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Italy in summer NEVER??? Where to go what to see--research is confusing me--HELP!

Italy in summer NEVER??? Where to go what to see--research is confusing me--HELP!

Sep 1st, 2003, 04:55 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 850
Italy in summer NEVER??? Where to go what to see--research is confusing me--HELP!

I've been at this all day and I'm completely confused. We're doing our third family trip to Europe next summer (kids ages 17, 15 and 12) and doing Italy for the first time. We're starting in Switzerland but have those plans under control. As I found with France and the Netherlands, having no ear for foreign language, I'm finding the town and regional names very confusing. The result is that I'm also confusing them logistically . Here's how I beg your help:

1. Someone--please tell us what the major regions are (including where), what makes them distinct and and some of the towns you recommend within the regions.

2. Why the posting NEVER Italy in the summer (we're going early June)? Heat, tourists--what's the scoop?

3. We want to do a one week rental in Northern Italy so that we can do day trips to Venice, Genoa and Milan, but we don't want to stay in the cities. What area do you recommend so we can start looking for a rental?

4. We want to do a one week rental in Southern Italy so that we can do day trips to Rome and Naples, but again, we don't want to stay in the cities. What area do you recommend so we can search for a rental?

5. How can we best work Florence into our plans?

I know this is a lot but so many of you have a wealth of information. Please choose what you can answer and HELP!

Thank you!!

Jayne11159 is offline  
Sep 1st, 2003, 05:13 PM
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Whoa! You seem to be going about this all wrong! The way to see Italy is not taking one-day driving trips to the major cities!
First, you can't begin to do justice to most, if not all, of those cities in one day. Second, it's hell driving and not very practical to drive in and out of the cities...to say nothing of the fact that you can't even bring a car into Venice!
Based on what you've written, I wouldn't know where to begin helping you!
I'm curious: What were your itineraries like for your first two trips to Europe?
HowardR is offline  
Sep 1st, 2003, 05:24 PM
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I can't really comment on your other questions, but regarding the heat in summer, it's not all that bad. We went to Florence and Venice in July and didn't find it to be too hot to deal with. I will admit, however, that the recent heat wave was probably different, but hopefully you won't have to contend with something like that.
Statia is offline  
Sep 1st, 2003, 05:35 PM
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I think you need to sit down with the whole family and decide what kinds of things you all want to see. As HowardR says, Italy is not a place you can pick two week-long bases for getting to all the high points. Driving in Rome is near impossible and most other major cities are almost as bad.

Rome is not a "day trip" sort of place. And there are few regions where major sites are close enough to combine several from one central location.

There are wonderful areas to rent villas but mainly to see things in the immediate area.
janis is offline  
Sep 1st, 2003, 05:44 PM
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First of all you're getting all stressed out because it's you who is planning everything. True, get together with the other family members and find out what everyone wants to see.

Not everyone avoids Italy in summer! It's hot but that's what you have to expect.

To me it looks like it's become very challenging for you because you want to base yourself away from the cities but you want to do day trips to the cities. Why not stay in each city and devote enough time for each? Take the train in between each city.
francophile03 is offline  
Sep 1st, 2003, 05:46 PM
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I agree with Howard--your approach is all wrong. It takes 6 weeks to see Italy well but you can get a good taste in 2 weeks. And, Italy is not about the cities you see on your map. After a dozen trips to Italy my favorite destinations are not cities but regions.
The best regions, IMHO, are Tuscany, the Lakes, and the Amalfi coast. Here are some sample itineraires to peruse. But, it is hard to do the best north and south destinations in only 2 weeks.
__________________________________________________ ______________

