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Amsterdam, Cologne, Florence, Rome in May - Itinerary Suggestions?

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Mar 5th, 2011, 02:20 PM
  #1
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Amsterdam, Cologne, Florence, Rome in May - Itinerary Suggestions?

We are taking a 2-week trip to Europe for our 10th anniversary. Age 30 and 31, we are interested in art, food, wine, architecture and nature/natural landscape beauty... Not on a shoestring but definitely budget-conscious. We've been putting money aside for this trip for about 4.5 years, so it's kind of a big deal for us. It is my first trip to Europe, but he is familiar with Koln having stayed there a few months during college, and has visited Amsterdam and passed through Rome for a flight back home.

Just bought our plane tickets for Austin, TX to Amsterdam on May 3rd, and out of Rome to Austin on May 18th. After spending a couple days in Amsterdam, we'll be staying with a friend in Dusseldorf for day trips into Koln, or may just stay in Koln if it looks too inconvenient. From Koln, besides seeing the Dome, we want to ride a boat down the Rhine and maybe visit Aachen as well. I am leaving more of the planning of the first half of the trip to my sig. other but would still be glad to hear suggestions.

The only other thing we have nailed down is that we plan to fly from Koln to Pisa on Weds May 11 but haven't bought those tix yet. From Pisa the plan may be to spend the afternoon there and see the main sights before taking a train into Florence.

Since neither of us have ever been to Florence we will of course want to see the Uffizi, David, the Duomo, maybe Pitti palace.

We don't want to spend all of our time in tourist traps, though. It would be great to see some of Tuscany such as San Gimignano, Cortona,Siena, or Orvieto. I realize that having Weds night, Thurs, Fri and part of Saturday with Florence as home base, doesn't allow us to visit every town in the Chianti region while traveling by bus or train. But we are really interested in the wine culture as well as the history of this region, so maybe a day trip. I would love some suggestions as to how our time would be best spent.

Originally we had planned to just stay around Tuscany, but looking at our options for flights home, I started thinking that flying out of Rome looked best. Also I have been taking an Italian language class geared towards travelers, so having slide shows of Rome in my face twice a week didn't help matters! So now the trip has to include a train to Rome , probably either on Saturday evening or Sunday morning. If this incorporated a stop or even overnight stay in Cortona or Orvieto, that could count as our excursion into Tuscany...

I know that Rome deserves more than 2 or 3 days (flight leaves Weds. AM) but my traveling companion has put his foot down that our next trip has to be somewhere like India (which is great, but I wonder when & if I'll ever get to go back to Italy) so it is going to have to be a little bit of a greatest hits tour (i know, i know...). Obviously that includes: the Pantheon, Forum, Colosseum, Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain and hopefully there is time for Vatican, though do you folks think we'll get enough art in Florence that if something had to be sacrificed, we could do without the Borghese Gallery? We are healthy and energetic, but also want to be able to just chill and relax on our vacation (at some point!)

Is this completely crazy, or do-able?
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Mar 5th, 2011, 04:33 PM
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Since you already have tickets, the only thing I would say is take one or two days from the first part of your trip and add it to Italy.
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Mar 5th, 2011, 04:43 PM
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It's a bit hectic, but maybe more doable if you don't try to hit every smaller city in the vicinity...

I don't know all the logistics but maybe something like this as a base itinerary, then figure out from there how much extra running around you want to do. You could take a day off Rome if you need it earlier in the schedule...

1. Fly to Amsterdam
2. Amsterdam
3. Amsterdam to Dusseldorf
4. Dusseldorf / Koln area
5. Dusseldorf / Koln area
6. Fly to Pisa, explore
7. Florence / area
8. Florence / area
9. Train to Rome
10. Rome
11. Rome
12. Rome
13. Rome
14. Fly back home
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Mar 5th, 2011, 06:33 PM
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If you don't want to stay exclusively in tourist traps, you should do some reading on Tuscany... the places that you are mentioning - S. Gimignano, Siena and Cortona - are Tuscany's foremost tourist traps (albeit justly so, in the cases of S. Gimignano and Siena - Cortona, not quite, IMO), perhaps even more so than Florence. And Orvieto is not in Tuscany, but another beautiful tourist trap. In order to escape the tourist bustle, you'll have to go to places like, say, Carrara, Massa Marittima, Abbadia S. Salvatore, Pistoia, Pitigliano, Chiusi...
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Mar 6th, 2011, 02:18 AM
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If you leave on May 3rd you will arrive in Amsterdam on May 4th if flying from Texas, so on day 2 of your vacation, not day 1.
That would mean on the plan above only one and a bit jetlagged days in the Amsterdam.
It deserves more than that.

