After 5 years I'm making my way back to Italy, and this time with my girlfriend who has never been. I've been to Rome, Florence, Venice, and Milan and I just can't have my girlfriend (Kacie) go to Italy without experiencing Rome and Venice, so here's the tentative plan:
Fly in to Rome- 1 day Rome-4 days Tuscan Region- 3 days (Need help with a city here) Cinque Terre- 3 days Venice- 3 days Fly out of Venice - 1 day
I've heard so much about CT and unfortunately I couldn't make it there on my last trip, so I figure this is the perfect opportunity. This leaves me with one more city to visit in northern Italy and I definitely don't want it to be somewhere I've already visited.
I've searched and read a lot of posts and answers to questions regarding Tuscan cities/towns but haven't gotten a grasp for what would be perfect for Kacie and I. (Madame Trash Heap's answers have been awesome and in-depth).
I'm looking for a city that is big enough to warrant checking out for 2 days (and 1 day trip to someplace nearby) and a place to really focus on food & wine. I know the answer to that part is everywhere in Tuscany/Italy/that whole region of the world (Italy, Spain, France) but a city/town that is very accessible for 25 year-olds (i.e. not super expensive) and has wine tours, etc. to take advantage of the region.
Does anything jump out, or am I seriously describing any/every Tuscan city?
(Or is there a GFE favorite in norther Italy? I followed the advice of this board and went to Gimmelwald and it was one of the best experiences of my life, I trust the professionals here!)
One city you might consider is Siena. It's a larger city with lots of character and some great sights. You could also consider a re-visit to Florence, which is also in Tuscany. In choosing a city to visit in Tuscany, be sure to consider the transportation links, and how easy it will be to get there and also get to your next stop (Florence provides slightly easier train connections to the Cinque Terre).
In visiting the Cinque Terre, you'll have to decide which of the five villages you're going to stay in.
You have to have a dream so you can get up in the morning.
Post by thegreennomad on Sept 29, 2010 13:45:49 GMT -5
I dont know if you have already taken this trip, if so, hope you and the young lady had a great time! If not, I would reccomend Montepulciano, Radda, and Chianti as a few small towns one can visit within a close vicinity of one another. They are very well known for their wine, and we (my family) had a great time in all 3, especially Montepulciano and Montalcino (sp?) I didnt care for Florence either time we went, and I feel like Rome can be covered in 2 days (way too pricey and touristy for my liking) anyways, best of luck. I have some great places to see in each town if youd like. Cheers!
It looks like the message boards have been dormant for quite some time, so I'm hoping there are a few folks out there still that can help me out.
Unfortunately I was not able to make the trip above, however the good news is that I'm now going, and, my girlfriend is now my wife, so we are going to celebrate our 1 year anniversary.
I have a rough itinerary planned, but nothing is booked yet, so it's still very pliable.
Fly Into Rome Rome- 3 nights Take train to Orvieto and pickup Rental Car Montepulciano- 2 nights San Gimignano (or somewhere around Siena, maybe even Siena, I was hoping to find a castle or some place cool/different to stay)-3 nights Drive to La Spezia (pit stop in Pisa) and drop off Rental Car Cinque Terre- 2 nights Venice- 2 nights
I think Rome, CT, and Venice are pretty well set in stone, what I need to figure out is which towns to stay in for the total of 5 nights and how many of the nights in each one.
I tried to do a full search of the previous messages on the boards, but couldn't quite get it nailed down enough.
Post by madamtrashheap on Jan 7, 2014 0:49:21 GMT -5
Hi stearnz33 - yep, a few of us still lurk here, but things have been very quiet this year. Not sure if we've given all the advice we can, or if people are too busy travelling! Either way, nice to see you back!
Shame you couldn't make your last trip, but that's great news about your wedding - congratulations! And you both still get to make the trip - win win!
What time of year are you planning to travel? And is it travelling for 14 days once you're in Italy, or does that include flying time. Time of year will have a little bearing on CT (Autumn storms can stop any sightseeing), but other than that, your cities listed are fine at any time of year.
