1st Italy Trip for Family w/Teens

Jul 7th, 2006, 04:53 PM
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1st Italy Trip for Family w/Teens

We are in early stages of planning our 1st trip to Italy with 2 adults, 2 kids 16 & 13. Unfortunately (i guess), it will be peak & HOT season. Late July/early Aug '07. Is it possible to squeeze in the following or is it just pushing it too much with the kids & all....We do not want to ruin the trip by trying to see too much..but of course, we want to see it all...Hey, its taken me 41 years to get there...not sure when the next visit will be...

Can we fit this into a 2+ week trip? (16-18 day trip including travel from East Coast of US):
Amalfi Coast (not sure where; Positano?)
+1 night in Capri?
Any suggestions to leave off an area due to heat & crowds?

Please suggest where to fly in/out & sequence of visits to places you think we can fit in at a reasonable pace...thanks. Also, how soon can I book rooms....1 year? It seems difficult to find Quad occupancy at some hotels, is this the case?
tinamidon is offline  
Jul 7th, 2006, 05:11 PM
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I think what makes most sense is to fly into Rome - which you can usualy do directly - reducing the chance of lost luggage, long delays etc. Then head south to Amalfi Coast, finally north to Florence and Venice (fly back from there - may have to make a stop).

Hard to tell you how to divide the days without knowing more about your interests. Florence will probably be the hottest. What we would do is rent a car on leaving Rome and drop it on arriving in Venice. Stay in Sorrento so you can do Pompeii and Naples museum easily, spend a day seeing towns on Amalfi drive, day trip to Capri (yes it is much different at night - but you have so few days I wouldn't add another hotel check in and out). Drive to Florence seeing one town on the way (Siena?). Spend one or two days in Florence - if two one is a day trip to Pisa or San Gim or wherever.

Your big issue is how many days Rome vs Venice (I prefer Rome - but I'm history mad and love big cities). Venice is more different, much smaller and historay/art is more midievel/ Renaissance than ancient.

Train is another option. For 4 people - and assuming you want to do some smaller towns to and from Florence and drive the Amalfi drive a car is better. Otherwise the best transit on the Amalfi coast is boat. Do not even consider getting on a bus in August.
nytraveler is offline  
Jul 7th, 2006, 05:16 PM
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Peak season...Italy will be overrun with tourists, expecially Venice, Florence and Rome. From what I've gathered, Venice will be packed, so I would suggest a few days spent there, since you will spend lots of time trying to get into the museums, cathedrals, and other major sites. Visit for a couple of nights and concentrate on the major sights...San Marco cathedral, the bell tower, the palace, the bridges, gondolas...instead of queing for hours in several places.

Rome will also be packed, but it is a huge city, so it will feel less crowded than the smaller cities. I would spend the majority of the trip here, as there is so much to see and do. You CAN'T miss Florence, though. It's only a couple of hours from Rome in train, and is equally as attractive, though much smaller. I would suggest 4 nights in Florence and a day or two exploring the Tuscan countryside and a couple of towns.

2-3 nights Venice
5 nights Florence & Tuscany
9 nights Rome

Try to make it an 18 day-trip, longer if possible. You've waited this long...why not add one or two days?
frrodriguez78 is offline  
Jul 7th, 2006, 07:18 PM
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The heat and crowds are really working you against you that time of year, so assuming these are the Italian places you really want to see (rather than go to less famous places), here is my advice:

Fly to Naples if you can and head immediately to Capri, and stay there for a few nights, making a day trip to the Amalfi coast if you feel like it. My reasons for suggesting this are that August 1 is the beginning of the European holiday season, and there will be a stampede to the coast. Since you can beat them by a week, do it. Also, you don't want to drive on the Amalfi coast in summer. The only road turns into a parking lot. Better to go to Capri and take a daytrip by ferry to Positano, rather than the other way around.

So when you are through with Capri, you go to Rome. Make sure you have air con! From there, go to Firenze, and if you can afford it, try accommodations with a pool. Air con for sure.


I am tempted to say that you might think about staying in Siena rather than Firenze, maybe especially if you can find a nice place with a restaurant just right outside the city walls with a pool. You could use this as a base to see Siena, and take day trips in Firenze -- which will be mobbed -- and then get a swim at the end of the day or in the evening. It might be a wee bit less crowded than Firenze and place where you'd feel comfortable giving the kids some independence. Consider Hotel Il Giardino. I have never stayed there, but it might work for you unless you feel you really don't want to daytrip in Firenze by immerse yourselves in it.

