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Italy trip questions

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Dec 28th, 2014, 08:52 PM
  #1
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Italy trip questions

We are a family with two teens, planning a trip to Italy. We have two weeks. We would like to visit a few places with some surrounding areas--Venice and some towns between Venice and Milan, Florence, and Rome.

We are not doing Milan this time but will have to fly to Milan because it is much cheaper than flying to Venice. Since we would like to visit Verona and the Lake Garda area, we are thinking that we could simply take a train to Verona upon arrival in Milan and start it there. We are thinking about spending 3 nights in Verona or elsewhere in the area and 4 nights in Venice. Verona has long been on my list of things to do. I would also like to take the family to the opera there at night. We would like to spend a day on Lake Garda, take a tour of the lake. If possible, we would like to see Padua. If we like the lake area very much, we will spend more time there and leave Padua for another time. The first question is where to base ourselves for the first three nights? I know that Garda and Verona are quite close to each other, so we could visit both without having to change a hotel. Secondly, would you recommend a car? If we go to the opera in Verona, what is the best way to get back to our hotel, if it's outside Verona, late at night?

Next, we plan to go to Venice on the train and spend four nights there. After that, we plan to go to Florence and spend four nights there. DH and I have been to both places before, so we don't have to cover everything from the scratch. But there are still a lot of places we would like to revisit with the children and some new things we would like to discover. Specifically, we would like to see Bologna, Pisa (we could care less but children want to see the tower), Siena, maybe San Gimignano.

DH suggests to do Bologna as a day trip from either Venice or Florence. I suggest to stop there en route from Venice to Florence but we would have to leave suitcases at the train station and hubby is not willing to do that. How is best to do Bologna and how much time is good for it? If we get a car after Venice, it would make it easier to do Bologna on the way from Venice to Florence. Then the question is, if we stay in Florence, what to do with the car? We don't need it inside Florence and we plan to spend some time in Florence. At the same time, a car would make it easier to visit Siena and Pisa. We are considering the option of staying in a town outside Florence but then we would have to visit Florence for two days to sightsee, which is another inconvenience. On previous trips, we just used trains and did not go around much, so it was easier. Is it easy to visit Siena and Pisa on a train? There are bus tours form Florence to these places but we'd rather do it ourselves.

Our last three nights we plan to spend in Rome and fly back from there. Not much time but we have been there before, so we are not under pressure to see everything.

Thanks a lot for your help.
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Dec 28th, 2014, 09:30 PM
  #2
kja
 
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There's only one element of your plan that I feel capable of responding to with any value, namely: "We are not doing Milan this time but will have to fly to Milan because it is much cheaper than flying to Venice." Do consider the time and cost you will incur from getting from Milan to Venice. I once booked into Milan with a plan to go to Rome -- how could that be a problem, with an arrival in Milan just after noon and trains from Milan to Rome every half hour or so? Wrong. I ended up with no train option other than an overnight and (of course) I still had to pay for my already reserved lodging in Rome.
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Dec 28th, 2014, 10:50 PM
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I hardly know where to begin.

But let's start with Verona and the opera. Why would you have to go "outside" Verona to attend the opera, which is at the Arena?

It obviously makes sense to do Bologna on the way between Venice and Florence, so here's the question: Why doesn't your husband want to leave bags at the train station? It's done all the time, and it makes little sense to travel to Florence and then backtrack to Bologna. If you're spending four days in Florence, I'd suggest booking an apartment (and an apartment in Venice, too).

A day trip to Siena from Florence is fairly easy. Take the express bus. Likewise, the train to Pisa is an easy day trip.

As a general comment, your schedule looks pretty packed, when you consider travel time between places and the fact that by the time you get from Milan to Venice on arrival, you will have killed just about the whole first day for travel. And then you want to add more travel time by backtracking to Bologna for a day trip?
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Dec 28th, 2014, 11:05 PM
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I'd perhaps forget Bologna, your trip is already packed as it is. It is doable as a day trip from Florence (only 35 minutes by high speed train) but you've already got day trips to Siena and Pisa. When are you going to be able to visit Florence itself?!
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Dec 29th, 2014, 02:32 AM
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Here is how I might do your trip:

Arrive in Milan and travel to Bologna. Spend the night in Bologna.

Next day after lunch, travel to Venice by train, spend X nights there. I would try to see Padova from Venice as a day trip.

Pick up a car and go to the northern end of Lago di Garda for X nights since the northern end is the most scenic. Then drive to Verona to a hotel with parking for a night at the opera.

Drive to a location in Tuscany somewhere near San Gimignano for X nights. Do day trips to Siena, Pisa and then drop off the car at the Florence airport, take the shuttle into town, leave your bags at the train station and sightsee in Florence, and then take a later afternoon train to Rome (or spend a night in Florence if "bags in the station" is really a fighting issue.

Another possibility would be to make your last Tuscan stop Pisa, and drop off the car and take the train from there. Then you would see Florence as a day trip from your Tuscan location, either by bus from San Gimignano or car (but make sure you understand very well how to get to a parking place without driving through restricted areas.
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Dec 29th, 2014, 02:54 AM
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(One more suggestion: On your last day in Tuscany, drive to Siena to sightsee, then drive to Chiusi to drop off the car by 7pm and take the train to Rome from there.)
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Dec 29th, 2014, 03:10 AM
  #7
 
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I wouldn't get a car. Everywhere you've mentioned is well served by public transport and will generally drop you in the centre of town without having to stress about parking.

I would plan your day trips but decide when you get there which ones you want to do as you may decide when you get there to take things more slowly. Don't lock every day in.
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Dec 29th, 2014, 06:26 AM
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>>>hubby is not willing to do that<<<

What is his reasoning for that?

