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Starting to hash out an Italy trip, for a year from now - how does this sound?

I'm intrigued by the Homo Faber exhibit in Venice, September 2020, so am thinking:
Into Venice, out of Naples. Three or four nights in Venice; three nights in Ferrara; fast train to Rome (might try Italo this time); five nights in Rome, aided by Walks of Italy Tours ('Premium Colosseum', 'Pristine Sistine', 'Borghese Gallery',and 'Rome as a Local' - feel daunted by Rome and in much need of guidance); four nights in Salerno, with day trips by ferry to Positano and Amalfi/Ravello, and by train to Paestum; head towards Naples, stopping en route for a day at Pompeii; two or three nights in Naples, largely for Archeology Museum (if three nights, get in a day trip to Herculaneum). Anyone out there have tips on getting comfortable with Rome? Does the order of places seem ok? Could put Rome last.

Posted by
835 posts

Homo Faber 2020, 12th September to 12th October, so it runs for a month next time.

Posted by
14014 posts

3N in Ferrara sound like a lot to me. 5N in Rome would be the minimum for me. BTW I don'

I'd personally prefer going straight to Naples from Salerno and not having my luggage with me for Pompeii. From Salerno to Pompeii, you'd take Trenitalia and then a longish walk or short taxi ride to the Scavi secondary entrance by the amphitheater. There is luggage storage at the main (Porta Marina) entrance just a few meters from the Circumvesuviana station. I don't know if there's a place to leave your luggage at the Trenitalia station or the "rear" entrance to the Scavi. The Royal Palace of Caserta is a nice day trip from Naples. The RS city walk is good and the sights are worth visiting. I'd leave at least a day and a half to see Naples itself. How much time you spend at Pompeii is a personal preference. I've seen a lot of posters who found 3 hours plenty. I spent most of a day there in winter when it wasn't crowded and didn't see everything. The same thing goes for the arch. museum - I spent 4-5 hours there on my first visit, and another 3-4 on a subsequent trip.

As for the order, it depends on two factors. First, flight schedules and prices for Rome vs. Naples. Second, if you're dates are flexible. . . . Homo Faber. I'd go as late as possible as both temperatures and numbers of tourists decrease, because I try to avoid the heat and really, who likes crowds? The later you are in Salerno, the fewer the crowds on the AC - shorter lines (if any) for buses and ferries and fewer vehicles on the road. It sounds like you trip will be upwards of 2.5 weeks. You should check ferry schedules this month and next month for the AC to get an idea of when they stop running - some may go to the end of October, some may wind up sooner and that should influence your decision too.

It sounds like you haven't been to Rome. I haven't used tours to see any of the major sights. I did use Rick's audio tours which cover the main bits and some interesting and often amusing tidbits. The RS guide has good tours of the top sights. Most of the guides on the tours are very good and I'm sure they enhance any sight you visit, I just prefer doing it on my own and spending the money on other things. It took me several visits to warm up to Rome as a city, mainly because I got lost (and frustrated) quite a bit. Most people don't have that problem. Taking a couple of walking tours (instead of or in addition to sight tours) is a really good idea, especially if they are small-group tours. When you're ready to make more detailed plans, you'll get lots and lots of suggestions and recommendations.

Posted by
3004 posts

Homo Faber looks interesting. Too bad It isn't in May when I amm there ;-) Ferrara looks like a good alternative to Bologna as a hub for day trips from that region.....Padua, Vicenza, a little further to Ravenna. It was to be my hub for that region until plans changed.
I found Rome to be an easy sized city to maneuver and not uncomfortable, but everyone is different. I fou d the building height limitations and wider main streetsnhelped me keep my bearings. Some like to do the HIHO bus first day for getting bearings, or a city bus thst does a route. Rick should mention if Rome has one....or do a walking tour.
Prowalks is a website with video walks of several Italian cities and does a walk of Rome. Might help you get familiarized.
If 'daunted' by something else, spell it out for us. Remember few places can be well visited in a few days. Some cities, Rome included benefit from multiple visits. Just keep your to do list short and allow for a little adventure or just to sit and watch life go by.

Posted by
2334 posts

Looks good to me. I have not been to Ferrara, so can't speak to the timing there, but everything else looks good. I'd go for 4 nights in Venice since it's your arrival point (jet lag, assuming you are coming from North America?).

