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Need help with details for Spring Italy Trip

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I have an itinerary that I am dying to wrap up and finish with, but I seem to get stuck in the middle part of our 13 day trip to Italy with husband and daughter. It's during Holy week/Easter. My itinerary is below along with some questions. Hope you can help, which I am sure you expert travelers can!

March 23 Day 1 (Sat) Leave for Venice

March 24 Day 2 (Sun) Arrive Venice 9:30am
Cruise Grand Canal, San Zaccaria, Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, dinner and listen to orchestras on St Mark's Sq.

March 25 Day 3 (Mon) Venice
St. Mark’s Basilica and Square, Correr Museum,Doge’s Palace, Ascend Campanile (Bell Tower) (sleep in Venice)

March 26 Day 4 (Tues) Venice to Florence in the evening (sleep in Florence)
*****Should my hotel in Florence be in the center or close to station since I plan on going on day trips?
Frari Church Scuola San Rocco for Tintoretto,Ca' Rezzonico, Explore Dorsoduro,
****should I take the Eurostar to get to florence quicker?

March 27 Day 5 (Wed) Florence
Bargello, Duomo Museum,Church of Santa Maria Novella, Uffizi Gallery, Ponte Veccio, Dinner in Oltrarno.

March 28 Day 6 ( Holy Thur) Florence (day trip to Lucca and Pisa)(sleep in Florence)

March 29 Day 7 (Good Fri) Florence
Accademia; Museum of San Marco, Medici Chapels, market, wander, shop. Baptistery, Climb the Campanile., Dinner near Piazza della Signoria

****Here is where my indecision starts and these are my options. Want to know what are pros and cons to staying in these cities. (mostly Assisi/Orvieto)
Stay in Florence and take day trip to Assisi. (I know it's a little far, but less moving around from hotel to hotel)
Stay in Orvieto instead and take day trip to Assisi.
Another option is to stay in Assisi and take day trip to Orvieto.
Or from Rome, take day trip to Orvieto.
Or skip one of the two because it's too tight?
I have great admiration for Saint Francis and would really like to experience that pilgrimage feeling, but I've heard Orvieto is nicer than Assisi. I am wanting to avoid Rome for Easter as I think it will be too busy.

****I also want to know if around these days it's worth renting a car instead or taking a bus or train. Does that allow me to see more by driving?

****In Assisi, I noticed there are some "agriturismo hotels" that are not in the center, but very quiet and nice. Are they worth it with the amount of days I will be there? (if sleeping in Assisi and renting a car) Not being centrally located might take away some time for touring.

March 30 Day 8 (Sat) Florence to Assisi? Or Orvieto?

March31 Day 9 (Easter Sun) Depends on recommendations I get. (Sleep in Assisi)

April 1 Day 10 (Mon) Assisi (or Orvieto) to Rome in evening.

April 2 Day 11 (Tues) Rome
Have to plan this day.

April 3 Day 12 (Wed) Rome
St. Peter's Basilica, Doria Pamphliji and/or Borghese Gallery, The cathedrals of Rome [any of the 4] any of the many museums like the capitoline, the Ars Paris, the national museum of Rome, the Baths of Caraculla,

April 4 Day 13 (Thurs) Rome
(sleep in Rome) SCAVI TOUR!!!!! Vatican all day today.

April 5 Day 14 (Fri) Rome
the Colosseum to the Roman Forum and Palatine
Then over Capitol Hill to the Pantheon and Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps.

April 6 Day 15 (Sat) back home
Travel home at 9:30am

What do you think? Hope it's doable and not too tight in time.
If you have recommendations as to best way to get from one city to another, please let me know. Thank you all!

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    Churches will have special Easter schedules. Don't rely on opening hours mentioned in guidebooks. They would allow only the worshipers on part of days leading up to the Easter.

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    Take a fast train these days from Venice to Florence. Your question makes me wonder if you are using a 2012-2013 guidebook. You really need one if you don't have one.

    You will have a very hard time finding convenient rental car offices that are open for pick up and drop off over the Easter holiday. For that reason, you are probably better off sticking with train travel.

