Italian Itinerary

May 9th, 2016, 12:42 PM
  #1  
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Italian Itinerary

Hi all,

My wife and I are traveling to Italy mid-June. All hotels are booked and driving from once we to land to when we depart. We've already been to Rome, Vatican, Florence, Naples and Milan and wanted to explore new areas. For background, we love culture shock, good food, art and museums. We would like to balance being active and experiencing new things with relaxing since we work hard back home. Understanding that we won't get 100% of the experience in any one place here since we are hopping around a lot, but hoping to get small tastes of each city/town. Interested if you have activity/food suggestions or any sort of travel tips (we're new to driving in Europe). Thanks!

Day 1 - Arriving early into Milan and driving straight to Como. We are between staying at the Borgo Antico Hotel in Como or the Eremo Gaudio in Varenna. The latter has better views but debating between the two towns and what's best for a young couple like us. (Also, is Varenna the same as Como in that it is possible to get to by car without ferry?)

Day 2 - Leaving Como mid-day and traveling to Monterosso, Cinque Terre for hiking and the view.

Day 3 - Cinque Terre

Day 4- Leaving Cinque Terre for Monticello in Tuscany. Hoping to use Monticello as a home base to see other places like Siena, etc. The plan is cooking classes, wineries, biking, etc. Would love recommendations!

Day 5 - Monticello

Day 6 - Monticello

Day 7 - Leaving Monticello for Firenze and spending the night there. Already have tickets for Uffizi and know where we are eating dinner.

Day 8 - Leaving to Milan in the AM and spending the day sightseeing there.

Day 9 - Departing Milan back to the states.
tonygabe is offline  
May 9th, 2016, 12:57 PM
  #2  
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Here's some of the places we already have on our list:

Firenze:
- EATING: Ristorante La Gisotra, Gelateria La Carraia

Siena:
- EATING: Ristorante Boccon Di Vino, Osteria Acquacheta
- DRINKING: Talosa for a winery tour

No real insights for CT or Como yet and a lot of a trip is just stumbling into places, so I'm definitely leaving some flexibility for that, but would love more tips from your experts

Also, if anyone know a good biking route/tour company nearby us in the Tuscan region, that would be great! Aside from that, would just love to hear your general recommendations and feedback and insight on the Como questions. Thanks again!
tonygabe is offline  
May 9th, 2016, 01:03 PM
  #3  
 
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Unfortunately I see quite a lot of problems with your plan. Primarily trying to see too many places in the amount of time you have.

Even though Lake Como is not that far from Milan (assume you arrive at MXP) you are still only going to have an afternoon. You can drive to either Varenna or Bellagio in less than two hours (traffic cooperating). Town of Como is even closer but no where near the charm of the smaller villages mid lake.

It's about three and a half hours from Como (so 4 from Varenna or Bellagio) to Monterosso. May not sound like it but between checking out, getting lost, traffic, finding where you are going in Monterosso and finding parking, etc. - well takes up most of the day.

So the first two days of your short trip and you've spent most of it driving, parking, checking in/out, etc.

Then you have one day to relax/sight-see in CT. Which will be pretty crowded mid June.

And while three nights in Tuscany is more relaxed than the first part of your trip it will be hard to fit in all you have listed that you want to do in 2 days.

Where are you dropping the car? Do you know that you can't drive in the center of Florence? Have you looked into parking arrangements at your hotel.

Driving in Italy is not really a problem as long as you know that it will take you one and a half to two times longer than google maps says it will, and that you can't drive into the limited traffic zones that virtually every village/town/city in Italy has.

I would seriously consider dropping either Como or CT and even at that you have a really fast paced trip. I hope you have a good time, but I think you are over estimating how long it will take to do things, and how much you will be missing in each of your destinations with the time allotted.
isabel is online now  
May 9th, 2016, 01:12 PM
  #4  
 
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"... but I think you are over estimating how long it will take to do things, and how much you will be missing in each of your destinations with the time allotted."

