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First time and Honeymoon in Italy! - 13 days actual time in Italy

Hello, fellow travelers!

Looking for your advice and feedback (please and thank you!)

  1. First time to Italy!
  2. October 10/6/2020 flying out of California.
  3. Our Honeymoon (34 yr old male and female, decent health)
  4. Want to be smart and savvy with our time spent moving locations
  5. Plan on walking for the majority of our time in the big cities (saves money too!)
  6. Thinking taking Air Italy direct flight from LAX to MXP (it's a direct flight!)
  7. 2 days in Milan, 3 days in Venice, 3 days Florence, 3 days in Rome = 11 days total
  8. gives us 2-day flexibility, depending on our flight's departure/arrival, and our initial first day dealing with the time change
  9. Thinking taking fast trains between the major cities to save time (what are the fast train options in Italy?)
  10. Don't know how strict Italy is with bags, but plan on using my Patagonia 32L Black Hole Backpack, and a Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole® Tote Pack 27L as my personal bag.
  11. We want to be close to the action (so we can save our feet some pain), but be able to get some sleep at night (so semi-quiet)
  12. Lodging ideas for $200-300 a night (total)?
  13. Zendure sells a charger called, " Passport 30W Global Travel Adapter." Will this work for Italy? As far as capability and not damaging our electronics, lol.
  14. Which Rick Steve's books should we buy to prep? Some people say get the Italy 2020, others say get the Rome 2020 (as well as the Venice and Florence guidebooks for $23.99 and $21.99)
  15. What tours/ attractions can we book now, so we can skip the lines and save time when we get there?
  16. Being from California, As long as I have a current and valid passport, I won't have to worry about getting the REAL ID to travel, correct?
  17. I can't think of anything else at the moment. Thank you and look forward to all of your responses and help!
Posted by
6524 posts

7-- How many nights do you have in total and where do you fly home from--- Varenna on Lake Como would, especially for a honeymoon, be more suitable than Milan

10- foreign carriers tend to more strict about bag size and weight limit enforcement

13-- if what you need to plug in is phones and tablets, all you need is this--https://store.ricksteves.com/shop/p/european-power-adapter

16-- correct-- your passport is all you need.

Happy travels!

Posted by
767 posts

Definitely train from city to city. https://www.trenitalia.com/en.html
You can save money by purchasing day-and-time-specific-trains about 3 months ahead.

Decide what you want to see and do - then you can find out which of those needs to be pre-booked.

Posted by
18 posts

@joe32F

  1. We are planning to arrive on the Oct 7th (Fly out the 6th). fly back sometime on Oct. 19th (arrive back in California sometime on the 20th). So, to answer your question: 12 nights (including the first night of arrival).
Posted by
492 posts

Just a few thoughts...

Is the honeymoon directly following the wedding or a few weeks (months) later? If directly following the wedding, you will probably be tired so jet lag will hit you harder and take a bit longer to get over so moving on close to arrival may be more than you want to take on initially.
Every change of location is going to eat up anywhere from 1/2 to 3/4 of a day.
In order to determine how best to allocate your time, I'd recommend checking out guidebooks from the library and/or watch Rick's travel shows on YouTube. In order to see what you might see/do in each city, you won't need the most recent editions. Make a list of what you want to see in each location. In general, when I plan a trip I pick something for the morning and something for the afternoon unless it's a day trip. For me, I generally end up with far more things to see than I have time for - so, once I've got a list, I prioritize it and then start allocating days. Once you've figured that out, post the itinerary here to get feedback on how it looks in terms of pacing and logistics.
As to your luggage, it really depends upon what carrier you fly and what class you are flying in. Virtually every airline has information on what their checked and carry on luggage allowances are.
TIP: Fly "open jaw" if possible - into your beginning city and out of your ending city. Yes, it's typically a bit more expensive, but it will save you time - and travel is ALL about managing the tradeoffs between time and money.
As for lodging, there are many options - large hotels, small hotels, b and b's as well as Airbnb - it really depends upon what type of accommodation you prefer. You should find a number of options in the $200 - $300 a night range (I'm assuming this is for lodging only and doesn't include food, transportation, and attraction costs).
Given the cities you've listed, there is no need to rent a car and the train is your best bet for traveling between cities.
TIP: bring supportive well broken-in shoes!!!
As for what tour/attractions to book now, wait until you have a firm itinerary put together and then you'll be in a position to book those tickets.
Good luck - planning is half the fun IMO!

