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Mar 17th, 2014, 07:24 PM
  #1
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Help with Florence and Cinque Terre Itinerary

Hi Fellow Fodorites,

I need help with a very tight itinerary for Florence and Cinque Terre. I have 4 days to see Florence (highlights only) and Cinque Terre (couple of towns) at the end of May (May 26th to May 30th). Have to return back to Rome on May 30th by 8pm

Which option makes more sense and can you help me with some of my questions below.

Option 1:
5/26: take train from Rome to Cinque Terre, spend the night in CT,
5/27: spend most of the day in CT, late afternoon, take train or bus to Florence, spend night in Florence
5/28 to 5/30 mid-day: Florence
5/30 Afternoon: travel to Rome. Need to be in Rome by 8pm.

Option 2:
5/26: take train from Rome to Florence, spend the night in Florence
5/27-5/29: Florence
5/29 Early Morning: travel to Cinque Terre by train or bus?
5/29: Arrive in CT around mid day, spend night in Monterosso or Vernaza
5/30: Do a morning hike through a couple of towns
5/30 Afternoon: take train to Rome. Need to be in Rome by 8pm

Additional questions:
Which option is better or is trying to do CT and Florence in 4 days too crazy?
Should we consider renting a car to travel between any of these cities?
Which trips are better by bus than by train?
Would it make sense to make the home base Florence and take a 1 day tour of CT? Does a 1-day tour of CT from Florence even exist or make sense since it's a 3 hr trip by car/bus?

If you think it's too crazy, you can be honest and tell me. I have a tendency of always trying to see/do too much when I travel to Europe. Just trying to get a taste of both.

Your help will be greatly appreciated!
Jeannette
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Mar 17th, 2014, 07:50 PM
  #2
 
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I think it's doable, but I prefer Option 2. You have a good window for getting back to Rome. I didn't check train schedules for you, but take a look and see if it can be done.

I don't think a bus is an option for any of this.

Play with the train schedules on trenitalia.com.

I don't think a day tour to such a distant destination is a good idea.

I'm actually going to Florence for two nights and what amounts to a day and a half, so I can't say much about you traveling too fast.

I think the answer lies in careful train planning.
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Mar 17th, 2014, 07:53 PM
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A car is useless since you aren't allowed to drive in Florence or CT.

Tours do exist from Florence. CAF has one as do others.

http://www.caftours.com/cinque-terre...ith-lunch.html
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Mar 17th, 2014, 08:19 PM
  #4
 
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I suggest you spend all four nights in Florence, which would give you three whole days. Spend one of those days touring two or three of the Cinque Terre towns. I can't recall their being anything to visit in CT, such as a museum, that closes on Sunday (or any other day) or costs money. So pick your day to visit CT by checking the dates and hours of the museums you wish to see in Florence.

We (two older ladies) did our day tour in a van with a family of four (strangers to us). Our driver let us out to walk around in the towns as close as cars were allowed to go, probably a lot closer than trains. In fact, I don't remember seeing any trains, though I believe I saw a sign to the train station on one of the towns.

It *was* a long drive from Florence, but we felt that it was a very convenient way to see Cinque Terre. However, when I saw a couple of girls dragging suitcases uphill in one of the towns, I thought how lovely it would be to spend the night there. On the other hand, I was glad I wasn't lugging luggage around.
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Mar 17th, 2014, 08:19 PM
  #5
kja
 
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"Which option is better or is trying to do CT and Florence in 4 days too crazy? " -- It really depends on your interests. I spent 5 full days in Florence and did NOT see everything I wanted to see there. I spent 2 nights/ close to 2 full days in the Cinque Terre, and was glad I did because about 1/2 of that time was during a rainstorm that severely limited trail time. Your call.

As others have noted, a car would be a decided disadvantage in the Cinque Terre. I personally do not think the CT a reasonable day-trip from Florence -- too far for too little and too great an opportunity cost. YMMV.

Good luck!
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Mar 17th, 2014, 08:52 PM
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xanthippe: Our driver let us out to walk around in the towns as close as cars were allowed to go, probably a lot closer than trains. In fact, I don't remember seeing any trains, though I believe I saw a sign to the train station on one of the towns.

The trains go through the heart of the Cinque Terre towns. There's no way to get closer to the center of town in Vernazza than the train station. In a few of the other towns there is a tunnel between the center of town and the train station but these are very walkable. Corniglia is the only town not as easy accessed by train as the station is at the bottom of the hill and the town is at the top - but the walk up isn't so awful (I did it quickly) and there are shuttle buses to take you to the top if you are not in a hurry.
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Mar 17th, 2014, 08:56 PM
  #7
 
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You have what appears to be 5 days and you are traveling on three. Italian buses, trains, and freeways are not all that fun. Go one place or the other, settle in, get lost, explore the sites. Always leave something to come back to...
Enjoy your trip.
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Mar 17th, 2014, 09:07 PM
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What are the highlights of Florence for you? The Uffizi and the Accademia? The Duomo? Honestly, you could probably squeeze them and a few more things into two long days, though Florence lovers may beg to differ.

