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Itinerary Review before I start making reservations...

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Nov 22nd, 2012, 09:06 PM
  #1
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Itinerary Review before I start making reservations...

Hello! I've been reading through the forums for Italy posts, and using many of the suggestions, I've put together a plan for our 1-month trip to Italy next year. Before I start making reservations for hotels (that may not be refundable!) I wanted to run the plan by everyone to see if this looks logical and do-able.

The airline tickets are already purchased, and we must fly in and out of Rome. Mostly I'm looking for some confirmation that we're not a) missing something un-missable and b) spending far too much time somewhere that is not necessary. We both love architecture and ruins, enjoy art (but can get burnt out relatively quickly) and spend a lot of our time on vacation taking pictures.

Here's what I have so far:

05/05; Arrive Rome - spend 7 days in Rome
05/12: pick up car in Rome, Tivoli and drive to Pompeii, sleep in Pompeii
05/13: Pompeii and Herculaneum, Oplontis, sleep in Pompeii
05/14: Drive to Orvieto, (this is a long-ish drive, but we couldn't miss pompeii!), sleep in Orvieto
05/15: Assisi, Spello, sleep in Orvieto
05/16; Arezzo, sleep in Asciano
05/17: Montepulciano, Cortona, sleep in Asciano
05/18: Montalcino, Peinza, sleep in Asciano
05/19: Monte Oliveto maggiore, San Galgano abbeys, sleep in Siena
05/20: Siena, sleep in Siena
05/21: San Gimignano, Volterra, sleep in Siena
05/22: Chianti, sleep in Siena
05/23: Florence for three nights
05/26: lucca, sleep in Lucca
05/27: Pisa, sleep in Lucca
05/28: Cinque Terre (overnight)
05/29: Parma, sleep near Reggio Emilia
05/30: Bologna, sleep near Reggio Emilia
05/31: Verona an Lake Garda, sleep near Vincenza
06/01: Vincenza, sleep near Vincenza
06/02: Padua, sleep near Vincenza
06/03: Venice (for two days, three nights)
06/05: Ravenna, and the drive back to Rome
06/06: Depart Rome.

Do the 'sleep near' options seem reasonable? Anything we can drop, or should add? Are we biting off too much? Not enough?

We tend to be "up at 6, sleep at midnight" types of travelers, so I've tried to build in some down time to relax in the evening in a city we're staying in, but we honestly aren't "while away a whole day at coffee", either.
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Nov 22nd, 2012, 09:52 PM
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>>>Do the 'sleep near' options seem reasonable?<<<

No.

Asciano is not far from Siena. It's somewhat remote and not convenient for Cortona/Montepulciano. I would pick a Siena location and include Asciano and Montalcino as day trips along with San G, Volterra and Chianti.

Pisa and Lucca are easily visited from Florence by train as day trips (possible to do both in one day).

I would put Rome at the end of the trip.

I would start the trip in Orvieto. Spend the night and pick up the car the next day or pick it up at the airport and drive to Orvieto if you don't think you will be jet lagged. Pick a base in southern Tuscany (perhaps base somewhere between Montepulciano and Pienza) so you could visit Cortona, Pienza, Montepulciano, Montalcino and Asciano.

Next stay in Siena or somewhere around San G where you could visit Siena, Volterra and Chianti.

I'm not sure it's practical to keep the car the entire trip as you've listed several cities/areas where you can't drive (Florence, CT, Venice). It would seem a bit more practical to figure an itinerary that lumped some areas together where a car isn't necessary.
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Nov 23rd, 2012, 12:10 AM
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I would also put Rome at the end. In your case, you have so many days, so while putting Rome at the end saves almost one day (by not having to stay overnight just to synch to the return flight), it is not so significant in your case. However, I don't assume that everything works right all the way to the end. Why keep risks associated with a car, accident, theft, etc, involving time consuming procedures up to the day before the return flight when you could easily return to Rome and ditch the car many days earlier where such snafu would have no significant impact to the itinerary. While those with shorter stays might have to hold onto the cars until the end, in your case, you could easily manage such risk out of the itinerary.
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Nov 23rd, 2012, 03:16 AM
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Before I start making reservations for hotels (that may not be refundable!>>

is there some reason that you would not use booking.com or similar for your bookings? their normal "free cancelation" terms allow you to cancel without penalty up to 24 hours before your arrival date. [you do need to check this for every individual booking, but it is standard on those type of booking].

but before you book anything, get a map! as the other posters have pointed out, some of your choices of places to stay don't make much sense, and you will generally see more if you stay longer in fewer places.
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Nov 23rd, 2012, 05:02 AM
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I agree with everything that's been said so far - especially about booking.com for making reservations. Very easy to cancel if you do want to change things between now and the trip and they have a good selection and good prices. Also about leaving Rome for the end of the trip, although I've had trips where I did a few days at the beginning and a few at the end in Rome and enjoyed breaking it up that way.

