Please comment on my Italy itinerary

Old Feb 21st, 2008, 08:54 PM
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Please comment on my Italy itinerary

After talking with friends who have been to Italy and reading lots of posts here, I have come up with an itinerary that I think seems reasonable. I know we can't see and do everything in one 2-week trip, so hopefully this will give us a taste without too much running around. I still need help with the train/car decision-when and where to drive vs train. Also don't know how long it takes to drive or travel by train from one area to another, so please advise.
Here's the plan:
Leave from Phila May 14. Fly into Rome--9am. Stay in Rome May 15, 16, 17, 18. On the 19th, rent a car and drive to somewhere in Tuscany. Stay there the 19th, on the 20th, visit a couple towns(Siena, San G?). Take a cooking class for dinner. Stay overnite on the 20th. On the 21st, drive to Florence. Spend the 21st and 22nd there. On the 23rd, drive to Pisa or Lucca. Drop the car. Train to CT. Stay in CT 23rd, 24th, 25th. On the 26th, take the train to Venice. Stay there 3 nights, leave for home on the 29th.
Does that sound too crazy? I haven't even started to do hotels yet, or what to do in Rome, Florence and Venice. Figured I need the bones first. Please help. Thanks.
nwbniteowl is offline  
Old Feb 21st, 2008, 09:54 PM
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Hi there, owl --

I think you have a reasonable number of nights planned for each location. I personally would rather have more time in Rome vs. Florence (like you have planned). It will be rushed there, but other than that, I think you're good to start planning more in detail. The only thing I would consider cutting is your drive to Pisa or Lucca. Why not just leave the car when you arrive in Florence and take the train from there to the CT. You won't need or want the car in Florence anyhow.

Good luck!
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Old Feb 22nd, 2008, 03:59 AM
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This sounds like a very reasonable and enjoyable itinerary. Well thought out and looks like you have really done your planning. As with all plans, be prepared to change them if something special arises.

Most of all, have fun.

dave
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Old Feb 22nd, 2008, 04:27 AM
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Greetings nwbniteowl.

I recommend you not stop in the Tuscan countryside on the outbound to the CT, but on the return; it keeps the journey segment to Venice shorter.

Instead, head for Florence on the Eurostar(high speed) train (it's only 90 minutes). This avoids your having a car in Florence (NOT recommended.)Stay there for the 19th and 20th.

For the 21st, 22nd, and 23rd, head to the CT by train. En route you will go through Pisa. Stop there and either plop your bags in a locker, or take a cab (with your bags in the trunk) to the tower. If you travel light, you can just roll your bags around while you take a quick (exterior) peek at the tower.
Then grab a cab back to the train station and continue on to the CT.

On the 24th, train to Empoli where you can transfer to a train to Poggibonsi, and from there take a short bus (or a cab) to San G. Spend the night (magical) in San G. Note you could also choose to stop off in Pisa for your tower peek en route from the CT to San G.

From San G you can bus to Siena for the 25th. (It would be nice to have a second night in Siena if you can find it from somewhere - say steal a night from Rome, in which case you would take a late train to Florence on the day you leave Rome to have more time in Rome.) Anyway, from Siena you can bus to Florence (just over an hour) and there link up with the Eurostar (high speed) train service to Venice. (It would be wise to allow 45 mins or so between your bus arrival and the train departure.)

Needless to say you could swap things around; head to Siena-San G on the outbound from Rome to the CT, and then back to a stay in Florence, from which you depart direct to Venice.

Either way, you avoid having to mess with cars at all. Enjoy Italy.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2008, 04:51 AM
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I wouldn't pick up the car in Rome. I would train to a nearby city (Orvieto/Viterbo/Chiusi) and pick up the car. I would probably pick Chiusi because it's more convenient for Siena, stopping at Montepulciano and Pienza on the way. Stay two nights in Siena and then drive to San G on the way to Cinque Terre. You can return your car there since there is no point paying for a car you won't be using.

