Itinerary Plea - 14 nights, first trip

Sep 6th, 2016, 07:19 AM
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Join Date: May 2016
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Itinerary Plea - 14 nights, first trip

I'm planning our first trip to Italy - "our" meaning myself, 13 yr old son and possibly husband. Dates are firm - mid March, and coming from one night in Paris (quick dr. appt.), flying from Paris to save time. 14 nights sounds like a decent amount of time, until you look at all the places you want to see! Priorities are food, neighborhoods, atmosphere with a reasonable amount of art and churches. Son has way more interest in Italian food than Italian art, and I don't want to make this a Bataan death march of churches.

My thoughts so far are:
Fly into Venice. 3 nights.
Train to Florence. 2 nights (more to get a taste for it than to see every single thing; hence only 2 nts.)
Train out of Florence, pick up car someplace manageable. Would like to see Siena, Montalcino, not sure what else. 4 nights roaming around?
Then to Rome - drive part way, hop on a train? 5 nights Rome?

I'm somewhat bothered by only going to the obvious places, but since this is a first trip, I think perhaps this approach works best? I skipped Cinque Terre because we are not hikers. At all. We love trains and boats, though. I'm sad to miss Amalfi, but am thinking that's a second trip - Amalfi, Puglia, Sicily, etc.

Would greatly appreciate input on all of the above - am I on the right track, wrong track, too much time, not enough, best way to attack Tuscany, etc. I find we have the best time when we wander around and only do one or two monuments/museums/cultural things per day. In Paris, we like sitting in cafes and watching all the dogs go by, and in Scotland we loved driving around Skye, baaing at the sheep! Sad, but true.

Thank you in advance for any advice you can offer. Realize the weather might not be great, but will do almost anything to avoid crowds and oppressive heat.
aliprowl is offline  
Sep 6th, 2016, 08:52 AM
Join Date: Dec 2008
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You're smart not to try to see too much in a day. Two "big things" plus lots of wandering around works best. You're on the right track for what to see. Venice, Florence, Rome are "obvious" because they are the top things to see in Italy, and you don't really have the time to see Napoli and Amalfi

I'd spend one more nite in Florence and take it from Rome or the Tuscan countryside. Two nites only gives you one full day and Florence has too much to see and do for just one day.

You might try a Medici villa in the Tuscan countryside, and Lucca is also worth a look.

Bon viaggio!
dwdvagamundo is offline  
Sep 6th, 2016, 08:56 AM
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Forgot to mention Bologna as a possible trip outside Florence. Allegedly the best food in Italy--which is the best country on earth for food.
dwdvagamundo is offline  
Sep 6th, 2016, 09:03 AM
Join Date: Oct 2013
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The basic itinerary sounds fine to me. I suggest you get your son a good guide book, and let him help plan the more detailed itinerary. The DK Eyewitness Guides are good for trip planning, because they have lots of photos, which are helpful in deciding what you want to see. They also have, at least in my rather old edition, a few pages about the regional food specialties, in the section for each region.

Your son might enjoy a cooking class or a food tour. Does he have a serious interest in Italian cuisine, or is it just a pizza-and-pasta interest? Are there other things that interest you and your son? After all, there aren't many lambs in those big cities, and the dogs aren't much different from those in Paris.

If you don't care much for museums, I would skip all the big famous ones, which tend to be extremely crowded and tiring. I'm going to recommend some gems that don't get overwhelmed with tourists, but which are ideal for people who like their art in small doses and in charming settings.

In Venice, the Ca'Rezzonico is a beautiful palace, with a nice display of art, including a few by the Venetian artist, Tiepolo. The Scuola Grande di San Rocco was a sort of Renaissance equivalent of a Rotary club hall, nicely decorated with many paintings by the famous Venetian artist, Tintoretto. You might want to go to the top of the Bell Tower in piazza San Marco, to get a great view. If you have time, take the vaporetto to Burano or Murano, or both. Your son might enjoy seeing a glass workshop on Murano. Burano is just charming.

In Florence, San Marco is a former monastery, now a museum, with the monks' cells decorated with frescoes by the great Beato Angelico (often called Fra Angelico in English). The Duomo should be seen from the outside, but it's not worth lining up to see the inside when you have so little time. It's certainly worth going inside the Baptistery to see the medieval golden mosaics on the inside of the dome. Very near the train station, the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella has two beautiful cloisters, and some masterpieces of Renaissance art inside the church. The Tornabuoni Chapel was frescoed by the Ghirlandaio workshop when Michelangelo was a young apprentice there. It's thought he painted one of the figures in the foreground.

In Rome, the Galleria Doria Pamphilj is sure to appeal to people who aren't really all that into art. It has the family's art collection on the walls, including some masterpieces and some totally forgettable works, but the real draw is the palace itself. The Villa Farnesina is another place likely to please you, a Renaissance villa set in a beautiful garden, with some rooms frescoed by Raphael. I would avoid the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, which is horrendously crowded most of the time.

Ostia Antica is a great visit when you're in Rome. It's the ancient Roman sea port, with many intact buildings. You can stand behind the bar in an ancient Roman tavern. You can see an ancient Roman public toilet, with intact seats. There's a channel in the floor in front of the seats. In ancient times, sea water ran in this channel. As you entered the facility, you picked up a sea sponge on a stick. When you had done your business, you wet the sponge in the sea water, and, after using it, you deposited it in a basin on the way out.

