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Fast Trav Oct 23rd, 2002 04:51 PM

Please respond if you've done a whirlwind tour of Italy
 
Here's my angst:<BR><BR>I'm planning a 2-3wk trip to Italy which will be my first trip to Europe. On top of seeing the big 3, I would also like to visit the Amalfi Coast, Tuscany, Cinque Terre, Lake Como, and other destinations on my first sojourn. Sort of like Rick Steve's itinerary without going on a group tour.<BR><BR>But oftentimes as I'm perusing the wonderful threads on this forum, there seems to be a constant call for reduced destinations or that such and such region deserves a full week. You catch my drift. I do respect those opinions, and I sort of understand where they're coming from. But I don't want to spend thousands and to fly umpteen hours only to spend a whole week in some farmhouse with a pool in the middle of Tuscany (obviously an extreme example). If I want to relax and take it slow, I usually opt for resorts in tropical destinations closer to home. When I think of Italy, I think of its rich variety in its people, art, food, cities and natural splendors. If it's a crime for wanting to appreciate as much of Italy as possible in a relatively short time, then consider me a criminal. I'll try to relax a bit in Ravello, Siena and Bellagio but can't promise the same when in Rome, Florence and Venice. Besides, I can't predict if I'll ever be back because there's plenty of other cultures I have yet to experience. <BR><BR>So for those of you who have taken a grueling 2-3wk tour of Italy for their first trip, please help out those following in your footsteps like me by answering the following questions:<BR>1) what was your favorite destination on that 1st trip and why? or which place do you miss the most since returning?<BR>2) other than the typical posts (eg, pack light, eat plenty of gelato) what one personal tip can you offer?<BR>3) what were some of the unexpected pleasures that you encountered?<BR><BR>Thanks in advance!

xxx Oct 23rd, 2002 06:24 PM

Yup, cool out. I did Italy in 14 days in 2000. First three days Rome, then train to Florence for three days, train to Venice for three days, train back to Florence followed by bus to Siena. Rented car in Siena (Auto Europe) and stayed there for two nights. Drove through Tuscuny, staying three nights in Montepulciano, but visiting other hill towns. Dropped car in Chiuzi with train back to Rome for last night there prior to departure back home.<BR><BR>Actually, I put alot of thought and planning into our trip and was happy with the itinerary. Rome was a great place to start. Loved Florence...reserved admission to museums prior to departure, highly recommended. Venice...my favorite town, don't miss it. Lots of different opinions regarding Venice, but no other town like it in the world. Be sure to visit the Guggenheim museum while there and stroll until you get lost...not difficult! Don't knock yourself out on a great hotel here, if you're a real romantic, you won't be in it much, you'll be out strolling late night.<BR><BR>Tuscany is beautiful and promotes leisurely lunches and relaxation as well as driving into beautiful sunsets and wine tasting. Don't try to see too much ... you'll regret it.<BR><BR>

