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Question Italy vacation advice
Old 12-06-2007, 04:59 AM   #1
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Question Italy vacation advice

I have the opportunity to spend a week in Italy at the end of January. I will be flying in/out of Rome. Thought I could take the train to Florence, Pisa. I would like to relax and enjoy myself, but don't want to miss anything (I can't believe you went to Italy and diddn't...).

Any advice? At this time I'm planning on "winging it". Is this a good idea or would some kind of tour be better.

I hope to see the colosseum and Sistine Chapel in Rome, Michaelangelo's David in Florence, and the leaning tower in Pisa. Are there some great lesser known sites to see?

I know the coast will be cold, think the scenery should still be lovely. Is rail the best way around? What about busses or car rentals?

Thanks for any and all input.

Sunshine
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italy
Old 12-06-2007, 06:48 AM   #2
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italy

we're just back from our first trip to italy..did two weeks. we winged it although the couple we were with had been there before which helped. you could spend the whole week in rome and not see everything. alot depends on your interest in art but, you have to at least see the vatican/st petes; also, in addition to the other top must sees, we really enjoyed the 'borghese' musuem. we found rome to be an easy city to walk around in...if you're a walker..(i'd recommend a hotel in the vatican area)
we took the train to florence and highly recommend the 'uffizi' musuem..again if you're in to art musuems...again, pretty easy to get around....i would never ever recommend renting a car(those people are crazy !!)
the rest of our trip was by train to venice and milan.

enjoy

ps; when you're returning, call ahead to make sure you have a flight...our's had been cancelled two days prior to leaving....the airline wasn't helpful ...alot of persistence finally got us home
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A week in Italy..
Old 12-06-2007, 06:59 AM   #3
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A week in Italy..

Isn't enough time! I agree that seeing Rome is important, maybe three days. It's three to four hours by car up the autostrada to Florence. Florence (Firenze) is worth two days. Then, maybe a side trip to Siena, or to some lovely Tuscan hill towns. The whole seven days is spent!

Go to Trip Advisors for some real traveler advice on Italy. You'll find lots of help there.

Don't be put off by the driving comment made previously. I have driven rental cars all over Europe, including Italy, Spain, France, Greece, Portugal, etc. They ARE nutty drivers, but if you stay alert, you'll be fine. Driving allows you to make your own schedule, see small, charming places, and get more into the native's culture and lifestyle. However, don't rent a car in Rome, wait until you head out of the city.

Ciao!
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Old 12-06-2007, 08:02 AM   #4
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January is a good time to visit Italian museums -- in the summer, the lines for the Vatican Museum are about a mile long, but in January only a couple hundred feet. Get there early, since it is huge.

The train to Florence is simple to take and dumps you only about 1/2 mile from the very center of the old city -- the Cathedral. Pisa is about an hour by (very frequent) train from Florence -- if you go there, the white marble cathedral, tower, and baptistery are best seen in the afternoon/sunset light -- they are about 1 mile from the train station.

The downside to Italy in January is that it's too cold to sit in a sidewalk cafe and enjoy the Mediterranean lifestyle.
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Old 12-06-2007, 08:02 AM   #5
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...Don't be put off by the driving comment made previously. I have driven rental cars all over Europe, including Italy, Spain, France, Greece, Portugal, etc. They ARE nutty drivers, but if you stay alert, you'll be fine. Driving allows you to make your own schedule, see small, charming places, and get more into the native's culture and lifestyle. However, don't rent a car in Rome, wait until you head out of the city...
I advise against driving... I have used cars, planes, trains, boats, etc.. in Italy (and elsewhere in Europe) and never had any trouble, however, each mode of transportation has unique advantage/disadvantage.

You barely have the time to hit a few "hot spots"; one week does not give you enough time to stop and smell the roses along the way. If I was you, I would take a train from one city to another - in both Rome and Florence train station is within walking distance to hotel/other stuff you may want to see (I am pretty sure the same is true for Pizza as well, I simply can't remember).

What to see? That's a tough one to answer... Personally, I do not like organized tours (to me, this is like being a part of the flock being shuffled around). Also, such tours tend to give you too little time to explore on your own, which makes it very hard to see any of the true local culture.

If I was you, I would get a travel book and take a look - see what jumps at you as being interesting. Nowadays, some of them will highlight what to see in a given city if you have only 2/3/5 days or 1/2 weeks. With only a week, you will run out of time much quicker that out of things to do/see. In Florence, in particular, in the old part of the town you almost don't even need an agenda - once you start walking around you will not be able to avoid stumbling over things to see...

Have fun!!!
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Old 12-06-2007, 12:18 PM   #6
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I suggest you buy the latest Lonely Planet Italy.
No car - public transport if at all possible. Rick Steeves or Berlitz phrasebook if you don't know Italian.
No experienced traveler will ever say "I can't believe you didn't go to..." and mean that you screwed up. If someone says that, it just means they want you to listen to their story.
Always plan on going back, otherwise you'll go crazy trying to see everything. That's true of anywhere on the planet you may visit.
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Old 12-06-2007, 04:18 PM   #7
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IMHO...

