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My ambitious itinerary for Italy with kids

My ambitious itinerary for Italy with kids

Old Apr 4th, 2017, 05:11 AM
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My ambitious itinerary for Italy with kids

I'm famous for booking my trips 3-4 months before we leave. So, I've just put together my itinerary for Italy. I've bought the train tickets, airline tickets and the first three nights in Rome are non-refundable, but everything else is flexible. What do you guys think of my ambitious travel plans with my husband and three kids (two teenagers and one 4th grader):

Day 1 - Arrive in Rome at 1 pm
Day 2 - Full day in Rome
Day 3 - Full day in Rome
Day 4 - Travel by train to Cinque Terre, arrive 2 pm
Day 5 - Full day in CT (staying in Monterosso, doing this for beach time and relaxation)
Day 6 - Travel by train to La Spezia, pick up rental car, drive to Florence, stopping in Pisa for the ubiquitous photo of tourists holding up the tower.
Day 7 - Full day in Florence
Day 8 - Travel by rental car from Florence to Siena, possibly visiting Volterra as well. Spending night at Castello delle Serre in Serre di Rapolano between Florence and Siena (maybe leave out Volterra?)
Day 9 - Travel by rental car from Serre di Rapolano to Venice, drop-off rental car upon entering city
Day 10 - Full day in Venice
Day 11 - Take high-speed train from Venice to Rome, arriving at 1 pm
Day 12 - Fly home at 9:30 am

The two things that I most want to do are visit the CT and stay in the castle in Tuscany, and my kids are totally down with that (we had first planned on three nights in Florence and doing a day trip to Siena, but the castle idea really appealed to the kids and any castle near Florence was REALLY expensive and not within the city where we want to stay.)

I had thought about skipping Venice entirely, and staying longer in Florence, or staying in Tuscany for those two nights, but Tuscany seems to appeal more to my husband and I than the kids. And Venice is such a fairy tale kind of place that I think they'd really be sad if they missed it.

Is this schedule doable or am I kidding myself?
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Old Apr 4th, 2017, 05:28 AM
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I'd say the itinerary is too ambitious. You hardly have time for any town, except for Rome. And with kids, things will go much slower than with adults. I don't drive but I remember that you can't really drive inside Pisa or Florence: there are lots of Limited Traffic Zones in those, and in Italian old towns, you risk getting a fine. Anyway, moving inside those cities, either by car or by foot, is slowly, it takes time see anything at all.

You want the ubiquitous photo of tourists holding up the tower? Actually it'll take you quite a while to get just that photo - there are thousands and thousands of tourists around, doing the exact same thing. It's not easy to get a good photo.

I'd skip Venice this time, or Cinque Terre. You said you most want to do CT and stay in the castle in Tuscany. Then your stay in Rome is non-refundable. So you already get 3 must-things in your short trip. Adding in another must (Venice) will crowd your itinerary too much.
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Old Apr 4th, 2017, 05:51 AM
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I would skip Venice entirely. I would also not sleep in Florence since Siena is far nicer. You can visit Florence as an easy day-trip from Siena.

For future reference, you should fly into one city and out of another on this type of itinerary. In this instance it would have been far more efficient to fly into Rome and out of Milan or Venice (or vice versa). Something like this would have been a bit more efficient use of your 11 nights:

Rome - 3 nights
Hill town in Tuscany or Umbria - 3 nights
Cinque Terre - 2 nights
Venice - 3 nights

This way there would be no wasted day having to back-track to Rome.
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Old Apr 4th, 2017, 06:08 AM
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It sure wouldn't work for me. I'd have booked an open-jaw ticket and skipped Venice and definitely Pisa if all you want to do is take that corny picture, which will waste hours. I also wouldn't have rented a car, as it's surely just going to be a liability.
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Old Apr 4th, 2017, 07:17 AM
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Interesting, maybe we'll just do the train from Monterosso to Florence and skip Pisa entirely. My husband and I have been there, did it on a quick stop during a tour at port from a cruise ship, and found it completely boring. The only thing making me want to do it is because the kids have said they'd like to tell their friends they saw the leaning tower of Pisa.