I agree. If you're using Google Maps for calculating driving times, be aware that Google is known to be optimistic. I always add 10-15 minutes for each hour Google estimates, and that's for driving in mid-October and not mid-June. You may need to add more time to compensate for high-season summer traffic.
Jean is offline  
May 9th, 2016, 01:32 PM
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Good advice here. One day in CT makes little sense with the time needed going and coming. You may opt to use trains up to the point where you rent a car for Montalcino, for which I would suggest 3 nights. That could be the Florence airport. However you could take a 6:40AM train from Florence to Chiusi-Chianciano Terme, arrive at 8:29, Hertz office opening at 9AM. That's as close as you can get to Montalcino. A hotel near the Florence train station [SM Novella] can be found on booking.com. Chiusi to Venice by train takes around 4.24.
RonZ is offline  
May 9th, 2016, 03:05 PM
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Where is Monticello? RonZ thinks you mean Montalcino? Do you?


I too would cut the CT.

I would choose mid lake over Como.
tuscanlifeedit is offline  
May 9th, 2016, 04:25 PM
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I assumed it is Monticello Amiata in Grosseto Province. It's a beautiful area, very green, but not necessarily a good base to explore Tuscany, depending on what that means to the OP and exactly how much time in the two days is open for exploring. For instance, it's almost 90 minutes to Siena. It's then 2.5-3 hours to Florence with a nice potential stop or two along the way, although that could wipe out the Uffizi reservation.
Jean is offline  
May 9th, 2016, 04:46 PM
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My eyes are failing. Disregard everything I said.
RonZ is offline  
May 9th, 2016, 05:16 PM
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Thanks very much, all. Guess it was high hoping that someone would reply and say "perfect itinerary!" To clarify a few things:

1. We have confirmed with each hotel that parking will be available. I definitely understand the concerns about driving and will account for extra time on top of the GPS.

2. Appreciate the notes about overloading. Really looking forward to CT though and can't see myself cutting that short. If anything, I would cut Como and go straight to CT.

3. This is the "hotel" we are staying at in Tuscany so you know the area we are staying in:

Agriturismo Podere Santa Maria
Pod. Santa Maria di Virno Mangiavacchi, 10, 53026 Monticchiello, Pienza, Italy

I've accounted for travel time in the Uffizi reservation (afternoon reservation). I have had several friends stay at this farmhouse and travel within Tuscany from here and were able to, but would love to hear everyone's thoughts.

In addition to whether the itinerary makes sense, could you let me know if you have food/activity suggestions in any of these areas?

Thank you!
tonygabe is offline  
May 10th, 2016, 12:09 AM
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Agree your plan has too much driving in it for my taste and I'd ditch the car in Florence.

Monticchiello is lovely. We walked from Montepulciano to Pienza via Monticchiello and it's a beautiful walk. Lots of places to eat in Montepulciano as well as cellars for wine tasting. Didn't notice any cycle hire places but ask your hosts.
dreamon is offline  
May 10th, 2016, 03:07 AM
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I don't know these guys http://www.cicloposse.com/bikes.php
but using google maps and the words bici and affittare or perhaps nolegiarre should get some local companies to pop up.

Monticchiello to Pienza is basically a zoom down one hill, a bit of valley bottoms and a steep, steep climb. Have fun.
bilboburgler is offline  
May 10th, 2016, 04:07 AM
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I agree on your plan is too rushed.

If the Cinque Terre is a priority, go straight there.

If you really want to cycle in Tuscany, be aware that its quite hilly and will be hot in June. Maybe wait until you are there and see if its good cycling weather.

Buon viaggio!
Dayle is offline  
May 10th, 2016, 05:49 AM
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Again, thanks everyone. Based on your suggestions, I am making the following revisions:

1. Instead of driving to Como once we land, I am going to nix the Como night altogether ( ) and spend that first night in Milan. Next morning, we'll God willing pick up the car and drive to Cinque Terre. I didn't want to drive to CT right after getting off a long flight. (I would have loved to use the extra day in Florence but it requires shifting everything a day and contacting way too many hotels).

2. We're going to ditch the car in Florence as people suggested and train it from Florence back to Milan the day after and get a car/train to the airport when we leave.

I'm hoping those two changes alleviate some of the time issues. Now for some fun suggestions! Here's how the new itinerary looks like:

Day 1 - Arriving early into Milan and spend the night.

Day 2 - Picking up car and leaving to Cinque Terre in the morning and staying in Monterosso. Looking forward to hiking and the view. Would love recommendations for things to do here.

