Amanecer...a few questions.
We went to a triple AAA agency. If you don't know, it's known worldwide but may be called different in Europe. I can't remember the exact name elsewhere in the world but Triple AAA here in the US gave us the locations for all these offices that we can visit while we are in Italy to find out deals and assistance. As being part of a member with Triple AAA they gave us a few tips and advices on how to utilize their service internationally.
For instance, we can book as many reservations for a car in Italy before we leave the US to lock in the better rates than what we would get in Italy. No deposit, no CC information needed. If we cancel, just cancel. An added benefits, never mind the preferred hotels discounts that they have. Before I start going off tangent and sounding like a Triple AAA agent, my point in this is that I would like to streamline my trip as much as possible, as cheap as possible. In other words, by taking a train whenever it's better, having a car when needed.
It seems like from what you have told me, the following facts:
1. It will take at most 3 hours to get to each destination (Rome -> Sienna/Florence, Pisa -> Cinque Terre, Florence -> Venice, Cinque Terre -> Rome, any other combinations) Am I right? As long as we are taking less than 3 to 4 hours drive to each city, that's fine due to the fact that we will be staying at each city for at least 3 days to enjoy.
2. Despite train travel, are we missing any scenic views that we may encounter as if we were in the car? I mean, it's obviously easier to get to places by train but are we missing out on certain enjoyments? For instance, travelling from Florence/Venice to Cinque terre, you suggested to take at train due to parking, etc. But in that 1 and half hour drive, am I missing any countryside that I may be crossing in between?
This is similar to using a car to travel from Rome to Florence or Florence to venice.
I was thinking of renting a car from Rome to Florence (Tuscany area) then train to Venice, take train back to Florence/Siena and then car to Cinque with car back to Rome. Unless of course there is a car rental in Cinque Terre itself then train to Cinque terre and then rent a car from there instead of from Florence.
You see where I am getting at here. Small towns scare me only because there may not be any "rental agencies" etc. where I can readily get a car rental if needed.
FYI: When I speak of Florence, I'm really speaking of Tuscany area, we are looking to maybe spend 3 days there and explore Siena, Valdorcia, Pisa, etc. Then Venice will be another 1 to 2 days stop and Cinque Terre another 2 to 3 day stop and then back to Rome.
distances and prices (all prices are for one way ticket,per person travelling in 2nd class):
rome -florence: 1hours 30min by eurostar train (the most expensive: 29,44 eur ); 2 hours 30min by intercity train (fast but less expensive:24,95 eur );
rome siena by bus (sena): 3 hours (maximum 17,50 eur per person one way ticket; if you buy on line at least 10 days in advance maybe you can find something at 8 eur per person one way ticket)
roma siena by train: not suggested (uncomfortable): train from rome to chiusi, (price depending on the train, approx from 13,50 eur with IC (1hour 20min) to 7,90 eur with local train (R, 1hour 40 min). Then you change in Chiusi taking a local train (often very old): 5,10 eur, lenght of the journey 1hour 30min.The route from chiusi to siena by train offers some nice view of the landscape.
Valdorcia: don't have any train, not so much local buses, very beautiful panorama.Better by car.Distances are not so big, as I told you, maybe 70/80km the round trip.
Chianti:the same as above .
Florence -pisa by train 1 hour;only regional trains,5,10 eur
Pisa-5 terre by train: (pisa-riomaggiore, f.e.) 1hour 20min.The cost depends on the train, minimum: 4,23eur, max 9,62eur.
La Spezia-Venice: by train 6/7/8 hours, depending on the trains(=how many trains you've to change); I think the max cost would be 35,20 eur.
You don't miss anything in particular if you go to 5 terre by train.
florence is a big city, I'm sure you shouldn't have problems with car rental. The same for Pisa, which have an important airport, and for Venice, very touristic city. No idea for the other places. In siena there are at least 3 car rentals, but I don't remember the name of the society (europcar, maybe is one)
Venice to La Spezia, 6/7/8 hours...yikes!
Hmm..maybe I should just train into Venice from Florence, then train back to Florence then take a car from there to Cinque Terre. How does that sound? Obviously maybe stay a day in Florence again. Hmm...6/7/8 hours from Venice to Cinque Terre seems to be a bit harsh.