Other places worth visiting are:

the Leonardo da Vinci museum, with many working models, some hands-on, of the great man's inventions.

The Domus Romana, near the Roman Forum, which has a great sound and light show that illustrates how the ancient Roman house probably looked in its prime.

Castel Sant'Angelo, the mausoleum of the Emperor Hadrian, which was fortified by one of the early popes and used as a refuge during some of the barbarian invasions.

The Villa Borghese park, where you can rent bikes or go-karts or all sorts of other means of transport. There's a little lake in the park, with boats, and a zoo.

The Corsini Gallery is a small museum, across the street from the Villa Farnesina, which has many great masterpieces, but which you could easily see in less than an hour.

Your son might enjoy a day trip to Orvieto, a beautiful Umbrian hill town. It's easily reached by train, after which you take a funicular railway up the hill to the town. You should see the beautiful Italian Gothic Duomo, which is worth going inside, although, of course, you could skip that. There are tours of Underground Orvieto that are supposed to be interesting, although I haven't done that tour. St. Patrick's well, with its double helix staircase is interesting; it was designed so that the mules who carried water to the surface could go up the gradual incline without being distracted by their brother mules going in the other direction.
bvlenci is online now  
Sep 6th, 2016, 09:15 AM
Join Date: Oct 2008
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Ostia Antica is very easy to get to by train from Rome.After visiting Ostia Antica we got back on the train and went another stop to the beach area. We walked along the beach, ate gelato, and had a lovely afternoon. BTW, the cafeteria on the grounds of OA was surprisingly good.
dro is offline  
Sep 6th, 2016, 10:20 AM
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having taken our then teenage very food orientated son to Italy on a number of occasions , I'll try to recall some of the highlights:

in Venice, the spaghetti con seppia e il suo tinto [spaghetti with squid and its ink, be prepared for black lips!], the tiny deep fried crabs called "Molche" available only I think in the spring, the restaurant somewhere in Dorsoduro that served him huge plate of meat swimming in a sea of polenta, and endless gelati.

In Florence, we eshued the tripe dishes, but very much enjoyed spremuta d'arancia [freshly squeezed orange juice, preferably from blood oranges] the huge steaks, great cornetti for breakfast, and virtually all the offerings at the cafe in the Mercato San Ambroglio which is near Santa Croce.

In Rome, the pizzas, wonderful fiori fruity [deep fried courgette flowers] veal escallop in a bun for lunch, a great lunchtime buffet in a little restaurant on the Corso Vittorio Emanuale which served amongst other thing, stewed chicken gizzards, grilled lamb chops, saltimbocca, [veal cooked with prosciutto and sage] and much, much more.
annhig is offline  
Sep 6th, 2016, 10:22 AM
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oh yes, in Orvieto we had a wonderful past dish with long flat ribbons of pasta served with rabbit - delicious.
annhig is offline  
Sep 6th, 2016, 12:22 PM
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If your son likes food, the best thing we did by far in Italy was a food tour through Walks of Italy. You can read our report here: and the company website is here:
MonicaRichards is online now  
Sep 6th, 2016, 12:40 PM
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I am overwhelmed by all this incredibly generous, thoughtful advice. Thank you all! I wondered about a cooking class and think it might be just the ticket; also will look into the food tours. He is a very adventurous eater! He's also very interested in history generally and Roman history specifically, so all of this is very, very helpful. I will digest and peruse (and likely revert with more questions!)
aliprowl is offline  
Sep 6th, 2016, 02:25 PM
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Our recent trip to Italy (first visit) with teens was a fabulous holiday, and some general observations about our boys' preferences... not too much moving of bases, sleeping in, minimise queues. They enjoyed all our destinations, but especially loved Florence and Volterra (I did a TR if you are interested). I think Florence works so well as a longer base, and there are daytrips accessible by train or bus that would give you a taste of smaller towns (loved Lucca). The boys like eating too, and we only had 1 forgettable meal in our month away. The smaller food produce markets are wonderful, we liked San Ambrogio, as with fewer stalls and crowds it was easier to talk to stall holders and taste test before buying, an enjoyable ambience. I had a list of 'possible' museums and sites marked on a general walking plan each day, but we ended up mostly just walking around, loved the atmosphere and architecture of the Italian towns,(stopping for gelati and coffee), how different it is to our home town.
Adelaidean is online now  
Sep 6th, 2016, 02:54 PM
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I like your original itinerary. You can't see everything. And March is not a good time for seaside visits, especially the Amalfi coast and the Ligurian coast. Most restaurants and hotels close down off season. Ditto the Italian lakes.

Florence itself is best for fans of Renaissance art & architecture. However it does make a good base for daytrips by bus and train -- if you decide not to rent a car and stay in the Tuscan countryside.

But I love the scenery of south Tuscany, Siena and south, wending your way along the back roads and visiting small hill towns. It's one of those places best seen by car.
Mimar is offline  
Sep 6th, 2016, 10:35 PM
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Actually, Ostia Antica isn't an easy trip from Rome, because it's in Rome.
bvlenci is online now  

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