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GrandmaNae Jan 3rd, 2014 08:46 PM

Too Much?? Not Enough??
I'd like advice/opinions on the things we have planned for our Italy trip. I've done quite a bit of research online but it seems like there are lots of different 'plans'. One person talks about places that are "must see" while others say those same places are "ok". My plan is to enjoy the beauty and culture of the cities we visit (Venice, Florence, Rome) but don't want to have so much scheduled that we miss out on the ambience of the surroundings.
Here is what we have in mind right now.

VENICE- 3 days. We are actually flying in to Venice on Italy's Labor Day. Didn't realize that at the time we booked our flights, but.... now we can say we were there to celebrate :) In all honesty I think I could wander the streets of Venice the entire 3 days and be happy. I know there is so much history and beauty to take in. Would I be foolish to just wander and drink wine and eat gelato?
After three days in Venice we are taking train to

FLORENCE for 2 days. I want to see the statue of David and we also want to take a day trip to Leaning tower of Pisa. Other than that, we have no definite plans.

ROME is next for 3 days. Here we want to visit the Colesseum and may take a private tour of this. Also want to see the Sistene Chapel and Vatican. Do we dare take another day trip away from Rome or just walk around and investigate all the beautiful places??

Please share you own experiences and ideas. I truly appreciate any and all your replies. Thanks so much
PS We are going to first week in May

MmePerdu Jan 3rd, 2014 09:34 PM

Considering your short list for Florence, I'd do both those things in 1 day and continue on to Rome a day earlier. I'm not a fan of the "must see" lists but I do feel there may be more for you in Rome and 3 days is not enough. Unless you're a big fan of Renaissance art I'd spend that 4th day in Rome.

artsnletters Jan 3rd, 2014 09:40 PM

By my standards you are staying only the minimum amount of time in each of your three destinations, and really not quite that in Rome. This may work out OK for you, since it doesn't sound like you have a really heavy sightseeing agenda, more an interest in checking out the feel of these cities - perfectly legitimate.

I'll let you in on a secret. There are <i>no</i> must-sees, other than what <i>you</i> must see. Don't pay attention to what other people saw and loved; pay attention to what interests you. If that means you skip sights that "everyone" sees, so what? It's your trip. Do what makes you happy and don't worry about checking things off on someone else's list.

I doubt you will feel you've had enough of Rome after two days, as there is soooo much to see in Rome. But you can play it by ear after you get there. If you find you're ready to go farther afield after your first two days, I'd choose Orvieto, a hilltown with a gorgeous cathedral in a stunning setting, about an hour from Rome on the train. It will be a real contrast to your other stops.

mjs Jan 3rd, 2014 10:12 PM

I agree with both above posters. Venice sounds fine but your time in Rome is less than optimal.

dreamon Jan 3rd, 2014 11:16 PM

I find it easier to think in 'nights' in each place rather than 'days' (e.g. 3 nights gives me 2 full days). That aside, I would not take time from Florence and add to Rome, especially if you want to visit Pisa. And if visiting Pisa and less interested in Florence, perhaps drop in and spend some time in Lucca (as it's only 20-30mins by train from Pisa). I would leave your day trip organisation until you get there and see how you feel. There is no need to book ahead and you may well discover that you don't have enough time in Venice, Florence and Rome without venturing further afield.
ps. Venice is made for wandering idly.

bvlenci Jan 4th, 2014 02:15 AM

I can't tell if your "days" include the travel day from one place to another. How many *nights* are you spending in each city? In any case, I do think your time in Rome is a bit short. You might even consider staying one day less in Venice and adding that day to Rome. Two nights is the minimum you should spend in any place, so if you mean you'll be spending two nights in Florence when you say "two days", I wouldn't cut anything there.

I absolutely agree that there is no such thing as a "must-see". I have an adult daughter, who loves art and has been to Rome four or five times, and who still hasn't visited the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. She's been to a lot of other museums in Rome though, including the Museum of Modern Art, which hardly any tourists visit. Obviously, her "must-sees" are totally personal. I have a feeling that a majority of the tourists shuffling shoulder-to-shoulder through the Vatican Museum don't care much for art at all, and are just following someone else's dictate that they really can't go to Rome without seeing the Sistine Chapel. These people would probably enjoy their Roman holiday a lot more if they just skipped the Vatican Museums and spent the time strolling through the Villa Borghese Gardens, or on the Janiculum Hill, or in Trastevere. Dare to be different!

