Cinque Terre and/or Venice decision?

Feb 27th, 2006, 04:06 AM
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And historic Venice does have about 65,000 residents. This doesn't seem like a lot, but historic Venice never had a huge population--probably around 150,000-165,000 at its height (though you will find lower and higher estimates from various sources).

So it's not as if there was this city with millions of people that is now a ghost town.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 05:32 AM
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I didn't mean to start the Venice wars nor am I going to engage in them. Especially not about whether one can eat well in Venice. I had a lovely time in Venice viewing the magnificent art off season, and did indeed see a lot of blacksmiths and other workers involved in renovation and maintenence. And was able to find an out of the way restaurant in the Dorsoduro with a mainly Italian clientele and an owner with the time to sit down and chat after dinner. And the food was fine, no red sauce. So all that is true!

What is also true is that much of Venice, and not just around San Marco, is in the business of catering to mass tourism, and especially tourists who want a certain kind of fantasy experience that takes them out of the modern world, a kind of Italian Colonial Williamburg who arrive with a check list of things to experience, like the dueling orchestras in San Marco, a bellini at Harry's bar, a gondola ride, buying a mask, etc.

If you are able to spend six months or even six weeks in Venice, I'm sure you get pretty adept at avoiding that scene. But for myself, I wouldn't want to go to Venice and not visit San Marco -- not for the orchestras, but for the beauty of the piazza and the basilica. I'd want to see the Accademia, as it is one of the best museums in Europe. I'd want to go to Torcello, all the scuoloas and take in the view from San Giorgio.

So if I wanted a vacation -- a real vacation whee I rested up -- I wouldn't pick Venice. And if I wanted to enjoy the charms of unspoiled Italy, I wouldn't pick Venice either. And even if I was very serious about art and architecture, and even getting to know some of the 65,000 residents of the town, I'd try to get to Venice in the very lowest season so I didn't find myself having to deal with mobs and mobs of people.

Actually, to me the most interesting thing in Venice is its modern art scene, but I enjoy modern Italy, which is not what a lot of people are looking for from an Italian vacation.
nessundorma is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 09:28 AM
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Truly, ness, it's not all that difficult to avoid the mass-tourism madness in Venice. If you just walk a few blocks away from the best known sights and busiest areas (those around P. San Marco, Rialto, etc., the train station, P. Roma, etc.) while the daytrippers are swarming, there really is a different Venice without the crowds, hucksters, trash, tacky souvenirs, "Chef Boyardee" restaurants, etc.

Just walk a few blocks and you find no crowds, lower prices, better quality.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 09:43 AM
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But like anyplace else, there are some people who love Venice and some who hate it and a bunch in between.

I can't stand Florence, but others love it.

I guess it all depends on personality, background, likes/dislikes, prejudices, and first experiences in a new place (beginnings are so very important).
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 10:45 AM
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Right on, Rufus - Venice is a fabulous, unique city. Watch out where you eat though - I swear I was served a bowl of canned ravioli at one of those cute canal-side restaurants. Also we thought the $13 Bellinis at Harry's Bar were a bit pricey - the wine at the restaurant nearby was just as good.
Rmkelly313 is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 12:35 PM
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Rm--yes, many of the restaurants in the most popular areas are not the best. Unfortunately, if you don't have time to do a lot of research in advance it's tough to tell which ones are/aren't.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 03:12 PM
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A sincere thanks to one and all who have made this site into a most interesting dialogue.
nevertooold is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 03:50 PM
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Just to be fair, I must add that nessundorma has a point to his favor - he is absolutely right that the San Marco basilica and the Accademia are tough in summer, and nevertheless, of course nobody would want to miss them. These are certainly two focuses of tourism hardly possible to avoid, unless you are there as often as I am - only last November, I've revisited both of them, and it was sooo peaceful; the archpriest of St. Mark's even had time enough to carry my wife and me down to the basilica's crypt - a jewel that almost nobody can ever visit, as it is not regularly open to the public; and just try and find it in any Venice guidebook! Not even the guidebooks know it... It's older than the basilica itself - 11th century!
But of course, in summer, don't even think about asking anybody to show you the crypt; the guards and priests at St. Mark's would be at a high risk of a hysterical breakdown!
However, the same is NOT true for St. Mark's square - it's just marvellous visiting it in the evening, before sunset, when the crowds are already leaving Venice. And by night, it's maybe even more beautiful... and don't despise the bands' struggle - that's real fun, and certainly one of the few interests that the locals share with the tourists: not a small portion of the listeners are Venetians, who just love to spend their late evenings, after dinner, attending the open air "concerts", and every true Venetian has his favorite band (most prefer Caffè Lavena's).
franco is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 06:28 PM
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Thanks for the advice everyone. We tend to like some good restaurants, nice hotels and architecture (that's what we love about Florence). The pros/cons as I see them:

