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Cheylana
05-30-2012, 11:56 AM
You're lucky you can so much time to take a long vacation--I'd kill to take a three-week holiday!!!

I completely agree with the wonderfulness of Pompeii, Southern Coast (Amalfi/Sorrento/Capri), and Tuscany. Definitely don't skimp on Tuscany. Loved Florence, Sienna and San Gimignano and I'm dying to go back and see more. Try the pici in Sienna, so delicious. Don't waste too much time in Pisa; just take a look at the tower and move on. Venice was cool but doesn't require more than a day or two, and the canal water is kind of smelly, IMO.

As for Rome, if you are into art, check out the Borghese Gallery--you need to apply for tix online ahead of time, but well worth it.

Also, if you have time, and you like water and pretty houses, consider the Italian Lake District--very beautiful and tranquil.

Angelskates
05-30-2012, 01:13 PM
You're lucky you can so much time to take a long vacation--I'd kill to take a three-week holiday!!!

It's been a while coming! I go back to Australia every Christmas, but every holiday I have had in 10 years has involved working. I own my own (very small) business, and even on this holiday, I am sure that I will need to work to some extent. I was putting it off and putting it off until I worked out my schedule, and then I realised that if I kept waiting, my schedule would be full, and I wouldn't be able to take a holiday at all! I always feel like I am letting people down when I take time off work. There aren't many people in Beijing doing what we do, so if they don't have me, they don't have anyone. But I need a break before I have a breakdown.

Ajax
05-30-2012, 07:22 PM
I've been to Sicily and it was one of the most amazing trips of my life. You'd need to rent a car I think. We stayed in Cefalu which is a nice little town and from there took tons of day trips. Mount Etna, Taormina (amazingly beautiful village on top of a mountain) and Agrigento's Valley of Temples were highlights. The food was also amazing.

Other great places in Italy: Siena, San Gimignano, Venice, Como/Garda region, Rome... Skip Pisa, there's little of interest there beyond the tower.

KikiSashaFan
05-30-2012, 07:28 PM
When I travelled through Italy I flew into Milan and out of Rome. Spent arrival day and one more day in Milan, 2 days in Venice, 3 days in Florence, 1 day in Siena, 1 day in Ostia and 3 days in Rome. Florence and Siena were far and away my favorite places and I'd love to go back to them again.

Tinami Amori
05-30-2012, 07:50 PM
.. based on the info you provided since my last post..

I am going to say how it is and how I see it, and if step on anyone’s travel toes, please forgive, no harm intended.

First of all let me say that ANY part of Italy you will chose to visit is going to be in 90% cases a beautiful wonderful experience. Second, you’re young and getting a little tired and sleep deprived will not hinder your travels that much.

But there are few facts, as I see them, which you should take into consideration to get the OPTIMAL enjoyment, and value out of your long awaited trip. And you do NOT want to get exhausted completely riding trains and buses on long stretches of the journey. No matter what good shape you’re in – the long segments of travel, even with a small back pack, take a tall.

My recommendations are not the 10 commandments, you have your own head, and a strong one, and that is the only reason why I allow my self the liberty to be so blunt with my suggestions:

- You’ve been to Italy when too young to appreciate (in your own words), which means you have not really been to Italy. Do not skip the usual number of days required to see the more famous places. You have only 20 days.

- You need at least 3 days in Rome, and on the Amalfi Coast.
- You need at least 2-3 days to see Venice and Florence.
- You need at least 3-4 days in Venice and Florence if you want to take local trips to see places outside of Venice and Florence (the Islands of Venice, Verona, Padova and Towns and Hills of Tuscany around Florence).
- In Milan, you need 1-2 days, and at least 2 more days to see Lake Como, and 1 more day to see the hill-top town of Bergamo (reached by local train only, off the main routes).
- There are 2 other famous lakes in the region – Maggiore and Garda, and few smaller ones.
- Maggiore – will be hard to reach and see the small towns without a car.
- Garda – is much further from Milan, and maybe a good stop ex Milan on the way to Padova/Verona/Venice route. Garda has a wonderful town of Sermione. 100% worth a visit. But it is a detour from “major cities route”.

- I am not fan of Genova and Turino if you have to sacrifice other locations. Unless, you stop over in Genova on the way to Cinque-Terre, and from Cinque-Terre proceed into Tuscany/Florence.

- “Stars on Ice – Italia” usually takes place in locations in the Dolomite Mountains in towns where they have rinks (naturally). Van Gardena, Alta Badia, Asiago, etc…


- All are located in the North East of Italy/North East of Milan close to the border with Austria. It is about at best, if no traffic, a 3-4 hour drive from Milan (on a car), and at best 2 hour drive from Padova, Verona, and a 3-4 hour drive from Venice.

- these towns are NOT located on the main train routes, and while they are charming, to reach them from main cities and towns takes a detour, and traveling on local trains and buses (which is not as simple as it looks, given time constraints).
- Unless someone gives you a ride (a fellow FSUer, or others), it will be difficult for you to come see the town, see the show, and leave to the next destination on the same day.
- In the past the events took place in August, not July. I don’t know about this year.

