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April 2007 in Italy

Old Oct 23rd, 2006, 01:56 PM
  #1  
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April 2007 in Italy

My husband and I are planning a trip to Tuscany in early April.

We have tentatively planned on renting a villa for two weeks {making it our home base} and taking day trips out.

Il Borro has been suggested by a local travel agency. Has anyone stayed there?

At this point, we do plan on flying into Florence.

I am waffling on staying in one place for two weeks - seems rather constricting.

My husband and I do enjoy driving and stopping where ever we like.

Most of our trips {only in the US} have not been planned out - we just have a general idea of what we want to see or do and head that way.

Armed with a good B&B book and maps, we are able to project out the approximate vicinity that we will be around 5pm and call ahead to book a room.

So far this has worked out very well for us, usually if the 1st place we call is booked, they recommend another establishment and have even called for us to reserve a room and make dinner reservations.

I am wondering if it is too risky to travel this way through Italy.

I hate to be tied down to a specific itinerary by booking accomadations months in advance, then driving through past places of interest just to "check in" on time.

One other thing, my husband will be returning to the US 5 days prior to me. At that time, I would not mind being in one city to explore on my own. Since he will be flying back out of Florence, that will probably be where I spend the majority of my "alone" days. Is this safe to do alone?
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Old Oct 23rd, 2006, 02:31 PM
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My wife and I are planning a similar trip at the end of May. I agree that two weeks is a long time to be anchored to one place so we're doing 4 days in Rome and a week at a villa in Cetona. After that it's back to Rome where we'll stay for two more days before heading home. As far as staying for a few days alone, if you use the same type of caution you would use visiting an unfamiliar place back home you should be fine.

Best of luck and enjoy!
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Old Oct 23rd, 2006, 02:37 PM
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I stayed in a great little town called Bonasola, in the Cingue Terra area. It was right on the train line so there were many cities easily accessible and if I recall was only about an hour drive from Florence. We had a lovely villa on the hill overlooking the bay (92 steps from street level to home!) Friends in town booked for me, but I'm sure you could book thru an agent as well. there were several nice B&B type places (one owned by friends of mine) check out Bonasola!
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Old Oct 24th, 2006, 11:24 AM
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Hi J,

If this is your first trip to Italy, I would not recommend staying in the same place for 2 weeks. I think you would make better use of your time if you stayed maybe 3 different places. Not so much backtracking every morning/evening.

You don't say where you want to do daytrips. Provide a few more details and we can provide some suggestions!

In early April, I think you could wing it if you really wanted to. BUT I would not recommend trying to do it. Check for conflicts with Easter week! Persoanlly, I prefer to have my lodging set ahead of time. I don't like to spend part of my day hunting for a place. Too many other wonderful ways to spend your time and having the lodging taken care of actually gives you more freedom for the rest!

Buon viaggio!
Dayle is online now  
Old Oct 24th, 2006, 02:15 PM
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Thanks to all so far..

This is my first trip to Italy (actually outside of the US even) and I am definately in the very beginning of the planning stage.

I am kind of overwhelmed with the choices of what to see & do(and even where these places might be).

I have purchased the 2006 Michelin Guide to Italy, which does show a suggested a drive tour in Tuscany, but I am having a hard time of figuring out the distance between things, and the layout of the book.

Travel via train also is appealing, but again, I don't want to spend all day on a train - wouldn't mind overnight.

Florence, Pisa, Assisi, Arezzo - maybe coast to coast. I don't know if Rome or Venice is really too much of a distance to drive / train travel.

Large cities are nice to visit {not for the whole trip}. We prefer the smaller, quaint, off the beaten path kind of places. Coastal is great, but mountainous roads might create issues for me - but I will just have to deal with it.

We are not interested in anything that we could do back home, such as golf, tennis, amusement parks.

A vineyard or two, if we are passing by, we would stop in - but not really as a destination - too many other things to see.

As for sleeping places - we really only need someplace that is clean and quiet - we do not plan on being in the room except for collasping after dinner / wine.

Any suggestions on guide books would be appreciated.







