Please review Italy itinerary :)

Jan 31st, 2007, 07:22 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 1,793
Please review Italy itinerary :)

Hello Fodorites,

Thank you to everyone who has helped me in planning our trip to Italy this March. I have very much enjoyed reading your trip reports and various posts. Special thanks to Tiff, ekscrunchy, LoveItaly, Franco, Eloise, OliveOil, and many others whose names escape me.

Background-- We are a married couple ages 27 and 30, love to travel. Together we've been to Australia, NZ, Fiji, Amsterdam, Paris, and NE Spain. Liz has been to Italy on a Contiki bus tour; Tim has never been to Italy. We love to eat and we love wine. We appreciate art and architecture but are experts in neither. Liz is in academia and Tim is in health care, and we both love the history of science.

So, this is what I have currently planned. The only items set in stone are our flights and our private Vatican tour. I welcome any suggestions or advice!

Wednesday, March 7
Upon arrival in Amsterdam from Minneapolis, we have a five-hour layover. During this layover, I need to find Safari Liqueur for my dear grandma! I can't find information on it, other than it is Dutch, so I am hoping I get lucky.

After the Safari Liqueur mission, we may visit the airport Rijksmuseum or take showers at the airport hotel. We will have a meal.

We arrive in Rome at 9pm where a private car will meet us and take us to the Daphne Inn Veneto. We stay here for three nights.

Thursday, March 8
Morning-?? Villa Borghese? Recover from jet lag? Recommendations?

Lunch at Da Armando al Pantheon (thanks ekscrunchy!)

Visit the Pantheon.

3:20pm: Scavi tour (yay!)

St. Peter's Basilica open until 6pm.

Evening: Trevi Fountain

Dinner--?? Thursday is the traditional gnocchi-eating day in Rome. Any suggestions???

Friday, March 9
Morning- Coliseum and Forum

Lunch at ?? in Piazza Navona??

If not seen before, St. Peter's Basilica.

6pm: Meet for private after-hours tour of the Sistine Chapel with Helen Donegan.

Dinner at Osteria dell'Angelo (thanks Franco for the rec!)

Saturday, March 10
Late morning train to Florence.

Check into Alloro B&B for three nights.

Late lunch at Leo's in Santa Croce (thanks Tiff for the rec!)

San Lorenzo Market

Climb Duomo (we've read Bruneschelli's Dome

Accademia around 5:30pm (our host says we won't need reservations at that time-- thoughts?)

Dinner at Il Latini (touristy I know, but we want to try it)

Sunday, March 11
Morning: Science Museum (open second Sunday of the month from 10am-1pm)

Late lunch at Ristorante Omero (thanks to UNCBB113, ellenem and ekscrunchy for the rec!)

Walk town hill back into Florence, stopping at Piazzale Michelangelo

Uffizi around 5pm (again, we've been advised we don't need reservations)

Dinner at Leo in Sante Croce if we're craving it as Tiff and her DH did!

Monday, March 12
Cooking class with

If haven't climbed Duomo yet, do so until 7:00pm.

Dinner at ?? Recommendations? It seems that many restaurants are closed on Mondays.

Tuesday, March 13: NEED HELP ON THIS DAY
This is the day I am having the most difficulty scheduling.

We've both read books on Galileo and would like to see Pisa and climb the tower.

Do you think it would be better to store our luggage at the Florence train station or the Pisa train station? I am guessing the Florence station.

Take 8:27am train to Pisa, arriving at 9:31am.

Climb the leaning tower (need to make reservations), visit cathedral and baptistery.

Take 12:29pm train to Florence, arriving at 1:33pm.

Pick up luggage; purchase food/wine for train trip to Venice.

Take 2:37pm train to Venice, arriving at 5:28pm.

Take water taxi to Locanda Orseolo, and check in for three nights.

Dinner at Tavernetta San Maurizio (thanks, Tiff!)

Wander St. Mark's Square-- will the musicians be playing in March?

Wednesday, March 14
Secret Itineraries tour of the Doge's Palace (need to make reservations)

Lunch at Osteria Alla Botte (thanks Franco)

Wander Venice

Evening Gondola ride?

Dnner at Vini da Gino (another Franco recommendation)

Thursday, March 15
Wander Venice

See islands of Murano and/or Burano, if desired.

Lunch at ??

Dinner at Osteria San Marco (another Tiff recommendation)

Shed a tear that our trip is over

Friday, March 16
Water taxi to airport

Flight departs at 12:05pm.

Whew--long post! Again, any suggestions or advice will be welcomed. Thanks in advance!

