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Short-First time trip to Italy

Hello All.
We are planning a short 5 and a half day trip to Italy this November. Keeping the weather in mind (hopefully not too rainy in the south of Italy) what would be a good itinerary to follow ?
These are some places of interest to us:
Rome (cover a few museums , mostly interested in the local life etc.). Cinque Terre, Amalfi,Naples,Florence ( in the order of our interests).

Please feel free to let me know if all of this is hard to accommodate in this trip.

It would be great to hear suggestions on when to use a train/bus and what places would be best to stay closest to cover these locations.

Thanks in advance!

Posted by
6236 posts

With that little time on the ground, you can't cover all (or even several) of these places. You have 5 places selected for only 5.5 days which is not realistic (sorry), especially when you figure in transportation time between them.

Where are you flying into/out of? Can you do open-jaw? Rome itself requires at least 3 full days, and you can easily spend the whole 5 and half in Rome alone. If you really need to see more than Rome, then pick two base cities max (and fly home from the second base). Keep in mind that you will lose at least 3 hours just getting to the second base by train.

Posted by
11613 posts

You will see local life on trains with this itinerary.

Hitting a few museums: November is winter hours, so you may have less time available than you think.

How many nights? If you have five, spend 3 in Roma and 2 in Firenze. Cinque Terre will be pretty much closed up in November. Napoli would be an alternative to Firenze, but the Amalfi Coast is out of the way for a 5-day trip.

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks Agnes! We will be flying in and out of Rome, and we did book our airfare already. When you say Rome takes 3 full dyas would that be mostly museums, chapels? We are may be 60% in to outdoor/scenic locales than all monumental tours, if that makes sense.
I was thinking we should head to the farthest place/places we can , based on what suggestions I get here,and then come back to cover Rome for 2 days?

We didn't pick any northern places since there's higher chances of precipitation during this time.


Posted by
6236 posts

Keep in mind that you're likely to face jet lag so your first day in Rome will not be at a 100% awake/alert level. It's a major city so just strolling and hitting major sites (churches, museums, the Colosseum, the Forum, stopping to have leisurely meals, etc.) does take a few days. I did it in 3 but it was such an aggressive schedule that I was on my feet for more than 12 hours a day (and it really hurt). I would stick with just Rome and Florence, as Zoe suggested, because you have to factor in that half a day will be lost just to train travel back and forth.

Posted by
2334 posts

You need to draw it out like this (totally making up days and schedule, just follow the format)

THIS IS NOT A SUGGESTED ITINERARY - it is an example of how to visualize a schedule. This itinerary would be horrible - no time to do anything, and writing it like this may illustrate the concept.

Friday - leave home
Saturday - arrive Rome at 9AM, into hotel by 11-12 (baggage, passport, transport take time).
Sunday - Rome (or whatever)
Monday - Train to Amalfi, takes 3 hours, arrives at 12 (or whatever, I am guesstimating on these times). Half-day in Amalfi
Tuesday - Amalfi, 7PM train to Naples, arrive at 8PM
Wednesday - Naples. Leave Naples at 7PM to get back to Rome at 10 so you can catch your flight
Thursday - fly home

As you can see, it is very, very tough to do more than 2 places in 5 days. That's 6 days and 3 places, no ability to actually see anything in any of them. Draw it out, imagine your days with that time.

Posted by
1700 posts

You don't enough time Mandy, you should pick Rome and one other place other than the Cinque Terre.
Not sure why you would rather see Naples than Florence but based on what you stated:

Rome will be included.

Cinque Terre and Rome on same trip with 5 days doesn't work, scratch the Cinque Terre which in Nov is probably best anyway.
So then based on your list is Amalfi Coast which will be really tough to squeeze in but becomes your full trip: Rome and the Amalfi Coast nothing else.

If you want to do Rome and Naples instead that is better with your time and from Naples you could see the Amalfi Coast on one of those all day excursion type trips one day (far from ideal, I would rather stay there and skip Naples but is an option for you)
I would personally recommend Rome and Florence and skip everything else. You still really don't barely have time for both cities highlights in 5 days but much better than your original plan.

