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9 day itinerary for Venice, Florence, Tuscany and Rome


March 5, 2012
 

Going for a 9 day trip in May to Venice, Florence, Tuscany and Rome. I need suggestions for what all I should see, give me only offbeat & local stuff. Things I like - museums, great food, art, tours.
I need help with hotels, budget for accommodation is moderate, the rate should be around 150$/night.
I need help with nightlife - live music.
I am traveling with friends - 4 total.

Venice  •  Italy
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March 5, 2012

Bodhisattwa's answer about things to do in Rome and Venice
9 days of European Delights

Greetings! In Florence, Rome, Venice and Tuscany, you have chosen some of the most endearing cities in Europe. Here, I have prepared you a rough nine day itinerary. We will be moving from some delightful eateries and markets to some grand monuments. I have included both the offbeat and the regular. Read on and take a pick!

Urban Lomo, Rome (Source: Gianni Dominici)

1. Three days of Florence and Tuscany

Florence and Tuscany; well, where does one start here! Below are a choice selection of the best experiences.

Chianti is a vaguely bordered geographical region encompassing the area between Florence and Siena, but not in either of those cities. It extends towards east and west of the A1 auto-strada, but how far in each direction is not clearly defined. The region is known for its world-famous Chianti wines and the meticulously prepared food. The sceneries are known to be breathtakingly beautiful.

Three days of Florence and Tuscany

Dievole to Gaiole in Chianti (Source: allan_harris)

Greve is unanimously known as the chief "market town" amongst the region's residents. It is a charming little village with a typical rural Italian setting. Radda is another nice and tidy little town which offers spectacular views over the neighboring countryside.

Moving farther east there is Giaole, and Castelnuova Baradenga towards the south . Both of these towns boast of lovely little restaurants, trattoria, bars and cafes. Not to mention, shops selling local goods and handicrafts.

While here, taking one of the Connoisseur Wine Tours promises to be a charming experience giving you a first hand introduction into the area's legendary wine and its making. The tours are guided by a somelier who generally has a vast knowledge of the Tuscan wines and wineries and of the vineyards and the art of wine-making. The tours also include wine tasting.

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Chianti red and Crostini "Nuvoli" (Source: Oriana Papadopulos)

Vinci is a quaint and offbeat village set deep in the Tuscan countryside. The birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci, this hilltop village houses a castle, a museum, twisting alleyways and the sleepy ambiance of a hamlet.

The castle which was originally built in the Middle Ages is called the Castle of the Counts Guidi, and has over over 60 models of Leonardo's machines apart from original sketches and manuscripts.

 

On the square which also houses the fortress-like Palazzo Strozzi, the Colle Beretto (Piazza degli Strozzi, 5/r 50123 Firenze | Tel.: 055 283156) is a bar/cafe which is extremely popular with the locals as well as the straying tourist. The terrace is particularly noteworthy with luxurious fittings and cushy sofas. The interiors sport pea-green neon and transparent Kartell chairs that speak of modern design. The aperitivo buffet is considered to be among the city’s most generous in both proportions and variety.

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Aperitivo (Source: Vincent Luigi Molino) 

For a taste of the no-frills side of the local lifestyle, check out Mercato Nuovo. Here you'll find tourist kitsch and genuine leather goods and artifacts. Very lively atmosphere and a great place to mingle with the jovial locals.

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Palermo, Ballarò (Source: Ruggero Poggianella) 

Cosimo (the first) purchased Palazzo Pitti in the 1540s from the Pitti, a rival banking family fallen on hard times, to appease his wife Eleonora de Toledo (who was displeased with the Medici). The Medici, over centuries, expanded it many times but kept it's original military bearings and the rusticated facade more or less intact.

The sprawling palazzo today contains six museums - all devoted to the decorative arts. Particularly popular are the Museo degli Argenti (Silver Museum), the Galleria del Costume (Costume Gallery displaying fashion and theatrical costumes from the 16th century to the present), the elaborately gilded Museo delle Carrozze (Carriage Museum), the Appartamenti Reali (Royal Apartments - the private quarters of the Medici which were redone in 19th-century taste).

