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only 8 days to spend, Cinque Terre, Tuscany, Bolzano, Venice. How to do this?

flying into Genoa and flying out of venice in September

Plan is to land in Genoa, take train to Vernazza in Cinque Terre, spend 2 days there.

Then on third day, go to Tuscany (san gimignano) - how to do this? Thinking of taking train from Vernazza to Pisa, then driving from Pisa to San Gimignano. Third and fourth day touring towns in tuscany
Fifth day take train to bolzano (from florence), spend 2 days touring the dolomites
Then take train to venice, spend day 7 and 8 in Venice.

do you think this is a good plan. I am not really a city person, we have seen too many cities around the world so I am okay with getting only 2 days in Venice. My questions are:
1. should i spend more time in CT or Tuscany?
2. quickest way to get from vernazza to san gimignano?
3. Rick has often recommended only a day in Dolomites, will it get too boring to spend 2 days there?

Our work commitments prevent us from taking more than 8 days off (plus flight days) so this will have to fit in 8 days.

Thank you

Posted by
6543 posts

Do I think you have a good plan? No, not really. Your visit is pretty short for a place that has so much architecture, culture, art and great food. You would do better to travel a little slower--to fewer cities.
The easiest way to get from C/T to San Gimignano is to take a 1 hr. bus ride from Florence. The buses line up across the street from the train station on the block to the side and back of McDonalds Restaurant. I see San Gimignano as more of a tourist stop than an actual destination since it's so small.
The best way to experience Tuscany is via rental car, as it's far more efficient than taking a train or bus to the hilltowns like San Gimignano. As far as visiting the Dolomites, they're also best seen by automobile.

Posted by
4152 posts

Personally, I think this is a really bad itinerary, but if you like to travel this way then you should go ahead with your plans. But first you should consider how your trip will progress.

You'll fly in from the U.S. and take a train ride of almost 3 hours to get to Vernazza. That's your first day gone to travel and jet lag. Next day CT.

You take a train to Pisa Centrale to drive to San Gimignano, That's more than 3 hours just on trains and in cars, not to mention checking in/out of your hotel, getting to train station, getting from train station to car rental agency and getting the car. Basically, your third day is lost to travel. Day 4 touring Tuscany.

Next you take a 2.5 hour train ride from Florence to Verona. Again, you must get to Florence, check out of the hotel, get to the train station, wait for the train, get to your next hotel and check in. Most of the day is gone. Spend next day in Dolomites.

Next you take a 2 hour train ride from Verona to Venice. Again, add in at least an hour before and an hour after the trip for all the things listed above. Half your day is lost to travel. Spend day 8 visiting Venice.

Personally, I would cut out at least half of your trip. IF you want to tour Tuscany then you should take the time needed to do it. A single day there will afford you the chance to see two cities, that's it. If you spent the week there you could see lots of small, very different towns and take your time doing it.

Donna

Posted by
9450 posts

Donna is 100% right. You have too many places and too many miles to cover. Something needs to go. A few questions so that I might give you more useful info:\

  • Where are you flying from? North America?

  • What do you like to do? Drink wine? Hike? Bicycle? See museums? Take pretty drives?

We have just spent 3 weeks in one town in the Dolomites (Have one more to go) and boredom has not set in, but then we love the outdoors. That said, October can start to get pretty quiet here. And BTW, Bolzano is a terrible location for seeing the Dolomites as it is not in the mountains but about an hour distant. Rick Steves' groups stay in Castelrotto and travel up to the Alpe di Siusi. That is all they do. And Castelrotto is not "in" the mountains either. You need to go further in for the mountain experience: The Val Gardena, Alta Badia, Cortina d'Ampezzo, etc.

EDIT: How many nights do you have in Italy? Days can be misleading if by two days you actually only spend one night in a place. Travel times on your itinerary are long and one night stays will not give time to do or see much.

Posted by
11981 posts

I'll try not to pass judgement on your choice of not devoting at least one day to Florence. But as a Florentine, I'm appalled.

Your plan is somewhat crazy if all you have is 8 days. Which begs the next question. Do the 8 days include travel days? That is why it is best to count the nights on the ground.

