Italy itinerary - does this work?

Planning my first trip to Italy…We have to be in Nice for a few days first, and we are flying in and out of Nice.
I travel with wine luggage/boxes, so a car seems to be the easiest way to transport those, especially when full. (We’ve taken them on trains before, but a bit of a hassle/risk.)

Not sure yet where we are staying in Tuscany or Piedmont, and I’m busy reading all the good info already posted. Planning to stay in 1 place in Tuscany and do day trips to Florence, wineries, Siena, etc. For our Piedmont visit, it’s mostly wine-centric, so leaning towards staying in La Morra or Alba. I have a DD, so driving and winery visits are not an issue for us.

Would appreciate any feedback on the itinerary, suggested driving routes, or good stopping points along the way (esp. on the longer routes) for food, magnificent scenery, or other “must-see” spots.

Fri Arrive in Nice 4 nights in Nice
Tue Drive rental car to somewhere (?) in Tuscany 5 nights in Tuscany
Sun Drive to La Spezia 2 nights in La Spezia
Tue Drive La Spezia → Piedmont 4 nights in Piedmont
Sat Drive back to Nice 1 night in Nice
Sun Fly from Nice → US

Thanks in advance!

Why drive back to Nice, wouldn’t returning from Milan mean less of a drive at the end?

Yes, it would be less of a drive, but already have plane tickets out of Nice.

Edited for failure to drink coffee before posting first thing in the morning.

I’m with Barry on not returning to Nice and flying out of Milan. But you already have your tickets. Too bad.

Drop off fees for a rental car from France to Italy can be extensive. At least you will avoid that. Just got back from Nice. I can tell you the rental car experience at the airport was hell. Took me 2 hours to get my car even though I am Hertz Pres club. Car was ready and waiting I just could not get the keys and contract. This was mainly due to the fact they basically close at 6PM and the staff that manages the cars after that time really could care less.

That being said a couple of dining suggestions. In the Nice area really enjoyed amazing views of St Paul de Vence from the restaurant. I ate there twice. Great list and food. Michelin 1*

In Florence. Do not miss this is raved about here and it deserves all the praise it gets and more

If you are going to drive in Florence you really have to be careful of the restricted areas and streets. These are areas where only taxis are allowed and they are very difficult to figure out. We only rented a car for 1 day. Pulled it up to the front door of our hotel thinking that was OK… It is 20 meters off the main street along the river. Well that is a taxi only area and the camera grabbed our plate. Luckily the doorman and the hotel realized this and was able to fix it by submitting something to the city. (hopefully). One of our taxi drivers said she met a Canadian couple that racked up 2000 euros in fines. [wow.gif]



Just returned from a few weeks in Italy where we flew in and out of Florence. We rented a car in Florence and had a villa outside Greve in Chianti. I would say having a car in Tuscany is a must. We did many day trips to wineries (Felsina, Castello Vicchiomaggio, and Antinori (just for the architecture), olive oil producers, small cities, and hot springs. Greve was a great home base; there was a point that I was watching otters from a bridge at sunset, with some great strawberry gelato, next to a sign pointing to the Wine Lovers Academy, all while admiring my awesome family. Little towns we visited and loved included Cortona, Montefioralle, Lamole, Pitigliano, San Gimignano, and Sorano. We skipped Siena and instead went to Florence for the big city and culture. I would warn you that everything takes longer to drive to than it would seem by distances and maps. It seemed thirty miles in any direction was about a two hour drive on tiny country roads.

On a previous trip, I flew into Nice and took a train to La Spezia and hiked Cinque Terre. From there we went to Lucca and Pisa (and on to Turin, Milan, Verona, Balzano, and backpacking in the Dolomites). I wouldn’t go back to La Spezia, Cinque Terra, or Pisa–but Lucca is a must. In environmental theory it’s called ‘the tragedy of the commons’, but in Italy it’s called ‘the tragedy of the Rick Steves and too many Americans’.

