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First time travellers - need help to check our travel plans

Hello:

It will be our first time to Italy and we have done our research through this amazing website and forum and wondering if our plans are solid. We will primarily use train as a main way of transportation. So far this is what we came up with:

DAY 1 - Arrived in Rome - noon

DAY 2 - Rome

DAY 3 - Rome & Vatican

DAY 4 - Naples

DAY 5 - Pompeii (travel to Florence before the end of the day)

DAY 6 - Florence

DAY 7 - Tuscany

DAY 8 - Pisa - Varnazza, Cinque Terre

DAY 9 - Cinque Terre

DAY 10 - Varenna, Lake Como

DAY 11 - Venice

DAY 12 - Venice

DAY 13 - Milan

DAY 14 - Fly back in the morning

Please let us know if there are better and wiser options in regards to place and duration of stay in each site.
Thank you very much for your help. We really appreciate it.

Posted by
6369 posts

Too many places for the time you have.

Have you plotted out how long it will take for each of your moves?

Look at the "Itinerary" for this tour. -- https://www.ricksteves.com/tours/italy/venice-florence-rome

You can add one additional destination ( Lake Como or Cinque Terre) and have an enjoyable trip rather than a mad dash across Italy.

From Rome you can go to Ostia Antica and get your "Pompeii fix" without the huge waste of time to go so far south for so little time.

Posted by
141 posts

Greetings,

I'd need a month to cover all of those destinations.

You may want to consider all the time you will be sitting on trains, checking in and out of lodgings and how little time you will have to actually enjoy the sites you have chosen.

Cut back, slow down and enjoy your holiday

Posted by
2317 posts

Way too much.
For the moving days, draw out the day conservatively. Example:
Day 4:
Wake up in Naples. Train to Pompeii (under 1 hour, plus time to/from station). To Pompeii by 9:30 if you are early risers. 9:30-1:00 at Pompeii (too short a visit but to make timing work,..!). Lunch. Back to Naples hotel by 3. You would have already checked out but can pick up luggage. Go to train station, take 5PM train to Florence (don’t want to cut it too close in case you get delayed in Pompeii, I’d do a 6PM train but I like a lot of time buffer). Arrive Florence by 8-9 go to hotel, check in, late dinner by 10, asleep by midnight. Then up early for Florence the next morning.

I haven’t been to Lake Como or the CT so I don’t know the transit. My gut says these will be a little harder but I don’t know. Something to look into.

Draw out the “in town” days lightly. More like
Rome: Colosseum/Forum in morning, afternoon visit to Pantheon and area, evening food tour.

Then make sure everything you want to see in a city fits in its allotted day. It won’t.

I’d skip either Naples (you can stay in Rome longer and still make an exhausting day trip to Pompeii) OR if Naples is a priority then skip CT and Lake Como, adding the time to Florence or “Tuscany”
I put Tuscany in quotes because - what do you mean? Are you getting a car and driving the countryside or hill towns? Going to Sienna? Taking a bus tour of different towns? Going on your own to a few places by train? Connecting things with one day will take some though. Any of these options can be done, just make sure you know how you are visiting Tuscany.

I have a rule of thumb that any city I want to visit (not small village) needs at least 3 nights. So Rome, Florence, Naples, and Venice would all be 3+ nighters in my preference. Milan would be except it seems you are just going for the airport so that’s fine.

Posted by
3826 posts

I'm trying to figure out why you would go to Lake Como, then train all the way across to Venice, just to train back to Milan?

Also, it's at least 6 hrs by train from CT to Varenna/Como - what is the point of spending one night?

I loved Cinque Terre on our first visit, but honest to god it is so overrun now, I don't think it's really enjoyable. If you cut that out, add those nights to Florence/Tuscany, then go to Venice, then to Como/Milan for your flight. Pisa was fine, but for the few hours you might spend there, I'd skip it along with CT.

