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Trying to help friend plan Italy at last minute....

Trying to help friend plan Italy at last minute....

Aug 28th, 2012, 11:08 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 730
Trying to help friend plan Italy at last minute....

I ran into an old friend recently who is very excited about seeing Italy for the first time but will only have 5 nights. This couple is going on a cruise in end of Oct. but will have 5 days to try and get to see some of Italy. This person is not very skilled at securing travel information and overloaded with responsibilities right now so I was trying to offer some help in planning. This is the reason for my posting...to enlist all the great Fodors travelers to help me.

Their plan was to fly into FCO ( early AM arrival from Dulles) and use Hilton Points to stay for 2 nights at the airport, get a car and do some touring before the cruise out of Civitavecchia. They are now not really sure they "need" to see Rome" but might rather drive around the countryside.

Here are my suggestions so far but I really could use help as I have never visited Italy for so short a time and had to factor in working around a cruise. I said as they will be jet lagged, they should forget staying at the airport...get into Rome which IMO should not be missed (maybe stay at other Hilton to use some points if one is in the city), get a bus tour just so they can see the main sights, then crash for a nap, go out for a nice dinner and stroll around the city. I think I am prejudiced but as a non city lover I cannot get enough of Rome.

Next day maybe with the help of the cruise line for transportation ideas...get out to Civitavecchia (sp?) to rent a car so they avoid airport and drop off in other location charges. Their cruise will depart at 5 PM the day they return to drop the car.
I do not know if the cruise lines have places where you can leave luggage for 4 days but I think that would be great if they could avoid driving a little car with small space carting 16 days worth of cruise attire.

Does anyone have any suggestion for after they get the car? I was thinking that a location so they could easily drive to Siena, San G. maybe area around Chianti. I do not know if with the 4 nights left after Rome they can also get into Florence easily as I read one should avoid driving into the city. Does anyone have a great little place to stay, not too expensive? I loved Locanda Rosati (thanks to Bob the Navigator's suggestion years ago) outside Orvieto but not sure this would give them the best location to see the most with the least amount driving.

What would you do with 5 nights before a cruise on a first time visit to Italy? I do believe they have NO IDEA how close to this trip they have left all this unplanned.... or maybe I am too overly organized.
All and any suggestions greatly appreciated.
lowcountrycarol is offline  
Aug 28th, 2012, 11:21 AM
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Well if it were me I would just stay in Rome - which 5 days wold just scratch the surface of. But they seem not to be interested.

If you think they would prefer the countryside - still pleasant in Oct I would stay in one of the smaller towns and plan several day trips - one into Florence - but parking the car outside the pedestrian zone. (One thing you should be sure to explain is not driving in the center of these town - most have parking lots outside the town walls - so they re prepared for walking.

As for luggage - they should check with the cruise line right away - since this sounds like it could be a major PIA.
nytraveler is offline  
Aug 28th, 2012, 11:38 AM
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Five nights is only four full days. I would spend the time either in Rome or exploring the countryside, but not split the days.

Are you sure they're up for driving on a first-ever visit to Italy? That could be daunting for people who are "not very skilled at securing travel information."

If driving is OK, they could train to Orvieto after arriving FCO (probably arrive in time for lunch) and spend a day (or two) there seeing the town and adjusting to the time difference. Then rent a car and work their way back toward Civitavecchia. Bagnoregio, Viterbo and Tarquinia are all along the route. There are also things to see in Civitavecchia. Obviously, if driving, they'll need to rent a car large enough to hold all of their luggage in the trunk. I don't see any way around that logistical issue other than to pack light.

However, if I were a newbie with little/no planning skills, I'd spend those days in Rome. One hotel. Simple transport back and forth. Lots to see, especially if it's raining.
Jean is offline  
Aug 28th, 2012, 11:42 AM
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Thanks for you ideas. I would stay the 5 days in Rome but they want to "wander" around the countryside. My suggestion of first night at least in Rome was my feeling that it is not particularly fun to have to drive in a strange country the first day you arrive fighting the time issues.

