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Florence in October

My early plan is for a first trip in mid-October from San Francisco to Venice for 2 days, then train to
Florence for the major part of the trip (1 week), then train to Rome for two days, and then home.
I know the trip should be longer, but I have about 2 weeks, and I'd like to spend most of it in Florence.
Is mid-October okay?
Is Venice to Rome better than Rome to Venice?
What about local train tickets vs. advanced tickets?
Any suggestions regarding accommodations and museum tickets would be appreciated.

Posted by
11613 posts

Sounds good, fly into Venezia and out of Roma.

All your train travel will most likely be on fast trains, you can save a lot of money by committing to dates/times and buying up to 120 days ahead. But, with the cheapest super economy fares, you cannot make changes or miss your train (reservation included) without buying a new ticket.

I would get tickets for major sights in advance, but in October (my favorite month in Italy), lines will probably be manageable without advance tickets.

Posted by
13 posts

Meant to say we will be a party of 3 seniors. Will that affect accommodations?

I understand that I may save money by buying train tickets in advance, but Venice to Florence an Florence to Rome must be day coach. Haven't checked fares, but it can't be that expensive. Availability is something else. Can I depart on my schedule without advanced tickets?

Posted by
9454 posts

Venice to Rome via Florence is excellent routing, and two weeks is a nice amount of time for this itinerary. I would encourage you to add a third night to Venice though. It is lovely, one of my two favorite places in all of Italy.

Trains are usually easy to get exactly when you want them without advance purchase, but a friend of mine just had a terrible problem and arrived in Rome, planning to transfer to Venice immediately, and all of the trains were sold out due to some religious event. They had to take a bus. It was ugly. So, I highly recommend buying tickets in advance for a schedule you know you can keep. You'll save $$ and be assured of seats.

Meant to say we will be a party of 3 seniors. Will that affect accommodations?

I don't understand this question. Do you want a room for three people? Those can be hard to find, but for your time in Florence, an apartment would be nice and economical, too.

Do you have Rick Steves' Italy Guide? Info about any and all museums in these great cities is in there, as well as a lot of useful info on the trains, getting to-and-from airports, finding accommodations, etc.

Posted by
11983 posts

Although I'm from Florence, I would also recommend 3 nights in Venice. That will give you a chance to to visit the islands of Murano (glass blowing) and Burano (colorful houses), and also to get acclimated with the 9 hour time difference. 3 nights in Rome would be my recommendation also. Unless of course you have been to those cities before and this time you just want to focus on Tuscany. But it's ultimately your trip, and you should do as you please.

The full (base) train fare in Standard (2nd) class from Venice to Florence is ~45€ pp.. From Florence to Roma it's also the same amount. Standard class is the most economical class and it is more than adequate, since it's still more comfortable than business class on a plane. Be aware that early morning trains on that route tend to fill the Standard class fully (although not as much in October). It might be best to buy tickets a day or two earlier to secure a seat, otherwise you might have to buy a more expensive higher class ticket (those never sell out) or wait for a train later in the morning when trains are rarely full in any class.

If you are staying in Florence for over 4 nights, renting an apartment might be a better (cheaper and more spacious) way to go for 3 adults.

Posted by
14039 posts

Most double rooms have one double bed. Triple rooms are rare. Many places also have one or two small single rooms, many do not. What kind of room/s are you looking for? Sometimes apartments are better for 3 people, but 2 hotel rooms means 2 bathrooms. Mid-October is fine, but it can be hot (and humid). Consider whether AC is a must for you.

Into Venice and out of Rome is the best plan. Count nights, not days. You'll use about 1/2 day going from Venice to Florence, a little less to Rome. Spend at least 3 nights in Venice, so you have at least two full days. Try to have 3 full days in Rome - there's a lot to see there.

On the Trenitalia website, Venice-Florence is €49 for a train today, but only €20 for the same train 3 months from today.

Venice, the only thing you need to reserve in advance is the Secret Itineraries Tour at the Doge's Palace (if you choose to do it - I recommend it).

Florence, someone else will advise you about the Florence card options/benefits . . . .

