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Italy too much to see!

I’m new here and at age 54 finally going to Europe!! We leave Sept 28 and will be there 11 days. We fly in and out of Rome. Total 4 nights in Rome. Planned on going to Cinque Terre instead of Venice but now I’m second guessing myself. I love hiking and the ocean but currently not in the best of health. Would love feedback
on Cinque Terre and Venice. I know it’s comparing apples to oranges...also favorite base in Tuscany for best views?!
Current plan is Sienna. Not sure if we’ll have a car. I should have this all answered by now!! Thank you

Posted by
1728 posts

Janice--

Even if you were to spent the entire 11 days in Rome, you wouldn't be doing the wrong thing. Make 'dolce far niente' (loosely translated as 'the sweetness of doing nothing') your mantra. In Italia, people-watching is an art form!

First time to Italy, I would not drive, no way. The trains are great--research online how to navigate them. I've never been to C.T. but even that time of year it will be crowded with possibly some tough walking. Me? After Rome, I'd take the train to Florence for a couple days, then onto Venice for a couple days, then back down to the Umbrian hilltown of Orvieto for a night or two before spending your final night in Rome to have no worries about catching your flight the next day.

Seasoned travelers would tell you to start your trip in Florence and finish in Rome, but seeing as this is your first trip, making an immediate base is important to my way of thinking.

Enjoy your planning!

Posted by
6543 posts

I am with Jay on this one. Rome is one of those cities that will walk you to death. It is best seen if you quickly become familiar with their public transit system--mostly buses and the underground. Taxi's there are expensive, and buses can get you between major sights quickly and efficiently.

Posted by
5899 posts

First trip, stay in the north, Saving Naples, Amalfi for your next trip there.
Rent a car while in Siena. Save the Cinque Terre for when your health is better.

Posted by
2 posts

I've found Italy to be somewhat inexpensive compared to some of the other places we've been. We travel off season in the winter and will be making our fifth trip in February. We spend a week in an area and get to really appreciate a slower pace and the ability to notice the details. Rome needs at least a week. Venice and Florence could be done together into a week as they are only 2 hours apart via the train. The Dolomites and Bolzano are breathtaking and the hiking is wonderful, especially if you plan it as a hut to hut adventure and stop for a meal or snack while enjoying the views. Cinque Terre is still on the list, and we need to get to it before we can't climb those hills. That trip will be combined with Milan to see the "Last Supper".

Posted by
440 posts

Rome is a great city. It will walk you to death......but is such fun to see it all. I would say to get your car.....for us it was a must.....and drive to Tuscany. We loved staying in Montepulciano and driving from there after seeing Rome. From there we did Luca, Pisa, Cinque Terra, Florence......and then you could drive on to Venice. We opted to go to the Amalfi coast after this and though we thoroughly enjoyed it I think we should have done Venice. We did go to Venice on a later trip and found it to be one of our favorite spots. What a charming city! We did not do the day trip to Murano but did the trip to Burano as I sew and loved the lace and colored buildings. Drive back to Rome after this.....and stop by Assisi if you can.......LOVED IT!
I think a car is a must....it enables you to slow down, go at your own schedule and stop whenever you want. Get a Hippocketwifi and use your IPhone or IPad to map your routes and you will be fine.

Oh my!

I think the responses here will only leave you more confused!
Your best option is to add some personal filters for info.. For example, we do not drive in foreign countries. So, we choose places based on bus/train transportation. Then, list the kinds of activities you are most interested in. We like to "balance" a major city like Rome with a smaller place like Assisi or Orvieto.
Get it into your head that you simply will not see all of Rome in one trip. 4 nights in Rome is a good amount for your first trip to Italy. You could do the Big 3 - Rome, Florence, Venice. 11 days is a modest amount of time for Italy. Don't stretch yourself out too much. Enjoy! Enjoy! Enjoy!

