Hello Ken and welcome!
I'll try to help you as much as I can
>We are starting in Rome for 4 nights then by train to Florence for 5
>nights and picking up a car on our last day in Florence and off to
>the reviera for 4 nights staying in Portovenere. I am concerned that
>this maybe too long here and would appreciate comments.
Portovenere is nice and neat, full of little shops and restaurant. It has a
little beach and many boat cruises depart from there. I'd say 4 days are a
little long time to spend there, for several reasons:
a)in June the sea won't be that warm to swim a lot, so you probably won't
enjoy the beach life
b)if you want to go around you have to drive up to La Spezia (10 km, narrow
road), cross the town to get the major routes into Cinque Terre, Liguria
and Tuscany. You can of course tour the Cinque Terre by boat, but it's not
I'd suggest you spend 2 nights in Portovenere and 2 nights in another place
up there, like Monterosso, Levanto or Bonassola.
>reveria we will drive to Bellagio in the lakes area for 3 nights.
>We have scheduled our stay in the Villa Serbelloni but have concerns
>that by staying here it will be difficult to drive around the other
>lakes and also that the Serbelloni may be too formal etc.
Serbelloni is the top hotel there, with Bentleys and Porsches parked outside.
I gave a look inside while visiting an art exhibition and I must say I'd
like to test it! The grounds and the pool overlooking the lake are faboulous.
I anyway guess they are formal in service but they are used to guests
walking around in shorts and sandals, as long as they look suitable :-)
Bellagio has frequent ferry service connecting the two opposite sides of
the lake, so you won't find any problem going around. Just one suggestion:
if you need a fast route to/from Bellagio you have to take the eastern
branch of the lake, as it's only a handful of kms of local route, narrow
and winding, from Lecco, where you can take many fast roads to anywhere.
The western branch, coming up from Como, is very scenic but longer and
requiring careful driving.
>Have read a little about the train system and would like to hear of
>your experiences and suggestions.
I'm relpying to another message about train system later.
Have a nice day.