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22 Days & 5-7 Countries - HELP!

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Jan 10th, 2015, 10:27 PM
  #1
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22 Days & 5-7 Countries - HELP!

Greetings all,

I'm looking for some help with an itinerary and logistics for our upcoming, MARCH, trip to Europe.

We will be flying into Venice from Istanbul and have friends in Vicenza whom we will be staying with to start. We fly out of Venice on April 1st. So we are looking to travel between roughly March 13th and March 31st.

We are not traditional tourists, in that, we like to experience culture, meet locals, stay in small B&B's, etc. I am a commercial photographer, and so my goals are to see the most spectacular examples of mother nature and humanity as possible. We could care less about the larger cities and tourist attractions.

While in Italy we are looking to check out Bolzano, Lake Como, Cinque Terre, and Alessandria (where my distant family is from). We are not looking to visit Rome, Florence, Milan, etc. We'll save those for another time perhaps. We feel like we have our Italy section pretty well planned out, unless any of you think we have missed something that we MUST see in Central/Northern Italy. We are certainly open to suggestions for day-trips or overnight stays.

Moving outside of Italy, we are looking to explore the following specific areas:

Kuhtai (Austria)
Salzberg (Austria)
Liechtenstein
Ljubljana (Slovenia)
Split (Croatia)
(Possibly Denmark)
Possibly Switzerland)

My thinking is that we can travel either directly from Alessandria, Italy up though the Alps and then wrap east through Austria and then south into Slovenia & Croatia - and then back up to Venice. Or perhaps we can do it in reverse depending on how our actual itinerary shakes out.

My issue is that I have heard such conflicting info on renting a car vs. trains when doing multi-country tours. I feel like we can get away with only using trains in Italy, but fear that this is not a realistic option when traveling though Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia due to time spent on the trains, accessibility, and cost. Does this seem accurate? Or are the trains a realistic option?

Is it smart - or perhaps realistic, for us to think that we can rent a car in Italy and drive the Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia section of our trip successfully? Is it safe to drive the alps in a rental car in March? Is the weather prohibitive? I'm a competent driver, a law enforcement officer in the states, so I'm not bothered by winding roads, ice or snow, but in a non-all wheel drive vehicle, is it realistic?

Ideally, I don't want to spend more than 4 hours a day driving, and enjoy the concept of being able to stop in towns, restaurants, shops, along the way. A train does not allow for this obviously - so that was the intent behind renting a car vs. doing trains + buses, etc. A car provides so much more flexibility and accessibility to the country side.

Any advice you guys can lend to an unfamiliar American (me) would be fantastic. We are trying to maximize our trip while still allowing ourselves to be present in the moment and not overwhelming ourselves.

Any suggestions on places we must visit, or things we must do that fall in-line with what I have described above? Any places we should not go along the way? I have heard that Liechtenstein is worth missing, but it seems beautiful from my perspective - but what do I know?

We are looking at staying in non-traditional B&B's, i.e. tree houses, castles, and even in an Igloo in Kuhti. We are looking for fun, uncommon experiences. Any suggestions in this area would be openly accepted.

We are very appreciative of any information, thoughts, etc. At this point, we are pretty flexible as we are just now beginning to book our accommodations.

Happy New Year everyone - and thanks in advance.

-Adam
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Jan 10th, 2015, 10:39 PM
  #2
kja
 
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Given your stated goals and preferences, I think your plan may be overly ambitious. I recommend that you get some good guidebooks (or spend some time with a few in your local library), identify the things you most want to see in each location, note their opening/closing times, and mark them on a calendar. Then pencil in your transportation, add some time on either side (for checking in/out, packing/unpacking, getting oriented, etc.). Then see how things fit together. You might end up deciding to cut a destination or two....

As for guidebooks, I strongly recommend the Rough Guide or Lonely Planet as your primary resource. I would also recommend that you consult Fodor's, Frommer's, or the Michelin Green Guides to help prioritize and the National Geographic Traveler, Insight Guides, or Eyewitness for inspiration.

For driving times, consult viamichelin.com or mappy.com.

Remember that all the time you spend in transit is time that you are NOT spending seeing the places that you are traveling very far, and at a non-neglible cost, to see.
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Jan 10th, 2015, 10:46 PM
  #3
 
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Almost everywhere you want to go has very difficult weather conditions for March. There are too many driving hazards -- the possibility of blizzards, avalanches, floods, intense rain and fog. I am really not exaggerating.

