A month in Italy in June 2015

My husband and I are celebrating our 30th anniversary by going to Italy next June after saving for years. We know it is the busiest time but we are both teachers and this is what works for us. We'd love to stay a week in 4 home bases and to not be traveling every few days to a new destination as many itineraries suggest. We plan on staying in apartments and/or Airbnb/Vrbo type accommodations. At first we thought about a week in/near Florence, Rome, Naples, and Sicily to get a wide variety. Now we are leaning towards Venice, Florence, and Rome with home bases that allow us to also visit or stay near Cinque Terre and the Tuscan and Umbrian hill towns. We are fine with staying in cities or smaller towns and just want the best Italian experience possible. My husband is a World Civilizations teacher so ancient history up to the Renaissance is very interesting to him. We both love reading historical fiction, viewing beautiful art, drinking great wine, hiking (up to 8 miles a day), and eating and cooking delicious food. Most of our vacations are spent by going to one locale and taking day trips from there. Any suggestions about four home bases to get the biggest bang out of our buck will be appreciated. Please feel free to offer any other ideas or words of advice that you veteran travelers may have. Thank you for your help!

Posted by Rosalyn
Berkeley
1352 posts

One year we rented a cottage, for two weeks, in the area near the southwest edge of Lago Trasimeno, close to Castiglione del Lago. We were able to do day trips to Perugia, Montepulciano, Montefalco, Assisi, Arezzo, Gubbio, Spoleto, San Gimignano, and Urbino. The location was very close to the A1, which made it easy to access many towns. I highly recommend it to you for one of your bases.

Posted by Laurel
Rome, Italy
2977 posts

Congratulations! We will achieve 30 years in March and plan on Paris for a week.

We did something similar to your plan in Dec 2011. Our four bases were Venice, Spello (in Umbria), Rome and Sorrento. We did not have a car -- and no regrets about that -- but it is an important factor in selecting your base. Venice, Firenze and Rome are great and allow for a number of different experiences in and near.

Some will say a week in Venice is too long, but as we have been there 5 times for a total of 22 nights, and we are going again in Dec for 4 more nights, clearly we are enchanted. You can day trip to Padova, Vicenza, Verona if you do not find enough to keep you interested in Venice. Also a day spent going to the islands in the Laguna is well worthwhile.

Rome - a lifetime is not enough. A week is a good start.

Firenze - a few days for art in Firenze and a few days for hill towns. Here is where you might want a car for a few days, or carefully plan some bus tour days, It can be done without a car.

As to a 4th location, if you want to see the Cinque Terre, go there for 3-5 nights. Day tripping to there from somewhere else does not make sense, IMHO. Again a location we have been multiple times are crave goign back as there is so much to Liguria outside of the CT. We like to base in one of the 5 towns, then alternate hiking days with train trips to other small towns in Liguria. The blog A Path to Lunch covers the area very nicely and may provide some inspiration.

Umbria is great, too, but more challenging without a car. We managed from Spello -- with a 20 minutes walk each way to/from the train station -- to see Assisi, Perugia and Spoleto. Loved it, but it was definitely "slow travel."

PM me if you want a couple of lodging ideas. I have some good ones in Rome and Venice.

Posted by Angela
Vancouver, Wa, USA
571 posts

For ancient history, in addition to Rome you need to seek out Etruscan sights. Plenty of those are to be found around Tuscany and Umbria, like in Cortona, Orvieto, Volterra, all of which make excellent day trips from Florence if you do not have a car or in Lucca or Siena if you do have a car. Also, a stay in Sorrento would be ideal to visit Pompeii, Herculaneum, and the greek temples in Paestum.

2-3 nights are ideal for Cinque Terre, you dont need a week there.

Congrats on 30 years of marriage!

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
4379 posts

If you want to spend a week in Sicily and will have a car, a great base for daytrips is the agriturismo I stayed in, Azienda Agricola Silvia Sillitti. My review is here: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/italy-reviews/sicily-caltanisetta-central-sicily-agrigurismo

It has a pool, which will be very welcome on hot days, and it's in the center of the island, so if you don't mind 1-2 hour drives, you can see much of Sicily as a daytrip from this base. There are kitchens or kitchenettes in the rooms, so you can prepare some meals if you want. And Silvia is a delightful hostess, so it's like having an onsite tour guide.

Posted by joanwill1962
4 posts

Thank you to all of you for some great ideas and suggestions and the good wishes.

Rosalyn, the lake sounds wonderful and we'd love to be near water, too. This would be great to see so many hill towns.
Laurel, I really appreciate the details you mentioned and am glad to hear that you feel 1 week in Venice is not too much. We will rethink day trips to CT upon your suggestion and Angela's.
Angela, thank you for the reminder about the Etruscans. We will be sure to include your ideas.
Harold, the agriturismo idea is a good one that I hadn't thought of. Thank you!

We would love to hear any other ideas people may have. Unfortunately, I am one of those people who loves to research and hates to commit to a single idea because I'm afraid I'll make a mistake or miss out on something. I value all of your experience and time!

