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Northern Italy, help with itinerary, please

Northern Italy, help with itinerary, please

Jun 4th, 2005, 07:17 AM
  #1  
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Northern Italy, help with itinerary, please

Please help us refine our itinerary. I know I posted a while ago, but things move so fast on this forum. Didn't want to ttp it, cause things have been refined a bit. Hope I'm followung the Forum procedures.

My husband and I are in our early 60s, have been to Italy before- this time, we've booked 18 days and want to explore the lake district and the Dolomites. We thought we'd oreganize ourselves as such:

Arrive MXP 9/15

Maggiore - 3 nights (we are in the process of arranging lodgings at theVerbaia, but are concerned aout parking in Stresa-any thoughts?)

Como- 3 nights

Garda- 3 nights (we had planned to include Verona here- shorten this or eliminate it and just go to Verona?)

I've been concerned that there is "too" much lakes, if there's such a thing.

Dolomites- 2-3 nights (we're a little concerned about the driving here- or at least I am, and I won't be driving. Any thoughts or suggestions?) This is the area I know the least about,but I'm trying to read alot.

Asola- 1 night

Venice- Return car in Venice, and stay 3 nights (since we've been before, we feel we don't have to be near St Marks, though we're not against it, per se- any thoughts of lodging off the beaten path, but still near a vaporetto- we'd like to keep it under $200, if possible- is it possible? We do want to be in Venice itself)

Milan- 2 nights, after taking the train from Venice to Milan)

Leave the morning of 10/3 form MXP. DO we need to stay near the sirport? Our flight is at 11 or so.

Since we haven't booked anything, we have flexability. If anyone has suggestions for the itinerary or for places to stay, it would be appreciated. We tend to like small hotels or inns and even B&Bs, since my husband speaks Italian.

Thanks everyone,

Margret
justretired is offline  
Jun 5th, 2005, 10:28 AM
  #2  
 
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Margret - Where are you planning to stay in the Dolomites?

I've stayed in several small hotels and B&B's in Ortisei and Castelrotto - either of which make nice bases (- as does Corvara).

If you are interested here are their websites:

In ORTISEI:
www.snaltnerhof.it
www.hotelvillapark.com

In CASTELROTTO:
www.hotelwolf.it

This place was also recommended here recently:
www.uhrerhof.com (Bulla)

If you have a car I can post several tours which I've suggested before for seeing the best of the Dolomites.

Here are some websites to whet your appetite:

www.dolomiti.it/eng/fototour/

www.valgardena.it
www.val-gardena.com

www.kastelruth.com

Let me know if I can be of more help ...

Steve
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Jun 5th, 2005, 11:26 AM
  #3  
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Thanks, Steve for your comments. We haven't booked our inn in the dolomites, so your suggestions are wonderful. I'll study them carefully.

I'd love some suggestions on tours through the Dolomites, and yes, we will have a car. We were planning on a 3 night stay- do you think that is enough? We can rearrange our schedule give or take a day or 2. My husband and I are not particularly athletic, but like walks in the 2 hour range- nothing all day. We love driving and exploring little villages, markets, etc. ( incidentally, how's the driving?) Luckily, my husband speaks Italian and some German, and he is looking forward to the unique culture of the area.

-Margret


justretired is offline  
Jun 5th, 2005, 11:51 AM
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Margret,I had answered you on your earlier post. I would think twice about staying at Hotel Verbania---nice but very isolated on the island.
For your Como stay, consider Hotel Stella d' Italia in san Mamete--actually on the north shore of Lake Lugano but close to the west shore of Como. With a car, and coming from stresa, I would stay on the west shore or at on Lugano. Do not worry about the driving in the Dolomites--Steve has some very good places for you to stay---the Wolf in Castelrotto is hard to beat. The best of Garda is at the north end and accessible from Castelrotto as a day trip--I would not spend several days there with your itinerary. Good luck ! You can always click on your name above to see your prior posts.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Jun 5th, 2005, 12:19 PM
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Thanks, Bob- you are very generous with your time. One queston please. If we eliminate Lake Garda from the itinerary, how would you suggest we organize the extra 3-4 days? Should we spend more time in Maggiore/Como area or the Dolomites, or add something else in the vacinity of Venice. How do we incorporate Verona?

