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Overwhelmed with planning! Need help from Italy experts.

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Dec 5th, 2017, 09:57 AM
  #1
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Overwhelmed with planning! Need help from Italy experts.

Hi travel friends,

I am planning a trip to Italy at the end of May for 2 weeks. I will be traveling with 3 kids (ages 3, 6, and 8) so am hoping to have great local experiences and be able to enjoy local towns, good food, walk to playgrounds and gelato places and some local markets. I would be happy to share my time between countryside (if short drive to towns) and perhaps staying in an adorable village. We love good food, but wine and vineyards are not the top priority.

I have been to the major cities, so am thinking about Tuscany/Umbria and maybe adding a short Venice trip at the end for my kids to see it.

I am overwhelmed with the number of cute towns. I can't decide between all the towns in Tuscany and Umbria. We definitely want to visit Siena, although I don't think we need to actually stay there.

I know I don't want to drive too far every day and that we don't love curvy country roads

I am looking at a place in Marche (through vrbo) , a place in Umbria (called Murlo), and Lilliano.

Would love thoughts on all those places. Any any other highly recommended places or how to narrow it down. And any ideas to make this 2 week exciting trip run smoothly...

Thank you SO much in advance for your help.
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Dec 5th, 2017, 11:54 AM
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This is totally my own personal opinion having toured Umbria a couple of times, but the location of the Murlo estate wouldn't be my first pick if your goal is to visit some of the classic Umbrian hill towns. It looks like the propety might be up in the hills, too, which if you do't like curvy roads, might not be for you.

For a first visit to the region, I would suggest staying in or near Spoleto, Assisi, Spello, Montefalco, Bevagna or Perugia. The Umbrian valley itself is lovely and it's an easy drive between all of these towns. A bit farther afield, you can drive to Gubbio, Todi, Orvieto and Norcia (which is still dealing with the effects of last year's earthquakes unfortunately). We have twice stayed in Spello and liked it as a base, although it's admittedly too small for some. But it's an easy town to get in and out of, is centrally located, has a number of good restaurants, and there is a playground, albeit a small one, near the top of the town.

We've spent a few days at an agriturismo outside of Panicale. The property is Mezzaluna Fra La Mura. From there, you can tour the towns around Lago Trasimeno and venture into Tuscany as well. We enjoyed the proprety and the food very much but all in all, I think I prefer the time we've spent in town. For us, 2-3 days at the agriturismo is plenty.

We've only dipped our toe in Tuscany and can't really compare. I do think it probably attracts more visitors and is a bit more expensive, but not prohibitively so.

I don't know if the steepness of any of these towns is an issue, but of the ones I've mentioned, only Bevagna is flat.
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Dec 5th, 2017, 03:09 PM
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I am overwhelmed with the number of cute towns. I can't decide between all the towns in Tuscany and Umbria.>

Yes flip a coin! But I'd try to chose one from which you wanted to do easy day trips - assume you are driving - like one not far from Siena, San Gimignano and other must see places.

Farmhouse or villa in or near a village -with swimming pool for sure would be great -in case you do not know of Agriurismo booking site for those:

https://www.agriturismo.it/en/?gclid...RoC07QQAvD_BwE
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Dec 5th, 2017, 05:00 PM
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Thank you both for your help.

Is Umbria just a lot of curvy roads? Asking on behalf of my kid who finally outgrew motion sickness

As for staying in a village, any places you recommend?

And as for Tuscany, are there better or worse villages outside of siena to stay in? Any better for families?

I agree that the Agritourism places sound interesting, but not sure we should do that our whole time. I really like little cities, but would love a balance.

Looking forward to more thoughts and I am so grateful for your responses.
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Dec 5th, 2017, 05:37 PM
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Umbria has a fair amount of curvy roads but more so when you get into the mountains. The roads in the Umbrian valley aren’t bad. The little driving we did in Tuscany also involved some curvy roads. The terrain in Italy does not lend itself to grid like roads.

For Umbrian “villages” please see my first response although I’m not sure I’d call any of them villages. Spello, Montefalco and Bevagna are small towns. Spoleto and Assisi are bigger and Perugia is a bit bigger still. I like all of them for different reasons. Spello is the prettiest in my humble opinion—but I’m partial.
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Dec 5th, 2017, 07:00 PM
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In 2004 we stayed in a rental about 10 km from Todi and daytripped to Orvieto, Perugia, and Spello/Assisi/Montefalco. Getting around was easy—we typically took the straight, fast road to that day’s destination and then the slower, more scenic byway back home in the afternoon.
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Dec 6th, 2017, 08:05 AM
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You can expect to encounter a lot of twisty road driving in those parts of Italy.

Unless you plan to book a farm stay with your own apartment and a restaurant on the farm, then I would suggest you book an apartment in a small town. Italian restaurant hours and meal structures are not easy for small children (meals start too late, go on too long) and if you try to solve the problem by cooking "at home", you run into the difficulties of when Italian stores are open and when they are closed. Staying right in a town makes it much easier to go shopping, or find a supermarket that stays open all day.

Bevagna might be perfect for you since it is flat. You might even find an apartment at the edge of town that has a swimming pool, although at the end of May, a pool might not be critical. Try to find a place with mosquito screens.

