Good day stop between Pienza and Milan?

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Mar 7th, 2010, 07:25 AM
  #1
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Good day stop between Pienza and Milan?

We (husband, 3 kids 5 and under, and I) will be driving from Pienza to Milan in April. We will have spent the prior week using an agriturismo as a base for exploring some of Tuscany. Milan will be a night's rest before we fly out to Bosnia the following day. Our rental car does not need to be returned to Malpensa until night, and I imagine we'll leave Pienza in the morning. Considering that we will not likely be north of the A11 (runs between Florence and Pisa, roughly) during that week, we would like to stop and see something different on the way to Milan. I'm just thinking of a few hours, a chance for our kids to get a breath of fresh air and move their legs, and eat. Scenery is a plus. Can anyone give me recommendations?

And... I know this is slightly outrageous, but is it worth it to drive out of our way to try to stop in the Cinque Terre? It's been on our bucket list but we have never managed to make it. But I don't know if just a short glimpse would be more frustrating than beneficial. I'm not so obsessed with getting there that I would chuck reason out the window.

thanks in advance!
ET
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Mar 7th, 2010, 07:45 AM
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Your destination is not Milan, it is Malpensa 30 miles west of Milan. The most direct route would be A-1 all the way but that is relly boring. The alternative is A-11 to A-12 and up the coast for lunch. My pick would be Santa Margherita for lunch with a drive out to Portofino if time permits--only 3 miles away. Run the routing via the GOOLGLE MAPS program for details, and show your destination as Aeroporto Malpensa.
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Mar 7th, 2010, 07:46 AM
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Sorry, my fingers do not work--try GOOGLE MAPS.
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Mar 7th, 2010, 08:38 AM
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Bob-thanks for your reply, I always love to read your posts! Can I ask why you would choose Santa Margherita/Portofino over the C.T? I have no reason for preferring one, but I know my husband is going to favor C.T. (again, that mental image bucket list) so I am going to be ready with a good reason for whatever I put on the itinerary. I direct, he drives.

thanks Bob!
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Mar 7th, 2010, 09:13 AM
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I live one train stop away from Santa Margherita Ligure and I would not lock it in (or le CInque Terre) for an April trip due to the unpredictability of the weather. That said, if you are traveling during Easter or near the weekend of April 25, or on any nice weekend in April, it can be very difficult to drive into Portofino. It is a one track road that must accommodate at some points traffic going in both directions and it often has long traffic jams in nice weather. (There are electronic signs posted estimating the time it will take you to reach the town and its tiny parking lot).

Anyway, under all circumstance, at anytime of year, it is nicer to enter Portofino by boat, not car, and boats into the town can be boarded at docks in Santa Margherita Ligure, Rapallo and Camogli.

Driving into le Cinque Terre is often problematic, since only a few of the towns have parking. You can park in nearby towns on the train in, or take a boat in if the sea is not too choppy. But many people who are older or who are not fit don't like climbing the many stairs and steep hills in le Cinque Terre. With 3 kids 5 and under, I wouldn't want it either.

An alternative to the Ligurian coast should it rain and which less out of your way is Parma. Not only do you have the lovely pedestrianized, flat town with its huge grassy green parks and English gardens for your kids running around, and beautiful town marble monuments in its legendary town center for you (the interior of the Duomo is fabulous), but only a few kilometeres outside the town you have the stunning Torrechiara castle. Many people find the ham and cheese food of Parma more kid-friendly than the bright green (if delicious) pesto and many anchovy and fish dishes of Liguria.

parma green space

http://www.flickr.com/photos/checco/440807674/

http://parma.arounder.com/it/city-to...ppe-verdi.html

It's pretty, pedestrianized Parma yellow town center

http://parma.arounder.com/it/city-to...ta-square.html


Parma's astonishing duomo

http://parma.arounder.com/it/city-tour/cathedral.html


The castle of torrechiara, where it is possible to have lunch as well

http://www.tavernadelcastello.it/

It's all anything but boring!
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Mar 7th, 2010, 10:31 AM
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Well, there you have it !

My rationale was less time diversion from the road. Any of the CT villages would add an hour or more RT to your diversion. The total trip from Pienza to SML to Malpensa is a bit more than 6 hours, so time will be crucial. SML is very charming but not the CT landscape, which is best seen from the water anyway.
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Mar 7th, 2010, 11:50 AM
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If you haven't already done so during your stay in Pienza take S2 to Florence on the way north and one stop can be Monteriggioni, a walled village, north of Siena. The drive is very picturesque. Another place to stop is San Gimignano - incredible views. Lucca is another possibility with its thick walls -perfect for renting bikes if the kids are up to it.

If you go that far west, look for S62 coming south from Parma with its "Devils Steps" and stonemason trail near Cassio. Some more incredible scenery.

Closer to Malpensa, are Bobbio with its crooked bridge and shallow river, Pavia with its covered bridge and lovely river park, and Vigevano with what they declare the most beautiful piazza in Italy. (I wouldn't argue the point - it's stunning!)
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Mar 7th, 2010, 12:40 PM
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If the CT is an obsession and the weather is fine, you could shoot for La Spezia, park and take the train from there one stop into le Cinque Terre, and walk to Manarola on the flat via dell'Amore. You can probably find parking at the train station in La Spezia.

One of the advantages of not going further than La Spezia, at least not all the way up to Santa Margherita Ligure, is that you can then utilize the route from there to Milano, rather than use the A12 and the A7. I have seen hysterical posts on this board about the A12 from people hailed as "experienced" travelers about there inability to handle the tunnels and the interchanges around Genova. For me, the A12 isn't such a big to-do, but I seldom like driving the twisty A7 over the mountains from Genova into Milano.

I still think le Cinque Terre, obsession or no, is pointless if rain is in the forecast. Another thought about Portofino is that with 3 kids, gelato and simple food and drink costs 3 times as much as it does anywhere else in Liguria. It's a favorite of old-school and affluent tourists, but increasingly it's just about shopping for cruise-shippers, so I can't see going way far out of your way for that.

Once back in La Spezia from your jaunt into le Cinque Terre, you can hook back up through Parma on onto Milano on the autostrade. It's easier driving than heading through Genova.

How are your kids with motion sickness? For that reason alone, I think I'd avoid the switchback road down into Santa Margherita (I can't take the bus in and out of there. I take the train.) And I'd avoid the A7 from Genova to Milano.

Buon viaggi!
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Mar 7th, 2010, 01:11 PM
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Correction - here is good advice about heading to Levanto, not La Spezia for parking:

http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic...n_Riviera.html
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Mar 7th, 2010, 01:14 PM
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Another advantage of Levanto over La Spezia is that if the seas are calm, you can take a boat, as bob likes, to see the towns. From Levanto, it's a very short ride back to La Spezia and the easier highway connections to Milano.

But again: Not worth it in the rain, and expect crowds during Italian holiday time frames if the weather is nice.
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