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Barcelona/Rome/Florence/Amalfi: Have We Bitten Off More Than We Can Chew?

Barcelona/Rome/Florence/Amalfi: Have We Bitten Off More Than We Can Chew?

Old Jun 23rd, 2015, 07:41 AM
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Barcelona/Rome/Florence/Amalfi: Have We Bitten Off More Than We Can Chew?

Wow! Great to be back on these forums. We've spent the last decade focusing on the States, Canada, and the Caribbean with my 11 year old and now it's time to head over to the other side of the pond. We have 12 to 14 days to play with although my husband is leaning more toward twelve what with his work obligations etc. He **might** be able to be persuaded to go for the full two weeks with some cajolery

So...My parents have both turned 70 this year and are celebrating this milestone by graciously treating us to my son's first European vacation. We are in the VERY preliminary stages of planning and have explored lots of options. Getting to Europe from NYC at a reasonable rate is critical. Initially, we wanted to use Meridianna/Eurofly and just use the full twelve days in Italy (fly from our hometown of NYC into Naples and work ourselves up north for our outbound flight from Milan) but their limited flight availability did not work. We are now working with a plan that would have us fly non-stop to Barcelona (one of our fave cities and it was the best price to get us to Europe from NYC) and give us three full days to explore the city and then fly to Rome (my son's whole sixth grade History curriculum was ancient Rome so this is a MUST) on Ryanair where we would stay overnight and then first thing in the morning drive to Amalfi. We'd spend a few days exploring the coast, drive back to Rome with a stop in Pompei and then have a few days in Rome one of which we'd use to take the train to Florence (there is no way we can be in Italy and not visit my husband's favorite city in the world! Don't even think of suggesting we eliminate this!) We would then fly Ryanair back to Barcelona and then on to NYC. All of these are places we've already been and will most likely return to, however we just want to give our Little Man a taste, a bit of an overview. What do you think of this itinerary? Keep in mind that we have been to all of these places before and the sole purpose is to really just get my son's feet wet in Europe, to pique his interest. And of course to eat tons of gelati, pasta and pizza! And have the added bonus of tapas and paella in Barcelona

The other option would be instead of spending the first few days in Barcelona, heading to Rome etc and saving Barcelona for the way back since we need to be there for our return trip to NYC. Nothing in stone yet thus far. Would you work this out differently?

Grazie Mille in advance for your insight,
Lisa
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Old Jun 23rd, 2015, 08:12 AM
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With only 12 days, to make things doable, I would recommend cutting something. It sounds like Rome and Florence are must dos, so you should choose either to narrow to Italy only (Rome + Florence + Amalfi Coast) or Rome + Florence + Barcelona.

If you go with the Amalfi Coast, I might suggest staying in Sorrento for your family: with the focus on ancient Rome, Sorrento allows you to easily visit Pompeii (and potentially Herculaneum as well), as well as quicker access to Capri, Positano, Ravello, Amalfi and such.

If you go with Barcelona, I would suggest flying immediately from Barcelona to Rome, easily done if you are flying overnight from NYC to BCN. Have your time in Barcelona at the end of the trip.

There are great Etruscan/Roman ruins in Fiesole outside of Florence as well, so probably of interest to your son.

Did you look into flying from NYC to Rome first, as opposed to Naples? More options flying into Rome, and there are plentiful trains from Rome to Naples, so that could help expand the options to go directly to Italy.

I think either itinerary (Rome+AC+Florence or Rome+Florence+Barcelona) will work well for your 11 year old's first visit to Europe, but with 12 days (and maybe even with a full 14) I would cut either Amalfi Coast or Barcelona to have it be manageable and enjoyable.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2015, 08:17 AM
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About 99% of the time a question of this sort "Have We Bitten Off More Than We Can Chew?" is asked in this forum, the answer is YES.

You're in the 99%.

Honestly, there's enough in Rome and Florence (with a day trip to Siena or Pisa) to occupy you for 12 nights. Rome is one of the world's great cities. A later trip to Barcelona (which deserves its own spotlight) is better than jamming it into a packed trip to Italy.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2015, 08:28 AM
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What time of year do you plan this trip?

Vueling Airlines flies Barcelona to Naples cheaply. Maybe you could fly on to Naples upon arrival in Barcelona. And leave your time in Barcelona for the end of your trip. Naples will be closer to the Amalfi coast.

When you say Amalfi, do you mean the Amalfi coast or Amalfi town? And you're driving from Rome? Driving the narrow road edged into the hillside of the Amalfi coast is a test of skill in the summer as is finding parking in small AC towns. And that parking costs money. In the summer I'd forget the car and use other means of transportation.

Consider staying in Sorrento for easier access to Pompeii (via the Circumvesuviana commuter train) and taking a boat trip along the AC. There's a bus between Naples airport and Sorrento.

There's such a lot to see in the AC area. Pompeii, Herculaneum and the archeological museum in Naples (mosaics and other findings from Pompeii) should be high on your list, given your son's interests. Then there are the small towns along the Amalfi coast, Capri, Mt. Vesuvius, Paestum (Greek temples). You won't have enough time to do this area justice.

