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Italy travel in September

I'm planning a month long trip to Italy for my husband and I. I've just started putting together an itinerary which I will probably change many times. Several questions: We are flying in and out of Paris so we are spending 3 days in Paris and taking the train to Milan. Is this a high speed train that goes through the alps? So far I have Milan, Venice, Cinque Terre, Lucca, Florence, Siena, Rome, Amalfi Coast, Naples back to Milan to catch train to Paris. Question: Should we go to the Dolomites and if so can we train it from Milan to there? Is it worth spending some time at the boot of Italy? Ischia or Capri? We are going to train it maybe need a car for the Tuscany area? We don't want to rush it but spend more days in one area than rushing to the next site even if it means not seeing everything we want to see. Thanks for any suggestions or advice.
Jill

Posted by
836 posts

First, it's great that you are planning ahead. Second, in order to help us help you, let us know your travel duration and style. Do you enjoy slow travel or fast travel? Do you mind driving? Do you prefer mountains or beaches?

Posted by
22 posts

We like casual traveling. We like to walk places and love to eat. We like places where we can interact with the local people and settings. We like a mix of small communities and the larger cities. Love the history and ancient sights. Will travel some by car but prefer the train. Love the mountains but also the ocean/sea which we don't get to see very often because we live in Minnesota. We are looking at a slower pace and like to rent VRBO's and stay in one place for 4 to 5 days. Of course some places we will do a shorter time and hotels. We are in our late 60's and enjoy just relaxing some in each place we visit. Hope that helps. Thank you.

Posted by
633 posts

Train time from the Gare de Lyon to Milano Centrale at 7:26AM is 6:41; making more sense to fly. Also from Naples you would fly to Paris. Lucca [train] and Siena [bus] are easy day trips from Florence. Because of terrible train times from Venice to any of the five CT villages, a better sequence is Milan, Venice, Florence [from Camp di Marte at 7:26AM] and Rome. AC towns are described on www.positano.com. From Rome you take the train to Salerno and a Travelmar ferry.

You mention Tuscany with a car. Leaving the CT I would pick up a Hertz car in La Spezia, maybe the Val d'Orcia:

https://www.wanderingitaly.com/maps/valdorcia.html

You mention Siena. If staying there you could return the car at the train station, take the bus from the town center to Rome. Without Siena I would advise driving to Rome, the Hertz location on Via Sardegna.

You have a lot of potential stops [certainly not enough time for all], each hotel change [packing up in one and walking out of the next] spending a couple of hours on top of the train trip. Dolmites you might take the train from Milan to Verona [train time 1:13]; car rental at the airport [bus station adjacent to the station or a taxi]; dump the car at Piazzale Roma in Venice.

Posted by
2919 posts

First of all, flying in and out of Paris but spending most (or a large chunk) of your trip in Italy could be risky because of Covid regulations. Chances are there won't be too much complication traveling between France and Italy this September, but you need to be aware that you increase the possibility of a delay or snafu when you go from one country to another.

Second, to visit all the places in Italy that you've listed, I think I would need 6 months. How many weeks/months is your trip going to be? You say you don't want to rush it, and that's wise. For me, "not rushing" means spending at least 3 nights in any one place. I also don't like spending more than 3-4 hours getting from one lodging location to the next, though a long travel day once or twice during the entire trip may be worth it. I plan a day (or at least a half day) in each week to do laundry, write postcards, take a nap, and other non-sightseeing activities.

Posted by
836 posts

I agree with epltd that it would take months to explore most of mainland Italy.

So, how many full days do you have in Europe? What other parts of Europe have you been to and will travel to? For example, if you have seen much of the Swiss Alps, then you can skip the Dolomites.

In my first trip to Italy, I just did the most popular places: Rome, Venice, and Florence. I spent 5 days in Rome but I highly recommend at least a full week. Milan is a very commercialized city and can be skipped. What you can do is to fly "open-jaw" from and back to Paris. For example, fly from Paris to Venice, travel by train to Florence, and then fly from Rome to Paris. If you purchase tickets in advance, they shouldn't be expensive.

