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planning my first trip to italy

i hope to go to italy sometime this year, either spring or fall, and fortunately there's such a wealth of information about italy itineraries that it seems easy to plan but wanted to hear thoughts from the forum given how helpful the advice was for my last trip. I also really want to see neuschwanstein castle so i tacked it on at the end after a night venice-munich train which is far from ideal but since i really want to see it I'll deal with it. So here's what i have planned:

day 1 arrival

day 2 rome

day 3 rome

day 4 rome

day 5 rome to pompeii to sorrento

day 6 amalfi coast day trip

day 7 sorrento to rome

day 8 early train rome to florence

day 9 florence

day 10 tuscany (not sure which villages)

day 11 pisa to cinque terre

day 12 cinque terre

day 13 cinque terre to venice

day 14 venice

day 15 venice (night train to munich) (edit: it seems like venice to munich flights can be found for pretty cheap so maybe i'll do that)

day 16 munich

day 17 day trip to neuschwanstein castle

day 18 flight home

Posted by
1567 posts

On day 7, you need not travel back through Rome. You can take a train from Naples or Salerno to Florence. That would prevent you from having to do a one-night stay in Rome and perhaps you could add one more day on the coast.
I'd save Munich for a future trip and add that time to Tuscany and Venice.

Posted by
5899 posts

I am very surprised you are giving the Cinque Terre much more time than Tuscany which is a large area with so many places to enjoy.
The Cinque Terre are five small villages very near each other. And they get very crowded.

Posted by
6439 posts

I would look at going to Sorrento on arrival day and working Rome in on your northward trek. Saves you one move in/out of a lodging.

Whether you set aside a separate day to do Pompeii, or stop there on your way back to Rome, is a choice based on your preferences of what else you want to do in the area.

Posted by
11700 posts

Hi there, spidernight -
At first glance, I think you are trying to fit too much into too little, and making too many time-consuming hotel changes. I'd trim the Amalfi Coast/Pompeii right off the top as they are outliers, involve backtracking, and the region deserves more than just the 2 nights you've given it. Editing to add: Joe made a good suggestion here.

It's also sort of awkward to return to Rome for just one night right after you've already been there, and one day is tight for Florence or for Tuscan villages (and you don't want to be sightseeing villages dragging your luggage). Or did you intend to day-trip a village or two from Florence?

And just one full day for Venice.... Yep, you're going to be spending lot of time on trains and checking in and out of hotels that could be spent sightseeing. While I understand that you REALLY want to see Neuschwanstein, you do know that it's not a real castle and not even very old at all? It's also a long way to go from Munich for the mere 30 minutes you'll be in it (on the mandatory tour). Let's just say that it's another piece I'd cut to find more time for Italy, and consider saving it for more a future Germany trip?

I don't want to noodle a new itinerary for you that would be MY trip and not yours so other than Neuschwanstein, which locations are top of your list and which are furthest down?

Posted by
30 posts

thanks for the replies everyone. this is all in early planning stages so i can change anything and everything.

  1. isn't my time in Venice just about 2.5 days with this itinerary? I leave cinque terre as early as possible to venice, spend the afternoon/evening, the next day, and then the day after that I leave for Munich late at night. Am I missing something?
  2. I'm pretty much only spending one full day in cinque terre since i arrive the day before and leave the next morning
  3. valadelphia, thanks for the idea on naples to florence, i should have thought of that
  4. by going straight to florence from naples, I'm doing 2 full days in florence and i was thinking of doing a long tuscany day trip through a trip organizer since I'm not going to have a car.
  5. venice to munich flights are 1 hour long and like 60 dollars so, I don't know, it seems doable to me. If days need to be added to Italy I can add them without sacrificing Munich since there's no real time restriction

I'm not by nature a 'relaxed' traveler in that i wake up very early and am on my feet all day. I don't want to rush anything but I find when people give an approximation of how many days to spend somewhere, i should go with the shorter time frame since I typically fit in more than the more relaxed traveler.

Posted by
468 posts

Too much. It’s a common problem. You want to see everything, but in the process you will “see” less. You’re gonna spend most of this trip on a train or waiting for one. You need to work this itinerary over and make some choices. With 18 days I’d try 5 destinations absolute max. RS gives great advice on how to do this but there are some basics:

Eliminate outliers. Neuschwanstein doesn’t belong here. If you want to see it, make another trip with that as your focus. Assume you will return to Europe one day and you will.

