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First Italy Trip: tour versus independent?

First Italy Trip: tour versus independent?

Dec 13th, 2012, 10:08 AM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 78,322
Burano is nice but still heavily touristed at times but sleep Torcello (see anhig's comments above) rarely IME of going there several times have much more lurking about than its legendary herd of feral cats! some really different from Venice proper.

And to go this far across the lagoon by boat is great - one can imagine being in the shoes of ancient mariners who first glimpsed what was then one of the wonders of the world from afar across the water - and how their anticipating of finally getting to this Valhalla increased the nearer it gets.
PalenQ is offline  
Dec 13th, 2012, 01:07 PM
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not sure about Torcello being that sleepy - there were school parties there the time we went, but it was pretty peaceful after hey'd left. You get the boat to Burano from the Fondamente nova and then a little ferry from the jetty next to the Vaporetto stop on Burano - it stops at lunchtime so if you get there before noon, you have to decide whether to go to Torcello straight away and have lunch there, [we ate at the Trattoria Attila which we enjoyed] or to have lunch on Burano [lots of nice places to eat] and go to Torcello afterwards.

[if you have time, before you get on the vaporetto at the fondamente nova, walk round the corner to the church of the Gesuiti and have a look at the curtains - hard to believe that they are carved from marble, so realistically do they fall. the church is only open in the morning, which is why I say to do it before you go to the islands, not afterwards.]
annhig is offline  
Dec 13th, 2012, 02:23 PM
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And if you do go to Venice first, that's a good place to get over jet-lag and get in tune with the Italian experience -- without having to dodge Vespas and cars.

Jet-lag affects different people differently but generally you will be sleepy and disoriented the first day or so, maybe wake up wide awake at 3 AM. To deal with jet-lag, I always add an extra day or so to my first stop. And I make that stop a city where there's lots to do day and night so we can be flexible about our sightseeing. (Maybe go back to the hotel for a siesta.)

The idea of skipping Rome this time is excellent, demonstrating exactly the virtue of independent travel. You could never make this kind of personalized choice when on a guided bus tour.
Mimar is offline  
Dec 13th, 2012, 06:08 PM
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>>>What about the idea of doing a day trip from Florence to do the Vatican? Feasible?<<<

You could stop on your way to Florence. You can store your luggage in the train station (downstairs), hop the metro (also downstairs) to the Vatican (6 stops from Termini), tour the museums or visit St. Peter's, retrieve your luggage and continue on to Florence.
kybourbon is online now  
Dec 13th, 2012, 07:09 PM
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Very glad that I posted this. I actually feel pretty good with the decision to do Rome as a day trip rather than spend a couple nights there this time around. You all helped me really narrow down what I want out of this. Thanks!

I'd appreciate other hotel suggestions for Sorrento, Florence/Tuscany and Venice.

JFtravels is offline  
Dec 13th, 2012, 07:40 PM
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We stayed in the Hotel Corallo in Sorento and it was lovely. A lot of the rooms have windows or balconies overlooking the bay.
Your trip sounds great!
sara_j is offline  
Dec 13th, 2012, 07:43 PM
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Oops. The correct website is
sara_j is offline  
Dec 26th, 2012, 07:01 AM
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Put what is most important to you at the top of your list and work around it. What others consider top sights might not be important for you. Obviously Sorrento, with the connections you have with it, is very important. In June, I went to Italy for 5 days (4 nights). This amount of time in a single city was fine since I travel slower at 65 yo and was returning from a demanding trip in East Africa. What was important was to see Florence (very noisy) and Piza. Everything I read said Piza wasn't worth the day trip or time but I loved it! The architecture is so much more than is reflected in photographs. And now I have my own photos. For me, it was a highlight. See what inspires you!
cdnnomad is offline  
Dec 26th, 2012, 07:49 AM
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Sorrento in any case makes a convenient base - easy to get to Pompeii or Ercolo by train or Capri, Ischia by ship or Naples by ship or train and buses to the Amalfi Coast villages.

Not the most romantic of cities since it is not that old looking nor really right on the sea - every few sea views it seemed when I was there but a nice watering hole with streets alive with strollers at night, etc. and lots of good hotels and restaurants but most of all great transportation links for day trips - the very best located of any town in the area.
PalenQ is offline  
Dec 27th, 2012, 07:40 AM
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Sorrento not on the sea? That large body of water called the Gulf of Naples doesn't count? PalenQ, maybe you've confused Sorrento with some other place. I found Sorrento rather pretty, lush with volcanic-ash-enhanced foliage. And we lucked out with a saint's day celebration when we were there: decorated streets, a parade, a band.
Mimar is offline  
Dec 27th, 2012, 09:08 AM
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Well I was just in Sorrento for five nights in October and I can assure you it is on the sea! Every morning when I opened the shutters, there it was, the most amazing view of the bay of Naples with Mt. Vesuvius in the background.
raincitygirl is online now  
Dec 27th, 2012, 09:55 AM
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Sorrento is definitely on the water (our hotel room balcony overlooked it) - but if you want to be technical it is the Bay of Naples and not actually the sea itself.

