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First Trip to Italy

Hello all:

Let me begin by thanking you in advance for your suggestions and comments.

My girlfriend and I are planning our first trip to Europe together. We are aiming at the first two weeks in July with 16 days in total. I might be able to stretch this out A BIT but I'd be anxious about getting away from work for much longer. We appreciate this is not a lot of time and we are realistic about our schedule.

We have decided, first and foremost, on Italy, for its romantic sites, variety, and great wine/food. I have looked into things and we are strongly considering Tuscany and Rome as bases, with multiple day trips while staying in both areas (staying in wine country and visiting Siena in the former and staying in Amalfi Coast and visiting Ostia in the latter). These are just options, not set in stone. We have toyed with the idea of staying in the farmlands in Tuscany to get away from the swarm of tourists in Florence that time of year. We would obviously visit Florence for an extended period.

We are unsure about Venice given our limited time frame. This being out first trip, we thought it appropriate to try and see a second country/city just for some variety. We have some ideas but want unbiased recommendations from anyone willing to share.

Any comments on our basic Italy itinerary and/or suggestions re secondary destinations would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Posted by
1709 posts

I think you are approaching this from a great mindset and can come up with a fantastic plan for your timeframe.
Your timeframe is longer than most which is good and you see to recognize you cannot see all of the highlights in the country in a single trip, which is also good.

Ok one or two confusing bits. You mention a base of Rome but then say staying in Amalfi Coast for that base?
They are too far to day trip so if you want to see both you need 2 bases to do that unless your plan is to entirely skip the city of Rome, which I wouldn't advise doing.

Tuscany: just cause you want to be outside of the city of Florence doesn't necessarily mean a farmhouse stay.
You can stay inside a hilled town which will have the countryside surrounding it for example.
We recently stayed in Pienza for example ; but for most of these towns you really need a car if you want to use it as a base and daytrip from.
If you really do stay at a farmstay in the countryside, then you must have a car.
Many choose Florence as a base because it is hub for transportation, no where else in Tuscany is logistically as convenient.

A farmstay would not be for me, others love them but I would consider it too isolated when the smaller hilltowns give you nearby conveniences, still feel laid back and far removed from a city and have a special charm and history that I wouldn't have staying out on a farm.

Florence though really needs more than a day trip to see it though, so either need to plan multiple day trips to the same place or stay a few nights there.

Try to break out an initial plan of how many nights where and then people can help with that and will be easier to see if you have time for Venice or not.
Of course you can squeeze in Venice but if you already may have 4 bases (Florence, Tuscany countryside or hill town, Rome, Amalfi Coast and don't want to be rushed for your 16 days than I think that is probably a good number of based and adding one more would be trouble.
Tuscany, Rome and Amalfi will feel like 3 different countries, Venice will feel like a 4th.
Adding a country other than Italy you really have not enough time to entertain that thought if this is your first trip to Italy.

If you just want to get a quick taste of Venice, doing a day trip there from Florence is doable and then doesn't make it rushed like checking in / checking out does each time you change bases.

Try and book open jaw flights to say you time and backtracking costs.

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you both.

16 days includes travel, so realistically 14 days. Might be able to stretch it but I'm currently acting under the assumption that that's the max.

We haven't booked our flights yet, which I know we need to get on ASAP. Haven't figured out arrival/departure cities yet as we were still contemplating a second country. I'll reveal now that we were thinking Barcelona or a Greek island (Santorini) but I appreciate that this might make the trip less enjoyable.

We will definitely not miss Rome and will spend a few days there regardless. Maybe a day trip to Ostia or Pompeii; however, I think you're right that a separate base in the Amalfi coast might be necessary and probably worth the time investment given its beauty.

I haven't ironed out the details of the Tuscany portion of the trip. Florence is a must, as is a visit to both a winery and one of the walled off cities (Siena or San Gimignano). I'll take your comments re Florence vs. town vs farm under serious consideration. Florence will definitely be more than a day trip.

This isn't set in stone -- and I'm in the dark about time estimates -- but here's a really rough idea of what we want to do:

Tuscany:

Florence (Duomo, Santa Croce, Michelangelo's David, Museum of Science or Ufizi Gallery)
Tuscan Wine Country and Staying in Town
Day Trip to San Gimignano or Siena
Day Trip to Venice (Doge’s Palace, St. Mark’s Basilica)

Rome:

Churches (Saint Agostino, Sapienza, San Giovani), Pantheon, Trevi Fountain
Colosseum, Forum, Capitoline Hill, Capuchin Crypt, Catacombs
Vatican, Scavi Excavation Tour, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, Saint Angelo Castle, Borghese Gallery, Trastevere
Day Trip to Pompeii or Ostia

Amalfi Coast (Amalfi, Positano)

We're just wrestling with what we should prioritize, add, and/or leave off the table for what we hope to be a romantic but adventurous getaway. In other words, have we missed anything in Italy? Is it worth skipping Venice, either because the above is too much or because a second country might be worth the extra expense/time?

