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Is four weeks too long?

A few years ago I started taking annual trips to Europe during my summer break (I'm a university professor), traveling solo. I typically spend 4-5 nights in larger cities and 1-2 nights in smaller towns. For me, that pace hits a sweet spot where I can see a decent number of places, but I'm not constantly changing locations.

I'm planning to visit Italy for the first time next June, and besides wanting to see lots of places, I've also discovered some special events I'd like to attend. I thought it best to work my way from south to north since average temperatures will be rising during the month. For this trip, I've eliminated everything south of Rome, and also the Dolomites and the CT. But I still have approximately a four-week itinerary:

  • Fly into Rome: 5 nights
  • Florence: 4 nights
  • Lucca: 3 nights (including a day trip to Pisa, possibly on the day of the Regata di San Ranieri)
  • Venice: 4 nights (including a day trip to Padova)
  • Verona: 1 night (to attend the Verona Opera Festival)
  • Lake Como: 3-4 nights
  • Siena: 5-6 nights (I know it's geographically inefficient to go back to Tuscany, but I wanted to finish the trip as early in July as possible, while also being in Siena for Il Palio on July 2).
  • Fly home from Florence

Last summer I toured central Europe for just over three weeks (Prague, Cesky Krumlov, Vienna, Budapest, Salzburg, and Munich), and I would have been happy to continue for another week. But it sounds like Rome, Florence, and Venice will be more crowded and more exhausting than my destinations from previous years. I could easily cut out a week by eliminating Lucca and Lake Como, but those should actually be among the more relaxing days on the trip.

I know nobody can tell me with certainty how I'll handle it, but I'd appreciate any insights you could share from your own experiences. Thank you!

Posted by
4637 posts

IMHO four weeks is not too long. It all depends how you tolerate hot weather. Lake Como weather will probably be pleasant, everything else will be hot. With four weeks I would not eliminate Dolomites and CT.

Posted by
2573 posts

I think you have a pretty sane itinerary for four weeks concentrating on northern Italy. I have only two small modifications to suggest. You might want to add 1 night to Verona, there is a lot more there to explore and appreciate than just the opera. I'd take the 1 night from Siena where lodging will be more expensive during the Palio. My second suggestion is that you shouldn't eliminate seeing the CT on a day trip IF you go on a weekday and when no large cruise ships are in port. You could achieve this taste of the CT from Lucca, an easy train trip.

Posted by
1043 posts

I do not think 4 weeks is too long. I was in Italy for 19 days and wished I could have stayed longer. I loved Siena, but I think I would reduce the number of days there and probably add it to southern Italy with with a visit to Pompei or the Amalfi Coast.

Posted by
17088 posts

I've taken three trips that were far longer than what you're planning, two of them when I was over 60, so I'm confident you will not find 4 weeks too long. The trick is not to run yourself ragged on a trip of that length. You have a nice itinerary that won't leave you exhausted at the end of the first week.

I'm not fond of that single night in Verona. I agree with adding more time there to see more of the city. Also consider a side-trip to the nearby and comparatively laid-back Vicenza. The historic district is very pretty. You'd have another shot at Padova from Verona, too, if you need it.

I wonder about the length of your stay in Siena given that you also have long stays in Florence and Lucca. That would be too long for me, but I'm not too much of a special-event sort of traveler.

From experience I can tell you that the Dolomites are a wonderful respite in the summer. You'd need to take time from both Lake Como and Siena to make that happen, though, so perhaps that's for another trip.

Posted by
1623 posts

4 weeks is not too long. We really liked Padova- a great city that is not too crowded. The Basilica of St. Anthony is well worth going to. You might want a night in Padova as its on the way to Verona. If you want a break while in Siena, consider a day trip to Perugia. It's a very interesting hill town, about 2 hours by bus from Siena.

Posted by
1728 posts

Nope, not too long. In fact once you hit two weeks--as long as you're not running around like a chicken with its head cut off--you don't want to leave, like ever. At least that's the way it was for me. We did 17 days in Paris, Lucerne, then down to Florence and Salerno, and it took almost that long to get acclimated to the slowed-down vibe (at least it was in March), and you almost dread going home to the rat race.

Bucket list is spending just under the 90-day limit one year.

