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Help with order of itinerary, please! Tuscany & Amalfi Coast

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I need to stop researching a minute and ask for help - please! After telling myself I wouldn’t do any one night/one town stays, I find I’ve done just that! I’m hoping someone can help me see a better way. I have done a lot of research but it is hard to keep all the tips straight.

To set the stage: In May I am traveling with my daughter who is currently studying abroad in Turin. She will have already seen Rome, Florence, Venice, Siena & Cinque Terre, so we are focusing our trip on a few hill towns in Tuscany & the Amalfi Coast. We plan to use public transportation except maybe a couple days in Tuscany. Our flights are done, so we are stuck with flying out of Milan Linate. (Yes, I panicked and arranged flights way too early – and am paying way too much!!)

First the big questions, then any help reordering my itinerary…
1) Should we start with Tuscany and end on the Amalfi coast, or vice versa? If I start with Tuscany the train from Turin to Voltarre is 6-7 hours, so I thought I’d break that up with a quick night in Cinque Terre (I know, too short) or do I reverse the trip and fly to Naples to start in the south. It isn't clear if one way is better or not. It may depend on the order of the Tuscan towns - and that's where I could use some help!
2) The next big unknown: renting a car in Tuscany… does anyone know of rental agencies in Voltarre, Montepulciano or San Gigimnano? I’m looking for a local option and AutoEurope didn’t list those towns. It's possible that my itinerary won't need a car.

Our interests: We aren't focused on a lot of wine tastings or cathedral visits, more on views, food, and ruins. So I'm saving the Chianti region for when my husband is able to come on a trip- which is not this time.

And now for the first draft of The Itinerary. . .
Sunday: arrive TURIN
Monday: TURIN
Tuesday: Train to MONTEROSSO, Cinque Terre (otherwise it’s 6-7 hours by train to Volterra) I could give up CT but I have wanted to see, even if there wouldn't be any hiking.
Wednesday: Train (& bus?) to VOLTERRA
Thursday: VOLTERRA
Friday: Bus to San GIMIGNANO, stay overnight there instead of another 2 hour bus ride to Volterra (since folks say the night without tourists is nice)
Saturday: To MONTEPULCIANO –I could use help on the best way to get from San G to Montepulciano (Train to Siena, then bus??)
Sunday: Enjoy MONTEPULCIANO, maybe afternoon trip by bus to Pienza
Monday: Bus/train to ROME for world’s quickest Rome visit (must see Colosseum & San Clemente underground ruins)
Tuesday: Train from Rome to Salerno, bus or ferry to Amalfi town, stay in RAVELLO
Wednesday: Enjoy Ravello, take ferry to Positano and take the scenic/scary coastal bus back to RAVELLO
Thursday: Explore Amalfi town then ferry to SORRENTO
Friday: Explore Sorrento or Capri (I’m guessing I’ll want to stay put and skip Capri since there isn't enough time), overnight in SORRENTO
Saturday: Train to Pompei, then to Naples for late flight (8pm) to Milan
Sunday: Early flight to Dublin…haven’t even started that planning yet…

If you are still reading, THANK YOU so much! I know I didn't plan enough down time. I’d drop Cinque Terre before Rome. Oh, my head hurts. I look forward to hearing any comments!
Fingers crossed, Dawn

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    Hi Dawn,
    I can't be much help with most of your itinerary, but I agree that you should stay overnight in San Gimignano. We stayed there for one night in a 2 week trip a couple of years ago, and wished we had stayed longer. It is completely different at night, and lovely when all the tourists have left. We had rented a car, which is definitely not the easiest way to visit as parking and driving in the town is horrendous!
    We also drove to Montepulciano, which was easier. However, parking is at the bottom of a steep hill so wear comfortable shoes. It is a beautiful town, and it was one of our favorites. We were only there for a day trip.
    Siena is wonderful, and we stayed there for 3 nights. We drove, but parked outside town for the duration. You can walk all over Siena.
    You might consider adding more time to Rome, as there is so much to see there and it's nice to slow down and just "be" there...
    I haven't been to the Amalfi Coast, but I'm researching now for a possible trip this summer. Hope this is helpful--happy planning!

