genoa-tuscany-rome itinerary help needed

Mar 31st, 2006, 06:43 AM
  #1  
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genoa-tuscany-rome itinerary help needed

Iím planning a trip to Italy with my husband, and his brother and sister in law for next October 2006 (probably Sep 30-Oct 15). We have 14 full days (not including two travel days) and would like to include Tuscany/Umbria. This will be our second trip to Italy, having visited Rome, Florence and Venice (only for a day each on a cruise) the first time. Iíve tried to add some diversity to our itinerary to meet everyoneís interests (e.g., varying landscape/scenery, small town, big city, access to museums, archeological sitesÖ) - here is our rough itinerary so far:

Day 1: overnight flight from US to Genoa
Day 2: arrive Genoa, train to San Marguerite Liguire or Portovenere (3 nts)
Day 3: day trip to Portofino
Day 4: day trip to Cinque Terra
Day 5: train to Pisa, pick up rental car, visit Pisa, drive to base near Sienna (5 nts)
Day 5-9: visit San G, Volterra, Lucca, Montepuciano, Montalcino, Pienza, ? day
trip to FlorenceÖ
Day 10: drive to Assisi (2 nts)
Day 11: visit Deruta, ? Spoleto or Perugia
Day 12: drive from Assisi to Orvieto via Todi, turn in rental car, tour Orvieto, and take
later train to Rome (3 nts)
Day 13-15: visit Rome, ? day trips to Ostia Antica/Hadrianís villa
Day 16: fly Rome to US

Iíve done some research and have spent time reading advice on this message board, but know I still have a lot more work to do. I greatly appreciate any suggestions from you all to help me improve the itinerary and make it a great trip!

Some questions I have are:
Iím still debating over visiting Cinque Terra/Portofino area Ė I love the idea of seeing this beautiful area, but one concern I have is that my brother in law had his hip replaced last year - he can get around fine, but I think that extensive or strenuous walking/climbing is out. Iíve read that hiking between towns is a highlight. Iíve also read some pretty mixed reviews about Cinque Terra on this site. Can a visit to Cinque Terra be enjoyed without the hiking between towns, or is there a relatively easy hike that he might be able to do? Is early October a good time to visit? (I originally thought about nixing Cinque Terre, and instead flying into Milan, spending a couple days somewhere (?) in the Lakes area, then heading to Tuscany. But I know that my husband and I will be back to Italy and would prefer to visit Milan and the Lakes and other northern places on another trip. It is still a possibility though.)

I want to avoid frequently changing hotels, and so purposefully didnít schedule any one nighters. With that said, would there be any benefit to spending one night in Lucca after picking up the car in Pisa, rather than visiting Lucca on a day trip from a base near Sienna. Also, for days 5-10, Iím not sure about staying all 5 nts near Sienna. Is there a benefit to splitting up the stay in Tuscany, for example with 3 nts near Sienna, and 2 nts near Montalcino or Montepulciano? And finally, is day 12 (driving from Assisi, visiting Todi and Orvieto, and then taking a train to Rome) too rushed? It looks to me like it might be. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
vapaula is offline  
Mar 31st, 2006, 07:23 AM
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Well, I think you've got a pretty good plan. Regarding the Cinque Terre, if you take the train to the southernmost town, Riomaggiore, and start walking north, the trail is pretty easy. It gets harder as you move northward. Your brother-in-law could just drop out when it got too much for him and take the train back to your base town. And that base town should be Santa Margherita Ligure; Portovenere is not on the train line. However, everybody seems to like SML very much. And it's an easy walk (or bus) to Portofino from there.

The lakes would be good too, but, given that you're flying into Genoa, it's a much shorter trip to SML. That's desireable after an overnight flight.

Early October is a great time to visit. I'd stick to the one spot outside Siena. Southern Tuscany (Montepulciano, Montalcino, etc) is not that far. Have you looked up your driving routes on one of the mapping sites? Like www.maporama.com or www.mappy.com.

I like Lucca, but a day trip is enough. You don't gain all that much by staying overnight, as opposed to Venice, Siena, and San Gimignano, all of which are distinctly different in the evening.

As for your Day 12, yes, it's a bit rushed but doable.

I think you've done a great job planning!

