3 precious weeks in Italy (first time)


Aug 2nd, 2014, 07:20 PM
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3 precious weeks in Italy (first time)


I have 3 very precious weeks in Italy. It is my first time and I would love some guidance.
I fly to Rome 16/9/14 and I leave from Milan 6/10/14. I am travelling solo for this trip.

I am travelling mostly to find some heart and soul and because I have long dreamed of doing it in Italy. That said this has come about fairly "last minute" and I need some help.

My interests are in food, wine, beautiful landscapes, culture and the small details that make the difference. I'm also a newbie at photography so will look for those opportunities too. I want to spend as much time as I can in Florence and the Tuscan region but want to do Rome as a start and would love to spend a few days in Como, before heading to Milan at the end of my trip.

I have questions like where to stay in Rome and how long to spend there (3 days?), where to stay in Florence and then how to approach my trip into Tuscany. I plan to hire a car and see and do as much as possible without being frantic and missing the point.

I haven't booked anything yet, am starting that now.

Thank you
Perryn is offline  
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Aug 2nd, 2014, 08:02 PM
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Three weeks! I'm jealous! A good friend and I will leave in two weeks to spend just 10 days in Italy. Wish we had more time. We fly into Venice and out of Rome. We are trying the Hotel Pendini in Florence. Don't know if it would fit your needs.

We are staying near Rome airport, not spending time in the city at all this trip.

Photo ops abound in the Italian hilltop towns around Tuscany. I'm sure you'll take hundreds of pix.
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Aug 2nd, 2014, 09:10 PM
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YES! Thanks. I feel like a kid in a candy store! So many options, spinning out

I particularly want to see Rome and maybe even take day trip to Possitano in the Amalfi Coast, but it's the Tuscan region that really has my heart

Have a fantastic trip, thanks for reply and suggestions.
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Aug 2nd, 2014, 09:10 PM
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"Rome ... how long to spend there (3 days?)"' -- 3 days would, IMO, be a bare minimum for Rome. You might find that you want more like 5 or 6 days there.

"I plan to hire a car" -- That might not be necessary. You can visit a LOT using public transportation!

I recommend that you get some good guidebooks (or spend some time with a few in your local library), identify the things you most want to see in each location, note their opening/closing times, and mark them on a calendar. Then pencil in your transportation, including AT LEAST two or three hours on either side (for getting to/from train or bus stations or whatever, checking in/out, packing/unpacking, obtaining currency, and getting oriented). Then see how things fit together.

Given your interests, the Michelin Green Guide and Fodor's might be the best guide books to get you started.

And BTW, some of us so love traveling solo that we wouldn't considering traveling with anyone else! It's a great opportunity for self-indulgence.
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Aug 2nd, 2014, 09:17 PM
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We can give you more help if you tell us your hotel budget.

In Rome I would stay as central as possible because you only have 3 (maybe 4?) days and I would not relish commuting alone to a less convenient location, but that's me. Most people here recommend staying in the historic center of Rome, around the Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, and/or the Campo De Fiori.

simpsonc above chose the Hotel Pendini in Florence, which is a good central location. We recently stayed at Tourist House Ghiberti which I liked very much for comfort, but the location of the Pendini has a little more grand atmosphere. It's not a grand hotel by any means, but the approach through the Piazza Repubblica is cool. Although the Tourist House Ghiberti is on a more workaday block, it's very close to the Duomo.

These may not be your budget category, though.

How to approach your trip to Tuscany: either take the train to a place you would like to see and rent a car there in a smaller city, or take a taxi or bus to the airport in Florence and rent your car there. Much easier than driving out of Florence itself.

An option is to see Rome, train to Chiusi, rent a car, drive around your chosen part of Tuscany, the leave the car at Florence airport, bus or taxi into the city.

Another option is to train from Rome to Florence, then rent your car as I mention above, at the airport.

From Florence you can also train to Como, either the town of Como or to Varenna.

Since you have three weeks, I think you can stretch your time in Rome. Day trips from Rome and Florence are very easy by train and/or bus.
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Aug 2nd, 2014, 09:24 PM
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Love it, thank you!! Do you have any advice on best place/area to stay?

