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January 25, 2009 3:43 PM   Subscribe

Going to Ireland and Italy. Tell me what not to miss.

The womans and I (23 and 26) are going Dublin, Ireland for 3-4 days (straddling St. Pattie's Day). Where in Dublin should we stay? What should we do? What should we see? We are interested in food, landmarks, booze, and antics.

So far we have:
-Probably a hotel, it looks like they are cheaper for a pair of people than a hostel
-Guinness Brewery (I am a big Guinness fan, so this is a must)
-Maybe a whiskey distillery of some form?
-Some daytrip to somewhere sweet?

After Ireland, we are going to Italy for 10 or so days. I think the main spots on the trip (in order) will be Venice, Florence, and Rome.
-What things can we absolutely not miss?
-How should we divide the trip across those cities?
-Where in those cities should we stay?
-How should we travel between cities?
-How should we pack?

I think after the drunken debauchery in Ireland we might be looking at a slightly more civilized adventure here. Food, Architecture, Art, Landmarks, and History. We want to do our best to experience Italy in this amount of time.

I look to the hivemind to fill my itinerary with sweetness. What do I need to do? What should I not do? What are the answers to the questions I forgot to ask?
posted by milqman to Travel & Transportation (29 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
The Jameson distillery isn't too far from the Guinness Brewery (other side of the Liffey), and is a good place to have an Irish whiskey tasting at 10 am. For an awesome daytrip, go to Newgrange (the best-preserved/recreated piece of Brú na Bóinne, tremendous Neolithic passage tombs about 45 min-1 hr north of Dublin). I really liked the Green Door hostel in Dublin; it's somewhat west right on the river, closer to the Guinness and Jameson establishments than any other place, but if you can get a hotel for less, go for it.

In Italy, I liked Rome just fine but I loved Florence. Just a great place overall, but that may have had something to do with staying with my then-girlfriend there in the Oltrarno; she knew it far better than Rome. In Rome, though, we happened upon a great art show (Klimt, Kokoschka, and Schiele!) in the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II.

In Florence, you absolutely should check out the Café Pitti, a really romantic restaurant next to the Palazzo Pitti. Incredibly romantic, actually. The girl and I ate in a little alcove up a wrought iron spiral staircase, IIRC, but in any case it was a semi-private room with chaise longues rather than chairs and gorgeous with great food to boot. Pricey, though.
posted by The Michael The at 4:11 PM on January 25, 2009

For Italy:

I would do 2/3 days Venice, 4/5 days Florence, 3 days Rome.

Travel between cities by train, within Venice by water taxi, within Florence by ataf bus, and within Rome by the metro (subway). And of course, lots of walking.

I can't speak to Venice and Rome, but in Florence try to stay as close to the center as possible. Hostels will be cheapest.

In Florence see: Duomo, Piazza della Signoria, Palazzo Vecchio, Ponte Vecchio, Santa Croce, the Uffizzi museum, the museum with Michelangelo if you have time, I enjoyed the museums in Palazzo Pitti (a textile/fashion museum, a silverwork museum, etc), and the gardens outside. Get pizza at Pugi's in Piazza San Marco. Hang out at Edison Bookstore in Piazza della Repubblica. At night, buy a gelato and stroll along Ponte Vecchio and up to Piazza della Repubblica - you will pass street musicians and artists. Note all the buildings with Medici coats of arms on them, and realize how powerful the Medici family was. A day trip to Pisa is also recommended. Another day trip to the Tuscan countryside and wine country is also recommended (Montepulciano, Monticello, etc) Buy paper goods and wine.

In Rome see: Vatican (and museum), Coliseum and old Roman forums, the Trevi fountain, Piazza Navona. Sit in an outdoor cafe and people watch. Maybe a day trip to Pompei or Naples.

In Venice see: Piazza San Marco, Doge's Palace, the canal, take a gondola ride (expensive, but worth it for the experience imo), go to a glass factory and watch glass being blown, buy glass and masks.
posted by Nickel at 4:18 PM on January 25, 2009

Also, I like Rick Steves guidebooks. He has detailed and interesting walking tours, information about hotels/restaurants/travel/packing, good descriptions of touristy sites, and seems to find a lot of local places for authentic experiences.
posted by Nickel at 4:24 PM on January 25, 2009

In Florence, we ate at la Giostra, and it was awesome. We stayed at Orto de' Medici, which I have recommended here and elsewhere, and everyone has been happy with it. There is an awesome (less expensive) restaurant across the street that I can't recall the name of. We loved Florence, spending lots of time just walking around. The churches have fabulous art. We also loved the Boboli Gardens -- we were there in May, and they weren't fully blooming, but they have great views of the city and are just generally a neat place to wander around.