I was thinking for the leg of the Florence trip to do the following:
-whatever else during Tuscany region stay...
Then the next leg would be Venice then to Cinque Terre. Hmm....
Unless scratch the entire thing and do Cinque Terre first from Rome then work my way eastwards and from Florence back to Rome? What do you think?
As far as renting a car, train from Rome to Cinque Terre and perhaps rent a car from Cinque Terre and drive eastwards to Florence. Train to Pisa and back, and rent a car again back to Rome.
Either way, from Cinque Terre to Florence what's the distance? I'm thinking of hitting Pisa from Cinque Terre heading towards Florence as a base point. Stay there a few days and then head north to Venice by train and then from Venice train back.
Amanecer, thank you for your patience.
another idea to organize the itinerary, which sound better : (check on a map)
-rome3 days 16-19 Apr
-from rome to siena (3 hours by bus from rome tiburtina station, max 17, 50 eur by sena bus company [ http://www.sena.it/index_e.htm ]):
visit siena (1 day),Nice places to eat in Siena (unexpensive and central): Osteria della chiacchiera (costa di s. antonio, 4) and
da trombicche (via delle terme).they are very small, and serve tipical foods.
in the late afternoon rent a car, find a rural farm in the countryside close to the city [ http://www.terresiena.it/ ];
-next day siena- valdorcia by car, round trip;in montepulciano unexpensive places where to eat:
-for a sandwich, or a plate with a very good selection of ham, salami, cheese and so on with a glass/bottle of good wine and good cakes: Compagni di merende, a cafè in Piazza grande, close to the cathedral;
-to have a coffee in the ancient cafè of the town (expensive) Caffè Poliziano, Via di Voltaia nel Corso, http://www.montepulciano.com/caffepoliziano/index.uk.html (to have an idea)
-a suggested restaurant with honest prices and good for value: Diva e maceo (via di gracciano nel corso 92, close on tuesday)
in bagno vignoni there is a little shop which sell every kind of local cheeses, hams, besides it has olives , tomatoes and other vegetable preserved on oils, wines and so on. they have table outside where you can eat (they don't serve at table).I don't remember the name, but is in the square before the old pool with hot water. Is a little bit expensive in my opinion, but it is good.
in any case in Valdorcia try: pecorino cheese in pienza,wine Nobile di Montepulciano (red wine), pici (kind of pasta) in montepulciano or in montalcino, wine brunello in Montalcino (very expensive, but you can taste a glass of it),vinsanto with cantucci (sweet wine with cakes) ricciarelli (almond cakes) and panforte in siena (cakes with candy fruits). In siena, the most famous that produces this kind of cakes is Nannini, who has some cafes in the center, but you can also buy them in a bakery.
-following day siena-chianti by car, round trip.
in chianti the meat is very good, as well as in Florence. you can try the florentine steak with bone (1 steak for 2 people, because are very big and expensive. in an honest restaurant you can pay the florentine steak 22 eur/ KG, but also more, and a steak usually weigh no less than half kilo., .
in monteriggioni, just outside the exit of the fast road, there is Bar dell'Orso: similar to the one I described in Bagno Vignoni, cheap, and very good .
total 3days[/b] 20-23apr
You can also cut off one of this 2 itineraries in the countryside.
-from siena to pisa (by train, change train in empoli: the train you've to take is the one going to empoli or florence, but get off in empoli, which is 30 min far from florence, and take the connection to pisa. (the direction of the train will be pisa airport or livorno). lenght of the journey: 2.hours , cost 6,60 eur one way 1 person 2nd class only.
-visit pisa (half day) then from pisa to 5 terre by train (1 hour and half) 2days 24-25apr
in pisa you can visit the Piazza dei Miracoli, the square with the leaning tower, Cavalieri square, and its famous "Normale" University, and Borgo Stretto and Vettovaglie Square, the heart of the old city, where you can find an open market of fruit and vegetables, many food shops, and another open market with some clothes, underwear..unexpensive and good. You have also a few tipical unexpensive restaurants. (and other restaurants more expensive!)
if you want only a sandwich, taste the cecìna in pizzeria il Montino (via del monte 1):is made by chick-pea (?) and baked in oven.the Montino pizzeria and restaurant is cheap and central, in a corner (ask, because is not visible from the street).
