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Help with Itinerary--Venice, Florence, Naples/Sorrento, Rome?

We're headed to Italy in October for the first time! I've got our trip basically scheduled, but I'm starting to question the Naples/Sorrento piece. Our trip is 12 days long, which translates to only 10 nights in Italy. What we're doing now is Venice (2), Florence (3), Sorrento (2), Rome (3).

I'm looking at taking the train from Florence to Naples, since it doesn't go directly to Sorrento. Stop in Naples just for an afternoon to do the archeological museum, then ferry or train to Sorrento. Looking at the timing of when we need to get on trains, etc. it looks like we should try to get to Naples early afternoon, then do what we want to do there before heading over to Sorrento. Will there be somewhere to store our luggage while we run around for the afternoon? IDK, the more I've read about Naples today the more I'm questioning this whole section of our trip. From Sorrento we would do Murano/Burano, Pompeii or Herculaneum, maybe boat around Capri. We really only end up with one full day there, and two partial days.

Is that enough time to get a feel for the area and those locations? It's starting to feel kind of rushed. Should we head to Bologna or Cinque Terre instead of going down to Naples/Sorrento? We're pretty flexible at this point, just are flying into Venice and out of Rome. Thanks for any advice you can give.

Posted by
1437 posts

Murano and Burano are in the lagoon just north of Venice (nowhere near Sorrento).

Posted by
49 posts

Oh, haha! Too much planning today. Yes, right. I do know that. :)

Actually, just being reminded of that makes me less stressed about this timeframe.

So...ignoring that faux pas, should I leave our schedule as is? Or would it be better to stay up north longer and skip going down south?

Posted by
7399 posts

better to stay up north longer and skip going down south

Yep

Too little time to do all that

Posted by
1376 posts

I would not go to Sorrento this trip. You really only have 10 nights and it is more difficult to get to. You just are spreading yourself too thin.

I would add one day to Venice and the other to Rome. That would give you 3 Venice, 3 Florence, and 4 Rome.

Posted by
505 posts

I would agree with others to not spread yourself too thin and focus on the northern areas and spend more time in one of the other cities.

Posted by
49 posts

My only hesitancy about just adding days to the other cities is that one of the main things we want to see in Italy is some of the coastal areas: Capri/Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre, Lake Como area. Any of those that would be easier to fit in than the others?

Posted by
2887 posts

I agree with Joe. Leave Naples and Sorrento for another trip. As it is Venice is shortchanged since it will have your arrival day, when you will be seriously jet lagged, and need to find your way around. That only leaves one day to explore Venice with a clear head, never mind trying to visit the other islands. Add one day from Sorrento here. And add the other day to Rome, which you've also shortchanged.

Posted by
361 posts

I agree with skipping Naples and Sorrento this trip. We stayed in Sorrento 4 nights and it wasn't long enough. We went to Pompeii one day and spent another day in Naples. That left us just one whole day in Sorrento. I recommend sticking with Venice, Florence and Rome - adding days where you want and maybe try some day trips that are on the general route you'll be traveling. I liked Lucca (easy train trip from Florence) and Orvieto (easy train trip from Rome). Trust your instincts, if you're already feeling rushed with the planning, that's a sign to rethink your itinerary. Good luck, hope you have a great time!

Posted by
49 posts

That all makes sense. I'm glad I asked. Guess I should trust my gut. Haha!

I like the idea of day trips to other cities from Rome or Florence.

Thank you all for your help!

Posted by
2887 posts

None of those coastal sites will easily fit into your existing itinerary. You're either going to need more days, or eliminate one of the cities.

Posted by
49 posts

I'm just reading about day trips from Florence to Cinque Terre. Is that not a good idea?

Posted by
2046 posts

Agree with others
Drop Sorrento you don’t have time
Venice 3
Florence 3
Rome 4

That’s the bare minimum you need to enjoy those 4 locations
You don’t really have time for day trips either
A 3 night stay is just 2.5 days in the town, that’s not much

Posted by
524 posts

I'd do 3 nights Venice, 4 nights Florence, 3 nights Rome -- use one of your Florence Days to take a Tuscany Day Trip with WalkAboutFlorence -- it's a way to see Tuscany for a day - Check our their website -- we recommend their Best of Tuscany tour OR the Chianti Wine & Food Safari Tour -- read about them.

I love Sorrento, but you don't have time for it. With 10 nights, stick to Venice, Florence, Rome. It takes a long time to take the train from each town and you will spend too much time traveling, and not enough time savoring each town.

Be sure and get some of the RS guidebooks and the RS EUROPE THROUGH THE BACKDOOR (sometimes cheaper on Amazon - so price compare.

