Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

Rough Draft – April 2018 Trip to Northern Italy

Rough Draft – April 2018 Trip to Northern Italy

Old May 5th, 2017, 05:01 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 140
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Rough Draft – April 2018 Trip to Northern Italy

Hi all,

Looking for some feedback on a trip I’m in the early stages of planning for April 2018.

First a little background:

• We are 2 travelers in our 40’s traveling for our 15th wedding anniversary
• I’ve never been to Italy…my wife has been to Italy but about 20 years ago. My wife said she was not interested in Rome (found it too congested and/or smoggy) or Venice for this trip.
• We tend to be travelers who stay in one place for the duration of a trip (Been to Paris 4 times, London once and Barcelona twice and have never ventured outside of the city on any of these trips).
• We don’t like running around from place to place for 12-14 hours per day like the folks we regularly see going to Disney World (we live in Orlando).

I’m a big-time planner when it comes to these kinds of trips except for the actual trip when I tend to be more unstructured. We like to do one or two things per day and then sit in parks (Jardin de Luxembourg, Parc de la Ciutadella, etc…), soak up local atmosphere and eat (I’m kind of a self-proclaimed foodie).

Here’s what I’m thinking for this trip: Fly from Florida to Milan and then take a train to Varenna (Lake Como) for 4 nights. After this, planning to travel back to Milan for 4 nights before heading back to Florida.

I already have some hotel reservations as they were both totally free up-front and cancellable without penalty.

Hotels are as follow:

• Hotel Royal Victoria (Varenna)
• Hotel Spadari al Duomo (Milan)

While in Varenna we plan to chill out and explore some of the region. Thinking about the cooking class at Il Camienetto(sp) and maybe a day trip to Lugano, Switzerland (via Mennagio). Otherwise, just soak up the local atmosphere and try to discourage my wife from looking for George Clooney ☺.

While in Milan we plan to see the Duomo, The Last Supper, maybe tour the Opera House, eat, shop and just wander.

I’ve been doing some research and Milan doesn’t seem to get a lot of high marks for tourism, but I’m intrigued.

For those that have been to the area, does this seem to be a reasonable plan? Is 4 days in either of these spots too much time? Will we have enough to do in both spots, without becoming seriously bored (I don’t think this will be a problem) while not running around aimlessly?

Any other comments/suggestions are appreciated.
clemson91 is offline  
Old May 5th, 2017, 06:05 AM
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 468
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I can't find Milan an pleasant city, but staying there has its obvious practical advantages.
Something which you might have overlooked is the impressive Certosa di Pavia, 20 mins by hourly train from the station Milano Rogoredo. You can combine it with attractive Pavia, another 10 mins.
tonfromleiden is offline  
Old May 5th, 2017, 06:27 AM
Join Date: Nov 2016
Posts: 26
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
We are spending 5 nights in Milan next month and our plan is to spend the first 1.5 days doing the stuff we consider must-see like Last Supper, Duomo, etc. After that we are doing two day trips, to Verona and Brescia. We are leaving our last full day open, that way if we really like Milan we can see some of the stuff we haven't gotten around to yet, if not we can do another last-minute day trip like Pavia, Bergamo, etc.
mikedallas23 is offline  
Old May 5th, 2017, 06:29 AM
Join Date: Jun 2016
Posts: 624
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
If you're intrigued by Milano I'm not going to try to talk you out of it (and the Hotel Spadari is a fine establishment in a great location). But I will point out a few things based on your original post:

If your wife didn't like Rome because of the reasons stated, then she might have a problem with Milan, which actually moves at a faster pace, with loads of motor traffic, than Rome, and has a worse smog problem due to its location.

This being an anniversary, you might consider romantic pink Verona for 4 days, in no small part because in addition to having a lot of historic interest, it has great train connections to nearby towns that offer a lot of variety (Trento, Vicenza, Padova or even Milano for day). Although Verona is a city, almost all of its central core is pedestrianized, so plenty of places for a leisurely stroll. Also, if you are very fond of enjoying parks & gardens, Verona has one of Italy's most beautiful.

Another possibility would be medieval Bologna, which can be sexy rather than romantic, with its deep red hues and luscious pasta dishes, and unusual quirky sights associated with its position as Europe's oldest university. Bologna also has terrific train connections to nearby beautiful towns of great interest -- Ravenna, Parma, Ferrara, Brisighella, Modena and you can also day trip to Milan or Florence. (I'm assuming you don't want to spend the 4 days in Florence, which is what many would make their first choice).

But if you want to give Milano a go, if it turns out to rub you the wrong way, it is very easy to hop a train to go to Lago Maggiore (beautiful gardens there, at Stresa) or Bologna for lunch, or a pretty small town like Pavia for atmosphere & strolling.
frencharmoire is offline  
Old May 5th, 2017, 07:20 AM
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 7,310
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I keep thinking everyone must have seen a different Pavia to the one I saw. However, I was there for medical tests and maybe that influenced my valuation of the city. We did spend a fair amount of time sight seeing while we were there, and we did visit the Certosa, whose recommendation I enthusiastically second.