If you're just doing Rome, ie no day trips south, then 3 nights only gives you 2 days, you might want to add at least 1 more night to allow for jet lag and not rushing around the city.
Montepulciano is a great town and 2 nights will be fine.
Either San Gim or Siena would be great to stay in (just don't drive in the old town of either - big fines unless your hotel gets you a permit), but if you're looking for a "castle" (think you mean villa), then look at Agriturismo places around Siena as that will give you the experience I think you're looking for without the cost of a whole Villa for just the two of you.
2 nights in CT will give you 1 and a bit days, which may be 1 day too few if you really want to get a feel for the place. I'm a fan of Vernazza or Manarola to stay in, particularly if you are only there for a short time. Plus if you're stopping in Pisa en route, you'll take a few hours there too, so don't plan on having half a day on arrival day to explore CT.
Venice for 2 nights is really only 1 full day as the time it takes to get from CT to Venice will be a good chunk of the day (if you take the trains, less hassle and only one change in La Spezia - after CT village train - at Milan then on to Venezia; but limited choices of trains, only one a day I think; might be a drive thing again).
I'm not sure what you mean by " what I need to figure out is which towns to stay in for the total of 5 nights and how many of the nights in each one." While I'm thinking of it, you could combine all nights in Tuscan into one place as a base (either Montepulciano, San Gim or Siena) and use your car to travel to the other places for day trips. That way you can do, say 4 nights in Tuscany, then add another night to CT or Venice depending on your preference.
That should give you a little more to work with for now, but if you can let us know answers to the above qu's that will help too.
3/22- Fly from US to Rome 3/23- Get into Rome at 1pm 3/24- Explore Rome 3/25- Vatican, more of Rome 3/26- Take train to Orvieto and get rental car, drive to Multipuciano, spend rest of day just exploring Multipuciano. 3/27-Multipuciano- Day trips to neighboring towns 3/28-Multipuciano- Day trips to neighboring towns, maybe Siena this day. 3/29- Scenic drive up to an Agriturismo outside of Siena/San Gimignano, Greve, Radda, Castillero....somewhere. 3/30- Agriturismo- Maybe day trip to Florence, depending on how we're feeling, maybe too tired. 3/31- Drive to La Spezia, drop off car, take train into Manarola, explore Manarola that afternoon 4/1- Manarola- Hike the 5 towns 4/2- Take train to Venice, explore Venice that night 4/3- Venice- explore all day 4/4- Fly to Paris, explore Paris that afternoon 4/5- Paris 4/6- Fly home to San Francisco
That's the general idea right now. But I think you're right, if we take back the two days we're spending in Paris and instead put them towards either Rome, Tuscany, CT, or Venice, that would best. I'm kind of leaning towards adding a day to Tuscany and one to CT. Let me know what you think.
It's always the same thing, trying to do too much in our 2 weeks!
As always, MTH has provided awesome suggestions. I have a few comments to add.
3/23 - you're probably going to be quite jet lagged on arrival day, so you'll probably only have time for a brief walkabout and then early to bed. That will only leave two full days for touring Rome, which isn't much.
3/26 - taking the train to Orvieto and renting a car there is a great idea. Don't forget that each driver will need the compulsory International Driver's Permit to drive in Italy. You'll also have to be very vigilant for the dreaded Zona Traffico Limitato areas which exist in many towns in Italy (expensive tickets). Florence is just about locked down completely with automated ZTL Cameras. I assume the destination town you're referring to is Montepulciano?
3/31, 4/1 - You're only spending two nights in the Cinque Terre? That will only really allow one day of touring since you probably won't arrive in Manarola until late afternoon. Is there any way you could add a day or two there? One other important point to mention is that not all of the Sentiero Azzurro (No. 2) trails may be open at that time. The "official" start of the tourist season is April 1st, and not all of the trails may be open then. Only the Corniglia-Vernazza segment is open at the moment. Note the you'll need a Park Pass to hike the trails. Also, I'd suggest starting your hike in Monterosso, as that's the most difficult section and better to do when you're fully rested. Be sure to take lots of water.
4/2 - The train from the Cinque Terre to Venice will take about 6 hours (or the better part of a day). Are you clear on which Venice station you'll arrive at?
