Italy Itinerary - Round Two

Old Dec 26th, 2015, 11:44 AM
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Italy Itinerary - Round Two

Thanks to all of you who replied to my previous post on this topic.

Our party of two has increased to a party of 4 - and the timing is now late March/early April of 2016.

My son and his GF are joining us and I'm really so excited and thrilled! My son's GF is a teacher and so they will be limited to only one week in Italy with us -- my DH and I will continue on for another week as we have no restrictions on time.

Here are my questions:
I recently researched American Airlines FF award chart and found that I can book an open jaw ticket from Philly (into Rome and out of Venice) - does it make sense to spend the week my son and GF are there by splitting it between the two cities? I was thinking 3 days in Rome (Sun/Mon/Tue) and then Venice (Wed/Thu/Fri) where my son and his GF would then fly home and DH and I would continue on....probably to the AC or Cinque Terre.

I've considered flipping it around (fly into Venice/out of Rome) but the outbound Rome/Philly flights on the back end are triple the miles, and I'd like to be able to fly the 4 of us out using FF miles only.

Or is it too much moving around? My son would love to see more than just Rome and the flights work out well for his GF's school schedule...we're OK taking a train to Venice, not really looking to rent a car.

We're not exactly road warriors, but DH and I visited 4 cities in Spain in 2 weeks' time and found it so much fun seeing it all! The youngsters (son and GF) are certainly game to hit the road after just a few days in Rome.

This is all just preliminary, but would appreciate the advice of my fellow Fodorites....you've never steered me wrong and I've planned my France and Spain trips with your advice and both of those trips were perfect.
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Old Dec 26th, 2015, 04:08 PM
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If you want to see the Amalfi Coast, you should see it after Rome; if you start in Rome and go all the way up to Venice, do you really want to waste the time going all the way south again? But if that's really better for you, you could do a round trip into/out of Rome and let the kids fly into Rome with you and out of Venice on their own. (I suppose you could fly from Venice to Naples if that's affordable - might be faster than the train, not sure if there are cheap direct flights.)

I have been to the Cinque Terre (twice) and loved it but never in April. I think some of the trails can get washed out in the rainy months. April might be a good time to avoid the mobs of tourists who now descend on the area in peak and shoulder seasons, however.
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Old Dec 26th, 2015, 04:36 PM
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Excellent points, thank you for the feedback.

My son mentioned having an interest in going to Pisa....is a day trip doable? Or not make sense given timing?
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Old Dec 26th, 2015, 05:04 PM
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Pisa makes an easy day trip (by train) from Florence but not so much from Rome or Venice. If you were headed to the Cinque Terre from Venice, this might be almost on the way by train, but that's probably not in the scope of your son's part of the trip.

Honestly, I think most American tourists will be disappointed with Pisa compared to Rome, Florence, and Venice. The Field of Miracles in Pisa includes some remarkable buildings (including the Tower) but it's also obnoxiously touristy, perhaps the worst tourist trap I've ever seen. Pisa does have some interesting buildings besides the ones at the Field of Miracles, but it's also quite dirty and gritty in parts. It doesn't quite feel like the Italy you've been dreaming about. Still, there's something compelling about the Tower no matter what. I've been to Pisa twice (once a day trip, once over night) and don't regret it, but it's still hard to recommend other than as a day trip from Florence, which I would recommend.
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Old Dec 26th, 2015, 05:38 PM
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Hi,

I read your other posts to see what else I could learn about your plans. I got the impression that your original plan was to rent an apartment in Rome and stay there for a week-- but now that your son and his girlfriend are joining you for that week, you'd like to accommodate your son's request to get beyond Rome to see more of Italy? Have I got that right?

Has your son or his girlfriend expressed a big interest in going to Venice? You only mention that your son wants to see Pisa.

There are lots of fascinating places to go in Italy by train from Rome, either as day trips or as overnights that could include a visit to Pisa. If the group wants to go to Venice, or if the only cheap flights using FF miles are out of the Venice airport, then it won't make sense to try to include Pisa.

But if there is no big demand to see Venice, and if you can find flights for your son and girlfriend out of Rome -- or Pisa itself -- or other airports, would you be willing to consider that -- or is the group most excited about being in Venice for 3 days?