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Old Oct 24th, 2006, 06:23 PM
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A suggestion from our trip several years ago.....we flew in to Venice, spent 3 nights there (our favorite and well worth more than a day trip), took the train to Florence (less than 3 hrs) and spent several days there (would not stay in the city again but close by), and then the train again to Rome (another 2-3 hours) spent 5 nights and flew home from there. No backtracking but if we had more time would have explored more of Tuscany from the Florence base, then perhaps headed down to Naples for 1-2 days before circling back to Rome. Go first class on the trains, they were extremely comfortable and a great way to travel.
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Old Oct 24th, 2006, 06:37 PM
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You mentioned that you can't relate to the distances between cities. What
helped me was something I read somewhere that Italy itself is about 600 miles long. That's about the distance from Atlanta to Washington, DC (our present home to where we grew up). An easy drive between those locations would be about 12 hours. This might help you look at a map of Italy and do a proportional estimate of the time between her cities. (Look at Italy in a world atlas as compared to a map of the US.)

And I'd think, from your description of what you hope to achieve, that driving is the way to go. Some of our best moments were when we found what wasn't in the guide books - Montereggioni, Mantavo, Montagnana, Caserta.

And speaking of guide books, we picked up "Italy Guide" by Douglas E. Morris. It was our first trip abroad - what did we know of Fodors or Frommers. Happily, he clued us in on some wonderful venues we wouldn't have found on our own - Lucca, Orvieto, Spoleto, Deruta.
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Old Oct 24th, 2006, 06:57 PM
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Hi again J,

Spending some serious time here reading trip reports will really help you! You will get lots of ideas of regions, cities, and countryside to visit. You can also search by town name and Italy in the search boxes above. Extremely helpful.

I'm one of those who enjoyes a good mix of cities and countryside. I recommend it highly!

With 2 weeks, you might like to do something like:

fly into Venice
3 nts Venice

train to Florence
2 nts

rent car
5 days Tuscany or Umbria or a little of both

turn in car & train to Rome
4 nts Rome

OR

You could limit your cities to 2 out of the "big 3" and spend more time in each, plus a countryside location in between

If there is an opportunity to fly 'open jaw" definitely do it. Into Venice/out Florence or into Florence / out of Rome. This will save you almost a whole day of backtracking.

for train schedule and travel times, go to www.trenitalia.com and choose the language you need. Remember, station and town names are in Italiano! Such as, Venice is Venezia.

Happy planning!
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Old Oct 24th, 2006, 11:14 PM
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Your planning is heading in the right direction, in terms of looking through guidebooks (and of course trip reports here on Fodor's).

I would also say a villa for two (or even one) weeks is somewhat constricting, especially if you already know from previous travels that it's not your style. We've been to Italy a bunch of times, and still haven't wanted to stay in one place enough to go the villa route. Also, we like to eat out, so probably wouldn't use the kitchen much!

Check on flying into Florence - depending on where you're coming from, flying into Florence (actually, I think, some distance outside it) may drive your airfare up significantly. If that's the case, check on fares into/out of (open jaws) Milan, Venice and/or Rome.

Re staying in one city alone by yourself, I would feel safe in Florence, Rome or Venice. In terms of things to do for five days, I would probably choose Rome.

Re booking hotels (or B&Bs) ahead of time, I would lean towards doing so, for several reasons. Me and DH both get stressed at the thought of having to find a place to sleep, and having to give up time to do so. In early April, you're probably ok in terms of availability, though, in most places (though definitely not the big cities). But considering this is your first visit out of the U.S., do you want to add that obligation to your daily enjoyment of Italy? Also, there aren't always that many lodging choices in small towns or cities in Italy. AND getting to them isn't always easy. AND you'd need a very comprehensive book to cover the locations you'd need to find rooms for (and personally, I don't like the Michelin red guide for that, as its info is so cursory).

Here are some other ideas (similar to what others have already suggested): plan your time, if any, in big cities for the beginning and ends of your trip. Book those hotels. Plan or tenatively plan your time in between, and book several nights in some locations. Worst case, you could extend your stay in some beautiful spot that you like, or leave there and locate somewhere new (having your current hotel call ahead).

You may find, in researching and planning your trip, that you find so many wonderful places that you want to visit that you end up planning more than you usually do, just to fit in the places that look so wonderful that you just MUST go there.

As another point, having a hotel room doesn't bind you down terribly. Let's say you stay for three nights in San Gimignano (a lovely town, by the way, once the day-trip tourists have left for the day). Each day, you have a multitude of places you could visit from there, allowing you to feel not too tied down. We've stayed in San Gimignano three times now, and done mostly-different things each time.

And I'm sure you'll see many more places of interest than you'll ever have time for on any two-week trip. Once you go, you'll have to go back!

I use the Michelin green guide for trip-planning information, but I tend to not like their driving tours, as I don't like to be at a different hotel each night. But it's good for developing ideas for daily drives and interesting routes, and for places that you'd want to see or visit.