You have a whole month and the only coast area you have is one night in the Cinque Terre. Would you consider a few nights on the Amalfi Coast. I say that since you are certain you want Pompeii so you are going to be almost that far south anyway. You could train from Rome to Sorrento (need to change to a local train in Naples) and spend a few nights in Sorrento and do Pompeii as a day trip from there. It's only a half hour, we were easily able to be at Pompeii before it opened when we did it as a day trip from Sorrento. And the modern town of Pompeii doesn't have a lot in terms of lodging and things to do so basing in Sorrento would be more pleasant. Then you could add a couple of day trips to Amalfi or Capri, etc.

You definitely want a car for Tuscany, and possibly also for the Veneto but not for Florence or Venice so you could either group things so that you only need one rental or else do two, but don't keep the car the whole time. Agree on doing both Lucca and Pisa as one day trip from Florence.

In the Veneto you are rushing too much to do Lake Garda and Verona in one day. You 'need' a minimum of one for each. Also Bologna is a wonderful place that 'deserves' more time. Ravenna is an easy enough day trip from Bologna. I've done three trips to that area in recent years, I guess it is becoming one of my favorite areas in Italy. Here are a couple of the trip reports which might give you some ideas of what there is and timing. Also a link to my photos - photography is one of the major reasons I travel. http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...-the-lakes.cfm

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...rful-weeks.cfm

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...d-budapest.cfm

In your itinerary you repeatedly say 'sleep near..." I'm not sure what you mean by that. Do you mean find a motel like place outside of a town center or do you mean you just haven't decided which town to stay in? Because one of the best things about Italy is the atmosphere in the towns in the evenings and while there are a few motel like places on the highways between towns you'd be missing a lot if you do that very much. On the other hand, parking is an issue in even smallish towns which is why a lot of people do at least a big portion of the trip by train so you don't have to deal with driving in restricted zones and finding (and paying for) parking.
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Nov 23rd, 2012, 09:06 AM
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as above and look at Ravenna to see if you can sleep in Regio Emilio or move that accommodation down to cover more cities
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Nov 23rd, 2012, 09:23 AM
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Some other ideas:

I agree that in terms of car rental, parking and being in/near cities like Florence, if you could group your big-city stays near the end, then you could get rid of the rental car, and take the train back to Rome. For example, if you could move Venice to the end, then you could drop your rental car in Venice.

Ravenna is out of the way in the itinerary right now. You could easily visit Ravenna as a day when in the Parma / Bologna area.

If you drive to Florence, visit Chianti on your way from Siena to Florence.

It depends on your interests, of course, but I would spend more time in the Cinque Terre.

For your southern and northern Tuscany pieces, consider staying somewhere a little further south (Pienza?) and a little further north, maybe even San Gimignano. Yes, it's crushed by tourists during the day, but at night, it's charming.
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Nov 23rd, 2012, 09:31 AM
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If you get burned out quickly on art, I would suggest doing a day trip from Florence to see Pisa and/ or Lucca, and add on your two Lucca nights to Cinque Terre. You will find its very photogenic, especially from the trails. Otherwise, I wouldn't bother going to CT for one night.

Agree with above that Verona and Lake Garda each need a day, especially as you are not staying overnight there.
Do consider taking the train for at least part of your trip, unless you are going to have a lot of luggage.

We did Ravenna on our way through from Venice to Umbria, but only had time to see a few things, as its more time consuming than you might realize finding parking, walking to and from the sights, finding lunch, etc. We were okay with that, but just know you probably won't see everything.
Ravenna is one of the places where you are allowed to take photos inside the churches. You cannot in Assisi.
After spending 5 weeks in Italy this past fall, and going with a packed itinerary like yours, I found that we didn't have time to really 'see' a lot of the places we visited. And some of the things I really wanted to see just didn't happen because we ran out of time and/ or energy.

Just saying...you can never see it all, and, know that you will be going back!
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Nov 23rd, 2012, 09:51 AM
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i agree with sundried that an itinerary like this is going to be very tiring, and probably not give you what you want.

