Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

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giesen5
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Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by giesen5 » Mon Jul 25, 2016 12:35 am

I am planning on a July 2017 3+ week trip to Italy with my family of 4, which includes a 12 and 14 year old.

I have learned, though rough vacations in the past, that my family enjoys staying in one place for more than just a few days. So I feel that my 3 week itinerary should include just 3 stays, minus those travel days, of course. So my trip could be 21-24 days.

I have been focusing on Rome, Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast as my three stops. I am not that interested in Venice or Cinque Terre, but you might convince me.

What we are looking for:
- beach (swimming) time: I understand most beaches aren't sandy, but swimming is important
- small town time: I would like my kids to feel somewhat comfortable, enough that they might be able to roam a bit on their own.
- local time: Along with above, we would like to visit markets and not eat much in restaurants
- airbnb options: Would like to stay in town, or near the water
- Rome time: Not my kids speaking here, but my wife and I would like to see the sights
- some quiet time: I know that summer in Italy is far from quiet, but can we stay in a small town that is somewhat quiet at times?

Questions:
1. Are there other areas that we should visit/replace?
2. What is the best flow for these three areas?
3. Where to fly in and out of?
4. What are the best towns to stay in in Tuscany and Amalfi?

Okay, that's it for now. Thanks for your advice!

cheesepep
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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by cheesepep » Mon Jul 25, 2016 3:49 am

Never been to Italy, so can't offer any advice there. But just be careful and ever vigilant as there seems to be a high(er) rate of killings/attacks of tourists and local people alike.

traveler90
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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by traveler90 » Mon Jul 25, 2016 4:23 am

Sounds like you'll want a small town in Tuscany. Maybe Siena? There are quite a few nice small towns in the region. You'll be able to find something quite nice. We stayed in Florence for 5 nights but it was definitely very crowded. Very fun at night though as it's a big university/study abroad town, which we enjoyed as we are in our mid-20s. Note that the Florence airport was really small - we had to have a layover in Frankfurt before hopping on another 45 minute flight to Florence. Maybe not the best place to fly in and out of depending on where you're flying from.

Rome is Rome. Tons to do.

If you want to start or finish at the Amalfi coast, you will need to fly in/out of Naples. Not a very nice city. I haven't been personally but friends that have said it was a hassle to fly out of Naples and a pretty sketchy place. They all loved the actual Amalfi coast though.

We loved Venice. Very easy to walk, gets crowded during the day with cruise ships that come in but at night it wasn't bad at all. Very romantic and relaxing if you give yourself enough time there, but not sure how much young teens would enjoy it? They also have a huge international airport with direct flights to many US cities. It's a nice airport too.

metacritic
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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by metacritic » Mon Jul 25, 2016 5:14 am

With three weeks I'd probably focus on 1-2 regions, not three. Rome and Amalfi coast would be a great vacation. Or you could spend the whole time in Tuscany without disappointment.

You could do something like:
4-5 days Rome
Three days in Naples or skip it in favor of more time on the beach at the two places below
6-7 days in Capri or Ischia
7 days in Positano

Or if you want to focus on Rome-Tuscany you could do something like the following
4-5 days Rome
4-5 days Florence (I'd stay in Fiesole as Florence is muggy and hot in July)
3 days in Siena or Volterra (Volterra is in the hills and so cooler)
7 days in the Maremma or Elba for beach time.

Or what about the following to focus entirely on beaches?
7 days in Capri or Ischia
7 days in Positano
7 days in Lecce (look it up and you'll be somewhere few Americans go but my favorite part of Italy)



giesen5 wrote:I am planning on a July 2017 3+ week trip to Italy with my family of 4, which includes a 12 and 14 year old.

I have learned, though rough vacations in the past, that my family enjoys staying in one place for more than just a few days. So I feel that my 3 week itinerary should include just 3 stays, minus those travel days, of course. So my trip could be 21-24 days.

I have been focusing on Rome, Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast as my three stops. I am not that interested in Venice or Cinque Terre, but you might convince me.

What we are looking for:
- beach (swimming) time: I understand most beaches aren't sandy, but swimming is important
- small town time: I would like my kids to feel somewhat comfortable, enough that they might be able to roam a bit on their own.
- local time: Along with above, we would like to visit markets and not eat much in restaurants
- airbnb options: Would like to stay in town, or near the water
- Rome time: Not my kids speaking here, but my wife and I would like to see the sights
- some quiet time: I know that summer in Italy is far from quiet, but can we stay in a small town that is somewhat quiet at times?

Questions:
1. Are there other areas that we should visit/replace?
2. What is the best flow for these three areas?
3. Where to fly in and out of?
4. What are the best towns to stay in in Tuscany and Amalfi?

Okay, that's it for now. Thanks for your advice!

neilpilot
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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by neilpilot » Mon Jul 25, 2016 6:26 am

cheesepep wrote:Never been to Italy, so can't offer any advice there. But just be careful and ever vigilant as there seems to be a high(er) rate of killings/attacks of tourists and local people alike.
Italy=Germany=USA

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fredflinstone
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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by fredflinstone » Mon Jul 25, 2016 6:59 am

I can't answer most of your questions, but I have a few insights about Rome, Naples, and Pompeii that may prove helpful.

In July, Rome will be hot and crowded. If you are an early riser, I recommend waking up at 6 am on at least one day and going for a walk about town. Enjoy the Trevi fountain all by yourself, rather than fighting for a view with three hundred other tourists. From there, walk to Musei Capitolini and look out over the Roman Forum. You will be almost all alone and the temperature will be tolerable. The view is stunning.

When you go to The Colosseum and Forum, see them with a professional tour guide company. This will often reduce lines and the information provided is valuable. It will be unbearably hot; try to pick a time of day when temperatures are a bit cooler. Perhaps first thing in the morning.

When you visit the Vatican, keep an eye out for pickpockets. They like to victimize the mob of tourists who are busy oohing and aahing at La Pieta.

Naples is a dump: trash everywhere, many seedy areas. The taxi cab drivers there will definitely try to rip you off. Here are some tips to avoid getting scammed. It is written for visitors to Rome, but the advice applies anywhere in Italy: https://unamericanaaroma.com/2007/11/15 ... ipped-off/ (We had no problems with cabs in Rome.)

Uber is available in Rome. It would be a good idea to register and have it installed on your phone just in case you can't find a cab.

If you must stay in Naples (for example, as a way station to Pompeii or sites further south), I highly recommend this hotel: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Revie ... pania.html. It is lovely and reasonably priced. In general, prices in Naples are lower than in Rome.

Pompeii is well worth a visit, of course. It is nice to pair Pompeii with a visit to the National Archeological Museum in Naples. This museum houses many artifacts from Pompeii. Pompeii will be hot and you will be uncomfortable. There are not a lot of shaded areas. Go first thing in the morning and (especially since you are traveling with kids), don't stay more than two to three hours. Hot or not, Pompeii is a miraculous site; you will be in awe.