I hope they have at least checked in with the cruise line about the luggage. This is a re positioning cruise that will end up in Galveston with stops in the Caribbean...meaning lots of climate changes/clothes.
lowcountrycarol is offline  
Aug 28th, 2012, 11:48 AM
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Jean, Maybe I am nuts trying to help them because the husband's reaction to Rome was "we can see it on the internet".

The train to Orvieto from Termini might be a good solution for them...but won't deal with a different drop off for the car as they would be returning it to Civitavecchia. The husband is the type to just "charge ahead" so I am not sure how this trip will go without some forethought and plan.
lowcountrycarol is offline  
Aug 28th, 2012, 12:00 PM
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if they want to wander around the countryside, i suggest that they do what Romans do at weekends and drive about 150 kms up the coast to Orbetello and stay either there or at Porto Ercoli.

it's a beautiful and unspoilt area with many ancient monuments to see - and close enough to Siena to see it as a day trip, plus Pitigliano, [like Orvieto without the crowds] the lagoon, several national parks, lovely beaches backed by woods filled with deer. perfect for a 4 day stay, and dead easy to get back to Civitiavecchia.
annhig is offline  
Aug 28th, 2012, 12:04 PM
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It's not a problem to rent a car in Orvieto and drop it off in Civitavecchia. I wouldn't push them to go to Rome. They want to see the countryside. The plan to go direction to Orvieto is a good one.

I think it is very hard to drive in Viterbo. Tarquinia is interesting historically, but it doesn't charm lots of people.

Why don't they go to Montepulciano? Even people with no experience in Italy can drive there, find a place to park and drive around visiting pretty towns for many days.

They probably should spend a night or two in Orvieto just to get over the jet lag.

It only takes 2.5 hours to drive to Civitavecchia from Montepuliciano.
stracciatella is offline  
Aug 28th, 2012, 12:07 PM
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For someone "not very skilled" at travel arrangements & I'm assuming doesn't speak Italian... renting a car is the LAST thing I'd ever suggest. I'd figure out an itinerary using public transportation. Somewhere they could train or bus to.

What *I* would do myself is just spend the 5 days in Rome.
suze is offline  
Aug 28th, 2012, 12:09 PM
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The person above me and I were posting at the same time.

I would not go to Orbetello in October.

When people say they can see Rome on the internet, I know what they mean. Photographs do not do justice to the experience of being in the Italian countryside in autumn, with all the good smells and good food and beautiful views. It is an immersion experience. They are going on a cruise and they will be going to many cities. Going to the farms would be a nice experience of Italy.

I like Pitigliano and the forests, but if you have never been to Italy, it is easier to find accommodations with English speakers in the tourist places. Cortona or Montepulciano or Pienza are easy places to go. There are many nice places to stay.
stracciatella is offline  
Aug 28th, 2012, 12:11 PM
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Now I was posting at the same time as "suze".

Lots of people come to Italy for the first time and rent a car to drive in Tuscany. It is easy! The husband is described as a "charge ahead" man. You don't need to plan everything to have fun in Tuscany around Pienza in October. You just go stay in a nice town with restaurants and even if you just drive 5 minutes on the roads, you are looking at something beautiful.
stracciatella is offline  
Aug 28th, 2012, 12:59 PM
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These are all such good thoughts. Think they would like Pienza or Montepulciano as a base. Would you all suggest new to Italy travelers, who do not speak Italian and may be jet lagged that they start driving as soon as they land at FCO? I remember one time my husband and I had a hard time keeping our eyes open on the drive after landing on our way to Orvieto.

That was the main reason why I thought they should just get into Rome for one night to "recover" and not be stuck out at the Hilton at FCO. They also will need to rent the car at an easy location.

