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Italy Itinerary Help - 4 weeks, 2 kids & my mother

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Hello,

I'm going to be in Italy for 4 weeks in August with my husband and 2 children, ages 7 & 9. We'll be driving in from the South of France (having spent 4 weeks in France). We'll fly out of Rome.

For background, in terms of car rental, our original thought was to do a long term lease with buy back, picking the car up in Avignon and dropping it off in Rome (Rome and Milan are the only drop off options in Italy and we don't plan to go to Milan). I originally thought we would have the car for 7 weeks, as we don't need it our first week in France, which will be spend in Paris.

I'll call this Plan A. My original dream itinerary, before really doing any research, was to spend a week in the Tuscan countryside, perhaps Lucca, split a week between Venice and Florence, do a week on the Amalfi Coast or Capri and then finish in Rome before we fly out. I was trying to keep all our moves to one-week periods of time because we'll largely be renting houses or apartments and I thought that the rentals in Lucca and the Amalfi Coast would have 7 night minimums.

When I mapped the drive from either Venice or Florence (I thought I would leave the car outside of one of these cities, probably Florence, and take the train between the 2) to the Amalfi Coast, I realized it is just too far to drive. I know that there are cheap flights between Venice, for instance, and Naples, but we would have to get rid of the car before that.

I think I've realized if I get rid of the car before Florence & Venice, I can do a regular car rental for 4 or 5 weeks (not the buy back program) and it is cheaper than the long term lease for 7 weeks. Would I need a car on the Amalfi Coast for any reason? I've seen that question asked before with varying answers. I'm happy to take ferries/hydrofoils/trains if that's easier. And yes, I am afraid of heights and having buses barrelling at me on a narrow road! I know I don't want it in Rome, Florence or Venice (obviously).

Plan B & C would include cutting out the Amalfi Coast out just because it's geographically not as convenient as the other locations. I'd be a little sad about this. It's just someplace that I've always wanted to see. It is so breathtakingly beautiful and unlike anything we're likely to see anywhere else.

Plan B could be 2 weeks in the Tuscan countryside and then split 2 weeks between Florence, Venice & Rome. If we do this, I wonder how much time we will need in Florence if we've already had so much time in the countryside. We could easily do day trips into Florence from our base in Lucca. On the other hand I don't think I want a full week in Venice and a full week in Rome. I know there is more than enough to see in these cities to fill a week, but I think in August, if it's hot, we might be more comfortable in the countryside. Plan B with 2 weeks in the country would be nice because it would give us much more time to feel settled in a place, but I wonder if 2 weeks in Lucca is too much time.

Plan C could be 1 week in the Tuscan countryside and then 1 week at Lake Garda and then the 2 weeks split between Venice, Rome & Florence. We'll have 2 weeks on the coast in France, so having some time on a lake could be a nice change of pace.

The other thing I'm trying to figure out is that I'm flying my mother in and want to get her a direct flight from JFK. It looks like that means flying into Venice or Rome based on the airline I ahve miles with. I want her to be there for the last 2-2 1/2 weeks of our trip. I'm thinking flying into Venice makes most sense, so I need to be sure we're in Venice about a week and half to 2 weeks into our 4 weeks.

I know you'll want to know what I'm interested in and what I want to see. I am so envious of people who can easily put that into words. I don't want to overload my children with Roman ruins, museums and churches though those are definitely on the list. I can't say we're into hiking. If it were me and my husband travelling alone, we would spend time in museums, see 1 or 2 churches, and just spend time walking around, shopping and eating. I just want my kids to soak it all up and see that there's a different rhythm and a different way to live. In that way, I almost don't think it matters where we are. I'm sure different regions of Italy have different "flavors" and I'm happy to have the children compare and contrast how the cities are different from the countryside and the north is different from the south.

Does anyone have any suggestions or opinions for me? I'm open to anything you have to tell me! I know I've been vague about what we're hoping to see. I just don't know how to articulate it any better. I know I have more research to do on my end, but I'm feeling a time crunch because I want to book my mothers plane ticket and I thought you all might be able to help me get my thoughts together.

Thanks in advance for your help.

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    oh cboris - so many possibilities!

    let's start with your first point - driving from France into Italy and leaving the car somewhere in Italy. you might be able to do that without penalty if you lease, but with a normal rental you will pay possibly ruinous one-way drop-off fees. so you need to avoid this if possible.

    the next point is that you need to get your mother to you either in Rome or venice, and you are flying out of Rome, so you need to be in Venice for the 2nd week of your stay in Italy.

    the third point you can't do much about is that you are travelling in August - when things could be very hot, and cities may be crowded. and you will undoubtedly want A/C in both accommodation and vehicles.

    putting all this together, I would get a train from the south of France to a nice resort on the italian riviera and spend a week or so on the beach. alternatively if you've just been on the beach in France, then spend a week on one of the italian lakes, or up in one of the national parks of Italy in the north. you may or may not need a car for this bit, but if you do, you'll need to get the train into Italy and hire it there.

    from there I would go to Venice [preferably arriving by train, but you could drive and return the car at the Piazzale Roma] and rent an apartment for a week - your mother will be arriving during this week.

