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Help with Italy itinerary

Old Aug 22nd, 2008, 04:52 PM
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elysag - we can perform various miracles on Fodor's, but not every kind of miracle. We can't, for example, guess what your and your family's interests are (other than wineries and, rather unspecifically, smaller towns, which you've both mentioned). Italy has just about everything, for every taste and every focus of interest. And it's important to understand what a varied cultural landscape Italy has: every region (and in fact, every sub-region) is so different from each other. I always recommend to stay in just one region, if it's about short stays like yours (any stay up to one month is so short for Italy that it's best spent in just one region). So I would choose just one of the five super-touristy destinations: Venice, Rome, Florence, Siena/S. Gimignano, and Cinque Terre; and remain in the same region for the rest of time. If you do Venice, stay in the Veneto, where there is plenty to do for just 12 days, and even if you include also Verona, you'd be without the hassle of tourist crowds for much of the time: Vicenza, Padova, all the great Palladio villas, Bassano del Grappa, S. Giorgio (near Verona) - all top sights that see hardly as many visitors as they'd deserve. This would be the obvious choice, e.g., if you're interested in Palladio. (Maser, Piombino Dese, Lonedo di Lugo, Fratta Polesine, Malcontenta, Fanzolo di Vedelago, and of course Vicenza are the most important places to visit for Palladio buffs.) Wine tasting? Bardolino/Valpolicella, Soave, and of course Valdobbiadene & Conegliano, where the one and only REAL prosecco is coming from. Car needed!
Or, if you choose the Cinque Terre, you could add to Liguria (which is one of the smallest regions of Italy and maybe not worth to stay almost two weeks, sorry zeppole!!) some highlights of Piemonte to get a first taste of that part of the country, too - which would make a gorgeous contrast to the overcrowded Cinque Terre, since almost nobody goes there. In this case, you should absolutely see Portovenere (near the Cinque Terre and similarly crowded), Genova (Liguria's immensely interesting and immensely underrated capital city), Torino (the capital of Piemonte, Italy's most beautiful baroque city, greatly underrated, as well), wine tasting in the Barolo region, of course, plus plenty of lesser but charming sights in Piemonte where you'll be the only visitors.
If you stick to Florence, it's going to be less enjoyable, but certainly very, very interesting for art lovers. Northern Tuscany is heavily overpopulated, which makes a holiday there somewhat exhausting... but the sights are great. Besides Florence, obvious stops are Prato, Pistoia, Pisa and Lucca (among which Lucca is the place where your holiday is going to get more relaxed) - and don't miss the area north of Lucca: Barga in the Garfagnana mountains; Carrara (great and totally neglected, one of Tuscany's best Romanesque cathedrals); Villa Torrigiani, a wonderful early baroque villa... and if you take an interest in opera, Puccini's villa in Torre del Lago. If time allows, extend your visit to the east and see Arezzo and (another neglected jewel) Gropina, a wonderful Longobardic church. Wine tasting, obviously, would be in the Chianti region, south of Florence.
If you choose Siena and thus southern Tuscany (northern and southern Tuscany don't have very much in common, so I wouldn't mix them on a short trip like yours), you could do the obvious tourist favourites Siena, S. Gimignano, Volterra, Montepulciano and Pienza; and go on and see equally interesting and rarely visited places like Chiusi, Torri (BIG recommendation!), Certaldo, S. Antimo, Pitigliano, Sovana (BIG recommendation), Massa Marittima... you need a car for that tour. Wine tastings everywhere: Montepulciano, Montalcino, S. Gimignano, but also Pitigliano & Sovana.
If, finally, you stick with Rome, you should stay in Lazio to enjoy the sharp contrast between a bustling metropolis and an empty, scarcely inhabited countryside. But Lazio is a fantasy region created in Fascist times; in fact, these are two totally distinct regions, northern Lazio (which was a former part of Umbria), and southern Lazio, which you might call "real" Lazio. If you're going south, don't miss Tivoli, Palestrina and Subiaco. Ponza island is a wonderful beach place even for people like me who detest beach life - a beautiful, tranquil, elegant (and not cheap) beach. And the Ciociaria district is full of interesting and totally unknown sights: Anagni, Alatri, Ferentino, Arpino, Segni; and south of it, Ninfa, Cori and Fossanova. Wine tasting: Frascati. If you're going north instead, you could combine with southern Umbria (historically one region, mind you): Cerveteri, Tarquinia, Tuscania, Sutri, Viterbo, Bagnaia, Bomarzo are the obvious choices in Lazio; Orvieto, Todi, Amelia, Lugnano in Teverina... Wine tasting: Orvieto.

