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karens Jul 18th, 2008 07:56 AM

Italy - drive or train?
Hi all. I am thinking of a family trip to Italy in 2 yrs. (husband and 2 teenage sons). I would like to see Venice-Florence-Rome-Amalfi coast with them.

I know better than to try to drive in Rome, but was wondering your thoughts on driving b/w Venice and Rome v. taking the train.

If we did not rent a car for the trip, how would you recommend we visit and tour the Amalfi coast?

We found driving in England to be very stressful and driving in Germany and Switzerland to be totally fine.

What's it like in Italy?

bobthenavigator Jul 18th, 2008 08:05 AM

For your destinations a car does not make good sense. However, train tickets for 4 will start to add up. You do not want a car in any of the big 3 art cites, and the AC only makes sense if you base in Sorrento.

zeppole Jul 18th, 2008 08:20 AM

Don't plan on renting a car for that itinerary.

When you get around to planning a tour of the Amalfi, think hard about what you and your family want out of it. I would hope that you all want to see Pompeii. To do that well, it makes sense to either stay right at Pompeii or in Sorrento.

Beyond that, I would guess you want to see the famous drive along the cliffs, which you can do by bus from Sorrento, or by taking a ferry to Capri from Sorrento, and then another ferry from Capri to Amalfi, and then taking the bus back to Sorrento.

If you enthusiasm for the Amalfi is about swimming and relaxing, you might consider just going to an island (the less touristed the better) and just doing that: relaxing.

I think the people who enjoy the Amalfi least are the people who perch on a hillside and then try to daytrip everyplace else from there. Once you get beyond Sorrento, it becomes hard to move around. If you go beyond Sorrento, stay put. Otherwise, stay in Sorrento.

Over the next two years, resist the impulse to add 142 more destinations to your trip!

TuckH Jul 18th, 2008 08:34 AM

Dissenting from my esteemed colleagues, and given that you're a family unit, I'd like to offer this alternative...

After your Venice visit, rent the car. Drive to and tour Tuscany. Day trip from a base in the countryside into Florence. Drive on to the AC, bypassing Rome. Return the car in Rome, visit the city prior to your flight home.

Driving in Italy is not at all difficult IMO. (Stay out of urban areas of course.) The freedom offered by having a car and not having to meet train schedules, etc is what I'd shoot for...

zeppole Jul 18th, 2008 08:52 AM

See? Already people are whispering you should add destinations...


karens Jul 18th, 2008 09:03 AM

I know, zepolle! I have been to Italy (Venice-florence-rome) before, so thankfully I won't have the urge to cram everything I would have wanted to see with my kids in tow.

My thoughts are a couple days in Venice with a brief stop in Florence, and then on to Rome for a few days and few days for the AC.

On the AC, we would like to see the small towns and go swimming. Maybe we can base in Sorrento for a few days and take the bus tour to the smaller towns?

nytraveler Jul 18th, 2008 09:08 AM

If you're doing only those cities a train is probbly most efficient. Ifyuo want to do towns in between (see Tuscany etc ) I would rent a car.

In that case the itinerary would be

Rome - see th esights
Leave Rome and ren t a car to use driving to and on Amalfi caost
Drive through Tuscany, stopping at various towns

Arive Florence and drop car

Take train to Venice (or keep car if yuo're seeing places in between)

Driving in Italy is a breeze. Drivers are fast - but good, signage easy to understand and parking fine (as long as you're good at city parallel parking)

TuckH Jul 18th, 2008 09:28 AM

I don't get it - what destinations did I add?

And I wasn't whispering...

Also - the question was asked "What's it [driving] like in Italy?"

TDudette Jul 18th, 2008 09:36 AM

Train should be fine for getting you to all the major destinations. My hub and I took a city bus from Sorrento to what we hoped would be a bunch of little towns along the Amalfi Coast.
What with tour busses having to give way or back up, it took us 2 hours just to get to Amalfi! And that was in March. If poss., I'd hire a driver for the Amalfi Coast and train everywhere else.
Has anyone else had the same problem we did?
Have a great time!

suze Jul 18th, 2008 11:33 AM

Train (but i'm a whimp and would never rent a car or drive in italy myself) and bus.

zeppole Jul 18th, 2008 11:37 AM

Hey, Tuck, mainly kidding, but the OP only mentioned four destinations, easily reached by train and public transport, and you're urging her to add Tuscan destinations other than Firenze -- and to do Firenze as a day trip from the countryside (with a car?), to me, the worst of all possible worlds.

Do the parking gods always smile on you in Italia? What kind of prayers do you say? Teach me!

zeppole Jul 18th, 2008 11:43 AM

I live in Italy and I think to describe driving as "a breeze" and parking "fine" ---????--- is, well, bizarre!

