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First time in Italy: Rome, Tuscany, Amalfi Coast 10 days

First time in Italy: Rome, Tuscany, Amalfi Coast 10 days

Old Jun 23rd, 2014, 10:10 AM
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First time in Italy: Rome, Tuscany, Amalfi Coast 10 days

Hi Everyone,

We are planning our very first trip to Italy, and hoping to visit Rome, Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast. We will be there at the tail end of August through the first week of September. Tentative Itinerary:
Arrive in Rome, then straight to Amalfi Coast (3 days). Then Tuscany (3 days) then Rome (3 days) then return home.

Questions:
AMALFI COAST
- should we drive or train? We would've just landed in Rome, so I'm not sure if it's over ambitious to want to drive on the roads of Italy with the jet lag, but I hear it's beautiful!
- should we stay in Positano or Naples
- is it worth going to Capri for a day

TUSCANY
- really want to explore the countryside of Italy and either bike or drive in the area, planning to make Siena our base, good idea?
- which areas are best for recreational biking?
- any suggestions for cooking lessons for a day (not too expensive)
- plan to visit: Siena, Florence, San Gamignano, and Cortona
- any hotel suggestions?

Thank you in advance for all your suggestions and advice.

Cheers!
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Old Jun 23rd, 2014, 10:21 AM
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I would only visit two of your three in your time frame, but if you have your heart set on all three, then it is up to you of course. I would strongly suggest not going to the AC first, as in August it could be crazy, even a few days later might be a little better, though September is still high season.
I would not advise driving with jet lag. If you sleep like a baby in first class, maybe--but not in any other circumstance.
I an think of no more opposite places than Positano and Naples, so read up on both and determine what kind of day trips you will be doing before deciding between them.
If you have experience driving somewhere like the Pacific coast highway, then you an imagine driving on the AC, but add in lots of traffic and buses passing you within centimeters (not for the faint of heart). I would only do it in off season.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2014, 10:56 AM
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I second yorkshire’s suggestion to pick 2 of the 3. You have 9 nights/10 days, which seem to include the travel days, maybe save Rome for a future trip? With 8 full days in Italy, a 4/4 split between Tuscany and Amalfi Coast (plus a last night in Rome to be there before your flight) would be a great trip.
Alternatively, you might want to look into flying in and out of Florence and/or Naples. Do you have your plane tickets already?

Personally, I would stay in Positano (not Naples) and would not drive on Amalfi Coast, especially in August. A day trip to Capri would be worth it, IMO.

Of course, if you want all 3 destination, you could do that, just keep in mind it will be more rushed and you need to figure out logistics soon. End of August will be here very soon, and that is high season all over Italy.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2014, 11:28 AM
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Thank you @xyz99 and @yorkshire. I think we might take your advice and only do two of the regions.

We already purchased our plane tickets.

Any suggestions of where to stay as our base in Tuscany?

Thanks again!
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Old Jun 23rd, 2014, 11:37 AM
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I don't think you will regret that. I have yet to visit that area of Tuscany so will wait for the others to advise. Just a quick tip for bicycle research--I often google the bicycle tour operators to get an idea of the itineraries they do, then see if I can put it together myself. Ps, it is veerrrryyyyy hilly, but along the coast is flat (a friend did a bike tour there).
have a great trip!
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Old Jun 23rd, 2014, 01:32 PM
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I too think you are making a good choice to limit your bases to two.

Naples is a teeming and somewhat gritty city. It is nothing like the Amalfi Coast.

Positano is lovely and Capri, if you have the time, is a wonderful place. I would spend my four nights in Positano with a day trip to Amalfi and Ravello, and another to Capri. Most people want to Pompeii. I find it overwhelming and exhausting, and the tragic aspects depress me, but I've been there and you haven't.

On Capri, to me the most rewarding aspect is getting out of Capri Town and seeing some of the sights. You sound active, so plan on a hike; it is gorgeous.

Are you renting bikes? Maybe try to get this in place soon.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2014, 02:04 PM
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We did our first trip to Italy last Aug/ Sept. Still high season and kids were NOT back in school so you are competing with locals and other tourists for rooms, but hey its Italy and fabulous! We are very experienced cyclists so biked from Florence south to Siena on the major roads. I would look into a local bike tour if you can find one for a day trip because the major roads are crazy hilly. A lot of recreational bike tours available from Florence. Not sure about Siena.
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Old Jun 24th, 2014, 12:24 PM
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Thank you, all for your travel tips!

