Europe Forums

Start a new topic Change Forum
Advanced search

Trip Report Italy: Lombardy, Veneto, Emile Romagna and a little bits of the lakes

Jump to last reply

I spent 9 days in Italy in July, sandwiched between a week in Slovenia and ten days in the Benelux Countries. Photos are at
www.pbase.com/annforcier/italy_emilia_romagna
www.pbase.com/annforcier/milan_bergamo_mantova
www.pbase.com/annforcier/italy__the_veneto (also contains photos from previous trips)
www.pbase.com/annforcier/italy__the_lakes_cinque_terre (also contains photos from previous trips)

I love to explore new places (like Slovenia) and I do like Northern Europe, but for me, it’s not a complete vacation if it doesn’t include Southern Europe, especially Italy. I’d been to these regions before, and had just not had enough time on previous trips to go everywhere I wanted to. Of the places I went [Trieste, Verona, Mantua, Ferrara, Lake Garda, Milano, Bergamo, Parma, and Stresa] I had been to Verona and Stresa before but wanted to see more. So after one night in Trieste, I spent four each in Verona and Milano and did day trips to the other towns.

I had gotten around Slovenia by bus, which isn’t bad, but kind of slow and the bus from Piran, Slovenia to Trieste, Italia had lousy times and connections so when I discovered you could take a taxi for 50€ I decided to do that. The taxi driver picked me up in the lobby for my ride to Trieste. Nice new Mercedes. The drive takes about 40 minutes. There is a tiny little sign with the euro flag and ‘welcome to Italia’ on either side of the road – but no border patrol at all, didn’t even slow down. As we approach the outskirts of Trieste, which is a butt ugly industrial port, the driver asks where I want to go (in Italian) and I say ‘train station” – he turns around and says, ‘you speak English! – you look Italian’. For the rest of the drive he talks non-stop, all about where have I been, where am I going after Trieste, where am I from (he went to NY 30 years ago), tells me all about Trieste and Verona, tells me he’ll drive me past the interesting places on the way to the train station. Says that now all students in Slovenia take English and either Italian or German depending on the part of the country, but when he was in school it was just English so his Italian is not good – but the Italian’s can’t even speak English, only Italian. If he had known I spoke English he probably would have kept up a running commentary the entire trip.

  • Report Abuse

    Italy Day 1: Trieste

    Hotel Columbia Via Della Geppa 18, colombia@hotelcolombia.it €65 The train station is a ten minute walk from the hotel – in a big old Italian building – not terribly charming and a bit thread bare but decent enough room with good AC and mini bar and those are the necessities since it was in the high 90s and very humid out side. Walking around felt like being in a sauna and steam bath at the same time. After cleaning up and cooling down a bit I walked back to the train station and bought my ticket to Verona for the next day. –Fortunately I knew enough to keep pushing buttons till I got a ‘promo’ fare of 19€ (base fare is 32€), unfortunately it did not accept my credit card so had to pay cash.

    At a Tabac in the station I got bus ticket to Castelo Miramar (hotel clerk had confirmed my notes that it was bus #36) – it was 2,30€ for two tickets (there and return) and the clerk indicated I should go around the side of the building – where indeed there was a bus stop with Bus 36 listed. It’s about a 15 minute ride, and there were several stops that said “miramar’ in them but I watched a couple of other people who looked like tourists, one of whom had spoken to the driver, and didn’t get off. Turns out the Castle is the last stop so it was pretty obvious. Then it’s a 15 minute hot walk along the water, pretty, but no shade, lots of people lying on the cement promenade and swimming off it.

    The castle is impressive enough from a distance and from the outside. I didn’t go in. The grounds are extensive and free so I walked around and got views from the other side, looked at the ‘lake’ (tiny and with a lot of dead fish floating in it), and the ‘little castle’ and the belvedere. The grounds and fountains (most were not running) need a little work, but it was hot and probably they don’t have as extensive a gardening staff as would be necessary to keep the place looking great. It was still worth seeing, I peeked in a couple windows but the interior looked boring so I didn’t bother. Even though it’s only about 5 miles from the center of Trieste it takes almost an hour – 15 min walk to bus, wait for bus, 15 min bus ride, walk to hotel.

