First trip to Italy, Hows this look?

Old Jul 2nd, 2014, 01:02 PM
  #1  
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First trip to Italy, Hows this look?

We have booked our trip already so praying for not a lot of negative feedback, but hey - I've got thick skin.

Oct 24 Flying from Portland OR to Venice (two connections)
Oct 25 Arrive Venice (10AM), find our apartment and attempt to stay awake until at least 8pm local time!
Oct 26 Venice
Oct 27 Venice
Oct 28 Train from Venice to Florence, locate apartment
Oct 29 Florence
Oct 30 Florence
Oct 31 Florence
Nov 01 Train to Cinque Terre
Nov 02 Cinque Terre
Nov 03 Train to Rome
Nov 04 Rome
Nov 05 Rome
Nov 06 Rome
Nov 07 Fly home from Rome (6am flight) to Portland (two connections)
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Old Jul 2nd, 2014, 01:11 PM
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It looks pretty good; however, you might keep the Cinque Terre times open and see how the weather looks, especially if you are planning any hikes. Furthermore, if you are planning to hike, check on status of trails (most of the Sentiero Azzurro was closed when I was there in May of this year).

In November you will have shorter days, probably cooler weather and possibly rain. Cinque Terre, to me, is most enjoyable in warm, sunny weather since there is not the usual abundance of history, art and architecture to keep you busy.

If the weather looks bad, you can extend time in other cities, or add nights in Lucca, Orvieto, Bologna--many possibilities.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2014, 01:12 PM
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Well even the most garchie of Fodorgarchs can't find much wrong with your wonderfully timed itinerary! (Well....)

As for the trains - www.trenitalia.com is the site to nab advance discounted tickets that can save you a bundle over just showing up and buying - but there are restrictions on changing from the specific train you book and as those ducats are sold in limited numbers and can sell out weeks ahead of time you must book for a specific train on a specific date.

If you want full flexibility to chose trains once there then the Italy Railpass would probably be cheaper than buying full-fare walk up tickets.

Anyway trenitalia.com flummoxes many folk (see a current thread about the horrendous proboems one Fodorite is having with it) but there are helpful folk here who will always come to your rescue if called upon. For lots of great info on Italian trains check www.seat61.com - good info on discounted tickets; www.ricksteves.com and www.budgeteuropetravel.com.

If not on a starvation budget on the tripof a lifetijme consider going first-class - though 2nd class is nice first-class is a lot nicer - especially for folks porting around perhaps way too much luggage - taking trains inevitably means long treks thru crowded stations and getting on and off - be sure you can manage your luggage.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2014, 01:15 PM
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I like it---good job.
Good thinking on the apartments. Sorry about the early flight.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2014, 01:16 PM
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ekc
 
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Ciao fellow Portlander! Your trip looks good. I would skip CT in November (what would you do if it is raining??) and add one day each to Venice and Rome. Your first day in Venice will be a waste with arrival and jetlag, so you really only have 2 days.

Especially with the train travel, be sure to pack light!

Hopefully you are not flying through Frankfurt. We had a connection there last week on our way to Italy and it was pure madness!
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Old Jul 2nd, 2014, 01:24 PM
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I strongly agree with the advice to "pencil in" Le Cinque Terre and have a back up plan. The last week of October and the first week of November is typically a time of a torrential rain and storms. You could luck out with sunny and beautiful weather, so if it is important for you to go, then book someplace with a very favorable cancellation policy, watch the weather on the internet for Le Cinque Terre specifically right up to Oct 30, and only go if it is guaranteed to be dry. If it has been raining heavily right before you arrive, be prepared to find trails closed for your safety.

If le Cinque Terre is not all that important to you, then you might consider a jog to someplace else for variety. Perugia is a nice if you like hills and hiking independent of having a sea view. Chiusi is charming if you like to feel away from the tourist crowd and have an interest in the Etruscans. Bologna if you are a pasta freak. Or just slip off to Rome early. In November, you can always find a favorably priced and well located b&b and Rome taken in over 6 days is more fun than Rome over 4.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2014, 01:25 PM
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Our reservations are flexible in Cinque Terre so we do have the ability to cancel last minute if the weather isn't great. I think I would add a night or two in the hill towns of Florence if that were the case. Any favorites?

We are each taking one backpack, so getting around shouldn't be difficult.