Posted by
5493 posts

Worth it to see the “boot,” by which I’m guessing you’re referring to the southern, “toe” part? Yes, but do that on another trip, when you have a chance to visit Sicily, too. Also, we stayed in Sorrento a few years ago, and used that as our base for trips to Capri, Naples, Pompeii, Herculaneum, and the Amalfi Coast.

Then there’s the Cinque Terre … Have you been to that area ever before? We did, this past October, and our first time was way back in 2001. The Cinque Terre region was one of Rick Steves’ original Back Door locations, precious and barely known to tourists. We rented a Vrbo apartment for a week this fall in Riomaggiore, but were shocked. It seemed like half of Germany was also on vacation in the Cinque Terre in October. I can only imagine that September was even more crowded. We saw and heard lots of Americans, too, the one day we visited Vernazza, but every other town was just jammed with German speakers. Restaurant reservations were absolutely necessary. Hiking trails were packed with lots of pushy, impatient people. The views were spectacular - more water than even Lake Superior offers, and food was great - where we could get it. Service in some restaurants was unwelcoming. It was, overall, a disappointing second visit, and I doubt we’ll bother with a third.

Posted by
22 posts

Thanks for all the good information. So much to take under consideration as I plan Italy which is great. We do love the train, spent 2 weeks traveling by train in Germany 2020 with plans for a month in Italy when Covid hit so we had to return home. The train is usually our way of relaxing plus seeing the country side. Did that in Spain, Norway and Sweden also. However maybe train one way and plane back to Paris. We decided on going in and out of Paris because every flight to Italy stopped in Paris so we decided to spend a few days in Paris. Will be totally aware of any restrictions and can always change flights. I get most of my recommendations from RS and then go from there, read everything I can on places we want to see. I think what everyone is saying that it is probably better to pick several base places to stay and then take day trips via car or in some cases train. The seas around Italy look beautiful so we want some time in communities by the sea. Is it better to buy train tickets before we leave or once we get to Italy? Also what mode of transportation is best seeing the Almalfi Coast? We don't want to drive it ourselves. Any other suggestions are welcomed. We will have 33 days in Italy and 4 days in Paris.

Posted by
20780 posts

Ferries and buses are options on the Amalfi Coast. There are also some day-tours offered by bus. I've never hired a private car-and-driver for the day, but that might be a nice splurge for one day; it would be an efficient way to see some of the harder-to-reach spots.

There are some other attractive towns/villages on the Ligurian Coast, both north and south of the Cinque Terre. You might do some research on that area to see whether you'd prefer one of the less-overrun options.

I recommend supplementing Rick's guide to Italy with at least one additional book that covers the country more broadly (though it will necessarily be less in-depth). However, you're going to need to reduce the scope of your trip or cherry-pick the places you go, skipping over nearby and worthwhile locations for lack of time. I think Puglia is great, but to include Puglia would probably require you to drop a significant number of the places you've already expressed interested in. A month is not a long time for Italy, which has fabulous destinations scattered from north to south.

For Freccia and InterCity trains, which speed you quickly between big cities, you'll save considerable money by buying tickets well in advance, but the cheapest (Super Economy) tickets for those trains are date- and time-specific and aren't changeable or refundable. The somewhat more expensive Economy tickets are changeable but not refundable. In this COVID era, non-flexible purchases are risky. When traveling to or from smaller cities, you'll be on regional trains; their ticket prices do not change and there are no reserved seats, so you can wait to buy those tickets on the day of travel. This is one of several advantages of slow travel to smaller places.

Posted by
1767 posts

The train from Paris to Milan is a high-speed train that makes five stops including Milan nor does it go through the alps. Flying is probably cheaper and worth it unless there’s an overnight train where you can rent a sleeper car.
You can take a train from Milan’s Central station to Bolzano but you must transfer in Verona. I don’t recommend Capri as a day trip because there’s no blockbuster sight. I know nothing about Ischia so I can’t help there, however, I have heard it's less touristy.

Posted by
22 posts

Taking all the great advice from the Forum that people responded to and more advice from RS's book I put together an itinerary that I think matches our time and the things we want to do. Please suggest anything different to add, take out or revise. Road trips will be added taking off from a home base like Florence and the Amalfi Coast.