    Trieste’s main square is huge and has some very impressive buildings on three sides, the sea on the fourth. But it didn’t have a lot of character. There were a few cafes lining the sides but mostly it was just a huge empty space. Nowhere to sit by the water and a busy street separating the water from the square. There are several other pretty large size squares and other impressive buildings around the main square. There is also a ‘grand canal’ – not really very grand, a few blocks long between the sea and a couple of pretty round domed churches – it’s lined with small motor boats and nice enough buildings, and a few cafes. The water front in the main part of town is pretty empty – no boats. You can see industrial stuff along the water in both directions but I didn’t see any ferry docks or pleasure boat harbors – they must be further away. So while at least the ugly industrial stuff is not in the center of town, there aren’t any pretty boats either. A block or two behind the main square is an old Roman theatre, not very large but in quite good shape.

    Overall I would say Trieste isn’t a bad city, it has some beautiful buildings and a gorgeous setting, but I can think of at least ten to fifteen other Italian cities and towns I’d visit before I’d go out of my way to come here. As I was passing through anyway it was worth the 23 hour stop over but I have no desire to come back or to linger.

    Trieste is a lot livelier in the early evening though. Lot of bars, in fact most of the outdoor seating is for bars, not restaurants. The main shopping street was very busy. There is also a very tiny ‘old town’, but it doesn’t have much character, this town is definitely about the 19th and 20th century buildings and piazzas. Trieste is very nicely lit when it gets dark – the main square, the grand canal and the areas in between were all lively and beautifully lit.

    Had dinner at a restaurant near the end of the grand canal (the part by the church, after the water ends). Turned out to be absolutely wonderful –pizza with fresh motz, fresh tomatoes and peppers.

  • Report Abuse

    Here's the link to the rest of the report (the non-Italy parts). I realize it's rather cumbersome splitting the report into sections but I wanted to make it easier for someone searching for info for Iceland or Slovenia, etc to find. http://www.fodors.com/community/europe/from-iceland-to-slovenia-a-month-across-europe-photos-and-impressions.cfm

    Italy Day 2

    Train to Verona was just under three hours, with no change. So much more pleasant than the buses in Slovenia. The Verona train station is really confusing (even though I had been there before) – it didn’t seem to have a ‘front’ door and there is a bus parking lot area between the station and the road so you can’t even see the road. I finally figured it out and dragged my bag across acres of pavement to the busy road, crossed it and then it looked fairly familiar. I had a map so followed it to the hotel without too much difficulty. It’s about a ten minute walk, not terribly pleasant but not awful either.

    Hotel Valverde is pretty much a dump. An old building but with no character. The room (#16) is weird – it’s pretty big, has a double bed and nightstands on either side and then a whole separate little room with closet and desk – and this is where the only window is, so without the lights on the main part of the room is dark. But the lights are bright enough, the AC strong, the sheets, towels and blankets look clean and the bed is comfy. But it seriously needs a paint job and some new furnishings. No mini bar and lots of tv stations but none in English, and after the first day I couldn’t even get the TV to work at all. The bathroom is also strange – very clean, newish tile – but the toilet, bidet and shower are all in one little area – well I guess you can pee while showering if you so desire. Also the hall lights are on timers and until you hit the ‘on’ button they are very dark. No lift (but only two floors above reception.) But the hotel is well located, just about ten minute walk in either direction is the train station and the Piazza Bra/Arena. Peeking in some of the other rooms they looked better. Verona is pretty pricy, especially during Opera season and this place is only 75€ a night. It wasn't a horrible place to stay but the next time I'm in Verona I'll look for something better, and if I did end up at the Valverde I'd be sure not to take room 16.


    But Verona itself is wonderful. The rest of the day I just walked around Verona –it is just as beautiful as I remembered – just stunning buildings everywhere you turn, beautiful piazzas, great windows, gorgeous bridges over a beautiful green river, hill rising just beyond it. I could live here. Lots of tourists, though maybe a little less than when I was here four years ago.

