Finally going to Italy for nearly four weeks

After studying, planning, saving, and dreaming, I am finally going to Italy for nearly four weeks on a cruise with several days on either end to visit Florence, Rome, Sorrento, Taormina, Venice, Verona, Milan, Lakes Como and Garda, and the Dolomites region The trip also includes several days in Croatia.

I am expecting to make the best of massive crowds, litter, traffic, and lines (queues) planning to see all it all through rose-colored glasses

If any of you has a don’t-miss-out-of-the-ordinary suggestion, I would appreciate hearing from you. I’m also interested in any blundering mistakes to avoid.

In general the plan is to:

Book the major museums at night, when possible, so as to avoid crowds
Rent a car only in the Dolomites
Wander, but not waste time shopping
Dress respectfully and well
Mix adventurous days with relaxation days
Avoid the beaches (we have enough of those here)
Not get bogged down in food/wine tours
Try to use rudimentary Italian when I can (which, if nothing else, will be the source of entertainment)

Grazie mille!

1 Like

As you are also going to Lake Garda, I strongly recommend, if possible, a visit to the house of the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio, the house being called Il Vittoriale degli Italiani, which is at Gardone Riviera, on the West Bank of the Lake. You can get to it by boat from any of the other towns on the lake.

I had never heard of D’Annunzio, but my Italian teacher recommended I go, and I was so pleased she did, because it was incredible! Such a wacky place! It was the highlight of my visit to Lake Garda.

I googled D’Annunzio and he was as wacky as his house! He was very popular, and so Mussolini had to keep him sweet!

When I went, several years ago, you had to book a time to see the house, as you go round with a guide, so check in case that’s still the case. Even if the guide is speaking Italian, you can still go round with the group plus your own guide book, and still see all the wonderful things!

Don’t miss the gardens, because they are just as wacky; in one part there is a concrete battleship! :lol:

Your holiday sounds wonderful, and gives you plenty of time to soak up Italy! :smiley:

Depending on how long you have in Florence, I also recommend a visit to the little mediaeval village of San Gimignano, which has buildings dubbed 'mediaeval skyscrapers!

Are you going to Pompeii?

It will be very crowded and very touristy but you still have to see it! If only to snap the “cave canem” sign, and see the Roman fast food shops, the communal lavatories, (complete with communal bottom-washing sponge-on-stick in lieu of toilet paper!:lol:), and the brothels!

Herculaneum, just down the road, is a lot smaller than Pompeii, but in some ways more interesting, as the buildings are more intact and intimate.

Plus it is worth a trip up Vesuvius, and have a peak into the smoking crater. It is well overdue to erupt, but don’t let that put you off! :mrgreen:

Oh, and regarding Sorrento, if you are in the market for coral jewellery, be very careful. Very little of it now is local, and if it is it will be very expensive.
Cheaper jewellery could well be white coral bought in from abroad and dyed.

I have an original coral necklace left to me by my mother, from the 1940s. When I went to Sorrento about 20years ago, the coral, apart from that in antique shops, was far lighter than and nothing like the deep red of my necklace. It could have been plastic, for all I knew.

Hi, Pyxell. Wow! What a lovely response! Both Pompeii and Herculaneum are on the list. I wouldn’t miss the cave canem mosaic for the world! It’s artifacts like this one that make our ancestors seem more endearing and not so very different after all.

I’ll also be sure to check out Gabriele D’Annunzio’s house.

That was good advice on the coral. From what I’ve been reading, it’s now threatened anyway, so I will shy away from that.

San Gimignano looks incredible! That is exactly the kind of place I was hoping to find, and I would have missed it otherwise. Thank you SO much!

Prego, signora! Di niente! :smiley:

The Rome catacombs are interesting and worth a visit.

Other than that, protect your bum and don’t trust anything the Italian waiters tell you. :-p:-p

Sadly, I don’t think that at our ages our bums need protecting.:frowning:

Seriously, though, Italian men do seem to be a lot better behaved now than they used to be! :mrgreen:

Oh my ! Lucky you.

