We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Need help on planning a first (dream) trip to Italy

Chicago, Illinois
Level Contributor
58 posts
1 review
Save Topic
Need help on planning a first (dream) trip to Italy

My family is from Italy, but I have never been there. Even though It was somewhere my husband and I agreed that was one of our top destinations when we married over 35 years ago, we were always sidetracked for one reason or another. Finally, we have set aside three weeks to go this September/October. We have an ambitious itinerary because we doubt that we will be able to return and would like to see as much of the country as possible. We would like to include Venice, Milan, Cinque Terre, Florence, Rome, Naples, Pompeii, and the Amalfi Coast, as well as visit Perugia and Bari--the birthplaces of my family.

We have always enjoyed traveling independently and having that control. We like to research and find just the right hotels (with character) and those special local restaurants, but have used guides on occasion. We like a good mix of the cultural and the "real" country experience. A recent trip, however, did make us realize that age is catching up with us! We are now considering the Best of Italy group tour by Trafalgar, thinking that we can add some time at the end to visit Perugia and Bari.

Our quandary is that we are concerned this type of travel will disappoint and we really want the trip to be as memorable as we always hoped. Are there any members out there who have been in a similar situation (i.e., switched from independent travel to group tours because of age) willing to share experiences? Would it be possible for our itinerary to be accomplished independently and smoothly through car and train travel?

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks.

New York City, New...
Level Contributor
41,413 posts
Save Reply
1. Re: Need help on planning a first (dream) trip to Italy

Every single spot you mention (which, whew! by the way) is reachable by train so if you think you can handle trains, I would suggest going independently if that is what you are used to do doing and, if you feel physically able to manage getting your luggage up some steep steps into the train cars - very doable if you smartly pack very light.

You have 10 destinations in 15 days - I suggest you rethink some of this itinerary; that alone will make it an exhausting trip in which you would barely even scratch the surface of any of the places you are thinking of visiting.

There is something to be said - a lot - about slowing down and soaking up the culture, atmosphere, etc of a place rather than whizzing pass and through it.

Obviously, you could base yourself in Sorrento to visit Pompei and the Amalfi Coast so you wouldn't need to move hotels for each of those desired destinations; given my less than enthusiastic feelings about Milan, I'll not say anything about it; Both Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast have beautiful villages nestled into the the mountains with great hiking with CT being more well known for their hiking but at that time of year, given the extreme tininess of the villages, they will be mobbed with people. The AC too will still have a lot of visitors but at least the villages aren't as tiny. I would do one or the other and since you want to see Pompei, I would choose a place in or close to the AC.

You don't offer your budget range, so you could just start looking over www.venere.com to get some idea of what is still available in your price range; the really well reviewed, well priced lodgings get booked up very (very) early.

Do start looking over www.trenitalia.com to get some ideas of train travel time - adding about 30 minutes on either end for checking in and out of hotels, getting to and from the train stations.

Others will jump in re: the question of a tour. I've never been on one so nothing to offer on that question.

Have fun planning, whatever you do.

Minneapolis
Level Contributor
95 posts
87 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Need help on planning a first (dream) trip to Italy

Do you have 24 full days? What are you main interests? If you want to spend all day in museum, you may run out of time. Let us know what you,re interested in and that will help.

New York City, New...
Level Contributor
41,413 posts
Save Reply
3. Re: Need help on planning a first (dream) trip to Italy

Oops, I did count days wrong - thinking two instead of three weeks, which would be 21 days. Even so, I still think this is a very busy schedule. But, as noted by Tryptime, knowing how you prefer spending your time when traveling, will be a good clue for people here to make suggestions.

Chicago, Illinois
Level Contributor
58 posts
1 review
Save Reply
4. Re: Need help on planning a first (dream) trip to Italy

Thank you for the responses and tips so far! We have three weeks (21 days) but the travel days from the US to Italy chisel away a couple of those. I also see that Friday flights are more expensive than leaving on a Saturday, so I will have to assess that as well. Maybe we can take one or two more days off from work, but not sure about that.

I am looking to achieve something comparable to the three weeks we did in Spain when we were first married. We traveled by car and by train and hit both the big cities and the countryside. When we left, we felt we somewhat had a sense of the country as well as a memorable adventure--but we were young!

We definitely prefer to travel by car when outside of big cities, but from what I am reading, no one really recommends it. While we would like to see some of the most famous works of art, we don't plan to spend entire days in museums. We can skip the opera, but might want to see the opera house. A brief tour of the Vatican would be fine with us. We love the beauty of water and definitely want to visit the coastal areas, but wouldn't be looking to do any outdoor "activity" other than walking or a segway tour. We also love good food and wine. If we can stay in one place for a longer period of time and use it as a base to take day trips, that might also be a good plan. I am rethinking the inclusion of Milan and, perhaps, will (sadly) have to scratch off Bari because of logistics...