The airports closest to the 5 Terre are Pisa and next, Genoa. It's about 2 hours away from the time you walk out of either terminal. Pisa has more flight choices.

For your plan I would rent a car in La Spezia (next to 5Terre) and I would travel by car in Tuscany, then to the Dolomites, and lastly I would return the car in Venice.

Actually I'd do the exact reverse itinerary.
Land Venice. 2 nights
Rent car visit Dolomites 2 nights very min
Drive to Tuscany 3 nights
Return car in La Spezia. Cinque Terre 2 nights.
Fly home from Pisa or Genoa. You might need to spend the night closer to the airport if the flight is early.
As you can see I used 9 nights at the very least. If you have fewer, you should remove something altogether.

Posted by
112 posts

I am flying from the US to Paris (roundtrip). Plan was fly from paris to genoa and out of venice to paris and back home. 8 days are in Italy. The other 2 days are for the flight time to and from Europe. So 10 days really

We like to be in nature and lately are suffering city-fatigue. We travel out of US every year so hope to come back again to Italy. We just want to relax in small town Italy and get a glimpse of Venice.

Given the time constraints, if you had to skip either Cinque Terre or Tuscany, which one would you skip?

Thanks for all the suggestions

Posted by
112 posts

We hate Museums at this point (seen too many). We like going to churches, palaces, city squares but as I have said, cities are not our priority. We would rather enjoy 2 days in Venice and spend the rest of the time in small town Italy.

Because Florence is museum and gallery heavy, we are skipping it.

We were also planning to take the fast train from Florence to Bolzano, it is about 3 hours and 15 minutes
And rent a car in Bolzano, and drive to Castelrotto and other places for 2 days

Another question: If you were going from Venice to Dolomites, which town would you stay in?

Posted by
1567 posts

For rural Tuscany and the Dolomiti, you will likely need a car. For the coast, you won't. I see no problem with 3 days in two low-key places, then a night or two in Venice. It depends on what kind of nature you are after!

Posted by
1700 posts

I agree the days instead of nights make the plan confusing.
And not sure if you have factored in travel times and logistics.

Only way to make this work is to keep the rental car until dropping it off at Piazzale Roma in Venice.
Way too much hassle and time to get into Florence to a car drop off place, then get to the train station to take a train to Bolzano where you will then rent another car which is I am not sure how far from the actual train station, etc... and then drive to the town you are staying in.
Why would you not just drive straight from San Gimingano to the Dolomite town you will be sleeping in?
After the 2 nights in the Dolomites drive to Piazalle Roma and drop off you car.
Makes much more sense to me, the schedules of the trains on top of the tight timeframe will otherwise ruin your plan.

for a short stay in the Dolomites I would look at Ortisei where you can spend a day taking different lifts and have a rest from driving.
You could also stay somewhere up on Alpe Di Suisi.
Neither are very convenient to Venice, Cortina would be a better option for an easy drive to Venice after but Cortina's lifts shut down early in Sept.

Posted by
16788 posts

Ignore David's comment about a 1-hour bus ride from Florence. I believe he was thinking of Siena, not San Gimignano.

If you're not visiting Florence and were just planning to catch a train there, then skip it altogether and do drive to the mountains. You'll avoid local traffic or transfers from airport to train station around Florence, avoid checking in and out of car rental offices, and might also pay less per day when you keep the same car longer. It's fine to pick up in Pisa and drop in Venice with any company that has offices in both places.

Posted by
4152 posts

If your trip is 10 days long including flying into/out of Paris then this itinerary won't work.

You'll land on day 1 and possibly fly that same day to Genoa. You'll get to Genoa late so will need to get a hotel. Next day (day 2) will be a travel day to the CT. Day 3 spent in CT. Day 4 travel day to Florence. Day 5 spent visiting towns in Tuscany. Day 6 travel day to Bolzano. Day 7 spent in Bolzano. Day 8 travel to Venice. Day 9 travel day back to Paris and Day 10 travel day home.