Rex Oct 23rd, 2002 07:01 PM

I am one of those many advocates for fewer destinations, and do it as "slowtrav" - - but I am more than willing to share the one trip that was a "mostly Italy" whirlwind - - and it was hugely enjoyable for everyone. But there were regrets too, and I will speak to a few of those.<BR><BR>This was the itinerary:<BR><BR>Day 0: fly to Newark, spend the day at Edison National Laboratory and Washington Headquarters, Morristown. Fly from Newark to London that night.<BR><BR>Day 1 (Wed): arrive in London, a full and long day sightseeing there.<BR><BR>Day 2 (Thu): full day in London<BR><BR>Day 3 (Fri): leave hotel at 4:45 am to go to Stansted, fly into Milan, arrive there around 10 am, one kid's bags didn't arrive; spent 4 hours in Milan - - Duomo and shopping; rental cars to drive to Venice. Very special dinner in Venice (graduation party) once we arrived in Venice at about 9 pm.<BR><BR>Day 4 (Sat): morning in Venice; drive to villa in Tuscany.<BR><BR>Day 5 (Sun): lazy morning; afternoon in San Gimignano (40 miles away)<BR><BR>Day 6 (Mon): shopping in local markets, to prepare dinner at home that evening, trip to Florence airport to re-claim the lost luggage<BR><BR>Day 7 (Tue): day trip in Florence<BR><BR>Day 8 (Wed): left villa at 4:30 am to drive to Rome, squeezed in Papal audience, Vatican museum, Colosseum, St Peters Basilica; back home by 9 pm<BR><BR>Day 9 (Thu): left villa; drove to Pisa, then onward to San Remo<BR><BR>Day 10 (Fri): left Italian cars at San Remo, train to Nice, picked up French cars, drove to little beach town.<BR><BR>Day 11 (Sat): stayed at beach until mid afternoon because we having a play day. Drove to Arles. Went to Orange for late night concert at Theatre Antique.<BR><BR>Day 12 (Sun): mass in Arles; drove to Montpellier; turned in cars, flew to Paris.<BR><BR>Day 13 (Mon): full day in Paris<BR><BR>Day 14 (Tue): half day at Musee d'Orsay, late afternoon flight to Stansted. Picked up cars to drive to Windsor to stay.<BR><BR>Day 15 (Wed): morning at Windsor; high tea and theatre in the evening; last night in Europe dinner (late night).<BR><BR>Day 16: return cars to Gatwick; flew home.<BR><BR>So, this is not all that much different than what you would propose to do. Did we love it? Absolutely. It was the first trip to Europe for my family altogether (each of us, kids included had been there separately) plus six cousins and two boyfriends.<BR><BR>They hated leaving Venice after less than 24 hours there. They loved getting to see so much of Europe. They liked staying at the villa, having five nights there without packing/repacking. They liked traveling by car - - but also by plane, train and vaporetto.<BR><BR>A whirlwind is NOT a bad way to see a lot of Europe. Just make sure you get back to Italy and enjoy it in a more leisurely way at some time in the future.<BR>

Jess Oct 23rd, 2002 07:07 PM

Hey there, I spent 3 weeks running around Italy in June/July of 2001 with a friend, so hopefully this will be helpful. We flew into Rome and spent three nights there. Originally, we had booked a supposedly 'quaint' B&B, but after arriving there (and after a miserable 2 hours trying to figure out the bubs system) we discovered that the 'B&B' was actually one room in a sketchy single man's apartment who was planning on making us breakfast. Now, had it been a family's apt, or even if we had not been 2 18 yr old females, we might have stayed, but personally I prefer my eggs unfertilized in the morning. At any rate, we went to the Termini and booked a 3 star hotel for about $30 each a night. The place was great, and best of all - there was an elevator. (On that note, if you plan to do a lot of traveling on trains or in anything other than a rented car, pack as lightly as possible! There aren't escalators or elevators anywhere, and trains run out of space very quickly.) After Rome, we took the train up to Cinque Terre, but had previously decided to stay in La Spezia because it was cheaper. BIG MISTAKE. The 'charming coastal village of La Spezia' is nothing but a dirty, smelly Navy port populated mainly by seagulls. But after the hike between Cinque Terre the next day, even La Spezia seemed worth it. But don't forget your sunscreen, because a decent part of the hike is sans any sort of shade. I got burned even with sunblock. Oh, and bring your bathing suit too, because there are publc beaches that are most inviting after the climb. After 2 nights, we snuck out of La Spezia at 5am and got on three trains and a bus to go to Molveno, a tiny resort town up in the Dolomites. After 12.5 hours of traveling, we arrived in the most beautiful town I have ever seen. The town is on a lake surrounded by mountains. The hiking was fantastic, although we were unfortunately too tired to do anything especially exciting. The strange thing (to us) about Molveno though, is that about 3/5 of the population is over 65. The rest is made up of various visiting professional rock-climbers and German tourist families. So basically there isn't a hopping social life, but if that's not a factor, or you want a break, I would highly recommend Molveno.

