Cinque Terre to Parma and Bologna

Apr 4th, 2011, 03:44 AM
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Cinque Terre to Parma and Bologna

Hello Fellow Fodorites,
My wife and I are again visiting Italy later this year and could use some help. Thank you all so much for past advice.

We are traveling through northern Italy in late August and early September, first visiting Milan and Como then traveling by train to Santa Margherita Ligure for a few nights. When we leave the CT, we head for Parma, then on to Bologna. We had planned on renting a car in Parma to drive to Modena and then on to Bologna with a second day trip from Bologna to Ravenna. We will train from SML to La Spezia and could then train to Parma or are there interesting sights between La Spezia and Parma that would warrant getting the rental car in La Spezia in lieu of the train?

Any thoughts on other interesting stops once we have the car between Parma and Ravenna are appreciated also?

Thank you in advance for any advice.
bamburak is offline  
Apr 4th, 2011, 05:36 AM
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Portovenere, near La Spezia, is one of my favorite places in all of Italy. The drive to Parma is easy from there.
bobthenavigator is offline  
May 24th, 2011, 03:34 AM
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Sorry for the delay, but we are now hoping for more advice. bobthenavigator, thanks for the recommendation - depending on timing, we may try to stop in at Portovenere.

We have now tightened our itinerary and the hole remains traveling from SML to Parma. Is this an easy set of train connections? We had planned on the train to La Spezia and then finding a train directly to Parma. Is this the easiest or should we go to Genoa and find a train to Parma?

We will then have a car in Parma and Bologna for a few days and plan to visit Verona and Revenna at the least. Any other towns that we should stop to visit?

bamburak is offline  
May 24th, 2011, 02:34 PM
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If you are leaving from Santa Margherita Ligure, rent your car in Rapallo, which is right next door Santa Margherita Ligure. You will be much more comfortable just driving. The trains are jammed in late August and needless to say it is hot to haul your luggage run. The trains that run along the coast are some of the oldest in Italy, and first class is often shabby, hot and overcrowded.

There is so much to see just off the road, you really can't go wrong. Depending on when you leave and where you are at lunchtime, fascinating small towns with good restaurants are Sarzana, Castelnuova Magra, Pontremoli -- all before you reach Parma.

In the vicinity of Parma, it is worth using your car to visit the castle of Torrechiara, 20 miles away. It's closed on Monday. (There is also a nice restaurant there).

Having a car in Bologna is not all that much fun, and you should make sure you've lined up parking before you go. Again, there are many fascinating choices in all directions when it comes to towns: Ferrara, Brisighella, SantArcangelo in Romagna, Mantova (which will be HOT and MUGGY, as will much of the region. (By the way, the spelling is Ravenna -- and you should leave very early in the morning from Bologna if you are going in late August to avoid traffic jams headed toward the Adriatic).

For what it's worth, Portovenere is a nice, colorful town but it is full of cruise-shippers and doesn't different in character from all the other colorful Ligurian towns that string along the seacoast of the Italian Riviera. They mainly only differ in size -- and a few don't get hordes of tourists. While you are in Santa Margherita Ligure, taking a moment to visit the old quarter of Chiavari at the cocktail hour (head way from the beach) or doing a sunset walk at the sea in Zoagli -- one of the most photogenic spots on the Riviera and almost unknown to American tourists -- will give you a sense of the Riviera's pleasures away from foreign tourism.

Have a great time!
zeppole is offline  
May 24th, 2011, 08:21 PM
Join Date: Jan 2011
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Ravenna is a good choice. The mosaics are spectacular.

I also recommend a day in Modena. Among other things, we enjoyed a tour of Acetaia di Georgio, followed by a terrific lunch at Osteria Ermes, on the edge of the central city.
bgmanne is offline  
May 25th, 2011, 05:46 PM
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Why aren't you going Lake Como to Parma/Bologna to CT? This makes more sense from a train standpoint because Bologna is a connection on the way to the CT.
anothertravelinsong is offline  
May 31st, 2011, 02:22 AM
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Thank you all for the advice.

Zeppole, thank you for the insight. We've enjoyed your comments on a number of other posts and we will consider your recommendations very seriously.