4/4 - Have you got your flight booked yet from Venice to Paris? Which of the Paris airports will you be arriving at? Are you planning to visit a lot of Museums, etc. while in Paris? If so, a Paris Museum Pass might be a good investment.
Overall your Itinerary looks reasonably well organized, although there's a lot of moving around which means you won't have too much time to spend in any of the places you're visiting.
Post by madamtrashheap on Jan 8, 2014 21:54:30 GMT -5
So you're also going to Paris? Not sure I'd try to cram that in as well - as tempting as it is. As Eagle has noted, there's a lot of moving around already, so it won't be a relaxing time. If that's OK with you then go for it, but if you want a little more down time (eg, the hardest decision you have to make on a quiet day should be where to have coffee!) then perhaps leaving Paris out this time (don't worry, you'll go back, you always go back!) and placing those days somewhere else would work better.
I'm still for adding a day to Venice and to CT. As you're in CT early in the season, and as Eagle noted, some of the trails won't be open, but you'll still want more than 2 nights there as it's a stunning place. And will be blissfully quiet at that time of year too. Just check that some of the lower paths are open - they have done major work to get the paths and trails back to accessible status since the landslides a few years ago, but are still working on some of them. Hiking all 5 villages in one day makes for a long day, but stunning scenery. So you might want that extra day to relax and enjoy Manarola.
The reason I recommend adding a day to Venice and not Tuscany in this instance is that the train from CT to Venice will take a good chunk of your day travelling, so you won't have a lot of time on arrival afternoon to explore, and I'd like to see you have a day for Venice to wander, and perhaps a day to visit the islands like Burano and Torcello, just for something a little different and stunning.
I had a proper look at trains from CT to Venice and there are more than 1 a day (phew!), but you'll still spend 4-5 hours from La Spezia to Venice, so you'll need to leave in the morning in order to make the most of your time in Venice, regardless of if you stick with just 2 nights or go to 3.
Check flights from Venice to SF as I'm sure there are as many options as Paris and you don't have to return to Rome to fly out.
Let us know what you decide to go with in terms of itinerary and time in each place.
Thanks for the awesome feedback guys! I really appreciate it.
I took some of your advice and made some changes (and flight is booked!)
I took Paris out of the Itinerary completely (separate trip), and am leaving the night before, so I will land at 7pm in Rome on the 21st, now making that first day in Rome a full day. I have added a day to Cinque Terre, and am debating on adding the other day to Rome or Venice.
3/21-Leave SFO at 8pm 3/22- Arrive Rome at 7pm (planning on staying at Piazza Navona) 3/23- Rome (Pantheon, Colloseum, Forum, Trevi Foutain, etc.) 3/24- Vatican and meandering through the city 3/25- Train to Orvieto to get rental car, Scenic drive up to Montepulciano (haven't booked here yet, but seems like a good base for southern Tuscany) 3/26- Wine tasting and travelling around to hill towns in southern Tuscany 3/27- Siena 3/28- Scenic drive up to San Gimignano, explore town 3/29- Travel around northern Tuscany hill towns 3/30- Florence (is Florence a good idea on a Sunday?) 3/31- Drive to La Spezia to drop off car, stop at Pisa on the way for some photos. then train in to Manarola, walk around the town. 4/1- Hike what trails are open 4/2- Explore the other towns in CT 4/3- Early train to Venice. Get in at 1:35pm at St. Lucia station. Explore the city. 4/4- Doge's Palace and St. Mark's 4/5- Get lost in Venice 4/6- 10:30am plane home!
I'm really torn on if that extra day should be spent in Venice or Rome (currently I have it in Venice). So much to do in Rome, but Venice is also so magical (my wife has never been to Italy, so I'm not sure which she'll enjoy more).
As far as the Tuscan towns, I chose Multipuciano because some friends stayed there and loved it. They stayed at a simple but nice apartment, so I think we will do the same. I chose San Gimignano because we want to stay at an Agriturismo for a few nights and I've heard that town mentioned by many people, so I figured it must be worth a shot!