Jess Oct 23rd, 2002 08:13 PM

Sorry, I started having computer trouble. So the rest of my trip went as follows: In Molveno, incidentally, everything is in German, then Italian, and generally not in English. The town itself resembles the set from a typical movie set in Switzerland from the 1940s than Tuscany. This was a much appreciated change in culture. Well, and we got to make fun of the families of German tourists. Anyway, after Molveno we headed to Verona for 2 nights. We watched Aida at the Roman Arena, which easily made my top 10 best experiences. Verona, however, didn’t really impress me. Granted, I didn’t rub Juliet’s left breast for good luck, so maybe that’s why. After Verona we went to Venice, where I spent too much time in an internet caf&eacute; because everything else was too expensive. We stayed in a gorgeous room with a balcony that overlooked a canal for a very decent, un-Venice-like price. However, I guess I built Venice up too much before I got there, because I was a little disappointed. I suppose I expected Vivaldi to be playing in every corner of the city or something. After 2 nights we went to Florence for 5 days, which was more relaxing. Florence was fantastic. But I don’t have to tell you that, you’re going anyway. We took a day trip to Siena, which was, fortunately worth the nauseating bus ride. After Florence, we went to Urbino for 3 nights, which is one of the most amazingly gorgeous little towns I’ve ever seen. However, no cars are allowed within the city, which made things more difficult. Finally we returned to Rome for 2 nights before we flew home. <BR><BR>We spent much too much time traveling. We honestly felt like we wasted a good portion of our time there sleeping on trains. It just gets to be a hassle after a while too. I would highly, highly recommend bases to do day trips so you don’t end up being too tired from traveling to enjoy your trip. Speaking of day trips, you should definitely go to Niki Di Saint Phalle’s sculpture garden. http://www.nikidesaintphalle.com/entrance.html It’s surreal to say the least. <BR><BR>A couple tips: buy a bungee cord with suction cups and clasps at the end. It's great for laundry in rooms. I never did laundry in a laundromat, although I did get "scolded" by a couple of hotel owners. Also, searching out bookstores and finding bizzare books in English was one of my favorite past times. Sometimes these stores are completely hidden in the back streets, which only makes them better. Also, if you or a companion is planning on bringing nice women's shoes, make sure the heels

Jess Oct 23rd, 2002 08:14 PM

Wow, I'm really having some issues with posting tonight. What I was trying to say is to make sure the heels are big enough that they won't get caught inbetween the cobblestones. Funny story about that... <BR><BR>Anyway, have a great trip, and let us know when you're planning on going!

Pier Oct 23rd, 2002 09:48 PM

There is nothing wrong with a whirlwind tour, except the down time traveling between towns. The scenery is beautiful from the train windows, but you can't stop and get out if you see something interesting. I would rent a car if I were you and then just drive where the mood takes you. That way you can stay longer someplace if you want to or jump on the autostrada and go for it.<BR>I traveled this way, by car, in France once, with no reservations, we just called places around the late afternoon and if rooms were avail. drove in that direction, or just drove until we found a town we liked and went to the tourist bureau. It was one of the best trips I have been on.

beth Oct 23rd, 2002 10:12 PM

Fast Trav, <BR><BR>There is nothing wrong with a world wind tour. I did 21 days in Italy and did Sicily (everything there) Florence, Venice, Umbria and Tuscany and it was crazy and fun. <BR><BR>Here is a piece of advice that no one mentioned. You need to have everything planned. Where you are staying, what you are doing, etc. With a lot of structure you can accomplish more. <BR><BR>Oh, one thing about Italy is once you go, you'll be back!<BR><BR>

wayne Oct 24th, 2002 01:51 AM

I did all the places you mentioned in 16 days. We rented a car so it wasnt a rush and we are young so we dont sit around the lake reading books.(sorry old folks but I noticed the trend :)) Basically we went where we wanted at our pace and enjoyed our time tremendously! This was our itineary:<BR><BR>Venice (2N)<BR>Milan (1N) meant to go to Bellagio at Lake Como but all rooms were full so we spent the nite in Milan.We passed Bellagio tho and it was beautiful.<BR>Cinque Terre-Monterosso (2N)incl day trips to Day1 oungVeniceVernazza and Portofino.<BR>Florence (4N) incl day trips to Pisa,San G, Siena and Gucci and Prda outlets.<BR>Assisi (2N)<BR>Sorrento (2N)incl a breeze thru the Amalfi towns.<BR>Capri(2N)<BR>Rome (3N)incl day trip to Pompeii.<BR><BR>feel free to ask me abt the towns and rrants directly or on this board.Enjoy yourself!<BR>

