First Trip to Italy - 11 Nights

Feb 2nd, 2015, 12:31 PM
  #1  
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First Trip to Italy - 11 Nights

Thanks to that great Emirates sale, we're taking our first trip to Italy, arriving in Milan May 1st and leaving the 12th.

We have a basic itinerary planned:

Nights 1-2 Milan
Nights 3-5 Rome (we booked the fast train to give us a little more time here)
Nights 6-8 We'd like to rent a car somewhere in Tuscany (Siena, maybe?) and spend a couple of nights in this area, then one night in the Cinque Terre.
Nights 9-11 Turn in the car and visit Florence
Day 12 Take the train back to Milan for our late afternoon flight

We do realize it would be lovely to spend more time in the places we're visiting, but we have to do what we can with the time we have. Mr. Pickle wants a break between the big cities (hence time in the smaller cities in Tuscany), and the areas I mentioned appeal to both of us.

One question I have is where would be a good place to rent a car on day 6. We thought Siena might be a good place to get the car; someone else suggested renting one in Orvieto and driving west and north from there.

Any thoughts?

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2015, 01:09 PM
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Rent a car in either place, for me Siena would make sense but either will work. Milan is not such a great base but I'd do it at the end of the trip. Still you have the train booked.

One night in CT.... not so sure, I'd find somewhere nice in Tuscany and pootle around.
bilboburgler is online now  
Feb 2nd, 2015, 01:14 PM
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It sounds like you've already purchased the Milan-Rome train ticket...? Unless the plane lands in the evening, I would have headed immediately to Rome on arrival. 4:15 hours, one change at Milano Centrale, eliminates one hotel check-in/out. Plus, I would rather spend the time in Milan at the end and not have to worry about traveling back to the city for an afternoon flight. If you want to see the Last Supper, you need to make reservations ASAP.

If it was my trip, I'd skip the CT and add the days to the driving-through-Tuscany part of the trip. I'd pick up the car in Rome or Orvieto (easy by train from Rome), return it in Lucca and train into Florence. Be aware that the car rental offices in Orvieto and Lucca are closed for a few hours in the middle of the day and are not open on Saturday afternoons or all day Sunday.

If you keep the CT in your plans, return the car at La Spezia and train to your final destination and then train to Florence. You don't need or want a car in the CT for such a short stay.
Jean is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2015, 01:15 PM
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The deal was a round trip from JFK to Milan, so that's why we're spending the first two nights there. We thought about immediately heading to Rome, but given that we will have spent almost all of April 30th and the first part of May 1st traveling, we would rather collapse in Milan.

The Cinque Terre area does seem like a bit of an outlier, but it looks pretty...

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2015, 01:18 PM
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Jean - "If you want to see the Last Supper, you need to make reservations ASAP."

I looked for tickets today and they don't seem to be available for sale beyond March as of now?? It looks like they open up a month at a time, and that they should be open now for May, but not seeing it. Can you help?

http://www.vivaticket.it/index.php?n...&SiteVersion=1

Is that not the officialy seller??
DebitNM is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2015, 01:21 PM
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The way you've written your post it sounds like you have already booked train tickets from Milan to Rome. Is that the case?

Do you want to do scenic driving in Tuscany or do you have a list of towns, like Siena, that you want to include in this itinerary? It would be easier to tell you where to pick up the car if people knew where you wanted to go in Tuscany on your way to le Cinque Terre.

If the Emriates flight leaves at 4pm, it is not unreasonable to leave Florence in the morning to get there. But realize that you will need to be at the airport by 1.30pm, and that you will need to be at Milano Centrale by noon to make that happen.
sandralist is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2015, 01:22 PM
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We were posting at the same time, so now I see you have a train ticket to Rome.
sandralist is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2015, 01:23 PM
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Your preliminary itinerary involves 5 hotels in 11 nights.

You might want to research the driving times involved in your Tuscany plans to understand how much (or how little) you can see in 2-3 days. I use maps.google.com, but I think their driving estimates are generally too optimistic so I add time.
Jean is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2015, 01:29 PM
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You need to put all of Milan at the end. If you purchased train tickets already, can they be changed? If not, I would lose the value of them and still put Milan at the end. I drop some nights from Milan and would use the time elsewhere.

I'm not sure I would depend on a train back on the day of a flight although you should be able to get an early enough train from Florence. You never know if there will be a strike. If you put Milan at the end, it will use your time more efficiently and puts you where you need to be for your flight home.

You could take a train to Florence upon arrival in Milan (fast train is about 1:45 from Milan Centrale) and get there at a decent time. Visit Florence, pick up a car for a few days in Tuscany, drop car somewhere close to Rome (Chiusi? Orvieto), visit Rome, train to Milan for last night before flight home.
kybourbon is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2015, 01:33 PM
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DebitNM, when I said ASAP, I meant as soon as possible not necessarily "today." AFAIK, you just have to keep checking. Annoying, but reality. There's a thread on Tripadvisor that reports the May 2011 ticket sales opened (slowly, not entirely) on February 9, 2011. A thread on Fodors gave the same Feb. 9th date for May 2013.

Yes, Vivaticket is the official seller.
Jean is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2015, 01:38 PM
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>>>We were posting at the same time, so now I see you have a train ticket to Rom<<<

Even if they had, it might be a fare that can be changed.