You might also consider Fiesole, for the same reasons Siena might work for you.

Finally, Venice can be relaxing despite being crowded, and your kids will probably enjoy the freedom (it's an incredibly safe place) and relief from museums!

My overall advice is: Try to avoid waiting in lines anywhere. Make reservations where you can if you are intent on seeing famous sites or entering famous museums.

It's never too early to make hotel reservations in Italy. They can be cancelled if you change your mind.

Just some thoughts.
nessundorma is offline  
Jul 8th, 2006, 03:38 AM
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We are also going to Italy this year with two teens 15 & 13. One thing for sure your going to have a hard time finding accomodtions at this stage of the game for four in a single room.
I would personally include Cinq Terra on your route and stay outside of Florence so would experience Tuscany. I would personally stay 4 nights in Rome 3 nights in Tuscany another 2 nights in Cinq Terra and three more nights in Venice. You could fly into Rome and after the 3rd night rent a car to go to Pompeii return to Rome for another night. Than make your way up North thru Tuscany and Cinq Terra. If you have some extra nights I would stop at one of the Lakes either Lake Como or Lake Garda for a couple of nights or may want to stop in Milano instead. Whatever you do make sure you find places that have A/C and or a swimming pool.

Good Luck

tcmazz1 is offline  
Jul 8th, 2006, 05:49 AM
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dear Tinamidon,

My family just got back from a 2 week trip to Italy, my kids are 12 and 17. Here's my reaction to your question.

Italy is fabulous, and of course you want to see it all. Having said that, if your family is anything like mine, their reaction to (and enthusiasm for) the 10th museum/palace/view will be a lot different than the first. We started in Rome...and Rome is amazing, and we managed to see many of the places I had planned for us to see because energy levels were high despite the heat. They were glad to have seen the Vatican, the Colisseum, beautiful monuments, etc. But if Rome had come last during our twoweek itinerary instead of first, I know that the enthusiasm for some of these amazing places would have been much diminished.

And it is hot. If I asked my family what their favorite place we stayed was, it may well be the one place that had a pool. (Borgo Grondaie, outside Siena). That was a welcome oasis after a day of touring. Besides loving Siena, we loved touring in Tuscany a bit, visiting a small winery, a castle
and smaller towns , just because they are beautiful and the pace is slower. But my feeling is, if your kids want to check their email in an internet cafe instead of seeing the church in San Gimignano (as my DD did), don't sweat it...your kids are absorbing their surroundings and don't need to see every church!

Of course, like you I planned and planned, and made reservations for everything ahead...but when the day came in Venice to take the Doges Palace tour and see St. Marks Church (day 11 of our trip),they ditched me (reservations or not!) and all went to the Lido for the day....and had a great time!!! (I went on the tours as planned and enjoyed them, but know they wouldn't have -- too hot, too many people). So if you can plan some beach time, they will probably enjoy that a lot.

Venice is beautiful... but I personally hated the crowded area of stores surrounding San Marco square. On the other hand, my son and daughter did enjoy shopping a bit.
I loved just walking around Venice
and getting lost in some of quieter neighborhoods, where every view is amazing. I couldn't get enough of any place I visited, and walked and walked. My family, on the other hand, preferred to rest in the hot part of the day (say, after lunch, to around 5) and then venture out again. We saw different things, but we all enjoyed it in our own way.

Some of the most memorable things we
did and saw aren't mentioned in any guidebook...sometimes just the experience of going to a supermarket, or walking in some local neighborhood, is more memorable than the most exalted museum. I think you have to be flexible with your daily itinerary, and be able to not see some of the things written up in the guidebooks, in favor of just wandering, relaxing and soaking up the feeling of being there.

I think my least favorite thing was staying in Florence, despite the wealth of Rennaisancetreasures they have there. Too many people, stores, and nothing that feels "authentic". My favorite thing we did in Florence was something that is talked about on this website...taking the #7 bus up to Fiesole in the early evening, to enjoy an amazing view of the city and enjoy a laid back drink at the Blu Bar and just absorb the magic of the surroundings. My least favorite thing was the Uffizi...yes the Botticellis and other works of art were beautiful, but even at 4pm it was hot and crowded. To me, the Pitti Palace is much more amazing and beautiful. Maybe if I were to change anything, I would have taken the advice given here and stay outside Florence and do day trips in to see what you want to see.

