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Feb 4th, 2008, 01:32 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 33

Well after several weeks of planning, reading, posting messages and looking for places to stay, I finally have a tenative itinerary for COMMENTS and SUGGESTIONS by those seasoned travelers to Italy.

Our profile is this: My wife and I are traveling to Italy for the first time to celebrate our 25th. This should be interesting. Were not seasoned travelers but were excited about this trip. We are both 50, in good health, neither has been to Italy, traveling the last two weeks in April, 2008, we are budget conscious (kids in college!), we plan to take a couple of trains and rent a car for a few days, we will fly into Geneva, Swiss (because were visiting friends for a day or so in Geneva) and then are taking the fast train from Geneva to Florence (any suggestions on bookings and seat class?) Wife wants to spend several days in Tuscany and I want to see Sorrento and surrounding areas. Both want to see Rome. Here are Italy trip begins.

Here is the ITINERARY:

April 15: Leave CVG

April 16: Arrive Geneva, friends pick us up, we stay with them

April 17: Geneva (stay and visit
with friends)

April 18&19: Early morning fast train to
Florence, stay at Hotel
Bargellino (seems like a nice hotel for 2 nights. Visit Florence for a night and a day. DO I need to make reservations at the Uffizi and/or Galley Academia and if so how best to do this?

April 20,21,22,23 in Siena. Early morning train or Bus( which do you suggest?) Which will be our HOME BASE. Stay
at Alma Domus all 4 nights. The price is right and reviews seem fine. Visit Siena and rent a car (any suggestions of where too rent?) in Siena on April 21 and visit nearby towns. Would like to see San G and Pienza and take vineyard tour at Montalcino. I am open for suggestions here as far as towns to visit and places to see.

April 24,25 & 26 Sorrento. Either keep the car and drive to Sorrento, with a possible stop at Pompeii or turn in the car in and take the train to Sorrento. Since we will be in Siena I am told just drive to Sorrento and turn the car in there. Stay at Palazzo Starace B & B. Good review, in town, inexpensive, clean B&B. Day or 1/2 trips to AF.Coast, Capri and maybe Positano. Open for ideas for our 3 days in Sorrento area.

April 27, 28 & 29. Rome, Stay at Santa Falconiere Convent. I reserved Scavi tour tickets for the 28th. Plan just to pick and choose sites in Rome. Obviously lots to see. Want to see Vatican, Colosseum... first tiem visitors.

April 30. Fly home

I welcome any and all suggestions...PLACES TO VISIT, EAT, Train Schedules, Car Rentals and anything else for planning. I don't want to over plan but its nice to have a general plan, reserve your hotel rooms and then be FLEXIBLE.


mikesutton is offline  
Feb 4th, 2008, 02:11 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,577
Sounds fun!
Re the vineyard tour in Montalcino - I visited Banfi, had a winemakers lunch (delicious!) and a tour. It was a nice easy drive for us. I think it is just a little south of Montalcino.

cls2paris is offline  
Feb 4th, 2008, 02:13 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 14,536
Hi Mike

Where is the Santa Falconiere Convent? I couldn't find a reference to it.

How you travel to Siena may depend on where you are picking up your rental car. The bus does arrive much closer to the city center than does the train, but the rental agency may be near the train station.

Il Bargellino sounds ok. It seems that you are ok with a more bare bones type of room. Nothing wrong with that. I would prefer a cup of coffee or tea in the morning, but of course your preference is most important. After reading the reviews, it seems that the owners are very willing to make reservations for you, so why not let them make your Uffizi and Accademia reservations?

It appears that the Alma Domus, and maybe Il Bargellino, have those Italian showers that are not separated by anything from the rest of the bathroom. If this is fine with you, it is fine with me. But although I don't need any kind of luxury, I dislike it when my bathroom is soaking wet.

I am trying not to be too much of a downer, but since you mention not being well traveled in Europe, and first time visitors to Italy, and this being your anniversary, I thought I would bring this up.

Does Alma Domus have parking? Parking in Siena can sometimes be a drag, with long walks involved, especially on market day, which is Wednesday. That said, the market, especially the lower food portion, is very good. Over by lunch time.

If you will have the car for more than one day, consider San Gimignano and another town (Volterra, or Colle val d'Elsa) one day, and Pienza and Montalcino on another. Be very aware that all these places will probably be rather shut at mid day. Also check for days when shops and sights are closed.

I like Colle val d'Elsa, but as in all these towns, being there between noon and four is like visiting the cemetary. Very quiet.

If you go to San Gimignano, do not miss the Duomo. The interior is beyond description.

I tried not to hurt your feelings. If possible, though, could you go for slightly nicer hotels?
tuscanlifeedit is offline  
Feb 4th, 2008, 02:21 PM
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Posts: 2,453
I'm going to weigh in on the opposite side from Tuscanlifeeditor: Have you considered convents/monasteries in Florence and Sorrento?

