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Suggestions for Italy in April 2010 - Florence and Rome
Old 09-23-2009, 09:39 AM   #1
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Suggestions for Italy in April 2010 - Florence and Rome

DW and I have never been to Italy before - considering the following: arrive in Rome on April 4, depart April 13 (no flexibility due to frequent flyer tickets). Friend's wedding is in Tuscany on the 10th. Appreciate your suggestions on how to structure the time between Rome and Florence. Also recommendations on things to see. I searched the forum but last Italy thread was from 2007.

Arriving on Easter Monday - will there be at least some transportation available to get us to our hotel? I understand that it's a major holiday.

Expect to take the train from Rome to Florence. At that point, rent a car to get around the countryside?

Pisa - worth doing? Or too touristy?

Any good photos from your trip that you want to share?
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Old 09-23-2009, 10:10 AM   #2
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Long time readers are tired of hearing me say this but...

Bellagio is one of the most beautiful places on earth IMHO.
It has been a resort since Pliny the elder built a villa there. It is far enough off the beaten track that there are no kids with backpacks or fast food joints. It is a little expensive, but the food is wonderful, the people warm and friendly and the scenery unparalleled.
We have had lovely stays at the Hotel Belvedere (used to be a bargain, now not so much) and at the Residence L'Ulivo (reasonable) on the grounds of the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni (ridiculously expensive).
IMG_0861.jpg
This photo is from Varenna, just a short ferry ride from Bellagio.

To get to Bellagio, take the train from Milan to Como, then either boat or hydrofoil to Bellagio. While in Como, don't miss Brunante.

Also don't miss Siena and San Gimignano

Oh, and Florence. Renaissance art to stagger the mind.

You are going to have a GREAT time.

P.S. I have never rented a car in Italy. Trains and buses are fine. Italian drivers are crazy.
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Old 09-23-2009, 10:31 AM   #3
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If you like renaissance art, spend all the time in Florence - it has so much to see. You'll be there well before the tourist season, so it won't be very crowded.

Read Irving Stone's Agony and the Ecstacy about Michael Angelo. A lot of it is based in Florence and it talks about all the Renaissance artists, and then you see their work & it comes alive! It took my trip to another level.

Sienna is a day trip away, but stay the night there to enjoy it without all the day-trippers. There are other hill towns like Sienna in the area too, but I haven't been to any of them.

Check out vrbo.com to see if you can find yourself an affordable apartment in Florence. It is a great way to live in a foreign city.

I'm jealous!
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Old 09-23-2009, 01:45 PM   #4
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My posts (too lazy to link) from back in 2006-2007 are probably reasonably good as far as places go, if not actual hotels or whatnot.

I took my mom there for her 65th birthday--just the two of us.

We rented a car in Florence and drove to Chianti area and then to Bologna. Nice rental cars and fairly easy to get around on the highways. The trains are very nice. I'd take luggage that can be put on your back--the cobblestones are no good for rolleys.

And the last piece of advice? Don't take my mother.
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Old 09-23-2009, 01:56 PM   #5
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Having been to Italy many times, my first thought is: you really only have a week, counting very modest jet lag recovery. Don't run yourself ragged trying to do too much.

If you stay someplace central in Rome you can see the key sites in a couple of days. Don't miss the Pieta and Sistene Chapel, two hyped sites that are completely worth enduring crowds to see.

Florence is great, albeit very, very tourist-jaded, but I would definitely get out into the Tuscan countryside for at least half your time. You might want to try taking the bus or train to Sienna and renting a car there (check Europcar). Driving in Florence (to say nothing of Rome) not recommended unless you are a seasoned, fearless driver (i.e. if you've driven in India or Indonesia it'll be cake).

If you're into great food, consider picking up Fred Plotkin's phenomenal book, "Italy for the Gourmet Traveler" and plan some of your time around his recommended authentic, off-the-tourist-track, restaurants.

Have a wonderful, wonderful time. Perfect time to visit.
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Old 09-23-2009, 05:56 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IndependentlyPoor View Post
Long time readers are tired of hearing me say this but...

Bellagio is one of the most beautiful places on earth IMHO.
It has been a resort since Pliny the elder built a villa there. It is far enough off the beaten track that there are no kids with backpacks or fast food joints. It is a little expensive, but the food is wonderful, the people warm and friendly and the scenery unparalleled.
We have had lovely stays at the Hotel Belvedere (used to be a bargain, now not so much) and at the Residence L'Ulivo (reasonable) on the grounds of the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni (ridiculously expensive).
Attachment 7431
This photo is from Varenna, just a short ferry ride from Bellagio.

