Take a tour across Italy or stay in Rome?
September 14, 2006 3:08 PM   Subscribe

Going to Italy - Stay in Rome the whole trip or take a tour to several cities?

My parents and I are going to Italy in mid October for 7-10 days. We plan on staying in Rome primarily, but are also considering whether or not we want to go on a tour which will include Florence and Venice.

Tour info: if we go on one of the tours, it 'll be about 3 nights in Florence, 3 in Rome, 1 in Venice. Or maybe no Venice at all.

If we do not go on a tour, we'll be staying in Rome, unable to visit Florence and Venice because of the distance.

My questions are these: are the tours in Italy worth it? Or would it be better to just stay in Rome for the whole trip and visit the close surrounding areas? If so, are there enough things to do and see in Rome, taking into account that me and my brother are 22 & 27, while our parents are 55+? Are Florence and/or Venice a must-see?

Firsthand stories of your experiences would be great =]
posted by atmu to Travel & Transportation around Italy (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think it depends on the motivation that your wanderlust provides you. You could comfortably spend a week in Rome with a quick side trip to say, Orvieto, in order to mix things up a bit.

It would personally aggravate me to only have one day in Venice. I mean, how could you possibly enjoy it? It would be like taking one bite of an incredible Italian meal and then having the plate taken away from you.

Everyone's travel style varies. If you want to savor the experience then stay around Rome. If you want a whirlwind then do the 3/3/1. I can't comment on a tour (as I've never taken one in Italy).
posted by quadog at 3:15 PM on September 14, 2006

Rick Steves has a nice seven day itinerary based in Rome that includes trips out to places like Ostia, and even suggests a day trip all the way down to Naples and Pompeii. (Which I'd probably pass on.)

I'd skip tours and just jump on a train to go further: it's less than two hours to Florence, about four hours to Venice, so both are very doable, especially if you spend a night there. And Italy is at least as much found in the smaller cities (Siena, Orvieto, Assisi) and villages as it is the capital.
posted by holgate at 3:27 PM on September 14, 2006

"If we do not go on a tour, we'll be staying in Rome, unable to visit Florence and Venice because of the distance."

Are you sure? Florence can be a reasonable day trip from Rome. Express trains take an hour and a half or so. Maybe not ideal, but you'll be able to see the big sights, at least.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:30 PM on September 14, 2006

You'll really regret only having 3 days in Rome if you're the kind of person who likes to investigate below the surface. The tours are pretty much geared to the kind of person who sees their vacation through the lens of a camera.

I'm not that kind of a person, as you may be able to tell from the few pictures I took during my 3 days in Rome.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 3:32 PM on September 14, 2006

I have traveled to Italy a few times, and personally I could spend every moment in Rome, in fact I am moving there in a few months, but I would definitely go out and see some other areas. There are several day trips that are quite easy from Rome...one of those being to Florence. The trains runs from Termini and it takes about 2 hours, and it doesn't cost much, less than 10 Euros. Also try some small towns surrounding Rome; for example Nettuno/Anzio. It is about 1 hour on the train and cost 3 Euros. Anzio is a great town with restraunts, bars, etc. It is on the beach, which will not be helpful in October, but it is still beautiful. Also there are several small towns up in the hillsides that are definitely worth cheching out. You can go to trenitalia.com and look at all the destinations that are available, and the times. I love Rome and there is more than enough to do there, but try and take a few day trips, you will be glad that you got to see some real Italian culture.
posted by meeshelle39 at 4:06 PM on September 14, 2006

My girlfriend is Italian, and over the past few years I've spent a lot of time there - I could go on forever about things you should do there, but I won't, I'll just say that you shouldn't limit yourself to either guided tours or to staying in Rome for a whole 7-10 days. Sure, use it as a base but I think - it's really not a huge place - you can see the best of it in 3-5 days. (I think that Trestavere is the best neighbourhood - fun and bohemian, great bars and restaurants - find a hotel there if you can)...if you like take trips to Florence (of which I know nothing), maybe Venice (which is one of the most amazing cities in the world, it's in a class of its own, like the Grand Canyon- you should try and go for at least a couple of days - look at B&Bs, it's not too hard or expensive), or to any number of little towns around Rome, or on the coast.
The thing that always amazes me about Italy is for all that so many tourists go to the big places like Rome and Venice- which is fine, you just have to surrender yourself to the spectacle - away from those places there are practically none, apart from tourists from places like Rome - all these lovely little towns and villages, and countryside and beaches, that aren't too hard to get to (oh yeah, the trains are widespread and cheap) but will give you a real taste of what's really great about Italian life.
Anyway, basically, don't be afraid to be a bit adventurous, look at smaller places, bed and breakfasts, taking the train on your own. It's easy, the people are friendly and will help you as much as they are able, and you will be rewarded.
posted by Flashman at 4:08 PM on September 14, 2006

Even if you decide against the tour, I'd advise getting out of Rome for a day or three. It's a great place, but can be very busy and operates at a high-tempo. It'd be a shame to go to Italy and not get a chance to sample life outside of the big city.
posted by MetaMonkey at 4:09 PM on September 14, 2006

(to add to what I see meeshelle has written, I would contend that the mediterranean in October is still swimmable)
posted by Flashman at 4:13 PM on September 14, 2006

Don't go on a tour! It's easy to see places by yourself, maybe with a good guidebook. Go to florence and venice at least, and as others have said, the smaller villages are worth seeing too. Although you can easily fill 7-10 days in Rome alone, there is just far too much to see in Italy to stay in one place for that long!

