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Help with itinerary

Hi all. I'm super nervous to put this out there because of all the changes I'm probably going to be told to make, but as I've never been to Italy before, I'm looking for some serious guidance. My friend and I are planning a trip at the end of August (not the ideal time, I know... but the ONLY time in our schedules). Looking for around 12, maybe 13 days, mostly depending on the best flight deal we can find. Not sure that we're ever going to make it back to Italy so we really want to get to as much as humanly possible. Neither of us are HUGE museum fanatics, so I don't know that we need as much time in some places as other might (ex: Rome). So, here we go:

  • Day 1- Fly into Rome (early AM), Rome all day
  • Day 2- Rome
  • Day 3- Early train to Naples/Sorrento
  • Day 4- Sorrento/Naples/AC?
  • Day 5- Rent car in Sorrento/Naples, Drive to Tuscany (Orivieto/Assisi). Sleep in Assisi
  • Day 6- Drive to Siena, Sleep in Siena
  • Day 7- Drive to Florence, Drop off Car
  • Day 8- Florence
  • Day 9- Early train to Cinque Terre, sleep in CT
  • Day 10- Hike CT, sleep in CT?
  • Day 11- LONG train to Venice??
  • Day 12- Venice/Murano?
  • Day 13- Fly Home

We weren't originally going to do anything south of Rome, but then another friend said how beautiful it is and so we added it to the itinerary. I have no idea where the best place is to rent/drop off a car, and it sounds like the train to Venice from the Cinque Terre is ridiculous. And then there's which Tuscan cities to visit and how to even start planning hotels.... HELP!

Posted by
13 posts

I was just scrolling through other posts and am seeing that a rental car can be dropped off somewhere closer to CT (La Spezia?) I was planning to go from Tuscany to Florence for convenience of car drop off, but I'm thinking I have it backwards! Should drop car off at La Spezia, then do CT, then take the train to Florence and end in Venice?

Posted by
3696 posts

You can certainly drop off your car in LaSpezia. I have done many whirlwind trips, and if I had only been to Italy once I would not have regretted a crazy schedule. Is there any way you can fly into Venice and out of Rome? I would try to reverse the trip. Hopefully Roberto will chime in with his expert planning. I am not sure about the train from Venice to CT, but I would probably go Venice to CT, get a car in LaSpezia and drive to Tuscany. Stay in the villages and take a bus for a day trip to Florence if you are not that into museums. Sienna is a bit hard to park the car... takes some planning. I drove the AC, but it was not all that much fun, so not sure how you should work in the rest of the trip, but you can drop your car in Florence and take the train to Rome. Maybe you can take the train to Sorrento after Rome then fly out of Naples?? With so little time in Venice I would only leave and go to Murano if you are bored (you won't be) It will be a lot of traveling but you will truly have a taste of Italy and if you are fortunate enough to come back you will know where you want to re-visit.

Posted by
506 posts

The only problem I see is the limited time you are spending in Rome and Florence. Such fabulous and rich cities in every way. I think you might kick yourself when you have to leave those two cities and really haven't had a chance to see much.

Posted by
796 posts

As someone who has lived in Italy (Rome and Florence), I can see some flaws in the plan! Rome, Florence, and Venice have a lot more to offer than museums but none of them are getting the time they deserve. Also, by driving, much of your time is going to tied up driving all the time and not getting to see or do much of anything in any town or city. As it stands now, your vacation is going to consist of a flight to Rome and all the time it takes renting cars, driving to the next town, and checking in and out of hotels with little time for anything more. If that is all you want from the trip, you'll be able to come home with memories of airports, car rental offices and hotel lobbies and little more.

Posted by
11613 posts

I love an enthusiastic plan! A few points:

Both Orvieto and Assisi are in Umbria, not Tuscany. You can sleep in Siena or make it a daytrip from Firenze, or vice versa. The bus between the two is about an hour, so if you want to turn in the car before you check in in Firenze you could still see Siena without the car. Before you do that, you might want to stop in Lucca or Volterra (both in Tuscany).

On day 11, it's not a long train to a Venezia but several trains. Murano is not as interesting to me as Burano and Torcello. Buy the vaporetto pass when you get into Venezia.

Have a great trip!

Posted by
13 posts

Wow! Thanks so much for all the responses! Is there any reason people recommend flying into Venice and out of Rome? The way I see it (which could be very wrong), if I'm planning on seeing all the same places, why does the order matter? We originally had it planned that way, but when we thought about it more, we (I) really feel like I'm going to fall in love with Venice and would like for that to be the place to end my trip. But if there's a logistical reason, I'm all ears!

