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Northern Italy Itinerary Planning - Need Experts Advise Please!

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Apr 2nd, 2012, 12:19 PM
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Northern Italy Itinerary Planning - Need Experts Advise Please!

Northern Italy Itinerary Planning - Need Experts Advise Please!

We’re planning a trip to Northern Italy this September. We’ve traveled extensively through-out Europe but have never been to Northern Italy. We have been to Venice and the Cinque Terre and do not want to include this in our 16 day trip. I’m also leaning to not stay in Milan.

Here are some of my thoughts. I’d appreciate help to try and figure out how long to stay in each area, hotels and any other useful driving information to make the best driving loop tour.

We, my hubby and me, will have a car for the duration and are use to European driving. We will have 16 full days to sightsee and drive. We have always booked our car with Auto Europe in the US. I know it will be expensive.

Emilia-Romana - Never been and are BIG foodies. Thinking of flying into Bologna and staying for 3-4 nights with day trips to Parma and Modena. Hotels, Day Trip Info?

Verona - Lago di Gardi region - Not sure to stop in Verona on the way to the Dolomites or stay over-night.

Dolomites - Bolzano and the Great Dolomite Road. Where to stay in this region and for how long. Definitely want to do the drive!

Dolomites to Lake Como Region - Looks like the SS42 may be a scenic way to go.

Lake Region - Best central location Bellagio? How long to stay?

Piedmont Region - Would we have time to include this area? Turin, Bra, Alba and Asti look interesting, but don’t want to push it.

Frommers includes Cremona, Mantua and Bergamo in their two week tour, but I’m not sure how to add these towns to our loop. Plus we can always go back in the future.

Fly out of Milan (Linate Airport seems to have the best connections through Paris or Frankfort).

I have my guide books and plenty of your trip reports to read. As always your input is very much appreciated. Thank you in advance.
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Apr 2nd, 2012, 12:57 PM
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From Bologna you can easily visit other cities nearby: Ferrara (it did nothing for us), Faenza if you want to visit the ceramics museum, Ravenna for its mosaics (we did Faenza and Ravenna on the same day)--others can add other cities to be seen.

We stayed at the B&B Miramonte which is near the university area and close to the ring road (with parking lots) in Bologna.

http://www.miramonte-bologna.it/

We also stayed at this hotel above Bellagio (if you decide on Lake Como)which had, at the time, free parking: http://www.ilperlo.com/

To whet your appetite:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/...14503405/show/
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Apr 2nd, 2012, 01:03 PM
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We stayed in Parma at Hotel Della Rosa Prati and loved it. Did day trips to cheese/balsamic/prosciutto producers for 3 days. Highly recommended! Cremona was a great afternoon stop, where we visited a violin maker.

If you can, on your way to Alba stop and eat (or stay) at Antica Corte Pavallicina. AMAZING culatello!

Too bad you are missing the FVG area - we had some amazing food there last fall.
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Apr 2nd, 2012, 01:13 PM
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We have spent several trips enjoying northern Italy and one of the highlights was this experience in Piemonte. It is a time commitment, but we had a most unique experience and the best food of our 17 trips to Italy:
http://www.villasampaguita.com/Live/Palio2012.cfm

If you do include the Dolomites, then I suggest the Val Gardena as your base location and the Hotel Grones in the village of Ortisei.

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Rev...lto_Adige.html
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Apr 2nd, 2012, 01:15 PM
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Great information already. Thanks!

Michael, fabulous pictures. I'll check out the hotels.

ekc, what is the FVG area?
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Apr 2nd, 2012, 01:16 PM
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We are also partial to the romantic destination of Lago Orta. Here are some reasons why:

http://www.slowphotos.com/photo/show...y.php?cat=4173
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Apr 2nd, 2012, 01:22 PM
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If you're big foodies, then consider dropping something else (Lake Como?) to be able to fit in the Piemonte. I agree with Bob - fantastic food. And wine, of course. If you're at all interested in wine, then definitely fit in the Piemonte. We stayed in one of the Barolo towns, Monteforte d'Alba, at an unusual and wonderful B&B with a very friendly and helpful owner, Le Case della Saracca. Sorry for all the superlatives, but they're merited. The only downside of the area, IMHO, is that in the countryside there are not a huge number of art or historic sights. So you'd be there primarily to eat, drink, visit wineyards.