Your trip sound very achievable. Nice had one of the nicest farmers markets I’ve ever seen and was lovey–much nicer than La Spezia. We drove from Tuscany all the way down to Amalfi, turned our rental car in at Salerno and just relied on the ferry in bus on the Amalfi Coast and then took the fast train back to Florence for our flight out. I wouldn’t go to La Spezia–but other than that, it sounds like a great trip.

La Spezia is definitely just a place to drop the luggage/car, day trip into Cinque Terra and Lucca via train. Don’t drive

Yes, Cinque Terra is very crowed because initially Rick Steves but also cruise ships stop in La Spezia now. It gets SLAMMED but it’s a must see.

if you’re into trail hiking, CT has the best views and it’s not a zoo once you’re out between Monterosso and Manarola

Hi Sally
If wanting to go to Tuscany, I’d suggest northern Tuscany to ease the effort of driving (and that might mean skipping Siena - not a huge loss IMO). Lucca certainly has great interest (and a wonderful wine shop with cellar). Carrara something different, being the source of some very famous marble. Pisa is both an appalling tourist trap (immediately around the field of miracles and from there to the two train stations) AND an under the radar gem… mass tourism only sees it as a half day trip, which means the city itself is pleasingly normal as the hordes don’t have the time / can’t be bothered!

La Spezia does have a fanstastic early evening passeggiata, a most wonderfully life-affirming stroll taking in Italians catching up with friends, family and news/gossip. Apart from that it’s a pretty humdrum place (but that can be good in itself). It makes easy access to the cinque terre, but perhaps Levanto or even Monterosso might make better bases but still accessible by car. Do consider fitting this in as a first stop as it might be logistically better in avoiding starting with the longest possible car leg. Last I heard the easiest leg of the 5terre coast walks was out (Lovers walk from Riomaggiore to Manarola). Worth checking on that.

Easier to stay in La Morra than Alba IMO, but I will also recommend the apartments (with pool and gardens) Agriturismo Valdispinso in Santa Vittoria d’Alba. It’s a very short drive to La Morra (via Verduno) and there are places to eat and easy shopping there. If staying in La Morra, you should be able to organise one morning or afternoon to give the DD a break from driving, and either walk along the side of the road to visit wineries, or even walk straight through the vineyards to get there. The walking is excellent and shared ownership => open access!

Timing wise, it’s much more reasonable than many initial plans. 4 days in the Langhe is fine and 5 days to ‘get a feel for part of Tuscany’ is also good. I’d just suggest being slightly less ambitious on the day trips, especially if you follow your original plan - that driving may mean you want a very easy day the day after arriving. I’d say 3 days trips in 5 days should be a max to aim for (maybe prep for 3-4 day trips and if it ends up being 2 because you simply like being where you are, then that is cool).

One suggestion that I’ve NOT actually experienced myself, but have planned it as an option a couple of times - the Hanbury gardens on the coast road just into Italy. This might make a nice option for a stretch of the legs on the outward or homeward legs - a pleasing way to break the journey in amongst nature.

I hope this helps

This board recommended Ristorante Trattoria Della Posta several years ago. A very elegant restaurant that looks like it was a house. and

We loved it.

Joe - yes, already set on the airfare…thanks though!

George, Josh, Brig, Ian, and Dan - thanks for your input! This is very helpful! Definitely taking the train and not driving into Florence! La Spezia is intended as a base for CT, though now considering Levanto, per Ian’s suggestion. Will check out Greve for our base in Tuscany. Lucca keeps popping up as a place to definitely go visit - will look into that! Thanks to all for the recommendations, and Dan, will look into reservations for Trattoria Della Posta! Thanks, George, for the dining suggestions - will check those out as well!

Will report back!

Much appreciated!


Some good choices for food in Piedmont.