Post by madamtrashheap on Jan 9, 2014 0:16:27 GMT -5
Glad we can help! ;D
A few more points for you:
Good idea to keep Paris for next time - you'll want at least 5 days there if you've never been, so to rush it in 2 days would be a shame.
Montepulciano is indeed a pretty Tuscan town, you won't be disappointed. To do a day trip to Florence, plan it well. Sundays are quieter for shops, but most open after 12noon. Museums are, on the whole, open too so it's a good day to go. Mondays are the issue for museum visits in Italy - except Venice where most stay open. And don't drive to Florence - take the train from Chiusi station (you can drive there easily and quickly from Montepulciano). Parking is difficult and if you drive within the restricted zone you'll get a large fine - which would be a waste of good wine and shoe money!
If you don't fancy driving to Siena, you can get the local bus (SITA). Parking is available outside the city walls (at the train station or on the opposite side of the walls to the station) and then you have a bit of a walk up the hill, but it's pretty so not a bad thing.
I love San Gim, have stayed inside the walls for a night and explored the city on many day trips there. Staying in the region will give you a great feel for Tuscany (like Montepulciano) and you can do more wine tastings to boot!
As for where to add a day, looking at your Rome plans and now you've changed the arrival time, you really only have 2 full days there, so if you think you want to explore it more, then perhaps add the day there and keep Venice back to 1 full day with an afternoon on arrival. You'll only have time to explore around St Mark's and neighbourhoods, no island trip this time, but that's still a nice introduction to Venice.
How are you planning to get from FCO into Rome? If you were planning to use the Leonardo Express,don't forget to validate your ticket prior to boarding the train or you could face a hefty fine (about €50 PP!). The same applies when riding Buses in Rome. Speaking of Buses, if you should use the infamous #64 Bus, be VERY vigilant, as it has a reputation as a haven for pickpockets.
Florence should still be fine on a Sunday. If you're planning to visit the Uffizi or Accademia, reservations would definitely be advised. I believe they can be made online.
As noted, driving into Florence is NOT a good idea unless you know your way around and can avoid the ZTL Cameras, some of which are located on one-way streets (which means you can't escape once you spot the Camera).
Whether to add a day in Rome or Venice is a difficult question. You may find that you're affected by jet lag more than anticipated, so don't get as much touring done in Rome as you planned. Therefore, you may need the extra time in Rome.
For driving around Tuscany, you might consider packing along a GPS unit along with a good Map. Some of the roads aren't well marked.
That's about all I can think about at the moment.
You have to have a dream so you can get up in the morning.
Because we're getting into Rome later in the evening and we're going to be pretty beat, I think I'm probably just going to bite the bullet and take a cab.
To get to Florence, I'm going to drive to Empoli and take the train from there into Florence. I've heard it's terrible to try and drive anywhere around Florence.
I'm definitely going to try and make reservations online ahead of time for those as well as The Doge's Palace in Venice, the Vatican Museum & Sistine Chapel. I've got to do some googleing to find their websites and book that online.
My plan is to buy a GPS and pre-load the destinations of where we're staying and some of the towns where we want to visit.
I finally got my Tuscany guidebooks in the mail yesterday and Rick Steves absolutely blasts San Gimignano, so I'm rethinking my northern Tuscany town. Any suggestions?
When taking Taxi's from FCO into Rome, be sure that you use an "official" Taxi. There's info in the Guidebook as I recall.
Your plan to drive to Empoli and take the train from there into Florence sounds like a good idea. I haven't travelled that route, but the travel time is about 30 minutes and tickets are €4.20 PP each way. Most of the trains on that route will be Regionale, so DON'T forget to validate prior to boarding the train!
I was in Florence in June, and really enjoyed my stay there. Are you planning to be there in the evenings for dinner? I can recommend a good restaurant if you're interested, however as I recall they don't open for dinner until 19:00.
The RS Guidebook should list the websites for reservations for the Museums in Florence, etc.
I just had a look at the Italy Guidebook, and agree that Rick hasn't exactly given San Gimignano an "enthusiastic" endorsement. My usual favourite home base in that area is Siena, so you might consider that instead. There aren't a huge number of sights, but the Duomo is beautiful (there IS a dress code!), the Baptistery is interesting and lingering around Il Campo in the evenings with some Gelato is really nice. I got a type of Pastry there one night that was wonderful, but can't remember what it was. I'm sure MTH will have some good suggestions to offer.