  • Report Abuse

    Many of the over 12m yachts have moved out of Italy to avoid a wealth tax this year. Given that Trieste is so close to the border they will have just moved to say Slovenia.

  • Report Abuse

    TDudette - Thanks, I do like pbase for sharing photos. I think it has a more professional feel to it then some of other sites and the photos aren't distracted from by ads and such trying to get you to purchase prints. It's pretty easy to use and reasonably priced (basic membership is I think $23 a year) although some sites I know are free.

    bilboburgler - well that explains lack of yachts or maybe even sailboats, but I didn't see any at all so there must be marinas somewhere, no?

    dedec - I really loved Ferrara, I think it would be a great place to spend three months. Can I ask what you will be doing for three months there?

  • Report Abuse

    Italy Day 3

    Mantova. I got the 8:30 train, which took 45 minutes. Less than 10 minute walk to center of town. One the ‘best’ Italian towns – several beautiful squares running into each other with gorgeous buildings, churches, clock towers, etc. Lots of palazzos. The largest includes a castle – again, one the ‘best’ castles in Italy – at least from the outside. The Ducale Palace is gigantic but 90% of it was closed due to the earthquake a few weeks back. From the outside you can’t see any damage (there is some scaffolding visible on the tower of the church that is incorporated into the Palace) but apparently there was some damage, or at least it’s unsafe. I did pay the reduced admission but you only got two rooms and one tiny garden. Oh well, at least the town looks good – there is a lot of scaffolding but it’s hard to tell if it’s all from the earthquake or just general upkeep. There was still plenty to look at that looked great.

    The setting of the town, in the middle of three ‘lakes’ is also nice, but to get the good ‘views’ you have to be on the other side of the lake – so I walked across a very long bridge in broiling sun to get the shot. Good thing I was alone, no traveling companion I know would have enjoyed that. I imagine if you had a car and could drive around at different times of day there would be some stunning views.

    I had lunch in the main piazza, under the stone arcades of the main palazzo. Then I hiked all the way to the other side of town to Palazzo Te – a reasonably interesting but very hot hike given the weather that day. I was disappointed in the exterior - a huge, boring rectangular box and though there were supposed to be lots of interesting paintings inside I was so hot and tired I just decided to eat an ‘ice’ and make the next train.

    Although this is only day 3 of Italy, it was day 12 of my trip and I do an enormous amount of walking and my feet were starting to hurt so once back in Verona I did the most un-sensible thing I could think of – went shoe shopping.

  • Report Abuse

    Italy Day 4

    Lake Garda – I took the 8:40 train to Desanzano del Garda – the train was nicely air conditioned and very fast, despite being a regionale. Got there at 9:15 and it was a cool, easy, downhill 10 minute walk to the center of town and the water. It’s really quite a nice little town, the guidebooks were wrong. The ‘old’ town section is very small but there are a few nice narrow winding streets, a little castle and a beautiful waterfront. There are much nicer places to stay on the lake but it’s not a bad town. The 9:50 boat to Sirmione was lovely – great views, cool. Too bad it only took 20 minutes.

    Sirmione! I am SO coming back here. It’s just lovely – bougainvillea, turquoise water, swans, brightly colored buildings, flowers everywhere – and a stunner of a castle spread out into the lake. There are no furnished rooms inside but there are plenty of towers to climb, walls to walk on and the views are just to die for. The whole town is small, I walked around it at least three times – you could walk out to the end of the peninsula where there are some roman ruins, but my feet are hurting and it was just so pleasant in the town itself – benches along the water, tons of restaurants and gelaterias of course.

    And after about noon it did get pretty crowded, before that it wasn’t bad so I’m guessing if you spent the night it would be wonderful early and late. There were a few stores worth shopping in (got another pocketbook and three more scarves – can’t seem to stop myself). The whole place is just so pleasant and from what I’ve read the rest of the lake is just as good with lots more cute little towns (with castles) and even better mountains the further north you go.

    The boat ride back was idyllic but the walk up the hill to the train station took twice as long as going down (I wonder why) and the train was late, it was not air conditioned and it was slow. Oh well, was still worth it.