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05948 - Florence - Palazzo Pitti - (Source: xiquinho) 

The Galleria Palatina is perhaps the most frequented and is home to a collection of 16th to 18th century art amassed by the Medici and the Lorraine dukes. The collection includes Raphaels and Rubens and works by Guido Reni, Guercino, Tintoretto and Titian among others.

The Piazza della Signoria is among the top tourist attractions at Florence. Bang in the middle of the city, is the Palazzo Vecchio. The Piazza della Signoria is Florence's most popular meeting place for both locals as well as for tourists.

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Piazza della Signoria, Firenze, Italia (Source:yeowatsup) 

If there is one place that gives a strong competition to the Louvre in Paris, it is this. One of the oldest and most renowned art gallerias of the Western World. It houses frescos from the of Leonardo da Vinci (The Annunciation, The Adoration of the Magi), Sandro Botticelli (Primavera, The Birth of Venus, The Adoration of the Magi and others), Giotto (The Ognissanti Madonna, Badia Polyptych), Titian (Flora, Venus of Urbino) and Michelangelo (The Doni Tondo).

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Uffizi - Firenze (Source: Andrea Puggioni) 

This is perhaps Florence's most popular attraction. The Cattedrale de Santa Maria del Fiore is a mammoth Gothic duomo (cathedral) for which work began in 1296 and consecrated in 1436. It holds 20,000 people. Its exterior, which is made of green, pink, and white marble, has numerous intricately designed doors and quite a few intriguing statues. Brunelleschi's Dome o the inside is one masterpiece of a construction.

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Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo di Firenze) (Source: Rodrigo Soldon) 

2. Three days in Venice

Venice! The first thing that comes to your mind are the gondolas. Just as the sun is about to set, grab some particularly delectable sandwiches from the ever so popular Harry's Bar, chilled prosecco, and hop on for a gondola ride with a dear one along the Grand Canal for an experience to last a lifetime.

Three days in Venice

Gondolas, Venice (Source: Kevin Gibbons)

Basilica di San Marco or St. Mark's Basilica is an architectural delight. Frommer's sums it up beautifully:

Venice for centuries was Europe's principal gateway between the Orient and the West, so it should come as no surprise that the architectural style for the sumptuously Byzantine Basilica di San Marco, replete with five mosquelike bulbed domes, was borrowed from Constantinople.

 (Source: Frommer's)

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St Mark's Basilica (Basilica di San Marco) (Source: Francisco Antunes) 

Piazza San Marco - this pink and white façade with a splendid Gothic-Renaissance architecture was the residence and governing center of the dukes, or the 'doges' as they are locally known who ruled Venice for over a 1000 years.

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Grand Ducal Palace Guards (Source: Steve/Ruth Bosman)

One of the lesser known but highly conflicting pillars of Christendom, with an interesting bit of history. It is museum that pays homage to Jacopo Robusti (1518-94), also called Tintoretto because his father was a dyer. This place is full of his 50 odd paintings which are as much dark as highly mystical.

The series of the more than 50 dark and dramatic works took the artist more than 20 years to complete, making this the richest of the many confraternity guilds or scuole that once flourished in Venice.

Frommer's (Source: Frommer's) 

Wake up early, pack your backpacks and get set for a whole day trip to the neighboring islands of Murano, Burano or Torcello, each with its specific identity and popularity.

Murano - if glass-blowing making is something you've never witnessed before, this is the place to do so. It is also the biggest of the three islands and home to some beautiful churches as well.

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Murano Glass (Source: Dennis Jarvis) 

Burano is known for it's candy-colored homes and hand made lace, Burano is a tinier, simpler and colorful version of Venice, home to fishermen and lace-making families. Spend a few hours leisurely roaming around the place, and dining at one of the trattorias, before heading off to Torcello.

