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My bucket list first trip to Italy

Old Aug 16th, 2017, 04:52 PM
  #1  
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My bucket list first trip to Italy

Hi Everyone,
My husband and I are in our 60's and going on our first trip to Italy. My first question would be about our flight. We are going from Tucson, AZ to Philadelphia. I have restless leg syndrome and I'm very concerned about the long flight. I'm wondering if we should fly to Philadelphia and spend the night and fly out the next day so it's not such a long flight or if we should upgrade to a premium seat, which is to my understanding, only a little bigger. We have chosen to stay in 4-star hotels and would love to hear of anyone's favorites in the areas we are going to. Also any fabulous restaurants on our journey.

We are going for 16 days starting with 2 nights 3 days in Venice. From there we are going to Florence. I'm not sure we want to stay in Florence but close enough to take day trips into Florence. If we did that, what town would you suggest we stay in that is easy to do other day trips from, plus we would love an area with great Mom and Pop restaurants in a quaint town? We will be in that area for five or six days and want to go to Cinque Terra for an overnight stay. We will probably keep our hotel and just pack a bag for CT. Is that feasible and if so, what else should we see?

From there we are going to Rome for four days and then on to Sorrento to relax before coming home. I know I want to see way too much but I'm not sure if I will ever get back. It is all those places around Florence that are stressing me out. Which ones are a must see and which ones are similar, that if we do one, no need to see another in our short time.

I know I'm asking a lot of questions but any part you would like to answer would be appreciated. Thanks in advance for your input.

Debbie
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Old Aug 16th, 2017, 06:24 PM
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What time of year are you going?

What do you enjoy doing and what are your "must sees"?
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Old Aug 16th, 2017, 06:48 PM
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Note that two nights is never three days, it is one full day and perhaps a few hours on two other days. It takes four nights to yield three days. Also note that one night is 0 full days. The is a case where less (destinations) is more enjoyable. Prioritize!
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Old Aug 16th, 2017, 06:57 PM
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Noted. We are going the last week of September and first week of November 2018. We want to see the big attractions but then want to experience the local Mom and Pop places. Open for suggestions on how to plan.
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Old Aug 16th, 2017, 06:58 PM
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Will you rent a car for this trip or, at least for your time in Tuscany? Or stick to public transportation for the whole?
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Old Aug 16th, 2017, 06:59 PM
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Sorry...first week of October.
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Old Aug 16th, 2017, 07:03 PM
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Mimar...good question. Open for suggestions. I've heard driving can be a hassle and a little scary. If it's easy to do, we are not afraid to give it a try.
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Old Aug 16th, 2017, 07:30 PM
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Note that star ratings in Italy are about the amenities available at the hotel according to a government-set list, not necessarily about how nice it is or how good the service is. For example, some of my favorite hotels in Italy are only 2 or 3 stars--the rooms and ambience are lovely, but would not qualify for a higher rating because the lobby is small or there is no conference room or elevator. And different cities have different criteria for each star rating.

This article gives a good summary.

http://italyexplained.com/hotel-star...hat-they-mean/
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Old Aug 16th, 2017, 07:48 PM
  #9  
kja
 
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I must admit that this itinerary is more rushed than I would want -- which may be completely irrelevant!

FWIW, my reaction to the realization that I might never return to an area seems quite different than yours: Rather than trying to see all the different locations I can (my take on your itinerary), that realization makes me want to maximize the time I have to actually see and experience the locations that I choose to see, while minimizing the time spent traveling between places. So I choose to skip some places entirely, even if I am sure I would enjoy them. That’s definitely a matter for individual preference, though, and of course, I can’t say what will work for you.

Here’s what I recommend: Get some good guidebooks (or spend some time with a few in your local library) and plot your wish list on a calendar. Each time you propose to change locations, pencil in your transportation, add some time on either side (for getting to/from your lodging, checking in/out, packing/unpacking, getting lost/oriented, etc.). (As already mentioned, each change of location can be "costly" as it is time that you will not have to see or do anything.) Be sure to pay attention to the times when things you might want to see are closed, so you don’t find that you need to skip something that is a priority.

For the Cinque Terre, would you be hoping to hike? Note that weather can prevent or limit access. If you decide to go for just one night, either pay very careful attention to the weather or be prepared to end up there with no option to hike. (Trails will often be closed during bad weather.) I visited the Cinque Terre during October, and faced a terrifying storm that forced the closure of the trails after I was on them, leaving me on slippery, muddy, cliff-side paths. NOT an experience I would repeat or recommend!

For most of the places you mention, public transportation should be perfectly feasible. The exception would, I think, be Tuscany, but even there, you can visit some places with public transportation. You can get a sense of your transportation options on rome2rio.com, but do check anything you learn there, as it is not sensitive to seasonal variation. And IME, the Rough Guide generally provides good information about what you can / cannot see by public transportation from Florence.

Do, please, consider getting yourselves a good guidebook or two! In comparison to the cost of your trip, the cost of a guidebook will be nominal, and you will have a wealth of information at your fingertips.

