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Italy places to stay outside of the major cities

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Oct 9th, 2013, 01:12 PM
  #1
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Italy places to stay outside of the major cities

We will be in Italy in May of 2014 and are wanting to stay outside of the major towns. We'll do day trips in if close enough but we are hoping more for a trip that is less touristy and more involved in the local towns. But that being said, it's hard to find in guidebooks that discuss small towns that would be great to stay in. Most talk about the majors (Rome, Venice etc) but we have no idea what would be some great towns and villages. We have 4 children but are up for walking, hiking, visiting towns etc. We will be there for 4 weeks so are thinking 2 weeks somewhere more northern and 2 weeks a bit more southern. Any recommendations? We will be booking houses as our accommodations (using homeaway and vrbo unless someone has another option?). Thanks for your help!
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Oct 9th, 2013, 01:45 PM
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I have visited Italy three times but hardly visited any of the major cities. Here is my strategy. The information is out there, but it requires careful reading of multiple guide books (especially region-specific guides) as well as reading related to your own interests. For me, it's usually food but also nature. (It's easy to find books about Italy's regional cuisine.) I look for travel writing and historical books to tell me about a region. Just about every guide book branches out away from the main cities, you just have to know what you are looking for.
One northern and one southern is too general, start thinking regions and you'll get more responses (for example, Puglia or Piedmont). Finally, I have gotten great suggestions from reading trip reports here, as you start picking up on who might have tastes similar to yours, etc. good luck!
ps do you have any idea where you will fly into/out of? That is usually the starting point for me, as knowing I can get a great fare to a certain city often helps me focus--especially somewhere like Italy where you can not go wrong in any locale.
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Oct 9th, 2013, 02:17 PM
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I've never had problems finding information about smaller towns from guide books. Some people think that guide books are those things with lots of photos and no information. Have you tried Rough Guide, Lonely Planet, Green Guide, Cadogan, Fodor's, Frommers, Let's Go?

I've stayed a week in Pienza and enjoyed it. It's a small town but has restaurants and is accessible to a number of other places for sightseeing. What I particularly liked about staying here (or some town like it) is that we didn't have to drive any place for dinner and return after dark on the winding, narrow roads.

You may not want to stay in a village because you'll want some evening activity or restaurants. I like to see something going on in the evening and perhaps sit in a cafe after dinner. Pienza was almost too small and quiet for my liking but it was a good location for our itinerary.
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Oct 9th, 2013, 02:30 PM
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We have spent a lot of time in Le Marche the past couple of years...absolutely love how untouristy it is! You can read our trip reports and see our pics if you click on my name
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Oct 9th, 2013, 02:31 PM
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What size town? Do you mean small village - populations in the hundreds or a few thousand or is a smaller city (like under a couple hundred thousand) OK. Are you going to have a car or travel by train. If by train then you want a town of some size so there will be decent train connections. Some of my favorite towns in north/central Italy are Verona, Padua, Mantua, Ferrara, Modena - all of those are in an area where you could day trip into Venice, Bologna, or Florence (some would be a couple hour trips but still doable). And all of them also are large enough to have interesting centers that have shopping, restaurants, a few museums, and major train stations.

Italy is large enough that you aren't going be able to cover any significant part from only two bases. Which of the "major cities" were you most interested in day tripping into?

There are many small towns/villages in Tuscany and Umbria - most would really need a car. They are in all the guidebooks.

Are you interested in coastal areas. For example if the Cinque Terre interests you but you don't want to stay "in" it the town of Rapallo is great - much less touristy than it's neighboring towns but easy transportation to places like the CT towns, Portofino, Portovenere - and even day trip-able to places like Pisa and Florence. I spent a week there last summer and could easily see spending two weeks.

Another town I love is Bergamo - it's near Milano and also near the lakes region if that's an interest to you.

Here's a link to my photos - there are galleries of many regions of Italy, I often choose where to go by looking at photos of places and seeing what 'grabs' me.www.pbase.com/annforcier
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Oct 9th, 2013, 03:55 PM
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"less touristy and more involved in the local towns"

What level of involvement do you seek? Jamikins above has a LeMarche trip report that might intrigue you.

kwren has a great Abruzzo report. Those both involved cooking with locals.