I hope that information helps and again, thanks for any suggestions.

St Paul, MN
Level Contributor
20,945 posts
6 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Need help on planning a first (dream) trip to Italy

A lot depends on what shape you are in and how old you are. I have been married 37 years but I am 59 years old and I manage fine on independant itineraries. I ususally go to one location base and sty ther for 10-12 days though. I went to western Sicily in 2010 for 2 weeks and during that time I visited the towns my grnadparents were born in. Usually I use public transportation and trains the whole while I am in Italy except for our trip to Sicily. It''s a lot cheaper.

"Our quandary is that we are concerned this type of travel will disappoint and we really want the trip to be as memorable as we always hoped. "

This is a valid concern when you are with a tour group but you have to decide if the pros outweigh the cons. The only way you can visti so many places in such a short time is probably with a group.

I am going to Venice for the first time in about 10 days even though I have been visiting Italy since 2005. We are staying there for 10 days in an apt. If each trip is cheaper, then you can go on more trips. I have not been to the Amalfi coast, Milan, or Cinque Terre.

Poulsbo, Washington
Destination Expert
for Olympic National Park
Level Contributor
9,694 posts
8 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Need help on planning a first (dream) trip to Italy

I am in your age bracket, and just got back from my 6th visit to Italy. Age should be a consideration for this kind of itinerary. You are trying to do too much. I understand the desire to see it all on one visit, but having more time in a few spots is much more rewarding. Although I have been to Europe about 25 times, I have never been interested in a tour. That being said, I really think if you want to see even close to what you have planned, a tour is probably your better option. Italy has so many great sites, but many of my favorite places are in the countryside, which are more difficult to visit without renting a car. A tour may offer you a better opportunity to do just that. No matter which way you decide to go scale back on what you are trying to see and do and get more of a feel for what makes these places so special!

PA
Level Contributor
78 posts
42 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Need help on planning a first (dream) trip to Italy

It really is such an individual decision which makes it hard to give advice. Yet, like others I just want to pass along my thoughts after several trips to Italy in the past few years. I'm also in my mid 50's and so I can understand what you mean when you say age is a factor. However, I have always travelled on my own, not on a tour in Italy. I love planning my own trip. The trains and other public transportation are very easy to use. And I've driven a car in Italy as well, and although I would avoid driving in Rome and Florence, It's not hard in the countryside. Like others here, I would advise you shrink your itinerary so you can really soak in the flavors and delights of each place you go. I have found that I'm not comfortable with less than 3 nights at each location. And if you can make one place your base for day trips, you could think about renting an apartment instead of a hotel. Saves money and you have somewhere to wash clothes, which means you can pack less! Of the places you listed, I would recommend Venice, Florence , Rome and the Amalfi Coast. But you will still want to come back no matter what you end up seeing. Someday you wil want to go to the Italian Lakes region and to Cinque Terre and to Tuscany. I'm sure you will have a fabulous 3 weeks in Italy, whatever you decide.

Chicago, Illinois
Level Contributor
58 posts
1 review
Save Reply
8. Re: Need help on planning a first (dream) trip to Italy

Thank you for your comments and suggestions. Because I am pretty certain that this will be our one and only trip to Italy, we have a lot to think about and you have all been very helpful.

Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
25,395 posts
60 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Need help on planning a first (dream) trip to Italy

Ok, lets see what we can simplify.

I am presuming that you will fly into one city and out of another to avoid backtracking. This is called open jaws or multi city on booking sites.

Next: Even if you drive, you can't pick up and move so often. 10 sites in 21 nights isn't sensible. One thing we have learned is we can't see it all.

Lets presume the following

1 Fly into Venice 3 nights (don't forget the jet lag)

2 Train to Florence 4 nights including side tour to Siena/ rural Tuscany

3 Train to Perugia 3 nights

4 Train to Naples 3 nights (take Circumvesuviana from Naples to Sorrento, stopping at Pompeii or going a day excursion to Pompeii from Sorrento)

5 Naples to Bari 2 nights

6 Bari to Rome 5 nights

Milan and the Cinque Terre really don't fit.

All I can say is prune your stops down and prioritise what you really must see. If it has to be xxx then something else will have to go. Our personal experience is that if you don't get at least 3 nights in a town you see almost nothing.

Chicago, Illinois
Level Contributor
58 posts
1 review
Save Reply
10. Re: Need help on planning a first (dream) trip to Italy

Lynn,

This itinerary sounds workable and is a great one for me to plan from--thank you so much! Since all of our friends have been telling us not to miss Cinque Terre, we might need to make a tough decision about Bari because it is more out of the way and it is Perugia where I still have living family.

All:

Would you recommend driving between any of these cities instead of the train for sightseeing or adventure purposes? As I said, we would be comfortable doing this outside of the biggest cities.

Thanks again.