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Italy Predicament...

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Jun 29th, 2012, 04:39 PM
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Italy Predicament...

My wife and I will be spending roughly 2 weeksnn Italy (as well as 5 days in Prague...probably). We will be there in May and want to spend time in Venice, Florence and Bologna.

We usually travel with a large suitcase and carry on each ( for bringing back goodies) so we don't want to be doing too much lugging. Though shipping our treasures to reduce luggage is an option. We know Venice will be a decent stay, but we are not sure if we should stay in Florence and use it as a hub to see Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna Or stay in a Tuscan village or Bologna as a hub.

We love everything about traveling; food, history, architecture, wandering, art, nature, etc... Food and wine are big on the list, as is wandering/getting lost in the moment. We have looked at some bike tours of Tuscany departing Florence that look amazing, but it seems just as great to call Tuscany my home for a week. Would travel from a Tuscan town to a city such as Bologna be difficult from a small town? Same question regarding Florence, or should we stay there?
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Jun 29th, 2012, 04:44 PM
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If you want to see rural Tuscany---and I would---then stay in rural Tuscany. Bologna would not be feasible from there. Florence is a seperate destination to me-do both.
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Jun 29th, 2012, 04:49 PM
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Is the food in Bologna that much better than elsewhere in Italy that it warrants a visit? Or would a day trip from Florence be sufficient?

Also, is Florence large enough and the crowds small enough in May to stay for more than a few days?
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Jun 29th, 2012, 04:55 PM
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Worm...have you given up on Budapest for your trip?
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Jun 29th, 2012, 05:06 PM
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Tower- not entirely, as I still would like to hear from the organizations we spoke about. That said, my masters program is kicking into gear and I am trying to get a lot taken care of Before hand so I can focus on school. So for now, I think I am ruling it out until I hear some good news. Prague and Budapest were our way of getting a taste of Central-Eastern Europe.
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Jun 29th, 2012, 05:14 PM
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I think Florence must nearly always have crowds. It is a lovely, compact historic place. We visited Florence in what was mid-May. There were crowds. It was beautiful. I would stay there 2 or 3 nights, and spend more time in Tuscany, if you will have a car. That makes it easier to travel with more luggage. Obviously, you wouldn't need it in Venice or Florence. With 2 weeks, I'd spend the first week visiting the cities, Venice and Florence, and do the final week in Tuscany or Umbria exploring the lovely countryside and hilltowns. Fly into Venice and home from Florence or Rome.
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Jun 29th, 2012, 05:19 PM
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oops -- make that on to Prague from either of those cities. You could travel from Florence and stay in Parma and fly on to Prague from Milan. Just make sure someone stamps your passport when you arrive in Italy. Last year we did a month in Italy (where they never stamped our passports on entering the country) then flew to Prague to meet up with some friends for 5 days. When we flew back from Prague, the passport lady at the airport went nuts because she had no idea how we'd gotten there! The only stamps on our passports were from when we went to Barcelona the previous year!
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Jun 29th, 2012, 07:40 PM
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Uhoh- so you suggest finding a place in all three Italian locations? In Tuscany would ou recommend staying south or north of Florence.
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Jun 29th, 2012, 09:28 PM
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worm:
south of the Chianti region...Montepulciano and bearby Pienza are my favorites, although really enjoyed staying one time 5 kms. outside of San Jimmy (Gimignano)at Hotel Pescille..pool and in a great location with views of the SG "towers" and its own surrounding vineyards. Siena is a much bigger town, but enjoyable and good access to a big chunk of Tuscany.

Go work on your degree...you have a whole life of travel ahead of you ..you'll see it all.
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Jun 30th, 2012, 05:46 AM
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Hey W,

>Is the food in Bologna that much better than elsewhere in Italy that it warrants a visit?<

That shouldn't worry you on your first visit to Italy. Wait until after you can determine if the pasta was rolled by hand or with a machine.

Ditto Bob and Stu

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Jun 30th, 2012, 06:58 AM
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Ira-

I have recent spent a week in Rome and am an avid Italian food eater/cooker which is why I am drwn to Bologna. But, as I found in Rome, even the "bad" food in Italy is pretty damn tasty.

