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Venice, Verona, Dolomites/Lake Garda, Rome

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Dec 22nd, 2018, 05:07 AM
  #1
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Venice, Verona, Dolomites/Lake Garda, Rome

I will be traveling with my 17 year old daughter to Italy from mid June to early July. We both are fascinated by Italy and have had a really hard time narrowing our choices. Originally, we were planning on doing the Amalfi Coast for 4 days. Due to the crowds and the fact that we are both prone to motion sickness, we decided to to change to Lake Garda and the Dolomites. Cinque Terre was another possibility instead but again, the crowds. We anticipate Venice and Rome being heavy on site seeing and wanted to add in some time just to enjoy the beauty of Italy. Based on our interests, we have come up with the following plan:

Day 1: Fly into Venice from another European city (probably Paris, where we will have been for 3-4 nights)
Day1-4 Venice
Day 4: leave Venice and take train to Verona (see Aida), stay night in Verona
Day 5-9: Travel to Lake Garda, thinking of staying in Malcesine; plan to have low key visit of lake and day trip to Dolomites
Day 9 Travel to Rome (train? plane? car?) (if we drove, is it worth it for whatever we could see from the road? It would enable us to perhaps stop along the way in Tuscany somewhere. Palio is happening in Siena while we are there. Seems crazy but what an opportunity as well! If we did this, we would add a one night stay and take a day from Rome).
Day 9-14 Rome
Day 14: Fly home to US from Rome

We have left out spending significant time in Florence/Tuscany simply due to a lack of primary interest in art and the fact that my 17 year old cannot enjoy the vineyards quite yet. So a longer stop there will hopefully be saved for another trip.

Any thoughts/ critiques/ out right problems you see?

Last edited by here4now; Dec 22nd, 2018 at 05:27 AM.
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Dec 22nd, 2018, 09:56 AM
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No if driving in one day that far to Rome you will be on boring autostradas and have to ditch the car in Rome. Take train in about 4 hours. for lots on trains and booking your own tickets online check www.seat61.com; BETS-European Rail Experts and www.ricksteves.com. Lake Garda by train comes before Verona - day trip to Verona from Lake Garda base perhaps.
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Dec 22nd, 2018, 10:31 AM
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JMO, but I'd rather devote more time to the Dolomites than Lake Garda. A "day trip" from Malcesine isn't enough time to see the most dramatic/scenic parts of the Dolomites which are the passes and valleys generally reached by slow, winding roads. (My favorite, Passo Giau, is at least 3.5 hours from Malcesine.) I'd spend two nights at Malcesine, then two nights in the Dolomites. If you have more nights (which isn't clear from your post as you're counting Day 9 three times), I'd add them to the Dolomites.

Again, JMO, but I wouldn't want to drive to Rome unless I had a few days to explore along the way (and esp. if a future trip to Tuscany is already in your thoughts). If I was averse to crowds, I'd avoid the Palio. In any event, Palio is more than just the actual race, and I'd want a couple of days to experience it all. If you returned the car in Verona, there are trains to Rome that take about 3 hours. From Trento, about 4 hours.

As you make your decisions, it would be easier to think in terms of nights rather than days. Otherwise, there's the tendency to overestimate how much time you have for sightseeing. Also, you should figure out the travel times by train and car to better plan the daytime hours. If you use maps.google.com, add time to all driving estimates for a more realistic idea. I usually add 10%. It may not sound like much, but it does add up over a longer drive.
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Dec 22nd, 2018, 10:39 AM
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Forget a day trip from Lake Garda to the Dolomites. It's much too time consuming and you wouldn't see much of the Dolomites.
May be you could go from Malcesine by bus to Riva - Rovereto, by train to Bolzano/Bozen, visit the city (incl. Oetzi museum), do a day trip to Val Gardena or so and leave Bolzano/Bozen after 2 nights there by morning train (dp 7.16) to Rome (ar 11.45).
A particularly scenic apporach to Malcesine (or Riva) would be:
train from Verona to Peschiera or Desenzano plus Lake Garda boat.
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Dec 22nd, 2018, 12:29 PM
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I've never been to the lakes, but the Dolomites are stunning and worth a few nights at least IMO. I am an avid hiker and spent five nights in the Val Gardena at Hotel Grones. Five nights might be boring for a teenager, I suppose, but the weather was so pleasant (late June/early July), especially compared to my other Italian destinations that trip. I took the train from Venice, where I had spent a week taking a class and seeing the Biennale. Then on my way down to Rome, I spent a night in Bolzano, a lovely town. I wish I had had the time for Trento too.

With your limited time and the distance you want to cover, I wouldn't drive to Rome.
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Dec 22nd, 2018, 12:42 PM
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Re Verona: if you are only going to do it once (and Aida will be the usual over-the-top Verona production I can assure you) I would not skimp on any of those "cheap" seats in the Arena (which holds 15,000 people) but get something in the orchestra and as close to the stage as possible. No they are not cheap and no you aren't probably going back so make it memorable). Buy those tickets now (www.geticket.it) and make hotel reservations yesterday. Remember that performances do not begin until about 9PM and last about three hours (with a couple of intermissions).

