Indulge my Italian dreams...

Old May 27th, 2009, 09:34 AM
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Indulge my Italian dreams...

Hello! My husband and I are planning to take a trip next May, to celebrate our 5-year anniversary and his graduation from law school. We'll also have a new baby! (I'm pregnant now, so the baby will be about 7 months). We honeymooned in Italy, and I'd love to go back.

On our honeymoon, we went to Florence and then spent a week in Montepulciano. While I'd love to go back to Montepulciano, I'd also love to explore somewhere new. We know we'll want to travel slow with our baby, so I'm thinking that during our 9-10 day trip, we should split our time between 2 places max.

We're pretty open, so I'd love to hear suggestions for baby-friendly places to visit. Our goal is really just to relax and enjoy Italy - don't care about tourist attractions, and are not likely to rent a car. I would like for the transportation to and from to be relatively easy, but we live in NYC so are used to public transportation.

Thanks in advance!
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Old May 27th, 2009, 09:38 AM
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You really need to provide a lot more information -- like what time of year you'll be traveling and if you'd rather be a near or in a city, and if so, which one. It would also help to know, since you don't like tourist attractions (I don't blame you), what mainly attracts you to Italy. History? Food? Art? Motorcycles? Seaside? Ceramics?
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Old May 27th, 2009, 09:49 AM
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Happy to! The trip is in mid-May. I left this fairly vague jsut because there's really not anywhere we won't consider. I'm fascinated by the country as a whole! I'm most familiar with Tuscany, just from previous trip research, but that's certainly not the only option.

Food is probably our first priority (no need for "gourmet," just tasty!). Because we live in a city now, I probably wouldn't want to spend our entire trip in a bigger city - at least not one that "feels" like a city.
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Old May 27th, 2009, 12:20 PM
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There are pluses and minuses to all the choices I would recommend, and you can start thinking about the trade-offs:

For train-based travel and great food, Emilia-Romagna, specifically around Bologna, has a lot to offer. You might prefer being in Ferrara instead of Bologna, but that would still offer you lots of easy access to Ravenna, Parma, Modena, Mantova, Firenze (Florence), Faenza -- and so it goes. Plus, Ferrara and Bologna have lots of porticoes for shady walking and rain protection. Downside: You probably want to rent an apartment, and you will have to dig to find a suitable one.

Much of Umbria has better public transportation connections than the wine-hilltowns of Tuscany. You could combine some days in Perugia with a stay in a small town, and still get a chance to see Assisi, Orvieto and some other lovely spots using buses or trains. Also, once there, you might decide once you see how easy the driving is, to rent a car just for 3 days or so to explore a bit further. Downside? Hilltowns are really hills around there: Lots of steep walking with a baby. Despite it being home of St Francis, local cuisine is excessively meaty and not always distinguished, but if you dig, you can beat the casual odds. Probably lots more rental choices, but lots more tourists in some places (like Assisi).

Liguria: Pesto, sunshine, sea and anchovies and strawberries in May, boat rides, a train line that runs the length of the coast, relaxation galore. If you pick the right town (Sestri Levante, Santa Margherita Ligure) you can be on flat terrain, and use the trains and boats to explore hillier places as the mood strikes. Downsides? Hard for me to name them, since I live here, but I would be concerned, I think, about sun protection for a small baby. And you have to mean when you say you don't want tourist attractions. It's all about the sea vistas here, and the fresh food.
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Old May 27th, 2009, 01:11 PM
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Of the 3 suggestions zeppole made I like the 1st esp if u are looking for less touristy but still have some places to see other than the beautiful scenery. I would skip Florence since you've already been. Also, I liked the food the best in that area. I loved Bologna and think it would be a great base. U can easily take the train to visit other towns. Ravenna is a great little town and I will always remember the mosaics... just incredible.
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Old May 27th, 2009, 01:26 PM
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I second Zeppole's suggestions.

Also, Rome and Venice (fly into Rome and out of Venice);

Milan and Lake Como and/or Maggiore (fly in and out of Milan);

Side trips are possible from from all. DH and I loved Bologna.

Once we stayed in Venice for 2 weeks. Made side trips to Murano, Burano, Padua, Treviso and Trieste.
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Old May 27th, 2009, 01:34 PM
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Then I think I should disgree with myself!

