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Two weeks in Northern Italy - what do you think of our outline?

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Dec 5th, 2013, 09:50 AM
  #1
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Two weeks in Northern Italy - what do you think of our outline?

We (two mid-50ish couples) are in the initial stages of planning our two-week trip to Italy in September. We enjoy history, art, wine, dining and hiking/walking. Our preference would be to NOT have a car but we realize that we will likely need one in Piedmont for sure but maybe we can travel by train to and around the other places?

Flights are already booked in and out of Venice. Arrive morning on Day 1 and depart evening on Day 13.

Cities we would like to visit are as follows. And we think this is the appropriate order. Do you think this is too much moving around? Would you add or subtract something? We have all been to Venice before but none of these other places.

Days 1 and 2: Verona
Days 3-5: Varenna or Bellagio
Days 6 and 7: Asti or Alba
Days 8-10: Bologna
Days 11-13: Venice

Once we have an idea of the places and dates, we can start finalizing our accommodation and tours, etc.
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Dec 5th, 2013, 10:08 AM
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You don't allow enough time for transit - for example, those two days in Albi or Asti won't be anything like two days (and even that would not be enough, even if it was two full days!).

From Bellagio it is even more time-consuming, but assuming you are in Varenna where there is at least a train station, the trains alone to Asti will take around four hours, and that's not counting time for checking out of your hotel and making your way to the train station, then finding your hotel at the other end and checking in and freshening up. Even if you get up extra early, a half day has gone by before you start out in Asti!

From Alba to Bologna, the 07:08 train takes 4:30 hrs, the 08:08 take 4:09 hrs, and so it goes.

Either Bologna goes, or the Piemonte goes - you can't have both with this tight a schedule.

Can you change your flights? It would make much more sense to start out in Venice, walk your jetlag out of your system (Venice is perfect for that), then work your way west via Verona and the Lake Como to the Piemonte and fly home from Turin/Torino.
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Dec 5th, 2013, 10:20 AM
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Lake Garda is right next door to Verona and to me is just as nice if not nicer than Lake Como - would cut down travel time as well. Base in a city on the lake.
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Dec 5th, 2013, 10:52 AM
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I like the compact geography---this will work.

I do see it a bit rushed---5 hotels in really 12 nites---but I am not sure what to drop. Perhaps drop Verona and add time to Piemonte. Consider doing this in reverse:

Arrive MXP----to Lago Como---3 nites
Get car in Como---to Piemonte ---3 nites
To Bologna---drop car----2 nites
Verona/Venice--you decide time

Either way, an open jaw flight itinerary makes good sense.
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Dec 5th, 2013, 11:21 AM
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Places you're omitting that are full of art and history; Ravenna, Padua, Ferrara, Vicenza, Mantua. Some of these you can see on day trips or in transit from Verona, Bologna, or Venice. For your interests, Bologna and Verona are musts.
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Dec 5th, 2013, 11:24 AM
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If your Venice flights are already booked, you best skip Alba/Asti (too far away) and replace Lake Como by Lake Garda (at least as beautiful).
That gives:
bus from Venice airport to Mestre and connecting train to Lake Garda (Peschiera, Desenzano) or travel to other places along the Lake (bus from Peschiera).
Relax an Lake Garda.
Day trip to Verona.
Train to Bologna.
Train to Venice.

If you can fly to MXP, go to Lake Maggiore (only a few minutes by car) instead of Lake Como, another beautiful North Italian Lake. Relax there and go by boat to the 5 Islands or up to Southern Switzerland (in day trips). The drive from Lake Maggiore to Alba etc. is shorter than from Lake Como.
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Dec 5th, 2013, 11:40 AM
  #7
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Thank you so much for your responses. I appreciate you sharing your opinions on this.

So, you are all of the same mind that we are planning to move around too much or go too far afield given we only have under two weeks in Italy. Our flights are booked on points already I'm afraid - I personally didn't book them but the friend who did said we were unable to get open jaw flights.

At any rate, what if we did the following?

Arrive in Venice and go directly to somewhere on Lake Garda (3 nights?); day trip to Verona from there.

Train to Bologna for 4 nights, daytripping if time allows to Ravenna and Ferrara and maybe other places.

Train to Venice for 5 nights, visiting Padua and Vicenza, and maybe other places as time allows.

This is a much smaller loop than originally perceived and we can still get in our lake visit plus history, art and food.

Is this do-able by public transport?

I actually feel better already
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Dec 5th, 2013, 11:48 AM
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I think the above tin works much better than the first one. Don't miss the fabulous Ravenna while in Bologna or the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua.