Posted by
619 posts

Welcome to the Forum. I am so excited for you, Italy is a magic country and a great place for your first trip. Sorry you are not in the best of health, but given that is the case, then pacing your trip is going to be important for health and enjoyment. You have already received good advice, here are a couple of ideas to consider. I am assuming that 11 days does not include your travel day. Since you have not traveled in Europe before, I would recommend that you stick to public transport.

Here is a potential itineary that you can do by train that would give you some options to combine countryside with day trips.

  • Rome: 4 days
  • Train from Rome to Florence takes about 1 hour 22 minutes
  • Florence: 3 days (take a day trip into Tuscany with a tour company—many will do wine tours and/or cooking classes). To really enjoy the countryside (e.g. stay), you will need a car. If you want to go to the Cinque Terre, you can also do a day trip from Florence (either yourself on train: fastest train to Monterosso is 2 hours and 19 minutes or with a tour).
  • Train from Florence to Venice takes a little over 2 hours
  • Venice: 3 days
  • Train from Venice to Rome: short as 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Rome: last night before departing

Note that trains require that you travel light and Venice is a bear with luggage. We traveled with friends you both were not in great health (one recovering from back surgery, one from shoulder surgery). The pace of our trip was slower and my husband and I carried a lot of luggage (which thankfully was light). We however, spent two days in the Cinque Terre and used the very good train system to take the load off our friends, spent an evening on the water on a boat tour, and saved the hiking for another trip. Cinque Terre can be done at a slow pace.

Hope this helps and enjoy your trip,
Sandy

Posted by
31055 posts

janice,

With such a very short time frame, I'd suggest a slightly different route to the one in the previous reply. Does the 11-day time frame include your two flight days? Would something like this work......

  • Arrive Rome (2 nights, cover part of the sightseeing you want to do and get over jet lag)
  • High speed train to Florence (3 nights, day trip to Siena or other tours as suggested above)
  • Trains to Cinque Terre (3 nights, I'd suggest Monterosso as it's relatively flat and not difficult for walking; it also has the greatest number of hotels, some of which have elevators, and other tourist amenities; it also has the nicest beach; the end of September should be perfect as the crowds should be less; I'd suggest getting a hotel booked NOW)
  • Trains to Rome (3 nights, more touring)

If you're not in "the best of health", Monterosso would be perfect. You can take day trips from there to explore the five towns, and the walking you'll do there should be enough. If you're not in the best of shape, hiking the two Sentiero Azzurro trail segments that are open would probably not be a good idea, as parts are somewhat of a "robust" hike.

Florence is the capital of Tuscany, so it's an ideal home base to explore that area.

As this is your first trip to Italy, I'd highly recommend packing along a copy of the RS Italy 2018 guidebook, as there's a lot of good information there that will help your touring to go smoothly.

You'll also need to do some "homework" on using trains and other public transit in Italy, as there are some potentially expensive caveats. If you need more information, post another note.

If you need more specific information on trains between the locations you decide to visit, post another note. I'm sure the group here will be able to help.

Buon Viaggio!

Posted by
6439 posts

As you fly out of Rome, I suggest you do Rome last and do all your days there in one stay.

When you do decide on your 'other' destination, go there first and then finish in Rome. Saves you an extra hotel check-in/check out cycle.

Posted by
835 posts

With eleven days, I’d be suggesting that you sleep in maximum three places.
Given that you are flying intoo and out of Rome, it makes sense to have all your Rome nights at the end of your trip.
If you are thinking about Venice, a plan would be to take a train to Venice immediately you arrive in Rome. It is about four very comfortable hours Rome to Venice. Better not to pre-book the train tickets in case of flight delays. The train is far easier than catching a domestic flight, security, standing in line, whatever, and you arrive at Marco Polo in Venice, an hour away from downtown. The train to Venezia SL puts you right on the Grand Canal.
Venice is very dense in terms of things to see. Besides the big ticket sights like the Basilica and Doges Palace, there are a pile of “off Broadway” attractions, and these take you away from the tourist throngs.

People mostly say that you lose half a day when you move from city to city; my experience is that it is longer than that. By the time you pack, check out, get to the station, find the train, get to the next city, find hotel and check in, and then familiarise yourself, you’ve burned a day.