Out in the countryside, take the time to have dinner at a well-regarded agriturismo restaurant. http://www.agriturismo.it/en/

I think it's worth it to spend a few weeks learning a little Italian before you go. Pimsleur offers an intro course that is reasonably priced. This is something you might enjoy doing with your kids. Most people in Rome speak at least some English, but as you travel into the other parts of the country, a little Italian will probably prove helpful. After three weeks of Pimsleur, you will know enough Italian to be able to make a dinner reservation.

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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by carolinaman » Mon Jul 25, 2016 7:33 am

I was in Italy in September 2015. I visited Tuscany, Rome and Amalfi Coast. I was with a small group which stayed a week at a 900 year old castle (more like a farmhouse) in Greve, a small town in Tuscany. This place had their own vineyards and olive trees and made their own wine and olive oil. A very interesting place. I understand there are lots of these types of places in Tuscany. We took day trips to Florence, Sienna and several hill towns.

I was by myself in Rome for 5 nights and saw all the top sites. I used tours for all of the major sites and definitely recommend that approach. The one exception might be the Vatican if you have an audio tour. It was so noisy and crowded (hot too) in the Vatican, I missed a lot of what our tour guide said. Also, the tour guides speak with an Italian accent which can be difficult to understand everything they say. My hotel was the Albergo del Senato, looking out on the piazza at the Pantheon, which was a great hotel and location.

I took a one day van trip to Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast. I really enjoyed Positano and the ride between Naples and Positano. This is a great area and worthy of several days to explore the area and enjoy this lovely area. If I ever go back, I want to check out Capri and Sorrento. I was disappointed with Pompeii but after a while all of these ancient ruins tend to run together. It is a long 4 hour ride non stop between Positano and Rome.

September is peak season in Italy. I was told that August is actually off season due to the heat. If you tolerate the heat well, that might be a good time to go.

I flew into Rome and connected with a flight to Florence and met some friends who drove us to Greve. I took a bus from Greve to Florence and a high speed train to Rome. These trains run between major cities and are a good way to travel within Italy. A rental car is recommended for Tuscany but not Rome which has restrictions on tourists driving in the historic areas, and for good reason. Depending upon how much exploring you want to do, you may want a rental car for parts of the Amalfi Coast.

I used the travel site, www.tripadvisor.com, to plan my Rome and Amalfi parts of tour. That is an excellent travel site targeted to DIY travelers and you will find local experts offering lots of great advice.

Enjoy your Italian trip.

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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by Blueskies123 » Mon Jul 25, 2016 7:55 am

Use TripAdvisor.com. Everything you need to know.

I went in July last year and it was 100 degrees. I do not know about Sept. I could not believe how many American collage and high school students were there. It was kind of embarrassing.

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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by jebmke » Mon Jul 25, 2016 7:58 am

July can be incredibly hot in southern Europe.
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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by SueG5123 » Mon Jul 25, 2016 8:15 am

We have been to Italy many times. Random suggestions:

* If Venice is on your itinerary, try staying in Lido. It's only a short vaporetto ride away, and it's cheaper and less crowded (as far as hotel options). Restaurant and shopping opportunities there, too.

* Anything you see in Rome will take your breath away, so you can't go wrong. My personal favorites were the St. Peter in Chains church (yes, that's Michelangelo's Moses! and, yes, those are the chains that held Peter!), and the catacombs under the Vatican, for which you must request permission in advance. (Real easy, look it up online.)

* San Gimignano or Lucca or Orvieto would make excellent bases in Tuscany. Lucca, particularly, would be a nice retreat, easy to access Pisa and Florence by short train hop. Sienna also is quite nice, but make sure your schedule doesn't conflict with the Palio, or it may cost you $$$$$. Florence can be hot and crowded in August, but if you're going for art, make sure you see the Fra Angelico frescoes at the monastery near San Marco; free and not heavily trafficked (unlike the Academia down the street, where you'll wait in line forever to see David).

* Positano and Sorrento are lovely places on the Amalfi coast. Can't go wrong with either.

* Make sure you validate your tickets when getting on trains or buses, as American tourists seem to be easy marks for transport police who will levy stiff fines for not having validated! (Members of our party were fined 50 euros each for not having validated their train tickets.)

* In Florence particularly, you will see many street vendors hawking obviously counterfeit merchandise; be aware that Italian police will arrest or fine the purchaser and not the merchant!!!

Have a great time!

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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by renue74 » Mon Jul 25, 2016 9:00 am

I visited Italy with my wife in June 2015. Great trip. (We have 2 kids, but left them at home.)

Below are some suggestions:

Weather
In the summer it is extremely hot there. I live near Charlotte, NC...and I feel like the climate is very similar. So make sure you are ready for the heat. There are water fountains that provide drinking water throughout Italy. Small, plastic water bottles are perfect to use.

Cities
We did a Rick Steves Tour. We visited Venice, Florence, and Rome. (Plus side trips to Tuscany, Lake Como (Varenna), Pompeii, and Naples) In the summer, the cities are full of tourists, but still fine.

Venice
Out of the main cities we visited, I actually loved Venice the most. I didn't think I would, but the architecture, the passage ways, the museums, were great. I got up early each day (5am) and walked the city alone...before the tourists came in. It was wonderful to see the vendors getting ready for the day....and having the whole city to yourself. Just getting lost in the city was great. Of course we did all the touristy stuff as well.

Florence
This city was great as well. I loved the Uffizi Gallery. Absolutely could spend hours and hours there. The leather market is OK. It's just a great "smaller city."

Tuscany
On our trip, we went from Venice to Florence...with a side trip to an Agriturismo....an olive farm that catered to small batches of tourists. You may want to stay as a family at one of these places. They typically are in small town areas and have larger guest quarters. A lot of them have built special areas for the guests and have installed swimming pools (something your kids may enjoy in the evenings). This was a highlight....we had lunch outside, family style...great olives, beautiful views of the rolling hills and olive trees. It was great.

There are plenty of tours you could take or even cooking classes. We took a cooking class in Florence and then had a great lunch afterwards.

Rome
Rome is rome....like you said. It's huge and has easily 4-5 days of things to do. After visiting the places above, I like Rome just fine...but was tired of the hoards of people....and Rome has the most. Make sure to visit the Trastevere area of the city...it's slightly less crowded and has some wonderful sites.

Naples
After our RS tour...we had some extra days and wanted to visit Pompeii....so we rode the train down to Naples for a day....then flew back to Milan. As others have said Naples is pretty bad. It's a working class Italian city and outside the Naples train station...it's bad. My wife's iPad was pickpocketed as we were walking through. The train station in Naples actually does have a local train that goes through to Pompeii. It was definitely worth going to. You must be vigilant at all times. The train is also a haven for pickpockets.

We actually flew from Naples Airport to Milan for 30 euros...because our flights out of Italy were out of Milan. It only took about 40 minutes to fly.

Lake Como
At the end of our visit, we actually went to Varenna in the Lake Como region. Truly, a nice way to end the vacation. Less crowded, great water. Your kids may like this area. Plenty of things to do...for a day or two.

I think the keys to traveling with kids in Italy would be definitely to mix up your time. We could spend all day in churches, galleries, and museums...but I think our kids would have been burned out after a couple of days. Italy is great for people watching, the food is wonderful, sit at a cafe...eat and drink slowly and enjoy the people.

