Help us plan our honeymoon!
February 10, 2011 9:14 AM   Subscribe

We're planning our Italian honeymoon and would love your advice!

We haven't made reservations yet, but the plan is 2 weeks to do Siena / Pisa / Cinque Terre, with maybe a 3rd week in the area or within a train/boat ride. The honeymoon will be late July / early August. We live in Arizona, so even if it's hot in Italy, it'll be nicer than home :)

We love travel in general and Europe specifically, so I know we can't go wrong, but we would appreciate your tips:
  • We've both been to Rome and London; I've been on school trips to Paris, Barcelona, Basel and Venice. Loved them all.
  • I'm an architect so old buildings, new buildings, museums and interesting urban areas are must-see.
  • We're both rock climbers, hikers and campers so outdoorsy things would be great.
  • She's a pharmacist, so if there are medical-related points of interest (?) those would be fun too.
Lastly, what's the best way to actually plan the trip? Travel agents seem so 20th-century, but I've never actually used one so wouldn't know. Is Kayak the way to go? Some local Italian resource? We'd be interested in hotels, (nice) hostels and/or vacation rentals, as well as hiking/camping information. TIA!
posted by Chris4d to Travel & Transportation around Italy (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The Isle of Capri - beautiful, romantic place.
Visit the Blue Grotto and Emperor Tiberus' Villa Jovis.

Naples and Pompeii are near by
posted by Flood at 9:34 AM on February 10, 2011

My med student wife loved La Specola in Florence. It's a small museum with a collection of wax anatomical models from the 17th century.

I loved Florence for a million other reasons.
posted by advicepig at 9:38 AM on February 10, 2011

Isle of Capri is cool but too touristy for me.
if you like rok climbing you should check out southern italy.
I would say Scorrento or my favorite southern city of Positano. I fucking love that place!
posted by handbanana at 10:08 AM on February 10, 2011

You'll want to get to cinque terre by train, as there is very little parking in the towns. We visited in October, and had to drive down from Milan due to a train strike. They barely found a place for our rental fiat. In Monterosso al Mare, we really enjoyed the Hotel Villa Steno. Not super luxurious, but very clean, great balconies, simple but delicious breakfast, and the best capuccino of our entire trip. Hope this helps.
posted by reverend cuttle at 10:08 AM on February 10, 2011

Stay out of Naples...
posted by Confess, Fletch at 10:09 AM on February 10, 2011

Especially with your interest in architecture, you can have a wonderful full day in the Piazza dei Miracoli in Pisa (please don't skip the Baptistry or Campo Santo!), but I found the city itself to be pretty uninspiring (and the cathedral isn't really my favorite, architecture-wise), and there's just an overrun of tourists in general with an overwhelming vibe of "we came here just to check the Leaning Tower off our list."

Siena has a lot more to offer in the city itself (I'd go back for the Allegory and Effects of Good and Bad Government frescoes alone), and is a well-located general locus for visiting nearby villages with amazing architecture like San Gimignano. Siena won't give you a real city/urban experience, though -- and I'm not sure I'd pay a premium to stay in Siena proper for more than a night.

The Cinque Terre are wonderful for hikers, and very romantic.

If I were your travel agent, I'd have you start in Florence and spend 5-7 nights there, with no car, in a sweet pensione in easy walking distance of all the sites. You'll have wonderful meals, there's awe-inspiring architecture everywhere you turn, an amazing science/medicine museum (a href="">Museu Galileo), and you can get in great walks (bring a picnic!) in nearby Fiesole and up the hill to San Miniato.

I'd then rent a car in Florence and take a 5-7 day road trip to Siena and any of the Chianti or other nearby villages/towns that strike your fancy.

Then return the car in Florence and take the train to Pisa to visit just for a day, and then the train up to the Cinque Terre for your last 5-7 days, then take the train back to Florence to fly home.

I'd be happy to provide some more specific recommendations, but that's my two liras' worth.
posted by argonauta at 10:25 AM on February 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Three years ago we rented an apartment in a palazzo in the town of Certaldo Alto (Firenze province). It was Wonderful! -- we found it through a travel agent.

This past September I spent 5 weeks in Europe (London, Belgium, France, Italy). The travel agent didn't want to touch it. I wanted to pick up and drop off rented cars (sometimes in a different country), drive across a high pass in the Alps, move around a lot, etc., etc.
The agent said it couldn't be done, or it would cost too much. So I did it all myself and would highly recommend it -- but be prepared to do a lot of work if you arrange it yourself.

After I had brainstormed my itinerary, I got a travel guide (I used Rick Steves, but any one would do, I reckon) and worked through his recommended accommodations -- looked them up on the web, emailed them for availability and rates, etc. I found great places. And what I got was pretty much what it had seemed like on the web.

Steves lists hostels (and camping info, I think). I found Slow Travel useful. Also, once you start to narrow down your accommodations, you can get some sense of them from one of the accommodation review sites like Trip Advisor or whatever (just do a Google search on the hotel name with the word "review"). These are not always spot on, but I think you do get some sense of what they're like. I stayed away from places that there was not a great deal of unanimity of opinion on.

I found I had to stay very organized and focused to keep track of all the different places I was in touch with, whether they had confirmed or not, what my stay dates were, whether I was overlapping, did they having parking or breakfast or an en-suite bathroom, how to get to them, etc., etc., etc.

Depending on what you're doing, I found that renting a car was no more expensive than the train. Trains, I thought, were quite pricey! If you do take the train, buy the tickets there, not here.

For your fourth week, I'd personally recommend Verona.
posted by feelinggood at 10:36 AM on February 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do you know about the Palio in Siena? July 2 and Augut 16. You might remember it from the opening scene of James Bond' Quantum of Solace. I saw it and it was exhilarating and unforgettable (though the city was crowded!).
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:54 AM on February 10, 2011

Well, if you're a rock climber, there's no better place in Italy to go to than Arco, in Trentino. You might miss it, unfortunately, but this year they are hosting the Climbing World Championship between the 15th and the 24th of July. They'll host the Paraclimbing World Championship right after that. To give you the scope of how awesome Arco is in terms of climbing, note that it's a town with 25,000 people and it beat out PARIS and MOSCOW to host the World Championship. So.

If you can't make it for the championship, you should still go. Arco has some of the most wonderful natural rock faces for climbing and plenty of English speaking guides. The town is beautiful in its own right, has a medieval castle, renowned public gardens full of flowers and rare plants, great food, is five minutes from Lake Garda, which is gorgeous and one of the best places in the world to surf (and yes, it is prettier than Lake Como). The weather is likely to be sunny and warm and you can take wonderful walks in the hills around town which are covered in olive groves.

Full disclosure, I know it so well because it's my home town. I live in Boston now, but my family lives there, I go back five or six times a year, once in November to help with olive picking. It's a beautiful, beautiful place to visit.
posted by lydhre at 12:46 PM on February 10, 2011

The bolded part was supposed to be a link. Oops.
posted by lydhre at 12:47 PM on February 10, 2011

Response by poster: great responses, thanks everyone!
posted by Chris4d at 5:30 PM on February 15, 2011

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