Eliminate 1 night stays, limit 2 nighters. Two nights = one FULL day of sightseeing. You’ve got one full day in Florence. Is that going to be enough for you?

Travel takes time. A 90 minute train ride isn’t that long. But add on getting to/from stations, transfers, waiting, etc and it adds up. Checking in/out of accommodations adds up. This stuff almost always takes longer than you think it will, and your itinerary can never reflect how hungry or tired you are that morning. You have time for a coffee on the way? Each travel step bleeds time.

You really need to prioritize, and prioritize based on YOUR interests. What attracts you about Italy? What do you want to see in Rome? Florence? Venice? Why Cinque Terre? Drill down and determine what you really want out of each location, and cutting some of these stops will make sense. It’s kind of telling that your only specific sight that you’re desperate to see isn’t even in the same country.

You have some research and decisions ahead. This is the fun part! It’s hot stove season! Good luck.

Posted by
31055 posts

spider,

Welcome to the forum! I have a few thoughts on your proposed Itinerary and a few questions....

It would help to know if this is your first trip to Europe, and also where you're flying from? I'm assuming you're aware that you'll lose two days for flights, and arrive in Europe the day after you depart? It's great to see that you're planning on using open jaw flights.

My first suggestion would be to change the order of the places you'll be visiting. It's important to minimize travel times between locations, to allow more time at each place. Your plan to travel from the Cinque Terre to Venice stands out especially, as that will require the better part of a full day for travel, and several train changes. It's surprising that you're only allowing about 1.5 days for Florence, as there's a lot to see there.

In the same situation, I'd probably structure the trip somewhat like this.....

  • D1 - Flight to Italy
  • D2 / N1 - Arrive Naples, Curreri Viaggi coach to Sorrento (about an hour)
  • D3 / N2 - Sorrento, day trip to Pompeii
  • D4 / N3 - Sorrento, Amalfi coast day trip (if you want to see specific places, you might hire a private car service)
  • D5 / N1 - Train from Sorrento to Rome (Circumvesuviana or Campania Express to Naples, high speed train to Rome)
  • D6 / N2 - Rome, touring
  • D7 / N3 - Rome, touring (you might consider a day trip to Orvieto, a beautiful hill town in Umbria)
  • D8 / N4 - Rome, touring
  • D9 / N1 - Train from Rome to Cinque Terre (use one of the fast trains to La Spezia Centrale, about 3H:45M and then the local train to whichever town you plan to stay in - plan for arrival about mid-afternoon - have you decided which town?)
  • D10 / N2 - Cinque Terre
  • D11 / N3 - Cinque Terre
  • D12 / N1 - Train to Florence (trip will be 2-3 hours with one or more changes, depending on which train you choose and which town you're staying in)
  • D13 / N2 - Florence, touring (as you don't know which "villages" you want to visit, one possibility would be a day trip to Siena by Bus, or to Lucca - you could also visit Pisa if that's important although I'm not sure it's worth the effort)
  • D14 / N1 - Train to Venice (about two hours by high speed train)
  • D15 / N2 - Venice
  • D16 / N1 - Train from Venice to Munich (I'd suggest using one of the day trains, as it's a very scenic trip through the Brenner Pass - there's a departure at 09:10, arriving Munich at 16:26, time 7H:16M, one change at Verona Porta Nuova).
  • D17 / N2 - Munich, day trip to Neuschwanstein Castle (you could certainly make the timed reservations and travel there on your own, or use a guided day tour with Radius Tours as they take care of all the arrangements and provide a guide for the trip down, but the official guides provide the tour within the Castle - be sure to make time for Marienbrücke to get the classic photos of the Castle).
  • D18 - Flight home

This suggestion allows a bit more time in Sorrento, as you may need a day or two to recover from jet lag. I allowed four nights in Rome as there's lots to see there, and this allows time for a day trip. Unless you can add a few more days to the trip, you could cut one night from Rome and add that to either Florence or Venice. Depending on when you'll be travelling, you might find Venice is dreadfully crowded (also true of the Cinque Terre).

There are some potentially expensive caveats to be aware of when using public transit in Italy. Be sure to do some research on those.

As always, I'd suggest having a look at the Rick Steves guidebooks for the locations you'll be visiting, to plan sightseeing, hotels, transportation, etc. You should be able to find those at your local Library or larger bookstores.

