All three of those places are beautiful (although for me Venice itself is overrated...) You'll have a great time. Others will have a better idea of places to see, but I will comment on Italian airports, as I've been to Italy a fair number of times on both business and pleasure.
Originally Posted by danlidon
Of my travels through Italian airports, only once have I been frogmarched at gunpoint to a holding area (for the crime of carrying prescription medication - an Epipen.) That's the good news; the bad news is that Italian airport security on the whole would give JFK immigration a run for their money in the belligerent stakes.
I think it's very, very unlikely you'll receive an open hearing to the prospect of a hand inspection at, say, Roma airport. At best, they'll just ignore you, at worst they'll threaten you with an automatic weapon.
Bear in mind also that English is actually not that widely spoken in Italy; you'd do well to learn some basic Italian before going.
Another day goes under; a little bourbon will take the strain...
Close to Pisa is Lucca, a very small very old town. Photo ops at every step.
Viareggio has a nice small harbor and esplanade. Cheaper to stay here (in the off season) than Pisa.
Also, though it's a bit difficult, are the marble mountains and quarries of Carrera.
I asked this very same question a few years ago on another forum and basically the answer was the same as here (if you're sticking to those cities) -- just walk around! I found most of the cities immensely walkable (with the acception of Rome, due to smog) and there will be a multitude of things to photograph wherever you go. Initially I had not planned to go to Venice (too overrated I thought) but it ended up being my favorite city to visit. It's very easy to get stuck in the flow of tourists but if you break from the stream the rest of the streets are pretty quiet and tourist-free and great for photographs. And it's an island, a small one at that, so if you hit the open water, just turn around and go in another direction.
Getting to any of the small towns mentioned above would be a nice break from the cities as well. If you're using a car that will really help.
Finally, it's important to remember that it's not just at the airport where you'll have to deal with x-rays. A lot of the major tourist sites (ex. Colisseum) x-ray all bags before you're allowed in -- absolutely no hand inspections allowed. At least, that was the case when I was there in 2004, things may have changed since then.
My favorite thing is to go where I've never been. D. Arbus
A short bus trip from Rome will take you to Villa d'este where you will find the most magnificent fountains. Allow for at least half a day and bring plenty of film.
Before my first trip over there, I mentioned to a fellow art club member who's been there several times that I was agonizing over an itinerary. His comment was, "Don't worry -- you can't miss -- the whole country is an art museum!"
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Consider a day (or two) side trip up the Mediterranean coast from Firenze through the Cinqueterre to Portofino and Genoa. Genoa is vastly under-touristed, has plenty of attractive sights, and features lots of little hidden gems that will stop you in your tracks for potentially hours at a time. I have a friend who lives in Genoa, just a few yards from the old cathedral (the black-and-white striped Guelph cathedral, dating to the 11th century or so), and in a half-hour or so walking tour from his place we went by a little church that you'd never think to bother with from outside, but has multiple altarpieces by Reubens that look like they were painted yesterday - they simply gleam off the walls. The little towns of the Cinqueterre are terrific visits, linked by a clifftop path. Vernazza and Riomaggiore are two of the better known stops. Manarola is another one with a famous bench showing a kissing couple along the cliffside trail. You can get the local train from Genoa that stops at all of the towns, just buy a ticket that takes you to the farthest one, and you can get on and off at each stop along the way. REMEMBER to stamp your ticket at each station before you re-embark, or you'll face a hefty fine, on the spot, from the conductor.
Around Firenze, a great little day trip is up to Fiesole. Also, as mentioned by others, Pisa, Siena and Lucca are very close and worth the visit. In Florence, take time to go to the Fratelli Alinari National Museum of Photography - MNAF - http://www.mnaf.it/eng/mnaf/mnaf.html . I think when I was there it was between homes- they had closed the gallery space within their palazzo.
I agree with Venice perhaps being over-rated. I personally loved Verona and Padova (Padua) and took some of my best photos there. We hit both by train from Venice. Florence was a bit overwhelming to me, and I suspect is best enjoyed and appreciated without a camera the first time there. But I doubt you could find a town that WASN'T photo worthy, so your real problem is picking which of the thousands of potential shots you want to take.
Italy makes it easy to spend more time taking photos than taking in Italy.
I've been there. The scenery depicted on Italian product labels is a preview of what you'll see in Tuscany. The view from many of the hilltop cities will amaze you. Umbria, south of Tuscany, is a less populated area and a good base for traveling north and south.
Be warned, the autostrada (highways) are like race tracks. I found that it was best to not be looking in the rear view mirror too often; I needed a day or two to learn how to drive like the locals with my underpowered rental car.
I've been told by world travelers that Sicily is the most beautifully country they've ever visited - I didn't have time to make the southern trip, I only had 10 days to travel around.
The Italian people are very friendly and forgiving if you don't know the language, like the Dutch and Swiss people, IMHO, unlike my experience in France. Just my opinion based on my experience. Happy traveling!
"Pictures are not incidental frills to a text; they are essences of our distinctive way of knowing." Stephen J. Gould
I've heard it said that Italy has half of western Europe's great art treasures; and Florence, half of those.
Originally Posted by DWThomas
Throw a rock and you'll hit something beautiful. But you'll have to buy her a drink then.
God I love that country. I could live there I'm pretty sure---even if my half-Sicilian origins haven't enabled me yet to learn the language.
Another day goes under; a little bourbon will take the strain...