Tim_and_Liz is offline  
Feb 1st, 2007, 04:50 AM
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Hello Liz, I'm not sure if you're really longing for comments on behalf of those whose recommendations you've already been studying, but here we go:

March 8th: Recovering from jet lag would be fine, but then, your time in Rome is extremely scarce, and you're young - it depends on your physical condition. At your age, I'd have tried to make full use of that day, too. And Galleria Borghese is really one of Rome's greatest sights, notwithstanding its popularity. As for the gnocchi, sorry I can't help.

March 9th: I know that each and every tourist will inevitably visit Forum Romanum and Colosseo, and I know there's no use in advising anyone not to (I'm no exception myself, having visited them both very early in my explorations of Rome). I just want you to know that you will be disappointed by the Forum, and maybe also by the interior of the Colosseo (the exterior is great, no doubt). The Forum Romanum is a hub of stones, not quite easy to decipher for who is not really familiar with Roman antiquity - ok, if you've had Latin at school, or at least at university, that's another story; if you've read your Sallustius, your Tacitus, your Cicero and your Caesar, you'll have a fair idea what this is all about. If not, it will not be the greatest of all sights for you. (I know a person who hated Rome for many years, just because her first sights had been Foro Romano and the adjacent Fori Imperiali, and because she was so helpless about those not-too-impressive ruins - and it took her many visits to Rome to reconsider this first impression; now, she loves the eternal city.)
And: you're spending too much time around the Vatican - that's Rome's most boring quarter! Visit St Peter's on the first day (that's another monument not loved by everybody at first glance - huge and cold, but truly great architecture no doubt), and spend some time with baroque and medieval Rome. (I know, St Peter's is mostly baroque, but it's not typical Roman - Jesuit - baroque; try to see Il Gesù, S. Andrea della Valle, S. Maria della Pace's exterior, S. Ignazio or the like.) And I'm always voting for the great, great treasures of medieval Rome; e.g., when doing the Foro/Colosseo tour, you could easily step into Santi Cosma e Damiano, which is adjacent to the Forum, on Via dei Fori Imperiali; or else, visit the small church of S. Marco inside Palazzo Venezia, on the other end of the Forum.

March 13th: I've never stored any luggage in Florence, but if there don't happen to be any particular problems with it on that train station, I don't see why you should carry your luggage to Pisa, just to carry it back to Florence three hours later.
March will be too early for the orchestra competition in piazza, I'm afraid.

March 14th: Attention, that place is called Vini da Gigio, not Gino.

March 15th: With just two full days in Venice, it would be a sacrilege to go to Murano or Burano - there's nothing really important to see there. What is completely missing from your Venice itinerary is the half of town west of Canal Grande! Here's a proposal for that day:
Go to the fish market at Rialto in the morning - this is really a great sight, even if you can't buy anything. Make your way through San Polo (the most picturesque quarter of Venice) to the Scuola Grande di San Rocco - you say you're appreciating art, so you should absolutely see this stupendous, unparalleled ensemble of Tintoretto's best paintings, architecture, and wood & marble decoration. From there, it's not far to Campo S. Giacomo dell'Orio, passing by another Scuola Grande, the one of S. Giovanni Evangelista (visit from outside). In Campo S. Giacomo, you could have lunch at Capitan Uncino (if you are lucky, weather in March could allow to sit outside for lunch, which is very charming on that Campo). You could then cross the Canal Grande at the Train Station Bridge, and wander Cannaregio in the afternoon, a wonderfully unspoiled neighbourhood as soon as you get off the Strada Nova mainfare.

Enjoy your trip!
franco is offline  
Feb 1st, 2007, 05:51 AM
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I would strongly recommed skipping Pisa. What you will find when you get there is a tower that is, in fact, leaning, surrounded thousands of what may be the tackiest souvenier stands in Europe.

The duomo and bapistry are actually interesting and I think Pisa is definitely worth a stop IF you happen to be passing through and need to change trains there any way. I just don't think it is worth going out of your way for, especially since you will not be spending any time in the Tuscan countryside. I would definitely recommend that you take the SITA bus to Siena for the day instead.

Even better, since it seems from your description that you are more passionate about food & wine that art and museums (unless I am misinterpreting), would be to take a night from Florence and spend it in Siena. I would go from Rome to Siena, spend the day and night and part of the next day exploring Siena. From there you can take the SITA bus to Florence. There are also wine tours that will take you through the Chianti Classico region (between Siena & Florence). You may be able to find one that a half day wine tour that ends in Florence to combine travel with sight seeing.

You would lose a day and a half in Florence, but you would gain back the half day you were losing to Pisa. I like Florence and feel it is definitely a must see, but I also feel that it is busy and hectic and best seen quickly. I found Siena and the surrounding countryside much more enjoyable. Many, many will disagree.

I'd also agree to skip Burano/Murano and spend more time in Venice.

