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Italy itinery for first time family

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Hi after much research on this wonderful Fodor's forum and trip advisor, I have come up with a first draft itinery for our italian leg of our Europe holiday. We are a family of 4 (2 daughters aged 11 and 8) and plan to be in Italy 9 days.Kids are very good travellers and happy to walk.

Our itinery so far:
Day 1 - Fly to Venice from Paris
Day 2 - Venice - Doge's Palace secret itineraries tour, St Mark's Basilica and sightseeing of Venice
Day 3 - Day trip by train to Verona - self guided tour using Rick Steeves book
Day 4 - Fast Train to Florence in morning.Walk through Piazza della signoria, Uffizi Museum, walk over Ponte Vecchio bridge and walk to Piazza Michaelangelo. ?doable
Day 5 - Florence -Accademia, Mercato San Lorenzo, Duomo late afternoon. Pizza and gelato making class 6pm
Day 6 - Full day tour to Sienna, San Gimignano and leaning tower of Pisa
Day 7 - Train to Rome in morning.Spanish steps, trevi fountain, piazza navona, piazza del popolo
Day 8 - Private walking tour of ancient Rome in morning. In afternoon visit the Pantheon and surrounding area.
Day 9 - Private tour of Vatican
Day 10 - fly home

I am wondering if we may need an extra day in Venice and in particular am unsure if we should stay near the train station in view of our plans or if you can recommend somewhere else that we can stay that will be good for our plans. As we will be away a total of one month, we will have luggage but will try to restrict to 2 medium cases and 2 hand luggage if possible - bit nervous about transporting luggage in Venice ??

Any help would be appreciated.

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    IMO, one full day in Venice isn't enough time. There's a lot to see, and a lot of the enjoyment of being in Venice is just wandering the tiny walkways, exploring different neighborhoods. With small children, I'd probably skip the day-trip to Verona and spend the day in Venice, maybe go to one of the islands for a half day. Of course, you could decide that when you get there.

    As far as where to stay, I'm not a fan of the area near the train station. Venice isn't very big, and you can walk from, say, the Dorsoduro area or Piazza San Marco to the train station in about 30 minutes. The waterbus isn't always faster.

    You don't say when this trip will be, but your time in Florence is rather fast-paced. If it's hot and humid, you might find you'd need or want a break in the middle of the day which would make your sightseeing list difficult to accomplish. You can buy entry tickets to the Uffizi and the Accademia in advance, but I would also have a plan for what you want to see in both. I can't imagine two small kids wanting to spend a lot of time looking at art. One evening, include Piazza Repubblica in your wandering.

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    Most definitely add at least one extra day if you can. This is rushed, packed itinerary, though it is doable. If not, I'd probably skip Verona even though I did a day trip exactly like you plan to (but it was on my second trip to Venice).

    I see no need to stay near Santa Lucia train station in Venice, unless you are not in good walking shape. I had an apartment a few bridges walk from the station - off Strada Nova between the station and Rialto Bridge area, and I didn't mind the walk to the station at all. It is more difficult with a lot of luggage luggage, but by the second trip I was traveling with only carry-ons which made it MUCH easier. Even on the first trip, with a larger bag, dragging it over the bridges wasn't impossible. The owner of the apartment met me at the train station and helped. You see people dragging large bags all over Venice. If your hotel or apartment is near a Vaporetto (water bus) stop, though, you can just take that between the station and the hotel, though be prepared for lines and boats that are packed with people.

    The train station area is very busy and not unsafe or anything but not as nice as being a little further away from it. I wouldn't want to be at Rialto or San Marco, though, either - too many people, like trying to dodge Disneyland crowds during the days.

    Day 6 is a guided tour so you won't have to take public transportation? Otherwise, it would be difficult without a car. Seeing Siena and Pisa on your own is very easy by public transportation, though, just not necessarily in one day.

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    Yes the day trip to San Gimignano, sienna and pisa is a full day organised bus tour so we won't need to worry about transport.

    Many people have suggested the dorsoduro area which i am considering. I am also beginning to agree that perhaps we skip Verona and spend the extra day in Venice. We will be travelling in July so yes I believe it will be hot - we are quite used to long hot summers in Australia but also do appreciate that it may not be great for lots of walking.

    thanks and i look forward to more replies for help with planning!

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    Venice is small so it won't matter where you stay. We stayed near St. Mark's which I loved but anywhere is good. I'd recommend getting a 3 day vaporetto pass as the vaporetto's cost 7 euro per trip and it soon adds up.
    I've done the Secret Passages tour of the Doge's Palace with Walks of Italy and loved it. It's a long tour but really worth it - I did it with my teenage sons and they were engaged the whole time. Amazing because my attention flagged on occasion (along with my feet).
    Venice is gorgeous - I would definitely add an extra day.