Rome You need to book the Borghese visit in advance. You may have to do that by telephone (or ask your hotel to book it for you) if you are using the Roma Card. It may or may not be worthwhile for you. If you want to take one of the Vatican tours, book in advance. If not, I think it's worth the extra charge (about €4-5 each) to book Vatican Museum tickets in advance.

Posted by
11182 posts

"Venice to Florence an Florence to Rome must be day coach."

I'm not sure what you mean exactly by this. First, in Europe, the word "coach" is often used to mean a long distance bus between cities. You would go between these cities by train.

Second, the train from Venice to Florence is about 2 hours, and the train from Florence to Rome is 90 minutes. There are no overnight trains. The trains on these routes run frequently starting in the early morning and going into the evening. So, you can leave and arrive whenever is most convenient for you.

As Roberto said, there are various classes (at various prices), and if you have your heart set on a specific departure, you may want to buy early.

The first day of arrival after a trans-Atlantic flight is often a jet-lagged haze, so I agree that you should plan 3 nights in Venice. And yes, arriving in Venice and departing from Rome is better than the reverse. Flights departing Venice for the US often leave VERY early, and getting to the airport at that hour is expensive, time-consuming, or both. Flights from Rome to the US sometimes leave later, but even if yours doesn't, it's much faster and easier to get to the Rome airport early.

As for accommodations and museum tickets, start by getting Rick Steves Italy. It has all the information you need for a first visit, including things you didn't even know to ask.

Posted by
17 posts

October is usually still fine. The heat of September is gone- the November rains not yet arrived. Hopefully.
Always buy train tickets in advance. Florence-venice and Florence-Rome can be had for under 20 euros one way.
October is the cusp of the season in Florence. You can avoid making reservations for museums/galleries simply by turning up 15-20 mins before opening time and walking right in. Even at the Ufizzi.
A very reasonably priced hotel/B&B in Florence is the Relais Tiffany. Family run and near the sattion.
You may need a light jacket towards the end of the month of October, nothing too heavy.

Posted by
909 posts

October is a lovely lovely time in Italy! Another possible hotel in Florence is the wonderful, moderately priced Hotel Casci, run by a warm and friendly English-speaking family. It's very centrally and perfectly located, about a 12 minute walk from the train station, and 5 minutes up the street from the Duomo. There are three steps to get into the downstairs foyer, then an elevator to the hotel on the third floor of an old historic building (1/2 block from the Medici Palace). So: only 3 steps in the whole place! They have several "family rooms" with 3 - 4 beds in the rooms. I stayed in one several years ago with my grown daughter and my sister-in-law (and stayed in a single last year). Private baths, of course, and double-paned windows so very quiet rooms.

Posted by
13 posts

Wow! So many wonderful and helpful replies.

Thank you all.

I don't want to stop the current flow, but I have other questions.

I am comfortable with Spanish, but none of us has Italian. We will purchase Italian travel phrasebooks, but we have over three months to prepare for the trip. Should we invest time in conversation classes, books, videos, etc?

So far, your great responses help with getting around in Italy. I haven't made any plans for getting to and from Italy yet . I'll bet you all have recommendations on the subject of San Francisco to Venice and back from Rome. Of course, we will fly...

Posted by
823 posts

I've been to Italy in October a couple times and the weather was comfortable. Allow for light rain a couple times but pleasant otherwise.

If there are three of you, I would be looking for an apartment in Florence and Rome, and maybe even Venice you stretch your stay by at least a day. Unless you want to cram all three of you into a "family" room at a hotel (even then, you won't save a whole lot), an apartment is the cheapest and most comfortable way to go. (Look up some of my past posts/trip reports.) Plus, you get room to relax and socialize plus a kitchen and laundry facility (usually).

I concur with stretching Venice out to at least three days. You won't be disappointed...

Posted by
11182 posts

"I am comfortable with Spanish, but none of us has Italian. We will purchase Italian travel phrasebooks, but we have over three months to prepare for the trip. Should we invest time in conversation classes, books, videos, etc?"

The more Italian you can speak and understand, the more you will get out of the trip. Of course, plenty of people travel to Italy without a word of the language; they do fine and have a great time. But if you do have time and interest in studying Italian, it will definitely be repaid. On the one hand, you will find your Spanish knowledge makes learning Italian easy; on the other hand, you will find that you will interpose the languages (using a Spanish word instead of an Italian one, using Spanish grammar instead of Italian grammar, etc).