Posted by
11981 posts

For your trip it would be more efficient to land in northern Italy (Milan or Venice) and fly back home from Rome, or the exact opposite (although I prefer to depart from Rome since the airport is closer to the city).
These are my recommended number of nights in each location, then you arrange your trip as you wish.
Venice: 3 nights (add 1 night for each day trip, like Padova)
Verona: 2 nights (since you want to see the Opera).
Dolomites: 3 nights (rental car recommended)
Lake Garda (near Verona) or Lake Como: 3 nights
Florence only: 3 nights
Florence with day trips within Tuscany: 3 nights for visiting Florence + add 1 night for each day trip from Florence.
Siena: 1 night for Siena + add 1 night for each day trip from Siena (e.g. Pienza, Montepulciano, etc.).
If interested in Siena only, it's a short day trip from Florence too (75 min by bus).
Cinque Terre: 2 or 3 nights
Sorrento and Amalfi coast: 4 nights min.
Rome: 3 nights min.

Last rule: arrange your itinerary so that your last stay is in the city you fly out from. Flights to North America depart in the morning hours (even more so if you have to connect in another European hub), therefore the night before you need to stay in the city closer to the airport.

Bon voyage.

Posted by
5718 posts

While I was working the most time we could manage was 3 weeks but now that I am retired, we have done several 3 months trips and just got back from one that was 10 weeks. The sunk cost of travel is the airfare there and back, once there, particularly if you rent places and base for a few days several places and shop in local markets and cook, it doesn't cost more than being at home (plus rent of course). We love having the time. I would choose to base in 4 places rather than so many myself -- but your trip is also a reasonable distribution of time if you like moving around more. We used to spend a week at point A in an apartment then go on the road for a week with 2 or 3 stops and then spend a week at the end where we were flying home from. It was a nice rhythm. With more time, we spend a couple of weeks in a place and end with a month in Paris. We have also spent two months in Florence and in Paris.

Posted by
362 posts

Melissa, I was recently in Italy for 10 weeks, based in apartments in Padova, Florence and Rome with many day trips and a couple of overnights from those 3 bases. I did the trip mostly by myself. 4 weeks is definitely not too long and I'd have stayed much longer if I could have.

Posted by
287 posts

Thank you for the great suggestions so far! I should clarify one thing that I didn't explain very well; my plan regarding Siena was to use it as a base for the first 3-4 days to explore nearby hill towns (with a rental car for those days), and then spend the last two days on Il Palio festivities. So if I take too many days away from Siena, I'd need to put that exploration off for a future trip. But maybe some of the suggestions are worth delaying that, and spending a week or so exploring Tuscany and Umbria on some future trip. Thoughts?

There are definitely geographically awkward aspects of the trip; it's all because I was trying to get to Rome and Florence in early June, before (fingers crossed) it gets too hot. I'm from the Carolinas, and I suspect our summers are just as hot, but it's different when you're spending your day touring a city. But maybe I'm worrying about that too much ....

Posted by
11981 posts

I wouldn't base the itinerary based on the weather.
A couple of weeks doesn't necessarily make a big difference in temperatures, and some years you might have warmer weather in mid June than late June. Also Rome is close to the coast and often gets a nice "Ponentino" (westerly) breeze in the evening, which is not the case in the interior, whether it's Siena or Northern Italy.

Posted by
7124 posts

Four weeks is not too long. In fact, from Australia, with the distance, for most people it's a minimum.

I know you say you want to finish ASAP after Palio on July 2, but I would suggest Lake Como after Siena and then fly out of Milan (where there are many more flight options).

The opera in Verona is a wonderful experience - I saw Aida in 2012. Stay a few extra nights so you can also check out Vicenza and Mantova. And do include Padova from Venice for a day.

A terrific trip. You will have a great time.

Posted by
11613 posts

I travel pretty much the same way (but for 13 weeks at a time), and I like your plan in general, but would make Bologna a stop for a couple of nights; easy daytrips to Ravenna, Ferrara, Parma.

I would fly into Milano and take the train to Lago di Como, then Venezia, then Bologna, Lucca, Firenze-Siena, end in Roma for a few nights before you fly home.

