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First time in Italy 2013

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I am in the middle of planning our trip to Italy and am somewhat overwhelmed by the many things to see and do. We will be comming from the Lake Constance area in Germany on the 4th of June plan on driving down through St Gallen, Lichtenstein to the Lake Como Area where we are thinking of staying for a few nights. From there it gets confusing as we would like to see Cinque Terre, Tuscany and Venice before driving back to Munich on June 17. Is this enough time to do all that I have mentioned? Any timelines, routes and suggestions would be much appreciated. Also we are flexible with the car vs train out of Germany and could fly out of Venice. We love small simple accommodation and are wondering if we should prebook all our hotels or if we can find once we arrive? Thanks for any advice!

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    You should definitely prebook all your accommodations - unless you hae unlimited budgets and/or are very willing to be extremely flexible about amenities. Others who prebook will have already snapped up the decent places at more moderate prices.

    If I understand you will get to Lake Como on June 5 and want to arrive back in Munich on June 17 - so you have 11 days to see Lake Como, Cinque Terre, Tuscany and Venice - so 2 days per place plus time to travel between them.

    This is OK for a quick look at the Lake and CT, gives you very limited time in Tuscany (what town are you planning on seeing - Florence or a smaller one) and 2 in Venice (so just a quick glimpse). In that time I would visit 2 or at most 3 places - but if you like to move very quickly it can be done). But you won;t have much time anyplace and will be rushing a lot.

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    There really isn't a way to intelligently answer your question about whether a week to 10 days is long enough to enjoy the Italian destinations you have mentioned without knowing what you would enjoy about being in them, what you have in mind. Some people like to drive through Tuscany as a loop and its all about the scenery. Others want to stay there for days visiting towns and wineries. Likewise, Lago di Como is a gorgeous lunch stop or romantic evening for some, or Venice is a one'day cruise stop, while others feel they are not doing a city or a lake "justice" in a day or two. Some are jazzed to be in the car almost every day, off to a new destination. Others feel run ragged.

    Assuming you are traveling with an internet connection, you needn't pre-book accommodations in June in the places you've mentioned, with the possible exception of Venice. But since that is likely to be your last stop in Italy, then book it now with a good cancellation policy so you can change your mind if you like. For the Italian Riviera I suggest you aim for a town near but not actually in le Cinque Terre, since parking in the le Cinque Terre villages can be quite difficult to find on short notice. Visit the villages by train, boat or hike in.

    If you use a website like booking.com, you can find last minute availability and make a confirmed booking over the web, reading reviews and making sure the hotel has amenities like parking, wi-fi, air con, if you need it. In June, there is plenty of well-reviewed empty accommodation in all the places you've mentioned, and some of the places you mentioned are not much fun to be in if it is pouring rain, so I wouldn't lock myself into much in early June with a car.

    If you have a chance to drive back through the Dolomiti in dry clear weather, they are spectacular, but it is mountain driving, and therefore not speed driving. And you do need to check the weather right up until the last moment to be sure the drive up there is worth it.

    You should make sure that any time you try to book a hotel in a city that it is located outside any ZTL (zona traffico limitato, or restricted area). Entering those off'limits areas without a locally issued permit (impossible to obtain in advance) can get your license plate photographed and your address will be tracked down so you can be sent a hefty fine.

    Italy is a nice and mostly beautiful place in June. If you stay out of the big cities with the car, it can be fun and rewarding to go almost anywhere in Italy. So you might want to make a plan based on what attracts you taking this trip, whether that is lots of relaxation, ticking off touristic wows, or observing Italian culture, or putting the emphasis on adventure.

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    If you need to prebook accommodations depends on a couple of things:

    1) how flexible your budget it
    2) if you can live without specific amenities (I won;t take anyplace without AC, which is quite few modest places, but you might not need it)
    3) if you don;t mind spending part of your limited vacation time searching (online and literally) for places to stay

    I have a friend who usually travels without reservations after the first couple of nights, but she is semi-retired and has unlimited time - and although she prefers modest lodgings - she can up her budget to whatever is available if necessary

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    Thanks for the helpful information! After reading the breakdown in days we see it is far too rushed. Our idea was to get a glimpse of Italy without rushing from city to city. We want to experience the culture and yet feel the simplicity so I am thinking it is better to omit Tuscany and visit Cinque Terre and Venice stopping briefly in the Lake Como area. Because we will have a car what are the best areas to stay to avoid hefty parking fees. Is Mestre a good option outside of Venice and is the train a good option to travel back and forth?

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