Thanks everyone- I really appreaciate the help.
justretired is offline  
Jun 5th, 2005, 01:33 PM
  #6  
DAX
 
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We were just in Lake Garda two days ago(our second visit) and was overwhelmed by traffic and underwhelmed by its beauty (due to grey misty weather). One thing about the lakes, they look spectacular only in good sunny weather otherwise they're just OK. We had the same concern about being "overlaked" so we made a short but wonderful stay in a newly renovated palace apartments in Parma called Pallazo della Rosa Prati. We enjoyed Parma but also Mantua on our way to Verona.

Bergamo is another wonderful town to stay for its moated citta alta above its citta bassa.

Backtracking to Lake Maggiore (also our second visit), we parked our car and enjoyed the lake by boat (you can buy a two or even three day pass). Besides the Borromean islands, I recommend the garden in Villa Taranto (Palanzo ferry stop). The various lakefront towns have limited character/charm but still worth stopping if you have time and each offers a slightly different flavor. Our favorite was Stresa for its famous hotel Des Iles de Borromee where Hemingway wrote The Sun Also Rises. The public rooms are not as good as the rooms.

We stayed in Bellagio (Lake Como) which has very limited parking and very high hotel prices so I don't recommend staying there. It also has a very limited choice of restaurants. Bellagio is ideal for a half a day visit. In Lenno, we did an easy 20 minute uphill hike to get to Villa Balbinielo (not open everyday) since nobody told us about taking a boat from the town port. Have a great trip!
DAX is offline  
Jun 5th, 2005, 01:48 PM
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Good question ! I was hoping to save you some time but you not need it. Heck, just go for it. I would prefer to stay in Bassano del Grappa and merely see Asolo and the Palladio villa at Maser as you transition to Venice. More to see in Bassano. See Verona from Garda--have fun !
bobthenavigator is offline  
Jun 6th, 2005, 09:03 AM
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Margret - Even a week is never enough for me in the Dolomites! If you can find a few extra days there I'm sure you won't regret it ...

If you have a car, here are some lovely excursions I'd recommend from the Castelrotto area.

[They can be easily done from nearby Ortisei too - or you can modify them if you choose to stay elsewhere ...]

TOUR 1 - SELLA & 4 PASSES TOUR (100km/63miles approx)

If you only do one tour, THIS is the one!

Route:-
Castelrotto-Ortisei-Selva di Val Gardena-SELLA PASS-Pordoi Pass-(SASS PORDOI** cable car)-Arabba-Campolongo Pass-CORVARA-Colfosco-GARDENA PASS-Ortisei-Castelrotto.

The SELLA and GARDENA Passes are 2 of the most spectacular in the Dolomites.

Don't miss the SASS PORDOI cable car ride (from Pordoi Pass) for awesome panoramic views!
There is a cafe/restaurant with picnic tables at the top.

The villages en route also make nice stops, especially Corvara, Colfosco and Ortisei.

.................................................. .................................................. ...............................


TOUR 2 - LAKE BRAIES & PRATO PIAZZA (88km/54 miles each way)

Lake Braies is THE most beautiful lake in the Dolomites IMO. Idyllic setting!

Routebr /> Castelrotto-Ponte Gardena-(S12)-Bressanone-(S49)-Val Pusteria-Brunico-Monguelfo.
After Monguelfo turn right, signposted LAGO DI BRAIES.

Ideal for boating, walking, picnic, swimming (if you're brave!) ...
Cafe & restaurant.

If you have time afterwards, drive up to nearby PRATO PIAZZA for more superb Dolomite views.

Brunico makes a pleasant stop en route. Also Bressanone or nearby Novacella Monastery (- which produces excellent wine).

You could come back another way from Valdaora (- west of Monguelfo) over 2 passes (Furcia Pass-S. Vigilio di Marebbe-Passo di Erbe-Val di Funes). This is a very scenic but slower route.

.................................................. .................................................. ...............................


TOUR 2(B) - LAKE BRAIES & CORTINA

This is an alternative extended version of the above, returning via Cortina.

Route (- as above to Lake Braies)br /> i.e. Castelrotto-Ponte Gardena-(S12)-Bressanone-(S49)-Val Pusteria-Brunico-Monguelfo.
After Monguelfo turn right, signposted LAGO DI BRAIES.

From Lake Braies return to the Val Pusteria main road (S49), turn right and follow signs for Dobbiaco/CORTINA (S51).
Lake Dobbiaco (- just south of Dobbiaco) makes another nice stop.

