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Northern Italy

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Apr 13th, 2016, 01:32 PM
  #1
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Northern Italy

My husband and I are traveling to Italy this Sept and plan to spend time in Milan, and 8 days in the Dolomites and Lake District. My husband love to drive and is planning to drive the Grande Strada delle Dolomiti. We are in our 70's so don't plan on doing major hiking. Question, how should we split our time between the two regions, Dolomites and Lake Como. We're considering Bolzano, Merano or Ortisie. as our base in the Dolomites, want the beautiful scenery but don't want to feel isolated. In the Lake District we are thinking Bellagio or Stresa. Any suggestions.
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Apr 13th, 2016, 01:43 PM
  #2
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We spent 3 days based in Bolzano and loved it.
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Apr 13th, 2016, 03:18 PM
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We spent a week in Ortisei and loved it. I think Ortisei is a better base if the dramatic mountain scenery is your priority. If you do go to Bolzano, try to see the Otzi (Iceman) Museum. We thought it was fascinating.

I like Bellagio more than Stresa, but with a car I might choose Varenna or possibly Menaggio over Bellagio. Where do you go after Lake Como?

I hesitate to say how to divide the days. I would have liked more than a week in the Dolomites. There is that much beautiful scenery. But we've also made multiple trips to Lake Como. FYI, you'll lose at least half a day driving from Milan to the Dolomites and more than half a day driving from the Dolomites to Lake Como. If you're flying out of Malpensa after Lake Como and the departure time is early, you may want to spend the last night at/near the airport.

Do you know what you want to see/do on Como?
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Apr 13th, 2016, 04:34 PM
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I road tripped through the Dolomiti, and I would do it again. The Grande Strada connects Cortina d'Ampezzo and Bolzano, and I was glad I saw it all -- and am not sure I would have if I tried to use "base" for my entire stay in the Dolomiti. Some of the most dramatic scenery of the Dolomiti is in the passes, and they are demanding to drive. I was glad I kept going in one direction (although I zigzagged all over the Dolomiti). Merano is not in the Dolomiti national park, and you will do a lot of tiring driving back and forth if you want to see the spectacular Dolomiti but are using Merano as a base.

If you fly into Venice, you can approach the Grande Strada from the east and take it west, to reach Bolzano (but I would probably also take a loop in the direction of the Alta Badis. From the western side of the Dolomiti you can move on to the lakes and make Milan your final destination. I like the scenery of Lago di Como best, but if you might give some consideration to visting the northern end of Lago di Garda.

It is hard to be "isolated" in the Dolomiti unless you deliberately take long hikes. There are small towns throughout the Dolomiti, and most of the "rural" lodgings are not far from small towns. Almost everyone who goes to the Dolomiti stays in a hotel that serves dinner as part of the booking. Others may disagree, but I found the Dolomiti towns typical of mountain resort towns everywhere -- they are utilitarian, set up mainly for skiers and hikers, and they are filled with international tourists and tourist shops. I would not make the towns a "destination" and I would not hesitate to stay in a village or rural lodging with gorgeous views and restaurant on site.
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Apr 14th, 2016, 12:05 AM
  #5
 
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Merano is NOT in the Dolomites, but it's a nice place along the Bolzano/Bozen - Stelvio Pass (highest pass road of Italy) - Lake Como itinerary.
Ortisei i NOT along the Grande strada delle Dolomiti SS 48, but close to it.

I suppose you plan to drive from Milan to the Eastern end of SS48 at Lozzo di Cadore. That may take a whole day if you stop at some scenic places, like around Lake Garda or in the Bellunese. You may then spend your first night in this area (Cortina, Misurina, etc.) and proceed then to West, all along SS48.
As September is no longer high season, I wowuldn't book accommodation in advance, but just sleep at places along your itineray where you like to stay a bit longer.
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Apr 14th, 2016, 12:53 AM
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I can confirm that there is an abundance of excellent accommadation in all price ranges the Dolomiti in September without booking in advance, even in early September. (I think neckervd meant Lake Cadore in the east, not Lake Garda in the west)
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Apr 14th, 2016, 10:34 AM
  #7
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Thank you for all your replies. We will be attending a wedding in Rome, then traveling to Milan for 2 days, picking up a car and heading to the Dolomites. We plan to go through Bergamo along Lake Garda north toward Bolzano or Merano. Perhaps one night there would be a good stopping point before we go along SS48 for an additional 2 days. I realized the trip back to Como will take an entire day but that will still leave us 3 full days in that area. We plan to spend our last night at the airport in Milan for our return flight the next day. I was glad to hear that we wouldn't have to book our accomodations in advance as that will give us more flexibilty. Is this also true on Lake Como?
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Apr 14th, 2016, 02:39 PM
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No, you will need to book in advance for Lago di Como and also Milan.

Would you consider taking a train from Rome to Venice (Mestre station) and renting a car there instead of Milan? Then you could spend a night around Cortina d'Ampezzo surrounded by the Dolomiti peaks, and then drive through the Dolomiti to Bolzano through the spectacular scenery.

Then you could either drop off the car in Bolzano and take fast trains to Milan, followed by a train trip to Lago di Como (you can use ferries around the lake) or you could drive from Bolzano to Lago di Como if you wanted to keep the car, and put Milan at the end of the trip (drop off the car at Linate airport and take the 5 euro shuttle bus or a 25euro taxi ride into Milan city proper).
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