Posted by
7124 posts

The OP is working around some set dates ...
June 17 Regatta in Pisa
June 23 Opera in Verona
July 2 Palio in Siena

Posted by
7737 posts

I was fortunate to do five weeks in April-May 2015 and wished it could have been longer. You're getting some good advice about itineraries, esp. from Roberto. (As for Rome, I could easily do two weeks there alone and not run out of things to see/do, and I've already been six times.)

Posted by
7124 posts

These both work ....

Fly into Milan
June 12
Lake Como: 3 nights
June 15
Lucca: 3 nights
(Pisa on June 17 for Regata di San Ranieri)
June 18
Florence: 4 nights
June 22
Verona: 3 nights
(for the Verona Opera on June 23)
June 25
Venice: 4 nights
June 29
Siena: 4 nights
(for Il Palio on July 2)
July 3
Rome: 5 nights
July 8
Fly out of Rome

Or swapping Rome and Lake Como at each end...

Fly into Rome
June 10
Rome: 5 nights
June 15
Lucca: 3 nights
(Pisa on June 17 for Regata di San Ranieri)
June 18
Florence: 4 nights
June 22
Verona: 3 nights
(for the Verona Opera on June 23)
June 25
Venice: 4 nights
June 29
Siena: 4 nights
(for Il Palio on July 2)
July 3
Lake Como: 3 nights
July 6
Fly out of Milan

Posted by
11683 posts

Add my voice to those who do not think 4 weeks is too long. Our last three trips have been 5 or 6 weeks in length. On two trips, we spent most of the time in one place---4 weeks in Venice on one, 3 weeks in London on another. But a year ago we spent one week each in London, the Dolomites, Venice, and Rome, with the extra 6 days invested in travel time between. That was a great trip.

It appears from the schedule you have outlined above that you have looked at the Verona Opera schedule for June, and know already that the only dates possible for you are June 23 ( Nabuco) or June 24 ( Aida---a " futuristic" production which should be interesting!).

http://www.arena.it/arena/en/pages/schedule-arena-di-verona.html

Since you want to be in Siena starting June 28, that leaves you with the 3-4 nights in between that you have allocated to Lago do Como. That works, but you could avoid backtracking by putting Rome in this slot---then returning to Rome after the Palio for 2-3 more days before flying home.

Flights out of Rome are more plentiful ( and may be more direct) than flights out of Florence. (My son spent a year in Florence when he was a student, and proclaimed the Florence airport "very inconvenient."

This way you could fly into Venice or Milan, and back from Rome. I know that inverts your desired south-to-north travel plan, but honestly I don't think it makes much difference for this part of Italy---you aren't getting very far south. And I would think the earlier you can get to Venice, the better.

I will ditto the suggestion to spend two nights in Verona rather than just one. You may even find it is required. When we went to Verona for Opera in June a few years ago ( Aida), every place I checked had a two-night minimum ( in addition to elevated prices on Opera nights).

You probably know that you should book your Siena accommodations ASAP. I checked on booking.com and there are still reasonably-priced single rooms available for July 1-3, but they could go quickly. You can use the website to find availability, then go to the hotel's own website to book.

You will want to get the order of travel totally figured out befor buying your air tickets.

Posted by
1878 posts

Whether four weeks is too much depends on whether you are up for it, and it sounds like you are. Italy easily has enough that you wont get bored over that much time. I would figure out a way to make the flights more efficient, but you are constrained by special events. I would say less time in Siena and consider a stop in Orvieto. I just returned from a solo Italy trip a few weeks ago (Rome-Orvieto-Siena-Florence), my fourth trip that included Italy but first solo one.

Posted by
17088 posts

Melissa, I'm a North Carolinian myself, and I think your guess about the weather is accurate: It will not be worse than you experience at home--for one thing, Italy at its worst will almost certainly be less humid. However, there's a huge difference between a heat wave at home where you're probably in an air-conditioned environment most of the time and a heat wave when you're a tourist. A lot of small shops, cafes, and museums in Italy are not air conditioned. Be prepared to make unscheduled stops at small markets or bars to buy bottles of cold water or your favorite beverage.

I survived the summer of 2015 in Europe (Italy from May 25 through July 22, most of the time from Orvieto south), and you can do it, too. Be sure all your lodgings have air conditioning and try for centrally located places so you can get back to your room to cool off if you need to. Fortunately, the trains and inter-city buses are nearly always comfortable.

