We are planning a trip Oct of 2010 to London, France and Italy. We will travel by train from Paris to Italy. We have 7 days in Italy. How best should we manage our time? We will fly out from Rome to home. My thought was to stay in Florence for 2 days, on to Rome, and plan a day trip to Naples/Pompeii or the amalfi coast? What do you experience travelers feel about it?
I agree with Darren. While I loved the sites in Florence, we did not really enjoy staying there. The sites are great and must see, but I would not spend a lot of nights there. The traffic is heavy on narrow streets and noisy. My wife and I agreed that next time we go we will stay out of town and day trip in for the sites. That could be an option for you. Lucca is great and others could recommend some equally fine places. I would spend a least half the time in Italy in Rome, especially at the end of a trip when you will be tired. There is plenty to see and you enjoy there.
I have to agree with Steve's recommendation. With only seven days, you're not going to have time to explore too many locations. In addition, you'll lose at least part of one day in travel from Paris to Italy and the last day will be spent heading to the airport and travel home.
I have to disagree with some of the opinions here concerning Florence. I really enjoy Florence and have found it less expensive than other locations (ie: Venice). Two days isn't much time, but there's a lot of history there to explore (reservations recommended for the Uffizi and Accademia). Either Siena or Orvieto would be good "hill towns" to visit, but stopping there will reduce the time you have in Rome. There's so MUCH to see in Rome, and you'll need to prioritize and plan your sightseeing there efficiently.
The trip to Naples and Pompeii is a LONG day trip from Rome, and with such a short time I wouldn't recommend it. The best idea would be to focus on Rome. You might find it interesting to take a day tour with a local Guide in Rome, as that really provides the most interesting view of the history and the sights you'll be seeing.
You might also want to have a look at some of Rick's PBS shows on Italy, to give you an idea on places you might like to visit. I'm not sure when they'll be airing on KCTS next, but you could also take a quick trip to Edmonds and see them there. That would also provide an opportunity to speak with Rick's excellent staff!
OK, I know that I'm in the minority here, but Florence disappointed my wife and I. It seemed that while in Italy, everyone that we talked to either loved or hated Florence. We ended up leaving the city early, only spending one night. But, hey, that was our experience. As for Rome, I feel that it's the greatest city on earth, and you'll want 2 nights in Rome, just to get a glimpse of it. The archtecture, churches, and history can overwhelm you, so I wouldn't try to cram too much into your European trip. If you're finishing your trip here, you're probably already getting worn out from travelling, so I wouldn't press on any further south. As for in between? I'd take the train from Florence to Assissi, which has two great basilicas, and some cool castle ruins. But mostly, its a beautiful walled city that will let you relax and recharge before taking on Rome. I try to spend 2 nights in every town that I visit to really get to experience the town, and get to know the locals (look up Fabrizio on the main Piazza, he's great). With 2 nights in each of these towns, you'll get to experience two great cities, and some umbrian countryside. You're going to love it.
Regarding Florence: Personally, I can't imagine a first trip to Italy without seeing Florence. However, the relevant consideration is what interests YOU. Florence is about art and history. It's also expensive and crowded. You could easily do your entire Italian week in Rome with some day trips - - Orvieto, Villa D'Este, and Ostia come to mind - - and have a wonderful experience.
Purchase a few guide books to see what interests you. You can better then determine the length of stay. One day at Florence is enough. But again, it's what interests you. You can go to Pompeii in one day. It is long but so what, sleep on the train. You change trains at Naples. BTW skip Naples. I arrived at 11 AM stayed a few hours with an hour for lunch and returned on the 7 PM train from Pompeii. In Rome make sure you take the city red #110 tour HOHO bus. It covers over 80 sightseeing destinations in a 2.5 hour loop.
I would like to also add to what has been suggested. I have been back and fourth to Italy quite a few times now. Rome, and Florence are wonderful. I just got back from Pompeii in September. I also feel it would be too much to do in just 7 days. I am super partial to Florence. I stayed at a lovely bed and breakfast just out of the old city. It was an easy bus trip into Florence... maybe 10 minute bus trip. The museums in Florence are wonderful. Going up to the top of the tower gave a great view of the city. Seeing the statue of David at the Accademia was right at the top of my list. Orvieto, Villa D'Este are also wonderful places to visit near Rome. Taking the train from Rome back to the airport was easy to do. Rome and Florence have so much to offer. Enjoy your trip.
Jackie, we spent 3 weeks in Italy in 2008. I tend to agree with the negative reports on Florence. However, we are not museum people. It is a lovely city, but excluding museums, easily seen in a day. Sienna and Tuscany are very nice, an afternoon is sufficient to see Sienna and a drive through Tuscany is nice. Rome is great and can easily take a week. For Rome, I would suggest the City Walks cards, available on Amazon.com. But, I think our favorite city in Italy may have been Venice. If I were choosing 2 places in Italy over 1 week, I would spend 2 full days in Venice and the rest of the non-travel time in Rome, with perhaps a one night stay in Florence.