Posted by donna
roswell, ga, usa
1443 posts

With a whole month (I'm jealous) I'd add Sicily to the trip. Cut a few days off Venice. That's my opinion. The Ruins in Sicily are awesome. I've had so many trips to Italy, and a few years ago we went to Sicily -- and she stole my heart! Just my opinion.

Posted by karren
oklahoma city, ok, usa
219 posts

I would recommend Verona for one base. It has lots of Roman history and it is also a great place to see close by towns like Parma and Modena. Also a short train ride to Venice. I would also recommend Siena. Great unique town and close to Florence and Pisa for day trips. I also love the lakes in Northern Italy. Would recommend Stresa for a good base to see the Lake Maggorie by boat and lots of villages around the area. If you like good food, you would love Bologna. It's a great city with a large unversity population and lots of history, as well. It's a larger city that the others I mentioned. If you would like hotel or restaurant recommendations for any of these places, just PM me and I will provide them.

Posted by joanwill1962
4 posts

Thank you, again, for such great feedback!
Donna, I will consider your input. Sicily does sound wonderful.
Henry, thank you for the great link. As a logical, sequential person I loved the "wagon spoke" idea and so many towns are mentioned that we are interested in.
Karren, We keep thinking about Bologna just for the food. We were already toying with stopping on our way to Firenze.
So many decisions and so little time!

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
5059 posts

As Laurel said, having a car or not will significantly influence your 'home base selection'.
For example some people like to base themselves in Florence, because of the vibrancy and the art of a very lively 'small' big city, but Florence and cars don't mix well. Others prefer a more bucolic less frantic environments and would rather stay at an agriturismo (farmhouse) and visit the cities from there. If you prefer this latter option a car is a must, because many out of town farmhouses or villas require private means of transport.

Once you decide your preference (in city with no car or outside with a car) for a month you could include a variety of places:
Veneto (Venice, Verona, Padua, Dolomites mountains, Lake Garda)
Tuscany (Florence, Siena, Lucca, smaller hilltowns, Chianti, etc.)
Liguria (Cinque Terre, Riviera)
Umbria (Perugia, Gubbio, Assisi, Spello, Spoleto, Orvieto)
Lazio (Roma, Tivoli, etc.)
Campania (Napoli, Sorrento, Pompeii, Amalfi coast, Islands of Capri, Procida, Ischia)
Sicily (too long to list)

You could spend a week in each of the above regions. Maybe a bit less in Liguria (3 nights are enough for the Cinque Terre) and more in Sicily (at least 8 nights as there is too much to see there).

Each of the above should have a base in that region. However Venice needs its own time because of its 'peculiar' location and design. I recommend splitting Veneto in at least 2-3 nights for Venice alone and 4 nights in a mainland base for the rest.
Sicily also needs at least 2 bases (West and East), because of the size of the island (huge).

As mentioned above, a car is good for:
- Tuscany's countryside and smaller hill towns and villages.
- Dolomites and Lake Garda
- Sicily's countryside and smaller hill towns and villages.

A car is generally not necessary (and often a hindrance) for:
Cities (everywhere)
Cinque Terre.
Campania locations mentioned above.

Posted by Rosalyn
Berkeley
1352 posts

To chime in again, Sicily is pretty darn wonderful; however, consider carefully whether you would be able to tolerate the June temperatures. If you think you can, going there at the beginning of the month would probably be better than later.

Posted by Michael
Seattle, WA, USA
6364 posts

You are just going to have to accept the fact that there will be hundreds of amazing places in Italy that you will not see. Heck, that's true of just Rome, let alone the entire country. There's no other country in the world that per square mile has as rich a combination of history, music, food, culture, art, natural beauty, architecture, wonderful weather, and on and on.

The surest way to ruin a vacation is to either pack it with too many locations, or be constantly second-guessing if you've chosen the "best" place to stay.

If you enjoy Italy, you will go back, and that's when you can explore new places.

Have a great time.

Posted by joanwill1962
4 posts

Roberto, I love all of the specifics. Thank you, so much! We are planning on doing a hybrid of big cities with no car and villages with a car. Your homebase suggestions are very helpful.
Rosalyn, I really want to visit Sicily, but agree with your advice about the heat and think we will have to save it for another trip after we retire so we can see at a different time of year.

Oh, Michael, I am trying so hard to stop second guessing. I am getting better taking life slower and heeding my son's advice to not have as many expectations. I know we will LOVE Italy and thank you for your straight talk.

After periodically touching base with ITASoftware.com, we will probably be flying into Rome as this seems cheaper than into Venice. The plan so far is:
Week 1) Stay in Rome or nearby village
Week 2) Umbria area
Week 3) Tuscany/Florence area
Week 4) Venice and Veneto area (Fly out of Venice)
We may try to combine week 1 and 2 in a town within travel distance of Rome so we can do a couple of day trips to Rome and still get some low key travel time in a village. This would free up a week so we could include the Campania region. Would also love to be able to fit in Cinque Terre if only for a day. Any thoughts?

