My husband and I will be travelling to Italy for the first time next month (June)- We have Four days in Rome, 2 in Cinque Terre, Five in Florence and 3 in Venice. I would love to hear of any suggestions for "must see" places, tours and shopping. I understand there is a Feast Day in Florence whilst we are there, what does that entail. thanks in anticipation
I think you can trim 2 days off of Florence.
A few suggestions ....
Florence has a large outdoor leather goods market, and other ones in the center of the city, and there is wonderful shopping in Florence and Venice.
An evening gondola ride if Venice would be wonderful -- much more peaceful and more romantic than during the day. Begin or end with a cocktail at St Marks square. Tour interior of Doges palace and St. Marks. Just walking all over Venice is wonderful.
Don't miss David in Florence! The plaza Michelangelo has a wonderful view of the city.
I would trim a day or two from Rome or Florence and add it to the two nights in the Cinque Terre. If it is your first time in Italy, the guidebooks will provide you with plenty of "must sees." If you get completely sated with religious art, go to the Peggy Guggenheim museum in Venice. It's a big change from the other art you are likely to see, and it's fun.
Cinque Terre is the "new", trendy place to go. It also requires some stamina to walk about. If you are not into trendy or a litte older in years, or appreciate history and culture, spend the time in Roma and/or Firenze. We went to the Cinque Terre some years ago when we were much younger, and before Rick made it unpleasantly popular. I would not go back now.
I'm afraid I don't agree with cutting down your time in Florence. There is so much to see and do there and just walking the streets is really interesting. I personally loved the Accademia, have a coffee up on the roof, also the museum where all the treasures from the Duomo are housed which is over the road from the Duomo. Can't remember the correct name sorry. You can also do a day trip to Pisa and perhaps Sienna which is a really lovely town. I think you will fill your days quite easily and feel you have seen the town. Venice take the vaporetto down the grand canal. Have a bellini in Harry's bar, visit the cathedral around 12.30 when they illuminate the gold ceiling, visit the palace - the self walk audio guide is great, walk the streets. You will have a great time.
I think another night in Cinque Terre would be good -I'd take it from Florence since you have more time there. We were there in late June a couple of years ago, and while there are other tourists, it is not "ruined" by Rick's readers (we stayed in his favorite - Vernazza). It is a wonderful break between 2 very full city stays (Rome/Florence). The scenery is beautiful. If you don't hike (we only do limited hiking, but were able to go north from Vernazza without problems), you can always take the boat and train to explore other small towns.
I too would throw one more day at Cinque Terre from Florence, unless you do a day trip to Siena or another small town from Firenze. Personally, I loved (really loved) the Florence art but the city isn't as beautiful as Cinque Terre. Depending on how you're getting from place to place, you may not have a full day either, so I'd consider travel time when deciding where to adjust time if you do.
Rick's guidebook advice pretty much prioritizes the "must see" stuff. A few suggestions - I got lost in Venice (once on purpose, once not) and it was one of the highlights. Also, Venice after dark is romantic, charming, and cruise-ship tourist free. In Florence, Michelangelo's David is just stunning. The Uffizi is also amazing. Cinque Terre is just perfect - yes it's more crowded than in the past, but there's a reason. Even if you're not a hiker, the Riomaggiore to Manarola leg of the trail is paved & easy.
My husband and I have visited Rome and Florence twice and Venice once. Both of us want to revisit all of them again. Make sure you make museum reservations in advance. Shopping? Everywhere. Be aware of the VAT (value added tax). You must then mail them individually in their own envelopes, postpaid only within Europe, then wait and wait and wait. Our May 2006 efforts to receive VAT refrunds have returned $0.00. Customs Duties/Taxes on all those purchases on reentry to the US, so I also assume for NZ also. So much to see in Rome, Florence we also love, but it is not as large, so if you cut a day, take it from Florence. Feast Day? Ascension Day and other religous or national holidays; Banks, post offices, exchanges and stores are closed.
Buy a compass (streets are curvy and narrow) and be prepared to walk, walk, walk. Comfortable flat/low heeled shoes a must due to uneven walkways/cobblestones.
Have fun, we're returning in September.
Stay in Sienna, and take the day bus to Florence. This is Rick's suggestion, and he is "right on the money." Our group has done this twice, and absolutely enjoyed Sienna! Like Rick says:"it is magical at night". You can also rent a car, and take day trips into the surrounding countryside.
The Cinque Terre has become overrun with tourists, and is best visited in early spring or late fall. It is still beautiful, and the hikes btweeen the towns are awesome, but the beauty of the small towns and surroundings has become lost in the hordes of travelers like us.
All of the museums in Florence are a must and buying your tickets in advance will save you time. The San Lorenzo market in Florence is a great place to spend a day shopping for leather goods, bandanas, religious items, T shirts, silk ties, etc., all out in the open. In the permanent buildings adjacent to the market there are bargains on good quality Italian shoes. Don't miss Siena, a 30 minute train ride from Florence. Venice is ok but quite commercialized. Two hours by train is Slovenia through the town of Trieste. Go to the caves on the way to Ljuljbana, the capital. In Venice you should visit the murano shops, they are all over. Only the Italians can work glass like this. In Rome the Coliseum is a must and regardless of your religion you should visit the Vatican museums, the Sistine Chapel et al which will take the majority of your day there. Dress appropriately (no shorts or spaghetti straps)and line up by 6 am otherwise the line will take forever. Bona fortuna.