Italy itinerary critique wanted

Feb 5th, 2010, 06:05 PM
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Italy itinerary critique wanted

My family (two adults, four children ages 15, 10, 8, and 5) is planning a late fall/early winter trip to Italy. We plan to fly into Rome, then travel down to Sorrento for two weeks of half-day language school for us all. In the afternoons we plan to rotate between day trips and hiking and swimming.

We'd like to go to Venice for a week following that, then a few days in Florence/ I'm personally deeply interested in a farmstay -- I'm an urban farmer and beekeeper -- but I'm not sure how to work that in with my family's needs. Somewhere around Florence seems as though three or four days might work there, and then we'd end with a week in Rome.

We're comfortable renting a car, although the leg from Sorrento to Venice looks like a ferry or train might work well instead.

So, I'm looking for "don't do that's/don't forget thisis." Thanks!
knitgal is offline  
Feb 5th, 2010, 06:12 PM
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Sorrento 2 weeks
Venice 1 week
Florence/Tuscany 3-4 days
Rome 1 week

Sounds like a great trip. There are many many many posts here about visiting these areas of Italy. Do a simple search for each destination as a start to your research.

(That sounds a bit late in the year for swimming.)
ellenem is online now  
Feb 5th, 2010, 06:43 PM
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I have been reading -- and will keep doing so.

We have hardy Northern California swimming kids (at least 2 of them). Our climate is very similar, although you wouldn't get ME in the water!
knitgal is offline  
Feb 5th, 2010, 06:56 PM
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Your 2 weeks in Sorrento are a dream come true! We had only 1 week (kids ages 11 and 13) and while there did day trips to various places and loved the town.

Must do:
Capri, Pompeii, Herculaneum, Positano, Ravello, Amalfi -- could do each one in a half-day if needed

Paestum/Perissa Caves -- full day, but recommend it highly. Long drive but awesome Greek ruins. Gorgeous.

Can't think of anything we did on that trip I wouldn't recommend. Sorrento is wonderful, and these other places so easy to get to from center of town. Very easy traveling and day trips. Ideal destination. Have a great time.
TravelTrio is offline  
Feb 5th, 2010, 07:07 PM
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In late fall and early winter the weather could be rainy. Not much hiking, and certainly no swimming. I would pick a small city location (Lucca?, Perugia?), so that there is something to do when the weather is wet. Again, with a farm stay, the weather could be pretty terrible. You're also more likely to have acqua alta in Venice. I think the weather may not cooperate in places where the main interest is the outdoors.

Of course you know your own children, but except for the 15 year old, I think 1/2 day in language classes is way too intense for the younger 3 children, and they will be bored, lost and frustrated. Even for the 15 year old I would think 2 hours/day is about max.
lovisa is offline  
Feb 5th, 2010, 07:09 PM
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Where do you plan to swim in winter? Pools certainly won't be open (most will be closed by early Sept.).
kybourbon is online now  
Feb 5th, 2010, 07:30 PM
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You really can't take a ferry from Sorrento to Venice. You could train on the local train from Sorrento to Naples, then on to Venice.

But you could also consider flying. Try for cheaper flights.

Pools may be open through early October, in some places, but not after that.
tuscanlifeedit is offline  
Feb 5th, 2010, 08:34 PM
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As all travelers, we're interested in seeing "authentic" Italy. Sorrento, at its heart is a tourist resort, a city of around 16,000 with dozens of hotels. You will be there in the off season, during the rainiest period. You can see weather data here:

To experience Italian life, I would pick somewhere else. In my above post I suggested Lucca, a city of around 82,000 in the northern part of Tuscany, and the location of a Koine language school. It's justifiably popular for its walled centro storico, I think you could find a villa there to rent, and it's easy to take a variety of daytrips from there, including rural Tuscany for your beekeeping.

If not there, I would solicit suggestions for other destinations for language school with a family.

If not there, I would sol
lovisa is offline  
Feb 6th, 2010, 02:31 AM
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I'm intrigued by the idea of a language school for kids. How does it work? Are there only kids in the class? If it's a fun class with kid-focused activities they may enjoy it more than sightseeing!

