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5 weeks in Italy

I am starting to research for our 5 week trip in Sept/early Oct 2015. We've been to Italy 6 times- including stays in Venice, CT, Rome, Sorrento and surrounding areas. Are thinking of a week in the Dolomites, a week in the Veneto, a week in Tuscany (spent 3 days in Siena a few years ago), a week in Umbria (thinking of Orvieto), and possibly a week in the Lake District. Will start in the north and work our way south. Ideas for best "home base" towns? Planning on renting a car for at least the two weeks in Tuscany/Umbria. Also love the idea of staying in a studio to have a small kitchenette and hopefully a tiny outdoor space for that afternoon glass of wine. Back road areas would be great. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Posted by
4539 posts

We just returned from northern Italy a couple of weeks ago & enjoyed visiting Lake Como where we stayed at Albergo Milano,
in Varenna, which is a hotel but they also have adjacent or nearby apartments. We stayed at Casa Gialla, a 2 bedroom apartment that was very quiet & charming, although it didn't have a view of the lake, it was very comfortable and it includes a delicious breakfast at the hotel-

here is the website; www.varenna.net.

It was an easy walk to the ferry which can take you to the nearby lake cities.

In the Veneto Region, we stayed in Verona & visited Lake Garda, also very beautiful & peaceful.

We also stayed in Padova (Padua) with day trip to Venice.

You may also like to visit Ravenna for their amazingly beautiful mosaics.

Posted by
4539 posts

The apartment has 2 bedrooms but the bathrooms are not within each bedroom but adjacent to them,
so this may not be the best set up for 2 couples.

I traveled with my mom, so we each had our own room which was very nice since
it was the only time during our vacation that I actually got a good night sleep! (my mom snores).
We paid €160 to have access to the 2 bedrooms. If you only need one of the bedrooms, it would be €130.

This was the price for the beginning of October, but I don't know what the price would be at other times of the year.

Posted by
1501 posts

With five weeks, why don't you explore Sicily as well? I went to Italy many times. First time for a family wedding in Riccioni. Northern Italians don't like Southern Italians. It took years to even get my husband to Rome. Finally, because the nephew in Riccioni was forced to move to Naples, and started exploring further and further South and on to Sicily, he convinced Dear Husband that the further South you went, the better the food, and the warmer the people. (Still haven't convinced DH to do the car trip from Rome to Naples to the Boot, next on my agenda).

Because of Nephew's coaxing, we went to Sicily. Loved it so much we've been back twice. Husband still isn't fond of Rome.
I am and sometimes I go to Italy several days ahead of him so I can enjoy my time without the nay sayer and meet him back at FCO for flight to Sicily. Only making this recommendation because you've already seen the 'major sites' in Italy, and thought you, also, might like to
try something new!

My son hiked the Dolomites last year and really enjoyed it. It's pretty challenging (dangerous in spots), but he's young and had a great time. Said it was more German than Italian, and enjoyed switching from German food/beer to Italian food/beer in the same day. Not my cup of tea, but I've gotten older.

Posted by
30 posts

A friend mentioned Sicily the other day, and I am open to that. What area would be best for a first timer, and what's the best mode of transportation? Leave from Rome?

Posted by
1620 posts

Enjoyed staying at this peaceful and quiet location with wonderful views, a great swimming pool, small restaurant across the street and comfortable apartments: http://en.borgosicelle.it/ Can't wait to return in the future.

Posted by
9454 posts

What a great trip you have planned! We almost always stay in apartments. The extra space, a washing machine, ability to make coffee early, keep snacks, water, wine, etc., plus it is less expensive! VRBO works well, but I have also found great apartments by Googling "Apartment in XXX."

We love the Val Gardena in the Dolomites. An hour from Bolzano by bus is little Ortisei which makes a perfect base, no car required. Get a Val Gardena pass and you can ride cable cars and buses to your heart's content. You'll have access not only to the Alpe di Siusi, but to the Puez-Odle on the other side of the valley.

Posted by
107 posts

In the Veneto, let us suggest Padua as a base. You can go from there to Venice quite easily, and also to Vicenza and Verona by train for day trips. If you're driving, there are a million small towns.

