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Need help with Honeymoon - Italy, Slovenia, Croatia

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Jun 26th, 2017, 04:30 AM
  #1
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Need help with Honeymoon - Italy, Slovenia, Croatia

Hello all - I am going on my honeymoon late May/early June and really need help with where to go and for how long. At a high level, we are interested in Northern Italy, Slovenia and Croatia but only have 2 weeks. I don't know much about Istria but it looks beautiful. So what do you think? Is Venice worth going to? I've heard mixed reviews. Are there any other cities in northern Italy you would recommend? Do you think we should skip Croatia and just focus on Italy and Slovenia? We will want some time to relax on the beach and some time to explore old cities. We will be flying from New York, and while renting a car probably isn't our preference it is definitely possible if it's what you recommend. If you've done a trip similar to the one I outlined above and would be willing to share your itinerary, that would be very much appreciated. Thanks so much!

- do you think Spain and Portugal would be a better choice? I can't decide!
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Jun 26th, 2017, 07:28 AM
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I've been to Slovenia and Croatia a few times. Click on my name to read my old travel reports, with lots of pictures.

Venice is wonderful - a unique place with canals for streets, no cars, no bicycles, beautiful when lit up at night, neat buildings and squares.

Venice is awful - overcrowded and touristy and expensive. Surely one of the most touristy places I've ever been.

Both are true. Many people who think only the latter seem to see only "touristy" Venice. But it is possible to get away from the crowds. Worth visiting to you? Hard to know. What are your interests?

I love Slovenia, in part because it isn't that touristy (at least by Americans). More than once, when telling people about my travels, people ask me, "Where is Slovenia?" No one would ever ask me that about Venice (or Italy). I like going places that not a lot of others have been to.

Ljubljana, the capital, may be my favorite city in Europe. Culturally, there isn't a lot to it, but it's loaded with charm, beautiful architecture, and big pedestrian-only areas. There are neat little towns nearby, a beautiful lake resort called Lake Bled, a less touristy huge lake called Bohinj, and a big national park called Triglav. Lots of natural beauty. Slovenia has a tiny coastline but a beautiful seaside town, Piran (in what is Slovenian Istria).

Many people love Istria in Croatia. I loved parts of it - particularly the seaside town of Rovinj (similar to Piran). I didn't quite fall in love with the hill towns or the working city of Pula with its Roman ruins. Again - depends on your interests.

If you have the time, you might want to plan a trip to the amazing Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia a few hours from Istria - beautiful waterfalls and lakes, a highlight of Croatia for sure.

You could rent a car as you leave Venice and drive to Slovenia and northern Croatia and return the car to Venice. (Make sure the car company allows you to drive it to those countries.) But you can do some or all of the trip without renting a car if you prefer. Driving in Slovenia and Croatia is pretty easy, I thought. Renting a car there is pretty cheap, too, if you want to take a shuttle or bus from Venice to Slovenia or Croatia and just rent the car part of the time. You could rent a car just in Slovenia for a few days and drive to Lake Bled, Istria, and Plitvice Lakes and return the car before heading back to Venice.

I suggest picking up a Rick Steves Croatia/Slovenia guidebook to get a good overview of the region. Ignore the Rick Steves haters - just check out the book for yourself and see if it is to your tastes. I find his books are full of practical advice, and they are great for first-time travelers. I found his book essential especially on my first trips to the region. You can also watch his old PBS videos on YouTube about Slovenia and Croatia.
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Jun 26th, 2017, 08:16 AM
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This is not really an answerable question--all of those would be a good choice, and you could certainly see some of contiguous Italy, Slovenia, and Istria in two weeks. What do you want to do? Try searching airfares first--a good deal on a flight can often start off a trip for me. You really can't go wrong with those options.
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Jun 26th, 2017, 08:32 AM
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Agree its a personal choice. Are you more into mountains/scenery or into culture/historical sights/old cities...that's putting it too broadly because of course you can get a little of both in each country. You will get a ton of scenic beauty if you focus on N. Italy and Slovenia. Similar to the earlier poster I too am partial to Slovenia. Simply put it is a gorgeous country and not touristy. I would start in Venice spend a few days in the Dolomites and head on to Ljubljana. In Slovenia focus on Lake Bled, Lake Bohinj and Triglav National Park.

