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Itinerary planning - Cinque Terre to Tuscany

Itinerary planning - Cinque Terre to Tuscany

Old Mar 11, 18, 1:27 pm
  #1  
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Itinerary planning - Cinque Terre to Tuscany

Planning an 8 day trip to Italy, flight has been booked.
I need some help with travel between Cinque Terre, Florence, and Siena/TuscanyDraft Overall plan/schedule. 4 adults

Fly in to Milan, overnight.
2 nights Cinque Terre
4 nights – Between Florence/Siena. Do we stay 2 nights Florence then 2 nights Siena?
1 night - Back to Milan for flight home Go to Cinque Terre and Florence/Tuscancy

We have already been to Milan and Florence before, so would like to see the CQ and Tuscany region.Would like to see Val D’Orcia and Chianti region; possibly rent a car while based in Siena/Florence. Only for 1 or 2 days while in Siena

Here’s my initial plan/thoughts Sun LAX-MXP
Mon Arrive Milan 6 pm, stay overnight
Tue Cinque Terre; train from Milan
Wed Cinque Terre
Thu Florence; train from Cinque Terre. Possibly stop in Pisa
Fri Siena; bus or train? from Florence
Sat Siena
Sun Florence; bus or train ? from Siena
Mon Milan; train from Florence. Possibly stop in Bologna
Tue MXP-LAX 12 pm flight, stay at Sheraton Milan Airport

At 1st look this looks hectic but doable. So I'm here to listen to sage advice and tips from the frequent travelers and moderators.
Would like some help and tips with above itinerary for improvements. Especially with regards to transportation and travel time between Florence and Siena from Cinque Terre.I get the impression that it’s better to go to Florence 1st from CQ, then go to Siena for 2 nights, head back to Florence prior to heading back to Milan. However this feels like too much travel between cities and not enough time in the city/region.
Also, do I buy a Train pass? Looking at Italiarail, i notice that train travel between cities will be discounted somewhat if I buy a pass. How much I'm not sure

If I rent a car in Siena can I return it in Florence or vice versa? Same with Renting in Florence, can I return in Milan?
Lodging has been booked based on 1 night Florence, 2 nights Siena, 1 night Florence. We can still rebook as all are cancellable with refunds so we have flexibility.In Siena, I’ve booked 2 nights at the Sheraton with points
In Milan, I’ve also used points.

Any tips, comments, critiques are welcome and appreciated.

Last edited by directcj; Mar 11, 18 at 3:19 pm Reason: added car rental question and clarify train pass
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Old Mar 11, 18, 2:36 pm
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Can you get to Cinque Terre on Monday, the day you arrive? It will be a long day, but you'll get to your hotel in time to sleep and will have more time at Cinque Terre.
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Old Mar 11, 18, 3:04 pm
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I considered that but after a long flight from West Coast US I prefer to not have to take a 3 hr train ride to CQ
Also considered flipping the schedule, ie CQ towards latter part. This will leave CQ on a weekend and I fear that CQ lodging will be hard to book/expensive and place might be packed since we'll be there late May / early June.
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Old Mar 12, 18, 7:20 am
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You've been to Florence and you want to see CT & Tuscan countryside so why are you wasting two days in Florence? According to your itinerary there are only two days where you aren't packing/traveling/unpacking on the whole trip. If you ditch Florence and put a day each to CT and someplace as a base in Tuscany you could at least have two days without packing/unpacking in CT and in Tuscany (maybe 3) so you can slowdown and absorb a bit of Italy.

If you end up renting a car in Tuscany anyhow and you have four adults, I'd at least price autoeurope for a week with a car out of MXP (try the .co.uk site, it prices much better than the US .com site). That said, you're not driving into CT so find a place you can park the car for a few days and train into CT. Late May/early June isn't the worst (the only better time to balance crowds and weather are earlier in May and mid-September before the October rain) time to visit CT from a crowds perspective, that said, when it really gets crowded head over to Porto Venere which tends to fly a little under the radar from CT, is arguably as beautiful and, sitting on the Bay of Poets has some interesting history (Lord Byron, Shelley...)
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Old Mar 12, 18, 3:49 pm
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Originally Posted by directcj View Post
Planning an 8 day trip to Italy, flight has been booked.
I need some help with travel between Cinque Terre, Florence, and Siena/TuscanyDraft Overall plan/schedule. 4 adults

