My Itinerary: Italy in a Dash

Traveling often is dictated by constraints… Its generally either money or time i.e. only if you have chosen your companions smartly else the term constraints can have many new connotations…

Monetary travel constraints translate to traveling on a budget and that is an adventure in its own right. Exploring a new city or a country becomes doubly more exciting (for a few of us at least) when you know you have to be smart about money as well…

Do Check: My Itinerary: Greece On A Budget

However, limitations due to time is something that I abhor where traveling is concerned because it invariably forces you to drop, skip and give a slip to many places, adventures and activities that you may have wanted to experience. And this fills me with envy for people who are able to give everything up and simply travel… But again I ask myself, will I be able to do that? Will I be satisfied to leave everything behind to simply indulge myself traveling? Or would I be prefer and perhaps be a tad bit happier balancing the act of doing something I love and doing something I love a little more? Now that’s a post for some other time!

Coming back to time limits, my Italian adventure last year was a perfect example of traveling on a tight schedule and I plan to share the itinerary for the same today in this post. Since, there is so much to see in Italy and we literally were on the tightest schedule ever, we decided to do Central Italy, the Italian Riviera and Venice.

Trip Duration: 10 days including travel (29th April – 8th May 2016)

Season: Spring

Style: On a tight schedule and definitely not luxury

Places Covered: Rome, Florence, Greve, Cinque Terre, Genova, Venice

Travel Companion: Baby sister

Modes of Transport:

  • Flight, Train, Regional Buses (inter-city)
  • Metro (intra-city)

Arriving In Rome

Date: 29th April (1 Day)

We set out for Rome from Mumbai in an Emirates flight that had a layover at Dubai. Till last year Emirates airlines gave out meal vouchers if you had a layover for more than 4 hours in Dubai and that was a boon! Our flight from Mumbai departed at 10:10 am IST and we landed at Dubai at about 11:40 am Dubai time… After a layover of 4 hours that included a meal and strolling through the humongous airport making mental notes of what I will pick up on my connection back, we finally departed for Rome at 3:50 pm Dubai time.

It was my first time flying outside of Asia and my excitement was palpable… After 6 hours and 15 minutes of ICE (Emirates’ In Air Entertainment), 2 bottles of Red Wine and a surprisingly tasty meal, we started our descent into Rome and both my sister and I held our breaths as the “cityscape” of Fiumicino (pronounced Fee-yoo-me-chi-no) came closer… Rome’s Leonard Da Vinci International Airport is located about 40 kms out of the city in a town called Fiumicino and hence the name…

It is an old airport and looks so but I found it more organized and “welcoming” than the Dubai Airport…

Read about how to travel from Fiumicino Airport to Central Rome.

Rome

Date: 29, 30 April (2 Nights, 1 Day)

Calling Rome beautiful is doing injustice to it. Rome needs a more “powerful” adjective because the force of its beauty is something that takes you by surprise. Even the word “Gorgeous” falls short. Of course I may be biased because Rome till date is my favorite city outside of India but believe me when I say that getting lost in Rome is the best way to find yourself…

Italy per se has a lot to offer to tourists but Rome takes a major chunk of it mostly due to its beautiful architectural splendors and of course because it houses the world’s smallest country – The Vatican City. No trip to Rome is complete without a visit to the Vatican and it is rightly so!

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St Peter’s Basilica, Rome

Visiting the Vatican takes about the whole day i.e. if you want to see it end to end… My sister and I though finished it in half a day because we only did the Vatican Museum and strolled in the Basilica Enclave.

The same day after lunch we visited the Colosseum and that was something we thoroughly enjoyed. The Colosseum is magnificent, has a forceful history and the adjacent Roman Forum is beautiful. By rights, Colosseum and the neighboring areas take about a whole day to visit but we skipped doing the Roman Forum in detail and instead spent more time in the Colosseum and in the streets and parks around it… Just to get a “feel” of Rome…

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Next morning (1st May), we took an early train out of Rome (Roma) into Florence (Firenze).