I don't know about Lake Garda portion, but getting to the other places by train should be fine.
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Dec 5th, 2013, 11:53 AM
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Check out my trip report from 2007 if you can find it on the forum. We did a similar loop from Venice to Cortina to Bolzano to Garda to Milan to Verona and back to Venice in about 2 weeks.
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Dec 5th, 2013, 12:19 PM
  #10
 
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I love the lakes---you will too.
Garda is nice enough, but is not as nice as Como.
Closer yes, but not the same.
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Dec 5th, 2013, 12:23 PM
  #11
 
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Your revised itinerary will work just fine. Stay the night in Ravenna, it's a nice no-big-deal real Italian town, most tourists disappear before dinner time. The mosaics will leaave you stunned: www.ravennamosaici.it

Consider traveling from Ravenna via Ferrara to Chioggia, a lovely mini-Venice, and taking the public boat-bus from there to Venice, it's a cool way to enter Venice from the lagoon side.
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Dec 5th, 2013, 01:01 PM
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I think Garda is harder than Como to explore without a car. Sights are a little more spread out, and the ferry service just doesn't feel frequent enough for leisurely exploring. If you spent 3 nights there and went to Verona one day, you'd only have one full day to see the Lake Garda towns/sights.

You have 11 full days not impacted by flights in/out but lose 2 half-days to changing hotels/cities, so it's really only 9 full days. You list 8 towns you want to visit "and maybe other places as time allows." That's not a pace I would enjoy, and I would probably drop the lake idea entirely. But this is your trip.
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Dec 5th, 2013, 01:15 PM
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If I were you( and we've done this trip several times), I would rent a car which will give you more freedom and ease of travel. Plus I hate schlepping luggage on and off trains. I would choose Lake Como over Lake Garda;like them both but Lake Como is so special..Or do Venice, Lake Garda and the Dolomites!
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Dec 5th, 2013, 01:25 PM
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I think Garda is harder than Como to explore without a car. Sights are a little more spread out, and the ferry service just doesn't feel frequent enough for leisurely exploring.>

I found the opposite - I easily toured around Lake Garda in two days on boats that were very frequent - it is a more beautiful lake to me - fjord-like at the northern tip and really neat towns - better ones than I saw on Lake Como - not saying Lake Como ain't neat but to me at least Garda was better.

Do both if you can.
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Dec 5th, 2013, 03:14 PM
  #15
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Well I'm enjoying this lively debate. Too bad we are restricted to just two weeks. I would say our highest priority is seeing Bologna and area and number two is Venice. Lakes Como and Garda both seem lovely, albeit different. I personally enjoy driving in Europe but my husband had some close family die in a car crash together and he is so nervous in a car now. That's why I thought we could do this without a car but perhaps that's not practical.

So much food for thought! Planning is wonderful though, isn't it?
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Dec 5th, 2013, 03:21 PM
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Why are you thinking of going to the lakes? For me the lakes are the least interesting part of NItaly. Lake Como is lovely, but thought there wasn't as much to see there as in other parts of NItaly. Beuatiful scenery for sure is there. Why not drop it? Are you interested in the architecture of Palladium? Lots of beautiful examples in the area. While we enjoy the freedom of a car, I think your trip is easy to do with trains esp if you drop the lake portion.
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Dec 5th, 2013, 04:39 PM
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PalenQ, perhaps we have different ideas of 'leisurely exploring.' BTW, if the OP makes the day trip to Verona, they don't have 2 days to ferry around the lake.
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Dec 5th, 2013, 05:47 PM
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You can do it all quite easily by train, no need to rent a car. That area is actually my favorite part of Italy. I would tweak just a few things.

I would either stay in Verona (one of my favorite Italian towns) and day trip to Lake Garda rather than the other way around (especially since you don't want to rent a car) or take a day from Venice and then do 2 nights each Verona and someplace on the lake. It's easy to get to Sirmirone, which while touristy, really is quite beautiful. If you want to go somewhere further north you'll need the extra day but you should be able to get there by boat.

Verona really deserves more than a day trip. My first trip to Verona was as a day trip (from a week stay in Padua) and I liked it so much that the next trip I stayed for four days and still could have used more.

I also really loved Padua, Mantua, Ferrera, and Bologna - I really encourage you to try to get to those towns.

I have several trip reports from trip to the area which might be of use to you. Here are a couple of them

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...-the-lakes.cfm

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...d-budapest.cfm
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Dec 6th, 2013, 09:23 AM
  #19
 
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PalenQ, perhaps we have different ideas of 'leisurely exploring.' BTW, if the OP makes the day trip to Verona, they don't have 2 days to ferry around the lake.>

Just from my experience we spent one full day ferrying around the lake and saw several towns and places - enough for me - main point was Garda in many ways is as nice as lake Como (nicer to me) and would be an easier fit into the itinerary - being able to stay one night longer in Verona and do a day trip - one less base to relocate from yields more time to explore.

Not saying Lake Como ain't sweet too.
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Dec 6th, 2013, 10:10 AM
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My favorite 'thing' on Lake Garda is the Monte Baldo cableway out of Malcesine. But if you're staying at the southern end of the lake without a car, this excursion would take most of the day.

There are also several things to see in the Gardone Riviera that could take the better part of a day. Villas D'Annunzio (aka Il Vittoriale), Alba and Fiordaliso, the Hruska botanical gardens and Gardone town itself.

IMO, the most scenic parts of Lake Garda are at the extreme north end.
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