Day 3 - Cinque Terre

Day 4- Leaving Cinque Terre for Monticchiello in Tuscany. Will use Monticchiello as a home base to visit Montepulciano, Pienza and Siena. Appreciate the walking and biking tips. Don't know much about this area still so would love recommendations for wineries and the like!

Day 5 - Monticchiello

Day 6 - Monticchiello

Day 7 - Leaving Monticchiello for Firenze and spending the night there. Dropping off car in Firenze. Already have tickets for Uffizi and know where we are eating dinner.

Day 8 - Leaving via train to Milan in the AM and spending the day sightseeing there.

Day 9 - Departing Milan back to the states.
tonygabe is offline  
May 10th, 2016, 07:49 AM
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Watch the spelling of place names you put into your GPS, or you'll be adventuring.

The train from Milan to Monterosso is faster than driving. If you arrive Malpensa early morning, you could just train to Monterosso after you land and pick up the car in La Spezia when you're leaving the CT (unless that day is a Sunday when offices are closed). There is a 12:10p no-change train from Milano Centrale to Monterosso that takes just under 3 hours.

If you decide to drive from Milan the day after arrival, where would you pick up the car? Central Milan is not a city I'd want to drive through, trying to avoid the ZTL. If you picked up the car outside of central Milan to avoid the ZTL and traffic, you'd need to add that time to your drive that day.

If you're returning the car IN Florence, you need to ask the rental company for careful directions to the drop address inside the ZTL. Don't rely on your GPS which could win you a traffic ticket. Or you could return the car at the airport and taxi or bus into the city, although this adds to your overall travel time.
Jean is offline  
May 10th, 2016, 08:11 AM
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Ditto Jean on taking the train to Monterosso and getting the car at La Spezia--if possible.
yorkshire is offline  
May 10th, 2016, 09:09 AM
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>>>Monticchiello<<<

So it wasn't Monticello or Montalcino.

>>>The train from Milan to Monterosso is faster than driving. If you arrive Malpensa early morning, you could just train to Monterosso after you land and pick up the car in La Spezia when you're leaving the CT <<<

Jean's plan makes more sense. Another option is take the train from Milan to Florence on arrival day and start your trip there. Pick up a car as you are leaving Florence, head to Monticchiello and then to CT (dropping your car in La Spezia). Take the train from CT to Milan to end your trip.
kybourbon is online now  
May 10th, 2016, 10:51 AM
  #17  
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Thanks for that suggestion. We'll return the car to FLR just to be safe and avoid the ZTL. We are renting the car from right next to the Central Station in Milan, but I believe they shuttle you from there to their car fleet. I'll certainly consider picking up the car instead in La Spezia. Could you tell me where that is in relation to Monterosso? Also, do you need a car to get around CT to visit the 5 different villages? Assuming you don't want to hike it each time...
tonygabe is offline  
May 10th, 2016, 10:57 AM
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CT is all about hiking--I frankly don't see much reason to go there otherwise, but others do. The train links each village, with plenty of frequent trains to La Spezia. Parking is scarce to nonexistent in CT.
yorkshire is offline  
May 10th, 2016, 02:04 PM
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Well, I don't know that the CT is ALL about hiking but that is certainly one of the area's draws. Not all of the paths are even open. I think the vast majority of visitors just go to see the views.

tonygabe, be aware that the CT is one of the most popular destinations in Italy, esp. in the nice weather months, and it will be very crowded. After you've been there and then go to Monticchielo, you may wish you'd given more time to Monticchielo.
Jean is offline  
May 10th, 2016, 02:24 PM
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I would definitely take the train from Milan to Monterosso - I'd do it on your arrival day to have the extra night in the CT region, but if you want a day in Milan then just take the train the following morning. Then I'd take the train all the way to Tuscany and pick up the car there for the few days you will be there, return when you are done and train to Florence. Of all the places you are going the only one where a car makes any sense is Tuscany. You will end up leaving it parked at your hotel in Monterosso as it is much easier to take the train (or hike) between the villages. And driving anywhere near the centers of either Milan or Florence is a bad idea. So I'd find the closest place to your base in Tuscany that you can rent from and both pick up and drop off there.

If you have an extra day in the CT region consider taking the train up to Rapello and or Santa Marguerita, both larger than the CT villages but worth visiting. Or take a boat down to Portovenere. All these places are wonderful and will be much less crowded than the CT villages.
isabel is online now  

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