Itinerary Concerns - BF v. GF


My GF and I are visiting Italy for 10 nights in September. We will spend first 4 nights in Rome and want 3 nights in Venice. We are flying out of Milan but we don't have much interest in spending any actual time visiting Milan. We have been throwing some ideas at each other about how to spend the other 3 nights; we originally thought about Florence but neither of us is sure about spending 3 nights there.

I would very much appreciate answers to any of these ?s:
- Is trying to spend 2 nights in Lake Como after Venice reasonable? Would it be too hectic to get to from Venice (or too hectic to get to Milan's airport)? If we did it, it would be after Venice and we would head directly to Milan to fly out. I am a little concerned that it would be too much travel time and too much effort.

  • Would 1 or 2 nights in Florence and a day trip elsewhere (Siena?) be the only reasonable option between our Rome & Venice stays?

I tend to think that Lake Como would be too much for this trip but I would rather hear from others with experience.

I have the RS Italy 2014 and it has a ton of great info.


Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
6705 posts

Whether you like it or not, the night before the flight from Malpensa you need to be close to the airport. Flights back to North America depart in the morning and you need to be there at the airport, at the very minimum, 2 hours prior to departure. Consider also that Malpensa is not even that close to Milan's city center. So one of your 10 nights will likely have to be in Milan.
But, if a lake you must see, and if Florence is in your desires, you could do the following:
- 3 nights in Rome
transfer to Florence via rail (1.5 hrs)
- 2 nights in Florence
transfer to Venice via rail (2hrs)
- 3 nights in Venice
transfer to train to Stresa via rail (4.5 hrs with change in Milan Centrale)
- 2 nights in Stresa (on Lake Maggiore)
transfer to airport via rail to Gallarate (35 min), then from Gallarate to airport 5 min. with taxi or bus**

Lake Maggiore is a better replacement of Lake Como (which is largely overrated because of George Clooney and Rick Steves), and, very very close to the Milan Malpensa airport. Actually Stresa is closer to the airport than Milan itself.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
5742 posts

If you want to see Lake Como after Venice, you can. It's easy to get from Venice to Varenna on the train with a single train change in Milan (Venice to Milan is a fast train, Milan to Varenna is regional). However, as Roberto says, you will then need to spend your last night in Milan. You can get there in the evening of your last full day before your flight, if you really have nothing of interest to see there. However, I like Milan, and there's certainly one day's worth of sights for anyone.

Lake Como is not "too much" because it's very relaxing. I can't compare it to Lago Maggiore, but I enjoyed Varenna, and it wasn't because of either Rick Steves or George Clooney. It's simply a very nice place to hang out for a few days. I was less taken with Bellagio, but of course most people like that as well; the boats in the mid-lake region make it easy to stay in one town and visit others.

As for what else you can see between Rome and Venice besides Florence and Siena - a large swathe of Italy! There's lots of other towns and cities. To start, I've been to Spoleto, Spello, Norcia, Perugia, Bologna, Parma, Modena, Ferrara, Ravenna, Verona, Padova, Bergamo, Cremona, and Mantova (I've taken seven trips to Italy, and some of these places I just saw for a few hours or as a daytrip). I didn't like Bologna, although again most people do. But I liked or loved all the other places listed, and particularly recommend looking into Ferrara and Padova (wonderful places with few foreign visitors). I haven't been to Orvieto (closer to Rome), but lots of people like it too. Start reading (Rick Steves as well as other books) and see what appeals to you.

Posted by Laurel
Rome, Italy
4059 posts

Your 4 nights Rome and 3 nights Venice are minimums for those two cities, so do not change that. Add Florence only if you love art. I would think a country/lake visit would be just the thing to end your trip on a relaxing note, and you are wise to think of the travel times involved.

Lake Garda is between Venice and Milan. You take a train, 1.5 hours from Venice, then connect to Sirmione by bus or ferry. Check out pictures on the internet. It is a stunning setting. You'll still need to spend your last night in Milan, though. Nice for a little last day shopping.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
6541 posts

I agree with Laurel, Florence is for art lovers. If you want a small town atmosphere with lots of sightseeing, then Verona is a great choice after Venice. But a lake sounds really good too.

Posted by Robert
Tampa, FL, USA
824 posts

I would skip Florence and Siena in this trip. Leave them and other parts of Tuscany for your next trip.

Lake Como is beautiful and relaxing. However Roberto has some great advice - "Lake Maggiore is a better replacement of Lake Como..., and, very very close to the Milan Malpensa airport. Actually Stresa is closer to the airport than Milan itself."

I would keep your 4 nights Rome, 3 Nights in Venice and add in 1 night in Orvieto and 2 nights at Stresa. Orvieto is do-able since it's close to Rome (1 hr) and it's a great place to stay one night. You would have to check the train schedules for the departure from Orvieto. From Rome to Orvieto is a regional train that runs frequent. You have 2 options when you depart Orvieto, take the hour long train ride back to Rome, then change to the high speed train to Venice. Or you can go direct from Orvieto to Florence and change in Florence for the high speed train to Venice. From Orvieto to Florence is about 2 hours depending on the train you choose. This way you can visit a nice hilltown, and also an Italian lake. A nice trip with the 2 biggies of Rome and Venice.

4 Nights Rome
1 Night Orvieto
3 Nights Venice
2 nights Stressa

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
13884 posts

You guys are brave, getting in the middle of a GF v BF tug of war. How do we know how the answers will be used?

It would be good to consult together and arrive at what both of you can wholeheartedly adopt, rather than proving one side or the other right or wrong....

Posted by Bob
Gettysburg, PA
1515 posts

Mt T,

If you want/expect to see her move from the GF to wifey position, better get with the program & do what she wants!

Posted by Tstark
2 posts

Thank you all very much for your comments and advice. We are still deciding on the final details but have agreed to spend our last night in Milan.

Haha, the title was meant as a joke towards my GF whom I knew would read the posting. Both of us want to see & do more than we have time for. Now it is just a matter of whittling the details down.

Thanks again!

Posted by Kathy
United States
2388 posts

Regarding Milan? There is plenty to see there should you decide to give it at least a partial day. The duomo is a must-do (be sure to go up to the roof) and there are some other old and very interesting churches well worth visiting. We spent most of a day there before our flight home from Malpensa as well, and in hindsight wished we'd have had another.

Yes, I guess one could say that Florence is for art lovers (which I am) but what's nice about the Rome/Venice/Florence combo is that all three are different both in appearance and history so it's not like, ho-hum, another Italian city… :O)

Good luck with your planning; whatever you choose, you'll have a wonderful trip!

Posted by Laura
Rick Steves' Europe
9896 posts

I hope the advice above has helped. Happy planning!

Posted by Southam
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
1422 posts

Kathy is right; Milan deserves a full day, especially that rooftop experience on the basilica. That means two nights, the second to prepare for your departure which will probably require an early-morning flight.