I think thatb with a short visit, it is good to have a focus of some sort as you can’t see “everything”. If art is your thing, plan out the museums that you would like to see. One trip to Venice, Tiepolo paintings were the focus, taking us to more than a dozen churches and museums; by the time we had finished, we knew the faces of many of Tiepolos (father, son and grandson) models. My next trip is purely architecture and Italian design and craftsmanship..

Posted by
996 posts

First of all, congrats on your first trip to Europe!!! My first time in Europe was also in Italy.

Second of all, I would not think of driving in Italy. Many people will say otherwise, but it depends on how much stress you want for this trip. I've been driving in LA, Atlanta, Chicago & Miami, and I prefer public transport in Italy.

If I were flying in/out of Rome, I'd think about the following --

What is it that I MUST SEE in Italy? What made me book a trip to Italy? List those items and make sure they're at the top of your list of things to do.

Second, Sienna is lovely for a base in Tuscany. Florence is also nice and possibly easier to access via public transport. A lot of this depends on what you NEED to see while in Italy.

For me, this is always the deciding factor. What made me pick this place? (Italy.) What do I need to see/do while here? After I figure that out, the rest of the days seem to fall into place.

Posted by
10 posts

WoW thank you everyone for your suggestions! I mostly wanted to go to Italy for Rome. I love our current Pope and want to attend mass and see the Vatican. I don’t teally like large cities and I know Rome is huge so wanted to stay in smaller hill towns but that is harder w/o a car. Was not leaning towards going to Florence since it’s another large city. I really prefer outdoor natural beauty and old churches as my choice for art. That’s why I choose Cinque Terre over Venice but that’s the part I’m second guessing myself on... I do have reservations at both locations but need to cancel one. Thanks everyone!!!

Posted by
17088 posts

Venice will certainly be better than the Cinque Terre for church art.

Posted by
835 posts

In Venice, you can buy the Chorus Pass, costs about 15 euro. The pass gives you admission to something like 18 churches, otherwise it is 3.00 euro per church. You can buy it at any church, no point even thinking of buying it on line.
There are some amazing churches, the Frari, pure soaring Gothic take your breath away, and the Assumption of the Virgin is one of the World’s great works by Titian. Titian is buried in the Frari, the Assumption is rendered in marble on his tomb..
San Polo, where the real treasure is in the Sacristy, a Stations of the Cross by Tiepolo. It is a bit confronting, the crucifiction told in fourteen frames, there is no Gentle Jesus Meek and Mild happening here, it is the story of a man being done to death for political and economic reasons. There is an Ascension that will take your breath away, it’s no Jesus ascending on a little cloud, it is a most athletic Jesus leaping to the heavens.
The Gesuati, hanging drapes of cloth. Except they are not cloth, they are made of marble when you get a bit close.
San Zacchari, a delightful little Bellini, typical Bellini, a three piece combo playing in front of a religious scene, very Bellini.

And here’s a thing. You can walk from one church to another, Frari to San Polo, less than ten minutes. How good is that!

If you like churches and outdoor beauty - it's hard to beat Assisi. Assisi is accessible by train from Rome.
Yes, Rome is big. But, it does not "feel" like the big cities in USA. The buildings are not nearly as tall. Many walkways between and around buildings/piazzas. Rome is very "walkable" which makes it great for tourists. You will not be overwhelmed.
Florence is a lot smaller/more compact than Rome. Population around 500,000. This is a modest city size in USA. Again - very walkable. These cities were built long before cars. So - Fear Not!

