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Where to visit in Italy?

My wife and I had a wonderful Rick Steve's book vacation in Paris and Prague in June 2017. We like the local culture, museums, buildings, food, and laid back feeling.

We'd like to go to Italy in 2018, but for a first time visit, what city (ie cities), would you recommend to see on a 7-10 day vacation. Also any hotel or must see sights would be welcomed. We are kind of tired of a lot of museums, like more of the current local culture.

Thanks so much from Atlanta

Posted by
6543 posts

Rome, Florence and Venice--and take the full 10 days if at all possible. These are very important cities worthy of as much time as you can spend in them.
You can go to a Rick Steves travel book about Italy to find some hotel names. Or, go to Booking.com.

Posted by
11658 posts

Rome, Florence and Venice--and take the full 10 days if at all
possible.

Hi Atlanta!
The "Holy Trinity" of the three cities above is a good place for newbies to Italy to start. Trains are fast and direct between them, and they're well used to hosting tourists from all over the world. NONE of them are going to be "laid back" at all but cities rarely are. I would advise NOT going during the high-season summer months when the heat and the crowds can be a bit much. Spring and fall can be a little more comfortable, although still pretty busy. Allow for at least 10 days as 7 would be a real hustle.

If your 10 days (it's actually best to count number of NIGHTS you have) includes your flights to and from Italy, your itinerary might be:
Day 1: fly to Venice
2: Venice
3: Venice
4: Early train to Florence
5. Florence
6.Florence- train to Rome
7.Rome
8. Rome
9. Rome
10: Fly home

Keep in mind that every time you make a change of location you're going to lose 1/2 a day in the process. I wouldn't expect to be able to do any sort of "current cultural" immersion in this amount of time, and please don't bypass ALL of the major landmarks/museums as they're very important to the proud history and culture of Romans, Florentines and Venetians. Italy, as a unified country, is younger than the United States! The original purposes of many of those landmarks wasn't for tourism, and locals/Italians from other parts of the country visit them too.

You don't have to, say, do the Uffizi in Florence if art isn't your thing but I wouldn't skip some of churches where vestiges of the birth of the Italian Renaissance are still beautifully evident 600 years later.

Rome is not Florence, is not Venice: they're all different, and fascinating wanders can be had in all!

Editing to add: you mentioned that you had a "wonderful Rick Steve's book vacation in Paris and Prague"? Then a good place to start planning might be to pick up his book on Italy or books on Rome, Florence and Venice. Spend some time with them to make a personal "must see" list.

Posted by
432 posts

Buy or borrow one or more big, illustrated, coffee-table sized book on Italian artists and/or architects. Pick a few artists whose works you like best. What towns in Italy were they from or which towns did they work in? Read about the history of those towns. What are those towns knows for? Make a list of sights in those towns that are appealing to you. Plan your trip (travel dates, hotels, airplane and train tickets, and so on...). What time period in history is most interesting to you? Find the towns that have the most remains from that time period. You need to decide what your specific interests are. I know you are "kind of tired of a lot of museums", but Ötzi the Iceman's remains are on display at the South Tyrol museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, and Pompeii and Herculaneum are ancient Roman towns buried by a volcano eruption in 79A.D. ... do your research and pick the towns and sights that seem appealing to you; you don't have to just wander around in the middle of the three most visited cities in Italy only because they are the most visited cities or only because these are the places other people on travel discussion websites would visit... of course if these 3 places meet your interests, enjoy them ...

Posted by
337 posts

I'm a vote for:
Venice-Florence-Rome. That order. Easier to arrive in Venice by air than depart by air due to flight timing and airport location. I find Venice the most foreign of those three, and Rick likes starting less foreign, but I think he can forgive us our convenience of flight.

10 days is 9 nights. 3-3-3 I feel short changes Rome, but you could spend a week in each place easily. You can never get enough of La Serenissima, the Birthplace of the Renaissance and the Eternal City.

Posted by
2497 posts

you don't have to just wander around in
the middle of the three most visited cities in Italy only because they
are the most visited cities or only because these are the places other
people on travel discussion websites would visit... of course if these
3 places meet your interests, enjoy them ...

You make some valid comments. However I don't think they are necessarily the best for a first visit with only limited time. These are all great ideas if you are returning for a repeat visit, or have a lot of time. But there is a reason why these 3 cities are so often recommended for first time visitors. No need to turn your nose up at them just because they are popular destinations. They became popular for a reason.