Good luck with whatever you choose. You'll have a great trip!
ripit is offline  
Feb 1st, 2007, 07:07 AM
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"I just want you to know that you will be disappointed by the Forum, and maybe also by the interior of the Colosseo (the exterior is great, no doubt). "

Just wanted to voice another opinion. I have been to Rome many times and generally a week at a time. When anyone asks what they should see (especially in just a few days),I always include these at our near the top of my list.
I do,however, recommend that you get a tour of each. This helps to make these areas "come alive".

jabez is offline  
Feb 1st, 2007, 07:14 AM
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I have to agree about Pisa, I think I could have spent 20 min there and left if my friends hadn't stopped at every darn souvenir stand. The entire road leading up to the tower is like a flea market! If you must, and you have the time, go take the photo, climb the tower and get the heck Otherwise I'd spend my time on more worthwhile activities (Lucca, just outside Pisa, is lovely)
shortcake05479 is offline  
Feb 1st, 2007, 07:18 AM
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I'm sorry Pisa gets such a bad rap. Yes, the area around the Tower where tourists gather is packed with tacky souvenir stands.

But Pisa away from this area is actually a very pleasant University town. It doesn't have as many "Wow" sights as some of the better-known Italian destinations, but it is a very nice city to stay in overnight.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Feb 1st, 2007, 08:11 AM
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Thank you for your responses.

I did leave out a few details. First, we are most likely to return to Rome out of the three cities, because my parents love Rome and Umbria and plan to rent a home in Assisi for an extended period of time. So if we don't see everything in Rome this trip, I am fine with that.

Second, I have been to Pisa and understand it is not the loveliest place on the walk from the train station to the tower. But when I was there, the tower was closed. And Tim has never been there and truly wishes to go. I plan to just take a taxi from the train station to the tower area, sightsee, take a taxi back to the train station. Given that, do you think 3 hours in Pisa is enough? I wish we could stay overnight, Rufus, but we are too pressed for time.

Franco, I think we'll go ahead and make reservations for the Borghese Gallery. We are pretty good at recovering from jet lag, but I don't want to pack too much in our first day!

Thanks for your recommendations of other places to see in Rome-- I will look them up.

As for the forum-- I know what you mean. We have watched the "Rome" series on HBO which I think will help me picture what it was like. Any suggestions for a tour?

And thank you Franco for your Venice suggestions-- we'll definitely visit the fish market and I will look up your other suggestions...

I wish our scavi tour and private tour of the Sistine Chapel were on the same day, but alas, they are not.

Ripit-- We will be spending a day in the Tuscan countryside with our accidental tourist cooking class. It is in the Chianti region. I appreciate your suggestions and will consider them carefully!

Thanks again everyone-- I have to head out now-- let me know if you think of anything else.


Tim_and_Liz is offline  
Feb 1st, 2007, 08:35 AM
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We loved this restaurant in Florence (from my trip report):
"That evening, my daughter recommended one of her favorite restaurants, the Trattoria Garga on Via del Moro 48/R, phone 055 2398898. We had an amazing meal there, probably my best in Italy. My dish was veal with avocado, which sounds odd (most really good dishes do, I think), and was mouth-watering. Our waiter was a riot-- singing and joking all over the restaurant. It was a friendly, lively, bustling atmosphere with excellent food. We paid 81EUR for two, with a half-liter of house wine. It was definitely not a restaurant full of tourists."
Feb 1st, 2007, 08:41 AM
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I think 3 hours is plenty for Pisa to see the tower, take photos, stop for lunch, etc.
shortcake05479 is offline  
Feb 1st, 2007, 08:48 AM
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And Liz - I, for one, wouldn't skip Pisa. Rather, I think the negative comments on Pisa here are a bit weird. Ok, you're all right, the souvenir stalls are akward ... but did you really go to Pisa in order to assure yourself how much you contempt souvenir stalls? Let's make a quick research: who can name five treasures of Romanesque architecture that are of a higher artistic value than the Duomo ensemble of Pisa? You have thirty seconds...
The comment about spending 20 minutes in Pisa must be either a joke, or it's outright ignorant, sorry. 20 minutes would not even be enough to get a rough impression of Giovanni Pisano's ingenious pulpit inside the Duomo - and then, there is also the one sculpted by his father Nicola at the Baptistry, and so many other wonders. You noticed souvenir stalls? I didn't quite; I was actually more interested in the Pisano works.
And especially for people interested in the history of science, Galilei is one more important reason to visit Pisa, of course...
franco is offline  
Feb 1st, 2007, 10:31 AM
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Hi Tim & Liz,

Just a couple comments,

Highly recommend making time for the Borghese, it was a real highlight for me! Also enjoyed the Forum, but I did it on a Context Rome tour.