* Arrive and depart Munich--14 nites--May thru Sep.--car travel
* ITINERARY: Salzburg, Dolomites, Venice, Lake Garda, Bavaria
* Arr Milan, dep Venice--15 nites--car & train travel--April thru Oct.
* ITINERARY: Lakes, Ligurian coast, Tuscany, Florence, Venice
* Arrive & depart Rome--12 to 14 nites--car & train travel, all year
* ITINERARY: Florence, Tuscan & Umbrian hilltowns, Rome
* Arr & dep Rome--12 nites--car & train travel--March thru Oct.
* ITINERARY: Amalfi coast, Tuscan hilltowns, Rome
* Arrive and depart Zurich--12 nites--train travel--June thru Sep.
* ITINERARY: Berner Oberland, Lugano, Lake Como, Luzern

THE VILLAGE SAMPLER: My personal favorites?north to south
? Arr Milan & dep Rome---car travel---plan 3 nites per location
? Lake Orta, Castelrotto, Portovenere, Montalcino, Ravello

bobthenavigator is online now  
Sep 1st, 2003, 05:47 PM
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Hi Jayne,

I agree with Howard and Janis. If you rent in the countryside you should be seeing the small country villages, not the cities. You'll spend a lot of time and energy getting into the cities and seeing very little since your time will be limited. Also, you'll be up against comuter traffic which can be fierce. In the north, Genoa, Milan, and Venice are very spread out and would require hours of driving each day.

If you want to see the cities during the 2 weeks then stay in the cities. If you don't you'll miss lots of things in the early morning and evening which make city stays wonderful such as markets in the morning and walking around the small squares in the evening.

I'd also not want to be driving on the country roads after dark.

My plan would be to eliminate Genoa and Milan and concentrate on Venice, Florence and Rome since they're the most interesting (and possibly Naples). Fly into Venice and out of Rome. That way you're only packing up twice during the 2 week trip. You can always take day trips out of the cities via public transportation.

adrienne is offline  
Sep 1st, 2003, 07:44 PM
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The resounding message here is that I am going about this ALL wrong. No wonder I have been so confused.

Just to give you a little insight into what I'm trying to accomplish, this is how we've done Europe in the past--on the first visit with the kids, we stayed in the major metro areas in Spain and Portugal. The next and only other time we've taken the kids, we stayed in in the outskirts and took the trains into the city (Les Mureaux to Paris, Windsor to London). The last stop on that trip was the Netherlands That's the ONLY time we've rented a car in Europe - stayed in Lelystad outside of Amsterdam and saw a lot of the countryside. Personally, I much prefer train travel to driving.

So when I say day trip, I mean a short train ride to and from the city. This was a great way to do London and Paris, but it doesn't sound possible in Italy since there are so many major metro destinations.

FYI, this is the first time I've planned our European trip. I've used travel agents and have always felt a little short-changed so I want to personalize this as much as possible.

We will have two weeks in Italy. What it sounds like is that we need to plan a few days in each major metro area. I'm thinking Venice, Florence, and Rome are musts. On our first day in a new city, we usually hire a driver to do a city overview but concentrate on the lesser known areas of interest and do the major stops on our own.

THanks for setting me straight. We haven't been to Europe in three years so any other advice will be hugely appreciated.