    I had considered going to Sirmione when I was in the Veneto four years ago. In researching it all the guide books, and several Fodorites, all said it was too “touristy” – actually made it sound rather unpleasant. So I didn’t go. But since then I learned a lesson at the Blue Grotto in Capri – something I rate as one of my all-time favorite experiences but something I almost didn’t do because it was ‘too touristy’. Yes throngs of tourists can make something less pleasant than it would otherwise be, but an awful lot of the time there are lots of people in a place because the place is worth being in. I will return to Lake Garda, and Sirmione and next time I will spend the night so as to experience it with more solitude. But even if you can only spend a few hours in the middle of the day in the middle of the summer, I still recommend it.

  • Report Abuse

    Italy Day 5 - Ferrara

    For some reason I was reluctant to do this day trip – maybe it was travel fatigue, maybe the hour and a half with change train ride. But UNESCO thinks the town is worth it and I did want to see it. I’m glad I did. It’s a beautiful city, similar to Mantova in that it’s got several squares running into each other in the center, covered with drop dead gorgeous buildings: town hall, cathedral, bell towers, clock towers, castle – all within a few steps of each other. I had read it was a little like a small Bologna and it kind of is.

    I’d also read there were more bicycles here than just about anywhere and there really are a lot. The walk from the train station to the center (at least 20-25 minutes) is rather boring but clearly marked from the train station (unlike Verona where you can’t even figure out where the front door is) and it’s clearly marked: car lane, bike lane, walking lane. But in the ‘pedestrianized’ center there are bikes weaving in and out of the people – a little disconcerting.

    There was a gigantic market in the main piazzas – mostly clothing and household items. So I had to try hard to get photos without people/bikes/market stall tarps in it. Also it was partly cloudy (first day that wasn’t mostly sunny). So after wandering around the main squares (which doesn’t take that long as they are all one right after the other) and checking out some side streets I decided everyone else here was shopping so I guess I should do the same – I got yet another pocketbook (major sale, I ‘d seen a very similar one in a store for much more).

    I walked a ways out of the center to Casa Roma, a well preserved Renaissance house – I was not sure I’d want to go in but just as I was close it started to thunder so I figured it was a good place to be. It was very beautifully preserved, more of a museum than a house, but great courtyard and some beautiful frescoes. The place was essentially deserted – just one other visitor and a few staff people, and a very atmospheric place to be for the half hour very impressive thunder storm. Thunder in Italy is louder/scarier/more ominous sounding than at home.

    Back in the center of town it was dead – so quiet and calm after the morning’s hustle and bustle – all the stores closed, no people, no bikes (well hardly any). The market was over and all the trucks/tarps/stalls were gone. It was siesta. It was still drizzling a little and it was interesting to see people riding bikes holding up umbrellas. And then the sun came out on the glistening wet stones and made everything even more beautiful.

    At the train station ticket counter I just asked for ‘Verona’ and was given one ticket, only 10€ (the trip that morning from Verona had been 17€ and involved two tickets). It said “Ferrera-Padua-Vicenza-Verona”. I got the first train that said Padua but once on it I realized I had no seat number and the seats were all numbered. Fortunately it was mostly empty and I never saw a ticket checker. So in Padua I looked at the board and there were several to Verona but only one that said Regionale – had to wait 40 min and then the train took an hour and a half – total of 2 hr, 15 min. The train was air conditioned (too much, first time I’d been cold in Italy) and comfortable, just took forever. And I did see the ticket taker charge some poor woman (Asian, spoke no Italian, only a little English) 50€ cause I guess she had not got her ticket stamped.

  • Report Abuse

    Italy Day 6 Milano

    Hotel Berna is a five minute walk from Milano Centrale – and in the ‘good’ direction. I have been through Milan three times before but always just from an airport bus to the station and now I know the buses stop near the back of the station, and that area is a dump, the area to the south (front entrance), which is toward central Milan, is considerably better. Lots of hotels and some restaurants to serve them. Few skyscrapers in the surrounding area.