Posted by
30 posts
  1. these places are only like 3 hour train rides apart... you all are obviously more informed than me but i just don't understand why those travel days are considered so tiring? this past fall i did a berlin/dresden/prague/vienna/budapest trip and they were about 2-3 hour train rides apart and on the day of travel i pretty much did a full day of sight seeing since i would either leave at like 7 AM or 7 PM. Why wouldn't this be a similar situation?

  2. as far as the munich addition, it's a short cheap flight away, and adding it is NOT taking away days from italy since i can just add more days to Italy. Though I really want to see the castle, the sites i most want to see is Rome since i just listened to a long multipart podcast about the roman empire. The number one reason for the trip is Rome and everything else is added since I'm already in Italy and have time, might as well as see the country.

  3. naples to florence is about a 3 hour train ride which I will do early in the morning, florence to cinque terre is i think about 3 hours travel also. In between those days of travel are 3 full days in florence/tuscany. So overall it's 4.5 days in florence/tuscany... should i add another day?

Posted by
30 posts

Ken, it's my second trip to Europe, (i mentioned my first berlin-budapest one earlier). I'm flying from New York. The flight arrival in rome isn't included in the rome days. Thanks so much for the itinerary changes, I will look into everything you mentioned. I honestly know nothing about Tuscany and thought there were villages to see but I realize Siena/Pisa etc are big enough to be cities.

Posted by
1567 posts

We all travel at a different pace, and I think solo travelers typically move at a brisker pace. I would look into the CT to Venice travel though, as I think that one is fairly long. We see often that people who only spend a full day in Venice have a harder time getting past the throngs--just something to consider.

Posted by
31055 posts

spider,

I didn't see any any reference to previous trips in your OP at the top of the page. Thanks for the clarification.

<"as far as the munich addition, it's a short cheap flight away"

You might find that you don't save much time with a flight. When all is considered the time might be close between train and flight, once you've included travel to & from airports, waiting, the usual dog & pony show with security, possibly being bused out to the tarmac at one or both ends, planing and de-planing, etc. You'll also have to contend with restrictive carry on limits, checked baggage charges, etc. The budget flights typically aren't a pleasant experience. Your choice of course, but on the Venice - Munich route I'd choose the train every time.

The train ride you'll be taking in Italy may be slight different than your previous experience, as they will involve one or more changes, with waiting time between trains. Once you've finalized an Itinerary, it will be easier to make suggestions on specific trains.

One other point to note is that if you travel earlier in the day, the hotel in your next stop may not allow check-in until mid-afternoon. You may have to store your luggage in the lobby and come back later to check-in. That's one reason I usually travel to new cities in the afternoon.

Posted by
30 posts

how about this, would you add days anywhere?

day 1 - land in Italy - end the day in Sorrento

day 2 - Sorrento day trip to Pompeii

day 3 - Sorrento day trip to Amalfi Coast

day 4 - Sorrento to Rome (2.5 hour train i think, leave as early as possible)

day 5 - Rome

day 6 - Rome

day 7 - Rome

day 8 - Rome to Cinque Torre (4 hour train ride i think, leave as early as possible)

day 9 - Cinque Torre

day 10 - Cinque Torre to Pisa (1.5 hour travel time) to see leaning tower to Florence (a little over 1 hour travel time)

day 11 - Florence

day 12 - day trip to Siena? somewhere else? i wont have a car so maybe do an organized tour

day 13 - Florence

day 14 - Florence to Venice (2 hour train - leave as early as possible)

day 15 - Venice

day 16 - train from Venice to Munich (or should i take the night train?)

day 17 - Munich

day 18 - day trip to Castle

day 19 - flight home

Posted by
1533 posts

Better

It is "Cinque Terre" make sure you have spellings correct when you look for train tix etc.

If you are interested in a guided tour of Pompeii and Amalfi coast I highly recommend Mondo Guides- also RS recommended. Small groups, reasonably priced.
www.sharedtours.com

Venice could use another day, as could Rome.

Posted by
6439 posts

day 16 - train from Venice to Munich (or should i take the night train?)

I like your earlier thought to fly.

Arriving at 6AM after questionable nights sleep and then having to deal with your bags until you can check in to your next place, would not be my first choice for this leg of the trip.