One more question--is it more feasible to do Italy by car and just leave it in the parking garage when we get to the cities? Or are we better off taking the train from city to city?
Jayne11159 is offline  
Sep 1st, 2003, 09:43 PM
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We traveled in Italy for 10 days via car with our two children (ages 7 and 11) this summer and had a great time. (still trying to draft the trip report). We picked up the car in Paris and went to the Cinque Terre for 2 nights (parking the car in the hotel's lot-the villa steno) and traveled by train, foot and boat in between the towns on the Cinque Terre. From there we drove to Rome (stopping in Pisa for 2 hours) and parked our car at the Hotel Alimandi's lot (we reserved a spot via the internet and price was included in hotel room. Hotel is located next door to St. Peter's and we were there for 3 nights. Since there were four of us, we traveled around Rome via taxi or by foot. We then traveled to Florence for one night staying at the Margnollie Relais. This hotel is about 5 minutes outside of Florence, but is a great small villa type hotel with a pool which our children really enjoyed. We followed the hotel's reccommendation and drove 5 minutes to parking lot right in Florence near Piazza Michangelo and walked the ten minutes over the Ponte Vecchio. Our last stop was Venice for 2 nights where we parked our car at the parking garage Tronchetto located right at the entrance to venice) and took a vaperetto to our hotel. We rented our car from Hertz via British Airways and paid $350 for 10 days including the mandatory insurances. This price beat the cost of train travel for a family of 4 and we like to be in control so the driving worked out very well for us. I purposely picked hotels where parking would not be an issue, but where we would still be near the action of the city we were visiting. Just be sure the car has room for 5 including luggage. It would have been great to have a day or 2 more in each city, but based on a family vote and knowing we could return some day to see more of the cities we visited, we decided upon the above itineary. We used Michelin maps and had no trouble driving in Italy. Hope this helps,V.
itsv is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2003, 04:14 AM
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Thanks for your perspective--it was very helpful. I'm curious--did you use a travel agent? If not, could you please share some of your research sources? It sounds as if you were well versed and thought of everything.

The obvious plus to renting a car is having the freedom to stop and explore when you wish. I'm rethinking the trains except for side trips.

I'll look forward to reading your trip report.
Jayne11159 is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2003, 04:22 AM
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Jayne, I like your idea of Rome, Florence and Venice for Italy. Yes, these seem to be the big three.

However, I would advise taking the train between the cities, rather than having a car, as you can't really drive within them. You can even use the train for day trips into the country from these cities.

Be sure to also give yourself ample time in each city. I would say no less than four days each, give or take. For example, you could spend a day less in Venice and add it to Rome.

Last suggestion...get yourself a few good guidebooks for each Rome, Florence, and Venice, if you decide on these three for Italy. Good luck with your plans!
Statia is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2003, 04:35 AM
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Hi there,
Actually, I disagree with a number of posters. So here is a different perspective. As you are traveling with the family, I highly recommend renting villas and doing day trips. I would skip Milan and Genoa this time and rent a villa on the outskirts of Venice (do a search for villa in Venezia). Make sure that Venice is just a short train ride away and you can do several days there as well as day trips to Verona and the Dolomiti.
Then, enroute to your villa just outside of Rome, stay for a few days in Florence. On to Roman environs (again, you can rent a villa on the outskirts) and do train trips in. Make sure that any villa you rent has a pool.
SloJan is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2003, 04:40 AM
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Hi Jayne,

There are many ways to do your two weeks, as you have already noted. It is also impossible to see it all in one trip. I have these two suggestions.

1. The Big Three, Rome (4 nights) Florence (5 nights) and Venice (4 nights) with day trips from each.

2. 1 week in the North, a) one week in Rome with day trips, b) 4 nights Florence 2 nights Venice, c) 4 nights Rome 2 nights Florence or d) one week in Florence with day trips

1 week in the Central (South)
Stay in Sorrento or other town on the Amalfi Coast with visits to Pompeii and Naples.

My recommendation is for a week in Florence with day trips to Pizza/Lucca, Siena, and Bologna (reserve 1/2 day to visit Fiesole) followed by a week on the Amalfi Coast. I think that this will keep the youngsters from being museumed out.

Have a great trip.
ira is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2003, 04:53 AM
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Early June is a good idea.

If you plan to see much in Rome or Florence, you really should stay in town.

For me, Venice wasn't so time-consuming. We left Vicenza - a beautiful town on the train line between Milan and Venice - and got to Venice in the early a.m. and spent the better part of two days there - about right, I think - with one night in Venice and the second back in Vicenza. We travel very light, so this back and forth move was only minorly inconvenient for us, and it was very easy to do by train. So your "daytrip" idea might not be so bad if you make it a "2-day-trip" in the case of Venice (where hotels are MIGHTY pricey, especially for a family of 5.) I would be tempted to try Milan from Vicenza as well - haven't been there in many years, but my impression is that it's not a place you need to spend more than a day or two.

