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2 weeks in Italy - is this a good itinerary?

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Hi fodorites - thanks in advance for your feedback & tips! We are a couple in our 30s and will be in Italy for 2 weeks in September. I have drafted an itinerary based on an assortment of sources. Let me know what you think!

Day 1-arrive Rome noon
Day 2- Rome
Day 3- Rome
Day 4- cooking class in Rome
Day 5- train to sorrento, spend rest of day exploring sorrento
Day 6- from sorrento, day trip to positano
Day7- from sorrento, day trip to Pompeii
Day8- train to Florence
Day9- Florence
Day 10- Florence
Day11- from Florence, day trip to Siena
Day 12- from Florence, day trip to Pisa & Lucca OR train to cinque terre with stop in Pisa
Day 13- cinque terre (this depends on day day 12)
Day 14-Venice
Day 15- Venice
Day 16- am in Venice, fly to USA mid afternoon

Looking forward to your feedback. I especially need it for days 12 & 13.
We originally wanted to choose lake como instead of trying to do cinque terre but I think CT is more our style. Thanks.

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    Hi. I'm an American who's been living in Italy for a little over a year. I'd say overall, you've got a great itinerary and it's nice you have over 2 weeks to spend here. I'd suggest a few changes, to use the most of your time.

    (1) POMPEII: I'm sure you'll be surprised to hear this, but Pompeii is (in my opinion and that of many others here) not as interesting as the nearby town of Ercolano/Herculaneum, which was destroyed by the same volcano. It's smaller (so much more manageable) and a LOT better preserved than Pompeii (in terms of still having Frescos, statues, and complete buildings left), though doesn't get as much publicity (not sure why!). If you have time, it's definitely worth checking it out in addition to Pompeii by adding another 1/2 a day in that area, or even consider doing it INSTEAD of Pompeii. (More info here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/italy/9958878/Ancient-Italy-alternatives-to-Pompeii.html)

    (2) FLORENCE / SIENA / LUCCA / PISA: I think Florence is overrated and it's extremely expensive because of how touristy it has become. It's worth spending a couple days there (and make sure you catch a sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo across the river while there), but probably not much more unless you intend to spend lots of time in museums. The historical center is actually quite small (walkable from one side to the other in 15 minutes or less). Given how expensive hotels are in Florence (hundreds per night) and the amount of time you'd on trains, I definitely wouldn't recommend making it your base, going back and forth between Florence and Pisa, Florence and Siena/Lucca.

    Hotels in Florence go for hundreds a night, whereas Lucca is absolutely adorable and you could spend a night in a cute B&B for less than half that of Florence. I suggest you do 2 days in Florence, then go to Lucca and spend a couple days there, doing a day trip to Pisa and a day trip to Siena from Lucca. The only thing to see in Pisa is the leaning tower and church, so it'll only take a couple hours. It's a 30 minute train ride from Lucca, so I suggest staying in Lucca, taking the train to Pisa in the late afternoon when the sun sets, staying until they put the night lights on the tower, then taking the night train back to Lucca and sleeping there.

    CINQUE TERRE: This is one of the most amazing parts of Italy (and anywhere in the world, I think)!!! It takes a while to get there and is absolutely gorgeous, so you cannot do just one day there. If you're going to go to Cinque Terre at all, you'd need 3 days minimum. It consists of 5 different villages, and you can hike from one to the other or take trains between each of them. Vernazza is the best of the 5, I think -- traditional, colorful and centrally located to be the base while visiting others in the daytime. If you spend less time in Florence, you could add a few days on to your itinerary for Cinque Terre area.

    Hope this helps. No matter what you do, it'll be great. It's an amazing country. Enjoy!!

    Kim

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    Overall, I think it's a decent plan, although a little light on Rome. I too think if you want to see the Cinque Terre, you should cut some time from Florence. During the day, the CT is stuffed with day-trippers; at night when they've gone, the villages revert to themselves and are much more charming. I would want to stay at least one night there or I'd skip the visit. I definitely wouldn't go as a day trip - too much time on the train,, not enough time in the villages, and then you're one of the horde of day-trippers.

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    <<<It's smaller (so much more manageable) and a LOT better preserved than Pompeii...>

    From a past post.
    Herculaneum looks alot better preserved than Pompeii because much of it has been reconstructed in the Late 1920's-Early 1940's with the tourist in mind.
    [Although Herculaneum did maintain many 2nd floors (forget the roofs though) and any wood was carbonized which preserved it.]
    Andrew Wallace-Hadrill who if you watch any of the History Channels you have most likely seen has a new book out about Herculaneum. http://tinyurl.com/6zrl9rq (read this for more info on the reconstruction vs a preserved site)
    He was also the director of the 'Herculaneum Conservation Project' for 10yrs.