Does anyone know how bad the charges are for different city drop off in the same general area in Italy?
lowcountrycarol is offline  
Aug 28th, 2012, 01:38 PM
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I would avoid cars and focus on trams, metros and trains. Maybe a couple of days visiting ancient rome, catch a train to Venice and a couple of days walking around the Serenissima.
bilboburgler is online now  
Aug 28th, 2012, 01:40 PM
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If the moving is a pain, stay in Rome
bilboburgler is online now  
Aug 28th, 2012, 01:52 PM
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Does anyone know how bad the charges are for different city drop off in the same general area in Italy?>>

they should be virtually nothing. there is not usually a drop off fee [apart from at airports] unless you are picking up in one country and dropping off in another.
annhig is offline  
Aug 28th, 2012, 02:00 PM
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No, I wouldn't.
suze is offline  
Aug 28th, 2012, 02:30 PM
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Another vote for staying in Rome. Do you know what stops the cruise makes? They will have a chance to see other places. If not Rome, train to Orvieto, rent a car, drive to Montepulciano, base there and wander a bit from there.

I have a hard time "planning" an itinerary for someone who says they can see Rome on the Internet. Whew!
mamcalice is offline  
Aug 28th, 2012, 02:33 PM
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Unless they asked for help, maybe just keep the suggestions simple since they're overloaded already. Too many suggestions or details may be too much for them to handle.

For instance, you can tell them it would be a good to stay in Rome to do some exploring, get bearings at the start of the trip. They can arrange day trips from there. Or if set on driving the countryside suggest 2 or 3 locations.

You may want to fill them in on the need for the international drivers permit.

Have they done any other traveling before? People have their own ways of traveling and sightseeing and maybe with this trip they'll learn what theirs is.
hamlet is offline  
Aug 28th, 2012, 03:34 PM
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I think it is useless to encourage your friends to stay in Rome when they seem to have set their mind so much in visiting the Italian country-side. This can clearly be seen in the comments they have made to you how eager they are to be away from Rome, and are happy with seeing Rome just on the internet, lol.

Picking up car from one location at an airport and dropping it off at rental office in another airport in Italy incurs only a small fee of around 50 Euros - we almost always book with Avis. We did this several times, picking up car from one region in Italy, and dropping off car in another. I do not know about costs of pick-up/drop-off of car in locations instead of airports, whether this would incur a fee or not. You can easily check this at the website of your preferred car hire company, it would show you if there is an additional fee.

So, if it were my friend, I would suggest the following (considering their preferences):

For the first night I would stay in the Hilton airport hotel in Rome, I checked the website - it is extremely close to the terminal. So after arriving at airport early in the morning, your friends can check into hotel (they need to advise hotel about early check-in), have a rest and recover from jetlag, and if they feel up to it, afterwards take the free shuttle to central Rome (the hotel website mentions this) for a short visit there. Maybe they can take the open bus tour to have a bit of sight-seeing around the city, and if shuttle from Rome to the hotel runs till late, might even fit in an early dinner in central Rome.

The next morning they might pick up car from rental office in Fiumicino airport and head for Umbria. I think many of Umbria's towns and villages are easier to drive than those of Tuscany, as the hills seem gentler, yet even greener. The country-side is as breath-takingly beautiful (if not more IMO) as that of Tuscany, and region is closer to Rome. You have so many areas where they might base themselves, like Deruta (check out L'Antico Forziere - we had Christmas lunch at this country hotel last year) or close to Assisi (in 2007 we stayed in Il Maniero, a lovely old manor house on a little hill on outskirts of Assisi), or maybe close to the Lake Trasimeno (check out I Capricci di Merlon) etc. From there they can visit soooo many places like Terni ( staying in accommodation somewhere in this area would be so much even closer to Rome) and its waterfalls in Marmore, Perugia, Gubbio, the hilltop town of Spoleto, and even towns and cities in Tuscany (preferably more to its south) like Siena and even San Gimignano. I would not be sure about Florence - there is always some traffic in that area, plus it would not be that easy for first timers to park - they can always see this city on the internet, lol!!!

But if they just prefer to tour around the countryside, with just making a stop or two, then it is up to them. Like on their way to accommodation (let's say they are staying close to Assisi), they can easily stop near Terni waterfalls - we had done this on our way to our accommodation in 2007. Just checked on google maps - Terni is only about 1hr 25 minutes away from Fiumicino, and Assisi 2hrs 24 mins drive away (it would be approximately be the same for Deruta) - this is what I mean by saying that many locations in Umbria are a short drive away from Fiumicino - it should not pose any difficulties for your friends.

