First Time to Italy


New member
First of all let me say that I have found a wealth of info by reading your forums. It is so nice to be able to get information from the "experts" before we travel.

My husband and I are planning to visit Italy Sept 19-25, 2009. Our itin so far is:

Saturday, Sept 19 Train from Switzerland (via Milan) to Cinque Terra region arriving later afternoon. We do not have hotel nor know which city we are staying in. Any suggestions on where to stay (town and hotel) would be appreciated.

Sunday, Sept 20 Visit Cinque Terra

Monday, Sept 21 Train to Florence with a stop in Pisa for a few hours to see the leaning tower. We plan to arrive in Florence in later afternoon. We are staying at the Grand Hotel in Florence Monday, Sept 21 - Friday, Sept 25.

Tuesday, Sept 22 - Friday, Sept 25 - This is the part we don't have plans for yet. We want to see Florence but aren't necessarily interested in the museums, although we do want to see David but would love to walk through Florence and see the architecture and shops. Items we have heard about are: Duomo, Medici Chapel and Giotto's Tower.

We want to see Tuscany - maybe Siena and/or San Gimignano? The question here is how to get there. We would like to avoid driving if we can but if driving is the best/easiest then we will do that. I think our hotel is in the city center so how would renting a car work out for that? Some items that interest us are medieval towns, some wine tasting, maybe biking. Any suggestions on itin in Florence/Tuscany would be very much appreciated.

Friday, Sept 25
we train to Rome in the morning and complete our trip there. We are staying at The St. Regis in Rome and only have Friday and Saturday to see everything We want to see the Colosseum, Forum, Pantheon and the Vatican. Should we hire a driver so we can cram all this in? Samantha Brown suggests a company called ITC on her show Ithink Any suggestions here much appreciated too!

Thanks so much in advance to all you Italy experts. We really appreciate all your help. This has been a bit stressful to know if we are planning this well.

Please let me know if you need more information. Thank you.


The Tuscan Expert ;-)
Staff member
Ciao Kimr and welcome to our forum!

6 days are not a lot but you have planned them really well. You plan to do lots and it is doable - there is a lot to see in Italy and I can understand the first time you come you want to see all there is to see.
I think that the best piece of advice I can give you and anyone else, though, is to SLOW down, remain flexible about what you see in each place so that if you don't see everything, you still enjoy what you do see.

It would be great if you can come back again a second or even third time and see more, but even if you don't, at least make sure to enjoy and soak in the atmosphere, the food, the people and I am sure no matter what you do and see, you will enjoy being here.

For Cinque Terre - we stayed in Manarola and it was really nice but after seeing all the other towns, I really liked Vernazza a lot too. See if you can find something in either that you like a lot but don't fret, all of the five towns are beautiful and you won't be disappointed.
We stayed at the B&B Da Baranin - small rooms but cozy and wonderful breakfast! The towns are small so the choices are often really luxurious b&bs/hotels in villas outside the town or b&bs/small hotels in the town.

Florence & Tuscany - I recommend at least a full day in Florence but two are definitely better - if museums don't interest you much, that is totally fine. You will be seeing lots of architecture, monuments and more on the outside so that you don't really need to go into museums per se. The original, clean white marble David is in the Galleria dell'Accademia so I recommend going to see that. The duomo and the bell tower are all must-see's, the Medici chapels are quite extraordinary in terms of the wealth you can see the family possessed. You can decide as you walk around whether to go into a church or not, most are museums in terms of the art and masterpieces they hold inside.

From Florence it is easy to reach both Siena and San Gimignano by bus - the SITA has their bus terminal to the left of the Santa Maria Novella train station and buses leave from there. You can see the bus timetable here: - Siena.pdf
You can likely do Siena on one day and San Gimignano in a morning trip on another day.

If you are in the center of Florence, I'd avoid renting a car - the area is limited to residents and those with permits plus parking is limited. It would be a headache. There are agencies in town that can organize wine tastins and bike tours if you're interested - it is also likely your hotel can do it for you as well. Look at or or for some ideas of what is available. You might be able to combine a tour in Chianti with the morning you spend in San Gimignano.

Two days in Rome is not a lot given that there is so much to see there but everything is really close to each other. If you find a driver convenient for moving around, by all means looks into hiring one. The colosseum and Forum are right next to each other, the Pantheon is just 10 minute walk away - see this walking route:,12.479868&spn=0.010989,0.024655&z=16

The Pantheon to the Vatican is a 25 minute walk - here is the route:,0.024655&ie=UTF8&z=16
It is a bit further away but if you want to save time, you can just grab a taxi whenever you feel you need one. I've personally always walked in Rome because that is also part of visiting it.

I am sure you will have a great time in Italy - let us know if you have any more questions or need more suggestions!


New member
Thank you Thank you - I am so glad to get some advice and tips from an expert. Your notes will definitely make our trip more enjoyable and it certainly helps me with planning. We will slow down and take it as it comes to enjoy the best of Italy. Thanks again.