In Dublin, we ate at The Mermaid. It was delicious. We stayed at the Mont Clare. Our best meal was at the Barca Wine Bar in Lismore; our favorite town was Kenmare, where we stayed above a bar and danced and drank until the bar closed.

As for which Whiskey in Ireland, we several and the one I remember most was Tullamore Dew, but that's because it was really funny -- they basically had grade school dioramas. But they still gave samples!
posted by dpx.mfx at 4:25 PM on January 25, 2009

I wasn't too impressed with the Guinness brewery in Ireland. I thought it was going to be, you know, a brewery, but it was all flashy displays about the history of Guinness and that sort of thing. The view from the bar, where you get your free-with-admission pint, is pretty awesome, so make sure you have time to enjoy it. I didn't, which may be why I was less than satisfied with our visit.

Newgrange is amazing. So is Glendalough.
posted by apricot at 4:39 PM on January 25, 2009

If you're in Rome on a Wednesday morning, talk to the Vatican now about getting tickets to a Papal audience, which is free, features an amazing parade of pilgrims from around the world...and features the Pope! It's an fascinating multicultural experience and was one of the highlights of my trip. And I was not, by any means, the only non-Catholic in the huge hall where the ceremony is held!

Also, don't miss the crypts under St. Peter's - relatively empty compared to the Sistine Chapel but home to 91 dead popes' tombs and zillions of other treasures.

And on entering the basilica, don't forget to look for the markings on the floor which measure the size of all the other major cathedrals and basilicas in the world.
posted by mdonley at 4:45 PM on January 25, 2009

don't see the leaning tower, Pisa as a town sucks (unless you have lots of time and really want to see it). Florence is beautiful but I can't really say more for Italy, I was only there three days. If you're into night life the Temple Bar area in Dublin is really fun. The Giant's causeway was a pretty cool place to daytrip in Northern Ireland, they have these really cool natural hexagonal stones....sounds kinda lame but great views and nice to do if you got nothing better to do in Northern Ireland. You said whiskey distillaries, I did a tour of Bushmills while I was over there (we did a lot of toursity things, my friends family was paying) and it was pretty cool I guess, I'm not into whiskey and that kind of stuff but if you are than it would be fun. Apparently it's pretty good whiskey. I'm a beer guy myself and I pretty much spent a week in a drunken haze at Temple Bar, good times.
posted by BrnP84 at 4:46 PM on January 25, 2009

This recent AskMe might be useful re: Ireland.
posted by gnomeloaf at 4:47 PM on January 25, 2009

Also was not impressed with the Guinness Brewery - it was like a self-guided tour where you walk around and read about how to make the beer and see a few cool pictures and vessels, and then drink a Guinness at the top. The view of Dublin from the top is kind of cool, but if you've ever been on top of the empire state building or any other observarory like that, then the view of Dublin won't be impressive. But if you love Guinness and want to check that off your list, by all means, go!
posted by KateHasQuestions at 4:54 PM on January 25, 2009

The Guinness brewery is a tourist trap. It's nice to walk around outside on the cobbled streets, and the rooftop bar is worth seeing, but the rest is a bunch of boring info displays and an excessively huge gift shop. Prices are ridiculous.

It is laid out to make you think you queue at the door then join another queue inside to buy a ticket - this isn't the case. Queue to get in, then avoid the queues at the ticket desk and get straight in the lift and go to the bar at the top. They serve Guinness (amazingly) and the view is the best in Dublin.
posted by fire&wings at 4:58 PM on January 25, 2009

If you're interested in Irish History, especially about becoming independent of England, you should definitely take the 1914 Rebellion Walking Tour! I did it when I went last summer and it was amazing. The tour guide (Lorcan) was very, very nice and he took anyone who wanted to afterwards to a bookstore to buy the book him and the another tour guide (Conor) wrote. He then signed it for you. It is a very informal tour, though. You meet in a pub at a certain time and then it starts.
posted by majikstreet at 5:24 PM on January 25, 2009

I would do 2/3 days Venice, 4/5 days Florence, 3 days Rome.

I've only been to 2 of those 3 (haven't been to Florence), but most advice I've seen says to spend more time in Rome than Florence if you're doing both. Also, with your super-tight schedule, it'd be a waste to spend more than 2 days in Venice. Nothing against Venice, but you'd be short-changing Rome.