Fly in to Milan, overnight.
2 nights Cinque Terre
4 nights Ė Between Florence/Siena. Do we stay 2 nights Florence then 2 nights Siena?
1 night - Back to Milan for flight home Go to Cinque Terre and Florence/Tuscancy

We have already been to Milan and Florence before, so would like to see the CQ and Tuscany region.Would like to see Val DíOrcia and Chianti region; possibly rent a car while based in Siena/Florence. Only for 1 or 2 days while in Siena

Hereís my initial plan/thoughts Sun LAX-MXP
Mon Arrive Milan 6 pm, stay overnight
Tue Cinque Terre; train from Milan
Wed Cinque Terre
Thu Florence; train from Cinque Terre. Possibly stop in Pisa
Fri Siena; bus or train? from Florence
Sat Siena
Sun Florence; bus or train ? from Siena
Mon Milan; train from Florence. Possibly stop in Bologna
Tue MXP-LAX 12 pm flight, stay at Sheraton Milan Airport

At 1st look this looks hectic but doable. So I'm here to listen to sage advice and tips from the frequent travelers and moderators.
Would like some help and tips with above itinerary for improvements. Especially with regards to transportation and travel time between Florence and Siena from Cinque Terre.I get the impression that itís better to go to Florence 1st from CQ, then go to Siena for 2 nights, head back to Florence prior to heading back to Milan. However this feels like too much travel between cities and not enough time in the city/region.
Also, do I buy a Train pass? Looking at Italiarail, i notice that train travel between cities will be discounted somewhat if I buy a pass. How much I'm not sure

If I rent a car in Siena can I return it in Florence or vice versa? Same with Renting in Florence, can I return in Milan?
Lodging has been booked based on 1 night Florence, 2 nights Siena, 1 night Florence. We can still rebook as all are cancellable with refunds so we have flexibility.In Siena, Iíve booked 2 nights at the Sheraton with points
In Milan, Iíve also used points.

Any tips, comments, critiques are welcome and appreciated.
My vote is not doable. You can't really count the first day, so that means you have 7 days. Since your last night will be at an airport hotel, you might not even count that night, so you have six days, and it is Milan, Cinque Terre, Pisa, Florence, Siena, driving through rural Tuscany, Bologna, Milan. You can physically transport your body to 8 places in 7 days, but when are you going to see and experience Italy? As JMN57 said, all you will be doing is packing and unpacking, and hauling yourself from one place to another.

Except for certain rural areas, for example in Piemonte, Valle d'Aosta, Alto Adige, Le Marche, Tuscany (sorry if I left any out), it is not anymore romantic or scenic than driving in northern New Jersey, southern New York, or the Central Valley of California. If you are hustling from one city to the next, you are just going to be on a highway, just like any other highway. Depending on the day and time of departure, Italy is quite a traffic nightmare. I'm talking about Milan. It's worse than LA, SF, or NYC. There is not much point in renting a car to drive from Milan to the Cinque Terre. It's a 3 hour at least ride on ugly toll road highways, then in CT there is almost no place to park. Sometimes, you can find parking in Monterosso, depending on where you are staying, but that is the least desirable of the 5 towns at that time of the year because you probably won't be able to use the beach, which is it's main attraction. Two other towns (Corniglia?) and one other have parking lots, and then it's a fair walk to the town. The parking lots are not in the towns. You will be dragging your luggage quite a distance, generally up some substantial hills. You can't use your car in CT, and parking is expensive. I'm going to guess 25 euros or more per day. Also, although probably not when you are going, the CT parking lots are small, and thus frequently full.

By train, Milan to Cinque Terre is a bit of a nightmare too. Figure on at least three and a half hours, and not on one of Italy's fabulous high speed trains, but on slow, old, stop every few miles, regional or local trains. You will surely have to make a train change at least once, and those trains don't come every 10 minutes, probably in Levanto, and wait a half an hour or so. It's probably better than renting a car, but it's not a good way to start a trip.

