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Easter Itinerary Advice, Rome, Parma, Venice, Stresa, Grindelwald

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We will arrive in Rome on the evening of Friday April 3rd. And, yes, I realize that's Good Friday. We are using airline credits that are about to expire. Flight reservations are made. We are just going to go for it and not cancel this time!

On the ground we will travel via train with carry-on luggage. We plan to use fast trains wherever possible, and could use some advice on that. We aren't young, 67 and 70. We have been to Venice 3 times before, and Rome once.

Arrive Rome Good Friday evening, take a cab to hotel
7 nights Rome
3 nights Parma
4 nights Venice
2 nights Stresa
3 nights Brienz or Grindelwald
depart Zurich non-stop to LAX

We have lots of ideas of what we want to do in each base, but now we are down to the specifics of how to make the ground transportation work smoothly without driving us to complete exhaustion. I have loved reading Fodor's forums and trip reports, and I can't tell you how grateful I am to those of you who have so generously shared information.

Questions:
1. Day trip from Rome to Pompeii via train. We need to make reservations for the fast train part of the journey, but don't know which day to go. Am worried that Easter Monday would be too crowded on the circumvesuviana part of the trip. Has anyone ever taken the trip to Pompeii on Easter day? Would that be a good day to get out of town? Would there be a huge line to buy the circumvesuviana tickets?

2. We want to make a day trip from Rome to Assisi. I am thinking about taking one of the commercial bus tours instead of the train. Has anyone had any experience with these tours? We really aren't bus tour people, but maybe it would be a relief not to have to plan this visit, and just succumb to wherever the tour takes us. Pompeii is going to be a long day, and so will this day. I don't want to get us so tired that we don't enjoy ourselves. If we skip anything on our list, because of logistics, Assisi will be it.

3. On the way from Parma to Venice we want to make a half-day stop in Ravenna. It doesn't look like there is a place at the train station to leave our luggage in Ravenna while we tour. Would it make sense to rent a car for the drive from Parma to Venice, dropping the car at Pizalle Roma at yhe end of the day? Is the drive difficult?

Thank you for your advice.
Chelsey

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    1. The Circumvesuviana is mostly used by commuters. I wouldn't expect it to be busy on Easter Monday, which is a national holiday.

    2. I've never taken a bus tour from Rome to anywhere, so I can't tell you what it's like. However, I don't think there would be a lot of planning, as you wouldn't have time to see a whole lot of Assisi on a day trip from Rome. The train trip is pretty easy. You usually have to change trains in Foligno, although there are a few direct trains. There are usually other people making the trip to Assisi, so you can usually just tag along. In Assisi, you have to take a bus up the hill to the town.

    The bus leaves you near the two Basilicas of St. Francis (Upper and Lower), and I would concentrate just on those on a day trip. Then you should wander around the town, which is attractive, and has several points with nice views of the countryside. During your wander, you should see a restaurant that appeals to you.

    The bus tour might also be nice, but try to find a review. Many tours try to see too much, or spend time at a place that's selling stuff you don't want. The meals are often mediocre.

    3. There is no left-luggage facility at Ravenna train station. The drive to Ravenna isn't difficult, mostly on the autostrada. From Ravenna to Venice, the drive is along the coast on smaller roads. It passes through two towns I really like, Comacchio and Chioggia, but you probably wouldn't have time to stop.

    The entire drive, without stops, would be about 5 hours, I think, and there would probably be some time lost picking up the rental car. Including your time in Ravenna, it would be a long day and you wouldn't see much of Venice that day. I would suggest taking an early train to Venice that day, so you can fit in some of your Venice visits on the arrival day, and taking a day trip to Ravenna one of the other days. Or, spending one more night in Parma and taking a day trip to Ravenna by train from there. The train trip is about three hours each way, a little less from Parma than from Venice. Since Ravennna, and travel time, is going to take up the whole day no matter how you do it, you wouldn't miss much time in Parma or Venice by making Ravenna a day trip.

    One of the advantages of driving would be that you could visit some of the sites that are out of the center, such as the Mausoleum of Theodoric or the Basilica of St. Apollinare in Classe, if you want to see those. Most of the Arian churches with mosaics are an easy walk from one another in the center of town. We drove to Ravenna (from our home), so I don't know how the public transportation is to get to the sites that aren't near the center. You won't have a lot of time in Ravenna no matter how you get there, so maybe you would just want to visit the sites in town.