Also for what it's worth, while it might be true that most American tourists will be disappointed with Pisa, individual tourists are what counts. I don't think anyone has any way of knowing "the Italy you've been dreaming about" (or your son or girlfriend). I think Andrew can only speak for himself -- and he shoud -- but you need to consult with your travel companions about what interests them personally.
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Old Dec 26th, 2015, 05:39 PM
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Easter is Sunday, March 27th. Pope Francis has declared 2016 a Holy Year which I think will translate to more pilgrimages to the Vatican at Easter. I wouldn't want to be there at that time; doubtless there are others who will think the opposite.
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Old Dec 26th, 2015, 06:04 PM
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All really good observations...!!

Jean -- I agree that Easter week is not ideal, but it is the only week we can take given my son's GF's teaching schedule. If the timing works, we'll actually arrive in Rome on Easter Sunday. So, a Vatican visit would probably have to happen our last day in Rome as I imagine the crowds will be tremendous. I've considered booking a tour to the Vatican because of Easter week regardless of the actual day we visit.

Andrew -- My son would be happy with or without Pisa, however, since it is something he asked about, I want to explore the possibility of fitting it in.

Sandralist -- you are spot on, on all your observations. My DH and I plan on staying 2 weeks but my son and GF can only stay one week. We are not attached to flying out of Venice, on the contrary....I stumbled upon Venice only because I was looking for alternatives coming back to the USA as the return from Rome is triple the number of FF miles.
Once my son mentioned Pisa, I started thinking maybe they can fly home from Florence instead of Venice and we can travel to Florence by way of Pisa. I think it's on the way?
I like the idea of sticking close to Rome (and renting an apartment for a week as I originally planned) and perhaps doing a few day trips, the only downside is the excessive return FF miles from Rome (65K v. 20K each).
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Old Dec 26th, 2015, 07:32 PM
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>>>Once my son mentioned Pisa, I started thinking maybe they can fly home from Florence instead of Venice and we can travel to Florence by way of Pisa. I think it's on the way?<<<

No, Pisa is not on the way to Florence. It would make more sense to take an afternoon from Florence and train to Pisa for a few hours (1 hour train ride).
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Old Dec 26th, 2015, 07:38 PM
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sandralist: <i>I think Andrew can only speak for himself</i>

And you can only speak for YOURSELF, correct? I have an opinion and I shared it; you are free to share yours as well, perhaps without feeling the need to denigrate others'.
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Old Dec 27th, 2015, 03:01 AM
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Kybourbon -- It was a guess on my part, I should probably look at a map before making any firm travel decisions, hahahaha....!
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Old Dec 27th, 2015, 03:06 AM
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Is a day trip to Pisa from Rome a possibility? Maybe I will stick with my original plan of staying a week in Rome and doing a few day trips such as Pisa, Naples and Pompeii?

Is that a realistic plan?

Then, instead of flying direct from Rome/Philly, I'll look into a connecting flight through London (??).

Like I said, just in the preliminary stage of figuring this out....thanks to everyone for their feedback.

Looking forward to hearing back from more of you!
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Old Dec 27th, 2015, 03:14 AM
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Hi Judy Rosa,

You can take a train from Rome to Pisa, put your luggage in the Pisa train station, and visit Pisa. When you are through sightseeing in Pisa, go back to the train station and retrieve your luggage, and head on into Florence for the night. Even though the train from Rome to Pisa is 90 minutes longer than if you went directly to Florence, you are sparing yourself the time on the train you would spend doing a day trip to Pisa from Florence, so you really don't lose any real sightseeing time or add any travel time.

Have you checked out the possibility of your son + GF flying out of Pisa? If it's possible, another way to fit in Pisa might be that after Rome, all of you go to Venice, but your son + GF leave Venice early to travel to Pisa to spend their last night in Italy there. It's about a 3.5 hour train trip from Venice to Pisa, so if they leave in the morning, they will get to Pisa with the entire afternoon to sightsee.


