Italy planning advice...

Jun 26th, 2013, 06:43 PM
  #1  
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Italy planning advice...

We are in the beginning stages of a trip with our 16 year old daughter. We were going to take a cruise but for a variety of reasons have decided on two weeks in Italy instead.. We csn go in the beginning of may and I can get us there & back on 150,000 plus fees(600.00 .. Sort of annoying...)
our daughter will be 17 at time of travel... It is a high school graduation/16 bday gift (ayers late!) combo gift...
This is what we have planned thus far:
We are using miles to fly so have pretty cruddy flights... dfw to Frankfort - Frankfort to Berlin & Berlin to Rome... Trying to focus on the 20,000 miles per ticket instead of the flights... We will have carry on only fortunately.
May 5 - depart dfw
May 6 arrive Rome - thinking of spending 3 nights in Rome .., I can stay at either the Marriott Grand Hotel Flora(two rooms on points) or boscolo palace Roma - (leaning towards this property) - would love any feedback ... Staying on points for free... So that is why those two..
Train to Florence .
May 9- 14 - Florence - renting an apartment for 5 nights -thinking of casetta Bonsi from Italy perfect- would like to do day trips from here... Dd wants to take a cooking class would love recommendations.. Want to see some of the surrounding area..
May 14-16 ... Flexible ... Dd would like to hike in cinque terre (maybe?)
May 16 -19 venice... Staying here on points.. Boscolo Venezia - any feedback on hotel?
May 19 flight back to dfw (pretty cruddy due to miles)
Arrives into lgw @ 12:10 am ... Will need a hotel
May 20 Flight from Lhr @ 3:00 pm
Arrive into dfw 7:10 pm...

How is the weather in may? From "reports" seems to be a nice time of the year..
Any recommendations on car tours for the day in Florence or cooking classes?
Dd wants to see catacombs in Rome..

Thoughts on transportation from Florence to cinque terre? Cinque terre to venice?
The othe option is 3 nights in Lake District and 2 venice... ?
Momddtravel2 is offline  
Jun 26th, 2013, 07:17 PM
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We went to Italy for 2 weeks last June. We took a train to Chiusi, rented a car and stayed in Tuscany for a week. There was so much to do and see in Florence and Siena, I'd skip the Cinque Terre and do day trips around the area. We drove to Venice airport, turned car in and took the bus to city. Florence was a driving nightmare. Have you considered an old monastery or castle with a pool? We really enjoyed staying away from the city. If not, make sure they have parking and easy bus to city.
suitheadcase is offline  
Jun 26th, 2013, 07:27 PM
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I think May will be lovely, and I do have a suggestion for a cooking class. Good Tastes of Tuscany:

http://www.tuscany-cooking-class.com/

I've mentioned here before that years ago I did a little freelance work for the owners of Villa Pandolfini, where the classes are held, and it is amazing and gorgeous. The instructors were wonderful, the ancient kitchen was breathtaking and the food was out of this world. We had a really good time and I can't recommend it enough.

The school picks up the day students in Florence and drives the short distance to Villa Pandolfini. This really seems like a trip in time to a Tuscan palazzo, which is what it is. It is an imposing and sumptuous estate. A little tour and a lot of cooking, most of it hands on, were included, and after eating all that we had made, we were driven back to Florence in the late afternoon. It was very special.
tuscanlifeedit is online now  
Jun 26th, 2013, 07:31 PM
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Well, first it is good to be fussy on your spelling. Frankfort is the Capital of KY, while Frankfurt is a large city in Germany. pronounced Frahnkfoort.
Ok, now to answer your question: No need to apologize about your air connections. yes, they are cruddy, but when they are free it is difficult to whine.
The shell of your itinerary by itself sounds Ok. I would certainly stick with 3 nights in Venice. many claim that is the zenith of any travel experience in Italy. Travel during May there is a fine time to travel. You may get an occasional rainy patch, but for the most part the weather is very nice that time of year and it is just before the worst of the tourist crush, although you'll still run into more crowds than you'd like.
For your May 14-16 stretch, a lot of people will give you advise on Cinque Terre, but I'd advise caution: you may just want to give your daughter those three days and tell her to surf the net and come up with her own suggestion. That way if something pops bad up with any of your "free" travels, then she'll understand the pressure of delivering on a good travel plan with incomplete information.