In Pisa you can walk from a site to another, from the station to the leaning tower there will be no more than 1,5 kms, and you cross all the other attractions on your way.
In 5 terre is famous a very rare wine, in my opinion very good and a little expensive, called sciacchetrà. Try it, if you've the opportunity. You can also taste panegacci, testaroli, pasta with pesto (basil, garlic, peanuts, oil sauce), and obviously fish, which is usually pretty expensive.
-from 5 terre to florence,2hours 40min /3 hours, from 7,90 eur/to max 13,45 eur
- visit florence - [b]2 days 26-28apr
-from florence to venice (2 hours 50min/ 3hours 20min) from max 26, 60 eur with eurostar train to 21,75 eur IC train (one way 1 person in 2nd class). 3days 28-29apr
-venice to rome (4 hours 33min /5 hours 30min; from max 52,27 eur to 44eur ).the route of the train runs through Bologna, Florence. 1 day30apr
ES (eurostar): the faster and more expensive (fast supplement to pay), not suggested if you've have to travel less than 3 hours.(in any case in some route run only local trains ). ES stop only in main stations (rome, florence, bologna, venice...)
IC,(intercity) EC,(eurocity) IC plus, IC Cisalpino... fast trains, fast supplement to pay,but less fat and less expensive than eurostars; stop in more stations.
IR (interregional train), runs between 2 or more different regions: pretty slow.
R regional train: usually runs inside the same region; is the slowest train; stops almost in every station.
Both IR and R trains are the cheapest. You can buy in advance online or directly at the station when you leave, the price doesn't chance.
you can reserve a seat only in ES, IC, EC, IC plus, Cisalpino and in general in trains with supplement. If you travel during vacation period reserving a seat is advisable, especially for your wife. Reserving a seat cost a little bit more, something like 3 or 4 eur, I don't remember. You can reserve online or at the station, some hours between the leaving of the train (during vacation better reserve before, or you risk to do not find a seat).
reserving is COMPULSORY ONLY IN ES TRAIN : YOU CAN'T TAKE THE ES TRAIN WITHOUT RESERVE (BUT YOUR SEAT IS GUARANTEED.that one of the reasons why these trains are the most expensive).
you can take IC trains also without reserve, if they are very crowded you risk to travel standing.
Delays and refound: you can have a refound only if a fast train has a delay of more than 30min, and only if you have reserved.
Unfortunately, I don't think that is going to be useful for you: the refound is not money, but a ticket that refound you a risible money (30% of the ticket, or somethig like that), and beside, is not given at the station, but is sent home 1-2 months later, and you can only use this ticket to have a discount on another train ticket. (I tell you just as an information )
Now that's comprehensive!
Let me digest this, map it out on the map, find out exact dates and feasabilities on scheduling and will get back to you.
Thank you very much, truly truly appreciated. Learning a lot as well!
I forgot, you mentioned chianti and valedorcia. Why pick those towns amongst others around the area? Just out of curiosity.
I've just discovered another nice place to eat in Siena: Il buffet, restaurant and Pizzeria, Via Cecco Angiolieri , 16.
It's a self service, so you're not going to find tuscanian typical food, but normal food that people usually eat in italy.
that's how does it work:
they give a plate, and you can put in the plate whatever you like from the buffet, (as long as it fill the plate! )including: startes (cold salad, ham, mozzarella cheese and tomatoes and so on) firts courses (pasta, with different sauces), second courses (meat) and vegetables (f.e. roasted potatoes, artichokes, cauliflower pudding ...).
then you sit, in the table you'll find a little bottle of water and bread, both included in the price.
the price is 8 eur, 10 eur only if you want to do a second round at the buffet. They have also cakes for 3 eur.
Although is close to Piazza del Campo, most of the clients are people living in Siena, students or employees during lunch break (no idea if it is open for dinner). The restaurant is hidden in a gallery: you'll recognize the gallery because there is a shop which rent DVDs in the corner at the entrance, the self service is located at the end of the gallery.
In piazza del campo you can also find Spizzico, which is a chain like mc donald's, but it's italian. That means that they have menus (like mc donald's) but the menus include: a slice of pizza (3/4) instead of hamburger, a salad or a fruit salad instead of french fries. [that's more italian style ](cost about 6,50 eur). I tell you just in case...(you're going to find spizzico also in florence, in rome...).