My favorite tourist spots in Rome were the Pantheon and the Piazza Navona, both of which have lots of nice restaurants, cafes ("bars"), and gelato places around them. If I were to go back to Rome, my plan would be to make sure to go there, and beyond that, mostly wander around aimlessly. Put aside some time to go to the Trastevere neighborhood -- the Brooklyn of Rome. The Jewish ghetto is also interesting (note: the word "ghetto" originated with Italy's Jewish ghettos).

To heighten your overall aesthetic experience of Rome, go to the Pantheon early on, and realize that this is the closest you can see to what the ancient architecture actually looked like. So when you see ruins throughout the city, that means there used to be a building right there in the style of the Pantheon.

In Venice, you have to see the St. Mark's church -- it's worth making 2 separate trips to see it at night and during the day. Everything else is just wandering around taking in the city.

The "City Secrets" book for Rome is worth getting to keep things interesting and not strictly touristy, though take their gushing praise of everything with a grain of salt. I also used Lonely Planet, which I found disappointing and inaccurate.

Note: tipping is not expected in Italy, but American tourists waste their money because they feel, due to social conditioning, that there's some sort of universal ethical obligation to tip. And if you do tip, tip less than you would in America (assuming you live in America).
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:41 PM on January 25, 2009

posted by Roach at 5:49 PM on January 25, 2009

When in Rome do as the Romans do don't miss the Pantheon.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:12 PM on January 25, 2009

You guys are excellent! Thank you for all of the suggestions.

Are there any "natural" wonders to attend to? Scenic vistas, an amazing hike, something outdoorsy?

Also, where should we try to stay in Rome or in Venice? Are there areas that are especially boring or dodgy?

I am trying to compile a list of sweet facebook statuses to achieve (drinking a Guinness in Dublin on St. Patties day, Drinking wine on a Gondola in Venice . . .). What other "quintessential" sweet and appropriate activities can I compound into a totally enviable status?

Oh, and again, you guys rawk!
posted by milqman at 7:19 PM on January 25, 2009

I've been to both Ireland and Italy in the last few years, and you're picking some fabulous places to travel. I recommend checking out Trinity College in Dublin, in particular the library (such a beautiful library), and the Book of Kells. Even if you're not religious, a really fantastic piece of history.

In Italy, Florence was by far my favourite. I'd say Florence, then Venice, then Rome. I don't have anything huge to add that others haven't said, but if you're planning on checking out the Uffizi Gallery and/or the Accademia (home of the original David) I'd buy your tickets online ahead of time.

If you're checking out the Vatican and St. Peters, there's a neat trick we used to avoid going outside the vatican and having to wait in a separate line to get into the Basilica. When you're in the Sistene Chapel, instead of heading out the generic exit signs, go out the door at the very back of the room on the right. This will take you out to an area between the vatican museums and the basilica. From there you have the option of heading to the tombs, heading up to the top of the dome, or into the basilica itself. Saves a lot of time, if you can manage it.
posted by aclevername at 8:32 PM on January 25, 2009

Oh, an in Florence be sure to get up to Piazzale Michelangelo. Gorgeous views of the city.
posted by aclevername at 8:34 PM on January 25, 2009

you HAVE to go to Museo La Specola in Florence. I think its officially called the
Museo di Storia Naturale la Specola, Florence, Italy

It is amazing. This museum houses incredible anatomically correct wax figures. You will remember it, it is completely mind blowing and it wont take the whole day.
* opening hours: Mon, Tues, Thurs-Sun: 09:00 - 13:00
* address: Via Romana 17, Firenze 50125
* telephone: +39 0552288251
posted by bdoop21 at 8:56 PM on January 25, 2009

Seconding a schedule more or less like: 2 days in Venice, 4 in Florence, 4 in Rome.

