North Italy by train ?

Aug 6th, 2007, 03:20 AM
  #1  
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North Italy by train ?

I am planning a trip to North Italy, for about2 weeks plus, next spring. We want to visit the lakes Maggiore, Como, Garda, some nice towns, like Brescia,Cortina, Bergamo, Verona, Padua, Ravenna, (we was at Venice and this will not be included now in our trip), Bologna, Mantua, and also to visit San Marino. We shall visit also Milan.
Probably we shall fly to / from Milan.
I am thinking to make this by train, and to stay in 3 , max. 4 places and to make day trips from there. The problem is that I can not decide what will be these places! I don't know how to select them, to be nice, picturesque places, and comfortable enough for travel by train.
I made a small map with our route,from Milan to San Marino, including the lakes.We prefer to stay in small, charming towns, with views and just to make day trips by train.

Can you make some suggestions? Is it a good idea to travel by train?

valtor is offline  
Aug 6th, 2007, 07:05 AM
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Hi Valtor - It's quite difficult to choose just 3/4 bases convenient for all those places.

VERONA would be convenient for Lake Garda, Padova, Mantova and Brescia. [If you prefer to stay somewhere smaller on the lake, Sirmione or Desenzano might fit the bill].

BOLOGNA or Ravenna would be a good base for Bologna/Ravenna/San Marino.

VARENNA might make be a good choice for Lake Como, Bergamo and Milan.

Cortina is problematic - it doesn't even have a railway station. It's good for visiting the Dolomites - but not for other places on your list.

Hope this helps ...

Steve
Steve_James is offline  
Aug 6th, 2007, 08:45 AM
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Valtor, I found that not far from Verona is a small town, named Marostica. It is famous for chessgame with live pieces (people). It has a castle and seems to be charming. Maybe you will add it in your list,for a short visit.
Adrian45 is offline  
Aug 7th, 2007, 12:27 AM
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Marostica is attractive, Adrian - but it's near Bassano del Grappa, not Verona.

Steve
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Aug 7th, 2007, 08:36 AM
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Yes, Steve, you are right, but as valtor did not list Bassano between the places to visit, I think that Verona _ Vicenza can be done by train, and Vicenza_marostica by bus.

i do not know when valtor will be there, but in Sept. 2008 there is chessgame.
Adrian45 is offline  
Aug 7th, 2007, 08:59 AM
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Steve, based on your advices, i am thinking now to:
- eliminate Cortina from my plans
- stay in hotels in Stresa, Milan, Verona and Bologna and make day trips from there.

This is not exactly what I wanted, but as I plan the vacation by train, it is simplier in this way, as from these locations I can have direct trains to all the points I want to visit.
valtor is offline  
Aug 7th, 2007, 09:07 AM
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Valtor,

You have a good plan. the problem with staying in towns smaller than Verona or Bologna is that they have few or limited connections to other places. Both Verona and Bologna are transportations hubs where a few different train lines cross so you have many oprtions for easy daytrips.

From Verona I have daytripped to Vicenza, Padova, Mantova, and Lago di Garda. From Bologna: Rimini, Cesena, Ravenna, and Ferrara. There are many other possibilities besides these.
ellenem is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 03:29 AM
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Valtor - I'm not sure I would choose either Milan or Stresa as a base.

Where do you plan to visit from there?

Steve
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Aug 8th, 2007, 05:23 AM
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From Milan:
- Varenna & Lake Como (1 day)
- Stresa and Isola Bella (1 day)
- Bergamo (1 day)
- Milano (1 day)
- maybe Lugano 1 day.

Can you suggest a better base than Milan (also I am not happy thinking about Milan for visiting Maggiore and Como Lakes).
valtor is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 05:31 AM
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I agree; don't pay premium Milan hotel prices to visit all around Milan.

Como is more or less in the middle for the places you want to visit. It's not the most charming town of all, but there are many small, pleasant towns very close to Como - Torno is one - that are connected by frequent ferries to Como itself, where you can take the Ferrovie Nord train from a station right off the ferry landings to downtown Milan. The Trenitalia station - Como San Giovanni - is further away.
Zerlina is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 05:32 AM
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Don't miss the opportunity to stay in Bologna. It's fabulous!
And Verona isn't too bad either. It's beautiful, so easy to visit Mantova from there.
Keren is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 06:16 AM
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Valtor - Personally I would choose Varenna as a base rather than Milan. Much nicer to stay on the lake than in the city ...