With kids, I would definitely look into the Agritourismo idea. In Tuscany...you are pretty close to Florence and could do a lot in the small towns as well as Florence. Plus, the kids could see a real working farm.

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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by giesen5 » Mon Jul 25, 2016 11:33 am

Thank you all for your responses. We will definitely hit Florence and I am rethinking my timeline. Kids get out of school June 15, probably should plan on flying as soon as possible after that date.

Any other kid ideas?

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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by Toons » Mon Jul 25, 2016 11:42 am

Brush Up on the Italian Language
Free :mrgreen: :mrgreen:
https://www.duolingo.com/course/it/en/L ... ian-Online
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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by trueblueky » Mon Jul 25, 2016 11:43 am

Take trains between cities. http://www.bahn.de gives you the schedules.

Pisa is close enough to Florence you can go there, and Pisa has a better airport. A couple of hours in Pisa itself are enough. The outdoor markets in Florence are fun.

Don't think of driving in Rome, but it's fun in the countryside and let's you stop in the smaller towns. Traffic laws are more like suggestions, as you will observe. Parking in the city is chaos.

Tours in Rome help avoid lines, especially for the Vatican. We visited that one day and the colosseum, hippodrome, etc another. Walking around Rome gives you a feel for how close things are to each other. Approaching the Spanish Steps from above gives a different view than you normally see.

You can day trip Rome to Pompeii. It's a two-hour train ride there with a change in Naples.

Italians eat late! We found a slice of pizza or other street food at five would keep us until nine.

Edited to fix link.
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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by Watty » Mon Jul 25, 2016 12:01 pm

If you are planning on getting a rental car then check your credit card rental car coverage. Italy is often excluded.

Read the reviews on any beaches that you might be going to carefully. You might find a hidden gem but compared to Florida, the Caribbean, or Mexico you will likely be underwhelmed and find them overbuilt, expensive, and packed at that time of year.

I was expecting not to really like Venice but I really liked it. The main tourist areas are a nightmare especially since there are cruise ships there now but once you get a ten minute walk away it is really nice just to wonder around and get semi-lost.

It will be hot and the air conditioning in hotels will likely not be up to US standards but as long as you are expecting that you should be fine.

The Rick Steves websites has podcasts of walking tours that you can download.

Even if you are not religious the Vatican is a must see but be sure to get your tickets will in advance.

In Florence be sure to see the Museo Galileo for their displays of the old scientific instruments. If I remember correctly they even have a telescope made by Galileo.

http://www.museogalileo.it/en/index.html

You might consider getting open jaw plane tickets where you fly into Rome and out of Milan. I have not been there but you might consider spending some time in the cooler mountain areas around Milan.

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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by barreg » Mon Jul 25, 2016 1:25 pm

You've gotten lots of feedback so far and I'll add mine. We just got back a few weeks ago from a 2 week family trip with our 13 and 15 year old kids. We spent 3 nights in Venice, 4 nights in Sestri Levante, 3 nights near San Gimgnano, and 4 nights in Rome. Here are my thoughts:

General:
-We stayed in apartments in each city/town and really appreciated having separate beds for the kids, laundry, air conditioning, and a kitchen for making breakfasts (I need more protein than the typical Italian breakfast provides). If you're going in July, you'll want every place to have air conditioning and you'll want to read reviews to make sure it works well. We used AirBnb, VBRO, and stayed at a B&B that had an apartment.
-We used trains for traveling between cities, with the exception of Tuscany, where we rented a car for 3 days to get around better to the hill towns
-We purposely avoided Florence. Partially because we were already planning on going to 2 of the 3 most popular tourist cities, partially because the kids weren't that interested in museums, and partially because when i visited Italy as a teenager, Florence was the city I enjoyed the least.
-We each took a rolling carry-on size suitcase and a small backpack, which made it very easy to get around train stations, etc. Saw too many families struggling with huge suitcases.
-We bought a SIM card (Vodaphone) on our first day and then used that phone as a wifi hotspot so all of our devices could connect. This was very helpful for getting around, making reservations, and keeping in touch with family/friends between open wifi spots and it only took a few minutes to buy and get setup. Plus, it only cost around $40 total.
-Check Tripadvisor.com, Rick Steves forums online & books, and Fodors online forums to get info. Lots of people are glad to share their tips or provide advice (though you'll notice some always offer the same advice).
-Rick Steves has a free app and podcasts for audio tours of many major locations. My wife and I used them quite a bit, but the kids preferred "live" tour guides
-Download city maps for offline use on Google Maps and use your GPS to get around without needing to use any data. I "saved" restaurants, points of interest, etc. before downloading the maps to make it easy to find them.
-Google Maps works great for showing you both driving/walking directions and for public transit
-Get a few different guide books from your local library and read through them to try to get a better feel for what you want to do and where you want to go. Then, buy the one(s) you like the most to take with you.

Venice:
-Our whole family loved Venice. It's just so different than any other city that it's a great place to visit. For us, 3 nights was perfect. If you go, I'd highly recommend staying in Venice itself (not Mestre or Lido) and away from St Mark's. We had a great apartment about 100 yards away from Campo San Barnaba in Dosoduro and found it very easy to escape the crowds of St Mark's square.
-We went to the Lido one day to ride bikes and look around but I wasn’t a big fan of the Lido. Where Venice felt so classy and beautiful, the Lido did not (it felt more like the Jersey Shore).
-The Doge’s Palace Secret Itineraries tour was very informative and a good introduction to Venice.

Sestri Levante:
-We debated between the Amalfi Coast and the Italian Riveria and the desire to go to Cinque Terre was one of the main deciding factors. From what I had read beforehand, many people said that they were similar in terms of views, etc. However, since you're looking for beach time/swimming, the Italian Riveria (Sestri Levante, Santa Margherita Ligure, Levanto, Monterosso, etc.) has many more options. Also, it's really easy and quick to travel by train between towns, as opposed to the Amalfi Coast, where getting around seems very expensive (private driver) and/or crowded (SITA bus).
-Sestri Levante is a beautiful small town with nice beaches, good restaurants, and great train connections (most trains going North or South stop here). It seemed more popular with Italian tourists than other places we visited, and we heard very little english (though most waiters spoke very good english).
-I planned our visit to Cinque Terre on a day when there were no cruise ships in port nearby and we started our hike from Monterosso to Vernazza at 9am. It was beautiful and surprisingly uncrowded. We then visited the other towns by boat.
-We also visited Santa Margherita Ligure, Portofino, and San Fruttuoso and spent a day at the beach day in Levanto.
-We would have loved to have stayed longer

Tuscany (San Gimgnano)
-From Sestri Levante, we took a train to Lucca, shopped and had lunch, then picked up our rental car and drove to our B&B near San Gimgnano.
-With kids, I'd recommend staying somewhere with a pool. We'd go out each day and then come back after lunch to hop in the pool.
-San Gimgnano in the evening is a beautiful, small, uncrowded town. We wound up going back each night because the kids enjoyed it so much.
-We spent one blazingly hot day in Siena. While it was very pretty, it felt like a big city after San Gimgnano.
-We dropped off our rental car in Chiusi and took the train into Rome. Again, we would have loved to have stayed longer.

