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First Time to travel to Italy - 2 week trip end of September


Feb 5th, 2013, 11:21 AM
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First Time to travel to Italy - 2 week trip end of September

My husband and I are in the beginning stages of planning a trip to Italy in September. Neither of us have traveled to Europe and it can be a bit overwhelming because there is so much I want to do! We are planning on spending most of our time in Italy and then spending the last couple of days in Paris. I know that there will be a lot of sight seeing, but we also want to relax and enjoy ourselves.

We will be flying into Rome. Florence, Positano, Cinque Terre, and Tuscany have been recommended to me. I'm trying to decide how many cities to travel to and how long to stay in each. Also, in what order?
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Feb 5th, 2013, 11:37 AM
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Everybody who has ever been to Italy will end up recommending ALL of Italy to you -- and understandably so, because it is quite a fascinating country, densely packed with sights of beauty and interest, so I recommend you not be overly swayed by friends' recommendations.

Also, anybody who has ever been to Italy will tell you that you would 10 or 12 trips to begin to feel you'd really done more than scratch the surface of Italy's treasures, so while it is frustrating to have to make limited choices in the face of all this temptation, your trip really will go better if you start out understanding that a handful of gems is better than a blur and a lot of irritation -- and Itay can be quite irritating if you try to fling yourselves to all the recommeded spots in a short time.

If you don't want to rent a car, then Tuscany should be off your list. Unless you are fiends for seaside cliff views, to include both Positano and le Cinque Terre in this trip is kind of redundant. If Italian painting and Renaissance history is a major passion of yours, and you suspect you just won't see enough of those things in Rome, then you should spend time in Florence. But perhaps for you seeing Michaelangelo's work in Rome and other great examples of Renaissance art and architecture will be enough.

For many, many people making a first visit to Italy, they feel almost obligated to focus on the most famous Italian cities. It comes as a great shock to them when they revisit Italy and go to places like Verona, or small towns in Umbria or Emilia-Romagna, how much more they loved the experience of these less touristed places, and they are shocked at how beautiful they are. Some people have the misimpression that the less famous towns of Italy must be less beautiful than the famous ones. It isn't true.

If you have any suspicion that you might enjoy seeing a side of Italy that is not necessarily the 5* star sight of international fame, then you should give a few days of your trip to doing that. If you think that in the few days you have in Italy before going to Paris you will really kick yourself if you don't see Capri, the Sistine Chapel, Michaelangelo's David, the wine terraces of le Cinque Terre, then don't deprive yourself.
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Feb 5th, 2013, 11:44 AM
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I could not agree more with goldenautumn. You will definitely have to remove something form that list, but to help others help you, please add more info:
Do you have 12 nights in country total, not including Paris? Have you already booked tickets into Rome and out of Paris?
Do you have a guide book? (What I always do first is flip through a book to see what speaks to me most.)
Do you want to rent a car or rely on trains?
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Feb 5th, 2013, 01:58 PM
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Feb 5th, 2013, 02:34 PM
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Get the Michelin Green book and look at the Italy overview at the front that rank the numerous highlights. Then, plan 3 two week trips in advance based on geography. Do one of those this year, but you will return. We have 16 times.
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Feb 5th, 2013, 05:47 PM
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Agree with goldenautumn that less is more - be selective and don't rush.

Disagree that you must have a car to visit Tuscany. Many Tuscan towns are accessible using trains and buses and how many places can you visit in two weeks anyway? I've seen quite a lot of Tuscany without a car - and found it more relaxing that way.
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Feb 5th, 2013, 06:02 PM
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What precisely do you mean by two weeks? How many days do you actually have on the ground - not counting the day yuo arrive or the day you depart.

You may well only have 12 or even 11 days on the ground. And if yuo want to go to 6 differnt destinations you need to subtract 3 days for travel from one to another. So you have 8 or 9 days for 6 plae - or 1.5 days per destination.

IMHO - in that time you have 3 - or at most 4 destinations - or you will spend as much time in transit as you do sightseeing.

This is one of those times when less is more. Europe isn;t going anywhere - and you can go back many times - to see and enjoy other places.

