Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

Bragging rights: Planning my first trip to Italy this May

Notices

Bragging rights: Planning my first trip to Italy this May

Old Mar 7th, 2006, 12:07 PM
  #1  
MaureenB
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Bragging rights: Planning my first trip to Italy this May

Yesterday, I was able to snag Mileage Plus tickets round-trip, into Rome and out of Nice, in early May. I'll have 15 nights ( I feel like a glutton!). My daughter is studying in Florence this semester and it will be the two of us having an Italian adventure. She's proposed the following itinerary, based on Eurostar routing, which even gets us to the Cote d'Azur for the last night or two (we have one more night than this itinerary reflects, so we'll decide where to put it):

Roma (3 nights)
1. Flight arrival at 1:30p.m., lazy leisure, nap, adjust, go out to dinner (Piazza Novona or Campo di Fiori), maybe see the Trevi fountain, sleep
2. Vatican City (St. Peterís Basilica, Sistene Chapel/School of Athens), Pantheon, dinner near the pantheon because there are great restaurants there, sleep
3. Coliseum, Forum, Trevi Fountain, Dinner around Spanish Steps, sleep
Note: I think staying near the Spanish steps is great because you are right near the rail line to take you to Vatican City and also to the Coliseum. Also, itís a nice area in itself.

Cinque Terre (2 nights)
1. Morning Train from Roma to Pisa (Eurostar) and Pisa to San Margherita, spend the afternoon walking around the coastal town, maybe catch the ten minute bus along the shore line to Portofino and have dinner there, come back to San Margherita for the night
2. Take the Cinque Terre boat down the shore and see all of the five towns from the water, get off at the last city, walk between the downs, stopping for snacks and breaks. You can either buy a 3 euro trail pass for all five towns, or for 5.40 get access to all trails and trains between towns, so if we decide we donít want to walk all of them, we just start hopping on trains. They are minutes apart on the train. In the evening take the train back to San Margherita for dinner and bed.
Note: We donít have to stay in San Margherita, I just have a great and really reasonable hotel for us to stay in there-- itís really cute. We could stay in one of the five Cinque Terre, but they are all really small and it seemed harder to pick a place. San Margherita is more of an actual little town and it gives us the option of going to Portofino. If we were to actually stay in one of the five Cinque Terre, I would suggest Vernazza. We do need to get ourselves to San Margherita in order to get to Firenze though.

Firenze (3 nights)
1. Take a morning train from San Margherita to Firenze, check in, spend the afternoon just walking around and relaxing, we can pass by the big things like the Duomo, Santa Croce, and the Ponte Vecchio. Dinner, sleep
2. Day around Firenze, visit Villa Spelman, San Miniato church (really worth it for the view), eat at one of the view caffes up there, visit Pitti Palace, eat at one of the really good trattorias on the less touristy side of the bridge, sleep
3. Day trip to San Gimignano from Firenze, we get on a bus not a train for this. (You donít have to do San Gimignano but it was one of my favorites and itís a nice city break), back to Firenze, sleep
4. Spend another day until mid-afternoon in Firenze, see the Ufizzi Gallery and the David at the Accademia, mid-late afternoon get on a train to Venezia (Eurostar)
Note: We can see more or less museums/art/ whatever, but we do have to decide what we are going to see and when we are going to see it, because you need reservations for the Uffizi, the Accademia, and the Pitti Palace, so we donít waste tons of time in ridiculous lines.

Venezia (3 nights)
1. Arrive after dark in Venezia, which is actually a great first intro to the city. I have a really cute place to stay and all we would have to do would be get on the Venezia shuttle bus on the grand canal, get off at CaíRezonnico, and our hotel would be less than two blocks away. The canal is gorgeous at night and you would get to go under the Ponte Rialto. Check in, dinner, sleep.
2. Spend the day exploring Venezia, Campo San Margherita, Campo San Marco, the clock tower, Venezia Basilica, dinner, sleep
3. Another day around Venice, Ponte Rialto, canals/boat, whatever else we please, dinner, sleep
Note: I didnít get to see a lot of the real traditional touristy stops because it was flooded from Carnevale so I donít have as good of a grip of what we do and donít need to see. Venice is more about just walking around though, so we donít have to cram a lot in.