So...go, enjoy, pace yourself, schedule as much downtime as sightseeing

and dont try to see everything

ronnie56 is offline  
Jul 8th, 2006, 06:21 AM
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(cont'd from last thread)

and above all, eat lots of GELATO!

ronnie56 is offline  
Jul 8th, 2006, 07:11 AM
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I forgot to address your question of accomodations...

We stayed in quad rooms every nightexcept for one, (For one night in Siena we splurged for two double rooms -- a welcome change!) My budget was to spend less than 300 E per night for the four of us, and we stayed within that except for the one night splurge in Siena. I am glad we stayed under our budget for hotels, because I spent much more on food in Italy than I thought I would...food can be expensive there for a family of 4 eating out all the time!

In Rome, we stayed in the Piazza Navonna area, which I loved, and the small little place we stayed at worked fine for us, but it turned out to be the smallest of all the quads we stayed. We didn't have much extra space there...on the other hand, it was airconditioned, had a spacious and new
bathroom, and we spent the least amount of time in the room in Rome than any other place we stayed.
Name: Residenza canali ai coronari, $255E per night utilizing the 10% discount they give you for paying in cash. good location for walking to everything (near Pantheon, centro storico district, campo fiori, castle sant'angelo, even the Vtican, although we used taxis occasionally to save our feet!) We were in room # 4, but Imust say that I thought it had a slight musty smell, which no one else in my family objected to.

Siena: Palazzo Ravizza, two double rooms. (Room #4 for hubby and I, complete with balcony overlooking the garden and surrounding hillside. What can I say -- absolutely gorgeous, and I loved it. For me, the $400E we spent for that one night ($220E our room, $180E for kids) was absolutely worth it.

Siena (just outside: we used this as a base for touring the surrounding area in Tuscany): Hotel Borgo Grondaie. We loved the place -- the pool, AC, the spacious 2 bedroom suite complete with kitchenette and sitting area, the private little patio where we sat outside the room enjoying wine and local goodies that we bought each day. We had apartment # 11-12. And the people there couldn't have been nicer...one of them even offered to drive us into Siena after she got off work, so we didn't have to take a bus or a cab...just really nice people. And I also appreciated the use of the complementary laundry facilities there,so I could do two loads of laundry mid trip, no charge, while family was at the pool(260E per night, but breakfast was extra).

Florence: Hotel Relais Uffizi, $300E per night. We had a spacious suite, lots of room for four people, AC, big bathroom , and a loft sleeping area
which my kids loved, room # B/11)
and it is centrally located right on the Piazza Signoria)--nice people,
but I wouldn't personally want to stay in Florence again.

Venice: Hotel Antico Doge, also a very spacious quad room (room # 106)
loft area, AC, huge and new bathroom, and nice location just on the southern part of Cannaregio, a few minutes walk from Rialto bridge and San Marco square). $225E with the 10% discount they offer if you pay cash). I liked the area, felt it was convenient and a little off the beaten track.

Also I know some people rent apartments, which may be a good option
for a family, and I might look into it
if I ever go back...but I didn't have the confidence to do that for my first trip.

Hope this helps.

ronnie56 is offline  
Jul 8th, 2006, 07:26 AM
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I would say with that much time (preferably the 18) you would not be fitting too much in. I would agree with others about maybe fitting some time into the countryside, as you may want to slow down the pace a bit and not spend so much time in crowded cities.

Here are the links to two of my trip reports, you may find them helpful. The first one is from March 2005 when we did Rome, Venice and Florence in two weeks with our two kids. http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34599242

We just returned last week from 3 weeks in Italy (Piedmont, Ligurian Coast, Tuscany and Rome). http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34830020. The trip report is not completely done, but I'm working on it.

