Milan to Florence - any ideas?

Apr 8th, 2006, 10:19 AM
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Milan to Florence - any ideas?

My hubby and I are slated to visit Italy in October - 1st timers. We are hooking up with a Backroads hiking trip through Tuscany the second week of our trip. We need suggestions for the first week. We're flying into Milan and would like to visit one or two spots before arriving in Florence and meeting the group. Any ideas? We will probably travel by train. We would love to visit someplace where we can relax and explore the area. Many thanks.
Mirmo is offline  
Apr 8th, 2006, 10:32 AM
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A lot depends on where the group is going. Whatever they are doing, you will want a different experience. You shoud let us know.
The Apuans and Appinines are incredibly beautiful and there are hundreds of places to hike. Outside Barga there are a few hikes up the marble mountains of the Apuans where you can see the ocean from the top. The area is officially tuscany but not at all like the more southern part. You can read about the garfagna on the Slow Travel website. Kerry Bell has posted information on that area- she has a B and B outside Barga where we stayed last year as a hiking/roaming base. Its very off the beaten path, you run into few Americans. But you can still go down and visit Lucca and Collodi and its not all that far from Florence, although more than . Kerry's website is
I know I sound like an advertisment but we had an incredibly good time last year staying in her barn.
Italyagain is offline  
Apr 8th, 2006, 10:41 AM
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We just returned from Italy in Oct. '05 and enjoyed Lake Como. An hour or so by train, the lakes are very scenic, tranquil with excellent lunch/dining & shopping. The lakes are at the base of the Italian Alps, so the scenery is breath taking. Also, in Milan you may want to visit the Duomo. Go to Fodor's Destinations page & type in Italy in the search block. Various cities will appear, click Milan for Milan & Lakes advice. Since you have a week, why not stay 2 or 3 days in Venice? Bon Voyage!
leSenator is offline  
Apr 8th, 2006, 11:52 AM
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Lago Maggiore is closest from Milan Malpensa airport and you might enjoy both the chance to easily get over your jet lag and a trip up into the mountains via cable car. Stay in Stresa or Baveno. There are also islands to explore. It's the most relaxed option with the most variety.

It is a bit more time consuming to get to the most picturesque areas of Lago di Como from Malpensa, but it is considered the beauty spot of the north, with its upscale towns filled with villas.

Lago di Garda is nearby and is a favorite hiking and biking and boating (and windsurfing) destination for many trekkers, but the scenery is much more dramatic in the northern part of the lake, and it is time consuming to get there without a car.

You could split your time between the lakes and a couple of nights in Verona, easily reached from Milan by train.

Or you could split your nights between the lakes on the Mediterranean coastline of Liguria, anyplace south of Genoa. That's more reliably sunny in the first weeks of October rather than the last half.
nessundorma is offline  
Apr 8th, 2006, 12:53 PM
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Thanks for the great ideas. Our itinerary for the hiking portion of our trip (week 2) is mostly in the area north of Sienna. So, it might be fun to stay up north for the first week and then head to Florence. Or, work our way down, stopping at one or two locations. Any help would be appreciated, it's our first time in Italy.

Mirmo is offline  
Apr 8th, 2006, 12:57 PM
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It would help if you said what you wanted to do. Is hiking your favorite think and you want to do more of it? Or do you figure that with a week of hiking coming up, you'd like to see some museums?

Likewise, is it a priority for you to see a region of Italy different from that of Siena, in culture or scenery or both, or does it not matter and you'd rather just see some of the most impressive sights?

nessundorma is offline  
Apr 8th, 2006, 03:53 PM
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Actually, we're fairly active, so spending a day walking/seeing/etc. is ideal. I think what we want is a mixture of a lot of walking as well as some relaxing, enjoying the sites as well as the people and what we feel is authentic "Italian." What does that mean? Not a lot of foreigners and a reason to speak Italian (I'm studying it at the moment.) How does the Varenna area sound?

Mirmo is offline  
Apr 8th, 2006, 04:57 PM
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Nice detail in your answer!

Lago di Como is a vrey beautiful place. It has been a tourist destination for affluent Italians for a very long time, and only slightly more recently Americans. Rick Steves touting of Varenna has made that town a wee bit more Americanized (especially in his recommended spots) than a lot of other spots on the lake.

Still, if you are willing to walk up hills, most Americans won't be there or follow you!

Here is my recommendation for hikers visiting Varenna who aren't afraid of heights: Eremo Gaudio

While it is actually quite convenient to the town center, it used to be a hermitage that sits above the town center and you have to take a 2-minute glass elevator up the hill to get there. Here's a picture (the yellow building)

If it's in your budget, you might adore it, because not only has it got marvelous views, it would be a great starting point for hikes through the hills.

You might be able to relax profoundly with a week on Lago di Como, and the further you go north on the ferry for daily hikes, the fewer tourists of any sort you will encounter.

On the Slow Travel website, there is an Italian poster who lives on Lago di Como. He (I think it's a guy) would be able to help you find a website that lists hikes in the area.

If you want to just a few days at the lake and some urban touristing, Venice in October is not so jammed, but if you hear any Italian spoken there, not the time and place. (Exaggerating for effect.) Verona has many treasures and is a very intimate, lovable and romantic small Italian city. A few days there can also be rewarding if a lake isn't enough.
nessundorma is offline  
Apr 8th, 2006, 05:00 PM
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I wanted to add that as uphill walkers, you could probably walk to this restaurant just a few kilometers outside of Varenna. The owner only speaks Italian and the food and view is wonderful.

And in Verona, your Italian will get a nice exercise.

Even in the most heavily touristed areas of Italy, most Italians will be very eager to let you practice your Italian on them, although it's also true that the young will want to show you they know English.
nessundorma is offline  
Apr 8th, 2006, 06:05 PM
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If you're looking for day trips that are a very short train ride from Milan, I'd suggest Bergamo and maybe Vigevano.
cmt is offline  
Apr 8th, 2006, 07:12 PM
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Thank you so much for all the input. I will let you know how my plans develop!

Mirmo is offline  
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