I'd start by getting a basic Italian course on CD out of the library (either "Italian for travelers" or the starter Pimsleur course, or something similar). Depending on how that goes, you can then decide on how far you want to proceed.

"I haven't made any plans for getting to and from Italy yet . I'll bet you all have recommendations on the subject of San Francisco to Venice and back from Rome. Of course, we will fly..."

Roberto now lives in the San Francisco area and is from Florence and goes back to Italy often, so he's the expert on that subject. While waiting for him to respond, you can start looking at Kayak https://www.kayak.com/flights?mc=y or Google Flights https://www.google.com/flights/#search;iti=SFO__2016-07-07;tt=m. Pick some test dates, use SFO to VCE for your first segment and FCO to SFO as your second segment, and see what you get.

Roberto will say (and I agree) that you want to change in Europe rather than the East Coast of the US if at all possible. You save total flight time, and it's also easier if your first plane is late. If you miss your Paris to Venice flight, there will be others that day; if you miss your JFK to Venice flight, you have to wait a whole day (if there is even space on the next day's flight). You want to be all on one ticket, so you're "protected" if there's a problem (they will put you on the next available flight).

Posted by
11734 posts

we have over three months to prepare for the trip. Should we invest
time in conversation classes, books, videos, etc?

Your Spanish will be useful as there are similarities between the two but no, no need to do that unless you intend to carry on with your studies when you get home. It really takes most people quite a long time to learn a language, and becoming reasonably fluent involves daily conversation. Learn the manner phrases (always nice to be able to be polite!) and then reference the phrasebook as needed. My husband and I don't have a second language at all and did just fine. Of course the more you are able to learn, the more fun it is to use it!

But always, always greet the shop keeper, the desk staff, the waiter, pretty much anyone at ALL you will be interacting with before you say anything else (buongiorno, buonasera depending on time of day.) Besides being polite, they're such lover-ly phrases. It doesn't matter that 90% of the time they'll respond back in English! :O)

Posted by
14039 posts

Weather is variable. How well do you sleep in the heat? Some people love the warmer temps, others not so much. Are you used to San Jose temps or San Francisco temps?

My first trip to Italy was in October. Venice was not hot, but without a fan, I wouldn't have slept well (and there were some mosquitos - the hotel gave me a plug-in "repeller"). It was significantly warmer in Florence and I was grateful that I'd booked a room with AC. I didn't get farther south.

Posted by
4343 posts

Check out the Hotel Balesteri in Florence. It is a very nice four star hotel, reasonably priced on the Arno river close to city center.

Posted by
16796 posts

"Haven't checked fares, but it can't be that expensive. Availability is something else. Can I depart on my schedule without advanced tickets?"

Full fare in the cheapest class of service between Venice-Florence or Florence-Rome is equivalent to $50 per person per leg to buy on the spot. If you can't find three seats in that class or in the same car of the train on short notice, then the next level is about $12 more. You can buy tickets whenever you're ready to commit to a departure time, whether 3 months out with a discount, 2 days out, or at the station before departure (of a train that isn't full). You can buy them both tickets at the train station or a travel agency in Venice, or separately as you go, or as "ticketless" versions at www.trenitalia.com.

Posted by
13 posts

Again, thanks to all who have made suggestions or comments regarding my trip planing. I have printed out everything so far, highlighted things of particular importance, and shared the pages with my wife and sister-in-law who will constitute our party.

Since I have last posted, I have acquired the Rick Steves (new) Italy guide, and his pocket guide to Florence. I have also borrowed a few guides from the library just to compare.

There were at least a few comments from you regarding the advisability of renting an apartment--at least in Florence. The RS Italy mentions the subject and lists contacts. I would like to have some more suggestions regarding apartment contacts from you, if possible.

I didn't want to mention it up front, but now I will tell you that my wife and I are vegetarians. We get along here in Italian restaurants, but we are able to eat well at other restaurants we know. Can you suggest solutions for our veggie problems? Veggie for us does not include fish or chicken. We do eat cheese but certainly not at every meal. Perhaps the apartment would help with cooking, but I can just hear your reaction to passing up of some of the most celebrated food in the world that will be available on our trip.

