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Students travel in Italy: Cinque Terre/Florence/Venice: Itinerary HELP!

My 20 year old daughter is taking a study-abroad course in Rome May 14-26, 2015. She will see all of Rome in depth during this time. A girlfriend is meeting her in Rome at the end of the course and she has been to Rome. Together they want to travel another 10 days to see more of Italy and perhaps Austria and Germany.

So far, the following cities have been discussed as possibilities and we are looking for help to confirm we are on the right track:

Rome to Cinque Terre 2-3 nights
(We are thinking Vernazza after having watched Rick Steves' video on CT. Any ideas on safe, clean, economical B&B's? Would like to stay in the $100/night range.) Do you take the train from Rome to LaSpezia then another train into Vernazza?

CT to Florence 2 nights
Is it possible to make a day stop in Pisa on this train trip? Worth it? Hotel/B&B ideas close to SMN as they will be carrying packs?

Florence to Venice 1-2 nights
We know Venice is most expensive so perhaps they can spend only 1 night here. Possible if they get there early enough on the day of arrival to see most of city before spending night? Must sees? Hotel recommendations?

Venice to Innsbruck 2 nights
Thinking of scenic surroundings mainly. Any other day trips possible from here? Hotel recommendations?

Innsbruck to Garmisch 2 nights
Thinking hiking, Zugspitz tour, day trip to Fussen (Neuschwanstein). Any other Fairy Tale Castles in the area? Is it a bus or regional train to Fussen? Is this city worth going to? Hotel recommendations?

Garmisch to Munich 2 nights
Main sights in Munich. Any must sees or day trips? Hotel recommendations?
Fly back to States from Munich.

We assume a Eurail Pass will be best for this much train travel. Is second class OK? Or should we splurge for 1st class? Also most 'express' trains require reservations. How early in advance do these reservations need to be made for trains to main cities that usually depart hourly? Days? Hours? If made online, can you download reservation to iPhone?

Thanks for your help and suggestions.

Posted by
2762 posts

That itinerary looks great for young women---they'll have a great time. Nix would say keep two nights in Venice---it would be a shame to do less. They can ask here about cheaper places to stay.

I really think they will do better with tickets than a three-country railpass. For the Italy travel on the fast trains, they can likely get tickets cheaper than the mandatory reservation fee, if they buy them online on Trenitalia. Same with Venice to Innsbruck. In Germany, there is a special Laender ticket they can buy for two (or more) people traveling together.

You should post a separate question in Transportation to get the details on the ticket purchase. Lots of good people to help you here, like Ken and Sam.

Posted by
247 posts

This is a pretty fast-paced itinerary and although doable for two young adults it might be a bit much. Keep in mind train travel from one city to another will take up the majority of 1 day in each location. It is definitely possible to see all the "big" sights in these cities in 1 day but it would be pretty exhausting. Rome2rio.com is a great way to see the travel times between cities.

They would probably benefit from dropping 1-2 cities off the sightseeing list as they will get to see and enjoy more in the other locations. Just from my personal perspective, I'd drop Munich from the sightseeing list. (Not my favorite city, but perhaps others on the forum will disagree). Garmisch is beautiful and a great place to relax. If it was my trip I'd spend the extra time there.

Venice can be done in 1 day as long as they realize they'll just ride the taxi down the canal and probably only see 1 museum or sight during the visit.

I highly recommend investing in the Rick Steve's Italy and Rick Steve's Germany books (or e-books if they will have a tablet computer or other device for the trip). These books will give them much more detail about hotel/B&B options, navigation tips/transportation times and a very well thought out description of the big sights/things to do in each city. The detail in the books will be 100x more than anyone can offer over the forums and will be at their fingertips if they need to look something up on the trip.

Eurail passes are usually a good option IF traveling long distances between cities in multiple countries. Passes are also an especially good value for students under 26 since they are discounted. (Note: They will still need to reserve seats (about 10 euro per trip per person) on many of the high speed trains though even with the rail passes.)

There is very little difference between first class and second class on the high speed trains. Both are very comfortable and have power ports to charge phones/tablets etc) First class just has less seats per car, usually fancy leather seats, and sometimes meals/drinks included. Second class has cloth seats, a few more seats per car, and has access to a dining car where food can be purchased. 2nd class works just fine for about 95% of people!

Here's a great website with tons of detail on the train system in Italy (also has a section for Germany/Austria)
http://www.seat61.com/Italy-trains.htm

Posted by
11734 posts

Clillard, one problem with the Cinque Terre is that it fills up very far in advance of shoulder and high seasons. I know at least one member here had trouble finding openings when she was making her bookings for May way back in January.