We changed our planes based on the feedback so far:

Arrive in Rome then to Naples/Praiano (would you recommend we spend the night in Naples and leave for Praiano the next day?)
Bus to Praiano (2 or 3 nights) day trips to Amalfi, Capri, Ravello.
Praiano to Naples, train to Florence and car rental to Siena (4 nights)
back to Rome (one night stay) and go home

What's the best way to get from the Amalfi Coast area to Florence?

Thank you!
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Old Jun 24th, 2014, 12:25 PM
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that was plans not 'planes'...
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Old Jun 24th, 2014, 12:38 PM
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Why Praiano? It's a bit remote and doesn't have good transportation connections, especially after dark.

Amalfi Coast to Florence: Best bet is fast train Naples-Rome ( 70 minutes) then Eurostar Rome-Florence (1.5 hours). OR train from Salerno-Rome, then as above.
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Old Jun 24th, 2014, 01:07 PM
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What time does your flight land in Rome?

Your best bet for getting the Amalfi coast in August without getting caught is an enormous traffic jam is to take a ferry from either Salerno or Sorrento. Without knowing what time you are landing in Rome, it is hard to know if you can get to the coast in the same day. But if you need to overnight somewhere, probably better to do so in one of the ferry ports.

I second the observation that you are putting yourself behind the 8-ball in August by staying in Praiano. You will find yourself constantly battling auto traffic doing day trips. If you stay in the town of Amalfi, you only need to walk to the ferry dock to go to Capri (not take a bus first to the ferry dock), and you only need to take 1 bus to Ravello (and you can walk back to Amalfi).

Were it me trying to get to Florence from the Amalfi coast in August, I would take a ferry to Salerno and take a train from there. However, if the only reason you are going to Florence is to pick up a rental car, then I recommend that you either rent a car in Sorrento or in Salerno and drive to Siena.

If you are using Siena as a "base" to do day trips by car, it is really not a great idea. Siena has the palio in August, and there is a lot of traffic and scarce parking. Better to pick another town for a "base" unless for some reason you really want to eat dinner every night in Siena.
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Old Jun 24th, 2014, 01:17 PM
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Q WWK - we decided on Praiano as it's cheaper and less hectic, but if you're saying the transportation options will be limited then I'll search for a hotel in Amalfi or Positano. (Thank you)

@ sandralist - we land in Rome at 10am. We are thinking of taking the train down to Naples and then hop on a bus to the Amalfi coast area or if we need, since we would've just arrived in Italy, we really wouldn't mind spending the night in Naples. No particular reason to be going to Florence, I read Siena is a good base to explore the Tuscany region. We'd like to drive a car or rent a vespa around the region as there's a lot to see, but totally open to stay somewhere else - do you have any suggestions? We can really rent a car anywhere in that region, right?

Any tips and recommendations are much appreciated... as mentioned, this is our very first time in Italy, totally overwhelmed with all that is to see and a lot of different information gathered everywhere.

Question: what's the best option to get from ROME to Naples or Amalfi area?

THANK YOU!
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Old Jun 24th, 2014, 01:39 PM
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Before you can take the fast train from Naples to Rome, you have to get to Naples, which is not terribly close to Praiano. There are buses to Naples, or you can take a combination of bus and the Circumvesuviana train. There is even a bus, which runs only in the summer, from Praiano to Rome's Tiburtina station, where you can catch a train to Florence.

By the way, there are direct high-speed (Frecciarossa) trains from Naples to Florence, taking from 2 1/2 hours, and a few direct daily high-speed trains from Salerno to Florence, taking more or less 3 1/2 hours, depending on how many stops are made.

There have been no Eurostar trains between Rome and Florence for more than five years; they were all taken over by the Frecciarossa category. In fact, there are now no Eurostar trains at all in Italy. The last few remaining have now been converted to Frecciabianca, which is a somewhat lower category than the Frecciarossa.
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Old Jun 24th, 2014, 01:42 PM
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@bvlenci - thank you!! I was actually hoping to take the Eurostar - so you definitely saved us a a lot of time and frustration before heading out there only to find out they no long operate in Italy.
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Old Jun 24th, 2014, 01:45 PM
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If you want to visit both Capri and some other Amalfi Coast towns, you should spend three nights rather than two on the Amalfi Coast. You could visit Capri from Naples, and then continue on to the Amalfi Coast from Capri, but you'd be burdened by your luggage. Anyway, one night in Naples, especially after a long trip, wouldn't give you time to see the city.

If you decide to stay in Amalfi, I would suggest getting a high-speed train from Rome to Salerno instead of Naples, and continuing to Amalfi from there. The same is true for the trip from there to Florence; see my previous post.
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Old Jun 24th, 2014, 01:50 PM
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There are no buses or boats leaving Naples that go to the Amalfi coast. For that you must go to either Sorrento or Salerno. If you would like to see a little bit of Naples by spending the night, then by all means do so. But the next morning, you will need to go to either Sorrento or Salerno before you can continue on to the Amalfi coast by bus or boat.

