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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 25th, 2014, 07:40 AM
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We returned from 3 weeks in Italy recently. We spent 6 nights in Tuscany - 3 near Montepulciano and 3 near San Gimignano. We took day trips to Siena and Florence. Driving and parking in and around Florence and Siena was a hassle.

If I were doing it again, I would spend more time near Montepulciano, as we loved the Val D'Orcia area and the towns near there such as San Quirico, Montechiello, Montalcino and Montepulciano itself. I would also spend a few nights in Florence (without a car) - we loved it, and a day trip was not enough time to see all we wanted to see.

San Gimignano is cool but very filled with tourists during the day. We went there in the evenings for dinner after the tourists had gone.

If you are interested in an agriturismo, I would highly recommend the place we stayed at near Montepulciano. It is called La Falconara. The hosts are wonderful, and the property is lovely.
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Old Jun 25th, 2014, 08:20 AM
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I'm not a huge fan of Capri, either. But if you can spring for a private tour, I'd highly recommend WHALES DI WENDY, a company based at the port. We did a half-day tour with them last June, and it was fantastic. They will customize according to your interests. We didn't need to go back to the Blue Grotto, so they took us to another grotto that was much less crowded. We also had a great lunch at the port, Marina Grande. You do need to reserve in advance, so if interested book online.

Now about driving to Sorrento in August.... JUST SAY NO. Take a train and arrange for a private transfer. Or take the boat from the port to Positano/Amalfi. The traffic is absolutely terrible in August, and it starts early, especially on summer weekends!

Also- avoid the dreaded SITA buses if at all possible. Try to take boats whenever you can. It's a much more relaxing way to see the coast. The buses are unreliable, sweltering hot, and people crowd on even when there's no more room available.
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Old Jun 25th, 2014, 01:53 PM
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We did a very similar itinerary last July & had a great time.
Flew into Rome, bullet train to Naples, slow train to Sorrento.
IMO, Sorrento is the best base for Amalfi Coast. More lodging/dining options & all transportation options available.

If you can swing it, a private driver will let you see twice as much Amalfi Coast. No waiting for buses/ferries, dropped off @ city centers with suggestions, plus a personal guide. Driving by long, sweaty lines @ the bus stops convinced me it was worth it.

We stopped @ Pompeii on the way back to Rome.

Consider a stop at a hill town like Orvieto on your way to Tuscany.
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Old Jun 25th, 2014, 02:54 PM
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Sorrento definitely has a wider range of options for both transportation and lodging. But it's not even on the Amalfi Coast ( though only 30 minutes from Positano), and simply not as charming or beautiful as Positano or Amalfi.

I think at this point much will depend on what's available when you try to book. But after many trips to the AC, I'd highly recommend Positano or Amalfi.
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Old Jun 25th, 2014, 05:22 PM
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I like the idea of going first to Tuscany, then to Amalfi.

From Tuscany I'd take the train to Salerno as it's a short walk from the train station to the ferry station and it's LOVELY to take the ferry to Amalfi or Positano. Either town would be a good base.

If you're interested in biking in Tuscany, you may also want to plan to hike on the Amalfi Coast. The great hike (really gorgeous) is the Sentiero degli Dei, but there are other good ones too. We downloaded the guidebook 'Walking on the Amalfi Coast' to make the most of it.

We stayed at a small olive farm just outside Positano and hiked up to Nocelle: http://www.rifugiodeglidei.it/index_eng.html. Downhill was a good swimming beach and the location on the hill kept us away from the madding crowds. We walked into Positano to take the ferry to visit Amalfi and then to go back to Salerno to catch the train to Rome.

But if you aren't as crowd averse as my husband, either Positano or Amalfi would work. I wouldn't go to Capri, I wouldn't stay in Sorrento.

In Tuscany I can only echo those saying you should not stay in Siena but should stay in a smaller place or in the country. I liked Montepulciano because there were great restaurant options but I thought the most scenic area was between Pienza and Montalcino.
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Old Jun 26th, 2014, 11:40 AM
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Hi All,

I think we will reverse our trip and stop over in Tuscany after we arrive in Rome, then go to the Amalfi Coast and stay in either Amalfi or Positano.

Thank you everyone for your advice to not stay in Siena as our base in Tuscany. But I'm having trouble deciding if we should stay in Gaiole in Chianti, San Gamigiano, or Montepulciano?