My children attend a bilingual school but it's on an ongoing basis. I'd be quite interested in a short term experience in another language for them. Are these commonly available?
dreamon is offline  
Feb 6th, 2010, 03:11 AM
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Here you go!

This is a great website for farm stays all over Italy

You know Benedictine monks do a lot of beekeeping at their monasteries in Italy. I'm guessing you already know that Ligurian bees are famous, so maybe you'd rather go to Liguria, which is closer to your other destinations. There are language schools in Chiavari and Genova

Sorrento isn't just the tourist port. It's got beautiful hills filled with farmers who grow lemons and other things. You could stay in an agriturismo there and see a lot of urban farming.
primeranoche is offline  
Feb 6th, 2010, 12:02 PM
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hey knitgal,

I read some of the posts above mine, and I wanted to add my six eurocents.

The coast is MUCH more dry than anything in Tuscany. Lucca is WET and COLD in your time frame, and I'm racking my brain, but I can't think of anything for kids to do there on a rainy day. (Maybe somebody will reply). Besides, it is Italy's "model" tourist town. It's had a tourist economy solely for more than 100 years. It's not tacky tourist, like Sorrento can be, but it's not like people still really live there. It's preserved like a museum for tourists.

I actually think Sorrento might be a good bet for a family in your time frame. It won't rain all the time, there are continuous ferries to Capri and Ischia each week, when the sun comes out it will be warm, and the city of Napoli heading toward Christmas time is a lot of fun (if you can learn to cross the street without having a heart attack) plus it is crammed with interesting indoor sights.

Some things to consdier:

Given the size of your family, a car rental -- it will have to be a van -- is going to be really expensive. Try to avoid it. Even taking taxi rides will be cheaper.

When you talk about "late fall/early winter" -- are you using the solstice as the start of winter. For Italy, the solstice is often the coldest and iciest moment of the year. Especially in the interior (and Tuscany is the interior).

As much as you can, stick to the coasts. No guarantee you'll never see ice or snow, but you don't want to be relying on a car in the middle of rural Tuscany around the solstice or after. Fill in with drivers. Also make sure you have a guarantee of heat in all your accommodations, wherever you go.
primeranoche is offline  
Feb 6th, 2010, 12:17 PM
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Venice at any time of year is magical. If you fly into Venice, try to arrive around 4, then splurge on a water taxi to take you across the lagoon into the city. If it's sunny there will be wonderful light and at one point the boat turns and suddenly the whole city is before you. Unforgettable.

If the weather is okay, take the boat to Torcello where the green will make a welcome shift from the water and stone which constitutes Venice. There is a church with beautiful mosaics..

Go to mass at San Marco to see the church doing the job it was made for instead of being in line with other tourists. The mosaics there are spectacular.

A week in Venice is perfect.

We have been to Florence several times in December and January and have had a wonderful time there. No lines, didn't need to use our reservations for museums, beautiful light. I think that late November would also be low season.

In terms of weather, we are good sports in cold and rain, not so much in humidity or heat so I think your late fall-early winter trip sounds fine. In that much time you are almost guaranteed a fair amount of sunshine.

Buon viaggio!
cmstraf is offline  
Feb 7th, 2010, 08:21 AM
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I've read some inaccuracies. There is no snow or cold problem during October or November in Tuscany. October average temperature is 16°C with minimum at 11.6°C and maximum 20°C. Come on, is it cold? The coldest month in Tuscany is January. Source:

About learning Italian in Sorrento: please make sure the teachers have no local accent or you'll learn Neapolitan instead of Italian.
It's like going to Glasgow to learn English, would you?

