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Durham (North Carolina)

Rome, Vatican City, Cinque Terre

First trip to Italy--help me do it right

So, Italy has been my goal since I was about 12. Planning to go on a moderate budget for ~1 1/2 weeks to 2 weeks in April. Planning to look at B&B or rooms for rent in small houses instead of hotels. Planning to hit Rome, Vatican, Cinque Terre. Anywhere else we should see? I don't want to spread ourselves too thinly but I want to make sure I see and experience as much as possible. Otherwise, recommendations for things to do in these places? Best hole in the wall restaurant? Best place to spend an afternoon? Best way to get from place to place? Any recommendations are welcome. 

11 Answers

top answer by

My husband and I just returned from our honeymoon in Italy and fell in love with it. Rome, Italy was our second stop on the trip and then we headed up to Cinque Terre Consorzio Turistico. We started in Positano so if you can squeeze that in, I would highly recommend it. You can take a train from Rome to Salerno and then a ferry to most of the Amalfi Coast cities. I think the high speed train was about 2 hours or so. Or you can take a train from Rome to Naples and then a taxi to Positano (about an hour or so). We stayed at the most incredible B&B and it's the only place we'll ever stay when we go back. Check out the reviews...the owners are the most wonderful people, the accommodations were perfect, location was great. I actually cried when we left because everyone was so great. Casa Buonocore. 

 In Rome, I would recommend doing a bike tour. It was a great way to see the city and explore some really interesting parts we would have never seen. Francesco was our guide and he was fantastic. He also gave us tons of recommendations for restaurants and things to do/not to waste time/money on. If you do Vatican City and go to the Vatican, pre-book one of the guided tours. It's worth every penny and you bypass a huge line. One thing we didn't realize is that the Pope has a papal audience on Wednesdays so St. Peter's Basilica is closed that day.  

 As far as restaurants in Rome, we were told (and learned the hard way) to skip anything in a main piazza. They're going to be very touristy, the food is so-so and over-priced. You'll be able to spot these with the person waiving you down from outside and the advertised "tourist menu." Trastevere is a wonderful neighborhood of Rome and definitely worth visiting at night. During the day it looks fairly quiet but at night is when everything opens - tons of great restaurants, bars, music, etc. one of our favorite meals of our entire trip was at Taverna Trilussa in Trastevere. Also, amazing cannolis near the Pantheon. I cannot remember the name of the bakery for the life of me but if you head from the Pantheon just a minute towards Montecitori Palace, it is directly to the left if you're facing that government building. Oh, one last night about Rome... Visit the Villa Borghese Gardens just before sunset- absolutely stunning view of the entire city and the Vatican. 

From Rome we took the train to Cinque Terre (you'll have to stop in La Spezia I believe). I know most people say you can buy your tickets at the station but the kiosks are a bit temperamental and don't always work. We bought most of the ones we could online ( 

Buy the Cinque Terre card as well because you'll be able to ride as many times a day and you'll also have free wifi in each city. We actually stayed in Levanto and hiked to Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza and Corniglia. The hike from Levanto to Monterosso and then to Vernazza are about 2 hours. Be sure to wear tennis shoes and not sandals. In Vernazza, you have to try the focaccia any gelato from Vernazza Gelateria (it was the best we had during our entire trip). 

In Corniglia, we wished we would have had time to have lunch or dinner at A Cantina da Mananan. It looked and smelled wonderful. 

 That's all I can think of for now but I'm more that happy to answer any other questions you might have. 