Posted by
1131 posts

My son went to Neuschwanstein Castle a couple years ago and said it was ridiculously crowded. He was already in the area but certainly not from his account worth making a special trip. I was there also but many years ago. I like Munich but like others would add those days to Italy and save Munich for another trip.

Posted by
30 posts

I can add days to italy, Where should I add them? Right now Rome is 4 days and Venice is two though one of those days in each place will include a 2 or 2.5 hour early morning train ride.

Posted by
1131 posts

I would add a night to Venice so you have two full days and a night to Rome since it is a prime interest of yours.

We did a day trip from Florence to Siena our first time in Florence. We just took the bus and went on our own. It was one our favorite days. It is easy to do.

Posted by
31055 posts

A few additional thoughts......

  • On the trip from the Cinque Terre to Florence, you can certainly stop in Pisa but keep in mind that you'll be travelling with luggage. As I recall, there's a Deposito Bagagli at Pisa Centrale but not at Pisa San Rossore, which is closer to the tower. You'll have to allow extra time for bag drop & retrieval as there's often a queue.

  • As I mentioned earlier, the easiest way to get from Florence to Siena is the Corse Rapide Bus, which takes just over an hour. It drops passengers in the main part of the town rather than the rail station, which is at the bottom of the hill.

  • I wouldn't suggest taking a night train from Venice to Munich as you likely wouldn't get a very restful sleep. There is at least one direct departure at 21:05, arriving Munich at 06:10, but it has ten stops along the way. You'll be arriving too early to check into a hotel so will have to stow your luggage. If you're tired you won't be much in the mood for sightseeing.

  • For your "day trip to the Castle", don't forget to get your timed reservation and be ready in the queue at the appointed time or you won't be getting inside. As I recall they don't allow any photos taken inside, although you can take photos from the inside facing out. If you want photos, they make sure that visitors are shuffled by several souvenir stands on the way out.

  • Most cities in Italy have more than one rail station, so you'll have to know the specific station you'll be using in each case.

Posted by
30 posts

first, thanks for the replies everyone. Really appreciate you all taking the time out to share your expertise. and sorry for misspelling cinque terre, i had it right in my original post, i dont know why i switched it to torre.

  1. I'm thinking of doing this trip in May, does that seem like a good time? Internet search makes it seem like spring and fall are best.
  2. I'm looking at the sites to do and I really feel like 2 days (well almost) in venice (since it's compact) and 4 days (almost) in rome is enough. I'm worried though I'll get there and wish i gave it another day
  3. For Rome, should i pay extra to see the sistine chapel/vatican and coliseum before it opens to general public? I'm thinking I should, it'll save me time in case 4 days ends up not being enough.
  4. there seem to be daily 6:30 AM to 7:30 AM and 8:15 PM - 9:15 PM flights from venice to munich, for about 50-80 dollars depending on what day it is. I know that it takes time to get to airport (especially in Munich) and there's an added i think 8 euro (venice) and 12 euro (munich) expense to get to/from airport, but though im not on a time limit, it feels like maybe i should do plane instead of train
Posted by
1533 posts

May is nice. Late September is as well. We've been in Italy at both those times- Sept was hotter.
We were in Germany/Munich/Neuschwanstein in mid-May a few years ago and it was freezing cold and rainy. So foggy you couldn't even see the castles.

Venice- yes you can see the main sights in a day or so but if you want to really enjoy Venice that 2nd full day is needed. Gives you time to wander the back canals, visit the islands, etc. Most folks that spend only a short time in Venice end up not liking it as they have spent all their time in the crowds of tourists at main sights and not seen the hidden Venice.

Rome- can never have enough time. The 2 main sights- Vatican/St Peters and Colosseum each take the better part of a day - don't plan those on same day, both are exhausting visits.
Yes an early entry to Sistine is a very good idea. Walks of Italy's Pristine Sistine was worth every penny.
Not aware of any early entry to Colosseum- but you do want to book your entry in advance and a tour helps put it all together. Search this forum for latest info on the booking process.

Getting to Venice airport in early am is a royal pain- for a 6:30 flight you need to be the at 4:30- so would want to spend that last near the airport- or hire a water taxi. 7:30 is not much easier.
Lots of info here on Venice airport transportation. You'll need to research and determine for yourself which works best for you. I'd consider the 8:15 PM flight over the am flights. You can spend most of that day in Venice- to airport easily by 6.

