Need help planning trip to Italy

Jun 27th, 2010, 06:02 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 15
Need help planning trip to Italy

My husband I are trying to plan our first trip to Italy and are totally overwhelmed as far as where to go. We plan to go for 10-12 days. We for sure want to go to Rome. Things we really want to see/do include:

some art / historical sights
some Tuscan countryside and vineyards
the Vatican
lots of sitting in outdoor cafes and people watching

We were thinking about a trip sometime between February and April. The people we have talked to who have been to Venice say it is dirty and stinky and not a must-see, yet everything we read in travel guides say it is a must see and extremely beautiful. Other places we are considering are Florence, Amalifi Coast, Naples, Pompeii but we are open to all ideas.

As a side complication, we have an opportunity to spend one day and overnight in Paris(where we also have never been). Assuming it could be quite a long time before we are able to make another trip to Europe, would you take one day away from your time in Italy to spend in Paris or not?
Thanks for any advice.
melmcc is offline  
Jun 27th, 2010, 06:08 PM
Join Date: Oct 2008
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In March, Venice won't be dirty or stinky. Venice is not a "must see' - but if you do visit Venice, you'll never forget it. It's pretty special.
Peter_S_Aus is online now  
Jun 27th, 2010, 06:13 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 16,518
Save Paris for when you have a week to enjoy it.

Meanwhile, here are some Italy itineraries to consider. In that time frame I would stick with 3 destinations. In March you may not do much sitting outside--it can be chilly.


Here is an updated version of my favorite itineraries & my “Bella Italia” photo gallery. I hope you enjoy.

1. BELLA ITALIA: Five destinations in 15 days—car & train travel
* Arrive in Milan[MXP] & depart from Venice[VCE]or vice versa.
* Itinerary to include the Italian Lakes, Ligurian coast, rural
Tuscany, Florence, & Venice. Suggested timing is 3-2-4-2-4.
* Option: Drop the coast & rent a villa in Tuscany[ 3-7-2-3].
* Best time to go: May & June or Sept. & Oct.

2. LA DOLCE VITA: Three destinations in 12 to 14 days-car & train
* Arrival & departure from Rome[ FCO] or arrival in Naples
* Itinerary to include Rome, the Amalfi coast, and Tuscany
* Best time to go: Easter to end of October
* Option: Fly into Naples & stay at 2 locations on the coast

3. CLASSIC ITALIA: Three destinations in 12 to 14 days-car & train
* Arrival & departure from Rome—may start trip in Florence
* Destinations to include Florence, Rome & Tuscany/Umbria
* Best time to go: Anytime, but May & Oct. are my favorites
* Option: Consider a weekly rental in Tuscany/Umbria

4. SICILIAN CHARMS: Five destinations in 15 days—car travel
* Connections to Catania & Palermo via Rome or gateway city.
* Itinerary to include Taormina, Siracusa, Palermo & more.
* Best time to go: March to November—May is best for flowers
* See:

5. THE VILLAGE SAMPLER: My favorite venues for those who enjoy natural beauty and quaint, small villages. Arranged north to south.
* Arrive Milan & depart Rome—car travel-- 3 nites per location
* Itinerary to include Lago Orta, Castelrotto/ Ortisei[Dolomites],
Portovenere[Liguria], Montalcino[Tuscany], & Spello[Umbria].
* Best time to go: May to October for the lakes and Dolomites
* Option: Pick 3 out of 5 and stay longer in Tuscany/Umbria.

NOTE: These are only intended to be SAMPLE ITINERAIRES
bobthenavigator is offline  
Jun 27th, 2010, 06:21 PM
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Posts: 10,183
I would not eliminate Venice because some people suggest it is "dirty and stinky and not a must-see"—from your own research in travel guides and from the opinions of many here you will hear many opinions that are the opposite. You will have to decide how much you want to visit Venice to form your own opinion.

However, with just 10-12 days, and your definite interests in Rome (Vatican) and Tuscany, Venice may not be the most perfect fit for your first trip. Florence is in Tuscany and is a natural choice to add to your itinerary, though you could just visit as a day trip. February-April may not be the best time for "vineyards" but you can certainly explore the countryside, have wine tastings, visit small towns, and sit in cafes.