    Hotel Berna Milano Via Napo Torriani 18 www.hotelberna.com €99/night The hotel is wonderful – just a three star but incredibly luxurious by my standards- plush lobby with coffee/tea all day, the room is not huge but very nice, bathroom is very large and has a Jacuzzi and lots of shiny brass fixtures – nice touches like a rubber ducky and package of cookies on the pillow, mini bar is free! (just water and juice but still), big flat screen TV with several CNN channels plus BBC, free wi-fi that actually worked. And the breakfast is really the best I’ve ever had – four kinds of croissants, five kinds of rolls, several kinds of cakes, spreads, yogurts, scrambled eggs and bacon, fresh fruit (watermelon, cantaloupe, kiwi, pineapple, grapefruit), meats, cheeses, fresh squeezed carrot juice. Just incredible. Staff very helpful and nice.

    Took the metro to the duomo stop (modern, clean metro – looked better than NY, London or Rome, but probably not as nice as Paris). As you exit the metro station you are blinded by the very big, very white Duomo. (It did just undergo a nine year renovation). It is shockingly white and beautiful and fronted by a huge piazza. And right next to it is Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, on the other side of which is Piazza Scala (which compared to the other two was underwhelming). Directly across the piazza is a short passage way leading to the ‘old’ squares – most of Milan seems to be 19th century (well the duomo took several centuries to build). But there’s a small piazza with several medieval looking buildings – not terribly well maintained – few restaurants - most of Milan seems to be centered on the modern, specifically shopping.

    It was a Saturday afternoon and the streets were packed with shoppers. Via Torino, which is the major tram line street, runs south from Piazza Duomo and has a few interesting churches but is mostly stores, not upscale (think H&M and the like). The other direction is the high rent district. But following Via Torino and it’s continuation Corso di Porto Ticinese it eventually leads to the old town gates and the canal area. Sort of like Canal St Martin area in Paris. Not incredibly scenic but pleasant, lots of restaurants and cafes but clearly not the high rent district. Got a bracelet for 10€ from a street vendor which I actually really like.

    Since I ran out of steam there I took the tram back. I had bought two metro tickets so I still had the second one but I wasn’t sure they worked on trams as well (I usually research stuff like that but evidentially missed this) so I had to search around and use my pathetic Italian to find a place that sold tram tickets. The ride took a half hour but I got to see the main road around central Milan – lots of 19th century buildings that are reasonably pretty – some could use a cleaning – but also lots of less nice looking 20th century apartment and office buildings. Just as you get near Milano Centrale there’s an area of glass skyscrapers, some still being built.

  • Report Abuse

    Italy Day 6 Milano

    Hotel Berna is a five minute walk from Milano Centrale – and in the ‘good’ direction. I have been through Milan three times before but always just from an airport bus to the station and now I know the buses stop near the back of the station, and that area is a dump, the area to the south (front entrance), which is toward central Milan, is considerably better. Lots of hotels and some restaurants to serve them. Few skyscrapers in the surrounding area.

    Hotel Berna Milano Via Napo Torriani 18 www.hotelberna.com €99/night The hotel is wonderful – just a three star but incredibly luxurious by my standards- plush lobby with coffee/tea all day, the room is not huge but very nice, bathroom is very large and has a Jacuzzi and lots of shiny brass fixtures – nice touches like a rubber ducky and package of cookies on the pillow, mini bar is free! (just water and juice but still), big flat screen TV with several CNN channels plus BBC, free wi-fi that actually worked. And the breakfast is really the best I’ve ever had – four kinds of croissants, five kinds of rolls, several kinds of cakes, spreads, yogurts, scrambled eggs and bacon, fresh fruit (watermelon, cantaloupe, kiwi, pineapple, grapefruit), meats, cheeses, fresh squeezed carrot juice. Just incredible. Staff very helpful and nice.

    Took the metro to the duomo stop (modern, clean metro – looked better than NY, London or Rome, but probably not as nice as Paris). As you exit the metro station you are blinded by the very big, very white Duomo. (It did just undergo a nine year renovation). It is shockingly white and beautiful and fronted by a huge piazza. And right next to it is Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, on the other side of which is Piazza Scala (which compared to the other two was underwhelming). Directly across the piazza is a short passage way leading to the ‘old’ squares – most of Milan seems to be 19th century (well the duomo took several centuries to build). But there’s a small piazza with several medieval looking buildings – not terribly well maintained – few restaurants - most of Milan seems to be centered on the modern, specifically shopping.