We will only have a rental car for three days of our trip, so very minimal. We will park it in Florence - parking is included in our lodging - and not use it again until we leave Florence. So while we're paying for the rental those two days, we are saving about the same on train costs so it balances out.

I can't throw Venice out since I've paid 200 euros in non-refundable train tickets. The only thing I could really do would be stay in the Siena area the entire time and skip Florence.

Hmmmm....I'll have to tinker...
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Old Apr 4th, 2017, 07:18 AM
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Or we could stay an extra day in the CT and then one more night in the castle between Florence and Siena. Thereby eliminating one hotel switch, and making it more relaxing in both Tuscany and the CT.
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Old Apr 4th, 2017, 07:29 AM
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Where in the US are you from? Your itinerary IS ambitious and Italy will be more than a bit warm in the summer.

Venice can be better in fairy tales than reality - it will be hot, crowded and potentially a bit fragrant (and not floral). It can also be really neat.

Thinking you should skip the CT leg if Venice is a must and expand both Venice and Tuscany. You're going to need down time later in the trip.
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Old Apr 4th, 2017, 08:15 AM
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BigRuss, we live in the southern US so we're used to warm, humid temperatures in the summer. I was in Italy in late August last year and it felt pretty much like home - humid and in the low to mid 90's the entire time.

I'm thinking the only thing financially that makes sense at this point is skipping the Florence leg. My teenaged daughter has begged for beachtime, so she'll get that in CT, since we're staying in Monterosso, and I've already bought our non-refundable train tickets from Rome to the CT.
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Old Apr 4th, 2017, 08:15 AM
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Kind of too bad you have the non-refundable in Rome at the beginning. Otherwise, would have gone straight away to Sienna or Venice, but you work with what you have. Maybe better with the kids after a long flight to settle in anyway, but for next trip, It is usually better to put all time in your departure city at the end of the trip, saves checking into and out of another hotel.

Castle idea is nice, but you are just sleeping there and no time to enjoy it much, unless you allow for a bit of down time. No point paying to stay in a wonderful place if you spend no time there. With five people, avoid one night stays if at all possible.

You said Cinque Terre is a must, but is that because you want to see the area or just for the beach time? If just for beach time, there are other beaches that you could do easily. The Lido in Venice and there are beaches a few minutes from Rome.

Now, have to say, there is absolutely no way I would do your trip in basically 10 days on the ground! I would skip the CT. However, if you must, possibly. . . .

Day 1, arrive Rome
Day 2, Rome
Day 3, Rome
Day 4, rent car, travel to castle in Sienna, Sienna in afternoon and evening.
Day 5, Day trip to Florence by bus (no car) or relax at the castle, maybe one short trip to another town.
Day 6, drive to CT with a stop in Pisa
Day 7, CT
Day 8, drive to Venice (rather long and boring) or drop car and take train to Venice
Day 9, Venice
Day 10, Venice
Day 11, train to Rome
Day 12, depart

This gives you
3 nts. Rome
2 nts Sienna area
2 nts CT
3 nts Venice
1 nt Rome

I suggest instead skipping CT and adding a nt to Rome (beach day) and a nt in Sienna and doing a day trip to other towns in Tuscany.

3 nts Rome
3 nts Sienna area
3 nts Venice
2 nts Rome

You could also go straight to Venice by train from Rome after the three nts in Rome, and work your way back. Doesn't matter much. Depends on hotels, etc.

3 nts Rome
3 nts Venice
3 nts Sienna area
2 nts Rome

We never rent a car in Italy. The only day you have that would be easier by car than by train is the day from Rome to Sienna. With five people it might be better, but with five people and luggage, you will need something a bit larger than sub compact. I would consider doing without a car, if at all possible.