Since you must go to Florence, maybe save the Amalfi coast for another trip and just stay in Rome with a day trip to Florence. In this case maybe fly on from Barcelona immediately to Rome. Lots to see in Rome. You can do Pompeii as a long day trip from Rome. Or instead go to Ostia Antica, the ancient port of Rome, well-preserved and easy to get to from Rome.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2015, 08:42 AM
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OMG yes.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2015, 08:43 AM
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I agree with inspiredexplorer - I'd either cut Barcelona (may not be possible for you, depending on airfare into Italy) or cut the Amalfi Coast, since it sounds like Rome is a must-see for your son and Florence a must-see for your husband. If you decide to keep Barcelona as part of your itinerary, I'd do what you mentioned at the end of your post, and leave Barcelona until the end of your trip. That way, you don't have to worry about getting back there the night before your transatlantic flight, or there being some sort of issue with your Ryanair flight and you missing your flight to NYC. Or, better yet, see if there's some way to fly into Barcelona and out of Florence or Rome for a similar price.

If you kept with your current plan, this is an idea of what it would look like in order to fit it into 14 days:

Day 1: Arrive Barcelona; half-day to explore/shake off jetlag
Day 2: Barcelona
Day 3: Barcelona
Day 4: Flight to Rome; half-day to explore; spend night in Rome
Day 5: Drive to Amalfi Coast
Day 6: Amalfi Coast
Day 7: Start driving back to Rome, stop in Pompeii, arrive Rome early evening
Day 8: Rome
Day 9: Rome
Day 10: Train to Florence; rest of day in Florence
Day 11: Florence
Day 12: Florence
Day 13: Fly back to Barcelona; rest of day in Barcelona
Day 14: Depart for NYC

Better would be:

Day 1: Arrive Barcelona; fly to Rome
Day 2: Drive to Amalfi Coast
Day 3: Amalfi Coast
Day 4: Start driving back to Rome, stop in Pompeii, arrive Rome early evening
Day 5: Rome
Day 6: Rome
Day 7: Rome
Day 8: Train to Florence; rest of day in Florence
Day 9: Florence
Day 10: Florence
Day 11: Flight to Barcelona; rest of day in Barcelona
Day 12: Barcelona
Day 13: Barcelona
Day 14: Depart for NYC

You could take a day from Florence or Barcelona and add that to the Amalfi Coast, I suppose. Also, if you were able to get a flight into Barcelona and out of Rome or Florence, that would eliminate another hotel change.

I totally get wanting to just get a taste of places, but this is a lot of moving around. You'd end up changing hotels six times in 14 days in the first (your original) itinerary, and five times in the second itinerary (if you leave Barcelona for last). Only you know your parents and your son and whether or not they can handle that much moving around, or whether they want to - it could make the trip feel very rushed and stressful. Also, keep in mind the weather - I don't see a date for your trip, but if it's during the late spring/summer/early fall, the heat could cause your family to move slower than usual.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2015, 10:24 AM
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Thank you all so very much for taking the time to respond so thoroughly. I just want to make one thing clear: we have been to Florence numerous times. I would really not want to spend more than one day there. We will definitely return in the future and do it justice, pair it with a week in Tuscany. While the levelheaded part of me knows that eliminating Barcelona and solely focusing on Italy, would ensure a less demanding trip, I really can't find a cheaper way to get into Europe non stop (if I choose to to Barcelona first).

As for not using a car, it's really not an option. My parents are older and will not want to negotiate train schedules and schelpping luggage around etc. Having the car just gives me a sense of security. We've driven Italy before. My husband will drive. We will deal with paying outrageous prices to park I'm sure, but we will suck it up.

I would be willing to eliminate Barcelona if someone could recommend a rock bottom nonstop flight to Rome from New York City. I truly feel like I've looked everywhere.

I love the Ostia Antica recommendation because my son just finished reading The Thieves of Ostia.

Gracie, amici.
Lisa
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Old Jun 23rd, 2015, 10:32 AM
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Agree with BLT83 that these trips are doable, although still rushed, but I suspect that you 12 days will end up being only 11 nights on the ground including one jet-lagged arrival day.

In any case, you shouldn't be saying 3 days this or 2 days that - it just gets confusing. Lay the trip out day by day, with day 1 the day you depart NY and day 2 the day you arrive wherever and be sure to put in the travel hours for each day (include not just flight time but all time from departing hotel to arriving hotel). That will give you a better idea of how rushed this trip will be.

And if summer assume you will be doing in 90 plus degree heat with limited AC.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2015, 10:53 AM
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Trust me, I am miserable in advance over the heat. I prefer 16 degrees and snow to a 75 degree summer's day. I am limited because of my son's school schedule. And my husband's trial schedule. My work is far more flexible. The end of August and the end of December are really the only times we can go away for extended vacations. I will cope. We have done Italy in August for ferragosto and it was tough but I managed. Not ideal, but all I can manage.

You're absolutely right with my "couple of days" and "few days" nebulousness, and I apologize for the confusion. When I have a bit more time later on I will write everything out properly as you have suggested.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2015, 11:28 AM
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Don't go somewhere (Barcelona in this case) simply because the airfare is cheaper. That 'savings' could end up being a definite false economy.