Rome is my favorite but it can be daunting. Find a bnb or small hotel or apartment in either Monti, near Pantheon, or Trastevere. Make sure you are in the small, pedestrianized streets in these areas. These areas are central and do get pretty crowded but you don't get as much of the insane car traffic that is stressful in other parts of Rome. Avoid near Termini or Trevi Fountain or Spanish Steps or near the Vatican. These are all fine areas, but if Rome is tough on you these either have more traffic, insane crowds, or just less atmosphere.

Then just take it slow. Walk, don't rush from sight to sight. Make a fairly ambitious plan of what you can see in a day then cut it by at least half. I 100% support Pristine Sistine - some sort of early entry is really the only way I can enjoy the Vatican Museums. Go out early and late to avoid the crowds. Spend the middle of the day in the Borghese (it sells out each timeslot so is equally busy at all times), or in a cafe, or taking a nap or visiting less-famous churches. I highly recommend San Clemente (be sure to go to the underground excavations or it's just another church - it's seeing the layers that's fascinating). Rome is best after dark - be sure to walk with a gelato and enjoy the street scene.
If you enjoy trying new foods, a food tour is a fun option. That kind of takes the intimidation and IMPORTANT HISTORY! factor out of Rome and gives you something that's fun and stress free, since the guide tells you want to eat!

Posted by
671 posts

Do you have a specific reason for 3 nights in Ferrara? I personally love the city, was just there this summer for a second visit. But unless you need some 'down time' (and this is still pretty early in your trip) I think you might get bored for that long in Ferrara. You can really see the highlights in a day. Were you thinking of day trips from there for the other full day? I would probably cut Ferrara to two and add the other day to either the Amalfi coast or Rome.

I also wasn't crazy about Rome my first visit but now love it and have been back 7 times. The first visit was too short. So with 5 or 6 nights you probably won't have that problem. And if you do find you don't want to spend the whole time in Rome itself, an easy day trip is Orvieto. In fact, I think I would definitely take a day from Ferrara and add it to Rome just so I cold do the Orvieto day trip. If you do your research, study maps, and follow something like the suggested walking tours in major guidebooks, you can easily do Rome on your town.

Here's my photos of all the places you are thinking of going - https://andiamo.zenfolio.com/f739967755

Posted by
1666 posts

five nights in Rome, aided by Walks of Italy Tours five nights in Rome, aided by Walks of Italy Tours

I don't know if you've used Walks of Italy before, but I highly recommend them. We've done three and were impressed by all of them.

Posted by
1268 posts

Thanks for all the great responses! I would say 'insane car traffic' is probably my biggest concern about Rome. I hate the feeling of being afraid to cross the street. I like the suggestion of staying in a quiet, walkable neighborhood, and eating gelato (🙂). As far as tours go, might drop the Colosseum tour and see all that on my own, but Pristine Sistine is a must, and I gather the Borghese is really hard to get into otherwise (?). And the 'Rome as a Local' tour just sounds really fun - walking the Appian Way, wandering amongst the aqueducts, etc. Anyhow, these tours are fairly short, so would leave me plenty of time on my own. Ferrara: there are three reasons I want to give it more time: 1) awhile back, I read this article: https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2009/jun/28/florence-italy-medieval-convents-holiday. 2) During a previous trip, my B&B host in Ravenna recommended Ferrara highly. Per his suggestion, I stopped there on the way to Venice and looked around for a couple of hours - vowed to return. 3) If I can get up the nerve to rent a car (or can figure out another way to get there), it would be fantastic to be able to visit the Po Delta and birdwatch a bit. Re-thinking Pompeii, due to the luggage issue, it might be better to go as a day trip from Salerno. All things being equal, I'd just as soon visit Herculaneum and skip Pompeii, but it seems important to see Pompeii if visiting the Archaeology Museum in Naples.

Posted by
2898 posts

I suggest you carve out a couple of nights for staying in Ravenna. It’s a wonderfully pleasant and attractive city, justly famous for its late Roman/early Byzantine mosaics. There is more to see than you can cover in just a day trip. Except for S. Appolinaire in Clase, ( a must see) all the sights are walkable.