Posted by
11613 posts

Time is a crucial factor. Venezia, Firenze and Roma are only about two hours apart (each) by frequent fast trains, so not much can go wrong in getting from one place to another.

Count nights, not days; a night is always a night, a day can be 4-16 hours of time to see the city.

Museums are part of the culture that forms and informs the people who live in these places.

Posted by
362 posts

I agree that Venice-Florence-Rome is perfect for a first visit to Italy.

Having said that, I'm trying to think what I enjoyed most in those cities. Of course, my interests may not be the same as yours, so these are just suggestions.

Venice - We went into a mask maker's shop. The owners were extremely kind, showing us how their gorgeous creations are made. We also just enjoyed wandering around the city and waiting for a place to open up for dinner. ;-) Oh, and taking a gondola ride is a must in Venice. At least, it was for me. Of course, there are always the islands that you can see there as well.

Florence - It's more crowded during the day, but the crowds tend to disappear toward late afternoon as tour busses leave for their next stop. Evenings are lovely for a stroll there. I'd definitely see the David and skip the Uffizi on a first trip because there are so many other beautiful places to visit in and around Florence.

Rome - Where to start? You're walking in ROME. Seriously, that one fact took my breath away when we first arrived. There's so much to see there, history wise, that I couldn't even suggest a starting point, but I know that the RS guidebooks can offer a lot of suggestions for this glorious city.

I also agree with the suggestions to visit Italy in late spring/early fall. The weather's slightly better, and you have fewer tourists with which to contend.

Whatever you decide, I hope you have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
14003 posts

Venice is unique and Rome is classic. Those are the two I would concentrate on. Best would be to fly into Venice and out of Rome. If it's too difficult logistically to arrive inVenice, then look at flights to Milan. From there, it's a straightforward trip by train (one change) to Venice. Venice is a great place to soak up the atmosphere while getting over jetlag.

If you only have 6-7 nights in Italy, then Venice (3N) and Rome (3-4N). If you can extend to 9--10 nights, then add a stop between them. Florence is all about Renaissance sculpture, art and architecture. If that floats your boat, then that's where you should go. But I give you full permission to skip it and choose something different. Bologna is very different from Rome and Venice. It is more low key, not a big tourist city, but it is a huge rail hub and there are enough interesting day trips to fill a week there, even a day in Florence. And it has a reputation for great food. Or spend 3 nights in Siena, or 2 in Orvieto.

Posted by
11658 posts

Additionally, regarding the number of nights you're considering? Push that number as far as you possibly can. Airfare can be the biggest single expense of our trips abroad so we figure the longer we can stay, the more good we make of those $$$, if that makes sense? I realize that one must work with the amount of vacation time one has but if you have it to spend, trips abroad are the place to be generous with that time, when at all possible.

We did a one-weeker years ago and felt like we'd just relaxed into the trip when it was time to turn around and go home again! :O)

Posted by
1726 posts

Make it 10 days, 9 nights. In three trips, still haven't visited Venice, but if Chani says it's unique, then take her word for it.

But from my experience, I'm flying into Florence and out of Rome. 4 nights Florence, with a daytrip into the Tuscan countryside. Then the Freccia train (90 minutes) to Rome, stay 5 nights with a daytrip to the hilltown of Orvieto. In each venue, the best of the urban/rural dynamic.

Enjoy your planning!

Posted by
169 posts

These kind of questions and all the well meaning responses always amaze me.
You're planning a trip over a year from now which is great. Your question implies you haven't done any research of your own and want others to do it all for you. Wouldn't it be in your own interest to at least read through past posts here and do a little research on your own ?

You decided to go to Italy. Are you really that clueless about where you would like to go or stay and want to rely on the advice of strangers for a trip that is 12 months away?

Posted by
11658 posts

travelguymiami, first-time posters may not ever have used a travel or other sort of forum before. Sometimes what appears to be a lack of initiative is a matter of simply not knowing how phrase that first post for the most helpful responses. They may also not know how to browse previous threads. The more interaction with this forum - and the more guidance they receive - the more adept a new member is likely to become at drilling down to info they're looking for. It's not as if we're being asked to provide the very detailed "travel agent" itineraries which are requested from time-to-time?