Rome… amazing place. It’s difficult to know how much time you will get at these places.

Obviously the Colosseum will be on your list so if you can include the Roman Forum. That is extremely interesting and only across the road from the Coloseum.

How it works for you I’m not sure whether you are provided with tour guides .

I went independently of tour companies and rather than waiting in queues to get into the Colosseum we decided to take a guide, as they tout outside for business. Best thing we did, as they took us straight in, and then continued over to the Roman Forum too. Check out if they are doing both as a joint guided tour. Roman Forum extremely interesting . I think it cost about £70 for the two of us, possible more now.

The Vatican museum was incredible and the tour included the Sistine Chapel, but it took hours. We saw the Pope and his Papal Audience was on Wednesday mornings. Thousands of people but very orderly . Papal Audience free and he travelled around in his Pope mobile, blessing everyone. Vatican an amazing beautiful building, and makes one feel like an ant.
Vatican Museum has an entrance fee.

Trevi Fountain… which despite all the hype I found quite , (in fact very) disappointing. Loads of people sitting around it and loads of litter when we were there. Plenty of fountains. around the city, designed by the famous of the time.

So much to see and do in Rome , I suggest you get yourself a good guide book asap and read through the historical points of interest that appeal to you most of all. Far better to know what things are about before, rather than searching the history afterwards.

There is a lot of walking in Rome too. Lots of steps to climb about the city. Take some decent shoes and watch out for the pick-pockets.

Is that what they told you? :-p

I seed it wiv my own eyes!

Hi Surfermom … wow, lucky thing, you’re gonna have a fab time. :smiley:

Museums … personally, I don’t like them, and would rather be in the real world … a local cafe/bar/church.

Food/wine tours can be interesting, I guess, but not half as interesting as discovering food/wine for yourself.

Rudimentary Italian … please, thankyou, good day … is all that’s require, with sincerity.


Surfermom how exciting!
Italy is smelly, crowded and ancient
Yet it is definitely one of the most beautiful countries I have ever visited.
Wherever you visit, indulge in their tradition of enjoying a pavement/terrazza caffè so you can soak up that musical language of love, the stunning architecture and the rhythms and bustle of the Italian life.

I know you didn’t want to shop too much
But the leather goods are too good to ignore :wink:

Two towns worth a visit if they’re not too far out of your way are Bellagio on Lake Como and historic Chiavenna…where there are performances of Romeo and Juliet played in the very streets (at certain times of the year)
Amazing :smiley:

oh wow, how wonderful for you. I would LOVE to go to Italy. Lake Garda looks spectacular, the Sistine Chapel, The Vatican, Colosseum amongst others would be on my itinary.

If I were going I would like to go one a excursion to Crypts & Catacombs and Legends & Ghosts of Rome Tour although I get that its not for everyone.

You are so lucky to be having that to look forward to but then I know you already know that. Can you stick me in your suitcase please :mrgreen:

I’m already looking foward to hearing all about the trip and seeing photos x

Oh my Surfermom! You are going to have such a fabulous experience! Italy is my favourite place on earth, closely linked with Croatia. You just cannot go wrong with that list - a sensory overload.

Of your list the only I haven’t seen are Sorrento and Lake Como. Italy just has that feelgood factor, the most amazing architecture, history, culture, food, weather and people. Last time I visited was on a trip in 2016. That time we were in Puglia where they had all the earthquakes. Assisi was amazing. So many places to see there and every town is a treasure because the locals make it so.

We were in Dubrovnik last year and I saw more of the Dalmatia coast in 2015. Croatia is a close rival in my affections to Italy.

You are going to have a fabulous time and I hope you have time to post some stunning photos.

NB if you go to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence - don’t try to see it all in one day. Decide on the paintings you want to see. You need about a month to see it all properly.

Make sure you see the Castello d Angelo in Rome. It has a fabulous view over the city which is really special. Again don’t try to take in the entire Vatican Museum. It’s exhausting! Don’t miss the Spanish Steps. they are lovely. Try to see an opera in rome, there are plenty of little theatres. It’s very intimate and intense compared to seeing one in a big show.