To get to Bellagio, take the train from Milan to Como, then either boat or hydrofoil to Bellagio. While in Como, don't miss Brunante.

Also don't miss Siena and San Gimignano

Oh, and Florence. Renaissance art to stagger the mind.

You are going to have a GREAT time.

P.S. I have never rented a car in Italy. Trains and buses are fine. Italian drivers are crazy.
I love Bellagio, where we also stayed at the Hotel Belvedere. In fact, my perfect dream home would be just across the lake at Villa Balbianello. But it is a bit out of the way if you only have a week, fly in to Rome and must spend at least a few days in Tuscany in the middle of it.

We rented a car on our last trip to Italy in February (Sicily for a week). You definitely need to keep on your toes, but I did not have much difficulty with the driving and found it liberating not to depend on public transportation.

A picture of my dream home.
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Old 09-23-2009, 06:06 PM   #7
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One last piece of advice. Don't try to squeeze too much in. Don't go to Bellagio unless you can stay for a couple of days. One could easily spend a week in Rome alone. Ditto Florence.

Be warned. Italy is addicting. You may end up returning every chance you get. There are worse fates in the world.
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Old 09-23-2009, 07:54 PM   #8
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So much to do, so little time.

Both Florence and Rome are great cities, and you can easily spend a week or more in each (at least we can). But if it were me, I'd probably opt to do just one of the two and spend the balance of my time in the countryside. You may find that after spending a couple of days seeing the cathedrals and museums of Rome, the cathedrals and museums of Florence seem like a little more of the same.

Having said that, some things not to miss (in no particular order) . . .
Rome:
1) Pantheon - do this before you go to St. Peter's Basilica. And definitely go to St. Peters
2) St. Peters Basilica (although not technically in Rome)
3) The Borghese Museum
4) Leisurely enjoy espresso or gelato in any one of the fantastic piazzas

Florence:
1) The Duomo (don't miss the Baptistery in front. Ghiberti's original baptistery doors are actually in a museum behind the Duomo, and are worth a look too)
2) Piazza della Signoria & Palazzo Vecchio
3) The Uffizi Gallery - long lines, but worth it
4) Palazzo Pitti & the Boboli gardens
5) Galleria dell' Accademia - Michelangelo's David and other works

Have a great trip!
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Old 09-23-2009, 08:17 PM   #9
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Oh, that reminds me. Your hotel in Florence can probably get tickets in advance for you. MUCH better than just showing up.

And don't forget the Medici tombs. More Michelangelo.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medici_Chapel

Head spinning yet?
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Old 09-23-2009, 09:14 PM   #10
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If you want to go to the Uffizi in Florence, use this site to get advance tickets so you can avoid the long lines. It also has tickets for many, many other museums, galleries and attractions. You can also get a guide if you want.

Travel to Italy: museum and opera tickets. Vacations, tours, excursions. Hotels and villas in Italy. Travel with Select Italy!

Here is a site that tells all about driving in Italy. I found it very helpful.

Slow Travel Italy - Driving in Italy
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Old 09-24-2009, 06:09 PM   #11
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Well, it sounds like you only have about 9 days including travel and wedding time? You figure you'll lose a day in travel, at least a day for the wedding and you'll want to be in Rome at the latest on the 12th so that you don't miss your flight on the 13th. With these restrictions, I think I would just spend 4 days in Rome (Vatican, Colosseum, Pantheon etc) and another 3 days in Florence.

If you must, you can do San Gimignano, Sienna and Pisa as day trips by train (check on San Gimignano, you might have to take a short bus ride). But I would just concentrate on Florence and Rome.

I was deadset against Pisa, but on our last trip to Italy, my Mom really wanted to go. We really enjoyed it, the tower is just one [massively touristy] part of the experience.
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Old 09-24-2009, 06:52 PM   #12
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Funny, the first memories that come to mind are of buying stuff! Some fruit at an outdoor market in Rome and postcards of Capri. The seller on Capri couldn’t make change and I tried to pantomime that I would buy more, but she took the time to go over to another seller to get change for me. Oh, yes, the waiter who grabbed my souvenir book, paged through it, pointed guess where on The David & other statues, and repeatedly exclaimed, “ah, Michelangelo.”

Relax, OP, and enjoy the espresso.
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Old 09-24-2009, 08:01 PM   #13
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There is so much to see in Florence, and it must be the same for Rome. There are a lot of neat day trips from Florence, but if you have only a few days, stick to Florence.