This one in Florence gets fantastic reviews from most people:

And this Web site lists one or two convents in Sorrento:

I don't know about the Alma Domus shower situation, but the showers at Istituto Santa Giuliana Falconieri are state of the art; not private or en suite (except in one room, I think), but squeaky clean and never a line for them.
Zerlina is offline  
Feb 4th, 2008, 02:34 PM
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Have the hotel make reservations at the Uffizi and Academia.

Take the bus from Florence to Siena it is faster, cheaper and more convienient. It will drop you within walking distance of the Alma Domus. See http://www.sitabus.it/sita-toscana/Firenze-Siena07.pdf
Some of the rooms at Alma Domus have enclosed shower, ensuite, and balconies with a view of the Duomo.

Drive to Montalcino then take the road to Sant'Atimo
stopping at Frattoria dei Barbi on the way for a wine tasting. Then to pienza.

Henry is offline  
Feb 4th, 2008, 03:29 PM
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Mike, You have made some progress---good job.
I agree with Henry in Tuscany---get the car in Siena but you will need to taxi to the near the station. Use Autoeurope---call at 800-223-5555 to book. Do yourself a favor and Google " Gennaro & Salvatore"---you will thank me later. have fun !
bobthenavigator is offline  
Feb 4th, 2008, 03:47 PM
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If you plan to spend a full day in San G you could save a day's car rental and take the local bus. It is not a long ride and is very inexpensive. The bus from Florence to Siena is your best bet. The bus station in Florence is right next to the train station and will bring you just outside the wall in Siena.
basingstoke2 is offline  
Feb 4th, 2008, 05:05 PM
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Re-reading my post I should have made clear that I was talking about taking a bus from Siena to San G as well as the bus being the best way from Florene to Siena.
basingstoke2 is offline  
Feb 4th, 2008, 05:22 PM
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Hi Mike,

I'll throw out another possibility to you. If it were me, I would pick up the car in Siena and use it for the whole 4-5 days between there and Sorrento. A 5 day rental probably won't be more than a 3 day rental. Then, you will have all freedom possible for exploring Tuscany, a high priority in my book. Who knows where you might want to stop, wander and enjoy a picnic or take a beautiful photo?

Personally, I wouldn't stay in Siena. I would choose one of the smaller hilltowns. Easier to drive in and out of (roads around Siena are the only place I've had trouble navigating) and a bigger change from the major cities you already plan.

I would also stay in 2 locations for your 4 Tuscany nights. Siena and maybe Montalcino, further south. Many people say you lose too much time checking in/out of hotels every time you move, but it sounds to me like you and your wife could very well be light and easy travelers. The hour or two you spend checking out or finding the next hotel/convent/whatever, will be made up by not backtracking to Siena again, only to train or drive south to Sorrento.

Second Henry's recommendation to visit Sant' Antimo abbey. Go early or late, hear the mass in Gregorian Chant, see the sun stream through the windows. Don't go during "visiting hours", that's when the tour buses roll in! This was a beautiful and serene highlight of my last trip.

Buon viaggio!

Dayle is offline  
Feb 4th, 2008, 07:19 PM
Original Poster
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Posts: 33

the boat trips with gennaro and salatore look great but they orginate and end in Positano and were staying in Sorrento. Any know boat operators or driversin Sorrento?
mikesutton is offline  
Feb 4th, 2008, 08:00 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 7,205
Have you booked Istituto Santa Giuliana Falconieri yet? If not, head to the phone or email Sister Kathryn immediately. They book early. Request a room on the highest (4th?) floor because the higher you are the farther you are from the noise of the traffic, which you can hear even with the windows closed. There is an elevator. I stayed there in April 2005, and wouldn't hesitate to stay there again.
Betsy is offline  
Feb 4th, 2008, 08:09 PM
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I like the other suggestions on here, and whether you stay with your hotels or not, tuscanlife is right. That style shower takes some getting used to.

I would gently disagree with Dayle. You are staying in five places in two weeks. I would not add an extra in that time frame.
5alive is offline  
Feb 4th, 2008, 08:19 PM
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Posts: 10,157
April 25 is a huge national holiday in Italy which falls this year on a Friday. Virtually every italian will have the holiday and turn it into a three-day weekend away somewhere, which means very crowded trains on Friday and Sunday, and lots of traffic on the roads. If you plan any train travel on those days for your move to Rome, reserve the tickets when you first arrive in Florence.
ellenem is offline  
Feb 5th, 2008, 05:22 PM
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My thinking on splitting your time in Tuscany to 2 locations was based on your mention of wanting to do a wine tasting around Montalcino.

Since Montalcino is south of Siena and "on the way to Rome" why backtrack to Siena only to drive/train south again? On a short trip, you will be a bit more efficient.

It's all good. You will return and want to see more. Don't try to cram in too much. Just enjoy BEING!

buon viaggio
Dayle is offline  
Feb 5th, 2008, 05:32 PM
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Mike, Sorrento is not the Amalfi Coast---Positano is. That is why they have a bus line that connects them that takes :30. That coastal trip is the reason to go there in the first place.
bobthenavigator is offline  

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