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Italy: Ideas/Suggestions for Travelling w/senior parents Rome/Tuscany

Italy: Ideas/Suggestions for Travelling w/senior parents Rome/Tuscany

Jul 1st, 2010, 01:44 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2010
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Italy: Ideas/Suggestions for Travelling w/senior parents Rome/Tuscany

My husband & I are plannig a week-long trip to Italy in October with my father and my mother-in-law, both of who are 75 and not the best walkers. This is the first trip to Italy for all of us (we all went to Ireland last year). I was thinking that a few nights in Rome to see the major highlights and then a few nights in Tuscany. My goal would be to use Tuscany as a base for day trips to Florence, Pisa, Siena, Assisi, Bologna.
What are the best areas to stay in Rome? Where in Tuscany would be best? I would love to rent an apartment/villa/farm house style lodging for the 3 or 4 nights in Tuscany, rather than in a hotel. Are these available for less than a week's rental? We would need at least 2 bedrooms w/sofabed or 3 bedrooms.
From the Rome airport, we would arrange for transportation into the city, but what about from Rome to Tuscany? Should we rent a car or is there a train available. I figured we could rent a car once in Tuscany for the day trips unless we could arrange a more organized tour. Thanks for your help!
meltag is offline  
Jul 1st, 2010, 02:32 PM
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I think your trip is far too ambitious. Even healthy teenagers could not accomplish the week-long trip you are contemplating. Italy is an extremely difficult place for people who do not walk well and even if you eliminate several of all-hill destinations like Assisi and Siena), the others have walking surfaces that are ancient stones, and there can be lots of confusing traffic and fast motocyles.

In October, it frequently rains in Italy.

You need to read up more on Italy, its geography and the accessibility of its sights. Elderly people with limited mobility need an itinerary that is doable, not impossible or exhausting. Since you only have a week, it will be very hard for you to move quickly or see much, so the elderly travelers should select a few Italian "must-sees" in one or two locations and be satisfied with that. Other countries in Europe are more user-friendly for seeing spectacular sights from a scenic train ride or have better streets and public transporation for the elderly.

zeppole is offline  
Jul 1st, 2010, 02:37 PM
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Yes, you can rent apartments for less than week, specially in Rome. Look for something near Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, or that neighborhood. (DO look at a map of central Rome so you know where things are. And many apartment websites like sleeppinitaly.com have a link to a map that shows where the apartment is.

Tuscany is a big place, so it's hard to know where to tell you to stay, or whether you need a car. Florence, Pisa, and Lucca, for example, are all on the rail lines. Assisi is in Umbria, and would require a car. Bologna is a major rail junction and is about 45 mins. north of Florence, but it is in Emilia-Romagna, not Tuscany. Some other places can be reached by bus from florence, such as Siena. I think you need to get a book on Tuscany and decide where to go.
charnees is offline  
Jul 1st, 2010, 02:51 PM
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I live in Italy and you cannot assume your in-laws will be able to negotiate the trains in Italy, even if you are willing to carry their luggage every step of the way, People who have walking issues cannot easily get onto or off of the train carriages, and most of the train stations do not have working elevators or escaltors, and you must use stairs -- sometimes more than one flight -- to access the platforms or change trains.

Many retirees who don't have mobility issues but are travel-boosters-come-what-may post on this board. I am sorry to tell you that the week-long trip you are contemplating, even if you eliminate half the destinations you mention, is not doable, and certainly not by train, if your in-laws do not walk well. But you need to know that.
zeppole is offline  
Jul 1st, 2010, 03:28 PM
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Well, I will be 74 when we go back to Tuscany next May for our 17th trip to Italy---we did the Amalfi Coast this year.
It is certainly doable but you need to plan it well. The day trips you propose are not all feasible from one location, but some are. A car would be a great idea in Tuscany. I suggest adding some time to the trip--can you perhaps plan 10 days?
bobthenavigator is offline  
Jul 1st, 2010, 07:04 PM
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Have you considered going to Italy with a tour company? My husband and I traveled with my parents (who were 69 and 79 at the time) to Italy for a week. My father had never been out of the country and was wary of the idea of "doing it alone" despite the fact that my husband and I are seasoned travelers. We booked a tour with Trafalgar and even though I really don't like traveling with a tour group, I am so glad we did. The trip had an ambitious itinerary - Rome, Florence, Siena, Pisa, Lucca and Venice - and we were able to accomplish all of it without my parents getting tired, without having to negotiate trains or taxis and without having to wait in a ton of lines (the tour prebooks visits to the Vatican, etc.). I think the best part was the fact that we had a tour bus always waiting a few blocks away from any stop that we made. It certainly eliminated a lot of walking that would have been difficult on my parents. My dad had a lot on his "to do" and "to see" list and the trip covered them all - no way would my husband I have pulled that off on our own. Although I missed having free reign over my day, it was worth it because my parents were comfortable.