The only place we have stayed in a quad is in Rome at the Albergo Cesari. They just closed the day we left Rome for some major rennovations but plan to be open by Nov. 2006 so next summer should be safe. It is a nice big room and an excellent location. We have now stayed there twice. You might want to consider two rooms - particularly with teens as having two bathrooms is a real plus. If places are willing to take reservations now, I wouldn't hesitate to start making them, often they will give you the 2006 rate if you make them early.

jgg is offline  
Jul 8th, 2006, 03:43 PM
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I really appreciate all of the input. What do you think about trying to avoid the crowds since it is such a crowded and hot time of year?(July/Aug) Would it make sense to choose a few less popular areas? Would we still get a true "feel" for Italy? Honestly, we are not big on museums; more into dining, seaside views, unique architecture, beautiful scenery & seeing how people live in Italy. We enjoy good food and wine. Local music. We do not want to feel like we are at Epcot fighting the crowds in the "Italy" section. Maybe we would just be causing ourselves stress by trying to visit all the classic tourist spots...thoughts? I would still plan to get into say Rome & see at least a few highlights and maybe save the rest for another visit off-season. Bottom line, if you were to plan a trip for a 1st time visitor to Italy and it had to be in July/Aug, where would you send them for 2 weeks?
tinamidon is offline  
Jul 8th, 2006, 07:49 PM
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I think it's fantastic that you would consider going to less "famous" places -- although once you get into Italy, some of those less famous places are incredibly historic.

Since you want to go to Rome, begin in Rome. The city is ALWAYS crowded -- and has been for centuries -- but it handles the crowds much better. Get a nice hotel with air conditioning and spend about 5 nights in Rome. Then I would suggest renting a car and traveling north toward Tuscany, but instead of going to the most touristed places, try zigzagging between the beaches and some incredible hilltowns. For beaches I would suggest Porto Ercole and Ansedonia, and you might even consider taking a boat to the island of Guiglio or Elba. For historic towns, I suggest Pitigliano, Massa Maritimma, Viterbo.

If you get a good book on the Maremma or Tuscany, it will show these places.

You could work you way up to say, Pisa and finish up in Firenze or Fiesole. It will be broiling hot and crowded, but if you get a hotel with a pool and only spend a few nights there, it might make for an exciting finish to your trip.

And you will have seen a lot of gorgeous countryside and met a lot of wonderful Italians. And eaten fantastic food.

If you wanted to, you could rent a small house or stay at an agriturismo in southern Tuscany and it would be even more relaxing. On days you didn't want to be a toursist, you could just laze by the pool. If you stay in the Grosetto area, you can get to the beaches and take boats to the islands. And you can still drive to historic hilltowns -- some of which other tourists seldom go to but which are quite amazing.

just some thoughts
nessundorma is offline  
Jul 8th, 2006, 07:54 PM
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Actually, this article is a pretty good guide to some towns to consider:

nessundorma is offline  
Jul 9th, 2006, 05:56 AM
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And one other thought:

You might investigate going first to Rome and then south to Salerno, and using Salerno as a base to visit Pompeii, some of the Amalfi and perhaps Capri (I'm not sure the ferries run there from Amalfi), as well as lesser known but still very beautiful beach locations and towns in that area.
nessundorma is offline  
Jul 9th, 2006, 05:43 PM
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We just returned from a two week trip to Italy with our three kids (20, 17 and 13) and we have the time of our lives. You can definitely see all of the things on your list. Just pace yourselves.

In planning our itinerary, I took into account that we wanted it to be fun and relaxing and like a "vacation" as much as an educational trip. Since two week of non-stop cities in the U.S. wouldn't be my thing, we decided not to just stay at the major cities in Italy (Florence, Venice, Rome) but to break it up in a more family-friendly way. Here is our itinerary. It worked for us..

3 nights Rome--first day was arrival day, second we had a private guide who took us around in an air-conditioned van. I highly recommend this as we covered so much more than if we had done it ourselves. Third day we did catacombs, revisited colosseum and forum, did Mamertime Prison, etc.

3 nights Sorrento...I chose this location because I wanted a nice seacoast "vacationy" feeling town where we could do some swimming. Sorrento was the town I selected because you could reach it by the commuter train from Naples (took train from rome to naples first) In hindsight I would NEVER take that train again....it was not-airconditioned and was "pass out" hot and standing room only for most of the way. We should have hired a driver to take us directly to Sorrento from Naples to skip that train. I would definitely consider Positano next time, but thought it would be too remote to use as a home base for sightseeing. Our intent was to have one day in sorrento just for relaxing, but it took longer to get there than I thought..we didn't arrive til about 3 or 4 in the afternoon. Then we had one day for a day trip to Capri (ferry leaves from downtown Sorrento) and one day for a daytrip to Pompeei (highly recommended! Hot but there WAS a breeze!)

