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Trip Report ITALY – ON AND OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Venice & Northern Italy

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I spent ten days in Italy this July, sandwiched between visits to the Baltics and to Crete. I’ve come to the realization that while I enjoy visiting all of Europe, Italy really is my favorite. No matter where else I plan to go, I always seem to include Italy in the itinerary. Of course, it IS pretty central so that helps. I found really inexpensive flights on Ryan Air to/from Vilnius and Crete. (I’m doing separate reports on the Baltics and Crete, to make it easier for people researching those destinations).

Photos: www.pbase.com/annforcier/italy__venezia

I hadn’t intended to make this a study in the contrasts of ON vs OFF the Beaten Path but that’s what happened. Although I’ve been to Venice several times, my husband had only been once, 14 years ago and so wanted to see it again. Since I have way more vacation than he does I had been traveling solo in England and the Baltics before getting to Italy and I had five days in Italy before he arrived. Last year I’d had a great time on Lake Garda so decided this year to do Lake Iseo, and also to visit a couple of nearby towns I’d been meaning to for a while but just never were a priority – Brescia and Cremona, and to revisit Mantua. Since we had 5 days in Venice we did a day trip to Udine and Cividale del Friuli and another to Padua. None of these towns are in the top tier (or even the top two tiers, except maybe Padua and Mantova) of ‘places to go in Italy’ and they were very ‘un-touristy’. I was probably the only American, and one of only a handful of tourists much of the time. As opposed to Venice.

I enjoyed visiting all these towns – absolutely don’t regret it. BUT – there IS a reason some places are heavily touristed. And there are pros and cons - while there is less to see, less ‘ambiance’, etc. there are of course less crowds, a more ‘real’ feel to these off the beaten track towns. Venice was incredibly crowded – much more so than when I was last there, eight years ago – and sometimes the crowds made being there unpleasant. And it’s more expensive. Our hotel in Venice was over twice as much as the hotels in Iseo and Cremona. But it was VENICE! – no comparison to anywhere else and in my opinion, worth the crowds to see it. But I have to say seeing the difference in ‘ON vs OFF’ the beaten path was striking.

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