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Burano (Source: Matt Gillman) 

Torcello it is said that, "Before there was Venice, there was Torcello". Pretty deserted, the island was once a home to people during the Dark Ages. The oldest cathedral in Venice, Cattedrale di Torcello, and one of the prettiest, still stands strong in this island, and is a sight worth watching, especially the sunsets.

Oh and you might like to try the famous restaurant, Locanda Cipriani, also Ernest Hemingway's favorite.

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Torcello, Italy (Source: Alex Proimos) 

Tips:

  1. The best way to get to these islands are by Venice's famous water buses - the Vaporetto.
     
  2. Buy the 24-hr unlimited ride pass for €18/$25, rather than having to buy tickets at each interval.
     
  3. Don't fear if you miss any of the vaporettos or plan to stay later. Go here, this site provides you with a comprehensive list of options and ideas about traveling in and around Venice.

The best way to explore the hidden beauty of Venice is to go on a walking tour. Viator presents some interesting walking tours that you can enjoy for a fairly reasonable price.

Here a list of the top choices:

  1. Skip the Line: Venice Walking Tour with Doges Palace - From $31.68
  2. Hidden Venice Half-Day Walking Tour - From $29.04
  3. Venice Ghost Walking Tour - From $26.40
  4. Private Tour: Venice Half-Day Walking Tour - From $99

Another fun way to explore the place is to go on a cicchetti (finger food) spree, checking out some of the fine Venetian snacks and glasses of wine.

Discover the hidden magic, the calm and serene beauty of some of Venice's back-lanes and promptly get lost in the numerous maze of narrow streets.

Here's a tip:

To help tourists on a tight schedule, quick routes between the key spots- San Marco, Accademia, Rialto, Ferrovia (train station)- have been established and the walls at every intersection along them are peppered with little yellow signs that point sightseers in the right direction.

 (Source: Getting lost in Venice) 

The best thing to do is to just turn away from the direction of the touristy places, and turn into empty narrow streets. Most of them are bound to take you to some small cafes, home-made goody stalls, and plenty of local life.

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 (Source: F Delventhal) 

3. Three days in Rome

Benvenuti! The Eternal City of Rome is a living legend. With over 2,500 years of history and home to arguably the most advanced civilizations of the past, this city has left no stone unturned to develop and modernize while maintaining its immeasurable history and ethnicity. A walk along its roads will take you to ancient basilicas, grand ruins and as many as 900 churches. Indeed, there are but few places like Rome that enthralls so completely.

Perhaps the Vatican is the only city in the world that needs no introduction. It is the smallest and the richest country in the world and not a part of Italy as many believe. This tiny city packs more history, art and religion than any other place across the globe and it deserves a separate trip onto itself.

Three days in Rome

HDR St. Peter's Basilica (Source: 金娜 Kim S) 

St. Peter's Basilica Here you will realize that it is always size and not time that defies us. The monument exudes ethereal beauty and awe inspiring art with its dome painted by none other than Michelangelo.

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St Peter's (Source: Michael Gwyther-Jones) 

Swiss Guards Corps : They are rather oddly dressed, they are allowed to smile unlike their brothers in similarity of the Buckingham Palace, and appear quite amiable if you ask me. But be warned, they are officially one of the most highly trained security guards in the world!

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Swiss Guard (Close) (Source: Justin Ennis) 

The Vatican Museum : This is one of the grandest museums in the world with its mighty spiral staircase being amongst the most photographed elements ever. You can get the tickets in advance here. This is what WikiTravel has to say about it:

The Raphael Rooms and the exquisitely decorated Sistine Chapel are famous for Michelangelo's frescos. It's organized so you follow a one-way route. Open Monday to Saturday 9:00 AM-6:00 PM, closed Sunday except last Sunday of the month, when its free, crowded, and open 9:00 AM-2:00 PM.The museum is closed for holidays on: January 1 & 6, February 11, March 19, April 4 & 5, May 1, June 29, August 14 & 15, November 1, and December 8, 25, & 26.