From CORTINA take the S48 Falzarego Pass (Great Dolomite Road).
At the summit if the sky's clear don't miss the LAGAZUOI** cable-car ride. Awesome!

From Lagazuoi take the scenic VALPAROLA PASS. San Cassiano makes a pleasant stop on the descent.
Return to Castelrotto via Corvara, Gardena Pass and Ortisei - as in Tour 1.

.................................................. .................................................. ..............................


TOUR 3 - VAL D'EGA & BOLZANO (Ice Man)

Bolzano is only 25km/15miles by the shortest route. A longer (65km) but much more scenic route is via Carezza & Val d'Ega. Here it is:

Routebr /> Castelrotto-Siusi-Fie a Sciliar-(left)Presule-Tires-Passo Nigra-CAREZZA.

At CAREZZA there is a chairlift ride* to 'Paolina' Refuge (cafe/bar) for fine views of CATINACCIO and LATEMAR.

From Carezza take the S241 to Bolzano.
(This is the 'Great Dolomite Road')
2km below Carezza don't miss LAKE CAREZZA (2 mins walk from the car park).

After Nova Levante you descend through the scenic Val d'Ega Gorge to Bolzano. Don't miss Oetzi the 'Ice Man'.
N.B. The most central car-park in Bolzano is at PIAZZA WALTHER.

[If you return by the shortest route the round-trip is approx. 90km/56miles]

If you're interested in wine, you could also visit the nearby towns of Appiano and Caldaro on the 'Wine Route'.

..........................

I can also suggest other tours if you want more.

Hope this helps ...

Steve
Steve_James is offline  
Jun 6th, 2005, 09:17 AM
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P.S. For lovely hikes/excursions close to Castelrotto/Ortisei I'd recommend you head for the ALPE DI SIUSI area - or the UPPER VAL GARDENA.

- You can reach ALPE DI SIUSI by car - or by cable-car from Siusi (- fine views of Sciliar). For more lovely views don't miss the Florian chairlift from SALTRIA if it's open.

- From the UPPER VAL GARDENA the best lift for panoramic views is DANTERCEPIES from Selva. CIAMPINOI is also good for close-up views of Sasso Lungo.`

- From ORTISEI I can recommend the SECEDA lift (- a 2-stage lift). Panoramic views** and fine hikes into the Odle range from the top.

You might want to check which lifts are still open and plan your hikes around those. (Many close in September (dates vary) - but you can still reach many wonderful areas for walking by car ...)

You'll find lots more hiking suggestions on:
www.valgardena.it

Hope this helps ...

Steve
Steve_James is offline  
Jun 6th, 2005, 10:18 AM
  #10  
 
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Margret,
I think you have planned plenty of time in the lake district. If you don't do Garda (which I agree should be skipped) don't pass on Verona-it is one of my favorite cities. Also, Mantua and Vicenza are lovely cities, with lots to see, in the area.
rine1967 is offline  
Jun 6th, 2005, 02:49 PM
  #11  
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Thanks everyone,

I just got home after a long day, and, of course, the first thing I do is check the Fodors forum. Steve, thanks so much for the itineraries. I'll get out a map and study them. Maybe we should skip Lake Garda and stop in Verona before heading north, giving us 5 nights Dolmites. Bob suggested we could see the upper part of Garda from Castelrotto if we want. Should we stay in one place or move further west for a couple of nights? Any other suggestions?

Still trying to figure out where to stay in Venice. Gotta get to that soon- this is so much fun. Thanks everyone

Margret


justretired is offline  
Jun 6th, 2005, 02:57 PM
  #12  
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Steve or anyone- another question, please. How do you and any passengers you take find the driving? Bob said not to be concerned, but I thought that I had read other comments from folks who said that it was scary. We've driven in Italy before, including Umbria, Tuscany, and the Amalfi coast (which was beautiful, but scary, IMO) and didn't have trouble, but that's not the mountains.