Read about our First Day in Rome and Exploring The Colosseum.

Florence

Date: 1, 2 May (2 Nights, 2 Days)

The distance between Rome and Florence can be covered in a matter of 2.5 hours on a FrecciaRossa train. FrecciaRossa trains are super fast trains connecting major cities like Rome, Florence, Milan etc. We boarded the 11:20 am FrecciaRossa from Roma Termini and were in Santa Maria Novella Train Station in Florence (Firenze) by 12:50 pm. The train journey was relaxing, comfortable and very convenient.

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FrecciaRossa Train Tickets – Roma to Firenze
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FrecciaRossa

Looking out the window witnessing the transition of the scenery from rolling hills to rolling fields was a delight and I stand by my belief that the best way to “get in the feel” of a country is through its local food and journeying by train…

Firenze as a city has a lot to offer but the fact that it lies bang in the middle of the Tuscan wine country is another fabulous reason for you to visit this super busy yet gorgeous city. From Il Duomo di Firenze to the Ponte Vecchio to high street and luxury shopping, Florence has something for everyone.

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Il Duomo di Firenze

We wrapped up visiting the Duomo and the Ponte Vecchio in a day and we kept the next day to visit the Tuscan countryside. There are a number of popular Tuscan villages and towns that people choose and prefer to visit, my sister and I however chose Greve (pronounced gre-vee)

Greve

Date: 2 May (1 Day)

We took a morning bus out of Florence and were in Greve within the hour… Since we were visiting in the month of May and the “wine season” doesn’t start until September, there wasn’t much to do there but roam the quaint streets of the beautiful village, eat a sumptuous Italian lunch, do some local shopping and explore the estate of the Vespucci (Amerigo Vespucci anyone?) family… A full day was enough and we caught an evening bus back to Florence.

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Once we were back in Florence, we didn’t want to call it a day yet and hence we went shopping at the Santa Maria Novella Train Station. All train stations in Italian cities house a “mall” of sorts and have outlets of all major brands that you can think of. I needed a jacket because I had packed for warm weather while Italian Spring is nowhere near as warm as I would have liked. I bought a jacket at Mango, my sister enjoyed a cone of Gelato and then walked to dinner at the Mecato Centrale in the San Lorenzo Market area. Later we finished our packing and braced ourselves for an Italian adventure that was to follow the next day!

Genova

Date: 3, 4 May (2 Nights, 2 Days)

When people plan a trip to Italy, the region of Liguria is often never considered, is given a skip and in some cases have never been ever heard of… However, the decision to cover this gorgeous region also known as the Italian Riviera was perhaps one of the best decisions that I have taken till date because it is not just blindingly beautiful but also something that many people never do!

There aren’t any direct trains from Florence to Genova. We had to change 3 trains and we ended up missing trains, getting lost and hence learned about the Italian regional railways like it was the back of our hands… Amazing experience and a story for another time!

We boarded an early morning train from Florence to Pisa. It is an hour long journey that is generally uneventful and has reserved compartments. We alighted at Pisa, bought us a new suitcase (another story!), ate some breakfast and then boarded a regional (Indian equivalent of a local) train to the beautiful port city of La Spezia in the Liguria region. It lies bang in the middle of Pisa and Genova and hence the railway station sees a lot of tourist footfall… From La Spezia we took another train to Genova and finally after about an hour we arrived at Genova.

 

Genova is the capital of Liguria and is an old port and one of the largest ports for trade in the Mediterranean region historically. The old part of Genova town is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list. The Porto Antico (Old Port) and the architectural marvels are not the only reason for you to visit Genova, rather the fact that it provides a great “base” to explore the famous Cinque Terre makes it more viable to be added as a part of the itinerary.