    As greg has noted, you may have a lot of difficulty getting into churches as a tourist during times of Easter services. If you are willing to join the worshippers in the pews and sit quietly or participate in the services, fine. But you will not be able to walk around. Church staff will prevent you. Check to see if the Bapistery in Florence is open on Good Friday and if the Cathedral in Pisa and Bapistery are open the afternoon of Holy Thursday.

    If you are wanting to avoid Rome on Easter because you fear it will be too mobbed, be aware that Assisi will be mobbed, and it is a much smaller place, with everybody heading to the same sights. Hard to know what you heard about Orvieto being "nicer." It is a tufa hilltown with one spectacular, delightful cathedral, views, white wine and a LOT of commercial shops. It has a well preserved medieval core that some people find somewhat gloomy. Assisi is a world-class Renaissance art city and one of Europe's top religious shrines, it slopes up the hill and has pretty views and there are walks in the countryside, but it is overwhelmingly a destination for tourists and pilgrims. Shopping is related to St Francis and some people recoil at the commercialization and touristy atmosphere of the town.

    If you don't mind my offering an overall comment: Unless your family is exceptionally enthusiastic museum goers, and lovers of Italian Catholic religious art, you have planned some days of almost marathon museum going.. It would be beyond me to see both the Uffizi and the Bargello in the same day -- especially since both will be quite crowded in your time frame. Likewise, your back-to- back April 3 & 4 extravaganza of museum going would be too much to me, and I say that as someone who spends most of their free time going to art galleries and museums. As a teenager, going to the museum was my favorite activity. I think it would need to be your daughter's as well if she were even to remotely begin to enjoy all this museum and art driven sightseeing.

    If you all want to go for it, go for it. Don't let me stop you. But most people would run the risk that being indoors immersed in so much complicated mythology and symbolism for hours on end every day turned everything into a blur by day 3, and your memories of Italy will be of being stuck in mobs of elbowing people all craning their necks trying to see get a view of the same guidebook-famous crucifixion or madonna & child.

    Unless your family is going to Italy for an intense art tour, cherry picking a few art gems in each city might make more of a lasting impression. Venice, Florence and Rome were all great commercial cities in the peak days of their glory -- filled with rare food and wine, rare luxury goods, lavish excess, raucous public life -- all of which was in tension with vary strong ideas of saintliness and ideals of order. It is fun to take track down and pay attention to both sides of these historic cities, because a lot of that life still goes on very visibly in these places today, so you don't need to visit the museums to get why all of these places changed the whole world.

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    you are choosing to visit three of the most popular tourist destinations in Italy at the time that they attract hoards of tourists - you may live to regret this.

    i have been in both Venice and Rome in the week after Easter [in different years] and though Venice was manageable, Rome was pretty mad for the first half of the week. I don't know about Florence, but I can't imagine that it would be much better.

    and i agree with etp - you will need to plan very carefully to get the most of our this trip.

    I can tell you that it is possible as a tourist to get into the Easter mass in St. Mark's - and afterwards they open the basilica up to tourists again, so if you were in Venice on Easter sunday, you could certainly see the Basilica, one way or another. Also, if you go with the Rome option, I suggest going to the Colosseum and Forum on Easter monday - they are some of the few things that will be open on that day. and take note that places that normally close on Monday may well close Tuesday as well, to give the staff their day off. [applies to the Castel San angelo for example.]

    to find out what is open in Florence orver Easter [or at any time] go to the Firenze Card website and look at the timetable page - here's the link:

    for the Duomo, try here:

    you can book your entry times, even for the Duomo itself which is free [and closed on easter sunday,] but trying to book will give you more idea of the opening hours.

    good luck!

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    I have to disagree with annhg's experience when it comes to Rome at Easter. If you steer clear of the Vatican during Easter services, it is no more crowded than any other nice-weather month than you would visit the Vatican. That means the Vatican is packed, but if you have school-aged children, you will experience crowded conditions no matter what time you travel during school vacations. The rest of Rome has plenty of room for everybody. There are always lines at the Colosseum, but there are ways to avoid them. That's why you need a 2012-2013 guidebook.