Four nights Tuscany....we rented a car and drove, which again took longer than we thought...we left at about 10;30 in the morning and didn't arrive til 5:30 (we got lost once but you might too!) Then we had three nights to explore tuscany...one day to Pisa and then back to the hotel for swimming, one day to several Tuscany towns (San Gimignano, Monterriggioni), and one day trip into Florence. Many people stay in Florence and do a day trip to the Tuscany countryside but we preferred to do it the opposite way . I didn't love Florence, and maybae it was because it was just too rushed to do it in a day...temp was about 100 also that day..the hottest day of our trip. We stayed in a little "villa" on the Antinori wine estate in Montefiridolfi, about 1/2 hour south of Florence, and it was very nice to return the countryside and swim at the end of each ay.

Then 3 nights in Venice...took the train from Florence to Venice so arrived mid-afternoon. We loved Venice, it was our favorite. Like out of a fairytale. Lots of little shops...don't know if you have boys or girls but our two teenage daughters were in heaven looking for inexpensive items to bring back to their friends. My son and hubby thought two to three days in Venice was enough but I could have stayed longer!

My advice to you is that, since yes it WILL be hot, to pace yourselves, consider any day you travel to a new destination a "lost day"...at first I thought about doing Pompeei on the way from Rome to Sorrento, since you go right by it, but then I worried about the hassle of where would we put our luggage, that it wouldn't be afternoon til we got there, etc, and we decided to do Pompeii as a separate day. Such a good decision as the traveling really takes a lot more time than you would expect. Also, we got into a routine of touring most days til mid-afternoon, then going back to the hotel and just relaxing...showering and just reading,napping, etc. in the cities of Rome and Venice, and swimming/sitting by the pool and then showering in Sorrento and Tuscany. Your feet will hurt more than you can imagine from all the walking, and allowing for a break is a real necessity. Then we would head out again for dinner at around 7:30, which was early by italian standards but we were hungry, we wanted to have time to stroll around after dinner (ate gelato by the fountains in Rome every night, took a gondola ride and had a bottle of wine in ST. Mark's Squre in Venice, etc.) PLUS we wanted to be up early the next morning. Most days our kids would fall asleep sometime during this "siesta" time (and they are NOT nappers at home!) but the pace and the heat really wear you down. The good news is that it DOES cool down in the evening, so walking around after dinner is a joy.We also walked with water bottles CONSTANTLY.

One year is not too far in advance too book. I don't know about quad rooms...since we had five people we had two rooms everywhere (in Tuscany we had that "villa" which was two bedroom/two bath, plus a living room and a kitchen..nice so we could cook in one night) I would start booking now if you want a quad room since I'm sure they are limited.

I think your itinerary is very doable. Florence usually seems to be the hottest city in Italy. There is always a breeze down at the Amalfi coast. Just be sure you book air-conditioned hotels because you will need it!
LH is offline  
Jul 9th, 2006, 06:33 PM
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I like the idea of a "lost day." Perfect with kids and heat.

Stay in as many places with pools as possible.

I too think you ought to stay outside of Florence. I love Florence, but hot and crowded isn't the best way to see it.

You can always day trip in, in the afternoon, for sight seeing, passegiata, gelato, dinner and more strolling. Late afternoon and evening are excellent.
tuscanlifeedit is offline  
Jul 10th, 2006, 07:52 AM
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If you click on my screeen name and go back to mid-June, you can find my trip report from our recent trip to Rome, Florence and Venice with kids ages 15, 13 and 10.

We stayed 6 nights in Rome, 3 in Florence and 3 in Venice. I could have used 2 more nights in Florence (we went to Pisa from Florence one morning.)

If I were you, I'd look for an apartment. In Rome, we stayed in a flat just off off the Campo dei Fiori. Excellent location. (VRBO # 21717). In Florence, the Florence Ciompi Apartments; and in Venice, the Residence Corte Grimini. I would recommend all of them.