Rome
-I loved Rome, but I would never go back again in the summer. It was unbearably hot and in the 4.5 days we were there, I think I saw one small cloud the whole time. Not only is the sun beating down from above, but also reflecting up from the pavement and cobblestones. By 10am, all anyone cared about was finding somewhere with air conditioning.
-If I had to go back to Rome in the summer, I would only go for three nights and hit the big sights (Colosseum, St Peters). There are so many historical sights to see, but when the whole family is a sweaty mess, it really makes it hard to enjoy.
-Our family highlights were the 3rd Ring/Underground tour at the Colosseum, the tour at Pallazo Valentini (underground and air conditioned), visiting St Peter's, and just walking around the city/fountains at night.
-Our last day, we gave up on sightseeing and went to an outdoor pool, which was perfect. Piscina della Rose pool is an easy 25 minute bus/metro ride from the city center

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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by Slapshot » Mon Jul 25, 2016 1:50 pm

I'd schedule your trip for June rather than August. Rome involves much walking, and I can't imagine doing it in mid-summer heat. We did a similar 2 week trip in late September a few years ago. We used VRBO to find accommodations, and it worked out great.

We flew into Rome. In Rome we stayed in a 2 bedroom apartment near the Vatican. From there we walked everywhere, putting in I'll bet nearly 10 miles/day for 4 days. Then we rented a car and drove to San Gimignano in Tuscany where we stayed for 6 days in a 3 bedroom house within walking distance of the town. This served as a central spot for day trips to Florence, Siena, Pisa, some coastal island and various old walled mountaintop towns like Pienza and Montpulciano. It was nice to get back to the house at night and make our own meals (we were with another couple).

From San Gimignano we drove to Venice. Instead of staying in Venice, we got a couple of rooms in a house in the suburb of Mogliano Veneto. From here it was easy to take the train into Venice each day, only 3 or 4 stops, eliminating many hassles in addition to being much cheaper than staying in the city proper. Venice was a real highlight of the trip, and I can't imagine going to Italy without seeing it. Truly unique. Another highlight was a day trip from our house up into the mountains to Cortina D'Ampezzo in the Dolomites. Passing through and stopping in some of the rural Italian villages along the way was a real eye opener. We flew home out of Milan as our traveling companions were staying another week around Lake Como and dropped us off. We spent one day there checking the city out. If you go there, you have to climb to the roof of the cathedral, truly spectacular.

All in all, a great trip. Good luck.
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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by StealthWealth » Mon Jul 25, 2016 1:57 pm

SueG5123 wrote:We have been to Italy many times. Random suggestions:
* Make sure you validate your tickets when getting on trains or buses, as American tourists seem to be easy marks for transport police who will levy stiff fines for not having validated! (Members of our party were fined 50 euros each for not having validated their train tickets.)
I will work on putting some thoughts together as Italy is one of our favorite places to visit but I wanted to make sure that this was remembered. Even if you buy a ticket for a very specific train you must still validate your tickets. I have seen sooooo many people get "fined" for not having validated the ticket (usually is a machine right by the tracks). It almost seems a rite of passage for visiting Italy. I have even seen some people negotiate it which makes me think it doesn't all end up back at HQ.

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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by soboggled » Mon Jul 25, 2016 2:21 pm

My take.
Don't miss, in approximate order:
Venice
Rome- St. Peters, Vatican, Colosseum, etc.
Sienna, hill towns of Tuscany, Assisi
Amalfi coast (Sorrento, Positano, Capri, Ischia, etc.)
Florence, especially if art lover

You can skip:
Naples - Some attractions, good food, many slums
Pompeii - Eh
Pisa - So the tower leans

And no, the cities are not dangerous, probably safer than most in the US except for reported pickpockets.

MathWizard
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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by MathWizard » Mon Jul 25, 2016 2:50 pm

Consider Florence. It is wonderful. 2 hour bullet train ride from Rome.

We used the metro and got a 3 day Rome pass. That gave us entry into several sites, and metro every day.

Vatican Museum:

If you're going to the Vatican Museum, get a reservation online well before you go.
(If I recall, you still buy tickets inside, but you stand in line to get the tickets.)

The line was 2 blocks long before it even opened.
We went ahead to see if our advance reservations got us closer, and got into a shorter line.

A man came up to us and asked if we were in a tour. (We expected to be sent to the back of the line, but
when we told him we had advance reservations, he said, you go to this line. That line had 2 people waiting!!.)

We saved hours just on that.

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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by giesen5 » Mon Jul 25, 2016 10:21 pm

Well, dammit, I have done a bit more digging into the Italian Riviera and it seems like a place to go. And dammit, Venice seems like a place to go, too.

What do you think of a Venice - Italian Riviera - Tuscany - Rome trip in mid-June? Better to start South and head North?

My original trip was Amalfi Coast - Tuscany - Rome.

Jd1006
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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by Jd1006 » Tue Jul 26, 2016 6:17 am

Sounds like you would really enjoy the cinque tierre and Monterosso bay or Levanto in particular, as both have nice beaches and a small town feel.

I think Siena is a must see. Lucca was the neatest small town in northern Tuscany, it has ramparts you can bike around! Florence is absolutely a can't miss, such a beautiful city that really has most of the sites in a compact area. San Gimignano is a tourist trap. Beautiful from a distance, but know need to go in. I would recommend finding an agritourismo in northern Tuscany and visiting the hill towns mentioned above. Many of the agritourismo a have pools.

Take a day trip from Rome to Ostia Antica. Less crowded than Pompeii, and the ruins are equally as impressive. Get down to see the aqueduct parks, it's free and a great place for a picnic

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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by rjbraun » Tue Jul 26, 2016 10:59 am

trueblueky wrote:Take trains between cities. http://www.de.bahn gives you the schedules.

Pisa is close enough to Florence you can go there, and Pisa has a better airport. A couple of hours in Pisa itself are enough. The outdoor markets in Florence are fun.

Don't think of driving in Rome, but it's fun in the countryside and let's you stop in the smaller towns. Traffic laws are more like suggestions, as you will observe. Parking in the city is chaos.

Tours in Rome help avoid lines, especially for the Vatican. We visited that one day and the colosseum, hippodrome, etc another. Walking around Rome gives you a feel for how close things are to each other. Approaching the Spanish Steps from above gives a different view than you normally see.

You can day trip Rome to Pompeii. It's a two-hour train ride there with a change in Naples.

Italians eat late! We found a slice of pizza or other street food at five would keep us until nine.
I haven't read through this entire thread, but if OP is focusing exclusively on Italy and is considering train travel, the correct website would be that for Trenitalia. There's also another Italian train company whose name I don't recall at the moment (but the http://www.de.bahn link, which actually didn't work for me, isn't it).