    Florence is much smaller and people all want to see the same 1-10 attractions in the same small area. Choosing at least some attractions that a guidebook lists 20-30 can be an excellent strategy for seeing fabulous art and being able to appreciate it calmly.

    If your daughter has the patience, attending an Easter Service in one of the beautiful churches really shows off the church at its best. It is for just such religious celebrations that these elaborately decorated churches were built, and you get to see all the fancy vestments and gold and silver altar accessories that on other days are locked away. There is sometimes music and singing, and for easter there are always great bouquets of flowers.

    Reserve as much as you can in advance, and also have a list of "bolt hole" activities in case the family starts looking for a break. Bicycling down the Appian Way in Rome might be nice. There is a shoe museum in Florence. Whatever interests your family.

    You might also carry a separate map for each of your cities that has marked on it only gelaterie and pastry shops and restaurants and cafes, so that when simply must stop and take a rest, you don't need to walk far.

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    I have to disagree with annhg's experience when it comes to Rome at Easter. If you steer clear of the Vatican during Easter services, it is no more crowded than any other nice-weather month than you would visit the Vatican.>>

    etp, you may be right. I've only been to Rome in February [and am due to go back next February] and at Easter. I know which I preferred.

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    I agree with those who caution you about the museum saturation. The Uffizi is terribly crowded at the best of times but will be even more crowded at Easter. The Duomo museum, one of our favorites, is normally not at all crowded. Pace yourselves and spread the museums out a bit if you can.

    We love museums and visit them all each time we go to Italy. But your stays in these cities are quite short and there is much else to see and do. For example in Venice the Rialto Market is fabulous first thing in the morning; in Florence a half day trip to Fiesole is a lovely change of pace, ets.

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    Day 2 (Venice) - If you are going to visit San Giorgio Maggiore, ascend their campanile. The views are much better than the one at San Marco. I went last year on a Sunday and got to the church right as mass was ending. As soon as it did, we went to the line for the elevator, and there were just about 5 people in line (You go through the church, towards the back on the left).

    I would also suggest doing your gondola ride around dusk. Venice is beautiful at that time, and it saves daylight for exploring on foot. I have taken 3 gondola rides in Venice and much preferred the dusk one. We did it right before our dinner reservation from a gondola stand next to the restaurant.

    Days 5-7 (Florence) - You didn't mention Santa Croce, but I would squeeze it in somewhere if you have time. Michelangelo, Gallileo and Machiavelli are all buried there.

    Day 12 (Rome)- You have got several days worth of sites packed into one day, plus some of the sites, e.g. the Vatican and Galleria Borghese are on completely opposite sides of town. Be aware that you have to have advance reservations for the Borghese, but I feel it is totally worth it.

    There is actually only one Cathedral of Rome, San Giovanni in Laterano. It is a beautiful church, in my opinion, prettier and more accessible than St. Peter's. The other very famous churches, e.g. Santa Maria Maggiore, San Pietro in Vincoli, Santa Maria del Popolo, Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, San Paolo Fuori le Mura, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Santa Maria in Cosmedin, San Luigi dei Francesi etc. are just churches or basilicas -- but still very much worth visits.

    Day 13 (Rome) - I would save St. Peter's Basilica for this day since you will already be at the Vatican. Make sure to get your Scavi tickets as soon as you can.

    Day 14 (Rome) - You might consider visiting the Capitoline Museums on this day after you visit the Forum. You can walk up the hill (stairs) from the Forum to the top of the Capitoline Hill where the museums are located. There is also a nice vantage point over the Forum and Colosseum from there.

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    Thank you all. I totally agree about spreading the museums apart. I don't want to have a blur on what I saw. I want to also enjoy Italy outdoors, the walks, the cafes, etc.

    I don't know if I am still decided if to stay longer in Florence, day trip vrs. staying in Assisi, or stay longer in Rome even with Easter. I almost wish I would have picked my original date which was June 1-15. I chose March because I heard weather was better.

    I guess I will have to make the best of this trip. I have planned other trips by myself, but this one feels more overwhelming.

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