5 weeks to tour italy: Itinerary 1.0

My wife and I are planning another trip to Italy to see some parts that we have not seen before. The trip will start in late April and go til the end of May, a total of 5 weeks. We will be travelling by car and here is our current itinerary. Any comments or suggestions or alternatives would be appreciated! Including restaurants or hotels/apartments you have particularly liked or places that you thought were worth a visit. Turin 2 nights Asti Pavia Milan – 2 nights Varenna – 4 nights Sondrio – 1 night Cles Bolzano – 1 night Cortina d'Ampezzo Ponte nelle Alpi Trento – 1 night Roverto Avio Brescia (maybe) Verona – 2 nights Mantua Parma (cheese!) Modena – 1 night (Ferrari factory?) Bolgona (probably bypass) Rivenna – 2 nights Pienza (more cheese!) Sorano –2 nights Amalfi coast – 6 nights Anzio – 1 night Drop off car
Rome – 7 nights Our driving days are planned around a 9 am start and in the hotel by 2 pm with stops wherever we fancy. Mostly on non-toll roads. WE have driven extensively in Italy before and we are used to Tony Testosteroni being right on my back bumper.

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
3303 posts

I guess you must like Lake Como a lot since you plan 4 nights in Varenna. Instead of Sondrio, why not going a little further to Tirano or even Poschiavo in CH and do the Bernina train across the Alps? Instead of Bolzano, how about Merano instead? Merano is very beautiful. From Cles go up through the Passo delle Palade to Merano. On the way from Bolzano to Cortina, make sure you take the Val Gardena route (Ortisei). Instead of staying in Trento, since you like lakes, maybe Riva on the Garda might be preferable. Then from Riva you go down the western shore through Limone and Salo' (pretty pretty!) down to Sirmione on the southern shore. Parma is preferable to spend the night rather than Modena. More to see. Is Rivenna Ravenna? 2 nights there and no Bologna? All in all anything you like is fine. However I generally prefer to spend more than 1 night in the same place and do some day trips from there instead. I don't like to pack/unpack/check in/check out too many times. A lot of time gets wasted in hotel changes. Also you are spending a lot of days in some places, like Rome or Amalfi coast (one week each?) and rushing through others (like the Dolomites). Don't expect to be able to drive faster than 20-25 km/h in many of those Dolomites roads and you probably want to stop and enjoy those places too. I would cut a few days in Rome and Amalfi, and increase the dolomites a few nights.

Posted by Michael
Seattle, WA, USA
5735 posts

It's hard to know what alternatives to suggest without knowing where you've already been. And I'm assuming you've done lots of one-nighters before and that you're okay with them.

Posted by Gord
North Vancouver, BC, Canada
6 posts

Part 1:
Thanks Roberto, I appreciate the time you spent considering this itinerary. We really don't know anything yet about Lake Como beyond what RS has said and what a few friends have said who visited there. I am kind of looking toward a laid back time where we can take a few walks, find a table or a terrace and enjoy a glass of wine or some other libation. Repeat the next day at a different place. Maybe sit on my balcony and read while enjoying the sun go down and my cool drink. Perhaps 4 days is indeed too much and the time better spent elsewhere. It is a work in progress. Regarding Sondrio, it was simply a stop in the mountains (yes?) where we could possibly get a half day or so on an easy hike in the alps. Are you saying that Tirano may be a better candidate for this? I'm not familiar with the Bernina train across the Alps but I will research it, thanks for the tip. Thanks for the Merano tip, I'll change our route. I don't have a map that lists Passo delle Palade. Is it the route through Fondo, Maybe route #238, that cuts north about 15km east of Cles? In going to Cortina, we had actually planned a more southern route through Nova Levante. However, thanks to you, Orteisi it is. We thought of Trento for the Bishops Palace and for being on the wine road. Also, we wanted to stop at Rovereto to see the Castello de Rovereto. Perhaps we can overnight there instead. This part of the trip is likely to be done without hotel reservations so we'll decide somewhere to stop driving and then find the first suitable hotel. We aren't too picky. That means our route, east or west on Garda will likely be decided on the moment. We may have been so engrossed in the mountains that we blow through these areas via the autoroute. Hope not.