Speaking specifically as to Italy, Bolzano, Lago di Como and le Cinque Terre are all typical tourist attractions, where the tourism is completely commercialized. They all also suffer extended bouts of rain and fog in March, and you would need to be extremely lucky to visit all 3 in March and not be rained out in one or more of them. Lago di Como can be atmospheric in fog and rain, but Bolzano area and le Cinque Terre are complete busts.

Alessandria suffered a terrible flood this November, but hopefully most will be put to rights by the time you visit.

I cannot really offer advice about the countries other than Italy that you would like to visit in March, but I can tell you that much of central and southern Italy has more favorable weather in March, and it also has beautiful territory and beautiful humanity and much of it is unexplored by tourists. However, Italians have never lived in tree houses to my knowledge (and I suspect they never will).
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Jan 10th, 2015, 10:50 PM
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Sorry -- the bad flood in Alessandria was in October

http://www.youreporter.it/video-foto...esonda_scrivia
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Jan 10th, 2015, 11:00 PM
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PS: I took a look on google to see if I could find an Italian tree house for you, and there happens to be one near Alessandria:

http://www.booking.com/hotel/it/casa...errato.it.html

Be sure it is fully heated in March. They can still get snow there at that time of year.

http://aquariusreportages.blogspot.c...iemonte-e.html
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Jan 10th, 2015, 11:06 PM
  #6
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Thank you for the replies guys. This is exactly what I needed. I guess I assumed the aforementioned areas would be less touristy than Rome, Florence, Amalfi, etc. That is what I meant I suppose - less touristy.

As far as rain goes, I suppose I cannot control the weather, thus, I am forced to deal with whatever hand we get dealt.

I was unaware of the flood in Alessandria. We have a local contact there who I will get in touch with to see their thoughts. An area I will visit regardless - just for sentimental value.

KJA - You are right of course. I have only just begun to plan out travel times and logistics today. Which is why I posted in here. I assumed many of you would know much better than me, the reality of this regions geography, culture, and sights. I will take your advice and invest some time in the travel guides you mentioned to see how they may help light my path.

Maybe the better question I should be asking then, based on this initial feedback: Is there a specific area in this general region we should stay - where we will be able to experience the most diversity of landscape and people? Perhaps looking at day-trips rather than overnight, multi-country travel?

Perhaps if we were to take a couple of flights from Venice to neighboring countries for a few days - saving us travel time and weather concerns - would be more realistic? I see that flights are relatively cheap between neighboring countries.

We knew our goal was BIG, so perhaps this is the reality check we needed to plan a more realistic, and memorable holiday abroad.

PS: I noted Denmark above for some reason - we have no intention of seeing Denmark on this trip - way too far north.

Again, I appreciate all the advice.
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Jan 10th, 2015, 11:10 PM
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Thanks Sandralist. I'll check it out.

These are the Italian B&B's that we have found and were considering thus far - it seems Italians do like living in trees.

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/1621152

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/880308
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Jan 10th, 2015, 11:33 PM
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kja
 
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"Is there a specific area in this general region we should stay - where we will be able to experience the most diversity of landscape and people?"

I think that one thing that people from the US have difficulty grasping is that European countries weren't what they are until quite recently in their history. Borders have shifted back and forth, empires have expanded and vanished, etc. Even being a valley away might have meant a nearly insurmountable journey until the last century or so. So places that are "near" one another, by today's standards, may be incredibly different from each other. (As examples, the different regions of France, or of Switzerland, are incredibly diverse, with enormous differences between areas of the same modern-day country.) In contrast, widely distant places can still bear the mark of long past empires (so there are Roman amphitheaters in Tarragona, Spain, and Pula, Croatia; Austro-Hungarian architecture can be seen in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and in Vienna, Austria; and so forth.) You don't need to travel FAR to seen diverse things; you just need to travel WISELY.

I take it that Istanbul is "writ in stone"? It's a fantastic city. Try to give it at least 5 full days, or be prepared to be EXTREMELY selective in what you visit.

Is Venice also a certainty? It is also absolutely delightful and easily merits a few days.

BTW, you say that "We are not traditional tourists, in that, we like to experience culture, meet locals, stay in small B&B's, etc." Well, of course LOTS of tourists have these interests. And there is a reason why some places draw lots of tourists -- they are worth seeing! So, if you REALLY want to go places that nobody goes, realize that there may be good reasons why NOBODY goers to them. ;-) And if you want to go to places that others go -- but with a focus on culture, meeting locals, etc. -- realize that MANY other tourists are doing that, too. Fortunately, not so many people travel in March.

I'm sure you'll find some great things to see / experience -- things that meet your interests. You just need to do a bit of research, because NONE of us can tell you what will capture YOUR heart.