We've taken Trenitalia numerous times and have found service overall very good to excellent (especially on the higher-speed Freccia service classes -- some of the regional trains can be less well-maintained and require staying reasonably alert, depending on just what part of Italy you're traveling through). Avoid using the Rail Europe website, which apparently targets US customers and charges higher rates.

http://www.trenitalia.com/tcom-en

Ostia Antica is an ancient site that can be visited during a stay in Rome; it's sometimes presented as an alternative to going to Pompeii, if you're pressed for time. I think it was a 30 minute or so ride from Rome city-center on the commuter rail.

http://www.ostia-antica.org/

We thoroughly enjoyed a roughly 2-hour walking tour of the Vatican Gardens. An added bonus is that you can jump the line and gain entrance to the Vatican museums after the tour concludes (admission included with the garden tour ticket price).

https://biglietteriamusei.vatican.va/mu ... a=3&step=2

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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by rjbraun » Tue Jul 26, 2016 11:04 am

Jd1006 wrote:I think Siena is a must see. Lucca was the neatest small town in northern Tuscany, it has ramparts you can bike around! Florence is absolutely a can't miss, such a beautiful city that really has most of the sites in a compact area. San Gimignano is a tourist trap. Beautiful from a distance, but know need to go in. I would recommend finding an agritourismo in northern Tuscany and visiting the hill towns mentioned above. Many of the agritourismo a have pools.
+1. Lucca is fantastic. We spent four or so nights there in late October one year and thoroughly enjoyed it. Siena is also lovely, though will have more tourists, I believe. My impression of Lucca was that it was just a charming place. While there were some tourist-type things to do, there's really no "must-see", so it struck us as just more of a "normal" place with "ordinary people", fortunate enough to live in a beautiful and charming setting!

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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by giesen5 » Tue Jul 26, 2016 11:44 am

rjbraun wrote:
Jd1006 wrote:I think Siena is a must see. Lucca was the neatest small town in northern Tuscany, it has ramparts you can bike around! Florence is absolutely a can't miss, such a beautiful city that really has most of the sites in a compact area. San Gimignano is a tourist trap. Beautiful from a distance, but know need to go in. I would recommend finding an agritourismo in northern Tuscany and visiting the hill towns mentioned above. Many of the agritourismo a have pools.
+1. Lucca is fantastic. We spent four or so nights there in late October one year and thoroughly enjoyed it. Siena is also lovely, though will have more tourists, I believe. My impression of Lucca was that it was just a charming place. While there were some tourist-type things to do, there's really no "must-see", so it struck us as just more of a "normal" place with "ordinary people", fortunate enough to live in a beautiful and charming setting!
This is great information. Did Lucca have a daily market or something like that?

radiowave
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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by radiowave » Tue Jul 26, 2016 11:54 am

Just got back from 3 weeks in Italy in June.

+1 on Trip Advisor, one of the most helpful online travel sites available.

Some notes:
- we (my wife and i) based in 3 cities: Rome, Perugia, and Florence
- we did all travel by train (Tren Italia and Italo)
- Rome as noted, has many sites, the posts above cover most of them. Our hotel was near the main train/metro/bus station (Roma Termini) but we walked most of the time to the Colosseum, Vatican, etc. If you stay near Roma Termini, there are plenty of options for bus and metro. We had dinner on the river . . . . sorry forget the name for the district but there were plenty of outdoor restaurants right on the water.
- we did a day trip from Rome to Pompeii. Take the fast train to Naples then the local Circum Vesuviana (I'm mangling the name) and it drops you right off at the entrance to the site. We did a local tour you purchase right at the train station but with adequate maps, you can walk the site yourself. Go as early as possible to avoid the heat and crowds. We took the local train back to Naples central station then the metro to the archaeology museum. Had some pizza a few blocks from the museum then back to Rome the way we came. Long day but very satisfying. Bring plenty of water and things to eat for Pompeii.
- We traveled by train to Perugia, a classic hill town in northern Umbria. We stayed in the old town and it was lots of fun going down narrow old streets. We also did a day trip from Perugia to Assisi just 3 stops by train (there is a mini metro from the old town to the Perugia train station). We did not have any problems with credit cards and purchasing train tickets in the kiosks.
- Florence was our final Italy stop. We stayed in a nice hotel just a couple blocks from the main train station Santa Maria Novella (SMN). From there its easy walking to all the sites, there are some pedestrian only streets that are quite nice.
- we did a tour bus of Tuscany (Walk About) that leaves right from the SMN train station, Sienna, San Gimgnano, and Pisa plus a full lunch with wine at a local winery. 12 hours but we both felt it was a good value at about a hundred a piece.
- all together we traveled about 12 different trains and did not have one problem, all we on time and comfortable and reasonably priced.
- Yes it was hot in June and I suspect July/August is even hotter so be sure you have a place with air conditioning. Our hotel in Perugia did not have A/C but it was raining the 2 days we were there so it wasn't too bad.
- hotel in Italy tend to be smaller and most serve simple breakfast items
- we used our Capital One Quicksilver card almost exclusively, no foreign transaction fees and still get 1.5% back and never had a problem with it. We used our US ATM card and withdrew money at secure bank sites (the ones where you go inside through a glass double door for security). The card worked flawlessly and we got a better exchange rate than at the airport.
- for security when travelling, I have a small zippered pouch for my wallet that hangs off my belt I keep inside my pants, but also have a "throw away" wallet in my buttoned back pocket with nothing of value or ID in it. The only time I felt a little uncomfortable was on the local train from Naples to Pompeii. Just use usual caution, don't flash money, keep scanning the crowd, If I was taking picture my wife would look around for me and vise a versa.
- Re jet lag, we tried the homeopathic pills you get at the luggage store or airport. We stay up when we got to Rome and walked around until it got dark. With the pills we felt fine the first few nights and then adjusted quite well. On return, I got up earlier than usual for a week or so.
- On arrival in Rome main airport, there is a train you can take to Rome Termini station. We decided to hire a car service (see Trip Adviser) and that worked out well. We had to transfer in Geneva with a 6 hour overlay so we splurged.
- The one thing we wished we did was add a few days to go up to the lake district. We traveled on our outbound train to Switzerland and it seemed to be a wonderful area.

Hope this helps.
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rjbraun
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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by rjbraun » Tue Jul 26, 2016 12:39 pm

giesen5 wrote:
rjbraun wrote:
Jd1006 wrote:I think Siena is a must see. Lucca was the neatest small town in northern Tuscany, it has ramparts you can bike around! Florence is absolutely a can't miss, such a beautiful city that really has most of the sites in a compact area. San Gimignano is a tourist trap. Beautiful from a distance, but know need to go in. I would recommend finding an agritourismo in northern Tuscany and visiting the hill towns mentioned above. Many of the agritourismo a have pools.
+1. Lucca is fantastic. We spent four or so nights there in late October one year and thoroughly enjoyed it. Siena is also lovely, though will have more tourists, I believe. My impression of Lucca was that it was just a charming place. While there were some tourist-type things to do, there's really no "must-see", so it struck us as just more of a "normal" place with "ordinary people", fortunate enough to live in a beautiful and charming setting!
This is great information. Did Lucca have a daily market or something like that?
The market we visited during our stay in Lucca was, I believe, somewhat outside of the center of town but still within the ramparts. I know we visited as I have a sweater I bought in the market as well as recall buying some food (cheese, bread or sandwich, perhaps, maybe fruit) that we then ate sitting on a bench watching the cyclists and pedestrians stroll along the ramparts. While my recollection was that the market was fine, it somewhat lacked the charm one might encounter at Campo dei fiori or some other markets elsewhere.