Anywhere in Venice is fine, however, your Boscolo Venezia location does compel you to have to walk over 5 minutes to the Grand Canal, from where you'll then take the vaporetto to the rest of the city. The Vaporetto stops next to the Boscolo are circle routes, which are nice but take a while longer to get to most of the locations of touristic interest. See http://www.hellovenezia.com/index.ph...mid=77&lang=en

Finally, while there is nothing wrong with 5 nights in Florence per se, many travelers find a better travel experience is 2-3 nights in Florence with 2-3 nights in a small Tuscany town such as Arrezzo or San Gimignano. This is a more complete Italian experience.
docdan is offline  
Jun 26th, 2013, 07:36 PM
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A little more: I don't see the point of having a car for the big three. And a pool in May isn't necessary.

To get to La Cinque Terre, you can train from Florence. Other day trips may require a car, but there are other ways to do it. Organized small group tours out of Florence are one way, as are cities to visit by bus and train. Siena is an easy and popular bus trip. And there is always a driver for a day. Most often recommended here is Luca of Hills and Roads, but there are plenty of others. Arezzo is a favorite of mine, and easy to do by train. Lucca and Pisa are also decent train destinations from Florence. Oh and of course Fiesole by bus.

Finally, if you want a car perhaps you can rent it at the airport which is close to the city. One day rentals may or may not be possible. I really have no idea.
tuscanlifeedit is online now  
Jun 26th, 2013, 07:44 PM
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Arezzo and San Gimignano are really nothing alike. Arezzo is a much larger city and provincial capital with fabulous frescoes and history, and San Gimignano is a hill town. (Also with fabulous frescoes. But small with no train service.)

I do think a split stay between a hill town and Florence is a very nice idea. Many of us love the Val d'Orcia for that sort of experience.

docdan, I hate to say this, but there is just one "r" in Arezzo.
tuscanlifeedit is online now  
Jun 26th, 2013, 08:17 PM
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I'd like to know how you got three round trip tickets to Europe for 50k points each!

What airline, time of year, how many stopovers, etc.?
joannyc is online now  
Jun 26th, 2013, 08:21 PM
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Sorry... Seeing when and from where you are flying... Still how did you get 3 RT tickets for 150k points?
joannyc is online now  
Jun 26th, 2013, 08:22 PM
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We visited the Boscolo Venezia, and it is a pretty special hotel, albeit a little out of the way.
An extract from my trip report:

We spent a little time in the far reaches of Cannaregio. When you walk around Venice, you can be forgiven for thinking that there's not much else than stone paving and brick The gardens are mostly hidden - it's hard to even see that they are there. But gardens do exist, and where there are gardens, then there will be gardeners and nurseries. So we went in search of, and found, Venice's nursery. Fondamenta dell'Abbazia, 3546, near the Misericordia. The nursery is the full deal, greenhouses, trees, potting mix, and you can see it in Google satellite's view of Venice.


We bought a plant, and it seemed a little like a day in the country.


Also in far Cannaregio is the Hotel des Doges, Fond de la Madonna dell'Orto, 3499. The hotel was formerly the Palazzo Rizzo-Patarol, and the garden is quite something. It was created in 1700, and Austrian Emperor Francis 1 visited it during his stay in Venice in 1815, by which time the garden must have been quite mature. There is a mound in the garden, hidden amongst the trees and grottos, that hides an underground ice house. The garden is quite romantic, paths, bridges, ponds and wells, statues in niches, formal in a haphazard way - and that's hard to achieve.

I suppose that big blocks of ice would have been brought from the Dolomites and stored in the ice house, the kitchen staff being pleased to be able to offer sorbets to guests. To visit the garden, ask at the hotel reception. They asked us to buy a coffee or drink at the bar, as the "price" of admission, or maybe the garden is for guests only - and the coffee or drink makes us "guests". The hotel des Doges is five star - unlikely to see us as overnight guests.
Peter_S_Aus is offline  
Jun 26th, 2013, 08:44 PM
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Have you been to any of these places before?

IMO, including the Cinque Terre in most itineraries is usually a big time eater, and then people don't stay there for long. The area tends to get placed between Florence and Venice in travelers' plans, but it's not between Florence and Venice, geographically speaking. By train, Florence to, say, Vernazza is 3 or more hours, and Vernazza to Venice is 6 hours. So you lose a half day getting there and the better part of an entire day traveling to Venice.

If it were my trip, I'd pick a destination that is either between Rome and Florence (Orvieto would be my pick, but I do like Arezzo) or a destination between Florence and Venice. For the latter, Lake Garda "works," but it wouldn't be my choice. You'd only have one full day, and the ferries will still be operating on off-season schedules, so you wouldn't see much of the lake. Bologna, Ferrara, Verona are each easy by train.

