We are planning our trip to Italy for next spring with one week in Rome and the other week split between Florence and Venice. Before we get to Venice, we are thinking we'd like to stay in Florence and maybe day trip to Pisa from there. We would love to input as to the AC hotel in Florence, or should we stay at another chain (sacrilege). Or how about staying in Milan, and using that as a central location for a few day trips? We won't be renting a car so will need easy access to trains. Advice needed please.
Good news...There are at least two (Pluto and the Prof) who seem to know Italy like I know Pennsylvania. They are excellent resources for your inquiry. Plus..there are many more on here that come out of the woodwork with great advice.
PS.. JerryCoin and Mikiegfla are also quite knowledgable about Italy..didn't want to leave them out.
I'm really not very knowledgeable on Italy, but now that I belong to this travel forum, I will be taking good notes on my upcoming trip so that I can bring back some good info to share. I am actually very ignorant by comparison to some regarding Toscana, and will be relying heavily on my sister and brother-in-law's knowledge and experience on our upcoming trip. ProfChiara and Newhiltonemember are both veritable treasure troves of information on these locales. In fact, to Herb here, please do a search in discussions for Venezia or Boscolo. In a post with Boscolo Venezia in the title, if you read way down, newhiltonmember has posted some information on Italy that will literally blow your socks off. If you can't find it, let me know. It's really worth a look.
I would strongly urge you either to spend the whole week in Rome or choose and spend the whole week in Venice or Florence. I have never stayed at the AC in Florence, although I have spent much time there. I am admittedly tired of Florence even though it wowed me on its first and second visits. Then for reasons I can't understand it got old. By contrast I hated both Rome and Venice on my first trips as a grad student and (relatively) young professor. But both cities have only grown on me. It is very easy to do in Rome and I have stayed at two fantastic Marriotts there (the Grand Flora is the grande dame; the Central Park, not central, is, however easily accessible to public transport, has more comfortable beds, is way cheaper and has balconies looking over Vatican City and the big park. But of all big Italian cities Venice has become the one I return to despite my first experience. I'm going there in about 6 weeks on points at the Boscolo. I would never recommend staying at the Venice CY airport except before an early flight (it's literally right around the corner from the airport -- you can walk), despite the niceness of the staff. But it's at least a half hour into the main isles of Venice. If you can't stay at the Boscolo, I highly recommend Best Western Sant' Elena near the Giardini and not far from San Marco (or the Lido, or Burano or Murano).
Milano does not do it for me. I've been there three times and never plan to go back. I saw what I wanted to see, left, and was not too impressed. If you're into fashion or modern Italian capitalism, it's the place to be, but I find it (with a few exceptions) utterly lacking in charm.
On a more important note, you simply cannot do all three cities in a week. Although the Italian rail system has improved, you're crossing mountains to get to Venice. So I'd say do Rome and Florence/Siena [much more interesting than Florence] or Venice/Verona/Tuscany.
PS -- I re-read your reply, so sorry for misinformation. Pisa is a day trip alone. Everything strangely is up on the hill (not central like most medieval cities) so it is easy to do in a morning or a day and there's not much else to see. If you go from Rome to Pisa then about 3 days in Siena/Tuscany it's conceivable you could do Venice as well. But it might be better, depending on your air ticket, to do it in reverse. If you have to fly out of the same airport coming and going you'll be screwed. That's why I suggested more time in one place.
If you do decide to stay in Florence, either rent a car (but get out of Florence really quickly to avoid the mopeds and the inter-city zones) or take day trips to SIena, Pienza, Chianti, Montepulciano, Montalcino, Assisi or Perugia.
I think you get the gist of what I'm saying - there is so much to be seen in each of these places that to divide them up would give you an "if it's Tuesday, I must be in Belgium experience."
I haven't stayed at the AC Hotel in Florence but the location doesn't seem too bad... closer to the sites you'll want to see than the 'chain' that I stayed at (but, my hotel was only a 10-12 minute bus ride from the center so not bad at all!). Have you checked reviews on tripadvisor.com?
I'd consider doing 5 nights in Rome, 2 in Siena then breaking your 2nd week between Florence and Venice. I loved them all.. and more!
I did Lucca and Pisa as a day trip from Florence... go to Lucca first and then onto Pisa via train . The lighting at the Pisa sites is great late in the day for your photos! Take a night train back to Florence to have dinner at 8-9pm.
Try to fly open-jaw (multi-city option on airline sites) to save from backtracking, fly into Rome and out of Venice.
Have a great trip!
All good advice here. If you don't plan to return to Italy, then you'll want to do both Venice and Florence (you'll be busy, but will have so much fun seeing everything - I like NHM's itinerary suggestion), otherwise take ProfC's advice and languish in one place or the other, as there is SO much to do and see in both areas. Venice, in addition to Venice itself, has Murano, Padova, Verona, Vicenza and even Ravenna - all places proximal to Venice which each have their own charm as well as something worth seeing. Florence is the same, as in addition to there being so much in the way of Rennaissance history and art to be enjoyed in Florence's historic center, there is also Lucca and Pisa, as well as the charm of the many other Tuscan towns mentioned by the Prof and NHM here.
In Florence, Climb the Duomo bell tower. The view is fabulous. The AC hotel was booked for our upcoming trip, so we are staying at the Hotel Maxim, a boutique hotel right in the middle of everything. It's not luxury, but well priced, clean, very comfortable and well located. Nice staff, and breakfast is included in a cheerful breakfast room. Have stayed there before. There is another hotel that looks interesting, though I've never stayed there. It's Hotel Pitti Palace, on the other side of the Arno, with views of the city and a rooftop breakfast patio, which is included in the room price, at about twice the cost of Hotel Maxim, but still reasonable, considering the view. If you'll indeed be splitting the week in Florence and Venice, then I don't know that you will need to spend a lot for hotel luxury, as you really won't have too much time to spend in the hotel. If you won't be renting a car, you won't be able to visit the countryside towns in Tuscany mentioned here, but there is enough in Florence to keep you happily occupied: Duomo, Baptistry, Galleria dell'Accademia Museum where you will see Michelangelo's David, Uffizi Museum (get reservations in advance for both museums to avoid the lines), Ponte Vecchio, and Boboli Gardens across the Arno (worth a visit and hike up the hills and ledges for a perfect city view and lovely sunset). Florence is remarkably compact and therefore easily navigable on foot, as everything is located in or near the historic center or medieval core. For dinner, ProfC suggests Oliverio's. For lunch, try Il Sasso di Dante or Vini e Vecchi Sapori.
Pisa is a worthwhile day trip, and as mentioned can easily be visited by train. Walk to Santa Maria Novella (or take a cab) and catch Trenitalia train #2 to Pisa. About an hour. I like NHM's idea of stopping in Lucca. Once you get to Pisa, you can walk to the tower/baptistry/cathedral or take the local bus.
When you get off the train in Pisa, go to the above stop to catch bus line 4.
Route map for bus line 4 from train station to Tower of Pisa.
Let us know if you have any other questions!