In Tuscany, we've found Lucca to be a real treasure and Sienna is quite charming, as you know. Pisa is a good place to visit and San Gimignano is also fun. Probably the best choice as a base is Florence (favorite city in the whole world) and the Palazzo Guadagni Hotel is getting rave reviews. We stayed there two years ago. It's not exactly elegant, but it's well located and relatively inexpensive.

An apartment has all the advantages you mentioned. Since you have five weeks, you need not rush, and a week in each location will be just about perfect.

We prefer taking public transportation, but since you're very familiar with Italy you have probably worked out all the quirks of driving there.

Have a great trip.

Posted by
339 posts

We stayed in a wonderful place in Orvieto a few weeks ago. B and B Ripa Medici. There are two rooms with private baths with a living room and kitchen in the middle and also a separate apartment. This was the best place we stayed in a month in Italy and Sicily. It is located on the wall with an incredible view of the countryside. And very reasonable.

Also stayed at Garni Tamarindo in La Villa in the Dolomites which was also wonderful. The views outside our room included gondolas heading up the mountain. We were able to drive over several passes from our home base as it was centrally located.

Posted by
30 posts

Henry, that's a great article! I'm sure that info will come in handy. Thanks for taking the time to share it!

Posted by
1501 posts

For a first trip to Sicily, I went to Taormina and rented an apartment there. This was on the advice of my nephew who married an Italian girl from Riccione (North/Adriatic Emile Romagna) and lived in several places in Italy over a number of years. We were lucky enough to go to his wedding, where we were 'stand ins' for the Parents of the Groom, and were awarded all the honor that position afforded. We were so lucky! We sent our teenagers to visit him and his wife a few years later when they were living in Naples, and my husband and I also visited numerous times. We were even invited to another wedding! The Brother of the Bride's wedding a few years ago. Awesome!

Dear Husband didnot want to go to Sicily, but at Nephew's urging we went to Taormina, rented an apartment and used it as a base to tour the entire East side. Husband loved it also. You can fly either into Palermo, spend a few days and travel East (stopping perhapsi in Cefalu for a few days) and then on to Taormina. From Taormina we took a number of day trips to Syracuse, Mt. Etna, a Winery, (Gambino Vini) Messina, Catania, etc. The Greek ruins in both Taormina (Greek Theatre) and in Syracuse are beautiful. We really enjoyed the winery. We rented an apartment through: legendofsicily.com The guy was delightful and gave more personal attention/cameraderie than any person we've ever rented apartments from in all our years of apartment rentals throughout Europe.

We traveled by rail. You can also fly into Catania as it's closer to Taormina. On our next trip we're going to rent a car and do the Western Coast. But for a 'first trip' we found the East Side had plenty to see and do without a car. We hired a driver/tour guide through legendofsicily as well for the first trip and enjoyed it Very Much.

If you want further info, feel free to PM me. I have lots of 'links.'

Posted by
11707 posts

We spent the last week of September in the Dolomites last year. It was a great time to be there, although things were starting to shut down ( one lift was closed, and our hotel closed the day we left). We stayed in Santa Cristina in Val Gardena and loved it there --- great lift-served hiking on both sides of the valley. We stayed in a small family-run hotel, but if you want an apartment for four you might try this place:

http://www.garniariston.com/english/index.htm

This area used to be part of Austria so German is as widely spoken as Italian. Signs are generally in both languages, and often in Ladin as well. The local cuisine is wonderful---not "German" food but Tyrolian.

Posted by
16796 posts

I've never gotten into the home-base philosophy. On this year's driving trip around small towns of Tuscany, Umbria, and Liguria, I again followed and was happy with my usual pattern of staying two nights at most overnight stops, and sometimes adding another town en-route on a driving day. Although my stops were not far apart on the map, I chose the slower, more scenic roads (and they are about the only way to reach hill towns like Montepulciano and Montalcino). Each route was beautiful, but I was glad not to spend time doubling back on them. You can get an idea of driving times at www.viamichelin.com. By the way, the Michelin Central Italy map was the only one I needed on the road. Roads are well signed if you know which towns you need to travel through. In addition to Orvieto in Umbria, I also recommend the medieval town of Gubbio.

