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Tuscany/Umbria or Lakes/Dolomites in July?

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Sep 13th, 2018, 06:55 PM
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Tuscany/Umbria or Lakes/Dolomites in July?

Been to many but not all of these places before, though it's been several years.

I was initially thinking of flying into Milan, out of Venice, making my way eastward, so probably Lake Como, Lake Garda, then Val di Gardena and finally Venice, 3 or 4 nights in most places. A couple of things made me pause and that is a lot of rain on average, the further north you go in the summer. Actually these places seem to have better weather in late August or September.

But I'd rather travel in July.

The other thing is that Val di Gardena hotels apparently don't book that far out? Actually several of them use a similar booking engine and a lot of the dates you plug in, they say you have to contact them to ask about availability for the dates you're interested in. One place didn't even show availability for the rest of September (this month). Why bother displaying a calendar if it doesn't have any kind of availability information?

Otherwise they tout running all these programs. They offer spa services but also guided hikes, mountain bike trips, etc. Actually several of the hotels are part of the val gardena-active.com program where their guests get discounted or free access to day hikes and other summer activities.

So I've looked at flying into Florence, out of Venice, then revisiting Tuscany, maybe Umbria (or Emilia-Romagna, since I have to head north anyways) as an alternate path. More experienced in travel than when I visited these places previously so I'm finding a lot of appealing places to stay. Also these areas look as beautiful as ever. Not to mention, the lodgings are generally less expensive (though there is one place with a balcony overlooking Piazza del Campo that's kind of pricey).

Has anyone visited Val di Gardena in the summer in recent years? Some of the places which do post prices now are more expensive than Swiss hotels, though some of them are like 5-star hotels with spas and amenities I'm unlikely to use. There are more modest ski lodge types of places run by families but they tend to be away from restaurants and such. Though maybe if they offered a half-board, it won't matter.

As for as Tuscany/Umbria or Emilia-Romagna, are there some good recommendations for bases? Not just town but specific places? I tend to prefer being in town rather than agriturismos. For instance, I just saw one agriturismo about 2 miles south of Pienza center. But it's more like an apartment in the middle of fields than a working agriturismo which produces olive oil and offers dinners. They have some very beautiful pictures of the surroundings, but it's not some view from the rooms but probably pictures taken from some place overlooking the fields -- unless that place has rooms several stories above ground level.
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Sep 13th, 2018, 08:49 PM
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You'll have to get a bit more focused. Tuscany, Umbria and Emilia Romagna comprise 20,000 square miles, and there are countless towns and lodging that would work well for exploring. What do you want to see/do? Where have you already been in Tuscany?

FWIW, we've stayed at the Hotel Garni Walter in Ortisei south of SS242. It's a basic but comfortable guest house operated by a charming couple with two young children and a friendly cat. Some nights we walked to dinner, other nights we drove the few blocks, but I don't know what the in-town parking would be like in July. It was a good base for exploring this part of the Dolomites. We also stayed at the Hotel Ambra in Cortina for access to the more western parts of the region, and we've done one-nighters in Merano and Rovereto, both on the way to/from somewhere else.

IMO, 3-4 days in the Dolomites would barely give you time to see much beyond Val di Gardena, and the most dramatic scenery and passes are not in this valley. I wouldn't miss the Otzi Museum in Bolzano, but you just may not have enough time.
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Sep 14th, 2018, 12:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Jean View Post
You'll have to get a bit more focused. Tuscany, Umbria and Emilia Romagna comprise 20,000 square miles, and there are countless towns and lodging that would work well for exploring. What do you want to see/do? Where have you already been in Tuscany?
Been to several of them but mostly as day trips. I've mostly stayed in Florence and Siena and driving around to Val d'Orcia, then up north, Volterra, San Gimignano, Pisa, Lucca.

Seems like staying in the center of Siena would be a hassle because of parking outside the walls and hiking back and forth to the parking to get to the garage. But there are places near the Piazza del Campo, some with views of it, which might be magical at night.

FWIW, we've stayed at the Hotel Garni Walter in Ortisei south of SS242. It's a basic but comfortable guest house operated by a charming couple with two young children and a friendly cat. Some nights we walked to dinner, other nights we drove the few blocks, but I don't know what the in-town parking would be like in July. It was a good base for exploring this part of the Dolomites. We also stayed at the Hotel Ambra in Cortina for access to the more western parts of the region, and we've done one-nighters in Merano and Rovereto, both on the way to/from somewhere else.