 Have a wonderful trip!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Rome, Italy (attraction)
  2. Cinque Terre Consorzio Turistico (attraction)
  3. Positano (attraction)
  4. Salerno (city)
  5. Amalfi Coast (attraction)
  6. Naples (attraction)
  7. Vatican City (attraction)
  8. St. Peter's Basilica (attraction)
  9. Trastevere (neighborhood)
  10. Taverna Trilussa (restaurant)
  11. Montecitori Palace (attraction)
  12. Villa Borghese (attraction)
  13. La Spezia (city)
  14. Levanto (city)
  15. Monterosso al Mare (attraction)
  16. Vernazza (city)
  17. Corniglia (attraction)
  18. A Cantina da Mananan (restaurant)
9 thankscomments (2)

answered by
Wendy from Gig Harbor, Washington

You will have an amazing time!  Spend a few days in Cinque Terre if you can.  We stayed in Manarola in a rented flat for a very reasonable price through  The 5 towns can get busy during the day when all the tourists are in town, but at night they clear out and you get to know the other people staying in town.   Everyone was so friendly and the restaurants in town were all wonderful.  This region specializes in pesto, focaccia bread, seafood pasta and limoncello.  You can travel between the 5 towns by hiking, boat, train or car.  One of the towns has a sandy beach (Monterosso al Mare), so definitely spend an afternoon at the beach under an umbrella with a bottle of wine and a bit of focaccia and pesto. Cinque Terre is only an hour's drive from the leaning tower of Pisa, so try to see it if you can.  We found all the shopkeepers to be super friendly as well.  We would definitely do Cinque Terre at the end of an Italy trip so you can just relax and take it all in.  I highly recommend picking up a Rick Steves guide on Italy as well.  We always found his advice spot on.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Cinque Terre (region)
  2. Manarola (attraction)
  3. Monterosso al Mare (attraction)
3 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Polly from Washington, DC

For the cities you want to visit, Italy's rail system would be the perfect way to get around. If I was planning a two-week trip I'd start in Rome, Italy and spend 3 nights there before heading for Florence, as Ashley and Ryan recommended. I'd spend 2 nights in Florence - it's a wonderful, walkable city with lots of beautiful art and good food. Next, I'd visit Pisa for a couple hours on my way to Cinque Terre. After 2 nights there, I'd return for 2 additional nights in Rome. Italy is wonderful - however you end up going, you're going to have an amazing trip!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Rome, Italy (attraction)
  2. Florence (city)
  3. Pisa (city)
  4. Cinque Terre (region)
2 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Liz from Winnetka, Illinois

Italy is my favorite and you really can't go wrong no matter where you go. My favorite spots are Rome, Florence, Positano, Sicily, Comer See (Lake Como) and the hill towns of Tuscany.  Don't try to do too much at once.  Pick a region and explore everything there.  We take families going for the first time and do Rome for a few days followed by a week in Tuscany with day trips to Florence and the other hill towns near there.  Another great itinerary I have done is Rome, Positano and Sicily.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Rome (city)
  2. Florence (city)
  3. Positano (attraction)
  4. Sicily (island)
  5. Comer See (attraction)
  6. Tuscany (state)
1 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Christene from Kansas City (Missouri)

When in Florence, you HAVE to stay at Dany House. You absolutely must. It was the best hostel I stayed on my trip. I met so many great people, and the owner, Jonathan, is delightful. He greets you with a map, snacks and heavenly wine! The location is great. The price was perfect, and it was really a feeling of community. However, it is a hostel. In the Cinque Terre area, I stayed in La Spezia. It was cheaper, the town was delightful, and there were some really great restaurants. Plus, it is only a 10ish minute train ride to Riomaggiore. To book small Pensiones and B&B,s check out or I work in the hotel industry, and those are my go to sites for my independent travel. You can find nice "non branded" hotels there. Please try to include Venice. It is rambling, beautiful, confusing, and intoxicating. My hostel I stayed in there was just ok, but I bet you can find some lovely B&Bs. In summary in Italy, I hit Venice, Florence, Rome, and Cinque Terre, Como and Milan. Como and Milan are nice, but I could pass on those next time. I only went to Milan to pay homage at La Scalia! 

Also, check out Rick Steve's Italy guide for a self guided walking tour of Rome, Venice, and CInque Terre. The memories of his twilight walk through Rome still brings tears to my eyes. 