Also download the RS app - download all the things for Venice Florence Rome --- all totally free - great walking tours of the towns, cathedrals, and a great Vaporetto canal cruise thru the Venice Canal - know a 72 Vaporetto Pass is the way to go.

Posted by
4657 posts

I haven't been to the Cinque Terre but it looks like at least two hours each way from and to Florence, which wouldn't give you much time there. The weather may or may not be agreeable on a given October day. And you'd lose a day in Florence, with so much to see and do there.

I agree with others about trying to cover too much in a limited time. Italy has many beautiful places, but Venice, Florence, and Rome are unique. If your main interest is rural or coastal scenery, then you should consider a plan that doesn't include them. If your main interest is art or history, then you should focus on them. You can't "do it all" in just ten days, and if you try your memories will include lots of time on trains and in stations at the expense of places you flew across the ocean to see. I wouldn't plan any day trips out of those three cities if you want to experience them in the time you have. Your trip, your choice, but choices are necessary.

Posted by
49 posts

Thank you all. I really appreciate all this info. I'll reconfigure the trip to be 3-3-4 or 3-4-3. I'll look into what all we want to do in those cities to figure that out. I see what you are saying about day trips. I also know that some of my family will be less interested/burned out with too much art/museum/cathedral time and might appreciate a day away from that. I can look into the options so I will know what is available. The good thing is I don't have to decide that now. We can do that last minute and split up if people want to do different things. I like having that option.

Again, thank you!

Posted by
49 posts

Forgot to mention, I do have RS Italy and Best of Europe books. They are very helpful within each city. Love his walking tours!

Posted by
12402 posts

I also know that some of my family will be less interested/burned out
with too much art/museum/cathedral time and might appreciate a day
away from that.... The good thing is I don't have to decide that now. We can do that last minute and split up if people want to do different things.

OK, that's new information. Who are you traveling with, how many of you are there, and what are their ages? What are their interests? It can make a difference in regards to where to go and what to do.

3 nights in Venice, 3 nights in Florence and 4 nights in Rome is my suggested minimum for first-timers, That's without ANY day trips at all. It takes time to pack up and transfer between cities, locate your accommodation, get settled in, and then get acclimated to the layout of a new city.

Posted by
49 posts

It will be my family on this trip: me, my husband, 26yo daughter, 24yo son.

Husband and daughter love museums and art and have more of a tolerance for them than our son, for sure. I'm kind of in the middle. So, son and I could take off for one day in Florence easily. But we all enjoy nature and getting out of the city. So I think we could just wait and see how everyone is doing halfway through Florence and decide what each of us wants to cover the rest of the time there.

Posted by
2046 posts

Since it looks like you’ll drop Pompeii you might consider visiting Ostia Antica while in Rome
Easy, not far, outdoors, etc

Posted by
2046 posts

You’re welcome
Haven’t been yet but will visit in September

It’s often mentioned here as a “substitute” for Pompeii- which we loved

Posted by
1376 posts

When we were in Florence, we also had three nights. Still we took a day trip by bus to Siena. I am glad we did. The two towns have a very different feel and the bus ride alone is an experience.

Posted by
2125 posts
  • If you are staying in Rome during a week-end, try to visit Nero's underground palace aka the Domus Aurea. As long as the excavations are still ongoing it's the archaeologists that give the tours. I think 2021 will be the last year tours will works this way, in 2022 the Domus Aurea will be managed as an "attraction", like all the others archaeological sites.

  • Re a day trip from Florence to the Cinque Terre, it is doable as long as you are willing to wake up in the early morning, spend 3 hours on trains and you do not care much about bad weather on the trails. You could take the 7:54 direct FrecciArgento train from Firenze CdM station to La Spezia Centrale (1h 40 mm) and then explore the Cinque Terre villages by trains and/or ferries. Then take the train back to Firenze CdM that departs from La Spezia Centrale at 19:48 and enjoy a late dinner somewhere in Florence. Note that going south from Florence to Rome you'll pass by coastal areas like the Elba Island and the Maremma that are ten times more famous than the Cinque Terre.

  • another option could be the Lake Como, but you should fly into MXP airport near Milan, where you can take a train to the Lake.

Posted by
25560 posts

If you are considering Lake Como, remember another very beautiful lake with gorgeous garden islands, Lake Maggiore.

Posted by
49 posts

When we were in Florence, we also had three nights. Still we took a day trip by bus to Siena. I am glad we did. The two towns have a very different feel and the bus ride alone is an experience.

Thank you, that is helpful!

