Thank you in advance to anyone who would answer questions and give comments. Husband and I (36 and 32 yo) are planning a trip to Italy November 15-30. It will be our first trip to Italy (and Europe, in fact). We bought a deal that includes airfare flying in to Venice and out of Rome, reserved train Venice-Florence and Florence-Rome, and hotels (2n Venice, 2n Florence, 3n Rome). We then added 2n to the front end and extended the trip by 5 more nights, but unfortunately we can't change the middle portion of the trip (or I definitely would have added more days to Florence). So far our itinerary looks like this:
Day 1- travel day
Day 2- arrive in Venice in the morning; rest/wander about
Day 3- Venice sights, plus maybe Lido if there's time
>The "deal hotel" is actually in Mestre, so the first two nights we wanted to stay in the city center, then transfer to the Mestre hotel on Day 4. Any recommendations for not-so-expensive (preferably under $100/night) but still nice place to stay?
Day 4- 3 nearby islands of Murano, Burano, and Torcello
>Is this doable at this time of the year? Best strategy for visiting all three efficiently?
Day 5- day trip to Ravenna and Bologna
>I really wanted to see Ravenna, but I'd like to go for at least a few hours in Bologna as well if there's time. Is the winter train schedule vastly different from the current ones posted in Trenitalia and how reliable are the posted schedules? With the current posted schedules, if we leave Mestre by 7AM and don't plan on coming back until 8PM or so, we can actually spend 4 hours in Ravenna plus lunch and another 4h in Bologna including dinner (which is the main point of going there for me). What is the best approach with buying these train tickets- before leaving, at the station, as part of sightseeing cards, etc.?
>Any tips with visiting these two cities? Do the food markets and places of interest around Piazza Maggiore typically stay open after sunset? Do the churches in Ravenna also close for riposo?
Day 6- train to Florence; walk around, churches
Day 7- Florence- Uffizi and Accademia, maybe more churches if there's time
>Days 6-7 are definitely the toughest to plan for, but we'll just pick and choose as time permits. I've seen a few 2-day Florence itinerary guides, but please feel free to post link to what you think is most useful/reasonable, especially with shorter daylight hours and opening hours in November.
Day 8- Florence- San Miniato Truffle Fair, then train to Rome
>I'm a little obsessed with truffles, so I'm sacrificing a day in Florence to go to this nearby festival before heading to Rome (fixed train schedule), since we may never be in this part of the world at this time of year again but Florence will definitely still be there for another time. Does that sound right or am I being crazy? Does anyone have any personal experience with this festival? Is it actually worth leaving Florence for on our first trip to Italy? Also, is it safe and hassle-free (with hotels) to get in to Rome at night and check in late?
Day 9- Rome- ancient Rome
Day 10- Rome- more ancient Rome
Day 11- Rome- Vatican
>As you can tell, Rome itinerary not quite fleshed out yet, but there's so much to see that I think I'm putting off making decisions on which ones we can or cannot visit with our time frame. These are Sunday-Tuesday; am I correct to assume that major antiquity sights will be open Sundays and Mondays? I've been reading conflicting advice on that.
Day 13- Pompeii (and Vesuvius with time)
Day 14- Herculaneum and Naples
>This is the (almost) last segment of our trip and the part I'm most unsure of yet. I've been vacillating between staying in Naples or Sorrento ever since we nixed Salerno as home base for these 3 days. I need opinions on this matter and any recommendations for specific places to stay in either. Right now we have cancellable booking at the Magi House in Sorrento.
>The four main sights I want to see are listed, along with a possible "hike" to Vesuvius. I can re-arrange them in different ways, depending on where we're staying or time constraints I haven't yet considered or what makes more sense with transportation and opening hours (please let me know what you think), but Pompeii is definite mainstay on the schedule as that's the main reason for going to that area in the first place.
>Again, what is the best course with getting train tickets? Any recommendations for "sightseeing cards/passes"? I'm fairly budget-conscious, but is it worth it to catch the faster trains and/or ride 1st class? We would have our luggage with us at these train rides.
>Is the SITA bus fairly reliable at that time of year? How many towns can we reasonably expect to explore in (less than) a day in Amalfi Coast? Do you have favorites and why? (Right now they seem pretty similar to me, but I haven't looked very closely on each town's characteristics.)
Day 15- early train back to Rome; museums, more sights
Day 16- early flight out