I would take the train to Rome and as to the Palio which lasts, what? about three-four minutes and it may be too late to get a seat from which you can actually see the race/IMO the Duomo would be much more worth the stop. I also agree that being in the Dolomites would be better than Garda but I'm biased toward Como and Maggiore anyway.
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Dec 22nd, 2018, 01:10 PM
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I've been on the trip you're planning (sort of). I agree with everyone who urges you to have more time for the Dolomiti.

I enjoyed two nights in Riva del Garda and two nights in the Dolomites, spending the daytimes driving the passes and taking a couple of lifts (I'm not a hiker but if I was I would put less time somewhere else and more in the Dolomites). Lago di Brassai was a favorite stop and walking around the lake is a great adventure that I think your daughter would love.

I back up Dukey on avoiding the cheap seats at Aida. I didn't, and it was long, hot and uncomfortable. I regret that choice.

As everyone says, don't drive to Rome.
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Dec 22nd, 2018, 01:55 PM
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Thanks so much for the all the advice! Its funny because when we first became aware of the Dolomites, we planned on spending several nights there. But then we saw how beautiful the northern part of Lake Garda was- and we thought we could combine the two. I also felt it gave us a taste of the Italian waterfront towns- even if not Amalfi or Cinque Terre.

As soon as we finalize the details, I will be sure to purchase the better seats for Aida. Truthfully, neither of us has ever been to an Opera before. But life is all about new experiences, right? We probably would not have added in Verona to this trip if not for the opportunity to see Aida or another opera in Verona.

Day 9 is a travel day-- starting in the north and traveling to Rome. Hence counting it multiple times in different locations. It would also have been the day we stopped somewhere if we drove to Rome. But you all have convinced me that it is a bad idea to drive. So night 9 will be spent in Rome.

Assuming we stick to the same basic itinerary, does it make more sense to to do Venice, Verona, Dolomites or Venice, Dolomites, Verona? I assume we will rent a car after Venice for the Dolomite portion. Would it matter if we did still try to add a night (preferably two) at Lake Garda (ie 2 nights in Dolomites, 2 in Lake Garda). I should add we only have a strong interest in the Northern end of the lake and I was trying to minimize the checking in/out of hotels. The amusement parks in the Southern end have no appeal. It was really all about the scenery and boat rides to the towns.
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Dec 22nd, 2018, 06:40 PM
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I will not try to dissuade you from Verona. I have been many times and will be there again next year. Verona is now surtitling in English (finally!!) and that makes a huge difference, especially for those who are unfamiliar with the story, etc. Actually, it can make a huge enjoyment difference for everybody. Be aware of how the whole thing works: there is always the possibility of rain. The Festival reserves the right to delay the start of any performance due to weather up to 90 minutes. Once you have a downbeat there are no refunds if rain subsequently intervenes. You might get credit for a subsequent performance but who is gonna come back? Probably few people. The "orchestra" seats are somewhat more comfortable; there are some side areas with regular type seats. The remainder are on the steps (you can rent cushions) and those are the least comfortable.

By downbeat time (usually around 9PM) the heat has pretty much dissipated but it can be humid.

Still, if you are going to see one opera and you want it "grand" then Verona is the place to do it. The stage is huge and the orchestra is huge, too. The set pieces have to be lifted into the arena on huge cranes. I advise eating first and there are many restaurants nearby.

Enjoy it.
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Dec 22nd, 2018, 08:09 PM
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here4now: ""But then we saw how beautiful the northern part of Lake Garda was- and we thought we could combine the two. I also felt it gave us a taste of the Italian waterfront towns- even if not Amalfi or Cinque Terre."

I've visited Lago di Garda twice, and I agree that the northern part of the lake has very beautiful scenery, but the atmosphere is quite different than Italian seaside towns. Riva del Garda and nearby towns are heavily visited by northern Europeans; there is a slightly different sensibility. There are many tourists from Germany, and less of the dolce far niente feeling, or at least it seemed that way to me.

The southern part of the lake is pretty too and seemed a little more Italian to me when we stayed in Sirmione. No amusement parks but there are lovely towns and gorgeous scenery all around the lake.

You might consider renting a car as you leave Verona. Just a possible plan, and one we used:

We immediately took the train from Venice after landing, and went straight to Verona. Stayed two nights, rented a car at the Verona rail station and drove to Riva del Garda (I could find the name of the hotel that had parking. It wasn't expensive and had a nice pool and restaurant.) We spent a day boating a bit. When we left Riva we drove to La Villa in the Alta Badia and stopped for a lift and short hike in Ortesei. We spent two nights in the Alta Badia, as I said, driving the passes and going to Lago dei Brassai.