And we are connecting through Amsterdam.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2014, 01:25 PM
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Yeah, you're doing pretty well. I like mama_mia's suggestion to have a back up plan for the CT days. I would add Arezzo or Assisi as possible substitutions, or even Perugia which has an outstanding museum.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2014, 01:26 PM
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I meant to add that it is often raining in Lucca when it is raining in le Cinque Terre, and there is almost nothing to do indoors in Lucca either, so I don't view it as attractive in rainy weather months.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2014, 01:50 PM
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Have to agree with Sandralist about Lucca and rain. An hour or two is OK, but rain, cold and dark gets tiresome there. It is the only place I have splurged and bought a big, expensive umbrella when the small travel one was not enough protection from the windy rain. Late April and we cancelled the trip to CT, ditched Lucca after a day and went to Florence where the weather was sunny.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2014, 02:15 PM
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ekc
 
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Orvieto would be nice and easily reachable via train.

Good - Schipol is a much better connection!
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Old Jul 2nd, 2014, 02:46 PM
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Most hilltowns require nice weather to enjoy them, since only a few offer something to do indoors.

Orvieto, Chiusi and Perugia offer a lot to do indoors if the weather is rough. Assisi is worth considering, although it is so focused on religion, it might not have enough dimensions for you. Bologna is hard to book on short notice.

It is actually sometimes quicker to take a fast train from Florence to Naples and then back to Rome than to take pokey regional trains or buses around Tuscany or Umbria, even though on a map they appear "on the way" to Rome. So don't rule out a Plan B for le Cinque Terre that would be heading to Naples and Pompei instead if it is sunny there. You ca
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Old Jul 2nd, 2014, 02:48 PM
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... You can always book last minute in Naples.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2014, 02:50 PM
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Palenq is so assiduous in pushing rail passes that I'm convinced he's getting a commission. In this case, a rail pass would be much more expensive than even the last-minute walk-up point-to-point ticket sales.

The cheapest Italy rail pass you could get (assuming you're two people who would always be traveling together is the 3-day Saver Pass. This costs $430 (USD) in second class and and $526 in 1st class. To this you'd have to add a minimum of €40 per person (about $55) for mandatory reservations on the fast train from Venice to Florence and from La Spezia (near the Cinque Terre) to Rome. This would bring the total cost of the 2-person pass to $485 (2nd class) or $581 (1st class).

If you bought last-minute tickets on the fastest trains for this trip, they would cost €230 for two people in 2nd class and €306 in first class, if your Cinque Terre destination were Riomaggiore; other towns would be very slightly more. That would be about $314 (2nd) and $418 (1st).

On the other hand, if you were to buy well in advance, you could get tickets on this route for as little as €104 (Super Economy) for two people in 2nd class, and even a few weeks in advance you might be able to get them for €144 (Economy). This would be about $142-$196.

Essentially, by buying last-minute full-price tickets, you'd be paying at least $172 over the cost of the inflexible economy tickets. That's a lot of money to pay for flexibility, considering that complete flexibility doesn't exist in Italy, because you have to make seat reservations on the fast trains.

Furthermore, if you were to follow Palenq's advice, you'd be throwing at least $116 to the wind, more if you want to ride 1st class, and much more compared to economy and super-economy fares. The difference between a 1st-class 3-day "Saver" rail pass and super-economy 2nd-class tickets is an astonishing $350. I would much rather spend that money on better hotel rooms, better restaurants, or maybe a private tour or two.

By the way, first class in Italy is, in my opinion, not worth the extra cost. In some countries, apart from a little extra seat width, you get lavish attention and abundant snacks. In Italy, you get a little extra seat width, a Coke, and some peanuts. The seat width in 2nd class is fine for most people; it's nothing like airline seating. Some people say 1st class is less crowded. There's no guarantee of that, but if it were true, it would be proof that most Italians think it's a waste of money.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2014, 02:53 PM
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Assuming the weather is reasonable in CT.

You left a day to train from Florence to CT.

This is what we did though we were there in late June with sunny warm weather.

I carefully checked the trains from Florence to Pisa. I made sure that the train we took stopped at the Pisa San Rossore station. This station is right after Centrale (not all Pisa trains go to San Rossore station so check).

This station is only a few minutes walk to the Leaning Tower. We spent some tourist time in this area and walked back to the little station to catch a train to Lucca (of course I knew the time of the trains from Pisa San Rossore to Lucca).