But Bologna is also wonderful; great food, beautiful non-touristy city with plentiful cafes for people-watching. Don't drop Bologna!
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Apr 2nd, 2012, 01:30 PM
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Hi,

I'm not ekc but FVG is the region of Friuli-Venezia-Giuliana, a marvelous destination.

If you really mean it that you are big-time foodies, you should visit the Chowhound message board for Italy and look up recent threads about eating in Emilia-Romanga and around the Dolomiti.

If you are going as late as September, I suggest you begin your trip in the Dolomiti to maximize your chances of fine weather. I suggest you land in Malpensa and go straight to Verona to catch up on your sleep. Rent a car there and head up to the Dolomiti if the weather is fine, or down to Emilia-Romagna if it is not.

I think you have time to include the Piemonte, but make it last on your trip. Again, it would be a shame to visit this area without consulting Chowhoud. There is wine, risotto, cheese, hazlenuts -- you'll want to know where to go.

You can sleep in the far eastern reaches of Piemonte and drive yourself to Malpensa for an early morning flight.

I think you face a tough choice between including Lago di Como (a truly gorgeous spot) and a foodie tour. I think the way I would might do it is go there immediately upon on arrival in Malpensa to spend 2 nights. From there, depending on weather, either head to Emilia-Romagna or get the a car rental and head to the Dolomiti.

Bottom line is: The Dolomit are a spectacular sight, but it is not worth going there if a low cloud cover or rain obscures the peaks

and

the Emilia-Romagna and the Piemonte are great food destinations, but not without guidance. Staying in Bologna will not get you a truly great foodie experience, and likewise the Piemonte in September if you put the "for-tourists-attractions" ahead of food and wine. (Avoid Eataly.)
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Apr 2nd, 2012, 01:54 PM
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Staying in Bologna will not get you a truly great foodie experience

The OP might want to try a recommended restaurant in Bologna, if only to see if whatever else is experienced in the area is truly better, just as a friend went to a Michelin 2 star restaurant the night before going to a Michelin 3 star restaurant to see if there really was a difference (there was).
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Apr 2nd, 2012, 01:56 PM
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My, you are all so wonderful. Bob, we stayed at Villa Schuler in Taomina Sicily in 2006 thanks to you! You're always spot on.

Lexma, our idea of Europe is driving around the country side and eating. We'll include a bigger city such as Bologna. When in bigger cities, we spend most of a whole day checking out restaurants that we want to try rather than museums, so your suggestions sound great.

It's starting to look better. 16 days between...

Fly into Bologna - Hotel/B&B? How many days?

Val Gardena Area - Hotel Grones in the village of Ortisei (already have this one bookmarked) How many days?

Piedmonte Lake area - Lago Orta Hotel Orta How many days?

Piedmonte Wine area - Monteforte d'Alba Le Case della Saracca How many days?

Fly out of Milan

Does 4 locations make sense? Thanks again!
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Apr 2nd, 2012, 02:04 PM
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zeppole, thanks for your input. Looks like we'll be planning more than one trip to this area.

When I mean Foodie's were not Michelin 3 star restaurant Foodies. We love local places with local ingredients and people the best. My career was with a large importer of cheeses and meats from all over Europe and the United States. We have had wonderful cheese factory tours in Spain, France and Germany, but never to Parma though.

Can't wait, but half the fun is planning and looking forward to the trip.
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Apr 2nd, 2012, 02:10 PM
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Michael,

If the "OP" wants to waste his or her money on a Michelin restaurant in Bologna to prove to him or herself it is not as good as one of the treasured eateries in the Modense hills -- well, why would someone want to do that?

easygoer,

I really don't know what you hope to accomplish eating-wide, and what your definition of being a BIG foodie is, but I sure you that your present itinerary of bob's "nobody-ever-called-me-bob-the-foodie's" suggestions will be taking you in the opposite direction of good food. If you think I am kidding, please check out these posts:

bobthenavigator on Sep 21, 11 at 6:54pm
Here is some variety:
GOOD EATS IN TOSCANA
I have never been called “ BOB THE FOODIE” , but here are some of the best places to eat in Tuscany ....

bobthenavigator on Mar 24, 11 at 7:47pm
This may help. I would add Osteria Acquacheta in Montepulcinao as well.
I have never been called “ BOB THE FOODIE” , but here are some .... blah blah


bobthenavigator on Nov 5, 11 at 12:53am
Nice trip---I am jealous !
I have never been called “ BOB THE FOODIE” , but here are some of the best places to eat in ... blah blah


I think someone repeatedly reassures the world they are not a foodie, you should listen.