Thank you!!!
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Old Jun 26th, 2014, 12:53 PM
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Since you are going south after your Tuscan stay I suggest picking Montepulciano out of those 3 choices. It makes for a shorter drive and it is lovely around there.
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Old Jun 26th, 2014, 01:06 PM
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Also, if you are picking up a car in Florence by 11am, then you can stop in one of the Chianti towns for lunch on your way to Montepulciano.
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Old Jun 26th, 2014, 01:07 PM
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(Make sure you take scenic routes in Tuscany, not the highways)
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Old Jun 26th, 2014, 04:40 PM
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Hi em,
You will be very happy with these choices. Gaiole in Chianti is by far the smallest town of the 3. Chianti is beautiful, but more hilly, and forested than I would have expected. Still, there are plenty of beautiful views filled with vineyards, olive groves and wheat fields. Gaiole is very near the tiny village of San Sano where I stayed years ago. Loved it. You need a very detailed map for it to show up.

The area of southern Tuscany, around Montepulciano is a bit more rolling hills, the postcard views with cypress trees and hilltop villas. Montepulciano is the largest out of Montepulciano, Montalcino, Pienza, and San Quirco. Really all of these towns have amazing views and good dining options if you want to be able to walk to dinner.

I think biking in southern Tuscany would be a bit easier than in Chianti. Where you choose depends on what you want to see and do. If you are interested in visting Monte Olivetto to see the frescos, and Sant' Antimo to hear the Gregorian Chants, then stay south.

Questions?
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Old Jul 9th, 2014, 08:45 AM
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Thank you everyone for all your help with our planning! We have decided the following:

Arrive in Rome, take train to Florence
(should we rent a car in Florence or closer to our hotel in Montalcino?)
- 3 nights in Montalcino
Train to Salerno, Boat to Positano
- 3 nights in Positano
- (our hotel quoted us 110 Euros to pick us up at Salerno back to the hotel, is that reasonable?)
Boat to Naples then train to Rome
- 2 nights in Rome

I just realized we actually have a total of 10 nights in Italy (yay), so now we are deciding which city we should add an extra night to or maybe we should spend a night in Naples on the way back to Rome. Thoughts?

Thank you everyone!!
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Old Jul 9th, 2014, 09:11 AM
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If you are flying out of Rome, spend the last night in Rome. You might just depart the AC early and go to Rome in time for a nice afternoon/evening walk in the center, see fountains, etc.
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Old Jul 9th, 2014, 10:27 AM
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If you have 2 extra nights, I would add one to Positano or Montalcino (I would choose Positano, especially if you want to include a day trip to Capri), and one to Rome.

There is no boat from Positano to Naples. I would ferry to Salerno, then direct train from Salerno to Rome.

110 euros is reasonable for a driver to take you from Salerno to Positano, but the ferry is more enjoyable.
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Old Jul 9th, 2014, 11:12 AM
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I cannot imagine someone having no interest in being in Rome--that extra day should probably go there, though I am always a proponent of a night in Naples.
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Old Jul 9th, 2014, 01:15 PM
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>>I cannot imagine someone having no interest in being in Rome-<<

When somebody begins a sentence telling me why they cannot imagine someone else's travel priorities being different from their own, I stop reading the remainder of the sentence, especially if it might affect my trip.

I know dozens of educated, sophisticated and lovable people who plan trips to Italy and Europe without including Rome, or who realize that 4 days in Rome is not necessarily better than 3 days, and that is an illusion that adding a day to Rome is somehow going to "do justice" to Rome.

People have this formulaic idea that 5 days in Rome is adequate whereas 2 or 3 is not. In truth, 5 days in Rome is just as much a piffle as 3 is. For a 2 week vacation in Italy, most college-educated people feel less guilty spending 5 days in Rome than they would if they spent 3. But the notion that they are having the more intelligent experience of Rome than the 3 day tourists is more vanity than reality.
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Old Jul 9th, 2014, 06:44 PM
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Question: I'm looking up schedules to book our trip from FCO to Florence on the Trenitalia - it looks like it doesn't allow you to purchase more than 7 days in advance. Do these tickets ever sell out? Has anyone purchased at the station ticket booths/counters? I'm wondering if it's better to just drive from the airport directly to Montalcino. I mapped it out and it looks like train travel will take approx 2.5 hours just to get to the Firenze train station, then to drive from there to Montalcino will take another 2 hours!? If anyone has driven from the airport to Southern part of Tuscany, please share your experience.

