights in Venice over the past two years, 3 nights is not too much. The CT in February is a terrible idea. There is nothing to do if you do not hike. (I had not noticed when you were traveling the first time I responded or I would have said so sooner.) There won't even be many restaurants open. Reallocate your nights to Tuscany and stick with 3 in Venice. If it rains in Venice you at least have options in museums. You can read about our last Venice trip here for ideas. Buon viaggio!

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17779 posts

Lindsey, Regarding a visit to the Cinque Terre in February, keep in mind that many of the hotels, restaurants and other tourist businesses will still be closed for the season. There should still be s a few open, but I don't know which ones. Which of the five towns were you planning to stay in? Your best bet to find a hotel is probably in Monterosso, as it's the largest town. You might have a look at THIS website for a list of the hotels. If you have difficulty finding a room in the C.T., you could also stay in Levanto or La Spezia, as that would still allow you to explore the area. Another point to note is that the Sentiero Azzurro trails are currently closed, and will likely still be closed in February. That's not a problem as the hiking might be cold and unpleasant, and you can still get around the area via the local trains. It's certainly possible to travel in the C.T. in February, but it will probably be a bit "quiet". Your second Itinerary looks good, although it might be prudent to drop the car in perhaps Siena, and take the Bus to Florence. That way you'll be able to avoid the dreaded Zona Traffico Limitato areas and expensive ticket(s)! Those are especially prevalent in Florence. As you'll be driving in Italy, note that EACH driver will require the compulsory International Driver's Permit, which is used in conjunction with your home D.L. Failure to produce an I.D.P. if requested can result in fines on the spot! You can obtain I.D.P.'s at any AAA office for a small fee. continued.....

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17779 posts

Lindsey, As you've never been to Italy before, a few caveats to keep in mind regarding the rail system. The "premium" trains such as the Freccia fast trains have compulsory reservations. If you buy P-P tickets, the reservations will be included but BE SURE that you're boarding the train number specified on the reservation. Those caught without valid reservations for the train they're riding on may be fined on the spot, and the fines start at €50 PP and increase from there. The reservations will also specify the Car No. (Carozza) and Seat No. (Posti), and sometimes also Window (Finestrino) or Aisle (Corridoio). You'll also need to be careful when riding Regionale trains (which includes the Leonardo Express that goes to/from FCO to Roma Termini). Those don't require reservations. With those trains, you MUST validate your tickets in the yellow or gray & blue machines (time & date stamp), or you'll face the same fines mentioned above. I typically buy second class tickets, as they're perfectly comfortable especially for the shorter journeys in Italy. You can see which trains require reservations and other details by checking the Trenitalia website. Cheers!

Posted by Lindsey
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
5 posts

Thanks for all of the advice! We are planning on picking up our rental car in La Spezia and then driving through Tuscany (stopping in Sienna along the way) to our lodging near Pienza. From there we are going to Florence where we are getting rid of the rental car, but I've heard we do not want to drive into the city. If we drop off the rental car and then train to Florence, where should we drop the rental car?

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2608 posts

I would not mind at all being in CT off season... just a different experience. You still get to see the location, the towns and the Sea. I would also stay out of Florence and just go in for the day. I have easily seen all I needed to in one day if I were not spending a bunch of time in museums. But, I prefer the villages. I would definitely not take away time from Venice, but have you checked the dates of Carnavale this year? I forget when it is, but if you can go for that it is an amazing experience and should not be missed.

Posted by Hanna
ND
5 posts

Thank you for this post! I am also going to Italy in Feb! From what I've read the carnavale in venice is Feb 7-21 with the end celebration w/ fireworks Feb 21st. We have 3 countries crammed in 11 days so I feel you on trying to get the most out of the time you have!

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2608 posts

Hanna... not sure, but I think Carnavale is Febl 2-12 2013. Doublecheck dates if you are going to go.

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
3342 posts

If you fly on an open jaw I recommend the reverse itinerary with Arrival in Venice and fly back to the US from Rome. Flying out of Venice back to the US will likely require a very very early wake up. The flight is likely to stop somewhere in Europe first (maybe Rome itself) then proceed to the US. Also reaching the airport from Venice is time consuming (at least one hour) and not that cheap because you'll be traveling in whole or in part on water taxi or the Alilaguna boats. Basically you'll probably have to change hotel for the last night and stay in the mainland near the Venice airport. Whereas if you fly out of Rome back to the US, the flight might be at a more reasonable hour and even if it's an early flight because you must go to another European hub first, any taxi can take you to the airport from the historical center in less than 30 min. in the early AM.

Posted by Lindsey
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
5 posts

We already booked our flights and our flight out of Venice is at noon straight to the US, so we did not encounter this problem.

Posted by steve
auburn
16 posts

Hi Lindsey, Did basically this same itinerary last summer with a few extra days. We went Rome, Tuscany, CT, Verona, Venice. We went four nights in Rome-about right I thought. Rented a car in Rome and drove to castellina for 7 nights. Drove to sienna, Florence, San gimigano, volterra. We drove to CT and parked the car. You certainly don't need a car in CT but it sure made it convenient and cheap-we had five people. Drove to Verona, dropped car, and then to Venice by train. My thoughts: we liked anchoring ourselves in Tuscany and making side trips. We would love to see sienna again, especially not during Palio! CT was wonderful in summer but can't speak to February. Personally, Venice was the highlight for me-just an odd little place-especially in morning and evening when cruise boats left! I agree about plane in Venice. We were up at about 3, took a taxi$$$ to the airport for early transport. Not sure it is worth flipping your trip but a good point!

Posted by Hanna
ND
5 posts

OOps sorry, my dates were from last year I guess.. Sorry if I confused anyone! Good luck with your travels Lindsey!