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Hotels, Trains, Ruins, and City Questions - Calling all Italy Experts

Hotels, Trains, Ruins, and City Questions - Calling all Italy Experts

May 23rd, 2010, 05:26 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2008
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Hotels, Trains, Ruins, and City Questions - Calling all Italy Experts

After the mess in Bangkok, my boyfriend and I decided to look into Italy, which I have always wanted to visit.

We just purchased the plane tickets two days ago for July 27-August 13. 16 days ( I think) not including the plane ride there on 27th and the 13th which is when we will be flying out. The flights are in and out of Rome.

Rome : We are thinking of staying in Rome for 1 week. Is this a good amount of time? We want to see as many of the ruins as possible. Also which attractions can you purchase the tickets ahead of time for? And where might I do this? While browsing on several website we have found tons of well rated hotels for less than 150$ a night. I just can't choose. Does anyone have any personal experience in a hotel less than 150$ and inside the ancient walls? Preferably near the ruins but the other city areas are fine. Although, I did read in a few places that some areas near the train tracks are a little dumpy and may be unsafe. Do you have any must sees that may not be as well known? I know everyone says to stay in an apartment, but as this is my first time to Rome, I would like the help of the concierge and also a decent early breakfast to entice me to get up.

Pompeii : Pompeii is a must, but Naples is not. Is taking a day trip to Pompeii from the Amalfi coast advisable? Or should we just go ahead and stay in Naples for one night? I don't want to do a day trip from Rome because I want more time around the huge site. Also I would like to visit Herculaneum. Is Sorrento closer to Pompeii than Naples? And is there any good transportation to Pompeii from Sorrento or adjacent towns. We would like a couple of days near a decent beach.

Florence, Bologna, Venice, Siena or some smaller Tuscan towns (Forli, San Gimignano etc): We are also planing on going further north for the rest of the time. I haven't done as much research for this part of the trip. Florence is a must but I am not sure about the other places. Can you by passes for any of the attractions here, like the Uffizi Gallery, ahead of time? Or do we have to suffer the lines? We are looking for a renaissance experience.
A friend of mine suggested that Venice can be done as one day deal ( I just really want pictures, and maybe one gondola ride). So I really want to be there for at least a few hours. Would it be worth the money to take a train for one day from Florence or Bologna to hang out in Venice or is there a better way to do this... or would you advise to stay at least one or two nights?
Does anyone have any suggested itineraries for some of these places? I also would enjoy a day at Pisa. I am not trying to squeeze one day at everyplace, just want to figure out how much time is needed in one place and which to pick for the trip. We do have a decent amount of time. I think in Bologna or maybe Florence, you can take a bus to a smaller town and hang out for the day, which would be neat.

Which train company should we chose? And how should we arrange the route?
And do you think we should do Rome first or last? I do want to make it back at least one night before the flight, most likely near the airport.

Also any authentic restaurant suggestions would be appreciated.

Oh and some info about us: we are 22, we would like night life some of the time and a little relaxation for some of the other time. We enjoy good food. We like walking, and don't mind the heat. It gets hot in Virginia in the summer!

Boy, I have a lot of planning to do! Thanks ahead of time for reading this! I will be reading guide books all day today.
Bmeyer is offline  
May 23rd, 2010, 05:56 AM
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Which train co? You don't have a choice. Except for a few special routes, all trains in Italy are run by the state railroad, Trenitalia.

You can see schedules and fares on www.trenitallia.com. To answer your questions about day trips, it will help you to look at travel times. Train service in Italy is excellent, and there is frequent, high speed service between all the major cities you mention.

Re Venice, sure, you can do a one-day trip there, and be herded along with all the other day trippers who arrive by cruise ship or bus. In my opinion Venice is one of those magical cities unmatched anywhere, best experienced before and after all the day trippers are there. Two nights in Venice is far better than a simple day trip.
J62 is offline  
May 23rd, 2010, 06:23 AM
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Oh ok, I didn't know that was the only one.
Bmeyer is offline  
May 23rd, 2010, 06:39 AM
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So you already have your plane tickets. As a general rule it's better to get open jaw tickets into one city, out of another. In your case, maybe into Venice or Pisa or Milan, out of Rome. Or vice versa. With open jaw you don't need to spend money or precious vacation time backtracking.

But, since you're flying into Rome, the usual advice -- with which I heartily concur -- is to spend the rest of that first jetlagged day getting to your farthest location. By train NOT driving.

I'd hate for you to skip Venice, but it's very crowded in July. Unless you can spend a night or two there and enjoy Venice when the daytrippers have gone, don't go.

Do you plan to drive in rural Tuscany? That's the best way to see smaller hilltowns. San Gimignano is another place besieged by daytrippers. Pisa can be seen as a daytrip from Florence by train. In fact you can throw in Lucca on that day.

Pompeii is easily reached from Sorrento by the Circumvesuviana commuter train. Though it's on a clifftop overlooking the Bay of Naples, Sorrento hasn't much in the way of beach. Some of the hotels have piers from which you can swim.

The beaches on the Amalfi Coast are a bit pebbly. In fact the Mediterranean just doesn't have big enough waves to make good beaches. So you may be in for a disappointment beachwise.

The foregoing is just odd thoughts. You're going to need to do more research and probably narrow down your itinerary. 16 days is not much time. Read up on all the other itinerary questions on this forum.
Mimar is offline  
May 23rd, 2010, 06:59 AM
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I don't know if you could get this hotel for your budget, but I'd recommend the Hotel Aberdeen, at 48 Via Firenze. The hotel is a family-run establishment and they are very friendly and helpful. The hotel is near the Piazza della Republica and convenient to bus and metro stops. In addition, it is only a short bus trip from the hotel to the Termini station. I'm sure you will enjoy Rome!
tom18 is offline  
May 23rd, 2010, 07:07 AM
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Pebbly beaches are fine :] We may have to change the tickets because of a wedding, so then we could change the departing city to Venice.

