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Italy for 2 weeks at the end of the year

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 
I've been wanting to go to Italy for a while now, but didn't have anyoen to go with, so i've been putting off the trip. I've got a girl to go with now, and we're planning on doing the trip somewhere around the 20th of december for 2 weeks. Complicating this is the need to determine (and maybe guess) when my exams will be done in december. I'd like to achieve a balance of seeing as much as possible and having it feel like a relaxing trip, as opposed to feeling like I have a series of appointments to attend and always being in a rush. I'm looking for ideas from people who've been to italy (preferably around december). Right now, I'm at the "rough itinerary" stage of planning. I'm thinking I'd like to spend a good 5 days in rome and 3-4 in florence. I'd also like to make a day-trip or two from florence out to pisa and siena. I was considering maybe doing an overnight in venice, but i'm not sure if i really want to be on a train for 3 hours there and back, just to see a canal and experience some possibly miserable weather.. so i'm thinking i'll probably skip it. That leaves me with 4 days. To fill those days I was thinking of heading down to pompeii and the amalfi coast. However, the travel guide i've been reading says that a lot of stuff in the region is closed at that time of year. I know that some tourist areas in other parts of the world close down almost completely during the off-season. Is it like that for this region? Any comments would be appreciated. Oh, I'd also like to go see an opera while i'm there. Has anyone been to any of the opera houses in italy? Is there a "best"? I was also considering doing a cooking class and/or wine tasting. Has anyone done anything like that in italy? There are courses of varying duration. Some are for a day and some are for a week. I can't imagine getting much out of a class that lasts 1 day, but has anyone taken a 2-3 day class? oh and does anyone have suggestions for hotels in florence? I believe i've found one that suits my fancy for rome, however i still havent' found one for florence. I don't want to go much above 200 euros/night for accomodations. And lastly, can anyone recommend a good tailor (not necessarily something super expensive)? thanks for any comments or suggestions.
post #2 of 32
I live in Milan, in the far north of Italy (it's very close to Switzerland). Florence/Venice are also in the north. Be aware of the fact that it can get cold during the winter, even bitterly cold. Don't forget to bring some warm sweaters. I had a visitor from Sweden during the winter; I practically had to force him to bring a winter jacket. He just wouldn't believe how cold it can be. Needless to say, he was grateful I talked him into it. I'd say Venice is a great place to visit any time of the year as long as the weather is clear. It truely is beautiful although it can feel like a Disneyland; lots of tourists and very crowded. I went there in February; rather cold but very nice. One advantage of going to Venice during the winter is that the canals aren't smelly. I hear they can stink quite a bit during the summer... Also, the old part of Venice just seems to die in the evening, at least during winter. There are some people living in old Venice but most Venetians live in the newer parts on the mainland. If I were you I'd make Venice a day-trip. There are plenty of trains going there and they will take you right to the edge of the old city. The trains are relatively cheap as well. As far as opera houses go, there is la Scala here in Milan; one of the best in the world. Unfortunately it's being remodeled and is closed until Dec 2004. The co is housed elsewhere for the time being. I'm sure the quality of their performances is as good as ever, but I'd prefer to go to the actual la Scala... Silly but true. Anyway, I wouldn't really recommend anyone to visit Milan. It's grey and ugly, the air is dirty. The climate is horrible: think swampland. Extremely foggy and rainy during winter, hot and clammy with lots of mosquitos during summer... Lastly, Italians in general don't speak English or don't speak it very well. Most people in the hotel/tourist industry do, of course, so if you don't speak Italian you'll probably be fine anyway.
post #3 of 32
GQ, I hear that the Olive Garden in Venice is pretty good for dinner, so you might check it out... That was a joke, guys.
post #4 of 32
ulf, i was just in milan a few weeks ago and actually loved the city - even though it was hot, it is dirty, it is like swampland, despite all that i actually enjoyed the city and of course all the shopping that it offered - the food was great, enjoyed peck and it's offerings, was a bit disappointed that everything seems to be wrapped in scaffolding (ie the duomo) but i'd go back for a weekend visit again anytime
post #5 of 32
Okay, so I have two weeks vacation in October and am thinking of going to Italy. My question is how feasible is doing Rome, Florence, Venice *and* Milan in that time please? Should I try to cut it back to three or even just two? Which city should I fly into - presumably Rome will have the most flights, and in between cities should I take planes or trains?

Any tips and hints would be welcome. Thanks in advance.
post #6 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by chobochobo View Post
Okay, so I have two weeks vacation in October and am thinking of going to Italy. My question is how feasible is doing Rome, Florence, Venice *and* Milan in that time please? Should I try to cut it back to three or even just two? Which city should I fly into - presumably Rome will have the most flights, and in between cities should I take planes or trains?