As for the Tuscany stops, that was my own naïveté and lack of full research about the area. I was referring to Tuscany as the whole area to drive through without realizing it's actually a town itself. Thanks for clarifying! Any preference where in that general area would be good to set up camp and sleep?

I realize I'm not giving these majestic cities their due respect, but with 12 days to see it all, I'm left without much of a choice. :(. We'll be up early and stay out late to make the most of our days, and I guess just hope for the best (and another vacation after to help us recover. Haha)!

If anyone else has any more input I'd be so happy to hear it!! Thanks!!

Posted by
3506 posts

For a first trip to Italy, I would skip the car and take the trains - much easier and cheap. Limit yourself to only traveling for 3 hours max and changing hotels every other night; otherwise, you'll return feeling like you just checked off a list instead of really enjoying being there. I would recommend going to either Cinque Terre or Sorrento but not both.

For August, make sure you have hotels with air conditioning, so you can sleep better. Select hotels that are right in the center of the old portion of the town, so you're not wasting time going from your hotel to where you really want to be at each location.

Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
651 posts

I agree that you need to cut something, and that you should choose either Sorrento or CT to ax. The Amalfi coast NEEDS 3 nights MINIMUM! I stayed there 4 nights and that seemed just about right. I also think you are not spending enough time in Assisi, as the sites there are rather spread out and it is a truly delightful place.

Its easy to take a train from Naples directly to Orvieto, where you can pick up a car easily for Tuscany/Umbria.

The reason people suggest starting in Venice is because most flights to USA out of Venice leave very early in the morning and its not quick, easy, or cheap to get to the airport for your flight on time.

With a rushed schedule like this you will want to double check guide books to make sure that sites you want to see are open on the days you are there.

Posted by
31073 posts

I agree with the others that some of the cities you're visiting really deserve more time. My suggestion would be to skip the Sorrento / Naples portion and focus on Rome and north this time. For just one full day, the travel time there and back is not worth the effort (IMO).

I'd also suggest starting in Venice and departing from Rome, for the reasons that Angela mentioned. One route you could consider is Venice > Florence (with day trip to Siena by Bus) > Cinque Terre (which of the five towns are you planning to stay?) > Rome (you could perhaps add a day trip to Orvieto). This will give you more time in each of the places you'll be visiting, rather than seeing Italy mostly through the windows of a train or whatever.

On the subject of trains (and other public transit), there are some potentially expensive "caveats" to be aware of. As you haven't travelled in Italy before, you'll need to be aware of these. If you need more information, post another note. You don't need a car for the places you'll be visiting, and there are also some "caveats" to be aware of when renting cars in Italy. Using well-planned rail trips will be faster and more efficient. The high speed trains run at up to 300 kmH, so hard to match that with a car.

Posted by
11613 posts

Rallygay, my grammatical error if I led you to think Tuscany is a city; it's a region. There is a little town called Tuscania, I don't want to confuse you. Some places you can reach by bus or train: Siena, Volterra, Lucca, Arezzo. Each is different and worth seeing if you have the time.

Posted by
13 posts

Wow! Thank you all so much for all your responses! It seems I have my work cut out for me in planning this trip! I really appreciate all your feedback. I'm at work now, so I'm writing this up quickly but won't be able to add anything until later today.

In terms of the flights in and out... the ones I was looking at would have us leaving Venice at 11:30am. Is that considered too early? And is that the only reason to leave from Rome instead? Only because I'd really like to be able to leave from Venice if at all possible.

Ken- I would absolutely love more information on the train system and any "caveats" to be aware of. I'm completely clueless (besides what I've read), and am looking for as much help as humanly possible to make this trip run smoothly.

Do you all agree to skip the Sorrento area vs CT? I really wanted to do the CT, but the south does look beautiful. Any particular reason why one would be smarter? (I'm thinking CT is better b/c of location?)

Zoe- no worries.... You didn't mislead me. I understand now that it's a region. The whole "city" vs "region" concept is foreign to me since we don't use those terms in the US.

I'm definitely seeing that our car rental plan is flawed. I assumed we needed a car to get through the Assisi/Tuscany areas, but maybe not? And if we do, sounds like we can rent one way further north than I was expecting!

I really can't thank you all enough for your help with this!!! Hope to hear back from you!

Posted by
903 posts

An 11:30 AM flight out of Venice is not what most would consider early. Many flights depart at 6 or 7 AM headed to another European gateway city. You would have to leave your hotel at 3 AM to get to the airport on time. You should be fine at 11:30 AM. You wouldn't have to leave your hotel until 8 or 9, depending on your mode of transportation..