If you haven't used rome2rio - it's great for getting an idea of time between places. Also recommended is themaninseat61.

Posted by
37 posts

You’re going to have a great time, but I agree- you’re trying to pack way too much in here. Stick to that itinerary, and you will be a specialist in Italian trains and not know a thing about the country (not to mention, you’ll be exhausted by day 4.) I’ve been to Italy 6 times and have done the into Rome/out of Milan- would suggest skipping anything south of Rome, Venice, Pisa, and Vernazza, then spread the dividends across your other destinations. Buon viagio!

Posted by
453 posts

If you compare your itinerary against one or more of the RS Italy tours, you will see you’ve planned a very intense trip.

You might consider talking to a travel agent to help you build a more enjoyable tour. They have valuable experience and can make all of your lodging arrangements for you.

I have a dear friend who has been in the travel business for forty years. I would not think of trying to book an international trip without her professional guidance, advice, and ability to find the best airfares.

Posted by
120 posts

On travel days it is difficult to enjoy the sights, and you've got lots of travel days! I am traveling to Italy for 14 days in July, and we are going to three cities-- Florence, Perugia, and Verona ( and a quick stop in Rome to catch our plane!).

My advice is to pick the three places you would most like to see. From Florence, for example, you can take an easy day trip into Tuscany. Or from Verona, you can take a day trip into Venice. Then there's less packing, unpacking, checking in/out, etc.

I think you'll have a better vacation if you pare down the city list.

Enjoy Italy!
Beth

Posted by
11658 posts

Hi DX -
Very exciting to be planning that first trip, eh? It's so exciting that by trying to fit so much in, you'll see less of the things you want to go to Italy for and more of trains and train stations! You'll also be spending more $$ on transport than on sightseeing, and time packing/unpacking, locating your hotels, checking in and out....

You didn't mention what time of year you are planning to make this trip? It can make a difference for certain locations.

That aside, right off the bat I'd cut Naples because it's an outlier than will involve backtracking and is best saved for future trip when you can give that region (Naples, Pompei, Amalfi Coast, etc) the time it deserves. I'd also cut Varenna because as previously pointed out, it would take so long to get to from Vernazza that it's not worth the fraction of a day you'd get there. Milan? There are other locations on your list more deserving of that day: save it for a future trip.

If unwilling to give up Lake Como, you could cut the CT/Pisa and add those 2 nights to Varenna.

Otherwise, I'd take each of the 3 days saved by trimming your itinerary and add 1 night each to Rome, Florence (1 Tuscan day trip from this base) and Venice. With very short stays you run the risk of certain attractions being closed on the one day you have to give them, no flexibility to work around weather, and being smack in the middle of the Top Attractions Mob much of the time if going during high/shoulder seasons. You'd also have to run from one attraction to the next, depending on how many of those are on your must-see list.

Consider flipping your itinerary and fly into Venice and out of Rome? Enough International flights out of Venice depart early enough in the morning to create some extra costs/challenges getting to the airport in the dawn hours; the forum sees a fair amount of questions from folks wondering how to work that. :O)

Venice>Varenna> Florence> Rome
Venice> Florence> CT> Rome.

Posted by
6211 posts

No, sadly your plans are not realistic. As a simple rule of thumb, big cities like Rome, Florence, Naples, etc. really need 3 full days each (and even that may be short shrift). Tuscany is an entire region, not simply a single point. Your entire trip is 12.5 full days on the ground because you're arriving at noon the first day and your last day is a wash. You've got too many destinations with travel time in between them not accounted for (and jet lag, which will also slow you down). I would pare down all the places you want to see to something feasible. That way you'll have a more relaxing "quality" type trip instead of whirlwind "quantity" type trip.

I don't think you need a travel agent, but you should sit down with a book and plot out a day-by-day strategy. Account for time spent traveling to the next place. At the end, I bet you'll have at most 4 places on your schedule (maybe 5 with a short side trip from a major base). Looking at sample itineraries from tour groups may help too - but you have to keep in mind that you'll never be as efficient as a tour group, and so you will have to build in much more time to cover the same itinerary. Tours groups also use buses in places where do-it-yourself tourists use trains.