Posted by
873 posts

What about this:

1.) Land in Rome and go immediately to the Amalfi Coast for three nights.
2.) Go to Rome for three nights.
3.) Train to Florence two nights.
4.) Tuscan hill town for two nights. (You will want a car here)
5.) Venice for three nights.

We usually travel to our furthest destination on that first day that we land, since we usually land in the morning and cant check into our hotel until afternoon anyway. We really like Ravello on the Amalfi Coast. You will definitely want to start looking up and booking hotels, because they go fast. Of all of the locations on your list, i wouldn't cut the Amalfi Coast. It's simply stunning.

We were in Florence last month and stayed in the Santa Maria Novella neighborhood at Hotel L'Orologio. the location was great because we were able to walk from the train station to our hotel. There are several hotels of varying price range in this area.

For Tuscan hill towns we really like Montalcino. Montepulciano and even though its not on a hill Greve in Chianti.

Have fun planning!

Posted by
1709 posts

July will be very hot and very crowded everywhere in Italy you are considering. Don't discount this and plan a couple of down days, filling up your plan with constant movement will burn you out.

Even the small hill towns in Tuscany will be filled with tourists.
While I am sure there are exceptions, the wine country in Tuscan is not at all like Napa Valley / Sonoma. Very few wineries are open for visitors and the countryside while more beautiful is less stately single estates and more just combined open fields.
Most wine tasting is done inside retail shops inside the walled town known for the wine, like Montalcino or Montepulciano for example.

I would think of each stop in terms of how many night you need at a minimum with Zero day trips, any day trips you add a night.
Keep in mind with travel time and check/in ; check/out a 2 night stay really only means 1 full day.
Rome: 3 minimum ; 4 with everything on your list / 5 probably much better before day trips
Florence: 2 minimum ; 3 much better before day trips
Tuscan hill town or farmhouse stay: 2 minimum, 3 much better but if you want to see a bunch of places in the area like Siena, San Gim, Volterra, Assisi, Greve, Montalcino/Pienza/Montepulicano, Pisa, Lucca ; you could spend all 15 nights here.
Amalfi Coast: if you do go here fitting Pompeii on the way there or back or as a day trip from is better than day tripping their from Rome: 5 including day trips to Pompeii, day trip to Capri, other nearby towns one day
Venice: 2 minimum ; 3 much better

I think you need to pair down your list for Italy alone before you start thinking about Spain or Greece

Posted by
3374 posts

Since this is your first trip and you have a somewhat limited amount of time, consider this possibility: Fly into Venice as it is a great place to recover from jet lag and is a truly unique and romantic place. Then head to Florence and finish up in Rome. By splitting your nights evenly between the three you will have time in each place for day trips out from the city itself. The reason for this suggestion is that relocating from one town and hotel to another almost always takes a good bit more time than anticipated. And that is time that is just lost. Since this is your first trip (it wont be your last -- trust me) you want good memories of sights, people, good food and wine -- not just memories of train stations. Don't mean to rain on your parade, just food for thought.

Posted by
7124 posts

You could add Barcelona, but I'd leave it for your next 16 days in Europe when you can do more of Spain.

3 nights in Venice (Doge’s Palace, St. Mark’s Basilica)

5 nights in Florence (Duomo, Santa Croce, Michelangelo's David, Museum of Science or Uffizi Gallery)
Tuscan Wine Country Tour
Day Trip to Siena

4 nights in Sorrento (Pompeii, Amalfi, Positano, Capri)

4 nights in Rome
Churches (Saint Agostino, Sapienza, San Giovani), Pantheon, Trevi Fountain
Colosseum, Forum, Capitoline Hill, Capuchin Crypt, Catacombs
Vatican, Scavi Excavation Tour, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, Saint Angelo Castle, Borghese Gallery, Trastevere

Posted by
11852 posts

Hi Jonah -
With only 14 days to work with, I wouldn't even consider adding another country and would further trim your list. Moving between a lot of destinations can eat up a lot of valuable time that could otherwise be spent having fun! As Italy will also be new to you, placing yourself within easy reach of public transport is also a consideration. I would personally scrap plans to stay in the countryside where that might be a challenge without a car. Yes it will be hot, and yes there will be crowds but that's simply a factor of the time of year you've chosen so it is what it is. This is what I'd do?