The air conditioned apartments book VERY early.

If you study these boards, you will figure out what can be booked in advance and you will be a hero to your family when you don't have to stand in line. (For example, you can reserve a time to enter St. Mark's in Venice. It's totally free and you just show your email confirmation at the door and you get right in. The only place I heard about that was on this board.)

Book the Uffizi in Florence sooner than you think you need to. There was only one day that we could tour the Uffizi and we called 2 months in advance and only 4 pm was available. It turned out to be plenty of time, but I was surprised that it booked so quickly.

Pay attention to what the guide books say are the least crowded times. Rick Steves' book said that if you go to the campinele (sp) in San Marco at 6 pm, there will not be a line. Sure enough, we went at 6 pm, and no line!

We started in Rome, then went to Florence, then Venice. I thought that was a great way to do it. Rome is so hectic, Florence less so, Venice less so. Even at its middle of the day crowded, if you go a couple of blocks off the main tourist paths in Venice, you have the street to yourself.

Start reading "The Agony and the Ecstasy" now. It has almost 800 pages, but you have time for at least you, your spouse and the 16 year old to get through it. It will make your visit to Rome and Florence so much more meaningful.

Also, if you like to visit churches, the book "The Geometry of Love" by Margaret Visser is FANTASTIC. (Easy to find on-line.)

We bought the Rick Steves books for Rome, Florence and Venice and enjoyed his walking tours of the musuems and churches. He hits the high points, and injects enough humor to keep everyone interested.

Don't miss the Borghese in Rome. Even if you kids may think they don't like sculpture, they'll love the Borghese.

Have a great trip!
missypie is offline  
Jul 10th, 2006, 08:16 AM
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tinamidon - here are more ideas concerning a family trip to Italy in summer based on our trip last year in late June:

MRand is offline  
Jul 11th, 2006, 05:21 PM
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I wanted to suggest some walking tours through Rome. You can find them online. They are given by English speaking adults who can be quite informative. We took two different tours, one that took us through ancient Rome and one that toured around the Vatican. I think that they're a good value. We were able to set them up and prepay for them ahead of our visit. We only spent three nights in Rome. We were able to see most of the hightlights in that short of time, especially with the organized tours. We were there the weekend before Easter and I didn't think that it was too crowed to be able to enjoy the city.
nminarcik is offline  
Jul 13th, 2006, 04:03 PM
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My family--two 40 somethings and a 14 & 17 year old--visited Naples this past June. My advice is to take the (short)guided tour route for historical landmarks such as Pompeii and to allow a good deal of "down time" to enjoy swimming and pizza and gelato eating. My kids enjoyed The hydrofoil ride to Capri and the climb up Mt. Vesuvius the most! Hang loose, don't overschedule,
have fun and travel light
wordteacher is offline  
Jul 13th, 2006, 04:23 PM
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I have went to Italy with my girlfriend three years ago, then followed it up with a trip with my family the next summer - my daughters were 16 and 13 as well.

When I went with my friend we stayed 14 days in early August. We landed in Rome and used it as a base, taking trips to florence, venice, pisa.

When I went back a year later with the family we stayed 6 days mid July. We landed in Rome stayed for two nights, day trip to Pompeii, took the train to florence, 1 night, Pisa day trip, then ended up in Venice 2 nights and took the train back to Rome for our flight to Greece.

I found that Rome was empty in August and we were able to see the city without the tourists, but in July it was jam packed. Florence, Pisa, and Venice were packed both August and July.

Travelling with the trains is fantastic. Upgrade to first class so you can guarantee your seat, it is worth the extra few dollars.

The one thing I did like was with my friend we booked a the hotel panorama on Venice Lido instead of staying in Venice. It was a short boat ride and also gave us the opportunity to visit the beach. the room with cheaper and bigger than the ones in Venice.

Your trip will be 16 to 18 days and you can do the same sequence but at a much slower pace.

Just a note; if you plan on going up the leaning tower of pisa, book your tickets on line as there will be a very long wait if you try to do it there. Also, you can book tickets to see the statue of David at the accademia, I waited with my teenagers over two hours on a very hot day, they were not happy.

Alitalia can also fly into Rome and you can make your way up to Venice and fly out of Milan.

Good luck,

sphe is offline  

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