    It was a Saturday afternoon and the streets were packed with shoppers. Via Torino, which is the major tram line street, runs south from Piazza Duomo and has a few interesting churches but is mostly stores, not upscale (think H&M and the like). The other direction is the high rent district. But following Via Torino and it’s continuation Corso di Porto Ticinese it eventually leads to the old town gates and the canal area. Sort of like Canal St Martin area in Paris. Not incredibly scenic but pleasant, lots of restaurants and cafes but clearly not the high rent district. Got a bracelet for 10€ from a street vendor which I actually really like.

    Since I ran out of steam there I took the tram back. I had bought two metro tickets so I still had the second one but I wasn’t sure they worked on trams as well (I usually research stuff like that but evidentially missed this) so I had to search around and use my pathetic Italian to find a place that sold tram tickets. The ride took a half hour but I got to see the main road around central Milan – lots of 19th century buildings that are reasonably pretty – some could use a cleaning – but also lots of less nice looking 20th century apartment and office buildings. Just as you get near Milano Centrale there’s an area of glass skyscrapers, some still being built.

  • Report Abuse

    Italy Day 7 Bergamo

    It was mostly cloudy when I left the hotel. What’s with that, this is Italy. But by the time I got to Bergamo it was sunny. The train ride is only 50 minutes and was a nice double decker, AC train.

    The town is wonderful. The ‘new’ town, which is the lower town, is mostly 19th C but looked quite nice. Right across from the train station is a brand new looking TI (got a map) and a bus station where I got a bus ticket (and used the WC). The 1A bus stop is right out front and goes all the way up to the Citta Alta, the old town up on the hill. I walked back down and that was not a bad walk but I’m sure glad I took the bus up. There is also a funicular but you’d have to walk about 20 minutes through the new town (though flat) to get to that.

    The old town is small – the main part you can walk across in ten minutes and is crammed with awesome buildings – churches, piazzas, palazzos, towers, loggias, etc. I’ve rarely found a town with so many beautiful buildings so close together. The back streets are narrow and winding and hilly and lined with stone buildings. (My kind of place). There’s a Rocco – mostly just a big tower and a raised park like area. You had to pay the 3€ for the museum (boring) to go up the tower, but the views were worth it.

    There was a bakery/pizzeria that looked wonderful – and was – there were lines out the door. Plus you had to order you food, get a ticket, then take it to pay, then go back to get the food – a not very efficient system. That is the system that used to be common in Italy (and Spain) but I haven’t seen it much in the past few years. But upstairs was a nice big, cool eating area. I had cherry tomato, capers and motz pizza. Wonderful.
    It was nice just wandering around soaking up the atmosphere, listening to the church bells and clock tower bells, not worrying what time it was, eating when I got hungry, getting an ice or granite when I got warm. It was hot in the sun, but very nice in the shade, and with all the tall stone buildings I was mostly in the shade. One thing I’ve noticed especially this trip about Italy, as wonderful as the towns and villages and cities are, there are very few places to sit – lots of restaurants and cafes with outdoor seating, but very few benches.

    Italy Day 8 Parma / Milano

    I thought I would like Parma as much or more than Ferrara, Mantova, Bergamo, etc. and I know quite a few Fodorites love it. But Parma just didn’t do it for me. I definitely enjoyed Trieste more and that had been pretty close to the bottom of my list of favorite Italian towns (but even including Parma, there are no Italian towns that I dis-liked). Guidebooks make everyplace sound fabulous, but I found it boring and lifeless, kind of stark, it just does not compare with Ferrara, Mantua, Bergamo, and certainly nowhere close to Verona, Padua, Bologna, etc. It was kind of severe, not at all pretty and no ‘atmosphere’. The churches were not special in any way, the main square was pretty boring despite the big yellow campanile with an interesting sundial. The river was totally dry, which I don’t get since I’ve passed lots of other rivers in my travels this summer and they have all been very normal looking. Parma is supposed to be a very well to do city but it didn’t look any better off than any of the other cities I’ve been to (I did notice an abundance of banks). It’s also famous for its cheese and ham – and while I didn’t go on any cheese or ham tours, I still expected to see shops featuring local products while walking around the town and I noticed very few (certainly not like Bologna where you could spend hours window shopping and looking at all the various yummy things for offer). And not a lot of gelaterias or even restaurants – at least not with outside seating. Compared to the other towns it was quite different. There were a lot of shoe stores, and they were all having sales – and I got another pair of leather sandals. But I had no desire to hang around and decided I would rather spend more time in Milano so got a train back after just a few of hours.