Arrive Paris for 3.5 days. Paris to Milan via train 1 day. Milan 1 day. Venice from Milan via train 3.5 days. Rome from Venice via train 5.5 days. Naples from Rome via train 3.5 days including trip to Pompi. Sorreno from Naples via train 1.5 days. Amalfi Coast from Sorreno via ferry or ? 4.5 days. Capri from Sorreno 1.5 days. Florence via train from Sorreno 7 days including trips to Heart of Tuscany and Pisa. Florence to Cinque Terre Vernazza 3.5 days. Cinque Terre to Milan via train 1.5 days. Milan to Paris via air 1 day.
Paris till depart for home 2 days
I'm sure there will be more adjustment but I want some flexibility.

Posted by
836 posts

This still looks like a lot of moving around to me...you'd spend a lot of time checking in and out of hotels. Plus the fixed cost of traveling from the station to your hotels and back.
I suggest consolidating your stays further.

Posted by
20780 posts

It seems a shame to have two very short stays in Milan. I'd try very hard to consolidate them. You could fly from Paris to Venice and put all your Milan time at the end of the trip before flying back to Paris.

Posted by
5493 posts

I’d suggest basing in Sorrento and taking a day trip or two to Naples, before continuing for the Amalfi portion.

After Cinque Terre, what about catching a Paris flight from closer Pisa, rather than from Milan? Do flight times and prices work better?

Consolidate your Milan time by staying there once, on your way to Venice.

Have a great trip, however you do it!

Posted by
3724 posts

If you’re only using Milano as a point to point transfer and there’s not anything you really are interested in, than try this itinerary.

Day O Travel.

Day 1 arrive Paris CDG and immediately fly to Venice. 1H 30min.

4 nights Venice.

Day 5. Train Venezia S.Lucia-Firenze SMN 2H13 min.

7 nights Florence.

Day 12. Train Firenze SMN-Vernazza. 2H55min.

3 nights Vernazza.

Day 15. Train Vernazza-Roma Termini. 4H01min.

5 nights Roma.

Day 20. Train Roma Termini-Napoli Centrale.
1H13 min. See edits.

5 nights Naples.

Day 24. Ferry. Naples Molo Beverello port - Capri. 1 hour.

2nights Capri.

Day. 26. Ferry. Capri-Amalfi timetable not posted.

5 nights Amalfi Coast.

Day 31. Private transfer to Napoli Capodicino Airport 90 Minutes or

Ferry. Amalfi-Salerno. 1H. Train Salerno-Napoli Centrale. 42 minutes. Taxi to airport.

Flight Napoli- Paris orly. (Easyjet or Transavia)
2H20-2H30min.

6 nights Paris.

Day 37. Fly home.

Posted by
633 posts

Florence to Vernazza the fastest train is from Firenze Campo di Marti at 7:54am.

Book ferry Capri to Amalfi or Positano here [starting April 1]:

https://www.lucibello.it/en/

However, from Rome I would do the AC first [towns described on www.positano.com]; train to Salerno and a Travelmar ferry, or a driver [from Napoli Afragola, missing the downtown traffic]. Driver suggested for Positano, as the ferry port is pedestrian only; walk to the hotel with a luggage porter. Positano or Amalfi to Capri to Naples. Staying in Naples last you are there for the flight to Paris.

Posted by
105 posts

I've noticed that people have recommended Capri over Ischia. Is there a reason?

Posted by
3724 posts

Jim, I personally prefer Ischia, but with only one night there, and time by ferry from Amalfi town, Capri makes a better choice for the op.
Have had the pleasure of two trips to the island one of 3 nights and one of 5. Really think it deserves more than one.

Posted by
22 posts

Great suggestions and ideas from everyone thank you. As I finalize our stops I am going to take ideas from everyone but leave some areas open for now until a later date or even once we get to Italy, like do we go to Capri or Ischia. We like flexibility when we travel so we can make changes if need be. Thanks again - I'm sure I will be checking back to read more forum notes on Italy before next August.
Jill