Posted by
11613 posts

Laura, geography note: Gubbio is in Umbria.

Posted by
30 posts

All I can say is "wow!" That so many of you have taken the time to respond with specifics is just great! I have already looked up a number of suggestions and am printing off (I know, kind of old fashioned, but I like to keep a file to refer back to as I am planning) tons of your responses. Already rethinking some aspects - including the possibility of Sicily. I can't thank you all enough. Makes me ashamed of myself for not getting on this forum earlier to perhaps help others with my own experiences. Looks like a lot of us really love Italy! This is my husband's "retirement" trip that we have been talking about for four years. Wish it were tomorrow (except that I still have loads of planning to do!)

Posted by
14039 posts

Sicily is a great idea. 10 days minimum would be my recommendation and 14 days is not too much. You can see Palermo and Cefalu without a car and you can see much of the eastern coast Syracuse (Ortigia), Catania, Taormina without a car. But there is a great deal of interest between them that is best visited by car.

Also consider spending a few days in Bologna. You visit Ferrara, Padua, Ravenna, and others by train.

Get the DK Eyewitness "Back Roads Italy" book. There are detailed driving routes from 3-7 days all over the country.

Posted by
30 posts

Thanks, Chani. One thing that is sometimes difficult to know beforehand is the with or without car options. We have traveled extensively in Italy without a car, but never through the more back roads areas. I know that we will be renting cars for different stages, but don't want to be bothered with one when it's not needed.

Posted by
3 posts

Hi everyone,my Wife and I are planning a 14 day trip starting in Naples,Rome florance and Venice...Any ideas.
jim

Posted by
1653 posts

We spent a month in Italy in 2008. We were there from mid-September to mid-October and it was terrific. We chose Padua as a base for touring the Veneto. We did not have a car during any of our trip. From Padua we easily visited Verona, Vicenza, and Venice by train for day trips. We had visted Venice twice before so a day was ample for us. Connections to all cities were frequent and cheap. no apartment, but our stay in Padua at the Hotel Al Cason was great. Kind and helpful people, 5 minute walk to train station, huge and spotless room/bath, expansive breakfast, restaurant, small bar and patio. Not glamorous but neither are we. We liked Padua and it was a comfortable and easy place to call a base. If we had had a car I was intrigued by the Brenta canal and villas, but we didn't make it.We also spent another week in Umbria where we stayed in Perugia and visted Spoleto, Assisi and Gubbio, also using train or bus. The Hotel Sant Ercolano in Perugia was modest and well priced. Each town has its own attractions; neither Padua nor Perugia would have held our interest for five or so days apiece but served as excellent bases for touring. We really liked coming "home" each evening to somewhere we felt familiar and comfortable. We have come to enjoy the base and tour model...sort of like a cruise on land...unpack once and have at it. Enjoy your visit!

Posted by
1501 posts

It is possible to travel Sicily without a car. I've done it several times. There are two major airports: Catania and Palermo. I've flown into and out of both of them depending on where the trip ended up. The trains in Sicily are clean, new and inexpensive. I bought 'regionale' tickets at the (only) travel agency in Taormina for a trip to Cefalu two years ago, only eu20. Then from Cefalu to Palermo. I 'think' we're going to rent a car on our next trip, because we've only done the East side of the triangle and the top. Haven't done the West (south to Agrigento) but recently foundout from RS posters that I don't even need a car for that. I can train from Palermo to Agrigento. The towns are smaller on that side, so I MAY still rent the car and drive it. The cities on the East: Messina, Taormina, Catania, Syracusa were a bit intimidating to me imagining driving and most especially parking.

To answer your question, Yes, it can be done. Without a car.

Next time, I may arrive in Palermo, spend a few days, then rent a car on the outskirts: train station or airport and then drive all over and return the car at Catania and then enjoy my usual lovely Taormina sans car.

Posted by
30 posts

Thanks, Donna and Denny. Am already rethinking the amount of time in Sicily and looking at Padua as a Veneto base!