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First time to Italy - Feedback on itinerary please!!

First time to Italy - Feedback on itinerary please!!

Nov 9th, 2010, 10:40 AM
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Join Date: Nov 2010
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First time to Italy - Feedback on itinerary please!!


My wife and I are planning a trip to celebrate our 5 year anniversay on June 8 so we have zeroed in on Italy for next summer.

Before I share our tentative itinerary, a quick snapshot of who we are and what we like. We're a couple in our mid-30s, with 2 daughters (2+, 1 mo) and this will be our first trip alone since we had kids. We love to travel, see new places, soak in the local culture. I usually try and get in a round of golf in my travels, but not very particular on this trip. This trip is mostly centered around romance, spending quality time with each other and enjoying Italy. We love food (is that surprising, coming from India?) but avoid red meats - Mostly, chicken, lamb, some seafood. So here goes...

May 27 - Fly into Venice (Emirates from India) arrives around 2pm
3 nights in Venice - haven't zeroed in on accommodation yet so could use some help here - preferably views of the canal / centrally located - May 30 - Train to CT - this is bound to be a longish trip. I need some feedback on whether CT is all its cracked up to be... i have read reviews raving about it but also those that think its very touristy. Is it likely to be crowded this time of year? Also suggestion on which village and place to stay - 2, maybe 3 nights in CT
June 1 - Train to Pisa - spend the morning and maybe do lunch and train to Florence
2 nights in florence
June 3 - Rent a car in Florence and drive to San Gim as base for 4 nights. I am sold on the Il Vecchio Maneggio. Seems like a gorgeous place to stay and soak in Tuscany. We'd like to do day trips to Siena, Greve, Volterra. i read somewhere about this opera performance in san galgano. Would you know if they have performances at this time and how far a drive this would be from san gim?
June 7 - 2 options - either drive to rome or back to florence to drop off the car and train it to rome. Suggestions? 4 nights in Rome
Fly back to India from Rome on June 11.

I like the feel of this as is but would like to hear from you fodorites on suggestions. Also, I had planned on a very romantic day / evening for June 8. Since we'll be in Rome, any suggestions on what we can do on that day to make it memorable? Thanks so much.

Sunshank is offline  
Nov 9th, 2010, 10:53 AM
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I would use Siena as a base rather than San Gimignano. Taking the car to Rome, or near it if you do not want to drive in the city is a good idea. You'll want to see the cathedral in Orvieto. I preferred the Etruscan museum and tombs in Tarquinia to the museum in Volterra.

While it covers much more ground than you'll cover because of your lack of time, this collection might be useful. I think that I mapped most of the pictures.

Michael is online now  
Nov 9th, 2010, 12:39 PM
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I like your plan.

Il Vecchio Maneggio will make a good base for the day trips you have planned. I have not attended the opera at the Abbey of San Galgano, but according to their website, it looks like the festival is in July. It is still highly worth a visit though and only an hour drive from San Gimignano.


I agree with Michael that dropping the car in Orvieto on the way to Rome will allow you the opportunity for a nice visit of the town before jumping on the train to Rome.

Other options-

Drive south through the Grosseto region of Tuscany, then along the coast, and then drop the car somewhere close to or in Rome.

Drive the scenic SR2 route south from Siena toward Lake Bolsena on your way to Orvieto to drop the car.

If you have the time (you will need an early start), take the SR2 route and skip a visit to Orvieto and visit the towns of Sorano and Pitigliano (2 very unique and interesting towns) and then either drop the car in Orvieto or head to the coast through some love countryside (The Maremma region of Tuscany)) to continue to Rome.

I would not backtrack to Florence to drop the car- take advantage of having it to see and experience (although briefly) another part of Italy.

About visiting the Cinque Terre- you will get a variety of responses. Do you have an alternative plan you are thinking about if you don't go to the CT?
zoecat is offline  
Nov 9th, 2010, 12:48 PM
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hi sunshank,

i like your plan too, but agree with the suggestions above to leave the car in Orvieto and take the train from there to Rome - it's about 90 mins.

ref the CT, we went years ago and weren't blown away. IMHO, a much better and easier place to reach would be lake garda - there is loads to see and do, and you can use the boats to get around the lake - no need for a car.

thereafter, it's another relatively quick train journey to Florence, stopping off in Pisa to see the campo dei miracoli. It IS undeniably touristy, but its beauty transcends anything and everything that the modern world can throw at it. you can prebook tickets to climb the tower at www.opapisa.it.

Have a great trip!

