First time to italy, need advice PLEASE!

May 1st, 2005, 06:19 PM
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First time to italy, need advice PLEASE!

I am the trip planner for my younger 17 year old sister and my fun mom (I am a 25), we are going at the end of July. I know I want to see all of the most popular tourist destinations, Rome, Venice, Florence, Tuscany, and some coastal or island to have an Italian beach experience, I was thinking the Riviera (Genoa, San Remo, Portofino). I don't feel the need to stay in one city longer than 3 days and like to spend time visiting major sites and also enjoying Italian culture without running around all day everyday. My question is where to start, which order to go to each city, and suggestions on any beach areas that would be convenient. Also, is a 2 week trip long enough? and any suggestions on fitting the Greek Isles in, or is it an out of the way venture?
shelbyd is offline  
May 1st, 2005, 07:23 PM
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Lots of questions, Shelbyd: good for you! I'll respond to your last first: I think that two weeks is long enough, but if you can squeeze out a few more days, then why not? But you can do a nice trip in two weeks.

Greek Isles? IMO, forget about it. That is another trip, and one I hope you get to take soon, but don't sell Italy short by trying to add Greece on. I have found travel to Greece to be inconvenient to begin with, and I can't imagine trying to combine it with another country.

Where would I start would depend where you are flying into. Many flights from other countries come into Rome, so why not start there?

Rome 3 days
Florence 3 days
Venice 3 days
Santa Margherita Ligure ( a favorite place to stay for Portofino and surrounding areas; you can search my name and get a link to an article I've written about the area) 3 days

That would leave you a stop or two (if you are sure that 3 days in each place is your maximum stay).

You could do 2 days at a lake on your way from Venice to SML via Genoa.

Or you could do 2 days in someplace like Assisi in Umbria on your way from Rome to Florence. It is a little indirect, but I've done it more than once and it is a very nice stop. Others might suggest Spoleto or Orvieto.

Or you could slow down: 4 days isn't too many for Rome. 4 days at the rather rocky but fun swimming areas near SML would be fun: lots of young people in SML and the waterfront restaurants at night are crowded with late evening revellers.

I hope this has helped. Ask any other questions you think I might be able to help with. By the way, I think SML is your best Riviera shot: Genoa is too big a city, San Remo is OK, but not as well located or as much fun as SML.
tuscanlifeedit is offline  
May 1st, 2005, 07:25 PM
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Not sure how you reconcile seeing everything in 3 days without rushing around. Tuscany is also a pretty big place so depends on where you want to go there. 2 weeks is not long especially when you factor in travelling time and don't even consider adding Greece. We had over 4 weeks in Italy - 3 days in Rome (nowhere near enough), week in Umbria, some time in Cinque Terre, some time around Como and a week in Sicily. Due to Sicily we sacrificed Venice or Florence. Was not rushed but barely touched the surface - we drove mostly too which probably saved time.
eliza3 is offline  
May 1st, 2005, 07:28 PM
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Shel, I would love to hear my kids refer to me as "my fun mom". May I recommend that you get a copy of Rick Steves' Italy Through the Back Door. It will help you decide where you'd really like to go. And it offers some good itineraries for the first trip to Italy.

When you get your plans mapped out, come back and ask for clarification about hotels.

Good luck you the three of you!
Grasshopper is offline  
May 1st, 2005, 07:30 PM
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Personally, 2 weeks is not enough for me, but it really depends on what you want from your trip. I would take a plane into Rome, spend a few days, and then move north, to Florence/Tuscany region, move west to the Italian Riviera, then head east to Venice. I'm actually doing the exact opposite myself in mid-July, but only because our cruise ends in Genoa. I'm doing Genoa, Venice, Florence, Rome, NYC.
As for fitting in the Greek Isles, I'm always trying to do that, but can never find the time since there's so much that interests me in Italy. I would make the Greek isles a separate trip, which is exactly what I'm planning.
mcnyc is offline  
May 1st, 2005, 07:31 PM
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Grasshopper, I too would like to be called "my fun mom." During a trip to Paris, my daughter started calling me "the vacation Nazi" and it has stuck. sigh..... I guess some moms are more fun than others. ;-)
tuscanlifeedit is offline  
May 1st, 2005, 07:58 PM
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I have to laugh at "vacation Nazi". I'm afraid to ask my kids which name they'd honor me with!

Shelbyd, I can understand how you would like to add on the Greek Isles as you will be part way there. I would add more time to the trip if you want to do them.

I would add on at least another day to Rome as you will be quite jet-lagged when you arrive. (I'm assuming your coming from the US.) I think 3 days in Florence and Venice is fine. You could even shave a day off Venice IMHO, but many on this board would disagree. If you want to do more of Tuscany, I would add a few days there. I haven't done the Italian beach experience, so can't advise you there.