Hope that helps!
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Jan 11th, 2015, 04:16 AM
  #9
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Spot on Kja. I appreciate the thoughts - you are certainly correct.

We have done a great deal of travel in our lives, the middle east, south america, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, etc. but have only ever been to France in Europe, which was a great experience spending a few days in Paris, but most of our time in Nantes and along some of the beach towns on the western coast. That experience really inspired this trip.

We enjoyed the connections we made, in many of the cities we had never heard about, read about or had even fathomed visiting in France - it was the spontaneous trips to small pubs, and community events that yielded the most sensational results, new friendships, and lots of laughs - so I understand the distance vs. diversity explanation you gave.

I think with this trip, we were initially focused on quantity vs quality, despite the fact that our hearts were focused on the quality. I think it's cultural for us, rush rush rush to get as much done as possible - even on vacations. I greatly appreciate the feedback thus far, as it has re-focused us. For that I am very thankful.

We did specifically plan this trip for March, as our friends advised us it was a low tourist season, despite the questionable weather - which we are fine with.

Istanbul is locked in - we will be there for 4 days and have our itinerary set. Venice is also locked in as it is the closest major airport to where our friends live, in Vicenza - whom we will be spending some time with for the first couple of days and the last couple of days of our trip, then back to Istanbul for a couple more days and then back to the states.

Everything else is open at this point. I will continue to do the research on my end. I think my original reason for posting in here, was to validate what I think I already knew to be true - that we were overreaching by trying to see more than we could actually experience.

Plus, the treachery of the Alps had been weighing on me as is, so I am glad that was cleared up for us. Thanks again for the insights.
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Jan 11th, 2015, 04:36 AM
  #10
 
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1) my BIL drives all over the areas you mention on business all year round. His rules are; top of the range car or 4x4, gps, thermos, patience.
2) While the weather may be nasty, the roads are well maintained and kept clear. In all my time I've only seen Austria closed down for 48 hours once by massive snow. Normally it will be cleared in hours.
3) Locals drive very fast, so read up on the rules of the road (the law and the practical) for each country.
4) Getting to meet people does not occur while driving about. Meeting people occurs on trains or on foot. (look I know you know this stuff but sometimes it helps to focus)
5) A lot of people don't want to meet you, they just want to get on with their lives

So, do take a few train journeys, the people trapped in your seating area cannot run and have nowhere else to go. Do go to Spas as again they have nowhere else to go. BTW that means Hungary which is not on your list.

Lichtenstein, is an historical anomoly made up of a castle, a fair number of meadows, a mountain and a bunch of tax avoidance schemes. Having been a fair few times now I still struggle to see why.

For me, don't go West to Denmark go East to Hungary.
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Jan 11th, 2015, 07:04 AM
  #11
 
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You asked the same in another forum a few weeks ago and got tons of good proposals in order to improve your trip.
As you come again with absolutely the same questions in your present thread, I suppose you absolutely want to visit the places mentioned above, without any changement.
For that, you may check the following:

Train Vicenza - Bolzano and back: trains about avery hr, 2 1/2 hrs journey
Train Vicenza dp 9.26 - Trieste 12.08/13.45 - bus - Split ar 23.50
Train Split dp 14.35 - Zagreb 20.49/21.10 - Ljubljana ar 23.38
Ljubljana dp by train 7.27, 9.22, 15.25, Salzburg ar 4 1/2 hrs later
Salzburg - Kühtai: about every hr from 7.00 until 13.56, 3 1/4 hrs trip, change at Innsbruck and Voels
Kuehtai - Vaduz: Kuehtai dp 9.42, 11.42, 14.46, 5 hrs journey, change at innsbruck and Buchs SG
Vaduz dp 12.00 - bus - Sargans 12.22/12.27 - train - Chur 12.48/13.35 - bus - Milano Lampugnano 16.45 - metro M1 - Cadorna dp 17.59 - train - Como Nord ar 18.55
Como - Alessandria: trains about every hr, 3-4 hrs journey
Alessandria - Monterosso: trains about every hr, 3 hrs journey
Monterosso dp 6.54 - train - Milano C 9.55/10.35 - bus - Bergamo airport 11.35/13.40 - ryanair - Copenhagen ar 15.50
Copenhagen dp 11.05 - ryan air - Bergamo airport 13.15/15.00 - bus - Brescia 16.00/16.53 - train - Venezia Mestre ar 18.28
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Jan 11th, 2015, 07:22 AM
  #12
 
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You have 5 mandatory stops in north Italy and that is fine.
That loop could easily take all of your 22 days. But, if you plan well you may be able to include the stops in Austria as well. More than that is folly IMHO.
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