Out of your entire 10 days trip you will have 6 days that have long hours of travel in them. *We just want to relax in small town Italy and get a glimpse of Venice. * You won't get any of that with this itinerary. If you want to relax spend 5 days in Tuscany and 2 days in Venice, not changing hotels every other night. I understand the desire to see it all but you simply don't have the time given the constraints you have. You only have 10 (or 10 nights which means 9 days). You're flying into and out of Paris that takes up 2 entire days out of your itinerary. You need to be back in Paris the night before your flight out. I just don't see how this itinerary can work or be relaxing.

Donna

Posted by
4701 posts

I completely agree with Donna. BTW, are you young and able-bodied? All your ideas have a lot of physical activity needed.

Are you using a bargain airline from Paris? Sometimes they use strange airports.

Posted by
112 posts

I am planning to remove something from the itinerary.

If I fly into Innsbruck, then rent a car to Castelrotto - eventually returning the car someplace in Italy, is there a lot of fee involved to return car across the border -if yes, then what is the cross border fee? Would it be better if I fly to Verona and from there rent a car?

Posted by
1700 posts

It is prohibitively expensive in rent a car in one country and drop off in another
I think I have heard of Drop off fees in the 1000 euro range.

Flying to Verona and then driving tor the Dolomites should be an easy drive.
Even from Venice, Bologna or Milan is not too bad a drive but can depend what time you fly in, how tired you will be, etc...
I mention Milan because there are more flights into Milan and from the US the chance of getting a direct flight may exist.

You might be able to train from Innsbruck into a town in Italy where you can rent a car, but not sure how large any car rental offices are in the Dolomites so that might be a little tricky.

As long as you pickup and return in Italy there is often no drop off fee for different cities or if there is it will be tiny in comparison to the drop off fee over a border.

Posted by
31049 posts

I agree with the others in that your proposed Itinerary is far too ambitious for the time frame you have available. The first thought that comes to mind is whether you've already bought round trip tickets to Paris? If not, it would be much better to simply use flights direct to Italy. Is this your first trip to Italy?

Again as mentioned by the others, something will have to go. Which destination is more important, Tuscany / San Gimignano or the Cinque Terre? Renting a car is a good choice for some locations, but there are some potentially expensive "caveats" to be aware of. If you need more information on those, post another note. Especially for such a very short time frame, using high speed trains (which travel at up to 300 km/h) will be a much quicker and more efficient travel method.

It's difficult to suggest a more detailed Itinerary without knowing which places you plan to cut.

Posted by
1160 posts

There are a few general principles about travel planning in Italy.

Trains are often faster than driving; fast trains are really fast along the railway backbone (Milan-Bologna-Florence-Rome-Naples), along the axis Turin-Milan-Venice, as well as on the Venice-Bologna-Florence-Rome itinerary (that makes use of the longest part of the backbone). Out of this main line trains are slower. If you join arbitrary points in Italy you are likely not have very fast travel time.

Cinque terre and Venice are on opposite sides of Italy, and in the middle there are very boring mountains, a lot of them. If you manage to do it in five or six hours by train, it is still a miracle of railway building. Twenty years ago it would have been eight hours. Still, six hours traveling means the better part of your day is gone.

Rural Tuscany - and that includes S. Gimignano, Pienza, Montepulciano, is difficult to travel with trains. Even with a car it is not fast driving. You will have to climb every hill and turn around every field. - Tuscany is nominally possible with buses, but timetables are planned for students and not for tourists. Very very slow.

Dolomites begin at Ortisei - that is not on a train line but still a feasible bus ride from Bolzano. The interesting part would be to ride passes and get really in the internal zone of Dolomites. This needs time, a car, and good weather. Usually planning to spend a single day or two in mountain areas (be it Dolomites or Berner Oberland, whatever) it is not sensible planning; your single day may be cloudy and all your travel time is lost. Three days in a mountain area are a sensible minimum, if you do not have you should better skip the area (but even a full week is not a guarantee that weather will be fine).

Basically, you need time for everywhere, unless you stick to the railway backbone. On the railway backbone, I can get up at 7am, leave at 8am from Florence, have a meeting in Milan at 11am, go back by train at 12.30pm, and be in front of my dish of spaghetti in my home again at 2.30pm. Out of the backbone, forget to do many things on the days you travel.

