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Seeking input on plans for three regions of Italy

Seeking input on plans for three regions of Italy

Sep 23rd, 2012, 01:13 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 34
Seeking input on plans for three regions of Italy

My husband and I are planning, in conjunction with several other couples, a trip to Italy In Fall 2013. We would like to identify a base point for each of three regions of Italy where we plan to rent a villa for a week for each region. We will focus mainly on northern to central Italy. We want to use the three bases as jumping off points to visit areas such as Cinque Terre, Florence, Tuscany, the Lakes region, Venice, Pisa, Sienna and Verona (not in that order). We will most likely fly into Milan and plan to leave from Rome where we will spend a few days prior to our departure.

Does anyone have any experience with such a trip? Can you recommend three possible base points that would help us to accomplish our goals? Although we will most likely rent cars, we are also interested in locations that allow us to use trains as a means of travel whenever it makes more sense. This will be our first trip to Italy so we are not familiar with distances and time for travel.

Any thoughts and input are much appreciated. Thank you!
Kibby is offline  
Sep 23rd, 2012, 02:06 PM
Join Date: Sep 2012
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I can speak for one base point in Tuscany. In 2008 we took our 2 grown "kids" and their spouses and though we did hotels in Rome, train to Venice, train to Florence, we there rented a large Mercedez van since we had lots of luggage and drove to our villa. Podere il Pino Poggibonsi Siena Italia
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Honestly so many choices in their different housing options, you will have fun deciding...with a view across the hills to see the towers of San Gimignano which we would return to day after day. We rented for a week but could only stay 5 nights and still such a bargain! All ages agreed we would do it again! The property is beautiful, the surroundings of vinyards, you will see! Enjoy!
BevCampisi is offline  
Sep 23rd, 2012, 02:26 PM
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How many are "several other couples". First thing to know is that when you rent a villa, you should look for how many bedrooms you need (not how many it "sleeps") and make sure all the beds are the kinds of beds you want. (No bunk beds for the couples, or fold out futons, yes?)

Then you need to see if you can get enough bathrooms to make the stays un-problematic.

It is sometimes simpler to rent separate apartments on a farm complex (agriturismo). It is often better to rent these apartments at a farm that also has a restaurant because even though you will have your kitchen to use, it is not easy to both be a sightseer and be a grocery shopper in Italy at the same time -- especially not if you are going to scenic places (which have hidden their supermarkets, if they have them, and everything else keeps highly inconvenient hours, and you have to go to six different stores just to get everything you need for one meal).

You should get a map of Italy and mark what you want to see on it. Then figure out how far you want to drive for a "day trip."

One thing I would suggest is possibly renting a huge apartment in Venice, and seeing Verona and Florence from there as day trips by train. Rent a Villa in the vicinity of Siena to see rural Tuscany, but see Pisa en route to le Cinque Terre. Drop off the car, spend some night in Le Cinque Terre and then some nights on Lago di Como. But you don't need a car on the Riviera or on the Lakes.

Since you say this trip is in fall, you might want to land in Milan and have private cars take you directly to Lago di Como. From there make your way to le Cinque Terre -- because Fall weather along the coast quickly turns rainy and chilly. Then pick up a car, see Pisa, head on to your Tuscan rental. Do Venice, Florence and Verona last.
caldarroste is offline  
Sep 23rd, 2012, 03:03 PM
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Seeing Florence from Venice involves 4 hours on the train plus time needed between the lodging in Venice to the train station and between the Florence train station and the sights you want to see. You don't indicate what your interests/priorities are and/or whether the group will be joined at the hip for all of your many excursions, but for me a single/partial day in Florence would be a cruel tease. There is so much to see, and it's not all Renaissance art and churches.

Depending on how much of Tuscany you want to see, you might need to allocate more than a week and perhaps split your time between two locations. Tuscany is 9000 sq. miles, so you'll have to decide where and how much you want to explore.

Likewise, if you want to explore extensively several lakes, you might need more than a week in that area.

Further to caldarroste's comments about lodging, be prepared not to find accommodations for several couples in one place that are all the same or necessarily similar. Know before you go how you're going to handle room selection (and share of the cost) everywhere.

And make sure you rent lots of cars. You may think everyone wants to stay together and do the group-scheduled things every day, or you may be surprised after you get there how people are drawn to do/see different things. And, FYI, moving around in a large group takes much more time than you anticipate. Waiting for restaurant tables at lunch and dinner will take more time.
Jean is online now  
Sep 23rd, 2012, 03:16 PM
Join Date: Sep 2012
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It looks to me like the multiple couples are thinking basing somewhere in a Tuscan villa -- not in Florence -- and therefore will be seeing Florence as a day trip. Unless their villa is a very short drive from Florence (unlikely), they will spend 90 minutes getting there and parking, and they will need to start making their way back, probably before it gets dark.