In fairness, some of these markets I suspect are geared as much to tourists as locals, if not more so. When we were in Rome this past January we walked around kind of seeking out smaller markets. They tended to be a few stands with baskets of fresh produce, etc. Very nice and likely designed to cater to neighborhood locals but more the type of thing to stumble across than to actively seek out.

Also, I've found that some of the markets carry stuff that may be imported, etc. and just didn't come across as "genuine" (not sure where my sweater was made, but it certainly wasn't hand-made or anything for the relatively modest price I paid). I guess all I'm suggesting is that you don't get your hopes up too much. At the same time, if you're lucky you'll come across some smaller markets that are frequented by locals. Also, Lucca may very well have other markets than the one we visited, I don't know. As others have already suggested, tripadvisor.com can be helpful in this regard.

One last thought on markets. We've found that markets in smaller towns can sell all sorts of things: household products (buckets, pots, etc), clothes (inexpensive, practical stuff) and various food products. I initially found it kind of odd to find dangling pots and pans, house dresses, undergarments and stuff comingled with various foods and produce, but I think in small towns and even large cities the street markets serve a useful purpose and that may just be the way it is.

metacritic
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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by metacritic » Tue Jul 26, 2016 1:05 pm

I truly think that to enjoy the trip you need to delimit destinations. I'd do just Rome and Amalfi Coast/Campagna or just Rome and Tuscany this time around. You can do Venice on another trip and the Riviera on yet another.
giesen5 wrote:Well, dammit, I have done a bit more digging into the Italian Riviera and it seems like a place to go. And dammit, Venice seems like a place to go, too.

What do you think of a Venice - Italian Riviera - Tuscany - Rome trip in mid-June? Better to start South and head North?

My original trip was Amalfi Coast - Tuscany - Rome.

trueblueky
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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by trueblueky » Tue Jul 26, 2016 1:10 pm

rjbraun wrote:
trueblueky wrote:Take trains between cities. http://www.de.bahn gives you the schedules.

Pisa is close enough to Florence you can go there, and Pisa has a better airport. A couple of hours in Pisa itself are enough. The outdoor markets in Florence are fun.

Don't think of driving in Rome, but it's fun in the countryside and let's you stop in the smaller towns. Traffic laws are more like suggestions, as you will observe. Parking in the city is chaos.

Tours in Rome help avoid lines, especially for the Vatican. We visited that one day and the colosseum, hippodrome, etc another. Walking around Rome gives you a feel for how close things are to each other. Approaching the Spanish Steps from above gives a different view than you normally see.

You can day trip Rome to Pompeii. It's a two-hour train ride there with a change in Naples.

Italians eat late! We found a slice of pizza or other street food at five would keep us until nine.
I haven't read through this entire thread, but if OP is focusing exclusively on Italy and is considering train travel, the correct website would be that for Trenitalia. There's also another Italian train company whose name I don't recall at the moment (but the http://www.de.bahn link, which actually didn't work for me, isn't it).

We've taken Trenitalia numerous times and have found service overall very good to excellent (especially on the higher-speed Freccia service classes -- some of the regional trains can be less well-maintained and require staying reasonably alert, depending on just what part of Italy you're traveling through). Avoid using the Rail Europe website, which apparently targets US customers and charges higher rates.

http://www.trenitalia.com/tcom-en

Ostia Antica is an ancient site that can be visited during a stay in Rome; it's sometimes presented as an alternative to going to Pompeii, if you're pressed for time. I think it was a 30 minute or so ride from Rome city-center on the commuter rail.

http://www.ostia-antica.org/

We thoroughly enjoyed a roughly 2-hour walking tour of the Vatican Gardens. An added bonus is that you can jump the line and gain entrance to the Vatican museums after the tour concludes (admission included with the garden tour ticket price).

https://biglietteriamusei.vatican.va/mu ... a=3&step=2
You're right. It's http://www.Bahn.de. That German site has versions in several languages.

If you know two exact locations in Europe, it will tell you how far to walk to the bus stop, the times for the bus, how far to walk from the bus to the train, at which platform the train arrives, a list of stops along the way, and the bus/walk at your destination. It provides alternatives -- what if we leave and your later, is the regional train cheaper but slower? Amtrak should be so good.

barreg
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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by barreg » Tue Jul 26, 2016 1:41 pm

metacritic wrote:I truly think that to enjoy the trip you need to delimit destinations. I'd do just Rome and Amalfi Coast/Campagna or just Rome and Tuscany this time around. You can do Venice on another trip and the Riviera on yet another.
giesen5 wrote:Well, dammit, I have done a bit more digging into the Italian Riviera and it seems like a place to go. And dammit, Venice seems like a place to go, too.

What do you think of a Venice - Italian Riviera - Tuscany - Rome trip in mid-June? Better to start South and head North?

My original trip was Amalfi Coast - Tuscany - Rome.
I'd disagree. With 3 weeks, you could easily stay in 4 separate locations and not feel rushed, especially since I'd recommend only 3-4 nights in Venice. Also, I'd disagree with the a previous comment about San Gimgnano being a tourist trap, at least if you visit in the late afternoon or evening. During the day, yes, but at sunset and at night, it felt almost magical (as cliche as that sounds).

remomnyc
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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by remomnyc » Tue Jul 26, 2016 2:25 pm

We visited Tuscany and the Amalfi coasts on separate visits, but we flew into Rome both times. Each trip was only 10 days, so 3 weeks is enough to do both. In Tuscany, we stayed in Siena and visited Lucca. I can't recall where we stayed in Siena, but it had a pool and nothing beats a pool in August after a day of traipsing about. On the Amalfi coast, we stayed at the Cappucini Convento in Amalfi and visited Ravello and Positano. In Rome, hire a tour guide for the Forum and Coliseum and get advance reservations for the Sistine Chapel. We went during a Jubilee year and the line was literally half a mile long and we went straight to the ticket window (no one ahead of us). A nice day trip from Rome is the Villa d'Este.

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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by Grt2bOutdoors » Tue Jul 26, 2016 2:51 pm

All of the above advice is pretty much spot on.
Use of money belt is recommended.
Skip Naples ~ 50 years later, and its reputation is still intact! :wink:

If you do decide to visit the Uffizi gallery in Florence, highly recommend you purchase tickets in advance of your trip (like months), or the line to purchase the tickets may take you two hours. Also, recommend visiting Gli Academia where the infamous David resides.

If you are like most Americans you'll find you tower over the Europeans, but keep your eyes open as pickpockets love to ride the bus that crosses in front of the Vatican and you may find them on the underground subway. Most interestingly, the gypsy's at the Coliseum will try to find a way to your pockets, including rushing you with a baby in their arms to distract you while their accomplice makes off with your wallet.
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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by giesen5 » Tue Jul 26, 2016 3:14 pm

I have finally made a decision. We will fly into Venice late June. That is it so far. From what I have read, 3 nights will do it to recover from jet lag and to see the Venice sites.

