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Help -Northern Italy Itinerary including Hiking

Help -Northern Italy Itinerary including Hiking

Mar 3rd, 2018, 09:13 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2016
Posts: 17
Help -Northern Italy Itinerary including Hiking

Hello fellow travelers- coming back to you again and this time will be for our Northern Italy trip June 17- July 2nd with hubby, our daughter and son in law who are in their late twenties. (Dates are still somewhat flexible) This is their first time to Europe and our second to Italy. It is a 15-16 day trip and need help with finalizing itinerary. Our goal is to create an outdoor experience for them mixed with some of the iconic cities (Venice and Florence). We are truly just happy to travel with our kids and since we have visited before I want to concentrate on what they hope to see and experience. They would love an outdoor adventure of hiking in the Dolomites, and walking from town to town in the Cinque Terre (we would just enjoy the towns sipping coffee or wine while they are off trekking We all want to experience a truly Italian sense of place and as much as possible avoid the crowds (although I get it's summer! )

Here is the itinerary:
Fly in and out of Milan
Milan- 1 night on arrival
Lake Commo -Bellagio - 2 nights (travel Milan-Lake Como- ferry to Bellagio? Is this the best place in lake Commo or is Lake Maggiore better from a more scenic and less crowded point of view?
Bolzano - 3 nights (train travel from Bellagio-Varena-Milan-Bolzano) Is this the best place to stay to hike around the Dolomites? or is there something smaller, quainter?
Venice - 3 nights (travel Bolzano-Varena- to Venice)
Florence -2 nights
Cinque terre-3 nights
Milan-1 night to be able to fly out the following day
We hope to be using trains- no cars except maybe one day in the mountains? We have allowed 1 night in Milan on both ends- I think this will be less hectic and we will take the opportunity to see a bit of Milan.
Please let us know if this is doable and/or if you see adjustments that can make it a better flow of time and experiences.
Looking forward to your valuable input!
Jenny755 is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2018, 09:30 AM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 76,521
Well for lots on Italian trains check Acquista il biglietto con le nostre offerte - Trenitalia - national rail system; www.ricksteves.com; BETS-European Rail Experts and www.seat61.com.

I'd go to CT sooner rather than later to avoid swelling crowds as summer goes on.
PalenQ is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2018, 10:45 AM
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If you want to visit Bellagio on Lake Como, it would be better to stay in Bellagio or Varenna. The ferry ride from Como takes well over an hour. Varenna can be reached by direct train from Milan, and it's a very short ferry ride from Bellagio. I have to say that I'm not a big fan of Bellagio, where the only Italians I saw worked in the hotels and restaurants. We were actually asked, at a lakeside bar if we could please speak English!

If you want to avoid lots of tourists, consider also Lake Garda. I've never been to Lake Maggiore, but I preferred Lake Garda to Lake Como. Many people love Lake Como though, and I admit I've only been there once, for two days. Relatives of ours go often to Lake Maggiore and speak very highly of it.

In the Cinque Terre, most (maybe all) of the lower (easier) trails are closed because of the risk of landslides. Two of them have been closed since 2011, and there isn't much chance that they'll be opening soon. The other two were closed recently, and may be open sooner. The higher trails are mostly open, but they require a good bit of climbing and require that you be fit and have good hiking shoes. One advantage of the higher trails is that they'll get you away from the hordes of tourists, mostly day trippers, who clog the tiny villages.

Bolzano is a pretty big town. I was there in winter, mostly to see the museum where the prehistoric "ice man" ( also called Ötzi ) is preserved. I don't know about hiking opportunities, but I would suspect that a smaller town actually in the mountains would be better. Another possibility would be Cortina D'Ampezzo, which is fairly easily reached from Venice. Lake Garda is also easily reached from Venice, so you could cut down the amount of travel with a combination of these three locations.

Your itinerary is a bit too busy for my taste, but it's certainly doable. I myself would probably cut out the Cinque Terre and extend the time in the Dolomiti or on a lake. If you cut out the Cinque Terre, I think the best route would be Milan -> Florence -> Venice, and then on the mountains and lake, and back to Milan.
bvlenci is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2018, 11:22 AM
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Our favorite lakes are Maggiore and Orta. Stresa is easily reachable by train from Milano and once there you can traverse the lake on boats to the Borromean islands and other towns or use the cable cars to get up into the mountains. And Stresa,while not a large or bustling place, has plenty of nice cafés and restaurants and shops. Very pretty place.

I wouldn't set foot in the Cinque Terre in high season, myself. Twenty-five years ago it was a wonderland; now it's pretty much overrun, and with so many other delicious Italian venues, missing it isn't really a big issue.

