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Apr 23rd, 2014, 08:53 AM
  #1
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Couples trip- 18 nights-Itinerary Help

My husband and I are traveling to Italy for the third time for 18 nights beginning June 22. We are arriving in Naples and departing from Milan. On past trips, we have been to Florence, Rome, and the AC. So far, my itinerary includes 4 nights on the AC (it may be our favorite place on Earth), 1 night in Assisi (to break up the distance) and 3 nights in Tuscany near Siena. I have not finalized my transportation, but we are not opposed to hiring a driver for convenience. (We are traveling WITHOUT our six children so we have left the budget pretty open for more upscale accommodations, dining, etc.) After that, our trip is wide open. We are not big museum/art people. We love the outdoors, fine food and wine, quaint Italian villages, shopping, and relaxing and enjoying the culture. I have considered Cinque Terre, Venice, the Dolomites, and the Italian Lakes. I am looking for suggestions for where to go, how long to stay, and how to get there. Thank you!!!
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Apr 23rd, 2014, 09:28 AM
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If you have never done Venice I wold put it at the top of your list. It is unique in a lot of ways and although there are a number of fine museums you can see incredible sights just be wandering the streets and looking at domestic architecture, in and outside of all of the churches and visiting the outlying islands.

We especially love Torcello, which has a church in the Byzantine manner - and where the Venetians took refuge when the germanic tribes poured over the alps into Italy after the fall of Rome.
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Apr 23rd, 2014, 09:34 AM
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I agree with the AC being one of our favorite spots on earth! Returning to Positano for the 4th time at the end of June. Let me know if you need a rec for a driver from NAP to the AC.

Definitely include Venice - it is a magical place unlike any other! And with 18 nights, I would stick to those 4 locations (AC, Assisi, Tuscany and Venice).
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Apr 23rd, 2014, 10:44 AM
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Definitely Venice. I've spent a week or more there several times and there's still more to see.

You might look at Venissa on the island of Massorba for classy eats and sleeps.

With 18 days I'd pick three places. Otherwise a lot of packing and unpacking.

Buon viaggio!
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Apr 24th, 2014, 03:48 AM
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Whatever its undeniable merits as a sightseeing destination, it notably lacks many of the features you say you love. It is the quintessential open air museum city (I'm quoting Henry James here!), generally lacking in fine food and wine, lacking Italian village life and culture. It's got a lot of shopping, and as for relaxation, most people end up spending most of their time sightseeing amid crowds in summertime rather than relaxing. I'm not trying to discourage you from seeing Venice if you and your friends want that for this trip, only giving you more information so you can think about whether you do want that for this trip.

I think if you can get beyond le Cinque Terre itself (which is quite toursity and crowded) then the Italian Riviera offers the most for those who love the outdoors, fine food, quaint Italian villages, and relaxing and enjoying the culture. It is weak on wine and shopping, and is definitely light on museums. If you are huge fan of the Amalfi you might find the Italian Riviera not quite your style.

For me the Dolomiti and Lago di Como offer Italy's most spectacular and unique scenery, and they are superior places for enjoying relaxation and nature, and I would enjoy the cooler temps. But the towns are quite developed for tourism when it comes to culture, and while I like the wine near the Dolomiti, I am less keen on the food and the the lakes are generally uninteresting for food. The lakes are better for shopping, however, than the Dolomiti.

I would suggest first deciding which specific Italian destinations your group would most enjoy given your personal interests and preferences for whether relaxing or outdoors activities or shopping or sightseeing important places is top of the pops, and then once you have figure that out you can start on deciding on how best to get there.
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Apr 24th, 2014, 04:08 AM
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mamalemley -- it case it wasn't obvious, that "It" in my first paragraph is referring to Venice as a sightseeing destination.
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Apr 24th, 2014, 04:25 AM
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Venice of course lacks "Italian village culture" but it has "urban neighborhood culture" that is just as good and very diverse.

Venetian food is just as delicious as any othe regional food in Italy, but it is not pasta-based (rice is the usual starch) and heavily focused on seafood. You won't find the best food in the largest tourist centers any more than you will find the best French food on the Champs Élysées. But it is there.
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Apr 24th, 2014, 04:58 AM
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>>>1 night in Assisi (to break up the distance) and 3 nights in Tuscany near Siena.<<<

Assisi isn't really on the way to Siena from Amalfi. Will you rent a car for this part of the trip?
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Apr 24th, 2014, 05:15 AM
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I think the post title is a bit confusing - but I believe this is just a husband and wife (not a bunch of couples).

For me, Venice is quite romantic - but I would agree to add the lakes or Dolomites given your tastes.

We just returned from the Amalfi Coast. If you enjoy outdoors and hiking, we hiked from Positano, up to Monterpertuso, over to Nocelle, and onto Bomerano where you can have a lovely lunch.