If you are travelling by train from Amsterdam book your tickets online asap to get as cheap a deal as you can. There are currently some very good prices for trains to Cologne for instance. 1st class costs just a little bit more and is worth it.
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Mar 6th, 2011, 01:32 PM
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Hmmm - 2 people from my favorite American city tavelling to the same general places in Europe 3 days behind us.......Our overnights;

May 1-4 Amsterdam
May 5-9 Umbria/Tuscany
May 10-12 Florence
May 13-15 Verona

Could you drop some ribs for me in Amsterdam, or Florence - we cross paths there? Rudy's will do if you can't make it to Kreuz's

So you have 7 nights for Amsterdam/Dusseldorf and 7 for Tuscany/Rome with a May 11 Koln-Pisa flight hard wired, if I am reading your post correctly. What you want to do is totally doable.

Certainly the friend option in Dusseldorf will influence your time decisions for the first week. I think most people would suggest that Amsterdam is worthy of more time than the Dusseldorf/Koln area. While they certainly have sites worthy of visiting, they are not generally regarded as "beautiful" cities. Aachen is quite attractive and basing yourself there for a day or two after Amsterdam, before moving on to Dusseldorf might make sense. Koln can be seen on the way or as a day trip from either.

As for Tuscany, are you aware that there is a train that goes directly to Florence from the Pisa airport? If you want to see both Florence and Rome in 7 days and stop somewhere in Tuscany between them, spending that first Italy day in Pisa is cutting into valuable time.

Each of Florence and Rome can occupy three days easily, so a one night stop between them seems like your best option for a taste of something not "big city". That is a little rushed, though, especially since it is hard to get to small town Tuscany by rail. Siena and Orvieto (Umbria) would be your best bets for rail connections.

If there is a chance you will get back to Italy, you could consider leaving Rome until the "next time" and spend 3-4 slower paced days in Tuscany to end the trip. You are all "big city" with your schedule as proposed. You can always still book to leave through Rome and just use it for your departure flight - arriving anytime the last day for a whirlwind visit and concluding dinner.

If you want wine as part of the trip - had you considered Montalcino, the home of Brunello, one of the worlds great wines? Or Montepulciano - the home Vino Nobile de Montepulciano, another tasty treat. Montalcino and Montepulciano are in the Val d'Orcia, probably the most beautiful landscape in Tuscany and the are mingles with the Crete Senesi, the sandy lunar landscape that makes Tuscany look so mystical.
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Apr 3rd, 2011, 04:44 PM
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Thanks for the thoughts, everyone. Aramis is compliment you on your taste of in Texan cities and food! Rudy's is my favorite. I will have to check out Kreuz's! Looks like Dusseldorf is out, we're staying in Koln for 3 days and doing some day trips perhaps. Unfortunately the time couldn't be allotted differently but we'll be well-rested for the Italy part.
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Apr 3rd, 2011, 10:21 PM
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Red;

You will probably want to do at least one day trip from Koeln. It is not the most exciting place to stay for 3 days.

Aachen - which you can reach in 36 minutes by train is an obvious choice. nice old town and the Aachener Dom, where Charlemagne was cronwed (well a much smaller version of it way back then).

If you want to rent a car for a day, you could consider driving into the Eifel National Park, S of Aachen and SW of Koeln. The landscapes are interesting and the town of Monschau is good to visit.
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Apr 4th, 2011, 12:55 PM
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"From Koln, besides seeing the Dome, we want to ride a boat down the Rhine and maybe visit Aachen as well."

The attractive part of the Rhine that interests river cruisers is roughly between Bingen in the north and Braubach in the south. Cruise from north to south (3 hours for this stretch) as it's much longer the other way. You can start in Bacharach instead if 3 hours is too long. In Braubach, take a tour of the best Rhine castle Marksburg: www.marksburg.de

The train will get you from Köln to Bingen, and back from Braubach. You can look for cheap advance-sale tickets at

http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en

There are daypasses you can get for this route to keep train costs down too. On Sat or Sun, use a "Schönes Wochenende" daypass for 2-5 poeple (39 Euros, good for the whole country.) On weekdays: A "Rheinland-Pfalz" daypass for the regional trains covers the trip from Bonn south; it's 21 Euros for one + 3 Euros per additional passenger up to 5. Köln to Bonn will cost 21 Euros for 2 or more for a price-level 4 daypass that lets you travel between these stations. Buy all tickets in Köln before you leave from station ticket machines.
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