A conversation has to start somewhere, and none of us are required to respond if we don't wish to?

Posted by
1726 posts

Yeah, I'll second Kathy's comments. For a first-timer, this is exactly what the OP should be doing. We regular posters differ in our views on almost everything, and have the experience to back up our strong opinions, but actually welcome dissenting reasoning. Bottom line is there is no right answer to any of this, unless it's a first -time poster saying they want to do 5 cities in 9 days. You'll probably get a universal 'nyet' on that.

The key to planning starts with where one wants to go, and then the logistics that can make it happen. That's where we shine--the folks that have been there, done that can tell first timers, 'uh...doing that may not be a very good idea.'

Posted by
974 posts

I drived straight into the Tuscan countryside for my first trip to Italy. I like Florence, love Rome, but still prefer the Tuscan countryside (I visited Rome on my second trip). I don't know why everyone feels obliged to visit the big 3 unless you intend to strictly use public transport.

If so, aim for 5 nights Florence, 7 in Rome. I'm not a renaissance man myself, I'm more of a romantic bloke; I like cobbled streets and crumbling buildings, parks and gardens, strong coffee and Rubenesque women. There are no must see sights - well, there is one, the Garden of Ninfa, but that's too much hassle for a day trip - best to read up on Florence and Rome and decide what interests you. From Florence you can do a wine tour for the day. You can take public transport to some of the famous wine villages in the Chianti region. From Rome, nice day trips (one, maybe two) within easy reach are Orvieto, Frascati and Castel Gandolfo (where old Pope Benedict lives. Not to be confused with Castel Gandalfo, where Mithandir retired). Villa d'Este can be easily reached, as can Ostia Antica. Most of the public transport is also from the Renaissance period, I believe.

For Florence, I once again bang the drum for Fiesole, about a 15 minute bus ride up the hill. Enchanting in the evenings. We stayed at Le Cannelle B&B, a spacious and clean room. In Rome, I recommend the Saint Angel apartment:
http://www.silviosholidayhomes.com/ Silvio is a lovely young man.

Part of the local culture involves pickpocketing and they are quite brazen about it.

Posted by
337 posts

I'm going to reiterate why I say the big three, rather than diving into the Tuscan countryside.

Venice: Is just beautiful. It has a magic of just walking around. It is mobbed. Yes. It is pricey, yes. It caters to tourists. That is a feature for a first time visitor, not a bug. It has a world class museum of Renaissance art (Accademia), it has a world class museum of baroque art, it has a world class of modern art and is a hub for the display of contemporary art. If you don't like the art, it has many evocative churches, including the unique architecture and decoration of the San Marco, the nigh unparalleled collection at the Frari, the view from San Giorgio, and several others. It has the elegance of a bygone era in the restaurants on the square, and it has a wonderful, if fishy, food culture.

Florence: Has so much art it's overflowing. It has the wonderful food and wine of Tuscany. It has beautiful churches. And it might have Italy's best collection of gelaterias. I would not skip the Uffizi. It's presentation of some art is beyond anywhere else in the world. I would not skip the markets, the Accademia, the big church on the hill... the Fra Angelico, the Duomo... This was the first major stop of the renaissance.

Rome: I don't think I need to sell anything about Rome. But the Vatican. The food. The Roman ruins. The Etruscan museum. So much culture for 2500+ years. There is a magic to nearly everything in Rome.

I ain't gonna bag on the Tuscan countryside, but it doesn't have quite the same ease of use for a first time traveler as the "Holy Trinity."

Posted by
1726 posts

Max--

Maybe it takes more than one trip to Italy to realize that moving around 3 times in 9 nights is just too much. I mean, our initial trip was 4 nights Sicily, 4 nights Florence, 2 nights Rome, then home, which was about right in Florence but far too short in the other two places.

I suppose it depends on what the novice Italy traveler wants to get out of the trip. If it's a checklist of attractions-- been there, done that, here's the selfie to prove it--well, then maybe it's all right. But I knew right off the hop that the repeatable daily things--such as the tabacchi/caffe shop on a side street in Rome where the barrister acknowledged me as a repeat customer and started preparing my espresso when I walked in the door--were the memories that I'd take home with me. It takes time to develop. And if you're always either packing or preparing to pack, that takes time away from the enjoyment.

