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20 nights in Italy- I have a few questions

Like so many others we had to cancel 2 Europe trips in 2020. Portugal was first, then a trip to Italy. We are now going Sept 10-Oct 1, 2021.

This is our 3rd trip to Italy.
Me- 66, husband -70. We have acquired a few mobility issues but nothing that will stop us from going and enjoying ourselves. We just want to be there. We will not be climbing any towers or domes but will be spending lots of time sitting in piazzas eating gelato and drinking wine. If for some reason we can’t enter museums, etc- we don’t really care. Been there, done that. Everything is optional, only a few priorities.
After many many changes to our itinerary it is time to settle and purchase some train tix.

All travel will be via train/bus/taxi, or possibly driver.
All hotels are booked and refundable/changeable.
We have been to Florence and Rome before- visited Pienza as a day trip. All other locations are new to us.
Would love suggestions for casual restaurants in these new locations—Stresa, Verona, Bologna, Orvieto

I realize the front end of trip is a bit fast paced but I can’t see the need for any longer in those 3. Hopefully we’ll see more of Emilia-Reggiano region on a future trip so this is just an intro to Bologna for us. If we like it, we will return.
Because of the difficulty getting Last Supper tix right now (only 1 week out) we will save Milan for a future trip.

Stresa 2 nights
Verona 2 nights
Bologna 2 nights
Florence 4 nights
Pienza 4 nights
Orvieto 2 nights
Rome 4 nights

Fri 9/10 Fly EWR to MXP

Sat 9/11- Arrive MXP 8:20. The next Alibus to Stresa leaves at 12- I don't think we need that much time so we will probably book a driver here.
Unless anyone thinks we do need that much time for arrival? Don’t mind waiting about an hour but not much more than that. Anyone have a recommendation for a driver?

Arrive Stresa 11-1ish? wander around, enjoy the views.

Sun 9/12 Stresa- will do the ferry hop to islands today. Lunch suggestions?

Mon 9/13 Train to Verona- arrive around 2
Tues 9/14 Verona sights- considering the HOHO bus here- just to get us across river and to far flung sights/views—has anyone done? I know not usually worthwhile or necessary, seems like Verona might lend itself well to a HOHO bus?

Wed 9/15 Train to Bologna- arrive around 12
Thurs 9/16 Bologna sights and eats

Fri 9/17 Train to Florence- arrive around 12- Duomo Museum- this is the only priority here- closed last visit

Sat 9/18 just wander, Mercato Centrale, etc
Sun 9/19 Galileo Museum, S Croce, S Miniato, P Michelangelo
Mon 9/20 Brancacci Chapel, Oltrarno

(will pre-book all entries needed for Florence)

Tues 9/21 Pick up car Avis/Borgno Ognissanti- drive to Pienza. We have driven in Italy before, we know the drill.
We have driven Chiantigiana and Crete Senese - don’t mind repeating but any suggestions for alternate route? Where to stop for lunch?
Arrive Pienza 3-4

Wed 9/22 Day trip Montepulciano
Thurs 9/23 Day trip Bagno, S Quirico, etc
Fri 9/24 Pienza market am- whatever else we feel like

Sat- 9/25 Drive to Chiusi- drop car- Train to Orvieto- arrive 1
Sun 9/26 Orvieto sights

Mon 9/27 Train to Rome- arrive 1- cab to hotel in Trastevere
Tues-9/28 Want to revisit St Peter’s- just the Basilica. Maybe visit Villa Farnesina. No need for other major sights this time
Wed 9/29- Explore Jewish Ghetto area, lunch suggestion?

Thurs 9/30 Check out of Trastevere hotel and cab to Airport Hilton, drop bags, walk to FCO to get our preflight COVID test.
Cab to/from Ostia Antica - closes at 6.
To bed early

Fri 10/1 Fly FCO to EWR- flight 9 am

Thanks for reading and thanks for any advice/suggestions.

Posted by
4836 posts

Our Fall 2020 Italy trip got postponed, too, but we booked flight tickets in early February this year, to try again in 2021. We're starting in Bologna, and will (hopefully) be arriving Sept 22, the week after you’ve already left the city. I’ve been there once before, dined a few places, and got recommendations from a Bolognese chef from whom I took a cooking class. That, and from further research for new places, here’s my running list of restaurants for our upcoming trip:

1) Trattoria Bertozzi - Recommended by the Milk Street cooking show
2) Cafe Santangelo
3) Oltre-open Monday
4) Trattoria La Santa
5) Pappagallo
6) Cesarina, located on Piazza San Stéphano
7) Da Serghei
8) Ristorante Donatello
9) Ristorante Al Cambio
10) Caminetta d’Oro, at Via de Falegnani 4, Lunch & dinner Mon-Sat.
11) Trattoria Anna Maria, at Via Bella Arti 17/A, near the 2 Towers - closed Mon.