Don't overlook the charms of Milano. There's a lot there besides it being a stepping stone to and from other places.
StCirq is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2018, 03:20 PM
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I’d recommend that if your goal is hiking in the Dolomites, then do stay in the Dolomites. This past September I spent three nights in Ortisei, a charming village in the Val Gardena, that has three lifts to take you to superlative hiking opportunities. I also had a couple of nights in Bolzano, an attractive, upmarket town whose highlight for me was the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology housing Ötzi that blvenci mentioned.
bon_voyage is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2018, 03:40 PM
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Yeah I visited the Dolomites in early June a few years ago. They had late snows that year. But there is a Val di Gardena card that gets you up on all the cable cars that take you from the valley floor to the higher plateaus. I think it's valid for a week or maybe 4-5 days. But a lot of the lifts or cable cars don't start running for the summer until last week of June.

I'd fly into Milan and out of Venice or vice versa, so you don't have to backtrack. I also agree that Cinque Terre is too far away from the other destinations to visit. Not impossible but some 4-5 hour train rides.

One thing that I remember a lot, were warnings to take precautions against ticks in the trails in the Dolomites. Stay away from the tall grass, possibly find a way to close off the pant leg openings, check for ticks when you get back from the hikes and take insect repellent.
scrb11 is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2018, 04:07 PM
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We did a similar family trip in July 2016, a mix of cities, coast and Dolomites, logistics and photos here:

Northern Italy and a bit of Bavaria, a family trip

Bolzano looked interesting, but being in one of the valley villages is more convenient for hiking.
Adelaidean is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2018, 04:13 PM
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I also stayed in Ortisei in July. Val Gardena is fairly popular on this board, but you could look into the Alta Badia as well. My trip was: a week in Venice, a week hiking in the Dolomites with a stop in Bolzano too, a week+ in Arezzo and Rome. The Dolomites, Bolzano and Arezzo were new destinations for me, and I loved them, especially hiking in the Dolomites.

I didn't rent a car this past summer, although I did book a private taxi from the station in Bolzano to my lodging in Ortisei. There is a bus, too, but I wanted to treat myself.

If I were you, I'd pare down the itinerary.

Hi, bon_voyage! How was your trip?
Leely2 is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2018, 04:33 PM
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Hi Leely! Overall a good trip with some great moments, thanks for asking! I’ve been wanting to write a trip report but came back a bit the worse for wear and didn’t want that to overly cloud some of my impressions.
bon_voyage is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2018, 05:15 PM
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Wow- thank you everyone ! So much to sift through and decisions to make.
From everyone's responses it seems we have too much planned and that is not our intention- we thought we had a good pace- glad we asked!
We are re-visiting our stops- we do want a mix of cities, coast and mountains. I think we may drop Florence ( our adult kids may enjoy the outdoors more than museums) and add those two nights to either the Dolomites or the lake region. Am concerned on the tick thing though- is it really a problem?
We don't want to give up Cinque Terre (it's been on our bucket list - the quintessential town hanging on the cliffs has such an appeal) but we may reverse the trip so we catch it earlier in June then into July.
I will work on revisions and get a new itinerary and see if we need any more tweaking!
Jenny755 is offline  
Mar 4th, 2018, 04:33 AM
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Since the Cinque Terre is a must for you I would start there (will only get more crowded the further into July you get). And I would take the train there on arrival day and not spend that night in Milan. Most of the trails between the towns that are closest to the water have been closed in recent years due to rock slides. There are other trails further up that are open. And you can hike just a short distance in each direction from each town for wonderful views even if the trail all the way to the next town is closed. Then you can either hike one of the higher trails or take the train between towns. I stayed in Rapallo my most recent trip to the area (previous one we stayed in Camogli). The other towns in the area (besides the CT towns) such as Rapallo, Camogli, Santa Marguareta, Portovenere are also worth visiting and a lot less crowded.

For lakes I prefer Lake Garda to Lake Como. The northern end of the lake is the most scenic with high mountains coming right down to the water. Malcesine is my favorite town in the area and in addition to the gorgeous lake setting and a cute little castle there is a gondola right from the center of town to some decent hiking on the edge of the Dolomites. Bolzano is a great little city, we stayed there for five days and used it as a base for exploring the Dolomites. Most people on this board prefer staying in one of the small towns in the Val Gardena. The problem is, there are no guarantees for weather in the mountains and if it's rainy or even just cloudy you don't see much. By basing in Bolzano for several days you can go up into the mountains on sunny days and if it's not you can do something in Bolzano itself (the ice man museum is good, but there are other things - or a day trip to Trento). I do think a car, at least for the time in the Dolomites is pretty important. Some do it by public transportation but everything takes longer that way.

Lake Garda, Dolomites and Venice are all fairly close together so would minimize travel over going to Lake Como.

Then Venice at the end and try to fly home from there. If not, it's a relatively painless train trip back to Milan, but I would definitely spend the last night there.