IMO, 3-4 days in the Dolomites would barely give you time to see much beyond Val di Gardena, and the most dramatic scenery and passes are not in this valley. I wouldn't miss the Otzi Museum in Bolzano, but you just may not have enough time.
Yes I understand it's just a little taste of the region. I could rearrange the itinerary or even add a couple of days. I haven't booked anything yet. Val di Gardena is appealing because they have the Card which makes hiking around kind of simpler.

Where would be a good second base for the Dolomites?

But again, my main concern is the weather, the heavy average rainfalls in July compared to say late August or September.
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Sep 14th, 2018, 05:27 AM
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I was in the Dolomites in July 2015. There was some rain but also some nice days. I also visited Lake Garda on that trip and it was hot and sunny. You never know about weather - other than that it will be cold and snowy in the winter, but thinking August would be better than July I don't think is worth it, it would depend on the year. So if you want to see the Dolomites going in July sounds fine.



We chose to stay in Bolzano and do day trips - partly because of the weather question. That way we could spend time in the cities (we also wanted to see Trento) on the worse days and drive/hike in the mountains on the good days. We were happy with that decision and there were plenty of reasonably priced hotels on booking.com


Here's my trip report from that trip: A month in northern Italy: Mountains, Lakes and Castles The photos are now at https://andiamo.zenfolio.com/p484153363



Another thing to consider besides weather is crowds. Italy is getting more and more crowded each year and the Tuscany area is one of the more popular ones. Perhaps if you are planning that your next trip might be outside of peak tourist season you could save Tuscany for that.


If you do choose Tuscany, I think basing in Siena is a good idea and there are numerous hotels just outside the city walls that are easy to park near as well as easy to walk around the city center. I stayed at Hotel Chiusarelli, on via Curtatone and loved it.
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Sep 14th, 2018, 11:02 AM
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Yeah I would go from Como to maybe Limone sul Garda and then to Val di Gardena. I could spend two days more there or somewhere else in the Dolomites. Or just base there and drive to the passes for day trips.

obviously the odds of sunny weather are greater down south. I’m tempted by Siena but it would be easier to stay in a place like Pienza, where it’s apparently much easier to park near the center where the hotels and restaurants are. Other place I’m considering would be Montepulciano.

One of the places in Siena near the Campo says they have a 30 euro a day valet service which will drive you out to the parking garage. Otherwise the garages closest are only about 500-700 meters and cost 25 euros a day. Free parking lots are 1.2 km away.

Much cheaper to park and stay in Pienza but would be cool to have place overlooking the Campo. Expensive but not crazy, like it would be when they’re holding the Palio.
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Sep 14th, 2018, 11:39 AM
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I remember emailing our apartment owner at least 10 months before to book an apartment in July in Ortisei, but that was because 2 bedroomed apartments were scarce. We had 7 days in mid July, perfect weather.
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Sep 14th, 2018, 01:36 PM
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We chose the Alta Badia area in the Dolomiti. It was well placed for driving the passes. I will attempt to find the name of our hotel, where we stayed a few nights and ate in. Food was very good.
Found it: https://www.lamajun.it/en/

We flew into Venice, trained to Verona, rented a car and drove to Riva del Garda. Then the Dolomites and on the Venice. It must have been 2015 because we were going to the Biennale and it was '17.
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Sep 14th, 2018, 02:51 PM
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Originally Posted by tuscanlifeedit View Post
We chose the Alta Badia area in the Dolomiti. It was well placed for driving the passes. I will attempt to find the name of our hotel, where we stayed a few nights and ate in. Food was very good.
Found it: https://www.lamajun.it/en/

We flew into Venice, trained to Verona, rented a car and drove to Riva del Garda. Then the Dolomites and on the Venice. It must have been 2015 because we were going to the Biennale and it wasnt '17.
. Might have been '13.
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Sep 14th, 2018, 05:18 PM
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Thanks, I'll research Alta Badia, though it is only 1 hour to the east of Ortisei, 30-35 kms.
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Sep 14th, 2018, 11:23 PM
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We've stayed in Siena a few times but won't return. It's become too large a city for us anymore. But if you want to stay there, look at Palazzo Ravizza. Driving to the front door of the hotel technically violates the ZTL (the hotel can register your car with the police to avoid a ticket), but the hotel has its own parking lot on the back side of the hotel which is outside the ZTL. Driving ingress/egress to this parking lot is very easy. Just a couple of turns from the highway.