Posted by
1726 posts

Rule of thumb when we have taken a train across Italy or Europe in general--plan to not spend more than 5 hours a day on the train, and try to travel in the sweet spot of late morning to mid-afternoon. That way--especially if you're staying close to the train station, which we like to do--you aren't scrambling in the morning, can have a leisurely breakfast, then you arrive at your next destination in time to check in and enjoy that new venue for the rest of the day and evening. In essence, it's a travel day that's not wasted, as that's so easy to do.

It takes a lot of coordinating through Trenitalia and the DB Bahn website, but it can be done. We did Paris-->Lucerne, Lucerne-->Milan--> Florence, then Florence--> Salerno. Thoroughly enjoyed the train rides, had little picnics with panini bought at the stations or nearby, got some reading done, rested and simply looked out the window. Sublime.

Posted by
3330 posts

It almost always takes longer to change locations than anticipated even when everything goes well (and often times it doesn't). It's not just the actual travel time, its the packing up, checking out, getting to the train station, finding the track and waiting for the train. Then, upon arrival, you have to clear the terminal, get a taxi, get to your hotel, check in (if your room is ready), and unpack to some degree.

You want good memories of unique sights, good food, good wine, and people you'll meet. I'm afraid with your plans you'll only have blurred memories of taxi rides, train stations, and riding the rails. It might be wise to consider scaling way back on the itinerary.

Posted by
463 posts

Hi. I'm here to echo what everyone else said: this is too much. Here's what your trip will actually look like:

DAY 1 - Arrived in Rome. Be super jet lagged and exhausted. Sleep, have dinner, sleep some more.

DAY 2 - Rome

DAY 3 - Rome & Vatican

DAY 4 - Wake up. Travel to train station. Wait for train. Train to Naples. Arrive in Naples around noon-ish. Afternoon and evening in Naples.

DAY 5 - Wake up. Travel to train station. Wait for train. Train to Pompeii. Pompeii. Back to train. Train to Florence. Arrive Florence late. Sleep.

DAY 6 - Florence

DAY 7 - Tuscany (assuming this is a day tour from Florence?)

DAY 8 - Wake up. Travel to train station. Wait for train. Train to Pisa. Look at tower. Back to train station. Train to La Spezia. Train to Varnazza. Sleep.

DAY 9 - Cinque Terre

DAY 10 - Wake up. Travel to train station. Wait for train. Train to Varenna (assuming a train change here too) Lake Como for like a minute.

DAY 11 - Wake up. Travel to train station. Wait for train. Train to Venice. Evening in Venice.

DAY 12 - Venice

DAY 13 - Wake up. Travel to train station. Wait for train. Train to Milan. Evening in Milan.

DAY 14 - Fly back in the morning

In 14 days, you have exactly five days without travel. And one of those will be spent at the Vatican, which is an exhausting day.

So yeah. You'll need to cut something here.

Please note that I say this with love and kindness, just as ALL the people did on these very same boards when I planned my first disastrous trip to Europe ten years ago. We planned WAY too much even just within Paris and London--like too much per day. We wanted to SEE ALL THE THINGS. And I had the most miserable time. It's a miracle I've since returned to Europe (several times) but I learned from that first ill-fated trip. Slow down and assume you will return. And even if you don't ever return (because tomorrow is not a promise) at least you will have ENJOYED a slice of Italy rather than force-feeding yourself ALL of Italy.

Posted by
236 posts

It took us two trips of fourteen full days on the ground (28 days total) to do most of your destinations (we did not go to Pisa but we did spend 3 days on the Amalfi Coast) and we did not come close to exhausting the possibilities of any of the sights. As others have said, Florence has 2-3 full days of sites, Tuscany is a large region and would be best enjoyed with 3-7 days, and Rome also has enough for 3-7 days. I hope you will be able to trim you destinations, and plan to return!