We spent the afternoon walking around Lucca. We rented bikes and rode on the wall around the city. Stopped for a park bench (on the wall) picnic.

We took a train around 5PM from Lucca to La Spezia and checked into our hotel that was less than 100 yards from the station.

Then we took the local CT train to Riomaggiore where we walked around, saw a spectacular sunset and ate outdoors before taking the 7 minute train back to La Spezia.

We spent the next day hiking between the CT villages and took a boat to Portovenere and eventually a bus back to our hotel and trained back to Florence (about 3 hours).
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Old Jul 3rd, 2014, 06:34 AM
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Just a note about your early flight out of Rome. Even though it's very early, don't assume it will be easy or quick! My experience has been that the earlier the flight, the fewer agents at the check in desk. Others will eventually show up.....

Also make sure you check your luggage tags. On one trip I had to check and make the agent re-print my tags, not once but twice, since she evidently was not awake enough to read that my itinerary did not END in CDG.

Allow a minimum of 2.5 hours prior to departure.

Your trip looks great. Buon viaggio!
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Old Jul 3rd, 2014, 11:27 AM
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Some people say 1st class is less crowded. There's no guarantee of that, but if it were true, it would be proof that most Italians think it's a waste of money.>

Well just checking for Venice to Florence tomorrow most second class seats are sold out but first class ones are available on nearly all - thus first-class is less crowded as there are still empty seats.

and you obviously have not ridden much in first class on Italian trains - seats are not just a bit bigger but significantly so.

And only in first class do you have the seats that are priceless for me - solo seats with a window and an aisle - two of these can face each other - you never get these in 2nd class and if you can't see this a big difference to some well.

Now about the pass on this trip I did grievously over estimate the ticket prices and mistakenly though they were going back to Florence to get a train to Rome - a 4th trip and a 4-day pass is only about $20 a day more expensive than a 3-day pass (2nd cl) and just $30/day more in 1st cl over the price of a 3-day pass.

So the more days you have the dramatically cheaper per day the pass becomes.

But a review of trenitalia.com shows lower fares than I once saw so I agree in this case I was dead wrong but if someone were traveling more days the more viable a pass would be. I'll check trenitalia.com more carefully.

but I do vigorously disagree with your characterization of first class being a waste of money - plenty of Italians then waste money as there are usually 2-3 first-class carriages on each train - or are Italians just fools wasting their money.

On the trip of a lifetime IMO go first class - if you're traveling on trains as a utilitarian means like Italians may do often then go second-class unless you're a Berlosconi.

BTW Man in Seat 61 -everyone's train guru said on a thread a bit back about Italian trains that he was an aficionado of first class as well - things like not having screaming babies and kids around were a factor too. Try first class once and you'll see the difference - like in those lovely isolated aisle and window seats!
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Old Jul 3rd, 2014, 02:58 PM
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and when searching trenitalia.com right now for travel tomorrow I found a Venice to Florence discounted fare still available for 39 euro IN first-class, when all second-class tickets - the cheapest discounted ones seem to be 45 euro - were sold out.

So always check the first-class price after you hit the search button when on the first screen it says 'from xx euros' and if first-class is only a few euros more (or rarely even cheaper) it would be a no-brainer IMO to take it - when all the discounted second class tickets are sold out discounted first-class tickets may be cheaper than the sold-out second-class tickets.

Of course there is no guarantee discounted tickets will remain for any train - for tomorrow I was shocked by how many trains - most of them between Venice SL and Florence SMN were all sold out - in both classes - but several had first-class tickets still available. Maybe it is some kind of holiday?
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Old Jul 3rd, 2014, 05:34 PM
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You are thinking taxi to the airport in Rome? That is an early flight. I might even think about an airport hotel at that hour. Last early flight I had we had to wait for the Delta counter to open. People were fuming in the line. Not much time was left for Duty free shopping.
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Old Jul 3rd, 2014, 09:02 PM
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We just flew out of fumiciano a few weeks ago and it was absolute chaos from start to finish. Checking in was easy but passport control was a nightmare and them don't get me starts on the chaos in the departure lounge.

We caught a train in 2nd class from Venice to Rome - never again. It was crossed and re seating was tight. Next time I'll pay for 1st class for the comfort and extra space.
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