Then after their 4 nights touring southern Umbrian/southern Tuscany countryside or towns, they would drive the car back to Civitavecchia (a 1hr 35mins drive from Terni and 2hrs 34mins from Assisi - or maybe they might find some place between these distances). They should very well arrive in time for departure of cruise at 5pm if they leave accommodation in the morning to take it easy and be on the safe side.
Anna_Galea is offline  
Aug 28th, 2012, 07:21 PM
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I am sorry, but I don't see why people think it is easier for American who don't speak Italian or know Italian public transportation to use it instead of driving. Most Americans never take trains but they know how to drive and follow a map or use a GPS.

If they have a lot of luggage, it is much easier to have a car than to try to get on and off trains and climbs stairs in train stations.

I like Rome, but I don't tell people who don't want to go there to stay there because it is "easier". It is easier to be in a small town in Italy.

If they have a lot of luggage, then Pienza is flat. San Quirico d'Orcia is flat. I am not sure they should get in a car at the airport and drive right away. That is why I suggest they go to Orvieto get some sleep. But maybe they don't need to.

You can go right now to venere.com or booking.com and find places to stay in Orvieto, Pienza or San Quirico d'Orcia in October. If it rains, they can go to Montepulciano or Cortona or Chiusi and find things to do. if it is nice weather, they can just drive around and take pictures. Why send them so far as Umbria? Tuscany is nice. It is not hard to drive in Tuscany.

People are acting as if these people are mentally challenged. Thousands and thousands of tourists go to Tuscany and drive around who have never been to Europe before. It is not hard. Nobody crashes their car. It is very normal to decide in August to go to Italy in October. This is not "last minute". It is normal. What isn't normal is to spend 2 years planning to take trains because you are afraid to drive or go to Umbria because there are fewer hills. (The hills in Tuscany are little hills. They are not mountains.)

Most cruise ships do not leave until the evening, so your friends have all day to get there from someplace around Pienza.

2 nights Orvieto with a day trip by train to Cortona.

Rent a car in Orvieto, drive to Pienza or san Quirico d'Orcia (that is 90 minutes) and 3 nights there just to drive around and have a fun adventure. It is beautiful to do that.

Drive to Civitavecchia and drop of the car and load the luggage on the ship.

It really is not a big deal that needs months of planning, and they don't have to learn the train system and how to read Italian.
stracciatella is offline  
Aug 28th, 2012, 07:42 PM
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I know that I shouldn't say this but if you could see some of my passengers that are going on cruises out of Rome there is a reason why everyone is saying "stay in Rome".

Trying to learn Italian out loud as the landing gear is hitting the pavement in Rome or Milan or Venice.

Losing their passport between showing to the agent when they get on to trying to find it when they deplane-passports are left alot in the lavs and seat pockets,go figure?

Seeing tourists just holding their hand out with Euros and telling people in the airport to "just take what they need".

Not having hotels booked and thinking that they can "just wing it "at the last minute during high season which is almost year round now.

I am not putting everyone in this grouping but suffice to say that everyone is jet lagged and over the edge by the time we land after a long overnight flight.I travel to Rome and other cities of Italy quite a lot for work/vacation and I wouldn't be renting a car on my first time there as there are too many wonderful things to see,do,eat and drink there.AND if I shelled out some big bucks for a cruise, I would be worried that something would happen to the rental car and we would miss the port start.If they need some daytrips, then go up to Orvieto or out to Ostia Antica for the day. Keep in mind that Orvieto closes down in the afternoon for siesta which isn't helpful if you are on a tourist run.

Personally, I think that getting Rome limousine or something similar to pick you up at FCO and take you into the city is the way to go before a cruise. YOU CANNOT DO ALL OF ITALY IN ONE TRIP!!!!
dutyfree is offline  

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