Contrast that with the 2 hour train ride directly into the heart of Florence, and the ability to stay until sunset and cocktails, and take an evening train home (you can pick up food and wine to eat on the train).

As someone above your post pointed out, it is possible to rent a van, not several cars. But I would suggest that they do that only for one of the 3 weeks -- the week they see a portion of Tuscany. I doubt they have any intention of seeing the entire region of Tuscany, and if they did, it would take more than 2 weeks and two locations. More like 6 weeks and 5 locations.

But I do think your implied advice to focus on seeing just one lake is good. To me, Lago di Como is the most beautiful, and the most destination worthy. It also offers a lot of boat rides, and some independence for the group.
caldarroste is offline  
Sep 23rd, 2012, 04:08 PM
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While staying in a villa in the countryside - to see that and several small towns is a great idea - I think you are missing a lot by not staying overnight in some of the most wondrous cities in the world - unless you have no interest in art, architecture or the historic sights of Italy.

I might consider spending 3 or 4 nights each in Florence and Venice - while dividing the other 2 weeks into 2 countryside villas - one in Tuscany and one in the Veneto.
nytraveler is offline  
Sep 23rd, 2012, 04:14 PM
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caldarroste, your post mentioned, "One thing I would suggest is possibly renting a huge apartment in Venice, and seeing Verona and Florence from there as day trips by train." I was merely pointing out the length of the train ride from Venice to Florence. They can decide if your plan appeals to them more. We don't know whether their Tuscany base will be near or far from Florence.

I would argue against one vehicle (van) v. multiple cars. That plan leaves no opportunity for the group to split and go different ways. We experienced a trip like this once, and... never again. But, again, the OP can do whatever works best for this group.

I didn't advise to focus on seeing just one lake. That's entirely up to the group. I was pointing out that one week to see several lakes might not be enough time.

Really, we can't know what will work for this group, as we know nothing about their interests or even the number of people involved.
Jean is online now  
Sep 24th, 2012, 12:01 AM
Join Date: Sep 2012
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There are different ways to travel to Italy, and for some people, the idea of coming in a group with friends or family and renting a villa together is the dream. The dream isn't to go to the cities and spend enough time there to complete a tourist agenda. Most villas rent for 7 days at a time, and they are in the countryside mainly. It does make for a different kind of trip than the trip couples and solo travelers usually take to Italy -- 3 nights here, 4 nights there -- to sightsee -- but while some people have bad experiences of it, some people have highly enjoyable experiences of it. (Some people don't enjoy staying in Italy's cities for days at a time and stop doing it after their first experience of it.)

Obviously there is more than one way to do this: WIll everybody enjoy cooking together? Maybe hire a cook? Stay near a restaurant? Will everybody want to do the same day trips? Rent more than one car? Pick a villa near good transportations connections?

The fun or challenge of this trip is trying to locate 3 places that will allow the group to complete their sightseeing wish list. I couldn't do it without suggesting that for one of the weeks, they give up the idea of one week-long stay on one villa.

I'm hoping somebody else can think of how to make it work for the OP!
caldarroste is offline  
Sep 24th, 2012, 12:22 AM
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Thinking about your preliminary plan again -- flying into Milan and out of Rome, and hoping to see Cinque Terre, Florence, Tuscany, the Lakes region, Venice, Pisa, Sienna and Verona in between, these are some bases that might work for you, flying into Milan:

Base 1: Rent a villa near Valeggio sul Mincio or that general area, from which you take day trips to Venice, Verona, Lago di Garda and Lovere on Lago d'Iseo. Lago di Como would be a long drive, so if you have money, the group might want to meet at Lago di Como for a night or 2 of getting over jet lag, then rent a car and move on to the villa.

Base 2: Rent a villa in the hills near Lucca, from which you can day trip to le Cinque Terre, Florence and Pisa.

Base 3: Rent a villa south of Siena, to see Siena and the most famous vignettes of the Tuscan countryside.

Leave from Rome.

In that configuration, I would find it easier to keep the group together for 2 weeks (one van) and then the final week have more than one car available.

If everybody realizes that by renting a villa it is possible to do laundry every week, then everybody can pack a weekend bag and you won't have the problem of needing a bus to transport your group plus their luggage.
caldarroste is offline  
Sep 24th, 2012, 03:42 AM
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If you want to visit all the places you mentioned, then you would need to base yourself (at the least) in these three regions before you destination to Rome:

You would need to go to Lombardy to visit the Italian lakes - a hotel/apartments on the lake side like in Stresa, Luino, etc on Lake Maggiore would be nice (from where you would be able to reach some lovely towns and villages on the lake, even those of Switzerland, like Locarno - and take a train ride or cable car up mountains (always check opening days/times and schedules), OR as some lakeside accommodation near Lake Como.