If you think you're staying in cities, just travel by train, it's not worth the hassle and cost of renting a car, plus the italian driving style is... not easy to negotiate without a little experience. You can buy tickets and reserve your seats on the trenitalia website. As for what clothes to pack, it's not easy to predict, as the weather in March can be extremely variable, from balmy spring to miserable winter. Expect Venice to be a bit cooler than Florence, which in turn is a bit cooler than Rome. In Venice, strong south winds + continued rain showers + high tide may mean acqua alta (the lower parts of the city flood), which is spectacular on tv news, and - I suppose - amazing in person, if you don't mind wading in knee-deep... water, eh. Light waterproof jackets with a removable fleece interior might be a good bet, oh, and comfy shoes. (Please be aware that the current penalty for white sneakers is being forcibly thrown in the nearest body of water. Also, wandering around at night with an open wine bottle is a no-no unless it's new year's eve. Seriously, though, don't buy fake designer handbags, sunglasses or watches on the street, as police checks are few and far between, but fines are extremely steep)

Re: what to see/where to stay/where to eat in Florence, try and avoid the most obviously touristy places (and the same goes for Rome and Venice, although in Venice most everything with the possible exception of the places near the Accademia di Belle Arti - the art academy - , which cater mostly to students, is a tourist trap).

Florence: ditto on the Oltrarno recommendation, depending on your budget I know of a small hostel there, and there's several hotels... up to 5 stars, so the choice is extremely wide. Wherever you decide to stay, book well in advance (like, yesterday), although mid march is in relatively low season (there is not really a low season in any of these cities). The Oltrarno (meaning: across the Arno) is a relatively off-the beaten path part of the Florence centre, and possibily the most genuine still in existence. The only place in that area that can become a little sketchy at night is Piazza Santo Spirito, since there's a few bars which stay open till late, and there's a drunken brawl every now and then, but that's basically it. Use the usual precautions and common sense and you shouldn't have any problem. On the brighter side, if you haven't had your fill of beer in Dublin, there's a good microbrewery called "Il Bovaro" in Piazza San Frediano.

What to see/where to go: go to Piazzale Michelangelo, or climb on top of the Duomo dome, or take ATAF bus 7 from the main train station to Fiesole (about 30' from Florence city centre, then climb to the top of the hill past the church in Fiesole main square) for the views.

You should visit a few churches, mainly the Duomo and Santa Croce, with the neighboring Cappella dei Pazzi, oh, and San Lorenzo, with the Cappelle Medicee.

Museums are, simply put, too many for just a few days' stay, and can be easily overwhelming. The Uffizi alone can (and should) take a whole day to visit, if you feel like doing so, you can book tickets online to avoid queues at the entrance; a smaller museum is the Galleria dell'Accademia, where the original David from Michelangelo is (the copies don't do it justice). Ditto on the galleries in Palazzo Pitti, and the Boboli garden is beautiful (though it gets better in late april/may - I worked there for a while, long story), another often overlooked museum is the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, and seconding the recommendation about the Specola, which has a sort of 19th century wunderkammer feel to it (look for images of the wax models on Flickr or Google in advance, it's not for the squeamish), plus, it's basically next door to Palazzo Pitti. Another interesting place is Palazzo Vecchio, it houses the city council and offices, but a part of it is open to visitors.

Eateries: stay out of the beaten path, look for small, family run places in back alleys and you'll be fine. There's also two large, covered food markets in the city centre, San Lorenzo and Sant'Ambrogio, and in both places you can have a cheap lunch with typical dishes, or just buy groceries/sandwiches and eat them somewhere. Seconding the Libreria Edison which has a small cafe, and there's also a nice cafe with an amazing view on a terrace on top of the Rinascente department store, in the same square (Piazza della Repubblica)

This is the part where I recommend you to try lampredotto, which is stewed bovine tripes, served in a bread roll, and you look at me in disgust, while I say "no, it's really good, I promise!"

Mid march might be too cold for gelato, but the ongoing dispute between Florence and Venice for the best gelato in Italy asks for independent reviews. My favourite places in the city centre are Grom, Perché No (both in sidestreets between the Duomo and Piazza della Signoria) and Carabé (near the Accademia, best coffee granita out of Sicily). Please avoid those places with towering heaps of multicoloured goop on display in the more touristy areas.

Side trips: I'd recommend you to visit either Lucca + Pisa (train to Lucca, half a day there then a short ride to Pisa, spend rest of the day there (duomo, leaning tower and that's basically it, and then back to Florence) or Siena (that would take the whole day, I think).

And that's all that comes to mind, but feel free to memail as needed.
posted by _dario at 11:04 PM on January 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

In Dublin, go to Bruxelles pub on Harry Street, just off Grafton Street (which is the main high street shopping area in Dublin). Go downstairs into the pub. They have a jukebox that is pretty much entirely metal, and there is a statue of Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy on the same street. Many photo ops of you throwing goats and looking super metal can be had. Also, random metal bands may show up (Anthrax has walked in a couple of times when I've been there). YMMV, but they have good drinks.