PS - whatever you do, make sure you see the cathedral in Orvieto - the front is extraordinary!
annhig is offline  
Nov 9th, 2010, 01:29 PM
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I like your trip, too, and suggest Portovenere as an alternative to the Cinque Terre, if you decide that the mixed comments deter you from staying there.

My husband and I loved Portovenere - location is fabulous, and you can take the ferry to the C.T. We didn't go to Lake Garda, but did stay on Lake Maggiore and Lake Como, and while I liked the lakes (esp. Bellagio on Lake Como, I really think there's nothing like the sea.

Portovenere is a wonderfully charming town, great for strolling, lovely restaurants - perfect vacation spot. The ferry was a great way to visit the C.T. - we were able to walk from Monterosso to Vernazza and return by ferry from there.

Anyway, it's an alternative to consider..

Enjoy whatever you do! It sounds great.
progol is offline  
Nov 9th, 2010, 05:25 PM
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I agree with dropping off the car in Orvieto, and taking the train from there.

You have a couple of busy days with relatively a lot of travel time, between 2-3 nights in the Cinque Terre and 2 nights in Florence. If you want to be less rushed, consider dropping one of those.

I am one of those who likes the Cinque Terre, but I haven't visited for 11 years, so things may have changed in that time! And hate to say, they're touristy for a reason - the villages are gorgeous.

And while I like Siena, and you should definitely spend at least 1/2 day there, we've more often stayed in San Gimignano when visiting the area. Yes, it's full of tourists in the daytime, but in the early morning and evening, it's peaceful and wonderful. As you can tell by that comment, we like to stay INSIDE of San Gimignano. That way, we can walk to dinner and have wine without having to drive on windy, unlit Italian roads to get back "home." That's something to note about where you're thinking about staying; do you plan to eat there every night, or drive into San G?

In Rome, the restaurant Il Drappo is quite romantic, and good food, too. It's Sardinian cuisine, so probably has more seafood.

In San Gimignano, we love Ristorante Dorando. It doesn't have the fabulous views over the countryside that some of the other restaurants do (like Le Terrezze, in Hotel La Cisterna), but the food makes up for it!
Lexma90 is offline  
Nov 9th, 2010, 07:36 PM
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Gosh. Thanks so much for your comments. I don't think I have an answer to all your questions... I am simultaneously looking at a map as I'm replying here so I hope I don't come off as a total idiot. But that's the fun in this exercise isn't it??
@michael/zoecat/annhig - Orvieto seems the way to go I guess. I'm assuming most car operators will have return depots at Orvieto right? So I think that's the way to go. Plus like you mentioned zoecat, we get to see another part of the country.
Progol - will look up portovenere. thanks for the tip. Ferry looks like a nice option...Considering we're first timers to Italy, it seems like a crime to be within an hour of CT and not visiting right?
Lexma - I agree that portion is a bit rushed but I think that was an unavoidable part of our trip with some of the stuff we wanted to cram in...but in any case, I understand only the Venice-CT leg will be a 6-7 hour train ride right? Thought getting to Florence via Pisa was only an hour or so by train...thanks for the restaurant suggestions...jotting them down. I don't think we'll be eating in every night at Il Vecchio but you know what they say about driving in India - if you can drive here, you can drive anywhere
Re san galgano - does anyone know a website that comes out with 2011 schedules for the opera? zoecat - the 2010 schedule shows dates only from end june through july - you may be right

Sunshank is offline  
Nov 9th, 2010, 07:50 PM
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I think I would rearrange a bit. Many trains from Venice to CT will require a change in Florence. You may as well visit Florence on the way to CT to avoid backtracking. After Venice, Florence, CT, train to Pisa to visit and pick up the car. Venice/Florence is only two hours by train. Florence/CT
kybourbon is online now  
Nov 9th, 2010, 08:39 PM
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kybourbon - i was just looking up schedules and you have a point. it will be nice to break up journey in florence, do the 2 nights there and then proceed to ct. thanks for your response.
i understand la spezia is the nearest point to get to portovenere? so train from florence to spezia and then ferry to ct is the best way to go?
how long will the pisa - san gim drive be?
Sunshank is offline  
Nov 9th, 2010, 10:28 PM
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i'm finding it extremely difficult to choose orvieto as a drop off point. The city doesn't appear on the drop downs of most car companies. If i need to drive to rome, which drop off point do i select as I'm entering rome from siena? There's a whole bunch of options and not sure where each of them are. Thanks.
Sunshank is offline  
Nov 9th, 2010, 10:49 PM
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Use Google map to determine where the rental agencies are. Drive as little as possible into the city.
Michael is online now  
Nov 10th, 2010, 12:59 AM
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CT seems a bit dull when you have Lucca to visit but its you time.