Milan, Bergamo and the other Lake Como towns are all easy day-trips from Varenna.

The only difficult one from Varenna would be Stresa - which personally I would drop. You could do a lovely trip over to Lugano instead (ferry/bus via Menaggio) - or the Bernina Express to San Moritz for some beautiful mountain scenery.

An alternative might be to base in Lugano - which would allow you relatively easy access to northern (Swiss) Lake Maggiore as well as Lake Como (- scenic 1 hr bus ride to Menaggio for ferry connections to Varenna/Bellaggio) - as well as fast train to Milan.

Hope this helps ...

Steve
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Aug 8th, 2007, 06:48 AM
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Hi,

You're getting a lot of interesting and valuable advice but I can't help but think you are going to end up having less than you hoped for on this trip because of all the daytripping.

First of all, are you utterly opposed to having a car? You don't absoulely need one, but once you around the lakes, it is obviously more difficult to travel by train because the lakes are in the way! There are also ferries, but that can be slow going.

If you prefer to stay in charming small towns, a car is really an asset.

Milano is far too expensive for a base, unless you are positively excited to be in the city each night eating that great food. However, Varenna is too remote for day trips.

Verona has considerable charm, and is well connected to train lines. You can easily visit Mantova, Padova, Milano and even Venezia from there. If you want to see Lago di Como, I'd recommend renting a car for just a day. You could also think about staying along the southern shore of Lago di Garda. Both Desenzano and Peschiera del Garda are on the train line that runs between Milano and Verona. In spring, it will be a bit chilly, but you can also take ferries to visit the attractions of that lake.

Why do you want to go to San Marino? The beauty spots of that area are San Leo and some other hilltowns in Le Marche for whch, again, it's really helpful to have a car, if only for a day or two.

But if you want train travel plus charm in the Emilia-Romagna, consider basing yourselves in Ferrara. And while in the vicinity of Bologna, do not miss Ravenna, easily gotten to by train.

Hope I haven't added to your difficulties! But I think you should re-think your plans this way:

Make a list of what you really want to do and see in Italy, organized by priorities. See what's at the top of the list. Is it pretty views? Small towns? Major sights? Good eats? Ease of train travel? If it's really going to cut into your pleasure to not be able to find one base and take trains from there, than by all means, find that base with the train station. However, if what you really want is to wake up in the morning with a pretty view in a small town, consider renting a car, or consider spending a few nights in a place like Varenna knowing you won't be doing much daytripping until you relocate to Bologna, etc.

Make sense?
fall06 is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 09:53 AM
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Thanks to all of you, for the good advices. I understand that the car is a good option, but...some years ago, in Blois, we had a small accident, nobody was hurt, and they changed us the car. Nothing serious at all, but from then, I am in panic when we must drive abroad. So, every time when this is possible, we avoid to have a car in our trips.

I checked the trains from Lugano or from Varenna to Stresa, Como, Lugano, Bergamo and Milan. It seems that is not easy for day trips to some of these places (more than 3 hours travel one way and change the trains at least once). So, from point of view of commodity , Milan looks for me the best point to stay in, as from there are only short rides (max. 1 1/2 hours, direct trains.
It is real that this will be more expensive, but I am speaking about 4 - 5 nights there. Probably this will increase the price with 500 Euro, but for my comfort and to save time, I think that I can pay this.
However, my regret is that I would like to stay in a small hotel, in a small and quiet town with a nice view... what to do, I can not have all things.

By the way, can somebody recommend a good hotel in a safe area in Milan? Some years ago, I stayed , in a business trip, at hotel near Fiera, but I would like one more centrally located.
valtor is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 10:38 AM
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Look, if you are willing to pay the premium, Milano is a great base, because strolling and dining and cocktails in the evenings are really superior.