Some people hike one way - but we elected to come home via the trail (it seemed easier than dealing with the bus). The scenery is spectacular.
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Apr 24th, 2014, 06:12 AM
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kybourbon- Can you suggest a better place to stop to break up the distance from Naples to Siena, or should we just bite the bullet and do it all in one day? I have heard we should avoid the Naples train station. What are your thoughts on that and the most time effective way to make the trip?

As for the confusing post, it is just my husband and myself traveling. Sorry!

And if it helps, shopping is probably last on my lists of priorities, as I tend to shop my fair share here in the states. So, for what its worth, the food, wine, and scenery are more important. if we happen upon good shopping while indulging in the other three, then we do enjoy it.

JulieCallahan-We have made the "Walk of the Gods" on the AC on both of our trips there and it is one of our highlights. We also did Mama Agata's cooking class in Ravello and it was a blast.

Im still torn concerning Venice and welcome more feedback. Some people loveit, and others say it is smelly and dirty. Im sure we would enjoy it...after all, it is Italy. But, I just am not sure its the best choice given our love for other things.
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Apr 24th, 2014, 06:58 AM
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Whether you are driving (distance is the metric) or taking a train (time is the metric) Assisi is a detour. If you bother going to Assisi, why not take time visiting Umbria?

If you are traveling by train, you will find that Napoli-Florence is a 2 hours 51 min trip, while the fastest Napoli-Assisi trip is about 3 hours 35 min with other connections taking more than 4 hours. Even considering that you have to make your way from Florence to Siena area, it is actually effective timewise to go straight to "Tuscany". What is biting the bullet for a train travel is to stop at Assisi.

If fine food is your interest, Emilia Romagna region is not to be missed.
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Apr 24th, 2014, 07:38 AM
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"Smelly and dirty" is a fairly unusual experience in Venice, and probably confined to experiences some people have taking gondola rides at night through smaller canals in summertime. Venice, in terms of graffitti and trash, is certainly cleaner than many other European and American cities. Some people just react to the urban lagoon waters as "dirty" or the fact that several million tourists do create a lot of rubbish every day. But generally Venice is tidy and upscale now.

Emilia-Romagna is quite hot in the summer and much of its food is not really summer friendly. It is hard to find a region of Italy that does not have truly marvelous food, including Naples above all and the Riviera (and that food is summer friendly). You will pay a lot more for good food and wine in Venice, but if you aren't careful, you can also drop a fortune almost anywhere in Italy (on fish especially).

Given that you must fly out of Milan and are coming from southern Tuscany -- and you say you've got some money to spend plus a good 8-10 days to spare -- then you might consider driving to Venice, parking the car for 3 nights, and then talking a loop up through the Dolomiti, and down one of the shores of Lago di Garda before spending your last night at Milan airport.
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Apr 24th, 2014, 07:46 AM
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Also, are you sure you want to go to Assisi -- especially just to break up a trip? You are not only going out of your way, but you will landing yourself smack in the middle of a huge tourist swarm, and if you are not "big art people" then Assisi is something of a disaster in most other respects, not really quaint and without good food -- plus it could be stinking hot.

There is nothing wrong with the Naples train station (it just like the one in Rome) so you could go spend the night in Orvieto, or just go to Orvieto or Chiusi to pick up a car and drive to your Tuscan location.
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Apr 24th, 2014, 08:28 AM
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I like Sandralist's suggestion.

BTW, we just took the train from Naples to Rome... oh my gosh.

High speed, on time, immaculate - and they served a drink (and wore white gloves)... I went to the bathroom and didn't gag. I told my husband I was going to stay on until Milan (he made me get off to catch our flight).

Maybe it is because I live in Central Europe, but the train was a dream. No need (for me at least) to break this trip up!... Book your tix early for a big savings...
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Apr 24th, 2014, 09:21 AM
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Did the people who said Venice was "smelly and dirty" actually go there? Or are they just passing on an old out-of-date chestnut they heard from other people? If they went there, what time of year and how long did they stay?

Venice has many admirers on this forum and I'm one of them. In fact, I find it the most beautiful city in the world. And it's supremely romantic. No formal sightseeing is required in Venice. You just wander around getting lost; you won't get really lost; it's not that big.

To get the full experience, be sure to stay in Venice proper, not on the mainland (like Mestre) and not on the Lido. Venice is crowded during the day but you'll have it in peace nights and mornings.
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Apr 24th, 2014, 09:38 AM
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Here's some reviews from the internet of gondola tours and blog posts from people who actually visited Venice or even live there. Obviously one doesn't t need to stay in a place long at all to smell a stink or see something dirty.