If you'd be willing to rent a car for either the pre-Florence or pre-Venice days, your options obviously open up substantially, esp. for the Val d'Orcia (Montepulciano, Pienza, San Quirico, Montalcino).
Jean is offline  
Jun 26th, 2013, 09:07 PM
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British Airways is only 50,000 point return from the US or Canada.
live42day is offline  
Jun 27th, 2013, 12:52 AM
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I would add those extra days to Rome. The first day you are likely to be jetlagged and the sites of Ancient Rome will take a day, the Vatican/St Peters will take a day, plus there are so many other things to see! You could also to a day trip to Tivoli or Orvieto from Rome easily.

If you think you lose 1/2 a day approx. when you change locations I think it makes more sense to spend a bit more time in each place than spend more time on trains etc getting from one place to the next.

Enjoy!
jamikins is offline  
Jun 27th, 2013, 02:41 AM
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For the typical Rome-Florence-Venice itinerary, the Cinque Terre is out of the way. I would make an exception in this case though as it will be a good change of pace.

When my parents "dragged" me to Italy for about 3 weeks when I was 19 (oh, the horrors!), I got art, architecture, church, and history overload, and got tired of traveling every 3 days. Having a break in the middle of the trip to catch my breath and get a change of pace would have been nice.

The Cinque Terre, while overrun with tourists, would make a good break. You could stop in Pisa en route and see the Leaning Tower. 2 days in the CT to stop and do nothing except sit on the beach and otherwise do nothing would be a good pause. Although I know nothing about it, you might be able to do a similar thing on the shores of Lake Garda near Verona. That would be much more logistically favorable for your trip since it's reasonably on the way between Florence and Venice.

Always plan a few days of downtime on a trip.
tdyls is offline  
Jun 27th, 2013, 03:56 AM
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Great feedback!

First off, sorry for the Typos. I was on my ipad and one finger typing is a drag

To answer a few questions:

American Airlines still has "super saver" flights at the beginning of May - so our outbound flight is 20K miles per person. It is not a great flight -
AMERICAN AIRLINES 70 DFW Dallas/ Fort Worth May 5, 2014 04:00 PM FRA Frankfurt May 6, 2014 08:30 AM Economy
T 31C Dinner Breakfast

AIRBERLIN 6556 FRA Frankfurt May 6, 2014 10:50 AM TXL Berlin May 6, 2014 12:00 PM Economy
X unassigned Refreshments

AIRBERLIN 8872 TXL Berlin May 6, 2014 03:20 PM FCO Rome May 6, 2014 05:25 PM Economy
X unassigned Snack

On the way back it is 30 K miles per person.. that is one reason I switched our trip from July to May - (the mileage) It is a little under $200.00 per person in fees.

We have been to Rome for 5 nights and to Florence for 4 nights in 2007, this daughter was with us on that trip. She loved Florence and thus the 5 nights planned there... moving a lot did wear us out on our last trip - the second time we went we rented an apartment in Paris for 10 nights and it was far more enjoyable but she does want to see a few areas.

I researched a little before posting the question and saw Cinque Terre is not easy to get to and not "on the way" (It sort of looks like it "could" be on a map) but I could not find an easy way to get there.

I have yet to book any lodging and am open to adding/moving around things.

We are not overly interesting in revisiting the Coliseum or St. Peters or the Vatican. I am sure they would be worthy of another visit, but being only our second time there we may want to explore other things. Dd does want to go the the Catacombs again.

Going to dig into the rest of the advice!!!

I have my flights on hold till July 1...and will most likely be pulling the trigger...

This is the place we are considering renting in Florence
http://www.italyperfect.com/florence...tta-bonsi.html

Here are the links to the hotels...

Any feedback on the Rome Marriotts? Remembering we are using points so it is free...

http://www.marriott.com/hotels/trave...d-hotel-flora/

http://www.marriott.com/hotels/trave...ph-collection/

I am leaning towards the Autograph location as it is smaller and I prefer that...

We are open to a car for those middle days if it proves necessary/worthy - I thought we could train to Florence and if need be use bus/tours/drivers on those days to see outside of Florence.

Peter - thank you for the feedback on the Venice Hotel..seems lovely but out of the way - will need to reconsider.

Tuscan - great feedback - looking forward to exploring the cooking class and your other advice!!!

Jamikins... I am toying with adding one more night to Rome based on the jetlag ect... we did hate moving as much as we did when we went to Paris/montreux/florence/Rome...