Posted by
6 posts

Hello everyone:

Wow... We were so glad that we asked in this awesome forum. You guys are so kind. Thank you so much for writing heartfelt and probably time consuming comments to help us. We really appreciate it.

We got good deal on tickets to go to Italy in October, but we will land in Rome and return from Milan, so we know this might not be ideal if we want to go to Venice.

As most of you have commented, we will probably cut down Naples and Pompeii, to leave for sometime to enjoy Italy more than "force-feeding yourself ALL of Italy". We have calculated the travel time however you are so right that we may have missed the time going to the train stations, check in/check out. We may not have put enough thoughts about our luggage as well.

After considering all of the above, we are thinking that this following itinerary may be better for us:

DAY 1 1 PM ROME AIRPORT

DAY 2 ROME

DAY 3 ROME

DAY 4 ASSISI

DAY 5 FLORENCE

DAY 6 FLORENCE

DAY 7 TUSCANY

DAY 8 CINQUE TERRE

DAY 9 CINQUE TERRE

DAY 10 MILAN

DAY 11 VENICE

DAY 12 VENICE

DAY 13 MILAN

DAY 14 10 AM MILAN AIRPORT

Please let us know if this is more solid and realistic. Hahaha.

Also, I just wonder which is a better plan to go about in Tuscany; rent a car or join tour?
Also, if there is a better option than Assisi?

Posted by
1533 posts

Why Milan on Day 10?
Just go to Venice and give Venice 3 nights. You’ll still really only have 2 full days there.

There are lots of day tours of Tuscany, no need to rent a car for just 1 day.

Walks of Italy tours are always excellent
Www.walksofitaly.com

We really enjoyed Assisi, very magical, beautiful town
BUT you only have 2 days in Rome, Rome needs a minimum of 4 nights

Posted by
6 posts

Since its quite a long ride from Cinque Terre to Venice, we are trying to break down the long travel time in half and therefore staying in Milan for a night before traveling to Venice the next day. Do you think we better go straight and spend the full 6+ hours of train?

Thanks.

Posted by
74 posts

You will Love Italy. I agree with Christine - why an extra day in Milan when you depart from there anyway? You did not say what time of year, but these are all very popular destinations and involve a lot of walking. My advice would be to choose either Cinque Terra or Lake Como. Either one of these destinations will be the perfect spot to relax; which is what you will need after this itinerary!

Posted by
1533 posts

Yes
I’d rather do the 6 hour train than waste that night in Milan. It just means another check in/check out and you have Milan at end.

I’d drop CT and give those nights to Rome and Florence/Tuscany
You simply don’t have enough time for so many locations
Just 12 nights plus the 1 you’ll need to spend in Milan

Posted by
14003 posts

If you land in Rome at 11 pm and zip through the airport and take a taxi to your hotel, you still aren't going to be in your room until close to 1 am. And even if you manage to sleep through the night (no one knows how jetlag is going to affect them), you're still not likely to get a full night. You may still be in a haze on Day 2. Rome is a big, bustling, noisy city with challenges to get around (like trying to find the street sign to know where you are). Allow time to simply get oriented to new surroundings - using public transportation, signage in Italian, different coins and bills, etc.

I'd allow at least 3 full days to see the top sights - the Vatican can use most of a day, so can the Colosseum/Forum and surroundings. Don't you want to have an hour or two to enjoy Piazza Navona's atmosphere over a cup of coffee or glass of wine or gelato while people-watching? A visit to the Borghese Galleries uses up about 4-5 hours for the 2-hour visit, when you include arriving nearly an hour ahead and getting there and back.