The Tower of Pisa is another thing I think most people could skip. Given your desire to see something other than tourist meccas, you might enjoy more a trip to Lucca, or Siena, or one of the Chianti towns that can be reached by bus from Florence.

isabel Jan 4th, 2014 06:14 AM

How did you come up with the specific things on your list? Are they places you have a personal interest in, have just heard about all your life, or that other people told you were 'must sees'. They are on many "must see" lists and therefor there will be long lines. With such a short time in total do you want to spend a significant amount of time waiting in lines. Unless you book a private tour the wait to get into the Vatican Museums can be very long. On my fourth or fifth trip to Rome I finally decided I should go, and it was at a time of day in an off season month when the lines should have been reasonable and I still waited over an hour before deciding my time could be better spent elsewhere and ditched it. I still don't regret it. My point is, if you really want to see these specific sites then do the research to find out how to avoid the lines ( but it will cost more money). If not, think about how your time might be better spent.

Did you know there is a copy of the David in Piazza della Signoria? And this is where the original originally stood. I know it's not the 'real thing' but I actually enjoy seeing art where it was intended to be (public square, church, etc.) rather than in a museum. For me seeing the copy in it's original location is as good, or better, than seeing the original in a museum. And no line . And no admission fee. Are you planning to climb the leaning tower or just look at it? I think you need advance reservations to climb it. If it's not really a priority I would spend the whole two days in Florence. Some of the world's best art is in Florence, and it's in 'situ' - in the churches where it originally was intended to be. Plus there are some gorgeous piazzas and buildings and bridges and vistas and markets and streets and fountains.....

adrienne Jan 4th, 2014 06:30 AM

It doesn't sound like you're very much interested in art and architecture so wandering around absorbing the sights and sounds and eating gelato is a wonderful way to spend the time in Venice. Since you have 2.5 days in Venice you might want to get on a boat and visit Burano, a colorful island, and then Torcello (5 minutes from Burano) which is less visited.

For Florence, go immediately to Pisa (you can leave your bags at the station in Florence). The next morning visit the Accademia in the morning (prebook tickets) and go to Rome in the afternoon. That will give you an extra evening and three full days in Rome. I would not do a day trip from Rome as you will have such a small amount of time there.

nytraveler Jan 4th, 2014 06:32 AM

If you clarify howmuch time you really have it would help.

I suspects you hae not allowed time to arrive, deart and move from city to city - in whih case you have 2.5 days (the first jet-lagged) in Venice, 1.5 days in florence and 2.5 days in Rome.

IMHO non is enought ot see more than a few major sights and spend a couple of hours just wandering or sitting in a cafe with a campari, etc.

I see no point in rushing from sight to sight if you really aren;t interested - but I would check out a couple of guide books (not someone's lists, but actual photos and info about the sights) to figure out what you really want to see/do in the limited time you have.

AJPeabody Jan 4th, 2014 06:42 AM

Re: Colosseum: Definitely get a tour that includes the lower level and the top. We did one that also included the Palatine Hill and the Forum and it was definitely worth the half day.

Vatican: We tried "on your own" and it was a miserable failure when we saw the mile-long line to get in. Did a tour on another day, avoided the line, but the inside was as crowded as the line outside. There were wonderful things and rooms to be seen, but the pace was set by the guide. I have heard that the tours that go in really early in the morning before the public opening have it better.

As for your desire to wander, Rome is the place!

girlonthego Jan 4th, 2014 08:00 AM

We did not go to Venice, so I will skip to Florence. Florence was our favorite city in Italy. It is much smaller than Rome and easily walkable. My DH and DD waited on line to see the David and my other DD and I walked around the city. I think we had more fun. We acutally saw the replica of the statue outside of another area and that was good enough for me. Some man, prior to our trip said we had to see it and how it made him cry. I guess I don't feel the same about art.
We did a cooking class in Florence and that was a lot of fun too.
Rome is pretty touristy and there are many things to do and see. We did the Vatican and booked a tour directly through the vatican for a reasonable cost. Our group had about 25 people in it but that was fine and the tour guide did a good job of giving us an overall tour. We also booked a tour for the Colesseum and did both upper and lower parts. (Walks of Italy)Our tour guide did an excellent job and was very informative. Our group was only 12. We did not do any other formal tours in Rome and we had 5 days there. That was enough time for us to see quite a lot of places. If you are truly someone who wants to see many exhibits, two days is not going to be enough.
Enjoy your trip!

