I am interested in spending four months in Italy. If I were to divide the time among 4 cities or towns, which would you experienced travelers suggest? It seems that easy access to transportation to other nearby sites would be important as well as the quality of experience in the home base location. As I would be there in Feb., March, April and May it seems to make sense to move from south to north. Any comments and suggestions would be appreciated.
Millie, Before deciding on where you want to use as a "home base", you'll need to deal with the requirements of the Schengen Visa, which allows tourists to spend NO MORE than 90 days in any 180 day period in the member countries. In other words, if you spend 90 days in the Schengen countries (most of western Europe), you MUST leave for 90 days before you can return. Failure to observe the rules can result in severe fines and deportation! It is possible to get extended stay Visas for Italy, but you'll need to contact the nearest Italian Embassy for details. Be prepared to jump through lots of bureaucratic hoops! You may find it helpful to read this U.S. government website: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_4361.html Good luck!
Millie, you need to make this decision based on what interests you. I'd choose to split the time between Rome (for the entire experience), Florence (for its art), and Venice (for its ambiance), but that reflects my interests (and I'd time to Venice part of it for May).
Obviously moving south to north has some advantages in the Spring. But it could also be more rainy as Spring can be a little damp in Italy. If you are going in February the critical issue right now is to get the visa process started because that will impact your flight schedule.
I would assume you are a very experienced traveler if you are planning such a trip. If so, you should consider Naples as at least a side trip. There are many excellent sites and fun experiences in store there. Yes, it is grittier than other areas, but is unique too in many ways. And you could hit Sorrento and the Amalfi coast and Capri and the other islands. One other suggestion: for such a long stay, pick larger cities (I am including Florence) as your home bases. You will run out of interesting things quickly in small towns.
I would spend Feb and March in big cities to cope with bad weather, and April and May somewhere on the beach or the countryside. February - Rome March - Venice April - Amalfi Coast
May - Tuscany and Umbria
Thanks to all of you for the comments and advice. All were very useful.
Extended stays require a type D visa. The long term visa type D can be issued only for the following reasons: Adoption, Medical care, Diplomats, Family member following admitted individual (for example the wife of somebody working as a University researcher in Italy for a year), Work Permit, Religious Mission, Religious reasons, Re-entry, Elective Residence, Family Joining, Study, Work-Vacation. There are bureaucratic steps to go through both to obtain a visa and to file a Permit of Stay (permesso di soggiorno) once you arrive (within 8 days) and it costs a couple hundred euros in various taxes and fees. You might want to reconsider and limit your stay to 90 days, so that you save time, money and aggravation. If you insist on the 4 months, I suggest contacting the Italian Consulate with Jurisdiction over Utah. That would be in San Francisco. There is a Honorary Consul in Salt Lake (they are usually attorneys at law), but those people are rather useless for information (I've known a few personally). http://www.conssanfrancisco.esteri.it/Consolato_SanFrancisco/Menu/Il_Consolato/La_rete_consolare/