In Italy, I recommend no more than 2 days in Venice, and a little more time in Florence than Rome. I absolutely love Florence, and find that it's a good base for side trips (Pisa, Lucca, Fiesole, etc). Wander over to Piazza Ognissanti and find the little church there that has Ghirlandaio and Botticelli paintings in it. Also check out Grom for gelato, which is not far from the Duomo. You can find a lot of good food if you go off into side streets, especially in the Oltrarno.

If you can do it, there is a town in between Rome and Florence called Orvieto that is just fantastic. It's a hill town with a beautiful cathedral and a ton of history, dating back to Etruscan times. You can take a train there to the lower part of the town and then a bus up to the hill town. Have lunch at Maurizio right near the Duomo - if your back is to the Duomo, turn right, and it's on your left. Then wander off down via Duomo (left out of the restaurant) until you see a sign on the left that says Il Mago di Oz (the Wizard of Oz in Italian). The actual shop is on Via dei Magoni, which is just off via Duomo. It is a fantastic shop full of crazy crafts. The proprietor is fantastic and he makes many of the things there. It's totally worth the day trip to Orvieto to meet him.

Have fun on your trip! Ireland and Italy are two of my top three favorite European countries. You will have a great time.
posted by bedhead at 12:32 AM on January 26, 2009

Are there any "natural" wonders to attend to? Scenic vistas, an amazing hike, something outdoorsy?

The default suggestion is Cinque Terre, a really beautiful hike through five towns on the Riviera. It's about 2-3 hours from Florence.

I'm going to go against the grain and say that Florence is overrated (and overtouristed) and you don't need to spend more than two days there. If you can, spend a day each in Bologna and Ravenna, which are sadly off the beaten path but well worth visiting, and as much time in Rome as possible--seriously, it's that great.
posted by kittyprecious at 6:48 AM on January 26, 2009

Great recommendations all round but please, for feck's sake STOP calling it St Patties Day!!!!!!

This is only the second time I've seen it on Metafilter and it really grates each time. Is this a really common US usage?

The only shorthand we use in Ireland is Paddy's Day, I haven't lived in Ireland for 7 years but I don't think I've ever heard people say St Paddy's Day, just plain Paddy's Day.
posted by Wilder at 7:34 AM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Rome. You could seriously spend a week just seeing the main sites and not very well at that.
posted by tarvuz at 9:00 AM on January 26, 2009


Nthing that the Guinness Brewery is hugely tourist-y, but it is certainly one big, slick piece of marketing if you have interest in appreciating it from that perspective. Doheny & Nesbitts on Baggot or Stag's Head at Dame/Georges are great pubs downtown; have a Guinness there. Or, if you can get into the Dáil Bar, I would venture to say there might not be a finer pint.

I skipped the Jameson distillery tour, myself, but my American traveling companions at the time loved it, and as The Michael The points out, it's close to the Liffey and ergo fairly accessible.

If you are aiming for landmarks, I can't help but recommend that you get a day pass for one of the hop-on/hop-off city bus tours. The bus is a double-decker, so if the weather is nice (good luck) you can sit up top and really get an excellent view of the city, along with colorful Oirish commentary (remember, you're talking about a country renowned for its storytellers). I would have pooh-poohed this as "too touristy," if it weren't that multiple Dublin natives grudgingly admitted in whispers to me that it's a fun, convenient way to see lots of cool landmarks. If nothing else, it's a good way to get around to different parts of the city.

I'll throw my Dublin day trip vote in for County Wicklow as well, but add that the Powerscourt Estate and towns of Bray and Enniskerry are lovely. Bonus: on the way back to town, you can stop at Johnnie Fox's, which is known by locals as impossibly tourist-trap -- but I think the building is fun, and the food is good -- so if you do go, just don't tell the locals, when they inevitably ask what you've seen and eaten on your visit.

Another nice day trip is Howth/Malahide, to the north of Dublin city.