I love Milan, but then I also love Rome (even more). I wonder if your wife spent all her time in Rome visiting the big famous attractions, which are always uber-crowded. There are many pleasant and quiet parts of Rome, as well as wonderful museums and archaeological sites that are overlooked by the average tourist. In any case, Rome is no more congested or smoggy than London is, and you say you enjoyed London.

I don't think Verona could keep me captivated for four days, although it's certainly a nice city. Bologna is another bustling, crowded city, maybe more so than Rome and at least as much as Milan. It's another city I really like, but, although I live in a small provincial town in Italy, I do like big bustling cities.

I'm not sure April is a great time to visit Varenna. I think it's likely to be still quite chilly and rain (or, worse, fog) is a distinct possibility. I just checked the temperatures for this past April, and see that the highest daytime temperature for the whole month was 75 F, and it only got up that high on three days. On a number of days, it didn't get out of the 60s. Morning temperatures were often in the 30s. I also checked 2016, which was even colder.

bvlenci is offline  
Old May 5th, 2017, 08:40 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 22,584
Received 4 Likes on 3 Posts
I don't think you could make what I would call a worthwhile day trip from Varenna to Lugano in April because of the ferry timetables. You could probably reach Lugano by noon but would have to start back by late afternoon so as not to miss the last ferry to Varenna (critical!). Lunch and a stroll, but probably no exploring things on/around the lake.



Varenna could be cool/cold (there are ski areas less than an hour's drive away), but I'd be more concerned with rain. Ditto for Lugano.

If we're taking votes, I'm a 'yes' for Milan. It has a lot to see and has some nice small neighborhoods, but it also makes a fairly good base for day trips. I don't think Bergamo or Torino has been mentioned. The Hotel Spadari al Duomo is in one of the most congested parts of the city.
Jean is offline  
Old May 5th, 2017, 08:43 AM
Join Date: Feb 2017
Posts: 1,645
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Think it is misleading to describe Bologna as crowded, if the comparison is Rome (which I hope you won't be talked into going if your wife doesn't want to repeat her unfavorable experience, which I don't doubt for a minute.) Also, most key areas of Bologna center are pedestrianized, mitigating the pollution. But simply put, it is a fraction of the size of Rome, with a fraction of the congestion, and a fraction of the tourists.

Depending on one when goes in April, the lakes can be beautiful, since the flowers bloom in April.

Hard to enjoy atmosperhic, sophisticated Pavia if the reason for being there is medical exams, and also think a little more full disclosure would help, since same poster frequently posts to describe disliking Lago di Como altogether, and is a big cheerleader for Milan.
massimop is offline  
Old May 5th, 2017, 10:43 AM
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 7,310
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
What kind of disclosure am I supposed to offer, Massimop? I already said, "I love Milan", which seems to cover that for me. I also said that I tend to like big bustling cities. Isn't that enough disclosure?

And yes, I'm not a big fan of Lake Como, but I didn't offer any personal opinions about the lake, just the temperatures in April, for which I supplied empirical data. If Clemson and spouse don't mind admiring the flowers muffled up against the cold, April might be a great time to visit. If they'd prefer to have it a little warmer, May would be the better month to visit. The gardens of the villas have a lot of azaleas and rhododendrons and they're still in full flower in May.

I think everyone's advice depends on personal opinions; people come here for personal opinions, and at least I'm open about my biases. You haven't made full disclosure of your personal animosity to me, although I think it's pretty obvious to anyone reading your screed.
bvlenci is offline  
Old May 6th, 2017, 05:35 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 140
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks for all of the responses.

bvlenci - I don't think my wife enjoyed Rome because of the time of year she was there and the type of tour she was on. I'm sure the group focused on the larger attractions which may have contributed to her dislike.

We are now considering an extra day trip from Milan on one of the days (maybe Pavia, Verona, Bologna or even Florence).
clemson91 is offline  
Old May 7th, 2017, 03:58 AM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 20,615
Received 4 Likes on 4 Posts
I like the lake bit of the trip, both romantic with different options.

Milan, I've been a couple of times and yes it can be busy and there is a small area with a sort of tourist hell around the Duomo so you have to decide if you want to visit a big city or not.

If not, then really the world is your oyster, the train system is fantastic so you can find another city to base. I like Padua, Modena, Ferrara but these are all small cities (large towns), there is also Ravenna or you could head into Tuscany and Siena, Florence or even Turin though I think that is also too big.
bilboburgler is offline  
Old May 7th, 2017, 05:53 AM
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 7,310
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Clemson, of those day trip destinations, I would prefer Verona, a very attractive city practically surrounded by the Adige river. There are some very nice bridges, and the Roman Arena is really worth seeing.
bvlenci is offline  
Related Topics
Original Poster
Last Post
Oct 12th, 2018 09:02 AM
Mar 15th, 2017 03:42 PM
Apr 3rd, 2011 12:23 PM
Dec 23rd, 2008 06:08 PM
Nov 8th, 2007 04:07 AM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 08:55 PM.