thursdaysd Jan 4th, 2014 08:10 AM

Definitely need to see this in terms of nights rather than days. I've been to Italy four times and still haven't been to Florence. With the time you seem to have I would skip Florence and Pisa in order to have more time in Venice (day trip to Burano and Murano) and Rome (day trip to Ostia Antica). Although you might stop off on the way to Rome just to see David.

bvlenci Jan 4th, 2014 12:47 PM

I just want to correct one mistaken impression that may have been given by two of the posts above. You don't need to book a tour to avoid waiting in line for tickets to the Vatican. You can buy the tickets online at . You just print out the tickets after you've bought them, and then you can go to the head of the line, show your tickets, and enter without standing in a long queue. You can also purchase the official Vatican tours on that site, but I've never felt any need for a tour there. I just use a good guide book, like the Blue Guide or the Michelin Green Guide. I find the Vatican Museums very tiring. I've been there four times, and it's always been very unpleasantly crowded. I would never again go in the summer, because in addition to being insanely crowded, it was also unbearably hot and humid inside. I would also never again go on the last Sunday of the month, when admission is free. Even in the off season, the free Sundays are just awful. (On other Sundays, the Vatican Museums are closed.) The best time to go is in the off season (mid-November to mid-March) on a Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday afternoon.

I think people who aren't terribly interested in art should just skip the Vatican Museums. If you really want to see a bit of great Italian art, you could visit one of the other great museums in Rome, most of which are never crowded and also cost a lot less. There's a wonderful collection of Italian painting by the great masters at the Barberini Gallery, for example, and there are splendid frescoes by Raphael at the Villa Farnesina, and one of the finest collections of ancient sculpture in the world at Palazzo Massimo alle Terme.

MmePerdu Jan 4th, 2014 01:32 PM

"I think people who aren't terribly interested in art should just skip the Vatican Museums."

Another option for those more interested in the Sistine Chapel and want just a quick pass through the museums without waiting in line - on my first visit to the Vatican I was standing in St. Peter's Square. I was approached by an American guide, one of a number of them looking for a group to take in. The fee was very reasonable, we were a group of maybe 10, bypassed the lines when entering with the guide. It was not a thorough visit to the museums but enough for me at that moment. At the end we did spend time in the Sistine Chapel and in St. Peter's at our leisure. It was just what I wanted for a first-time visit and I'm such tours will be available anytime you arrive in St. Peter's Square. You don't even have to find them, they find you. I was actually quite happy with how it transpired.

GrandmaNae Jan 4th, 2014 04:05 PM

To clarify the amount of time we have. We will be arriving in Venice at 10:00 am so will have almost 3 full days and 3 nights there. We will be taking a train to Florence so will have almost 2 full days and 2 nights in Florence. We’re taking a train to Rome and will arrive early in the day so will have almost 3 full days 3 nights in Rome.

Venice has always been my ‘bucket list’ destination so if I had it my way, I’d spend the entire trip there but I will be traveling with 3 others who want to see other places as well. Honestly, I came up with my “list” by researching online and reading other’s posts. I love history and I’m fascinated by art but I’m thinking I may get my fill of art along the way. We do plan on booking a group tour so it will cut down on waiting in line for the Sistine Chapel and also the Colesseum. I’ve read about a night tour of Sistine Chapel where the crowds are less. Has anyone done the night route? We are staying close to the Colesseum so that will be convenient. I’m surprised to read that some of you would skip the Vatican museums. I just assumed that was something we ‘must see’ while there. Isabel, no I didn’t realize there is a copy of the David in Piazza della Signoria. That is definitely something we will consider. Thanks! I’ve read that the tower of Pisa is overrated but it’s a sight we want to see. If we’re going to be there we will probably climb it.

When I look at our schedule it seems like we don’t have much planned but I really want to simply wander around and drink in the atmosphere. Am I asking for too much to enjoy the atmosphere and yet not be surrounded by lots of people? Just fyi, we will be beginning our trip the first week of May. Is this considered the busy time of year or is it busy all year long?

Thanks so much for all of you who took the time to respond. I do appreciate it.

artsnletters Jan 4th, 2014 07:06 PM

You won't have three full days in Venice. By the time you pick up your bags, get through passport control, and get to Venice proper, it will be lunchtime.

You won't have two full days in Florence. By the time you get from Venice to Florence, check into your hotel, and get your bearings, it will be late morning at best.

Same thing with Rome.

