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Rome and Florence... and somewhere in between!

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Oct 2nd, 2012, 01:43 PM
  #1
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Rome and Florence... and somewhere in between!

Hello fellow travelers,

We (my husband and I) are arriving in Rome on December 24th. early in the morning and would like some advice on what to do on that day and also on Christmas day. We do not know if attending Mass at the Vatican is doable or if the crowds are just too much to deal with, what is it going to be open on Christmas day, even if there is going to be a place open for lunch... We live in Boston and we know that the only option here is a Chinese restaurant!

Also, since I am already sharing, I will tell you about the whole plan for the week, maybe I can get some useful tips.

3 nights in Rome, rent a car to go to Florence and spending one night on the road, 2 nights in Florence, last night in Rome. Which is the best place to spend that "on the road" night? Perugia? Ovieto? Siena? We enjoy both cities and the countryside, museums and ruins, the modern and the old... I would just appreciate some pieces of advice and we are really open to suggestions, we only have the plane tickets but have not booked the hotels yet.

Grazie mille!

Ursulina
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Oct 2nd, 2012, 02:10 PM
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Have you been to Rome and/or Florence before? If not, I would just see those two cities and leave the driving through Tuscany or Umbria to another trip at a time of year with a greater chance for bright, sunny days and more hours of daylight.
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Oct 2nd, 2012, 02:16 PM
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Thank you, Jean!

It's my first trip to Italy (not my husband's, but I AM the one doing the research...

How do you suggest we get to Florence? Does renting the car make any sense, maybe for a day trip from Florence if weather permits?
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Oct 2nd, 2012, 02:16 PM
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Siena is the best for a night. Christmas day, needs booking.
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Oct 2nd, 2012, 02:20 PM
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Hi bilboburgler,

Thanks for the comment, I have heard great things about Siena. What do we need the booking for? I was planning to book the hotel in the next few days, for sure. Are you talking about the dinner?

Thank you!
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Oct 2nd, 2012, 02:29 PM
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I would be tempted to train to Florence upon arrival (assuming you will be flying home from Rome) unless Christmas mass is high on your list of priorities. It doesn't make sense to stay in Rome twice.

3 nights Florence, Sita bus to Siena 1 night (or train to Orvieto one night), Sena bus to Rome 3 nights.

You can't drive in Florence so it would be a waste to rent a car for those days.
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Oct 2nd, 2012, 02:36 PM
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Hello kybourbon,

Yes, we are flying out of Rome and we can perfectly skip Christmas Mass, I just thought it would be interesting being already there... It actually does make a lot of sense to go straight to Florence I will start exploring train schedules, how to get to the train station from the airport etc.

Thank you!
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Oct 2nd, 2012, 02:41 PM
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For a short trip like this, why not take the train from Rome to Florence, and spend 3 nights in Florence rather than one on the road. If you want to take a day trip to Siena, take the bus from Florence.
This website explains how to travel to Siena from Florence: http://www.sienaitaly.com/pages/arrival.html

Renting a car is not inexpensive, and you will have to factor in the time spent picking up a car, and dropping it off on your return; the high cost of gas; and paying for parking while staying in Siena and Florence. You cannot drive in the historic centers of these cities.

You will need tickets to attend Mass at St Peter's on Christmas Eve, and they are not easy to obtain. Instead of standing in a large crowd, why not attend Mass at one of the many churches in Rome.
Also, Dec 26 is a national holiday in Italy, so many sites will be closed.
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Oct 2nd, 2012, 02:42 PM
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You can take the train from Rome to Florence, and you have several options for day trips out of Florence that can be done entirely on public trans. Fiesole, Siena, San Gimignano, Pisa, Lucca, Bologna, Arezzo.

You really don't "need" a car unless you want to explore Tuscany in greater depth. But, for me, late December is not when I'd want to do that. Sunrise will be after 7:30 a.m., and there could be early morning frost or even a dusting of snow on the roads. Sunset will be before 5:00 p.m.