If you have a car and like stunning food with stunning views (at a cost) the Chevre d’Or is a Michelin two star in the village of Eze near Nice. Worth it to drive the Moyen Corniche
It’s an easy, short train ride to Monaco for the sights (the castle is great) and Joel Robuchon’s restaurant is fabulous.
In Nice proprer, there is L’Aromate (good), Flaveur (better) and Jan (South African cuisine), all Michelin 1 stars. Jan for most might get the edge over Flaveur but I preferred the menu at Flaveur at the time (less meat oriented).
For seafood, Cafe de Turin is great and casual.

I had my 60th birthday dinner at Trattoria della Posta in Piemonte, and it was superb. Bovio was also fabulous. I stayed in La Morra at Corte Gondina twice and can recommend it (although much, much better if you aren’t in the very small entry level rooms).

Unlike Josh, I found Lucca to be distinctly less interesting that Cinque Terre or Pisa. I’ve been to Cinque Terre multiple times, Lucca only once. (Pisa is good for a 90 minutes stop on your way just to see the tower; best to park at a distance and take a cab to get close if it’s a busy time of year, but the tower and the square it’s on is way cool). However, they are very crowded (and Lucca wasn’t when I was there) I found Cinque Terre hiking (between Vernazza and Monte Rosso) to be much harder than advertised, due to the steepness of the steps. The easiest walk is between Riomaggiore and Manarola. My favorite place was lunch in Vernazza.

If you want Cinque Terre, consider MonteRosso Al Mare as your base, you can drive and park in the town (new part), and you will be in CT instead of adjacent to it.

I loved Sienna as a base to explore Tuscany, easy train to Florence, and on the way to Montalcino. Where to taste depends on what you like. I had a great tour at Biondi Santi, and at Valdicava (even though the latter is a touch modern for my taste). I preferred tasting in Montalcino to Montepulciano or Chianti because the wines are more rarefied. Chianti is easy to come by at dinner for a low price.

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I would put in a vote for more time in Lucca, less time in La Spezia and Cinque Terre.

The Cinque Terre is sort of sad in comparison to it’s cliff hugging cousin the Amalfi coast which I highly recommend by the way. We spent a couple nights in Cinque Terre and found it super touristy, dirty and the trails very over crowded. The capping moment was when an American couple was walking to the train and I overheard her say “well Rick Steves and I certainly don’t share the same views.” As she held a Rick Steves guidebook.

La Spezia is fine, but it’s the home of the Italian Navy and has military base overtones.

We found Lucca magical and worth at least a night or two.

Your results may vary, it it’s hard to not enjoy Italy. Have fun.

When are you going?

While I was in Cinque Terre last in 2011, it was mid October, weather was gorgeous, and while there were plenty of people, nowheres as oppressive as others have reported.

I think the problem with Rick Steves wasn’t his taste, but rather his success. The guides tempted people away from ‘The big 3’, but now his second and third level favourites are now grossly over-touristed and that does take significant charm away from them. That lady is as much the problem as Rick Steves is.

Still the Cinque Terre does offer some under-touristed walks, directly up the hills, rather than the famed 4 that link the 5 villages along the coast. Those walks are tougher, not difficult per se, just steep enough to give your calves and lungs a good workout. Tougher than the Monterosso al Mare - Vernazza walk for sure. The upside is those higher paths are sparsely populated, unlike the conveyor belt feeling that the coastal walks can give.

No argument from me of Amalfi coast vs. Cinque Terre, I’ve always preferred to wide range of walks on the Amalfi Coast, with many options to tweak a route, and some where you may not encounter another soul in an hour’s walking. That’s not to say Cinque Terre doesn’t have appeal, and I still think highly of the overall experience. Those coastal paths are not however no longer what Rick Steves would have recommended.

Well said.

Sorry, been out of pocket for several days…

Thanks, Gary, Barry and Michael for the recommendations and the input on Lucca and CT. I wonder if we can fit in both…

Barry - we are going the first half of Sept. Also appreciate the Nice info! Monaco is on the list!

Ian and Michael - appreciate the comments on the hikes…My DD is also a photographer, so those higher walks may be just the thing for him!

Thanks again, all!

Nice overview of the CT trail

Excellent, thanks, Brig!

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