Hi - the wife and I are attempting to build an itinerary for Italy this coming summer. We are thinking 6/28 - 7/15.
NYC - Rome/Vatican - Florence - Venice - NYC
We are in our early 30s. We love history, but we are not the ones to stay in one place for too long. We are quite active and want to keep moving and partying through every city. We are using miles to book tickets so we can splurge a bit more on the trip. Our budget would be 3-4 star hotels, renting cars to drive in between cities, one fancy meal per each city.
Thanks in advance.
Also: not sure about your accommodation tastes - we prefer Small/personally run places. I can recommend places we’ve stayed at in all three cities.
In Florence: B & B Casa Rovai. Find on booking.com but booking direct might secure a better rate. First class location in a small side street five minutes walk from the Cathedral. Lots and lots of stairs! The receptionist will book the Uffizi Gallery in advance for you if you ask. Reception not 24 hours, but very helpful and friendly people.
In Rome, Bed and Breakfast Adele Emme. I cannot rate Adele highly enough. She really cares about her guests and does everything she can to make sure they see the best of Rome. Small and friendly place, four double rooms. Everyone eats breakfast around one large table, very sociable! She’s not on booking.com and her rooms book far ahead, so book early. Adele’s website: http://www.ilbedandbreakfastchevorrei.com/2007/10/bed-and-breakfast-in-rome.html?m=1
In Venice: Ca' San Rocco is a small family run hotel, easy walking distance from both Piazzale Roma and Santa Maria Novella railway station. 24 hour reception. No lift. About 10 rooms, we stayed in a room on the top floor and it was very quiet. Overlooks gardens. Lovely shady breakfast area on an outside terrace. This one is on booking.com.
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I would reiterate what others responders have said: don’t even think of driving. Italian trains are simplicity itself to negotiate, and are usually very efficient. Tickets for local trains can be easily purchased at the stations from machines, and you can select English on screen. For intercity trains you can book online. Check out seat61.com for more advice about train travel.
My personal recommendations - things we’ve enjoyed doing in the three cities you’ll be visiting:
If you want to splash out, I can recommend two guided tours: the Walks of Italy ‘Pristine Sistine’ tour - it was terrific - well worth the money. In Venice we did the ‘Alone in St. Mark's Square’ tour (also by Walks of Italy) - again, I highly recommend - expensive but totally worthwhile.
Province of Florence is stuffed with wonderful sites all within an easily walkable historic centre.
If you’re fit and not claustrophobic, don’t miss the climb up inside the dome of the cathedral.
Walk up to Piazzale Michelangelo at sunset for stellar views of the city. Visit the Brancacci Chapel in the Oltrarno district to see a renaissance masterpiece.
There is a hidden bar/speakeasy scene in Rome. We didn’t eventually do it, but if that interests you it would be worth doing some researching to find out about how to visit one.
Visit the Borghese Gallery and Museum for amazing works of art - but this one absolutely must be booked well in advance as tickets are limited and sell out. Visit: http://galleriaborghese.beniculturali.it/en/visita/visit-the-galleria-borghese
In Venice buy a two day pass - or however long you need - for the vaporettos, and plan to spend one entire day island hopping on the lagoon. Google the many different islands to find which interest you, but I definitely recommend Burano and Torcello Island.
We booked to see an opera performed in one of the palaces on the Grand Canal - even if you’re not an opera lover, I think most people would enjoy the experience. Each scene of the opera is performed in a different beautifully decorated room within the palazzo. We found it a very memorable evening. Reserve tickets directly at:
https://www.musicapalazzo.com/ rather than via a third party that might charge you more. You reserve online then pay in cash on the night. Be prepared to have some fun finding the place - the entrance is down a tiny Venetian alleyway!
Take an evening walk around the Cannaregio district to see a quieter side of Venice. Eat with the locals at Al Timone on Fondamenta dei Ormesini. Book if you want a table, otherwise choose a plate of chiccetti (Venetian snacks) from the glass cabinet (€1 each snack) and sit on the canalside to eat.
Have a fabulous trip!