If you are staying in Rome during a week-end, try to visit Nero's underground palace aka the Domus Aurea.

Our last day is a Saturday. Thanks, I'll look into this!

Re a day trip from Florence to the Cinque Terre, it is doable as long as you are willing to wake up in the early morning, spend 3 hours on trains and you do not care much about bad weather on the trails...

It looks like it takes an hour less by car and I saw tours to hire that start at $65ish. That seems more doable than trying to navigate the transportation on our own for a long day like that.

another option could be the Lake Como, but you should fly into MXP airport near Milan

Our airfare is fixed at this point, so I think we won't be able to consider Lake Como this trip.

Thanks, all! Very helpful info as I continue to plan.

Posted by
12402 posts

It looks like it takes an hour less by car.

Not including the trains between the villages - which only take a matter of minutes - or the wait time for them, you'd spend approx. 3 hours, 20 minutes round trip between Florence and La Spezia if using the trains Dario noted: approx. 1 hour, 40-some minutes each way.; no changes. By road (and for $65 you'll be on a coach-type bus with a large group and not in a car) expect to spend at least 4 hours RT: two each way. Also expect some hold-ups if having to wait around for everyone in the group to show up where and when they're supposed to when moving from one place to another.

Understand as well that the villages are almost completely pedestrianized and that the trains (with the exception of Corniglia) will get you to closer to their centers than a vehicle. That's reason you'll see that the bus tours such as this one (https://www.viator.com/tours/Florence/Cinque-Terre-Day-Trip-with-Transport-from-Florence/d519-6367CINQUE) note that travel around the region will involve coach, train and boat (if weather permits). The sample $67.00 tour I've linked does note the 2-hour journey from Florence to La Spezia, where the group gets on a train to the first village.

It's perfectly OK if you'd be more comfortable with having all the details taken care of - it's YOUR trip!!! - but I'd read through many reviews before booking a tour. I'm assuming you'll be traveling between Venice, Florence and Rome by train? If you can do that, the CT wouldn't be difficult to do independently either, you'd have more time to explore than the bus tours allow, plus you could choose to abort the mission at the last minute if the weather doesn't cooperate. That happened to a friend of ours: poured rain most of the time but that was the day she'd pre-booked her tour for.

While the CT from Florence isn't a day trip I'd recommend for multiple reasons, we can help with the details if you wish to take it on by yourselves, and you can enlist the help of those young people of yours too! Still too anxious to give it a go? You might look at a more expensive tour but with a much small group for more efficiency and less risk of the stuff that can go south with big groups and tight timetables.

Posted by
49 posts

Thanks, Kathy.

This is the tour I had read about, although I remembered the price incorrectly. And if you go through to actually purchase the tickets, it's only the advertised price if you have 8. So, your description of a group tour is the most likely scenario for us. I'll definitely look further into it!

Posted by
2125 posts

It looks like it takes an hour less by car.

It's 150 km, it takes 1 hour and 40minutes by car, one way; plus stops and the time needed to park and reach the train station in La Spezia. You can easily check by yourself on www.viamichelin.com

No bus can go from Florence to La Spezia in less than 2 hours, even with zero traffic it would be impossible. I'd also compare the time needed to transfer between the 5 villages by train and by car/coach.

I am positive that if you can navigate an intercontinental flight to Europe and then fly back home, you can take a direct train from Florence to La Spezia.

Posted by
49 posts

Thanks, Dario! I'm sure we can negotiate it, the things I read just made it sound like a car would cut off an hour each way. I'll keep researching before deciding for sure.

Posted by
295 posts

2nights in reality is a day and a half .. 2 weeks is really not much time squeeze more days in as if you get apartments which we do there is more room and they have kitchens that will save eating out exclusively and go to a Co-Op store ... There is a Lidl in Venice the last time we were there ... so now you can buy extra days LOL ... especially if its your first and last time to Italy ... depending on your budget .... you could stay each extra day for less then $200 depending how travel savvy you are .. lake Garda is Italys largest lake 31 miles into the mountains and 10 miles wide at the bottom... I imagine your airfare is locked in so you'll be on a tight schedule and we prefer at least 3 days anywhere so most likely 3 places to get your feet wet and plan your next trip as soon as you get back home like us ... happy travels... oh ... we'll be in Rome on our last leg and be leaveing mid Oct. back home... might bump into you..

Posted by
48 posts

It sounds like you have a wonderful trip planned :) Lucky family!

I join the chorus in recommending a 4/3/4 or 3/4/4 schedule.