I think that i would divide the trip into 3 sections - a week in rome [which i would put at the end] a week on the Bay of Naples, [where you can both relax and sight-see, and not need a car] and two weeks exploring the area between Rome and Venice.

my rough itinerary would look like this:

Day 1 - arrive Rome, train to Orvieto. stay night.
day 2 - pick up car and spend next 10 days or so exploring Umbria/tuscany.
Day 12 - arrive Venice, return car. stay venice - 3-4 nights.
Day 16 - fly to Naples. train/hire car to Sorrento. stay 7 nights.
Day 23 - train to Rome.

IMO it gives you a good structure to the trip, puts all the driving together, and means that there are no long drives, as you get the longest stretch done by an internal flight. you could book all the long stays, [and Venice] but with 2 of you, you could probably wing the 10 days driving, booking as you go along. you would certainly have plenty of time to consider your many options.
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Nov 23rd, 2012, 10:04 AM
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Thanks, everyone for all the info -- Definitely more to work through!

When I said 'sleep near', I meant find a base in a nearby town that was reasonable and stay 2-3 days, doing the wagon-wheel day trips out from that point. I'm not sure of the best base for some of these areas that is a good balance between central place to stay and not too much backtracking for day trips.

I've looked at booking.com, and have used them in the past, but we are also looking at apartment rentals in Rome, Florence, Venice. Some do have flexible cancellation plans, others do not. Just wanting to be a bit clearer on where we're going before I commit! I will look at the cities recommnended. I've had a few people suggest San Gimignano as a base for that area, for example. Looking at the maps, I'm just having issue pinpointing where a good 'central point' is for some of the places. I looks like shifting around a few things makes that clearer.

We specifically put Rome at the beginning of the trip -- knowing our travel style, huge cities are best visited early on for us, more energy, more willingness to just wander around than if we try it at the end. I've missed things I really wnted to see in larger cities because we waited until the end of the trip to visit. That's why we put Venice at the end -- smaller, hopefully more manageable. I'll look at some other options, though, thanks for the guidance!

DH and I have waffled on Cinque Terre. It wasn't on our "must see" list, and I am tempted to drop it from this trip (and ad d it back on a second or third trip in the future). A day trip doesn't seem like it's going to let us go more than perhaps take the ferry, do one short walk, and have lunch. Perhaps not worth it, since it's not high on our list.

I do know that a car is troublesome and unnecessary in the larger cities (and some smaller ones) -- but I'm losing the argument with DH about it. We have (in other countries) had a car across the whole trip and simply factored in parking costs in the larger cities as necessary. It has worked out (and is often cheaper, which is weird). I may not win the decision on getting rid of the car, he's pretty attached to it. We don't actually have much luggage, but we really value the ability to chuck the 'plan' and drive off to some little town that wasn't on the list because it looks cool. It has worked really well for us in the past (Scotland, Ireland, Scandinavia, Egypt, England), but Italy seems to come with more warnings than I'm used to.

I definitely want to drive around Lake Garda - I'll shuffle things around to give that a full day.

More info is better -- thanks so much for taking the time to comment, I appreciate it!
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Nov 23rd, 2012, 10:07 AM
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Thanks, annhig.

I haven't really considered internal flights -- I'll definitely add that to the mix, since you're right, it would eliminate an end-to-end drive.
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Nov 23rd, 2012, 10:26 AM
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Don't miss the Amalfi Coast!!!
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Nov 23rd, 2012, 10:29 AM
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One thing to keep in mind about driving in Italy, other than the difficult parking, is the ZTL's - and not just in the big cities. I read a post the other day where someone received 5 ZTL tickets a year after they returned from Italy and it cost them thousands of dollars.

Just something to keep in mind when considering your transportation options.
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Nov 23rd, 2012, 10:43 AM
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I wouldn;t go to Pompeii and miss the AC. IMHO worth several days - and you could do a few less in Tuscany. And I would definitely stay in Sorrento - which has a host of hotels and restauarants rather than in pompeii.

I get the keeping the car thing - we usually pick up when we leave the first city and drop when we get to the last, Know that in a couple of places it will just sit in a garage - but renting for longer periods is usually substantially cheaper - as well as not having the tsuras of finding places ot pick up an drop at specific days and times they are open,. Also - I will do almost anything to avoid sort flights within a country - IMHO a long day driving is always easier, more interesting and less aggravating than dealing with airports and being packed into child size seats (I'm 5'9" with long legs and my knees simply don't fit in the regular rows in coach.)
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Nov 23rd, 2012, 10:45 AM
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Carmar, we specifically opted out of southern Italy until the next trip (probably 2015). Except pompeii -- we agreed we'd have to see pompeii, and have considered taking the train down instead of the drive, but DH wants to see Anzio and Monte Cassino. Maybe we can pick up the car in Naples, though, and not do the drive both ways. I had originally included a few days in Sorrento, but we decided we'd rather wander aimlessly in Tuscany this time around.