This trip report includes Lake Garda and the Dolomites - A month in northern Italy: Mountains, Lakes and Castles
This one includes the CT region - Photo Safari to the south of France, the Italian Rivera and the Swiss Alps

Photos of all these places - Zenfolio | Isabel's_View | Italy
isabel is offline  
Mar 4th, 2018, 11:58 AM
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For hiking in CT be sure to consult the latest updates in trail conditions as parts of the about 7-mile main one linking all 5 Lands have been closed off and on due to mud slices- and wet weather can make all trails less than desirable. and the main trail is often like an LA freeway at rush hour!
PalenQ is offline  
Mar 4th, 2018, 02:29 PM
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The Cinque Terre card may give you rides on the electric mini buses which run from the train stations to higher points above the villages. For instance, you can take them at Riomaggiore to some nearby hamlets.

i didn't get the card because I found you can get a better deal on weekly train pass between villages.

But I went on one of the guided tours given by the parks dept. One such tour involved taking the minibus to a hamlet and then walking back down, which included stopping at an old church or sanctuary which overlooked Riomaggiore from a vantage point above and SE of the village.

Even though downhil, its not an easy hike as you have to step down over uneven rocky path, with uneven steps. You want really solid hiking shoes with soles which won't flex and good deep treads. Also have to fit so your toes don't get crushed stepping down.

Another guided hike was going up the western ridge over Maggiore and then going down to the next village. Real good info about the history, especially how they make wine on those steep hills (they bring harvest down with human-powered monorail carts) -- "heroic viticulture".

These tours were a few Euros, even without CT Card. The minibus was also a couple of Euros.
scrb11 is offline  
Mar 4th, 2018, 03:37 PM
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Originally Posted by bon_voyage View Post
Hi Leely! Overall a good trip with some great moments, thanks for asking! I’ve been wanting to write a trip report but came back a bit the worse for wear and didn’t want that to overly cloud some of my impressions.
Hope you are feeling better/things are better for you now. Where did you stay in Bolzano?
Leely2 is offline  
Mar 4th, 2018, 04:25 PM
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Thanks, Leely ! I’ve learned more about the facets in my back than I ever wanted to know and am well better than I was on my return.
I stayed in a single at the Hotel Greif in Bolzano which I liked a lot.
bon_voyage is offline  
Mar 5th, 2018, 05:18 PM
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Back pain is terrible. I'm sorry but glad you are feeling much better.
Leely2 is offline  
Mar 18th, 2018, 12:58 PM
Original Poster
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Posts: 17
Back with some final questions- After careful considerations of everyone's comments, we have pared down our itinerary and added a night.
We took the lake region out and added Florence. Isabel, we took your advise to reverse the trip and are still considering going straight to Cinque Terre instead of staying in Milan the first night. Then we would add the night to Milan at the end of the trip- still trying to see the airline schedules though...
This is what we are thinking traveling by train except in the Dolomites:
Fly in and out of Milan
Milan- 1 night
Milan - Cinque Terre- 2 nights
Take train to Monteroso and spend 3 nights (choosing this as a base since there is a direct train from Milan to Monteroso- 3hrs- maybe less crowded than Vernazza where it seems everyone wants to stay?)
Cinque terre- Florence- 2 nights
Florence - Venice- 3 nights
Venice - Ortisei- 4 nights (checking on trains and looks like you change in Bolzano - should we rent a car in Bolzano or is it easy to get car rentals in smaller towns like Ortisei?) Also considering Castelroto but may not be as good a location for hiking- sounds quaint though?
Ortisei- Milan- 1 night

Any comments will be so appreciated!
Jenny755 is offline  
Mar 18th, 2018, 01:46 PM
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We like all the Italian Lakes but I think mid lake on Lake Como is the most scenic, Bellagio, Mennagio, Cadanabbia, Varenna..
The Dolomites have incredible beauty. See if you can get rooms at Hotel Grones in Ortisei. The ne of favorites hotels ever. Family owned and run. Wonderful hiking high up in mountain valleys. You take gondolas or funiculars up and down.
When you say a “ real Italian experience” I am sure you know there are huge differences within Italy. The Dolomites were part of Austria, German influences, Ladin dialect spoken as well as Italian and German.
Think ravioli filled red cabbage for example. We hiked between all five Cinque Terre villages but the trail is not all open due to damage from floods several years ago. The hiking in the Dolomites was better IMO although the CT villages are charming. I believe cruise ships are now pulling in near the CT disgorging thousands of passengers, not good for this small area.
HappyTrvlr is online now  
Mar 18th, 2018, 01:52 PM
Original Poster
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Thanks Happy Trvlr- we will check out the hotel in Ortesei
Jenny755 is offline  
Mar 18th, 2018, 02:05 PM
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I was considering the Dolomites myself for August.

A lot of the hotels are already booked and the remaining ones, the prices are sky high. As high as some 5-stars in Switzerland. And they're okay hotels but nothing that special.
scrb11 is offline  

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