Italy First-timer

Aug 2nd, 2012, 01:01 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2012
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Italy First-timer

Help! Rescue me from myself! My husband and I have the first 2 weeks of September to travel Italy. Air tickets already purchased to land in Florence and depart 2 weeks later from Venice. At first we thought we would spend 4-5 days each in Florence, Cinque Terre, and Venice. Now I'm wondering if it should be Florence, Rome, and Venice.

I've just spent the entire day looking at guest houses and B&Bs (we generally eschew the traditional hotel), and cannot for the life of me make up my mind.

I have a couple of nice places picked out for Florence and Venice, but need advice on Rome. Are the neighborhoods around Pantheon and Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain (Navona?) the best places to stay? We like to do everything on foot to the extent possible, and don't plan to rent a car at all.

Should I forget Rome and go to Cinque Terre? If so, which town? Argh!

That's a lot to ask! Any seasoned Italian experts, chime in.
paulettelivers is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2012, 01:15 PM
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If you stay somewhere between Piazza Navona and Spanish Steps, you can walk to everything.
kybourbon is online now  
Aug 2nd, 2012, 01:17 PM
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I applaud you for not trying to cram everything in!!

You really cannot go wrong!

Think about what you like to do:

Cinque Terre is a scenic group of small villages (quite touristy) with little to do but relax and enjoy the view in each town or hike. There is a boat for when the sea is calm enough. Beautiful views and a nice change of pace...

Rome is a huge city, can be hectic and overwhelming, but houses some of the most amazing historic sites and art in the world.

So the choice is really yours depending what you want to do on your vacation!

Remember you can't go wrong, maybe look at some photos and read some trip reports (mine are below) and then pick!
jamikins is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2012, 01:21 PM
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Rome is an incredible history with an unimaginable number of sights - from ancient to 21st century - and rules a good part of the known world for a millennium. It also has great food, wonderful shopping and is the true home of La Dolce Vita. (There is noting like walking back to your hotel through floodlit piazzas with splashing fountains after a romantic dinner.)

The CT is a group of very tiny, quaint villages on the coast with interesting hiking paths between them. I'm sure it's very homey and the sea is pretty.

I would do Rome - but then I'm a city person at heart. And if I go to the country I want Alps or Grand Canyons. But everyone has specific likes and dislikes.

If you decide to go to Rome I would stay near Piazza Navona or the Pantheon. Sorry can't help with specific places to stay - we prefer full-service hotels.
nytraveler is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2012, 01:30 PM
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Hi Paulette,

I too am a big Rome fan, but it'll be warm [to say the least] in the first 2 weeks in september, and I'm also a big fan of varying holiday experiences. so with 2 cities, a stay in the CT in the middle sounds like a fine plan to me. if you like the idea of some walking, good food, and boat trips, the CT is probably for you.

another option would be a stay on an italian lake between Florence and Venice. The boats that link the resorts around the lakes still run in September and the weather would be lovely.

have a great time whatever you decide.
annhig is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2012, 03:21 PM
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I think 4-5 days might be too long for Cinque Terre.

You could stay in:
Florence to start, for 3 or 4 nights;
go to Cinque Terre, for 1 or 2 nights;
then go to Rome for 3 or 4;
then to Venice for 3 or 4.

Exactly how many days do you have on the ground in Italy? We did 15 nights, 3 each in Rome, Florence, Venice, Santa Margherita Ligure and Nice.

In Rome, my daughter and I stayed at the Domus Julia, which is a very respectable inexpensive hotel with rooms or apartment-type suites. It is just below the Barbarini Palace and the Spanish Steps. We liked its location a lot. Very high-end shopping nearby, plus easy walk to Trevi, Pantheon, Navona, etc. They have a lovely breakfast room and helpful front desk.

In Florence, we liked the Relais Cavalcanti. And in Venice, The Hotel Riva. Both inexpensive but nice choices. Well-located.
PeaceOut is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2012, 08:29 PM
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Rome is a big city with lots of sights but the problem I have is that by starting off in Florence, Paul will have to head South to Rome and then after he's done with Rome, head North backtracking past Florence and onto Venice/CT. I will absolutely avoid backtracking if given a choice as I feel it's time wasted on the train. Instead, focus on other cities you might enjoy between Florence and Venice (Some suggestions: Ravenna, Verona). Alternatively, change your flights and land in Rome and depart from Venice.
5h4n3 is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2012, 04:31 AM
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Hi P,

>I'm wondering if it should be Florence, Rome, and Venice.

For a first visit, of course.

> Are the neighborhoods around Pantheon and Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain (Navona?) the best places to stay? <

Not necessarily.

Rome has a good metro system. You don't have to walk everywhere.

What's your hotel budget and what do you require?

ira is online now  
Aug 3rd, 2012, 05:40 AM
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>>Rome has a good metro system.<<<

Rome has a very limited metro system. Only two lines. They've been trying to build some new ones for years, but keep hitting ruins.
kybourbon is online now  
Aug 3rd, 2012, 05:57 AM
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Are the neighborhoods around Pantheon and Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain (Navona?) the best places to stay?

I'd stay along one of the metro system lines like ira says, maybe in the Vatican quarter so you are in amongst true locals.