You might want to rethink Milan to CT. I agree, you are arriving in Milan too late to go anywhere else, and will be "stuck" in Milan the first day, so I wouldn't count it as one day in Italy.

Since your itinerary is more Florence/Tuscany based, It might be a better idea to go from Milan to Florence on a high speed train that will only take a little over a hour and a half, with only two stops, one being Bologna (don't get off the train). I'm not sure why you would choose Florence, but it's your trip. CT is more accesible from Florence than from Milan. You cannot have a car in Florence. Only someone with resident license plates are allowed, and there are cameras everywhere to detect non-resident license plates. And you will get a ticket in the mail, if not a charge on your credit card. The ticket might not come for months, during which time the amount will keep going up, even though you didn't yet receive the ticket. And if you don't pay, they will put a USA credit collection agency on you. No cars in Florence. It's doable, if you know precisely which streets you can drive on. It's doable, if you give your hotel information about your car, and they forward it to the police in time, but there is basically no driving in Florence. You can go more towards the outskirts by train or taxi, and pick up and return a car there, otherwise, you might wind up with major, major tickets. I've known someone who just got lost trying to find her way around, and kept circling and circling down ZTL streets trying to find it, and wound up with close to a thousand dollars in tickets just trying to find her hotel.

Like many places in Italy, no cars allowed in the center of Siena either, unless you are a resident. You have to park outside of the center, and take a significant walk into town. For that, you might just as well take the train from Florence, rather than just leave your car parked in the outer parts of Siena for two days. It's a fairly decent walk from the train station to the historic center, much of it uphill, but you'd have the same problem with a car.

Driving through rural Tuscany requires a car that you should pick up and drop off at carefully selected places, and know how to get out of town without getting a photographically generated ticket. Florence would be your base.

I just noted that you said you are staying at the Sheraton in Siena. Fatal mistake to your trip. Absolutely fatal. You have to remember that there are historic centers of cities, and that is what you go to these cities to see. The physical boundaries, due to suburban growth, can expand the boundaries of a city like Siena for miles. Piazza del Campo is the historic center of Siena, and it's where people go there to be. The Sheraton is almost an hour walk away from anywhere you would want to be in Siena. It's for corporate meetings, and things like that. You won't even be able to find your way to historic Siena from there. The way is so complicated that your eyes, glued to your GPS won't even help you. Don't go to Siena if you are staying in the Sheraton. If you are going to Siena, you have to stay in Siena proper, not in an outer suburb, on the other side of a major freeway, an hour away from Siena. This would be the biggest mistake of your whole itinerary. When you get to the Sheraton in Siena, you will be the most disappointed traveler in all of Italy. It is just not possible to walk from the Sheraton to the part of Siena you want to see.

If you have a car, I guess you can travel from the Sheraton Siena to actual Siena, but the Sheraton Siena is a half an hour drive away from Siena, and there are at least, minimum, 25 different street and highways turns, and no possibility you will not be lost because the streets don't have signs. If you walk outside of the Sheraton Siena you are basically on something like a highway, almost an hour walk away from Siena. Don't do it.
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Old Mar 12, 18, 5:31 pm
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I wouldn't do this. For a week long trip, I'd pick one or two places and that's it. Pick a town in Cinque Terre and stay there for 3 nights, then pick another city (or town) with good connectivity to Milan and spend the remainder there. I don't see that you've mentioned when you're going, but that 2nd city/town could be somewhere with an annual event going on or something like that. You already have travel to/from MXP that costs you almost 3 days of this trip (depending on whether you overnight on arrival and the night before departure).