Posted by
739 posts

I agree with the above -
to proceed directly to Lake Como from Milan. It's an easy 1 hour train from Milan Central train station. We loved Varenna, and is an ideal, beautiful, relaxed location from which to recover from jet lag. Do get a room with a view of the lake - and with a balcony.
Congrats and safe travels!

Posted by
21 posts

Hello Cory - we are fellow travelers. My wife and I are planning a honeymoon trip for April, we have plane tickets and are starting to fill out our itinerary. We are a generation ahead of you however, but nonetheless I look forward to the responses you get.

Our itinerary is 3 nights in Rome (flying in), 2 in Sorrento, 3 in Florence, 1 in Cinque Terre, 2 in Venice, 2 in Milan (flying out). We're using fast trains from Rome-Naples, Naples-Florence, and Florence-Venice. The Cinque Terre trip will be in the middle of the Florence stay, leaving the majority of our luggage. From what I've seen so far, $200-300/night is more than adequate; follow the Rick Steve's guide, which in our case is Italy 2020 supplemented by older city-specific guides we've gotten from relatives.

For the limited amount of time in each city walkability seems imminently achievable, except for Rome - we plan to use the 3-day Roma Pass that includes public transportation. We are paranoid about pickpockets so my recommendation regarding bags etc. is use ones that provide safety and security.

If electronic devices are DC or 110/220V compatible you are fine - if not then you need a voltage converter. Be especially careful with hair dryers, curling irons. One other thing we are considering, and you might also, is cell phone coverage. We have Verizon Wireless, which has a $10/day international plan, and only kicks in on days you use it. So we won't on days when wifi gives us the access we need. Other thought is a wireless "puck" that can be rented, but you can't call or text normally, you have to set your phone to wifi calling.

All the best!

Posted by
11734 posts

spequigney, your itinerary is completely different than the OP's so please, best not to confuse them with details that don't apply to their own trip. :O)

Don't know how strict Italy is with bags, but plan on using my
Patagonia 32L Black Hole Backpack, and a Patagonia Ultralight Black
Hole® Tote Pack 27L as my personal bag.

Cory, "how strict Italy is with bags" has nothing to do with the country and everything to do with the airline you'll be flying. They each have their own rules for allowable carry-on sizes and weights, and same regarding fees for any checked bags. Please see the guidelines for the airline you're booking with.

What tours/ attractions can we book now, so we can skip the lines and
save time when we get there?

Which attractions do you want to see in each city? The most-visited attractions in Italy's most-visited cities are not must-do's at all if not all that interested in them. Most will be overrun during high season so save the time/money/your sanity if they don't appeal to begin with.

Posted by
11707 posts

You lose a day flying to Europe from the west coast, but not on the way back. So if you leave Italy on the 19th, you should arrive back in California on the 19th, unless you elect an overnight stopover somewhere. So if you want to be back in Ventura on the 20th, maybe you could stay an extra day in Italy?

I will endorse the idea above to head straight to Varenna on Lake Como for your first 2 nights. It is a short 1-hour train ride from the Milan main station, a inexpensive (under 10 euros for a ticket). Milan hotels are expensive, a you you will get much more for your your money in Varenna—-like a view, and the ambiance of this lovely lakeside town.

I checked prices for your dates at our favorite hotel in Varenna and the most-oft recommended hotel in Milan: Alberto Milano in Varenna and Hotel Berna in Milan. For your dates, you get a nice double room with balcony and lateral lakeview for 190 euro a night, breakfast included. Lateral lakeview means the balcony does not face the lake directly, but is on the side of the hotel so you have to turn your head to see the lake. A full lake view room would be 20 euros more if you prefer that.

For that same amount you get an “economy double” at Hotel Berna; a small basic room, and breakfast. But not as worthy of a honeymoon as the lakefront hotel in Varenna.

You will save a lot on your train tickets on the high speed trains, whether on Trenitalia or Italo, by buying them 3 months or so in advance. Like 50 % or more in most cases. People here can help you with that once you have a firm itinerary.

Venice has lots of nice hotels, and I am sure people will be forthcoming with recommendations. We actually spent our own honeymoon in Venice (5 nights) and chose Pensioner La Calcina, in a room facing the Giudecca Canal. Since then we have returned to Venice several times and book apartments, so that is our only hotel experience. But we really liked the hotel, the location, and especially the rooftop terrace that hotel guests can reserve for private use for an hour. We booked it for Early evening, and before that we walked up the Zattere (wide canal-side sidewalk) to the nearest grocery and bought a bottle of wine and some appetizers to have while we enjoyed the sunset. Very romantic and an experience I still recall vividly 17 years later.