I understand "Tuscany" is quite large. If you had to stay in this region for 7-10 days and wanted to stay in a smaller city where you could day trip from, where would you stay? Getting the feel of the culture, going to the market, etc. I've seen Lucca mentioned before. Siena also, but some people say it has grown quite a bit and is not so quaint.

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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by radiowave » Tue Jul 26, 2016 3:23 pm

If you're starting from Venice, then it makes sense to take the fast train to Florence then the fast train to Rome = 3 cities and do day trips out of each. As I mentioned above, we went to Siena as part of a day tour and if I had to pick another place to stay in Tuscany besides Florence as a base, it would be Siena. However, with kids, they may not enjoy it as much as Florence (more to do there) and you'll have to change trains in Florence SNM. If you do the Venice-Florence-Rome itinerary, you can depart out of Rome (open jaw).
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Iorek
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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by Iorek » Tue Jul 26, 2016 3:37 pm

In Tuscany you could look at the Val D'Orcia. Lots of smallish towns that could be base for daytrips to other small towns (might try to find a place with a pool, so you do shorter day trips combined with afternoons at the pool). Thinking of places like Montalcino, Montepulciano, San Quirico, Bagno Vignoni, Pienza (some of these are pretty small, some are larger, but none as large as Siena as I recall; Siena is fairly close, Florence would be reachable but a longish day).

Not to make things more difficult, but it's very easy and pretty cheap to fly to Sicily from Rome or other cities on the mainland-- there are a number of towns/beaches that sound like they might be attractive to you (depending on your priorities, but maybe consider Cefalu as one example).

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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by curmudgeon » Tue Jul 26, 2016 4:26 pm

Open-jaw is definitely preferable for this trip. Flying into Venice is a good choice; depending on where you are flying to/from, many routings to US from Venice have early morning departures which can have awkward logistics. With four of you it might be worth taking a water taxi from the airport (a bit pricey, but a fun way to arrive and will get you closer to your hotel than other options). We usually buy the three-day vaporetto passes while in town; if you are wandering and start to get footsore on the far side of town it's nice to be able to find the nearest stop and hop a boat back. Leave Venice by train; the station is quite convenient. If you buy your train tickets in advance (I think they go on sale 60-90 days in advance), you can get pretty cheap non-refundable tickets.

Sienna was a favorite of mine; a good town to let the kids wander on their own. Staying inside the city walls has a much different feel than staying in the outskirts. If you rent a car, LEARN the ZTL rules and signage. They are not always obvious, especially when you are trying to navigate a strange city. There are lots of these "residents only" restricted areas in the old towns and cities, and the photo enforcement can be strict. I've heard plenty of stories of people racking up hundreds of euros in fines (plus fees from the rental car company) over getting lost trying to find their hotel or such.

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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by giesen5 » Tue Jul 26, 2016 4:41 pm

We would fly from Seattle. Is there a downside to just doing one way trip into Venice and a return trip from somewhere else?

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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by curmudgeon » Tue Jul 26, 2016 5:04 pm

giesen5 wrote:We would fly from Seattle. Is there a downside to just doing one way trip into Venice and a return trip from somewhere else?
This is typically not a problem. It is what is called "open jaw", and is quite common for trips to Europe. If you are staying with the same airline, there is usually not much difference in costs (unless one of the locations has significantly higher flight costs in general). If you had to split the trip between two different airline alliances because of your city choices, that would likely be more expensive.

Sometimes you can even get fancier and add a free "stopover" enroute at an intermediate city (like London or Amsterdam), but that is probably not useful to you in this case.

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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by Chadnudj » Tue Jul 26, 2016 5:17 pm

giesen5 wrote:I am planning on a July 2017 3+ week trip to Italy with my family of 4, which includes a 12 and 14 year old.

I have learned, though rough vacations in the past, that my family enjoys staying in one place for more than just a few days. So I feel that my 3 week itinerary should include just 3 stays, minus those travel days, of course. So my trip could be 21-24 days.

I have been focusing on Rome, Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast as my three stops. I am not that interested in Venice or Cinque Terre, but you might convince me.

What we are looking for:
- beach (swimming) time: I understand most beaches aren't sandy, but swimming is important
- small town time: I would like my kids to feel somewhat comfortable, enough that they might be able to roam a bit on their own.
- local time: Along with above, we would like to visit markets and not eat much in restaurants
- airbnb options: Would like to stay in town, or near the water
- Rome time: Not my kids speaking here, but my wife and I would like to see the sights
- some quiet time: I know that summer in Italy is far from quiet, but can we stay in a small town that is somewhat quiet at times?

Questions:
1. Are there other areas that we should visit/replace?
2. What is the best flow for these three areas?
3. Where to fly in and out of?
4. What are the best towns to stay in in Tuscany and Amalfi?

Okay, that's it for now. Thanks for your advice!
I highly, HIGHLY recommend staying at a agriturismo in Tuscany. My wife and I stayed at Fattoria Voltrona (here's the Trip Advisor link: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Revie ... scany.html) and it was AMAZING. They had a pool (nothing fancy, but it was nice to swim/relax), horseback riding on site, olive orchards to wander around, was very close to a number of the small towns in Tuscany for day trips, and amazing multi-course meals every night on site for relatively cheap (20 euros each?) that included all you could drink house wine set under an outdoor gazebo.

It's the perfect type of place if you want to unpack, stay a number of days, and explore out into Tuscany (heck, we went all the way to Assisi for day trips). And all the Tuscany cities near there (Sam Gimignano, Volterra, Montepulciano, etc.) have a great feel to them that I think families would love.

I'd also recommend spending some time in Florence (best food in Italy, phenomenal to just walk around, particularly if you can get up early in the morning and do one of the Rick Steves audio walking tours on your iPod).

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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by giesen5 » Tue Jul 26, 2016 5:19 pm

Well, hot damn. Finally pulled the trigger and have one-way tickets to Venice on June 23rd. So excited! Now the real research begins.

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Watty
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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by Watty » Tue Jul 26, 2016 5:28 pm

giesen5 wrote:Well, hot damn. Finally pulled the trigger and have one-way tickets to Venice on June 23rd. So excited! Now the real research begins.
Not coming back?

giesen5
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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by giesen5 » Tue Jul 26, 2016 5:32 pm

Watty wrote:
giesen5 wrote:Well, hot damn. Finally pulled the trigger and have one-way tickets to Venice on June 23rd. So excited! Now the real research begins.
Not coming back?
Mileage award tickets, have to wait a couple of weeks for the return dates to open up.

tedclu
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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by tedclu » Tue Jul 26, 2016 7:53 pm

Italy, like a lot of other places would be much nicer place if it weren't for the tourists. :wink:

First I would say avoid most of Europe during the summer high season. Just too many people. As for Rome, it will be HOT HOT HOT, long lines(3 hours+) especially if you don't pre buy your tickets to the Vatican. Even in the shoulder season, the Vatican will be shoulder to shoulder.

Go in April or early May, it would be a much better experience.(take the kids out early)

One week in Rome should be enough, prepare for some walking. We walked about 10-15 miles a day. water fountain everywhere, just bring a bottle. In Rome most churches provides "cover" if you have short / bare shoulders, but in other Italian towns they might not privde anything. wear pants and cover up the shoulders, or you can not go in to the churches.