On my first trip to Italy I was eager to see everything and scheduled a lot of 2 night stops. I went home feeling like I'd spent half my holiday on trains and checking into hotels. I would have loved more days to simply enjoy exploring a city without worrying about train schedules and check out times. There is a certain romance to train travel, but it can be a bit stressful too. I would try to arrange the trip to be as pleasurable as possible! Having said that, I wouldn't shy away from a lengthy day trip if the destination is important to you.

Have a wonderful time! Take lots of pictures and eat lots of gelato :)

Posted by
6507 posts

Remove Naples and Sorrento from your itinerary. Save southern Italy for a different trip. We did not go south of Rome until our 8th trip to Italy and have returned there a few more times since.
Naples and Sorrento can be combined with Puglia or Sicily in the future. More days in fewer places will make for a more enjoyable trip.

Posted by
49 posts

I changed our schedule to 2-4-4. But then in an unexpected turn of events, we added 3 days.

My boss is a world traveler and really pushed me to stay longer, said he didn't care about me taking more time off from work and would rather us stay in Italy. Haha! So our kids will stay with our original schedule and go back on the 12th day, and my husband and I will stay 3 more days. We'll be in Rome at that point, and now I'm looking at a day trip (or maybe overnight?) in Positano. It's evolving as we go!

Posted by
12402 posts

So our kids will stay with our original schedule and go back on the
12th day, and my husband and I will stay 3 more days. We'll be in Rome
at that point,

The original schedule was Venice (2), Florence (3), Sorrento (2), Rome (3). Is this the one your kids will be following? Sorry, it's getting a little confusing what the itinerary for all four of you together looks like, and count in nights on the ground versus days. It makes a difference! :O)

I wouldn't do Positano as a day trip, and depending on what the itinerary looks like NOW, the CT might be the more efficient location to add a couple overnights if wanting some time on the coast.

Posted by
49 posts

The whole family will be 2 Venice-4 Florence-4 Rome, then kids leave. Parents stay for 3 more.

Posted by
2046 posts

Don’t shortchange Venice, I really encourage you to give it 3 nights. 2 nights with a jet lag day will probably leave you not liking it much

If you are still flying home from Rome, you need to be in Rome the night before your departure flight.

Positano is too far/complicated for a day trip or really even a 1 niter
I suppose you could do Sorrento for 2 nights then back to Rome for final night
You could book a day trip along Amalfi or ferry ride yourselves but if ferries aren’t running for weather reasons that wouldn’t work

Take a look at Mondo Guides www.sharedtours.com
They offer an affordable way to see Amalfi coast.

If by chance you can fly home from Naples you can stay in Sorrento the 3 nights

Posted by
49 posts

If we add a night to Venice, the kids get short-changed on Rome, and I think that is more important.

Will look at that link, thanks. Nothing is decided at all yet for the extra 3 days, so I'm gathering info at this point.

Posted by
12402 posts

Nothing is decided at all yet for the extra 3 days

Emphasizing again, count your time in nights: 3 FULL days = 4 nights. 2 FULL days = 3 nights.

As Christine mentioned, you need to be close to the Rome airport the night before your flight if that's your exit point. You do not want to be in Sorrento, Positano or somewhere else on the Amalfi. You also don't want to be there if you do change your exit airport to Naples and that flight leaves early; local transport does not run 24/7 so you'd need a private transfer service. I speak from experience there!

Also keep in mind that you may need time-sensitive COVID testing before you can leave the country and re-enter the U.S. so you'll want to be somewhere those are most available: maybe someone else has info on how many places you can do that in the A.C. region and where.

Positano, BTW, would take even longer to get to from Rome than the CT from Florence. It also does not have train service, and ferry service isn't guaranteed and is also not especially frequent.

Posted by
49 posts

Yes, I'm aware of the timing between nights versus days. It is easier for me to keep track of my trip in my mind when I think of the number of nights we are staying there, although I am aware of what that means for timing in each city.

I'm looking at all options for our new days on the end. No decisions made about that time yet.

Posted by
17 posts

On our first trip to Italy several years ago we started in Rome and went south to Pompeii and Positano and they were beautiful but IMO didn't begin to compare to Tuscany and northern Italy. And we definitely second the recommendation for Lucca... it's a magical walled city that has SO much charm and isn't as crazy touristy as other Tuscan towns. Also we enjoyed Sienna tremendously. Those are very doable trips from Florence. Also Lake Como is just ethereal. We traveled by train there after a few days in Venice (which were plenty for us) and it was incredible. We definitely plan to go back to another one of the towns on it when we travel again to Europe next spring hopefully. Have a wonderful time!

Posted by
49 posts

We'll have to do Lake Como another time, but we're definitely going to Siena! Thank you!