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Birthday celebration in Italy, early December

Birthday celebration in Italy, early December

Nov 2nd, 2010, 07:32 PM
  #1  
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Birthday celebration in Italy, early December

hi everyone, i'm new to the forum and a horrible traveler in the sense that i get awful jetlag and don't like a jam-packed or fixed schedule like tours offer. but we want to go to italy (from los angeles) in early december and need help with an itinerary. if we want to do tuscany, rome and amalfi coast, do we need 2 weeks or would 10 days work? is that too much for 2 weeks and if so, what should we cut out? we want something romantic, would like to do high speed rail between major cities but driving around tuscany or to the amalfi coast from naples seems like the way to go. also, we like staying in really nice hotels (four seasons is our favorite so far).

i have no idea where to start on planning this, so any advice and guidance is greatly appreciated. thanks in advance!
tamizami is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2010, 07:35 PM
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Is this early December, as in December 2010?
Peter_S_Aus is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2010, 07:57 PM
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Remember that December is winter - the Amalfi coast may be very quiet in winter, less hotels and cafes available.
Peter_S_Aus is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2010, 03:12 AM
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Actually, most of December in Italy is autumn. (Winter begins December 22).

If you don't like a jam-packed schedule, you are trying to pack in a lot of destinations, unless you enjoying traveling as a rolling road trip without a lot of lingering at museums, churches and monuments.

You might look into flying into either Florence, Pisa or even Bologna, getting over your jet leg, then renting a car to tour the Tuscan countryside, and then driving it to the Amalfi. Drop off the car in Rome (I'd drop it off at Ciampino airport) and then head into Rome for the finale, flying home from there.

You could do that trip in reverse, but I think starting north maximizes your chances of nicer weather.

As far as weather goes in early December in the parts of Italy you have named, it is really very unpredicatable. Most of the time, ice and snow isn't a problem in the low Tuscan hills until well into December, but you never know. (I've seen snow around Arezzo in early November!) It's best not to book yourselves into rural stays where you need to drive a dirt road to get to them. At the same time, if you have a car, you don't want to be based right in a city like Florence.

There are really nice lodgings everywhere you name, including ones with roaring fireplaces in Tuscany, which would be my choice. I wouldn't pre-book a super-expensive hotel in the Amalfi, since you should leave yourself the freedom to head elsewhere if rainy weather obliterates views there and the pleasures of walking around.

Two weeks is obviously more fun than 10 days, and remember that the days are getting shorter and shorter in December. You have a very long flight from Los Angeles, and you will need to recover from that before you start driving around Italy. If you only have 10 days, you really only have 8, and then 2 destinations (or even just one) sounds more romantic than 3. With 2 weeks, you could add more geography -- but just remember, many of the best experiences of Italy are about lingering over meals, enjoying spontaneous exploring, enjoying a village for a few days, or not feeling rushed as you take in Rome, which is overwhelming.
zeppole is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2010, 03:14 AM
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PS: You haven't at all mentioned Umbria, which might be my choice for December: Better food and wine, magnificent art sights scattered everywhere, lovely scenery -- I'd combine it with Rome.
zeppole is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2010, 08:24 PM
  #6  
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@peter - yes, december 2010! am i being to ambitious to plan this with so little time? also, we live in a gorgeous beach town in california, i am fine with quiet, wintery weather in amalfi....i find the beach way more romantic and intimate in the winter.

@zeppole - thank you so much for the info! if you have any favorite accommodations in any of these areas, please share! also, i was thinking that the driving might be too much for such as short trip....was thinking of utilizing trains between florence and rome and naples...is this recommended or ill-advised?
tamizami is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2010, 08:42 PM
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Tami, I don’t think there’s a problem with doing this in December – you have about a month to stick it together.

It’s a good idea to have the first few nights accommodation booked before you arrive, and a hire car organised if you are going to use one. If I had 14 days, as you have, I’d want my flights to Italy and return booked, and the first five nights booked. After that, I’d wing it on where to go.

If you are driving, you need an international driving permit. The Italian train system is good – for example, Florence to Rome is about two hours, and tickets can be bought from vending machines at stations. Use trains for long haul trips, and you’d need a car for smaller places in rural areas such as Tuscany.

Ten days would work, but would feel very rushed, I think. Two weeks is better, longer is even better still. You won’t run out of things to see and to charm you.
Peter_S_Aus is offline  
Nov 4th, 2010, 12:50 AM
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tami,

Tripadvisor and venere.com are really great resources for accommodations, with up-to-date user reviews.

