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cbgetaway2015 Nov 7th, 2014 06:48 AM

Italy 2015: making the internal plans
Since my last post in July. I have been working on nailing down dates and accommodations for our spring 2015 trip to Italy. At this point airfare is booked and all lodgings are reserved!
Against some advice my husband and I have decided not to rent a car on this trip as we discussed in earlier threads. We still plan on doing the majority of our getting around via train, some bus, and a TON of walking.
Since the framework of or trip is now complete I am working on the internal plans. I am turning to you all for suggestions and tips on what to book now and what to wait on. My goal is to have some details planned out with a balance of free time for rest, laundry and just plain ol' exploring. I would like to book a few mini tours where necessary and would love recommendations.
Here is the "framework" of our trip and some key wish-list items for each place.

4 nights in Venice: Murano/Burano (tour?) St Marks Basillica and Square (tour for the basillica?)

4 nights in Riomaggiore: Hiking, exploring, and more hiking with a boat ride (tour?) to see the Cinque Terre from the water.

**We plan to stop in Pisa probably on the way from 5T to Firenze also we wouldn't be opposed to doing a little day trip from either Florence or Siena to see Pisa and more (tour?)

3 nights in Florence: Uffizi gallery, Santa Maria del Fiore, Accademia, palazzo Vecchio, piazzale Michelangelo. I definitely am thinking of a tour for some of this, recommend any?

3 nights in Siena: for this stretch I want to slow the pace back down. The hotel I booked is a little way away from the center... While I do want to see the piazza del campo I don't have much else planned here. We will be in Siena over a weekend before moving onto Rome. I would be open to renting bicycles, wine tasting, taking a tour of Tuscany, or just having a little down time to explore the city at our leisure.

5 nights in Rome: oh Rome... Of course... The Colloseum, Vatican City , the Vatican museum, The roman forum, Palantine Hill, the Spanish steps, Trevi fountain, Pantheon, and so much more. I think for us, a tour is a must for Rome... I have been looking at a couple and I am wanting to nail this down a head of time.

In addition to Pisa there are a couple other things on my wish-list that don't have a home... a soccer game (at this point I don't think the dates will line up to make this possible... We will be arriving in Rome one day too late. I plan to keep looking)
And one or more of the Hill Towns of Tuscany.

I am also trying to decide what I want to pre-plan as far as train travel goes. I am researching passes etc. I have followed a few threads on this topic and have been looking at the sites you all have recommended in the past. You have all helped me so much already! Thanks again!

I think that's all for now! Ciao!

Dukey1 Nov 7th, 2014 07:09 AM

As a very GENERAL comment I somehow doubt you'd want or need a railpass if you are staying within Italy unless you are planning to do a lot of rail travel which you apparently are not.

I suspect you already know of the two sites you can use to book tickets in advance (or DO you?) and also the lead time for booking.

Re Venice: I would definitely see the basilica at San Marco; the "square" itself you can see anytime. Do you like museums? If so AND you appreciate so-called "religious art" I would consider a visit to the Accademia.

Siena: yeah, that "campo" is, for whatever reason a draw but IMO you really NEED to see the cathedral if for no other reason than to view the floors in the nave. When you get there you'll understand.

mr_go Nov 7th, 2014 07:22 AM

<i>Siena: yeah, that "campo" is, for whatever reason a draw</i>

It's pretty impressive from above:

<i>IMO you really NEED to see the cathedral</i>

Agree 100%. Emphatically.

cbgetaway2015 Nov 7th, 2014 10:10 AM

@ dukey, yes I believe I have the two site for booking rail travel bookmarked.

What is your opinion of lead time for booking?

We will travel by train between each city but once we get to our stops not at all and not out if Italy you are correct.

Sassafrass Nov 7th, 2014 11:48 AM

Coming from CT, you could stop in Luca and Pisa, almost like a day trip, getting to Florence late in the day.

Train is great for this trip. No need for a car except for perhaps your time in Sienna. You could explore from there with a car and see a hilltop village.You could also see Orvieto as a day trip from Rome for a hilltop town.

bobthenavigator Nov 7th, 2014 01:06 PM

Double wow !
I had forgotten how fabulous your shots in Siena were.
It sure helps to get perspective.

kybourbon Nov 7th, 2014 07:11 PM

>>>I am also trying to decide what I want to pre-plan as far as train travel goes. I am researching passes etc<<<

A pass is rarely cost effective for Italy. Summer schedules aren't loaded yet, so wouldn't be able to book now. Winter schedules run from 2nd weekend in Dec to 2nd weekend in June and then summer schedules start. The fast trains can be booked on Trenitalia 120 days in advance once schedules are loaded (could be as late as May before summer gets loaded).

Most of your trains will be the slow regional trains and these should not be booked in advance as advance tickets are more restrictive. The only fast train you would have would be Venice to Florence. Florence/Pisa/CT would be slow trains - no discounts and no reserved seating.

Florence/Siena is better served by bus (Sita)which drops more central. Train takes longer and the station is further from the center. Siena/Rome is better by Sena bus. As fast as the train, but doesn't require any changes (train you would either have to change in Florence or Chiusi-Chianciano.

I would take a night (or two) off CT unless you are really into hiking and add it to Siena/Tuscany to visit a hill town or two.

geetika Nov 8th, 2014 01:14 AM

We were in Rome and Venice this June and really enjoyed the Colosseum underground tour, and of course the Vatican museums, these were the two tours we took in Rome, for the rest we just walked around and visited sites with a good guidebook in hand.