Aosta/Chamonix (1 or 2 nights)
1. Morning train to Torino (Eurostar) and transfer to Aosta, explore in the morning, its supposed to be a really cool city, and in the afternoon take the gondola over to Chamonix, spend the night in Chamonix

Nice (2 nights)
1. Morning train to Nice to explore that town and nearby Monaco, Marseille, ??

I'm really excited and am perusing all the Travel Talk threads to find B&B hotels. She can suggest a place in Florence, too, so mostly we need a hotel in Rome, Aosta, Chamonix and Nice. Any thoughts?
 
Old Mar 7th, 2006, 12:18 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 3,801
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
You will spend a fortune to eat in Portofino and not eat very well. Better to eat dinner in SML. I would suggest you take the boat from SML to Portofino, and the bus back and have dinner in SML.

If you see one art museum on your trip, I would make it the Accademia in VENICE, and not L'Uffizi in Firenze.

Skip Monaco.
nessundorma is offline  
Old Mar 7th, 2006, 01:05 PM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 6,036
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Congratulations! I'm sure its going to be a fabulous trip!

When you are visiting the Forum, its worth the money (and you can get in for free if you are also buying a Colliseum ticket, as both share the same ticket, buy you can avoid the lines by buying the ticket at Palentine Hill as opposed to the Colliseum) to go up to Palentine Hill for a stroll. From there you will find wonderful views of the Forum below.

I personally would prefer to stay around Piazza Navona/Campo di Fiori, as this is more central and there are more great restaurants around the area.

For great views of Florence, its definitely worth the walk up to Piazzale Michaelangelo.

Good luck and happy planning!
Tracy
tcreath is offline  
Old Mar 7th, 2006, 01:27 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 240
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
You are packing a lot into your trip, but when you are with kids the years seem to drop away, right? Enjoy yourself and go back renewed. The most impt. things a semester abroad teaches US students is that USA is not the center of the universe. Does anybody else agree?
vetralla is offline  
Old Mar 7th, 2006, 01:30 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 9,681
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi Maureen,

What a fun trip for you and your daughter! A couple of small suggestions: take the earlies boat over to Portofino, much nicer than the bus. Being there early lets you enjoy the tiny town a bit before the crowds arrive and to pick out a nice marina-side table for lunch (with wine)!

Skip Monaco - instead go visit St. Paul du Vence or Eze.

Buon viaggio!
Dayle is online now  
Old Mar 7th, 2006, 03:58 PM
  #6  
MaureenB
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Thank you, all. I know it sounds like a lot to see and do, but you'll also notice that we've got three-night stays in the big, bustling locations, then two nights in most other stops, and the big towns are mostly interspersed with small towns and countryside.
Sounds like skipping Monaco is the word, eh? Why is that?
What I like about our itinerary is that we can choose to modify it at the end-- to choose Lake Geneva, Lyon, or Nice. My flight is at 7:30 a.m., so if the train schedule cooperates, I could just take the train to the airport and go, whether or not I spend the night in Nice. So, we can decide if we want to end the trip at the sea, by the mountains, or in southern France.
About Nice-- what's there to do? I lean toward ending at the sea, since I live in the Rockies and get my fill of mountains. I'd read there's a good transit system to take you to the nearby towns along the sea. Ideas for things to do in and near Nice?
Thanks!
Also, if we leave this part of the trip somewhat flexible, think we'd be ok without reservations this time of year in Nice, Lyon or Geneva?
 