Siena is not a particular good "base" to explore the region. It is expensive, has limited parking, has a lot of traffic getting in and out. It is overflowing with huge crowds of foreign tourists during the day, and much of the town is overwhelmed by the annual horse race in the center of town.

If your idea of going to Tuscany is to enjoy the rolling hills of vinyards and the charming towns with castles, you should either pick a small hilltown or a countryside farm with a restaurant to stay in. If you pick one near Siena, you can visit Siena if you want to see it. You can look on booking.com for "properties near Siena" for your travel dates and see what is available and gets good reviews.

If you don't need an automatic transmission, and if you are not picking up a car on a weekend, there are many car rental office convenient that area. However, if you need an automatic transmission, you probably need to call AutoEurope and ask them where you are guaranteed to be able to get one.
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Old Jun 24th, 2014, 01:52 PM
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PS:

Your trip might be easier if you flipped it:

Land in Rome, take a train to Florence, spend the night.

Rent car and drive to area near Siena, 3 nights

Drive to Sorrento, drop off car, take ferry to Amalfi

Leave Amalfi and spend last night in Rome
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Old Jun 24th, 2014, 02:33 PM
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My bad about the Eurostar! Last took it from Rome to Florence about six years ago, and assumed the trains ran under the same name. Sorry!

We were most recently on the AC last June. Praiano would not be my first pick. There's not a lot going on there ( although maybe that's what you like?) and transportation can be a hassle.

However, since you're booking very late, there may be little availability in the area. And prepare for crowds wherever you go, since August is when most of Europe goes on vacation.

Lastly, I would not recommend driving to Sorrento in August. The traffic during the summer months in Sorrento and especially on the AC coastal road is painful, with very limited parking.
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Old Jun 24th, 2014, 06:06 PM
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Hi em,

I'll chime in here since I've stayed in Praiano on two trips. I agree you should not stay there if visiting in August, as much as I love Praiano. My visits were end of March and mid-Sept. The SITA buses were horribly crowded and unreliable in Sept. If you go by train to Naples, change to the Circumvesuviana (local train) to Sorrento, then try to bus to Praiano, you will most likely have to wait a minimum of 2 buses before you can get on. That means about 1.5 hours in the sun standing there with your bag (and you better not have more than 1)! Been there, done that. I have never spent the money for a driver, and having had the crowded SITA bus experience, I would consider a driver worth every penny.

The only way I would ever visit the Amalfi Coast in August, would be to have a driver pick me up in Sorrento and deposit me at my lodging. I would stay in one of the towns with boat transportation and never set foot on a bus during the stay.

Personally, I would not spend a day visiting Capri if I only had 3 days. I found it very overrated, although if you go hiking or stroll away from the main attractions, there are some very nice places to visit and great scenery so you will have to make that call. Also, there are other islands to consider if you do a little research (all will be busy in August). If you do decide to visit Capri as a day trip, you must have your lodging make an advance boat res for you or your "day trip" will quickly become a 1/2 day trip.

I think you can have a nice visit to the Amalfi Coast if you are willing to spend the money on a driver for the critical transfers and go via boat the rest of the time - delightful. Since you don't seem interested in seeing Pompeii, 3 days might be sufficient.

You can easily pick up/drop cars in Tuscany - Siena, Chuisi, Orvieto (Umbria) are locations I have personal experience with. However, as mentioned above, you need to make sure your plans coordinate with their hours.

Also agree that using Siena as a base for the Tuscan countryside is not the best. It's a much bigger city than you realize and the highways around it can be a bit confusing. Stay in a tiny town or village and do your trips from there. I've enjoyed Orvieto (Palazzo Piccolomini), San Sano (Hotel Residence San Sano), and Montalcino (Il Giglio). Enjoy the views, the vineyards, easy in/out and parking! Or go even smaller than San Sano which is just a village, and do an agritourismo.

I also agree you should stick to 2 destinations. I would do either Tuscany or Amalfi with Rome. Love Roma!

I hope this helps. Buon viaggio!
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Old Jun 24th, 2014, 07:39 PM
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Just to be clear, I was not suggesting you drive to the Amalfi coast from Tuscany. I was suggesting you drop off your car in Sorrento and take a ferry to the Amalfi coast. But you could also drop off your car in southern Tuscany and take trains to either Sorrento or Salerno and take a ferry to the Amalfi coast.

In August, I would prefer to put my luggage in an air conditioned car and drive to Sorrento, even if it meant sitting it traffic some of the way. But it is a very long drive, and I would probably spend the night somewhere in between.
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