Posted by
10 posts

Thanks again everyone!!! This trip was more “last minute” than planned. I have Dystonia ( neurological disorder) so I’ll never really be better and then my husbands company closed that he worked for for 38 years he’s 61. So this is the “I’m going to Italy before my body and the bank are broke” lol. We always talked about going to Ireland since it’s our heritage ( and looks amazing) but I thought Italy will be harder on my body so wanted to do that first. Hopefully we can go next year. So Rome was the main draw. Went to a talk on Italy and bought Steve’s book after booking airfare. We will start in Rome because we arrive on a Saturday and want to see the Pope Sunday. It wouldn’t work at end of trip. So 3 nights Rome then I’d like to go to Orveito and Assisi. Should we go to Orveito then Assisi and spend 1 or 2 nights there? Then I’d like to go to Siena for at least 2 nights doing a tour to the Pienza/ Montepulciano area. That would still leave 2 nights for Florence and 2 for Venice. Then we could take fast train back to Rome day before flight. I know this seems like too many stops.... I’m not sure how else to do it to see what I’d like? It doesn’t make sense to me to base in Florence when most is in the south. What do you guys and gals think?

Posted by
575 posts

For what it's worth, I also do not like big cities. Not New York, not Paris, not even wild about Minneapolis which is, of course, not that big. Kind of assumed I would hate Rome and would have to put up with it to see the things I wanted to see. Ha! LOVED Rome on my first day there and have gone on loving it throughout several subsequent trips.

In Rome, we stay in Testaccio near the train, tram, and metro stations in a quiet neighborhood with many great, local places to eat within a few blocks. It doesn't have the charm of Trastevere, but nor does it have the tourists.

Also love Florence --- the centro storico is not big at all and you could walk from one end to the other in maybe 30 minutes. But, like Rome and Venice and the Cinque Terre, it will be full of tourists in September. Possibly beats Rome and Venice for church art. Nice little electric buses to get around.

Gee, I wouldn't go to the Cinque Terre if I were you and not in the best health.

Siena has good, easy buses and trains to other parts of Tuscany. Venice is uniquely beautiful and interesting, and it's pretty easy for someone staying there to get to the heavily touristed spots very early or very late in the day, and then spend the rest of the day visiting everything else.

Really, you can't go wrong with any of these places, but try not to spend your precious few days inside a train and hauling luggage around.

Posted by
10 posts

If we stop in Orveito on way to Assisi their is no luggage storage? Mostly wanted to do to Civita...

Posted by
10 posts

And the other option of course would be to go right to Benice from Rome and work our way back down. Any advantage to one way or the other I’d be missing-? Thanks again!

Posted by
1500 posts

hey janice
i would check either vaticantour.com or romewise.com for the papal audience or papal mass. even if free you may need tickets. get there early, like when gates open. when full to capacity they shut gates even if you have tickets (first come first serve). i would also think of bringing a foldable travel chair, you'll be standing a long time. i also love venice, been 3 times. after the mass on sunday i'd catch a train to venice for 2 nights, florence 3 nights (daytrip to siena) rome 3 nights, flight home. or take a day from rome and go to assisi, just work the days that work well. do you have rooms reserved yet? ask all the questions, this forum is great with answers and tell you the good bad and ugly just to help you out. you want to see alot in a short amount of time.
aloha

Posted by
10 posts

Yes we have first 3 nights at Hotel Smeraldo. And last night in Rome. Thank you good to know we’ll be shut out if full😳 I have other hotels booked throughout- booked only those with free cancelation but it’s time to finalize this!! I just didn’t realize how hard it would be- by the way you must be in Hawaii- my favorite place in the world so far😁

Posted by
1500 posts

hey janice
i'm not in hawaii now, my family is. i am from the volcano, lava, hurricane, flooding island (big island). just a few tips. get a map of top half of italy (rome to venice) mark dots of where you wanna go, you can use rome2rio.com for train travel and times and booking.com for hotels. good you did free cancellation. if you're doing rome first because of pope, go for it. i would stay near vatican in prati area, catch a train to venice, then assisi or siena, then to rome. work all that out with your dates then book hotels and trains. you can use trainline.eu, click person+, arrow down is for seniors over 60 or trenitalia.com (put in right names for stations - roma and venezia santa lucia) and you can total costs. if it all is good you can book. others here may have other ideas or options.
i stay near train station in venice, easy for pulling luggage. lots of bridges, steps stairs, cobblestones. watch the times you arrive and depart, do you have early checkin or can store luggage. put all your likes and dislikes, what works and what doesn't. that's when you decide what you really can do. come back and ask more question. it is a lot to do but you'll become an expert later. pack light, hope you two can get by with carry-ons, wash in sink
aloha

Posted by
996 posts

Totally thrown into the middle here - I LOVED Orvieto. It was a wonderful place to visit. We were only there for one day, but OMG - I have loved few places so much after such little time.