Mimar is offline  
Mar 31st, 2006, 07:36 AM
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Mimar,
Thanks for your advice, especially about Cinque Terra. It sounds like it will work out fine and so I'll stick with the game plan. I haven't checked out driving routes yet, but that is on my to do list, and I appreciate the web links you gave me. Do you have any suggestions for places to stay in SML, near Sienna (my sister in law mentioned that she would like to stay in a villa), Assisi and Rome? Finding places to stay in my next task. Thanks again.
vapaula is offline  
Mar 31st, 2006, 07:43 AM
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I like your basic plan but would change a bit. With 4 of you I would get the car from day one--why all of the train hassle? And, you will need the car for day trips to Camogli etc.
Your location in Tuscany will be key. See Lucca as you transition, but Florence will be a long day trip if you stay in south Tuscany. You have a good start---just try to refine it now.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Mar 31st, 2006, 07:46 AM
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I think it is a good plan, and while I recommend that you not skip Liguria, I do think your brother in law will have a difficult time in the Cinque Terre, the towns themselves sit at a steep angle against the hillside. So even if you don't hike, it is pretty hard not to be negotiating steep grades a lot of the time.

But I do think you can nonetheless enjoy the beautiful and colorful area of Liguria very much, especially as a relaxing beginning for your trip. That time of year is a perfect time to go. You can stroll and enjoy lunches and dinners in the harbor towns. Although it is quite different from Portofino and Portovenere, I am very fond of the old section of Sestri Levante, which is completely flat and has a long, sandy lick of land that creates two bays in the Mediterranean. It is delightful to sit at the seaside restaurants at the edge of the sand and have a lunch.

If you decide not to go Cinque Terre,
I would recommend subtracting one day from Liguria and adding it to Umbria.

Although Perugia is often difficult as a day trip, because getting into town with a car can be so confusing, I will point out that you can take an escalator to the top of the town, where everything is completely flat. The art museum is Perugia is superb and very much worth seeing, as is this unique city itself.

I once saw on the Slow Travel website detailed driving instructions for not getting lost in Perugia. You might ask over there how to find them.



nessundorma is offline  
Mar 31st, 2006, 07:49 AM
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bob,

Camogli has a train station and, besides, I didn't see Camogli on the itinerary.

Portovenere does not have a train station, and October may be too late for boat trips from there to Portofino or Cinque Terre. So Santa Margherita Ligure is a better bet for train trips.

My understanding of parking in the Cinque Terre is that all of it is at the tops of hills. It may be easier for someone with mobility issues to see the towns by using the train stations, rather than getting to and from the parking lots.

nessundorma is offline  
Mar 31st, 2006, 09:44 AM
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Nessundorma,
Thank you for your thoughful response - time in the old section of Sestri Levante sounds like a good idea. I'll talk it over with my brother in law and, of course see what he is most comfortable with, and then make any changes from there. I'm also interested in Bob's reply to your message regarding renting a car from day 1. I thought about that, but decided that unless it was alot more convenient to drive in that area than go by train, our drivers (my husand and his brother) may want a break from driving since they'll be doing it all in Tuscany and Umbria. If access to the towns in Cinque Terra is easier (mobility wise) by train as you suggested, then that would be another reason to travel by train for that portion of the trip.

I'm going to work on really refining the itinerary -- everyone's advice has been so helpful. I would very much welcome any other tips that you or anyone else can think of for the rest of the itinerary that would help minimize stresses for someone with some mobility limitation (I appreciate your tip on Perugia).
vapaula is offline  
Mar 31st, 2006, 10:41 AM
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Your welcome, vapaula. Maybe bob or someone else who has actually parked in the Cinque Terre can speak to the issues of having to go down and up steep hills to tour the towns once the car is parked.

I want to stress that the choice between Cinque Terre or Portofino and Sestri Levante is pretty dramatic in the sense that Sestri Levante is seldom on anybody's tourist map unless they really enjoy just hanging out with Italians, enjoying a quiet bay, etc. While I enjoy the charm of this immensely compared to a place like Portofino, which is just jammed with designer label stores and cruise ship passengers shopping madly, it's also true that Portofino and Cinque Terre are picture postcard sights, while Sestri Levante isn't.

If you can, see if you can find the boat schedule from Portovenere or La Spezia to Cinque Terre. If the boats are still running during the time you are there, seeing the Cinque Terre from the sea might be just the right answer for your brother in law.

I wouldn't worry too much about adding to the driving for the drivers. It's really not very stressful to drive in Italy, and you are going at a fairly leisurely pace.

Just remember to keep a sense of humor, that it is inevitable that both the driver and the navigator will make wrong calls and turns, and especially lighten up as you head into an Italian town, which was built several centuries before cars were invented. It is always pretty comic to negotiate those streets.


nessundorma is offline  
Mar 31st, 2006, 10:50 AM
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Hello vapaula, just wanted to say with four passengers and the luggage make sure that you rent a vehicle that will hold all the luggage as trunks are not usually really big. Maybe some other poster here can give you some suggestions as to what type of vehicle you should rent. Best wishes, sounds like you and your family will have a beautiful stay in Italy.
LoveItaly is offline  
Mar 31st, 2006, 10:58 AM
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Hi V!

I think you have a very good plan so far. I only have a couple tweeks to suggest.