Posted by Gord
North Vancouver, BC, Canada
6 posts

Part 2: Yes Rivenna is Ravenna. Heard about the frescos there but I'm not sure it is worth 2 nights. Also, I've never heard anything about Bologna that is compelling. Actually, I've heard nothing at all so more research for me. For our long stay in Rome, we just want to enjoy the city. We spent 3 weeks in Montepulciano and loved it with daily trips all over that part of Tuscany. After the driving, a week in one place sounds good to me and the more I learn, the more I'm not sure a week will be enough. Amalfi may be a different story and we are looking at cutting that back to 4 days. So many choices! To Michael, We've traveled for 3 months from Venice to Sicily and back (including Montepulciano mentioned above). We've visited the Cinque Terre a couple of times and hope to go back again, just not this trip. So we are comfortable with one nighters even though we prefer 2 or more. There is only so much time and there is so much Italy, sigh.
Thanks to both of you for taking an interest and the time. Gord

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
3303 posts

Passo delle Palade is on the SS 238. That's the faster way from Cles to Merano. I love Merano and everything in the Alto Adige (especially the sausages). It resembles Austria more than Italy.
From Bolzano to Cortina the fastest way is through the Val Gardena, which is amazingly beautiful. Ortisei and Selva are nice towns. The area of the Alpe di Siusi is wonderful. Hopefully you'll run into some local beer festival so you can dance a Tyrolean dance (you know the one where you slap your shoes). But don't do like Chevy Chase in "Vacation" or you'll have to run out of town fast LOL. The way you wanted to go is nice too, through the Val di Fassa, but a little longer. It's a difficult choice. If you like mountains you should stop longer and do a little of both. Lake Garda is nice on both sides, however I like Riva, Limone and Salo' the best. Don't miss Sirmione on the south side, and its castle. Never been to Brescia, but don't miss Verona (one full day will do in Verona). Vicenza and Padua are great too (if you've never been) Bologna, Parma and Ravenna are the best cities in Emilia. One day each will do probably. Modena and Reggio are also nice. Actually anyone in Emilia will tell you that all cities there are beautiful,except for Piacenza. If you've seen Tuscany already, you can skip it. If you were in Montepulciano you've prob seen Pienza. Sorano and Pitigliano are nice. You're right. In Italy there is so much to see in such a small place. That's why they call it the "Bel Paese" (the beautiful country).

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17726 posts

Gord, Given your desire to just enjoy some Vino in Varenna and savour the relaxed atmosphere, three or four days is reasonable. While there you could also take a few day trips to Bellagio, Menaggio or other points on the lake. There are no huge Museums or Galleries, but you could tour some of the beautiful old Mansions, many of which have ornate gardens. There are two of those right in Varenna, Villa Cipressi and Villa Monastero. As I recall, it's possible to buy a combo ticket to visit both. There's a lakeside promenade that goes from the main Piazza in Varenna to the Ferry dock, complete with a small stone bench to just sit and enjoy watching the boats cruise back and forth. Walking along there is a popular activity in the evenings. I'd have to spend some time considering the other parts of your proposed Itinerary. The information that Roberto provided is excellent, and I'm not sure I can add anything to that. Happy travels!

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2442 posts

Ravenna has mosaics, not so many frescoes, and they are stunning! On the way to Ravenna is Ferrara, which had some damage from the earthquakes last year (so did Parma) but is beautiful. Bologna is a great place, in my opinion, worth a night or a good part of a day. While in the Amalfi Coast area, I suggest Paestum (south of Salerno). Your itinerary looks like you know what you want to do - have a great time!

Posted by Lexma
Denver
536 posts

For your time in the Emilia-Romagna area (Parma, Modena, even Mantua and Verona), you might want to consider one location to stay - those cities aren't real far from each other. Also, Bologna is one of my favorite cities in Italy - big enough to be interesting, a university town so lively at all hours (but only noisy near the university district), not so touristy but enough to do in the city and nearby to take up several days, great people-watching, beautiful porticos, and some of the best food in Italy. You could also visit Ravenna as a day trip from Bologna - we did that once. Ravenna, IMHO, is amazing - I would rate the mosaics there as one of the top 10 man-made sights I have seen in my life. If you enjoyed any of the mosiacs you might have seen in Rome, those in Ravenna are the same time periods, but some of them are more extensive than those in Rome, and because some of the buildings are smaller, you can get really close to the mosaics (as in, you could touch them, but you shouldn't of course). So if you like mosaics at all (google for pictures), it's well worth your time.