    Then, I would either get the train to the amalfi and rent an apartment or stay in a hotel for a week, OR, rent a car and drive to an agriturismo in Tuscany or Umbria, preferably with a swimming pool.

    Finally, return your car at somewhere suitable [Orvieto is very popular for this] then get the train to Rome and finish your trip.

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    First of all, if dropping the Costiera Amalfitana would make you sad, don't drop it - you don't go on a beautiful long vacation like this one to end up with the feeling of having missed out on something you always wanted to see! So stick to Plan A.

    Two, since you are traveling in August, avoid anything that faintly resembles a beach. This applies not to the Amalfi Coast (which is all cliffs, no beaches to write home about), but to the Riviera and to Lake Garda. Everything is going to be tightly packed on any beach in August, with Italians, but on Lake Garda also with Germans and Austrians - definitely the opposite of a pleasant holiday.

    Three, I wanted to question your staying in Lucca... don't get me wrong, I like Lucca very much, but you're labeling it "Tuscan countryside", so I worry you might end up being disappointed - cause Tuscan countryside it's not! Lucca was not a part of Tuscany, historically, and the difference can be felt immediately (speaking of different flavours of different Italian regions!). Lucca has a flavour of its own, and it doesn't remind me of Tuscany anyhow. And if by "Tuscan countryside" you mean the well-known calendar photos of cypress trees and vineyards, then again, you'll be very disappointed by Lucca and the region around it - for that, you have to go to south-eastern Tuscany, i.e. Siena and south of it. If you're instead aware of what to expect in Lucca, then I encourage you to stay there, it's an elegant and pleasant town with some top sights.

    As far as logistics, it would help if you could fly out of Venice instead of Rome. In this case, you could do rural Tuscany, Florence, Costiera Amalfitana, Rome (in this order), drop your car in Rome, go to Venice by train or even by plane if you find a cheap flight, leave from Venice.

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    You can solve the drop off fees by getting two rentals, one for France and pick up a second car in Italy.

    Look at flight JFK/Pisa as there is usually a summer flight (Delta).

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    Thank you all! There are always things that seem so obvious once you point them out, and I can't believe I didn't think of them. My miles are on Delta and they said I can change the flights, which are already booked, without a change fee. So the ideas of flying out of Venice or even Pisa (didn't see that flight come up but it's worth looking into) are worth looking at.

    I did know about the extra fee to drop off in another country, but I forgot about it since I thought I was doing a long-term rental. I honestly don't think I need to car for that long, now that I think about it, so I will take your advice to do 2 separate rentals. I'm not even sure we need it the last week in France, since we'll be walking distance to the train station in Antibes.

    Regarding the August heat issue, you may think I'm being naive, but I don't think I would change the destinations I'd like to visit because of it. I'll definitely get cars, apartments and houses with air conditioning and hopefully have a pool or be near the beach when possible. I looked at the average highs and they seem fine to me. The highest temperatures recorded would obviously be uncbearable, and I know there are heat waves that kill people, but I guess I'm hoping for the best. We are a family that vacations in Hilton Head, South Carolina in August, where both the average highs and the highest temperatures recorded are higher than those in the places we're planning to visit. Of course in Hilton Head it is all beach time, and in Italy there will be more sightseeing, but I plan to be flexible enough that we can take it easy on the hotter days. Our children will not be able to go, go, go all day anyway, so if we can do our sightseeing in the morning when it may be cooler, hopefully we can find a place to cool off in the afternoon.

    We were in the South of France, which I realize is not quite as far south, in July a few years ago and never found it to be unbearable. In fact it was always very pleasant. The average highs and highest temps recorded are about the same as the places we are visiting in Italy. Is Italy much more humid than France? I'm wondering if it's humidity that makes it so bad. Unfortunately we are choosing to travel when our children are out of school, so August it is.

    On another note, I don't remember crowds in France in July though I suppose they must have been there. I think more people are on vacation in August, so I'm prepared for it being worse. I'm hoping I can ignore all the other tourists in Italy too!

    Franco, thank you very much for your information about Lucca! Again, I wish I could articulate the way others do why I've made the choices I have. I had never heard of Lucca before a few months ago and since then it has come up again and again, once in a novel I was reading, then I found out that a friend stayed outside the city with children a few years ago and loved it, then I found out that an artist I like has a gallery there! I heard it is lovely and has good rail connections and so all of those random things made me target it. I think I'll look at more pictures to make sure I know what I'm getting.

    Annhig, I like your suggestions, I'm going to map some things and look at train routes and whatnot and see what I can pull together. We will be coming from 2 weeks on the beach in France, (Paris and Saint-Remy before that) so that's why I was thinking we'd start in the country. I still wanted to be able to drive to the beach which was another alluring part of being in Lucca, but I felt like we should get off the beach and experience something different. I think Lake Garda, while still beachy, could be a very different vibe. We've never vacationed on a lake, and the kids would love Gardaland, I'm sure.

    This is so exciting! Thank you all for your suggestions!!

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