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We're thinking of taking the family to Italy next summer. I'm thinking of spending a week in Rome and an additional week in other places.

Can anyone on this board offer suggestions on how to approach planning this trip? Must see places? Pompeii is on my list.

I would like to see the tourist attractions in Rome and then head south, or while staying in Rome, branch out to other areas within suitable distance for day trips.

I'm not a big traveler and this trip would be a once-in-a-lifetime as we plan on taking our mothers (ages 78 and 84, both in excellent health) with us as well as our kids (15 and 12).

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I'm not a big traveler and this trip would be a once-in-a-lifetime as we plan on taking our mothers (ages 78 and 84, both in excellent health) with us as well as our kids (15 and 12).

Very brave!

I'll start out, but I'm sure many will disagree with my view.

I wouldn't spend 7 days in Rome -- I liked it well enough, but really feel there are many, many other "must-see" places in Italy.

So, for me: perhaps 4 days in Rome, perhaps 4 in Sorrento (with easy day trips to Pompeii, Naples, Capri, Sicily, Amalfi Coast -- Note that I'm not suggesting that you "hit" all of these, but they're possibilities), 3-4 days in Venice. That's 11 and perhaps you'd be interested in a couple of days near Florence (perhaps staying in Montecatini) or Milan or Siena or Bolgna or a day or 2 getting a glimpse of the Italian Alps.

My favorite guidebooks are the Eyewitness Guides. They run $20 and give a wonderful overview of a country with terrific pictures. They don't go into a lot of detail about restaurants and hotels, but that can wait until you decide where you're going (IMHO).






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I wouldn't spend 7 days in Rome -- I liked it well enough, but really feel there are many, many other "must-see" places in Italy.



I agree. I would spend 4-5 days in Rome. The must see places for me are Florence and Venice! I lived in Italy for a summer, and found those two to be the highlights of my journey!

Charlie
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Thanks for the info.

My intention is to concentrate on Southern Italy, since that is where both sides of my and my husband's family come from (Naples and Sicily).

I don't intend to go there like Alex Haley to find my roots or anything, but I would like to see the part of Italy closest to my family's origins.

I'll get the Eyewitness book on Italy and start there.

Thanks for the tips!
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Agreed, Florence and Venice are must-dos if you can, especially if you don't plan to go back.

--AF, who also loves the Eyewitness guides.
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If you're going to Sicily, don't miss Taormina and Agrigento.

Syracusa is outstanding, as well.

Driving in Italy is no problem outside the major cities. DO NOT, however, drive in Naples. Rome is merely DRESS REHEARSAL for the terror that is available in Naples!

SLL
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Can anyone on this board offer suggestions on how to approach planning this trip? Must see places?

I think you've gotten some great tips but I have another tip.

Even if you don't plan on taking a guided tour of Italy, I suggest that you get a brochure from Perillo Tours. They used to specialize in just Italy and have some wonderful trips. (I took a Perillo tour many years ago and the value was great but I don't know if it's the same today.)

Also look at other tour brochures as they will help you see the "hot spots" and how close they are to each other. Then you can decide if you want to see those "tourist" locations or go off the beaten track.

Whenever I plan a trip to a "new" area, I pick up a couple of brochures of tours run by "named" companies (e.g. American Express, some of the airlines, etc.) just to see where they go and the proximity of the cities.

Have a great trip and have fun planning!

Christina
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We've used Rick Steves' guide books. Just recently returned from 3 weeks in Italy and his "Italy 2004" was invaluable for planning and while in-country. He takes a "Europe Through the Back Door" approach to traveling in Europe. Very concise and easy-to-read.
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Our daughter spent a semester in Rome last year. We visited her in February for 10 days. Our original plan was to spend most of the time in Rome and then visit Florence and maybe Siena. After a few days, we realized that there was plenty to do and see in Rome (plus we had the added benefit of having our daughter as an occasional tour guide). Our friends were in Rome for some of the time that we were there, and took a day trip to Florence - this didn't seem worthwhile to us. We discovered that we enjoy what is known as "slow travel" - which means that you fully explore one location and branch out in concentric circles around your home base.
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My own 2 cents, I realize that this is a late reply. My wife adores Italy, we've been there 3 times together, and when every new vacation comes up, she always suggests, "Italy?" It's a great place, don't get me wrong. I was there twice myself before I got married. But know that though I like Italy, I don't absolutely "love" it. With that in mind, I think I can offer my own take.

1. Rome is only OK. It's very crowded and expensive compared with many other places. The famous spots are very, very crowded, especially in summer. The last trip we flew into Rome, then took a connecting flight to Sicily. We made our way back up the peninsula, ending up in Rome for only one night. I was fine with that.

2. Besides Palermo, most of Sicily is the exact opposite of Rome, even in summer. Palermo itself is even not so crowded, but is the big city on the island. Renting a car and driving south to Agrigento is an easy 2 hours or so one way. Agrigento has ruins that you can basically walk up and touch (though they do have some blocked off). The people in Sicily are very friendly. Also, Cefalu is a great place to visit for a day. It would be easy to spend a week in Sicily alone. We spent 5 days there and still missed out on much of the island (we used Palermo as a home base and visited places via car). Great seafood. Overall much cheaper than Rome.

3. The Amalfi coast is also lots of fun. Beautiful scenery. Some towns more expensive than others. Positano is more expensive than, say, Praiano, even though they are very close together. Getting rooms without a reservation might be tough in the more popular towns (like Positano, Ravello). I'd just blow through Sorrento on your way east, unless you are going to Capri (then you take a ferry or hydrofoil to Capri). One thing - the roads are very narrow along the coast. Lots of times if you are in a car, you will have to back up or somehow negotiate yourself around the numerous tour buses - they are everywhere.

4. Capri - expensive, expensive. But a very beautiful island. And lots of walking (no cars), so maybe not so great for your older folks. But things like the Blue Grotto are not to be missed. Fun people watching. And high end famous shops all over the place.

5. Pompeii is definitely a great place to visit, but I really think you could do the ruins in a day. If you are really, really into it, maybe 2 days. With that you could also take a side trip to Mt. Vesuvius. Depending on your interest in volcanos, of course. Maybe kids (and grandparents who remember the eruptions) would like it.

6. Florence - wonderful bridges over the canals. And though it's crowded, seeing Michaelangelo's David is impressive. I always seem to see more of a younger crowd in Florence when there.

7. Naples - I would avoid this place. Tough to drive in. Lots of crime. Sometimes the problems there are pretty big. Last time we were there, there were tanks rolling through the streets to calm things down.

But I think what is key is what kind of traveller you are. Do you want to see famous things? Do you want to see beautiful scenery? Meet people? Go to museums? Do you want to drive? Take a train? Just go with tour buses? How about shopping? Figuring these things out first would help you decide where to go.

Just know that the food most every place in Italy is great (though you will see a difference between areas, like Rome to Sicily).

In any case, it's tough to have a bad time in Italy, especially if you have never been there. Have fun.
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