Nearly 5 weeks in Italy – Fantastico!

Oct 27th, 2019, 02:29 PM
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Nearly 5 weeks in Italy – Fantastico!

We’re back from almost 5 weeks in Italy, from north to south, and seeing some of the places that, somehow, I’d always wanted to see but never got around to. This was THAT trip, and we saw a lot and covered a lot of territory, but in a somewhat gentle way.

We’ve visited Italy several times, but except for our week+ visit to Rome in 2017, our travels through Italy had been 20 years! And in the interim, our bodies have aged and our energy level has shifted, so I kept this in mind when planning our trip.

I thought I’d try to focus on my planning and how it worked in each of the locations. I’m not going to give a day-by-day, but will try to give a flavor of what we did in each place, what worked and even what didn’t.

Who we are: now mid-60s and early 70s, retired, I’m the planner and M is the communicator! I love to plan, he loves to learn some language whenever we travel. He spent months using a language app, and it paid off, over and over again. His efforts were greatly appreciated, and he was able to find out information, or engaged with people in a way that I wasn’t. Our interests are really history, culture, architecture, and always, gorgeous scenic vistas! We aren’t foodies, so our culinary exploration varied, with mostly modest restaurants and trattorias, with some occasional “nicer” restaurants. But in Italy, you don’t have to spend a lot to eat well, and eat well, we did!

Our itinerary, which worked extremely well:
Vicenza – 4 nights
Bologna – 4 nights
Spello – 3 nights
Orvieto – 1 night
Naples – 4 nights
Capri – 2 nights
Sorrento – 4 nights
Atrani – 3 nights
Paestum – 2 nights
Rome – 6 nights

We stayed in a range of accommodations, including 3 apartments with AirBnB and VRBO, several comfortable "boutique" hotels, and a few smaller hotels and guesthouse/B&B-style accommodations.

How I came to this itinerary:
Initially, I wanted to focus on the Amalfi Coast and Naples, as we had never been there, but I was really struck by maitatom’s description of Bologna from last year’s trip, and I wanted to include it, too. Wait a minute, now that we’re in the north, I realized that Vicenza would be the perfect place for M, who was an architectural photographer and is especially interested in Palladio.

But then I thought, oh, heck, while we’re here, let’s make a stop in between! I’d always wanted to visit the Umbrian hill towns, and Spello always sounded enchanting (it is).

But in order to keep it relatively manageable, I wanted to travel to Naples by train, and there is a direct train from Orvieto. One night in Orvieto – perfect! We had loved the town when we stopped in it many years ago, so one night it is.

The rest of the itinerary came pretty easily to me. I’d always wanted to see Naples, and 4 nights was just enough to feel like we had a sense of it. One of the goals of this trip was to see several of the famous ancient sites, and we visited Herculaneum and Villa Oplontis, a smaller villa that is near, but separate from, Pompeii. But it was easier to see these 2 together, rather than on the same day, from Naples.

I went back and forth on how much time to spend on Capri, and felt that 2 nights was enough.

The 4 nights in Sorrento were good, especially since we needed a bit of down time by then. I had injured my foot on Capri, so we ended up taking it relatively easy for 2 of the days, and visited Pompeii on the 3rdfull day.

We had 3 nights in the loveliest place in the world: Atrani. A friend had recommended it to me, and it’s a very special place – for good reason. The guest house here was the first place I booked!

After that, we spent 2 nights in Paestum, the perfect amount of time to see the ruins and get a chance to enjoy one of the Buffalo farms.

Originally, I had planned a night in Salerno, but by the time we arrived to pick up the car, I realized we were tired and trying to tour a new city would’ve been exhausting, especially for one night. I was able to add an additional night to my rental in Rome, so I was pleased.

We ended the trip with 6 nights in Rome, which was fantastic, because we’d fallen in love with the city on our last trip, and there were so many places I wanted to see – and I knew it was also a place where we could just wander and relax. And it was exactly that.

We traveled a lot by train, which worked out well, although it’s true that the trains still don’t always come on time! We rented a car twice, and for very short periods. Initially, I had wanted to travel entiredly by train, but once I added in Spello, it made more sense to have a car. We also had a car for Paestum. I booked through Autoeurope, and we picked up the first rental (Hertz) in Bologna, and dropped it off in Orvieto. We picked up the second rental car in Salerno, and returned it there, where we took the train to Rome.

progol is online now  
Oct 27th, 2019, 02:46 PM
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What a trip!

I’m sure I remember drooling over your Spain trip photos....will you post a link to these?

Adelaidean is offline  
Oct 27th, 2019, 02:49 PM
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I have to figure out what to do about the pix. I haven't yet organized them, but will definitely post at some point! Thanks for asking!