If you travel in February, you may the Amalfi coast very quiet in the off season, but Pompeii will be pleasant and less crowded with tourists.

From your expressed desire to sit in cafes and people watch, I suggest less is more. Change hotels no more than three times over your entire trip, giving you enough time to visit your historical sights and also pause and get to know a place. So your trip might be Florence-Tuscany-Rome, or Tuscany-Sorrento-Rome, or Venice-Tuscany-Rome . . . you get the idea

With so little time to begin with, I would be hesitant to add Paris to your Italian interests—it would have to be an exceptional opportunity to detour to Paris for so short a time. If you did so, then, again, I say no more than 3 hotel changes in your alloted time. So, you might do Paris-Venice-Rome, or Paris-Florence/Tuscany-Rome . . .
ellenem is online now  
Jun 27th, 2010, 06:26 PM
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Posts: 4,320
Hi melmcc,
We spent some time in Europe last year so here are my opinions regarding some of your questions.

Rome is beautiful. It is definitely a must see. You can purchase your Vatican tickets here
I highly recommend buying them ahead of time. The line to get in is outrageous. You will walk right up to the front of the line and show your printout to the guard. He will usher you in to go through security while everyone else is still waiting outside. Fabulous.

Regarding Tuscany: It is gorgeous. I feel it is better to have a car for a few days there in order to get the most out of it. Others will disagree but I loved the freedom a car gave us. There are so many wonderful little towns that public transport just doesn't go to. There is so much to see and do there. We stayed in wonderful agriturismo just outside Pienza. The best breakfasts we had on our entire three month trip.

I don't know why people say the Venice is dirty. We did not feel it was dirty at all. It is old...and crumbly in places...but that is why it is beautiful IMO. The secret to Venice is to get away from the crowds. Sure you want to see the top spots: St Marks etc., but please take some time to just wander the back alleys and see the real Venice. Late in the day you can almost feel the city empty out from the day trippers coming in on the cruise ships. Much less crowded and beautiful at that time. Of all the places we visited I long to go back to Venice the most. So beautiful.

Regarding Paris. One day is better than none. We absolutely loved Paris. Strolling along the Seine. Rounding a corner and catching your first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. There is nothing like it.

If you only have ten days I wouldn't recommend going to Paris. Too much changing of hotels. You lose a minimum of 1/2 day each time you change locations. But if you have 12 days you might want to. It will be busy.

For 12 days you can: Fly into Rome. You can spend three-four days in Rome. Train to Orvieto to pick up a rental car and spend a little time in wonderful Orvieto. Drive to your lodging in Tuscany. Stay in Tuscany three-four days. Drive to Venice. Drop off rental car. Stay Venice three-four days. Fly Venice to Paris. See Paris for two days. Return home. If you only have 10 days skip Paris altogether.

Have a great trip,
michele_d is offline  
Jun 28th, 2010, 10:18 AM
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Venice not a must-see? That just blows my mind--there is no other place on earth like Venice. It is a unique world treasure.

Yes, the buildings are old (duh!!!!), and, unfortunately, the daytripping crowds do scatter a lot of trash about, but this is in just the limited area where they tend to clump together. And you do generally have to walk a few blocks away from the most popular daytripper destinations to find reasonable prices and good restaurants.

But I would consider anyone who doesn't think that Venice is a must-see as having some significant mental, educational, or cultural deficiencies. That doesn't mean that everyone who visits Venice has to fall in love with it (and some people won't like it at all), but from any rational viewpoint, if any cities in the world are must-sees, then Venice has to be counted among them. And that's from all sorts of angles--historical, architectural, artistic, uniqueness, etc., etc., etc.
Paul1950 is offline  
Jun 28th, 2010, 10:42 AM
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Gee, Paul, tell us how you really feel!

The OP didn't ask for guidance on a travel life-project for global cities. I think what's being asked for is advice on creating an enjoyable. not rushed, not sighseeing overload, trip FOR THEMSELVES to Italy.