There is a very nice place called Antico Locando Leonardo which would at least give you the feeling of something intimate. It's a stone's throw from "The Last Supper" -- a great neighborhood -- but you'll have to take a taxi or subway or tram to the central station for your day trips. We're talking 15 minutes to get there, but it's not the same as walking.

http://www.anticalocandaleonardo.com/en/index.htm

Another nice choice is the the Gran Duca di York, which is a stone's throw from the Duomo. Again, you can't walk to the station from there, but the subway trip to the central station is a straight shot, and the neighborhood can't be beat for seeing the highlights of Milano.

http://www.ducadiyork.com/home.htm

The train station area is not a great area of Milano. it's not as bad as Termini in Roma, but you'll wonder if you should be strolling around aimlessly at night (which you can do around the Duomo, for instance). However, quite near the train station is The Hotel Madison. It's a four-star, it's probably pricier than you want, and some of the rooms are pretty small.

http://www.mbetravel.com/milan-hotel...hotel_madison/

Another option (near "The Last Supper") is the hotel Palazzo Delle Stelline. It's a business conference hotel. Rooms are large and modern (but have thin walls) and the atmosphere bland like business hotels often are. But if you can sometimes get a good deal on the price.

http://www.hotelpalazzostelline.it/en/index.htm

Be careful in Milano going below a discounted rate of 130-150 euros per night. Unfortunately, you can end up with very poor accommodations and dishonest front desks. If you think you need Milano, better to pay the premium and not be sorry.
fall06 is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 10:40 AM
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PS: If you like the look of Antico Locando Leonardo and they have availability for your dates, book it immediately. It's a beloved hotel and very difficult to get into.
fall06 is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 10:53 AM
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One last thing:

If you plan to stay for four or five nights, especially if the nights include weekend nights, I would not hesitate to ask the hotel directly if they will give you discount for the longer stay. Sometimes they will because Milano is mostly one-night business traffic. The worst they will say is no.

Also, don't forget that if you are enjoying your day in Stresa or Verona or Varenna, most trains go to Milano and therefore, you can stay for dinner outsdie Milano and take the train the home after if prefer the atmosphere in a small town.

But for me, I could eat dinner in Milano every night of my life. And enjoy walking up and down its streets before and after dinner. There are big and small pleasures all over Milano and it's a safe city. Enjoy your trip.
fall06 is offline  
Aug 9th, 2007, 05:11 AM
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Valtor - The only long trip from Varenna would be Stresa (- which personally I would drop).

Milan is about 1 hr. from Varenna. Bergamo is 1hr 20-30' via Lecco.

All the towns of interest around Lake Como are easily reached by ferry - Bellagio, Menaggio, Como ...

Lugano, too, is no more than 1hr 30' (- 1 hr from Menaggio).


In your original post you said -
'We prefer to stay in small, charming towns, with views and just to make day trips by train.'

Varenna IMO fits the bill perfectly ...

Steve
Steve_James is offline  
Aug 9th, 2007, 05:57 AM
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valtor, Steve's planof Varenna is a good one. Many visitors aren't wild about Milan because it is very modern and doesn't conform to their dream of a quaint quiet italian town--which it sounds like exactly what you are seeking.

Also when daytripping from Milan, one must add in lots of extra time for connecting within Milan to the various train stations and so forth, riding a crowded subway or bus or navigating crowded streets. And then there's the trip out of town itself.

By staying in Varenna, you'll have a short walk through magnificent scenery and a charming town to reach your mode of transportation.
ellenem is offline  
Aug 9th, 2007, 11:31 AM
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You give me a lot of ideas, trying to help me to find the best location!
After I saw the advices of fall06, I started to check the sites that he recommended, being sure that i'll stay in Milan.

But, shortly after this,after I saw the last messages of Steve and Ellen, i checked again the trains. However, i found the follwing :
Varenna _ Milan 1:15, direct train.
To visit all other towns, at least one change of trains is needed, and the trip lasts:
Varenna - Lugano 2:34, 1 change
Varenna - Stresa 3h , 1 change
Varenna - Como 2;26, 1 change
Varenna - Bergamo 1;30, 1 change.

Is it possible to reach Como faster by ferry?
Steve, where I am wrong, yopu said that to Lugano is 1:30, while I find 2:30 ?

Still I can not decide what is better.
I have to make more research. Now i am not very glad with any of these 2 alternatives (Milan and Varenna), each of them has pluses and minuses.

I have to think for a while.

Thank you to all of you who tried to help, I shall tell you my decision, and, after the trip, I shall know it was the correct one.


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