August 2019 Trip to Italy with Teenagers

Old Jan 11th, 2019, 12:31 PM
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August 2019 Trip to Italy with Teenagers

Hello everyone! We are planning a trip to Italy in August 2019 to celebrate my daughters graduation from high school. There will be 4 of us: my husband, our 20 year old son, our 18 year old daughter and me. Due to school and work schedules, we are limited to the first half of August to take the trip. We know it will be hot and crowded everywhere, but this is the only time we can go, and Italy is the destination our daughter chose. We live in Houston, so are used to heat and humidity, and as long as we have air conditioning in our hotel, we will be fine! All 4 of us have traveled quite a bit, including a family trip to Havana, Cuba last March, and a graduation trip to England (to see family), Paris and Brugge in June 2017 for our son. We are active, enjoy history, eating (and Italian wine), shopping (our daughter), etc. We are not good with big museums, but enjoy art in small doses (I loved the Borghese Museum in Rome, for example). Our daughter really wants to visit Rome and Florence (she is okay with a day trip to Florence, or staying there) and also the beach (she is not picky on which beach, but says she wants to go because "they just look pretty"). This trip is not meant to be a whirlwind, see all of Italy in 10 days, trip, but rather an introduction to parts of the country. Anyhow, following is our tentative itinerary:

Wed, July 31 - Sat, Aug 10 (10 nights, including one on plane)
- Wed, 7/31 - Fly to Rome from Houston (overnight flight, likely connecting on US side so arrive in Rome early morning on 8/1)
- Thurs, 8/1 - Sun, 8/4 - Rome (3 nights / 2 1/2 days)
* Stay at Albergo del Senato?- Sun, 8/4 - Pick up rental car, drive to Siena (~ 2 1/2 hours)
- Sun, 8/4 - Thurs, 8/8 - Siena (4 nights / 3 1/2 days)* Day trip to Florence (via bus, don't try to drive in Florence)
* Drive through Tuscany, visit Pienza, maybe winery, maybe hire tour guide?- Thurs, 8/8 - Drive to Italian Riviera (~ 3 hour drive; drop off rental car somewhere along way)* Stop in Pisa or Luca for a few hours along the way?- Thurs, 8/8 - Sat, 8/10 - Italian Riviera (2 nights / 1 1/2 days) - stay in Rapallo or Santa Margarita Ligure?* Would likely try to visit Cinque Terre on Fri, 8/9. Not sure though, as I suspect it will be super crowded. But daughter really wants to go there.
- Sat, 8/10 - Train to Genoa, fly home (~40 minute train ride to Genoa)

I am currently trying to figure out the car/public transportation logistics between Rome and Italian Riviera, so would appreciate any thoughts on that. We don't mind driving, and have done it in Tuscany on prior trips, but we are very comfortable with public transporation.. so, I am considering staying in Florence instead of Siena, and just doing public transport. Florence at night is so much nicer during the day, and we could do a few day trips into Tuscany from there fairly simply, I think. But, I liked the idea of staying in Siena as it seems calmer and more relaxing than Florence (though that may not be accurate, especially in the weeks before the Palio).

One other note - I suggested Lake Como/Northern Italy, but it was vetoed by everyone (Rome/Tuscany very important to daughter and husband). I also thought about Sorrento/Amalfi Coast instead of Italian Riviera, but I don't think we have time to do it justice.

Finally, I am not a big fan of multiple hotel changes, and three hotels for 9 nights is a lot - is there a way to structure the trip where we move a bit less? I thought about doing a day trip to Cinque Terre from Tuscany, but I think we will really like finishing the vacation with a couple of days close to the beach.

Anyhow, any feedback or suggestions would be much appreciated! Thanks so much!
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Old Jan 11th, 2019, 12:47 PM
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We did a number of trips this fall including Italian Riviera from Rapallo. It was perfect. Easy to take train from Rome and you do not need a car in this area. Here is our trip report: Rapallo/Cinque Terre/20 Places/8 Nights Sept/Oct

We also did Florence, with a day trip to Siena by rail, and Bologna Our trip repot: Florence or Bologna? 7 nights early October

You have lots of options. Everyone will have a different perspective. I like the idea of a family vote; it will add to the cooperation on the ground.
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Old Jan 11th, 2019, 01:00 PM
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Without commenting on the middle part, I would recommend you also look at reversing the order before you are entrenched into a specific itinerary.

If you arrive in Rome early in the morning, you would probably not be able to check in. You might have already done this many times.
Of course, you can leave your luggage at the front and start visiting the city. The hotel would probably give you access to a facility to change clothes if you want to get changed before hitting the city.
If you leave GOA to head home, that flight out of GOA is probably very early in the morning meaning you have to leave wherever you are staying on your last night even earlier before a long trip home.