Day 1: fly into Venice; get settled and acclimated (partial day)
Day 2: Venice
Day 3: Venice
Day 4: train to Florence (partial day)
Day 5: explore Florence
Day 6: day trip via public transit to Siena
Day 7: explore more of Florence or 2nd day trip
Day 8: train(s) to Sorrento (partial day)
Day 9: explore the Amalfi Coast via ferries/bus
Day 10: Pompeii
Day 11: more of the Sorrentine/Amalfi region
Day 12: early train(s) to Rome (partial day)
Day 13: Rome
Day 14 Rome
Day 15 Rome
Day 16: fly home from Rome

This gives you 3 nights in Venice, 4 in Florence, 4 in the Sorrentine/Amalfi, and 4 in Rome. I'm recommending Sorrento as while its not the Amalfi Coast, it's right on the doorstep and a very good transport hub for ferries, buses and train around the region. Pompeii is also a much shorter, cheaper and easier trip from there than from Rome. Ostia Antica - which IS much closer to Rome - is well worth seeing but I don't think you need to do both given the time that you have.

Posted by
446 posts

I agree with the others . . . Fly into Venice for a few nights, then to Florence for a few nights, then to Sorrento, then to Rome and fly home from Rome. Great B&B in Venice is Campiello Zen - so kind and helpful and great breakfast and a few steps away from the Vaporetto so you don't have to haul luggage far. The train is super easy, get tickets 120days out. We did this itinerary Oct 2015 for 3 weeks and we LOVED it. For day trips out of Florence, check out WALKABOUT FLORENCE . . . we did their BEST OF TUSCANY and their CHIANTI WINE & FOOD SAFARI . . . both excellent, book directly on their website. From Sorrento, we did a day trip to Herculaneum (it was fantastic . . . we chose it over Pompeii after pouring over TripAdvisor reviews . . . it's still the ruins from the same volcano, mosaics and all, but smaller . . . Pompeii in July will be HOT & super crowded. The Rick Steves book gives a great walking tour of the ruins in Herculaneum . . . follow it . . . it's perfect. We had some of the best pizza of our whole trip on the way back to the train. Message me if you need restaurant recommendations. In Sorrento, we also took a day trip to Amalfi Coast which is one of the prettiest drives we've ever been on. Plenty of time in each town. Sorrento itself is amazing and deserves a couple days - some of the best food we had. In Rome, don't miss the Pantheon, Colosseum, Forums, Vatican/St.Peters. We also did a couple food/walking tours in Rome that were great.

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you all for your suggestions and itineraries. I'm strongly considering dropping the farms/country, as that might needless complicate thing, especially considering both the heat and our unfamiliarity with the region as a whole. I'd imagine there are any number of wine tours or tastings in the areas themselves. More touristy but that seems unavoidable, especially given it'll be July. I really like some of the recently suggested travel paths.

In your opinions, would dropping any part of Italy be worth it in exchange for a second country? I'll be candid and say neither of us are HUGE into Renaissance art, but we are both very much into culture and history (which is why I included so much of it in my draft itinerary). As I mentioned in my opening post, Italy seemed like a perfect mix of romance and adventure but we also want some variety too. Perhaps the answer is that the areas we've chosen are diverse, romantic and interesting enough (despite our limited appreciation for the Italian art scene) and that adding a whole other country during this 14 days trip would be to our detriment.

Thanks again for everyone's input and patience. This has been amazingly helpful so far.

Posted by
873 posts

I think it's good idea to consolidate the Tuscan country side with Florence. Tours by Roberto and many other companies will come to your hotel, pick you up and take you in a day long tour to the wineries and farm stays, as well as feed you.

I would avoid the temptation to add another country. I have been to Italy 9 of the past ten years and am also planning out next trip for October. It's an incredible destination and each location is like another country within Italy.

Posted by
446 posts

NOPE . . . stay in Italy. Each area is so different. Don't waste too much time traveling . . . you'll want to savor every second, the time goes by so fast. So many great cafes, walks, cathedrals, the DAVID, St.Marks square . . . you'll fall in love with Italy.

Posted by
17636 posts

It's not just that Italy is so varied--so is Spain. To me it doesn't make a lot of sense to cut your time in Italy to cram in a flight to Barcelona and what would inevitably be too short a time there. You couldn't even think about other fascinating places in Catalunya, much less Madrid, Toledo, Segovia, Cordoba, Granada... (I could go on).