I usually don't suggest to eat in similar standardised places, because the typical food is definitely one of the best attractions of Italy, together with arts, landscapes and so on.
Besides, italian restaurants abroad don't serve the real italian recipes, but what people living there consider the real italian recipes (but italians don't know! ): an example is "pasta alla bolognese": I don't know any typical pasta made with a so-called sauce, but in England every italian restaurant has this pasta in its menu.
lunch time: usually people have lunch between 13.00 and 14.30, the preferred hour is 13.30.
dinner time:from 19.30 until 21,00, (the preferred hour is 20.30).
During w end, if you go out for dinner, especially in big cities, can happen to wait in queue for a table in a restaurant, until 22.00-22.30.
Any non touristic restaurant is open before 19.30.
In Venice and in the north of Italy in general (more than in the centre or in the south, although you can find some nice aperitivo cafes also here) there's the tradition of "aperitivo" (starter, but in a different meaning): it's a social habit to meet friends before dinner(18.30-20.00)in some cafes, where you pay for something to drink (USUALLY NO MORE THAN 5 EUR)and eat whatever is on the buffet. Obviously, depending on the cafes,that could be just fried potatoes, olives, little sandwiches, but could also be pasta, salad...in some places you can basically have a light dinner paying only a glass of wine..
I can't suggest you any in particular..just ask local people.
Less spread is the tradition of the brunch. You can find cafes that provide you brunch, f.e. in rome, but usually are a little bit expensive.
I forgot to tell you shop opening/closing time: except food market, which open at 8.00 or 8.30 ( and the main market chains don't close for lunch), all the other shops open at 9.00 and close down at 13.00/13.30; then open again at 15.00/15.30 and close down at 19.30/20.00.All shops are open on saturdays.
banks are close on saturdays, usually are open to the public from 8.30 to 13.30 and from 14.30 to 16.00/16.30.
In big cities center, and in touristic towns, you can find some shop open on sundays as well.
I forgot, you mentioned chianti and valedorcia. Why pick those towns amongst others around the area? Just out of curiosity.
because they are the most famous! and despite they're the most famous, you can find anyway, in their areas, a little town , a castle, a church and so on, which is an hidden jewel , not crowded of tourists.
if you liked to visit only Tuscany, in addition with valdorcia an chianti I would suggest you other itineraries, more "out of beaten tracks".
I posted some of them in the forum, somewhere (maybe for maba, I don't remember).
But if you want to spend 15 days trying to have a taste of the country (the Capital, some of the major cities, a bit of countryside, the sea) I'm sure the itinerary I suggested to you is good, and definitely the best areas to visit in Tuscany are valdorcia and chianti. trust me!
when you'll come back i'd like to know if you 've appreciated the place you've visited!
That's why I asked you, I trust your judgement and your expertise in the area. You can't know all but living there gives you the advantage of "knowing" what is best.
Guidebooks, travel agents, can only get you so far and it's usually the beaten path.
Now all I need to do is get home and start mapping these things out so I can see exactly what i need to do.
hy nuts, just 2 words.
maybe I told you in some other thread..remember to convalidate the ticket in the little yellow boxes (that you 'll see inside the station and along the platforms) before catching a train. If you buy a return ticket, you've to convalidate twice, both when you leave and when you come back.
If you forgot at all, and the inspectore came, you would risk a fine.
if you remember on the train ,during the journey, and the inspector hasn't still come, you can write on the ticket: station where you leave from, departing time of the train (always the one scheduled, not the real one, in case of delays ) and the date. For example: Rome, 20/04/2006, 15.34. That could be (hopefully) ok.(Sometimes happened to me, and it was enough)
I heard at the television today that more than 70% italians will use the car during easter vacations, and that there'll be many additional trains due to a lot of reservations. (just let you know).
weather forecast are good for friday, sat and sunday, sunny and warm (around 20 degrees C), probably monday it will be cloudy and rainy.
If you have any question I can reply you until tomorrow afternoon.(I'm not going to use internet during w end).
In any case I hope you'll have a great holiday, and looking forward to read your italian experience when you'll come back!