Assisi - Rome to Assisi is 2 hours IF you take the 8 am train - and on a weekday, you may need extra time to get to the station because of traffic. From the Assisi train station, you need the bus or taxi up to the historic center and your hotel. Otherwise you will have a longer journey and much less time for sightseeing. Figure you'll want to leave for Florence the next day around mid-afternoon so you have time to go to your hotel before going out for dinner. Since you asked about alternatives, consider Orvieto. Personally, I'd do both, with 1N in one and 2N in the other. If I had to choose between them, I'd flip a coin. I think both are great.

I'd nix the CT and put Lake Como back in. The CT is iffy in October - if the weather's bad, it's a downer - nuttin' to do. If you're there at the same time as a cruise ship or two, it's going to be packed with day-trippers. Swapping out will make a smoother itinerary. Assisi - Florence - Venice - Como.

Lastly, I agree with others who say you need 3 nights in Venice.

Keep going, each iteration of your plan will be better than the last.

Posted by
6369 posts

DAY 1 - Arrived in Rome - noon

Above from original post

DAY 1 1 PM ROME AIRPORT

This from the 'revised' plan

I suspect OP was trying to do " Day 1 - 1 PM Rome airport". It does look like '11 PM', but it is written 'Day 1 1 PM', with a space between the ones ( 1 )

I concur, OP does need to keep working on revising the plan

I would skip Assisi, adding that day to Rome, and staying in Florence all 3 nights rather than a separate stop somewhere else in "Tuscany". On the off chance OP runs out of things to do in Florence, a day trip to somewhere, rather than another hotel change is the better choice.

Going to Lake Como is logistically better than CT, and stopping in Milan to break up the train journey from CT to Venice is a TOTAL waste of precious time.

Posted by
2436 posts

Again, I just want to reiterate that you don't realize how much time and energy is involved in changing hotels. You want to avoid one night stays, except in your departure city the night before you leave Italy.

Posted by
3826 posts

We did a bit of the same on our first trip - went to Cinque Terre, then Genoa, then were heading to Venice but I wanted to break the long train journey up, so we stopped in Bologna.

But I would just suck it up and do the long day of train travel right to Venice, otherwise, you are losing all the time you're going to be spending to and from the train station and accoms in Milan.

(If you cut Assisi**).....If you didn't want to endure a 6 hr train ride, why not go from Rome to Vernazza (approx. 4 hrs) - you could even stop in Pisa on the way for a few hours, which is what we did. From Vernazza to Florence is about 2.5 hrs, then Florence to Venice is 2hrs...so it is breaking up your journey, even tho there is some backtracking, but not as bad as spending 6hrs from Vernazza to Venice.

I just wanted to add - we did a crazy trip like this on our 2nd visit in 2010 - we had 23 nights and we went from Paris to Strasbourg (1 night) - Augsburg (1) - Munich (1) - Salzburg - Venice - Milan - 3 one night stays in Switzerland - then to London and Portsmouth (to visit my sister). Looking back over the photos, my husband didn't even recognize Munich, as we only had one night there - by the time we got there and left the next day, we didn't even have 3/4 of a day to sightsee - in Munich - during Oktoberfest. Never. Again.

Posted by
1666 posts

You’ve gotten lots of great advice. Since your trip is in October, you might want to check for harvest festivals in Tuscany. That would be a nice break from sightseeing.

Regarding one night stands, I’m reminded of a charming B&B on the north end of the Isle of Skye. It was run by a nice young couple. They had a two night minimum. They instituted the policy after tiring of dealing with one nighters. They said the one nighters were always tired, grumpy and in a hurry. They decided it was a mindset of those who chose that method of travel. They said the two night minimum didn’t hurt their business and made them a lot happier.

You can’t see everything. If you try, you’ll end up seeing nothing.

Posted by
187 posts

I’d removed Cinque Terre on days 8 and 9, and add a night each to Rome and Florence (it looks like you have less than 2 full days in Florence as it is). On day 10 I’d go right to Venice since you’re ending in Milan anyway.

Posted by
2317 posts

Your revision is better! Still some work to do.