Old Mar 7th, 2006, 04:43 PM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 3,801
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Monaco is basically a lot of recently constructed condo/apartment buildings piled up a mountain -- and I mean A LOT of them. Wall to wall.
nessundorma is offline  
Old Mar 7th, 2006, 05:01 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 1,960
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
We spent time on the Ligurian coast and much preferred small towns like Tellaro and Camogli to Portofino, which is a bore. I guess if you have a yacht parked at the pier itís worth spending time there, but otherwise itís a waste of time.
wanderful is offline  
Old Mar 7th, 2006, 06:40 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 1,072
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
My daughter and I really liked Nice. There are several things we did not do wish we should have done. Two museums there Picasso one and Chagall one. A Russian church in the old part of the city we did not visit. We took the train to Monaco one day to the aquarium which Prince Ranier started and then visited the cathedral where Princess Grace was buried. Also saw the changing of the guards in front of the palace. Another day we went up on a tour to Monaco which is a beautiful drive(you don't see this scenery on the train very well) stopping in Eze and the Fromage perfume factory.
There is a funicular that goes up the mountain side above Nice which is a nice view of the city. We enjoyed strolling into the Negresco Hotel on the Pomenade d'Angleis. We went to Cannes one day which did not impress me,but we really enjoyed Nice.
maryanne1 is offline  
Old Mar 16th, 2006, 09:38 AM
  #10  
MaureenB
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Details of our trip are shaping up, as I book hotels/B&Bs in each city. If anyone is following my other threads on specific cities, you know I am having fun and being obsessed with planning. Thanks, fodorites for all your help. Keep the suggestions coming, please.
At this point, we won't be changing the number of nights in each city, though. We've thought that through and decided on this itinerary.

Now, our trip looks like this (traveling by EuroStar between cities):
Rome, three nights at Domus Julia

Santa Margherita, two nights at Nuovo Riviera B&B

Florence, four nights at Relais Grand Tour (one day-trip to San Gimignano)

Venice, three nights at Casa Rezzonico

Aosta/Chamonix, one night TBD, so we can do the hair-raising gondola ride on Mont Blanc!

Nice, two nights at Le Grimaldi

So, it's shaping up and I'm getting really excited to leave in early May. The daily plans will be filled in by my daughter, who is living in Florence this semester and has a list of things she wants me to see in each city. I'll be in her capable hands once I arrive (and pay all the bills!).

Any other tips will be appreciated. Like for restaurants, especially. Thanks!
 
Old Apr 3rd, 2006, 12:34 PM
  #11  
MaureenB
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
We have decided the side-trip to Valle d'Aoste isn't going to fit into our trip this time. It is just too long a haul up and back, takes up too much time for a simple overnight. In fact, it would require a two-night stay for us, and would squeeze time from other major sites, so we've dropped it.
Now we're planning:
(traveling by EuroStar between cities, except perhaps flying Venic-Nice):
ē Rome, three nights at Domus Julia. See Vatican and Sistine Chapel, the Pieta, Coloseum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, etc.
ē Santa Margherita, two nights at Nuovo Riviera B&B. See Portofino and walk the Cinque Terre trail.
ē Florence, four nights at Relais Grand Tour or Relais Cavalcanti (still deciding between the two neighborhoods-- if anyone has a recommendation...) Day-trip to San Gimignano, see David, Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, meet my daughter's 'Florence family' and see her school's villa.
ē Venice, three nights at Casa Rezzonico. San Marco, walk everywhere, take vaporettos, see everything.
ē Nice, three nights at Le Grimaldi. Day-trip to Cannes perhaps (film festival will be there), day trip to Provence, explore Nice, Chagall museum perhaps.

A little over one month to go, and counting down! I'm researching transportation from Venice to Nice. We could fly, but I think we would have to go to Paris and back. Or we could do a sleeper train. Still searching. Recommendations?
 
Old Apr 4th, 2006, 06:19 AM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 2,355
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I think it's wise to skip Valle d'Aosta. I thoroughly disliked it. It's a whole (though small) region with that certain ski resort flair, the landscape being destroyed by apartment buildings of the worst type, by highway, train and lots of powerlines tucked into that rather narrow valley.
franco is offline  
Old Apr 4th, 2006, 06:38 AM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 3,801
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
You wrote: "See Portofino and walk the Cinque Terre trail."

Do you mean the trail between Portofino and Santa Margherita Ligure or that you intend to go to Cinque Terre and hike one of the trails?

You might find the first much more enjoyable than the second, since fewer people do it. However, if you feel you must see the tourist atraction of CT, I would still suggest that you choose a path other than the popular "lover's walk" between Riomaggiore and Manarola. Although it is probably the easiest CT walk (flat, paved and 30 minutes to traverse), it is mobbed and not very inspiring. There are websites that describe the other trails in detail if you are up to something a little more challenging and if you prefer something a little more rural. (Even on those trails, however, you can expect plenty of company).