Posted by
31055 posts

spider,

"there seem to be daily 6:30 AM to 7:30 AM and 8:15 PM - 9:15 PM flights from venice to munich, for about 50-80 dollars depending on what day it is."

Which airline are you looking at?

I've travelled in Italy in both spring and fall, and both are good. However I generally prefer to travel in September. I suggest packing along some rain gear or at least an umbrella, as I've encountered torrential downpours at both times of year.

Posted by
30 posts

thanks again for the replies. Some questions

  1. why wouldn't i do the sorrento day trip to amalfi coast first and then the next day go to pompeii but instead of going back to sorrento i go on to rome and then i have four full days. I read you can check your bag in pompeii.

  2. which attractions in rome/florence/venice is it suggested to pay extra to skip the line? I plan on being there in may

  3. i think i should take a night train from florence to venice the night before rather than an early morning one the next day. It's nice to wake up and start seeing the city

ken, airline is air dolomiti

Posted by
31055 posts

spider,

"i think i should take a night train from florence to venice the night before"

That's most definitely not what I would suggest. That trip is as short as 2H:14M via high speed train. Night trains are becoming less frequent for several reasons, and they're not usually the best option

Posted by
30 posts

night train meaning something like 8 PM-10 PM, not later than that, you still wouldnt suggest it?

Posted by
31055 posts

spider,

Changing locations from 20:00 to 22:00 would not be my choice AT ALL. I prefer to arrive in mid-to-late afternoon, so that I can check in to the new hotel and do a familiarization walkabout before dinner. That way I'm well rested and ready to start touring the next morning. If you're checking in at that time of night, you'd have to tell the hotel that you'll be a "late check in" so that they don't give your room away.

Posted by
17088 posts

Arriving so late might work fine for you. I avoid doing that unless it's totally impossible, because at my age (68) it's not so easy to see small lodging signs after dark. Venice doesn't have the well-lit streets and the headlights of moving cars that light things up in other cities. In addition, Venice presents some navigational challenges--charming, but not what I'd want to experience in the dark and carrying luggage up and down over canal bridges.

Posted by
30 posts

what about going to rome after pompeii instead of going back to sorrento and going to rome the next day. Does that seem like a good idea? I don't know when I'll be done with Pompeii, do those train tickets typically need to be bought in advance?

Posted by
23851 posts

going to rome after pompeii instead of going back to sorrento and going to rome the next day... don't know when I'll be done with Pompeii, do those train tickets typically need to be bought in advance?

That might work if either you can plan which train you will take from Naples to Rome or if money is less important to you than the time saved.

Unless you want to take a long long time on Regionale trains - it doesn't sound like your move quickly see things fast style - you have to have a reservation on all fast Italian trains. You can just rock up and buy a walk-up ticket on the next train with space but you will pay dearly for that flexibility. Or you can buy a fair distance in advance and get a non-changeable/non-refundable ticket for very much less money.

It is entirely your choice. Your other answers made it sound to me like you like to save money.

Posted by
30 posts

you're completely right Nigel in that I do want to save money on travel/lodging so I do want to make train reservations in advance. I have time to spend but would like to keep expenses relatively low even though italy is expensive.

ok, so i think this thread has run its course so my final count is day trip amalfi, day trip pompei, 4 full days rome, 1 full day CT but about 1.75 days total, 2 full days florence, about 1.5 days siena/pisa/maybe another tuscan city, and 1 full day venice but like 2.5 total (so it actually ends up being more than florence).

im happy with 4 days rome. I was debating how to allot time between Florence/Venice but it seems from search engines that florence vs venice is a question that constantly comes up with 50% going one way and the other half the other so there's no right answer until you get there and decide for yourself.

I think I'll pay extra to skip the line/visit before opening for Vatican, Coliseum, Uffizi, and Accademia. I want to save money of course but i'll pay to not waste time. Anything else to pay extra for? From searches, it seems like those are the big ones and Venice is more about overall atmosphere than individual attractions.

Posted by
1769 posts

With the relevant exception of San Marco's cathedral in Venice, There are no skip-the-line tickets. There are only tickets purchased in advance that will let you skip the line to purchase tickets. Then there is the security line, and nobody skips it. Then there is the entrance door.

That's it, I am afraid there isn't a mysterious third line that US tourists can skip paying more. There are only re-sellers who want you to think so.

Staying only one night in Venice is the best way to hate Venice, but many would disagree.