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    The way it is written out, your trip seems terribly complicated. I am not sure the best advice, and I know you are set on one rushed day in Rome, but I would save Rome for that trip with your Hubby. San Clemente is interesting, but unless it is an all comsuming passion that you dream about, it sure isn't worth that kind of rush.

    I would also skip Cinque Terre because you are already going to the AC, one of the most beautiful Coasts in the world.

    You said that views, food and ruins are your main interests. You will have the views of your life time on the Amalfi Coast. You are already going to be in Ravello, so for really fantastic ruins, add time to the AC and visit Paestum and Herculaneum (these ruins are pretty as well as interesting). You might even consider a tour of the underground in Naples. Look it up on line.

    Sorrento is OK (I like staying there), but for a whole day, go either to Capri or to Herculaneum & Naples, no need to hang out in Sorrento. It is touristy and shops are closed in the afternoon anyway.

    In Tuscany, is there any way, that you can pick one or two towns that are best at night and just visit the others? No idea if it is possible, but could you fly from Turin to Pisa or Florence?

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    First question - is your finishing her study abroad when you join her, or will she be continuing in Torino? If she will be flying home with you, where will she leave her belongings during your trip?

    Here's what I think I would do:

    Have daughter meet you at Malpensa
    Fly cheap airline to Naples
    Continue on to Sorrento (personally I don't care for it and wouldn't stay there)
    Stay Sorrento 2 nts - if you intend to see Pompeii, or Herculaneum, or the Archeological Museum in Naples or all of the above
    SITA bus, or ferry to Amalfi (Ravello has beautiful views but it not convenient for lots of day trips along the coast. Not easy on the crowded public bus up and down!)
    Stay 2 days Amalfi - perhaps visit Paestum (fabulous Greek temples)
    SITA bus to Salerno and train to Rome, then on to Orvieto or Chiusi depending on hilltown base location.
    Pick up rental car in Orvieto or Chiusi (as long as you are not arriving on a Sunday or Monday morning, when they are closed)
    Pick a base hilltown in Tuscany - Montepulciano/Pienza/Montalcino area is a very good base for 3 or 4 nts
    Pick another base for further north - Volterra is a bit further south than San Gimignano - 2 nts
    Drop car in Siena or Pisa, then train to Cinque Terre
    2 nts
    Back to Milan for flight home

    This of course can be tweeked depending on your interests.
    If your daughter wants to show you Torino - which is supposed to be a wonderful city, drop the Cinque Terre and spend those 2 nts there instead.

    Definitely save Rome for the trip with DH when you have more time! It will be much more enjoyable than a rushed, partial day.

    Hope this helps!

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    So many good points! Thank you all for replying. I feel so much better now that I have your feedback. Some of these points I knew, but sometimes too much research ends up with a confused itinerary!

    Cybertraveler: My daughter has been to Siena so we were trying to go to other towns, which is hard because Siena is so central!

    Sassafrass: I agree with all your points. It was getting complicated. As soon as I sent this to the forum I looked at flipping the trip and realized - as Dayle noted - that starting south and heading north meant a shorter travel time at the end of the trip, from Volterra to Milan, since I won't have to include Turin. (I was starting from Turin because I was meeting my daughter) Flying Turin to Florence seemed expensive, but I'll look again - and at Pisa. Your idea of saving Rome for another time is a smart idea -- sometimes we need someone else to tell us what we know is right!! Sorrento didn't really appeal to me either, but I thought it was better to be there before heading to Pompei. So you have validated alot for me. The underground in Naples sounds interesting but why do so many warn us away from Naples? Is it really that unnerving for tourists?
    And most important: When you say pick a couple Tuscan towns that are good are night, I really don't know what those are - Your thoughts?