Tower- Will I be able to find reasonable parking in Sienna if I want to do some exploring? I am a bit nervous when contemplating driving in Italy as I found drivers in Rome to be maniacs.
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Jun 30th, 2012, 07:11 AM
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Also, is Florence large enough and the crowds small enough in May to stay for more than a few days?>>

you won't run out of things to do and see in Florence, but you might get fed up of all the people who want to see them with you! also, several of the best day trips [siena, San Gim] are best done by bus rather than train, which means at least an hour stuck in traffic each way - not fun.

so i think I would be drawn to the 4 nights in florence [giving you 3 clear days] and - if time will stretch - 4 in an agriturismo in the south of tuscany, which will give easy access to Rome. there have been several threads about agriturismi [i seem to remember some good recommendations from she who cannot be named] which have fantastic food and lovely positions.

as for driving in Siena, i think that the overall advice would be - don't!. it is the one place where I would suggest getting the bus from Florence, not withstanding what I wrote above, because the bus will put you right in the centre of siena, whereas the train doesn't.

however long you stay in florence, do get the bus from the piazza san marco up to Fiesole - lovely views back over the city and a fascinating roman amphitheatre to explore as well as the monastery of San Francesco with the weird [free] museum and lovely presepe. and some nice restaurants too. sadly it appears that the monastery of san Marco is currently closed; that is one place that I found that by getting there at 8.45 am, I had the place almost to myself.
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Jun 30th, 2012, 08:17 AM
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there are some good bike paths from Bologna to Ferrara and others though a bit flat (Po valley). Bologna is too far from Tuscany
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Jun 30th, 2012, 08:55 AM
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worm: I find that parking in and around Siena, altho thought of as a nightmare, can be done...IF you park just beyond the city's gates. The Porta Romana(south gate)has several side streets where I was able to find parking...and it's an interesting 10-minute walk through lived-in parts of the town not frequented by tourists. I stayed at the 18th century Santa Caterina just 50 yards or so south of the Porta Romana gate and it's back lot parking is very tight..so on a few times when it was full I successfully found the aforementioned local parking. I highly recommend the Santa Caterina because of it's old elegance and quiet surroundngs, beautiful views of the countryside from it's ample gardens. If I recall Bob the Navigator also enjoyed his stay there.

You'll probably want to visit the little Siena sinagoga while in town. The very welcoming Monica Sedun, the greeter, will give you a brief history of the community. It's on a narrow side street (Scotte) just two blocks south of the campio.

Also endorse Annhig's reco above regarding Fiesole. If you're into walking, take the bus and walk back downhill all the way...about 5 miles...with smashing views of Florence all the way. At your age, no big deal. I did it when wife and I were both over 70. Great experience.
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Jun 30th, 2012, 09:56 AM
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great reco [love the word] for siena too, Stu. we stayed in a similar hotel in Siena about 30 years ago [similar in that it was just outside the walls, that is, and had parking[ but goodness knows what it was called. it seemed very modern at the time, though, so probably built in the late '60s - early '70s.

also in Siena, [if you go] look for another cathedral, that of St. Francis; not only does it house the most beautiful "presepe" [or nativity scene] it also lays claim to the mystery of the everlasting communion bread, which has allegedly kept fresh for over 200 years:

http://www.therealpresence.org/eucha..._pdf/Siena.pdf

if you want to get away from the crowds, this is the place for you; whilst the rest of siena was heaving, we had this place to ourselves. the same applied to the other, other basilica - that of St. Domenico. it too is worth the short walk to find it.
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Jun 30th, 2012, 03:51 PM
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It seems that a visit to Siena is a popular idea, but not necessarily a viable hub do to parking. I think a stay in Florence for a time period similar to what annhig suggested is a good idea, and a longer stay in Tuscany also a grand idea. If I stayed n a town with a car/ decent public transportation options, would some of Umbria's towns be an option for day trips?

Should I skip the Emilio-Romagna region? Or would it be a good idea to take a long day trip from Florence via train to Bologna?
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Jun 30th, 2012, 03:54 PM
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The recommendation about Fiesole sounds incredible! I'll have to check that city/town out.

If I am a confident driver, will I have problems exploring Tuscany?
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Jun 30th, 2012, 07:31 PM
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You will have no problem at all exploring Tuscany by car. I would suggest you find a base near Pienza or Monteriggioni or San Gim. When we visited Siena as a daytrip, we parked just outside the city walls.
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Jun 30th, 2012, 10:51 PM
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worm,
This may give you some ideas http://www.slowtrav.com/italy/tuscany/hs_planning.htm
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Jul 1st, 2012, 03:18 AM
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I would base myself in a Tuscan town like San Gimignano, and do day trips from there to Florence (like we had done), Siena, Volterra, and even to some Umbrian towns - we stayed in a beautiful agriuturismo just about 800m and an easy walk away from San Gimignano, but still situated in the beautiful Tuscan countryside with its lovely rolling hills scenary. It is called Agriturismo Nicolai - Palagetto di Sotto. They have beautiful apartments and offer daily breakfast, and even dinner (which has very high reviews on Tripadvisor). They make their own wines and olive oil, and make wine tasting sessions and offer tours in their wine cellars.

Since you have two weeks available, I would also spend a few days in Emilia Romagna, basing yourself in Bologna, or Ravevenna (where there are the most beautiful mosaics in various churches), or Rimini coast. It is a region worth a visit as well.
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