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Itinerary Critique - Road Trip in Italy - 2 Women

Itinerary Critique - Road Trip in Italy - 2 Women

Sep 23rd, 2009, 03:40 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2009
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Itinerary Critique - Road Trip in Italy - 2 Women

My friend and I are planning a trip to Italy April/May 2010. Our husbands are sick of travelling as they both travel quite a lot for business so they have told us to go on our own and have fun. Which of course means unlimited shopping, eating in great restaurants, touring on our own schedule and just having fun in general.

My friend and I have travelled to Italy before on trips with our families, but not together. We have both spent time in Rome, Florence and parts of Tuscany. She has been to Venice and I have visited Amalfi Coast (albeit from a cruise ship). The trip we are planning offers new destinations for each of us.

We would appreciate any comments or critiquing of our plans as they are not firmed up yet.

April 27 - 29: Rome 3 nights

April 30 - May 3: Take train to Sorrento, stay 4 nights, tour Sorrento, Capri, Amalfi Coast & Ravello using public transportation, water taxi, & private car. We do not plan to drive the coast ourselves.

May 4 - 5: Rent a Car in Sorrento, Drive to Siena, possibly stop in Orvieto for Lunch, then Siena 2 nights

May 6 - 8: Drive from Siena to Sam Gimingnano, Stay San Gim 3 nights, day trips to surrounding villages/towns

May 9-10: Drive to Florence train station, drop off car and take train to Venice. 2 nights in Venice

May 11: Go Home

We have managed to secure hotels on points for both Rome and Venice. We are unsure where to stay in San Gim & Siena, but wish to stay within the walls of each town so that we can walk to dinner. We have both spent time in Florence and do not wish to stay there. We fly into Rome and out of Venice

We want to shop for pottery, visit the outlets close to Florence, and visit a few vineyards if possible.

We want to ensure we are maximizing our time, but not overdoing it. We realize the say we leave Sorrento and drive to Siena will be a long one, but we are on an adventure.

We appreciate any thoughts or suggestions on our itinerary, places to stay, input on transportation etc. Thanks.
catsailor is offline  
Sep 23rd, 2009, 04:01 PM
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You should keep your car and drop it off in Venice.

But San Gimingnano is really not a convenient base for day trips. Unless you are very keen to see that town and that particular part of Tuscany, you might consider basing instead in the Chianti area or Arezzo (a superior shopping town), which would give you easier access to the Florence outlets and Impruneta, which is the central place for terracotta pottery, if that is your interest.
zeppole is offline  
Sep 23rd, 2009, 04:12 PM
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To be clearer, I would exchange Arezzo for Siena and a pretty Chianti town for San Gimignano.
zeppole is offline  
Sep 23rd, 2009, 08:20 PM
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We're still up in the air about Siena and San Gimingnano so are looking for ideas or alternate suggestions.

My friend wants to visit Siena to purchase some pottery pertaining to the Palio. She would also like to stay at Palazzo Ravizza as she stayed there back in 2002 and found it quite charming.

We thought about staying in Montalcino but don't really know where to stay, but through research I came up with Il Giglo - looks quite nice, couldn't find the room rates. We plan on spending 200E per night for accomodation.

We basically came up with Sienna and Sam Gim as we have both been there before. We have planned 5 nights in Tuscany. We plan on driving from Sorrento so are conscious of the long day driving which is why we chose Siena as our first base. In Tuscany, we wish to visit Siena, San Gim, Montalcino, Brunello wine tasting and shopping at the outlets close to Florence before heading to Venice. We don't plan on going into Florence as we have both spent time there on previous trips.

We want to ensure that where we stay, we can walk to restaurants for dinner and enjoy a few glasses of wine and we don't want to drive! That is why Siena and San Gim appealed to us. We have both been to each town before and know them. But it would be nice to stay somewhere we haven't been. But the criteria is to stay within a town/village where we can find some nice restaurants but is also a good base for day trips.

So with that said, would you still recommend Arezzo and a small town in the Chiani region?
catsailor is offline  
Sep 23rd, 2009, 08:30 PM
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I suggest you reconsider the plan to drop your car at the Florence train station. There's no reason to drive into the city if you are not even planning to stay there and driving in Florence is not likely to be pleasant.
MartaD is offline  
Sep 23rd, 2009, 08:47 PM
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You have a good point.

The only reason we are dropping off the car at the train station is that we are assuming taking the train to Venice will be quicker than driving. But we could be very wrong. Perhaps when you factor driving into Florence, turning in the car, waiting for the train, no time saved at all.

Would you recommend driving to Venice and dropping the car at the airport and taking the water taxi to the hotel?
catsailor is offline  
Sep 23rd, 2009, 09:28 PM
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I agree with the others no need to drop the car in Florence just keep on driving to Venice. We did this in 2007 and it worked out perfect. No need to go to the airport in Venice either. If you rent from Auto Europe, we just followed the autostrada signs to Venice and there is an Auto Europe office just as you drive into town. Parked at the curb, went in and dropped off the keys and walked across the street to the vaporetto. Very easy for our first time driving in Italy.