So, to summarize: Rome 4, Florence 3, Tuscany 2, Venice 2, beach 2, +Greek Isles ? Adding a day here and there would be nice as you will be losing time travelling between cities.

Keep in mind the end of July will be very warm which may slow you down a bit.

Happy planning!
KathrynT is offline  
May 1st, 2005, 08:00 PM
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ARggh, I really should proof-read. That should be "you're".
KathrynT is offline  
May 1st, 2005, 08:22 PM
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Thanks everyone, another question: will my sister have a problem going anywhere being 17 years old? eg: wine tasting, nightlife?
shelbyd is offline  
May 1st, 2005, 08:33 PM
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Shel, Your sister is going to love it. I took my neice to Europe when she was 17. She had a great time (and thinks of me as fun aunt, come to think of it!)
Grasshopper is offline  
May 2nd, 2005, 03:20 AM
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Hi S,

May I suggest:

Fly into Venice - 4 nights - daytrip to Padua or Verona
Train to Florence - 5 nights - daytrip or overnight to Siena, daytrip to Bologna or Pisa/Lucca
Train to Rome - 4 nights
Fly home.

I realize that this leaves out the beach experience.

ira is offline  
May 2nd, 2005, 05:30 AM
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I bet there are a lot of us who are now going to ask our daughters whether we're the "fun mom" or the "vacation Nazi".

No problems for your sister drinking wine.
Nikki is online now  
May 2nd, 2005, 12:14 PM
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Shelbyd, good for you for tackling the vacation planning! I loved planning our first family trip to Italy, which we took last June. It was fantastic!

I strongly recommend you spend a minimum of 3 to 4 nights in each city, and just go to fewer places. Here is the reason. Part of the charm of doing your own trip is doing things like this: You read about a great gelateria where you just have to try the hazelnut chocolate flavor. You have the address and a map. There you are wandering about the city, trying to find this wonderful gelateria. You are a bit lost.

You figure out that there aren't any street signs, the street names and numbers are on the buildings.

Arguing in a fun-loving way over the map, you turn down the wrong street but find yourself in a charming square with a fountain! Wow, an adventure!

At last you find the gelateria by following somebody carrying an ice cream cone. What a fun adventure! What makes this fun? Just the fact that you aren't in any hurry, because you have planned plenty of time in this aren't trying to cram yourself into a crazy schedule.

This can only happen if you have at least 3 or 4 nights in a city! I promise, you won't regret it. We had 4 nights in Rome, and the whole family voted Rome as the most incredibly fun and exciting place we visited. My husband and I, my 22-year-old son, and my 2 daughters, ages 16 and 17, said that they had the most fun in Rome...and they thought 4 nights was good, but they wish we'd had 1 more night, even!

My other advice, equally important, is that in the city, it's crucial to have a hotel with a good location, near important sights, in a fun neighborhood. You don't want to be staying somewhere inconvenient, on the outskirts of the city, in a boring neighborhood.

You're going to have a great time! I used the Rick Steves guidebook to Italy, which is fantastic for restaurants, and is fun to read, and I also used both Fodors and Frommers guidebooks for their ratings of the best sites to see... You need some background info so you can make better use of on-line trips from travellers.

I recommend:

Rome, 4-5 nights; stay near the Pantheon. Lots of sights nearby to walk to, good restaurants, an atmospheric neighborhood. Bus transportation to the VAtican Museums and St. Peter's available nearby. If you stay near the Pantheon in Rome, you can walk to the Pantheon, the Travi fountain, the Spanish steps, the Piazza Navonna...You can even walk to the colosseum, though its a bit further and you might want to take the bus back.

Florence is more compact than Rome, and you can walk everywhere if you are reasonably fit. Read up on getting advance reservations for the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia (Michelangelo's David is there), to avoid waiting in long lines. I recommend 3 nights for Florence. Florence has great art though I found the city itself a bit annoying, too much traffic, smog, noise. But it's a city full of beautiful famous art like Michelangelo's DAvid.

Venice, city of canals, has no cars. I recommend 3 nights for Venice. Everything costs more in Venice, just accept it, can't be avoided. Venice is unique, wonderful, romantic. Buy the 3-day vaporetto pass for Venice, for about 22 euros each I believe was the price, and you get unlimited on and off privileges to ride the vaporettos, it's fun and a great way to get around Venice. You can also walk around in venice.

In Tuscany we visited Florence and Siena. I loved Siena! Quieter than florence, feels like a city stuck back in medieval times. If you stay in Siena stay in the central old core, which is pedestrian-only. No cars! We liked the Palazzo Ravizza in Siena and a friend liked the Hotel Duomo. there's also a convent in Siena with cheap accomodations...forget the name...

