Monday, April 20, 2009

Italy Cruise Week: Before You Set Sail

A few weeks ago I was approached by a friend who is headed to Italy for the first time.  She and her family (including four children under 12) will be cruising the Mediterranean, and she wanted to know what I recommend with only one day in each of her Italian ports of call.  They also wanted to stay away from the packaged excursions promoted by the tour company. 

Cruising is a great way to see the beautiful Mediterranean and coastal life in Italy.  However, many cruisers are surprised that their ports of call are so far from the major cities they want to visit (Rome and Florence particularly).  If you are like my friend and her family, you may want to avoid the prepackaged cruise line excursions, too.  That doesn’t mean, though, that you have to miss the wonders that Italy has to offer.  You’ll just need to do a little planning before you go. 

Cruise Week Itinerary:
  • Monday:  General Information Before You Set Sail
  • Tuesday:  Venice
  • Wednesday:  Naples
  • Thursday:  Civitavecchia (Rome)
  • Friday:  Livorno (Florence/Pisa)
A few notes before you set sail...

Traveling with Children and Teens
I think it is always a good idea to narrow the scope of a trip like this for kids.  Otherwise they end up seeing a lot of disjointed things -- art and buildings and things in museums -- that don't make a lot of sense given their limited understanding of world history. 

In Italy there are two great themes:  Ancient Italy or Renaissance Italy.  I focused two days on Ancient Italy and two on Renaissance Italy.  Before you go, I would highly suggest doing some reading and watching movies so that they have a framework for what they are about to experience. 

I have blogged about traveling with children and teens several times:
Rome with Teens on Deliciousbaby.com
Italy for Kids: Reading List

My Suggestions:
Given that, the suggestions I will make this week are not just for families traveling with children.  These are locations and sites which are of interest to people of all ages. 

And I have not listed everything you could possibly do in each city.  There are plenty of guidebooks out there for that.  I included what I would do if I had ONE day in each place.  I also threw in a few of my favorite restaurants and gelato shops as suggestions, too.

Those of you who choose a cruise to Italy do so for the pace that a cruise offers.  Don't rush.  If you only make it to two of the sites in a particular city, great!  That means you have been leisurely and have enjoyed your time. And THAT is a very Italian way to live! 

Maps:
I've created a Google Map with all of the sites mentioned this week -- and then some!


View Cruise Week: Italy in a larger map

Resources:
In each posting, I've also included other resources which may be helpful in your trip planning.  Please feel free to suggest others in the comments, too! 

Now, to get this started right, here are the first two resources you may want to know about...
  • Trains in Italy: http://www.trenitalia.com  To get from the primary ports of call to Rome and Florence, taking the train may be your most efficient mode of transportation. The site is in both English and in Italian.  You can check schedules between your departures.  This is for the trains between cities, not public transportation within cities. 
  • Tours and Guides: I have lots of contacts in Italy and work with a really good travel company that only does work in Italy.  You might want to consider hiring a licensed guide for the days in Naples, Rome, and/or Florence.  A guide can help make sense of the ancient ruins and tell some of the fascinating stories which give you and the children a context for the trip.  More on that to come...
  • At Your Service: Surviving a Mediterranean Cruise:  Cruise Critic has some great nuts-and-bolts tips for cruising the Med including strategies for how to use your days at sea.  Check them out!

All right!  We are ready to set sail!  
Tomorrow:  Venice...

1 comment:

Widds said...

Ang - what a great series! One of the reasons I've never wanted to do a cruise is because of being locked into shore excursions run by the cruise company. You're offering an incredibly valuable service by giving people advice about how to be "independently-minded cruisers."
Maybe a cruise should be our next New Years adventure....

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