I think I'd prefer Plan #1 just because it seems too risky to be so far away from Rome and to have to get back by 8 PM from the CT. From Florence it's just a high speed train ride with no connections to Rome.

You could counter-intuitively split your nights in Florence: spend the first two in Florence, third in the CT, the last in Florence. Because you would be taking regional trains between Florence and the CT (mostly I think) you would have flexibility in your departure and arrival times. If you're having an amazing time in the CT, stay longer, take the latest train back to Florence and you'll still have the next morning before heading back to Rome. If it's raining in the CT the second day, go back to Florence early, squeeze in an extra museum or a stop in Pisa or something. You probably won't care so much about the weather in Florence, either, but you will want nice weather to hike in the CT. It would be nice to have the flexibility of hiking on either day, arriving/departing early or late depending on weather at the time.

Yes, you have the inconvenience of checking into a hotel one extra time if you split your nights, but that doesn't have to be a huge inconvenience depending on how lightly you pack and how quickly you can move around.
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Mar 18th, 2014, 05:42 AM
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I think you should skip either Florence or the Cinque Terre. Your trip to the Cinque Terre would be very rushed with either option. With option 2, you'll have to check out of your hotel early in the morning, so you would have to leave your luggage at the reception and return to get it later. This means that you'd have no place to change clothes or take a shower after the hike, unless you pay for the next night. Option 1 would be about the same. You'd get to the Cinque Terre later on the first day, and could leave later on the second day, but you'd have the same problem with the luggage and the room.

To be fairly sure of being in Rome by 8 PM, with option 2, you'd have to leave Vernazza by 2:25 PM, and that would be risky, because it involves three changes of train. If you miss one of them, you won't be in Rome by 8. Some of the connections will involve dragging your luggage up and down stairs at the smaller stations.

It's a trip of 4 1/2 to 5 hours between Vernazza and Rome, and 3 to 3 1/2 between Florence and Vernazza. Basically, it's an 8 to 9 hour round trip, IF you make all your connections, to make a hike of maybe 2 or 3 hours. There are no direct trains on either route, so there would be changes of trains, with the risk of missing one and making your trip even longer.

I'm of the opinion that to visit the Cinque Terre, you should plan to stay at least two nights. It's in an out-of-the way spot, and other than hiking, there's nothing else to do in the towns but buy postcards. The towns themselves, and the lower trails, are absolutely sinking under the weight of the tourists by May. Those photos you see in the guidebooks must be taken shortly after sunrise.
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Mar 18th, 2014, 05:58 AM
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Since your time is so short, I'll throw a completely different option out to consider... Four nights in Florence with a day trip or two to Siena, or Pisa, or Lucca, or any other Tuscan towns. Would still give you a taste of two different places, but at a much more comfortable pace.
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Mar 18th, 2014, 07:04 AM
  #11
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Thank you all for all your insight and suggestions.
I was trying not to do CT this trip but my daughter, who went to CT last summer, insists I must see it. She knows me and she assures me I am going to love it. I am more a small town kind of person. And yes, the highlights I would see in Florence are the must sees (Duomo, Academia, Gardens, etc). I can only do so many museums. Prefer to be outside. Would love to do a bike tour of Florence. If anyone has a good suggestion for one, please let me know.

So, here's my thinking.... I think I'm going to leave Sienna and those other towns for my next trip and focus on Florence and CT.

Since I don't have that much time, I'm thinking that I need to take advantage of that high speed nonstop train and go through Florence both ways. Then I can take the regional trains to get to CT. Maybe stop in Pisa if we have time to see the tower and walk around for a few minutes. Here I go, trying to squeeze one more town!
I am sure the 4 hours train ride through the coast towns is beautiful but, something has to give. I will have to leave it for the next trip.

Andrew, I like what you said about counter-intuitively split your nights in Florence and CT. I'll have to be prepared and study all the train times and options.

So, my daugher is telling me this:

leave super early from florence to Monterroso
do hike from monterroso to vernazza (takes about 1.5hrs)
take train to riomaggiore and have fried critters there for lunch
take train to one other baby town (her words, not sure which)
take train back to Vernazza; shower and have a nice dinner on the restaurant on the cliff
spend the night in Vernazza

She says she did all that in one half day when she went. Next day, spend half day in whichever town we want and then take train back to Florence. If we don't leave too late, stop in Pisa.

The only problem is that we will have the luggage with us when we get to Monterroso and we are spending the night in Vernazza. Would have to either go to Vernazza first and do the hike backwards or take an extra train ride to get back to Monterroso to start the hike there. however, she says it's better to do the other way bc the view you want to see is of vernazza from above, the "famous view". Argh! So many details to consider....