>>>Your preliminary itinerary involves 5 hotels in 11 nights. <<<

Agree that's too many places and too much moving. You need to count in hotel nights. Three hotel nights only gives you two sightseeing days. Major cities like Rome need more.
kybourbon is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2015, 01:38 PM
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Thanks Jean! I thought I was ok so far [I am going just after Lee Ann] but wanted to double check. The website shows the last dates that tickets opened were beginning of December for March. I don't see that January opened any tickets for April and February appears to be when May tickets would open but wasn't sure if they opened each month or did a few months at a time.
DebitNM is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2015, 01:39 PM
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OPENING SALES:
9th October: opening sale for JANUARY 2015
11th November: opening sale for FEBRUARY 2015
2nd December: opening sale for MARCH 2015
DebitNM is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2015, 06:07 PM
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As I said earlier, we would rather stay in Milan for the first couple of days. My flight leaves ABQ at 7:30 a.m. on 4/30, and Mr. Pickle's leaves at 9:30 a.m. (we're using points and had to do things this way). We depart from JFK at 10:00 p.m. and arrive in Milan the next day at 12:15.

Neither of us sleeps well on the plane, and Mr. Pickle is particularly affected by lack of sleep. We did a similar flight from ABQ to MAN last year, and he was a zombie for most of our arrival day.

In addition, May 1st is Labor Day, and from what I've seen, it looks like most of what we'd want to see will be closed, so IMO there isn't much point in getting to Rome right away. By staying in Milan, we can get into the city, check into our hotel, take a short nap, then wander around a bit. We'll visit the Duomo and (hopefully) see The Last Supper the next day, providing we can get tickets when they go on sale.

Sandralist, I think we want to see Siena, Lucca, and San Gimignano, but we haven't nailed that down yet. That's why I thought maybe Siena would be a good place to get the car.

I have counted my itinerary in hotel nights, and I realize we're moving around more than some people recommend. This is how we usually travel.

As I said, it would be lovely to spend more time in Rome and Florence in particular; perhaps we'll be able to make a return visit in the future. But for this trip, we're 99% certain of where we want to go and how many nights we want to spend in each place. The only uncertainty is the hill towns/CT portion.

Thanks, everyone, for your suggestions and advice.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2015, 01:50 AM
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Hi Lee Ann,

I hear you about needing to sleep when you arrive.

As many people will point out to you, Siena, Lucca and San Gimignano could be seen as day trips from Florence using public transportation. What I would recommend is that leaving Rome, you take the train to Chiusi, pick up the car there, and take a scenic drive through southern Tuscany to stay in a town or farm somewhere not to far from Siena for the night, like Murlo or San Giovanni d'Asso, or a farm near Buonconvento. The next day visit Siena as a day trip, return to your "base" and then the next day drive via San Gimignano on your way to le Cinque Terre. After your visit to le CInque Terre, stop by Lucca in the afternoon on your way dropping off the car. I don't think you can drop off the car in Lucca, so I would probably make my life simple by dropping off the car at the Florence airport and taking the shuttle bus or taxi into Florence.

For le Cinque Terre, I would book someplace you can cancel and watch the weather forecasts so that you can skip it entirely if the weather is rainy, which it can be in May. You won't have trouble finding someplace elsewhere to book short notice.
sandralist is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2015, 03:20 AM
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I would want at least two nights in the Cinque Terre, because one night means you'll get there late one day and need to leave early the next.

One of the reasons for leaving immediately for a different destination, is that, especially if you're a zombie that day, you don't need to do anything but sit on the train.
bvlenci is online now  
Feb 3rd, 2015, 03:29 AM
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The jury is out on whether it's a good idea to travel to a destination, but to each his own.

I have no problem with your spending the first 2 nts in Milan. Like others, I'd recommend skipping CT this time. It's nice, but not a must-do, given the inconvenience of getting there for just 1 nt.
vincenzo32951 is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2015, 03:52 AM
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I'm probably not an expert, because I'm usually able to sleep at least a little on the plane.

Fairly often I fly into Rome from the US and then take a train to my home in Le Marche, a longer trip than from Malpensa to Rome. And then it's almost an hour in the car after the train. It's never really bothered me, although sometimes I doze on the train. It's certainly better than planning a museum visit or a guided tour on the arrival day.

I once visited the British Museum after an overnight flight, because there was a special exhibit that was closing that day, and that I really wanted to see. That was really not worth it. After half an hour, my sensory overload was so great that I might as well not have been there.
bvlenci is online now  
Feb 3rd, 2015, 04:12 AM
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>>I would want at least two nights in the Cinque Terre, because one night means you'll get there late one day and need to leave early the next. <<

Two nights in le CInque Terre can be twice as nice as one, but there is no particular reason one has to leave le Cinque Terre early. You can leave your luggage at the hotel for the morning, take a walk or moderate hike, have lunch and be on the road to Florence by 3pm. If you want to stop by Lucca, nothing is really open there until 4pm anyway. Walk around and have a gelato. Drop off the car at the Florence airport and take a taxi to your hotel. Freshen up and head out for dinner.

As for arriving "late" in le Cinque Terre, the sun doesn't set in that part of Italy until 8.30 pm. If you are driving from San Gimignano after lunch, you can be in le Cinque Terre by 6pm easily. You'll have time to stroll around and enjoy sunset cocktails before dinner.

I'm agnostic about whether you should skip le Cinque Terre or include for 2 nights or 1 night. That's up to you. If you do decide to go, I highly recommend not locking yourself into an unrefundable hotel booking, because it would be a waste of time totally if it was raining.
sandralist is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2015, 05:57 AM
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To my mind, it's just an awful lot of traveling to spend basically an evening and the next morning there.

I don't like to spend less than two nights in any place, unless it's just a waypoint on a long trip from A to B.
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