The trip was AMAZING!
progol is online now  
Oct 27th, 2019, 03:56 PM
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Thanks for the summary TR progol. I have Bologna and area on my spring trip also thanks to Maitaitom's report from 2018! My BFF and I will spend 4 days in Padua and 4 days in Bologna. I would love to know what your favorite day trips/activities were! Right now our plan is to visit Vicenza as a day trip to see Paladian villas, visit the Scrovengi Chapel in Padua for sure, plus more city sites, day trips from Bologna to Ravenna for mosaics, Parma for an all day food tour. Probably have the rest of the time for Bologna, market, etc.

We are going to use trains for this part of the trip. My friend goes from after Bologna and I continue on!

Do tell!
Dayle is online now  
Oct 27th, 2019, 04:12 PM
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Dayle, I'll do my best to write it up quickly! As it turns out, we spent 4 nights in Vicenza, and LOVED it. We also went to the Scrovegni chapel, and will write a little about it, too (though my detailed trip reports are a thing of the past, I'm afraid!).
progol is online now  
Oct 27th, 2019, 04:16 PM
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In some ways, this was “The Greatest Hits” trip, although in Italy, that’s pretty much everywhere you go! But we did see some of the world heritage sites that we hadn’t gotten to before, including

*Scrovegni Chapel/Padova
*Ravenna mosaics
*Amalfi Coast, including Ravello
*Villa Oplontis

We flew United Airlines, and flew from Newark to Milan and Rome to Newark.

Arriving in Milan was pretty easy; we took a train from Malpensa to Milano Centrale railway station, where we got tickets to Vicenza. It was a bit of a schlep on that first morning, but we arrived in Vicenza a little after 1:00pm. I had booked an apartment through AirBnB, and check-in time was for 3:00 pm, but fortunately, the host was able to arrange to have her sister meet us by the apartment soon after we arrived.


We fell in love with Vicenza! It was the perfect size and it’s beautiful, with its grand Piazza dei Signori, its many Palladian structures here and throughout the central part of the city. The city has an elegance, and though it is on the tourist trail, it’s not overly touristy or touristed, so there is a feeling of being in a real place (I hesitate to use the word “authentic”, but it’s what comes to mind).

The single BEST thing we did in Vicenza was to hire the loveliest guide for a day to tour a few of the Palladian villas in the Veneto. I had read about Roberta Parlato in numerous places, and Ger (O’Reilly) had met her and recommended her highly. Hiring a guide in the Veneto is not inexpensive, but I will say that Roberta is worth every penny and then some. Her rates were comparable to other guides in the area as well. She is well-educated, fluent in English, and her passion and knowledge really made the places we visited come alive. She is also very warm and delightful company, and I was SO glad that we were able to spend a day with her!

We visited Villa Barbaro and Villa Emo, both of which were important villas. We had a fantastic lunch with her at Villa Barbaro, too. We also visited Asolo, and stopped off at the fascinating family tomb for and by a 20thC architect, Carlo Scarpa, who’s well known to people in the field but not known by the general public. I know our tolerance for touring and felt that 2 villas plus Asolo and the additional stop at the tomb were as much as we could absorb.
Roberta Parlato - qualified tour guide for Vicenza, Verona, Padova and all the Palladian villas

On the way back to Vicenza, we stopped on the road to view La Rotonda, one of the most important of all the villas. Even though we were “done” with our tour, she spent some time discussing La Rotonda, which we then visited on our own a few days later. She is great company and she really added enormously to our understanding of Palladio.

AirBnB apartment
I had difficulty finding any accommodation that I liked in Vicenza. None of the hotels “sang” to me, and while I found a few cute B&Bs, they seemed to be a little bit out of the way to explore the city. The AirBnB apartment is in a fantastic location, and though it was a little bit like being in my first apartment after graduating from college, it was clean, comfortable and really homey. And very affordable! So we were happy with the choice.
progol is online now  
Oct 27th, 2019, 07:17 PM
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Off to a great start, I’m looking forward to revisiting old favorites as well as making new discoveries with you.
bon_voyage is online now  
Oct 28th, 2019, 02:35 AM
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Thanks, bon_voyage,
I'm glad you're following!
progol is online now  
Oct 28th, 2019, 03:29 AM
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You're off to a good start, Progol! I'm looking forward to the rest.
bvlenci is online now  
Oct 28th, 2019, 04:52 AM
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Thanks, bvienci!

I hope to get the rest of the trip up before too long!
progol is online now  
Oct 28th, 2019, 04:59 AM
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Great start to your report of a well planned trip. Looking forward to more and to seeing your photos.