Posted by
616 posts

First time in Italy means there will be a second time.
One day in Milan would be sufficient and I would drop Venice and just divide
My 11 day stay between Rome and Florence. Rome is a big city and there are plenty of things to see and staying in Rome for just 3 days is really not enough.
5 full days in Rome (6 nights)
4 full days in Florence ( 5 nights)
Another option would be to take an air Italy flight from LA to Rome, so you do not lose time.

Posted by
18 posts

@Nancy,

We are getting married on sat. Oct. 6th. Wedding is 30 people. And we are going to rest and recoup on Monday. So it won’t be a major drain before we go.

@Kathy

The bags I mentioned are soft. I know that the bags are 22" tall and air Italy says 21".
I’ll have the ability to compress the bags if need be, but just was wondering if anyone had the experience at the counter where they wouldn’t let you on even though you could mold your bag into the carry one measuring tray/mold.

@Lola (everyone)

Is there any other place besides Varenna that you’d recommend for 2 days? We are pretty set on trying to fly direct directly into Milan or Venice and working our way down, flying out of Rome probably. So whether we fly into Milan or Venice, any place with 1-2yr train ride away from those two locations we’d appreciate.

Is there a difference between the trains mentioned? one faster? More non-stop/direct route?

Also, still figuring which books to buy to prep...
So let’s assume 4 Days in Rome now.

Would best of Italy or Italy 2020 be a better choice?

Some people say get the Italy 2020, others say get the Rome 2020 (as well as the Venice and Florence guidebooks for $23.99 and $21.99)

Posted by
5399 posts

Regarding the need for a "valid passport" -- make sure it will have sufficient remaining time on it, i.e. expiring 6 months or more after your planned return date. The airline can keep you from boarding the plane in California if they think there's a chance that Italy won't let you in.

Posted by
11707 posts

Those of us who recommend Varenna for your first two nights assume you will fly into Milan. We just feel Lake Como is a more romantic place for a honeymoon than MIlan. Plus, it can be less expensive,

As for RS books, I would only buy the Italy one. It all the important information you need for Venice, Florence, and Rome.

Posted by
365 posts

First of all, Congratulations! October 6th is our anniversary, too.

  1. Italy 2020 is all you need for the small amount of days you will be in each city. This was the advice I received and it makes sense. There’s more in that book than you can cover in 2 or 3 days.

  2. Stay in Rome 4 nights! It deserves it. So very much to do.

  3. Trains are wonderful, easy and a fun experience. You’ll feel like you are sitting first class on a plane with the amount of seat space.

  4. Yes, you can book lots of tours and skip the lines. I use “Walks of Italy” almost exclusively. They are excellent. We are going in September and I have almost all my tours booked already.

  5. A, decide your city dates and book your air. B. Come back and we can give opinions concerning your hotels C. Plan your tours. After you do A. And B., then come and we can discuss tours, days, etc. this is how I do it and thankfully it’s helped tremendously.

Posted by
616 posts

I think Lake Como can be a little cool in October for somebody coming from California, June or September would be better to go there.
I would choose the Amalfi Coast, it’s beautiful and warm.
If you stay enough time in Florence, do not miss to visit Siena or San Gimignano or Lucca.

Posted by
616 posts

For train connections in Italy:

Download Trenìt! App, you will find all possible trains with time and price.
There are two fast train companies in Italy
1) Trenitalia - Freccia rossa e Freccia Argento
2) Italo

There are also inter-city trains and then regional trains.
For Regional trains, do not forget to validate your ticket as the ticket is often valid for a longer time.

Try also to see whether you would prefer to stay in an apartment or in a hotel. For 200-300 USD/day at this time of the year, you could get both a lovely apartment or hotel, Rome and Venice being the two most expensive cities, Florence a little less.
In a hotel, you will have all the assistance for any question, but not so much the quietness and experience a more everyday Italian way of life. You can wake up and eat any time you wish.

Posted by
616 posts

For your bags, I know that the light fare on Air Italy does not allow you to take a bag. On the Classic or premium fare, you can take 23 kgs which is around 50 pounds.
The difference between Classic and premium is the reimbursement of the ticket should you not be able to go.
You’ll find all this on their app clicking on the i).

Posted by
1023 posts

Which Rick Steve's books should we buy to prep

Don't buy anything now. Go to your local library and check out all books about italy. It doesn't matter if they are a bit old if you use them for finding out what you want to see. You only need the latest edition if you want to decide hotel (but I would use Booking.com for that) or restaurants (but I would wing it).

TIP: Fly "open jaw" if possible - into your beginning city and out of
your ending city. Yes, it's typically a bit more expensive.