- since you’re flying in and out Rome, you have limitations in terms of time and routes. I wish you bought split tickets, using airports of Milan and Rome to come and go, in any order. You want to see the North of Italy and Sicilia, – you can – but you’ll spend a lot of time on trains and buses.

- Will you consider at least 1 or 2 domestic flights? Yes, it costs additional money, but do you want to loose a full day just traveling?

- Sicilia. Unless you just want to see Palermo, you need few days there. Even if one RENTS a car, it takes at least 2-3 days to see, rather 3-4 days to see “the best of Scicilia”. But you are not renting a car, and that puts even more limitations on your schedule. You may either miss a lot of interesting places, or completely exhaust your self hopping from town to town via local transport.

- If you HAVE to see Palermo (get to Sicilia), your best bet is to take care of your Amalfi Coast first, and then either take a train ex Napoli to Palermo – 9.5 hrs; or you can take a domestic flight ex Napoli – 50 minutes. Then from Palermo you can take direct flight back to Rome, and spend 2-3-4 days in Rome as the last stop.

- Again, I do NOT recommend you trying to see North of Italy and Sicilia on the same trip. But if you decide to go, I’ll gladly give you recommendations on best transport options that I know of, from the location you’d be coming from.

- You are arriving in the evening on the 20th of June after a long flight and transfers. 20th is GONE as far as your “tourist time”. It will take you at best 40 minutes to get ex FCO to Termini on the local train, and at least 15-20 minutes to your hotel.

- You want to be in Florence by the 24th to see the San Giovanni Festival. Please keep in mind, many thousands of people AND SCHOOL CHILDREN out on their summer breaks want to see it too…. From ALL over Europe… :lol:. Reserve hotel/hostle NOW! And remember, everything in Florence will cost more, have longer lines, you will be trampled on a bit, it will be HARD to get tickets on the days you want into major hotels (Academia, Uffizi, Pitti Palace, etc). In short – you will be inside a Mad House, and local trains to Tuscan towns will be full, and local Tuscan towns will VERY crowded.

- In the days of “Grand Tours”, even in times of Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren, in the old movies, etc., when an unsuspecting traveler stumbled upon a small mountain town celebrations of St. Francis of Aussi or San Gennaro, the experience was charming and quant like a chapter out of classic literature. Now it feels like a chapter out Marquis De Sade…

- this is NOT the worst: http://www.google.com/imgres?q=san+giovanni+festival+florence&um=1&hl=en&rlz=1R2DKUS_en&biw=1007&bih=567&tbm=isch&tbnid=3Q5Ty5DuD_cQ3M:&imgrefurl=http://florencebydenis.blogspot.com/2011/09/rificolona-folorentine-folklore.html&docid=oshf3bdElX_eLM&imgurl=http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-p7Ez8plmMSc/TmftxkwednI/AAAAAAAAAJg/RI7YMzAdGKY/s1600/IMG_2065.JPG&w=1600&h=1200&ei=YmvGT_z4NqGe2AX83vHDAQ&zoom=1
- but in short, in worst case you will be lucky to see the Feather in the HATS of the men in the parade, and you’ll be guaranteed to see the ends of their flags and piques.

- If you want to see something truly authentic, there is Palio di Siena, which takes place 2x per year, July 2nd and in August. You WILL need to buy tickets in advance, and I believe the better seats are subject to lottery. It will be crowded, but besides the horse race, there are several processions and festivals which will take place inside the Old Town Walls.

- Here is info for Palio di Siena tickets. That’s the only one I could find in a hurry. If you’re interest – I’ll dig through old files.

http://goitaly.about.com/gi/o.htm?zi=1/XJ&zTi=1&sdn=goitaly&cdn=travel&tm=21&gps=56_178_1003_563&f=00&tt=13&bt=1&bts=0&zu=http%3A//selectitaly.com/browse/things-to-do/museum/id%3A216%3Faff%3D160

I am sure I missed a lot of points, but let’s now overdo it in one post. In brief, is you do NOT commit yourself to any dates and events in any particular places, I would do the following.

Arrive Rome. Take train to Milan the next day. Spend few days in Milan, see the 1-2 day lakes. The go in the direction of Padova/Verona/Venice (stop on the way in one or two places). From Venice – train to Florence. Stay in Florence long enough to see it and few local towns in Tuscany. Take train ex Florence to Napoli/Sorrento/Amalfi Coast. Spend the time you require. Return to Napoli – take flight to Scicilia, then ex Scilia flight or train to Rome (train will be 13 hours). Spend few days in Rome as the “final gift to yourself” before departing.… :D.

NOTE: There is (as of few weeks ago) a new Super-Speed Train service in Italy. Called Italo – NTV: http://www.ntvspa.it/en/index.html

Some of the routes may suite your needs. I have not yet used it. But did make arrangements for relatives, and it worked for our purposes. It is not cheap, and as far as I know is not covered by Tourist/Student Passes.

vesperholly
05-30-2012, 08:50 PM
versperholly - thanks! Do you have a link of the hostel?

Any idea on how much to budget for 3 weeks (including transport and accommodation)?