Posted by
1708 posts

For a trip like that, I would just stay in Rome and have a good time getting to know the city a bit and perhaps a do day trip from there. Perhaps with 6 nights it would be worth adding a second city but with 5 nights you really don't have time.

Posted by
3341 posts

Mira stated " is very, very tough to do more than 2 places in 5 days." and I agree with that 100%. Why? Because it almost always takes longer to get from Point A to Point B than anticipated. With that thought in mind I'd spend the whole time in Rome with perhaps one day trip from there to wherever strikes your fancy. We've been to Rome at least four times and still haven't seen it all. Hopefully you'll be able to come back with good memories of people, places, sights, and food rather than a blurred memory of train stations. Not my intention to rain on your parade -- just food for thought.

Posted by
2355 posts

All the places you want to see will be there when you return with enough time to appreciate them. But 5.5 days is just about enough time to start settling in in Rome, discovering little neighborhoods, markets, seeing the great sights like the Roman Forum, the Coliseum, St. Peter's. Why not enjoy one of the worlds great cities instead of playing tag with your list of destinations, none of which you will have time to enjoy? Maybe, just maybe, you can squeeze in a short trip to Florence. Naples- no. Would be dead last on a long list of places I'd like to see again in Italy. The Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terra are places that take a lot of time to get to. You don't have that.

Posted by
1700 posts

Just for kicks I below have an itinerary based on your post flying into and out of Rome and seeing everywhere you want in your time:
Day 1: Arrive Rome, jetlagged. Take a train from Rome to Cinque Terre. Even though your plane arrived late AM to Rome you will likely be reaching your place of stay in the Cinque Terre very tired in the evening. Your first great Italian meal(s) is train cart food. Say it is now 8 PM and your train pulls into Vernazza. Your lodging is a 15 minute walk up steps from the train station (pretty typical of all towns in Cinque Terre)
You get to the room exhausted, sweaty and go to bed. Any locals you saw and food and wine you had was on the train.

Day 2: Wake up early very tired from yesterday's crazy travel and see the one town you are staying in for 2 hours since you have to check out today and carry your bags back down all of the steps to the train you have time to only see Vernazza skipping the other 4 towns in the Cinque Terre. Provided it is not bad weather and rainy you get to at least see a little of the town in your 2 hour window.
You take a train to Florence arriving late afternoon assuming you left Vernazza in the morning.
You rush around to see the main highlights in Florence, have to skip all museums and the duomo since there are long lines there and you need to see the city all in this one afternoon/evening.
At least you can finally have a meal in Italy on day 2 while in Florence and will need it as the rest of the days are worse.

Day 3: Wake up early and check out, take a train from Florence back to Rome and then onto Naples, from there make your way to the Amalfi Coast, say the town of Positano. This would be a grueling travel day. After multiple trains and a bus ride you arrive at your hotel very tired again and it is after dark in the evening even though you left Florence in the AM. You go to dinner in Positano and then to bed.

Day 4: Wake up and see Positano, having no time to visit more than just the town itself for a precious 2 hours in the morning before check out. Of all of the Amalfi Coast you have traveled far just to see one town for a couple of hours.
Check out and take a bus and then a train back to Naples. Check in Naples hotel late afternoon.
Go out and walk around Naples for a few hours, get a pizza.

Day 5: Wake up and check out early. Take a train to Rome. Arrive Rome get to your hotel in the afternoon.
See Rome this day but have to skip the Vatican, St. Peters and much of everything with a line due to your timing.
You can walk the ancient center for a little bit and might be able to go to the Colleseum.
Dinner in Rome.

Day 6: Wake up and check out, go back to airport and fly home.

Seems like a nightmare not a vacation and hope you pack light. You are riding on trains really not seeing much of anything.


Posted by
607 posts

I agree with Valerie. Just stay in Rome. There are more than enough sites and attractions in Rome to fill five, or ten days. Everytime you pack, checkout, go to a train station, wait at the train station, sit in a train, go to a new hotel, check in, unpack, you will lose half a day.