Portugal is lovely too but an entirely different experience. More about the culture, tons of historical sights, Wine tasting in the Douro valley, and Coastal towns.

I have not been to Spain but yes can certainly be combined with Portugal in a two week trip. The focus can be either N Spain or Andalucía.
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Jun 29th, 2017, 03:45 AM
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Thank you all for your advice! I really appreciate it.

One of the reasons why I have Venice in mind is because my fiance hasn't been to Italy and I think he would love it (food, culture, wine). I have been to Rome, Florence, and Amalfi and am happy to go back to Italy but would like to check out a new city. Also Venice is conveniently located to head to Slovania and Croatia. I know that may sound silly but with some many places to visit I feel silly going back to where I've already visited! Now just to make sure we don't end up in the overcrowded, touristy, expensive Venice..

I very much enjoy exploring towns just by walking around and seeing the architecture (Ljubljana sounds perfect). I also want to make sure we have some time designated to just relaxing so will check out the Lakes as well. Honestly, I'm not sure what I would chose between mountains/scenery or culture/historical sights/old cities if I had to.

I will pick up the Rick Steves Croatia/Slovenia guidebook. Although first I should make sure I wouldn't rather visit Portugal as it also sounds great. Has anyone been to Split, Croatia? Sounds like Croatia can be skipped to explore more of Slovenia? Apologies for so many questions, I actually don't know anyone who has been to Slovenia so very much relying on the advice here. Thanks again!
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Jun 29th, 2017, 06:32 AM
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I have been to Croatia four times, but I have not been to the northern area of Istria yet. Check flights into Venice (should be a lovely place to start a honeymoon) and out of Ljubljana and various Croatian cities. Venice, some of Slovenia, and some of Croatia will make a great two-week trip. You really just need to read up on what both countries offer so you can decide whether to stick north or move south into Croatia more, as the only mistake will be trying to do too much. I like Rough Guides and Lonely Planet, and a Cadogan guide here and there is always nice if you find one.
Slovenia does have a small coastline, but I don't think it will compare to what you can get on the Croatian coast, so you just have to decide--mountains/forests/caves/lakes, which will be grand no doubt, or also getting a little rocky scenic coast action.
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Jun 29th, 2017, 07:39 AM
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If what you loved about Italy was the food culture & wine but haven't been to Venice, I do think you need to think carefully about using Venice as a platform for sharing what you have loved most about Italy. In your short amount of time it will be very hard to resist spending most of your time sightseeing the major sights of Venice -- which makes it inevitable that you will spend most of your time around other tourists. Also remember too that even within Italy, Venice is something of a hothouse flower, in the sense that it one of the rare large cities in Italy that owes almost nothing of its history to Rome and a lot to eastern cultures. True Venetian food is rather distant from what even most sophisticated people associate with the classic tastes of Italy. Part of the fun of food & wine in Italy which many people enjoy is its farm freshness & abundance at a modest price, and Venice really struggles to put that kind of experience on the table -- and the few restaurants who succeed at it really must charge a pretty penny for their high standards.

There are indeed ways to slip around some of the worst tourist experiences of Venice so that you don't end up on the wrong side of the magic and feel you mistakenly wandered into a rip-off amusement park. On the other hand, if you'd rather not risk it, You might think of spending a couple of nights in Verona or some other atmospheric Italian town that wouldn't had more than an hour or two more to your travel time further east.
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Jun 29th, 2017, 10:09 AM
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Slovenia and Croatia are both wonderful. You could spend two weeks just in Slovenia, but there are more "highlights" in northern Croatia and Slovenia together. Taking the time to go south all the way to Split might limit your options up north. There's nothing wrong with seeing the Dalmatian coast and some islands but it's too much to try to do that and Slovenia and northern Croatia (and Venice) in two weeks.