But to each his/her own. Enjoy your planning!

Posted by
337 posts

If I wanted to slow down a 3-3-3, I think I'd go 4-5 with Venice and then Rome. Bit of a long train, being half the country, but pleasant enough with the right mix of people, treats and diversions. That'd allow the familiarity that is mentioned with the highlights. It'd also allow day trips to maybe Padova, Verona or Ferrara from Venice and Antia Ostica from Rome.

I mention the checklist items but what happens between them is as great as what happens at them. Getting lost in Venice is great. Having an espresso in Rome is too. I'm a traveler who delights in train stations, supermarkets, vending machines, convenience stores, laundries and eccentric slow days. I spent half a day in Paris wandering around the chocolatiers and confectioners of the 7th.

There are many ways to travel.

Posted by
362 posts

If you only have 7 nights, I would do 3 Venice and 4 Rome. If you have 10 nights, the Venice, Florence, Rome like everyone says. Personally, I'd put more time in Rome and take away a day from Venice.

Posted by
1726 posts

I mention the checklist items but what happens between them is as
great as what happens at them. Getting lost in Venice is great. Having
an espresso in Rome is too. I'm a traveler who delights in train
stations, supermarkets, vending machines, convenience stores,
laundries and eccentric slow days. I spent half a day in Paris
wandering around the chocolatiers and confectioners of the 7th. There
are many ways to travel.

Amen, Max.

To continue on my thoughts above, I certainly see the historical significance of visiting the attractions, but when you and a thousand of your closest friends are waiting to get into Accademia to see David, to me (not to everyone, however) some of the luster is lost. That's one of the reasons that we travel off-season.

In February when we visited Rome, in advance I was trying to figure every which way to Sunday to minimize the pain of lines to see St. Peter's Cathedral, because I knew it's busy all year long. Ended up buying these online 'skip the line' tickets for 15 Euro. As it turned out, even though the audio app for the phone was worthless, we did end up saving about an hour in line, well worth the money to me. And of course, the cathedral was spectacular, almost sensory overload. Probably would've been best a couple hours apiece over two days. It was an attraction that was really worth it to me.

But that is only part of the thrill of visiting these places that I'm trying to impart to the OP. Build time in to chill, sit for a couple hours at an outdoor cafe, rest your barking dog feet, sip a drink and watch the world go by. When you return home, you may not have the selfie to bring you back to the feeling of doing this, but in the end that's what you'll remember about the trip.

Posted by
11658 posts

I don't know why everyone feels obliged to visit the big 3 unless you
intend to strictly use public transport.

We didn't use any public transport at all in Florence, and have only used the metro (no buses) a couple of times over our several visits to Rome. IMHO, both are best experienced on foot if at all possible. Caveat? That means allowing time enough to do that, although traffic can be enough of a snarl that it can actually be FASTER to go from Points A to B on foot, depending on what those are.

But as far as which destinations to choose, various responses show that there is no "best" unless it's best for YOU. There are no must-sees unless YOU want to see them. Same goes for getting around. Personally? We've no interest in driving in Italy. Train travel is a bit of a novelty where we live, and it's been great for both of us to be able to sit back and enjoy the ride: no parking or ZTL concerns, no map or road-watching. Sure, we won't be able to get to every fabulous little corner of the country but there are more that we CAN reach by public transit than years we have left to do them all!

Personal style figures into the equation as well? We tend to favor longer versus shorter stays: quality versus quantity. We like the flexibility that comes with being able to shuffle our activities according to whim and weather, and to have time to cover ground at our own pace and poke into random corners. Others prefer more frequent changes of scene.

So there's no wrong answer unless the itinerary is so tight and so overloaded than one little snag can throw it off completely and/or it leaves you exhausted and frustrated.

Posted by
3330 posts

Since "We like the local culture, museums, buildings, food, and laid back feeling.", consider flying into Venice (a truly unique place with buildings you wont believe) and spending four days there. Then take the train to Verona for a three days of local culture and then to Lake Como for the rest of your time. Talk about a laid back feeling. Then a quick train trip back to Milan and a flight back to Atlanta.

Posted by
974 posts

Kathy, regarding public transport, I was referring to travel between the cities themselves. Yes, almost all of our Rome trip was done on foot, apart from getting there and back.