People jump all over me when I criticize bob for posting cut-and-paste stuff from his archives that is at least 10 years old, but I think, unless you have money to burn, you might actually want to get some up-to-date knowledgeable advice from real foodies if you are coming to Italy to eat.

Up to you. it's your stomach.
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Apr 2nd, 2012, 02:15 PM
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easy,

You and I were posting at the same time.

I never suggested you go to a Michelin restaurant. I don't. I live in italy. I suggested you take the advice of people who know food.

I'm serious. Go to the Chowhound website and read about the Bolognese/Modenese hills and the areas around Parma for cheese tours. These things are discussed at length by people like yourself who are professionally involved in the food business.

Likewise, look up information about where to stay in the Dolomiti if you want to eat well. Stay in the absolutely gorgeous Alta Badia, with its cheese-producing small towns, not the ski resort land of the val Gardena.

If you want to be "easy going", agree with all the lowest common denominator advice you get on Fodor's and take that trip. If you would like to have a wonderful experience of the cheese producing regions of the Emilia and the alto adige, that can be done. And the scenery there is better anyway.

Like I said before, your choice. I've given you my best advice.
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Apr 2nd, 2012, 02:22 PM
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Yikes, I am the original poster and at this point I'm just trying to come up with a doable itinerary that includes some beautiful regions of Northern Italy and possible hotel/B&B recommendations for 16 days.

Not quite sure what all the foodie "to do" is all about? I just mentioned food because it is such a big part of experiencing an area.
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Apr 2nd, 2012, 02:29 PM
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Zeppole,

You misread my post. An example is not a recommendation.
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Apr 2nd, 2012, 02:32 PM
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Never been and are BIG foodies

This is the original statement that kicked off the food comments.
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Apr 2nd, 2012, 02:46 PM
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Michael,

I guess I misread your post, but are you serious? Was your friend serious? Never mind.

I am serious in informing easygoer that a BIG foodie coming to Italy does not waste his time going to Bologna to eat.

A lot of people post on Fodor's that they are BIG foodies coming to Italy, when what they really mean is that they don't enjoy museums. Until they clarify what they mean, I take a chance on the idea that maybe they are seriously a food lover, who is seriously interested in sampling the best regional food and eating authentic, traditional food (not food given stars by French critics).

It is of course fine with me if people immediately back off and say they are not *that* interested in learning, and they don't want to do any research, or alter their itinerary from the tried-and-true destinations to the places where food is still highly local and not geared toward foreign palates.

But some other people later finding these threads might like to know that there is a lot of ignorance peddled on travel message boards about where to find good food in Italy, and if you would rather learn some facts, you go to places like the Chowhound message board and get a corrective to the ignoramus blather -- and eat much better.
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Apr 2nd, 2012, 03:05 PM
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You are on the right track, but forget the Hotel Orta--it is closed for total renovation.

As for our resident contrarian, why do you persist in critisizing other peoples posts? All it does is detract from your potential valuable input. My " foodie" comments were from years ago and precede my Piemonte experience--part of the reason we went there was for the tasting menus at sevral of the best Piemonte ristorantes picked by our host.
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Apr 2nd, 2012, 05:57 PM
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I was half-joking, my friend was not. He went to a Michelin two star in France the day before going to a Michelin 3 star; how else could he evaluate the quality of the three star?
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Apr 2nd, 2012, 06:26 PM
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To get back on track:
We drove from Bellagio to the Dolomites (Castelrotto) and stopped on the way in Verona and had a fabulous lunch at Osteria Bertoldo
(Vicolo Cadrega 2/A). It is one of the best meals we have had in Italy. Everything was fantastic but the octopus salad is still something I dream about(keep ordering it at other restaurants but so far no one has done it as well).

We loved the Piedmont region and stayed at Baur B&B (http://www.baurbb.com/) located in Acqui Terme. Fabulous B&B run by an American woman and her German husband. Breakfasts were spectacular and Diana and Mischa were some of the best hosts we've had.

You might consider this while in Bologna. Italian Days Food Experiences (http://www.italiandays.it/). This was definitely one of the highlights of our trip! Alessandro owns the company and is the guide – he is fantastic – young, passionate, energetic and a little crazy – we had a fabulous day! We went to a Parmigiano reggiano factory, balsamico tradizionale acetaia, agriturisimo/organic winery for an incredible lunch and lastly a proscuitto di Modena factory.
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