Veneto vs Emilia Romagna for a Month

Old Jan 5th, 2023, 11:55 PM
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Veneto vs Emilia Romagna for a Month

Hi all,

Circling back to Northern Italy for a month this September-October 2023. The only sure part of this trip is to spend the first week of October in Alpe di Siusi, and you all have given me great information for that leg. Thank you!

The more difficult part for me is where to settle for a month. We will not rent a car. As a reminder, we spent a month in Aix-en-Provence in September 2021 and LOVED the charming pedestrian old town, cafe-lined and tree-lined squares, upscale shops, French markets with produce, olives, cheeses and breads, parks, architecture. Sigh... Joie de vivre...

I am looking at Bergamo, Padua, Vicenza, Verona (although I read that it was mobbed with people and tacky souvenir markets in September 2022) and even tiny Bassano del Grappo or Varena on Lake Como (although these last two ideas might be too small and too quiet.)

I also am looking at Modena, Mantua and Bologna (large city but I'm thinking the historic center is contained).

Can someone just decide for me? Haha!

It is possible that we do two weeks in Emila Romagna and two weeks in Veneto or elsewhere, but we really prefer to stay in one town and take day trips to other places. We love authentic markets, art, churches and wasting time in lovely outdoor cafes. We don't love Roman ruins (seen sooo many.)

We haven't spent any time in Emilia Romagna or Veneto or Trento or the Dolomite regions. I know we will love it -- I just can't figure out which town will give us that liveable, charming experience. I even bought Frances Mayes' book, Meet you in the Piazza, and it only confused me more.

Thanks guys! Really appreciate the wisdom from this Forum.



lrice is offline  
Old Jan 6th, 2023, 03:05 PM
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As I've mentioned probably about 4 times already and am amazed as I say this, that I just came back from a month in Northern Italy in November 2022! Amazed at the number of people wanting to check out the wonderful places in the North in just the month that I have been back!

Como. Milan, Bergamo, Turin, Genoa and Bologna-my stops. I get an apt in these places and spend at least 2 days venturing out by train no more than an hour, 1 1/2 hr away.

Father's family from Bergamo and loved the Alta.Easily walkable, delightful and great architecture, might be a bit small for a month

Padua, Vicenza (mother's family) and Verona are larger cities than Bergamo but easily as accessible to touring other areas around them. Verona seemed more touristy that Vicenza and Padua but they have the great streets, alleys and cafes and markets.

Varenna-small, hilly, beautiful passiagiata but ferry or car to venture out. I was there in Como which I found delightful but small on Nov 6 the day the winter ferry schedule began but had a great time just crisscrossing he Lake by ferry but was at their mercy.

I loved Turin. Treelined streets, great piazza along with a interesting market and interesting buildings and history. Some great towns in Avigliana and Pinerolo (fab market town) outside the city.

Saved the best for last--Bologna--ADORED it, LOVED it. Archtecture, color, easy enough to get around and lots to explore, great shops and cafes, wonderful places to go and see. Did Ravenna and Parma from there. Ravenna-interior of churches/buildings were dazzling with mosaics. Had a wonderful apt in Le Palme on booking.com. For me that means great location, easy of walking, washer, nice decor, accessible transportation. Extra benefit was private courtyard and breakfast was included as well as midstay housekeeping.

Tough decisions are yours to make!
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Old Jan 6th, 2023, 04:51 PM
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Thanks so much Jan! I didn't realize you had family in Italy!

Varenna: Crossing off my list as we definitely want to take day trips to the Veneto and Emilia Romagna, and being tucked in on Lake Como makes transportation time-consuming.

Bergamo: Crossing off my list for the same reason.

Turin: Crossing off my list for the same reason.

Your detailed notes about each place are super helpful!
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Old Jan 6th, 2023, 04:54 PM
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I liked but didn't love Bologna. I gave it two tries over different trips in different seasons. BUT, of the places you mention, Bologna is the only major train hub. It's also, by far, the biggest city on your list.

Padova is also a fairly good train hub, but I'd rather stay in Ferrara (unless you want to go into Venice several times). FWIW, there aren't many places I'd want to stay for an entire month, but I think Ferrara is one. (I could stay in Varenna for a month, but not without a car.) I'm not sure why Varenna and Bergamo are on the list. Charming, yes, but both are in Lombardy and have limited day trip options by public trans.

I think you need to spend some time noodling around on the Trenitalia website to see what's reasonable to reach from the towns you're considering, esp. if you're thinking of only day trips. (Make sure you note the time of the last return train.) You can also look for bus services, but they don't often work for sightseeing... you can get 'there' but not have enough time before you need to catch a return bus.

A rail map for Italy (zoomable):

https://www.acprail.com/maps/italy-train-map/
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Old Jan 7th, 2023, 01:57 AM
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train map is vital as it provides for an easy holiday, see above
seat61.com sorry if others have listed it but very useful
I sugest look at the geography of th PO valley especially the eastern end.
Lots of lovely little ancient cities of which Padova and Bologna are but two with some world class museums to visit. I've taken 2 cycling tours through this area and still have not seen everything, easily one of the best areas served by trains. Enjoy
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Old Jan 7th, 2023, 08:12 AM
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Thanks Jean and Bilboburger,

Yes I have researched train connections for easy day trip and removed Bergamo, Varenna and Turin from my research.

We want to see the art in Padua and Ravenna, the architecture in Vicenza, go into Venice for an overnight before we finish in Alpe di Siusi.

