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Favorites of Spain & Italy? Must sees for the (basically) 1st timers....

Favorites of Spain & Italy? Must sees for the (basically) 1st timers....

Jan 29th, 2010, 05:33 PM
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Favorites of Spain & Italy? Must sees for the (basically) 1st timers....

Two of us are heading to Spain & Italy in march. We aren't looking to do the typical touristy things. We are outdoorsy, adventurous and really want to get a feel for the people, country, and culture of these great countries. We were hoping you wonderful travelers may share with us some of your favorite places, towns, sites, experiences, etc of Spain, Italy, and anything in between (or close by). Any other information would be awesome! Thanks so much! -Mel & Adam
Mel_n_Adam is offline  
Jan 29th, 2010, 06:48 PM
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I swear by Rick Steves's books - but if you want to avoid touristy places, pick up his books for Italy and Spain, then cross off the destinations in his books from your itinerary. Because those places will be mobbed with American tourists, at least...

In Italy, try Parma and/or Bologna in Emilia Romagna: vibrant cities, great food, vibrant Italian cities that aren't overwhelmed by tourists.

Also in Italy, although you will find plenty of tourists (and a prominent mention in Rick Steves's Italy book), you might consider the Cinque Terre, which is a area on the NW coast of Italy (below the Italian Riviera) consisting primarily of five villages connected by an old train and hiking trails, mostly. The Cinque Terre is a national park. Not much of history or culture to see - just incredible views, great hiking opportunities (through vineyards and olive groves, even people's back yards), and charming little towns to dwell in. Though now heavily touristed, I consider the Cinque Terre still "different" for Italy because it's far off the "history/culture" tourist path e.g. Florence, Venice, Rome.
Andrew is online now  
Jan 29th, 2010, 07:07 PM
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Thanks so much! charming towns and hiking locations are just what we're looking for!
Mel_n_Adam is offline  
Jan 29th, 2010, 07:11 PM
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I think some of the most important places to see are going to have some tourists, but since you are going in March, you won't be facing the crowds you might see at another time.

In Spain, I think Barcelona is a don't-miss place, as is the Alhambra in Granada. The Barcelona architecture is unforgettable, as are the Alhambra and the attached Generalife (Heneraleefay) Gardens. (I once heard someone pronounce it "general life.")

The architecture in Sevilla is exotic--unique really.

I don't do much hiking per se, but when I explore these cities, I do plenty of walking.
Pegontheroad is offline  
Jan 29th, 2010, 07:12 PM
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March is not the best time to do the outdoorsy thing in Italy. Even in the overtouristed Cinque Terre, where every second tourist carries Rick Steves' book, hotels and restaurants will be mostly closed.

The same is true for outdoorsy, off the high-culture route places that Rick Steves has never heard of, such as the Cilento Coast and the Gargano Peninsula in Puglia.
Zerlina is offline  
Jan 29th, 2010, 08:23 PM
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Rick Steve's is to travel writing what Barry Mnailow is to rock n roll.

Michelin Greens are excellent for both countries since they will give you accurate adult descriptions of the small and the large sights.

For Spain there is a series by Cadogan which are a bit dry but knowledagle.

Someone thought they were giving us a gift when they gave us Little Ricky's Spain. People have said they he is good for guidance on art. In his Spain guide he calls Velásquez the photojournalist of the court. And Aalthough photojournalism is difficult and often dangerous occupation, Little Ricky shows a complete lack of understanding of Spanish and Western art as Velásquez is one its most influential artists.

He also excludes worthwhile places that he has note visited personally. And while that sounds noble you would think after all these years he would get a chance to see them.

You do not state how long you will be Italy and Spain. But each worth long periods of time and unless you spend time in each you will just get a taste of the culture and the compexity of each country.
Aduchamp1 is offline  
Jan 29th, 2010, 10:22 PM
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I can highly recommend a 3 hour horseback ride at dawn in Ronda, Spain!
joannyc is offline  
Jan 30th, 2010, 01:37 AM
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In Spain, I recommend the inland of Andalucía; beautiful landscapes and local culture:

- El Torcal Natural Park and the nearby town of Antequera (the so-called heart of Andalucía) some 30 miles inland from Málaga:

- La Axarquía in the Málaga province:

- Las Alpujarras, the mountain region between Granada and the Mediterranean: http://www.andalucia.com/villages/alpujarras.htm

At all time you would be quite close to the sea and more touristy but nice small towns such as Almuñécar or Nerja, and the great seafood restaurants in Torre del Mar.

I'm also quite sure that you would love both Extremadura and the northern provinces (the so-called Green Spain: Galicia, Asturias (with Picos de Europa), Cantabria and the Basque Country (the world's best food)), but in March you should expect cool weather and a good deal of rain.
kimhe is offline  
Jan 30th, 2010, 04:14 AM
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Rick Steves used for planning for lazy travellers!

Mel_n_Adam how are planning on travelling? and what are you points of entry and exit from each country? You say March but when in March? Some of the last week is near to Easter so some locations will be very busy.
Vital information need to give you some hope of sensible answers!
ribeirasacra is offline  
Feb 4th, 2010, 06:38 PM
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Thanks so much for all the responses!
Here's some extra info...maybe it will help you help us...
We land in Madrid in the first week of March. We are going to head south around Andalucia then up to Barcelona. total time in Spain will be about three weeks and we have free stay with friends and family almost everywhere.
Then we'll spend a few days going through Provence and our first stop in Italy will be in Morbegno in the alps. Then to Rome for Easter and then back up to Florence and around Tuscany. Our route is a little convoluted in Italy bc we are trying to stay with some friends when we can. Total time in Italy will also be about three weeks.
We fly out of Amsterdam at the very end of April.
Mel_n_Adam is offline  
Feb 5th, 2010, 02:08 AM
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So you will have to take trains to get from one country to another.
Are you using a car or public transport in Spain?
ribeirasacra is offline  
Feb 5th, 2010, 02:40 AM
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Rome and Florence are not exactly off the beaten track, nor is Tuscany. Look at Umbria and Le Marche instead for your walking/hiking. There's a Sunflower guide to walking in Umbria and Le Marche.
Zerlina is offline  
Feb 5th, 2010, 03:19 AM
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Last September, I spent one week mostly hiking or exploring the Southernmost part of Catalonia, near the river Ebro delta.
The mountains offer excellent trails, plus you can explore the rice fields in the delta, stroll through towns like Tortosa that do not see much tourism, and abundance of small historic/walled towns along the Ebro going inland with medieval/Templar castles, many traces and historic areas of the Civil War, and - of course - the local wine to sample.
March might still a bit on the cool side on some days and in higher elevations, but I assume you don't need/want heat for hiking anyway.
You can get a first impression on the region's website:

And I found that part of the country an ideal contrast to lively Barcelona.
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Feb 5th, 2010, 03:50 AM
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< Generalife (Heneraleefay) Gardens. (I once heard someone pronounce it "general life.") >
Revulgo is online now  
Feb 5th, 2010, 04:21 AM
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This off-the-beaten-path trip from Madrid to Zaragoza is strongly recommended.
Revulgo is online now  
Feb 5th, 2010, 04:46 AM
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Bookmarking. Spain is high on our wish list...
Nelson is online now  
Feb 5th, 2010, 08:59 AM
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Thanks cowboy1968! Those look great!
Zerlina, you are right. Much of what we are doing is not off the beaten path, but they simply can't be missed! Thanks
Mel_n_Adam is offline  
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