If you don't want to do slow traveling like this, and absolutely want to crisscross half of Italy, you could perhaps do (too) short visits to Venice and Rome; and in between, the wonderfully unexplored Marche region, with many excellent sights (S. Leo, Urbino, Ancona, Loreto, Recanati, Macerata, Fermo, Ascoli Piceno - car needed). Wine tasting: anywhere around Jesi (this is Verdicchio country - Italy's best white wine by far, though almost totally unknown outside Italy).
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Old Sep 1st, 2008, 09:41 AM
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Elysag,

Just returned from my 1st trip to Italy. We were there 8/2/08-8/16/08. We were 7 family members the 1st week & 12 the 2nd - ages 12-75. My parents & one of my sons have traveled to Italy before, but I did all of the planning with much help from the Fodorites along the way - and I must say it was quite successful!!! We did 5 days Sorrento/Amalfi Coast area, 3 Rome, and a week at a villa in Londa, Tuscany. This trip was a dream come true for me. I will definitely be posting a trip report, but if you would like to contact me before I get to that, you can at [email protected].
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Old Sep 6th, 2008, 11:02 AM
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Thanks pmd2524. I will be talking with my aunt again this week and then will email you directly for some tips. I am especially interested in your experience at the villa.

The latest update is that my aunt, uncle and cousins insist on going to Venice, Cinque Terre, Pisa and Florence, all in just 12 nights. It seems crazy to me but this trip is for my aunt and uncle's 30th anniversary so they get to call most of the shots. The rest of us will stay on for 5 more days and probably either stay in Tuscany or go to Rome and fly home from there. So, here is what I am thinking:

Fly into Venice and spend 2 nights there. Train to Cinque Terre midday of the 3rd day and spend 2 nights. Rent a car and drive to Tuscany. Spend 6 nights in Tuscany, alotting time to see Pisa. Drop off the car in Florence and spend last 2 nights there.

After my aunt, uncle and cousins leave, we'll do one more night in Florence and then take the train to Rome and spend 4 nights there.

Obviously, this is packing a lot into a short period of time and ideally we would limit the trip to three places. I had done an itinerary that included Venice, Tuscany and Rome but it was nixed so I need to make the best of the situation and try to come up with the best itinerary possible for their requests. I am trying to insist on at least 5 nights in Tuscany. This is the part of the trip that I am most excited about. Plus, I think that my aunt and uncle will enjoy that the most as well once we get there. Can someone recommend a town to use as a home base? Also, is there a train that will take us from Venice to Cinque Terre?
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Old Sep 6th, 2008, 12:34 PM
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You do realize that Cinque Terre/Pisa/Florence are within an hour of each other and that Pisa and Florence are IN Tuscany? I would train from Cinque Terre to Pisa before renting the car. I doubt they really want to do anything in Pisa other than see the tower and duomo which can be done in an hour unless they want to climb it. You can store your luggage at the train station in Pisa (Centrale). After touring the tower, pick up your luggage and hop the train to the Pisa airport (5 minute ride) and pick up a rental car.
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Old Sep 6th, 2008, 01:54 PM
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From your latest itinerary, I would take one night from Tuscany and add it to Venice. With only two nights there, you'll only have a day and a half, the first one probably affected by jetlag.
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Old Sep 6th, 2008, 04:27 PM
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Yes, I am well aware that Florence and Pisa are in Tuscany. When I said we would spend nights in Tuscany and that was what I was looking forward to, I was thinking about being out in the countryside, visiting vineyards and small towns. Years ago I stayed on a vineyard in Greve in Chianti and that was definitely the highlight of my trip. I was hoping to pick a place in Tuscany where we can stay somewhere that is close enough to Pisa that we can go (which is why I said allotting time to see Pisa), get out, see the tower and then move on.

According to the flight info I have looked at, we will get into Venice in the morning. We will have some time to explore that day and will of course get tired early from jet lag (although I am hopeful Ambien CR will allow us to sleep on the plane). I was thinking we would leave in the middle of our third day in Venice but I could certainly add one night in Venice. How long will it take to get from Venice to Cinque Terre and how long should we spend there?
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Old Sep 6th, 2008, 04:39 PM
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elysag,

I completey agree with SusanP that you would do well to add a night to Venice and take one from Tuscany.

You can check train schedule on www.trenitalia.com, but the local Cinque Terre trains don't show on that website as far as I remember. I believe a train from one of the main line cities to one of the larger cities on the Ligurian coast will show up.

Question: If this trip is for aunt and uncle's 30th and they are calling most of the shots - are they paying for everyone? Why aren't they doing the planning?