Vatican (Source: Wikitravel) 

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Taking photos at Vatican Museum. Ferragosto 2008 (Source: Xavi) 

Rome, or more popularly the Bella Roma, is home to 3 streets of utmost glamor and fashion. Via Condotti, Via Borgognona and Via Frattina are a shopper's haven! 

Begin your tour at the lovely Spanish Steps for the popular ‘Made in Italy’ labels; Dolce and Gabbana, Just Cavalli and Missoni. I have made you a map which highlights all the shopping meccas in the city. Have a look:


View Rome Luxury Shopping in a larger map

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Via Condotti (Source: Clarissa2402) 

La renella (Via del Moro 15-16 | Tel.: 06 581 72 65 | Cuisines: Italian | Dining options: Breakfast/Brunch, Takeout | Price range: $8-$16) is easily the best eatery for brunches in entire Rome. The aroma of freshly wooden-baked bread and the fantastic pizza crust makes for the perfect place to start the day.

Here's what Lonely Planet has to say:

The wood-fired ovens at this historic Trastevere bakery have been firing for decades, producing a delicious daily batch of pizza, bread and biscuits. Piled-high toppings (and fillings) vary seasonally. Popular with everyone from skinheads with big dogs to elderly ladies with little dogs.

Forno la Renella in Rome (Source: Lonely Planet) 

A review:

Everybody lovest this place, including me. Whenever in Trastevere/Rome it is a must for me to sink my teeth in to one of their delicious pizzaz - favorite is artichoke and mozarella. Their bread is delish, in fact, many local restaurants come to pick up their bread from this bakery.

La renella, Rome (Source: TripAdvisor) 

Although the clank of the gladiator's sword and the lion's roars are no longer heard, once you step into the sprawling wonder of the Colosseum, you are somehow magically transported back in time. The corroded walls and the romantic ruins are all reminders of both a heroic and a tragic past. You can book tickets here.

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Colosseum (Source: Garètte Herrin) 

Other must see places while in Rome include St. Paul's Outside the Walls, Santa Maria Maggiore and San Giovanni within the Catholic realm of interest. Others include the Pantheon (built in 126 AD after all the ancient Roman Gods) and the Baths of Caracalla.

Two amazing view points which offers majestic sights of the city are Janiculum Hill that overlooks the Trastevere and the Pincio Hill which lies at the edge of the Borghese Gardens.

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Water Clock in the Borghese Villa Gardens (Source: Rosemary Dukelow) 

Inspired by different cultures from Japan, China, Indonesia, Thailand and India, Kamispa (Via Zucchelli, 20 00187 | Tel. :+39 06 42000561) is a true authentic Asian spa in the center of Rome.

Each treatment is unique inspired by the Asian cultures. Every treatment works around focussing on full relaxation of the body, taking you through a journey of harmony and spiritual healing.

"The objective: acquire contact with your spirit, through the body and senses. Kamispa: Gateway to Asia."

Campo de' Fiori (Piazza Campo de' Fiori, 01, 00182 | Tel: 066 8804621 | Open: Monday to Saturday - 06:00 to 14:00) is Rome's oldest market which has been around for centuries now. You will find local vegetables here as well as meat, fish and anything Italian like capers, pasta, sun dried tomatoes, among others. The market is a little bit touristry, but again it is the most colorful market to buy variety of stuff in Rome.

In the evenings, you could just sit at one of the cafes and watch the local scene go by. In fact, this is one of the meeting places for the locals as well as tourist. You could also enjoy some street food here.

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(Source: Campo de' Fiori) 

Note: We are still working on the accommodation aspects of your trip. You can view the status of the answers here. You will receive another email once the other answer(s) is ready. Do check back!

Hope this helps. If you'd like to know about anything else, feel free to write back. If you like my suggestions above, let me know and I will be happy to help you out with more - nightlife, shopping, restaurants, maybe? Waiting to hear from you!

Until then,

Have a great trip!

-Debnath

Naples Restaurant (Source: Justin Ennis) 



Answered by A photographer, designer, artist but above all a traveller. I have travelled long and far and pride myself as the proverbial vagabond. Bodhisattwa Debnath

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