Mona Lisa Hostel: http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Mona-Lisa-Hostel/Rome/13489

The price might be more since my trip was 4 years ago. Definitely book ahead, they have a main hostel where the kitchen is, and a secondary one that's just rooms, the main hostel is better. Only two bathrooms in the main one but I never waited to shower. They provided breakfast (milk in a box!) and the reviews say dinner but we always ate out.

I took about $300 for spending money for the week (excluding hostel $ which was paid for in cash on arrival) and it was plenty for food, tickets and a few souvenirs. We usually had lunch from a street cart or small cafe, and then had a restaurant dinner (mostly around the 25 euro mark). But at that time, the euro was $1.54. Now it's 80 cents :eek:

pingu
05-30-2012, 09:17 PM
IMO you can visit Milan and Como in one day (one for each city of course). And I don't recommend to go to Siena during the Palio because it's going to be a complete mess. You could go a few days after it, the city is not messed up any more but you can see the flags hanging in the winning Contrada, and its contradaioli wearing a pacifier hanging arounf their necks :)
You can skip Sirmione IMO.
A useful tip: remember to bring your own bottle of water while citysightseeing. A touristic city such as Florence, Rome or Venice has usually higher prices for everything, including water. It can cost around 5 in very touristic areas (Vaticano, for example). If you bring your own bottle of water you can save a lot of money.

Angelskates
05-30-2012, 10:24 PM
I'll look through these posts more carefully later, but I have to :lol: at the posts relating to crowds. I live in Beijing, I know crowds. I've ridden buses and subways in peak hour and waiting 4 hours in line many times...

I am willing to take domestic flights. I'd also be open to organised trips. I do not want to drive myself (I have driven twice in 10 years, and neither times were delightful experiences, even though I used to love driving, Europe is not a place to get back to it!)

sk8pics
05-30-2012, 11:21 PM
I love the Como region. Be sure to go to Bellagio, take a cruise on Lake Como, if you go there.

Have a great time!

IceAlisa
05-31-2012, 12:05 AM
Tinami should write her own travel guides.

KCC
05-31-2012, 02:58 AM
My favorite part if Italy is the Dolomite mountains in the north, but understand that I really love mountains. Been there six times, and want to go again. If you put this area in your itinerary, let me know and I can give details.

Tinami Amori
05-31-2012, 03:01 AM
I'll look through these posts more carefully later, but I have to :lol: at the posts relating to crowds. I live in Beijing, I know crowds. I've ridden buses and subways in peak hour and waiting 4 hours in line many times...

:lol: I have friends who live in northern Kamchatka, and I have yet to convince them to go to Iceland, even during summer... :rofl:

There are few organized tours you can take for 1 or 2 days. Some are group tours with guides, and some are not much than just "transportation" to and from an attraction/place of interest. Are you willing to go on a pre-set tour with a guide? It may not be a bad idea, actually to do it, and have some company for few days, if you're travelling alone.

The more popular ones are:

- Ex Sorrento to Pompei.
- Ex Florence to Cinque-Terre
- Ex Florence a bus trip to one or two wineries in Tuscany.
- Ex florence to St. Gimignano and Sienna.
- Ex Rome to Tivoli Gardens and Haidrian's Villa.

etc... Again, some are fully guided tours, and some are just for a group of people who want to share transportation.

- You should sign up for a tour of Vatican NOW, since it is VERY hard to get single entry tickets at the door during summer.

- You should buy tickets to Uffizi, Pitti Palace and Academia NOW on line, and even now there is no guarantee you will get the dates you want. Don't wait.

(Sorry, you're too lake to see Last Supper in Milan; the sign up is 3 to 6 months in advance).

Tinami Amori
05-31-2012, 03:07 AM
My favorite part if Italy is the Dolomite mountains in the north, but understand that I really love mountains. Been there six times, and want to go again. If you put this area in your itinerary, let me know and I can give details.

My secret hiding place is west of Dolomites... Bormio and its hot springs - Bagni Vecchio swimming pools perched on the mountain cliff http://www.verdenetwork.it/vncms/storage/public/2005/200503251457000.23902400.jpg - the mineral pools inside the caves.http://static.b-travel.net/img/hotel/europe/italy/bormio/118705/original/1032089-2477766-hotel-bagni-vecchi.jpg - and ancient roman bath they dug up further below in the labyrinth of caves http://photos.hotelsclick.com/I/BRMI/106695/136.jpg

Angelskates
05-31-2012, 06:14 AM
I've managed to change my flights so I am now flying into Rome and out of Milan :)

Tinami Amori - where do I buy tickets for stuff?

Now that I'm flighting out of Milan, does it change where you think I should go? I have people I want to visit in both Rome and Milan.

My top places to go are Rome, Milan, Pompeii, Almalfi Coast, Sicily, Venice, Tuscany and Florence, and maybe Naples.

I'm not sure if it makes a difference, but I am vegetarian, don't really drink, don't want to drive and hate cycling with a passion :lol:

Nomad
05-31-2012, 07:19 AM
Angelskates - two things to carry around on your travels: toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Train station bathrooms are not always well-maintained. I learned this the hard way.