Posted by
1268 posts

Thanks, Rosalyn - I did actually spend 4 nights in Ravenna on an earlier trip,and enjoyed it very much. Did a day trip from there to Faenza for the Ceramics Museum (truly great). Frustratingly, didn't make it to Sant' Apollinare in Classe (had trouble with the busses), but it would be worthwhile to try again, and re-visit the other sites. Thanks for the suggestion.

Posted by
671 posts

That article is pretty accurate about Farrera. Definitely try to read Sarah Durant's book. I did, before I visited the first time, and it really made the city come alive for me. She has another book about Florence which is also excellent (although I see that's not on your itinerary for this trip).

Posted by
1268 posts

'Sacred Hearts', by Sarah Dunant - indeed! Thanks, Isabel. My local public library has it - I'll check it out!

Posted by
17088 posts

I have not been to the Borghese Gallery yet, so I can't speak from personal experience. However, it's not my impression that it's impossibly difficult to get tickets for the Borghese if you plan well ahead, as you are doing. I believe you need to make a telephone call to buy the ticket and reserve your time slot. I'm not sure about the timing of ticket releases, but it has been discussed in earlier threads here.

If you're using the Roma Card for free entry, you need to call to make the entry-time reservation (for a 2-euro fee, I believe). What I'd do is try to buy my ticket directly and use a tour as a fall-back option if there is a problem. There can be issues with using US credit cards for overseas purchases like this; I'd have multiple credit cards at the ready, and I'd call their 800 numbers ahead of time to report my plans to make a purchase from an Italian vendor.

Posted by
1533 posts

Borghese tix here- can order online- no need to call
Just be sure you do in advance- I think they only put calendar out 2 months or so in advance

https://www.tosc.it/tickets.html

We love Rome and have never felt intimidated there. It seems more like a small town since the centro storico is so compact. We walk everywhere, have never used public transpo there, have taken a cab now and then.

If you stay really central near Pantheon, P Navonna or Campo DFiori you can walk just about anywhere- that area is mostly pedestrianized.

As far as what to put last- check your flight options. You will want to be in whatever city you are flying home from on the night before departure. Usually fly into Venice- fly home from Rome works best- and depending where you are flying both have direct flights to/from

Posted by
1268 posts

Cool - this forum is the best. I gather that the Borghese Gardens are very lovely, and hope to spend some time in them as well.

Posted by
14014 posts

I spent a day and a half in Ferrara and thought it was sufficient. You might want to consider Bologna instead. It's a rail hub - you'll go through it with or without a train change on your route south - so you can day trip easily to a number of interesting towns, including Ferrara. The Bologna train station is walking distance from the historic center. I stayed about halfway between them, 10 minute walk to either. People seem to be about equally divided on whether they liked Bologna. I definitely enjoyed being in the city. If you are there, I highly recommend visiting the university (oldest in the world).

It's really not that hard to cross the street in Rome. Some of the busy streets can seem daunting at times when there's a lot of traffic. The rule is: wait for nuns and cross with them. Another good idea is to cross with anyone with a child in a stroller or buggy (lots of those too). After a couple of days, most people are comfortable crossing the street alone. Naples is much worse. No nuns, hardly any strollers/buggies, and Roman drivers are courteous and cautious in comparison. Since that's your main worry, definitely go to Rome first, before taking on Naples. BTW Naples is worth it!!

You must book a visit to the Borghese Galleries well in advance. You can rent an audio guide when you get there. You can book a guided tour when you book your visit. Both are optional.

Posted by
1268 posts

Well, now I'm curious, Chani. Why no nuns in Naples?

Posted by
3004 posts

As well as understanding the concept of making Ferrara your hub for that area instead of Bologna, I am a bird watcher, too. Until I changed plans, I actually had drafted renting a car from Ravenna and doing that coastal area of the Po. I have driven more rurally in Italy and it is not like city driving - but you do have to be alert. They don't seem to consider the central line as a lane demarkation; but as the line to follow with their hood ornament. A number of cities have rental agencies on the outskirts and away from the 'no drive zones', and I am pretty sure the Hertz station in Ferrara is clear sailing for the Po.
Part of the reason I thought of Ferrara is the upper rampart walkway - good for birding, in my mind.
Borghese park is a large urban park more than extensive gardens. Think Central Park in NYC. The Gallery is lovely and worth organizing entry to see.
Maybe because I had seen Pompeii 20 years previously, I wasn't as enamored when I was last there. I preferred Herculaneum. If you convince yourself that the best stuff is in the Naples Archaeological Museum, and that you can watch a lot of footage of Pompeii on YouTube, feel free to allow yourself to see Herculaneum instead ;-)

Posted by
1268 posts

Thanks, Maria. The route from Ferrara to the Po Delta does look quiet and peaceful, so I think I'd be ok with the driving. It would be quite a thrill to see flamingoes in the wild, among others. I've been revisiting the Ferraraterraeaqua website to see what tours they're offering.