If you reversed this, you would probably arrive in GOA, for example, in the afternoon and by the time you reach your first hotel, the room would be ready to check in, unpack, get changed, etc. Have a dinner and go catch zzz you might have missed on your flight to Itlay. Also returning home from FCO would probably be later in the morning.
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Old Jan 11th, 2019, 01:20 PM
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Trains are easy and cheap if you book long-distance trains well in advance - Rome to Italian Riviera would be either of two routes - the more scenic but slower coastal route or the high-speed routing via Florence to Genoa and on by regional trains. For lots about trains and booking own tickets online check www.trenitalia.com - Italian State Railways official site where you can book your own trains; BETS-European Rail Experts and www.rickseves.com. You need not go to Italian Riviera for nice beaches - there are some very close to Rome and all along coast to Pisa and CTerre.
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Old Jan 12th, 2019, 02:46 PM
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I agree with Greg - if the flight times work out that way, it is definitely an easier way to go to start in Genoa and work south.

After the Cinque Terre [very hot and crowded in August but if you must, you must] I would then get the train to Livorno and use that as a base for touring Tuscany. Forget Florence this trip - it will be massively crowded and there are plenty of other places you could see in Tuscany within an hour's drive of Livorno, and then you can come back in the afternoon for a swim.

Then you can get the train from Livorno straight down the coast to Rome.
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Old Jan 12th, 2019, 02:55 PM
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Cinque Terre from Tuscany, but I think we will really like finishing the vacation with a couple of days close to the beach.>

Only Monterrosso of the 5 Terre towns has a decent beach - a sandy beach - all others I saw were small and rocky. Staying in an Italian Riviera beach town IMO would be a much nicer beach sojourn. Monterrosso's beach is nice but fairly small and no doubt fairly full probably in summer and the cities are as annhig says will be mobbed with day trippers - now if into hiking between the villages then you can escape the thundering hoards by taking higherup and more demanding trails than the lowest level 7-mi-long main trail between them that many take.
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Old Jan 13th, 2019, 01:03 PM
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Thank you all for your great suggestions.

Greg - I will definitely look into flying into Genoa, and out of Rome - that direction work much better.

Whitehall - I actually got the idea of Rapallo from your trip report! I think we could train there from Genoa, or even have a car take us there, then take an early train to Cinque Terre on the 2nd, and spend the day exploring, or go to Portofino on the 2nd.

Annahig - looking at Livorno now as a base to see Tuscany, thank you! Will do some research on it as Ann option.

PalenQ - I definitely don’t want to stay in Cinque Terre. I agree with you that another Italian Riviera town would be much more enjoyable. And thanks for the train links. While we have driven in Italy in the past, public transport is less stressful for us!
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Old Jan 24th, 2019, 08:09 AM
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Greg's suggestion also means you will not have to ride a train to catch your flight(s) back home, reducing risk of missing the plane.
For all about trains: www.seat61.com
To buy tickets, I find www.trainline.com the simplest site to use.
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Old Jan 27th, 2019, 11:05 AM
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If you click on my user name, you will see my trip report for Italy (Venice, Florence, Rome) with teens. We had a great time!
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Old Jan 27th, 2019, 04:04 PM
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We used a combination of trains booked from the Trenitalia site and hired car transfer with driver. We also travelled with our older children and had a great time. We chose the Amalfi Coast, along with Rome, Florence and Venice. While it was a whirlwind, we still loved it. More details at my blog www.diyfamilytravels.com
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Old Jan 31st, 2019, 08:21 AM
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Thank you so much for all the great links to trip reports, train information and places to eat in Rome! I can't wait to delve into them, now that we have booked our flight and hotels.

We researched all the flights (we are stuck with flying United, due to Houston being a hub of the airline, and I have significant status on United), and the original plan of Houston --> Rome on the 31st and Genoa --> Houston on the 10th worked out best for us. We were able to save a significant amount per flight (multiplied by 4). It means we will arrive in Rome early, and depart Genoa early, as Greg suggested. But, we will just have to deal with that, unfortunately!