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    Good Friday is a working day all over Italy. Easter Monday and Liberation Day (April 25th) are holidays.
    I don't think that the hordes of tourists from Northern Europe who usually invade Italy over Easter will go farther than Rome. They usually go to the Lakes, Venice, Florence, Pisa, the Riviera and Rome. Naples/Pompei should be fine.

    But there is much more to see in the Naples area than Pompei. The best paintings etc. of Pompei are exhibited in the Archeological Museum of Naples. Sorrento and Capri are nice places (if the weather is fine).
    Don't worry about train reservations; there are plenty of trains and you don't need to buy your tickets earlier than the evening before your trip. For the way back I wouldn't prebook at all, as you don't know in advance how much time you will need at Naples.
    Buy your tickets at a ticket machine about 30 min before the train departure.
    Evening departures from Naples to Rome (Trenitalia and Italo):
    fast trains (70 min journey):
    16.00, 16.30, 16.40, 16.45, 17.00, 17.10, 17.15, 17.25, 18.00, 18.19, 18.45, 19.00, 19.30, 19.45
    IC trains (2 hrs journey):
    16.31, 18.31, 19.31, 20.31

    Ravenna: it might make more sense to visit Ravenna and Classe on your way from Rome to Parma than on your way from Parma to Venice. In both cases, you can deposit your luggage at Bologna Centrale station.

    BTW: there is a daily direct train Rome dp 17.40 - Ravenna ar 21.53, with an intermediate stop at Foligno, close to Assisi.
    There are also 4 daily direct trains Rome - Assisi, Rome dp 7.58, 14.23, 17.58, 19.55 (2 hrs journey)

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    >>>Would there be a huge line to buy the circumvesuviana tickets?<<<

    I've never encountered huge lines (or much lines at all)buying tickets in the Naples train station. I think it's usually tourists buying tickets as people that use it regularly usually have passes.

    I think Assisi is a bit far from Rome for a day trip. Sulga has a few bus runs, but I don't know if you would consider it more convenient than the train. You wouldn't have changes and it does go to Assisi, not just the town below.

    http://www.sulga.it/autolinea/autolinea14.pdf

    You might consider dropping a day or two from Rome, renting a car and stopping at Assisi on your way to a night in Ravenna (drop the car there or keep for Parma). Then travel Ravenna to Parma.

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    bvlenci, neckervd, and kybourbon, Each of you have provided wonderful, detailed information. In the last last 6 months, while planning this adventure, I have enjoyed reading many of your posts.

    Today is our 40th anniversary and we are leaving to celebrate at our at our original wedding site, the Queen Mary, docked in Long Beach, CA. Just don't want you to think that I am not listening. I'll be right back!

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    bevlenci, you just reminded me of what I consider to be the most annoying part of booking a commercial bus tour: Forced, unwanted shopping stops. I had forgotten about that. I have read a lot about Assisi and am pretty confident about getting around while there, but the travel between stops is my current challenge. Your scheduling suggestions are very helpful.

    neckervd,thank you for letting me know that Good Friday is a working day in Italy. That is certainly the way it has always been here in California, but I kind of had the idea that it was a day-long work-stopper in Italy. As to the Naples archeological Museum, we had planned on seeing it, but then I got sort of excited about adding Herculaneum to Pompeii, and the day became very long indeed. I think we will play that one by ear. Your train information is really appreciated, both for Naples and for Ravenna. I am seriously thinking about your suggestion of seeing Ravenna on the way from Rome to Parma with luggage stored in Bologna. That would mean that when leaving Parma we would not have to stop on our way to Venice (unless we wanted to). It might also mean that we wouldn't need a car.

    Kybourbon, I have always questioned that Assisi might be too long of a day trip for us. That's why I thought of a commercial bus tour, and just letting someone else do the thinking. As mentioned above, those darned tours do have a number of drawbacks. As priorities go, Pompeii is high on DH's list. I figure that after we survive our long Pompeii day we will know whether or not we are up for Assisi, and if so, how best to get there taking our energy level into consideration.

    I have printed out all of your replies for more study. I read them over and over, absorbing more each time.

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