Posted by
651 posts

YOU should decide between CT or AC, all I'm saying is give yourself enough time to do either one properly. CT can mostly be seen with 2 nights, but AC has so much to offer that it needs a lot of time. Both are a collection of gorgeous little towns hanging onto the sharp cliffs above the mediterranean. AC also has lots of potential day trips, Capri with its famous Blue Grotto, Pompeii and Herculanium, further south to Paestum with its Ancient Greek temples, Naples where you can eat pizza where it was invented, and cruising along a windy narrow 500 year old road cantilevered above the sea hopping from one cute village to the next.

The expensive caveats to train travel: If you are taking a regionale train you must have the ticket validated or there are huge fines that must be paid on the spot. If you buy tickets in advance for a fast train it comes with a seat reservation and is good only for the train specified, if you miss it you will need to buy another ticket unless you bought full fare to begin with.

Caveats for car rental: You must have an international drivers permit for each driver. Parking is often hard to find, and VERY expensive. The historical sections of most cities and towns cannot be driven into unless you are a resident, and each time you drive into a "ZTL", a picture is taken of the car and you will get a HUGE FINE, usually about 6 months after you get home, plus a fee from the car rental agency for having to provide your info to local authorities.

Posted by
11733 posts

Do you all agree to skip the Sorrento area vs CT? I really wanted to do the CT, but the south does look beautiful. Any particular reason why one would be smarter? (I'm thinking CT is better b/c of location?)

Yep, and for the reasons already mentioned: you don't have enough time to do it justice; it's out of the way; you're skimping on some other locations which, IMHO, deserve it more; you'll see plenty of beautiful in the CT.

I'll also throw my vote in with Ken to scrap the car idea and use the trains. For a first-timer, it'll be so much easier/enjoyable than trying to avoid the caveats he mentions (he'll fill you in on those). As your itinerary is pretty rushed, the trains will also give BOTH of you time to sit back, enjoy the scenery and take a breath between all those locations!

As already noted, you can do Orvieto as a day trip from Rome, and Siena as a day trip out of Florence so I'd look at a plan with fewer moves. Being able to settle in and unpack in fewer places is going to give you a lot more sightseeing time and a lot less dealing with the time-munching process of getting to the next bullet point on the itinerary. It'll also provide some flexibility if the weather doesn't cooperate. Pouring rain? Do a mix of indoor/outdoor stuff in your base city. Sunny and gorgeous? Do the day trip.

One caution about the CT in August? It's going to be very busy, and you've no time to waste booking accommodations if you intend to stay overnight. DO IT NOW! You may end up staying in one of the towns outside of the 5 villages - which is fine - if you can't find anything open which suits your budget/preferences.

Posted by
31073 posts

"Do you all agree to skip the Sorrento area vs CT?"

For the time you have available, I believe it would be better to skip the area south of Rome this time. You'll basically only have one day in Sorrento / Naples and that's hardly enough time, especially given the fact that it will take the better part of a half day or more travel to get there. The south would be better on a separate visit, when you have more time to appreciate and enjoy it at a slower pace (IMO, of course).

I'll send information on the trains via PM.

Posted by
13 posts

Such great information! And so much more research needed! I'm starting to get nervous that things needed to be booked yesterday, and yet we don't even completely know where/when we're staying. :( I sent my friend this thread to read, and we're getting that the Sorrento/Naples/AC portion will probably need to be cut. So that will give us back about 2 days. Just trying to figure out where to add those days, and exactly where in the Tuscany/Umbria regions we should be looking to visit/sleep. Is Assisi somewhere we should be planning to sleep or is it a day trip?

Is it completely ridiculous to ask for hotel recommendations on here? For all the cities we're visiting? haha. Is it completely ridiculous to ask for someone to just PLAN it all for us? Where is this Roberto that was mentioned earlier with his expert planning?? We did look into packaged deals, but I'm someone who likes to have the freedom to explore and travel on our own. And as overwhelming as working out all the trains sounds, I feel like that's all part of the adventure!

Thanks again!!!

Posted by
13 posts

I'm back before even waiting for a response from anyone. Just reworked the schedule. How is this looking so far? Looks like I have three days to fill in...

Sunday PM- Leave for Italy
Day 1; AM early arrival in Rome; Rome all day; Sleep in Rome
Day 2; Rome all day; Sleep in Rome
Day 3;
Day 4;
Day 5;
Day 6; Train to CT, Sleep in CT
Day 7; CT Hikes; Sleep in CT
Day 8; Train to Florence, Sleep in Florence
Day 9; Florence; Sleep in Florence
Day 10; AM Train to Venice; Sleep in Venice
Day 11; Venice all day; Sleep in Venice
Day 12; Venice/(Murano/Burano?); Sleep in Venice
Day 13; Fly home from Venice

Posted by
11733 posts

And as overwhelming as working out all the trains sound, I feel like that's all part of the adventure!