And can;t imagine doing Tuscany without a car - but then we often do road trips - and enjoy much more than being stuck with train schedules - unless we are simply going from one major city to another.
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Feb 5th, 2013, 08:16 PM
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When something is overwhelming, I usually think there is a lack of focus. If you consider everything that comes along as equal importance, you will likely to be overwhelmed and have your head spinning.
You have indicated a lot of sight seeing and relaxing. These are likely to be incompatible objectives as well as not sufficiently focused to be usable as guiding objectives that can help you define the focus.
Specific objectives are items such as visit Uffizi Gallery in Florence to see Botticelli's works, goto the Colosseum in Rome to visit the basement, spend at least a half day at the beach in Monterosso, etc. Once you have defined objectives, you can compute time needed to visit these places to be able to decide which one you can do and which ones you cannot. If you are someone who don't care to plan but happy just to do whatever, you don't even have to do this. For computing travel time, if train, there is www.bahn.com, and for car there is www.viamichelin.com and google maps.
Many mention relaxing, but what does it mean? Is a 5-day stay in Rome always more relaxing than a 2-day stay? Is the number of days a relevant proxy for a relaxing trip? What if each of 5-days consists of 10 one hour activities per day while 2-days consists of 3 one hour activities per day?
Whether you make a visit assuming you will return or not is up to you. I return to some places but not others. It is not that I don't want to return, but I have only a limited number of vacation time. Now, when I visit places, I go as if that was the last time. That does not mean I rush from places to places. I think about priorities, so that what I cannot do are the ones I miss the least, so by definition, even if I don't return, I don't have to kick myself having done something less meaningful. Sometime, there is one thing so meaning to me that that is all I do at a destination even though others say I must stay so many days or do it next time.
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Feb 6th, 2013, 09:08 AM
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Thanks for all of the advice! We have a lot of research to do and need to pick out our top choices. We have not booked our flights yet, but are looking at one that will give us either 11 or 12 days in Italy. We will be flying into Rome. We are planning on using the train for most travel, but can rent a car, if necessary, in Tuscany. Since we will spend the last couple of days of our trip in Paris I need to think about where in Italy I will fly out of. I think that we will only spend 2.5 days in Rome.
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Feb 6th, 2013, 10:12 AM
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If you are spending your last couple of days in Paris than fly home from Paris. You only waste time and money backtracking as you will likely need to be in the location of your flight the night before. Look for open jaw tickets, not one ways and you should find the cost comparable. And if you compare that to the time and money wasted trying to fly out of somewhere in italy you will likely find it is the better option.
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Feb 6th, 2013, 10:14 AM
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I wasn't clear. We will be flying home out of Paris. I want to plan our route through Italy ending up in a city where it is easy to travel to Paris.
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Feb 6th, 2013, 11:02 AM
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Not being a travel expert when it comes to Italy, although I have visited the country twice and LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it, I agree with all the posters here that less is more. You could literally spend all of your time between Rome and Paris and still leave feeling "cheated" that you had not seen or done enough. There is SO SO SO much to do in both of those cities that 2 weeks are not enough. Our first trip to Italy was a whirlwind of cities including Florence, Venice, Milan, and Turin. I was not exactly smart about the logistics of it. I would suggest for a sampling of Italy I would go to Rome and Florence, and then on to Paris. You mentioned wanting to relax. Well there is NOTHING relaxing about having to move hotels/cities every 3 days. I would plan out your days of sightseeing and book as much in advance as possible to avoid lines. Nothing relaxing about having to spend 3 hours in line to get into the Coliseum or Vatican. September is a busy travel month in Europe.

If you are planning on Rome, Florence, and Paris, I would not recommend a car. Not worth the hassle. The public transportation system is amazing. Florence is a short train ride away from Rome and a great time to relax and let the countryside captivate you. Driving in a foreign country like Italy is NOT relaxing.

Couple of recommendations if you make it to Rome... There is a fabulous restaurant near Campo di Fiori called Hostaria Costanza's that is sublime. We go every time we are there. YUM-MY!


Also, eat gelato OFTEN! You will never find anything like it and will MISS IT TERRIBLY when you return. There is a great gelateria called Giolitti's that is hands down the best place ever!!! Go. Find it. Live there while you are in Rome. OMG!!! It is near the Piazza Colonnia.


