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Help planning 2 weeks in Northern Italy; Dolomites or Mt. Bianco area

Help planning 2 weeks in Northern Italy; Dolomites or Mt. Bianco area

Old Jan 5th, 2015, 09:00 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 113
Help planning 2 weeks in Northern Italy; Dolomites or Mt. Bianco area

We are in early planning stages of a two week trip June/July 2015. We will probably fly into Venice, spend 2-3 nights there then rent a car and drive on to next destination. We will be going to Milan at some point to visit with our Italian exchange student from last summer.(probably 2 nights there). Our other destination is Turin and surrounding areas(day trip probably to Alba and other towns. We'll fly home from Milan(back to U.S.)
I'm wondering about the Dolomites vs. the area around Monte Bianco or Cervinia. We would probably do some hiking, exploring,learning history of area, enjoying spectacular scenery. Just wondering your recommendations, impressions of the two areas. Favorite towns and places to visit in those areas.? This portion obviously will be added either before or after Milan.
Or if there are other areas that would make more sense, I'd love those suggestions too. I feel as though I'm just learning about this area of Italy!!

We will have our 17 yr. old son and possibly our 20yr. old son with us. Both are well traveled. We usually pick one or two places and stay put(you can read my other trip reports under my name) so this will be a little different with several locations.
Thanks in advance-Fodorites have helped tremendously in planning our other trips so thank you!!
LauraLF is offline  
Old Jan 5th, 2015, 10:29 AM
Join Date: Mar 2013
Posts: 6,619
Mont Blanc area: tons of more than 13000ft high peaks, uncountable glaciers, the highest alpine club hut of Europe (Rifugio Regina Margherita at 4554m/14940ft), endless well signmarked hiking trails (10 of them lead to Switzerland), huts and hotels about everywhere, roads and bus lines to all alpine valleys. Many very interesting castles down in the Aosta Valley; many of them can be visited. Aosta, capital of this French speaking area has a roman theatre, roman gates, towers and other roman buildings, a fine museum and a scenic medieval centre (pedestrian zone).

Dolomites: much bigger area at lower altitude with some zones of very impressive, not more than 3300m/9800ft high rocky mountains (Dolomites) namely around Misurina, Val Gardena, Bolzano/Bozen and Brenta (north of Lake Garda). Tons of huts and well signmarked hiking trails. The area counts 2 interesting towns with more than 100'000 inhabitants (Trento and Bolzano/Bozen), followed by Belluno, Meran and Brixen with about 30000 inhabitens each. Oetzi, the prehistoric ice-man can be visited in the Museum of Bozen.
The Dolomites don't count big glaciers like Aosta Valley. Some smaller glaciers are outside the proper Dolomites along the borders with Austria and Lombardy. There is also the highest hotel of the Alps: Grawand (3250m/1600ft), on the small Italian leg of the Austrian Hochjoch Glacier.
neckervd is offline  
Old Jan 5th, 2015, 10:56 AM
Join Date: Feb 2014
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Personally I would do both the Dolomiti and the Aosta valley, and cut Alba out of the mix for summertime. I would start in Venice, and after that pick up a car and head to the Dolomiti -- and then, if possible, arrange to meet up with the exchange student in Milan for 2 days. He or she should be able to help you find parking in a convenient, safe location. If worse came to worse, you could just park the car at Linate Airport and take the 30 minute shuttle to the Central Station, then a taxi to where the student lives.

After that, I would retrieve the car and head up to the Aosta valley. The town of Aosta has wonderful sights and is worth visiting, but it is more fun to stay in one of the scenic valleys and do some walks with the cows. Possibilities are Lillaz near the Gran Paradiso or hotels in the Valgrisenche or the Val de Rhemes Notre-Dame. Montebianco can be seen from many vantage points and hikes near St Pre Didier, and it is quite a sight on a clear day (even just from the road). I have not gone up in the direction of the Matterhorn, because I have heard it gets more commercialized and touristy in feeling the closer you get to seeing it -- but others say the hiking is nice. The valle d'Aosta is a very special secluded place with some very peaceful, pastoral rural valleys and gorgeous vistas. It is not as stunning and jaw dropping as the Dolomiti -- one of Europe's prime spectacles of nature -- but it is quite enjoyable.

I would then drop off the car in Turin, have fun in the city -- a great one for young people -- and take the train to Milan.

This is a nice place with apartment rental in Turin.

sandralist is offline  
Old Jan 5th, 2015, 11:08 AM
Join Date: Apr 2003
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We did a very similar trip in 2007. Started in Venice for 3 nights, drove to Cortina for a few nights; drove through the Dolomites to bolzano for a few nights, down to Lake Garda for a few, on to Milan for a few and then to Verona for our last 'night' and into Venice for the flight home. I think my trip report is still here - it would have been filed in September of 2007.
cmeyer54 is offline  
Old Jan 5th, 2015, 12:05 PM
Join Date: Feb 2014
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Correcting a typo in my own post: That should be Pre St. Didier in the valle d'Aosta, with views on Montebianco

sandralist is offline  
Old Jan 5th, 2015, 01:59 PM
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Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 113
Wow! Great info and insight neckervd!
Thank you all so much! This is incredibly helpful. Having never been to N. Italy, I'm having a hard time getting my head around distances, etc. Time to get out the maps and plot out the areas mentioned!

Does anyone have a favorite town in the Dolomites? I'm thinking convenient for hiking but with a few restaurant choices and not too much driving in the evening for dinner. We've stayed in apts on past trips and that is appealing, or nice agriturismos or inns. We just don't care as much for large commercial hotels or resorts.
Sandra, thank you for the apartment info-I'll definitely check that out.

And I'll look forward to reading your TR cmeyer54!
LauraLF is offline  
Old Jan 5th, 2015, 02:13 PM
Join Date: Feb 2014
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Most hotels in the Dolomiti offer dinner at night and you won't find better by restaurant hopping unless you stay in one of the larger towns, which are generally not quite as scenic or charming. My favorite Dolomiti area for scenery is in the Alta Badia, particularly around Corvara and Pedraces. There is no point in picking for the "towns". With a few exceptions of villages in the Alta Badia, they are all ski-resort, functional towns without a lot of personality (unless it is a ski bunny personality). You should pick for the type of hikes and scenery that appeals, unless you also want lots of cable car rides, because some towns are better than others for that. You can also skip staying in a town altogether and enjoy an agriturismo or rural lodge that serves dinner. There are plenty throughout the entire area of the Dolomiti.
sandralist is offline  
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