I don't think that in December you are going to have any trouble renting a car last-minute, so you can leave that for a spontaneous decision, based on weather forecasts. If you don't know how to drive stick shift, you may need to pick up your car at an airport rental office. In December, if the weather is clear and dry, I would rent a car unless you really fear driving the Amalfi road. I would probably stay on the Sorrentine peninsula, in the Sorrentine hills, which has beautiful views and food.

Peter advises booking the first 5 nights, but I think you can get by just booking the first two or three. If you have your heart set on the scenic coast south of Naples, I would eliminate Tuscany from this trip, unless you get to Rome and look at weather forecasts that predict a solid week of rain on the coast, and sunny skies in Tuscany. Either way, I think you might as well book a round trip out of Rome, for maximum flexibility. If you end up in Tuscany, returning to Rome the night before your flight out is not difficult -- likewise from Napoli.

If the weather is lousy everywhere, linger in Rome then head up to Florence by train and base there. You can use public transportation to visit Arezzo, Fiesole, Pisa, Lucca, Siena and Bologna if you somehow run out of things to do in Florence.
zeppole is offline  
Nov 5th, 2010, 06:00 PM
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hi,glad i found your info on early italy trip. i will be arriving in rome dec. 10, celebrating my 10th wedding anni with the hunny. our flight is fixed in-out of rome. no hotel yet, but mainly aiming to scour rome, for 4 full days, and use 2 days either in the northern or southern part of italy(transfer time included). main issue is the weather. i really want to go to amalfi, not sure if by car or train, but would it be worth it?? thinking bec our anni falls in the cold season, much better to opt to more indoor activities than outdoors, like outdoor cafes and walking around (e.g. amalfi area). maybe wise here to rent a car? northern option thinking umbria, tuscany or even venice. which region would be worth the 2 day squeeze?
Romebound is offline  
Nov 5th, 2010, 08:50 PM
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tamizami, I had to laugh at your description of "a horrible traveler" not liking pre-packaged tours. Looks like you'll fit right in here!

Italy is definitely easy to navigate on public transportation - it's just kind of a p.i.a. lugging your luggage on and off trains (so minimize that as much as possible). I enjoyed having someone else (the experienced bus driver) do the driving on the Amalfi Coast, but really it's not unlike driving through Big Sur - and in December should be a lot less crowded than during my trip in late spring.

You mentioned you like staying in really nice hotels. I was excited to stay at the Exedra in Rome as a start to our anniversary trip - however, the Icelandic volcano eruption delayed our vacation and I had to change my itinerary and thus my booking.
www.exedra.boscolohotels.com

When we reached Rome, we stayed at the Valadier. It was a luxe, funky place and we enjoyed their restaurants, but the first room we were in opened onto a noisy street and worse was quite cramped. They graciously moved us to a room on the top floor that was much better (only noise was music from the rooftop restaurant).
www.hotelvaladier.com

Oh, and we had 2 weeks in Italy in more or less 3 locations: eastern Sicily, Amalfi/Sorrento, and lastly Rome. It was a nice, not too rushed pace... except we had 4 1/2 days in Rome but I wished for more! (Also, of all the places, we only had rainy/cold weather in Rome. There's so much to see and do there that it didn't matter: as much as I agree with you about the romance of a winter beach, I was glad we didn't have that weather on the AC!)
ggreen is offline  
Nov 6th, 2010, 02:02 AM
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Romebound,

It's not clear to me from your post whether you are planning to be flexible, based on weather (which I would recommend), but one thing I would suggest is that you rule out Venice for a 2-day squeeze.

If the weather is nice along the Amalfi coast and you don't mind driving the hairpin turn cliff roads, renting a car out of Rome is probably the most efficient, given your limited time frame.

If the weather is nice in southern Tuscany or Umbria, renting a car is best for southern Tuscany, while you can get buy with using trains in Umbria. But personally, if the coast was rained out, I would just stay in Rome. Four days is barely scratching the surface (read ggreen's post above). Add a day trip from Rome to Orvieto by train (one hour) to see a smaller town in Umbria, or whiz up to Florence for lunch on the fast train.
zeppole is offline  
Nov 6th, 2010, 05:25 AM
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I think if I had 10 days, I would spend it in Rome (5 days), and a town in the Tuscan countryside, in Chianti or further south (5 days). I would have a car for time in the countryside. We love the Amalfi Coast but have only visited in sunny May and September. Friends who have visited in December found grey, short days and many closed restaurants and hotels.

If the 10-day forecast shows sun and mild temps on the AC, substitute the AC for Tuscany.

Personally, we like to have hotel reservations in advance of our trips so that the first hours after your arrival in a new place are not spent searching for a place to stay.

If you have 14 days, add a destination such as Florence.
mamcalice is offline  

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