I adored Lake Garda. It’s a place where you can forget all your cares listening to the slowly lapping water and clinking glasses. I’d recommend taking the cruise around the lake. It’s an all day trip but really worth it. Loved Verona too. Forget Juliet’s boob, sitting in the main square with an aperol spritz and people watching is what it’s all about.



Longdogs, thank you for your advice regarding catacombs. I will be sure to keep one eye on the sights and a second lizard-eyed on what’s going on around me :027::lol:

Puddle Duck
, such good information! :smiley: I actually plan on seeing more of the Roman Forum than the Colosseum, where the architecture is fascinating but the history is hauntingly heavy :cry:. I’ll post a link separately, but there is a phenomenal (put out that has a series of great little lessons on art history) that shows what Rome looked like in the 4th century, which has helped me a lot in getting my bearings. I couldn’t agree more about the ticket lines , so I’ve ordered tickets with guides that will also allow for some free time for exploring. As far as Rome goes, I have booked the Vatican at night, the Borghese Gallery, and the Forum/Colosseum, so far. Several now-read history books and art history books are piled up around the house, and I’ve discovered la great podcast titled fittingly “The History of Rome”, so I feel fairly prepared - though I am sure to really know Rome it would take a lifetime. Good advice on the walking; I plan to walk as much as possible just to take it all in.

Dood, thank you for being excited about my trip :038:. Like you, I am more about enjoying the ambience of Italy and its scenery (hence several days hiking in the Dolomites and relaxing in the Lake district). I completely agree with you about the food, and I am inclined just to wander around hoping to find a place that is small, local, and out of the way of the major tourist areas. I think what hooked me on the museums was taking a great art history course and dabbling with some oil painting. I can’t wait!

Rhian, you had me laughing because your description of it being smelly, crowded, and ancient was exactly how my twenty-something niece described it when she visited last summer, but she too loved it! Your romantic (ha, I just thought about the etymology of that) view of Italy and how to take it in is exactly how I want to visit. What I don’t want to do is just race from one sight to another without really absorbing the culture. Bellagio is on the list, but I haven’t heard of Chiavenna, so I’ll do a little research on that.

Lion Queen
, thank you for the link. I’ll find room for you somehow…:017::wink:

Annie, I’m most grateful for all the specifics. I am indeed going to Sorrento and Lake Como though obviously at opposite ends of the trip. I’ve already been strategizing how and what to see at the UffIzi, and I’m thrilled to hear that you enjoyed the Dalmation coast :-D. I know little about it but have heard that it’s gorgeous and rich in a history of its own. More reading on that is forthcoming. I had hoped to see something at La Scala, but it’s August so no opera then :confused:, though the theatre is open for viewing. I can’t imagine going to Italy and not seeing something! I plan to see the Castello Sant’Angelo on the way to the Vatican.

You all have me even more excited than when I started the thread. Traveling is like Christmas for grownups :038:

Now I just have to figure out what to wear :lol:.

Take a sunhat and a fan. It’ll be jolly hot.
(I use a roll-up sunhat that I keep in my bag).

Also, a lot of churches still insist that women cover their shoulders when they enter, so if you have a lot of sleeveless things, scrunch up a light scarf to keep in your bag to act as a shawl.

Edit. You’ve probably been told this, but Italy has a weird system of paying for things in bars. You decide what you want and pay for it at the till. They give you a receipt and then you queue at the bar to get whatever it is, showing them the receipt.

Also remember that in a lot of places, the prices you pay if standing at the bar are different from those you pay if sitting down at a table, so don’t buy something at the bar and then take it outside to sit at a table with!

Thanks, Pyxell. I love heat - 31C is about right for me, but you can bet that I will be slathered up in sunscreen. Yes, I did know about the strict dress codes, but I think it’s important to share with anyone going into any of the churches.

Really good information about the bars. I had no idea and would have botched that up for sure!