We have 6 full days (7 nights) in Italy in mid November and we're trying to plan our itinerary. (me and my gf, beginning of our 30).
We're landing and flying out of Rome.
Seeing photos and reading reviews we definitely want to spend a day or 2 in Cinque Terre.
We also would like to spend a few nights in the Tuscany area (Florence or just some small towns), and 2 nights in Rome.
1. Would it be wiser to rent a car or do it by buses/train (we're pretty tight on schedule so prefer not to waste time on travel, unless night buses/trains are possible, which is great).
Even though if parking is hard to find or expensive that influences as well.
2. Weather - would November be a good time for Cinque Terre and the Tuscany area ?
3. Can you recommend an Itinerary ? We prefer going to places where we can do hikes, eat good food, experience nature/scenery and so. We're less interested in hardcode history. Driving/walking around Tuscany villages/Cinque Terre sounds like a lot of fun compared to visiting a Church/Museum, just to give a an idea of what we're looking for.
1. Would it be wiser to rent a car or do it by buses/train
Definitely take the train, imo. In most cases train will actually be faster than driving (Italy has excellent high-speed trains, with very reasonable fares) and, more importantly, trains go to the centre of settlements. In a huge number of cases, that's not possible with a car.
The vast majority of Italian cities, towns and many villages have restricted traffic zones (ZTLs) in their historical centres. Only those with a permit can drive inside a ZTL (and permits are not available for visitors). Many ZTLs are monitored by CCTV and fines are automatic for all of them, taken from your card via the car rental company (with added admin charges).
Even if you manage to avoid the ZTLs, parking is difficult and expensive in Rome,Florence and many Italian towns. It is pretty much impossible in the Cinque Terre villages, where all parking is for residents only.
There are regular trains between all the CT villages, by the way.
Train times, details and fares in English on the official Italian railway website:
Use 'Roma' for Rome and 'Firenze' for Florence.
Trenitalia run high-speed trains and another company, Italo, also run high-speed trains on the same routes. Times and fares are much the same.
Booking high-speed trains tickets in advance online through either website can offer excellent discount fares, though it does tie you to a specific date and departure time. You don't need to book other trains in advance online. Ticket machines are easy to use and have English language options.
If you want to explore smaller places in Tuscany which don't have good bus or train links (most do) you could perhaps hire a car in Florence for a couple of days.
2. would November be a good time for Cinque Terre and the Tuscany area?
It's certainly not a bad time. The main advantage is far fewer visitors (all the places you mention are visitor-popular year-round). The main disadvantages are possible wet & chilly weather (easily overcome if you pack appropriate clothing) and reduced daylight hours.
You may find a few restaurants & sites/sights are closed in the CT and smaller Tuscan towns but that certainly won't be an issue in Florence or Rome.
Note that if you want to walk the CT National Park you need to buy a permit. Paths may be closed if the weather is poor, or for winter maintenance. Check on the official park site:
3. Can you recommend an Itinerary ?
You are trying to pack a lot into a very small space of time. How you choose to spend that time is really up to you, though I suspect that, if you haven't visited before, you will be amazed by both Rome and Florence (neither are just churches and museums! :-/) ...so don't be tempted to cut out at least one full day exploring both places.
To be honest, if it were me visiting in November I'd cut out the CT altogether, focusing on Rome, Florence and Tuscany. You'll spend time getting to the CT and, frankly, the chances of you doing much hiking are pretty slim. Better, imo, to save it for another visit in another month with better weather & more daylight (October, April, May) and spend a decent amount of time there.
We've taken their trains--Europe's trains run circles around America's. They are cheaper and more efficient than Amtrak could ever be. Yes with a car you do all your own schedule but they have traffic and if you only drive automatic, you may get stuck with an inferior car--they are partial to stick shift in Europe. Rome is a good middle ground. do at least 3 days there, as there is much to see. And book things in advance--tickets, museums, transportation, as much as you can. You will save loads of time and get less headaches.
I would simply follow Mary Smith's suggestions. She is definitely very knowledgeable about the area. I would agree that you should skip CT for this trip but in order to get a feel of the amazing small towns of Italy I can suggest Lucca. You can easily make it in a half day trip from Province of Florence Same goes for Siena, San Gimignano.
My suggestion would be to stay in Rome min 2 nights (I would suggest Trastevere area for lodging) then take the train to Florence stay 2 nights there and then take a car and drive around these smaller towns on your way down to Roma.
Having a car is great for going around smaller towns of Tuscany but its a nightmare for Roma and Florence.
This way you will be visiting Roma and Florence without having to worry driving and parking.
Hope you have a great trip,
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November will be colder/rainier, but with a lot less tourists - but hiking may be hard/non existent in the Villa Cinque Terre because of that (a different time of year would be better - spring or fall - you can easily take a train from Florence to La Spezia, then a train to any of the Cinque Terre - there is great hiking between towns also, during appropriate weather months). Because of your time constraints, I agree that spending most of your time in Florence/Tuscany would be wise (Siena, Lucca, Chianti, Montepulciano, Montalcinoetc.), then either fly or take the train to Rome(where weather should be warmer) - in fact, flying takes less time and can be cheaper than the train (several low-cost airlines, plus Alitalia).
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Yes, forget the car and take the train. If you book ahead you can get some great prices. I love Florence but because of your limited time, I suggest Rome to Siena or Lucca then on to walk the Cinque Terre. Not sure November will be the time to hike there, it may be a little wet and cold by then. But it might be worth it because of the fewer tourists, which is a big distraction in the warmer months.