Good food I've had in the Dublin area and would recommend:
  • Bad Ass Cafe in Temple Bar (casual lunch/dinner)
  • Gallagher's in Temple Bar (traditional Irish)
  • Salamanca in Dublin 2. Excellent tapas.
  • Queen of Tarts in Dublin 2 (Baked goods, great for tea, highly recommend). Right across from Dublin Castle.
  • Brownes Brasserie on St. Stephen's Green (Continental/French)
  • Brasserie Sixty6 (New Irish cuisine)
  • Poppies in Enniskerry (cafe/lunch fare)
Regarding Dublin antics/booze, I don't want to dampen your spirits but do keep in mind that Paddy's as a Big Mad Drunken Party is basically an American export. In Ireland, it was primarily a church holiday; now, there are plenty of parades, concerts, festivals, events, etc. but a lot of it is put on to draw tourists. There'll be loads of people to party with, to be sure, but it won't necessarily be Fergal and Sean and Ciaran and Siobhan, so don't be too disappointed if you find that the Irish don't view Paddy's as their version of Mardi Gras (as is celebrated here in Chicago, Boston, Savannah, etc.). You'll have a grand time nonetheless!

Also, more dampening (sorry!) but important for planning: if your Irish stay covers March 21, on which falls Good Friday this year, bear in mind that it is observed nationwide as a religious holiday and almost all pubs and restos will be completely closed.
posted by pineapple at 9:03 AM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Um, Good Friday is on April 10, not March 21.
posted by amf at 1:11 PM on January 26, 2009

Nice catch. I totally Googled "Good Friday 2008."
posted by pineapple at 2:47 PM on January 26, 2009

I can really only speak to the Italy portion. Given 10 days, I think that 2 days in Venice, 4 in Florence, and 4 in Rome would do nicely. Venice is a nice city and all, but there's not a whole lot to do as compared to the other two. Florence was much nicer than Rome, I felt. Rome started to get to me after a while with the vendors, and the heat, and the dirty-city feeling in general.

As far as locations are concerned, anywhere in Venice is liable to be fine since it's really not that big of a town. You can walk from one end to another in 45 minutes (on that subject, walk the side roads in Venice! No tourists and it's a completely different side to the city that you won't otherwise see). For Florence you probably want to be somewhat central (near the Duomo). It's a nice place and very close to everything. For Rome, anywhere on the metro that's not a bad neighbourhood. Mefi mail me if you want a hostel recommendation for Florence of Venice!

For travel, you want trains. It's cheap, simple, and fast. You can have a full day in a given city and just hop on the train around dinnertime leaving yourself plenty of time to find your next hotel/hostel once you arrive.

The only other thing I would add is that for many art galleries (especially in Florence) and for St. Mark's in Venice, there are ways to skip the lines. For the art galleries you simply call ahead and book a reservation (either free or a nominal fee of <>
Have fun!
posted by sah at 3:01 PM on January 26, 2009

Stupid HTML. That part should say:

less than 5 euros) and just arrive 15 minutes beforehand. You can walk by the tourists waiting in line for 2 hours and strut right in. For St. Mark's there's a bag check off in a side building. Simply deposit your bag (free), get a pass, and walk right in ahead of the line.
posted by sah at 3:05 PM on January 26, 2009

I lived in italy for many years some including several months in Florence. I would divide my time as follows:
2 days - Venice
4 days - Florence
4 days - Rome

In Venice I would make a point of trying to get to some of the smaller islands such as Morano where they have an extensive glass making tradition. Keep in mind transport can be expensive in Venice so stick to the public transport. Its like a water subway..

As for Florence and Rome - there is too much to see and do for 4 days. I would try to take 1 or 2 of my days while in Florence and rent a car and see some of tuscany's second cities. Sienna is a must and nearly as impressive as Florence itself. A day traveling through the wine towns of tuscany such as San Gimignano or the smaller capitals like Cortona or luca are also worthwhile. There is less to see in Pisa. Just get lost driving through the tuscan scenery.

As for florence itself, in addition to all the main attractions such as the Duomo, The Uffizi Gallery (depending on season - tickets in advance) and Palazzo Pitti that any guide book will highlight, I would have a look into getting tickets to the Vasari Corridor. You must book in advance. Nobody ever sees this and its amazing. It was built by the De Medici Family and used as a private passage around town. Heres some info online -

Also if your looking for an excellent place to eat in florence, my favorite was always Il Latini. If you like steak try the Bistecca alla Fiorentina and the Ragu and fried zuchinni flowers are excellent. Any local will point you there as well. Keep in mind at anytime Florence has as many tourists as locals so dont be put off if you hear lots of english being spoken.

As for Rome, there are so many main attractions to see that you will not have nearly enough time. Hit all the big historical sites that your guide book recommends. They are way more impressive than as depicted. The Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Roman Forum, Piazza Novona, the Spanish Steps and you should definitely set aside a full day for the Vatican and its museum.
posted by sav at 10:35 AM on February 14, 2009

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