So if you can't extend the length of your trip or cut down on the places to visit, a tour group might be your best bet.
akrobat is offline  
Jul 1st, 2010, 09:35 PM
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Meltag, you said that your folks are “not the best walkers”. Does that mean that a single flight of stairs is a problem, or that a brisk stroll of a mile is doable, but not much more.

Assisi and Siena are lovely but certainly hilly – Assisi particularly so, as the “sights’ are pretty well at the top of the town. I’m not sure if you can take a taxi right to the top, stroll down for a bit, and then taxi back to the station, but that might be a thought.

With a week for your holiday, and thinking of two places, that means three days, a day to relocate, and then another three days, then travel to the airport. That might be a bit of a scramble, a bit rushed. However staying in just one place and taking several day trips could be a possibility as you don’t have baggage to contend with. An apartment in Rome could work, and if you think this is a possibility, post a query on here with title “Looking for an apartment in Rome with not too many stairs”.

I’d suggest Venice, but then I’m a bit of a Venice nut case. Venice, though, is awfully short of places to sit down unless you are buying a coffee. There are precious few park benches. There are not too many parks, come to think of it.

Rome is easy to get around, particularly if you use taxis. A day trip to Orvieto might be a happy day’s outing.

The steps in railway stations can be pretty daunting, especially if you are hauling luggage, so packing light helps. Also the steps onto trains are steep, but certainly not impossible.

It so depends on the capacity of your folks. We’re taking my mother-in-law to Venice, Assisi, Florence and Verona this November, and she’s a lass of 85. Your trip is certainly doable, if you opt for a relaxed way of doing it.
Peter_S_Aus is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2010, 02:04 AM
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I travel often with my mother, who will be 79 shortly. She has had one knee replacement and is good with walking at a reasonable pace but stairs are difficult.

When we last traveled with her by train in Europe, it was hard on my husband and I as we had to take care of getting her on as well as handling her bags. With the short time allocated to do so, it was a challenge.

Also, many smaller stations do not have elevators or escalators so changing trains is a real challenge.

I agree that you plans are far too aggressive. If you fly in and out of Rome, perhaps head straight to Florence on arrival and spend 3-4 nights. The head to Rome and spend the remainder of your time.

Choose hotels carefully for both convenience and lack of stairs. Some of the nicer hotels we have stayed in still have a long flight of stairs to get to the lobby or the first set of elevators so research carefully.

My mother has been to Florence and Rome with me several times. I always make sure she can get back to her room and rest when she needs to in the middle of day and this helps her as well.

I would hire a private guide in Rome (we use Francesca Caruso who is outstanding) who knows her way around the places you wish to see and this can be a real bonus for you and them. Tell your guide their limitations up front so they can plan accordingly. For instance, the Sistine Chapel may be on their list but requires a lot of walking through very crowded conditions to get there. I would give it a miss.

Bologna is flat and easy to get around but I agree that Assisi and Siena will be challenging.

Good luck with your planning!
kfusto is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2010, 03:12 AM
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Most Americans, self included, do not walk as much as most Europeans and can be daunted by distance, steps (replacing streets in some locations), and, especially, cobblestones.

If you can get them walking now, it will be much easier later. My wonderful mother in law had no exercise for years. She got back into better condition by parking slightly farther from the grocery department of her local Super Walmart over time! She now parks at the far end of the parking lot and can walk the entire considerable distance, do her shopping, and get back to the car with plenty of reserve.

But I would consider a tour pretty strongly. It will get you around lines at many sites, and it will take the burden of making everything okay off your shoulders. You may have to fight with the tour conductor on your parents' behalf, but s/he will speak good English! Hotels will almost all have elevators, and luggage will arrive by magic in the rooms and at the bus. It is sometimes hard for older people to decide between option A and option B for attractions, restaurants, routes, etc (again, speaking increasingly for self here) and a tour eliminates many of these choices while leaving plenty of opportunity for mornings or afternoons or meals on your own. So the lack of freedom that is a problem for younger people on tours is an advantage for older people who have health or mobility problems.
Ackislander is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2010, 03:32 AM
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As far as Peter's suggestion for Assisi, yes that's possible, though I wouldn't go to Assisi by train - too much hassle since the train station is several kilometres out of town. But whether you taxi from the train station or whether you have your own car, you can go to the very top of town, near the Rocca (the castle), where there's a parking lot (reasonable fees); from there, you can walk down the whole hilltown to the Basilica di S. Francesco (which is about a mile away), and take a taxi back to the Rocca.
franco is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2010, 03:47 AM
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It does make a difference what you mean by "not the best walkers". If they can walk a couple of miles at a time at a leisurely pace and do a couple of flights of stairs you have far more options than if they can't do even that. Also agree that no way you will get to all the things you mention.