Posted by
4 posts

Wow, thanks to all of you for such great advice. I realize I listed all the places of interest to us, mistyped that we wanted to cover it all. Definitely didn't think that they were all possible.

So Rome and one other place is what I read is a realistic plan.I will post again for some other suggestions.

Thanks again for all the help and your time.

Posted by
46 posts

All of those destinations will be impossible in just 5 days. In November I'd suggest 5 days in Rome or 5 days in Florence (day trip to Siena?)!

Posted by
1552 posts

Why not just stay in Rome and do a day trip to Orvieto. It is a hilltown, only 1.15 hours away, inexpensive ticket, and you don't have to pack up and physically move. We are going to Rome for 8 full days and are doing Orvieto as a day trip. There is enough to see in Rome for the time you will be there.

Posted by
106 posts

Hi Mandy,
I know how hard it is to make an itinerary and try to do as much as you can in a limited time frame. If you like to do outdoorsy things, check out Top Bike Rentals in Rome. They have several great tours that you may be interested in doing. That way you can combine seeing Rome and be outdoors. While in Rome next year, my family is taking a bike tour on the Ancient Appian Way and a Tuscany Vespa Tour while in Florence. Also, there are bike rentals in the Borghese Gardens while in Rome. I too didn't want to spend all my time in Museums and Churches. Plus, my 21 year old twins would revolt. Good luck, make a daily plan and have a great time.

Posted by
823 posts


To echo everyone else, 5 days is not enough to do multiple (even just two) locations any justice. To actually move city to city, you will waste a minimum of half a day - what with packing, checking out, getting to the train station, arriving you new city, FINDING your new lodging, checking in, and settling in. If the move is to a far-flung place, you could lose the better part of a day. Then, since your return flight is out of Rome (as indicated), you must repeat so there goes another half-day or more. I would just stay in Rome.

In order to help you out more, please provide some more details on you exact travel itinerary - where you are leaving from (DTW?), day you are leaving, when you are arriving Rome, and the day you are leaving Rome to return home. This information will help forum respondents to focus on the exact amount of time you have.

Why is this important? First, the vast majority of flights from the USA to Rome leave late in the day and arrive mid-morning to early afternoon the NEXT day. From Michigan, Rome is 6 time zones (hours) ahead. Second, certain venues are closed on certain days of the week.

Finally, Rome is a city of over 4 million residents and has over three centuries of history on display. It has so many "faces", you can't possibly do more than scratch the surface of this incredible city in a short 5 days. To make matters even more challenging, the top tourist venues may require standing in line for hours just to get tickets - unless, of course, you research what you want to see ahead of time and purchase your time-sensitive entry tickets on-line and well in advance.

Do yourself a big favor and go to the library/bookstore and read Rick's book on Rome. Or, purchase the eBook so you can carry it around with you on your tablet or smart phone.

Posted by
17088 posts

I think Barbara's suggestion of a day-trip to Orvieto is a good one. It's not un-touristy, but it's much smaller than Rome and offers quite a different experience. It's an easy trip by train that requires no pre-arrangement, so you could see how your visit to Rome goes, decide some morning that you'd like to spend the day in a hill town and just go.

It's not that you'll run out of things to do in Rome--far from it--but sometimes it's nice to get a look at a different kind of place, and you can do that with Orvieto without needing to change hotels.

Posted by
11170 posts

Naples is a very divisive place. I learned to like it, but agree with the assessment in my Cadogan guidebook: "The only thing subtle about Naples is its charm."

A daytrip there, to see the amazing Museum of Archeology and have some great pizza, is easy to do from Rome. Since you don't know how you'll react to Naples, and it's a bit rough on a first Italian trip, I wouldn't plan on more than a daytrip for a first visit.

A daytrip to Florence is equally easy from Rome, and with good planning can be very worthwhile (there's a plethora of major sights, so you will have to be selective).

I haven't been to the Cinque Terre, but by all accounts they are VERY weather dependent, and they are definitely far from Rome, so I wouldn't go there on this trip. In November, I also wouldn't take the time needed to get to the Amalfi coast.