Vatican is a must. The Museum...breathtaking. Just absolutely stunning. Also a side tip: If you want to mail anything home (dirty clothes, bulky souvenirs, etc) do it from Vatican City. The prices are cheaper and the mail is more reliable. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Dany House (hotel)
1 thankscomments (1)

answered first by
Ashley from Calgary

I'd stop in Florence on your way to Cinque Terre! 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Florence (city)
1 thanks

answered by
Peter from Bloomington (Indiana)

No one's talked about Tuscany (except Florence) or Umbria yet, so I'll weigh in. I've driven through these regions. The attraction for me is the profusion of "hill towns," each with its own medieval or Renaissance flavor, its own Duomo and its own secrets. I can't claim to know them all or even a representative set, but I'd surely recommend stopping in Orvieto, if only for the Duomo and the wine (a distinctive local white). Siena would be a crime to miss. Other than St. Peter's Basilica, Siena has the most magnificent cathedral I saw. And San Gimignano, for all its touristy cheesiness, is worth seeing too.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Orvieto (attraction)
  2. Siena (attraction)
  3. St. Peter's Basilica (attraction)
  4. San Gimignano (attraction)

answered by
Cris from Bauru

Hello! Rome is magnificent. From the airport to the center Fiumicino, use the train to the terminal center. From there, take the time to walk anywhere. I believe that in Rome, you will use the subway just to go to the Vatican. Food? It is great anywhere. Ciao, arrivederte and buona fortuna! 

answered by
Terri from Napa Valley

If your plans to go to the Cinque Terre are really set in stone, then I would recommend going from Rome to Florence by high speed train then over to Cinque Terre by regional train.  Florence is a beautiful city with most of the major artwork in Italy.  You should plan to spend at least 2-3 days there.  The one thing you should keep in mind about Florence and especially Cinque Terre in April is that if it rains a lot they could have flooding.  If you do go to the CT, try to find a small apartment and stay there for a couple of days so that you can really soak it in and do the hikes between the towns.  If you have a little more time you could continue up the coast to Portofino.  If you decide not to go north from Rome then I would consider going south to Naples and the Amalfi Coast.  You can get to Naples from Rome on one of the high speed trains in 1 1/2 hours and then have a pre-arranged driver take you to the Amalfi Coast.  You cannot walk between most of the towns on the AC, but they do have a buses that stop at most of the towns.  There are affordable B&B's there.  Positano is the most popular town and also touristy, but lovely.  We stayed in the next town, Praiano.  Whatever you decide, try to stay in Rome and either north or south.  If you only have 1 1/2 weeks it might be too much packing, moving and travelling to try to do both.  Congratulations on deciding to finally make it to Italy - but, be prepared, you will want to return again and again!

answered by
Emily from Austin (Texas)

I am loving these answers and now feel like I need to head back to Italy! I was there years ago, and will never forget it. We saw Pompei, FlorenceRomeVenice, and Sorrento on one of those guided tour things. It was great. However, the one moment that I will never forget was a chairlift ride on Anacapri. It was amazing. See below for one of the shots I snapped while riding.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Pompei (attraction)
  2. Florence (city)
  3. Rome (city)
  4. Venice (city)
  5. Sorrento (attraction)
  6. Anacapri (attraction)

answered by
Staci from Cleveland

You will have a blast! I went to Italy for 21 days and hit many locations. We started in Palermo and then went to the following cities: LipariNaplesCapriAmalfi CoastRome, ItalyRadda in ChiantiFlorenceVenice and Milan.

There is so much to see and do. Come by my blog and read about the experiences I had and the cool things to see. Here are some suggested articles.

Exploring the Amalfi Coast 

Making the leap to Lipari

Blue Seas of Capri 

How to Explore Rome 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Italy (country)
  2. Palermo (city)
  3. Lipari (city)
  4. Naples (attraction)
  5. Capri (city)
  6. Amalfi Coast (attraction)
  7. Rome, Italy (attraction)
  8. Radda in Chianti (city)
  9. Florence (city)
  10. Venice (city)
  11. Milan (city)

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