You need to decide if you want a hotel or an appartment in Venice, the appartments can be very good value and there will be a hint of jet lag to deal with
bilboburgler is offline  
Nov 10th, 2010, 05:14 AM
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Use either viamichelin.com or mappy.com for your driving routes. San G. is really not far from Pisa.

You can train from La Spezia to CT (Portovenere is not one of the five CT towns).

As for car rentals, if you are looking at such sites as AutoEurope (a broker, not an actual car rental company), you have to know what companies they use and whether they have offices in the towns you are trying to select. If you select Como for pick up and the only rental company there is Hertz and then pick a city for drop off that only has Avis, it will show no cars available. Or it could be you have a choice of pick up locations within a city and you are selecting a Hertz office and trying to return at a Europecar office. It will also show no cars if you are picking Sunday in some locations or hour between 12-4 (many close a few hours in the afternoon).

If your last location is going to be Siena, I would probably drop the car there. You can take the Sena bus from Siena to Rome for about 10€ (travel time is 3 hours). I picked up a Hertz rental in Siena (train station location which is a bit of a trek) and returned Orvieto on my last trip. It's easy to train to Rome from Orvieto (about 1 hour and 7-10€ depending on type of train).
kybourbon is online now  
Nov 10th, 2010, 06:02 AM
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Another option-

If dropping the car in Orvieto will not work, you could return the car in Chiusi and take the train from there to Rome. On the way to Chiusi, you can stop in Montalcino, Pienza, and/or Montepulciano for a vist and lunch. It is a beautiful drive.
zoecat is offline  
Nov 10th, 2010, 07:22 AM
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After spending a week in the Chianti area, we dropped off our cars in Orvieto on our way to Rome. We had Hertz and AutoEurope rentals. It is a great place to drop off a car on the way to Rome and the car rental places are all located in the same area. And the train station is right across the street. I wouldn't recommend driving into Rome.

As for CT, go by all means. It is beautiful. You may prefer to stay in a place such as Portovenere or Santa Margarita Liguria which have more hotel and restaurant options. You can take either the ferry or the train to the CT villages. We had difficulty with the ferry - it wasn't running the 3 days we were there.
mamcalice is offline  
Nov 10th, 2010, 09:22 AM
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We were in Tuscany last March. TOO WONDERFUL! We stayed in Montecatini Terme as a base.
CT was just gorgeous! there were not a lot of tourists, either. I really think it's worth seeing.
San Gimignano was a beautiful little place-definately worth the visit, but I prefer a little more hustle and bustle where I stay. Lucca? Sienna?
Have a woderful time-wish I was going back, too!
sarasue is offline  
Nov 10th, 2010, 08:11 PM
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I love this site and the fact that you fodorites are such a wealth of information. Thank you so much for taking the time.
In fact I considered Siena as a drop off point but as mamcalice mentions maybe Orvieto has a lot of options - maybe as kybourbon alluded to, i didn't use the right search tools. I picked PV as i thought it will be a nice base for CT and its a 5 minute ferry ride. If its not crowded early June, i'd prefer to base in vernazza or riomaggiore...Easier connections. Hopefully the ferry runs through the summer. Mamcalice, which part of the year did you go to CT?
Bilbo / zoecat - thanks for the tip on lucca and southern tuscany...

Sunshank is offline  
Nov 10th, 2010, 09:28 PM
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If you are not locked into your dates and can push things forward a few weeks, the opera season in Verona begins June 17th and is something that is very special. The operas are held outdoors in the Arena (think colosseum) and are spectacular. Verona is a marvelous small city in itself and as the setting for Romeo and Juliet, what better place for an anniversary?
basingstoke2 is online now  
Nov 11th, 2010, 12:17 AM
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basingstoke- that sounds fabulous. unfortunately my wife works in a school and the term here starts june 7..so she's already taking a couple of days off. But thank you so much. In fact i believe there are some concerts at Boboli gardens in florence around the time that i will be there so i have been trying to get some information around that.
Sunshank is offline  
Nov 11th, 2010, 04:41 AM
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We were in CT in September. The ferries were still operating but as it was somewhat windy while we were there, they did not operate on the days we were visiting. The landings in many of the CT villages are difficult if the sea is at all rough. The ferry is a good way to view the villages but the train is very convenient for getting between the towns.
mamcalice is offline  

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