April 13, 2011, 03:48 AM
How many days do we need in Tuscany?
My wife and I are travelling to Italy in May, next year and need advice about how we should break up the holiday. I know this is a forum only for Tuscany, but I thought it might help if you knew our total Italy plans.
Our plan is to spend between 21 and 25 days - beginning in Milan and ending in Rome from where we will be flying back to Australia. We will be arriving in (or near) Milan from Zermatt, Switzerland on around May 19, 2012.
We won't have our own car. We plan to travel by Train or Bus or whatever is suggested. Our "must see" areas are Tuscany and Cinque Terre, but being so far away from Australia, would like to see as much of Italy as possible.
We hope to see the following places during our stay:
Verona (hopefully also bus/train/drive around Lake Garda)
Tuscany - including Florence, Siena (incl. Val D'Elsa ), Chianti and Pisa
Naples, Sorrento, Amalfi Coast, Capri, Pompeii
My questions are:
1. How many days do you recommend we spend in each area?
2. How many Home Bases will we need to see what we have planned to see?
3. Are there any "must see" places that we have missed, but are close by?
4. Can you recommend accommodation (around 120 Euro per night) for these areas?
5. Can you recommend any day tours that will allow us to see more than we could on our own?
6. Is there an Italian equivalent to the Swiss Pass or should we get a Eurorail Pass or simply travel train by train as required?
If you can only answer questions directly associated with Tuscany, could someone please point me to another forum where I could get some valuable info on the rest of Italy?
Thank you in advance. Steve.
April 15, 2011, 11:35 AM
Italy is best experienced slowly so you might be doing too much....
I've personally traveled around Italy so can talk of places I've personally been at but as you've already seen, we are specialized in Tuscany and therefore can best offer suggestions for the part of your trip here. I'll try to answer as best as I can in general.
You can definitely see most of the places you have on your itinerary by train but keep in mind that they are a lot to cover in 20-25 days and a car would help move along - no time wasted on timetables and taking the right trains or buses.
Having said that, I understand that coming from Australia Italy looks pretty small in comparison and you want to pack as much as possible in - but Italy is packed with treasures and art, to really savor the spirit and taste of Italy you'll have to take something out. Each place is different and has its own character, Italy is best experienced slowly and not in a rush.
Getting back to transportation - a car would come in handy in visiting around the lake area and Tuscany as they are regions and not a single place. The other places are cities and well connected by train - but you can certainly see both the lake area and Tuscany without a car by integrating day tours into the areas that would be hard to get to with public transportation (in Tuscany, that would be the Chianti area).
Getting back to your questions.... recommended days:
- Milan - 1-2 days - definitely go to see the gothic cathedral, it is spectacular, walk around Via Napoleone and go see Leonardo's Last Supper. You could go see the Castello Sforzesco where there are several museums - although as far as art goes, I really loved and recommend the Brera Gallery.
- Verona - 1 day - I took a day trip there and saw most of the sites, from the Arena to climbing up a tower and seeing the whole city and stopping by Juliet's balcony - but am no expert, do not know what else to see.
- Lake Garda - 1 day - a guided tour here would be best, although you could take the train to a town on the lake and just enjoy the time there. Don't know the area, sorry.
- Venice - 2 days - you will get lost in Venice with its small narrow streets and bridges, plan on doing it regardless because that is its magic It takes a while to get to and around the island so take it easy with at least 2 days there. I highly recommend visiting the Doge's palace next to the cathedral and the cathedral itself.
- Turin - never been so cannot say how long you need there - in a grand tour of Italy, I think this is the one you might leave out if needs be.
- Cinque Terre - 2 days - would you like to hike the coast trail between the towns? I highly recommend it, it is a beautiful way to experience the five towns.... and the train takes you back to the town from where you started at the end of the day when you are tired and happy from having accomplished the hike!
- Tuscany - you should dedicate at least 2 days to Florence, a day to Siena, a half day to Pisa and a day to Chianti. So overall I would say you need 5 days in Tuscany.
- Naples, Amalfi, etc - I have to shamefully admit I have yet to visit this area of Italy - seen pictures and know it is beautiful but cannot offer suggestions. My impression is that you could spend at least half of the entire 20-25 days here visiting the entire area so I am not sure how this can fit in into this trip.
- Rome - 3 days - so much to see, from the Vatican, Colosseum, Forum, Pantheon and more.
Logistics: Arriving in Milan, you should plan to head to Verona and then to Venice, then head back across to Cinque Terre, stop in Pisa on your way to Florence. You can do day trips from Florence to Chianti and Siena. From there head south - Naples area should be done before Rome but it is further south. The train ride will be longer but you can take the fast Frecciarossa trains that make less stops. Moving with the train there is no sense to back track so you will have as many bases as the places you visit - the only one where you can have a base is in Florence from which you can visit Tuscany.
Accommodation: Since you'll be moving along and staying 1-3 days in each place, hotels are the best choice for you. I suggest you search for each city on Booking.com - it is too early to book for May 2012 but you could find hotels you like and make a list of those.
Train pass or tickets: As for passes, the Eurail pass is the only option available (you can buy a saver pass for 2 people to save 15%). But the passes are not cheap, so once you have a rough itinerary, use the Trenitalia website to see timetables as these also show ticket cost. You can definitely go for second class - depending on the trains, second class is all you have available and on the fast trains they are very nice. The total of the trains traveling with tickets might be less than the total of the two passes but you'll have to do this after you have an itinerary. There is no need to buy tickets online ahead of time, you can get them here at the stations or at an agency that sells them (same cost).
As this was your first post, I understand you have lots of questions and I hope I've helped answer some of them. Feel free to post additional questions as they come up! Additional forums that are useful: the forum on SlowTrav (although they'll tell you are definitely doing too much for 20-25 days!) and TripAdvisor!
Have fun planning the trip!
April 20, 2011, 04:00 PM
Thank you very much for the quick and very informative response. I am sorry for taking so long getting back to you - my wife and I have been holidaying in Tasmania and I was not able to access the internet for several days.
I will take some time to digest all of the information you have provided and will definitely take it into our planning.
My wife is mostly interested in Tuscany and Cinque Terre. I love Tuscany but have also been to Naples, Sorrento, Capri, Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast, so want her to see it.
Perhaps we will concentrate on these two areas.
As you say, Italy is such a beautiful country and we have to travel so very, very far from Australia that it just seemed a shame to NOT see Venice, Milan, Rome etc etc.
So much to see - so little time to see it.
Grazie mille for all your helpful advice.
April 21, 2011, 11:10 AM
You're very welcome! Love the Cinque Terre as well and Tuscany should definitely be high on the list. Since you have been to the area around Naples, you'll be a pro getting around You should definitely concentrate in these two areas and then use your fly-in, fly-out cities at the start and end to be able to see Rome and Milan, for example.
Feel free come back once you've thought some more - we can definitely answer questions about Tuscany and the Cinque Terre which are so close to Tuscany we are working on adding a section to the site dedicated to them!