I agree - straight to Venice. Hotel changes are much more time consuming than you think.

For Tuscany - stay in your Florence hotel. Take a tour or a train for one day if you want. There are nice day wine tours from Florence. Or there could be a specific town you want to see, you could go there by train or bus. Then at the end of the day come back to your Florence hotel, no hotel changes, and a nice evening in Florence.

OR
After leaving Rome go to aTuscan town. Assisi maybe, Orvieto. Siena. Stay there for 2 nights (maybe take a tour from there). Call that your “Tuscany” visit. Then Go to Florence and don’t day trip.

I would cut the CT entirely and give those nights to Rome or Florence. But I have never been so I guess I’m not a credible source! I’ve never been to CT because the hassle/reward ratio seems off. Harder to get to, very crowded, less to do. But it is beautiful so I’m sure you’ll enjoy it if you go.

Posted by
3463 posts

Hi DX, and welcome to the forum. Your last itinerary is much better, but you're still crisscrossing the country. Try switching your path this way.

Day 1. Arrive Rome 12:00, you will probably be able to check in by 2-3 pm.

Day 2. Rome.

Day 3. Rome.

Day 4. Rome, late afternoon train to Venice
16:35-20:30. 3hr55m.

Day 5. Venice.

Day 6. Venice.

Day 7. Venice-Florence. 2hr05m.

Day 8. Florence.

Day 9. Florence. Day trip to Cinque Terre Heading first to Monterosso 2hr47. 7:00-9:47. Return Riomaggori 19:35-22:07 2hr27m. Giving you 8 hours to explore. Edit for arr/ dep. villages.

Day 10. Florence. Day trip to Tuscany.

Day 11. Florence-Varenna 10:00-13:23. 3hr23m.

Day 12. Varenna.

Day 13. Varenna. Evening train to either Milan
1hr08m. Or MXP 2h15m.

Day 14. Travel. If you stayed in the city, take the Malpensa Express to the airport. 52 minutes.
Check the schedule if you have an early flight.

Have a wonderful time.

Posted by
1533 posts

Gerri's suggested itinerary is excellent (as always!).

What I like about it is it covers all the locations you originally listed (other than Pompeii) in a logical manner, reduces any too short stays/1 night stays anywhere and limits your travel time from location to location.
4 locations plus the night in Milan is much more reasonable for the length of your trip.
Also while in Florence- if weather is lousy you do have the option of skipping CT altogether.

What you might do now before booking any lodgings is sketch out plans for what you will do in the major cities- be honest about the time you have, prioritize the sights you must see, everything else is a bonus

Rome- sights are exhausting but fabulous- I would plan to do only 1 in the am, then afternoons for wandering, gelato. piazza
Florence- some sights are closed Mon, some on Tues- so if you are there on those days- plan well
Venice- allow plenty of time to get lost, visit the islands, etc

Posted by
6 posts

@Gerri
Wow!!! We never thought that switching the travel route would save so much travel time. What a great idea Gerri. Thank you so much! We think your suggested itinerary will be our main plan now. Glad we haven’t booked the hotels.

@Joe32F
Thanks for clarifying. Yes, we will arrive in Rome at 1 pm on day 1. Sorry for the confusion guys.

@DougMac
We will check the harvest festival in Tuscany. Thanks for letting us know about this. Hope the time is right.

@Mira @ChristineH
Definitely appreciate your wonderful comments. Very very helpful.

Posted by
6 posts

By the way, if we are to choose either 2 nights in Varenna/ Lake Como or Milan, which one would be your recommendation?

Heard some people say only American likes Lake Como. 😂

Posted by
208 posts

I found Varenna magical. I think it’ll be a nice contrast to the rest of your itinerary. A few of our most memorable travel moments are in Varenna. Consider the cooking class at Il Caminetto (I think that was the name)

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you everyone once again for helping us plan our Italy trip.
Really appreciate you all.