    (His quote) "what we see is not an ancient town as preserved by an eruption, but fragments painstakingly pieced together, stabilized, reinforced and 'restored' by Maiuri".
    He also writes about some Houses requiring 50% reconstruction and some scenes were staged for the visitor (like 'the shop' http://tinyurl.com/69yp2k7).

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    In my opinion, the Amalfi Coast is every bit as beautiful, maybe even more beautiful, than the Cinque Terre. I would say that since you're going to be in Sorrento anyway, you should maybe extend your stay there by one day to be able to see more of that area, and skip the Cinque Terre. It takes a long time to get to the Cinque Terre, and a very long time to get from there to Venice, so staying one night wouldn't give you much time there.

    I also don't think it's a good idea to try to take a day trip to Siena from Lucca. There's no easy way to get between the two cities by public transportation. It would take you hours, with several changes of train or bus.

    There are some reasonably-priced places to stay in Florence, and some reasonably priced places to eat. When we go to Florence, we often eat at a cafeteria (self-service) on Via de' Pecori, near the Duomo, called Leonardo. The food is cheap and not bad at all. I don't go to Florence to eat; I live in Le Marche, whose cuisine beats Fiorentine cuisine hands down!

    Many people (including me) go to Florence specifically for the art, and that could take weeks to see, not just in museums, but in churches and convents, many of which are now operated as museums. And Florence is a good base for visiting Lucca, Pisa, and Sienna. I hate changing hotels, so I would rather stay in Florence the whole time instead of splitting the time between Florence and Lucca.

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    thanks for your responses! one thing i should mention: i was mistaken. we have 15 days, not 16. i have gotten some much needed clarity from your feedback & have revised my itinerary. thoughts?

    Day 1-arrive Rome noon
    Day 2- Rome
    Day 3- Rome
    Day 4- cooking class in Rome
    Day 5- train to sorrento, spend rest of day exploring sorrento
    Day 6- from sorrento, day trip to positano
    Day7- from sorrento, day trip to Pompeii
    Day8- train to Florence
    Day9- Florence
    Day 10- Florence
    Day11- from Florence, day trip to Siena
    Day 12- from Florence, day trip to pisa & lucca
    OR guided trip to cinque terre
    OR tuscan bike trip
    Day 13- train to venice, half day in venice
    Day 14-Venice
    Day 15- am in Venice, fly to USA mid afternoon

    here are my questions/concerns:
    - is this enough time in florence? i have read mixed opinions on how much time to spend in florence.
    - if it's too much time in florence, where would you allocate the extra day? rome, amalfi coast, venice, or use it to do another day trip from florence like pisa/lucca or do a tuscany bike tour?
    - for day 12, we could take a guided day trip to cinque terre which would be quick, i know, but the benefit of this is it would allow us to see cinque terre and return to florence as a base so that we don't need to change hotels and would make for a much shorter train ride to venice (instead of riding train from cinque terre to venice).

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    I really don't think it makes sense to do Cinque Terre as a one-day trip, and I think a couple others agreed. It's the kind of place that takes several days, as it is in fact 5 different towns. It's worth spending time there to see sunrise and sunset in such a beautiful place, taking a boat ride between villages, and maybe doing a hike or two.

    As for the amount of time in Florence, as we said earlier, it depends what you like. If you are into museums, then you'll need more time. If it's enough to just visit churches, walk around, enjoy food, see the sunset from the hill, then 1-2 days is enough. You could spend that extra one in Cinque Terre, since it sounds like you really want to see that area (and a day trip would be too rushed to feel enjoyable and I doubt it would even be feasible to see all 5 towns. You don't need a guide or a tour to visit them -- you just need time).

    As for Lucca, one of the best ways to enjoy it is to rent bikes (less than 3 E per hour) and ride on top of the medieval city wall that goes around the city -- it sounds like you like biking, so that would be a faster way than to actually try to bike from town to town (which would take days). So make sure you allot at least 1 hour for that when there. :-) I've never been to Siena before, so perhaps what someone else said about doing a day trip from Florence would be fine.

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    You don't have 16 days or even 15 days. You have 13 days not impacted by arriving and departing flights. If your arriving flight lands on time at noon, you probably won't be at your Rome hotel until 2:00p. You don't give the exact time of your departing flight, but needing to set off for the airport hours before your "mid-afternoon" flight will likely not leave you time for sightseeing.

    You could stop and see Pompeii on the way from Rome to Sorrento. There is luggage storage at the entrance. This would make for a long (but interesting) day, and it frees up Day 7 for seeing something else in the area, like Capri or Naples or for exploring more of the coastal towns. IMO, Pompeii is more interesting than Herculaneum.

    Florence is a great base for many day trips, even more than the few mentioned, especially if you dislike lots of short stays and packing/unpacking.

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