I would 2nd Lake Como area. You can fly in to Milano and take a train to como. Town of Varenna, Bellagio(casino is pictured after), would be great place to relax, these are small towns on the the lake. the tour groups are only there for a short period of time. You will feel like a local at these places.

Also, You can take the ferry and go town hoping on lake como.

rjbraun
Posts: 1166
Joined: Sun Sep 09, 2012 8:22 pm

Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by rjbraun » Tue Jul 26, 2016 9:45 pm

giesen5 wrote:
Watty wrote:
giesen5 wrote:Well, hot damn. Finally pulled the trigger and have one-way tickets to Venice on June 23rd. So excited! Now the real research begins.
Not coming back?
Mileage award tickets, have to wait a couple of weeks for the return dates to open up.
Congratulations on your decision to start off in Venice. Wonderful place, and good idea to go soon before it sinks further :(

While you're waiting for your return dates to open up, you may want to review the attached article for possible "airfare hacks".

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/29/trave ... .html?_r=0

giesen5
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Joined: Wed Jan 27, 2016 1:44 pm
Location: Bellingham, WA

Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by giesen5 » Tue Jul 26, 2016 9:55 pm

tedclu wrote:Italy, like a lot of other places would be much nicer place if it weren't for the tourists. :wink:

First I would say avoid most of Europe during the summer high season. Just too many people. As for Rome, it will be HOT HOT HOT, long lines(3 hours+) especially if you don't pre buy your tickets to the Vatican. Even in the shoulder season, the Vatican will be shoulder to shoulder.

Go in April or early May, it would be a much better experience.(take the kids out early)

One week in Rome should be enough, prepare for some walking. We walked about 10-15 miles a day. water fountain everywhere, just bring a bottle. In Rome most churches provides "cover" if you have short / bare shoulders, but in other Italian towns they might not privde anything. wear pants and cover up the shoulders, or you can not go in to the churches.

I would 2nd Lake Como area. You can fly in to Milano and take a train to como. Town of Varenna, Bellagio(casino is pictured after), would be great place to relax, these are small towns on the the lake. the tour groups are only there for a short period of time. You will feel like a local at these places.

Also, You can take the ferry and go town hoping on lake como.
I wish I could take the kids out early, but my wife is a teacher. Dammit!

otinkyad
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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by otinkyad » Tue Jul 26, 2016 11:44 pm

Don't worry about picking the perfect the perfect itinerary or seeing everything. Whistle stops are fun in their own right, but can be very tiring. Italy is a place to slow down and enjoy.

Random thoughts: Sperlonga is a good beach and a cute town near Rome. I have loved renting a scooter in Old Rome on both of my visits. I wouldn't drive a car there to take my mother to the hospital. I agree Pisa is overrated, but it's also an iconic check mark. Go, but also visit the baptisty and frescoes, which are artistically and architecturally more significant, if you have the time or interest. Rome is crowded everywhere all the time, but it's worth it. Venice and Florence are crowded, too, but mostly only right at the highlights. Steps away you're in another world. The roads on the Amalfi Coast are not for the car sick. The kids insisted we take a boat back to Sorrento, and that was much better. Not good when a boat is the less queasy form of transit. Ostia Antica, Herculaneum, and Pompeii are all out of this world. Maybe we just like historical immersion, but we did all three on one trip and loved it (kids were 9 and 11). A bus or car trip to the caldera of Vesuvius was a twisty road and a hard climb, but for me a very visceral and moving experience after visiting Pompeii.

Our son had read all of the Roman Mysteries before the trip, which really helped him connect with the ancient stuff. They're like Hardy Boys or 39 Clues set in the first century. He had also studied the Rennaisance in school, so together those balanced out the fact that he was 9. The scooter helped a lot, too, and renting bikes in Lucca.

soboggled
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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by soboggled » Wed Jul 27, 2016 12:27 am

Three weeks is actually a lot of of time for three or four stays. Transportation in Italy is somewhat better than in the US (except for occasional strikes) and distances are shorter. Re Tuscany, you can pick a central location and do day trips, or split stays between a city and a town: Florence and Sienna are indeed a bit less quaint but they are cultural landmarks and you can easily cover them plus sample a couple of hill towns of central Italy/Tuscany. For example, Florence to Sienna is 40 miles, to Lucca 50 miles, to San Gimignano 60 miles, etc. You could drive (though parking is usually very iffy), take public transportation, or take an organized tour, or mix and match. Tripadvisor.com forums have a lot of advice.

user5027
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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by user5027 » Wed Jul 27, 2016 6:11 am

The authority on train travel is http://www.seat61.com/

There is no baggage restriction or fees on trains but there is no checked baggage and no one to help you either. If you can carry it you can bring it. A large bag can fit in a low space between each of the back to back seat rows on intercity trains.

Trains are very efficient in Italy. We were there in May. After boarding the wrong train for Rome in Naples (right platform, wrong track) we heard an announcement and realized the train number was wrong. We got off before leaving the station. Got on right train on the opposite track and as the train leaves I realize I left my computer bag on the first train. I found a conductor checking tickets and explained what happen. Fortunately it was assigned seating so I could tell him exactly where the bag was left by car and seat number. He made a phone call, had my bag located and left for us to claim in Rome. He would not even take a tip !!

When we got home I wanted to send a positive comment to Trenitalia. They only have complaint forms online. So I filled one out saying it was not a complaint and ask they put a note in the conductor's personnel file.

cherijoh
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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by cherijoh » Wed Jul 27, 2016 6:53 am

jebmke wrote:July can be incredibly hot in southern Europe.
+1
I wouldn't dream of visiting Italy in July. Americans do not realize how spoiled we are regarding A/C. I visited Italy in the spring of 2014 and did a packaged tour. We had a free day in Rome and got to experience the subway - it was hot and stifling in early May. I honestly can't imagine it in July. We were exhausted at the end of the day and the heat was definitely a contributing factor.

The Amalfi coast was my favorite. We stayed 2 nights in Sorrento and did day trips to Positano and Capri. Capri was gorgeous, but it was expensive and had a high snootiness factor. I really enjoyed Positano and would have loved the opportunity to stay there overnight and explore it early in the day before the tour buses arrived. (I know - I was one of the hoards of day-trippers! :wink: ). If I go back to Italy, I would definitely include a longer stay in this area.

We stopped in Pompeii on the way into Sorrento. Definitely take a tour with a guide - it wouldn't be nearly as impressive if you were just wandering around. (I would also recommend a tour guide at the Coliseum in Rome).

Tuscany is also very beautiful. We visited a small winery/olive orchard for a wine tasting. They also had a small guest house. Our guide told us this was pretty common and staying somewhere like that could be a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the big city. Although then your kids might end up being bored. We also visited San Gimignano and really enjoyed that.

cherijoh
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Re: Traveling to Italy - 3 weeks in 2017, advice appreciated

Post by cherijoh » Wed Jul 27, 2016 7:03 am

trueblueky wrote:Take trains between cities. http://www.bahn.de gives you the schedules.
Any particular reason you are linking to the German train website (in German)? :confused I think this website would be a better bet for trains in Italy.

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