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Short stops - worthwhile or too frustrating?

Short stops - worthwhile or too frustrating?

Jan 5th, 2014, 05:58 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: May 2011
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Short stops - worthwhile or too frustrating?

Hi Fodorites,

I'm planning a 7-week trip through Italy and Spain in Sept-Oct this year. While 7 weeks *sounds* like a long time, it turns out that it isn't - because I can't fit everything in.

As a little background, the only parts of Italy I've had a decent look at previously are Rome, Florence and (to a lesser extent) Venice. Everywhere else is basically greenfields. I'd like to see lots and lots but I'm conscious of not spending one night here, one night there etc. I'll mostly be catching trains to get around and am starting to consider the idea of breaking train trips up for a few hours by stopping en-route. On the one hand, it will at least give me a glimpse of some cities that I'd otherwise have to bypass. On the other hand, I'm sure it will be very frustrating to have to leave these places after a couple of hours and am also conscious I'll have to be clock-watching a lot of the time.

The towns I'm thinking of treating this way include Bologna, Verona and Padua. But this is more of an in-principle question than one related to a particular city. What are your thoughts - a 2-hour sampler is better than nothing? Or worse?

I should add that staying overnight in any of these towns is not currently an option. I couldn't bear the thought of giving up a night anywhere else!
pm_mteliza is offline  
Jan 5th, 2014, 06:12 PM
  #2  
 
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It so depends on the journey that you are breaking. I think that you will not see much of Padua or Verona in a couple of hours. But maybe you could find a bit more time than that. The historical centre of Padua is 15 minutes walk from the train station, and you walk past the Scrovegni chapel to get to the centre. The chapel is worth a visit, and must be booked in advance on line. Easy.

In Verona, the Castel Veccio gallery is worth a look, if only for the architecture that I love. Again, 15 or 20 minutes walk from the station, juliet's balcony there is a waste of time. Verona really is worth a night, and the Roman ampitheatre is really something.
Peter_S_Aus is offline  
Jan 5th, 2014, 06:22 PM
  #3  
 
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OK, accepting your premise, which I find a bit odd - with 24 days in Italy, I would think Padua and Verona are each worth one night - let me point out that train stations are often, if not usually, not in the center of town. So you will spend 1 hour, at least, getting into town and back.

Having said all that, I would say it depends on the town. Bologna, sure. Verona, uh, probably not.

In Padua, interestingly, on one trip I did exactly this! for a very specific reason: the Scrovegni Chapel requires a reservation, so I timed everything so I left my luggage at the train station, hustled to the Chapel, and had a fantastic visit with it before getting back on the train. Didn't see anything else in Padova that trip.

Also (tho I hate to promote this behavior) in Florence you could get off at Santa Maria Novella station and actually visit the church it is named for, whioh is a fabulous church right next door, with important art. And then you could walk to the Duomo and back I guess, via Pza della Signoria.

So a realistic answer is that if you plan on visiting one or two SPECIFIC SIGHTS in a town, then maybe it could have value. Still, it's not how I would plan a trip!
danlev is offline  
Jan 5th, 2014, 07:00 PM
  #4  
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Thanks for the replies. I was expecting some sort of admonishment - and got it

Not really the way I like planning trips either, but we all make compromises when we're planning. On my first trip to Italy I did the gold-plated exemplar for quick stops - the tower of Pisa - and that worked really well. But danlev, your post makes me think the reason that it worked was that we went to see a specific attraction and had a timed-entry ticket. So I think I'll work on trying to identify a few of those types of things - the Scrovegni Chapel sounds like a great starting point.
pm_mteliza is offline  
Jan 5th, 2014, 07:20 PM
  #5  
kja
 
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It really depends on YOUR preferences. I often prefer single over-night stays to visiting a place as a day trip, but that is not a common preference and is not something I recommend for anyone traveling with others. (I travel solo.) And whether something CAN be visited in a few hours also depends on other aspects of your plan -- will you be visiting as a day trip or do you need to arrange for luggage storage? (I can't imagine that it would be very satisfying to visit a town with luggage in tow.)
kja is offline  
Jan 5th, 2014, 10:47 PM
  #6  
 
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If it's something you want to try, then why not? Worst thing that could happen is that it won't be wonderful.... but there are always more trips to take, and it certainly wouldn't be awful. And it's not like the Tourist Police will give you demerits on your permanent record...
danlev is offline  
Jan 5th, 2014, 11:28 PM
  #7  
 
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I wonder if the shortness of your visits is the problem or the speed of your transport. I often visit towns for only one night (or just a lunch time stop) but I get between them by bicycle. Can I suggest you review how you get across Europe but do it without motorised transport. The trans european bike paths are there to be used.