You have to factor in the cost of getting on to Italy and back and the huge time commitment on such a short trip - faffing about from Spain to Italy and back and extra checking in/out to 'save'. Don't look at the airfare alone -- even if the fare is $400 or $500 more in/out of Italy it will likely be cheaper in the long run.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2015, 11:36 AM
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If you are going to the Amalfi Coast in August and plan to have a car, you must ensure that your hotel has guaranteed parking. It isn't just the horrible traffic and the cost of parking. In August it is the availability of parking.

I know you say your parents don't want to navigate trains, but IMO getting into/off of a train then onto a ferry would be a much better option than sitting in a car for hours on end to get from Rome to the AC and back.

I have done it both ways (driving vs train/ferry combo) and would not drive again if I could help it - and especially not in the August traffic.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2015, 12:26 PM
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And keep in mind you will need to rent a larger car to accommodate all 5 of you and your luggage. If you plan on stopping at Pompeii on your way to or from the AC, you must make sure all of your luggage is in the trunk out of sight or store it at the entrance to Pompeii.

You can purchase train tickets in advance online.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2015, 12:37 PM
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Agree 100% with Janis. Add the cost of transporting everyone from Barcelona to Roma or wherever in Italy and back to the airfare from and to NYC (plus the lost vacation time). This is especially true given the short vacation time you have.

You might think of doing the trip in December, as weather in southern Italy wouldn't be all that terrible. One of my ideas of hell would be to sit in Naples traffic in August in a car with five people. Between these two options, I'd choose December in a heartbeat.

Plus you'd probably get way better airfares at that time.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2015, 01:21 PM
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Are your parents OK in the heat? It really can be awfully hot in Italy in August.

Can you try to find a way to fly into one city and fly out of another - open-jaw tickets? That would save you the cost (and time) of returning to your original location.

I would skip the AC on this trip unless it is a must for someone in your group. What are your parents' priorities? Do you have 12 - 14 days on the ground or does that include transportation days? Remember, you lose at least half a day traveling from place to place.

Your trip could look something like:
Day 1 Arrive in Barcelona, brief sightseeing
Day 2 & 3 Barcelona
Day 4 fly to Florence (non stop on Vueling or Iberia)
Day 5, 6 & 7 Florence (with day trip to Pisa & Lucca)
Day 8 Travel to Rome (train)
Day 9, 10, 11 Rome (with day trip to Ostia Antica)
Day 12 Fly home from Rome

You could take a day from Florence and add to Rome. Your parents could choose to do the day trips (or not.)
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Old Jun 23rd, 2015, 02:34 PM
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In the heat, you may have to adjust your sightseeing to allow for some down time in the middle of the day.

I would consider the limits/needs of your son as much as your parents. Do you know how well he will do in the first day(s) with the time change?
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Old Jun 23rd, 2015, 02:48 PM
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He's a really easy going, well traveled kid. First time to Europe for him, though. I predict he will be fine. And if he needs a bit of adjusting,we will go with it. Biggest issue is the heat, but I have no choice. My husband is a trial lawyer and I own a business; the ONLY time we get get two full weeks is the end of August. We've been to Italy and Spain in August before and have dealt with the weather. Not optimal, but all we can manage.

Just to reiterate, I have no interest in spending any more than a DAY in Florence. We have been there many times and this is really just to visit a friend and visit a favorite restaurant.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2015, 03:06 PM
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I will only add that I agree that going to Italy via Barcelona will probably be more expensive and time consuming, as well as tiring for your parents.
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Old Jun 24th, 2015, 08:39 AM
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In addition to all the other disadvantages of August on the Amalfi coast (crowded, driving problems, parking problems) it's hard to visit the villages without climbing up and down, especially Positano. If your parents are feeling their age, all the climbing might be too much for them.

Again, if you must do this part of Italy, consider staying in Sorrento. It's pretty flat and easy to walk around (except for the port). And it's an easy trip to Pompeii on the commuter train.
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Old Jun 24th, 2015, 12:37 PM
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You van fly from Rome and maybe Florence via Ryan Air to I would skip Barcelona. Not because you wouldn't like it but there is so much in Italy that you should see first.

I think you need 3 days in Rome,3 days in Florence and maybe 4 if you want to see nearby towns of San Gimignano and Volterra by Bus tour or preferably by car.

You need 3 days in the Amalfi coat. The Amalfi coast is quite a distance and not that easy to get to, Sorrento is a good base and you can see Positano and Amalfi. My son was recently in Capri and was not that impressed with it. He did like the Amalfi coast.

You also have to add time for traveling. We had a van so we came and went as we liked.

Instead of Amalfi Coast take a look at Cinque Terre - 5 towns connected along the sea. We stayed in Monterosso al Mare, the beach town. 3 days there would be enough. Mare
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Old Jun 24th, 2015, 02:28 PM
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Yes, cut Barcelona totally. Have a look at flying into Milan. I seem to remember fares are cheap there. I hate the idea of traveling in August but do understand. Why not go to Venice ? Your son and parents will be enchanted by it. Do your day in Florence and then go on to Rome.
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