The coast of Tuscany has not the same ancient history as the inner regions. The coast has begun to be inhabited in recent times (end of '800). Especially in the south (province of Grosseto) after the reclamation of the Granduca Leopoldo.
3-4 days are really few, I suggest to spend in a single place to try to understand something. Meaningless stroll in here and there for 4 days is nonsense.
Gottino is offline  
Feb 7th, 2010, 08:42 AM
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knitgal, we were in Sorrento the last week of October, the weather was perfect and people (not us) were on the beach and in the water. We were the ones taking pictures of the hardy souls

I loved Sorrento, it's a real town, not just a tourist town and it was so lively being on the train every day with the students going to high school. It was great people watching!! Kids around the world act the same but I have to say the girls we saw on their way to high school dressed with so much style.

I hope your plan is to be there as early in fall as possible. Deborah
DeborahAnn is offline  
Feb 7th, 2010, 09:01 AM
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Folks, the poster has said the trip is "late fall/early winter"

I don't know how other people, including the poster, interpret that, but sounds to me like December.

This picture was taken mid-december in northern Tuscany, not far from Lucca, in 2009:

It rains a lot more in the interior of Tuscany in November than it does on the coast.

Where does somebody go to learn "Italian" without an accent? As for Glasgow, I always heard the best place to learn to speak English was Inverness.
primeranoche is offline  
Feb 7th, 2010, 09:06 AM
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The thing is, knitgal said "late fall/early winter." Many posters have given her good advice for early winter.

And talk about opinions: go to Venice but not Lucca! What, Venice is authentic daily life, but Lucca isn't? I would need some real statistics to show me that Lucca is a "100%" tourist town. Proportionately, I would put my bet on Venice to have more visitors per resident than Lucca.

I always feel like you get a lot more opinions on Italy threads than most other threads. People are always pushing towns they've visited, or towns they don't like, or whatever. It's kind of like telling a European not to go to NYC in December, because everyone there will be European. Well, yes, you will find a lot of European visitors, but it's still a real American city.

The OP had a decent itinerary planned, with just a few misconceptions thrown in, like open swimming pools after October.
tuscanlifeedit is offline  
Feb 7th, 2010, 09:54 AM
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Coast towns in winter time can be unattractive for tourist.

In Tuscany there had been two snow days in 2009 but as always it melted away within 24-48 hours (except on high mountains, obviously). Snow is not an issue with Lucca town (could be in the province as there are Apennine Mountains).
By now there is not snow even in the Mugello area, which is 700 metres above sea; while snow covers the Romagna region at north of the Apennine Mountains.

As tuscanlifeedit stated, Lucca is not at all a "tourist only" town. Expecially after listing Venice, that really has that problem.
It says: "Venice in 2030: an empty city, no inhabitants but only tourists. If the decrease of population does not stop in 24 years in the lagoon will remain only tourists.
Center in the grip of corporate tourism. In 40 years will be like Disneyland."
Gottino is offline  
Feb 7th, 2010, 10:10 AM
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@primeranoche "Where does somebody go to learn "Italian" without an accent?"

He should go where Italian language was born, obviously. I mean Florence. But every other main Tuscan city would be fine.
For those who do not know, the Florentine dialect was the basis of actual Italian. The local dialects of other parts of Italy not part of the Italian language.
We're not talking about centuries ago, the Italian began to spread throughout the rest of Italy after the creation of Italy, namely in 1861.
Gottino is offline  
Feb 8th, 2010, 03:24 PM
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We've spent a while in Venice, and it is a great city for kids, if for no other reason that there is no traffic. I wrote a bit while I was there, including a sort of treasure hunt for kids. It's here, and might be fun.
Peter_S_Aus is offline  
Feb 9th, 2010, 11:47 AM
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Do you run a business is Tuscany by any chance?

Lucca is not only a tourist town, it's a model tourist town which even boasts a University of Tourism where anybody can study and get a degree into how to turn their town into as successful a tourist attraction as Lucca:

People who want a less perhaps self-serving view of the origins of the Italian language can read this:

Just like a lot of people who learn to speak English don't necessarily want to end up sounding like Prince Charles, any reputable school of Italian language -- and they can be found all over Italy -- can teach you to Italian that will impress all but the snobbiest of Italians (of which there are mercifully few).
primeranoche is offline  

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