But more importantly we want a town that we can melt into, find a favorite cafe to visit every night in a favorite piazza, get to know the person we buy bread from, hear the church bells ring, etc. Provence was so perfect for this vibe but I know it is all over Italy too.

Thinking Bologna may be to large, rambunctious and busy for what Iím imagining.

Jean, I will add Ferrara to my research list of Modena, Mantua and the three Veneto towns.

Thank you!
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Old Jan 7th, 2023, 08:21 AM
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Ferrara is especially nice as it is a cycling city (if you go you will see what I mean). We liked the area around the cathedral but I'm sure there are other zones
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Old Jan 10th, 2023, 03:16 AM
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touringtimothy, welcome to Fodors,
OP is looking in Italy, comments on France.... ?
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Old Jan 11th, 2023, 06:18 PM
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I love Bologna and we've visited there a number of times. I find it very walkable, not touristy and depending on where you are, not to rambunctious (closer to the University, it's like any college town). The fact that it's a major rail hub may outweigh the fact that it's bigger.

This past late September, we spent about a week in Modena, and I loved it. Even less touristy, lovely to wander around in. We developed our favorite cafes for morning coffee and cornetti and for afternoon drinks, but there were many choices. It's a little less convenient for day trips than Bologna, but not hugely so. Check it out!
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Old Jan 12th, 2023, 01:49 AM
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We did a couple of nights in Montagnana, great castle and walls lovely centre, nothing exciting but very local
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Old Jan 12th, 2023, 08:46 AM
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Bologna can be very busy when there's a trade show/expo on. Avoid those times if you can. But if Aix is the ideal, I wouldn't be considering Bologna.
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Old Jan 12th, 2023, 11:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Jean View Post
But if Aix is the ideal, I wouldn't be considering Bologna.
Agreed.

Loved my visit to Ferrara this past summer, although I wouldn't say it reminded me of Aix. Nonetheless, it is smallish, elegant and interesting. The Ferrara cathedral is currently closed for restoration work, though.
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Old Jan 12th, 2023, 01:40 PM
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Jean and Leely2, it sounds like if Aix-en-Provence is my ideal, then Bologna and Verona should both come off my list -- is that right? Bologna too big/bustling and Verona too touristy/not enough pedestrian streets and charm?

Leely2, when you say Ferrara didn't remind you of Aix, do you mean its vibe/atmosphere or architecture?

I've narrowed it down to:
Padua
Vicenza
Ferrara
Modena

Getting there! Thanks guys!
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Old Jan 12th, 2023, 02:31 PM
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I don't know how to evaluate and compare vibe and atmosphere which I think is very subjective anyway. I don't think a person can know how they will react to a place until they spend time there. FWIW, I like Verona, but it would be the base for a very different set of excursions. Most day excursions into Emilia Romagna wouldn't be realistic.

Of the four, I'd probably pick Ferrara because of its more central location near the 'border' between the Emilia Romagna and Veneto regions and because I just like it more than the other three. So much depends on where you plan to explore, and your lodging options in each might also help you decide.

But I'm the sort that would probably get antsy staying in one place for an entire month, so what do I know.
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Old Jan 12th, 2023, 05:01 PM
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Agree with Jean that it's hard to compare vibe/atmosphere.

I think of Aix, though my visits there were many years ago, as leafy and pretty. I'm probably largely thinking of the Cours Mirabeau.

Ferrara, OTOH, has a very big, imposing medieval castle with a moat kind of smack dab in the middle of town, decidedly un-leafy right around there. Looking at photos of Ferrara prior to visiting, it didn't seem visually appealing to me. Then I got there and loved it. There are Renaissance-period areas that are more open and green. The food is amazing! It's not super-touristy (less touristy than Aix, probably). Good shopping, even though shopping isn't normally on my radar. Tons of easy cycling opportunities. I went to Lucca right after Ferrara and Ferrara was much, much more "my kind of town."

Again, though it's been ages, I also very much liked Aix.

ETA: I've only been to Verona on a day trip.
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Old Jan 13th, 2023, 08:15 AM
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Yes Leely2! You are right about Aix. All of the squares in the historic old town big leafy plane trees and fountains everywhere. Even the outskirts of the town have lots and lots of big trees hanging over the streets.
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Old Jan 13th, 2023, 12:03 PM
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I love Modena! It is a great size and there is plenty to do. You can day trip to Mantova from there. The market, The Albinelli, is really like a food museum and there are so many great restaurants.

One more idea for you for the Veneto: Treviso. Such a civilized and non touristy town.


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Old Jan 14th, 2023, 07:45 AM
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Thanks to the commenters on this thread; I've now placed Ferrara and Modena on my list of places to linger....sadly, I've been to neither!
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Old Jan 14th, 2023, 09:34 AM
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ekscrunchy, itís good to see you back here posting. Your recommendations for hotels and restaurants have been so helpful and appreciated my me and my dh!
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Old Jan 14th, 2023, 09:55 AM
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Spent 5 weeks in Europe last summer and while we were based in Avignon (which is lovely!), spent an afternoon in Aix and definitely want to return. What a gorgeous city, we loved strolling around and fit in quite a bit of shopping.

We also spent time in Emilia Romana, I love Bologna - to me it doesn't feel touristy (compared to Rome/Florence) and is a really bustling with fantastic food and architecture. On our trip we choose to stay in Parma, which was a lot smaller, very lively and also with excellent food. These places don't have the French polish of Aix, but I'd love a few weeks in either.
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