Have fun...
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Feb 6th, 2013, 11:17 AM
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I would fly into Rome. Then go to Florence for 3 nights (1 day to visit Florence, a second day for a trip to Siena and San Gimignano, third day from Florence thru Pisa and overnight at 5 Terre area).
2 nights in the 5 Terre and then go to Positano. 3 nights there with 1 day in Positano, the second day Amalfi and Ravello and the third day Sorrento and on the way back to Rome, stop at Pompeii. 3 nights in Rome and then fly into Paris with 3 nights there!
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Feb 6th, 2013, 11:30 AM
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Our first trip to Italy was on Trafalgar tours. The nice thing is they schlep all your bags, no hunting for your hotel, professional guides, no hassles. We have been back three times on our own but this was a nice intro and tour. Here is my rather old trip report -


I can't believe you will miss Venice.

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Feb 6th, 2013, 11:33 AM
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I'm not sure why that link didn't work. Try this -


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Feb 6th, 2013, 06:53 PM
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We will be flying out of Atlanta into Rome, probably. Rome, Sorrento, somewhere in Tuscany, Cinque Terre, and Florence are what I looked at today. I realize this is too much for 12 days. Though a couple of guidebooks have suggested for first timers to spend one or one and a half days in Rome because is can be so overwhelming -just hit what we want to see there on this trip and move on.

2 days 2 nights - Rome
3 days - Sorrento
3 days - Tuscany
1 day and spend night -Cinque Terre
2.5 days in Florence or somewhere like Siena with a day trip to Florence?

Again I realize this is too much and travel time takes a lot more than I realize. What would you cut out or add? Open to any and all suggestions.

We won't have more than 12 days. We want to see the highlights, but have no need to hit every museum, etc. I'd rather enjoy ourselves and enjoy the culture, food, and beautiful country
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Feb 6th, 2013, 06:57 PM
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Personally, I would cut the day in Cinque Terra. You'll spend more time traveling than you will enjoying it. Add the extra day to Rome or Florence.
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Feb 7th, 2013, 12:02 AM
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I think you need to look at the over all picture also. Are you still heading to Paris at the end of the Italy trip? From your posting it is not clear if you already have the ticket "We will be flying out of Atlanta into Rome, probably."

If you are taking DL240 direct flight, it gets into Rome at 7:30am. So what are you going to do if you cannot check-into the hotel?

Now, think about how you connect Italy to France. If you find out you want to fly Rome to Paris, for example, Easyjet to Orly, you might be tempted to to Rome-somewhere-Rome itinerary. I recommend that you don't do this to save time and money. Instead take advantage of your early Rome arrival to skip Rome on arrival and proceed immediately to Sorrento. You will be at the check-in time in Sorrento. Do Rome last then fly to Paris.

Even if you fly to Paris from Pisa, it still makes sense to go straight to Sorrento on arrival on FCO. You still convert time to kill until check-in into time to travel to Sorrento. Stop by at Rome after Sorrento, then to Tuscany.
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Feb 7th, 2013, 03:08 AM
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Unequivocally Bologna - the real italian city.

It's a travel hub:

Great to base yourself there as you can get to Venice, Rome, Verona, Ravenna, Florence et. al. easily by rail
Great in itself with wonderful architecture
Great and magnificent if you are a foodie!!
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Feb 7th, 2013, 03:45 AM
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I agree with the advice that you go directly to Sorrento upon your arrival in Rome.

You say you "don't need to hit every museum," but I must say that with this itinerary, you will not be entering a single one. That's okay. You shouldn't force yourself to go to museums if they don't interest you and your husband, but your itinerary really screams out that what you want is a scenic vacation in Italy.

So instead of dragging down your itinerary with the meaningless hassle of Rome and Florence, cut them out and enjoy the seaside and small towns of Italy. There is actually an incredible amount of art and ruins in the countryside of Italy, in small towns and along the way. It is very hard to go anywhere in Italy without having a beautiful church in your face.

How about:

Arriive in Rome, travel to Sorrento, 3 nights
Rent car, drive to Tuscany 4 nights, including a visit to Siena
Drive to le Cinque Terre (drop off car in La Spezia), 2 nights
Pisa -- 2 nights with a day trip to Florence --
Fly to Paris from Pisa airport

(or if you can get a flight out of Florence, stay in Florence and see Pisa en route to Florence)

If you would rather skip Florence than Rome, then

Arrive in Rome, travel to Sorrento, 3 nights
Train to Rome, 3 nights
train to Orvieto, rent car, Tuscany 4 nights (including day trip to Siena)
Drive to le Cinque Terre with parking, 2 nights in le Cinque Terre
drive to Pisa airport, drop off car, fly to Paris
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