wayne Oct 24th, 2002 02:13 AM

My 3 tips:<BR>1. Rent a car. No need to waste time waiting for trains and buses.<BR>2. Eat at the best r'rants everywhere cos you'll not get food so good back home.And money you can always make back.<BR>3. Call the hotel ahead cos Italy is popular and rooms fill quickly esp in peak periods.<BR><BR>Which towns do I remember best? Its not an exaggeration when I say ALL. Italy is THAT beautiful. After Italy<BR>every European country paled in comparison and I went to Spain, UK, Scotland, France after.<BR><BR>Best unexpected encounter: the best r'rant we ate at was recommended by a local. It's called "Il Solitario" in a back lane of Anacapri. We went back twice. If you go there say hi to the resident cat "Micah" for me who managed to frighten 3 american boys who were trying to impress their dates when he scooted up the post which they were sitting beside.They thot it was a ghost and their dates laughed themselves silly.

ann Oct 24th, 2002 03:13 AM

I've done a couple of trips like you propose and they were great. My major tips would be 1) have reservations, 2) travel mostly by rental car, and 3) try to have mostly three night stays. The reservations will save you time looking for accomodations. It's worth the trade off of not being quite as spontaneous. You can arrive late in a town and not worry about a bed. Saves time, money and headaches. And as Beth said, plan where you want to go each day and what you want to see. Keep some flexibility in the plan, but have a pretty detailed plan to start with. Rental cars definitly allow more freedom and save lots of time not waiting for trains, etc. In the small towns parking is never a problem. In Venice park in Mestre, the mainland town and take the 10 minute train ride into the city itself. I would also take a train into Rome. We parked in Orvieto (for free) and took the 1 1/2 hour train. Lots of posts here on that issue. And finally, I would try to make most of the stays three nights with day trips. Packing and moving every day can get very tiring but three days makes all the difference. In the cities it's obviously easy to spend three days. For areas like Tuscan and Umbria, pick a central town and then do day trips. I did two weeks in Italy (plus one in France) last summer, and a previous trip was two weeks in France and one in England and on both trips I had mostly two or three night stays with an occassional one night stay when it made sense - you also don't want to do a tremendous amount of backtracking. I love this kind of trip, not exactly relaxing but wonderful.

BOB THE NAVIGATOR Oct 24th, 2002 06:01 AM

First decide if it is 2 or 3 weeks. It takes about 6 weeks to see most of Italy, and that does not include Sicily. After 11 trips to Italy, my best advice is to spend as much time in small villages as you do in the cities. My top 5 destinations include:<BR>The Lakes--really 3 destinations<BR>The Tuscany hill towns--you pick it<BR>The Amalfi coast--can be done in 3 days<BR>The Ligurian coast--more than just CT<BR>Venice/Veneto---just got back<BR><BR>Set your time frame--if 18 nites then divide by 3 days each and pick the best 6 destinations. Of course, time of year is a factor. If the big 3 are mandatory then that leaves you 3 other options. You will want a car for about half of your time. Set the sequence to fit the car rental. Hope this helps.

xxx Oct 24th, 2002 08:10 AM

A great thread. Keep it going. A refreshing change of pace, and some different perspectives.<BR>

Me Oct 24th, 2002 08:22 AM

I've never have gone for longer than 10 days but I think you can cover lots in 3 weeks. Keep in mind the the major cities (Rome, Florence, Venice) and the major areas (Tuscany, Amalfi, Lakes) general require at least 3 nights each. All that being said, looks like you can plan yourself a great trip to Italy. The planning is half the fun! Enjoy.

Diane Mac Oct 24th, 2002 09:32 AM

I loved the CinqueTerre and would highly recommend staying a minimum of two nights in either Vernazza or Riomaggiore (use Rick Steves advice on accomodations). Hike the whole trail, hang out in the towns, swim in the gorgeous water. Its alot of fun. I also thought Venice was great. I agree with the person above about staying 3 nights, which gives you two whole days to explore. I can't think of anywhere in Italy that doesn't deserve at least two days.