Arriving in Venice by train is a lovely experience.
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Old Apr 4th, 2017, 08:20 AM
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Sorry, I missed that you had already purchased train tickets from Rome to CT and from Venice to Rome. Little flexibility left.
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Old Apr 4th, 2017, 09:35 AM
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Hi Sassafras, well, my tickets from Rome to the CT were only about 80 euros, so I could let those go if it makes more sense to do Tuscany first. They're non-refundable, but they are exchangeable but only for the same route.

And yes, I wish I'd booked Rome-Venice as my flight cities. I found an Expedia package deal that was RT to Rome, and included the first three nights hotel for just $775 per person for my family of five, so with that good of a deal I couldn't resist. Honestly, at I could leave CT out entirely, but the beaches in other parts of Italy look like typical beaches, and not anything unique. I lived in Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach in California for 10 years, so the only beaches I get anything out of are those that look like something special. Can you recommend any others in Italy to visit? The one near Venice looked kinda blah and the guidebooks I've read say it's not the nicest beach. I looked into the bay of poets, and that seemed lovely, but it's so close to CT that I figured I might as well go all the way to CT if I was that far north.

I'm busy tinkering with the trip layout, these suggestions are really helping. Here was my first thought, on how to do it without changing the train to CT. It leaves out any overnights in Florence, but we could still do a tour of the Accademia and hit the highlights en route to Venice:

Day 1 - Arrive in Rome at 1 pm
Day 2 - Full day in Rome
Day 3 - Full day in Rome
Day 4 - Travel by train to Cinque Terre, arrive 2 pm
Day 5 - Full day in CT
Day 6 - Full day in CT
Day 7 - Train to La Spezia, get rental car, drive to Tuscany, stopping in Pisa, spend night at castle near Siena - visit towns as time allows before arriving at castle or after checking in
Day 8 - Full day in Tuscany, visit Siena and possibly one other town, spend night again at castle near Siena
Day 9 - Travel by rental car from Siena to Venice, possibly stopping for 2-3 hours in Florence en route, or leaving out entirely. Drop off rental car upon entering Venice.
Day 10 - Full day in Venice
Day 11 - Take high-speed train from Venice to Rome, arriving at 1 pm
Day 12 - Fly home at 9:30 am
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Old Apr 4th, 2017, 09:41 AM
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was going to say my husband and I were in Florence last year and it was lovely, of course. but I don't know how much my kids will get out of it. It's very much an art-filled, culture-filled town. there are cool things for kids, of course, like the galileo science museum, but there are also plenty of cool things in other parts of Tuscany that they'd enjoy equally well.

I asked the two older kids via text if they were okay leaving out Pisa and apparently that really matters to them. They've told all their friends and Instagram awaits. Or Snapchat. Or whatever those crazy kids today are using. I want them to have some input, so I'll let Pisa remain. But yeah, my husband and I were so not impressed with it last year. So many tourists around, and dealing with the ZTL zones. ugh. We can make it a fairly short stop tho. About 10-15 minutes from parking to the tower, and then 30 minutes, max, for photos, and back to the car. So an hour's stop on the way to or from Tuscany, however it plays out.

As for the car rental, we only need that to easily get around Tuscany. But once I have it, it doesn't make sense to drop it at a car rental place on the way to Venice and pay for five Florence-Venice train tickets. Might as well drive it in and drop the darn thing off in Venice.
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Old Apr 4th, 2017, 09:51 AM
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I'm like you travelbug99 in terms of booking way in advance and also going to Italy this summer with our 2 kids ages 11 and 15. And I'm also ambitious as you are but it took a lot of sleepless nights to finally get it organized. Here's our itinerary:

3 nights in Perledo (Lake Como)
3 nights in venice
3 nights in Florence
5 nights in Positano
4 nights in Rome