Great advice, and busy wading through Fedor's travelogue and tips on Rome and agree, 3 days will not be enough!

Tuscany next!!
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Aug 2nd, 2014, 09:33 PM
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Thank you tuscanlifeedit - my hotel budget is Euro 150 p/d +/-
I definitely want to stay central in Rome, it's just good to know what's best for budget, safety, cleanliness and convenience.

I love your idea of "Rome, train to Chiusi, rent a car, drive around your chosen part of Tuscany, the leave the car at Florence airport, bus or taxi into the city." - sounds very practical and relaxed and I really want to enjoy this time.

I agree, I'll stretch my time in Rome. Thank you.
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Aug 2nd, 2014, 10:27 PM
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You will have such a wonderful time! Three weeks - what a dream... My first visit to Italy was a solo trip as well - I was supposed to be there for 11 days, but Hurricane Sandy kept me there for an additional five (absolutely no one felt bad for me being "stranded" in Rome for 5 days).

If you're okay with lots of quiet and like drives in the countryside, I would suggest a stay on an agriturisimo while in Tuscany. I stayed at Fonte Bertusi, just outside of Pienza and it was really charming and lovely. The owners are such nice people. Here is their website - http://www.fontebertusi.it/en/

In Florence, I stayed at a quiet little B&B called Leonardo da Vinci B&B - the owner, Carla, has three rooms that she rents. It's close enough to be able to walk into the center of town, but far enough out that it's very quiet. Carla is the sweetest, kindest person - I had a little bit of a cough one night and she brought me some tea, honey and throat lozenges - it was just like being at home and having my own Momma take care of me! Her adult children, visit sometimes and are also really nice. Her website is here: http://www.bandbleonardodavinci.com/index.html but you can also check out this link to see more about it: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/57572

Have fun planning!
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Aug 3rd, 2014, 01:15 AM
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We spent a week in Tuscany over NYE and loved our stay here http://www.santantonio.it

It is 5 mins outside Montepulciano and a great base for Val d'Orcia. We are also photographers, you can see our pics here


Rome is an amazing city with so much to see! I am glad you are extending your stay. There are lovely photo ops there as well. We also spent a week there over NYE a few years ago, pics are here


If you want to see the last supper in Milano be sure you book your tickets ASAP!

Happy planning!
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Aug 3rd, 2014, 01:20 AM
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Thank you rosecity15 - awesome info.
Sounds like Sandy afforded you an unusual opportunity

I have been using HouseTrip and Airbnb which both offer great great deals on accommodations, especially doing a long trip where first class hotels get a bit steep. There are some lovely homes, great facilities, locations and with a charming and caring host, it can really add to your travel experience.

I'll be looking into your links in Tuscany.
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Aug 3rd, 2014, 01:38 AM
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In Rome, I would recommend staying in a neighborhood called Trastevere. It's a very colorful, charming, and welcoming area with a diverse mixture of students, locals, and tourists. It's right near the Tiber River which will bridge you to the more touristy spots like the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, etc. I loved Trastevere because it still had the extremely charming feel of Rome, but it was away from the crowded areas and many restaurants are less expensive than the ones in the center of the city. You also have convenience of public transportation, which can be really crowded, but easy to use.

Have u
I took two separate day trips to Tuscany/Florence and I felt I got the full experience of Tuscany. One was just for shopping, eating, and visiting the museums and the other one was for a wine tasting where we got to see the beautiful Tuscan countryside. It is extremely easy to get there from Rome by train. So I would have to agree with other posters saying to stay in Rome and make trips to Tuscany.

I didn't get a chance to visit Lake Como, but it looks stunning. I have to say that I spent a day in Milan and didn't really enjoy it as much as other Italian cities I have visited.

have a great time! You will love it. I miss Italy so much!
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Aug 3rd, 2014, 06:15 AM
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Three weeks in Italy - what a wonderful time you will have!