I think that a separate house might not provide you with the kind of involvement with a proprietor that would lead to local festivals, local markets, etc. unless you are willing to do a good deal of research on your own. My own experiences in the countryside outside of a small town felt a little isolated. Even with friends, a car was necessary for me.

Perhaps an agriturismo might give you more of an involved experience.

Anyway, tell us a lot more about what you want to do. There are some truly expert travelers here who can give you ideas if you are more specific.
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Oct 9th, 2013, 04:13 PM
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Will you have a car/van?
All the difference.
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Oct 9th, 2013, 05:38 PM
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I probably wouldn't want more than a week there, but I love the little town of Vicenza. Easy to do day trips from there to Verona, Padua and Venice by train, even the mountains or lakes with a car.
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Oct 9th, 2013, 05:48 PM
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Yes we will have a car so we are very transportable. I'll look into some of these trip reports and then give some more specifics. This is so very helpful! Thank you!
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Oct 9th, 2013, 06:40 PM
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I would select 4 locations and not just 2 for better coverage of Italy. Here are some of my favorite regional destinations to consider as base locations with children:

Ortisei[ Dolomites]
Lucca[ Tuscany]
Sestri Levante or Levanto[coastal Liguria]
Spello[ Umbria]
Gaeta[ beach town north of Naples]

Good luck !
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Oct 10th, 2013, 02:19 AM
  #11
 
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I think this is a nice idea, though tuscanlifeedit is correct that if you stay in a house, you are likely to have less interaction with locals, except shopping, than you might in a small hotel or lodging house.

Another issue is that you can't drive into many (most?) town centers. If you want to visit Florence, for example, you will have to get there fairly early for convenient parking.

But the big issue we have found is early closing. Both in Tuscany and the Veneto, we discovered that everything was closed one afternoon a week and in the Veneto, some places closed Saturday afternoon and did not reopen until Monday, seriously cramping our cooking plans. Inquire locally.

Sassafras must come from a bigger city than I do because Vicenza has a population of 115,000 people, hardly a little village in my book, although it can be as sleepy as one.
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Oct 10th, 2013, 05:14 AM
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Italy has hundreds of charming small towns. Impossible to mention them all. May be you have a look at http://oldweb.enit.it/comuni.asp?lang=UK
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Oct 10th, 2013, 07:14 AM
  #13
 
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The op said towns outside of major cities, so I was thinking of Vicenza compared with Rome, Florence, etc. Even Padua has over 900,000 and Verona over 200,000, so while it is not a village by any means, Vicenza is not a major city and does seem small town sleepy. Still has lots of restaurants and easy day trips to other places.

Bergamo is also charming and Lucca might be a good choice, so many to choose from. . . .
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Oct 10th, 2013, 07:21 AM
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I think the whole Po valley from Soave, Verona, Vicenza, Padua, Ferrara, Bologna, Parma etc etc would make an interesting target, lots of cycling for the kids, spas around the Euganian hills if that is of interest, bird watching along the canals and even beach options down on the coast
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Oct 10th, 2013, 07:49 AM
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How old are the children? Kids of a certain age would be beyond bored in an isolated spot outside of a town of any size. Getting on/off trains with 4 very young children could be a challenge, especially if you're also schlepping all of the luggage at the same time. Obviously, if the kids are older, they can carry their own stuff.

With 4 children, you won't have a 'car.' You'll need a van to hold that many people and luggage.

If you choose to stay in lodging outside of a town, you'll have to load up the van every time you want to go to a restaurant, food shopping, whatever. Because of limited traffic zones that most towns have instituted, you'd have to park outside of towns and walk in, walk out.

If you choose lodging inside a town, you'd most likely be able to drive into the town to pick up/drop off people and luggage at a minimum and perhaps to park near the lodging. Research lodging with this option in mind.
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Oct 10th, 2013, 08:19 PM
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Looked over quickly and might have missed, but Orvieto is charming and about an hour outside Rome. There are also frequent and easy train connections.
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