If you find yourself really bothered by the prospect of spending all your time in Italy, one solution would be to drop Rome and the Amalfi Coast from this trip and substitute a bit of time in Switzerland, southern Germany or Austria. However, I'd suggest accepting that you're dealing with the same problem we all face: too many destinations and not enough time. For me, it's helpful to think about maximizing what I can see (which means limiting the geographical extent of the trip) rather than the places I cannot visit. Time spent dealing with flights within Europe is a total loss from the sightseeing standpoint.

Posted by
7124 posts

I'll be candid and say neither of us are HUGE into Renaissance art, but we are both very much into culture and history (which is why I included so much of it in my draft itinerary). As I mentioned in my opening post, Italy seemed like a perfect mix of romance and adventure but we also want some variety too. Perhaps the answer is that the areas we've chosen are diverse, romantic and interesting enough (despite our limited appreciation for the Italian art scene) and that adding a whole other country during this 14 days trip would be to our detriment.

So don't visit the Uffizi, that's fine, many people don't. Michelangelo's David is certainly worth the effort as is the Sistine Chapel in Rome, but otherwise avoid museums, and don't overload on churches. The art is great, and yes mostly Renaissance, but it mainly forms a backdrop to the overall experience, unless you are especially interested.
Your assessment is correct ...
- culture and history - TICK
- romantic and interesting - TICK
But you also forgot ...
- food and wine - BIG TICK

Posted by
11852 posts

In your opinions, would dropping any part of Italy be worth it in
exchange for a second country? I'll be candid and say neither of us
are HUGE into Renaissance art, but we are both very much into culture
and history

No. Italy, as a unified country, is younger than the United States so the different regions have their own long, individual histories and culture; Rome is not the same as Naples, is not the same as Florence, is not the same as Venice and so on. Because those documented histories extend much further back than our own, one could spend many years studying just a single region!

As David said, there's no requirement to visit the art museums if they're not your thing but even non-arty types can find the frescoes, carvings, etc. in the churches and some other structures - in situ after many centuries - interesting. Especially worth noting are some which picture the individual or family which paid for the commission all decked out in the clothing of the era in which they were created. For instance, this one in Santa Trinita (Florence) illustrates not only what members of the patron's family looked like but how the piazza in front of the church appeared in the 15th century.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sassetti_Chapel#/media/File:Cappella_Sassetti_Resurrection_of_the_Boy.jpg

Little bits of history... :O)
So don't skip the churches as they're parts of the story. You mentioned wanting to see Michelangelo's "David"? You can see where the Master himself is buried in Santa Croce (Florence) along with Galileo; there are interesting tales about how both of them ended up there!

Food and wine will also be unique to different regions as well as some of the architecture. So again, as David said, you can tick all of your boxes JUST in Italy.

Posted by
11613 posts

In Italy as in most countries I can think of, art IS history and culture. Italians start going to see museums and monuments practically from the time they are born. School trips to museums and archeological sites are common from September through June. For centuries, art was commissioned to commemorate a historical event.

If you are not fond of museums (I prefer archeological sites, actually), Kathy's suggestion is excellent: just find a couple of places where you can see art in the place it was created for. The Museum of San Marco in Firenze comes to mind: the art was created for the building, a former Dominican convent, almost all of it by one artist, Fra Angelico. In Siena, the City Hall has art with historical references which helps understand the relationship between Siena, Firenze and other medieval cities.

Posted by
11852 posts

The Museum of San Marco in Firenze comes to mind: the art was created
for the building, a former Dominican convent, almost all of it by one
artist, Fra Angelico.

Ditto to Zoe's suggestion; a not-to-be missed, IMHO. The delicate brushwork and gentle palette the friar used to decorate the former monks' cells is lovely. San Marco is way up at the top of our favorites in Florence.

Posted by
1776 posts

Jonah--

You may say that you're not interested in Renaissance art, but once you get there...I don't know, it grows on you, especially in Florence. Happened to me.

Hard to advise here, especially for your maiden voyage, and you're going to be at the peak time of the tourist season. Wherever you go, have patience with queues and crowds or you'll end up being a patient, of the funny farm!

I think as stated above to fly open-jaw, into Venice, out of Rome is a good way to start. Venice, Florence, Sorrento, Rome as your bases, in that order because you want to be in Rome the night before you fly home. Buy your train tickets at a super discount at the Trenitalia site starting in March, 120 days out. You'll save tons of money, although you will have to take those specific trains on those days.