Your thoughts?
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Mar 18th, 2014, 09:02 AM
  #12
 
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Obviously you can turn around and see the view going the other way - it just won't be in front of you the whole way walking down to Vernazza. I think it will save you time to stop in Vernazza first and drop your luggage. Although the train is very quick between Vernazza and Monterosso, sometimes you have to wait 30-60 minutes for the next one. Depending on where you stay in Vernazza (B&B?), make sure the landlord will be able to let you in/keep your luggage if you arrive early enough.

Do try to do to walk the famous via dell'Amore between Riomaggiore and Manarola - it's a short, easy walk (not much of a hike) but it may still be closed for repairs during your visit. In fact, ANY of the trails could wind up being closed on short notice due to slides etc. You can check ahead of time before you arrive on the park website to see.

I absolutely loved the Cinque Terre too - I've been there twice and would love to go again! Be prepared for mobs of tourists nowadays, though.

Look at the train schedule going back to Florence - you may wind up stopping in Pisa to change trains anyway. Presumably you'd want to see the Tower - that's a 30 minute walk or a quick bus ride from Pisa Centrale. I assume there is luggage storage at Pisa Centrale but I'd double check, I've never needed to use it.
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Mar 18th, 2014, 05:18 PM
  #13
kja
 
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I agree with Andrew that you should try to walk the via dell'Amore if it is open -- it only takes 20 or 30 minutes and is quite easy. BUT, as Andrew says, your ability to walk ANY of these trails will depend on the weather. And remember that you might need to spend much longer on any trail because of "traffic jams" as groups of people try to pass each other on very narrow paths.

And yes, by all means, leave your luggage off first thing! I can't imagine trying to negotiate any of those trails with luggage.
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Mar 18th, 2014, 06:23 PM
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I'm wondering why you have to be in Rome by 8 pm. Are you meeting people for dinner then (a few minutes late won't matter). Or are you getting there in time to make a plane or a boat or a tour (if the latter you may well need to get TO Rome way before 8 pm to meet your schedule)?
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Mar 18th, 2014, 07:17 PM
  #15
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I just realized I misinformed you with the time I have to be back in Rome. We are taking a flight from Rome to Santorini and the flight leaves at 5:40pm not at 10pm like I thought. So, instead of 8pm, now I have to be in Rome by 3pm. That's a 5 hour difference. That means I have to be back in Florence the morning of May 30th so I take the train to Rome no later than 1pm that day.

Thank you so much for letting me know about Via Del'Amore and all the tips. Now I need to study the train schedules to see if the itinerary will work and find a place to stay in Vernazza. If anyone has any suggestions for a place to stay in Vernazza, please feel free share.

Jeannette
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Mar 18th, 2014, 07:56 PM
  #16
kja
 
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So, should anything go wrong, or should there be a train strike, or whatever ... you are willing to pay the extra charges for missing your flight in Rome? (good question, nytraveler!)
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Mar 19th, 2014, 12:57 AM
  #17
 
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There is no way I would risk missing that plane. I would plan to be in Rome the night before personally...too many things can go wrong and you could miss it!
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Mar 19th, 2014, 10:07 AM
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The Via dell'Amore has been closed for some time, because of the risk of landslides. Ever since the flooding a few years ago, the only trails that are reliably open are the high trails, which don't have much land above them that could slide down. These trails require good hiking shoes and a higher level of physical fitness than the lower trails, because you have to climb a bit to get up to them.

Here is the park map of the trails and their condition:

http://www.parconazionale5terre.it/s...sp?id_lingue=2

Why don't you head back to Rome earlier, and spend a night or two in one of the towns of the Castelli Romani area south of the city? They are in a beautiful setting of hills and lakes, and are much less crowded with tourists than the Cinque Terre.
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Mar 19th, 2014, 12:55 PM
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Is there a tutorial out there for how to book a train ride in trenitalia.com. First of all, where do you find the exact names of the train stations? How doyou know what type of train to select. When I enter some values for dates at the end of may, it shows "N.A." What does that mean?
Not very user friendly.
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Mar 19th, 2014, 01:15 PM
  #20
 
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First of all, click on the British Flag in the upper right corner for English.

You may not be able to see prices more than 90 days out.

Use the names of the towns not the names of stations to search for trains, and figure out which station you want elsewhere if there is more than one station. For example, Florence has several train stations but the one most people use is Santa Maria Novella (S.M.N.). In some cases, your hotel may be closer to another station so you might want to look for that instead.

Hint: the Italian name for Florence is "Firenze" so you may need to search for that instead.

Take the fastest trains available, unless you are trying to save money (or when a regional train is only slightly slower than a fast one but costs a lot more). To look at costs if you are beyond 90 days, search for trains 2 months from today - prices ought to be about the same, schedules may be similar.

I haven't bought from Trenitalia's website in a long time - I think a few things have changed. Search Fodors Europe forum for "trenitalia" for lots of info - look for the most recent posts obviously.
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