They may have to see what's still available at all in any of the CT villages, or try La Spezia or Levanto - although I'm reading that Levanto is filling up quickly as well. Both town are just minutes from the CT by train (4 minutes from Levanto to Monterosso, and 6-8 minutes from La Spezia to Riomaggiore) and tickets are very inexpensive. They might also try the 5 Terre Backpackers Hostel in Corvara:

http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/5-Terre-Backpackers/Cinque-Terre/84472

Here are some other hostels and B&Bs in the area they could try:
http://www.hostelworld.com/findabed.php/ChosenCity.Cinque-Terre/ChosenCountry.Italy?source=adwordsenglobaldest&sub_keyword=hostel%2520in%2520cinque%2520terre&sub_ad=b&sub_publisher=ADW&gclid=CL37nazO1cQCFQgtaQod8YkABg

Posted by
7191 posts

Delete Innsbruck add 1 night to Venice + 1 night in Munich. Munich is a blast and they'll be seriously sorry for only spending 1 full day there. Venice is like no other...again they'll be super sorry if they don't spend a couple of nights there. Venice doesn't have to be expensive because there are affordable places to stay...and don't even THINK about wasting your time in Venice by getting a hotel on the mainland of Mestre and trekking into real Venice for the day.

No, don't assume a Eurail pass is best. It's probably the worst thing you could do. Point to Point tickets in Italy are dirt cheap if you buy in advance at www.trenitalia.com You can travel all over southern as far as Salzburg for dirt cheap on a Bavarian ticket. Eurail Passes have the gone the way of the dinosaurs and travelers cheques. DO leave home without it :-)

Posted by
2762 posts

"Venice can be done in a day. . .".

I always wonder what it means to "do" a place. Step off the train, see one sight and check it off the list? Certainly it doesn't mean to actually experience a place.

If all they do is ride a vaporetto (definitely not a taxi!) down the Grand Canal and see San Marco, they may wonder why the bothered---a crowded boat and a plaza full of tourists feeding pigeons will likely not give them a good impression of Venice.

Posted by
6 posts

Wow! Thanks so much to all of you for your quick replies and very good information! It is so much appreciated and gives us more details to consider. We value your input!

Posted by
1994 posts

I agree with the earlier comments that Venice deserves more than one night. The hotel Doni is very near San Marco on the quiet side canal and it's worth checking their prices. I spent around 80E per night for a single ensuite room, including a very simple breakfast in Sept. I'm not sure about the price of a double room. Also, if they're willing to share a bathroom with other guests, the prices are notably less. Book early if you're interested. It's small, old, quirky, and safe, and the people who run it are very nice.

Another good option for budget lodging in Italy is convents/monasteries. Single rooms are usually around 35 to 50E, including breakfast. They could inquire about cost of a double room. You can book directly, or the website monasterystays.com makes booking easy but adds a small fee.

Convents in Venice typically take in university students during the academic year, so availability depends on how early in September your daughter is traveling. I've stayed at the convent of the catechumeni in Venice and really liked it, although someone recently said they've stopped taking guests.

To decide about the rail pass, you really need to do the math. Rail passes often are not good deals, particularly since you need to make and pay for reservations in Italy. One caution – the RS guidebooks have maps that show prices of rail tickets between major tourist areas. Those are full price tickets. You can get much, much cheaper tickets by booking a few months ahead, and if you can book ahead, use those prices when doing your calculations.

Posted by
390 posts

That looks like 12 nights to me........I wouldn't do anything for 1 night, you don't get to explore a place that much....

I spent a long weekend in Munich, we went to Dachau, Neuschwanstein, and took a bike tour.......I love it, but others may not...

Posted by
16796 posts

There is no deadline to reserve trains and most don't sell out. The longest trip, which is Venice to Innsbruck, will offer the greatest advance discount, if they can commit to that one earlier. Given that the schedule is still in progress, then may not be ready to lock everything in.

Rick’s Train Travel Time & cost Map gives you an overview of faster train travel times in hours, as well as regular (full-price) 2nd-class fares. You'll see that these add up to less than the $295 cost of a Eurail Select Youth pass for 5 travel days.

How to Look Up Train Schedules and Routes Online gives you the DB train schedule link and tips for using it. It also sells the direct, afternoon train departure from
Venice to Innsbruck that is operated by or in conjunction with German rail. Otherwise, they'll buy tickets in a train station or as e-tickets from Trenitalia. See also http://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/transportation/trains/buying-tickets.

Posted by
2762 posts

If they purchase tickets in advance on Trenitalia, they should be able to get the €9 or €19 Super Economy fares on the fast trains---and they have at least one of those on each journey in Italy.

They could look at those now and compare to full price tickets, and decide if it is worth getting their itinerary worked our ASAP.

For Venice to Innsbruck, they can get a low fare of €39 from Verona to Innsbruck on Bahn.de. (looking at June3). Venice to Verona they can do on a regional or regional veloce train for €8.60, so€47.60 total.