Great news -- you CANNOT go wrong here. Everything is wonderful and you'll have an amazing time no matter what you do.

If it were me, I'd spend 1/2 time in Rome and 1/2 in Florence.

You could spend a year in Rome and not see everything, so even if you just did that you'd be fine. While I found Florence, Venice, and the hill towns overrun with tourists and the commercialism that goes with them (us), Rome gave me the best feel for what it was like to be in Italy, among Italians.

Florence is still worth it for the art, however -- no question about it. Great trains run between Rome and Florence and they're both highly walkable, so I wouldn't bother with a car. I've gone with and without a vehicle so I don't think it's unmanageable, it's just not necessary unless you want to see all the hill towns.

You might add an overnight trip to Venice if you really must, but I found it to be an adult Disneyland. Incredibly beautiful, but still very commercialized and filled with tourists and the same swank stores that you can find in any major city. That was in the summer -- in the winter there might be fewer tourists, but check the flooding before you go -- St. Mark's flooded every night we were there and some of the days, too. Bring galoshes!!

I bypassed Pisa because everyone I talked to said it was overrated and overcommercialized. After the tower and cathedral, there's nothing much else to do except buy cheap trinkets, so they tell me, and you can get those elsewhere.

Given that it's winter have you considered going south? I hear great things about Herculaneum, etc., but have no experience. It's on the list, tho.

I HIGHLY recommend Rick Steves. His tips on buying advanced tickets alone saved us hours in sweltering museum lines.

Whatever you decide, have a great time and let us know how it goes! ;-)
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Old 12-06-2007, 07:58 PM   #8
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I found this website to be very helpful.

Slow Travel Italy - Vacation rentals, villas, reviews, hotels, restaurants, travel information
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Old 12-06-2007, 09:18 PM   #9
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DW and I spent a week in Italy last year. I believe we had a relevant experience re: driving vs trains. When we arrived we had planned on spending the first few days in Rome and picking up a car on the way out of town... found out the hard way that you need an international drivers license to rent - despite what our guidebook said (we had planned on having our drivers license 'translated'). Unfortunately it takes several days to be approved for an int'l drivers license, so we ended up taking the train. If you're only looking at traveling to large cities the train works very well and makes for a pretty stress -free commuting experience.

BTW, Cinque Terre (Cinque Terre - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Pictures of the Cinque Terre - Italy -images 5 Terre Photo Gallery) is absolutely stunning if you like scenery and spending time outside - not sure about the weather in January though!
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Old 12-07-2007, 01:24 AM   #10
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Thanks for the insight, think I'll try the train and walking. Sounds like I can't go wrong. I know I'll have to be FIRE'd before I'll have the time to "go, see, do" everything I want. Until then I will just have to savor the samples. Sounds like you all have had wonderful travel experiences filled with happy memories.
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Old 12-07-2007, 07:39 AM   #11
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I'm sure others here have their own opinions, but I liked Hotel Centrale in Florence:
Hotel Centrale, Florence Hotels, Italy Hotels
It's on a quiet back street only a few blocks from the Duomo (cathedral), and the rooms are nice. There are cheaper places, though, if that's a concern.
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Old 12-07-2007, 11:00 AM   #12
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You can't see Italy in a week. That only means you will need to go back!

For this vacation, I would spend the entire week in Rome. With not too much research on what to see and do, you will fill up your week in no time. If you stay in Rome, don't rent a car. If you ask around (people are very friendly), you can find a professional driver that would be willing to drive you around the city for the day or even the week and show you those hidden gems that most people don't know about. It's not as expensive as you might think, but you may need to negotiate a price if you think the price they quote you is too high (they like to stiff Americans especially)

I know one of these personal driver services was and maybe still is located next to the Colosseum, but I can't remember the exact location right now. If I remember, I'll post it later.
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Old 12-07-2007, 12:03 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunshine View Post
I have the opportunity to spend a week in Italy at the end of January. I will be flying in/out of Rome. Thought I could take the train to Florence, Pisa. I would like to relax and enjoy myself, but don't want to miss anything (I can't believe you went to Italy and diddn't...).

Any advice? At this time I'm planning on "winging it". Is this a good idea or would some kind of tour be better.

I hope to see the colosseum and Sistine Chapel in Rome, Michaelangelo's David in Florence, and the leaning tower in Pisa. Are there some great lesser known sites to see?

I know the coast will be cold, think the scenery should still be lovely. Is rail the best way around? What about busses or car rentals?

Thanks for any and all input.

Sunshine
Wife and I went to Florence for honeymoon in 1996. Wonderful place. Ponte Vecchio (sp?), Michelangelo's plaza, el Duomo, and many other interesting things to visit. Traveled by train...which is confusing if you don't speak the language (they will make announcements on the intercom and if you don't know what they are saying, you may not get off at the proper stop/tee). The people were very nice to us. Also saw Pisa while we were there. We also did Madrid and Nice in the same trip, but you didn't ask about those countries. Florence was the nicest of the 3 cities IMO.