We usually do a month-long trip every other year, and a two week trip in the off years, so I can shift things to the "next trip". Although, that list is getting pretty long, too. How do people with two weeks do "all of Italy"? I boggle. I mean, we are pretty energetic and go-go-go travelers, but I do want more than a day or so in most regions.

ekc, yeah - I've read of people getting tons of tickets for driving in the ZTLs (which often show up much later). I have a list of towns where they are in effect, and (hopefully) good suggestions for parking options in those towns.

We're not against (well, I should say *I* and not opposed to) train travel or buses, but DH is a bit harder to convince. We absolutely use local transportation in the cities, but he hates to be at the mercy of train schedules between larger places. At this point, I'm not going to argue, I guess, and try very hard not to do the 'i told you so' dance if he manages to get a ticket. The tradeoff is paying for parking and the time needed to find it vs the time dealing with luggage and trains and their schedules. I think for him, the latter is annoying while the former isn't. Not sure why.

But, considering that I pretty much do all the scheduling and picking of what to see when, and he deals with logistics, I ca probably let it go.

I'm thinking of dropping Arezzo off the list to be a bit more focused on southern Tuscany so we can find a central place to stay there, perhaps an agriturismo for a week closer to Pienza/Montepulciano. I'll also add another night in Florence so we've got a bit more flexibility and if DH is amenable, drop cinque terre until the N. Italy trip. I'd like to spend more time in general in the riviera, with a couple of days in Cinque Terre -- in hindsight, going a single day is just a bit silly.

Working on grouping Florence/Venice at the end to drop the car earlier, though. That makes a ton of sense, thanks!
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Nov 23rd, 2012, 10:56 AM
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nytravler:

> Also - I will do almost anything to avoid sort flights within a country - IMHO a long day driving is always easier, more interesting and less aggravating than dealing with airports and being packed into child size seats (I'm 5'9" with long legs and my knees simply don't fit in the regular rows in coach.)

My DH will thank you for bringing this up: 6'5". Coach is hell. We actually budget for business class seats for the international flights, because of that. Luckly, cc points add up quickly!

I think you've hit on the reason he is so insistent on the car, too -- rather than spend an hour or two in the airport/station, he'd rather be on the road and possibly stopping at something interesting.

I don't mind the drives, to be honest -- in the grand scheme of things, they aren't onerous. And, they have usually led to some of the most interesting days we have had on our trips -- getting lost, finding a tiny town to have lunch, hiking off into fields or seeing the ruin in an out-of-the-way place...)

We do have a long drive at the end of this trip (5-6 hours Venice to Rome) that I'm trying to swap out for a night train so we can just arrive in Rome and head straight to the airport to go home, vs staying at an airport hotel the last night (which is the model we've used in other places).
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Nov 23rd, 2012, 03:32 PM
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I don't know what route you are planning from Venice to Rome, but be aware that long delays can occur on the A-1 autostrada due to weather, accidents, or just plain congestion. So your 6 hours may be far too optimistic.
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Nov 23rd, 2012, 03:59 PM
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Ah, good point. We do have an entire day to get back -- our flight is not until the next morning, so we aren't going to miss anything.

I was so frustrated by the stupid rules around getting airline tickets with points, we just couldn't make an open-jawed ticket work.

This is, however, a good argument to take the train back -- leaving the car would be easy, and it would be less of a hassle to just catch an evening train and be done with it.
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Nov 23rd, 2012, 04:44 PM
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Taking a train back to Rome has its own risk -- sciopero. Here is what it is http://goitaly.about.com/od/italytra...g/sciopero.htm and here is the schedule of upcoming sciopero http://www.commissionegaranziasciopero.it/scioperoList.
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Nov 23rd, 2012, 06:20 PM
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I'm finding it slightly amusing that work-outages and strikes are planned out enough in advance to have a schedule.

I suppose this means allowing plenty of time and a backup plan if there is a deadline to meet with the train schedule. ie, don't have your only choice arrive a few hours before your flight, and be prepared to scramble a bit.
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