|Milan, on our way to see da Vinci's The Last Supper.|
Having already visited several cities like San Gimignano and Siena two times each, we have decided to explore a bit more of this beautiful country this time. This left us with many great choices, as usual. Since we'll be spending our first and last nights in Milan, we thought that would be enough having been there for four nights last year. Florence is always one of our destination cities because we love it and now, we have friends there. Bologna also deserved another look, especially with an eye toward new days trips from there. Staying in Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre seemed like an attractive option, too. Getting to experience Arezzo's huge antique fair was also on my list of things to do. From Arezzo we could easily visit Cortona. Both towns would be new to us.
|Leonardo da Vinci statue in Milan.|
Those considerations made for some easy decisions for our itinerary. So, I got out a calendar and started jotting down days and cities. Here is the first draft of our itinerary with day trips from each city we would stay in and the (number) of nights in each base city:
Draft Itinerary #1
Florence (5) - Fiesole, Prato, Portovenere (overnight?), Pistoia
Arezzo (4) - Cortona, Montepulciano, Montalcino
Bologna (4) - Ravenna, Modena, Verona
Milan (1) - Como
Not a bad looking trip, but after more conversation, research and nine revisions, here is our final itinerary for our 15 day trip in November. You'll notice some significant changes from Itinerary #1 with some cities missing and others added. When we learned that our regular Florence apartments would not be available this year, we decided to spend less time there and expand our visits to Sorrento and Bologna. We have never seen the Amalfi Coast so that change kind of pushed us out of our familiar nest in Florence. While it will be the longest train trip (about 3 1/2 hours total), we know it will be worth it. The choice of Sorrento over Riomaggiore was also partially made because we are hoping to increase our chances of better weather a bit by heading further south. We'll see how that pans out...
|Near the Duomo in Siena.|
Milan (1) take it easy day
Florence (3) - Arezzo, Cortona, Fiesole
Sorrento (5) - Capri, Amalfi, Positano, Ravello, Pompeii
Bologna (5) - Ravenna, Modena, Ferrara
Milan (1) take it easy day
This plan represents more train travel with our luggage than we have done in the past, but our experience doing that last year has given us some confidence. Plus, we are already planning to pack less clothing than last year so that we can more easily handle our suitcases. In 2015, instead taking one large suitcase and one medium one, we packed only one medium suitcase! Since we knew that we would have access to a washing machine in the apartment in Florence, we brought the clothes we each needed for one week even though it was a two week trip. This time, each of the three apartments we are renting has a washing machine. One even has a dryer! So, hopefully, we can pack even less than before. We may try to reduce what we take to fit in two carry-on bags and not check any luggage so we don't have to spend extra time in the Milan airport.
Because we have already booked the dates and the apartments for each stay, we know when we'll be traveling, so we can take advantage of some great prices on train tickets by buying them online before we leave home. Sometimes the savings can be as much as 70%! For the day trips, we'll buy our regional train or bus tickets the day of or the day before those excursions. We will still have the flexibility to change our itinerary for our day trips as we choose to add/subtract places to see.
Well, with four months to go before we leave, we have booked and paid for our flights, settled on a great itinerary and reserved all of our lodging. Pretty good preparations, so far. We still need to purchase our train tickets on the Trenitalia and/or Italotreno for Milan to Florence, Florence to Naples (Sorrento), Naples to Bologna and Bologna to Milan. I've checked all of the prices for the regional trains for our day trips, as well. Still left to do: check out some smaller luggage options, go to AAA to get some euros, reserve rental cars for transportation to/from Boston's Logan Airport and do some more research on places we want to visit. Were well on our way and are excited to be embarking on another adventure to Italy!
Next up - Buying Your Train Tickets Online Before You get To Italy