Hello! I posted here before about an upcoming trip but some details have changed that are now giving us about a week in Italy. I would like advice on my tentative plans before I get to booking our lodging, etc. Please keep in mind this will be our first time in Europe and flights into Paris and out of Zurich are already booked.
Basically, for work I will be flying into Paris and then taking the train down to the Saint Jean de Luz area. I will be there for about a week before flying to Barcelona. After 3 nights in Barcelona, I am done with the work portion of my trip and my husband and I will be going on to Italy.
In short we plan on:
1 night Cinque Terre
2 nights Florence
3 nights Venice
2 nights Como
1 night Zurich (with flight out of Zurich the next morning)
(I’ll put a more detailed version at the end)
So my questions are: Am I trying to plan too much in a short time frame?
Any suggestions on what you would change?
Suggestions of must sees in the areas we will be?
Any reccomendations at all are welcome. Especially with this being our first overseas trip! Thank you!
We are flying out of Zurich because we found a much better deal on flights to do it that way vs flying out of Italy. So we know we aren’t going to do much of anything in Zurich short of having dinner there, but figured the train ride up from Como may be a nice scenic one.
More detailed travel plans:
Thursday: Fly Barcelona to Genoa, then take train from Genoa to Cinque Terre. Spend the night in Cinque Terre.
Friday: Explore Cinque Terre then take train to Florence. Friday night in Florence.
Saturday-Sunday: spend all day Saturday in Florence, and part of Sunday. Then take train to Venice.
Sunday night to Wednesday morning: Venice
Wednesday afternoon/evening: Train to Como
Wednesday night through Friday morning spent in Como.
Friday: train to Zurich.
Stay overnight Zurich and fly home from Zurich Saturday afternoon.
Based on my experience, your itinerary looks perfect to me. I always prefer to rent a car and drive, so I stopped a few interesting places between two major points. But since you are flying in Genoa and out from Zurich, rental car seems to be not an option. Other than menthod of transporatation, major portion of your itinerary looks quite similar to one of my travels a couple of years ago (one night in Cinque Terre, two nights in Florence, two nights in Venice in my case).
In Cinque Terre, be sure to get a day ticket to look around five towns. One day would be surely busy but enough to sample all towns as they are very close to each other. In Florence, if you plan to visit The Uffizi, reserve your ticket online ahead of time to not to waste long waiting time at the entrance.
Thank you! That’s good to hear, because of course I don’t want to cram too much into one visit, but I also want to see as much as possible. We thought about trying to get to Rome too, but it just doesn’t seem to work out logistically since everything I see says to spend a lot more time in Rome than we would be able to give it.
Yes I looked into car rentals at one point but it seemed like the train would be pretty easy and fast to get where we are going!
I am contemplating taking away a night from Venice and adding it to Cinque Terre too to have more time to see all 5 towns in Cinque Terre. Then we would have 2 nights in each location. But I’m undecided as of yet. I wish we had more time, but with the work portion of the trip added in, we will be gone a total of 3 weeks so I couldn’t push it any further. :)
I would say 1 night in Cinque Terre and 2 nights in Florence would be good in your itinerary. If you make your Venice 2 nights, then I would recommend 1 night in Milan as it is so close to Como and surely it is one the most sought after destination.
For Cinque Terre visit, I posted several stories, but if you have a chance, i would strongly recommend the following restaurant:
Great, I will check out your stories! Thank you!! I really appreciate the tips and suggestions.
I considered Milan, but didn’t know if I should try to add another city in or not. I haven’t researched Milan much so I will definitely do some research and see if we want to take a night away from Venice for it.
I would say to maybe take one night from Venice and put it elsewhere. It's a beautiful, but small and walkable city.
And definitely get your tickets for everything in advance if you can. We waited to long and couldn't get into the Duomo in Florence :(
Enjoy your trip!!
I wouldn’t recommend any less than 3 days in Venice. We were there 4 days and didn’t have time to do everything we wanted to do. If you make your way to the Rialto Bridge I highly recommend going to the top of the T. Fondaco dei Tedeschi building. Admission is free and you are allowed 20 minutes at the top. It is a fantastic place for some of the best views in Venice. I featured it in one of my stories.
As for the rest of your itinerary I haven’t been to the other places except Florence and two days there should be enough with a quick photo stop in Pisa. Zurich is on my bucket list along with many other European cities, I was there as a kid in 1969 so I wouldn’t know what to say about time.
Sounds like a good plan, and an enjoyable trip.
Everything sounds good and reasonable, but I'm going against the grain and say I'd take 1 night off Venice and add it to Florence.
Here's why...Florence is beautiful and compact, but there's lots to see, but that's assuming you're wanting to see the art. I personally wouldn't miss it...the David and the Birth of Venus etc...Uffizi and Accademia by themselves can take up to half a day at the least, then there's the Cathedral duomo. The Church of San Miniato with it's Gregorian chants, and the walk back down to the city through the Rose Gardens is amazing. The new Mercato Centrale food hall place is fun too. Florence also gives you a great opportunity to make a day trip to the Tuscan hill towns to the south. We've been 3 times with different groups, and have always done this itinerary and been pleased.