"the 40 minutes gondola ride just glided along the small canals with dirty water, bad smell, no beautiful scenery" (Oct 2012)

"Venice stinks like a thru-hiker with dysentery coming off the Appalachian Trail. The reason for this is that the only traffic is boat traffic (and if you’ve ever been to a busy port you’ll know all you can smell is diesel fumes) and the canals. The canals don’t exactly have that salty-sea-breeze smell of Old Spice, by the way. They’re used as the sewer system for the entire city. I don’t know about you, but to me diesel and garbage smell does not a pleasant vacation make." (April 2012)

"pigeon poo everywhere. Everywhere! You’ll walk in it, probably get pooped on at least once" (April 2012)

"include in that list the much more frequent AND PREVENTABLE odor that too many people — tourists or otherwise — emit from their underarms on crowded vaporettos and buses in the summer. The fact that many of them (usually men, sorry) are clinging for support to something overhead just makes it worse. Often their shirts have no sleeves." (Feb 2014)


and this fascinating blog post about the city's canals and sewerage

http://italoamericano.com/story/2013-4-5/Venice-Canals


Anyway, romantic is an essentially subjective thing. Many people don't find Venice "supremely romantic" (certainly not in Italy) just like not everybody finds somebody else's spouse "romantic." Many people find their romance much closer to home, and lots of people aren't interested in going to Venice to get lost.

I proposed an itinerary that included Venice so obviously I've got nothing against people visiting. But for people to try to deny other people their experience of Venice strikes me as wrong. They are just as valid as yours, and many of them have spent more time in Venice than you have, and they weren't lost.
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Apr 24th, 2014, 09:40 AM
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I agree with sandralist's suggestion of a stopover in Orvieto if you want to break up your trip. Also, the Naples train station is fine! Very modern and seemed clean. We hired a driver to bring us from Positano to the Naples train station, and he suggested leaving early for a quick stop in Pompeii. We took his advice and were glad that we did. If you can afford a driver, I'd highly recommend that. I can give you his name if you need it.

We have also visited Assisi as a day trip from Siena; it took quite a while, but the drive was nice. The church of St Francis is stunning, and we thought the town was beautiful. However, I'd have to agree that it's pretty far out of the way for a stopover from Naples to Tuscany.

Have you decided on your hotels yet? We are going to Italy again this summer, and returning to Palazzo Ravissa in Siena. It's ideal if you will be driving, as they have their own parking lot that makes it easy to use as a base for day trips.

I'd also suggest that you include Venice. Yes, it will be crowded, but there are areas where you can escape the daytime crowds, and nothing is as romantic as sitting in Piazza San Marco at night, listening to the live music and sipping wine!
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Apr 24th, 2014, 10:57 AM
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Since it doesn't seem you plan on a car, you could take the train from Naples to Rome Tiburtina station (1 hour). Italo uses this station and Trenitalia has a few fast trains that stop there although most of Trenitalia fast trains go to Rome Termini. From Rome Tiburtina (train/metro/bus hub), you can catch the Sena bus to Siena (3 hours).

http://www.sena.it/

http://www.italotreno.it/EN/Pages/default.aspx

I don't have a problem with Naples train station, but like all train stations or tourist areas, there will always be a few pick pockets or people trying to help with your luggage for a fee.

If you do want to stop, Orvieto would be nice if you haven't been. You would have to use Trenitalia and change trains in Rome (the fast trains don't stop in Orvieto). From the train station, you take the funicular up to the hill town. There are two buses at the top (A & B) and you would choose the one depending on your hotel location.

To depart Orvieto for Siena, you take another slow train just a few stops to Chiusi Chianciano where you have to change trains to Siena (often you only have a minute or two for the change). Do not get off at Torrita di Siena(it's a long way from Siena). The trains don't arrive in the center of Siena so you have to take a bus (catch in the underground parking lot across the street under the mall) or taxi up to the historic center.

If you decide to go directly to Siena from the AC with the Sena bus option, the Sena bus drops you at the historic center (Piazza Gramsci). It makes a few other Siena stops, but get off at Gramsci.

One other option if you are staying in Amalfi, depart from Salerno train station (Italo and Trenitalia both have trains there). If Trenitalia, book a train that doesn't require a change in Naples.
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Apr 24th, 2014, 11:21 AM
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If you like Naples (and you appear to), you'll like Venice. Most romantic city in the world, IMHO. If the crowds get to you, take the vaporetto to Torcello for the day and wander around.

You might also think about seeing some of the smaller cities in northern Italy--Padua, Ravenna, Ferrara, Bologna for food, Verona--each one very different from the others and each with interesting stuff to do.
Not so scenic, but wonderful, nevertheless
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Apr 24th, 2014, 01:19 PM
  #20
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Thanks everyone for the feedback. This is my first time to post on a forum, and the information I am getting is quite helpful. Two things...I think we will definitely skip the night in Assisi and perhaps just add one more night on the AC before heading to our spot near Siena for 3 nights. I think gregs idea of taking the fast train from Naples to Florence is the best fit for us. We aren't really fond of buses so we can decide there if we want a car or want to hire a driver. Also, as far as Naples is concerned, we have only flown in and out of there. Our time on the AC has always been spent in Positano-Amalfi-Ravello-Capri. And, I didnt mean for the "smelly" comment as an insult to Venice fans. I just wanted to explain my hesitation.I am clearly still so fresh in my knowledge of Italy and it's a bit overwhelming when there is so much to see and experience.
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