Remember to include to cost of back tracking to the airport if you fly in and out of the same airport.
It's called "multi city" on most sites.

We are pretty set on trying to fly direct directly into Milan or
Venice

If you don't wan't to visit something in Milan, then fly to Venice. Nice place to get over jet lag.

Posted by
18 posts

Hello again!

I almost forgot to ask- what's the card situation there? Meaning, should I bring my debit and credit and hope that the major spots take card? I'd rather not pull cash out all the time, combined with conversion rate, I might not be able to follow what I'm being charged for. '

Will the conversion apply automatically when using card? Does Italy prefer debit or Visa credit cards? Anything else you can think of? I bank with USAA if that helps.

Just trying to get the most "bang out of my buck" If we can save money by using cards and avoiding the ATM fees, that would be helpful and nice.

However, when we need a few euros whats the best way to save money: should we get cash out at the air port? or go to atm's and pull money? I just want to make sure we have the best transaction rate. Granted We will be in major touristy areas, so if pulling money out at a hotel's atm (possibly) is cheaper than the atm's on the street, I'd rather go through hotel one we land in Italy.

Posted by
365 posts

We applied for the Capitol One Visa card....no transaction fees, which could really add up. Plus, if you both sign up together, you’ll have different numbers, but attached to the same account. That way if itis lost or stolen you can still use the other one if you have to cancel the lost one.

We each took our new Capitol One, plus our other CC. I think it’s good to have 2, in case something goes wrong with one. We took our debit cards, too. We got 400 Euros to start the trip as we didn’t want to have to fool around with that at the airport. We used our CC mostly, I think 2 times we stopped at an ATM.

DH kept his CC and Debit card in his secret wallet that hangs on his belt loop and turns and tucks inside your shorts or trousers to easily access it. We kept all other cards in the safe at the hotel. If I knew I wanted to go somewhere by myself, then I got mine out of the safe and used my Travelon purse that clips the zipper shut.

We used our silk money belts for our passports, it’s the law to have the actual passport on you at all times, not just a copy. I would turn it around, so it laid at the small of my back so no pooch at the stomach...tell your fiancé. We also purchased silk neck wallers, but only used those at airports and train stations, where we needed to have them accessible. We tucked them into our shirts.

Posted by
1581 posts

I almost forgot to ask- what's the card situation there? Meaning,
should I bring my debit and credit and hope that the major spots take
card? I'd rather not pull cash out all the time, combined with
conversion rate, I might not be able to follow what I'm being charged
for. ' Will the conversion apply automatically when using card? Does
Italy prefer debit or Visa credit cards? Anything else you can think
of? I bank with USAA if that helps.

Does your USAA credit card have a chip/pin? That is the only requirement. Most places accept credit cards, so take that for large purchases (use a money belt) and use the atm card to withdraw Euros for small purchases. The dollar and Euro are nearly equal, so there's no math to memorize.
Tell USAA when you will be out of the country so no security hold is placed on your card (You can do this on the mobile app).
The only thing you need to watch out for when withdrawing euros are tricky ATMs that try to swindle you--they are called Euronet but there may be others. Just tell them no when they ask if you want their conversion and you'll be fine. Use ATMS that are connected to banks to be safe.
USAA reimburses ATM fees but I have never used that feature.
Whatever guide book you get will probably cover these basics so don't sweat it--it is pretty much like using your card anywhere else other than a couple things to look out for.
https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/money/cash-machine-atm-tips

Posted by
2131 posts

Lots of helpful advice up thread for your first time to Italy. We've been to Italy several times but have yet to visit the Lakes area. It is on our radar. As mentioned, the RS guidebooks will be very helpful in planning your itinerary. I would also eliminate Milan. Due to limited time I would be inclined to visit no more than 3 cities to experience what you are interested in. Perhaps look at Venice, Florence and Rome? I believe 'less is more."

If you choose Venice we were pleased with our stay at the charming, romantic Hotel Flora. It's near San Marco, but tucked away from the crowds. Easy walk to "off the beaten paths" to neighborhoods, Grand Canal, restaurants and sights. We chose a larger room overlooking their lovely courtyard garden. Hope this helps.

Posted by
364 posts

If you're wanting a romantic honeymoon, watch RS videos of the locations and choose 2 or 3 and stay JUST there.
You may choose to do short day-trips but spend time doing whatever is YOUR idea of romantic.