Florence is the one place that I would splurge on a private guide. I would get them to set this all up for you, they are well worth the expense (about 250 euros). The one I use gets all the tickets arranged beforehand, knows how to skip the lines and get to the quickest entrances, and has a wonderful knowledge and passion for the art and explaining it in historical context and makes it easy to understand. I would also splurge for a daytrip to the hill towns around Greve in Chianti. This is once in a lifetime experience kind of stuff, if you need to economize, skimp on the accommodations ( I have suggestion for that as well if you like near the train station), and meals, but splurge on the private guide and daytrip.
So here's my suggestion with 3 nights in Florence and 2 in Venice:
day 1: arrive in Florence in evening or night, walk to Hotel near train station.
day 2: Private guide: Uffizi, Accademia, Duomo then late afternoon and evening on your own and Mercato Centrale.
day 3. Private or group daytrip to Tuscany. We do private. It's a wonderful day and especially if it's your only time there, it's a once in a lifetime kind of place and worth the splurge. We go to at least 1 winery for tour and tasting, stop in Castellina in Chianti for shopping and strolling, and to Greve in Chianti to go to Antica Macelleria Falorni, then back to Florence where the driver drops us off at Church of San Miniato in time for the Gregorian chants, then we walk back down to the old town through the rose gardens.
Day 4: morning, go to the Medici Chapels to see the tombs of the Medici, then head to the train station to depart to Venice.
Venice is of course beautiful, but you see most of it in a 1.5 days if you're prepared. Just stroll around the first afternoon and evening, maybe trying to get into St. Marks. Then hit the ground running on the full day there with the Doge's palace, glass blowing subsidized water taxi to Murano, then vaporetto over to Burano then back to Venice proper for late afternoon and evening strolling and dinner.
So there's my 2 cents. Everybody's different and has different bucket lists, but this plan has worked out well for us and a couple of groups we've carried over. I can hook you up with a fantastic private guide for any or all of the Florence itinery that can handle everything if you're interested. She's fantastic.
You're going to love it, the first time especially is magical and you have a great lineup to look forward to!
This might sound really touristy, but if you only have a 2 days in Florence buy tickets for the Hop on Hop Off Bus. It will allow you to ride the bus all over florence and it takes you to all the highlights in Florence. I would not recommend renting a car and driving around Florence unless you become well versed in the traffic laws and rules. It can be complicated. The Hop On Hop Off bus will take you to Piazzale Michaelangelo (Michaelangelo Square), Fiesole and tours the hills. Fiesole on the weekend has a farmer's market. Some of the best meats, cheeses and wine. The ticket also allows you to take the metro bus to get around. It is worth it. You can get off and linger at your leisure and then hop on again to go to the next location. We did this when we spent the day in Florence and we went back again the next year with friends, where we stayed for 3 days, and we still bought the ticket. It was the best way to see everything quickly and to decide on where you want to spend most of you time. Then we walked around the city and did some shopping in the market. The market is not so authenticate anymore because most of the vendors are not Italian and most of the products are made in Asia. Very few items are made in Firenze anymore. Which was very disappointing, however it is still worth walking and browsing through it. Yes, you can do private tours, but if you are on a budget, like me, then this is the option to take.
You must go to McDonalds at Santa Maria Novella where they have a McCafe and purchase cake, pastries, expresso, cappuccino and mocha in a real cup. Not like the McCafe's here.
Obviously you want to attempt to get in to see David. Maybe you do that first if possible. The food in Florence to me is some of the best in Italy. Florence is known for its steak, so if you are a meat eater it is worth finding a good steak house and eating there. Two people can share a large Bisteca in Firenze.
You can get a 3 day pass to the Water Bus vaporetto. You can ride around Venice and then take it to Murano for the glass and stop for the free glass blowing demo at the glass factory. Then get a souvenir, make sure it was made in Murano. Smaller souvenirs are made in China and it will not be clear. If you don't care, then forget about it and buy the souvenir. It is still bought in Murano. Walk around the town and browse all the beautiful glass stores and they have a few museums. Start your morning here and then hop on the water bus and go to the island of Burano. Have lunch there and then tour the lace stores. Burano is known for its lace. Again, be sure the lace is made on the island and not massed produced. But again if you don't care, then you know what to do. Where did you get that laced doily? I got it in Burano. And yes, if you are wondering, you will sound like a travel snob.
Next, walk around Venice until you get lost. Once you are lost, just keep walking you will eventually get back to where you started. Its an island. That is the best way to explore Venice. I love Venice. I found that you either love or can leave it. Most people will say don't spend more than a day in Venice. I'm not one of those people. I loved the scenic tour and taking it all in. I enjoyed taking my time. Be sure to take a water taxi just for the experience of riding through the canals in a speed boat. We skipped the typical gondola ride becuase it was expensive. However, if you just want the experience, then splurge. I could romanticize it, but why. Venice itself is romantic with or without the gondola ride.