Driving is demanding in Italy, on and off the autostrade. And yep! I drove in New York City for 25 years! I've never really spent a lot of time in Tuscany, so I guess I should head there pronto, just to nab one of those many free parking spaces. I'll take the train back to Liguria -- no doubt faster than continuing to drive around in circles in Liguria looking for a parking space there. Who knew?

TuckH Jul 18th, 2008 12:11 PM

zeppole, the OP "was wondering your thoughts on driving b/w Venice and Rome v. taking the train".

What's in b/w Venice and Rome?

Tuscany. Thus my response. And I didn't "urge" her to do so.

Also I didn't say to drive into Florence; in fact I said "(Stay out of urban areas of course.)"

> I've never really spent a lot of time in Tuscany, so I guess I should head there pronto, just to nab one of those many free parking spaces. <

Again zeppole, I don't get it. What are you talking about? - there are free parking spaces all over the place...

zeppole Jul 18th, 2008 12:24 PM

I was referring to nytraveler's post about parking being "fine" in Italy. To the extent I have traveled in Tuscany (actually just about the only areas I haven't driven in Toscana are Chianti and the Under the Tuscan Sun places like Montepulciano or San Quirico), I've found parking in the towns, especially during vacation periods, as much a competition as elsewhere in italy. I would never describe the parking situation in Italy as "fine."

I read karens post as asking whether it was a good idea to drive between Roma and Venezia, stopping in Firenze en route, in lieu of taking the train to those 3 destinations. We just read her post differently. I advised her to keep her focus on just those three places she named and not to add other towns. I stick with that advice.

karens Jul 18th, 2008 01:01 PM

Hi again, all. On this planned trip to Italy, I am more concerned with keeping my husband and kids interested than seeing a ton of museums or the countryside.

On the trip I took previously to Italy, I went by myself on a guided tour. I got to see so much wonderful art. I definitely want to see more this trip, but we're not planning on seeing the Uffizi or places like that b/c my kids and husband would be bored out of their minds.

We just got back from Munich, Salzburg, Fussen and the Berner oberland (home through Zurich). Many people urged us to use trains for this itinerary, and I was very happy we decided to go with the car. I am more than willing to use public transit, but do appreciate the freedom a car has when traveling with kids. And like I said, from alreading being in Rome, there's no way I want to drive in that city!

zeppole Jul 18th, 2008 01:15 PM

What do you think will keep your husband and kids interested in Italy if not museums and the countryside? I realize there are other things, I was just wondering what you're focusing on in the places you mentioned.

bobthenavigator Jul 18th, 2008 03:45 PM

With 4 people I like Tucks solution---and a good change of pace for the boys.

LH Jul 23rd, 2008 11:19 AM

We did a family trip two summers ago and did a bit of car travel and some in the train. The train travel was much less stressful, although there are some places that really call for the freedom a car can provide. We started with three days in Rome, then took the train to Sorrento. The first part, the Eurostar to Naples, was wonderful. In Naples we switched trains..."the beggar filled train" my kids still call AC, kids playing the accordian and handing around a hat for money, took a long time to get from Naples to Sorrento. We met two families on the first train who had taxis waiting for them in Naples to whisk them off to the Amalfi coast to avoid that second train, and that is one thing I would do if I go back. We had three days in Sorrento, which we used as a home base to go to Pompeii, Capri, etc. If you go further south than Sorrento it is beautiful but harder to get around as the train doesn't go that far south. On our last day in Sorrento, we rented a car (through Autoeurope that we picked up right in downtown sorrento) and drove to Tuscany...this drive took us much longer than expected...basically all day. It was not a stressful drive, once you get past the beach traffic north of Sorrento (but this was a Sunday). ONce you get on the freeway it is fine, lots of rest stops, signs, etc. We used the car the four days we were in Tuscany and it really was a necessity. We explored little Tuscan towns, went to Pisa, and did a day trip to Florence. Driving in to Florence was a mistake, we found it very confusing. There must have been a way to get into Florence from Chianti without driving but we couldn't figure it out. Finally we returned the car and took the train to Venice for our last three days (no car needed there!) You have to decide on what is best for your family, based on your itinerary. Basically no car is needed in Rome, Florence, Sorrento or Venice, but if you want to explore Tuscany or go south of Sorrento then you probably would need one.

Ematthew Jul 23rd, 2008 12:11 PM

Italy has a great national train network and itís not as expensive as the USA. Toll fees on Italyís autostrada are expense (so is gas). Iím comparing a recent experience of both. Iíd take the train in your case.

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