Anyhow, thanks again for all the help. I really appreciate it. Here is the final itinerary:

Wed, July 31 - Sat, Aug 10 (10 nights, including one on plane)
- Wed, 7/31 - Fly to Rome from Houston (overnight flight, likely connecting on US side so arrive in Rome early morning on 8/1)

- Thurs, 8/1 - Sun, 8/4 - Rome (3 nights / 2 1/2 days)
* Stay at Albergo del Senato

- Sun, 8/4 - Pick up rental car, drive to Siena (~ 2 1/2 hours)

- Sun, 8/4 - Thurs, 8/8 - Siena (4 nights / 3 1/2 days)
* Stay at Palazzo Ravizza

- Thurs, 8/8 - Drive to Italian Riviera (~ 3 hour drive; drop off rental car somewhere along way)

- Thurs, 8/8 - Sat, 8/10 - Italian Riviera (2 nights / 1 1/2 days)
* Stay at Hotel Sant'Andrea in Santa Margherita Ligure

- Sat, 8/10 - Car to Genoa, fly home

I will post back on a new string with any other questions, as well as a Trip Report!
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Old Feb 19th, 2019, 11:22 AM
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for Rome I would HIGHLY recommend to book through homeaway ##3630221. We stayed here last summer with our two teenagers and it was 5/5. Awesome location. The hostess even offers a private car service which we used and it was great.
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Old Feb 19th, 2019, 11:25 AM
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also for Rome we all loved the walks of italy tours. 5/5. We did the complete Vatican tour and the gladiator tour. We are not huge museum people either but the vatican one was one of my families favourite things we did there.
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Old Feb 19th, 2019, 12:53 PM
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looks like a good plan, HoustonBrit.

Hope you have a great time.
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Old Feb 20th, 2019, 01:57 PM
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While you're in Florence, you can easily take a day trip to Florence, preferably by bus. The bus passes through some pretty countryside, parking is virtually impossible in Florence, and the bus leaves from the center of Siena (whereas the train departs from a station at the bottom of the hill).

You said you're not museum lovers, enjoy smaller museums. Here are several smaller museums you might enjoy.
  • The Bargello focuses on sculpture, and has works by some of the great artists of the Italian Renaissance, including Michelangelo and Donatello. There are also ceramics from the workshops of the Della Robbia family.
  • San Marco is a former monastery, where one of the greatest Renaissance artists, the Beato Angelico (often known as Fra Angelico in English) painted frescoes in the monks' cells and in other spaces in the monastery.
  • Santa Maria Novella, very near the bus station, is not a museum, but a church. It has more great works of art in it than many museums. Volunteers there offer free tours, and they may even have an English tour available. (We took the Italian tour, but our guide told us that he could manage with a basic English tour, and that some of the other volunteers are fluent English speakers.) The tour was very interesting. I had been there many times before, but I learned a lot of new things. I visit this church almost every time I'm in Florence, especially because it's so near the train (and bus) station.
On a day trip, it's easy take a self-guided walking tour of the city, as the bus (and train) stations are a short walk from the Duomo.

There's a single ticket to visit the Duomo and all the other buildings related to it. It's a bit pricey, and it would be impossible to make good use of it on a single day. The Duomo and the climb to the cupola have very long queues. The Duomo doesn't have much to see inside, as most of its treasures have been moved to the Duomo museum, which is worth the price of the ticket itself. The outside of the Duomo is the most beautiful part, and you don't need a ticket to see it. The Baptistery of the Duomo is older than the duomo, and has marvelous golden frescoes covering the inside of its cupola. This (and the duomo museum) usually don't have long queues. If you buy the ticket, I would use it for these two visits.

The two most visited museums in Florence are the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia. Both have very long queues unless you reserve a time. I myself don't like to reserve anything on a day trip, because it makes it impossible to maximize your time use. The Uffizi Gallery is enormous and is heavily focused on paintings of the Italian Renaissance, especially of religious themes. (Many of its paintings were moved there from churches.) I've been there four times, and still haven't seen everything. Once my daughter and I spent 7 hours there, on two successive days. This was in mid-January. I really wouldn't advise anyone to go there in the summer. Unless you're passionate about Renaissance painting, I would skip this museum. You can see wonderful Renaissance art in several of the churches in Rome, including Santa Maria Novella, Santa Maria del Carmine, Santa Croce, and others you can find in a good guide book.

The other busy museum, the Accademia, has the original of Michelangelo's David. There's a good copy in the Piazza della Signoria, near the Ponte Vecchio. I recently read an article by an Italian art critic who said that hardly anyone could tell the difference between the two. (I could, but I'm not really a fan of Michelangel's sculpture, so I was perfectly content with the copy until I went to the Accademia with some friends who insisted.) There's not much else to see in the Accademia, and there are plenty of other Michelangelo sculptures in other places in Florence, where you don't have to make a reservation.

In order to maximize your time on a day trip, I recommend avoiding sit-down meals in a restaurant. Anyway, it's not easy to find a decent restaurant in central Florence, where the tourists outnumber the residents by about 20 to 1. I would either get a sandwich or salad in a bar, or pizza by the slice in a pizzeria. You can follow this with a gelato later in the day. We usually go to a self-service restaurant near the Duomo, called Leonardo's Self-service. It's at Via de Pecori, number 11. You have to go up a flight of stairs. The food is decent and not expensive, and the cafeteria-style service is speedy, even when there is a line.
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