So glad you have decided to spend a bit more time in Rome. You may be jet lagged and want to take it easy your first day. Depending on how long you plan to stay in Tuscany, you may want to split your time in Tuscany between the north and south. Driving is, by far, the best way to see the countryside. Florence is an amazing city. I would spend at least 6 days there. We have spent over 30 days in 7 trips and have yet to see everything on our list.

You mentioned a day trip to Positano from Rome. This would be next to impossible and would leave you hardly any time to enjoy Positano. Save the Amalfi Coast for next time.

Have fun planning and have a great trip.
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Aug 3rd, 2014, 07:47 AM
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Not sure of your budget but we got so many great recommendations for Albergo del Senato in Rome, that we are booked there next May. It's right by the Pantheon.

Agree that you don't want to try to visit Positano as a day trip from Rome. Two that you could consider are Orvieto or Tivoli (Hadrian's villa and Villa d'Este). We spent 9 days in Rome and didn't see it all....smart to spend more time there!
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Aug 3rd, 2014, 09:13 AM
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When I stumbled upon your post, I was pleasantly surprised, and had to chuckle even. ... I am doing the exact same trip! .. first time to Italy, same time, same areas, same duration. Although I just recently had to cut it short by a few days, I will still have 18-19 days in glorious Tuscany, Rome, Cinque Terre (Pisa/Lucca), Florence, etc. It will be plenty of time to get a good start on the first of my annual trips to my family's beloved country. I would love to chat if you're open to it. Not sure how to do that other than via email (?) Email is just so cumbersome and time consuming when dealing with so much information… However, I just realized that you're in Europe which makes email, or this forum, the simplest probably.

I have been working on my trip for several weeks and have done some considerable research. I've also gotten some fabulous input from friends who have been there many, many times. Like you, I still have many unanswered questions, and still working out some details. So many choices!!!

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Aug 3rd, 2014, 09:31 AM
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If you are landing in Rome I would plan on 5 nights there - that will give you 4 days there plus some jet-lagged walking around time the first day. Then hop a train to Florence to spend 2 or 3 nights there.

Then it makes sense to pick up a car to see several of the towns in Tuscany (use a detailed guidebook to determine which you will enjoy most - and decide if you want to spend a full day in some towns or visit 2 towns).

I would also keep the car through the visit to Como and drop it off in Milan - possibly at the airport the day before you depart.
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Aug 3rd, 2014, 09:33 AM
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I have only a small idea to contribute... I would put more time in Rome. since it is your first stop, with a generous three weeks to work with, and especially if you are coming from overseas off a long flight w/jet lag. I'd give Rome 5 days minimum to get your feet on the ground in Italy.
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Aug 3rd, 2014, 09:56 AM
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If you plan to pick up your car in Orvieto or Chiusi, you will need to be able to drive a manual shift car. It's unlikely they will have any automatics. If you need an automatic, you probably will need to pick up at Florence airport. You need an IDP to drive in Italy (available from AAA and you don't have to be a member).

When traveling alone, I prefer staying in small towns in Tuscany rather than out in the countryside. I like being able to walk around the town at night and select somewhere to eat. I like having some wine with dinner and being able to walk back to my hotel/B&B.
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Aug 3rd, 2014, 11:20 AM
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This may help for Tuscany http://www.slowtrav.com/italy/tuscany/hs_planning.htm
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Aug 3rd, 2014, 01:38 PM
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Another suggestion of staying at Fonte Bertusi, located just outside of Pienza and IMO, in the most beautiful area of the Tuscan countryside. It's also a very central location for exploring. The owner of Fonte Bertusi is a professional photographer and contributes to the lovely tourist information booklets for the area. So, he has great advice and suggestions for photographs.
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Aug 3rd, 2014, 01:44 PM
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Since you said you are interested in food (really, who isn't though I suggest looking into walking food tours or cooking classes. When I went to Paris solo a couple times, I booked a couple classes and walking tours and it was a fun way to meet people who enjoyed the same things I did.

I'm jealous of your 3 weeks! I have a week booked in November 2015 and am looking at extending by 1 week, probably spending it all in Rome. I feel Italy has so much to offer that I'll have to return several times to see everything.

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