Secondly, you would need to find a base in the Veneto region to visit cities like Venice, Padova and Verona.

Lastly, to find a base from where you would be able to do daytrips to both the CT and many Tuscan towns and cities, I would choose accommodation close to Pisa or Lucca (Lucca to Siena is 1hr 36mins drive each way), OT accommodation on the outskirts of the city of Pisa, or at a coastal resort town close to Pisa.

I would first fly to Venice and firstly base in the Veneto region, then proceed to the Lakes area in Piedmont, and lastly to Pisa area in Tuscany, as it mskes more sense geographically. Then drive (3 and a half hours drive to Rome, maybe stopping in Siena on the way, OR deposit car in Pisa or Lucca or close to your accommodation and take train OR deposit car and fly with low-cost airlines (using maybe ryanair or easyjet) to Rome.
Anna_Galea is offline  
Sep 24th, 2012, 03:44 AM
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Sorry - in the last paragraph second line I meant to write Lombardy not Piedmont.
Anna_Galea is offline  
Sep 24th, 2012, 07:01 AM
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Most ambitious---you may need some help for this adventure--it will not be easy.

The first thing I would do is get a financial commitment from each couple before I would book anything. I assure you that you will have dropouts. Then, pick your locations carefully--it is all bigger than you may realize. For Villa rentals, decide how many couples can share the some bath--it may come down to that.

The dream is easy---the reality will be a challenge to plan.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Sep 24th, 2012, 07:25 AM
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I agree with bob. Start by telling everyone that if they are not willing to commit NOW to pay their share for accommodations no matter what happens from here on, then they should drop out now. And everyone should buy travel insurance, in case they are unable to make the trip. This may sound harsh, but it is the result of many people's experiences with groups traveling together.

Let everyone make their own travel arrangements for plane, train, etc. Just agree to meet at your first destination on a designated date. It is hard enought booking accommodations for a group, so let the travel be eaveryone's own responsibility.

And do get more than one car! Not everyone will want to do everything. And if some folks go off in the car, that leaves the others stranded. We stayed in a villa with three other couples, and we had three cars. That worked very well.

And, paying for food becomes a question. The best way is to have everyone put a given amount into a "kitty" at the start: 20 euros per person to start is good. All food then is paid for from the kitty. Do not save up receipts and then try to figure out who owes whom how much at the end! That's impossible to figure out . If the kitty becomes exhausted, everyone puts more money in again.
charnees is offline  
Sep 24th, 2012, 11:08 AM
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Good advice above!
You want to come back as friends as well---not all do.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Sep 24th, 2012, 11:18 AM
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Be aware that the rooms in a rental villa are not all of the same quality,or size. One couple may be in the "maid's room"off of the kitchen, or in an attic room, while another couple has the grand master suite. Does each couple want their own bath? We have had to rent larger places, more bedrooms, than we needed to get enough bathrooms. This lack of equity in room assignments can be a deal breaker for friendships.
It would help if you would list the specific three regions you want to be in.. Tuscany? Lombardy? Emilia Romagna?
Moving from rental to rental entails moving your food purchases too. Think about it. A cooler may be needed. Perhaps one rental and the other nights in hotels would be safer.
HappyTrvlr is offline  
Sep 24th, 2012, 06:39 PM
Original Poster
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Much thanks to all for your thought-provoking replies. As we are just in the beginning planning stages, your input has given us much to consider. Thank you so very much.
Kibby is offline  
Sep 25th, 2012, 04:09 PM
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Personally, If I were on a holiday with a group, I would prefer that each couple has own car. This would ensure that you do not always need to stick together all the time and would be at liberty to go where each couple pleases, Plus it might be more challenging to drive up some very narrow winding hilltop town, driving a van, especially if it is a large one (several of these roads do not even have barriers in Tuscany).

Another point to consider is whether couples would want to have some alone time together, not being with the group all the time. Since you are going to be also in the same accommodation in a villa, especially if it is a self-catering establishment, you are going to be together most of the time - 3 weeks is a long holiday, so being with respective partners during travel would give each couple some valuable time alone together.
Anna_Galea is offline  
Sep 25th, 2012, 05:52 PM
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Cannot stress strongly enough an early discussion of number of baths and who gets which bedroom. Most villas have 1 or perhaps 2 adult bedrooms - with a double - or if you are lucky queen size bed. Other rooms are often made up for singles or kids and will have 2 twin (single) beds or even bunk beds.

If you have 5 couples and want 5 double bedrooms each with a private bath - you may have to rent a 10 bedroom villa - or even a couple of villas that are close together.
nytraveler is offline  
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