Your first time out, don't skimp on hotels. My rule of thumb first trip was to see all the types of rooms available, identify what was suitable for us, then go one class nicer. We stayed in some beautiful places because of it. Make sure there is A/C as it could be very hot. And have an idea where these hotels are in relation to the train station, although in Rome you might not want to stay near the Termini station, but plenty of people do it.

Once you've booked the 'structure' of your trip, then you can fine-tune daytrips, neighborhoods to visit, times of day to avoid crowds, restaurants you might want to try.

Enjoy your planning!

Posted by
3374 posts

"...would dropping any part of Italy be worth it in exchange for a second country?". Not to be terse, but no. Italy is such a great country one could easily spend a month there and not see / do it all.

Posted by
11852 posts

Heck, you could spend a month just in Rome without seeing it all (but then, I am a notorious dawdler).

Posted by
1709 posts

As many fall victim to, the more you research the more you see wonderful areas in Italy worth visiting, then you realize their our other incredible areas of Europe outside of Italy and costs and logistics make it possible to go there as well and all of sudden your plan went from a sensible trip to a more typical first post of an itinerary that everyone disagrees with. Not saying I or anyone else on the forum is right, as a general rule expect the majority of the forum to support a less than rushed plan so you can rush around but it will be counter to most forum recommendations.

To answer your question, you will shocked how diverse areas in Italy only hours away are from one another! It is nothing like traveling a few hours in the US or Canada in terms of how much everything is different to the area you are in.
You are young, you can return to Europe in the future and see other countries or you may desire to return back to Italy again instead.

On our trip this fall, we went with our 3 year old daughter and in Italy we did not visit one museum. This was our first time in Florence and we have no regrets not seeing David in the Accademia or the Uffizi Gallery ; there is plenty to see and do outside of the museums, we still loved Florence and will return someday. These ancient cities and towns are basically open air museums filled with history.
Due to excellent use of pedestrian only zoning you will enjoying just walking through cities and towns in a way that is just not possible in the US or Canada.

Posted by
1776 posts

I will say one thing about the second country possibility. Here is the way you could do it in a non-painful manner--

If you want to skew your trip a little to the north because of possible heat, then you could fly into Zurich (Switzerland), immediately take the train an hour to Lucerne, a picturesque 900-year old city, and decompress from jet lag there for a couple days. Then, with your next base either Verona or Venice, research great train rides over the Alps. We just did the normal one from Lucerne to Milan, and even that was spectacular. It will probably take most of a day (4 hrs to Milan, 6+ to Verona) but well worth it to my way of thinking--sometimes the journey is the adventure.

After staying in Verona/Venice for 3 days, do Florence 4 days, and then finish in Rome for 4 days, all efficient Freccia train rides, flying out of Rome. You'd be omitting Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast this time.

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you all.

We have been convinced to stay in Italy and not tackle a second country. I also really like the general idea of starting in Venice and working our way through Florence, Amalfi and finally Rome.

We don't want to come across as anti-intellectual about the artwork. We just thought other areas of Italy might be more appealing to us, which caused part of the shuffling and uncertainty. I'm getting the impression this might be a bit of a reductive view .

If people have other specific recommendations re less obvious sites, activities -- or even restaurants/accommodations -- around those areas, then I would love to hear them, although I don't want to keep abusing your collective good will. I have a lot to work with already. As a next step, I was thinking about picking up a good guide book.

One other thing: my girlfriend was hoping to end the trip on a more relaxing note (e.g. beach). This is why we originally had Santorini in our heads. Is there any way to fit in something like that while stationed in Rome? It seems to me that the Amalfi area, which isn't exactly a beach area in any event, works better BEFORE Rome given, you know, the airport, so I think this might be another compromise. While Venice might qualify as a more relaxing region than Rome, I agree with others here that starting in Rome and ending in Venice might be a bit backwards for first time visitors.

Posted by
11613 posts

There is a beach near Roma that you can reach by commuter train, it's Lido di Ostia, the final train stop on the line. You could visit the ruins at Ostia Antica, then take a bus to the Lido (beach). Or skip the ruins and go directly to the beach.

And many of the towns along the Amalfi Coast have beaches, some right across the street from the town.

Posted by
3374 posts

Since the GF wants a beach, Zoe made an excellent suggestion. If you get an early start you can be through at Ostia Antica by noon or one o'clock and have the entire afternoon for the beach.

Posted by
1709 posts

Positano has a great beach and it is an easy private driver car ride to the Naples Airport if you have not yet booked tickets.
Start in the north flying into Venice and end in the south flying out of Naples.