There is plenty to see in Italy to fill up 2 weeks. Stick with Italy on this trip and buy a CD to practice travellers' Italian, it makes it more fun to attempt to talk to the waiters and other people you meet! Although many in Italy do speak some English, not everyone does. Besides they appreciate it when youa re at least trying to talk a little Italian...grazie for thank's not so hard.

I've gone on too long, my fav subject!

Melissa5 is offline  
May 10th, 2005, 07:13 PM
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What about those pre-planned package deals travel agents sell? My mom is convinced it will ensure a relaxed, non-stressful trip. My concern is that I will miss something I really want to do and will be committed to something that I don't necessarily want to do, places I want to go. Is it worth it, is it more convenient in way of planning, or is it for people who don't know what to do or where to go? HELP, my mom doesn't trust that I can plan it.
shelbyd is offline  
May 10th, 2005, 07:40 PM
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I don't know your mother, but... I think her comment about a packaged tour being more relaxed and less stressful might be a little hint that she thinks your itinerary (albeit embryonic) might be too ambitious for her.

You commented that if you went on a package tour you might miss something you want to do and/or might be stuck doing something that doesn't interest you. This is the dilemma of traveling with other people (even your beloved sister and mother) whether in a tour group or travelling independently.

You each have to compromise on one thing or another, and, unless you split up occasionally, you're all going to miss something. Even if you went all by yourself, you couldn't see the whole country in two weeks.

I suggest the three of you find out what each wants to see/do and then create an itinerary that covers as much as possible what is on everyone's "wish list."
Jean is offline  
May 10th, 2005, 07:43 PM
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Shelby, Check out It's a nice balance. They arrange the flight, apt. and even a car and provide you with a portfolio of info about things to do. Then you're on your own the rest of the time. You might have to scale back your number of destinations but you'll still have the trip of a lifetime.
Grasshopper is offline  
May 10th, 2005, 11:45 PM
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shelbyd, a well-researched and well-planned trip can actually be MORE relaxing than a packaged tour...especially for the other members of your family, who won't even have to do the work of planning and researching!

However, here is what we have learned about family vacations. They work best if the person who plans the trip is the slowest traveller, and is also a person who loves handling details and is willing to do all the research.

If the fastest, most energetic person is allowed to plan the trip, the other family members may not enjoy the trip and may feel rushed and stressed.

So, if the slowest person plans the trip, how do you keep the faster people from feeling frustrated? That's make sure you choose hotels with good locations near lots of fascinating things to do, and you plan 3 or 4 nights there. Then you plan some activities for the whole family to do together. You leave some time for the slower family members to relax at the hotel or at a cafe or piazza near the hotel, while the faster family members take off on other adventures.

This plan works very well in cities like Florence, Venice, and Rome, where there is plenty for both the faster people and the slower people to enjoy!

Good luck! If you are the fastest person in the family, but you still want to plan the trip, it can still work, if you are able to understand the needs of the slower family members...
Melissa5 is offline  
May 11th, 2005, 12:34 AM
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Some great advice for shelbyd with a common thread.....take your time and enjoy each destination
heres the touristblobs take on it
[yes the name has a story invented by a 10 year old daughter in italy some years ago]
1. rome 4 days a great start or finnish destination
2.tuscany 6 days.siena gives you a great base to explore and also gives you time for day trips to coast [cinqe terra] or time to do 3 days in each area
3 . venice 3days at least to take it all in
you can do all of this easy by train or car and do avoid the package deals as you will miss the planning excitement and spontinaity of the experience
touristblob is offline  
May 11th, 2005, 02:41 AM
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There are two kinds of package deals: the organized tour and the air/hotel package. Which kind is your mother proposing? The air/hotel package can be a good alternative to planning the transportation and lodging yourself if you check out the hotels carefully for location. I have taken two trips this way that I bought through No groups, no planned itineraries.

However, you have several destinations on your itinerary, and it may be easiest to arrange that many destinations on your own. By doing it on your own, you have complete control over the places you visit and the hotels at which you stay.
Nikki is online now  
May 11th, 2005, 04:57 AM
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Lots of good advice so I don't have too much to add. With 2 weeks, you should stick to Italy. As it is, you will barely have time to scratch the surface. I would start in Rome (4 days), travel to the Italian Riviera (3 days), to Tuscany (4 days), stay in Florence with day trips to the Tuscan countryside; end in Venice (3 days).

Be sure to plan an "open jaw" flight -into your first city and out of your last. And keep in mind that the beaches will be extremely crowded in August as that is when all of Europe will be on vacation.

I think you and your family would enjoy a trip that you plan more than a tour. That way you are not constrained by other's schedules but can tour at your own pace and see what you want to see. However, if you are concerned about the logistics part of the trip, heed the advice above to consider an air/hotel package. Be very careful about the hotels in the package as they are often outside of the city centers. And enjoy the planning and the trip!
mamc is offline  

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