However, it sounds like you've explored a large part of Tuscany already. I'd visit Umbria instead.

I would research the Dolomites and decide what you'd want to see/do. For us, it was all about the scenery, the incredible geology, the passes, some WWI history... less about hiking. You can see a lot from a base in Val di Gardena if you have several days, but with only 3-4 days, you'd have to be very selective. We found Cortina a good second base for the eastern Dolomites area. (I mistyped in my early post and said Cortina was in the western area.) Merano was also a great stop between Lake Como and the Dolomites if you wanted to drive the famous Passo Stelvio.
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Sep 15th, 2018, 12:47 AM
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I got some quotes back from hotels in Ortisei and Selva, the ones you couldn't book online.

Prices are pretty steep (180 to 226 Euros a night), higher than down south. That isn't necessarily an impediment but for the prices they want, weather would have to be impeccable. I looked at some webcams and on this day at least, the skies are very clear, few clouds, from Selser Alm.

However, the prices are all-inclusive, including spa and one hotel has private guide who organizes some excursions supposedly.

I looked up what I paid in 2013 at a well-rated hotel in Santa Cristina and it was just under 200 Euros for 3 nights at the end of May. That same hotel, which is displaying prices only through May of next year, is quoting 3-night stays of $548 on booking.com. So more than double what it cost 5 years ago.

Maybe the Dolomites have gotten very popular since? I just returned from Switzerland last month and these prices are higher than Zermatt, though I would bet restaurant prices are more modest in Italy.

Some of the pictures with snow on the highest peaks or towers looming over green villages are stunning but that must be in late spring.

I definitely want to go again but it may not be for this trip because of the concerns about weather (preference is for sunny, clear skies) and the fact that there are more organized activities in Tuscany and Umbria (wine and food tours, guided tours, etc.)
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Sep 15th, 2018, 10:21 AM
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Well, I wouldn't be looking at hotels in the Dolomites. They are, generally, similar to destination resorts with, as you found, meals and spa services included. I'd send an inquiry or two to lodging with the word "garni" in the name. This is similar to a B&B category, but amenities vary (like hotels) if you require anything in particular. The Hotel Garni Walter in Ortisei that we used a couple of years ago offered very comfortable rooms, a generous breakfast and lots of local knowledge (the family lives in the same building) but not much else. It was perfect for us and much cheaper than the quotes you received from hotels.

FWIW, we had clear, sunny skies and perfect temps in mid-October. I think if you wait until you can be absolutely assured of perfect weather, you'll never make it to the Dolomites.
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Sep 15th, 2018, 11:24 AM
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Well, it goes without saying that everyone's preference is for clear, sunny skies, but it also goes without saying that you have zero control over the weather. So rather than obsess about weather, I'd focus on other factors. For me, I'd surely rather go in July and chance a bit of water from the heavens than deal with the heat and crowds of August. You're not going to crumple over and die if it rains.

FWIW, which is, frankly, absolutely nothing, I've had lovely weather in the Dolomites and regions surrounding in July, several times. Same for Umbria, where I have spent many a July vacation.
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Sep 15th, 2018, 01:01 PM
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I'm sure you know weather is a crapshoot especially in the mountains. For what it's worth, I was in the Dolomites in July summer before last. Days were sunny and clear for the most part; it did rain overnight a couple times. I was there for the hiking, which was fabulous, and I think maybe it drizzled on me during one afternoon hike, but nothing major.

My time there was somewhat of a vacation from my vacation, packed in the middle of an itinerary that also included Venice, Bolzano, Arezzo, Rome. I enjoyed this type of trip so much that last month I included hiking in Camogli and vicinity in the middle of a Torino-Milano sandwich.

I think both your choices are very appealing. Good luck deciding. Have you thought about Le Marche/Abruzzo and doing some walking/hiking in the Sibillini and Il Gran Sasso? I took that trip in a few Julys ago.
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