I think the ambitiousness of the trip overall will depend on how much you want to do and see in Tuscany. The region offers so much to see.
Amalfi Coast seems important to you and the GF, make sure to leave ample time to relax and not just do day trips away from it.

Posted by
46 posts

My bf and I did 16 days in Italy in October. We moved around quite a bit but enjoyed everything, and it seems we had the same goals that you and your gf have.

Here's what we did:

Day 1 - Arrive in Verona, head to Venice
Day 2 - Venice
Day 3 - Venice
Day 4 - Florence
Day 5 - Florence
Day 6 - agriturismo in Umbria
Day 7 - agriturismo in Umbria
Day 8 - Rome
Day 9 - Rome
Day 10 - Rome
Day 11 - Capri
Day 12 - Capri
Day 13 - Capri
Day 14 - Capri
Day 15 - Naples
Day 16 - Depart from Naples

Here's what I'd change - skip the farmstay idea, it is VERY rustic and very much out of the way (we wanted to avoid renting a car). Instead of doing that, just give Florence four days (it was our favorite place by far), and do a full-day Tuscany wine country tour as a day trip from Florence OR stay in one of those Val d'Orcia hill towns for a coupe nights (I recommend Pienza or Montalcino - those were our favorites). If we had it to do all over again, we would've done Capri for two nights (if you want to, message me, the B&B we stayed in was MAGICALLY beautiful), and then round the trip out with three nights in Sorrento or Positano (day trip to Naples if you must have the pizza).

Posted by
1159 posts

I will affirm Jay's thought...we flew from chicago to zurich, changed planes & flew into florence. Part of me wishes we had spent 24 hrs in Zurich .....

Posted by
14131 posts

I've never been to Italy in summer but I've read that there are lots and lots of crowds. I was rather put off by the hordes in Florence in mid-May! So I wonder how enjoyable it would be in Pompeii or Positano or Capri in July. Zoe has spent many, many weeks there. Maybe she can suggest some easier to reach places that aren't as popular with tourists. Maybe the Adriatic coast instead?

Umbria is as lovely as Tuscany, maybe fewer crowds? Bologna seems to be less of a tourist magnet and is a great base for day trips to Ferrara, Ravenna, Modena, Padua, and more, including Florence, though I would want to spend a few days there and in Rome, crowds or not.

Posted by
6 posts

Sorry to bump the thread!

We have booked flights to Venice and out of Rome. The trip path will be Venice (3 nights) --> Florence (4 nights) --> Amalfi Coast/Sorrento (4 nights) --> Rome (4 nights)

I know we're backtracking a bit but flying out of Naples was just ridiculous with the limited options available.

We are staying at Locanda Orseolo in Venice, a conveniently located AirBNBs in Florence, and in a well-reviewed AirBNB in Rome, although he's located a bit out of the way (15 minutes southeast from the Colosseum but about 200 m from the trains).

Is it better to be a bit outside the city centre in Rome during our travel dates? In other words, is it a blessing in disguise that we'd have to walk a bit to get to the touristy areas?

I've tentatively booked a hotel in Sorrento. Is this a good idea? Options are comically limited and super expensive (I get that this is high season and where some Italians go on vacations themselves). I've read that Sorrento is a great transport hub but it does seem quite a bit out of the way from everything, including beaches. Would it be better to find an AirBNB or hotel WITHIN the Amalfi coast, or would I pay the price of that later when getting back to Rome for our final 4 days?

Posted by
446 posts

You can see my remarks about our 4 nights in Sorrento above. We loved Sorrento . . . you'll want some time there, plus it is an easy day trip to Herculaneum and the Amalfi Coast. We stayed at a wonderful B&B in Sorrento. Sorrento is amazing, you will not want to leave. Some of our best meals in our 3 weeks in Italy were in Sorrento. You made the right decision.

Posted by
143 posts

Looking at the entire thread and at your most recent plan:
Bravo - you are going to have an amazing trip! My family and I were in Italy for the first two weeks of July, 2015. You must be prepared for crowds and for heat. Here are a few thoughts for you:

Venice: I am not sure where your B&B is but make sure it is nowhere near the Piazza San Marco or the Rialto Bridge. Tourist arrive in giant hoards off of cruise ships every day, go directly to the Basilica, the square, and the market, then get back on their boats. The rest of this spectacular City is left in large part alone. Stay in Dosodoro or in one of the other districts away from the hoards. You will find Venice to be enchanting and romantic. The food is incredible (so long as you are buying it somewhere away from the tourist hubs) as is the regional wine. By all means go to the Doges Palace, etc. - just get there early or go very late (the Piazza is so very special late at night, with the dueling orchestras playing on either side of the square and no crowds). One of the best things we did the entire trip was a "Cachetti Tour" by Row Venice. Great way to learn about the REAL Venice, row a gondola, eat delicious snacks, have traditional cocktails. http://rowvenice.org/