It is…and Italian trains are surprisingly easy to figure out once you get the hang of it. Trust me, if I can sort it out, YOU will probably do that even faster! You'll get lots of help. :O)

Posted by
651 posts

Well, how about this... go directly to CT from Rome. After CT go to Florence, then your choice of town(s) in Tuscany, then Venice. In fact, you could combine Florence w/ tuscany area by renting a car (from La Spezia is convenient after CT) and staying in an agritourismo 4-5 nights. You dont seem very interested in Florence, so you can day trip to hit the highlights (after you drop off the car in Florence) before hopping on the train to Venice. Easy peasy.

Posted by
31073 posts

Rally,

Your latest Itinerary is looking much better. A few thoughts and questions......

  • What's happening on Days 3, 4 & 5?
  • I'd probably suggest adding a day in the Cinque Terre. Two nights will only allow one full day to explore the area. You may find after you arrive there that you wish you had booked more time.
  • With only two nights in Florence, could you provide a bit more information on what you plan to see and do there. That's not much time for such a historic city.
Posted by
107 posts

I agree with others,too much too little time. Cut something out and enjoy the trip. Have a good map or gps, driving can be a challenge and you must know the rules. Do not drive in restricted areas. Learn to chat with hotels if you need permission to enter into a city center with your car. We got a fine for $150. For a restricted area we did not even see! Enjoy you will be back it's a beautiful country.

Posted by
364 posts

I'd subtract from Rome and add to the "Florence" area.
There's tons to see and do in Rome but the added time "up north" (don't add to Venice) will be appreciated.

Posted by
774 posts

Looks like you know have another 3 days or so. I would add another day to each of Rome, Florence and the Cinque Terre. But it kind of depends on your interests. If you like ancient history, then more time in Rome. If you like Renaissance history and art, then Florence.

Posted by
13 posts

The blank three days are hopefully going to be filled up with Tuscany/Umbria.

I like to idea of maybe instead going straight to CT, adding a day there, and then Tuscany and then Florence? But people still agree we shouldn't rent a car, even if it's just for those three days in the country? Just want to make sure it's all accessible by train. I have no plan or desire to drive into a big city. And have been very forwarned (by you fine folks as well as the RS Italy book) about the restricted areas and high fines.

In terms of what we want to do in Florence, like I mentioned above, neither of us are that crazy about museum hopping. We will definitely check out Accademia, but my idea of a perfect day is getting lost in the back streets and seeing the city itself (in a safe manner, of course). Which is why I didn't feel like we needed an exorbitant amount of time there. But if I'm missing something big, I can be swayed otherwise.

Still lost about how to plan the Tuscany/Umbria section.

Posted by
651 posts

If you are going to be in the Tuscan/Umbrian countryside, then a car can be very convenient. Cars are pain in big cities, but for hopping from winery to winery, or seeing multiple hill towns in a day, and staying outside of the cities in an agritourismo you will need a car. If the big museums of Florence are not your thing, then as I suggested before just day trip to Florence from the countryside.

Pick up the car in La Spezia as you leave CT, and drop it off somwhere near Florence before you head to Venice. Trains will get you everywhere else you like with ease.

Posted by
31073 posts

Rally,

To elaborate on my previous comments, if you're planning to rent a car there are a few things to be aware of.....

  • EACH driver will require the compulsory International Driver's Permit, which is used in conjunction with your home D.L. You can easily obtain these for a small fee at any AAA office.
  • You'll need to be extremely careful to avoid the dreaded ZTL (limited traffic) areas which exist in many Italian towns and cities. Passing through one of these, even by mistake, will result in hefty fines which you may not know about until several months after you've returned home.
  • Watch your speeds carefully! There have been a few reports here of people who have been nicked for only going one or two kM above the limit. If travelling on the motorways, you'll also have to deal with the Traffic Tutor system, which not only clocks instantaneous speeds but also an average between two points. If either one is above the limit, expensive tickets!
  • You'll also have to deal with expensive fuel costs, automated fuel pumps which may only accept Chip & PIN credit cards, and tolls on the motorways.
  • It may be "challenging" to arrange a vehicle with automatic transmission. If you don't know how to drive a manual, that could be a problem.
  • A GPS would probably be helpful (or at least a good Map).

Whether to rent a car or not will depend on where you plan to visit. Some towns are well served by public transit, and others are easier to reach with a car.