I agree that you should see Lucca on the way to Tuscany.

When you visit southern Tuscany around Montepulciano, be sure to leave time to see Monte Oliveto and San'Antimo (very near Montalcino). These day trips will fill 2 days.

Yes, Day 12 is too full. Todi is a lovely hilltown, but it won't be much different from the others you are visiting. Orvieto is well worth a full day, so spend as much time as you can there on the way to Roma!

With only 3 days in Roma, you probably won't want to take any day trips away from all the sites and you are not overdoing the major cities on this trip. Enjoy Roma!

Buon viaggio!
Dayle is offline  
Mar 31st, 2006, 11:35 AM
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Parking in the Cinque Terre is either in public parking garages/area or sometimes provided by hotels. However, cars are not needed once you are there. That said, there are shuttle busses that are down at the base of town (Riomaggiore, for example, has one) that can take people up to hotels and accommodations in the hills. Monterosso also has a shuttle bus near the train station too.

Since you are basing yourselves in Genoa, you can easily take a local train down to the Cinque Terre and travel by train from town to town. The walk between Riomaggiore and Manarola is an easy 20 minute one along the Via Dell'Amore. The other trails are higher in the hills and would be more strenuous for your brother-in-law.

In specific regards to your proposed itinerary, you could start out early in the morning of Day 3, see Portofino for a 1/2 day, then take the train 40 minutes south to Riomaggiore in the Cinque Terre, have lunch there, then walk the easy trail to Manarola, see the town, etc. You could then take the train up to Monterosso to see that last town (if you wanted) or continue on back up to Genoa. Day 4 you could combine Lucca/Pisa into a daytrip, then pick up rental car in early evening and drive out to Siena base (if rental car is needed). Days 5-7 you could visit the local towns (San Gimignano, Volterra, Montepulciano, etc). Days 8-10 train to Assisi as a day trip (is that your base while in Umbria?), see Perugia, Deruta, Spoleto, etc. Day 11 morning, see Orvieto enroute via train to Rome, arrive Rome by mid-afternoon. Days 12-15, Rome and environs....

I would give yourselves more time in Rome. That is the largest city with the most to see, plus you want to take day trips to Tivoli (Hadrian's Villa) and Ostia Antica - which are in opposite directions. As proposed above, perhaps by eliminating one of your Siena nights (5) and combining daytrips, you can add on a day to Rome to allow you time to see everything.

I have never rented a car when traveling in Italy. I rely on the public transportation (trains, busses, boats) which has been very good. Why are you renting a car? If you need to go to a remote place, then perhaps it would be needed, but IMO, you are fine taking a train while in Genoa, train down to the CT, train to Lucca, Pisa, Siena, Rome, etc. Parking, high gas prices, and the hassle are just not worth trying to drive everywhere when a train and/or bus will get you there just as conveniently and for a lot less money.

Huitres is offline  
Mar 31st, 2006, 11:49 AM
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Having read the above advice, I want to say a few things from someone who has both rented a car and traveled by train in Italy:

It is not necessarily easy to get up and down train station steps in Italy, especially with luggage. Nor is it necessarily easily to get onto trains themselves if you have mobility problems. For travelers in the first weeks of October, driving and parking is not a "hassle."

It is often more cost effective for 4 adults to take a car rather than buy 4 train tickets. It also generally easier and enjoyable when you have luggage (even small luggage on wheels) to be traveling by car.

If there a shuttle buses to an from the parking lots, that would be a plus. One would still have to deal with steeply angled streets in town.

I found the famed "via dell'Amore" 20 minute walk between Riomaggiore and Manarola not very special at all, especially since a good chunk of it sports chain link fencing and a lot of concrete (covered with grafitti by honeymooners, which is how it got its nickname, not because it is so romantic to look at). My recollection is that the beginning of the walk requires climbing uphill and stairs to get to the entrance, and leaving the walk means descending stairs and a hill.

That said, if the brother-in-law feels he can handle a limited amount of stair climbing and everybody would really like a taste of the Cinque Terre, the "via dell'Amore" is indeed the most accessible and flat walk, and for all its lack of rural charm, the breathtakingly high cliffside views over the sea are what the CT is all about.



nessundorma is offline  
Mar 31st, 2006, 12:24 PM
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I have found in my experience, taking a train to be an effective mode of transportation and gave my advice as such. I travel with a young child and have lugged a stroller along many times as well, so that could be considered as equally strenuous and often difficult as traveling with a limited capacity adult. True enough, there are often not escalators at the train stations to enable easy access, however, the train stations are often very close (if not in) the town centres and one can then walk to the proposed destination or take a local bus there with ease.