So you are overestimating the time you will have.

That's not to say you can't make your plan work, but if you and/or others in your group want to do major sightseeing, you're going to find you don't have enough time anywhere except Venice. If you yourself want to do major sightseeing and have time to wander around, you don't have enough time for both. If so, the choices are (1) forgo the wandering in favor of the sights and make peace with making the sights your focus, (2) forgo sights in favor of wandering and make peace with the fact that you won't get to see everything you would like to, or my favorite, (3) take a longer trip.

When time is short, you can buy yourselves some more time by traveling in the evening, when you're tired and the sights are closed, and waking refreshed and ready to go in your new destination. It means a very late dinner or taking a picnic on the train (bread, cheese, sausage, wine), but in your case, it would probably be worth it.

Venice is a very popular destination and you'll be there at a popular time. You will be surrounded by lots of people. The part of Florence you will be most interested is a very popular destination and very compact, so you will be surrounded by a lot of people. In Rome, you will need to get away from the sights to avoid crowds. That's where you stand the best chance of doing some wandering without a lot of tourist company.

May will be plenty busy. At least it will not be miserably hot to boot.

I have not done the night tour of the Vatican Museums, but it is on my list for the next time I am there. Be warned, it is crazy expensive - something like 350 euros per person - but for some it's worth it to see the museums without the trampling hordes of daytime.

ellenem Jan 4th, 2014 07:07 PM

These cities are busy all year long. It is possible to lose the crowds if you venture away from the main tourist sights, but the few places you have named on your bucket list are the main tourist sights. So get you bucket list out of the way and then start wandering. Ideas for your wander: Cannaregio and Dorsoduro in Venice; Oltrarno in Florence; Trastevere and Villa Borghese in Rome.

Have you already booked trains and hotels?

"To clarify the amount of time we have. We will be arriving in Venice at 10:00 am so will have almost 3 full days and 3 nights there. We will be taking a train to Florence so will have almost 2 full days and 2 nights in Florence. We’re taking a train to Rome and will arrive early in the day so will have almost 3 full days 3 nights in Rome."

I think you are underestimating the amount of time it will take to connect these three cities. If you arrive in at Venice airport at 10:00 AM, then chances are it will take your group about an hour from arrrival to get out of the airport and then another hour to 90 minutes to reach Venice proper, find your hotel, and check in. How long will it take all in your group to freshen up and be ready to actually begin wandering?

Similarly, to travel from Florence to Venice, you will spend 30 minutes to an hour to check out of your hotel and get to the train station, find your platform, and wait for your train. Add to that the actual train ride, and then getting out of the Florence train station and finding your way to your new hotel. Then you have to get oriented to a new city. a 2-hour train ride becomes 4 hours of travel.

Repeat this process to travel to Rome

The point: Be prepared for relocating to a new city to take more time than anticipated.

If you want to climb the tower in Pisa, you should reserve tickets in advance.

For those who are wondering, here's the itinerary as I understand it:

Thu, May 1: arrive Venice 10:00 am
Fri, May 2: Venice
Sat, May 3: Venice
Sun, May 4: train to Florence
Mon, May 5: Florence (Pisa?) check for museum closures
Tue, May 6: train to Rome
Wed, May 7: Rome
Thu, May 8: Rome
Fri, May 9: fly home

May 4-6 is a bit busy for me with so many train rides.

ellenem Jan 4th, 2014 07:09 PM

artsnletters and I were typing at the same time--same message, different words.

GrandmaNae Jan 4th, 2014 08:49 PM

After reading your responses I feel I have underestimated travel times considerably. I hadn't thought of traveling at night but that is an option I will look in to. I have looked in to train schedules but have not booked tickets. All of us traveling are planning on packing very light, using only carry-on luggage so I am hoping that will help us get out of the airport quicker. I think the idea of visiting our 'must see' sites and then wandering away from the crowds sounds great. I wish we had twice as much time but we don't so we'll make the very best of the time we do have. Thanks again everyone :)

kybourbon Jan 4th, 2014 09:18 PM

>>> I hadn't thought of traveling at night <<<

Not sure what you mean by that as there isn't overnight traveling between these cities.

Pay attention to ellen's post about museum closings in Florence on Mondays.

Have everyone list their must sees. It might be necessary to split up at times for everyone to accomplish their list.

It's always a bit of a challenge to get your bearings in a new city, figure out transport, how/where to buy tickets, etc. especially traveling with several people.

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