Non-touristy, amazing Italian cities

Old Mar 20th, 2014, 10:14 AM
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I really loved the bicycle trip that I took across Italy through Tuscany and Umbria. This can be done as well while driving the same route. Magnificent scenery along the way. If you want to really experience Italy outside of the big cities then follow this route. You can see great classic hilltop towns , beautiful countryside, the best food and wonderful people. Checkout a route that goes through Sovana- town of 100 people, but a super restaurant and great hotel, Taverna Etrusca hotel and Agriturismo San Giacomo reataurant. Continue to Orvieto, Todi, Assisi and Gubbio. I did this in 4 days on a bicycle so driving will get you around faster and you'll have plenty of time to explore each town for a few hours. Orvieto has 2000 year old Etruscan caves and a beautiful duomo. Between Assisi and Todi, checkout the town of Montefalco for lunch a L'Alchimista.
AS far a big cities. I do love Venice. Aqua Palace is a great but expensive hotel. Eat cicchetti- small plates like tapas, in Venice. I like Rick Steve's walking tours of Venice.
Verona is a great day trip from Venice.
Modena to Reggio Emilia to Parma is another interesting trip.
If you want mountains, check out the Alto Adige area north by Austria. The cities of Trento, Bolzano are interesting contrasts to Tuscany.
I also loved the Piemonte region- Alba, Aqui Terme, and the great wine centers of Barolo and Barbera and Barbaresco.
Have fun, get out and explore, walk around and talk to the locals!
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Old Mar 20th, 2014, 11:23 AM
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Definitely keep Bologna on your list. It's one of Italy's underrated gems.>

ditto to that - one of Europe's most vastly overlooked towns, unfortunately overlooked by folks going to nearby Florence - Bologna is said to have more medieval historic buildings in its centre than any other city in Italy - neat arcades everywhere and a large university that livens up the place. Plus real baloney, which was born in Bologna - no baloney!
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Old Mar 20th, 2014, 11:34 AM
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Genoa would be a fun place to locate for a few days. You could see much of the Ligurian coast from there, and still find things to do and good food in Genoa itself.
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Old Mar 20th, 2014, 11:48 AM
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I love Bologna, but I've run into a lot of people who hated it and wondered why it's recommended. You have to keep in mind that it's got a lot of medieval buildings, but a very urban, edgy personality. It's a great place for shopping, it's got a great central covered market, some great restaurants, and some beautiful churches.
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Old Mar 20th, 2014, 12:31 PM
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Lucca is very nice...much less touristed than the big three and in a location that could work for you. A couple of nights is enough.
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Old Mar 20th, 2014, 02:06 PM
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>>I love Bologna, but I've run into a lot of people who hated it and wondered why it's recommended.
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Old Mar 20th, 2014, 03:02 PM
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The wonderful thing about the Italy experience is that it can so easily be such a wonderfully diverse and memorable experience. And, the more you experience the joy of getting to know Italians the greater the experience becomes.
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Old Mar 20th, 2014, 04:01 PM
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Sandra, let's just say that I've run into a lot more people who hated Bologna than who hated Florence. I'm not sure why it is, but I think a lot of people want everything to be pretty and picturesque, which Bologna isn't. As I said, I love Bologna, and I did point out its many fine points. But I think it's not amiss to warn people that a lot of people think it's too loud, busy, frenetic, who knows.

Also, I live in one of those tiny towns that closes up completely from 1 PM to 5 PM. It's charming and picturesque, but I've met tourists who have come here and not even found a place to get a bite to eat, because one of the two restaurants was open only for dinner on weekdays and the other was closed every Monday. I drove these poor people to an agriturismo outside of town, which was also closed, but they were preparing dinner, and kindly gave them something to eat.They had taken a bus to get to my town, and they had to leave before the shops were opening, and they really were disappointed. San Gimignano is Manhattan compared to my town.

I don't think I'm doing a disservice when I point out things like this. I never said it was a bad idea to get off the tourist trail, but people should be prepared for what that decision entails. I think it's a disservice to pretend that everything is going to be lovely and easy. If someone goes to San Gimignano, they'll definitely find people who speak English, even if the odd Albanian waiter can't. They'll always find *some* place to eat, even if it's only a bar. (The bars in my town run out of pastries by 10 AM and after that it's potato chips.) I can't swear to it, but I'm pretty sure the tourist office in San Gimignano doesn't close for four hours in the afternoon.
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Old Mar 20th, 2014, 04:43 PM
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Old Mar 22nd, 2014, 06:42 AM
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Check the upper city of Bergamo.

Easily reached from Milan. Lower city also nice but older, upper city is charmingly sophisticated. Great food (that's true almost anywhere in Italy), small museums, funicular railway to "upper" upper city, nice shopping, good walks, music on the square, small hotels, wonderful people, little vehicular traffic, great scenery. Calm - a place to slow down.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2014, 08:40 AM
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Amazing and non-touristy cancel each other out. You have only 13 days; you're not going to find amazing and non-touristy unless you venture out into the hinterland to tiny little towns where no one speaks a word of English.>

You missed the OP's point completely! And the thoughtful answer many gave are the types of places he/she is obviously talking about.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2014, 09:16 AM
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We go to Le Marche at least once a year and we love it. It is east of Tuscany north of Umbria. It borders the Adriatic Sea and also has the Appenine Mountains 45 minutes from the sea. It is non touristy and beautiful. Great people. We stay at La Tavola Marche, a wonderful agriturissmo run by a young Americsn couple. Email them, just google the name, and Ashley will give you some info about the area even if you do not stay there. However, you would love it if you did.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2014, 10:37 AM
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I'm going to agree with the folks who say that with 13 days, you will need to edit the number of possible destinations. You will lose days 1 and 13 to travel, and at least 1/2 day every time you move to another city.

Here's a thought: start with a 5-4-2 split between Rome, Florence and Venice then tailor that as you read guides and figure out your 'must sees'. You can use Florence as a base for easy day trips by train or bus (or tours) so you might want to make it a 4-5-2 split instead. But you must choose--we here will fight endlessly about skipping Venice or not. I'd never skip it if it's your first trip.

Also, fly into Venice and out of Rome if possible. Oops, I see that 27 June is a Friday--it'll be busier on weekends in Venice. Something to consider.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2014, 03:14 PM
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I echo the vote for Lucca...and suggest Sienna and Volterra as well
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Old Mar 22nd, 2014, 03:44 PM
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Leah -only you know if you will feel short-changed if you don't see the places that everyone has heard of.

if you are prepared to be even a little adventurous, which from the tone of your post you are, there are many riches to be discovered. But as indicated by blvenci, you will have to do some homework if you are to make the most of going "off piste".
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Old Mar 23rd, 2014, 07:24 AM
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OK, here's list.

Tivoli
Spoletto
Todi
Orvieto
Parma
Portovenere (not La Spezia)
Montecattini Alto


Have fun.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2014, 08:54 AM
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sorry, bvlenci - got my vs and ls mixed up.
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