Why not plan a future trip just to see more of Croatia?
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Aug 11th, 2017, 09:42 AM
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See Venice if you must and do your best to avoid Piazza San Marco. Far too many tourists. Slovenia is delightful and beautiful. Ljubljana is a most enjoyable city. We stayed at the Hotel Cubo and ate at As and Strelec, both excellent. For a special treat en route to Ljubljana, stop over in the Vipava Valley and have dinner on the terrace at Zemono. It's as good as it gets without the astronomical prices of France. Skip Lake Bled. It's overrun with tourists, not worth the effort. If you have time en route to Croatia, spend the afternoon at Terme Olimia, the best spa in the country.
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Aug 11th, 2017, 09:54 AM
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and while renting a car probably isn't our preference it is definitely possible if it's what you recommend.>

Trains and buses are great in those countries -especially northern Italy to Trieste (really interesting unique city - a gem in many ways) and onto Slovenia and Croatia - for lots on trains and buses and boats along the coast (which may not start that early) check www.seat61.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com.

Spain and Portugal better? That's a subjective thing - maybe easier with old cities and beaches not far apart but obviously your desire is northern Italy (Venice despite its warts Andrew talks about) has to be seen - to me overall one of the most beautiful cities in the world (and most tourist mobbed but you are still going before the real onslaught) - maybe:

land in Milan - Milan- Verona (nice old town with an ungodly number of historic churches and edifices) - Venice - Lljublana to Zagreb to start...fly out of your last big city.
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Aug 11th, 2017, 10:25 AM
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Both San Marco in Venice and Lake Bled in Slovenia are well worth the effort. Visit San Marco at night when most of the tourists have gone home - the square is the most charming then anyway, when all lit up and the musicians are playing classical music and people are dancing. Lake Bled is touristy but not so bad outside of high season. Late May / early June (if the OP is still even paying attention to this thread from six weeks ago) is probably still outside of the peak of tourist season in Slovenia, so I would certainly visit Bled then.
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Aug 11th, 2017, 11:09 AM
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Northern Italy, Slovenia & Croatia - We did exactly this trip last year and it might be my favorite trip so far. I loooooved it. Ours was a little lopsided with more time in Italy and Croatia and little time in Slovenia-which i'd have liked more of-but it was still just wonderful.

We did Venice, Trieste, Piran, Porec, Motovun, Rovijn, Plitvice & Zagreb.

If I were doing the trip again I would skip Porec, add Ljubljana and maybe lake bled. If I had to pick a second place to cut I'd say Plitvice.

We loved loved loved Istria, it is a perfect place to honeymoon in my book.

Can't remark on Spain and Portugal.
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Aug 11th, 2017, 11:12 AM
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limmy - how did you travel?
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Aug 11th, 2017, 11:17 AM
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limmy, what time of year did you visit?

Why would you cut Porec? (I haven't visited.)

Why would you cut Plitvice? (I have visited twice.) In my experience, the people who seem not to like Plitvice are the ones who don't get into the park first thing in the morning (easier to do if you stay over near the park) and arrive late morning to big crowds (worse in the peak season, not as bad outside of summer). Plitvice is lovely in the early morning when you can walk a bit without seeing other people.
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Aug 11th, 2017, 04:15 PM
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PalenQ, we travelled by train within Italy and then by bike for the Trieste-Porec stretch.. Then we ditched the bikes & got a car for the Rovinj-Zagreb stretch.

Andrew, I didn't dislike Porec, the Euphrasian Basilica is pretty great. Food was good. Had a nice green/camping sort of stretch right next to the old town. It's just that for balance and time constraints for the op I wouldn't make it a stop. And if I were returning to the area, it's one stop I wouldn't feel the need to return to, the others I would love to return to.