Posted by
224 posts

We just left Rome after 5 days. Its amazing but exhausting. Could you just stay in Rome and day trip if you feel like it? That would be my suggestion.

Posted by
35 posts

I like others think that with only 5.5 days I would just pick one town, honestly I don't think that amount of time is even enough for a day trip.

Posted by
4701 posts

You've made it clear that museums are not important, so don't go to Florence. It's crazy to make the tedious trip to Amalfi in November ... Come on! Rome has acres of outdoor attractions,and Orvieto is a great suggestion. In good weather, the Villa d'Este is an alternate.

Posted by
3838 posts

A few other quick day trips that aren't 'really' day trips from Rome would be Appia Antica (the ancient Roman road - go to the catacombs, walk the road - further up is the aqueduct park - I don't know if that's the proper name - we haven't been that far up Appia Antica, but I hear it's great). Ostia Antica is also another great half day trip if you want to see some ruins a la Pompeii (but certainly not on that scale).

We've had two 5 nights stays in Rome and I still could go for another week. There is soooo much to do there.

Posted by
2484 posts

Rome isn't one of my favorite cities and if you like the outdoors, perhaps you'll get a little crazy there. Florence is my favorite city in Italy regardless of whether you go into a museum or not. It's a great city to Roam. You can easily get out of the city if you need to do so. As your arrival day is ruined anyway with the overnight flight, IMO, I suggest just getting on a train to Florence the day of arrival. Spend the first 4 nights in Florence, get a morning train back to Rome and see you 'have to sees' in Rome. Spend night 5 and fly home.

Otherwise, just stay put in Rome and get to know it better. Maybe you will be one of those who loves it. Changing cities is the most stressful part of travel, IMO.

Posted by
253 posts

I would head to Florence on your arrival day, spend two nights there, then return to Rome for your final three nights. While it's not ideal to have only 5.5 days in these two great cities, it's do-able. In Rome, devote one day to the ancient sites and another to the Vatican. Guided tours do it all the time. I took a Gate One tour of Venice, Florence and Rome a few years ago, and we had 2 nights in Florence and 3 in Rome, and we saw and did A LOT in each city! Three Rick Steves' tours, Heart of Italy, Best of Italy and My Way Italy, each spend two nights in Florence and two in Rome. Granted, on a group tour, your time is maximized because your bus is getting you right to the hotel, you've got skip-the-line entry into tourist sites, etc. Still, it's do-able on your own if you plan carefully. My husband and I are not yet retired so our vacations are often just a week to ten days long. His preference on a week long trip would be to pick one city and delve deeply into it, perhaps rent an apartment and live like a local. My preference on a week long trip is to get to three cities, stay in small but centrally located hotels, hit the highlights, and for the cities we enjoy, make lists of things we didn't get to see and do, in preparation for a future return trip. Sometimes we do it his way, sometimes my way. We always have a great time. One person suggested staying in Rome with a day trip to Orvieto. That's a good idea too. I love Orvieto. A full day there would be great, if you decide to stick with Rome for all five nights.

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks everyone, all great suggestions and reality checks.
Also, correcting my math we have 6 nights actually. I will consider one of the two plans, stay the entire time in Rome and do a day trip somewhere; or two nights in Florence and rest in Rome.

Thanks for your time!

Posted by
1728 posts

Sure would be nice for you to see some of the Italian coastline on your debut journey. Only real way to do that, and to ensure you are spending your last night before your flight in Rome, would be to, upon arrival at Rome Fiumicino, hop a one-way flight to Naples Capodichino airport--the flight's less than an hour. From there, have the hotel or B&B in Sorrento come and pick you up. Not cheap but well worth it as opposed to trying to navigate trains with jetlag.

I know it sounds a little like madness, but this would give you 2-3 nights in a totally different environment than Rome, time to explore Sorrento (I wouldn't recommend staying at any other smaller Amalfi Coast towns in November as a lot of them are on the verge of closing down for the winter, although you certainly can visit them) and maybe Capri, Pompei or Ercolano. And the scenery no matter which way you look is spectacular.