    Back in the center of Milano I walked to the castelo – very large and impressive, unfortunately the main towers are covered with scaffolding, otherwise I think it would be pretty good for a mid city castle. Then I walked to Santa Maria delle Grazie, most famous for having ‘The Last Supper’ (you need reservations weeks in advance to get in to see it) but a pretty nice church in itself. You rarely hear people talk about the church but it has some impressive frescoes and decorations and it an interesting shape.

    I took the tram back to the duomo and spent some time eating a gelato and just staring at it. That is one impressive building. Then I walked through the galleria again – now that is a beautiful place, mostly designer stores and expensive restaurants, although there is a McDonalds in there! Then walked up to the ‘designer shopping street’ – world famous, Via Monte Napoleone. Only a few blocks long, it does have all the biggies and a few less exorbitant shops (a Geox store, which is where I got my first pair of sandals – in Verona – and they had my sandals in the window!). Across the street is a Fendi shoe store with 600€ sandals. It does have a good collection of the main high end stores (Prada, Gucci, Rolex, etc) but it’s not an especially pretty street – Fifth Ave has more designer stores and looks better. Apparently no recession here, lots of people with lots of bags. Maybe Milano’s claim to fashion greatness is in its design houses, not its shopping street.

  • Report Abuse

    Italy Day 9 Stresa

    I considered several possible options for my last Italian day but decided to go to Stresa at Lake Maggiore even though I’d been there before, (as a one night stopover on a trip from Sicily to Switzerland). But on that trip we got there too late to go to the islands. So I headed to Milano Centrale (it really is a ten minute walk from the lobby of the hotel to the inside of the station) and got my ticket for the 8:05.

    A Note on buying Italian train tickets – almost all stations have “Fast Ticket” Machines (Stresa was one exception, it had an old machine that I’m not sure how it worked, but the station is tiny and the one ticket window had no line). Most “Fast Ticket” Machines take cash or credit cards, but a good number only take cards, and the US ‘no pin and chip’ cards do NOT work. The cash ones are exactly the same except they accept cash (bills) and give change – however, occasionally they are out of change and so don’t work.

    In most cases you have choices of taking ‘regionale’ trains or the faster inter-city or ‘eurostar’ trains, with assigned seating. Sometimes they are twice as expensive as the regionale trains and sometimes they save a few minutes, sometimes significant amount of time. I found checking the schedules on line the night before (or you could do it way in advance I guess, things don’t seem to change) told me which trains took how long and cost how much, so I knew when it was worth it to take a faster train and when it wasn’t (usually I didn’t). My only mistake was the trip back from Ferrara to Verona when I inadvertently ended up with a slow connection. Almost all the regional trains were air conditioned and just as comfortable as the more expensive ones.

    Stresa (pronounced Stra –za with a long ‘a’). It’s a ‘pretty’, pleasant, nice town. Not stunning, or really quaint, just ‘nice’. The long waterfront is lined with turn of the century (19th) grand hotels, especially one famous, very grand one, and several lesser but still pretty nice. The views of the three islands just off shore, and the mountains in the distance are very pretty. It was a bit overcast up in the mountains, my photos from the last time (2005) were more impressive. The town itself has several streets full of restaurants, shops selling leather handbags and a few touristy type places – jewelry made of Murano glass is also big. The lake is pretty, but not that turquoise color that Lake Garda was.