If I could visit only 1 city in Europe, it would be Florence.
RS has done a number of TV shows about Italy; you can tape them on PBS or get a copy at many local libraries (or RS's company which isn't too far from you). Watching the videos will give you an idea of what you might want to see. Skip the day trip Rome to Naples unless you're a big fan of riding trains/buses; getting there and back will take most of your time.
Personally with 7 days in Italy I'd pick a hilltown as a base for 3 days and a city to explore (including a daytrip to a nearby area) for the other 4. If seeing the ruins is a big draw for you then I'd do 4 in Rome and 3 in Sorrento which gives time to see ruins, a day trip along the Amalfi coast, a day relaxing. I liked Herculaneum better than Pompeii but YMMV. Yes choosing 2 places as a base isn't going to let you answer "been there" to a big checklist of places in Italy, but it will give you time to explore, relax, and get some wonderful memories.
Thanks everyone SO MUCH for all the info. I guess we really need to figure our priorities of what to see while in Italy. Mine is the Vatican and the ruins. My husband wants museums too and more countryside. Keep responses coming as all the infor we get is very useful. Jackie
For countryside, I would choose Sienna with a car to drive around Tuscany and Umbria. For museums, Rome or Florence. Given a week and three priorities: countryside, Vatican/ruins, and museums, I would opt for 5 nights in Rome with the City Walks cards and 2 in Sienna.
If you are really into Renaissance art and architecture, and sculpture, do NOT skip Florence. There is nowhere like it. If that doesn't turn you on, then you will probably not enjoy Florence. It is one of the most difficult places to walk (many sidewalks are barely 2 feet wide, if that, and both the sidewalks and the side streets are very uneven and potholed) and much of the city just looks run down.
You can do San Gimignano and Sienna in one day, albeit a long day. We drove (left Florence early in the AM) and were able to see quite a bit in both towns. Personally I enjoyed St. Gimignano more than Sienna.
Given that your priorities are Vatican/Ruins, Rome is the obvious choice. The only place to find the vatican, and the Roman Forum, Coliseum are some of the best anywhere. Now for your Husband, the vatican museum is unparalled anywhere in Italy (of course, for sheer art, the Uffizi is right up there). However, the Sistine Chapel is mesmerizing. As for the countryside, I prefer Tuscany (florence area) over umbria (rome area), but I was floored by both. If architecture sways either of you, you can compare the dome's of each city to have an idea of what your getting (Duomo and St. Peter's). Both are amazing feats, but the Duomo is come sterile inside, as most of the art has been removed and located across the street in a museum (which you must pay to enter). St. Peter's on the other hand.... Walk in, turn right and stare directly at Michelangelo's Pieta. And it only gets better from there. The Duomo? I left after 30 minutes, and there isn't nearly as much to see. My advice? Stay in Siena, take a day to Florence, a day to San Gimignano, then head to Rome for the Remainder (or see Assisi on the way to Rome for a night). Rome has everything that you both want to see in droves, and you couldn't see it all in a week.
The library often has Rick's books and other guidebooks to compare. I have not been to Florence for years, so I cannot comment. I visited Venice this April for 3 nights (the first day was my arrival day, so very jetlagged), and I LOVED the city. I then did RS Village Italy tour, so looking on the website at those cities might give you some ideas. Lucca was lovely, as was Orvieto. Happy Travels.
We spent 3 days in Florence and took a Best of Tuscany Tour one of the days. We loved that tour, it was a sample of everything. This tour had mixed reviews, but we loved it! I think I agree with everyone, if you are into art and history then this is the place for you. We found it a little disappointing because it was just like a regular city, not what we imagined Italy to be I guess. Loved Rome and you will need a lot more time there. We did do a Pompeii/Amalfi Coast tour one day in Rome and it is incredible! The tour is long but the Mediterranian was incredible, Pompeii was really interesting too! Hope this helps! PS Mostly all the mueums in Florence are closed on mondays.
My wife and I were faced with a similar problem and we had 10 days in Italy. Decided to stay north and spent 6 days in Florence with 3 in Venice and 1 in Milan. We found Florence fantastic and used 3 of the 6 days to travel Tuscany (1-Pisa and Lucca; 2-Siena; 3-Volterra, San Gimignano and Chianti country). Siena was disappointing but the others were wonderful. In Florence, the Ufizzi and Accademia are worth extended time. I'm not sure that 2 days in Florence will give you a fair idea of the fabulous city it is.