Dave
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Old 12-07-2007, 08:09 PM   #14
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IMHO...

Great news -- you CANNOT go wrong here. Everything is wonderful and you'll have an amazing time no matter what you do.

If it were me, I'd spend 1/2 time in Rome and 1/2 in Florence.

You could spend a year in Rome and not see everything, so even if you just did that you'd be fine. I HIGHLY recommend Rick Steves. His tips on buying advanced tickets alone saved us hours in sweltering museum lines.
Ditto on the above. I think I am in Retire@40 comments below. With only a week, you will have way more than enough to do/see in Rome and not make yourself crazy trying to work too much in.
Rick Steves has a great book on doing Rome as well as a full book on Italy.
We did his week long Rome City tour and would have never been able to see what we did w/o his guides and connections.
For your NEXT trip, consider some of the other great sights Italy has to offer.. After our week in Rome we trained it to Siena, then Florence, Venice, and then Ravenna on the way back to Rome. No problems as long as you don't count standing room only on the train back to Rome on the Sat before Easter. I think all of Italy was on our train to Rome.
Don't forget Pompei and Amalfi coast in the South or the Alps in the far North
Enjoy--great country to visit even with a 1.5 Euro
nwsteve
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Old 12-08-2007, 07:26 PM   #15
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I would second the idea on hiring a driver for a day. I went to Rome for work and had a driver. We had some free time so he showed us the sights. It was great. He would drop us off at a sight then pick us up when we called him. He took us to some out of the way places also. If, I mean when I go back to Italy I will definitely splurge and hire a driver for one day of sight seeing.
I only saw Rome but I think it would be easy to spend a week there. Some coworkers stayed over and took the train to Florence. They said it was worth it.
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Old 12-08-2007, 08:50 PM   #16
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I wholeheartedly agree with the suggestions of the Rick Steves books. Check out his videos on PBS, or at your local library if you are lucky. If you have HDTV Rick and Rudy Maxa are on every morning. Once or twice a week there is something on Italy. Amalfi coast to the south and Riviera to the north are beautiful, but may be deserted in the winter. If you ski check out the alpine resorts...not too far by train. With only a week it may be better to stick to just Rome and Florence. Safe travels!
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Old 12-08-2007, 10:52 PM   #17
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Oh boy, a week in Italy is going to go by really fast. My suggestion? Don't worry about where you end up spending the time - it'll be good whatever you do. If I were you, I'd spend more time trying to figure out how to spend more than a week, not where to go during the week.
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Old 12-10-2007, 12:05 PM   #18
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As others have said, a week in Italy is not long enough, but hey, it's better than nothing! I think your plan of a few days in Rome, then going to Florence is a good one, but I'd skip Pisa. I was with a group of 12 staying in Lucca, a wonderful Tuscan town about 1/2 hour away from Pisa. We had the option of going to Pisa for the day. My DH and I chose to stay in Lucca. The others in our group went to Pisa and none of them thought it was worth the trip. Between Rome and Florence you'll be busy enough anyway, but if you do want to go somewhere else in Tuscany, go to Lucca or Siena.

I highly recommend taking the train. The main train station is always convenient to everything and trains run frequently. One thing though, pack light! Anything more than one carry-on sized rolling suitcase and you will have a hell of a time lugging it around. Also, you really should decide where to go based on your own interests. For example, if you are into archeology, go south to Pompeii and Herculanum instead of Florence. If you want to experience small town "real" life in Italy, base yourself in one of the smaller Tuscan towns and make a day trip into Florence. Whatever you do, don't worry, you can't go wrong in Italy. You'll have a great time and you'll want to go back.
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Old 12-10-2007, 12:23 PM   #19
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I completely agree with some of the other posters, with 1 week I would definitely just stick to Florence and Rome. There's just so much to see there. You know the standard sites to see in Rome (Colesseum, Vatican Museum, St. Peters, etc) but I feel that the great food is part of the Italian experience. Try visiting the Traverste neighborhood which is in the south west area of Rome. Tons of great restaurants and a lot less tourists. The down side is that it's a bit harder to get to.

Florence is absolutely beautiful. When you visit the Duomo there, definitely go up the dome. Spectacular views. It's so much fun just walking around there.

I'll echo the views of others and say that driving is hard, the train system is pretty good and easy to use.

If you absolutely must go someplace else besides Rome/Florence. Pisa/Sienna isn't a bad idea since they are both a short train ride from Florence. I didn't want to go to Pisa at all on our last Italy trip, but was forced to go and it was quite nice. Touristy yes, but worth seeing nonetheless. The iconic tower is just one of the sites in the big square. The cathedral is unlike any other one that I've seen in Italy with it's Moorish influences. Sienna is very, very touristy, but very pretty.

Wherever you go overdose on gelato, you won't be sorry.
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Old 12-10-2007, 03:38 PM   #20
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Wherever you go overdose on gelato, you won't be sorry.
In Florence and want intensely flavored gelato? Vivoli (Google Maps) (Vivoli site)

About 1 block from Santa Croce church, and about 10-15 min walk from the Duomo.
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