Whatever you choose, you should be able to see some wonderful things. Good luck with your planning!
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Old Aug 16th, 2017, 07:51 PM
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>>> We are going for 16 days

How are you counting days? If you are counting the day you leave AZ to the day you return, you really have 14 nights = 13 full days in Italy. Not enough full days to cover your 5 destinations.

>>> I'm wondering if we should fly to Philadelphia and spend the night

This is a trade-off only you can make. It eats one full day and if you compute the overall travel time, you probably shave a few hours.

>>> if we should upgrade to a premium seat.

"Premium" seats come in all kinds of shapes. Use www.seatguru.com to probe if additional expense buys you anything of value to you. Some are just regular economy seats with a few more inches of leg space while others offer what look like first class seats from three decades ago and call them premium economy.

>>> close enough to take day trips into Florence. If we did that, what town would you suggest we stay in that is easy to do other day trips from, plus we would love an area with great Mom and Pop restaurants in a quaint town?

It is a hassle to commute into Florence if you plan to do this more than once. Additionally, many restaurants even in large cities are "Mom and Pop" if you stay away from the main tourist corridors. If your reason to visit Florence is the Renaissance art, say in Florence. If you want to stay elsewhere in Tuscany, visit Florence once, and spend rest of time staying put or visiting the region.

>>> to Rome for four days and then on to Sorrento to relax before coming home.

Unless you are flying home from Napoli, if you do this, you would most likely end up another overnight in Rome thus reducing your stay down to 13 nights. One nighter into city just to take to be able to take a morning flight out carves away half day and one night from your already tight schedule.

A better way is to leave all Rome last if you are flying home from there. Go to Sorrento first.

>>> We have chosen to stay in 4-star hotels.

Are you presuming the star system in Italy to be like US? In Italy, it has NOTHING to do with "luxury". It has to do with facilities. 24-hr desk, on site dining, English speaking front desk, elevator, etc. qualifies for more stars. I have stayed in abominable snooty noisy 4 star accommodations with lousy beds as well a lovely 2 star places in Italy.
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Old Aug 17th, 2017, 02:50 AM
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"I've heard driving can be a hassle and a little scary."

The problem, unless you are talking about Naples or Sicily, is not so much the driving, as getting around towns.
Many cities in Italy have ZTLs - Residents only areas that aren't always well marked, but land can land you a €100+ fine. Parking is often a problem or expensive.
That said, the actual driving around Tuscany is relatively easy.
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Old Aug 17th, 2017, 03:57 AM
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"I'm not sure we want to stay in Florence but close enough to take day trips into Florence. If we did that, what town would you suggest we stay in that is easy to do other day trips from, plus we would love an area with great Mom and Pop restaurants in a quaint town?"

Pistoia
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Old Aug 17th, 2017, 04:17 AM
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FWIW, I think your draft plan is quite coherent and a good first stab. My biggest suggestion would be to drop the FOMO -- Fear of Missing Out -- and instead realize that it would take you more than 3 weeks to see everything of historic importance in Florence & too much sightseeing can actually diminsh digesting these things -- sort of like 3 small scoops of gelato is a revelation, while six or seven large scoops destroys the flavor of all of them & makes you feel lousy

Here's a possible fix:

Go to Tuscan & stay in a smaller town like Pistoia, Montecatini Alto nor Lucca. As soon as you as possible, visit Florence & take a guided walking tour "The highlights of Florence". Don't pick one that goes into museums but one that walks you around town. After that, you will have a very good idea if you wan to come back to see more. (If you already know that you want to see some things inside museums that need reservations, book them for the morning or afternoon of the same day you take a half day walking tour.)

Do NOT let guidebooks or people frighten & pressure you into the idea that if you don't stay in Florence & see ABC then you are ignorant or doing something wrong or "boring". Have the small town experience of Italy you seek because it is something to be treasured & a real eye opener about how to live happily & safely in today's world. Priceless!!!
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Old Aug 17th, 2017, 06:52 AM
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As previously recommended, you'll need to prioritize this trip, as hard as it is when you want to see and do it all. It would be worth the expense of staying in a city than to commute into it for day trips. The CT is stunningly beautiful, but since you already have a jam packed (tentative) itinerary, does it make sense to go there for just 1 night and count on the weather being good? If my trip, I would rethink going there and add that extra night somewhere else. You'll also need to confirm the exact number of nights on this trip, since that will make a big difference in how much time you'll have for any given location. If you're not familiar with driving in Europe (and finding an almost non-existent parking spot), don't add that stress to your trip, but rather rely on public transportation. Train service in Europe is nothing like (not even close to) train service in the US. It's quite reliable and can pretty much get you wherever you want to go. If you trip is this year, you might want to book hotel rooms asap. Also, once you've decided on what you want to see, consider booking tickets on-line so you skip the line once you get there, which is a big time saver. When booking on-line, use a credit card without a foreign transaction fee, just as you would in Italy. Get some good guidebooks, then write down what you want to see, allowing time for transfers between cities. You want your memories of Italy to be of what you saw, not the countryside of getting from one destination to another. With maybe 13-14 days, I would suggest not more than 3 cities to at least scrape the surface of each. Maybe you'd like to take a cooking class in Rome? That would be a great 'down time' activity instead of traveling from one city to the next.