Posted by
646 posts

No, four weeks is far from too long. We are happier with five or six weeks if we can get it. But, four weeks is too long to move every two to three days, or at least it is too long for me to move that often. The longer we travel, then more we want to stay longer in each city. Don't let anyone talk you into adding more stops to your itinerary. But, I'm not sure I'd want five or six nights in Siena, but maybe you have four days of things planned there. I'd consider making Verona a daytrip base and stealing a day or two from Sienna.

Posted by
14014 posts

I'll join the chorus. 4 weeks is not too long. What makes a trip "too long" for me is moving around too much. And as Roberto says, ignore the weather in your planning. There's not all that much difference in summer, hot is hot is hot. Do get rooms with AC. I would normally say start in Venice is the best place to start; it's so easy there to relax, wander, drift, and soak up the atmosphere while you catch up on sleep and get over jetlag. With your dates, it would mean backtracking but that's not terrible when you've got 4 weeks. The other problem is backtracking from Rome if you want to leave soon after Siena. Rome would be my last choice to start a trip simply because it's a big, bustling, busy city with major sights - not the best place with jetlag. Maybe a kind of loop from Milan/Lake Como to Venice to Tuscany to Rome to Siena to Verona (Aida on the 5th or Rigoletto on the 6th) and back to Milan for your flight home. As long as you don't have an early morning flight home, you could even go to the airport from Verona (1.25 to 1.45 hours on the train to Milano Centrale, then an hour to Malpensa by bus or train). You'll also have more flight options in/out of Milano.

Consider spending a few days in Bologna (and less in Tuscany - Pisa is an easy 1/2 day trip from Florence by train). It's a pretty town with lots of students but not so many tourists. It's a rail hub, so it's a good place for day trips to Ravenna (gorgeous 5th-6th century churches and mosaics), Ferrara, Modena, and more. I would not day trip from Venice - it's too expensive to stay there and can take a long time to get to/from the train station. It can be a day trip from Bologna or you can leave Verona (or Venice) early and spend a day there on the way to Florence.

Posted by
4140 posts

I don't have anything to add except to say that 4 weeks is perfect. We have spent much time in Lucca - as long as one week on one trip - and kept ourselves very busy.

PS - I am a Carolina grad and Tarheel through and through. The heat won't get in your way too much, but don't expect much a/c.

Posted by
287 posts

Thank you all so much for the helpful suggestions!

I'm now comfortable with going for four weeks--or even a little longer. And you've given me some great ideas for revising my itinerary. I won't be able to use every idea contributed here, but the ones that end up not fitting, I'll file away for a future trip.

Now I just wish the trip were only six weeks in the future instead of six months ...

Posted by
444 posts

I love four weeks of travel. I have done it on numerous occasions. I have found that I really relax and settle into my surroundings more.

Posted by
14014 posts

If it were only 6 weeks away, you'd be in a panic trying to do all the planning and research!

Look on the flip side, you now have 6 months to plan, read up, and dream about this trip. There are three parts to every trip, and all are good - the planning, the trip, and the memories. You have time to savor the first part . . when real life gets to be a little too much, remember what's ahead of you.

Posted by
7124 posts

I know the moment you are referring to Melissa. The trip has formed a clear vision in your head, and you can imagine every experience unfolding, and so you wish you were leaving next week.

Posted by
11613 posts

Chani is so right. My trip is 134 days away... I have a countdown list on my computer with everything listed that I need to do; my favorite is "Final Pack".

Posted by
14014 posts

Ugh, I hate packing. But I began updating my packing list shortly after I bought the tickets. Venezia in 7 weeks from Friday (I like counting weeks better than days).

In the meantime I'm reading guide books and doing internet research on the 4 places I'll be and compiling Word docs for each - practical notes, sights, self-guided walking tours, etc.

Posted by
2 posts

I would consider adding Civita di Baggnorigio between Rome and Florence. It is amazing and is still one of our all time favorite places we have stayed.

Posted by
2 posts

I would consider adding Civita di Baggnorigio between Rome and Florence. It is amazing and is still one of our all time favorite places we have stayed.