Rail passes tend not to be economical in Italy, but you can figure this out for yourself - once you land on an itinerary, price out individual rail trips at trenitalia.com and see if it's cheaper than buying a rail pass (factor in any seat reservation fees the rail pass requires).
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Old Mar 12, 18, 5:56 pm
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A few other kindly meant clarifications. No one has “been” to Florence, or Rome, or for that matter, Venice, Torino, Naples. If you live in complex cities like these, in six months you will still only be scratching their ssurface. Siena’s historic center, the only part you want to see, is very small. While I’m a proponent of staying in one place, or at least having a base, what you want to see in Siena can be accomplished on an ambitious day trip from Florence, provided that the four of you are at least average walkers. Also keep in mind that people in Siena do not have much of a reputation for being friendly to tourists. In fact, they are known for not even being able to get along with each other. Since your trip seems Tuscan focused, think about just staying in Florence and make Siena a day trip.
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Old Mar 13, 18, 1:34 am
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For a dose of reality about training from Malpensa to CT - go to Acquista il biglietto con le nostre offerte - Trenitalia and put in Malpensa T1 to La Spezia - you'll see that the time is on the order of 4.5 to 5 hours at best (and there are routes that will be 7 hours). Similar times for the reverse. Comparatively, it's 3 hours to La Spezia by car and a 20 minute train ride. Shorter ride if you stop between Genoa and CT and train in from there.

That said, I think the Perche's advice to flip it makes a lot of sense if you're set on visiting CT. Take the train to Firenze from MXP. If you decide to stay in Florence and day trip it to the Tuscan "country" (not really as you'd need a car for the nooks and crannies but Siena is accessible by train 90 minutes) fine. If you want to base yourself in the countryside and drive around get a car. I agree with Perche's comments about the ZTL - you need to be careful - but there are waivers for them. You get a waiver driving in or out if you are staying in a hotel - you just need to call the hotel with your plate # and they will call the # into the database so that you don't get dinged. You have to leave the car parked while you are there - no driving around. If you want to exit, I am sure the car rental company can get you out (in fact, the cameras are on the inbound side so leaving isn't really an issue). Worst comes to worst, take a taxi from the train station to the airport and pick up the rental car there.

Once you do your Tuscany thing you can either drive/train to La Spezia (drop the car there) and then take a train into CT (20-30 minutes). Spend your time in CT, have a nice lunch day of departure and take a 3-4PM train back to MXP arriving around 9PM. Get a good nights sleep and roll into the terminal to leave. A 5 hour train ride with nothing to do at the end of a trip is pleasant and relaxing - with friends there's lots to talk about and time will pass fast - at the beginning of a trip it's frustratingly slow and boring.

BTW - I hope now its clear that getting in/out of CT isn't trivial. It takes time and effort and if you take that time and effort it makes sense to slow down and spend some time there. It's not a hit-and-run destination for staying. If you want to do the hit-and-run then don't bother to stay there at all - daytrip it and stay nearby (La Spezia or north of CT) train in/out - or better take the boat in from La Spezia and train out - the views from the boat are excellent if the weather is good.
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Last edited by JMN57; Mar 13, 18 at 1:46 am
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Old Mar 13, 18, 8:46 am
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Originally Posted by JMN57 View Post
BTW - I hope now its clear that getting in/out of CT isn't trivial.
To further enforce this point, when my girlfriend (now wife) did our backpacking tour in 2010, we were surprised at how long the train took to get from the CT to Florence SMN. I think it took a half day on the train. We also stayed 4 nights in Vernazza, which we didnt think was enough time to see all we wanted.

The CT was wonderful, and I highly recommend experiencing it. I say 3 days minimum, but you havent really said what you want to go there for? The towns are beautiful, but small. The main hike/path is fairly easy, but time consuming. The higher altitude paths are moderate to difficult, and you need to do some research on them before hiking. We rented kayaks for an afternoon in Vernazza, swam in the cliffs/harbour at Manarola (i think thats the one with the great swim area), and hiked to each town individually. If you dont want the outdoors fun, maybe you dont need as much time. But its just difficult enough to get to that you should spend the time there. That way you can get gelato in Vernazza at Gelateria il Porticciolo multiple times.

Also, dont forget that the CT was devastated by flooding and slides in 2014.

In regards to Florence and Siena, I agree, why spend time in Florence if you have so many other places to see? I actually recommend staying somewhere smaller outside of the main cities, if you want a better experience, but it requires driving significant amounts. However, I enjoy driving through Tuscany, if its not on the autostrada. Ive stayed in Montepulciano (Val D'Orcia region) and near Panzano (Chianti), and having a car allows you to set a schedule that you want. Florence is about a 2 hour drive to Montepulciano, so keep that in mind. Panzano to Siena was about 45 minutes on back roads. If you have a car, get an international phone plan or a wifi hot spot. It makes driving rural less stressful if you have navigation.