Any tips and hints would be welcome. Thanks in advance.
If you have a whole fifteen-day time available, you can easily visit all the four cities you've mentioned. Weather in October is pretty bad all across Italy, except the southernmost regions and the two main islands. Not really cold (I live in Milan, and here you can enjoy temperatures between 12 and 17 °C normally) but rain is very usual. You'll avoid the 35-to-40 °C that chokes the big towns during the summer. If possible, within Italy I recommend you to travel by train. If you're not worried about the price (a single journey ticket is about 50+ EUR) you can take the EuroStars, which are kind-of TGV, but a bit slower. You probably should consider to arrive in one airport, and depart from another one. You'd save time making a trip north-to-south or the opposite, for example arriving in Milan and departing from Rome. You're right, Rome has more flight right now, since the withdrawal of Alitalia from Malpensa, Milan's main airport. Still, more companies travel from Milan to the US and the rest of the world. If you have other questions, just ask.
post #7 of 32
I was in Italy (Rome, Florence, Venice) during Dec. of 2005. I'd agree with maybe just taking a day trip to Venice. It's cool to say you've seen it but in my experience it was still smelly in the winter, it was hard to navigate, and even more expensive than the rest of italy. Plus there's not as much to do there.

Florence I had a great time, it was very easy to find your way around the city and it wasnt as hectic as Rome. I stayed in hostels and I don't know if thats what you're looking for but I stayed in a hostel named Leonardo or something in florence. The guy was a little weird but it's plenty clean and cheap and in a good location. I'm sure if you google it you could find it.
post #8 of 32
Rent a car and travel around.
post #9 of 32
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chobochobo View Post
Okay, so I have two weeks vacation in October and am thinking of going to Italy. My question is how feasible is doing Rome, Florence, Venice *and* Milan in that time please? Should I try to cut it back to three or even just two? Which city should I fly into - presumably Rome will have the most flights, and in between cities should I take planes or trains?

Any tips and hints would be welcome. Thanks in advance.

Honestly, for a first trip, i'd concentrate on florence and Rome with only 2 weeks, possibly with an overnight in venice from florence. Milan, to me, is just another european city.
post #10 of 32
Thanks for the replies. I was thinking of taking a day trip (maybe one night stay over) to Lake Como from Milan. Is that do-able and what is there to do there apart from take in the scenery please? I'll probably hire a car for this bit, but the Rome to Florence, Florence to Milan journeys are about 300 miles, may be a bit too much to drive?
post #11 of 32
There's a very easy train from the center of Milan to Como. Como itself is perhaps not worth the trip, but from Como you can take a ferry up to Bellagio or elsewhere. Absolutely gorgeous, and should be very nice at that time of the year (the lakes stay warmer b/c of some weird weather thing).
post #12 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by chobochobo View Post
Thanks for the replies. I was thinking of taking a day trip (maybe one night stay over) to Lake Como from Milan. Is that do-able and what is there to do there apart from take in the scenery please?
It is absolutely possible, no more than an hour either with the car or the train. But apart from the scenery, there's really nothing to do. Maybe you would enjoy better the Maggiore lake, just a bit further from Milan (still about an hour and a half with any means of transport) but you can spend time on the Borromee Islands, at the Villa Pallavicini, which contains a botanic garden, and in Arona there's what is called il Sancarlone, a ginormous statue of Carlo Borromeo, one of the most influential cardinal North Italy has ever had, and an historic character of the novel I promessi sposi. Here you can find more information, if you're interested in it. But, as for the Como lake, the wonderful scenery is enough motivation to make a trip.

Quote:
I'll probably hire a car for this bit, but the Rome to Florence, Florence to Milan journeys are about 300 miles, may be a bit too much to drive?
The car for sure offers more freedom, but it would be a pain to go round the city. In Milan, unless it is an Euro 4 certified, you'll not be allowed to enter the historical center. Florence and most of all Rome are very busy, and of course Venice is off limits. You'll have to drop the car in Mestre and then go on by train and foot. Plus, petrol and diesel are a lot more expensive here: 1 lt costs about 2.3 USD, that is, 8.6 USD per gallon. In the end, Florence-Bologna can be a really dangerous road if it rains or, worse, it snows (although this is rare in October).
post #13 of 32
As Chorse123 pointed out the train will take you to the lake. If you decide to visit Milan, the same train station will take you to Venice. You can do both as a day trips (about 2.5 hours to get to Venice and 40 minutes to Lake Como)

I would recommend staying outside the center of Milan. There are some hotels on the Lodi yellow line stop. The yellow line will take you right into the Duomo stop in about 7 minutes (ish)or you can stay to the next stop which is the Via Montenapoleone. Here you will find Zegna, Rubinacci (by appointment), Brioni, Kiton, etc and if you are from the Chicago area the original Bice restaurant is there, though the menu is drastically different (better).

There is an outlet mall somewhere to the west of Milan:

http://www.theplaceoutlet.com/inglese/concetto.htm

I have never been so I cannot attest to the value.

Having said all this I don't know if 2 weeks is long enough for you to experience the areas you want to see. It all depends on what you want out of this trip.
post #14 of 32
we were in Rome at the end of last December....I think you'll find that's an awesome time to be there. The weather was phenomenal, we lucked out and it was clear and sunny every day with a daytime high in mid- upper 50s, nighttime low in low- mid 40s, so not that cold. The city never seemed that crowded tho we did see swarms of chinese tourists in huge groups of 20+ everywhere. If you're planning to go to the Vatican, I'd say sign up for one of those group tours....the one we went on was awesome and you get in there right at 9am, vs standing in line for hours like the regular punters. Despite being off-season the Vatican line was endless
post #15 of 32
I lived in Rome for six months.. Florence is a day trip. You could stretch it to two or three if you really want to see everything, you're a food tourist or you plan to tour the countryside.
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