If you are willing to spend some extra time on a train, you can take a train from Rome to Pisa

Andrew, in a public forum, others may point out when your opinions have scant or no basis in fact. Not only did you generalize about millions of travelers who visit Pisa whom you don't know and never will, but also: " It doesn't quite feel like the Italy you've been dreaming about." You don't know the son who is interested in going to Pisa or what ideas he holds about Italy. You were very much trying to discourage a visit to Pisa despite the fact that the son had expressed interest in going, and the trip was being rearraged so that the son and his girlfriend would enjoy it. This thread and this trip isn't about you!
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Old Dec 27th, 2015, 03:19 AM
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Judy_Rosa,

I should add that if you can get FF miles to fly your son + GF out of Florence, then if they want to make the effort, they could leave Venice in the morning and travel to Pisa, put their luggage in the station, see Pisa in the afternoon, and then head to Florence to spend the night and fly out the next day.

Also, obviously, if you can FF miles out of Florence, you might want to think about everybody going from Rome to Florence, and not Venice -- and if you want to see Venice, do it after son + GF have flown back. Just can't tell whether Venice is a something everybody wants to do, or if the FF miles situation is what's pulling you there because it drastically reduces the travel costs.
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Old Dec 27th, 2015, 04:41 AM
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Sandralist

Yes, it's the FF cost, however, I have discovered that DS and GF can fly home from Florence with a stopover in London using FF miles that is still less than flying home from Rome.

I like the idea of spending a few hours in Pisa....I believe DS wants to see the tower and not much else. If we can then head on to Florence for a few days before they head home that would be awesome.

I've already been to Florence but would be happy to see it again. It's my favorite place on Earth!

When DH and I are on our own again, we will have an entire week to see Venice and, maybe, AC? Or is that too far?

The problem with Italy is that I want to see it all!
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Old Dec 27th, 2015, 07:36 AM
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If anyone in your group wants to climb the Leaning Tower, you should buy (timed) tickets in advance. Take note that any bags or purses must be checked at the cloakroom before you enter the tower, so arrive before your ticket time. IMO, you shouldn't under-estimate how much time you'll need for what, in theory, sounds like a short stop on the way to somewhere else.

http://www.opapisa.it/en/home-page.html

"When DH and I are on our own again, we will have an entire week to see Venice and, maybe, AC? Or is that too far?"

Can you fly home from Naples, or would you need to fly out of Rome? It will take 6+ hours to get from Venice to somewhere on the AC, and if you're flying out of Rome, you can't spend your last night on the AC. I don't know when the AC ferries revert to their on-season schedules, so you'd want to look into that when you know your exact dates.
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Old Dec 27th, 2015, 08:02 AM
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I am NOT one of the tourists who found Pisa underwhelming. I found it marvelous in spite of the crowds. Besides the tower we went into the baptistery and the cathedral and enjoyed them. There is a lovely little museum that faces the square with the sights. We enjoyed it immensely.

It was bucketing rain when we arrived in Pisa by train, so we took a taxi up to the cathedral area. We asked the driver where he would recommend we get lunch away from the tourist area and he wrote out the name and address of a place. We later took another taxi there and had a marvelous lunch!

The rain had stopped by the time we walked back along the river to the station.

So it took me a million words to say that we truly had a worthwhile and pleasant time in Pisa.

We stayed in the Cinque Terre a week and had a restful, relaxing time hiking the trails.

Our trip was the first two weeks of April. You can't predict weather, but it was perfect as far as temps went, though we did have some rainy days. We left Boston in snow squalls and arrived in Milan airport to sun and light sweater weather. Forsythia was blooming along with all sorts of other flowers. It seemed like a miracle to us New Englanders as it quickly blew the winter blahs away.

These are just a few memories from ten years ago and a wonderful trip!
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Old Dec 27th, 2015, 08:22 AM
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Honestly, I think most American tourists will be disappointed with Pisa compared to Rome, Florence, and Venice. The Field of Miracles in Pisa includes some remarkable buildings (including the Tower) but it's also obnoxiously touristy, perhaps the worst tourist trap I've ever seen.>>

I too deplore the tourist tat that surrounds the Campo dei Miracoli but if you get there late in the afternoon most of that will be gone, and you will soon have the area almost to yourselves, so I would suggest booking a late afternoon/early evening slot for climbing the Tower [using the link posted by Jean] but allowing sufficient time for seeing the Cathedral and Baptistry as well.
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Old Dec 27th, 2015, 08:26 AM
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sandralist: <i>Andrew, in a public forum, others may point out when your opinions have scant or no basis in fact.</i>

I suspect you don't know what the word "opinion" means. See if you can dig up a dictionary and look up the word.