CT - great hiking, seafood and scenery. Cons - lodging (we'll likely stay in Camogli or Rapallo if we visit CT).

Venice sounds great as a magical city that everyone should see even if it is crowded.

Regarding the "big three" we've done several trips to Italy and never made it out of Tuscany. We're thinking that we should maybe finally do Venice and Rome (the trip most do first).

I do think we're going to pick one versus the other (Venice versus CT) as four destinations would be too much moving for us.
TJinSOMA is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 06:56 PM
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I don't dislike Venice. Even if I did, I wouldn't tell somebody else not to go there, it is so rich in treasures. I hope everyone has a chance to see it for themselves someday and obviously for many it is a highly rewarding experience.

What I can't quite figure out is why so many people talk about Italy as if it were a college course, where you have to start with a mandatory "introduction to Italy" or complete certain courses. People don't talk that way about visiting France or even the US.

Many of us who have spent most of our lives in urban areas (in my case, NYC and LA) don't really want to go to a crowded place for a summer vacation.
Twenty years ago people were understandably reluctant to venture off the beaten track in Italy, but now, with the internet, you can get see almost any hotel and book it yourself. The explosion of tourism in Tuscany reflects the new freedom people have found.

I'm not interested in discouraging people from going to Venice but I am interested in discouraing the mindset about the Big 3, which at times gets kind of mindless. There is so much great art and food in UNIQUE Italian cities like Perugia, Ravenna, Ascoli Piceno, Torino, Urbino, Palermo and the list goes on and on.

I think it's great some people defer going to Rome, Florence and Venice these days to pursue the many other great experiences and artworks Italy has to offer. And I think it's great, too, that the natural beauty and relaxation that Italy offers is becoming more widely known and people now seek it out and love it as much as other tourists love Provence, the American West or the mountains of Switzerland.
nessundorma is offline  
Feb 28th, 2006, 03:18 AM
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Ness--it's really a matter of priorities. A "what if?" issue.

What if you don't get back to Italy? Yes, 5 Terre is really pretty--but there are really pretty coastal areas all over the world that are just as nice. So if you miss 5 Terre that's too bad, but it's not as if 5 Terre is so unique.

But there is no other place like Venice. Yes, the main sights are crowded and overrun in the summer months, and many of the restaurants around the main sights are totally forgettable. But if you don't get back to Italy for some reason--you will never find anything like Venice anywhere else in the world.

The unique setting, the blending of cultures reflected in the architecture and historic sites, the world-class art. The experience of a city without wheels.

I think that's why people often recommend the big 3 first--because the intensity and depth of culture and experience just should not be missed.

We've been to many of the less visited Italian cities and towns, and they are wonderful. But would I would not shortchange Venice, Rome, (and even the Florence that I don't care for so much--the art and architecture is fabulous) to visit some of these other places.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Feb 28th, 2006, 03:28 AM
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Hit the button by accident.

Wanted to add that I would not discourage people from going to other places as many are great, but just keep in mind that you just might not be able to get back to wherever you are going. You have no idea what the future will bring.

We've been fortunate and have been able to travel to Italy, the UK, France, Germany, Korea, Japan, and other destinations more than once. Not everyone is so fortunate.

When making travel plans, we always keep in mind that our next trip could be our last. Nothing to get obsessive about, but just to consider when deciding what experiences to include.