http://www.eurovelo.com/en
bilboburgler is offline  
Jan 5th, 2014, 11:32 PM
  #8  
 
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It depends on the size of your baggage. If you travel without baggage even an one hour stop may be pleasant. If you have heavy luggage each transfer becomes a chore and adding a stop is a trouble.
asps is offline  
Jan 6th, 2014, 03:19 AM
  #9  
 
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We travel this way often when we rent a car. For example, we drove from Santa Maria Ligurua to Arezzo and stopped on the way to see Pisa. I haven't done this by train since I was very young, but I don't see why it wouldn't work except for having to carry or store your luggage and I'm sure you can find out about luggage facilities in the train stations you are thinking about using. Even with a short drive of a few hours, we make it a point to find something of interest on the way if for nothing else than to have lunch.
AtlTravelr is offline  
Jan 6th, 2014, 04:25 AM
  #10  
 
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A 2-hour visit to Bologna is probably a recipe to dislike the city. I like the city but it's not a place of great first impressions.

I think a lot depends on pacing. If you're early in your trip and have some energy, then sure, a couple hours stop in a city that has left luggage is doable. By week 3 of your trip you're less likely to want to bother.
oedipamaas is offline  
Jan 6th, 2014, 04:54 AM
  #11  
 
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Two hours is NOT enough to see anything in Verona, Bologna, or Padua or anywhere else. Such a shame to see Scrovegni Chapel and yet nothing else of an absolutely beautiful city. I mean, if that's all you want, but then don't go saying you've "been to Padua" cause you won't have been.

All three of those towns are wonderful and if you only have one day, they would still be worth it in my opinion, but not two hours. That's really just a waste of time, once you consider walking or taking a bus to and from the town center and waiting for the next train.

If you give us your itinerary perhaps we could make suggestions as to how to fit in those three towns and others.
isabel is online now  
Jan 6th, 2014, 03:28 PM
  #12  
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Thanks everyone for the replies - some food for thought in there. isabel, the Italian leg of our holiday currently looks like this:

9 Sep: arrive in Rome. 2 nights, no particular agenda (been there before). Sit in piazzas, eat & drink.
11 Sep: train to Naples. 3 nights. Will devote 1 day to Pompeii & Herculaneum.
14 Sep: hydrofoil to Capri. 2 nights.
16 Sep: ferry to Sorrento, driver to Positano. 2 nights.
18 Sep: train from Salerno to Milan. This is the day we'd stop in Bologna for a few hours. Just overnighting in Milan. Will go to Last Supper & Cathedral the next morning, then depart.
19 Sep: train to Como / Bellagio area (not locked in yet). 3 nights. I know this is a candidate to be cut back but I really don't want to!
22 Sep: train to Venice. Could stop in Verona en-route. 2 nights. Been to Venice before.
24 Sep: train to Florence. Could stop in Padua en-route. 4 nights. Been to Florence before but will pick up a car and primarily use the time to explore Tuscany in day trips: Lucca, Sienna, Chianti etc.
28 Sep: haven't quite worked this out but it's something like: 2 nights in Cinque Terre region, then 1 night in Genoa. (Want to find a way of squeezing Parma into this section as well. Would it be too much travel in one day to drive from somewhere like La Spezia up to Parma, then back to spend the night in Genoa? Or I guess we could overnight in Parma, then head to Nice via Genoa the next day? And then there's Reggio Emilia ...)
1 Oct: head to Nice and points west for the remainder of the trip.

All thoughts welcome, especially on the last few days
pm_mteliza is offline  
Jan 6th, 2014, 06:23 PM
  #13  
 
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Well that's a really fast paced schedule but some people like that. At the very least I would take one night from Naples and spend a night in Bologna rather than trying to do it en route.

Your idea to spend four nights in Florence but then use it to travel by car to Tuscan towns is not great. For one thing, finding a place to stay with parking, that lets you drive in and out of the city each day and not drive through the regulated (and highly fined) section will be hard. If you've been to Florence before and weren't planning on seeing anything there then pick a smaller town to base in.

If you really want to see Verona and Padua I would take one night from Tuscany and add it to the Veneto region, but then, since you have also been to Venice, instead stay in Padua for three nights and do Verona as a day trip from there. You could also do Venice as a day trip if you want to go back.

For the Cinque Terre/Genoa part - base yourself in either Rapallo or Camogli for three nights and do day trips to the CT towns and to Genoa is you must see that. Forget about Parma.

Overall though, you really are trying to see too much in three weeks. Really, you are trying to cover a huge amount of places. Two and three night stays, even one nighters are fine as long as they are interspersed with some longer stays. I would seriously take a look and see if you couldn't leave a few places for a future trip and slow it down just a tad.
isabel is online now  
Jan 6th, 2014, 07:09 PM
  #14  
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Thanks isabel. I agree that it's a slightly hectic schedule but we've done trips like this before and it's worked pretty well for us. We're not looking for a rest - we want to see stuff. (I've had this described to me as "Australian Sydnrome" - we have to travel for so long to get to Europe that when we get there we want to see it all at once).