I would go to Florence after Cinque Terre. I wouldn't keep the car to get to Florence (do a search for traffic tickets received 6 months after returning for driving in the ZTL zones in Florence - 200-600E- ouch!). Your train from La Spezia will go through Pisa and you can store your luggage at the train station while you make a quick visit to the tower. I would skip Lucca. Alternatively, you could visit San G, Pisa (watch our for ZTL there also) and Lucca on the way to Cinque Terre while you still have the car. Florence 2 days then train to Venice.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2008, 09:31 AM
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Thanks everyone for your help. It's great to have such detailed advice and to know I'm on the right track. My original thought was to break up the cities with some other types of activities(CT, Tuscany)but it probably makes more sense to take shorter trips between the places. I am a little nervous about finding bus and train stations, knowing what the schedules are, etc. I know I can probably get tickets for the train from home beforehand, but that leaves no room for changes in plans. Is it necessary to get reservations for the Eurostar or the other trains or can you just show up and get on? I think I like your idea best, kybourbon. There will be 4 of us and altho my intention is to pack light, I don't know if I can really do it! Hauling suitcases around is no fun. In Spain last year the locker at the train staion jammed and I couldn't get my stuff out. We kept feeding it money to no avail. No one was around to help. Finally my friend gave it a good kick and it opened. We almost missed our train. So I am a little leery of doing that again!
So we'll take the train to Orvieto or Chusi, drive to Siena by way of Montepulciano. Stay there 2 nights, or maybe 1 night there, then 1 in San G. Really want to fit a cooking class in somewhere. Then go to Pisa on the way to CT with the car, drop the car, then take the train to CT, then to Florence for 2 nights and finally to Venice. I had an idea of staying in a Tuscan villa for 2 nights and doing day trips to the towns, but maybe that won't work this time. Hopefully we'll go back again.
Can you give me an idea of how long it takes to get from the following places by train or car:
Rome to Orvieto or Chusi (train)
Orvieto or Chusi to Siena (car)
Siena to Pisa (car)
Pisa to La Spezia, Ct (train)
CT to Florence (train)
Florence to Venice (train)
This may be a stupid question, but when we visit the little towns, how much time should we allow? Are there things to see or is it more just wandering around enjoying the ambiance, having a meal, etc.? I am more worried about overscheduling and driving ourselves crazy trying to fit everything in. I already know we will just be scratching the surface in Rome and Florence, but not sure how many art museums and churches my family(husband and 2 college-aged sons)will tolerate, so don't want to push it. Thanks so much.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2008, 02:48 PM
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The bus station in Florence is right next to the train station (thoughtful of them, isn't it )
Similarly, the bus stop for San G is right opposite the Poggibonsi train station.

For these buses you don't need to pre-reserve, you just buy a ticket (often just from a tabacchi, i.e. tobacco shop) and get on.

On the other hand, it's true it's generally best to buy Eurostar tickets as soon as you arrive. You can change the tickets (for a small fee) prior to departure, but yes, you do need to specify a particular departure time, and a car in that sense does offer more freedom. And yes, if you doubt you can pack light, maybe a car is better.

However, I suggest you allow lots of time to find parking, not to mention finding your way around. And beware, beware, driving in forbidden areas in places like Florence - you WILL be ticketed, as others have pointed out.

You can find the answers to your mileage questions at viamichelin.com, it has a 'trip planner.' Just type in your origin and destination, it will compute estimated time and mileage for the trip.

So sorry, but I really think the cooking class is a no-go given your schedule. I can say this with some confidence because our schedule was about the same, and there was no time for cooking classes.

It's hard to say how long to allow for small towns. Your real challenge is always to find parking and to navigate the narrow streets.

Siena isn't that small. You can just wander or do sightseeing (e.g. inspect the Duomo,including the art treasures) as you choose. Or shop. It's a university town, there will be young people hanging out which you sons will appreciate.

San G is a joy to wander. There's an interesting torture museum (it's actually quite well done, despite the gruesome subject matter.) Definitely a change from arty things.

Enjoy your trip.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2008, 03:27 PM
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Many train stations have a left luggage facility/room instead of lockers. Orvieto and Lucca don't so if you plan to tour the town before driving on to Montepulciano, you will need to get your rental car and store your luggage in your trunk. Don't get things out of your trunk when parking as you don't want to attract theives. Leave nothing in view in the car. Click on the letter for a town to see which facilities are available at stations in Tuscany.
http://www.trenitalia.com/it/d7fbe2a...azione_a.shtml

Many of the smaller towns will close in the afternoon from 12:30/1:00 - 3:30/4:00 so plan accordingly.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2008, 06:59 AM
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You know, in hindsight it sounds like you really want that cooking class, so why not spend two nights in Siena (or wherever you can arrange such a class) and while you're attending the class, send your husband and sons off to explore on their own, say a daytrip to San G? You might have to give up something in exchange for the time you spend in the cooking class, but it sounds like it would be worth it.

I know, I'm sure you've thought of this by yourself! But I felt regret at discouraging you from something you clearly want to do.

Enjoy your trip.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2008, 12:50 PM
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Thanks Sue, I really do want to take the cooking class--but most of what I've seen require a whole day and I was hoping for an evening or half day, so have to decide what to give up. Actually we want to do it as a family since we've heard it's a good experience.
I did check out the viamichelin website and got some ideas of driving times. Later I will probably print out the directions when I am sure of exact plans. Next I have to check the train schedule.
Next thing to plan is places to stay. This is looking pretty pricey since we need 2 rooms. Any suggestions for Venice, CT, Florence or Siena? I think we may have Rome taken care of. Thanks.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2008, 01:02 PM
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Hi N,

>On the 21st, drive to Florence. Spend the 21st and 22nd there. On the 23rd, drive to Pisa or Lucca. Drop the car.

Why pay high parking fees + the cost pf the car in Florence just to get to Pisa or Lucca.

Drop the car in Siena and take the SITA bus to Florence - 6.5E 1:30 hr.

Take the train to Lucca or Pisa.
See www.trenitalia.com/en/index.html

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Old Feb 23rd, 2008, 06:08 PM
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Old Feb 24th, 2008, 08:59 AM
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If you'll have a car in Siena, Hotel Santa Caterina just outside Porto Romano was perfect. They have parking around back with a bus stop out front that takes you into centro storico in minutes. It's even walkable if you're so inclined. There's one guest room with a small balcony overlooking a quintessential Tuscan view. And the breakfast garden is simply stunning with a delicious array of food. I'd go back for that alone!
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