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Cinque Terre

Date: 4 May (1 Day)

Cinque Terre literally means 5 villages that are perhaps the most famous “tourist destination” of the Italian Riviera attributed to the fact that they are simply gorgeous in all their colorful splendor. The fact that each village is precariously perched on the edge of cliffs overlooking the Sapphire Mediterranean Sea is another reason they are pictured in almost all travel books and magazines…

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The five villages are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore (west to east) and they are connected via a train line, a boat route, a hiking trail and also a road network. We took the morning train from Genova to Manarola, ate a hearty seafood lunch there, then trekked to Riomaggiore. Riomaggiore is much bigger than Manarola and while waiting for our ferry we gulped down innumerable gelatos! Our ferry from Riomaggiore took us for a leisurely tour of the Cinque Terre via the sea route and that is an experience that I would recommend everyone at least once in their lives! We got off at Monterosso, enjoyed its beach and then caught an evening train back to Genova.

Venice

Date: 5, 6 May (2 Nights, 2 Days)

We arrived in Venice at around 5:00 pm on 5th May by train that we boarded at Milan (Genova -> Milan -> Venice). It was a FrecciaBianca, which implies it was fast train with reserved compartments, a little more expensive than the regional trains and one that took a horizontal route across North Italy. We even got little glimpses of the Italian Alps and their snow covered peaks… It’s a long journey albeit a beautiful one…

 

Venice is an interesting city more so because it is evokes intense emotions in people… You either love it or you don’t…

I have never met anybody who takes a middle stance and says “Oh! Venice was fine”… It’s always been either “OMG! I love Venice” or “I don’t understand what the hype over Venice is about!”, two extremes!

I unfortunately belong to the group that would be more inclined to say the latter… Don’t get me wrong, Venice has its own charm and if you are looking for mush and all that jazz, Venice may be the city for you. But for me it was honestly just a tick on my checklist… It was a little too touristy for me, very commercialized and hence extremely expensive… Much like Jaipur, India in the Winters… More about it in the posts to follow 🙂

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Venice

If you are contemplating visiting Venice, be aware that the island is a completely vehicle free area and you have to walk everywhere… The gondolas, the water taxis and boats can only take you to other islands or to places that the canal touches… The sunset in Venice is very beautiful though especially if you are sitting facing the vast and open ocean, dangling your feet from the edge and have a hazelnut gelato to devour!

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Rome Again!

Date: 7 May (1 Day, 1 Night)

Our flight back to Mumbai was from Rome itself and hence we had an extra day at the capital that we earmarked for gorging on Italian food and a little more sightseeing… Taking a 4 hour FrecciaRossa train journey out of Venice, we were in Rome by 11:30 am. We checked into our AirBnB immediately and set out to explore the city a little more on foot…

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The Pantheon, Rome

There are architectural wonders and ancient ruins at almost every corner of the Roman capital, Rome is special that way and hence being on foot is the best of “doing” it. We covered the Fontana De Trevi and the Pantheon that day and ended our trip at a quaint yet delicious restaurant near our apartment…

I still haven’t had my heart’s content of Rome and I plan to be back to this magical city again…

Departing Italy

Date: 8 May

We had our Emirates flight out of Rome at 10:55 am local time with a 3 hours 10 mins layover at Dubai. We then took another Emirates flight out of Dubai at 9:55 pm Dubai time and landed at Mumbai on 9th May 2:00 am IST.

Would I want to change something in our itinerary?

Nothing is perfect and neither was my itinerary but it worked for us. However, there are a few things that I would still like to change about it…

  1. I started this post telling you about how time crunched we were and how our itinerary had to fit into 10 days. If I really wanted to change something then I would change the duration of the trip from 10 days to at least 15 days.
  2. I would have loved to spend an extra day in Cinque Terre
  3. We missed out on Milan and that is something that I shall regret till I actually make it to Milan one day!
  4. Instead of spending an extra night in Florence I would today trade it for a night in one of the Tuscan villages of either Greve or Sienna…

 

Have you been to Italy? What did your plan look like?

P.S. you are free to base your vacation plan/itinerary on mine and if you need more info, do drop me an email or leave a question for me in the comments section. I’d be happy to help!

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