Florence: Go see David at the Accademia (book ahead) - an easy and accessible museum and your girl friend will LOVE David. :) Order Florentine steak by the gram and feast. Buy some leather (but make sure it is authentic). Skip climbing to the top of the Duomo and climb the Bell Tower instead - better view and then you get a close look at the dome. For goodness sake - skip the Uffizi! Blasphemy, I am sure, but it is VERY overrated. Check out the "Eataly" location in the old train station - delicious food there! If you can, stay on the "other" side of the Arno - an easy walk but away from the worst crowds and home to the best meals we had in Florence. Consider spending a night in Siena if it works, or -- consider staying in Siena and day tripping to Florence?? I know that will be controversial but I like Siena better than Florence. Do check and see when the Palio (most amazing horse race on Earth) is as it will impact your visit there - here is a link: http://www.paliotickets.com/.

Amalfi Coast: You can't go wrong here - the entire area is so spectacular. Sorrento is lovely but I would consider going to the effort to get into one of the smaller towns if you can. Don't make too many plans here and just try and relax and drink some limoncello. As for Pompeii - I went during a trip years ago in October and it was sweltering - I think it will be like the surface of the sun in July. Just wait and see what the weather looks like.

Rome -- ah, Roma. Take a look at this site for some really good information about neighborhoods in Rome: http://www.revealedrome.com/2012/08/neighborhoods-of-rome.html. I doubt you will look there, but the Spanish Steps area is overrun with tourists so I would avoid that. Travestere would be my choice as there are some good budget places there, but also look at Prati and Testaccio. We were in Rome for 5 nights and ordered stuffed and fried squash blossoms every day so we could see all the different preparations - they are in season in July! The wines from the region around Rome were the biggest surprise - so delicious! If you want to see the Vatican (and it truly is one of the most spectacular places on Earth), you should book an early morning tour (ie starting at 7am or so) to get to see at least the Sistine Chapel without being crushed by a mob. Also - the Borghese Gallery is one of our favorite museums anywhere - book a time slot ahead of time and enjoy an air conditioned and not-too-crowded visit. The museum is a converted house that is jam packed with masterpieces - easy to see in just an hour or two.

And yes -- you definitely should not go to another country. You will just scratch the surface of incredible Italia!

Posted by
11852 posts

Sorry but I have to disagree with Jane:

For goodness sake - skip the Uffizi! Blasphemy, I am sure, but it is
VERY overrated.

I'd skip the "David" at the Accademia before I'd skip the Uffizi UNLESS you are not a fan of art AT ALL. My Husband and I have been to art museums in many parts of the world and the Uffizi was one of the stars. It's perfectly OK not to be into art museums and to skip them for other attractions but for others of us that one is not even CLOSE to being 'overrated'. Florence is the cradle of the Italian Renaissance so it's a goldmine of art and architecture for fans of the genre.

Is it better to be a bit outside the city centre in Rome during our
travel dates? In other words, is it a blessing in disguise that we'd
have to walk a bit to get to the touristy areas?

No. Central Rome covers a pretty broad area, and I'm guessing you'll want to be closer versus further away from all the things you'll want to see and do. If you wanted to stay outside of city 'center', you'd be doing more than walking to get there; that would involve taking urban or metro trains to get there. Even staying within the general area you may be taking some transport to cover the longer distances between the most-visited attractions. It depends on how much walking you're able to do in a day?

I've tentatively booked a hotel in Sorrento. Is this a good idea?
Options are comically limited and super expensive (I get that this is
high season and where some Italians go on vacations themselves). I've
read that Sorrento is a great transport hub but it does seem quite a
bit out of the way from everything, including beaches. Would it be
better to find an AirBNB or hotel WITHIN the Amalfi coast, or would I
pay the price of that later when getting back to Rome for our final 4
days?

Personally I would say yes, it's a good idea depending on what you want to do. Pompeii and Capri are easy from Sorrento, and it's a hub for buses and ferries around the Amali Coast plus trains from Naples. Options are not 'comically limited' and they are pricey because it's a hot spot due the size of the town and the amount of tourist services and transport available there. A lot of tourists don't really care about the beaches - such as they are - so I guess it depends on how important to YOU those are.

