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first trip to italy

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My husband and I are planning our first trip to Italy in October 2012 and would love some suggestions for an itinerary. We will be there 9 nights. Thought maybe 2 nights in Rome...4 on Tuscany and 3 on the Amalfi Coast. Would also like hotel recommendations.

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    You can fly back from one city and back from another. That will very much affect your schedule. The big issue is what nights you will be where (and how much time gets sucked up travelling from place to place). For instance, if you are flying into Rome and out of Rome, then the first night must be in Rome, and the last night very likely too.

    If that is the case (flying into and out of Rome), here is one way to divide things up:
    Night 1: Rome hotel 1st night; best value are those close to Roma Termini, where the train arrives direct from the airport; you can get there quickly and then either relax for a while, or start hitting the ground running.
    Night 2: Rome hotel 2nd night; all day in Rome.
    Night 3: Florence - - take a morning train from Rome to Florence; check in comfortably, then spend the rest of the day seeing Florence.
    Night 4: Florence; see more of Florence, or take a daytrip by bus to Siena, or by Train to Lucca or Pisa.
    Night 5: Florence; same as above; other daytrips also possible;
    Night 6: Sorrento; significant trip from Florence to Naples, then picking up the Circumversuviana to Sorrento; enjoy Sorrento in the late afternoon/evening;
    Night 7: Sorrento: day trip to Positano and/or Capri; or Pompeii;
    Night 8: Sorrento: same as above;
    Night 9; Rome (train from Sorrento through Naples; enjoy another grand night in Rome before getting to the airport the next morning).

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    The plan above is not bad except that you do NOT have to spend the first night in Rome. If you are coming from the US or Canada most flights will arrive early in the day and you can easily then continue on to your next destination that day. In fact, if you went straight to your hotel it would probably be too early for check in (although most let your leave luggage). Also Rome is kind of intense if you aren't used to Italy so most people enjoy it more after you have gotten 'used' to being in Italy.

    Do you want a 'relaxing' vacation or would you rather see a lot? If you like to keep moving then it is not unreasonable to do a few days each in the places you mention. But many people would suggest for a first trip it will more enjoyable to limit yourself to two destinations.

    One plan: arrive Rome, continue on to Sorrento. Spend four nights (really only three days) and do day trips to Amalfi, Positano, perhaps Capri. Then take the train to Florence (another long travel day) and spend 3 nights there, then to Rome for the last 2 days/nights.

    Other option: arrive Rome, continue on to Sorrento. Same as above. Then go to Rome and spend 5 nights there but do a day trip to Orvieto. Technically not Tuscany but you'll get the idea. And you'll only need two hotels and spend less time on trains.

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    At this point, dealing with details like hotels would bog you down in your planning. What would be useful at this point is the sense of the scope of what you can do within your constraints.

    First set up DAILY Kayak fare alert to/from FCO, to/from NAP, to/from FLR, and to/from VCE. Why Venice? The fare alert gives you empirical history of the best fare trend over time. So when it comes time to decide which flight to take, you already have history of the price trend to see if the price you are looking on that day is one the lower or higher side of fluctuations. Add VCE in case you change your mind later on to go to Venice instead. It costs nothing to you to add one more fare alert. The fare alert CANNOT do multi-city trip. But the multi-city price is somewhere around roundtrip to either city.

    Examine the flights to see when you can arrive and leave from various airports. If your arrival is early, you have more time you can play with such as moving immediately to Sorrento or Florence upon arrival. Which routes pose layover risks.

    There are the background info you need eventually. They give you what city combinations you can use as the starting and ending points. This will help you integrate the air part of trip to the ground part later on.

    While many people insist on staying in Rome upon landing, traveling straight to the first destination saves time and money if you land in Rome in the morning. Just do a simple computation if you are not convinced. If you can eliminate one round trip from the train station/airport to hotel then checkin/out, how much time can you recover? Also if you arrive early in a city, what are you going to do until you can check in? Would you rather have traveled onto your first destination at which time you can check into your hotel upon getting off a train?

    Write up several different options like suggested by Isabel without being bogged down with details. Compare different options to see what you can do with each, what they cost, and what are the cons. In the end, the itinerary choice comes down to choosing one combination of destinations over another. By having specific options to compare, your simplify your research since your will be looking for specific info. This is when you dig into details.

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