As for the rental car, I tried to arrange one in SML, but the tour service that I work with didn't have a connection there. I'll try again using Rapallo.

In checking the map, I assume that if we can get a car we would drive south to check out the towns that you suggest. I see that Sarzana and Castelnuova Magra are further south - do we use A12 to SP1 then?

Is the SS62 a good road to Pontremoli or should we get back on the A15 until we get close?

We didn't plan on using the car in Bologna - the hotel has parking and we think (hope) it's an easy connection to the ring road so we will miss much of the traffic in town as we head out to visit other towns during the day.
bamburak is offline  
Jun 1st, 2011, 09:19 AM
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In August, even the morning, marching around hill towns can be a mood-killer. You might want to enjoy the cool of your air-conditioned car unless you need to eat lunch. You should stick to the autostrades and not take secondary roads unless you are getting off the autostrade to eat lunch -- which you should do by noon so you leave yourself a little time to get lost and find parking.

If you can rent a car in Rapallo, and are on your way fairly early in the morning, you can probably reach Parma by lunchtime. However, if by noon you are well short, it can be fun to eat in Sarzana, Castelnuova Magra or Pontemoli (that's what I'm trying to say). Pick the one you are closest to at noon.

If you can only rent a car in La Spezia, you might not get on the road until close to noon. I wouldn't back track to Sarzana. So in that case, pick either Castelnuova Magra or Pontremoli.

It is a bit more confusing and time consuming to make your way from the autostrada to the historic center of Castelnuovo Magra than it is to do the same for Pontremoli. If at 11:30 am you are near Castelnuovo Magra, you have a choice -- either get off the road right away and use the time to get to Castelnuova Magra, or stay on the autostrade for some more miles, which will still leave you plenty of time to get to Pontemoli for lunch.

If you are passing through the area way too early for lunch, Pontemoli has some very nice cafes right in its historic center, which is extremely small. It would give you a glimpse into how enchanting the Italy that most tourists never see actually is just to stop by for a cup of coffee. Sarzana too, although it takes a bit more effort to get there from the autostrade. If you go to Sarzana for a cup of coffee, also eat a "spungata" cake, a local speciality. (I you stop for lunch in further south, the local specialty pasta known as "testaroli" is worth sampling, and in summer, you can often find a ravioli that isn't pasta at all, but stuffed lettuce simmered in broth. It's called "lattughe in brodo", and its very good.)

But if you end up in Parma for lunch, you won't be disappointed.
zeppole is offline  
Jun 1st, 2011, 02:57 PM
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To indulge in a little boosterism... My paternal family emigrated from the area southwest of Parma. The obligatory visit to the family village, Cassio, on S62 resulted in one of our loveliest drives in Italy. The autostrada will bring some equally pretty views - but at 80 mph. No chance to stop for the photo op or smell the wildflowers. In particular, I'm talking about the stretch between Berceto and Fornovo di Taro. It takes you up into the mountains with very little traffic, twisty but not the Amalfi Coast, and a piece of history to boot. It's part of the Via Francigiana - the medieval pilgrim trail from Canterbury to Rome. And if you make it to Cassio at lunchtime and it's a Thursday the restaurant in the only hotel serves torta frita, a puffy fried bread dough (we called it pasta frita as kids). And the rest of the menu is what was served at my grandmother's table - not fancy, just Italian comfort food. Or sit outside at the only other restaurant and have una birra and marvel at the strange rock outcroppings, the Devil's Leaps.
toni_g_b is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2011, 03:39 AM
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Wonderful recommendations. We will look closer once I can determine the rental car. Currently, I have one reserved in Parma but only AFTER the trains from SML to La Spezia to Parma. It sounds like any of these smaller towns would be wonderful to experience so I'm working on other arrangements for a car from Rapallo or La Spezia.

As we go further east from Parma to Bologna - and we do have a rental car - we plan to go to Ravenna, Modena, pehaps Verona. Are their other intersting smaller towns along the way to any of these destinations? We really enjoy the smaller towns, especially those with interesting architecture or other cultural sites. Grazie.
bamburak is offline  
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