Italian Airports

Hello: can anyone tell me the most convenient Italian airport to fly into from Frankfurt? We would like to stay close to the rail lines, would not have a car and would be visiting the major cities or sites in both the north and south. Does it make sense to fly into somewhere like Milan and gradually head south or is it better to fly into somewhere like Rome which is more centrally located? Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

Posted by Larry
Elk Grove, CA, USA
6718 posts

Thomas, might you be flying into Frankfurt from S.F. (via Chicago or LAX) or will you be arriving in Frankfurt from another EU city? If flying in, might you be on United Airlines partner airline Lufthansa? If yes, Lufthansa can easily fly you from Frankfurt to most any of the larger airports in Italy. We've done Florence and I've just booked tickets from Frankfurt to Venice. I might strongly suggest that you fly into one city and fly out of another. For example, fly into Venice and fly out of Rome. You easily have great train transportation throughout Italy (8,000 train runs a day). With this method, you can travel north to south and not have to retrace to fly out of Venice.

Posted by Thomas
San Francisco, Ca, Usa
10 posts

Thanks so much for the response. Yes were flying direct to Frankfurt from SF and then connecting to Italy.

Posted by donna
cranberry twp, PA, United States
2403 posts

It really depends on the cities you plan to visit. I would fly into the city farthest south and work my way North or the reverse. You really haven't given enough information for us to give you exact suggestions. Donna

Posted by Thomas
San Francisco, Ca, Usa
10 posts

Thanks for the response. My itinerary is pretty open at this point. Definitely Rome, Venice and Florence would be the big three cities for sure then were pretty flexible after that. We'll be in Italy for about three weeks.

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
3342 posts

I also live in the bay area and fly to italy yearly. Nearly always with Lufthansa from SFO to FRA non stop on the airbus 380 then from FRA to Florence where my family is. Lufthansa/United is the best option from SFO. Lufthansa has plenty of connections from FRA to any Italian airports therefore I concur that you should fly from FRA to the Southernmost city in Italy you want to visit, work your way up north on land then fly back to SFO via FRA departing from the northernmost Italian city in your itinerary. The reverse will work as well. Based on the cities you have tentatively indicated you could fly SFO>FRA>FCO then return VCE>FRA>SFO (or viceversa)
Also if you are there for a whole 3 weeks you may have time for the Amalfi coast, Capri and Pompeii. That would be your southernmost point therefore Naples would be you'd southernmost airport. NAP has 3 daily connections with FRA also on Lufthansa.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17780 posts

Thomas, Given the cities you mentioned, I'd suggest starting in Venice. It's a beautiful and unique city, and would be a good place to recover from jet lag for a few days. Go from there to Florence, Rome and and other cities you decide to visit. You may want to return to the U.S. from FCO as there will likely be a greater availability of flights. I normally try to book code share flights, so that I check my luggage once and then pick it up at my final destination. In many cases, this involves transiting through FRA. I'm not too familiar with the airlines operating out of SFO, but United / Lufthansa sounds like a good place to start. Could you clarify whether you're able to get a direct SFO - FRA flight, or whether you have to transit through EWR, DFW, ORD or other airports? All major airports in Italy have good transport, and many have rail access. If you haven't travelled by rail in Italy before, you may want to research the "Rail Skills" section in Europe Through The Back Door (or websites). There are some potentially expensive "caveats" that you should be aware of. I believe there's also information in the Italy Guidebook. Happy travels!

Posted by Ron
Ron-in-Rome... now RPT in Atlanta!
1743 posts

Just a note on "connecting flights." Delta Airlines has just announced - effective January 15, 2013 - that they will no longer transfer bags to other airlines when you are traveling on separate tickets - See this article by the BoardingArea website. This means if you do buy a separate ticket when flying Delta you'll have to give yourself plenty of time to claim your checked bag and then re-check your bag. In many airports that may also mean you would have to exit the secured AIRSIDE area and be required to go through security - OUCH. It's imperative you allow for longer connection times if this is your situation. All the more reason to try and do carry-on only.

Posted by Thomas
San Francisco, Ca, Usa
10 posts

Thanks for the additional responses. I'll be cashing in my UAL miles so would be trying to fly direct from SFO to Frankfurt and then connect from there to the Italian airport. I would probably think seriously about flying into Venice and then working my way south eventually leaving from Rome or Naples if that's possible thru UAL. Is weather a big factor in the south relative to the north in the middle part of June to mid July? Does it make sense to be heading south if the weather is heating up?