Our family REALLY enjoyed our trip to Alto-Adige's Southern Tirolia (around Bolzano), northwest of Venice, where the air is clear, the Dolomites spectacular, and the towns charming. It would be a great place to rent for 3 days or so, and with two weeks. I'd recommend a stop there if you can swing it.
Russ is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2003, 04:55 AM
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there seem to be a number of perspectives here.
Jayne11159, you and your family seem to like staying a bit outside of city hubs and daytripping in. Some of the rest of us are more city sightseers, wanting to see "all" the museums, all the churches, etc.
If you and your family want to be more limited in your city sightseeing, and want to combine it with time spent in smaller places, then stay with the idea of daytripping in.Use trains to go to and from most cities, there are also buses which can be in some cases even more convenient. Use a car only perhaps to tour the countryside, visit farms or wineries, to stop at several towns within a few days, etc.

Summer isn't just hot, it's very very crowded. Early June isn't as bad as July and esp August from what I've read. If you are going to daytrip into Florence, for example, you will want to reserve timed museum tickets in advance if you will be going to museums. In Rome, there are a couple of sites that require timed entrance, but the Vatican doesn't, and those lines can be very very long. You have to consider that you could spend an hour or two in places just waiting in line.

I'd look into guided walking tours in each place. Just to name a few, Venice has Venicewalks, Rome has several like Scala Reale, Enjoy Rome, Through Eternity.
There are similar services available for Florence, even smaller places like Siena and the hill towns. Perhaps ask some specific questions here (with new titles on your headings) for that sort of info. You can also do searches here on many many topics--guides in each place, museums, etc.

also look at the info at fodors.com under Destinations.

I have files on Rome, Venice,and on Florence and Tuscany; if you'd like to see them,email me at [email protected]
elaine is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2003, 04:59 AM
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I've just brought temporarily to the top a recent thread on two weeks in Italy; scroll down on the left for the trip report
elaine is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2003, 05:00 AM
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I'm thinking of cutting our time in Switzerland in half and adding it to Italy after all this helpful input. So many different perspectives have given me much food for thought and I'm still open to more!

Whew--thanks Ira and Jan--your ideas are very much in line with what I have in mind. Our trips to London and Paris were so much more relaxed since we stayed in the outskirts. The train rides back and forth were actually calming. I'd love any opinions on the best areas in the outskirts of Rome, and Florence with access to trains being a priority.

Any specific suggestions for location on the Amalfi coast and about how far is it to Rome/Naples from there?

Jayne11159 is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2003, 05:06 AM
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Elaine and Russ, we were typing at the same time! Elaine--I had seen that report and loved it. I will email you for your files. Thank you.

I'd love to spend all three of our weeks in Italy but hubby (who foots the travel bills!) really wants to see some of Switzerland.

Jayne11159 is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2003, 05:30 AM
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For the Amalfi Coast, I'd recommend renting a villa just outside Sorrento because of the ease of daytrips from there to Pompeii, Positano, Amalfi, Ravello Capri,etc.

FYI, Sorrento is about a two and a half hour drive from Rome, and a little over a hour drive to Naples. All of this, of course, depends on traffic, which is murderous along the coast in the summer.

Some websites I've looked into recently for villa rentals include: Slowtrav.com, Selectitaly.com (gives you a partial list of villa rentals), Rentvillas.com, and Sleepintaly.com.

You can also check college alumni/ae magazines for private rental listings.

Good luck with your planning!
Weadles is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2003, 06:33 AM
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Jayne - I'll just advise you to listen to your husband on this. Switzerland makes for wonderful, relaxed travel and fosters terrific memories; Italy is great too, but the sightseeing is WORK - and you'll remember that too.

Don't skip Switzerland!
Russ is offline  

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