Posted by
8 posts

Regarding guidebooks: I went to Half Price Books and bought what they had, which luckily was a 2017 Rick Steves Italy for about $12 (and a 2017 Lonely Planet Venice). I'm overwhelmed by all the information on the internet, so the Rick Steves Italy offered me an expertly curated place to start. I read the RS Italy for the cities we are visiting next May, then did more internet research, alarmed to find how limited the guidebook is. But here's my train of thought since that first alarm: Of course it's limited, it's covering a whole country in 1200 pages. Yes, I would get significantly more out of a RS Rome book vs. the Rome section in RS Italy. However, I'm only spending four days in Rome (you're doing even less). I don't need the detail of a RS Rome book until my third or fourth trip there, probably. The sites I want to see/have time to see are all in Rick Steves Italy (plus the weird places that Atlas Obscura finds). And he suggests cutting up his guidebook with a razor blade and just taking the sections that apply to the cities I'm going to! I'm not sure I want to even open the Venice book now!

If you go to a library or used book store, make sure to check the publication date. I think there was a Rome book when I was at Half Price Books, but it was from 2010 or 2012. I was able to find a 2017 publication. I can be fairly confident that the Tips and maps are probably accurate. The prices have gone up a few Euros. I always check the hours online rather than trusting the guidebook. The biggest difference is that the Colosseum now offers tickets with timed entry rather than no time starting January 2020. Used books can save you a lot of money, but you have to watch the age of them. New books I saw offer an electronic download now, so that's probably worth buying new so you can have it on your phone, too.

We booked Airbnbs for less than $100 per night in Rome, Florence, and Venice. Also checkout Airbnb Experiences. I've never done one before but there are some crazy cool ones in these places!

We're a couple of 34 year olds going to Italy for our first time this year for our 10th anniversary (all we could afford for our honeymoon was a week in Michigan)!

Posted by
60 posts

Our first trip was a similar itinerary four years ago: arrive at Milan via train from Zermatt, then to Venice, Florence, Rome. 10 days total. The fast trains are THE way to go between these cities. Buy tickets online ahead of time, print them out, saves worry and precious travel time.

Agree with those who say only one day in Milan is enough. We threw in an extra day to see the spectacular World's Fair, which they hosted that year. Otherwise, unless you're fashionistas, you won't want to stay long. If you arrive in Milan by noon, you'll have plenty of time to see the Duomo and Galeria. Then you could spend the night, maybe take in the Last Supper the next day, and leave town.

Agree that Lake Como is a much better honeymoon spot. You could also just go straight to Venice. You may need only two days in Venice depending on what you'd like to do. It's mostly a place where you wander around. The main sights can be covered in a day and a half. We found three days each in Florence and Rome gave us a good first-timers' experience of each city.

Lodging: Hotel Torre Guelfa in Florence would be my top choice for the entire trip.

We recently flew from Los Angeles to Europe with no Real ID, but if you have time to get one, you might as well. You'll be leaving right before the election and they may tighten security for showmanship, she said cynically.

At risk of getting this post deleted, you should do fine with Rick's Italy 2020 book and online resources. Get the individual city books if you're staying much longer than a couple of days. :)

Posted by
364 posts

Regarding guidebooks
I've been buying RS books off of ebay for about $4.50 with shipping included.
We're going to Italy in April and I bought the Italy 2016 and 2017 books for about that - each.
When we went to Provence last fall I got his book off of ebay for about that price.

I go fo good condition - typically ex-library - and they look new.

Posted by
6524 posts

"15.5 x 10.25" x 8" measurement of Patagonia 27L bag
15.8 x 11.8 x 5.9 Air Italy 'personal' item size limit

Getting your 2nd bag on may be a problem, unless it is only partially filled

Hand baggage
Dimensions and weight
Each passenger is allowed one hand baggage item that should not exceed 55 cm. x 40 cm. x 20 cm. or weight over 8 kg.
Moreover, it is allowed to carry on a personal item ( bag or briefcase, waist-bag and laptop/tablet case) in addition to usual handbag. It must fit under the seat 40 cm. x 30 cm. x 15 cm.
The airport staff will apply to the small baggage (personal item) a special label to identify it.
The baggage who do not make or fail the security check could not be accepted on board; in the case of fully booked flights may be necessary to carry in the hold some hand baggage.

Posted by
17165 posts

I disagree with the idea of just two nights in Venice unless you don't intend to see Piazza San Marco, the Rialto Bridge or Rialto Market and plan to give a wide berth to the path between them. That area is packed with tourists during most of the day. Venice's glory is the little canals and off-the-beaten path neighborhoods. You need more than two nights so you won't end up spending most of your time surrounded by throngs of other visitors.