Posted by ekc
Portland, OR
282 posts

I concur with the advice to start in Venice. It is a wonderful place where it is easier to get over your jetlag, with all of the walking required and lack of vehicles!

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
3342 posts

Thomas: I don't know if you already have your travel arrangements done. If you have UAL miles to use consider that flying directly from SFO to FRA on the partner Lufthansa (LH) may cost you more miles and in any case you should inquire into that possibility early, because the best options disappear fast. Airlines generally reserve only few seats for award travel on any given flight. Every time I've traveled on a mileage award ticket with United/Continental I was never able to get on the LH flight straight from SFO to FRA. I always had to go through some other United hub back East. You may not be able to do it online, so you might have to call the United Mileage number and search with the UAL operator (unfortunately that's an extra $70 fee for not doing it online). If you travel in summer there are no significant variations in weather between Venice in the North and Naples or Rome more to the south. You'll be suffering debilitating heat regardless. Spring is nicer everywhere. Winters are somewhat milder in the center/south than in Venice where they get that nasty cold bora wind from Eastern Europe which can really freeze your tail off. Central/Southern Italy has San Jose temperatures during the day and Sacramento temperatures during the night (hot also at night).
Northern Italy differs only in winter, where you get Oregon temperatures with less rain than Oregon.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

I'm not an expert on miles, but in your situation, you should call (rather than just look online) and see where your miles can take you. You may be able to get flights from SFO to VCE and then FCO back to SFO, all on one ticket. This is much better, not only from a cost standpoint, but because having all the flights on one ticket means the airline is responsible for missed connections. If you book separate tickets (whether with cash or miles, whether on the same airline or different ones), YOU are responsible if you miss your connection. This could translate into a last minute ticket purchse, which for a transatlantic flight could be thousands of dollars. It could also mean losing a day waiting for the next available flights, or scrambling to figure out overnight trains. I'm pretty risk averse when it comes to flight schedules. If I were flying round-trip SFO-FRA and then connecting to and from Italy on separate tickets, I'd book the (for instance) FRA-VCE flight for that afternoon or evening rather than morning, and would fly from FCO to FRA the day before, spending my last night in Frankfurt to make sure I didn't miss my flight home (that's the real expensive one, and there's no land substitute either). Of course, many would consider this excessive, but then many wouldn't (based on what I read online).

Posted by Thomas
San Francisco, Ca, Usa
10 posts

Thank you for all the comments. I really appreciate everyone's help.

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
3342 posts

Thomas, I have flown the non stop SFO-FRA and vice versa many times and I see it land daily since I work near SFO. There are 3 non stop every day from SFO to FRA. One with LH at 14:25 in summer, and 2 more later in the pm operated by UA. They are all code share UA/LH. Thre is also a daily non stop to Munich (MUC) by LH and a non stop to Zurich with Swiss. Swiss is owned by Lufthansa. All of the above are UACodeshare and available with your UA miles. All of them will get you in the above European hubs in the morning (or early pm if Swiss to ZRH) There are many flights connetting all of them to Venice, Rome, Florence. If you miss one, Lufthansa will put u in the next at no extra cost. Coming back you are likely to leave early from Italy to make the flight from those hubs to the US. From FRA there are 1 LH flight and 2 UA flights in the pm to SFO. I've done all of the above options over the years, never missed any flight back with the Germans or the Swiss.

Posted by Thomas
San Francisco, Ca, Usa
10 posts

Thank you for the comments. I have enough UAL miles to get a round trip for my wife and only one way for me. Question: Do the one ways from Europe back to the states ever get cheaper if I wait? Right now, it seems that it's cheaper to buy a full round trip to Europe and back than to go just one way from Europe back home to SFO. Does it make sense for me to buy a full round trip for myself now or should I cash in the miles for one way over and see what happens with prices for booking a return flight home? Thank you all again for your great advice. Tom

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
2858 posts

Thomas, you might post the FF miles question separately to get answers. I use UA with FF miles. According to my info from UA, a one-way ticket from/to Europe is 30,000 FF miles. UA sells miles, and sometimes at a discount. You might check to see what it would cost you in $$ to buy the miles you need to make your ticket a roundtrip FF miles ticket. If the cost is prohibitive, just pay money for your roundtrip ticket and save your FF miles for another trip. It makes no sense that a one-way ticket costs more than a round-trip ticket. I think the airline doesn't like the one-way ticket or they expect to "cash-in" on people who have to make emergency arrangements.

Posted by Thomas
San Francisco, Ca, Usa
10 posts

Thank you for your comments. On your advice, I posted my question under a new topic. Tom