Also, if you are interested in art, reserve tickets for the Galleria Borghese in Rome now, as it is impossible to see without an advance reservation and places fill up fast.
posted by lemur at 4:14 PM on September 14, 2006

How old are your parents? I'm knee jerk anti-tour at all costs, but if they are elderly it could be a good solution.

And Florence is easy to get to for the day.
posted by CunningLinguist at 4:26 PM on September 14, 2006

I went to Italy three years ago. We had 6 days in Rome, 2 in Florence, and a day each in Venice, Assisi, and Padua. Based on that experience, I'd say you could easily spend your whole time in Rome, but I concur that some of the smaller places feel more "Italian" in my memories.

I'd advise against the tours - you get more out of a do-it-yourself trip, and have a better chance of real interaction with the locals when you're not being herded along. Your folks aren't old enough to need to have a bus and soft foods; just don't overplan the days. If you do decide to leave Rome and have to choose just one place to go, I'd recommend Florence over Venice - more to do, and has a warmer feel.
posted by donnagirl at 4:43 PM on September 14, 2006

Awesome, thanks for all the replies. I've always been an anti-tour vacationer with no qualms about exploring on my own, but my parents are nearing 60. Although that's not that old, they've always been the tour type. Add that with the fact that they aren't exactly fluent in English, let alone Italian.

However, after reading the responses I definitely want to stay in Rome and take day trips to Florence and the smaller towns you guys mentioned. So, thanks again y'all!
posted by atmu at 5:56 PM on September 14, 2006

I second staying in the Trastevere area of Rome, we stayed there in May and it's great. A bit cheaper and much more charming than other busy, touristy parts. If you can't find a hotel, we stayed in a great apartment that a woman named Rafaela rents out. I believe we found it here.
And you really should get to Florence, at least.
Venice is beautiful but super touristy. Of the two, I would opt for Florence.
Have a great trip, I'm jealous.
posted by chococat at 7:10 PM on September 14, 2006

atmu, I'd offer up Orvieto, which is within easy reach of a day trip from Rome. The duomo there, has one of the best gothic facades in all of Christendom. Fantastic.

When you get hungry, go search out Trattoria Etrusca, which is a short walk from the main square. Great white wines in that region. Enjoy!
posted by gen at 7:36 PM on September 14, 2006

I was just in Italy this summer and I ended up in Rome, Sorrento, Florence, Milan, and Venice. That ended up being too much for a two week trip, but I definitely don't think I could've stayed in Rome for the whole time and been happy.

I would definitely suggest going to Florence for a few nights. There are really great art museums and scenery there. Maybe you could even go out to the Chianti hills for a traditional dinner. Italy is just so beautiful, I'm sure you could busy yourself in one place, but I would try to get out of Rome. Florence also had some fun night life for younger people like your brother and yourself.
posted by harrumph at 8:26 PM on September 14, 2006

Just one thing to emphasise: think in terms of overnighting at a pensione in cities like Florence rather than just day trips. You often miss the place coming to life if you're compelled to leave in the evening to get the train back.
posted by holgate at 8:50 PM on September 14, 2006

are the tours in Italy worth it?
Or would it be better to just stay in Rome for the whole trip and visit the close surrounding areas?
Yes. As mentioned by others, Florence is entirely doable in a couple of days, one if you squeeze your time enough.

Then again, I'm not overly fond of Florence*. Lovely city, lovely museums, entirely too small for the number of residents, tourists and students crammed into the historical center. Makes me clastrophobic.

If so, are there enough things to do and see in Rome, taking into account that me and my brother are 22 & 27, while our parents are 55+?

I've lived here for 8+ years and still find new things to do. And I still haven't seen every church/museum/pile of ruins.** Rome's a small big city - there's tons of stuff to do, but I can walk across the historical center from the main train station to Vatican city in 1 hour. (45 minutes if I knock over a few nuns.) It's not a city you want to see by bus - you have to constantly get on and get off as buses simply don't fit into dinky little cobblestone streets.

So I think you and your parents will have no problem finding things to do while getting around with the more than adequate public transportation.

Are Florence and/or Venice a must-see?

Yes, but not crammed into a 7 day trip. It's a vacation, not the Amazing Race. Take your time to relax and enjoy your destination. My personal minimum reccomendations are a week for Rome, 2 days for Florence (but we've covered my bias above) and at least 3 for Venice.

Buon viaggio!

*Note: Personally? I don't eat pizza north of Rome as from Florence on up they tend to make hugely thick bready crusts. If that's your style of pizza, more power to you.

**One of my favorite things to do in Rome on a daily basis? Look Up. I'm forever finding shrines to the Virgin or weird facades on streets I've walked down for years
posted by romakimmy at 4:39 AM on September 15, 2006

Rome is totally doable in 3 days. Check out the wikitravel page for more info.
posted by k8t at 9:19 AM on September 19, 2006

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