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    I don't think a trip that includes Sienna, San Gimignano, and Pisa will give you enough time to enjoy any of the three cities. I've seen tours that included just Sienna and San Gimignano, and I think even that's too much for one day, especially when traveling with children. They may be good walkers, but they may be bored out of their skulls spending most of the day on a bus and following a rushed tour guide whose spiel isn't intended for children.

    I also question taking small children to the Uffizi. It's a HUGE museum, whose collection is largely paintings from the Italian Renaissance, with a heavy concentration on religious subjects. My daughter and I spent seven hours there, over two days, on a recent visit and we still didn't see all we wanted to see. And yet I've read reviews from other travelers who said things like, "After the third Madonna, they all started to look alike." I can see the point; if you don't have a specialized interest in art, it can be very monotonous.

    There are other, less painful, ways to introduce your children to the glories of the Italian Renaissance. For example, you could take them to the church of Santa Maria Novella, very near the train station, where there are some priceless Renaissance masterpieces. There is a painting of the Holy Trinity by Masaccio; a painted wooden crucifix by Giotto; and the Tornabuoni Chapel, with a marvelous fresco cycle illustrating the life of the Virgin Mary. The studio of Il Ghirlandaio was responsible for this great work; the adolescent Michelangelo was an apprentice in the studio at the time, and many experts believe that he painted some of the subjects at the tender age of 14 or 15.

    Another museum that would be interesting and painless to children is the Convent of San Marco, where the monks' cells are covered with frescoes painted by Il Beato Angelico, perhaps better known in English as Fra Angelico.

    Finally, the Pitti Palace is interesting as the Palace of the Medici, but it's also got a number of museums inside. Besides two art museums, there are a museum of costumes, museums of porcelain and of silver, and the Boboli Gardens. At least some of these should be of interest to the children.

    I also suggest you don't bother going inside the Duomo, which has nothing much of interest. Instead, I suggest you go inside the adjacent Baptistery, whose ceilings and walls are covered with splendid golden medieval mosaics. Most tourists line up to see the famous bronze doors of the Baptistery, known as the Gates of Paradise, but not many of them bother going inside.

    In Rome, I really wouldn't advise taking children to the Vatican Museums, especially not on a tour, unless you'll be there in the summer and can manage to get on one of the Friday evening tours. The Museums, like the Uffizi, are huge, and painfully crowded in eight months of the year. In the summer, the heat inside as you shuffle shoulder to shoulder towards the Sistine Chapel is overwhelming. I went there once in August, and wouldn't go there again in summer if you paid me. The last time I was there was in March, which in theory is the off season, and here is what the corridor leading to the Sistine Chapel looked like:

    An eight-year-old would see little but the backsides of other adults. The tours take either two or three hours, and I think the experience might turn a child off museums for life. We've taken my granddaughter to Rome at least four times, maybe five, and still haven't taken her to the Vatican Museums (or to the Colosseum, for that matter). We've taken her to a number of other, less crowded and smaller, art museums, and (for a close look at ancient Rome) to the Palatine Hill, where she could see the ruins of the Palace of Augustus and great views over the Roman Forum, in a green and park-like site, where she could run around a bit.

    There are several museums I highly recommend for children in Rome. One is the Villa Farnesina, a Renaissance villa set in a beautiful garden, with splendid frescoes by Raphael. Across the street is the Corsini Gallery, with a very small but highly-prized collection of art. The Barberini Gallery is one of Rome's greatest museums, with a collection of Italian painting from medieval to early modern times. The National Roman Museum has four sites; my favorite is Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, which has one of the world's best collections of ancient sculpture. (My granddaughter loved the Roman jewelry collection perhaps more than the sculpture.) Children are free at all the above national museums, and the prices are very moderate even for adults, ranging for €5 to €9.

    Then there is a private museum, the Doria Pamphilj Gallery, in a splendid Renaissance palazzo, which my granddaughter also loved. And also the Leonardo da Vinci museum, with many working models of the inventions of the great genius.

    Finally, half a day in either the Villa Borghese Park or on the Janiculum Hill would be a treat for everyone.

    I think if you modify your list of "must-sees" a bit to consider the tastes and interests of your whole group, especially the children, you'll all have a wonderful time. Your suggested itinerary is the classic one-size-fits-all itinerary, which has been compiled by people you don't know and whose interests may be entirely different from yours. There's absolutely no such thing as a set-in-stone itinerary for Rome. My daughter, the same one who spent seven hours with me in the Uffizi, still hasn't seen the Vatican Museums, although she's visited Rome's Modern Art Museum. She doesn't have to apologize to anybody for snubbing the Sistine Chapel. Probably she'll get to it one day, but, so far, she's only been able to get to Rome in the summer, because she's a university professor, and she wouldn't want to go there in the summer.