I can't see needing a car for Bologna/Pisa/Siena. ZTL is not just in Florence.

>>>Is it easy to visit Siena and Pisa on a train?<<<

Siena is best by bus as it drops you at the center and is slightly faster than taking the train (train station is not at the center). Trip is about 70 minutes and around 8€.

Pisa by train. Takes about an hour and under 10€. If you only plan to visit the tower, you can do this in less than half a day from Florence.

I'm not sure you've allowed enough time for your plans. Three hotel nights somewhere gives you only two sightseeing days. It may be afternoon by the time you arrive in Verona and you will probably be jet-lagged and not feel like doing much that day.

Day 1 - Arrive Verona noonish
Day 2 - Verona
Day 3 - Verona
Day 4 - depart for Venice

If you have a late night at the opera on day 2 or 3, your kids might not want to head out early the next day for a day trip or on to Venice.

What I find odd about your itinerary is you don't plan to see the cities you are staying in.
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Dec 29th, 2014, 07:06 AM
  #9
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Thanks for the very helpful suggestions. We'd rather not do the car if it's easy without it.

We are not thinking of starting in Venice. we are thinking to start in Verona. I understand that it will take half a day and shouldn't be too different from just going to Venice. But the first day is almost always not fully used and enjoyed. Flying to Venice would most likely take the same time because we would have to change flights. It is too expensive to fly direct.

Sandralist, your plan sounds interesting, except that we are trying to keep hotel changes to the minimum, which is why we'll try to do day trips whenever possible.

For the opera, yes, it is in the Arena. The question was if we decided to stay outside Verona, we would have to travel back to our hotel from Verona after the opera, which might be a problem. I am still not sure where it is best to stay in the Garda/Verona area.

The day trips are mostly discretionary and we can always drop and add them if there is not time.
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Dec 29th, 2014, 08:31 AM
  #10
 
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The operas may well not get out until after midnight- if that is a factor.
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Dec 29th, 2014, 09:32 AM
  #11
 
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If you are going to the opera in Verona and plan to stick it out until the fat lady sings, you will need to stay in Verona unless you rent a car. Also, day trips from Verona to many of the most scenic parts of Lago di Garda are complicated if you don't have a car, or even undoable.

But since you will have a very long plane flight and are making your first stop Verona, and you don't want to change hotels a lot, and would rather not rent a car anyway, hard to imagine you will enjoy your trip if you step off a plane and into a rental car just to be positioned to visit Lago di Garda -- since you might drop it anyway.

Not a criticism at all, but I think "essay" form of your first post made your trip look more complicated than it is, especially since now you say your day trips are all options.

Fundamentally your trip is

Verona
Venice
Florence
Rome

(with optional day trips if you feel like it).
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Dec 30th, 2014, 08:13 AM
  #12
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sandralist,

Your summary is approximately what we want to do. There are no side trips planned from Venice or Rome. Some are desirable from Florence.

Verona is tentative in the sense that we may decide to stay near the lake and just do it as a day trip. I am not sure why it looks packed.

Thanks for the suggestions.
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Dec 30th, 2014, 10:04 AM
  #13
 
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Here's another idea to consider, depending on how ok you are with "one-night stands." I love Bologna (as does our teen-aged daughter) and it's a great city for food and people-watching. You could spend one night there on your way between Venice and Florence. The other nice thing about Bologna is that it's not as tourist-filled as your other locations, so it might be a good break from the tourists for one night.

I think the place that your plan started to look packed is all the day trips from Florence. But, as you mentioned, those are all possible day trips and can be dropped if you change your minds and want to do something else on a given day.
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Dec 30th, 2014, 11:02 AM
  #14
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FWIW, a few months ago my wife and I spent a week in Florence and a week in Bologna. In Florence I could not finish a sentence in my (pigeon) Italian because it was finished for me in English. Not so in Bologna.
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Jan 1st, 2015, 10:06 AM
  #15
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Besides walking in the town, any must-do's in Bologna? Any restaurants you could recommend? We have read that it is famous for its food. With one day, what is the best way to experience it?
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Jan 1st, 2015, 12:01 PM
  #16
 
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there have been a few Bologna threads over the last year. I'm not sure that the search function will let us find them though - it's a bit temperamental.

I will have a look.
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Jan 1st, 2015, 12:03 PM
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here's the search thread:

http://www.fodors.com/search/results...search=bologna

have fun browsing!
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Jan 1st, 2015, 12:15 PM
  #18
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annhig,thanks so much!
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Jan 3rd, 2015, 07:02 PM
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Things to see in walking around Bologna.

Bologna's Pinoteca Nazionale museum is quite good. Nothing to compare to the museums in Venice, Florence or Rome, but certainly better than many art museums in the U.S., IMHO. They have a nice Raphael, among other things. Nearby is the oratorio of Saint Cecilia, small but beautiful (the oratorio is attached to Saint Giacomo Maggiore).

The Basilica of Santo Stefano is amazing, with different parts dating from the 13, 8th, 5th and 4th centuries.

For restaurants, if you like more modern food, check out Caminetto d’Oro, or for more traditional, Papagallo. Trattoria Leonida for more casual and local (it's on a small side street). We have eaten at Drogheria della Rosa several times for lunch, and enjoyed the attention of the very personable owner. Definitely have gelato; our favorite place is Gelateria Gianni.

Make sure that you stroll through the market streets - it will make you wish you had a kitchen to cook in! Tambourini has foods to go, and you can eat items there; I think they also have a wine bar.
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Jan 3rd, 2015, 07:26 PM
  #20
 
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I don't know particulars, because I've never done it, but I know there are some hotels on Lake Garda that have shuttle buses to and from the Arena in Verona. Apart from that possibility, I would stay right in Verona on the night you go to the opera.
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