In terms of figuring out distances and the relative location of cities and sights in Italy, get an Italy map to help you develop a feel for things. And Mappy.com is a reliable (though not perfect) guide to travel times. Remember that off the highway (the autostrada), the beautiful, curvey, narrow Italy backroads can take some time. (But there are many worse things in life than spending a long time driving through gorgeous Italian scenary.)

Many first-time visitors go to the "big three," Venice, Rome and Florence, and they are, indeed, all magnificent. But, especially if you think you'll do more trips to Italy, you'll have more time for "off-the-beaten-tracks" destinations if you only visit one or two of those big cities, and save the rest for another time.

Have a great trip - we just returned from another visit to Italy, and I'm already plotting our return!
Lexma90 is online now  
Old Oct 25th, 2006, 05:35 AM
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With your suggestions, I have seriously gotten into my organizing mode.

My initial panic of planning a trip abroad has greatly subsided.

I really do appreciate all of your comments, and will delve into researching my options more throughly this weekend.

You all have given me a great place to start and I truly thank you.

Keep the comments / suggestions coming.

J.
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Old Oct 27th, 2006, 05:00 PM
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Please People, if you get the chance check montecantini in Tuscany. It got to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. And the Drive to get there is fantastic. The scenery is so beautiful. All the greenery and nurseries goes on for miles and miles. April everything is blooming.

We stayed at the Ariston Hotel and it was within walking distance of the city center. It has a huge front porch to sit on and have coffee or cocktails.

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Old Oct 27th, 2006, 06:04 PM
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Do not spend 2 weeks at one base location. Tuscany is big--you need at least 2 locations. Spend time at www.slowtrav.com and look at their rental reviews and Tuscany notes.
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Old Oct 27th, 2006, 06:07 PM
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In early April I have never had trouble simply following my nose and finding a great place to stay in Italy. HOWEVER, I have never been to the most heavily touristed areas of Tuscany (other than Firenze, Pisa and Siena).

Still, I personally would risk it. What you will find is that when you get to a town you will seen many signs pointing to accommodations, usually indicating how many "stars" the establishment has. Also be aware that there are many fine restaurants that have rooms to rent (charming and clean) and many rural farms/agriturismos outside of towns with rooms to rent. 99 percent of the time these rooms have private baths. Rarely do they cost more than 100e per night, and more often they are around 60.

If you drive up to a place and they don't have a room for you, they will usually be able to send you directly to someplace that does.

If you follow your nose, be sure to hould arrange your days so that you have found a place to stay before it gets dark because it can be difficult to drive after dark without getting lost.

I still recommend that if you find a place or town you like that you stay there a couple of days, rather than start moving every night just because you have the freedom of a car. It can get addictive to keep moving, but if you do, you miss the joy of going slow in Italy.

As for your "alone" time, consider going to Lucca, and returning to Firenze one or two nights before your flight.

buon viaggio!
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Old Oct 27th, 2006, 06:50 PM
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My vote is Florence for several days, then down to Tuscany for a week to explore the small towns and relax. Then, on to Rome where you can easily spend 5 full days. I would also book lodging in advance. You'll spend too much time trying to find a nice, comfortable place. I could see leaving a few nights open to wing it, but I'd try and nail down most of the trip ahead of time.
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Old Oct 27th, 2006, 07:06 PM
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I simply have to disagree with the remark that "you'll spend too much time looking for a comfortable place."

Outside the major citeis, most accommodations in Italy are comfortable, charming and spotless, and the countryside has a glut of tourist accommodations. I have never spent more than 20 minutes finding a place to stay after deciding where I wanted to be that night.

Although I have never used a Michelin guide in Italy, the red hotel and restaurant guide worked brilliantly for me in rural France. I spent 2 weeks there without booking in advance and never had a problem with a hotel room. All Italian rooms for two people have an adequately sized bed for two people.

Mind you, I am perfectly happy with a clean room and a clean bath -- period. However, almost all of the Italian restaurants or b&bs where I have stayed have had charming decorations as well. In several places, I've driven into an historic hilltown and ended up with an apartment for under 100 euros for the night.

If you have a lifelong dream to stay in Pienza, there is no reason not to book in advance. Likewise, you do need to book if you are going to Firenze, or Venice or Roma etc for a few nights, even off season, because there you do risk getting a lousy hotel. But if you would prefer not to be locked into an agenda, don't lock yourself into one in early April in Italy.
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