Posted by
10 posts

Aquamarinesteph- did you do Orveito as a day trip from Rome? Do you know if buses are currently taking people to Civita? Thanks!!

Posted by
17088 posts

I would not use Rome2Rio.com's information on travel times, frequencies or fares. It's good for telling you whether there is train service and/or bus service, and it can be helpful in suggesting where you may need to change buses or switch from train to bus. For more detailed information, keep drilling down until you find the link to the train or bus company's website. That's where you need to go for precise information.

I'll be another to express the opinion that there is far more to see in Orvieto than in Civita di Bagnoregio. If I had limited time and no car, I'd spend all that time in Orvieto rather than dealing with the logistics of getting to Civita, which are: get yourself to Orvieto, take bus to Bagnoregio (not very frequent), get shuttle bus to the Bagnoregio end of the walkway to Civita (or you can walk--maybe 15 or 20 minutes??), walk uphill across the quite long elevated bridge. Now you're there and can spend some time wandering around the town (picturesque but depopulated). After seeing Civita, walk back across the bridge, take the shutle bus back down to the bus stop in Bagnoregio, take the not-frequent bus back to Orvieto and finally the train back to your base (typically Rome). It really is a big hassle if you don't have a car or a tour bus.

I would like to help you with logistics here. Start in Rome. From Rome, go to either Orvieto or Assisi. You cannot travel easily between orvieto and Assisi. It's one or the other. Assisi has more historic church sites than Orvieto. However, Orvieto is still a beautiful choice. If walking is a problem due to health - Orvieto will be easier (less hilly). From either of these two places, you can take a train to Florence. If you want to add Siena - just take an easy bus day trip from Florence and return to Florence at end of day or early evening. Then from Florence, take a train to Venice.

Posted by
1728 posts

We took a daytrip by train from Rome to Orvieto a year ago March. It's doable and simple. Left Roma Termini station around 10AM, got up to Orvieto before 11:30. Took the funicular from the station up to the plateau of the hilltown, where it's all flat, with wonderful views of the Umbrian valley below. The cathedral is right there--amazing. Had a great lunch at a place--can't remember its name--but there are no shortage of fantastic restaurants in Orvieto. After the cathedral and wandering the winding streets to shop a bit, we left by train about 5:00 PM, back at Termini by 6:30, still plenty of time to stop for dinner and then a gelato before retiring for the day. Worthwhile!

Posted by
1562 posts

Oh my gosh you guys, I just love this forum!
You guys are experts on Italy!
I’ve only been once, over 30 years ago, but I know where to come when I plan to go back!

Posted by
1500 posts

hey janice
i'm gonna throw something out at you. don't know if you are emailing for a ticket to the papal mass or service. another option for a day trip is take the train to castel gondolfo, the pope's summer home. 30 to 40 minutes away. look at museivaticani,va for info; an article in anamericaninrome.com search castel gondolfo. or look at withlocals.com has a roman countryside day trip thru frascati sounds like something up your alley plus tour guide. leave the driving to him. there is a family owned shop ceralli that has the best porchetti, saw it on a tv travel show. use one of your rome days for day trip.
in venice, email alessandro@schezzini.it he does a fun cichetti tour, appetizers, wine, and history of venice. lots to think about. have a great time
aloha

Posted by
10 posts

Thank you so much everyone for your help!! IDK what I would of done w/o this forum!! Princess purple thank you for info on day trip and American in aroma link. I downloaded her app. I’ve made notes on all the advice!! The Vatican site is saying no tickets required for us to attend on Sunday.