Diane Mac Oct 24th, 2002 09:35 AM

Actually, I take that back. I would not want to stay in Milan for two days.

Vern Oct 24th, 2002 10:15 AM

Fast Trav- My wife & I did a 3 week trip to Italy in Sept. 2000. It was our first trip to Italy and we wanted to see as much as possible. Went to Bellagio, Verona, Venice, Florence, Tuscany/Umbria(with rental car) Sorrento, Capri, Calabria(to visit friends) and Rome. We spent at least 3 or 4 nights in most locations. We rarely felt rushed and had plenty of time for relaxation. I think for your first trip to Italy your intended itinerary is great, and when you return you will start planning your next trip where you can speend longer periods of time in the areas you want to see more of. That is what I am in the process of doing now.<BR> I loved Bellagio. Don't miss it.<BR> I recommend traveling by train as much as possible and having a rental car for the Tuscany region.<BR>Have fun planning, and your best resource is this forum.

sandi Oct 24th, 2002 10:59 AM

In 2000 my husband, 12 yr old son and I did a 2 week "whirlwind" tour of Italy. We wanted to cover a lot of ground and see some major cities because we knew we'd be back and could have some idea of where we'd want to spend more time on a later vacation. This is what we did...<BR><BR>Day 1-Flew into Milan took the train to Verona. One night in Verona.<BR><BR>Day 2 & 3-train to Venice. Spent 2 nights in Venice. (we loved it so much we wanted to stay there the whole time)<BR><BR>Day 4 & 5 - train to Florence. Rented a car before we left.<BR><BR>Day 6,7 & 8 Drove thru Tuscany. One night in San Gimignano and 2 nights in Assisi.<BR><BR>Day 9 & 10 - drove to Sorrento. Visited Pompeii & Vesuvius.<BR><BR>Day 11, 12 & 13 - Drove to Rome and stayed 3 nights. Flew out from Rome.<BR><BR>There were times I was ready to move on, and times that I wished I could stay forever. It gave us a great perspective of a large area of the country for future trips. Some people like the faster pace vacations, others not. If that's what you want - go for it.<BR><BR>

Barb Oct 24th, 2002 11:55 AM

I did the 3 week itinerary that was almost exacty what Rick Steve suggests. Flew into Milan, then immediately took train up to Varenna on Lake Como. Stayed there over night and the next day and night. Left early the 3rd day and took the train back to Milan and then to Venice. 2 days in Venice, one more would have been great, then train to Rome. 3 days in Rome - loved it, not enough time there. Train to Sorrento - 3 days, again not enough time. Train to Orvieto, spent the night so we could see Civita, so glad we did, it was awesome. 3 nights in Siena, loved it, day trip to San Gim. Then bus to Florence for 2 days. Not too impressed, but I didn't give it a chance with only 2 days. Lastly, but not least 3 days in Cinque Terre staying in Manarola. Would definitely go back there and stay in Riomaggiore. Then back to Milan for one night below flying home. So, all in all, we covered a lot of territory, but it was good because I got a wonderful overview and knew where I wanted to go back to and spend more time, which is just what I did this year. Just got back from 2 weeks, Rome, Procida, Sorrento. First year I went with my sister, this year I went solo and loved it. Rick Steve's book was a great tool in planning the first trip and his Rome book was great this year. I tried to avoid a lot of travel time this year as that was the hardest part of last year. I hate to say it, but I will, PACK LIGHT!!!. It can't be emphasized enough. Italy is very special. Go for it and have a great time.

Fast Trav Oct 24th, 2002 12:57 PM

Great feedbacks and many thanks to you all from myself and other newbies. Jess, yours was a riot to read..great stuff.<BR><BR>I will try to incorporate the many wonderful suggestions y'all have provided. I swear, this forum is the most invaluable resource for planning a trip to Italy, and it's unbelievable that all this info comes free from the generosity of you all.<BR><BR>I hope my appreciation of Italy is as heart-felt as all of yours after I return, which will warrant a repeat visit.


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