Posted by
3475 posts

A railpass is probably not going to make sense for the trips the girls have planned.
If you purchased tickets today for their dates it would be around 140 euro.

Instead of them traveling to Austria, they might like the Dolomites.
Easy to reach from Verona. Beautiful scenery and great hiking.
This would simplify their trip a little.
They could then fly Air Dolomiti from Verona to Munich.

Posted by
31076 posts

clillard,

To begin with, for travel this May/June, you'll need to get some arrangements in place fairly soon.

A few thoughts on each of your questions.....

  • Rome to the Cinque Terre - the quickest travel is to use one of the direct trains from Roma Termini to La Spezia Centrale. From there it's easy to connect to the local trains to each of the five towns. I'd suggest having a look at the Italy guidebook to find lodgings in Vernazza or any of the other towns. At this late date, she may have to stay in whichever town she can find accommodations in, as that area will be starting to book up.
  • C.T. to Florence - the stop in Pisa is not worth the effort with such a short trip (IMO), but it is possible. As they'll have luggage, they'll either have to haul it with them to the tower, or leave it at the Deposito Baggagli at Pisa Centrale and then collect it later (all of which will take time). Again, for hotels in Florence check the guidebook. I can suggest a small hotel not too far from Firenze SMN, as long as they don't mind one that's a bit "quirky".
  • Florence to Venice - I'd suggest at least two nights as there's a lot to see. One night only allows a few hours to look around so hardly worth the effort, especially after paying the train fare to get there.
  • Innsbruck - I'd skip it this time, due to the short time frame.
  • Venice to Garmisch - that's going to be a full travel day, at least 6.5 hours with two changes. An alternative would be to add a night or two in Munich, and visit Garmisch as a day trip (about an hour each way from Munich).
  • Venice to Munich - that will also take the better part of a full travel day, but if she skips Innsbruck and visits Garmisch as a day trip, this will allow time for that. There is one direct train (no changes) but it gets in a bit late. There are many others with at least one change, and the one I'd probably use is a departure at 08:50, arriving Munich Hbf at 16:24 (time 7H:34M, one change at Verona Porta Nuova, both legs have compulsory reservations). IMO, Munich would be a good stop as there's so much to see and do there, including the famous Hofbrauhaus, the castles at Füssen, Dachau (if they're interested) or the incredible Deutsches Museum or even a day trip to Salzburg. Book the flight home from Munich (it's an easy airport to reach from the city and one of the nicer airports in Europe).

It would be prudent to do some "homework" on using public transit in Italy, as there are some potentially expensive "caveats" to be aware of. The school providing the study abroad course may provide that information, but if you need more details post another note here.

I'd suggest having a look at guidebooks for each of the areas they'll be visiting, so that they can plan sightseeing efficiently, without wasting any time.

Posted by
6 posts

Sasha, Ken, Tim et al;
Thanks so much. You all are great and have provided valuable information. We are hoping to firm up the schedule this weekend; both girls are in college and just got back from spring break so getting into the swing of things again. I'm doing most of the research for them and will give them all this information as they put their heads together. Thanks again!

Posted by
3351 posts

Clillard, We agree with Tim & Sasha. Venice definitely deserves two nights if not three. I would skip Innsbruck altogether. Just food for thought. Oh, we've spent a good bit of time in Venice. Don't claim to be experts but let us know if you need specifics. TC

Posted by
23983 posts

May 14-26, 2015. She will see all of Rome in depth during this time.

With respect, I've been to Rome many times, usually for at least a week at a time and I have come nowhere near seeing all of Rome, and while your daughter will be on her course for 12 days unless the course involves them being taken all around Rome each day she may decide at the end of the course that there are things in Rome she still hasn't explored.

It might be worth her leaving a bit of flexibility on the time she and her friend leave Rome, or at least be prepared for her to say she wants to return.

Posted by
7191 posts

You know, it's kind of late to just now be thinking about planning a trip for May. Cheapest, nicest places (hotels, B&Bs) get booked up very quickly. Those super economy discount train tickets get snapped up super quick, too. We've got a trip planned for mid June and have had it all worked out, booked, tickets bought since January and started planning it back in September. Don't wait around if you know you definitely want to stay at a particular place or ride a specific train, etc.

Posted by
6 posts

To all of you who replied with fantastic answers/suggestions, thank you! My daughter and her friends (it has now expanded from one additional friend to another 3 ladies) have put their heads together and will you be surprised when I tell you they have not chosen ONE city on the itinerary discussed above? What can I say? They are all 20 years old. Any of you that have college age students maybe can relate to this; perhaps it is because their 'mom' made these suggestions, that they did not like them. Anyway, I thank you all again for all your help and especially the time you put into giving me so much good information. Going forward, I certainly have learned so much and will most definitely use this forum in the future as the people here are so knowledgeable and friendly!