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    bvlenci has some good suggestions for you. Although I have been awed by the art in the Uffizi and Vatican, I have not always enjoyed the experience. In July, both museums can be brutal. I also like the idea of substituting the Baptistry for the Florence duomo. If you have the energy and have read up on Brunelleschi's construction of the dome over the cathedral, a trip up into the dome can be interesting. Maybe not in July, though.

    Re: Day 4 I have walked up and back down to Piazzale Michelangelo and enjoyed it, but you can also take the bus up (I think 12 or 13) and walk down.

    People head up to the PM for the view, but there really is not much else to recommend it. You can get a similar view heading to San Miniato al Monte, which is in the area. It is a lovely church with great art inside, while outside the city of Florence unfolds below you.

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    Siena to Pisa is two hours drive, using the autostrade, if you don't get caught in traffic. So factor in 90 Minutes Florence to Siena and 45 Minutes Florence to Pisa and you are going to be on the bus for at least 4 hours. It certainly gives you less than 2 hours each at Siena, SG and Pisa.

    If not already paid for, I'd consider a self organised day trip to Siena (I'm biased - it's my favourite Italian city), or by Train to Pisa either on its own on combined with Lucca (the two are less than 30 minutes apart by train).

    Everybody is different, and you must obviously plan for your type of trip, but personally I don't think you have given any of the cities on your list nearly enough time.

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    do the bus tour for Rome!
    i also agree with the others, add another day for Venice. It is so gorgeous! It's not too bad with luggage getting on and off the vaporetto. Just remember to travel light. San Marco is great to stay but in Summer, the crowd is crazy!

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    You've gotten great advice so far. I'll try to add some, based on my several trips to Italy, including one with our then-10-yo daughter. Before the trip, her first to Europe, we knew she liked art, but weren't sure how much, in terms of museum time. Turns out, she loves art (primarily paintings), and we ADDED museums to our list of places to go during the trip.

    We went to the Vatican, using pre-booked tickets, at the earliest time available (though we were travelling in late Sept., so temperature and crowds were less). Spent hours there. Used Rick Steves and the Blue Guide as references.

    We all liked the Barberini Gallery, mentioned already. In addition to being a very nice museum (and not too huge), it's a palace.

    Also enjoyed in Venice: Santa Maria Miracoli, a beautiful little jewelbox. Just wandering the streets, especially those far from the crowds.

    In Rome, a fun and interesting church, not too far from the Colosseum, is San Clemente. Construction was begun on upper church in 1108; the lower church was built in the 4th century; which was built over a Mithraic Temple from the late 2nd or early 3rd century, which is still underneath, along with remains of a Roman house from the 1st century. Also St. Ignatius, which has an interesting trompe d'oiel ceiling.

    Generally, it does seem like you're moving pretty quickly. But you can always modify mid-trip if interests change. For example, you could drop the day trips to Verona and/or rural Tuscany. (On our trip with our daughter, in addition to the cities, we spent about a week in Le Marche, which we hadn't visited before and wanted to, and has more castles than other parts of Italy, and we all like castles.)

    I don't know if anyone has addressed the luggage thing. We made sure our daughter could pull her own 21-inch bag, though we helped up and down stairs. So we each had a rolling bag, plus DH and I had a carryon bag (mine was our travel day-bag, his was a backpack). In Venice, we splurged and took a watertaxi to our hotel - it was a magnificent way to enter Venice (and that was the beginning of our trip, so a great way to introduce DD to Italy). It let us off near our hotel. Upon leaving Venice, we took the vaporetto to the train station. Unfortunately, that hotel has closed, or I would suggest it.

    In Florence, we stayed at Casa dei Tintori, a B&B, in a building and on a street that was formerly used by fabric dyers. The owners were delightful; spoiling DD getting her all sorts of chocolate pastries for breakfast. Also, the rooms were very nice - they have one quad (we used it) that would be great for a family. The two extra beds work well for kid-sized people. The B&B is located near Santa Croce and several very good gelateria; we like that part of the city.

    In Rome, we stayed at Residenza Canali ai Coronari, which is on a quiet street about 1 1/2 blocks from Piazza Navona. Again, a great, central location. Staff very helpful. They have one (maybe two?) quad rooms. We stayed in it - there's a little separate room as you enter with one small bed - our DD loved being a little separate from us.

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    I'm going to agree with Andrew's assessment above. Very busy but you'll come back when you have more time and this is going to give you an overview. Yes, see if you have time for Verona--put it off if Venice captures you!

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    In Florence, consider taking the bus (from the train station) up to Piazza Michaelangelo. It's a pleasant downhill walk back into the city. While you are at the Piazza, don't miss the beautiful church just above - San Miniato. It's described in the Rick Steves book. It's a nice 1/2 day (or less) excursion.

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