When heading back to Rome, you'd probably be fine taking the Circumvesuviana train to Naples, then the Eurostar to Roma Termini station. Total travel time should be around three hours. You'd have the last 3-4 nights in the Eternal City to enjoy, then fly home.

Posted by
11613 posts

Jay, do you mean the Freccia trains? I did not know there is a Napoli-Roma Eurostar.

Posted by
31055 posts

"When heading back to Rome, you'd probably be fine taking the Circumvesuviana train to Naples"

For a first time visitor to Italy, I wouldn't recommend the Circumvesuviana as it's got a reputation as a haven for pickpockets and scammers, and may not provide the most pleasant holiday experience. You may find this thread interesting......

For transportation from Naples to Sorrento, you can use either a private car service or take a Taxi to the airport and use the Curreri Viaggi bus. I haven't checked so I don't know what the boat schedules will be like in November. If you'd like to consider a car service, here's one to look at -

Given your very short six night time frame, I'd suggest limiting your touring to two locations. Since you've already booked return flights from Rome, you could consider something like this.....

  • Arrive in Rome, immediately travel to Napoli Centrale via Freccia or Italo high speed train. From Naples use car service or bus to Sorrento as mentioned above. Stay 3 nights. From Sorrento you can take day trips to Naples, Pompeii or other locations on the Amalfi Coast.
  • Return to Napoli Centrale and high speed train to Rome. Spend remaining 3 nights in Rome.

As this is your first trip to Italy, you'll need to do some research on using trains and other public transit there. If you're riding Regionale trains, Metro or Buses using locally purchased tickets, you MUST validate the tickets prior to boarding on the day of travel or risk hefty fines which will be collected on the spot! When riding Freccia or other trains, these come with compulsory seat reservations that are specific to train, date and departure time, so the tickets can ONLY be used on the one train and date listed on the ticket. If you board the wrong train by mistake, again you'll be subject to hefty fines collected on the spot!

I'd recommend having a look at the RS Italy guidebook as there's an enormous amount of information there that will help with your sightseeing, as well as hotels, transportation, restaurants, etc.

Posted by
1728 posts

Zoe--when looking on my trusty Rome2Rio website, it shows the 'ES' trains that run the Rome/Naples route a few times a day, calling them Eurostar Italia. It might very well be the Frecciarossa.

Ken--good catch, I must have been brain-dead forgetting about the Curreri Viaggi, and in fact the OP could use that direct from Naples Capodichino airport to Sorrento train station instead of hiring a driver, as long as the times match up. Fact is, we're going to use it ourselves in February in the opposite direction.

Also good call on avoiding the Circumvesuviana while lugging bags. Although people do it all the time, it might be a little 'exotic' for first timers! Again, we're going to use the CV when we're taking daytrips with just our neck pouches, etc. But if they are going Sorrento back to Rome, the Curreri Viaggi only takes you to the Naples airport, and as you say, Ken, they'd then have to take a taxi to Napoli Centrale train station in order to continue on to Roma Termini.

Posted by
69 posts

We stayed in Rome for 5 days prior to a cruise. We found that this still only scratches the surface of what to do and see around Rome. OMG. Rome is incredible. If you love history, ancient Rome is a must. We took the train one day to Tivoli which was quite easy to do. We had never done this before although we did read a lot about taking trains from R.S. books. We went to visit Villa d'Este. It was amazing !!

While in Rome we purchased tickets online before leaving home for the Borghese Museum. A must see also. It was breathtaking inside viewing the sculptures and paintings and frescoes.

You need time to absorb Rome and become "Romanized" as I say. At first it is overwhelming. Once you become accustomed to the hustle and bustle, traffic and people, it is awesome. We also purchased online tickets before leaving home for the Vatican museum/Sistine Chapel. This enables you to skip the long lines. Bear in mind though that it still will be crowded inside. But it is well worth it to just take a breath and enjoy. Of course there is the Colloseum and Palentine Hill. Amazing.

We have decided to go back to the Tuscany area next spring to see Florence and the Tuscan towns.

Just some of my thoughts.