Italy in late November - questions about weather and routes/gettng around

We are taking a cruise on December 1, 2012 from Rome to Ft Lauderdale. We would like to fly in five or six days early to tour around Italy. Given that we have to end up in Rome, we want to fly into another airport - such as Milan or Venice. My two "wishes" are to see the Italian countryside - wines, villas, etc - which I understand is in Tuscany. What is the closest airport to get to this area. The other place I would love to see is Venice. How far is Venice from Tuscany by driving? After reading many posts, it appears as if a rental car is desirable in Tuscany, but not in the major cities which makes sense. So - several questions regarding recommended routes - if Venice, Tuscany and Rome are on my list - is it advisable to fly into Venice and do Venice, Tuscany and then Rome, or would flying into Milan and then doing Tuscany - then Venice, then Rome make more sense? I am looking for fastest routes as I don't have alot of time to waste. (in other words not retracing steps). I am wondering if doing Venice first, then renting a car to go to Tuscany and then driving to Rome and dropping it off immediately would be the wisest. Any advice here? Also - weather wise - is there chance of icy roads? Is Tuscany in the winter not a good site or is it still beautiful?
I also want to see Florence, but it is a "stop" on our cruise, so I figured we can do Florence and Genoa as one day tours. Thanks so much! I am ready to book my flight after I get some input.

Posted by Doug
Portlandia
3290 posts

Flying into Venice would make the most sense. You could spend time there and then pick up a rental car to drive to a home base in Tuscany for touring there. Then drop your car at the Rome airport and take a shuttle to your cruise ship.

Posted by Laurel
Rome, Italy
2210 posts

Mary, With 5 or 6 days, it will be hard to do justice to 3 locations. Can you make it 10 nights so you can spend 3 in Venice, 3 in Florence and 4 in Rome? You'll be able to actually experience each place if you have a minimum of 2 full days there, and it takes 3 nights to accomplish that since travel between locations often eats up more than half a day by the time you pack, check out, go the train station, take the train, check-in, unpack and get oriented to the new location. And yes, there could be icy roads. If you really have only, say, 5 nights before your cruise, I'd suggest you pick Rome and enjoy that great city. You can day trip to Orvieto, wonderful Umbrian hill town, from Rome to give you that more rural view. EDIT: Mary I realize I didn't really answer your questions very well. I am sorry. If Tuscany and Venice are what you want to see, then fly into Venice, spend 3 nights if you can, take a train to Siena and rent a car for a few days. Again, 3 nights minimum is advisable if possible so you can actually have some experiences and see some sites. You might find it fun to stay in an agriturismo near Siena so you can have that countryside experience. Then parking is less of a hassle, too. Enjoy planning! So many options it can be daunting!

Posted by melissa
Austin
799 posts

Hi Mary, We were in Venice and Milan last year in early December. We drove from Munich to Venice, where 2 days were cold and rainy, 1 lovely sunny but cool day, and 1 heavy rain day which made it easier to leave. We drove from Venice on the highway to Milan where we had much nicer weather- but snow and freezing cold for the last 30 minutes. Honestly the rain in Venice was much more uncomfortable than the cold in Milan, but Venice was much more special. You might get lucky with the weather - who knows? Not sure an agriturismo in the short dark winter days would offer much as in the nice long days of summer. If you can, see Florence while you are on land transiting
to Rome. You'll have more time, see exactly what you want, shop in the stores you want. The money you save by not doing it as a shore excursion will pay for better extras on your trip, or at least you can have an entire day instead of 6 hours.

Posted by Ron
Cesena, Italy
755 posts

Mary, Tuscany is a region and not a city. Florence is in Tuscany. You would need to decide where in Tuscany you would want to see for the roadtrip portion. I would agree flying into Venice and working your way down makes the most sense. You can actually get into the Tuscan region in about an hour and a half from Venice but more than likely any destination you'll want to see will be another hour or two down the road.
I'm in the region which sits between Tuscany and Veneto. This winter has been very mild with no snow yet. Last winter was cold and rainy a good portion of the winter with fairly heavy snow at the beginning of Dec. and March. Next year....who knows! Be aware (I'm going by my experience of where I live and may not be indicative of other areas) that main roads in a town MAY get plowed/sanded. Side roads don't. The autostrada gets plowed and sanded but from what I saw it wasn't really sufficient. A majority of the roads you would take to see the Tuscan countryside are narrow and twisty and in hilly country. Not trying to scare you off but just saying I wouldn't attempt driving there in snowy or icy conditions.

Posted by Ron
Cesena, Italy
755 posts

Mary,
Tried to PM you but there seems to be a problem with the system. Will try again later or tomorrow.

Posted by Debbie
Calgary, Canada
8 posts

We were in Italy October 2011. We flew into Venice, then caught the train to Florence, from Florence we caught a train to Siena, where we rented a car and explored a lot of the hilltop towns and wine country. We returned the car rental to Siena and then made our way to Rome via Train. Driving in major cities is not for the weak of heart, parking is a nightmare. I would avoid driving in the cities as much as possible.

Posted by Michael
Seattle, WA, USA
5777 posts

Debbie has awoken a zombie thread from seven months ago. Presumably Mary already has all her plans set. It will be interesting to see how many people continue to reply to this dead thread.

Posted by Mary
Orlando, Florida, USA
11 posts

Hello All. After doing much research, we have decided to stay in Rome and see the sights there with only a one day trip with Johnny Madge Olive Oil Tour just outside of Rome. The reason being - I felt like I was trying to cram too much into one trip. With jet lag, and not feeling comfortable driving in a foreign country - we figured there is enough to see in Rome alone. As well with it being winter, we felt like it probably wouldn't be as pretty. So Tuscany will be another full trip some day in the spring or fall. One of our stops on the 16 day transatlantic cruise is Florence - so I will be seeing the sights there, as well as Genoa. We have a private tour in Florence which hopefully I will get to see a bit of the Tuscan countryside at that time. We arrive in Rome on a Monday morning and leave for the cruise ship on a Saturday. So I will report back sometime in late December to tell you how it went! Good luck on everyone's travel plans! Mary

Posted by Sherry
San Jose, CA
1139 posts

Mary, for time on your own in Rome (or for that matter, Florence), Context Travel (Context Rome, Context Florence, etc) is amazing for walking tours. I've used them at least a dozen times and in several cities; the experience has always been great. The gruops are generally limited to 6, so they can customize to group interests. Guides are academically well qualified, interesting, and with great English. You might want to check their website. They also do private walking tours.
Enjoy your cruise. What a wonderful, relaxing experience that wuold be.

Posted by Mary
Orlando, Florida, USA
11 posts

Thanks Sherry. I will definitely look into the tour guide for Rome. I have been thinking about getting one.