I was especially impressed with the duomo in Pisa! I had never heard how large and beautiful it is! Tower was closed when I was there and I doubt I would return just to climb it. When you arrive at the train station, have someone call a taxi for you. When we were there no taxis could be found at all and we walked. It's about a 25 min walk and is OK, but you have less time than we did.

In Venice do try to see the Scuolo de San Rocco - amazing! I also really enjoyed Il Frari and Titian's Assumption.

Buon viaggio!
Dayle is offline  
Feb 1st, 2007, 10:54 AM
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Just a note . . . after you see Galileo's finger and his collection of scientific instruments at the Scinece Museum, you are heading to Omero for lunch--which his right across the street from Galileo's house!

Another Florence restaurant I like not far from Santa Maria Novella:
Trattoria Belle Donne
Via delle Belle Donne 16R
tel 055.2382609 closed Saturday & Sunday
Interesting, delicious, and reasonably-priced food in a cozy, quirky, inviting room. Stunningly good at times.

ellenem is online now  
Feb 1st, 2007, 01:16 PM
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We were in Florence about a week later in March than you will be. We had reservations for the Uffizi and the Accadamia and were happy we did as we were able to bypass lines in both places. Our reservations were in the morning for the Uffizi but at 4:00pm for the Accadamia. My advice would be that since you know when you would like to go, have your host make the reservation.

Enjoy Locanda Orseolo - definitely one of our favorite places in Italy!!
jgg is online now  
Feb 1st, 2007, 01:47 PM
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Tim & Liz~

Which private vatican tour are you doing and what is the cost? We are going in June and we are also doing the scavi tour and are comtemplating a private tour, but the most recent cost that I've seen was arounf $600 USD per person?! Many thanks!
desireepratt is offline  
Feb 1st, 2007, 01:59 PM
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We really enjoyed our Ancient Rome tour through ICON. Very reasonable prices too!
motor_city_girl is offline  
Feb 1st, 2007, 02:01 PM
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Thank you again to everyone who provided encouragement to visit Pisa, further restaurant recommendations, and tips. We will definitely make reservations for the Florence museums.

Desireepratt-- we have an after hours tour with Helen from

The price was $600-700 per couple. It's a splurge for us! Check out her website as she only offers the tour a few times a month. When I saw she had availability for one of our 2 evenings in Rome, I felt the stars were aligned and I booked it!

Tim_and_Liz is offline  
Feb 1st, 2007, 02:06 PM
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Yep, I want to know which private Vatican tour you're going on, too. I need to arrange one for someone.

You have one hour between arriving back for Pisa and getting the train to Venice. That could be enough for picking up your luggage and probably will be, unless there is some crazy crush at the luggage office. BUT it won't be enough time to get your luggage and get food and wine for your train picnic on the way to Venice. No way.

SMN has some food but it is purely yuck. Maybe you want to do this earlier and check you picnic and wine with your luggage.

Also, you mention visiting the San Lorenzo market late in the day. This will be ok for the market stalls selling leather goods, souvenirs, scarves, ceramics (all tourist quality, but not awful) but you will miss the food market. Unless this is the one day of the week the market is open late.
tuscanlifeedit is online now  
Feb 1st, 2007, 02:14 PM
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Thanks for the tips, tuscanfeedlit! We will pick up our train snacks prior to storing our luggage.

I posted about the Vatican tour while you were writing your post

Tim_and_Liz is offline  
Feb 1st, 2007, 02:42 PM
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Liz & Tim,
its been so much fun reading about your upcoming adventure to Italy..and I really appreciate all the feedback regarding Venice.. I will be in Venice at the same time and I was contemplating Murano and Burano..having been to Murano already, and reading Franco's comments, I am now convinced to follow his suggestions. I remembered my favorite was just walking the canals, admiring the architecture and savoring the culture. We are also going to Pisa for a day trip from Florence, yes the souvenir stands are tacky, but the others in my group have never been there and as long as we are that close, they should see it. While you are at the Vatican - will you go to Castle St. Angelo that is down the street from there? I also suggest Trastevere in Rome. We are also doing the trip opposite of you 3 days Venice, 3 days Florence, and 4 days Rome starting March 13 to the 24th. If I see a Minnesota sweatshirt around the fish market on the 15th of March, I may yell - Hey Liz and Tim !!..If you look and see a WI Badger - don't be worried, its only me...
frugaltraveler is offline  
Feb 1st, 2007, 02:43 PM
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Wow, thanks Liz. It looks like there is an opening that my friends might be able to use. I appreciate it.

Do try to make it to the San Lorenzo food market, or Mercato Centrale. This is my utter, all time favorite place.

And I've done the walk from Florence, up and around the hills to San Miniato al Monte and back down after Piazzale Michelangelo. Just one more reason why I LOVE Florence.
tuscanlifeedit is online now  

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