This will also be the first trip like this that my wife and I have done unencumbered by children, so we feel like we'll be travelling so light that it'll be easy to keep moving. As long as the old hips and knees hold out!

I was a little non-specific with some of what I wrote. When I said "Florence", I actually meant Fiesole, on the outskirts of Florence. We're very fortunate to have a relative with a villa in Fiesole so will be basing ourselves there. We might go into Florence for a day but that would be all, and we wouldn't drive.

Thanks for the tips on the CT.

Forget Parma? Really? Anyone want to defend Parma?
pm_mteliza is offline  
Jan 6th, 2014, 07:26 PM
  #15  
kja
 
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That is definitely a fast-paced itinerary. It could work for you, but it could also entail some very, very frustrating moments. When I travel, I move around a LOT more often than most Fodorites and am very willing to go for multiple nights with just over-night or 2-night stays, BUT I travel solo, and that makes a HUGE difference. I think you are also a solo traveler, but your post isn't fully clear on that. I would say, though, that with a 7-week trip, you'll almost certainly want to plan some down time, at least one break of a few days and maybe two breaks. You certainly don't want to find yourself crashing part way through such a wonderful journey! If you choose well, you can probably pick places that afford the option of some light-weight tourism on those days.

Without knowing your interests, I can't possible say whether this itinerary makes sense or not. I can, however, offer a few observations. I thought Naples a wonderfully dynamic, vibrant city with LOTS to see, so you'll have to be very selective given how little time you have there. Pompeii and Herculanum can be seen in a single long (VERY long) day -- plan accordingly! I assume you have your reasons for skipping Salerno and Paestum, and I'll also assume you have reservations for the Last Supper in Milan.

Two last thoughts: Before you commit to an itinerary, do give some thought to whether there is anything you are willing to cut. I know I'm not very good at that, but I have learned that it is critical to my enjoyment with fast-paced itineraries for at least 2 reasons: First, if I can cut anything, it gives me extra time to enjoy the places that I do see -- and I find there's almost always more to see than I expected! Second, the exercise helps me think through my priorities while en route, making it easier to make decisions about changing my plans as my experience unfolds.

Finally, make sure you've considered opening days. IME, many places are closed at least one day a week, and that can be come a very important factor if planning a trip that involves lots of very short stays.

Hope that helps!
kja is offline  
Jan 6th, 2014, 07:27 PM
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You could have walked to the center of Verona in less than 30 minutes had you decided to visit the place. A taxi would have been even faster.
Dukey1 is offline  
Jan 7th, 2014, 12:22 AM
  #17  
 
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I just love the idea of going to Fiesole and dropping by Florence for a day. I have a feeling you are probably going to travel half way around the world to Epsom and might just drop by London for the afternoon. Wonderful, us contratians must stick together.

Yes don't drive into Florence but remember the city is actually bigger than the walled part and do get out to the other fine sites which are now embraced by the modern city but were in the county when constructed.

Hard to support Parma if you only want to give Florence (home of the Renaissance FGS) a day. On a similar scale Parma probably needs you to pop by for coffee.
bilboburgler is offline  
Jan 7th, 2014, 08:33 AM
  #18  
ekc
 
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I am a big defender of Parma - stayed there for a couple of days and loved it. But I don't have my map in front of me and can't see if it would work logistically for you to swap Parma for Genoa.

Also, no need to ferry to Sorrento and then driver to Positano. In September you can take the ferry direct from Capri to Positano.

Hopefully your days in Positano will be your downtime - a day on Laurito beach having lunch at Da Adolfo is a perfect Positano day IMO.
ekc is offline  
Jan 7th, 2014, 10:03 AM
  #19  
 
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We planned more or less to do what you're doing by train quite a few years ago. We saw Padua on the way from Venice to Verona; the train station is a short walk from the Chapel, which is a short walk to town. We both felt we had a good look at Padua.

We did spend several nites in Verona, the days of which were largely spent on day trips by train to surrounding towns.

We'd planned to do the same thing with Bologna on our way from Florence to Venice, but liked it so much that we decided to come back at the end of the trip for a couple of nites.

If it were my trip, I'd drop the CT. We've been twice and have been underwhelmed. We did spend a morning in Genoa and would like to go back there for a full day or so.
dwdvagamundo is offline  
Jan 7th, 2014, 10:39 AM
  #20  
 
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If someone is trying to include both the Cinque Terre and Amalfi Coast into one trip, I generally advise picking one.
yorkshire is online now  

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