Italy by car or train?


Aug 14th, 2013, 11:18 AM
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Italy by car or train?

My husband & I are just starting to plan a trip, our first time to Italy, for fall of 2014.Planning on 2 weeks. We want to visit Venice, Rome, Cinque Terre, possibly Lake Como, poss Amalfi coast area & hit some hillside towns along the way. It sounds like travel by car can be crazy in some areas. We have never done a trip by train. I'm a little concerned about lugging backpacks & luggage & realize I would have to pack very light if we go by train. Anyone have any wisdom in this area. Would you rec. car or train.

Thanks Joan
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Aug 14th, 2013, 11:28 AM
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First, you don't have time to visit all those locations in 2 weeks IMO.

Second, all of those areas are accessible by train. You can't have a car in Venice, you can't drive in Rome itself, and you wouldn't want a car on the AC. You can see smaller towns as day trips from the larger cities (like Rome and Venice) using trains or buses.

Third, you need to pack light even if you have a car. Cars in Italy are small and luggage needs to be stored in the trunk to avoid theft.
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Aug 14th, 2013, 11:32 AM
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For your itinerary it's a bit of both.

You would have to pack very light anyway, car or train, an absolute minimum, because you'll be walking a lot from parking spots (if you find any) to wherever you're going. And the cobblestones and other uneven ground coverings and the many steps up and down won't help...

A car is of no use in Venice, or in Rome, and driving is somewhat difficult along the Amalfi coast (I doubt that you'll even get there in the short time you have), and along the coast of the Cinque Terre. That's where the train or a bus is the way to go.

For the lakes region and for driving across the plains of Northern Italy, a car is nice, trains are spotty around the lakes, buses don't go everywhere and you have to wait, so if you rent a car upon leaving Venice and drive around the region of Lake Como or one of the other lakes, and surrender the car in a place like La Spezia (access point for the trains to the Cinque Terre and beyond), that would work.
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Aug 14th, 2013, 11:47 AM
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Have you ever BEEN on a train? Anywhere? No, this is NOT some snarky question as you might be surprised at how many people, especially from the US have never ridden a train in their lives.

As to packing. WHO is going to be lugging the luggage out of the car?

I agree: a car? In Venice: PARKED somewhere and using up that money you paid for fuel, insurance, etc., IOW totally useless.

Rome: sure you can drive there; I've driven in worst places but then you get to do the parking number.,

Lake Como: hey, you may not want to know about the road to Bellagio; the one to Varenna is better and then there's the ferry to deal with and you can easily take those around the lake on foot.

Please, don't misunderstand. Having a car brings a great deal of flexibility and freedom but plan carefully. I had a car the last time I was in Tuscany because I was out at this hotel in the olive groves and that was the ONLY way to get there. I enjoyed having it for my trip to Siena and to the other countryside places which were hard to reach by rail.

People all said, "Oh, you can't drive INTO Florence" but I did that, too, and without difficulties.
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Aug 14th, 2013, 12:29 PM
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I live in California so go everywhere in my car. I love love love not having to drive when I travel. It's just an absolute pleasure to be able to get anywhere (almost anywhere) by train and the occasional bus and be able to relax and see where I am along the way, city center to city center. And not messing around with parking. If you have no overriding reason for driving then I recommend packing light and using the great train system. And buying your tickets online in advance will mean you can even do it for remarkably little.
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Aug 14th, 2013, 12:37 PM
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Pick 4 destinations---either the lakes or AC but not both.
I would fly into Venice and home from Rome with 2 destinations between. That could be the CT and Tuscany or Como and the CT---you pick it.
bobthenavigator is offline  
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Aug 14th, 2013, 12:41 PM
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The places you mentioned do not benefit from having a car as others mentioned. Lake Como may be if your destination is around or beyond the lake. If your destinations are on the lake, you will be taking boats except for those on the same side of the shore. Even if you do go to places not mentioned that benefits from car, you still want to travel light to be able to fit your luggage in the trunk to reduce theft when parked. So you ask, what if you rent a big car that can house big luggage? Just look at what you are up to in towns in google street view or youtube to see if renting a big car makes sense.

Many first time train travelers are stunned by need to reduce luggage size. This is even so in case of those who have already realized that most of the things they have brought to the past trips in big luggage were never used. I sometimes travel with others and observed a lot of inefficiencies. They would bring a light jacket, a medium jacket, and a warm jacket just in case when a light jacket and a sweater would do the job. They would bring super duper high end noise cancelling headphones in a space hog carrier for watching in flight movie for a few hours they are awake when a high quality in the ear set would eliminate noise just as well while using less than 1% of the volume and weight of the former. They might bring six pairs of shoes just in case but end up using only two pairs. The list goes on.
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Aug 15th, 2013, 03:06 AM
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There aren't huge baggage limits on trains, usually you're allowed 2 large pieces per person and a piece of hand luggage, but it's more about finding space to stow them and then letting yourself move easily about the train by not packing tonnes.

For two weeks I'd agree that's a lot (too many!) places to really enjoy them adequately; however they are all accessible by train.

For the high speed trains eg Venice to Rome, you might want to book 3 months in advance whereas for regional trains the price is the same on the day so you can pay as you go. Use to see timetables and plot out your itinerary before you book
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Aug 15th, 2013, 05:11 AM
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In case you haven't already gotten the idea from the previous posts (which remarkably, almost all agree):

1) you can't see all those places in two weeks - gotta do some narrowing it down

2) car is useless for most of the areas you mention (small hill towns being the exception)

3) trains in Europe are wonderful - they are frequent, go almost everywhere, and are inexpensive (compared to car rental + insurance + gas + parking + tolls)

4) however you choose to travel around you will be MUCH happier if you are traveling light (one 20-21" carry-on rolling bag plus a daypack or pocketbook per person).
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Aug 15th, 2013, 05:40 AM
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You've gotten good advice above. Travel light, use trains and choose 3 or, at most, 4 stops.

I would choose either Venice, Lake Como, Cinque Terre and Rome or Venice, Rome and the Amalfi Coast. There is far more to do in the AC area than in CT so your visit would be longer. It is really not necessarily to visit both.

The Tuscan hill towns are easily seen by day trip from Florence - you could rent a car for a couple of days. However, since you don't include Florence on your wish list (regretably), consider the destinations mentioned above.
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Aug 25th, 2013, 08:21 PM
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Thank you all for your insight. The TRAIN it is. Yes I have tavelled by train in Germany, but also drove there too. Figured Italy would be busier & we'd waste $$ on a car & parking. Good idea on day trips by bus to hill towns.We will narrow it down. Don't think we will be visiting the Amalfi coast....I think CT is more our style...we are very laid back & are hoping for a little down time there & Lake Como...poss. flying into one city & departing another to save travel time. I appreciate your help. I'm sure I'll be posting lots the next few months. This forum is so great for planning ahead , kind of helps iron out the kinks you might have as opposed to just " winging it" .

My sincere thanks
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