Is the driving in Tuscany less crazy than the cities?
Bmeyer is offline  
May 23rd, 2010, 07:23 AM
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I would end in Rome. No point staying there twice unless your arrival flight is getting in really late.

For Pompeii and Herculaneum, you are on the Circumvesuviana train line which runs between Naples and Sorrento.

For Pompeii/Herculaneum tickets, the best bargain is the 3 day Tutta la Regione Campania Artecard (27€). You get free admission to your first two sites, discounts after that and a transportation pass for the area which includes buses/metro/trains/trams (from Naples to Paestum). If you click on the various museum links on their website you will get the operating hours and which transport to use to reach the site. None of the other Artecards include transport.

Another ticket option for Pompeii is to purchase the multi-ticket (20€) instead of just single entrance (11€). The multi is good for 3 days and also includes Herculaneum, Stabiae, Oplontis, Boscoreale. I think the better bargain is the 3 day Tutta la Regione.

A similar pass to the Artecard is available for Rome 25€. Best value on this pass is the Colosseum/Forum/Palantine (counts as one entrance and can be revisited over the 3 days) and Borghese (requires advance reservation by phone).

For the Vatican, you can book entrance tickets or tours on their website.
kybourbon is offline  
May 23rd, 2010, 09:04 AM
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We had a very good experience at the Hotel Genio in Rome. The location is excellent, right at Piazza Navona.


There is a rooftop terrace that we all evjoyed.

We were a group of five couples, and our rooms varied in size, so I sggest asking for a larger room.

Our stay at the Genio was several years ago, but from the website it looks the same. I checked the rates and for your time period I think it was 98 euro.

Have a great trip.

Byrd is offline  
May 23rd, 2010, 10:02 AM
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I'm not expert but I would never go to Venice for only a day, when you have 16 days to work with for your trip. I'd either skip it, or stay at least a few.
suze is online now  
May 23rd, 2010, 10:03 AM
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You can wait until you're in Italy, and just go to the train station(s) and buy your tickets as you go along, if you want to.
suze is online now  
May 23rd, 2010, 11:06 AM
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Also, when I say day trip, I don't mean on a tour with others. I mean we take a train. I don't like being shuttles around and having to leave at a certain time. Learned that in Greece.
Bmeyer is offline  
May 23rd, 2010, 11:55 AM
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Driving in the countryside is OK. When driving on the autostrade (toll road freeways) keep to the right unless you are passing. If you are in the left lane drivers may come up fast and hang on your tail because you are supposed to move over. In the smaller towns there's often a ZTL (Zone of Traffic Limitation) which means you will get a ticket if you drive in. The ticket will come months later, through your car rental company, and cost you a fortune. All in all, if you are planning on going to mostly cities, I would skip a car rental.

Another budget hotel a friend of ours liked when he went to Rome with his teenaged daughter was Hotel Des Artistes, which is in the neighborhood of the train station. He thought it was just fine. It's a little late in the game, but you could also rent an apartment for a week. Look at sleepinitaly.com, to start with.

You are asking a lot of questions that could be answered with a good guidebook to Italy. Like buying passes to museums, etc.
charnees is offline  
May 23rd, 2010, 12:00 PM
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Thanks, I like to hear people opinions also.
Bmeyer is offline  
May 23rd, 2010, 12:20 PM
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If Pompeii is a "must" for you, you should be aware that most of the most dazzling and fascinating artifacts of Pompeii reside in the Archeological Museum in Naples, one of the most highly regarded in the world. So you might not want to miss it.

I'm of the mind that more than one day in Pompeii and Ercolanum is really rewarding, especially in July, when the treeless site will be a frying pan of heat. You might also want to check out visiting Paestum.

Driving in Tuscany is certainly less crazy than driving in the citeis, but be aware that the Tuscan tourist valleys are all inland and the beach is not accessible. They are muggy and hot, and while it is cool in an air-conditioned car, it is hot climbing hills.

I'm an off-the-beaten track traveler, so were it me, after my week in Rome in July, I would head for the southernmost area of the Amalfi, closer to Salerno, and use a car to travel to Pompeii at whim, Paestum, Agropoli, Cilento and use ferries to see what I wanted to see of the Amalfi and Capri, if anything. Some seaside locations that would appeal to me in July are Maiori, Cetara, perhaps Vietri sul Mare, and points just south of Salerno, including Santa Maria Castelabate.

Were I to choose Tuscany instead, I would head for the Maremma rather than the inland valleys, and stay near Magliano in Toscana or the area around Marciano.

Likewise, if artistic sightseeing was really important to me, I'd sooner base in muggy Bologna -- with all its shady porticoes and fantastic food -- in July, and day trip to muggy Florence, muggy Ravenna, muggy Venice, muggy Ferrara and muggy Parma.

Just some thoughts. Have a great trip!
zeppole is offline  
May 23rd, 2010, 12:24 PM
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PS: In case it wasn't clear, you can't do everything I suggested. Just Rome for a week and one other option. And my reasoning about spending more time in the vicinity of Pompeii in July is that you can make repeat morning visits, when it is cooler, and head off for easier recreation in the hot afternoons.

If I didn't pick a week in Rome and a week around Pompeii or Bologna, then I would pick a week in Rome, then head for a few days to a Tuscan beach or island, then enjoy days in the Maremma at an agriturismo with wine, food etc., having rented a car.
zeppole is offline  
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