Posted by Gord
North Vancouver, BC, Canada
6 posts

Lexma, You offer a great suggestion. Up to now, I've looked at Bologna as perhaps a dull industrial type town without a lot of charm. My bad. Shows you how assumptions sneak up on you. If we do base in Bologna for, say, 3 days, we are well within a 2 hour drive of many of the towns we had planned to see. Including the mosaics in Ravenna.
So now I'll look into a hotel in Bologna with easy access to the freeway and parking for my car. And within walking distance of the historical parts of Bologna. Anybody care to comment on what driving is like in this town? Can't be any worse than Messina! Thank you! Gord

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
3303 posts

Bologna has the best organized traffic of all big cities in Italy. They have the best Tangenziale (Beltway) around the city. I would stay as close as possible to the old city center, I'm sure there are hotels with parking somewhere near the city center. That way you don't have to get on the car when you come back from the day trip in the evening. Just leave the car at the hotel and walk to the city center and enjoy the evening in Bologna. I can't think of any place near the Tangenziale that I would want to stay. It's either industrial or modern residential just as boring as any North American suburb. You'll end up needing the car to drive to the city center in the evening and having to find parking (probably for a fee). Then you'll have to drive back to the hotel after dinner, full of tortellini and half drunk with Sangiovese di Romagna. Just get a hotel in or very near the city center that has parking and walk. If you have to stay far of the city center, you might as well find something out of town in the countryside or in some small town, I don't know, something like Sasso (where Marconi, the inventor of the radio, was born. You can see his house/museum there).

Posted by Lexma
Denver
536 posts

I've never driven in Messina, but Bologna does have a restricted zone. The first time we visited, we were staying in Ferrara, so took a day trip to Bologna and parked at an underground lot just outside the city walls on the north side (near-ish the train station), and easily walked to everywhere we wanted to visit. The second time, we began our trip in Bologna, then took a train from there to Venice. The third time, we began in Florence, then took a train to Bologna, then picked up the rental car as we left town (from a rental place near the train station). It was easy to get from there onto to the autostrada and drive to Ravenna. I think that, depending on where you're staying, it shouldn't be too difficult to get in and out of town. And, FYI, if you're looking for info about Bologna, the best that I found was in a Cadogan guide (UK publication) to Bologna. Another option is to leave your car parked for the duration of your stay in Bologna, and train to the other cities that you want to visit.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2442 posts

Gord, if you want to quickly check on whether a hotel has parking, you can go to booking.com, choose your city, and in the list for narrowing searches, check "parking".

Posted by Sherry
San Jose, CA
1139 posts

I'd vote for staying in Ravenna, if the mosaics interest you and you can spare the time. I spent several days, and didn't get to everything I wanted to visit. I also found it a nice, quiet city, a refreshing change from Rome. Also, try to get to St Apollinare in Classe, which is a few miles outside of Ravenna, about a half-hour bus ride from the train station. It's a well preserved basilica with lovely, very early mosaics. Also, there are fewer visitors, which is nice; in my experience, that makes it easier to get a sense of the site.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1960 posts

I'm jealous that you've got the time to go on such a trip, and you're going at the best time of the year. We went to Tuscany in April, and it was a little rainy and cool. You've obviously studied hard to come up with such an itinerary. My suggestion is to make reservations for the first locale, and then just roll with the flow. I don't like being stuck on a set schedule for so long. If you have a laptop or notebook, you can make reservations as you go. Rooms can always be found on AirBnB.com, Hotel.com or Venere.com. I've yet to have to spend the night in my car.

Posted by Ruth
Portage, canada
48 posts

In Amalfi Coast, we loved-loved-loved Positano. Beware the 365 steps from room to beach, though. Tre Sorelle was a great restaurant, way back then - 2004; right on the beach.