    The ferry is about a 15 minute walk from the train station. The ferry schedule is somewhat erratic – in some cases there are two or more per hour, then there are a couple hours with none. I got the 10:00 ferry – it only takes ten minutes to get over to Isola Bella. In addition to the mansion and gardens there are a few stepped streets with tourist shops and a couple of cafes. The Palazzo is huge and very overly opulent. But the views are nice and the gardens are lovely with lots of statues and grottos plus some white peacocks. When I was ready to go I discovered there was a boat in five minutes so I grabbed some gelato and went on to the next island, the little fisherman’s island.

    It is very tiny and jam packed with restaurants and touristy shops – nothing looked too interesting and there wasn’t much in terms of ‘village’ (apparently everyone goes to Isola Bella first to see the gardens and mansion, then stop at this island to eat and shop). It looked like I had a choice of ten minutes or three hours (Basically I love the idea of siesta, but everything including transportation, shutting down for three hours in the middle of each day can make travel difficult). So I hopped the first boat, especially as it was starting to rain.

    It was still drizzling when we got to Stresa so I shopped a little, and since I had over two hours till the next train (again, that middle of the day lack of trains thing) I had lunch at a restaurant in one of the squares. Got to the train station an hour early but good thing since it was starting to rumble thunder and within a few minutes it was a major thunder storm with huge bangs of thunder and lightning that looked like it was about to hit the station and mega cloud burst. But the station is one of the nicer ones, with lots of benches, and even some tables from the bar which are out on the platform, and under cover so most of the time it was dry. It reminded me of several other serious thunderstorms I’ve seen in Italy. I do love Italian thunderstorms. And especially the fact than as quickly as they come on, they are over and the sun is out again.

  • Report Abuse

    Your phrase "wonderful early and late" applies to so many of the more touristy places! I agree with you also that places are touristy for a reason. You really covered some wonderful towns! Great info about trains and ticket machines as well.

  • Report Abuse

    Isabel,

    I have referred to this report a few different times as I've planned my own trip to northern Italy, and it occurred to me that I never thanked you for your wonderful thoughts. I think you and I travel very similarly : ) Thank you!

22 Replies |Back to top

| Add a Reply

Sign in to comment.

Recent Activity

  • Announcements:
  • Writers Needed for Mexico
    by Emily_D Fodor's Editor | Posted on Jul 24, 14 at 12:19 PM
  • Writers Needed for Georgia Coast
    by Emily_D Fodor's Editor | Posted on Jul 18, 14 at 03:12 PM
  • Writers Needed for Rwanda and Uganda
    by Emily_D Fodor's Editor | Posted on Jul 18, 14 at 03:12 PM
View all Europe activity »
  1. 1 Deciding between tour companies- Trafalgar vs Insight
  2. 2 Planning third trip to France-where to next?
  3. 3 International driving permit required in France?
  4. 4 Puglia--need hotel for last 2 nites HELP trip is coming up
  5. 5 Planning an itinerary in Southern France
  6. 6 Visit to Bath and London england
  7. 7 Germany Visa for conference
  8. 8 Food in Paris-Dining out
  9. 9 Advice for first family trip to Europe
  10. 10 month's stay in Italy
  11. 11 Advice and suggestions welcome for 2 month trip
  12. 12 Itinerary help Geneva, Lausanne , Montreux or Vevey
  13. 13 Villa Borghese - Neighborhood restaurants?
  14. 14 Trip Report Trip report/blog - 2 weeks in Amsterdam, Belgium, and South Africa
  15. 15 Interesting travel scam article
  16. 16 10 days from Hannover to Stuttgart - route recommendations, please?
  17. 17 A full week in The Netherlands
  18. 18 PRIVATE GUIDES IN ITALY--MASTER LIST
  19. 19 Trip Report Scotland trip report July 2014, chapter 1
  20. 20 Sigh....Swiss Pass HELP!
  21. 21 England, Scotland, Ireland, and France... Where do I start?! (three weeks)
  22. 22 There Nights in London - Lodging, Tour, Places
  23. 23 If you had a week in Switzerland...
  24. 24 10 days in England
  25. 25 Rethymnon vs. Chania in early October?
View next 25 » Back to the top