Thank you
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Old Jul 9th, 2014, 08:12 PM
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You have to take one train from FCO to Rome where you catch the train to Florence. The train from FCO to Roma Termini (the main train station in Rome) probably has the 7-day purchase limit. At Roma Termini, you will catch train to Florence, probably Firenze SMN (Santa Maria Novella) station. You can book the Rome-Florence portion of the ticket weeks and even months ahead of time and get big discounts.

I was wondering why you planned to train all the way to Florence just to pick up a car, leave the city, and drive back the way you've come. Many would suggest taking a train instead to Orvieto and getting the car there, cutting the train trip in half AND the driving time in half.

Or as you suggest, you could pick up the car at FCO IF you think you will be alert enough to drive directly after the flight.
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Old Jul 10th, 2014, 11:28 AM
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@ellenem - Thank you, info was very helpful, I didn't check the map... Makes sense to take the train halfway to Orvieto and picking up a car there then drive to Montalcino. Have you had experience with any car rental companies, I read about kemwel and autoeurope. Thanks!
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Old Jul 10th, 2014, 11:34 AM
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This may help:


DRIVING IN ITALY & SOUTHERN EUROPE

Q. SHOULD WE DRIVE IN ITALY?
A. Of course you should if your driving skill & confidence would allow you to drive a rental car in Vermont, Colorado or California. But, be advised of these tips:
* Avoid driving in the major cities except for picking up or dropping cars
* Have good maps—study them in advance—and have a GOOD NAVIGATOR.
* Stay in the right lane except when passing and use your rear view mirrors

Q. WHAT CAR SHOULD I GET AND WHERE DO I GET IT?
A. It is best to rent your car before you leave for Europe. The best source we have found is www.autoeurope.com [888-223-5555] who is a broker for several car vendors. They will quote you prices to include the variables that are often omitted by others, such as unlimited mileage, mandatory insurance coverage with some deductibles, and VAT taxes. It is wise to compare prices and coverage with their sister company at www.kemwel.com. Autoeurope will match any comparable quote, and are famous for their customer satisfaction if problems do arise with the vendor. The best model will depend on your needs, but for best value we suggest you select a compact car with manual transmission. Automatics are available but will cost you about 30% more and may limit your model options & pick up locations.

Q. ARE ITALIAN DRIVERS AS CRAZY AS I HAVE HEARD?
A. Yes & no! They are certainly aggressive, but they are also more skilled than many USA drivers—both are a function of necessity. Italy is one of the most crowded countries in the world and the drivers have evolved these characteristics
* They are notorious tailgaters. If that bothers you, pull over and let them past.
* On the AUTOSTRADE they will drive fast, but will stay in the right lane except when passing and will use their blinkers when passing—YOU SHOULD TOO !
* They will often pass on 2-lane roads with traffic coming. Frankly, they expect you, and the oncoming car, to adjust to the shoulder and make 3 lanes of traffic.

OTHER ROAD TIPS FOR YOUR DRIVING SANITY:
1. Learn the meaning of the sign “ SENSO UNICO” and take heed [ONE WAY ].
2. Be sure to get your ticket when you enter the AUTOSTADA system & be prepared to pay the toll when you exit it [ rule of thumb—300 km=15 Euro]. You can use your credit card in the VIA lane at the toll both, or buy a debit VIACARD in advance.
3. Do NOT attempt to follow road numbers—that will frustrate you. But, do pay attention to the directional signs that point to your destination [ TO MONTALCINO]. And, be aware if that road leads eventually to a larger city [ ROMA—SIENA ETC.]
4. Unless you have a diesel car, you will want to fill the tank with benzina from the green pump. Most stations will pump gas for you and will take credit cards.

NOTE: As of 2005, an International Drivers Permit [IDP] is required in Italy.
You can obtain them from your local AAA office. You will need a valid US driver’s license, two passport photos, and $20. The photos can be taken at the AAA office.
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Old Jul 10th, 2014, 11:34 AM
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"When somebody begins a sentence telling me why they cannot imagine someone else's travel priorities being different from their own, I stop reading the remainder of the sentence, especially if it might affect my trip."
I am able to read opinions that differ from my own in their entirety and accept them as what they are--opinions, which is what every response on this forum is. I have been to Italy three times without visiting Rome, Florence, or Venice, so I make no dictates to others, but the OP has 2 nights in Rome already--hence my opinion that the one stray night would make the most sense there.
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