Flying into Milan arriving at 10am and will drive straight to Perledo. Now that I've read some of the comments here, I think we'll just take the train to Venice instead of driving so we can enjoy the ride. I also made a mistake of booking a nonrefundable hotel in Florence and wished I hadn't but I guess it'll have to do. I've been to Pisa (eons ago) and I agree there's not much to see there but the tower and we're doing it as well for our kids! I heard this is something you could do for a half day trip? Haven't decided yet, but maybe a day trip to Sienna as well, but where do you rent a car in Florence? Originally, we were going to Rome after Florence and then our last leg of the trip will be Positano. But it turns out, the flight out of Naples is just way too early (6:45am) so I opted to just go straight to Positano and we'll take the ferry from Salerno since I heard that the view from the sea looking up at Positano is just amazing! We'll spend our last 4 nights in Rome and from there we fly home! I will try to pack lightly (yeah right!) to avoid difficulty getting on and off the trains! Well, what do you think?
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Old Apr 4th, 2017, 01:23 PM
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Gracia, that sounds like a fun trip. Your kids are similar to mine age-wise. I have three - ages 9, 14 and one that turns 16 two weeks before our trip. Bummer that I got him a passport and it's only for five years since he's still only 15 right now.

Sounds like you also did the same as me - ended up with a non-refundable hotel for a portion of your trip. I didn't realize how much that would lock us in, but at least it's Rome and at the beginning, and we definitely wanted three nights in Rome. And it will be four if you count the final night at the end of our trip, pre-airport return.

My husband and I were on a Mediterranean cruise last summer and absolutely loved Positano. We went there on an excursion with a private guide and a group of 8. It was just stunningly beautiful. I debated simply booking 5-6 nights on the Amalfi Coast to take advantage of the beauty of Positano, but decided that the low-key village atmosphere would better suit my husband and myself than our high-energy kids. It sounds amazing for you guys, tho.

As for Pisa, it's about an hour's drive from Florence, as per Google Maps. As for the tower itself, it's no problem finding parking in the proper area, outside of the ZTL zone, and it is an easy 10-15 walk from most garages to the famous tower. There are tons of people around, but that is what makes the photos kind of fun. All the other dorks around you, doing the same thing.

Car rentals in Florence - we are using Hertz.

Lake Como sounds magnificent. I've never been but that will be in a future trip to Italy.
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Old Apr 4th, 2017, 04:43 PM
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Travelbug99,

Sounds as if you have things well in hand. I respect that you are, appropriately IMHO, taking your kids' interests and needs into consideration.

You are right about the beach on The Lido. It is convenient and nice, especially if you are staying on The Lido or have extra time, but it is nothing special as beaches go. The beaches near Rome are nice, family friendly with restaurants, etc. but also not that unusual, just nice if you are in Rome on a hot day and want to relax.

I absolutely love Florence. If you were taking the train, I might say something different. However, based on what you have said, I think rather than parking (with luggage in the car) to spend a few rushed hours in Florence without seeing much, I would go directly to Venice from Sienna so you have an extra afternnoon in Venice to walk around and get acclimated and still have a full day the next day.

Since Florence is so well situated on rail lines, the kids would have easy opportunities to visit there on another trip.

Great memories you will be making with your kids!
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Old Apr 5th, 2017, 06:27 AM
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Thanks for the input!!

I know that some will think I'm crazy for skipping Florence. but it seems to make our entire schedule a bit easier. my husband actually complained that I was looking at three nights in the CT. He is NOT a beach person and he fears he'll be stuck on the beach for two full days if we are there three nights. Other than hiking and eating and the beach, there isn't much else to do in CT.

So I have now revised our plan a bit more. Instead of three nights in the CT and two nights in Tuscany, we will do two nights in the CT and three nights in Tuscany. That gives us leeway, if we choose, to get tickets in advance and stop at the Accademia in Florence on the drive up from Siena to Venice. I don't know if it's worth spending just 3 hours in Florence, but I've been to Florence before and while it's lovely, I could see my kids, by that point after three days in Rome, being a bit tired of museums and art and anxious to see Venice.

I think you guys were right - spending more time in each place, and getting to know the area a bit rather than rushing to the next city, is best. Even if it means leaving out Florence.

Honestly, my very favorite parts of Italy were Rome and the small, charming villages such as Lucca, Sorrento, Postiano and parts of Sicily. Florence was lovely but it was my least favorite of the places we visited on our trip last year. Everyone's tastes are different. Luckily Italy offers lots for everyone.
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