Having immediate family living in Europe, I know from personal experience that driving a car around places in often busy traffic (on or off season), parking a car and paying exorbitant prices for gas (higher than in U.S.), it really doesn't make much sense and we opt for public transport more than taking out a car. If, in vapaula's case, a car is preferred than by all means they should rent one. However, I would suggest it NOT be rented for the Genoa/Portofino/Cinque Terre portion of the trip as trains are quite efficient in the area. Specific to the Cinque Terre, parking and manuevering around there is not the easiest. Regardless of where they park, there will still be hills to climb up or down - that is the CT. Hopefully, they can make use of the shuttle bus in Riomaggiore (if they go there) to aid them in getting up the hill to see more things. There is also the elevator that can be taken down to the train station area as a help too. Perhaps the CT should be avoided altogher as the whole region is built into the hillsides with inclines everywhere you go?!
Huitres is offline  
Mar 31st, 2006, 12:53 PM
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Huitres,

I'll leave it to vapaula to factor in her unique situation, but if you've never rented a car in Italy, your ability to compare the expense, convenience and the stress of driving as opposed to trains is somewhat lacking here.

As I said, I've done both and continue to do both when traveling in Italy. My trips are often a mix of car and train travel. Were I going to Liguria in the first two weeks of October, I wouldn't hesitate to rent a car if I wanted to do day trips, especially if I wanted to visit Portofino (which I wouldn't but that's a different story).

Given vapaula's specific itinerary, she will not run into a lot of traffic and parking problems in her desination areas.

I don't know if you read my previous posts, but I began by advising that vapaula give serious thought to elminating the CT because of the steep hillsides. However, you now remind me that there are elevators, and have offered the info about shuttle buses.

By the way, I don't think the train line that runs from Genoa to La Spezia is very efficient. It's often late and pokey.

I think that it's good for vapaula to have all this conflicting information. She and her fellow travelers can figure out their priorities. I know for my husband and I, the fact that gas costs 3 times as much as in the US is trivial (especially since Italian cars get better mileage!) compared to the freedom we have enjoyed having a car.

On another occasions, however, we skip the expense of a car in favor of moving from place to place well-serviced by trains, when we both can sit back and read or look out the window.

It's a different set of considerations each trip.

I think

nessundorma is offline  
Mar 31st, 2006, 03:32 PM
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My my--so many words. Yes, the parking at Monterosso is easy and at the bottom of the hill on the water. Forget the trains--get you car and stay in SML and day trip to the CT via Monterosso and also day trip to Camogli another day. It is easier with a car for 4 people.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Mar 31st, 2006, 06:02 PM
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Bob,

Do they pay you to plug Camogli? ;-)

As I read vapaula's itinerary, she is flying into Genova, but not basing herself there. She hasn't mentioned wanting to see Camogli, but if the party wants to go to there, it would make more sense, I think, to plop right down in Camogli after the long flight, rather than bypass it head all the way to SML, only to drive back for a day trip. From Camogli, Portofino (which vapaula did say she wants to see) is a very easy day trip.

Instead of seeing Camogli, Portofino and SML and possibly Portovenere and/or Sestri Levante, I would pick just one or two towns. (My personal preference would be Camogli and Sestri Levante.) I would either add CT (depending on whether the person with the hip replacement would enjoy it) or I would eliminate CT and spend the time to Umbria.

Bob, does it make sense to drive to Monterosso to sit at the bottom of the hill by the water? Is the view or the town worth it? Is enough of the town flat to be comfortable for some with hip pain to walk around? (I know Manarola isn't. I did see an elevator in Riomaggiore that would make for nice views.)

nessundorma is offline  
Apr 1st, 2006, 11:09 AM
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You miss the point. Get a car--stay where you would--have the freedom for day trips to whereever--include Monterosso in your day trips because that is where you catch the ferry to see all of the villages FROM THE WATER. Monterosso is flat and east walking.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Apr 5th, 2006, 05:23 PM
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I'm still working on fine tuning the trip based on everyone's responses, and need some more help. I did learn that the ferries are running (weather permitting) from Portovenere to Cinque Terre through October. We're trying to decide where to base in Tuscany. If we decide to make Southern Tuscany our base, near Montepulciano, (rather than staying at both Sienna and Assisi), can we readily reach the Umbrian towns (Assisi, Perugia, Spello, Deruta...) on day trips? Also, is a day trip into Florence feasible or is it simply too far for a comfortable day trip from there? Thanks.
vapaula is offline  
Apr 5th, 2006, 06:44 PM
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Vapula,

I suggest you start another thread to ask your question. (I'm not a Tuscan maven, so I've no opinion.)

Bob, boats going to the CT also leave from Portovenere.
nessundorma is offline  
Apr 6th, 2006, 06:20 AM
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Oh yes I do know. We have stayed in Portovenere 3 times over a 20 year span. I send many of my clients there.
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