Of course, some people just don't care for art, architecture, history or whatever--we all have differing backgrounds, likes/dislikes. Our our travel selections can be limited by timel, budget, physical condition, etc.

So bottom line--it's your time, your money, your life. Do what brings you the best experience.

Chacon à son gout.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Feb 28th, 2006, 04:14 AM
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When making travel plans, we always keep in mind that our next trip could be our last.

I strongly disagree with this approach. i think that this is a bad way to select destinations and an even worse assumption to keep in your head when you are on your holiday.

this approach focuses on getting the most "bang for your buck", where "buck" = time as well as money.

as i think back to some recent holidays, i doubt that many of them would be taken if i used your approach.

would i spend two weeks in skagen, denmark (of all places) if i planned the holiday with the assumption that it would be my last? probably not. it was one of my favourite trips.

would i have spent a week walking in the british lake district...or another week in brecon, wales? again, great holidays but nothing "world class" about these destinations.

when foreigners visit a country or a continent, they often let a top ten list rule their planning and therefore miss out on the heart and soul of the country.
walkinaround is offline  
Feb 28th, 2006, 05:59 AM
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To each his own.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Feb 28th, 2006, 01:31 PM
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Hi TJin, just wanted to give my two cents since I have been both places. We loved CT. Stayed at Hotel Villa Steno in Monterosso. I believe it is the closest to a five-star that CT has (please read humor here). It is a lovely hotel with private bath, gorgeous terraces with views, very nice breakfast (which you can take on the terrace) and the staff was really nice.

We enjoyed all of the town and hiking, and found our time there very relaxing. There are cute boutiques for shopping and great restaurants. We spent 2.5 days there and that was plently. I would not stay for four. Add days to Rome.

We did not enjoy Venice as much but we had horrible weather and I would like to think we would have loved it otherwise. I think we just had such high expectations for Venice.

My opinion is that CT may make more sense for this trip (on the same side of the country as your other stops). Not that Venice is hard to get to but since you have been to Italy before I am sure you will return and could do Venice then. Have a wonderful trip!
motor_city_girl is offline  
Feb 28th, 2006, 01:48 PM
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I think you should quit assuming that people who don't follow your travel plans don't have your background, interest in art or architecture, etc.

People may, instead, be tailoring each of their trips to their own transitory mood. I went to Venice and Florence in the dead of winter with no other thought than to do nothing all day but see the art and architecture I had avidly read about all my life.

Yet on other occasions I have planned trips to Italy that scarcely paid attention to the fact that I would be within a few miles of fantastic art and historic sites. The truth is that I spend a huge chunk of my time in America in museums. Rather than fly to California and sit on the beach to relax, I like to fly to Italy and sit on the beach and relax. I like to improve my bad Italian by talking Italian with Italians. I think it's fun.

But basta! The value of this message board is that everybody gets to reveal their travel quirks and obsessions, and others reading along will say either be taking notes from you or me or someone else because they recognize your style fits them best, or my style does.

There is nothing more subjective than what makes a "good trip" for you or me. All travel advice is useless if you'd really rather be doing something else with your time and hard-earned bucks on your trip.
nessundorma is offline  
Feb 28th, 2006, 03:52 PM
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Enjoyed this long string of argument, but to pull it back to the original question, the Cinque Terre vs. Venice decision:

We spent 3 nights in Cinque Terre in May. Lovely experience, invigorating and relaxing at the same time. When we left we thought it was enough, said we didn't need to go back. But we find ourselves already longing to go back. And will. Check out Portovenere if you're looking for nice hotels -- just south of the CT but an easy boat ride.

Spent a total of 5 nights in Venice, on two different trips, both toward the end of May....stayed in Dorsoduro. Will go again, and again, and again.

I think it's too much to spend just 2 nights in CT and travel all the way to Venice, for just 2 nights. Would suggest Florence AFTER CT, before Venice, if you must do all of them in the same trip. If you're going to get back again, I would do Florence, CT, Rome. Or Venice, Florence, Rome.
aprillilacs is offline  
Mar 1st, 2006, 03:40 AM
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ness-what are you talking about?
RufusTFirefly is offline  

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