Running out the door, will respond more later - thank you all again SO much!!
Momddtravel2 is offline  
Jun 27th, 2013, 05:48 AM
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First, here is the link to the cooking class we took right in the city of Florence :http://www.florencetown.com/eng/flor...-florence.html
We did this as a family (girls are 19 and 20) and they really enjoyed the class. We walked to the meeting place and then to the cooking class. We had about 16 people in the class and it lasted about 5 hours. We made delicious food and enjoyed eating with everyone. I would advise to make a reservation pretty far in advance. In Florence, we stayed at the Hotel L Orologio and really liked it. (in case your apartment doesn't work out).
I saw the Marriott Boscolo Palace from our bus and it looked really nice. I thought it was the grand flora one and didn't even realize Marriott had two nice hotels in Rome until just now. I was trying to book the grand flora one but there were no rooms with points available. I think the Boscolo one is in a great area and it looked very nice from the outside!
I also thought about taking the kids to the Cinque Terre because it would be more fun for them, but I found it out of the way for our trip and were traveling enough as it was. We followed the train line and it was easy to get on and off in the towns/cities we stayed in.
If you are interested in the Lakes area, Lugano and Locarno were beautiful, clean, great food, very nice,but they are on the Swiss side. The girls really liked the lakes and it may give you some relaxing downtime mid trip.
We stayed at the Hotel Parco Paradiso in Lugano.It sat high up on the hill overlooking the lake and the city of Lugano. We had a great room/penthouse with two bedrooms. It is not air conditioned, but that was fine in May.

About the weather: We had cooler temps, some sunny days, and mostly overcast days. Jeans, capris and light rain jackets is what we used daily. I had a thin black sweater and it was pulled out often. We missed most of the heavy rains and so we were very fortunate with the weather overall. I would much rather travel early May compared to the heat in July since many things are not airconditioned and crowded.
I do think it was an unusually cool spring for Europe and also for us here in the eastern part of the US. We were happy about the weather sightseeing.
Carry on is easier than you think and both kids said they way over packed! Just rememeber to keep telling them comfortable shoes are the way to go. They didn't listen and both were in pain after a few days of cobblestone walking..live and learn. I said that most people probably assumed I was German because I am fair and I wore sensible shoes. LOL no insult to any Germans here.
girlonthego is online now  
Jun 27th, 2013, 06:12 AM
  #16  
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Thanks GTG! I will check out the cooking class & will compare the hotel with the apartment in Florence.
I did add one more night onto our reservation in Rome. I think we will be jetlagged and can enjoy 4 nights there and get our feet on the ground.

I can fly out of Rome as well on FF miles... but that would require back tracking and not sure I want to do that... The flight is less in fees and does not require a hotel stay in London... decisions decisions...

I think that going in the beginning of May is a good choice for a variety of reasons...

I am happy to do carry on... now dh? He brings the kitchen sink but has gotten better since he travels so much with his job now...

I LOL at your German and sensible shoes I get French generally when we travel... I am a Russian French Jew so that makes sense ;-)
Momddtravel2 is offline  
Jun 27th, 2013, 06:17 AM
  #17  
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Meant to add - we did a day trip to Pisa on the last trip so we don't feel the need to revisit Pisa.
Momddtravel2 is offline  
Jun 27th, 2013, 06:31 AM
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The Autograph Collection and Grand Flora are 250m apart on the same street. The AC is in a slightly better location. Grand Flora is across from the Borghese Gardens.

Personal preference... but I don't like the modern furniture at the AC. The Grand Flora is more 'old world'. I stayed at the Grand Flora using points and was upgraded to a Junior Suite. But, I've heard that some rooms can be very small.

You can check reviews on both hotels or ask about them on http://www.rewards-insiders.marriott.com. It's free to sign up if you are not already a member.

There is a large grocery store underground at the Spagna Metro station. Good place to stock up on wine, water, soda, snacks! Very close to both hotels.

Instead of going to the catacombs on the Appian Way, you could stay in Rome and go to the Catacombs of Priscilla.

www.catacombepriscilla.com/inglese/

Good deal on those airline points even if the flights are not ideal!
joannyc is online now  
Jun 27th, 2013, 08:23 AM
  #19  
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Thanks everyone for the feedback... I am a little stressed about the flights..my daughter and husband are not great travelers... I am actually trying to convince my daughter that Spain will be fabulous as well.

We can fly direct DFW to Madrid on those dates - for the same amount of miles in "economy plus" .... it will really shave some of the tedious aspect of the travel off the trip and I think she would have a marvelous time in Spain for two weeks as well...

So we shall see... will update! I have till July 1 to decide...

What would YOU do?
Momddtravel2 is offline  
Jun 27th, 2013, 01:21 PM
  #20  
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I just wanted to say thank you - I spoke with DD and she is in agreement that Spain with direct flights in and out of Madrid to DFW will make for a better trip and Italy will be there for another time.
So... spain it is!
Momddtravel2 is offline  

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