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Old Sep 6th, 2008, 06:16 PM
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My point was, if you rent a car in CT, you will be driving by (or extremely close to) Pisa most likely to get to wherever you are staying in Tuscany (assuming you want to see either southern or central Tuscany) . Why waste another day going back?
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Old Oct 25th, 2008, 03:17 PM
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Hi,
We just got back from Italy. It is magical. I would highly recommend the Castelletto Di Montebenichi in Tuscany.It is beautiful. Also, we hired a company called Viaggi D Ambra to drive for us. They picked us up in Florence, drove us to the Castelletto, day one they took us to Northern Tuscany and the day two to Southern Tuscany. It was incredible. They also drove us back to the train station when we were ready to head to Rome. It was a private tour, we had the husband one day and the wife the next. We learned so much about Italy, had special treatment in the wineries and the restaurants. Best of all, we didn't have to think about driving.
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Old Oct 25th, 2008, 04:11 PM
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We have revised the itinerary and I think it's more workable:

June 30 -- leave Newark
July 1st -- arrive Venice
July 2nd -- Venice
July 3rd -- Venice
July 4th -- leave Venice for Florence
July 5th -- Florence
July 6th -- Florence
July 7th -- leave Florence for Siena/Pienza/Montepulciano/Montalcino/some other Southern Tuscan town TBD
July 8th -- Tuscany
July 9th -- Tuscany
July 10th -- Tuscany
July 11th -- Tuscany
July 12th -- Tuscany
July 13th -- Tuscany to Rome
July 14th -- Rome
July 15th -- Rome
July 16th -- Rome
July 17th -- Rome
July 18th -- Fly home

We might take one day from Tuscany and add it to Rome. I'm trying to figure out where to stay in Southern Tuscany. Any B&B or hotel recommendations? We looked into renting a villa but since we aren't staying a full week, that is not going to work.
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Old Oct 25th, 2008, 04:24 PM
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elysag,

I don't know how many people you actually have, but it will be hard to find a B&B with enough rooms for the group.

You may want to look for hotels - and don't dilly dally!! Even the hotels in Tuscany are small - not a lot of rooms. If you all want to be able to stay in the same place, you better make some quick decisions and reservations.

I think you might do better to look at the larger hilltowns for Tuscany. My thinking is if some of the group don't want to do a particular daytrip, they will have enough to do in town staying behind.
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Old Oct 25th, 2008, 04:26 PM
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PS - you new itinerary is MUCH improved. You will have a great time!
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Old Oct 28th, 2008, 12:38 PM
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Thanks Dayle. I am much happier with this itinerary. Now we just need to figure out hotels.
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Old Oct 28th, 2008, 02:26 PM
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Are you looking for one base in Tuscany or two?

If one location, stay near Siena, San Gimi, Volterra so you can get to the coast and southern hill towns.

Lucca and Pisa and even CT are not that far from San Gimi.

And you can get to southern Tuscany like Montalcino, Montepulciano, Cortona, Pienza, and Chiusi.





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Old Oct 30th, 2008, 10:56 AM
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If we were are looking for two bases in Tuscany, what would you recommend?
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Old Oct 30th, 2008, 12:43 PM
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I would not attempt to visit the Cinque Terre from San Gimignano, and I would not stay directly in San Gimignano.

I think you would be wise to add another day to Roma. Think about adding a day to Firenze just to take a day trip to Siena.

Were it me traveling with a large group, I would either want several cars once I got into the Tuscan countryside so people could go their own way sometimes, or I would want to be in a town with good public transportation (ditto the reason). I also would want a swimming pool.

Unless you have a very keen interest in certain types of art, or wine, it really doesn't matter where you stay in Southern Tuscany (although distances between towns in the Maremma make certain parts of it a poor choice). You will find plenty of charming towns, lots of pretty scenery and fascinating history everywhere and anywhere you go. The best part of Tuscany is to relax and enjoy the landscape.

I would look for an agriturismo is the area just below Siena with a variety of apartments and which serves food at night, and that has a pool. Or I would like for the same in the Chianti area.
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Old Oct 30th, 2008, 12:48 PM
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Some place like this:

http://www.agriturismo.it//fattoriadelcerro/enindex.asp

but there are lots of choices if that is beyond your budget, or you don't want an onsite restaurant:

http://en.agriturismo.it/tuscany/siena/index.jsp?
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Old Oct 30th, 2008, 05:17 PM
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There were 7 (and luggage) of us last July. We rented a driver and van. Belt Limosene.

If it were not for the mother's (mother and mother-in-law) we would have went by train. So easy.
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