Last edited by john183; Oct 28th, 2019 at 05:02 AM.
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Oct 28th, 2019, 05:34 AM
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Views from our Vicenza apartment

View from our apartment in Vicenza

At night
progol is online now  
Oct 28th, 2019, 09:48 AM
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On another day, we first explored a few of the important Palladian buildings in town, including the impressive Teatro Olimpico, which was the first indoor masonry theater in the world! It wasn’t completed until after his death. In fact, it was barely used after its opening in 1585, and the scenes created for that first show were preserved into modern times!

The “tour” of the theater is, essentially, a light show with a voiceover. At the assigned time for our show, we were led into the theater and seated, while listening to the history of the place. Lights came on and off, displaying the scenery. While I loved being in the theater, I have to admit to being slightly disappointed as we aren’t able to actually access the stage. I would’ve loved to see a live person on the stage to highlight the nature of the illusion of the trompe-l’oeil scenery. Still, it’s part of the UNESCO heritage and worthwhile.

We also visited the Palazzo Chiericati, which contains the Civic Art museum, and impressive building with an art collection that is well worth visiting.

Last (but definitely not least), we visited La Rotonda, one of Palladio’s most well known villas, and very close to the city. It’s apparent, too, how much Thomas Jefferson was inspired by Palladio in seeing La Rotonda. Jefferson was known to have collected and read Palladio’s large work, “The Four Books of Architecture”, and in naming his plantation, “Monticello”, Jefferson is likely referring to Palladio’s description of Villa La Rotonda, which was built on a small hill, or “Monticello”. This was a real highlight, especially for my husband, who is an architecture buff.

The interior is only open to the public on Wednesdays and Saturdays, so we were able to visit this on our own. Photos of the exterior are allowed, but not the interior. We tried to find a taxi by the train station, but there were NONE arriving. If you want to get a taxi, you need to call and arrange a cab, and we just didn't want to bother with this. We were able to find the bus, which dropped us off a short walk up a hill to the property. When we returned, we waited a little while for the bus and gave up. We ended up walking back to town along a path that is parallel to the road, but is dedicated to walkers and bicyclists. This turned out to be a very pleasant stroll!
progol is online now  
Oct 28th, 2019, 09:58 AM
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In and around Piazza dei Signori

A Dali exhibit around town

The Master!

Last edited by progol; Oct 28th, 2019 at 10:13 AM.
progol is online now  
Oct 28th, 2019, 10:19 AM
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and Pizza
progol is online now  
Oct 28th, 2019, 12:08 PM
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We also did a day trip to Padova (Padua) to see the Scrovegni chapel. This is a Giotti masterpiece, completed in 1305, a chapel entirely covered in frescoes narrating the lives of Mary, Christ and the Passion. The wall of Hell is pretty amazing, taking up one side of the chapel. But what makes this so remarkable and special is the absolute humanness of their expression, capturing raw emotion. The colors are also vibrant and seeing it covering the small chapel was exciting.

I bought the tickets 3 months advance on Vivaticket as I was told that they do sell out, and had no problem with my choice of times. Groups of people are allowed in at a time for 15 minutes, first entering a sealed waiting area before being allowed entry.

From Vicenza, we purchased regional train tickets to Padova. Once we got the hang of it, it’s very easy to purchase tickets through the machines in the station. On all our trips on regional trains, never once did anyone check our tickets!

It was a rainy Sunday when we went to Padova. After seeing the chapel, we walked to the Basilica of St Anthony of Padua. I had a particular interest in this church as I had lived for over 12 years across the street from St. Anthony of Padua on Sullivan Street in NYC, and it somehow seemed fitting to visit this church. It was much bigger than I was prepared for, and very busy as an important pilgrimage site. After making my own pilgrimage here, we walked back to the station, a long walk through the city. With a grey and damp day, we were very happy to return to Vicenza.
progol is online now  
Oct 28th, 2019, 01:57 PM
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Paule, Vicenza does look lovely. Does it have a lively feel?
bon_voyage is online now  
Oct 28th, 2019, 03:45 PM
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Thanks for posting. We visited Padua from Venice.
Didn't have tickets for Scrovegni..but only waited for 20 minutes to get in.
I remember the looong walk to the train station
danon is online now  
Oct 28th, 2019, 03:59 PM
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Great pictures! Thanks for the info progol. Very helpful for me!
Dayle is online now  
Oct 28th, 2019, 04:03 PM
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Vicenza has a very pleasant character and I’d say it’s lively and interesting although not a hopping small city. There are plenty of people and street activity and the main piazza is quite active in the evening with locals as well as tourists. There was music and other performances going on in the piazza, too.

The dining is okay - it doesn’t have a great reputation for its restaurants, though we did find great gelato!

The main reason for most people to visit is to see the Palladian architecture, of course, and the architecture is beautiful, both in Vicenza and in the region,
progol is online now  

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