First Trip to Italy...HELP!

Old Mar 19th, 2006, 04:36 PM
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First Trip to Italy...HELP!

Hi - I am planning my first trip to Italy in early Sept. Here is my is current plan:
1)Rome staying at Residenza Antica for 3 nights; (then travel via Train Italia Saver 4 day Pass) 2)Orvieto staying at the Oasi Dicepoli for 2 nights; 3)Florence staying at The Rivoli for 4 nights; 4)Venice for 2 nights staying at the Ca Priuli; 5)Lake Como for 3 nights at The Metropole Suisse.

Questions: Do I want to rent a car at all while in Como or are the ferries the way to go? Do I want to rent a car in Florence to explore outside the city and tour the countryside? How much should I allocate per day for spending money (meals, touring, etc). Are any of the hotels I picked a no-no?
Thanks for the help.
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Old Mar 19th, 2006, 05:04 PM
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A nice mix of destinations, if a bit too many for my idea of a 2-week itinerary.

Are you sure the train pass is cheaper than point-to-point tickets?

I assume the Metropole Suisse at Lake Como is in Bellagio. If so, you don't need a car for three days. You can definitely get around and see a lot using the ferries. If the hotel is in the town of Como, I'd drop a day and add it to Venice.

Budgeting is whatever you make it. You can eat very well for the same amount you would spend at home, although Venice is generally more expensive. "Touring" depends on how much you want to be guided and how much you are willing to do on your own.

How much time you spend travelling out of Florence depends on your interests. Florence has a lot to see, but you can easily (and cheaply) go to Siena, Pisa, or Lucca, etc., by public transport. A car would be nice for a day or two but is not necessary. A private tour by car and driver would be even nicer but is not necessary. It just depends on how much you want to spend.

The place where you would most benefit by having a car would be Orvieto.
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Old Mar 19th, 2006, 05:14 PM
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Thanks Jean. The hotel is right on Lake Como, would you recommend staying in Bellagio for one of the three nights?
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Old Mar 20th, 2006, 07:22 AM
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From your itinerary I assume that you have an open-jaw airline ticket - arriving in Rome and leaving from Milan. If not you might reconsider because it would save you a lot of time. For a first trip I would cut the Lake Como stop to 2 nights (and visit Bellagio one of those days) to spend another night in Rome. It would take a full week just to see the ***** sights in that spectacular city.

Car rentals in Italy are expensive - especially if you aren't renting by the week. Take a bus from Florence one day to visit Siena and save your money for whiling away the evening drinking vino tavola somewhere in a quiet piazza. Eat local in small restaurants that don't post their menus out front in three languages to make your euros stretch further. Have fun - looks like a great vacation.
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Old Mar 20th, 2006, 07:43 AM
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Hi L,

My suggestion would be to cut a day from Florence (even with a day trip outside the city) to add to Venice. Unless you are a huge art/museum lover, Venice really needs more time!

I also agree to cut a day from Como to add to Roma!

Buon viaggio!
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Old Mar 20th, 2006, 08:03 AM
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Hi LC,

Have you purchased your railpass yet?

If not, enter your itinerary at www.railsaver.com and click "only if it saves money".

Orvieto has a very, very, very good restaurant - I Sette Consoli.

>How much should I allocate per day for spending money...<

How much wine do you drink?


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Old Mar 20th, 2006, 02:32 PM
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"The hotel is right on Lake Como." Yes, I got that. But what town? Como or Bellagio?
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Old Mar 20th, 2006, 03:35 PM
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Sorry Jean - I realized that after I wrote it. Its in Como. We are debating staying in Como for three days, maybe cut it to two and stay in Como one day and then take the ferry and spend the other day in Bellagio.
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Old Mar 20th, 2006, 04:59 PM
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I don't think it matters where you stay on Lake Como. Take the ferry around the lake and visit the towns. Bellagio is a nice afternoon. I'm not sure I'd spend 3 days there unless I was trying to decompress. I need big city nightlife to keep my interest.
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Old Mar 20th, 2006, 05:36 PM
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I would definitely try to spend another day in both Rome and Venice if possible! Maybe one from Florence and one from Como?
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Old Mar 21st, 2006, 05:05 PM
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"I don't think it matters where you stay on Lake Como." I strongly disagree.

Obviously, the ferry system is great, and you can easily travel all over the lake. But if you stay in the town of Como, you will spend a lot of time and some money travelling to the more interesting places on the lake.

Frankly, if you pick Como over the mid-lake area, especially for anything less than three days, I would drop Lake Como completely from this trip and add the days to Rome and Venice.