Of course this is your trip, and if you feel you want to see and do everything, be prepared to be tired when you get home! Regardless, have a great trip!
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Old Aug 17th, 2017, 07:37 AM
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When booking on-line, use a credit card without a foreign transaction fee ...

I think it's more important to avoid dynamic currency conversion when buying online from a foreign web site. To do that, always choose to pay in the currency of the seller's country. That way your credit card company fixes the currency conversion rate, which is the interbank rate plus a small percentage. If the seller fixes the rate, you can be sure that it will be unfavorable. This doesn't depend on what credit card you use.

I myself wouldn't get a new credit card to avoid foreign transaction fees. I use the credit card that's best for me on average in all circumstances. Foreign transaction fees are just a small part of the equation, and in the context of what you spend on a holiday abroad, they're insignificant. If you already have a credit card without foreign transaction fees, by all means use that for purchases abroad.
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Old Aug 17th, 2017, 08:09 AM
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I was afraid we had too much on our itinerary and I don't want to be totally exhausted. I was looking at my sister's and three other ladies itinerary from three years ago. My sister was 75 years old and they went for 14 days total. They started in Venice(2days) then on to Florence(4 days) day trip to CT, wine tour in Tuscany then on to Rome(4 days) and after Rome to Sorrento and from Sorrento they went to the Amalfi Coast, Capri, Blue Grotto, Pompeii and flew home from Naples. They all told me they would not have changed any part of their trip, except they might have chosen to stay outside of Florence and went in as a day trip. They did a lot but they actually had some down time. It does seem like an exhausting itinerary but they loved it. I would not go to Capri or Almalfi Coast. They also did skip the line and did a tour to CT. Everything was set-up for them and the only thing they did on their own was on their free days.

I hate to take Sorrento off my itinerary but I think we may be doing too much and it would be best.

Can anyone suggest a really good guide book?
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Old Aug 17th, 2017, 08:24 AM
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As far as your flights... we also live in AZ and either fly to LA, Chicago or Dallas for international flights. Sometimes we fly from east coast to Europe and then we always stay overnight to break the trip and get rid of the US 3 hr time change.
We usually dly out of EWR or BOS but did one trip using PHL. Are you dlying into Venice and out of Rome? That would be best.
You have too much planned for 16 days! Forget heading south of Rome. After seven trips to Italy, we finally went south of Rome last year. If you go to Sorrento to relax, you'll collapse! Save Sorrento for when you have energy to see Pompeii, Naples, Capri and the Amalfi Coast, another 16 day trip
Give more time to Venice, you are hardly there at all. Just one day! Explore the neighborhoods away from crowded San Marco.
Our first trip to Tuscany we spent time in Florence and out in the Chianti. We have since gone i to Florence from. Hianri. We love Panzano, half way between Siena and Florence. You could drive to a parking lot on outskirts of Dlorence and take the bus into the city. Get your tickets for "David" now. Pther towns you might enjoy are Radda in Chianti, Castellina in Chianti, Pienza, Montepulciano,
We went to the Cinque Terre to hike. In one day you can take a water taxi or local train between the villages. It will be VERY crowded. You are going in high season. It will be warm and humid , maybe hot, in Rome so pack lightweight clothing.
You could stay in lovely Santa Margherita or Camogli instead and take the train to the Cinque Terre. Portovenere is also nice. Or Lerici is nearby the CT.
Ask more quesrions as you do his planning.Is this trip in 2018?
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Old Aug 17th, 2017, 09:30 AM
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Book Venice-Florence and Florence Rome far in advance to get discounted tickets - sold in limited numbers and can sell out really early- lots cheaper than full fare. Florence to CT is on regional trains - no discounts - no need to pre-book as no reservations possible. For booking your own tickets online: www.trenitalia.com or www.italotreno.com/en - for general info also www.seat61.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com.
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Old Aug 17th, 2017, 09:56 AM
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Happy Trvlr- I did not think it was that hot the end of September first of October.
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Old Aug 17th, 2017, 10:31 AM
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Re the flight. See if you can get on Virgin Atlantic and book their premium economy class seatshttps://thepointsguy.com/2017/04/virgin-787-premium-economy-review/

Also see if you can fly into Venice and fly out of Rome.

I like Lonely Planet and Fodor's for guidebooks. For the time you have and where you are going, Fodor's is probably the better one as it will have suggestions of all the top things to see and do in each place.


I also think your itinerary is a bit too ambitious for the time you have. Venice, Florence and some of Tuscany outside Florence, Rome--those are the "big three" and in 16 days, you'll have more than enough to see in those three places. Unless your reading of the guidebooks leads you to believe that you would not want to see those or that there is something else you'd rather see, I'd recommend that you build your itinerary around them. They are the heart of Italian tourism for a reason.

I would not try to do the CT. If you do want to take a day trip from Florence, Siena or Lucca would be better to give you an idea of some Italian cities.

Buon viaggio!
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