I would suggest you can do two out of these three options: Rome, Florence, small town Tuscany. If you really want Rome and Florence then forget the small towns this trip, just take the train between them. You might work in one day trip from each (Siena from Florence and Orvietto from Rome would be my choices). If you want a farm house stay in Tuscany then pick either Rome or Florence (not both) and one small town as a base and rent a car to do day trips.

Using Florence as a base makes sense only if you want to do your day trips by train or bus. Parking and driving in Florence not a good idea. By train/bus though you can get to Siena, Lucca, Pisa and Bologna without much trouble. If you prefer to rent a car then don't stay in Florence, pick a small town.

Since you will be doing at least some trains you really need to make sure everyone packs lights - that's one 20 inch bag with wheels and a small "day" backpack or pocketbook.

And 10 days will make the trip so much better than 7 days.

And as much as I hate tour groups, if they can't walk even that minimum couple miles/couple flights of stairs then I would do a tour group.
isabel is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2010, 03:52 AM
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"Orvietto from Rome would be my choices"

We were in Orvieto two years ago and loved it but many of the streets are steep and narrow. Not a place I would take anyone who was not fit to walk uphill.
kfusto is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2010, 03:59 AM
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I second the suggestion to choose two out of the three destinations Rome - southern Tuscany - Florence, but I certainly would include southern Tuscany. The large cities are infinitely more exhausting, and Rome plus Florence would quite certainly be too much for your parents. Which of the two cities is easier to manage depends on their abilities and disabilities: Rome is huge, so you need to go by bus (eventually, by taxi), so you have to get on and off vehicles all day long. Florence is way smaller, with the negative consequence (even for me, and I'm a rather good walker) that they didn't feel the need to provide a reasonable bus service. The layout of the route plan is far less than perfect, you still have to walk a lot even if you take the bus; and waiting times are enormous (up to one hour in the evening, after dinner, but even by day, it may be half an hour)... all in all, Florence has one of the worst public transport systems I ever came across, and you'll end up walking far more than you might expect from such a relatively small city.
franco is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2010, 02:07 PM
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Funny, I disagree that Orvieto is full of steep streets. I am 75 and the last time we were there I had one knee replacement and one arthritic knee and had no trouble in Orvieto. (Now I have two knee replacements and am raring to go!)

DH and I are on a walking program at this moment in preparation for our September trip, just to extend our range. It's a matter of building endurance, mostly.

I found walking in historic Florence OK. Never thought of that as being a difficult place. It's small and flat.

Getting on and off the trains is hard, because the step is so high. But if your parents can help pull themselves up, you can do it.
charnees is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2010, 05:28 PM
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In terms of Tuscany you need to know that they ar called hill towns because they are. And in nmany cases cars cannot enter - you need to paark outside the walls and walk in (and up). I agree that this is a very rigorous itinerary for seniors who aren;t strong walkers.

I would either stick with Rome (where you can get cabs to wherever you want) with perhaps one day trip by train to a town - like Orvieto - with transit up to the town.
nytraveler is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2010, 10:08 PM
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I am inclined, from what you have said about your father and your mother-in-law (your husband's mother) to stay in Rome also. If the parents are up to it a train ride to Orvieto without luggage should be easy. And in Rome you could use taxis when necessary. If you stayed in Rome you could rent an apartment but unless I knew absolutely for sure (and how would you?) that a sofa bed in the apartment was very comfortable (they usually are not) I would rent a 3 bedroom apartment. Your father and your husband's mother will both need good night sleeps and possibly even some comfortable naps mid afternoon. Just my thoughts for what they are worth. If Bologna is off interest to all of you that is a flat and easy city to walk in and with the train connections you could take a day trip to say Florence and/or Ferrara and/or Padova. Without luggage the train trips would be simplified. Bologna does have a lot of trade shows so if Bologna is of interest the first thing I would do is check to see if that is the case when you will be in Italy as during the trade shows it always seems impossible to get any lodgings. Or you could make Ferrara your home base and train to Bologna for a day trip etc. Best wishes, meltag, your respective parents are fortunate to have you two!
LoveItaly is offline  
Jul 4th, 2010, 05:11 PM
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We visited Assisi three years ago, travelling by train. We took the bus "up the hill" to Assisi proper, and there's still a fair walk uphill once you leave the bus. I wrote a micro trip report:

Peter_S_Aus is offline  

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