Again, thank you very much.

Len

Posted by
11182 posts

"I can just hear your reaction to passing up of some of the most celebrated food in the world that will be available on our trip."

No, there are several vegetarians and vegans who are regular participants on this board, and most of the rest of us are mature enough to understand without judging.

Italy is not necessarily a difficult place for vegetarians. There won't be specific vegetarian restaurants, and dishes won't have the "V" symbol next to them, but you can still do fine. The standard menu is divided into appetizers (antipasti), first courses (primi), second courses (secondi), vegetables (contorni), and desserts (dolci). All of these are usually a la carte, so it's not hard at all to order just vegetables, appetizers, and first courses (making sure, of course, that these are vegetarian). Veggie second courses are extremely rare. You will want to learn some basic food words to make menu decoding easier.

Posted by
5399 posts

And since you have time to prepare, consider visiting one of the nearby travel groups -- San Francisco area on second Saturday of the month, Sacramento on third Saturday. Silicon Valley group is still forming.

Posted by
11613 posts

Italian chefs and waiters are fine with your asking for vegetarian/vegan options. You will not have problems finding food. There is also vegan gelato.

If anyone in your party has mobility issues, be sure to confirm that your accommodations do not require climbing stairs. Some hotels or rooms have several steps to climb, even to access an elevator, so if this is a concern, make sure you know in advance.

Posted by
14039 posts

I eat vegetarian food when I travel, strictly no meat or seafood products. I've never had a problem in Italy. There are lots of pastas, risottos and fresh vegetable dishes.

Apartment vs. hotel. For me, the downsides would be: hard to find AC, single bathroom, no housekeeping service, no front desk for info and recommendations. The major plus is the price, and having a fridge, and maybe a washing machine, is convenient.

The thought of spending hours cooking and then cleaning up doesn't attract me. If you are planning a laid back stay, seeing one or two sights a day, and really want to shop for food and love to cook, that's fine. But if you are planning to fill your days with the many sights of Florence (and long day trips), you're probably going to enjoy sitting in a restaurant in the evening and having someone else do the cooking, serving, and washing up. And your sister-in-law can enjoy a full array of non-vegetarian dishes.

Posted by
752 posts

October-November is the rainy season in Italy, I pack the RS umbrella and RS rain cape, also may get cooler at night, so I bring a favorite wrap, I don't wear sweaters, but I have a beautiful Made in Italy cape I bought at the San Lorenzo Market in Florence that I may wear on the plane as those cabins are cold and it's many hours in there! Also I wear a pretty Italian-made Pashmina that doubles as a wrap when I don't wear the cape.

Two years ago at Noon on September 19, I experienced a cold high wind and hail storm in Florence, everyone took cover as best they could because rivers of ankle-deep hail ran through the streets. Afterwards the sun came out and we all trudged thru hail as we resumed our day, the hail was the size of grapes and stayed for three days, with the sun out!

Posted by
339 posts

one site is Cross-Pollinate.com. There are apartments listed there. If you type in the number of people and your dates, you will see photos, prices and numerous offerings. We have used them in Venice, Florence and Rome. Customer service is great and they are English speaking. However there is no "front desk" if you need more service like a concierge. We have been very happy using this site and they respond promptly to questions.

Posted by
13 posts

The Duomo
How many of you have climbed the Duomo?
I have a wonderful PBS video called "The Medici-Godfathers of The Renaissance" where I first became facinated with Brunelleschi's
dome. Later I read a book called "Brunelleschi's Dome." The author is Ross King.

I think my trip stems from my intrest in the dome.

Posted by
195 posts

I didn't have time to read through all the replies, but to answer your question about the train tickets, buying them in advance is cheaper (for the big high speed trains between cities like Florence and Venice). There are very cheap tickets available for the trains, but they do sell out as time goes on, so if you do it at the last minute you may only be left with the most expensive fares. Downside of the cheapest tickets is that they are nonrefundable - if you change your mind or miss your train, you are out of luck!