    Dayle - I think I came to the same conclusoin as you suggested - starting south and working north! My daughter will be done with her classes, and we'll either store her large suitcase at Milan Linate before we start our trip, or ship it ($$$$). There is a reasonable non-stop Turin to Naples flight and I could put the savings towards shipping her suitcase home.
    Do you have an Amalfi (town) B&B or hotel you recommend? Residenza Pansa had good views in the photos. I guess I wasn't considering Amalfi town because I'd read it is touristy but your point about crowded buses to Ravello does make sense. We can always do a day trip to Ravello.

    Everyone: I really appreciate your replies - you have no idea how much this has helped. I was numb from research and beginning to doubt my plans.

    My next request/plea: Any recommendations for places to stay in Tuscan towns? We are looking in the inexpensive range - just needing AC & views! B&Bs or agriturismos that are in walking distance to town are usually what I look at first.

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    Here is a revision for you.

    Meet daughter in Torino 2 nts
    Cheap flight to Napoli 2 nts
    On to Amalfi Coast town of choice 3 nts
    Train to Chuisi pick up car
    Drive to Val d Orcia (Montepulciano/Pienza area) 3 nts
    Drive to Volterra 2 nts
    Drop car near Florence train station
    High speed train to Milan 1 nt prior to flight

    Some people find Naples too "intense" for a first visit to Italy or any trip. However since your daughter will have her Italy smarts well developed by then, you both might really enjoy Naples. I was only there for1nt to see the arch museum, but would love to go back to see more!

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    To really see the hilltowns, you need a car. Driving in the countryside is a delight. Best if you can drive a stick, because even if you reserve an automatic, people report sometimes not getting one.

    I stayed in Praiano on the Amalfi Coast because it is not resorty or very touristed. Mostly a working , tiny town. The drawback is that the only trans is Sita bus. No boat options directly from Praiano, as there are in Amalfi & Positano.

    Highly recommend Paestum since you want to see ruins. Very impressive & beautiful temples. If you dont want to go, 2 nights might be enough. The Amalfi Coast is time consuming toget to, so I added a day here.

    Personally, I wouldnt do both the CT & AC on the same trip.

    There is spectacular scenery & lots of Etruscan sites to see in the Umbrian & Tuscan countryside.

    I am a budget solo traveler. I stayed:

    Naples Hotel Pinto Storey*** - Chiaia neighborhood, nice area, easy metro access

    Praiano Le Sierene*** very nice

    Montalcino Il Giglio*** nice hotel, remote owners

    Santa Margerita Ligure Hotel Lauren*** really liked this town,easy train to CT

    My last trip has beena few years now, so check reviews on these and ask for any more current input here.

    Hope this is helpful.

    Buon viaggio!

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    Thanks Dayle! Even though Praiano isn't on a ferry route, I really like La Sirene, so I'm thinking of basing all our Amalfi Coast nights there.

    Now I have a new question. Considering that I'm not convinced I'll be up for driving, do you - or anyone - know of any Agriturismos within walking distance of Montapulciano or Volterra?

    Before my daughter mentioned agriturismos, I had been looking at staying in the center of the towns, eg at Hotel Etruria in Voltarre, or in Montepulciano: Hotel Duomo, Osteria del Borgo, Meuble il Ricco, Camere Bellevista, L'Agnolo, Dimora Nel Corso B&B... But if an agriturismo has a safe walk after dinner in town, then I'd consider that.
    so many choices!
    Thanks everyone...

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    Is there any reason you are focusing on Volterra? There isn't train service and it's a bit more isolated although a very short distance from San G. (no trains service there either).

    If you want to see towns in Tuscany without a car, you can base somewhere with decent bus service. You can easily day trip to Volterra from Florence or Siena (you can do quite a few trips from Siena).

    Montepulciano doesn't have much you can visit by bus except Pienza. If you stay outside of town, it's a very steep walk (it's a very steep hill town) although there are some buses. You don't want to be walking back from dinner on those curvy roads with fast drivers. You need to stay in town unless you rent a car. Keep in mind that for much of Tuscany, there is no bus service on Sunday.

    For buses in the area of Tuscany you are considering, here's a map.

    Meridiana flies Turin to Naples.

    You could fly there, visit the coast, train to Rome to visit, train or bus (Sena bus from Rome to Siena) to Tuscany, bus/train to Florence and train back to Turin.