We left there and drove to Venice, turning in the car at Piazzale Roma. You could visit Venice then train to Rome.

Just what we did but it worked pretty well.
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Dec 23rd, 2018, 06:13 AM
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Looking further, we must start our trip in Venice for 3 nights and then head to Verona on day 4 in order to see Aida. If we rent a car in Verona on day 5 and head to Dolomites (Ortisie, I think) and stay 3 nights, does it make sense to drive from there to Lake Garda, stay one night and then head to Rome via train? It does not leave much time on Lake Garda, of course. Unless we do 2 in Ortisei and 2 on Lake Garda. We are not huge hikers- more like in shape walkers, if that matters. We are also trying to limit how much we pack. So at most, our hiking gear would consist of a pair of hiking shoes or sneakers.

Is there a different waterfront area that would fit into our trip? I thought the remaining areas were further removed and would not fit as well. We are totally open to all suggestions- those given already have been very valuable!

The only other alternative I could see would be to take a day from Rome. Right now, we are planning on 5 nights there. But I am guessing that less time in Rome wouldn't make sense either.

Last edited by here4now; Dec 23rd, 2018 at 06:36 AM.
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Dec 23rd, 2018, 06:36 AM
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I would do it the other way round. Start from Verona the morning after the opera, drive to Peschiera and then along the lake to Garda - Malcesine - Riva, sleep at Riva, head to Madonna di Campiglio (stop over!) - Male - Mendel Pass - Lake Caldaro (stop over) - Bolzano/Bozen - Ortisei .
Way back: car drop off at Bolzano/Boden and direct fast train to Rome (4 1/2 hrs journey).
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Dec 23rd, 2018, 10:44 AM
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Thank you neckervd (and everyone else)! You have given me a lot to think about. Since I am reluctant to do three "one-nighters" in a row, is there a reasonable alternative? I am ok with the idea of staying somewhere on or near the lake for just one night. But would then like the stop in the Dolomites to be for at least two or three. Would it be a feasible one day meandering drive from the lake (stopping at towns and vistas along the way) to somewhere in the mountains? Ideally, wherever we stop would provide easy access to various lifts, sites and views from our hotel as well. I thought Ortisie was a good choice- but love all ideas neckervd suggested as well.

Last edited by here4now; Dec 23rd, 2018 at 10:48 AM.
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Dec 23rd, 2018, 12:36 PM
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I really enjoyed Cortina d'Ampezzo - nice regional town in the heart of the most popular part of Dolomites.
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Dec 24th, 2018, 09:53 AM
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There are lifts all over the area, and IMO there is no one perfect location for just 2-3 nights. Ortisei is charming. So is Cortina, but it's much bigger. I think you should do a little research to decide what specific things you want to do/see. The scenery is just spectacular. Some people are drawn to the dramatic mountains and the geology at the passes, some like the dreamy-looking valleys. There are beautiful lakes, Marmolada glacier, some WWI sights, the Iceman Museum in Bolzano...
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Dec 25th, 2018, 08:51 AM
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I suggested 1 night at Riva del Garda and as many nights as you like at Ortisei (at least 2). The itinerary from Riva to Ortisei I suggested includes many stops at scenic or interesting places; it would last a full day. A direct drive (along the motorway and without any visit) would last about 3 hrs.
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Dec 26th, 2018, 08:55 AM
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Are you still aiming to get to the Palio? If you truly are averse to crowds, you might want to take a look at some of these pictures:

https://www.google.com/search?q=sien...T3PTdssZfa1qM:

They pack something like 50,000 people into the center of the campo alone. There are ambulances all over the place to rescue people who've fainted from heatstroke and other ailments and injuries. Yes, it's a terrific experience, but not for the faint of heart.
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Dec 26th, 2018, 09:31 AM
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Thank you all for your replies!

Neckervd, I think I misunderstood you to say that we should stay the night in each one of your "stop over" suggestions. As a route to Ortisie, it sounds prefect and exactly what we were looking for. Thank you for taking the time to lay it all out.

StCirg, I had seen the pictures- thank you. Although we are not completely adverse to all crowds for all experiences, Palio definitely seemed to be in a whole different category of crowded! We are no longer considering stopping there, and unless our itinerary changes dramatically, we will be taking a train directly from the north to Rome.

Thanks again everyone.
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Dec 27th, 2018, 06:05 AM
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Verona deserves more time than 1 night. It is a beautiful place to spend at least 2 or 3 full days as long as you make sure to walk around the city and not just where most tourists go. We saw an evening opera at the coliseum and that was such a highlight for us.

Instead of Lake Garda, go to Bologna for a few nights and take a day trip to Ravenna. It is on the way to Rome and you will not regret it.
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Dec 27th, 2018, 12:50 PM
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that is Bologna not Ravenna is on the way to Rome and yes to me Bologna was so so so special - said to have more historically listed edifices than any other city in Italy - also covered sidewalks in city center - good for rainy day. Renown gastronomic center with gastronomic food market.
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