Posted by
31076 posts

clillard,

Thanks for the update. For travel in May, they'll need to get cracking and get a plan worked out.

Posted by
3351 posts

Just out of curiosity, where did they decide to go? I'm sure it will be an interesting itinerary.

Posted by
6 posts

Gerri: How'd you guess? Sicily, Barcelona, Lyon/Annecy, Cologne, Amsterdam. Airfare (Denver-Rome returning Amsterdam-Denver) already purchased and girls are working out itinerary. Taking some flights and some trains. Here's a question; for flights between European cities in different countries, how early do you arrive at airport? Not 3 hours? More like 1-2hours?

Posted by
8 posts

I'm planning a trip with my friend and have been looking for information on how best to schedule the Italy portion. I found the suggestions posted above to be helpful. Maybe someone can help even further -
How would you spend the 4.5 days?

Fly into Rome at 9:25 am May 13th and planned to sightsee the entire day and stay overnight in Rome (I've been before and felt most of the city can be 'seen' in one day and she's confident Rome is the one city she'll probably come back to with her husband or family later on so we're not too worried about spending too much time there)

Fly out of Rome at 3:05 pm, Monday May 28th

What we'd like to do-
- Florence for two days (museums w/ advance tickets etc. one day and another more relaxed day)
- Cinque Terre - full day
- Pisa (?)
- Wine tour (?)
- Venice (?) (the train from Florence we found had us in Venice from 10:30am - 7:30pm - is it worth the cost and time to only see it for a few hours?)

We know we're trying to cram a lot into a few days, I'm a big advocate of getting up early to enjoy the city before everyone else gets out of bed (best travel advice I've ever gotten - Thanks Rick!) so early trains etc aren't a big deal.

Some background - I'll have been in Vienna for two weeks (with day trips to Munich and Salzburg) for my sister's wedding, then my friend is flying in and meeting me to spend another day and a half in Vienna then we're flying to Dubrovnik, Croatia for 2.5 days and then Zagreb for the Plitvice Lakes then flying to Rome. My friend hasn't traveled Europe and while I'm a history buff (have to see the museums etc) she could take it or leave it.

Help! :)

Posted by
8 posts

Original Poster - I went to Amsterdam while on study abroad and while I felt it's kinda overrated, it's still beautiful and she'll have a great time.

I've done my fair share of traveling and Barcelona was possibly the 'sketchiest' of the cities I've been to. I know they say it everywhere, but PLEASE tell the girls not to bring expensive purses! I thought I knew everything since it was my fourth or fifth time in Europe and had a woman on the escalator try to snatch my Louis Vuitton purse from on top of my suitcase with dozens of people around! That purse combined with my long blonde hair was like I had a giant neon sign pointed to me saying ROB ME I'M AN AMERICAN!

Just some advice :)

Posted by
2762 posts

Been there. We learned when our daughter was a sophomore in college, 20 years old, that what ever we advised, she would do the opposite. She even said that. We learned to keep quiet and now that she is graduated and working, she calls and asks for advice.

But that doesn't help you now. The girls will be fine, but they need to learn to focus their itinerary or they will spend a lot of time and money on travel from place to place. Why do they want to head south to Sicily before heading north to France and Germany?

Posted by
31076 posts

clillard,

Be sure to mention to the girls that each change of location will require both time and money. If they're travelling on a limited budget, that could be an issue.

At this late date, it's unlikely they will be able to get cheaper rates on budget airlines to Sicily. Travel to and from Sicily is going to require the better part of one travel day in each direction, so they'll need to consider that. Spending their time in two or three places within a smaller geographical area would be the best use of time and money.

I'm just an old guy and a parent as well, so they probably won't be interested in my advice either.

Posted by
6 posts

Sasha: Honestly, I was disappointed when I heard Sicily. I wish they weren't going south first only to head back north. They say they are going because it has beautiful coastal views (read: they want the beaches) and some historical ruins (Greek theatre), etc. They are thinking to fly in an out of Catania and have 'looked' at airfares and they seem so inexpensive, but they have not booked any flights yet to any of these places. Who knows, maybe all flights will be booked and they will have to change their itinerary some. This will be a learning experience.

Thanks for the safety tips! I will stress this again.

Posted by
11182 posts

" They are thinking to fly in an out of Catania and have 'looked' at airfares and they seem so inexpensive, but they have not booked any flights yet to any of these places."

The airfares can indeed be inexpensive if booked in advance. But as the cheaper fares sell out, the fares go up - and up and up, at peak times (like Monday morning, as I found out). If they really want to go, they should book soon.