In Florence we really enjoyed Il Duomo, the Uffizi gallery, the Medici Castle, the Galleria dell' Accademia, the Palazzo Pitti & the Boboli gardens, and just wandering around along the river sightseeing and eating wonderful meals at small family-run trattorias.

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Old 09-24-2009, 11:57 PM   #14
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Too much to see, too little time. I agree with most of the things the others have listed. However, I would scratch Pisa off the list. Not worth trying to fit into such a short time, and there are much more interesting places to visit. I also agree that renting a car and driving yourself can be nerve-racking, depending on your experience. It's not very relaxing.
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Old 09-25-2009, 09:32 AM   #15
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I just got back from a Mediterranean cruise, which stopped at 3 ports in Italy. We were denied harbor entry at Civitavecchia (for Rome) due to high winds .
Anyway, we did the typical tourist thing and signed up for 8-9 hour, multiple stop excursions, all pre-arranged with Italian tour companies (the cruise line did this for us).
We did not drive at all (OMG no way ), we did not have to think about maps as we were taken from point A to point B on A/C buses, and we learned so much history from the tour guides that we would not have been able to read from a book while walking. We were given wireless headsets so we could hear the tour guide in crowded areas. It was very scheduled but we covered a lot.
If that's too structured for you, we did see many self guided tours (rent headsets and go at your own pace by public bus or taxi) available at the information centers at the ports.
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Old 09-25-2009, 09:38 AM   #16
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The last time I was in Siena, admittedly more than 20 years ago, the bus there from Florence was called "The Train". I think is was actually the name of the bus line. Confusing to say the least. Nevertheless, it was a very pleasant trip through lovely countryside.

While I was boarding the bus, a lovely little old lady asked me for help with her baggage in french. I suppose she saw the french language travel guide in my hand (It was the only thing available where I bought it in Geneva). I sat with her and spent the whole trip in a fascinating conversation with her, and she never even winced at my execrable french. I was mortified to discover at the end of the trip to discover that she was the Bristish war-time bride of some minor Italian nobleman, comte de quelque choses or whatever. She had spent the whole trip putting up with my horrible french just so that I wouldn't feel bad about it.

In the row behind was a very young, very scruffy Swiss student who joined in the conversation. He was vagabonding around with meager funds and we ended up spending a wonderful day in Siena together. We had such a good time that we decided to take a bus to San Gimignano the next day. I left my $400/night hotel room in Florence sit vacant and rented a shared a double room in a $20/night pension with him. San Giminignano was also spectacluar, and I was sorry to have to part ways there. He found a lovely room in a monastary (literally a cell) for about $5/night and I caught the bus back to Firenze.

As the commercial says: priceless.
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Old 09-25-2009, 03:01 PM   #17
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DH and I are spending a week in Rome in late April. My mother has rented an apartment in the Spanish Steps area and my brother and his SO will be there too. We are very compatiable and comfortable doing things together or splitting up for different activities.

It's our first trip to Italy and will be our celebration of his retirement. I'll be following this thread for tips.
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Old 09-26-2009, 07:37 PM   #18
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Both times in Italy we got around just fine with public transportation. The trains are awesome. Easy to use the buses. In Florence a lot of stuff was within walking distance.

I never considered driving. Looked like a hassle.

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Old 09-27-2009, 09:44 PM   #19
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Rome

We just got back from Sorrento and Rome. Had a great hotel in Rome, Hotel Forum, right across the street from the Augustus Forum and 5 minutes from Coliseum. Right smack dab in the middle of everything, great 4 star hotel and within walking distance of most major sights (except Vatican).

Spent other time in Sorrento at friends villa. Visited friends in Sant Agata du Golfo and wandering around Postitano.

I had heard that the Vatican was staying open later at night now so that might be of some help.

Check out hotel here hotelforumrome.com they have a webcam so you can look over the sights from the hotel.

We loved Sorrento. Rome is a must see but we wouldn't want to visit it twice with so much else to see in the country.
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Old 09-29-2009, 10:56 AM   #20
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I agree with others, I would try not to do too much, Italy is one of those countries where quality is more important than quantity.

However, if you are after something special you might want to take a look at the website below. It belongs to an American from SoCal. who moved to Italy and married a local. She organizes a lot of personal touristy things individually tailored. She also has a wonderful blog that is worth reading, my mother starts watering everytime I read about her latest dining experience.

http://www.bellavitaitalia.com/
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