Posted by
3004 posts

Flamingos in the wild are great. I have seen them in a few places and a variety of colour density. The saline ponds in Africa are best. September is bound to have species starting to fly south. Imagine Hoopoes and Rollers....soooooo not North America ;-) I think it is Birding Italy that is helpful with details and reponding to emails and there are various regional maps and trails to download from the Po Delta park site. There is a professional guide for the area that you can find on birdingpal, but he may be committed to multiday trips. You know birding can become a trip on its own. It was such a hard decision to change plans entirely for next April.
Enjoy

Posted by
1268 posts

Always enjoy your birding insights, Maria (Hoopoes!!). I hope you get over to the Po Delta at some point, even if not in April.

Posted by
3004 posts

Thanks. Perhaps after retirement when I don't have to limit my travel time...my replacement travel will have some birding in ports and regions from Dubai to Venice...so I will (sort of) have Po Delta birding in the same timeframe...early May as I have a few extra days in Venice including some of the islands. Happy birding in the meantime.

Posted by
104 posts

You can get direct flights from New York to Naples, but not a direct flight back, as I've recently planned a trip. I'm not sure about direct flights to Venice. Just thought that bit of info would help you plan.

Posted by
1268 posts

Thanks, Erob. I would be leaving from the Raleigh-Durham Airport, which doesn't have much in the way of direct overseas flights.

Posted by
14014 posts

I have no knowledge about nuns. I just didn't see any in Naples. Now that I think about it, I don't remember seeing nuns outside of Rome. I remember seeing a lot of priests in Assisi - I got the impression most of them were tourists - many were in small groups and I heard foreign languages.

Posted by
1268 posts

Starting to revise a bit. Considering going from Salerno to Ercolano, and staying a couple of nights - would then have a full day to visit Herculaneum and Vesuvius. Afterwards, would have the option of stashing luggage in the Naples train station and visiting the Archaeology Museum, then heading on to Rome. Any Ercolano visitors care to weigh in?

Posted by
5899 posts

Don’t worry about Rome. We never have had the problems you worry about, crossing the streets, etc. There are many pedestrian only streets, cobblestones, charm. Naples would have more of what worries you. Just go and enjoy it all.

Posted by
11701 posts

Thanks for all the great responses! I would say 'insane car traffic'
is probably my biggest concern about Rome. I hate the feeling of being
afraid to cross the street. I like the suggestion of staying in a
quiet, walkable neighborhood,

You sound like you are more comfortable about Rome as this point but I'll just reinforce that while crossing the street might be a little daunting in SOME areas, that's certainly not true of most of them. ALL of central Rome is "walkable", but even if you stayed in a more residential area (Prati is one of those) you're likely going to spend the majority of your sightseeing time elsewhere. It's really nothing to worry about: just watch the locals and do what they do. LOL, if you're nervous about Rome? I have pix of pedestrians, motorini and car traffic near the main piazza in Sorrento that will give you pause...but everyone survived alive and well!

Rome is not really all that difficult. Just give yourself enough time to get to know her, and don't try and cram too many most-visited places into too little time; allowing for daily breathing room will help endear her to you. We love Rome, and we've done most of what we've covered there without a guide. Nothing at all wrong with tours/guides, mind you, but I don't think they're necessary for everything if willing to do some homework in advance. We enjoy doing most activities at our own pace so we're selective about stuff involving time limits/pre-set agendas. Also, if you arrange your sightseeing by AREA (around attraction closure days, of course) versus run from one end of the city to another every day, you'll reduce some tourist fatigue.

Oh, and there's no need to choose Italo over Trenitalia trains if the price/schedule works better for one over another.

Posted by
1268 posts

Yup, ok with Rome, truly. Wondering about staying in Ercolano. I’m guessing that visiting the ruins and the volcano would make for a rich and full day, but would like to hear from those who have done it.