Heres what I think gets you more in the timeframe, with a better use of time in tuscany:
Mon Arrive Milan 6 pm, stay overnight
Tue Cinque Terre; train from Milan AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE (get to hike some, eat some, relax some)
Wed Cinque Terre (do an activity other than just walking between towns, at least take the ferry between them!)
Thu train from CT to Florence (2.5 to 3 hours). Dont stop in Pisa. Pick up car at Firenze SMN, drive to spot in Rural-ish tuscany. (Do this at your leisure, but youve only had one day in the CT!)
Fri explore rural tuscany near town you lodge in.
Sat day trip to Siena. Siena Cathedral is beautiful, and a worthy contender vs Pisa or Florence Cathedrals.
Sun visit other rural tuscan area you would like.
Mon Explore Florence in morning. store baggage at SMN. train from Florence, preferentially late. 3 hour train Florence SMN to MXP. Grab dinner in Milan.
Tue MXP-LAX 12 pm flight, stay at Sheraton Milan Airport

You have 2 nights in Milan, which is unfortunate but kinda unavoidable, unless you like to travel ragged (i sometimes do).
Youll have 2 nights/1.5 days in the CT. This goes against my earlier recommendation, and is too short in my opinion.
4 nights in Tuscany/3 full days. You could move one of these days to the CT, it just depends on what you want from the trip.

Tuscany is a big area, with lots to explore outside of Florence. Siena is worth a full day (for your trip), and there are many smaller towns/cities that are worth a half day at least. You may also want to toss in a stop at a vineyard or three. These lead me to say spend less time in the CT, more time in Tuscany. But if you want to hike and eat better seafood, spend more in the CT. You havent stated what you and your 3 friends like to do, or have as the primary point of the trip.

Asking where to stay in Tuscany is another thread, that has been discussed in too many threads to count.
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Old Mar 13, 18, 9:40 am
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Originally Posted by Akcaver View Post
To further enforce this point, when my girlfriend (now wife) did our backpacking tour in 2010, we were surprised at how long the train took to get from the CT to Florence SMN. I think it took a half day on the train. We also stayed 4 nights in Vernazza, which we didnt think was enough time to see all we wanted.

Wed Cinque Terre (do an activity other than just walking between towns, at least take the ferry between them!)
Thu train from CT to Florence (2.5 to 3 hours). Dont stop in Pisa. Pick up car at Firenze SMN, drive to spot in Rural-ish tuscany. (Do this at your leisure, but youve only had one day in the CT!)


You havent stated what you and your 3 friends like to do, or have as the primary point of the trip.

Asking where to stay in Tuscany is another thread, that has been discussed in too many threads to count.
Couple of points

1) More data that illustrates that it just takes time to get into CT. To put it in perspective, I have a house in Pontremoli (I am there right now) and it is 33 mi/55 km to Riomaggiore. Not far but an hour by car or train (if I catch the right train/connection in La Spezia). I'm close enough that I can go for lunch but the train takes the same time as to Parma or Pisa.

2) I'd recommend doing CT after Tuscany as Perche proposed. I think it's more efficient. But if you do go to CT first and then want to go to the Tuscan countryside, I would recommend you DO NOT train to Firenze. What's the point of taking a train into a busy, crowded city to pick up a car and drive out. If you pick the right trains you can get from Vernazza to Viareggio in an hour and there are a number of car rental companies there. From Viareggio train station it's minutes to the autostrada . Get a car there and its two hours to Siena. You avoid Florence, ZTL, traffic. You'll be sipping on a drink in Siena instead of sitting in traffic.

3) do tell what your interests are. I think a lot of people with knowledge hold back because they know what they like but are smart enough to realize that their preferences aren't others. I know I don't want to sound like an a** telling people what to do. I have no idea what OP would like and why they are going to those areas. Do you want to hike CT or do you want to have a nice meal, sit and have an aperitivo and watch the sunset? Why Tuscan countryside? Vineyards? History/towns/architecture?
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