The last principle: relax. The best of Italy is having little or nothing to do in a nice place in front of a bottle of wine - if you do not drink, in front of something good to eat. But you need time just to enter into this mindset. Most tourists are already gone before being ready to relax.

Posted by
112 posts

Thank you Folks for all the advice. The new itinerary I am considering (we have booked no flights yet) is:
Flying into innsbruck. Take a train/bus/whatever is quicker to Castelrotto picking up a car in whatever Italian town is closest to Castelrotto that provides car rentals.

Night 1 and 2 in Castelrotto
Night 3 still in dolomites but in a town that is closer to Venice (Cortina d'ampezzo maybe?)
Drop car off either in Venice or a town before Venice?
Night 4 and 5 in Venice
Night 6,7, and 8 in Cinque Terre
My dream is to spend nigh 6/7/8 in Cinque Terre, but I could use some advice on the quickest way to get to CT from Venice??
thanks again. I will post this as a separate thread also

Posted by
65 posts

Sounds as if you are planning a very ambitious trip. This is just a suggestion. Why not made Lucca your home base?
Lucca has good train and bus connections. You could fly into Pisa and take a thirty minute bus ride to Lucca. You could rent an apartment and shop in the local markets and specialty shops. There is plenty to do and you could rent bikes and ride on the wall that surrounds the city. There are also bike and wine tours to areas around Lucca. You could do day trips to Assissi, Orvieto, and Cinque Terra. You could even rent a car and go to Montepulciano. There are wineries in the town and they give tours. Try to enjoy the charm of the Tuscan towns.

Posted by
31049 posts

No need to post this as a separate thread. It's easier to follow if all the replies are in the same place.

Your latest suggestion is more reasonable, but a few thoughts.....

  • You might find greater flight availability into Munich rather than Innsbruck. The trip from Munich to Bolzano by rail will take about 3H:50M (that's from the main station, not the airport).
  • Your profile doesn't indicate your location, so it's difficult to get any idea on what flights might be available from your area.
  • Renting a car in Bolzano will be the best idea as I don't remember any rental places in Castelrotto. A car isn't really necessary as you can take a Bus from Bolzano to Castelrotto (about one hour as I recall).
  • I wouldn't waste a night in the Dolomites closer to Venice. Changing hotels takes about four hours, when all is considered, and it's such a nuisance for one night. Either spend another night in Castelrotto or another night in Venice.
  • You might also consider staying in Ortisei, which is very popular with some here. It's close to Castelrotto so if you have a car it shouldn't be a problem to get there.

Would something like this work....

  • D1 - Flight to Munich
  • D2/N1 - Arrive Munich, train to Bolzano, Bus to Castelrotto (alternate plan: rent car and drive to Castelrotto or Ortisei)
  • D3/N2 - Dolomites
  • D4/N1 - Return to Bolzano by Bus or Car (return car) - train to Venice (usually one change in Verona)
  • D5/N2 - Venice
  • D6/N1 - Train to Cinque Terre (either via Milan or Florence - there will be at least one change)
  • D7/N2 - Cinque Terre
  • D8/N3 - Cinque Terre
  • D9/N1 - Train to Milan (it's advisable to spend the night before your flight home in a location closer to the airport)
  • D10 - Return flight

You can research rail trips at www.trenitalia.com. If you need suggestions, post another note here.

As I mentioned before, there are some potentially expensive "caveats" when renting cars in Italy. It would be a good idea to do some research on those. If you need further information, post another note here.

You might find it helpful to have a look at the RS Italy guidebook, as that will provide suggestions for good hotels and restaurants, and also help to plan your touring efficiently.

One final point to mention is that you'll need to get a hotel booked in the Cinque Terre soon as September is still very busy there. At this late date, you may have to take what you can find and stay in one of the other towns. Monterosso is the largest so has the greatest number of hotels and other accommodations.

Posted by
4152 posts

It's 6 hours by train from Venice to the CT. Add on the time before and after the ride and you've wasted an entire day to travel. Spending 2 nights in a location gives you a single full day there. Your new itinerary is still too ambitious and has you traveling from one side of the country to the other.