Then for Gelato:
1) Cremaria Santo Stephano and 2) Gelatauro

For Coffee: 1) Terzi and 2) Le Serve at Giardini Margherita

And last, this is in the town of Savigno, 40 min. from Bologna, shown on Dream of Italy. It’s got one Michelin star, and not certain whether it fits your “casual” category, but - Trattoria da Amerigo 1934.

Posted by
2020 posts

We need a private driver from Split to Zadar, then Zadar to Zagreb. If we don’t hear back from the driver we used last trip, we are looking at mydaytrip.com which a few posters have recommended. Their prices seem very reasonable.

Posted by
2044 posts

Suki and Cyn- thank you both for the restaurant recommendations- checking them all out!

Barbara- I checked out mydaytrip a few times and was shocked at their high rate- I am getting 173 euros for MXP to Stresa which is barely an hour drive.
You might want to look around a bit more.

I did find this company with a quote of 91 euros
https://www.suntransfers.com
Not sure if they service the locations you need. Worth a look

Also had this bookmarked but can't seem to get a quote for our needs, perhaps useful to you?
https://www.goopti.com/en/

Posted by
18729 posts

MyDayTrip seems to be a third-party operator that connects travelers with local transportation providers. The transportation companies must be paying either a flat fee or a percentage-based commission to MyDayTrip. It would be reasonable for them to jack up their charges to cover that commision. It would probably save money in most cases to book directly if the traveler is looking for a private transfer, but finding a company willing to do a long transfer might not be a trivial matter, and I guess there's at least a bit of security in going through MyDayTrip. If they got many complaints about unreliability or careless driving, I assume they'd look for a different provider.

GoOpti, which operates at least in eastern Italy, Slovenia and northern Croatia, will do private transfers but also puts together separate travelers who want the same transfer on the same day. You don't get to choose your departure time, but the cost is quite a bit lower. I've never used GoOpti or any other private transfer--I only rarely even take taxis in Europe, but quite a few posters here have been happy with GoOpti, which is why I feel comfortable mentioning it.

Posted by
540 posts

Suntransfers has a good rep. Stresa cable car you walk on the road up the lake, take a right and down the hill at the cafe.

Driving out of Borgo Ognissanti, you exit downtown by driving south on the Ponte Amerigo Vespucci [ZTLs to the east only]. That direction on the bridge has been closed for repairs in the past; I'd call Avis and make sure it's open. If not you should change the location to Via Palagio degli Spini, the complex near the airport, reached by taxi.

Next time you plan to return a car in Chiusi choose Hertz, which is a half block from the station. Avis open 9AM to 12:30, 500 meters to the station.

You understand that 2 nights yield only a single full day, and that when changing hotels you spend a couple of hours on top of the train trip.

https://www.wanderingitaly.com/maps/valdorcia.html

The funicular across from the Orvieto station goes up to Piazza Cahen, not all the way. Useful bus routes:
Bus 1: Railway Station to Piazza della Repubblica.
Bus A: Piazza Cahen to Piazza del Duomo.
Bus B: Piazza Cahen to Piazza della Repubblica.

Important: the best gelateria in town is across from the Duomo on the left side.

Posted by
2044 posts

N_Kingdom- thanks for your suggestions.

I was actually able to rebook the car pick up to airport location for just $30 more, so that's a bit of peace of mind. We don't mind having to taxi to airport.
(Hertz was not an option at all- nothing thru AutoEurope and the Hertz site quote was triple what I have booked.

I'll likely use Sun Transfers for MXP to Stresa
The Stresa cable car is obviously not operating now and we wouldn't ride that anyway!

Yes- I realize 2 nights is a short stay- it will work for us.

I think I found a good solution for getting test done so we don't need to go to airport for test or that 1 night stay- seems such a waste of a day/night.
I'll update.

Posted by
540 posts

"The Stresa cable car is obviously not operating now and we wouldn't ride that anyway!"

That was a pretty dumb suggestion I made!

Posted by
580 posts

Christine
Sounds like a wonderful trip. IMHO Verona is one of the loveliest cities in Italy and the easiest to walk. I would suggest RS Italy book where he outlines a self walking tour to all the sites. Ristorante Greppia is family run, courtyard seating (we ate inside) good food, I had a plate with 3 different pastas with 3 different sauces, Excellent. Just a suggestion.
You do not need to HOHO bus for this city for sure.

Posted by
6823 posts

Just an fyi. I have been in Italy since Wednesday. The trains that I have taken have been late 120% of the time. The worse are the regionale trains. I have been coming here since 2003 and have never seen it this bad. It can really frustrate the flow of your vacation when you have set plans and everytime you look up the train is delayed 20 30 40 70 minutes and so on. When they are late the crowd waiting is backed up.So avoid the train as much as you can. You are going in September. Hopefully it won't be too hot while you wait for a train that is delayed and then has no ac .