One other thought - if you're planning on staying in Siena for a few days, you might consider taking the train from Rome to Siena, and then rent the car there at the end of your visit (instead of Orvieto). That would save some money as you wouldn't have to pay for the rental or parking during your time in Siena. Just a thought......
You have to have a dream so you can get up in the morning.
Thanks, I need to make sure I read up on validating tickets... it's been a long time since I was in europe, but you have someone at the ticket window do that for you right?
I need to checkout the parking situation in Empoli, but I Google Earth'd it and it looks like there's a huge parking lot right in front of it. I'm sure it'll cost a bit to park there, but much cheaper than a ZTL ticket!
I would a restaurant recommendation for Florence! We plan on spending the whole day there and probably taking one of the last trains out back to Empoli that night. If you have a good lunch spot, share that too!
I had thought of Siena, but I wanted to hopefully stay at an Agriturismo for those few days. I won't be able to take the train from Rome directly to Siena becuase we are spending 3 nights in Montapulciano to explore southern Tuscany before we head up to San Gimignano/Siena/wherever for another 3 nights to explore northern Tuscany and Florence.
Towns I was thinking of visiting (based on posts that I've read on these boards)
Southern Tuscany: Montapulciano (base), Siena, Montalcino, Pienza, Massa Marittima, Grosseto, Chius, Sarteano. I've heard nice things about Cortona, but geographically it is a bit distant from those other cities.
Northern Tuscany: Florence, San Gimignano, Volterra, Greve in Chianti, Castellina in Chianti, Radda in Chianti
On the drive to La Spezia: Pisa, Lucca
I know I won't be able to hit all of those, but that is the list of options I have right now, and I will ask the folks where we're staying what their suggestions are and go from there.
Any advice on finding wineries to do wine tasting, or is it as easy as driving around and looking for a sign that says "Wine Tasting"?
For information on validating tickets and other things that are good to know, here's my usual "boilerplate" on the subject....
When travelling by train in Italy, there are a couple of VERY IMPORTANT potentially expensive "caveats" to be aware of.
When travelling on Regionale trains which don't require reservations, it's ESSENTIAL to validate (time & date stamp) the tickets prior to boarding the train on the day of travel. This includes the Leonardo Express which travels from the airport to Roma Termini.
The validation machine will either be yellow or green & gray with a digital display on the front. These are easy to find and located near the tracks or in transfer tunnels. If the machine is not working, writing the time & date on the ticket may be acceptable (ask the Conductor as soon as possible). If using the small tickets, these are inserted on the left side of the validation machines.
Those caught with unvalidated tickets may be fined on the spot! The fines start at €50 per person and if not paid on the spot, they DOUBLE and increase from there! The same fines apply to those travelling via Bus in Rome and other places (in that case, validation machines are often located on-board the Bus). Conductors are now carrying portable debit/credit card Terminals, to process payment of fines.
Those travelling on the "premium" trains such as the Freccia (high speed) trains MUST have a valid reservation or again may be fined on the spot! These fines also start at €50 per person, PLUS the cost of the reservation, which is currently ~€10. Reservations are compulsory and are specific to a particular train, date and departure time. It's NOT POSSIBLE to simply buy a ticket with reservations and then board any train. The ticket or reservation will specify the train number (ie: ES-9718), so it's important to verify that before boarding. Reservations will specify a Car No. (Carrozza) and a Seat No. (Posti).
You may find it helpful to watch www.youtube.com/watch?v=6n8rITO1Eek. The Freccia (and new Italo) high speed trains run at ~300 kmH when out in the open, so it's a very efficient use of travel time.
I don't have any information on the parking situation in Empoli, but perhaps MTH can offer some suggestions. It sounds like you won't get a chance to get to Cortona, but there's a nice (free) car park there, and then two outdoor Escalators that go up to the town. It's a pleasant town, and of course it was the location made famous by Under The Tuscan Sun.