And, IMHO, Sorrento is charming - esp if you have a hotel with good views and beautiful gardens.
nytraveler is offline  
Dec 27th, 2012, 01:34 PM
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You will love Italy!! Our first visit we went with a group Untours (Untours.com) In a nutshell, they offer apartments, local help, planning guides etc., but you are on your own for the day to day planning. We spent one week in Rome and one week in Venice. The next time we went on our own. Spent 3 days in Rome, 2 weeks on a farm in Tuscany, from which we took day trips with a car, and then 4 days in Florence. Our hotels in Rome and Florence were 3 stars and very well situated for where we wanted to go. Check out Untours. They will help you if you are hesitant about being on your own.
Ifnotnow_when is offline  
Dec 27th, 2012, 06:58 PM
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If you can fly into Venice, you will have a bit more time in the city than if you leave from Venice, as it takes less time to get to the train station to go to Florence, than to the airport.

In Venice, you should book in advance either a tour or tickets to the Doges Palace and tickets to St Marks. There is a lot of art in Venice, do some reading in advance and decide what interests you the most. Venice will probably be the most expensive city to stay in, but its well worth it.

You can go to Burano for a few hours and then head back to Venice. So if that is what you want to do, go for it.. its your vacation.

In Florence you can book in advance your tickets to the Uffizi and to the Accademia. Its worth having timed tickets in advance. You can do a day trip either by renting a car; taking a bus or the train, depending on where you want to go.

Rather than a day trip to Rome, I think the suggestion by kyburbon makes more sense... make Rome a stop on your trip to Sorrento.. store the luggage, take the metro a few stops and then go to the Vatican.. it will take a few hours but you will get to see the Sistine Chapel. Once you firm up your plans make sure to book tickets online for the Vactican/Sistine Chapel.. the Vatican has an official website for this.

The reason I am suggesting getting tickets in advance is to save time so you wont be standing in a line waiting to purchase tickets and you wont find out too late that all the tickets have been sold to group tours or other individuals.
maxima is offline  
Dec 27th, 2012, 09:07 PM
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JF, I can highly recommend the Corte 1321 B&B in Venice (http://www.corte1321.com/en/description.htm). It is in a lovely area of San Polo, just 5 minutes from the vaporetto and 10 from the Rialto bridge, yet very quiet. The owners are Americans, so speak English. Loved this B&B.

In Florence, I only ever stay at the Hotel Casci. You will see on TripAdvisor that they are very highly rated. (http://www.hotelcasci.com/en/home.html). The hotel is in the heart of Florence (two minutes from the Duomo) and the included breakfast is the best I've had. Price is right, too.

Please note not to confuse the "star" ratings on European hotels with those in the US. This hotel is "2 star" not because of service or location or cleanliness. It is 2 stars because they don't have a pool or room service. They are family-owned and operated and have an excellent staff. Helpful, friendly, speak English. Free wifi and use of a free computer in the lobby if you don't bring your own. Love, love, love this hotel!

Buon viaggio!
sarge56 is offline  
Jan 19th, 2014, 04:51 PM
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Good for you - plan it yourself. My husband and I took our four boys for 10 days last year. We spent half in Florence and half in Rome. I'm glad we didn't try to do more. We decided not to go to Venice - it was too far out of the way and we just didn't want to be rushed. There is always next time, right?

We took an early morning private tour of the Vatican through Access Italy (We worked with a gal via email named Laura who was so patient with me). We ended up being the ONLY ONES in the Sistine Chapel for 20 minutes. We had it all to ourselves! Even our guide was amazed. We also did a private ancient Rome tour that included the Colosseum. Also through Access Italy. There is a lot to see in Rome. It is a marvel in and of itself.

We LOVED Florence. LOVED. The kids too. When we go again (and we will), I am sure we will spend more time in the Tuscany area. We did a cooking class that we all still talk about through CiaoLaura.

We rented apartments in both places - excellent way to go. In Florence we went through VRBO and in Rome through Airbnb… The charm of both were out of this world.
Chinos4sons is offline  
Nov 30th, 2014, 08:42 AM
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So, how did the trip go, if you've done it? Lots of great information in this thread, so I'm bookmarking.
WWanderer is offline  
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