    >>>does anyone know of rental agencies in Voltarre, Montepulciano or San Gigimnano? I’m looking for a local option and AutoEurope didn’t list those towns.<<<

    You won't find rental companies in small towns unless it's some little independent company with just a few cars.

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    Kybourbon has given you good advice, and she knows what she is talking about. (ky: if you haven't already, please see the note I left for you in the Lounge on the Elderly P.s thread).

    Now Dawn, I'm going to share my thoughts with you. I too think your itinerary is too complicated and I'm going to give you my advice.

    If you were going to the Amalfi Coast for a leisurely relaxing visit, Praiano might be fine. But I think you would be making a horrible mistake to stay in a town without ferry service. If either of you has the slightest problem with motion sickness, visiting up and down the coast by bus will be a nightmare. Also, the busses are often late and very crowded.

    Do stay Amalfi, Positano or Sorrento. And from Sorrento, a day trip to Capri is very easy and doable.

    I've taken the evening flight from Naples to Linate. If you decide to go north to south it is a decent option.

    My last piece of advice (for now) is that you do seriously consider driving in Tuscany. You won't be able to easily get to any of the towns you are interested in by bus or train. Yes there are buses, but they are often used primarily by commuters with a bus one way in the morning, and the opposite way in the evening. Not great for sightseeing.

    Some people do uses buses for touring Tuscany, but those people usually seem to have more time than you. If you would like to see as much as you've planned, rent a car. Chiusi is good because you won't have city driving.

    Use to check for inexpensive flights within Italy. might also help you check out routes.

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    OK - I'm rethinking the car in Tuscany. From what I've read, it seemed complicated to park outside a town - another opportunity to get lost or step on some law about driving where you shouldn't! Is it easier than I've been led to believe? Especially if I don't pick-up or drop-of in Florence? Between not knowing the language & signs, I was concerned that it would not be a relaxing experience.

    kybourbon: I had ended up with Volterra based on description of not being touristy, but from looking at maps and bus schedules it does seem to not be the best location -- unless I have a car!
    I was avoiding Siena & Florence as home bases since my daughter has been to those places. It definitely would be easier to be based in Siena if I am not driving!

    Tuscanlifedit: it's funny how you've touched on 2 issues that I was trying to ignore: no ferry, and motion sickness. I just fell in love with the hotel Dayle mentioned, Le Sirene. I really want a view, quaintness. I'd rather do Positano as a day trip but not a home base. Any suggestions for a B&B or small hotel in Amalfi town? I'm looking for inexpensive, and a view. One suggestion I read about was Residenza Pansa .

    Or, I could go back to my origial idea of Ravello - does anyone recommend any of these B&Bs: Monte Brusara, Villa Amore, Alberg Garden, Boccaccio B&B, Al Borgo.

    Thank you all for the links - I did have all those, and have a diningroom table full of maps & schedules now!
    Thanks again -

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    Dayle - How is the bus ride from Praiano to Amalfi (town)? It seems to only be 20 minutes, and if the curves are not too much on the stomach for that short time, I know we can get ferries from Amalfi. So that seems like a good base. I definitely would not take the bus in the opposite direction, from Praiano to Sorrento!! Plus, the owner of Le Sierene was so nice when I inquired about rooms!

    So I'm now torn between Praiano & Ravello.

    With Ravello I have to add on the bus time down to Amalfi. Do you know the queasiness factor on that route? (OK, that was a ridiculous sentence, I think I'm coming across too nit picky - but it's the most extravagent vacation I'll ever have taken in 50 years, so I guess I am being picky. I know it will all work out no matter what I choose).

    Things that help me make a decision are the view (of course), and maybe a smaller town atmosphere where we can hang out at an outdoor cafe at night. Small is good for me.

    Thanks so much, Dawn

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    I would recommend the Hotel Floridiana in Amalfi -- no views, but a wonderfully helpful staff. Agnese, the owner, will help you with anything you you need. It is centrally located. Great breakfast. Check it out and I think you will be impressed.

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