Posted by
14267 posts

Hi Christine,

It's been a while since I've been in the cities you're going to, so I don't have any restaurant recs, but I will give you the advice I got from a Roman tour guide: If there's food displayed in the window, skip it. If there's a waiter outside inviting you in, keep going. Multi-language menus mean they cater to tourists (who generally are not return customers - how hard to you think they try?).

On the other hand, it's been my experience that menus in Italian and English are common. Some of my best meals have been recommendations from my hotel, especially in Orvieto (sadly, I never made a note of the name).

Verona: Take a taxi from the train station to the hotel. All the sights are (mostly) easy walking distance from the Arena. The best time to see the Arena is in the late afternoon sun. The Verona Card is worth it. One of my favorite sights is the Basilica di San Zeno. Castelvecchio is also very good, quite a few stairs, though.

Rome: Take a look at The Roman Guy food tour. Last time I was in Rome I took a similar tour that they ran in coordination with another company and it was excellent. The Ghetto is about a block long, lots of restaurants that cater to tourists. You'll probably get a much better meal in Trastevere. BTW, Rick has audio tours for both the Ghetto and Trastevere that you can download. Unless you plan to visit the Great Synagogue, allow about an hour for the Ghetto.

Posted by
448 posts

Christine H,
I love your attitude toward your next trip...just sitting in a piazza...sounds great to me! If I am able to take another trip to Italy, I hope to follow your example.

In Orvieto, I have enjoyed these places:

Cantina Foresi for an evening aperitivo. Great location next to the Duomo.
La Pergola for a good dinner or lunch. This restaurant was recommended by Serena from the La Magnolia B&B. Enjoyed it very much.
Enoteca del Duomo for porchetta panino. Another great location near the Duomo with good food.
Il Gelato di Pasqualetti...next to the Duomo.

Have a safe and wonderful trip!

Posted by
166 posts

In summer 2019 my wife and I dined at two restaurants in Orvieto. One was forgettable; the other, Hostaria Posterula, was an excellent experience. Great food in charming ambiance with warm service. We found Hostaria Posterula in the Italian slow food restaurant book "osterie d'Italia guida 2019."
I posted details about the restaurant in the Rick Steves Forum here: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/italy-reviews/orvieto-excellent-restaurant-hostaria-posterula

Posted by
2044 posts

UPDATE

We’ve made a major change to our itinerary. The plan I posted above just never really felt quite right to us.
This trip was originally supposed to be mostly Tuscany, but when car rental rates were so high we dropped that bit and added other locations- like Bologna.
Since car rates have decreased we’ve decide to revert to our original plan, keep the car longer and spend more time in Tuscany.
Bologna deserves more than 2 nights anyway, so we’ll save that for another trip.

I have rebooked the car- pick up/drop off at Florence airport which means no drop off fee and allowed us to return on a weekday- not tied to that Saturday drop off in Chiusi. We don’t really need 4 nights in Rome either- as we’ve been a few times.

Which route would you take to drive from Florence airport to Pienza?

This is new plan:
Stresa 2, Verona 3, Pienza 4, Lucca 2, Florence 4, Orvieto 2, Rome 3

Sat 9/11 Arrive MXP- driver to Stresa
Sun 9/12 Stresa
Mon 9/13 Train to Verona
Tues 9/14 Verona
Wed 9/15 Verona
Thurs 9/16 Train to Florence-cab to Florence airport- pick up car- Drive to Pienza- arrive 3-4
Fri 9/17 Pienza
Sat 9/18 Pienza
Sun 9/19 Pienza
Mon 9/20 Drive to Lucca
Tues 9/21 Lucca
Wed 9/22 Drive to airport-drop car-cab to Florence
Thurs 9/23 Florence
Fri 9/24 Florence
Sat 9/25 Florence
Sun 9/26 Train to Orvieto
Mon 9/27 Orvieto
Tues 9/28 Train to Rome
Wed 9/29 Rome-self test
Thurs 9/30 Rome
Fri 10/1 Fly home

I realize the car pick up/drop off might seem a bit odd but it saves us a lot of money this way.

Thanks everyone for all of your suggestions. I now have a great list of restaurants in Bologna for next trip.

Jazz+Travels post about trains running late gave me pause but our new plan has us on a few less trains.
The only connection I’ll need to worry about is Stresa>Milan> Verona and I am going to book a fast train from Milan with plenty of time to make connection- we can grab lunch at the station.

Also decided to get the eMed test kits, we’ll do the test ourselves in Rome.

OK- done. Must book train tix.