But, I have to ask, why did you pick the town of Como in the first place?
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Old Mar 22nd, 2006, 05:01 AM
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Jean - Someone said to visit Como so that is where the travel agent suggested we stay. Can you recommend a better place to stay? Our hotels are not booked yet, just the airfare. I think I'm going to cut Como to two days and add the extra day to Florence.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2006, 11:41 AM
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Nothing wrong with staying in Como. It is a nice town. Ferries run from there. Lots of good places to eat. We really like out hotel, Barchetta Excelsior , which is right on plaza overlooking lake.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2006, 03:46 PM
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We have visited the mid-lake area many times and have stayed in both Bellagio and Varenna in both hotels and apartments. What is your budget? Any specific needs?

My sister-in-law and her husband stayed at the Barchetta Excelsior in Como (mentioned by Curt) a couple of years ago. She also liked the hotel but spent an entire day ferrying to Bellagio for lunch, a quick walking tour, a little shopping time and ferrying back to Como. If she had stayed mid-lake, she would saved those hours spent sitting on the ferry and seen more sights.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2006, 05:50 PM
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Regarding Lake Como, I would recommend staying in the mid lake towns over staying in Como. Bellagio, Varenna with Menaggio running a close third.

Como is a city of about 100,000 people. Como has hundreds of years of history a silk weaving/ manufacturing town.

Varenna has non tourist population of about 1,000. Varenna was a sleepy fishing town. Last June there a few dozen people out in the evening, rather quiet.

Bellagio is a tourist town. It is pretty, with very nice views across the lake. Good places to eat and stay.

The mid lake has train service to Varenna so it might be convenient. If you are going to be there for only two nights, then a trip up the lake from eother Como or Lecco and then back two days later might be a good idea.
 
Old Mar 22nd, 2006, 05:55 PM
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Jean - I informed my travel agent that we want to change to Bellagio and stay at the Hotel Florence or Belvedere. We will still visit Como by ferry one of the days. My only concern now is getting to airport in Milan since changing hotels meant losing my transfer from Como to airport. Our flight leaves Milan at 1030am.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2006, 08:35 PM
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Well, an early departure from Malpensa puts a different spin on things. I'm assuming this is an international flight, and you need to check-in at 8:30 a.m.

(If you still insist on visiting Como as your last post indicated, you could spend the last night there, taking the latest ferry or hydrofoil from Bellagio. But, really, what is in Como that keeps pulling you in? And if you cut your nights on Lake Como to just two, this really makes no sense. It will take you the better part of a day to get from Venice to Bellagio, and you'd be leaving the next day.)

Whatever.

Some will say you can get to Malpensa in time using public transportation (combination of ferries, trains, buses), but everything must go like clockwork (which is not always a strong point of Italians).

I would check the ferry schedules (www.navigazionelaghi.it), the train schedules (www.trenitalia.it) and the Malpensa Airport website (for shuttle bus info) to consider your options and then decide how you want to go.

1. Ferry to Varenna, train to Milano Stazione Centrale, Malpensa shuttle to airport. Minimum 2.5 hrs. assuming quick connections everywhere.

2. Hydrofoil to Como, Malpensa shuttle to airport. Don't know how early either one starts.

3. Hydrofoil to Como, train to Soronno, transfer to train to Malpensa. Don't know how early hydrofoil starts, but Como-Soronno line is used by schoolkids so it probably starts early. The Soronno connection is usually about 10 minutes, and the Malpensa train stops in the airport just a short walk to the check-in area.

4. Taxi from Bellagio to Malpensa. Expensive (I've heard 165 euros) but stress free and fastest option.

Regarding the Florence v. the Belvedere. The Florence is always my first choice because I like to be right in town and close to the ferry. But the Florence does not have air conditioning. If you ask for a room facing the side street (and the Grand Hotel Serbelloni), the sun won't be beating on your window and you'll still have a bit of a lake view. The lakeview terrace rooms are lovely but quite a bit more expensive and more exposed to the sun. I believe the Belvedere has A/C and I know it has wonderful views. It's located in the hills above Bellagio, about a 10-minute uphill walk from the ferry dock. Not difficult if you're fit but could be uncomfortable if the temperature is hot.

Personally, after looking over your original post again and noting all the short stays and all the moving around you're doing in 2 weeks, I return to my suggestion that you drop Lake Como from this trip. Spend the time in Venice and train into Milan the day before your departure.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2006, 09:20 PM
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I have to agree with Jean--skip Como this trip. The city of Como is not the draw, Bellagio and the sister towns are- but they are not convenient for a quick exit--in fact very inconvenient. The added days to Rome and Venice will be greatly appreciated. Remember, less is more and you will enjoy it more and want to come back! Cheers, Paul
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