While the metro has only a limited number of lines they run on time, are fast and cheap (even if the Tiber seems a bit of a problem to then, well this is Italy).
bilboburgler is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2012, 07:35 AM
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You can't go wrong with either CT or Rome. However, 5 days in CT might be a bit much unless you are avid hikers. On the plus side, CT can be relaxing after Florence, and the scenery is quite spectacular. As someone else mentioned, you could do two nights in CT, and 3-4 nights in Rome.
In my opinion, the 'old city' section of Rome (Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Campo di Fiore)is the best for staying in.
zootsi is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2012, 09:28 AM
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I love Rome and have been there several times. I definitely think the Pantheon/Piazza Navona area is the best place to stay. Spanish Steps/Trevi Fountain area is nice, but a little less centrally located to all of the historic sites. There are a lot of tourists in both areas, but to me the Pantheon/Navona area seems slightly less congested and fewer schlocky souvenir shops. I have not stayed in a b&b in those areas but can recommend the Albergo del Senato, which is a few yards from the Pantheon in the Piazza della Rotunda. It is a small hotel and the room rate includes breakfast (and the breakfast is pretty substantial by Italian standards--not just pastries, but also hard-boiled eggs, bagels, cold cuts, good coffee, granola, fruit, yogurt, etc.) Most importantly, the small staff are incredibly friendly and helpful. But I don't know your price range; you can google the hotel to check prices on their website.

Even though I love Rome and I am more of a city person, I, like others, might prefer to go someplace more rural and relaxing (and possibly cooler, given the time of year) after Florence and before Venice. I've not been to the CT, however it sounds like a nice choice--we almost went there 2 years ago and I did a lot of research on it then. Another possibility might be the Dolomites--I haven't been there either however. But several people on this forum have suggested it as a beautifully scenic, relatively cool, and relaxing area to visit during hot weather. You might do a search for "Dolomites" to find those threads.
RMMR2 is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2012, 01:48 PM
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I agree with others that for a first trip Rome, Venice, Florence is the best. Don't worry about the whole backtracking thing. On our first trip we thought we would skip Venice so bought tickets into Rome and out of Florence. Of course once trip was fully planned we spent 4 nights in Venice. Just trained from Rome to Venice then Venice to Florence. Yea, a bit of backtracking - but just not that big of a deal if you decide that's what you want to do.

I also agree that Pantheon, Trevi and Spanish Steps are all good places to stay. We have always stayed near the Pantheon but I think all are good choices.

As a traveller, I have not found the Rome metro to be that helpful - in fact we have never been on it. Walk everywhere, with a few cabs when just really tired and it's a long walk. I supposed if your place is right near a metro stop than you could take it into the centro storico and wouldn't be that bad - but if you've found places in those other areas those would be my first choice.

If interested here are my trip reports from Rome along with pictures:
jgg is offline  
Aug 5th, 2012, 12:35 PM
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I agree with adding Rome and we love CT but it doesn't take more than a couple of days unless you, like DH, want a "vacation from the vacation". But along the lines of visiting the Dolomites--which I'm dying to do--Bolzano is between (and north of) Florence and Venice. Would be another option.
Lady is offline  
Aug 5th, 2012, 04:27 PM
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I would minimize the number of cities, because each time you change locations, you basically lose the whole day getting from hotel/B&B to train station to the next city and then to the hotel/B&B. My wife and I have been to Italy 8 or 9 times since 2000 (were there in late April/early May of this year and will go again in Feb 2013) and the last time we did Venice/Bologna/Florence/Rome and realized that we lost a lot of time changing cities. Now admittedly, we chose mid-morning trains which served to compound the problem, but we were on vacation.

So I think I would do Florence for 4-5 nights, Rome for 4-5 nights and Venice for 4-5 nights. There is enough to see in each of those cities that 4 or 5 nights would only begin to scratch the surface. Based on our experience, this might be your first trip, but I doubt it will be your last!

I am no trying to diss CT, but there are only so many days, and unless you are really into hiking (and the storms there last year affected the trails and I am not certain of their current status) I believe you could better utilize your limited days in the three "major" cities.

Incidentally, several of the posters above are experienced travelers (especially jamikins, nytraveler, annhig, kybourbon and Ira) and their opinions should certainly be considered.
pctraveler is offline  
Aug 5th, 2012, 04:31 PM
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personally i would find more than 2 days in CT to be boring..

for rome look at little queen... we stayed in one of their apartments and it was fab...not really an apt, but rather a big room... great neighborhood and easy walk to many sites..
rhkkmk is offline  
Aug 5th, 2012, 05:31 PM
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I can't fathom somebody going for the first time to Italy and not going to Rome. So, whatever itinerary you do IMO , you should include Rome.
cruiseluv is offline  
Aug 6th, 2012, 03:11 AM
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I can't fathom somebody going for the first time to Italy and not going to Rome. So, whatever itinerary you do IMO , you should include Rome.>>

you may not be able to fathom this, cruisluv, but I'd been to Italy approx 10 times before I made it to Rome. in a way I was glad I'd waited because i was able to spend a reasonable amount of time there and not feel rushed or needing to fit in loads of other stuff.

IMO more important than any particular destination is the "shape" of the trip - it is very easy to become overwhelmed by art and architecture and for everything you see just to merge into one great mishmash of random experiences. if you are not a real art buff, [and I'm certainly not one] Venice, Florence and Rome all together with nothing in between can lead to artistic indigestion. in the end you won't care where Tintoretto painted of who Brunelleschi was.

Hence my suggestion that it's a good idea to put something like the CT or the lakes in between cities so that your brain gets a rest.
annhig is offline  
Aug 6th, 2012, 04:35 AM
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I, similarly, have been to Italy a fair number of times and only in 2011 did I go to Rome. While I enjoyed the trip I have seen a fair number of Roman ruins around the Med and those in Rome were only so so. I think I prefer the other sights. For instance the cathedral in Sienna is wonderful, Greek temples of Southern Italy are pretty good and the relatively modern walls of Lucca standard out as very fine, while Florence's art galleries are spectacular.

This year I get to see Venice for the first time.
bilboburgler is offline  

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