Other towns being mentioned are also good, but I would avoid Assisi, Spello and Montefalco for steep hills or crowds.
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Dec 6th, 2017, 08:37 AM
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Siena is a big city compared to other Tuscan/Umbrian hill towns - sounds like instead of country stays you'd be better in a smaller hill town of which there are zillions.
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Dec 6th, 2017, 11:57 AM
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I agree that the Agritourism places sound interesting, but not sure we should do that our whole time. I really like little cities, but would love a balance.>

I am not familiar with actual Agriturismo places but might not there be some in small towns or on the edge of them?
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Dec 6th, 2017, 12:59 PM
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We made several trips in Tuscany and Umbria with little ones, our favorite was based in Lucca. Cute, flat town and we found it easy to get to other places we wanted to visit. We stayed near a playground and the kids played every afternoon with Italian kids. We still keep in touch with one of the mothers all these years later! Of course, every town has a playground, but we found Lucca to be the right mix of easy to get around cute Tuscan town, location and balance of things to do for the kids.
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Dec 6th, 2017, 01:26 PM
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I agree that Lucca might be an excellent location with kids, but it's near the coast and not convenient for visiting the famous hill towns. From Lucca, you could visit Pisa, Florence, and some very nice, but less famous, places, such the Apuan Alps, Carrara, and the Ligurian Coast. Siena would be a stretch. The roads around Lucca are not as curvy as they are further inland. I would recommend taking the train to Pisa or Florence.

I live in Le Marche. If you tell me the location of the place you're considering, I might be able to help you. Le Marche has mountains, beaches, and beautiful hill towns, or as we say here, "Tutt'Italia in una regione". (All of Italy in one region)
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Dec 6th, 2017, 01:50 PM
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kalnalcl Thanks for your report. Can you tell me where you stayed in Lucca? Did you do trips outside of there each day or balance time in Lucca with it's surrounding towns? Would love to hear more about your trip with the kids.

bvlenci --
Not sure exactly the location in LE Marche. A friend of mine went and sent me the vrbo she stayed at.

Another friend sent this location in Lilliano -- Castellina in Chianti.

Seems like a good location too.

Lastly, heard about capalbio and puglia. Not sure where, what, how to choose! Africa and India and Southeast Asia were much easier
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Dec 6th, 2017, 02:02 PM
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Kids may be too young but perched just above Lucca is Collodi, a hill town that is home of Pinocchio - his creator lived here and the town treads on the history with some things kids may love. I have not been there but friends say it was rather interesting if into Pinocchio.

Lucca is a perectly walled ancient town but mainly flat so not your iconic hill town (and no steep inclines to traverse) and as bvlenic says not conducive to visiting hill towns.
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Dec 6th, 2017, 03:37 PM
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My first thought was Bevagna in Umbria because it is flat as well as charming. Well located to other villages too.
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Dec 7th, 2017, 02:44 AM
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Puglia is in an entirely different part of Italy, near the toe. Capalbio is a somewhat posh arts colony near Rome with few attractions nearby for children as young as yours (and for most adults too), and mainly twisting roads to get to what few attractions there are.

If you are determined to go to Siena, focus on staying somewhere within a 40 minute drive. I think a smaller town is preferable than a village for shopping options and, like I said, I would prefer flat to steep hills.
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Dec 7th, 2017, 05:44 AM
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Puglia is the heel and back ankle up to the spur if that helps. It is a fair bit away from your other options and I would not drag kids down there in such a short hoiday, stick to the north.
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Dec 7th, 2017, 07:26 AM
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I loved Siena - though mor a hill city than hill town -small hill towns are nice but to me rather boring - to others sublime - kids won't care much where they are if they have a swimming pool at the end of the day.
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Dec 9th, 2017, 06:52 PM
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Ok, back to the drawing board.

So thinking we'll have 14 days. How does this sound?

A combo of an agritourismo (maybe for a week), then Lake Como and Venice. Are they too far apart? I figure Venice will be crowded and touristy, but our kids will love it. And then at the Agritourismo, we can switch off days at the farm and day trips into cities. Potentially looking at one in San Germano and Montepulciano. Other consideration is the Bandita in Pienza, but I realize it is less "Italian." I like the Bandita country house too, but way more expensive than our agritourismos. Then I've always wanted to go to Como (Bellagio) so if possible, I'd love to figure that out for 5 days. So, maybe 6 days in Tuscany, 3 in Venice, and 5 in Bellagio.

Am I trying to squeeze in too much? Factoring jet lag and kids? And time to just BE?

We will be flying out of NYC and looking at flights tomorrow.

Can someone help me with driving distances (or trains?) from these three and thought on if this makes sense at all?

As always, I so appreciate your help!
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Dec 9th, 2017, 07:37 PM
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I love Bellagio and have been there four timrs. But it isn't a great place for kids. Ferry boat rides would becOK but how much looking st scenery would they enjoy? Bellagio is sterpcwith stairs. No beachrs orcseimming in lake. An adult spot.
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Dec 9th, 2017, 08:03 PM
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HappyTrvlr

Thanks for your note. Will take that into consideration. Do you feel that way about Bellagio only or all of Como? Is there a more kid friendly way to do Como or should I reconsider in your opinion?
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