Itinerary Helo

We are planning on next fall October and November time frame. I basically looked at the itinerary in Rick Steve's book for a 3 week trip and just want to build on it. Can you tell me which towns/cities you would stay more nights than others? Also, where you would rent a car and start the drive and then where you would return the car? My plan is either to fly into Milan and depart from Rome, or fly into Zurich and leave from Rome. The reason I want to fly into one of those places is because I want to do the Bernina Express train trip. So Rick Steves trip starts in Milan then to Varenna (Lakes) , Verona, Castelrotto (Dolomites), Venice, Cinque Terre, Pisa, Florence, Siena, Assisi, Orvieto, Sorrento (Naples, Pompeii, Paestum, Amalfi Coast), then finish off in Rome. It's aggressive, I know, and luckily we aren't on a fixed time frame. We could stay longer if we had to. My biggest questions are, should we even bother with Varenna and Dolomites area, since it will be chilly in October, or, are they totally worth seeing? and..... I would much rather stay in about 4 places for a week each place and do day trips... it's cheaper and I like being planted somewhere, rather than packing up every day or night, but, I don't know if that is a practical thing to do, or not.
Any insight or suggestions are greatly appreciated!!!!!

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

That is a tough question. We have been to Switzerland many times and Italy thrice, and we routinely fly into Zurich, even if going to Italy. but we have yet to make the Bernina Express, as much as we have wanted to. I think for you, time - wise, it comes to a choice between Bernina Express and the Dolomites. Having been to the Dolomites in late August several times and been rained out of our plans, I know how unpredictable the weather can be these. If you are serious hikers, I might favor the Dolomites. If more armchair sightseers, maybe the Bernina Express. Either one should be great

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17796 posts

Kim, My first suggestion would be not to place too much emphasis on Rick's 3 week Itinerary. They tend to be overly "ambitious" and often work better with more time. The Bernina Express is a beautiful trip (provided the weather co-operates) through beautiful scenery. You could consider something like this.... > Flight to Zürich > Arrive Zürich - train to Chur, about 1H:40M depending on which train you use; (1 night?) > Bernina Express to Tirano & then Varenna > Varenna (2 nights?) > Train to Verona > Verona (2 nights?) > Train to Bolzano > Bolzano / Dolomites (2 nights?) I was there in Sept. and the weather wasn't great, so Oct./Nov. would likely be worse. > Train to Venice > Venice (3 nights?) > Train to Florence > Florence (3 nights?) > Train to Cinque Terre - stop for a few hours in Pisa if you want to see the Leaning Tower > Cinque Terre (3-4 nights?) Tour all 5 towns, day trips to Levanto, Porto Venere, Santa Margherita Ligure or Portofino. Oct. will be towards the end of the season, but the weather should still be reasonably good. > Train to Siena (3 nights?) Day trips? > Train to Orvieto > Orvieto (3 nights?) Day trip to Civita di Bagnoregio? > Train to Sorrento via Rome & Naples and then Circumvesuviana > Sorrento (4 nights?) Day trips to Capri, Positano (Bus), Pompeii and/or Herculaneum > Trains to Rome > Rome (5 nights?) > Flight home from FCO I'm not sure where to fit Assisi in? I'd have to give it some thought. There are many ways this could be arranged - this is only one suggestion. Good luck!

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1978 posts

Kim: Your itinerary is pretty aggressive, and Italy is better if taken just a little slower. There is so much food, art, architecture and history that it's just too easy to make your trip a blur. You possibly need to simplify your stops. I too used to drive as far and fast as I could, but we've slowed down with $9.50 gasoline in Italy. I prefer to go through Munich (instead of Switzerland) and get my mountain vistas in Southern Bavaria and the Austrian Alps (Innsbruck.) It's just so easy to get to Venice by train from the north, and you'll be going thru the Dolomites. Tuscany and Chianti have hundreds of farm accommodations (agriturimos) and touring by rental car throughout the hilltop towns is enjoyable. We like working out of one location doing day trips to Florence, San Gimignano, Siena and Volterra. The Fall grape harvest is a wonderful and interesting time to be in Tuscany. Orvieto is another great hilltop town 1 hr. north of Rome, and there are a number of incredible sites within 1/2 hour. There's a Hertz store across from their train station where cars can be returned. Many sell themselves short in Rome, and it's a 1 week destination. There's as many sites in the Roman suburbs to see as there is within the city center. I've never been to Naples, Pompeii or the Amalfi Coast, but they appear to be another 1 week trip. I cannot comment on that area. Have a great trip!

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2531 posts

Kim, if you can keep up the pace, you still might want to add another few days; I think your itinerary is doable, if you have accommodations and travel schedules planned ahead of time. If you want to do daytrips from a base city, you can group Florence, Pisa, Siena and Assisi together - I'd give one week minimum to this segment. Orvieto can be a daytrip from Rome (I suggest at least 5 days in Rome). Venice could be another base for trips to Verona and Padova (again, at least 5 days). Sorrento is a good base for the Naples/Amalfi Coast/Paestum area, with stops in Positano and Ravello (another 5 day minimum). That's about 22 days without the Milan/Cinque Terre/Varenna segment, which I would think would add another 5 or 6 days. You might want to overnight in Cinque Terre as well as in the Dolomites, depending on how much hiking you want to do. Of course, you could split some of your base stops into 3-night stays instead of 5 or a week, but you mentioned wanting about 4 cities to use as bases. Multiple-night stays would be Venice, Florence and/or Siena, Sorrento, Rome, Milan, and perhaps Verona.