The name of you Venice hotel makes me think you will be staying near the Ca'Rezzonico and its vaporetto stop. There is a family-run, not very expensive restaurant not far from there that I quite enjoy for its simple food and extremely friendly owner, Stefano, who also makes delicious cocktails. You can ask if your hotel agrees with me and to give you directions to the restaurant, whose name is Do Farai (which means "Two Lamps", which it has outside its doors).
nessundorma is offline  
Old Apr 4th, 2006, 06:53 AM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 2,355
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
This time, I have to say something in favor of the CT (surprise!): one of the two best things to do there is walking from one village to another (of course, nessundorma is right - not from Riomaggiore to Manarola). The trail from Vernazza to Corniglia is a bit demanding, but exceptionally beautiful - you're just on the right level above the sea to have really astonishing views. It was crowded, yes, but less crowded than most other places in the CT.
(The second thing which is really fun is going along the coastline by boat - another delightful perspective onto the villages, and another possibility to stay away from the tourist masses for a while.)
franco is offline  
Old Apr 4th, 2006, 10:21 AM
  #15  
MaureenB
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Thank you for your suggestions, and reassurance about skipping Aosta. It's a shame if it's been poorly or over-developed.
My daughter is planning our daily activities, and she was thinking we'd take the boat and then walk back the CT pathways, or hop on the train if we tire or weather is bad. I didn't realize we could choose between different trails. Do you know the URL of the website to which you referred?
If there's also a trail from Santa Margherita to Porto Fino, we could do that, too, because we'll have two nights.
Since we'll be there in mid-May, will it be that crowded already?
Thanks for the name of the restaurant in Venice. I think you are exactly correct about our hotel's location there.
I appreciate all your help.
Anyone have thoughts on traveling Venice to Nice?
 
Old Apr 4th, 2006, 11:54 AM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 3,801
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Ok, gotcha.

If there is boat available from SML to CT, you'll take a boat, and get off at one CT town and hike to another -- then take a train back to SML. (If there isn't a boat, which is sometimes the case if it's windy, you can take the train both ways). I think Franco is giving you good directions to a hike that might work for you.

Yes, there is a way to walk from Portofino to SML, but Portofino is, as you know, a separate destination from CT and you cannot reach it by train -- only bus, boat or foot. Depending on how much you like hiking, you can of course to or from Portofino as part of your stay there in addition to the CT. My advice would be to ask your hotel for a map that clearly shows you where that trail is, or to direct you to where you can find such a map.

nessundorma is offline  
Old Apr 4th, 2006, 12:05 PM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 1,151
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Maureen, you're going to love spending time with your daughter after her semester in Florence. It will be so special. I met my daughter in Lyon after her year as an exchange student and it meant seeing her in such a different light.

If you haven't already, and are so inclined, read "Michaelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling" by Ross King. It will enrich your visit to the Vatican (and Florence) immensely. Also, when you take the train from Pisa notice the hills of marble where Michaelangelo chose his pieces for so many of his works.

Enjoy! It will be a memorable trip.
Catbert is offline  
Old Apr 4th, 2006, 02:04 PM
  #18  
MaureenB
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Thank you, Catbert-- It will definitely be the trip of a lifetime for us. I will look for the book you recommend, too.
I'm wondering about reservations in Rome at the Vatican. I went to the Holy See website, but couldn't find anything there about reservations. Anyone know how to do it? I understand St. Peter's Basilica is always open, so no need for a reservation-- is that correct? What's the best way to see the highlights of the Vatican City? With only two full days, we can't waste time there.
Thanks again, everyone.
 
Old Apr 4th, 2006, 02:13 PM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 1,151
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
St. Peters is not always open. I believe it's open from 7 am to 7 pm. I believe you can get tours to the Vatican Museum. Otherwise you may wait in a long line. There's another thread in today's listing about getting reservations.
Catbert is offline  
Old Apr 5th, 2006, 08:38 AM
  #20  
MaureenB
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Thanks again, catbert. (I believe we are both colorado residents, non?)
 

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information

FODOR'S VIDEO