I enjoyed Pilitvice, it's really something to see. And while there were other people there, we had moments of near aloneness. For me after a while I've seen enough waterfalls and lakes. And the structured pathways become kind of a bore. And it's quite out of the way for a northern Italy/Slovenia/istria trip. It's another place I wouldn't return to. The park adjoining Rovinj old town though. great for biking & free exploring, private nook sun bathing, picnicking, beach shacking - I enjoyed that so much more. That screamed honeymoon to me. I could spend several days at a hotel that straddles that park & old town, doing a combination of day trips, exploring the park, and enjoying old town Rovinj.
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Aug 11th, 2017, 04:19 PM
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We were there the first two weeks of September.
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Aug 31st, 2017, 11:43 AM
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Thank you all for your advice. It is very helpful. As I am doing the wedding planning we decided my fiance would plan the honeymoon. I'm hoping he reads each of your posts as carefully as I did!
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Aug 31st, 2017, 12:18 PM
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Is Venice worth going to? I've heard mixed reviews>

the worst reviews probably come from mid-summer Venetian sojourns when mobs are incredible on main gauntlets from Piazza Rome parking lot/tour bus depot and train station to St Mark's -but even then much of Venice has few tourists and those spots are really dreamy at any time.

Unfortunatley many never get out of the maddening crowds and your time will still be before the huge invasion of tourists - will still be lots of tourists but a lot nicer than in July or August.

Venice is something that has to be seen if in the area - warts and all.
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Aug 31st, 2017, 03:45 PM
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Venice is super romantic for a honeymoon. Having said that, we love Bologna, which is an easy train ride to spend the dat in so many great towns. (including venice) One of the things we love about Bologna is that one can stay in the heart of the town and be an easy 12 minute walk to the train station.

Plitvice is amazing... do you like to walk/hike? A very special place.
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Aug 31st, 2017, 04:17 PM
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Gosh, I don’t know how I missed this thread before! My apologies for the late input. Ignore it as necessary!

Late May and early June are wonderful times for these parts of the world!

You have some difficult choices ahead, but no bad ones, IMO. Each area has its wonderful elements. If you go for Italy / Slovenia / Croatia, then I think you would be wise to limit yourselves to two of your three options (Venice and a bit more of northern Italy; Slovenia; Istria and perhaps the Plitvice Lakes National Park), with roughly a week in each. Spain is enormous; I won’t even try to comment until you say what part(s) of Spain interest you. Portugal can easily take 2 full weeks, depending on your interests. (Truth in advertising: I haven’t been there yet.)

Venice is, of course, stunning and unique and – unfortunately – getting more and more crowded each year. Fortunately, you would be going rather early in the season, before the crowds reach their maximums -- if they are ever below maximum these days. I doubt that the crowds are going to diminish over time, so you might want to include Venice before it gets any worse! If you do go, try for May rather than June, or at least as early in June as you can.

May / June is a bit early for beach weather, at least if you mean that you want to swim. My guess – I’m not certain – is that the Algarve and Andalusia would be your best bets for swimming at that time of year, but please, don’t take my word for it!

There are LOTS of ways that you can make an itinerary in almost any of these areas work without a car, even if there are some places that you have to work around.

I’m a guidebook junkie – I almost always use at least 6 to plan a trip, and used at least that many when planning my time in Croatia and Slovenia. Across my trips, I’ve used well over a hundred different guidebooks, and the ONLY one that I thought not worth the cost was the Rick Steves book on Croatia. It skipped SOOOooooo much that I found it quite useless! Quite in contrast, I found the Rough Guides to these areas indispensible, with the Lonely Planet a close 2nd place finisher in almost every case.

BTW, Split is my favorite city in Croatia – but not as easily paired with some of the other destinations you are considering. Come back with more questions about Split when you have a better sense of your plan.

I hope this response helps, even if it isn't timely! And good luck with your planning, wedding and otherwise!
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