Sounds like a great adventure. We were on the Amalfi coast in Oct and drove from Rome to Sorrento, another easy drive. Have a great time.
txhomes is offline  
Sep 24th, 2009, 12:08 AM
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Given your friends desire to buy pottery associated with the Palio, I would stick with your plan to spend nights in Siena, and sample your Brunello there. But given your desire to go outlet shopping near Firenze, I would look for an alternate to San Gimignano, which will add a lot of needless driving on winding roads every day. No hilltown in Chianti is hard to figure out, many have wonderful restaurants, and many have lovely castles and ambiance. Were it me, I would prefer to stay at a highly-regarded agriturismo/winery with a great kitchen, and have my meals cooked for me every night by the same chef and drink Chianti (which I like better than Brunello). Some place like this, but there are lots of places like this in Chianti. Check out Tripadvisor:


It sounds to me like you are going to be acquiring purchases that might make hauling luggage up and down train steps a real drag. I would drive the car to Venice, and I see no need to go all the way to the airport to drop it off.
zeppole is offline  
Sep 24th, 2009, 07:39 AM
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Thanks for the input Zeppole and many good points. We only plan on taking carry-on's. Most items we purchase we will ship back to the US - ie pottery or large items. At the outlets, we are primarily interested in handbags, scarves, things like that.

A few years ago I purchased quite a lot of pottery in San Gim. For a flat fee they boxed and shipped it to my address in the US. It arrived intact 8 weeks later.

I will definately check the website you recommended. I like your suggestion regarding the winery. Thanks.
catsailor is offline  
Sep 24th, 2009, 09:31 AM
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Shipping back to the US is very very expensive. One bottle of wine is 15 euro's. If you are buying large amounts of pottery then you will have to ship. Otherwise take a collapsable bag with you or buy one in the public market. You can purchase bubble wrap in most hardware stores. I have had good luck bubbling and putting it in checked luggage. (We are in the Siena area for a month each spring and again in the fall, so if something breaks email me and I'll buy a replacement and send when I get home)

We have a wonderful Tuscan restaurant list if you are interested. [email protected]
jnjfraz is offline  
Sep 24th, 2009, 10:17 AM
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We took train from Pisa to San Gim. on a Sunday and had to wait an hour for the bus. You can do it but go on a week day and start early. For us, it was a good day trip.

We also bussed (city bus) from Sorrento to Amalfi and it took waaaay too long because of traffic (in March!). We never made it to Ravello. Hiring a driver will speed up things on the Amalfi coast. Verily, 2 cars can pass each other, 1 car and 1 bus can pass, but when 2 busses approach, someone has to back up and everyone else stops while this happens.

I never expected to love Pompei but did. Also, do look at train schedules-you can use that for much of the longer trips.

Have a spectacular time!
TDudette is offline  
Sep 24th, 2009, 11:24 AM
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In Orvieto be sure to visit the shop of Mastro Paolo near or on the Pza del Duomo. His work is a contemporary twist on traditional orvieto ceramica and is simply brilliant (emphasis on both words: the designs and concepts are simple and kind of timeless.) Read more at http://www.nytimes.com/1998/07/05/tr...f-pottery.html
tomassocroccante is offline  
Sep 24th, 2009, 11:27 AM
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We buy wine when visiting the wineries and have never paid 15E per bottle to ship home. Generally they ship a case at reasonable rates.

I was unimpressed with San Gimignano and would not stay there for any period of time. While I am sure it is better when the day trippers are gone, I suspect it is just as purely tourist oriented for overnight stays, just not as crowded.
kfusto is offline  
Sep 24th, 2009, 11:49 AM
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Thanks for the tips. I will check out the shop of Mastro Paolo in Orvieto. Sounds wonderful.

In addition, after the excellent suggestion from Zeppole, about staying at a highly regarded winery, I am now looking into that rather than staying in Siena and San Gim. So I am looking for 1 that is centrally located and great for daytrips to the surrounding area.

I am finding that the drawback is that my schedule only allows 5 nights, arriving on a Tues and departing on Sun. I appears that most Agriturismos require a weeks stay starting and ending on Sat. I will pay for a week if required, but I can't really change my schedule.

I do have an inquiry into Montalbino, but if anyone has additional recommendations, please let me know, especially considering our schedule. Thanks!!!
catsailor is offline  
Oct 1st, 2009, 07:57 AM
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Update: I am now in the process of booking our stay in a winery versus hotels in Siena and San Gim, thanks to the suggestion of Zeppole. We are also looking in the Chianti region which appears to be a great base for daytrips. Again thank you!

The nice thing about this is we will have been eating in restaurants for 9 days and sharing a hotel room. We will be able to book a small apartment with kitchen and sitting area, along with 2 bedrooms/2bathrooms to give us a little space. Not to mention a break from eating every meal in a restaurant is we so choose. Again great recommendation!
catsailor is offline  
Oct 1st, 2009, 02:06 PM
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Good! You really can weary of the requirements of Italian restaurant eating, plus the inordinate amount of time it takes to get the bill. I have learned that when I am running out of patience waiting for the bill, gathering my things and walking to bar or cash register produces the desired results, without frowns.

Have fun! Let us know where you stayed.
zeppole is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2009, 08:45 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 186
I have a great pottery suggestion:
I bought a piece at their shop in Florence near the car rental agencies (couldn't find the factory in Radda) and wished I'd bought more (it's VERY expensive to ship).

carolsc is offline  

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