Donna

Posted by
579 posts

Donna has made several posts explaining how much of your time is going to be just going from place to place and not relaxing on vacation or sightseeing. But its your trip. If you want to be able to say you've seen a bunch of places in Italy you can certainly do what you're planning.

Posted by
112 posts

I was undecided between Cinque Terre and Tuscany, but once I added the travel times (including flight times), I think Tuscany seems a better option for the last 3 days of travel.

We dont mind flying to CT even if it costs more. But so far I havent been able to find anythiing to make it work. if you know any magic trick, let me know.

But I guess Tuscany it is

I love mountains (dolomites) and I also love rivieras/sea (CT) and I was hoping to fit both in one vacation but I guess that cant happen

Posted by
31049 posts

I'm not clear from your last post which places you're skipping. Are you still planning to visit the C.T., Tuscany, Dolomites and Venice? With some additional information, it will be easier to offer more detailed suggestions.

The easiest access to both the C.T. and Tuscany would be to fly into Pisa. I believe there are a few direct flights from the U.S., but it's more likely you'll have to fly into a larger hub and then connect with a regional flight to Pisa. Without knowing where your home airport is, there's no way to know what flight options you might have.

Posted by
1700 posts

Closest airports to CT are Pisa or Genoa ; both are small airports and neither is super close.
You could still make your Dolomites and CT work if you drop off Venice.

Fly into Verona ; rent car
Night 1 either in Castelrotto / Ortisei or if not able to make it same day stay somewhere closer to the airport for the night.
Night 2,3,4 stay in your choice of town in the Dolomites
Drive from Dolomites to La Spezia drop off car and take local train to choice of town in Cinque Terre (long day but doable, I will be driving this in reverse in Sept.)
Night 5,6,7 stay in your choice of town in Cinque Terre
Train to Pisa.
Night 8 Stay in Pisa. You will have time to visit the Tower/Piazza.
Fly out of Pisa following morning.

Likely a cheaper option you can make the above plan work as well with Round Trip flights out of Milan. Flight times may be much better and more options this way. You can probably get a flight into Milan earlier in the day making the drive to the Dolomites earlier, but still you may be tired and weary so may want to still stay near the airport 1st night.
Same thing but Night 1 stay near Airport in Milan, in Dolomites or along the route and Night 8 stay in Milan center near the Duomo.

You would have 1 long drive, 1 medium length drive which I don't think is bad and gives you enough time to see these 2 areas.

Posted by
112 posts

I am okay with the first part of trip - 3 days in dolomite and 2 days in Venice

I am deciding between the last 3 days of the trip - Cinque Terre or Tuscany? I am realizing I can only do justice to one of the two.

Cinque Terre seems like too much travel time, so I guess the last three days would have to be in Tuscany. (but if there was a way to reduce travel time, I would prefer to do Cinque Terre instead of Tuscany)

Posted by
1700 posts

Given the travel time I think Tuscany makes more sense to end the trip.
Figure out your flight options before you finalize on a town in Tuscany to sleep though or could have the same logistical issues.
Pisa is in Tuscany for example but is quite far from Montepulciano so would have the same type of issue where you could not sleep in Montepulciano and catch a flight out of Pisa the next morning.

Some towns in Tuscany you would want a rental car for, others you most definitely do not want a car and would want to stick with public transit.

Posted by
11981 posts

Based on the last OP's comments, it appears the OP wants to drop the 5 terre, which makes sense, since they are not easy to travel to.

Based on the last info I recommend:

Fly to VCE.
Innsbruck has limited (seasonal) flights and also it would require to take a train to Italy to get a car, so forget about it.
Spend 2 or 3 nights in Venice.
Rent a car in Venice (at Piazzale Roma garage). Drive to nearby Dolomites (1 to 2 hours away depending on where).
Spend 2 or 3 nights at Dolomites (with a car).
Drive to Tuscany (location TBD) for the remaining nights.
Fly out of Florence (FLR) or Pisa (PSA), both in Tuscany, back to Paris or wherever (both PSA and FLR have good connections with European major hubs).