Thanks, Margret
justretired is offline  
Jun 6th, 2005, 05:20 PM
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Just returned from 2 1/2 fabulous weeks in Italy, including your area of interest. Here are some comments:
--Two great small hotels in Venice under $200 are Accademia and La Calcina (both in Dorsoduro). Highly recommended. Venice is awesome.
--Lake Como was magical. We stayed in Varenna (Albergo Milano) -- 125-140 euros/night -- charming hotel, perfect small town, with easy boat access to other Como towns. Spent 2 nights there and would have like another. Great sunsets!
--Took a day trip (we had a car) into the Swiss Alps, to St. Moritz, for some walking and glacial scenery. Another magic day.
--Orta St. Guilio (1 night) -- another charming town, lovely small churches; the whole community seemed to be out in the square as night fell. Less English spoken than anywhere else we went in Italy. Less than an hour from Malpensa airport (Milan) -- we had a noon flight and left Orta at about 8:45 -- easy drive to the airport.
--Two years ago we stayed 1 night in Asolo and loved the town.
--Driving in the area was easy. Parking even in Varenna wasn't difficult -- free parking was available within a short walk from the center. Lots and lots of tunnels all around the lakes, which takes a little getting used to.

Have a great trip. We're looking forward to retirement in a few years too. Travel calls!
aprillilacs is offline  
Jun 6th, 2005, 05:42 PM
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We have driven in Europe 22 times and do not see much difference in driving in comparable areas in the USA. Of course, there are mountain roads like Colorado, and roads around lakes like at Lake Tahoe, and remote small villages like in Vermont. The autostrada driving is very comparable. It all depends on YOUR DRIVING CONFIDENCE. The real difference is trying to drive in medieval cities---that can be tough. Here is an page of mine that may help:

DRIVING IN ITALY & SOUTHERN EUROPE

Q. SHOULD WE DRIVE IN ITALY?
A. Of course you should if your driving skill & confidence would allow you to drive a rental car in Vermont, Colorado or California. But, be advised of these tips:
* Avoid driving in the major cities except for picking up or dropping cars
* Have good maps—study them in advance—and have a good navigator
* Stay in the right lane except when passing and use your rear view mirrors

Q. WHAT CAR SHOULD I GET AND WHERE DO I GET IT?
A. It is best to rent your car before you leave for Europe. The best source we have found is AUTOEUROPE [800-223-5555] who is a broker for several car vendors. They will quote you prices to include the variables that are often omitted by others, such as unlimited mileage, full mandatory insurance coverage, and VAT taxes. The best model will depend on your needs, but for best value we suggest you select a compact car with manual transmission. Automatics are available but will cost you about 30% more and may limit your model options & pick up locations.

Q. ARE ITALIAN DRIVERS AS CRAZY AS I HAVE HEARD?
A. Yes & no! They are certainly aggressive, but they are also more skilled than many USA drivers—both are a function of necessity. Italy is one of the most crowded countries in the world and the drivers have evolved these characteristics
* They are notorious tailgaters. If that bothers you, pull over and let them past.
* On the AUTOSTRADE they will drive fast, but will stay in the right lane except when passing and will use their blinkers when passing—you should too !
* They will often pass on 2-lane roads with traffic coming. Frankly, they expect you, and the oncoming car, to adjust to the shoulder and make 3 lanes of traffic.

OTHER ROAD TIPS FOR YOUR DRIVING SANITY:
1. Learn the meaning of the sign “ SENSO UNICO” and take heed [ONE WAY ].
2. Be sure to get your ticket when you enter the AUTOSTADA system & be prepared to pay the toll when you exit it [ rule of thumb—300 km=15 Euro]. You can use your credit card in the VIA lane at the toll both, or buy a debit VIACARD in advance.
3. Do NOT attempt to follow road numbers—that will frustrate you. But, do pay attention to the directional signs that point to your destination [ TO MONTALCINO]. And, be aware if that road leads eventually to a larger city [ ROMA—SIENA ETC.]
4. Unless you have a diesel car, you will want to fill the tank with benzina from the green pump. Most stations will pump gas for you and will take credit cards.

NOTE: As of 2005, an International Drivers Permit[IDP] is required in Italy.
You can obtain them from your local AAA office. You will need a valid US driver’s license, two passport photos, and $10. The photos can be taken at the AAA office.

bobthenavigator is offline  
Jun 7th, 2005, 09:30 AM
  #15  
 
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Margret - I find driving in the Dolomites a real delight. I've never had a problem with 'aggressive' drivers in this area - even the locals aren't in a hurry.

It's really an area where you want a car IMO to see the best - and the roads are mostly excellent. If you're there in September you'll find it relatively quiet too ...

Steve
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