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We did a cross Italy trip 5 years ago. Amalfi-Pompei-Rome-Siena-Pisa-Villa Cinque Terre-Venice-Veronaand lastly Metropolitan City of Turin. With the exception of the Amalfi Coast, we felt our rental car was A HUGE water if both time and money. The train system in Italy is AMAZINGLY well connected, quick, and inexpensive.
I'm not sure on your personal tastes, but we wanted to really feel the areas we were visiting, so we enjoyed renting apartments or staying in locally owned hotels.
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The itinerary is fine. You can add a day excursion from Florence to Pisa if you desire. The only suggestions I have is: DO NOT DRIVE. the trains are fast and efficient. It you go into Trenitalia or Loco2 you can find and easily book very cheap excursions fares city to city. I have done these legs on as little as 9€ in the past. Second: book everything you can before you leave, especially if you are wanting to see Colosseum, David, Uffizi, or any popular spot. Otherwise, you will spend hours of your valuable time standing in lines just to buy the tickets. Also, if you want to have fun and take a plate home, these are great cities to participate in Buon Ricardo restaurants. Not cheap any longer but some of the most interesting and delicious dinners you may have. And you take home a cute plate. Italy remains my favorite country and no matter where you go, you will love it.
If you want extra to splurge, don't even think about renting a car. There's no need for one. Italian trains (and its public transport in general) are safe, reliable and comfortable enough and....most importantly and especially on the routes you are likely to take (i.e. Venice> Rome > Florence).....the high-speed Freccia and Italo trains are considerably faster than driving. And, especially if you book tickets online in advance, they're cheaper too.
Note that if you do decide to drive you must, as a non-EU citizen, carry a legal Italian translation of your licence. An International Driving Permit (available from the AAA in the US) fulfils that function. The rental companies probably won't want to see it but the police, should you come into contact with them (and you might), may. You need to get an IDP before you leave for your trip.
The historical centres of many (most?) Italian cities, towns and even villages are designated ZTLs, restricted traffic zones. Many are monitored by CCTV and fines are automatic, taken from your credit card via the rental company (with admin fees on top). You are very unlikely to find hotels with parking within a ZTL (the hotel must organise an official ZTL permit for each guest and the majority do not wish to take on this administrative burden). Parking in cities outside ZTLs is almost always difficult and usually expensive. There is obviously no wheeled traffic in Venice; traffic stops in Piazzale Roma at the end of the causeway.
So I suggest you take the train between cities and then use the vaporetti in Venice, the Metro, buses & trams in Rome and the buses in Florence (if you have to...the city has a very small and eminently walkable historical centre) plus your feet to get around. Walking is by far the best way to see all the places you intend to visit and you'll see much, much more if you do so. Yes, it's safe to walk (I'm speaking as a solo middle-aged female). Just use normal city commonsense.
Use the official Italian railway website to find train times, details and fares in English:
Use 'Venezia' for Venice (you'll need Venezia Santa Lucia station), 'Roma' for Rome (Roma Termini) and 'Firenze' for Florence (Firenze Santa Maria Novella).
Italo, a private company, also runs high-speed trains on some routes. They use the same lines and stations as Trenitalia and fares are much the same:
Both companies offer good fare savings for online advance bookings. It's very easy to book online and you'll get an eticket to print out.
Use the reliable and long-established www.booking.com to find hotels. It has extensive listings throughout Italy (and elsewhere), excellent mapping and, most importantly imo, its reviews can only be written by people who have booked through the site and completed their stay.
You say you love history so don't underestimate how much there is to see in just those 3 cities. You could easily spend all 15 days in Rome and not even scratch its surface.
And there are easy daytrips by train or bus from all 3 cities e.g. Verona and Padova from Venice, the superb Ostia Antica (a sort of mini Pompeii without the crowds) and Tivoli from Rome (Pompeii itself is a feasible daytrip by train from Rome if you make an early start), Pisa, Siena, Fiesole and San Gimignano from Florence......
If you want to explore e.g. the Tuscan countryside I suggest you just rent a car for one or two days from your base.
I'm sure you'll have an excellent trip. Enjoy your planning! :-)