Now with regards to the Dolomites.
I recommend Ortisei in the Val Gardena. Cortina is fine too, albeit more expensive. Neither is far from Venice and going through Cortina and then all the way to Ortisei from Venice would make it a nice drive through the mountains. Even with stops, you can get there in half a day.
I frankly have no idea why so many RS' want to go to Castelrotto, which isn't even in the Dolomites. Just because RS loves a place, doesn't mean there aren't better places to go. Since I learned about Castelrotto, I routinely ask all my friends and acquaintances in Tuscany (where I'm from) if they have heard of Castelrotto. So far only one, who is a ski instructor and spent half of his life in Alto Adige. I have no personal acquaintance or friend in Tuscany (or anywhere I know people, for that matter), who knows the place. You will find zero Italians who have never heard of the Val Gardena or Cortina. There are often good reasons why some places are more visited and more famous than others. Go to Val Gardena and you won't regret it.

Posted by
112 posts

Thank you for all the help.

do people book trains in Italy when they get there? or do they have to be reserved weeks ahead of time?

Posted by
4152 posts

You can book trains at the train station if you wish to. The reason most people book ahead of time is to take advantage of the huge discounts offered for booking in advance.

Donna

Posted by
31049 posts

"do people book trains in Italy when they get there? or do they have to be reserved weeks ahead of time?"

You can easily buy tickets at stations in Italy, either at the staffed ticket window or the automated Kiosk (those are more typical in very small stations). If I'm going to buy tickets locally, I usually like to do that at least the day prior to travel, so that I don't have to deal with crowds and queues when I'm hauling luggage.

As the previous reply mentioned, many people like to buy tickets in advance to take advantage of the discounts on the "fast" trains. However it's important to note that tickets for the fast trains require compulsory seat reservations which are specific to train, date and departure time, and therefore with advance tickets you MUST commit to a specific train. Also, the cheapest Super Economy tickets are non-refundable and non-changeable once purchased.

There are no discounts for the slower Regionale trains. You can also buy those in advance, but there's no advantage for doing so so it's just as easy to buy them locally. Note that locally purchased Regionale tickets MUST be validated (time & date stamped) prior to boarding the train on the day of travel, or you'll risk hefty fines which will be collected on the spot! The same is true of Metro and Buses - DON'T forget to validate!

Posted by
201 posts

Just got back from Italy and did it entirely with trains from Venice to Rome. We took an easy downhill bike tour that started with a pick up in Florence and ended in S. Gimignano. The latter seemed really crowded and touristy. A car would give you flexibility to stop in and stop out of cars as we were limited by trains/buses.

We loved our time in Cinque Terre after hitting some bigger cities. It was a needed respite. We stayed at a lovely hotel in Monterosso and this is my 2nd time to CT and I preferred this home base for a few days and then we traveled by train and ferry to the other hill towns.

We were too tired to enjoy Siena much and stayed on the outskirst of town in a quite hotel with villas and a swimming pool. We went into town one day and it was packed with tourists but a lovely city to wonder.

I would opt for countryside and beach if you are looking for a break from hustle & bustle!

We booked almost all of our train tickets online before we left which gave me peace of mind and then I just downloaded bar codes to my phone. The regional trains near CT were a bit seedy, filled with tourists and grafitti but the larger, high speed trains were fine except one that broke down in Naples on our way back from Pompeii to Rome. We got to know our fellow travelers well, though. :)

Happy traveling!

Posted by
195 posts

To answer your question about Venice, two days is fine in my opinion if you are on a shortened time table. Obviously you could easily spend several days in any of these beautiful regions, but if you are looking to just get a taste of each place, you should be able to do so with two days in Venice. We were there about 24 hours and - while we just saw the basics (St. Mark's Square/Cathedral, vaporetto ride down the Grand Canal, Doge's Palace tour) - we felt that our time there at least gave us a taste of the place and we were glad we had at least gone there rather than skipping it altogether. There are lots of museums/churches to see if you have more time there, and as is the case with every town it's always nice to just have time to sit and rest, but for an 8 day whirlwind tour, 2 days in Venice would seem reasonable to me.