I have a dutiful sense about Venice, too, and I don't think anyone is denying it can be counted among the planet's and Italy's unique cities.

But the whole notion of "must-sees" to my way of thinking doesn't belong in a conversation among adults, and I doubt even it applies to children. And if it blows your mind to learn that other people approach Italy and travel differently, well -- that's inherent in the nature of travel. It doesn't have a single purpose. It's something individuals undertake and can shape to their own liking. It's not a template, drill or test.

zeppole is offline  
Jun 28th, 2010, 11:02 AM
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You wrote you have between 10 and 12 days and you want:

some art / historical sights
some Tuscan countryside and vineyards
the Vatican
lots of sitting in outdoor cafes and people watching

The Vatican is an almost overwhelming art sight, and if you combine that with ancient Rome, it sounds like you will have filled out your dance card for both the Vatican and some art and historical sights.

"Lots of sitting in outdoor cafes and people watching" says Paris and/or Rome to me.

Wherever you go in Tuscany, make sure you get a guarantee of heat. If you don't want a car, consider basing in Panzano in Chianti. With a car you can go anywhere, but you'd need a back up plan for bad weather.

In the Spring, Venice plays host to its Carnevale and other large events, so be mindful of those if you decide you want to include Venice.

Would I take time away from Italy to go to Paris? In the colder months, yes. I would eliminate Tuscany between Feb and March 15, and if the only time I could be in Italy was during Carnevale or the regattas in Venice, I wouldn't go to Venice.

But if your opportunity for Paris is only one night, I wouldn't go for just one night.
zeppole is offline  
Jun 28th, 2010, 11:09 AM
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If you want to do any outdoor cafe sitting you best head for the end of April - February will likely be way too cold to enjoy this.

I completely disagree with the characterization of Venice as dirty and stinky. It;s true that if you have a hotel overlooking a backwater at the end of a canal it might smell in midsummer (but why stay someplace like that?).

But if you only have 10 to 12 days seeing Rome and some of Tuscany (again April is better - in Feb the countryside won't be very attractive) will keep you plenty busy.

I would spend at least 5 nights in Rome to be able to see the most basic sights and have a little time for relaxation and then rent a car to see Tuscany. Probably stay in 2 of the hill towns - one further south and one north - to be able to see a couple of other towns as easy day trips. You could then fly back from Pisa - or return to Rome if you really want.

Spending one night in Paris makes little sense IMHO - given that your time is limited and travel there wold eat up a significant amount of time.
nytraveler is offline  
Jun 28th, 2010, 11:22 AM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,546
If you have the chance to spend 24 hours in Paris and you do not plan to return soon to Europe, I agree with Michele_d: "one day is better than none".

My first visit in Paris was for 18 hours, because a delay in my connecting flight. Even since then I was 6 times there (including one vacation of 15 days), I still enjoy when I remember this first visit.

Italy has so much to offer, just decide what part of it you want to visit, select there maximum 3 location, maybe 2 only and then come again in this forum if you need more details.
valtor is offline  
Jun 28th, 2010, 01:22 PM
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Thanks for the advice. I don't take any offense at advice given. Based on some more research we have decided to go in April. We do want to see the Vatican but are only going to spend one day there. We are planning another trip to Italy in the future to visit Northern Italy( the Lakes) as well as potentially Austria, etc. I know the idea of must sees is a little tricky but basically we want a mix of beautiful scenery, sights and Italian countryside.

Regarding a Paris trip, we would land in Paris at 11 am and leave the next day in the morning to afternoon and take a 2 hour flight to Rome. We will visit France again but we have many other countries that we are going to visit before we would go to France so it would be a while.
melmcc is offline  
Jun 28th, 2010, 01:24 PM
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As an additional question, if you had to choose between Venice and the coast, which would you choose?
melmcc is offline  
Jun 28th, 2010, 03:08 PM
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Venice every time in preference to the coast, but I'm a self-confessed nut case. I spent a little while in Venice - trip report is here:
Peter_S_Aus is online now  
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