Posted by apchat2012
6 posts

Since you'll be in the Venice area, take a trek into the 'state' of Friuli-Venezia Giulia (Friuli for short)! It's a wonderful area with a rich history, borders on Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia, has amazing food, and lovely towns all along the coastline. My daughter went there on a scholarship to study organic farming and fell in love with a local there. I've visited her and her (now) husband several times and love the area! They are known for their white wines and their special way of curing prosciutto with the water that blows in from the sea. Capital is Udine which is a beautiful, old town. . . also, Trieste and Grado which are on the water.

Ciao. . .

Posted by Michael
Seattle, WA, USA
6364 posts

I've got to disagree with appchat. That's exactly the kind of slippery slope you have to watch out for. There's no doubt that everything appchat says about the FVG region is true. But equally amazing things could be said about Le Marche, which is close to Umbria, or Piemonte, or Emilia-Romagna, or ..... You get my point, I hope.

Wherever you're going to stay, be sure to take time to explore that specific location. That's why I'm not in general a big fan of daytrips. I think the Dalai Lama said something like "It's better to dig one well sixty feet deep, than 10 wells six feet deep."

Posted by donna
roswell, ga, usa
1443 posts

Great advice, Michael! I have family in Le Marche........so I love it there. But with only (!) one moth, they can't see everything, and should stick to the Big ones!.

Posted by jim_bird1
45 posts

You are getting great advise in this thread to max your time and money and to avoid the hassles of Italian travel many of which we experienced on our first trip (31/2 weeks). Some huge tips that would have max'ed our experience: 1) buy RS "pocket" books on Venice, Florence, Rome and "snapshot" book "hill towns of central Italy" and any others that look interesting to you and your Renassaince Man. Scour these books over the next year to learn how to enjoy every sight ( by skipping lines, etc.) and take the books with you to the sights as your tour guide. DO NOT DOWNLOAD anything on your iPhone, Pad, etc., CARRY THE BOOKS WITH YOU TO EVERY SIGHT and follow Rick's "masterpiece maps". The books will become part of your journal. Your phone can be used as a GPS and taking a few thousand pictures. Program note: there is a Renassaince "inspiration" connection from St. Francis of Assisi in the 1200s to Giotto in the 1300s (the Scrovegni Chapel is very close to Venice in Padua which has probably the first iconic work of art of the Renassaince. It requires a reservation and is explained thoroughly in Rick's Venice book) - sorry to emphasis this so much but it would've made our trip so much better on our first time. My wife (school teacher) and I love history, art, wine (the Chianti and Brunello wines are divine) and hiking too but we were totally blown away with the beauty, antiquity, chaos and people (locals) of Italy. It is not anything like the rest of Europe!

Ok quickly now a few suggestions you may want to use: (2) See major sights in mornings/early pm and do a siesta in late pm (it will be hot!) to prepare for relaxing with the locals in the evenings (sundown in June is 9:30pm) - check with your hotelier, airbnb or VRBO host for the restaurants, enoteca and best gelato places where the LOCALS eat. 3) We stayed in Florence for a week - it is divine especially at night. I would rec. staying IN Florence between the Duomo and Arno river and in the suburbs of Rome like Testevere or even Tivoli and public transport to the major sights. 4) Drive a car from Florence to Rome through Tuscany (avoid the TZL zones!! - RS gives specific advice in all of his books on these zones and parking - very important) - turn the car in wherever you can and take public transport. You can do a long day trip to Naples/Pompeii from Rome but you will miss the Amalfi coast (Rick has a small book on this too). Naples is a rough place but it's main Museum houses most of Pompeii's perfectly preserved mosaics and priceless artifacts. Go early and take a taxi to and from the museum instead of walking. Sicily is a long way from Rome. We did it by train, they load the entire train on a ferry to travel the three miles from the toe of Italy to Messina which takes about an 90 minutes. We have friends who live in Taormina which is why we went in the first place. Driving in Italy is crazy enough but Sicily takes it to a whole new level! There are many cheap flights from Rome to Catania - research RS blogs on the subject. Visiting Taormina and Siracusa and maybe Agrigento would probably justify the trip.
Again sorry about the long diatribe, but we love Italy/Sicily (our next trip in 2016 wil be for three months based mostly in Tuscany) and we want all first-timers to max their experience and, at the same time, enjoy the "art of doing nothing" which Italy has mastered!

Posted by florenceintoscana
106 posts

Just a hint for Italy holidaymakers.
Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are 50 percents off with Frecciatossa fast trains.

Posted by gerri
lexington, il
738 posts

Joan,

Have you thought about flying into Naples? Small airport, easy connections to Napoli and Sorrento.

Alibus to Napoli (30min.) and Curreri Viaggi bus to Sorrento. (1H15m)

I know you said 4 bases, but see what you think of this.

Naples or Sorrento....6 nights.

Rome...7 nights

Tuscany or Umbria...7 nights

Cinque Terre...3 nights

Venice...5 nights

If you flew into Rome, it's 2H02m from the airport to Napoli w/a train change Rome Termini.

Then a ride on the Circumvesuvian to Sorrento. (1H20m)