While you've got the dictionary handy, look up the word "condescending."
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Old Dec 27th, 2015, 08:38 AM
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Judy, when I want to check the feasibility of day trips by train, I find the train website for the country and check them. For Italy, try Trenitalia's website:

http://www.trenitalia.com/tcom-en

and see the train connections between Rome and Pisa. (Use "Roma Termini" and "Pisa Centrale" - though there is another regional station in Pisa closer to the Tower that people sometimes use; you can also simply take a bus from in front of Pisa Centrale up to the Field of Miracles or walk about 45 minutes.) If there are no train schedules available for March-April, check say next week to get a rough idea of the time.

I see for example that there are plenty of direct trains to Pisa from Rome and they take about three hours each way. So - it's up to you whether you and your son whether it's worth half a day of train travel to day trip to Pisa (some people would).

It might make some sense to stop in Florence on the way from Rome to Venice and take a regional train as a detour up to Pisa for a few hours (and leave your bags at the station in Florence or Pisa). If you love the town so much, it would be a shame not to spend another night in Florence as you will pass through anyway. I love to return to favorite places when I travel, though I understand you have limited time.
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Old Dec 27th, 2015, 08:47 AM
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Hi Judy,

I enjoyed your Spain TR from a while ago immensely and it was a great help planning our trip to Andalucia, which we did this past October.

I have looked at your two earlier TRs, and it appears that no one in your group has been to the Italian cities/areas which you are asking about, is that right?

So if your son and his GF have never been, and they only have a week, then Rome and Venice are certainly two blockbusters, almost any human being will be overwhelmed by these places. Having said that, you and they may want to schedule a little downtime with a day trip somewhere to get out of these two cities. For Rome, you can do a fairly un-rushed day trip to Orvieto, a small town (Etruscan origins) on the top of an extinct volcano, now a flat kind of baby mountain. It has an enormous, magnificent cathedral which dwarfs the little town, which has narrow medieval streets, plenty of good places for lunch and espresso, and views out over the countryside (you are high up in the upper town). The train station is in the lower town with a fun funicular to the top. Trains go directly from Rome to Orvieto in an hour. Orvieto is on the main Rome-Florence-Venice line.

Another suggestion for a day trip outside of Rome: book a short tour or just take a regional bus to Tivoli to see the extensive baroque gardens and fountains built into the side of a hill at the residence (=palace) of a renaissance cardinal. Then have an espresso at a cafe in the village, return to Rome.

Another suggestion: just find a quiet corner of Rome (poke around the Trastevere neighborhood), sit at a cafe, have some gelato.

Same idea holds for Venice.

Otherwise, you run the risk of "Emperor Augustus/Michelangelo/Renaissance exhaustion".

For you and your DH, the Amalfi Coast would be a very different experience compared to Venice and Rome and if you want to take the time to get there, go! It is a magnificently beautiful stretch of mountainous seacoast with small towns and villages on the coast and up in the mountains.

Many of these towns were little city states in the middle ages. Often they built up in the mountains for protection from the raids of the Saracens, and they returned the favor by raiding the Saracen towns of North Africa, but they also traded with them as well. Hmmm, I think I've heard this story before...Anyway, you will see elements of Islamic architecture and decoration adapted and incorporated into the churches and cloisters of several towns of the Amalfi Coast.

There are hiking trails all over. Many are based on the donkey trails which the farmers used, and still use, to bring supplies up to their terraced farms and to bring produce down to the coast; the Italian hiking association, can't remember the name, has upgraded a network of these and you can find good hiking maps. We hiked, i.e. we took several slow one-hour walks up, down, and around the beautiful landscape.

In Ravello (which is a very small town) there are two beautiful villas with extensive gardens, the Villa Rufolo and the Villa Cimbrone.

We stayed three nights at the Garden Hotel in Ravello, about 2,000 feet up a steep mountainside from Amalfi on the seacoast. To sit on the hotel terrace with a cocktail watching the sun set on the Mediterranean and watch the lights of the towns below come on as dusk settles, then proceed to eat a dinner of fresh seafood, pasta and cold white wine...well, this is where I am planning to spend my next life!

The logistics of getting to the Amalfi Coast are a little tricky and you may want to read this discussion, going on right now on this Italy board:

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...e-about-it.cfm

You can take a look at my TR on our trip a couple of years ago to Ravello, Amalfi, Naples and Paestum.
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