Posted by
77 posts

Hi Neighbor -

As you can see, there are as many points of view as there are travelers. I'll give you my initial thoughts based on our first trip in 2015.

We flew round trip to Rome via Miami on frequent flier miles (Delta) and spent 20 days in total. We also planned our trip for over a year and the itinerary we chose was Rome-Tuscany-Dolomites-Florence-Rome - we rented a car for Tuscany and the Dolomites. And yes, I too saw more than my share of museums and churches. However, in hindsight, I'd still include the Colosseum/Forum, Vatican and the Academia. That being said, and if you're limited to ten days and want local culture, and based solely on our experiences, I'd consider one of the following:

1) Florence - Tuscany countryside - Dolomites - Florence
2) Rome - Florence with day trips - Rome
3) Rome - Tuscany - Rome

The replies you've received give you ample ideas and opinions, all of which are invaluable in their own way. The significant amount of thought and planning that went into our trip was done largely though Rick's book and this forum and for that we're eternally grateful. In the end, we were totally satisfied with the results. If you're interested, I'd be glad to share any and all particulars (and they are many) with you. If you bought us a cup of coffee, we'd "talk your ears off".

Ken

Posted by
337 posts

KJ: does Delta not allow open jaw? I would think a Venice-dolomites-Tuscan countryside-Florence itinerary would work better than a round trip, even if you land at Venice and head straight into the Dolomites.

Posted by
77 posts

It does and I did try but, at the 60,000 mile award level, open jaw seats weren't available for our time frame.

Posted by
362 posts

You can book an open jaw flight on Delta, but not 100% positive if you can do that if you're using points.

Posted by
77 posts

It is possible to book open jaw on Delta using FF miles. The problem when we went was the limited availability of FF seats and the number of points (80,000 or more as I recall) required. It's a long story but, interestingly enough, I originally "booked" open jaw flights for 60,000 miles through Paris and connecting with Air France. As I was entering the data for the CDG - FCO leg, the computer wouldn't take it. After several tries, I contacted the help desk and, after several minutes, they found that that leg couldn't be booked with FF miles as the Air France computer didn't link with the Delta computer for FF flights entirely within Europe. Hopefully/maybe that's been corrected by now. The flights we finally booked connected through Miami and utilized Alitalia for the Miami to Rome leg. And, you guessed it, Delta didn't get the bags to Alitalia in time and they arrived in Rome two days later! We still had a great time.

Posted by
432 posts

I went to Florence, Pisa for part of a day, Naples briefly, Pompei for a large part of a day, and Rome. My trip was in July of this year. I only went to Italy once. My trip was 14 days. In Florence I paid €3 to walk and sit in Fort Belvedere; it was almost deserted and great scenery; I skiped the farther away supposedly scenic viewpoint mentioned in Rick Steves Italy. But Florence is well known for its museums; you could skip Florence. Naples may be less commonly visited but it is described in Rick Steves Italy; I walked on a car-free path that goes right next to the bay of Naples; I see that you are tired of museums but the archaeology museum in Naples may have been one of the 3 museums I liked best in Italy. Others are right that Rome, Florence, and Venice are the most commonly visited cities in Italy. I skipped Venice and I don’t know what I missed. I suppose you could Go to Northern Italy (Venice-Verona-Milan-Turin) - I don’t know what is in these cities but the culture might have some similarity to Switzerland, and there is a museum in Northern Italy where Otzi the Iceman is on display; Or you could go to Central Italy (Pisa, Florence, Rome, and so on); or find some smaller towns in Rick Steves Italy or other guidebooks - you don’t need big cities because you are tired of museums. Or see the Roman and Greek ruins in Sicily and/ or southern Italy. In terms of culture, each historic region in Italy will seem like a different country in some ways.

Posted by
668 posts

Fly in to Venice, train to Florence, with maybe a short stop in Milan to see the roof of Milan's Duomo, take bus to Rome from Florence, then fly out of Rome. The Etruscan Museum in Rome, is an endless collection of cut off fingers, with marriage rings, other grave robbed knickknacks and mean-spirited site watchers that are just pissed off at being there. :) It is sort of a weird experience to see this level of grave robbing. :) If you ever thought the dead should remain dead, this isn't a place you want to go.

Posted by
11658 posts

It's been 6 months since the OP posted their question and there's been no engagement from them so I'm guessing this thread is past its expiration date.