I just popped in to elaborate that given the original posters statement that sightseeing was not important, I do want emphasize that people have treasured -- truly treasured -- Liguria as an Italian destination for just that reason -- the lack of pressure to sightsee -- for at least a century as far as I can tell. I have a very, very old guidebook to Liguria, written in 1915, where the author celebrates the relief he feels in Liguria that nothing is calling to him except the beautiful vistas.

So while have put those other sightseeing-rich destinations out there, I live in Liguria because otherwise I would never be able to ignore all those frescoes and stones out there. I take it small doses -- and invite other escapees from the tourist track to join us here, guiltlessly. This is Italy too.
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Old May 27th, 2009, 04:42 PM
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Thank you all so much for the suggestions!! How will I ever wait a year?

I love the Bologna suggestion in particular. We have discussed visiting Bologna and Parma in the past, and it certainly seems like a food paradise.

What would anyone think about combining Bologna and Siena, perhaps? There are direct flights from NYC to Pisa, which makes Tuscany fairly easy for us (and probably preferable to Rome).
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Old May 27th, 2009, 05:05 PM
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Logistically, it wouldn't be at all difficult. You'll be doing more sightseeing, and hill climbing, and to my mind less interesting food, but you can find ferret good places, I'm sure. But you should look at pictures of Siena to see if that's what you want. It's not convenient for day tripping, and it is a walled city with mucho tourists. And it is closely wedded culturally and historically to the area of Tuscany you last visited.

Another possibility might be Bologna and Lucca, which is also a walled city, but you can get up on its walls and have lovely walks and bike rides. It's flat, mostly car free and further simplifies your travel plans -- Fly into Pisa, spend a night to recover, move on to Bologna, come back through Lucca, get a car service to the airport if you'd rather not use the train). Lucchese food is rather rich (once it gets past its peasant phase) and different from the food of Siena and Montepulciano, so you might find that interesting. There are also some interesting towns nearby readily accessible by train: Pistoia, Montecantini and Montesumano Termi (baths) and you can even imagine visiting the Mediterranean (Forte dei Marmi).

Renting an apartment in Lucca would be a simple affair I think.

Were it me, I would also consider Bologna plus Mantova. In which case, I would use the Milano airport. which also offers direct flights, from EWR and JFK. Check out the offerings with google searches. That's if you would really like to feel you've gone away from it all, and find yourself wandering in circles and asking why nobody comes here. Food is legendary there. Town is all flat. Can get humid (fog, rain and muggy if warm.) If you make that choice, you might consider spending your first night in Stresa on Lago Maggiore, which can be reached by bus from Malpensa, and has a train station which would take you on from there. I believe there are direct buses to both Bologna and Mantova from Malpensa. Check the Malpensa airport website to see if any of them would work for you.
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Old May 27th, 2009, 05:16 PM
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http://goitaly.about.com/od/moreital.../p/montova.htm
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Old May 27th, 2009, 05:40 PM
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Just checked and buses from Malpensa don't offer options to Bologna and Mantova, One has to go through Milano Centrale.
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Old May 27th, 2009, 05:55 PM
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zeppole, you've been a wealth of information, thanks so much! I'm loving these new suggestions too. Wonder if one can take strollers on the Lucca walls?
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Old May 27th, 2009, 05:55 PM
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I thought Siena was interesting to vist for a day, but don't think I would want to stay there -- it was jammed with people. Also agree that foodwise, it didn't thrill me. Loved, loved loved Mantova.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2009, 08:21 AM
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Sorry for the delay in responding, I can't imagine you would have any difficulty on the paths that are on top of the walls, but you would have to be prepared to carry the stroller up there, I think.

Here's a picture:

http://image36.webshots.com/37/8/20/...1VGhrMP_fs.jpg

One thing to consider regarding Ferrara vs. Bologna as one of your bases: Ferrara is mainly car-free and Bologna really isn't, although it has some pedestrianized zones. The lack of pollution (it's a bicycle town) and the quiet might be nice with a small baby. That said, if you plan a lot of day trips, you will almost always have to connect through Bologna, adding travel time. Don't know which you'd value more.

I noticed the other day that the Fodor's guide to Italy recommends a B&B in Ferrara that has some rooms with kitchen facilities. I'm sure any B&B would be happy to let you store small amounts of baby foods and such, and let you heat up bottles, but you might like having your own kitchen anyplace you base, so you can eat in for breakfast and even occasionally dinner. There is lots of good food shopping in Bologna and Ferrara.
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