I'm not sure what you mean by, "..pay the price of that later when getting back to Rome for our final 4
days?". Could you explain a little further, please?

Posted by
6 posts

Hello and thank you again:

Just by way of update - trip planning is coming along great. All lodgings are booked and I think I've got a good but not overstuffed itinerary underway :)

I'm ensuring that each day we "arrive" at a destination has zero obligations so that we can just wander around and enjoy the scenery.

In case anyone isn't sick of me yet:

Venice:

I've basically got Venice all sorted out. Staying in Hotel Locando (the rest of our stays will be ABNBs. Already booked a secret itinerary trip to Doge's Palace and a skip the line to St. Mark's. Toying with the idea of a boat tour to the outlying islands but, eh, I don't want to over plan as I'd rather just get lost and enjoy the city. We only have 3 nights here.

Florence:

I think we definitely intend to see both the Ufizi Gallery/Accademia in Florence. We have time, even if we find any of the above to be "overrated". We'll go with an open mind -- we don't want to go to Italy and not soak up some of the more famous galleries, even if we're not too knowledgeable about the Renaissance period. I also have a separate archeological day planned with visits to various churches, etc. Those don't seem to require any pre-bookings though.

I talked about a wine tour. Now, I typically dislike large group tours but this one sounded promising as it covers a lot of ground in a single day trip to Tuscany: https://www.viator.com/tours/Florence/Tuscany-in-One-Day-Sightseeing-Tour/d519-5070TUSCANY?itemId=

Seems exhausting but sort of worth it for what it covers.

Sorrento/Amalfi:

What I meant, Kathy, was that it seems like staying directly in the Amalfi Coast might cause some logistical complications when heading to Rome but this is now a moot issue as we're flying out of Rome. I think I was overthinking it anyway.

I'm still trying to figure out how to "plan" this part of the trip in terms of how and when to see various areas.

I found a hotel - Helios - but I'm thinking an AirBNB in the same area might be better here. Not sure, honestly.

Rome:

We elected a more centralized B&B in Rome. Basically dead in the middle of everything.

I'm also toying with how to break up our 4 days in Rome. I was thinking (and I'll likely change the order around):

Day 1
Churches (Saint Agostino, Sapienza, San Giovani), Pantheon, Trevi Fountain
Day 2
Colosseum, Forum, Capitoline Hill, Capuchin Crypt, Catacombs
Day 3
Vatican, Scavi Excavation Tour, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, Saint Angelo Castle
Day 4
Borghese Gallery, Trastevere

Posted by
11852 posts

What I meant, Kathy, was that it seems like staying directly in the
Amalfi Coast might cause some logistical complications when heading to
Rome but this is now a moot issue as we're flying out of Rome. I think
I was overthinking it anyway.

Ah. Thanks for that, Jonah. I understand now! :O)

And I didn't think you were "coming across as anti-intellectual about the artwork" at all. I think what I was trying to get at, and probably not explaining very well, is that the experience is just different in Italy so you may enjoy it a little more than you think you will, given a try. But do just as much as you want to or not; it's your trip and you should do precisely as you please, doggone it. Even I have days that I go a little crosseyed with all those madonnas, saints and angels and stuff, and have to run off for a few beers to get them to focus again. That's my excuse, anyway.

Posted by
1663 posts

Getting to the Amalfi Coast is not that much more difficult than getting to Sorrento, it just depends on the day trips you want to do. Some people also see Pompeii on their way to or from the AC.
Sorrento: train to Naples, switch to commuter or tourist train to Sorrento.
Amalfi Coast: train to Salerno, switch to ferry or bus.
If you are not invested in being in Positano or Amalfi, there are some towns closer to the mainland that are much cheaper and would still allow you to reach Pompeii fairly easily.

Posted by
14131 posts

Sorrento or Amalfi Coast town - depends on what you want to do. For views, hiking, charming shops, beaches, the AC is where you want to be. Overall prices are higher than Sorrento but there may be "bargains" to be had. If you want a base to see the sights - Pompeii, Herculaneum, Naples (especially the Archaeology Museum, it's a wow), climb Vesuvius, Sorrento is where you should stay. I believe most of the ferry service to Capri is from Sorrento, so you may have to change ferries there, depending on where you are on the AC.

Posted by
3374 posts

Jonah, three nights really means two full days a perhaps part of another. Going to Murano and Burano will consume the better part of a day unless you get a really early start. If you do go, no need to take a tour as the vaporetto goes there and your vap. pass will cover it. They are both really interesting places, and I'd try to work them in, but then one can spend a week in Venice and not get bored.