I think bilboburgler means you need dining reservations for Christmas Day, but you should have all of your hotels booked in advance.
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Oct 2nd, 2012, 02:46 PM
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You can search the train timetables here:

http://www.fsitaliane.com/homepage_en.html

Start from "Fiumicino Airport." In Florence, you likely will want to use the "Florence S.M.N." station.
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Oct 2nd, 2012, 03:24 PM
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Thank you everyone for your kind and useful responses, everything is starting to fall into place.
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Oct 2nd, 2012, 04:48 PM
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This is sound advice. I would not rent a car, but would instead train to Florence, stay there 3 mights and return to Rome for the rest of the trip. If you need to see something other than Florence, the SITA bus to Siena is easy to do; you might also consider having your hotel book you a car and driver; you could see more than Siena in this way. We have done that several times and once had our driver take us to Volterra, San Gimignano, and to Ristorante Il Pozzo for a wonderful lunch in Monteriggioni. This is an efficient way to maximize your day without having worry about getting lost.
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Oct 2nd, 2012, 07:57 PM
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Winter schedules probably aren't loaded yet so you might not find anything listed past 12/8. Schedules won't change much. The train from the airport to the main station in Rome runs every 30 minutes and the current cost is 14€. The train from Rome to Florence takes 90 minutes.
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Oct 3rd, 2012, 01:45 AM
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Christmas day booking, well I mainly eat and drink on Christmas day which is why I suggestes a booking. Some people go to church and if so you will not need to book it but you will need to decide on the church. If you differentiate between catholic church and others then you may need to research to hunt down the church and maybe even drop the vicar/pastor a note asking if you can turn up.

The duomo in Siena looks like someone made a church out of pink icing and then left it in the rain. It is up there in my favorite 10 cathedrals. The main square (which is not square) is very pleasant and the city has other hidden squares all over built onto the top of a mountain.
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Oct 3rd, 2012, 03:52 AM
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It's so nice to wake up to so many useful comments! We can skip Christmas mass altogether and just visit the churches some other day, it is not crucial. Regarding the train I will wait until the schedules are up, prices and ride times seems very reasonable, we are definitely leaning towards the "Florence first, day trip/s (Siena most likely) and then Rome through the end" structure. You really opened my eyes, guys, I will be back for more!
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Oct 3rd, 2012, 04:24 AM
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The Sita bus is usually suggested for visiting Siena from Florence because it drops you at the edge of the historic center. The train station is further away from the center, but they have now added a long series of escalators from the train station up to the center.
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Oct 3rd, 2012, 03:16 PM
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I need to work on further research on what's open and what's closed on the 25th. and 26th., fortunately the Uffizi Gallery is open on the 26th., maybe Xmas day will not be too bad to go to Siena...
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Oct 3rd, 2012, 03:27 PM
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Hi, I planned a Christmas/Birthday dinner in Rome from the US a few years ago. Like you I didn't want to end up eating Chinese.
I made reservations at the Forum Hotel. They have a rooftop restaurant that overlooks the Forum. Lit up at night, it's spectacular!
The hotel is listed online and they were wonderful in helping me plan a surprise and cake, all for Christmas Day dinner.

Rome is wonderful over the holidays, I was there again last New Year's. Make sure you visit Piazza Navona, there is a festival/fair going on during the holidays with lots of wonderful people watching!
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Oct 4th, 2012, 05:01 AM
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Thank you, hollywoodsc! Now we are considering going straight to Florence, spend Xmas there, and then head back to Rome on the 27th. The hotel looks sensational, we will make sure to at least have dinner there! How was the weather like? We are from Boston, so we can deal with pretty much anything, but since you were there on the same dates last year I just ask... Thank you!
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Oct 4th, 2012, 12:04 PM
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I've had prety good luck with the weather over the Holidays although last year it got really cold after I left and they had snow in Rome.

During my trip it would drop down at night into the 40's - jacket, scarf, gloves needed to go out for gelato. Yes, I sat and ate gelato each evening at the Trevi fountain (right near my hotel) in 40 degrees! When in Rome...

I'd start my mornings out with layers but by 11am I'd have my sweater off and sunglasses on as it reached 65-ish.
I walked everywhere in Rome and that warmed me up, either going to a sight or out for dinner.

Most Italians wore winter coats and scarves at night - black or dark navy, either wool or the fashionable 'puffy" coat were popular. And tall leather boots worn with short wool skirts and leggings were all the rage.

Prepare to layer, take a jacket, scarf, gloves, something in case of wet weather and comfy walking boots/shoes. The cobblestones will tire your feet out quicker than pavement.
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