In Venice we found the Secret Itineraries tour extremely interesting, even though our guide wasn't too good. There's a 11am free guided tour at St Marks which was excellent, our guide was a sweet little lady pushing 80, she'd been a guide for almost 50 years and was passionate about Venice and the basilica, it was a treat to go around with her. The mosaics are also illuminated for about 30 mins around this time, so that was an added bonus. After the tour we got tickets to go to the upper level where you see the original horses and a small museum. Depending on crowds you may want to book a timed entry to the basilica also, its just a few euros/pp but you bypass the lines, well worth it IMO. The Frari church is also lovely, also just walking around Venice. With just 4 days we decided against a trip to Murano/Burano.

Italy in spring should be lovely, lucky you, enjoy!

vincenzo32951 Nov 8th, 2014 03:34 AM

Random ideas addressing some of what you asked:

We had a good guide for the Secret Itineraries tour of the Doges in Venice. I recommend it. I Burano. Take the ferry and wander around. (IMHO Burano is better.)

In CT, take the ferry to the towns and all the way to Portovenere.

In Florence, you can take the bus up to the Piazzale Michelangelo and walk back down if it's a nice night. Have a glass of wine there and watch the sun set over the city. Definitely, the bus to Siena is better than the train. Make sure you get the express. You should book your tix for the Academmia and Ufizzi using the international phone service. There's no surcharge and you don't pay until you show up for your timed entrance.

vincenzo32951 Nov 8th, 2014 05:08 AM

Should read "take the ferry to Murano/Burano, not a tour."

nytraveler Nov 8th, 2014 08:50 AM

In Venice do not miss Torcello - IMHO the most interesting of the islands - where the early venetian took refuge when the barbarians came pouring over the Alps. It has a wonderful church with mosaics in the style of Constantinople.

cbgetaway2015 Nov 9th, 2014 05:01 PM

Thank you all again for the advice.
Vincenzo, I didn't having any luck finding "take the ferry to murano/Burano..."

Peter_S_Aus Nov 9th, 2014 06:08 PM

You can take a ferry aka vaporetto to Burano yourself, and it is no more complex than taking a bus. A tour is likely to lead to hard sell glass and lace boutiques.

Torcello is lovely, we found it like having a day in the country after the crowds in parts of Venice.

Sassafrass Nov 9th, 2014 08:10 PM


Look at this website for detailed information. Basically, you can pick up a vaporetto (water bus) schedule in Venice or print one from this site and carry it with you. You can also check schedules at the stops. It is easier once you are there than it seems to be.

You can find other info by looking for "map of vaporetto stops in Venice."
Also just google "directions for getting from Venice to Burano." Dozens of detailed responses.

kja Nov 9th, 2014 08:51 PM

No need to take a tour to Murano / Burano -- just take a local ferry.

4 nights for the Cinque Terre is on the high side, but of course, it depends on your interests.

3 nights in Florence is 3 less than I needed -- again, it depends on your interests.

Whether a tour is a "must" for anything depends on your preferences. As already noted, the Secret Itineraries tour in Venice is about the only one on your list that I would see as a "must."

Hope that helps!

willit Nov 10th, 2014 07:37 AM

Soccer: The noise from the stadium in Pisa used to be quite impressive - but they have fallen to the 3rd division of Italian football, so I doubt they have such good crowds anymore.

Venezia in Venice is in the same position, but if there is a game there, you would have the unique experience of travelling to the ground by boat (as a football fan and Italophile, one of my favourite memories of Venice is sitting by the water late one evening, and watching the vaporetti full of singing Venezia fans after a game).

Siena as a football club is even more badly off, having gone bankrupt and been reformed as a fourth division side (this seems to happen to any side I support.)

So realistically it leaves you with Firenze in Florence, or Empoli (30 minutes by train from Florence). Both are Top division sides o play on a Sunday.

Siena. The view from the Torre Del Mangia is very impressive (as seen in Mr_go's photographs), but there is another very good viewpoint accessible from the Duomo Museum that gives you great views vback towards the Campo. ( There is a combined ticket for the Duomo, baptistry and museum.

There is a game you can play in Siena if you like walking and exploring. The city is divided into 17 districts (contrade). Each has its own symbol that decorate the street corners, but they also each have a church, a fountain and a stable. It is rather fun to try and see how many you can find of each.

cbgetaway2015 Nov 13th, 2014 07:15 AM

Thank you again! This is exactly the advice I was hoping for!

As far as the length of my stay in each place (4 nights is 5t etc) at this point in my planning I have made my decisions based on our desires and am not looking to move them around unless it is for something major.

Anyone else have any recommendations for tours in Rome?

ekc Nov 13th, 2014 11:54 AM

We had a tour of Palatine Hill, the Forum and the Coloseum with Agnes Crawford of Understanding Rome and she was great. I would highly recommend her. I know she does tours in other parts of Rome as well. You can check out what she offers at

We also had a great tour with Even Firestone of a Rome neighborhood and Ostia Antica. He also leads food tours, which I plan on doing next time we are in Rome. You can email him at [email protected].

annhig Nov 13th, 2014 02:17 PM

do think about having a tour of the Forum. I've been 3 times and even now, and even with the help of many people here, it's still a heap [or rather several heaps] of stones. The rest is doable by yourself, IMO.

another vote for Torcello - you get there by catching a little ferry from the pier next to the one where your boat docked on Burano; but before you get on the boat, do spare a few moments to visit the church of the Jesuiti just round the corner from the vaporetto stop on the Fondamente Nove, The marble curtains and swags are utterly amazing! unfortunately it only opens in the mornings so you won't be able to see them on the way back.

cbgetaway2015 Dec 15th, 2014 06:44 AM

Any other tour recommendations for Florence, Or Rome?

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