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Business/Pleasure in Italy

My husband has been invited to speak in Milan and Cremona. We have some thoughts about side trips while in those cities. But when he's done we have from Sept 12-Sept 18 to go somewhere. We do not love big cities. We would like to experience some relaxation, good food, sightseeing. The Isle of Capri was suggested to us with day trip available to Pisa and Naples. What are your thoughts about this? Lucca & Sienna were also suggested? Can you help us figure out the best place to go to have a vacation but also get some feel for another part of Italy? We are flying into and out of Milan.

Posted by
7377 posts

Is this your first time in Europe? Where do you live-you didn't put that in your profile.

It is possible, but not practical to take day trips from Capri, but why would you sleep on an island and visit the mainland several days? People don't go to Santa Catalina to visit LA and San Diego. Although it's not comparable to Rome, Naples is the third largest city in Italy, and an intensely urban experience. I won't try to talk you into seeing Venice, but it's hard to resist. And it's completely unlike Milan or Rome.

It is difficult to overstate how sophisticated and crammed with things to do and eat Milan is. Staying there does not mean that you have exhausted that region of Italy. For example, you haven't mentioned the northern Lakes or the mountains, which are very much the opposite of big cities. You might find them less intense than Southern Italy. You also have to investigate means of travel. A bargain airplane flight can be much less effort than a multi-mode surface trip, if it goes to your destination(s). But you may have luggage limits on such a flight.

Because it takes less reading time than Frommers or Lonely Planet, I would suggest that you skim an old copy of Rick Steves "Italy" in the library. It's not entirely clear whether you seek peace, food, culture, wine, water sports, landscape, or history, for example. A lot of posters here favor agroturismo for a direct connection with local people who don't live like Americans do. Returning to Capri (or Sardinia or Corsica [France]), I would want to check that the island resorts haven't quieted down too much from the summer crowds, with some restaurants closing. We certainly found that in October.

Posted by
11379 posts

Capri is a long way from Milan and not a "base." Many people stay in Sorrento and day trip TO Capri. I think it would be a better use of your time to stay north of Rome:

Venice will be busy but not impossible and it's like no other city on earth Well worth 3 or 4 nights. The Cinque Terre is lovely in September and Liguria has the best food -- seafood -- in all of Italy, in my opinion. Tuscany should beckon with your interests: a few nights in a hill town like Montalcino or Montepulciano will let you day trip to other locales in Tuscany. That all said, pick no more than two of the three places to stay: probably 3 nights each Venice and Tuscany or the CT and Tuscany. (You could spend the whole time in an agriturismo in Tuscany and feed your desires for food, relaxation and sightseeing.) You do not have time (IMHO) to do justice to all three. Your 7th night you will most likely need to spend in Milan in preparation for your outbound flight.

As mentioned above, read the R.S. Italy guide or watch some of his shows online to get a feel for what you most want to do in those few days you have.

Posted by
20 posts

These are helpful. We live in Florida and while we've been to Scotland, Australia, Fiji, Bali, Peru, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Greece (and i've been to Paris & China), we have never been in Italy. It sounds like we travel a lot, but it is often years between trips and my husband prefers to "vacation" rather than "travel".

We arrive in Milan early in the morning on Sept 6 and have three free nights/days - he has to give a talk on Sept. 9. While in Milan, we will explore Milan and take a day trip to Lake Como. We leave for Cremona right after his talk. He then has a full day of work on Sept 10. While in Cremona, we are considering visiting Lake Garda. (thoughts on this are welcome).

Then we are free until we fly home on Sept 19. We are planning on staying near the airport in Milan the night of Sept 18.

I will look into your suggestions on Venice (although 3 people have told us they hated it - too crowded and touristy. To me it looks beautiful and we don't know how long it will exist..... Also at The Cinque Terre and Liguria..... Tuscany was originally part of the plan until friends suggested Capri/Naples/Pompeii.... although they are quite a distance. Flying from Venice to Naples would be an option.

It's just so tough to decide WHICH 2 additional places/regions to add on...

Posted by
15282 posts

You have only 6 nights, I wouldn't stray too far from Northern Italy. Venice, Verona, the Dolomites, the Lakes or even the Ligurian Riviera (Cinque Terre) are all within 2 or 3 hours from Milan.

Posted by
11294 posts

In addition to Roberto's list, plan at least some time to explore Cremona - I liked it a lot. There's also Mantova, Pavia, Bergamo... If Florence interests you, the express train from Milan makes it a possible day trip (book advance tickets for lower prices).

If you go to Venice and find it too crowded, simply realize that most of the crowds are at the train station, the Rialto, the Piazza San Marco, and the routes directly connecting these. If you get away from these areas (the further away, the better), you will see a whole different city. You will come to see the accuracy of Rick's words: "While 80 percent of Venice is, in fact, not touristy, 80 percent of the tourists never notice. Hit the back streets."

I agree that in your short time, you shouldn't go too far afield; you'll just have to return (as so many of us do) to see other parts of the country.

Posted by
20 posts

Wow! so much help, thank you!

Right now we are scheduled to arrive in Milan 4 days/3 nights (1 work day).....Then to Cremona for 2 days (one of which is a work day for my husband). From Cremona we are thinking of spending a day in Peschiera del Garda (Lake Garda) and then taking the train to Venice, where we will stay for 3 nights. Peschiera del Garda, Italy is only about 1.5 hours by train, i think to Venice.

The big question is whether or not to go on to Cinque Terre or Tuscanny..... and how to get there (fly, bus, train)? We would stay for 3 days and then stay at an airport hotel in Milan and leave on the 19th of Sept.

Does this make sense? Or are we doing too much?

Posted by
32227 posts

wendy,

As you're going to be in northern Italy, Naples and points south are not a realistic day trip given the distance and time to get there and back. I agree with the others that spending your time in the north is the best idea, and the suggestions in your last post are more reasonable.

As you've only got three days and want to visit the "Cinque Terre or Tuscany", you might consider a stay in Florence rather than Venice as that will make the transportation a bit easier, both for day trips and for getting back to Milan. Venice is on the east coast so it's further from the other places you want to visit. Florence is the capital of Tuscany, so that would be a good choice and there's lots to see there. You could easily take a day trip to the Cinque Terre by train, a bit of a long day but really quite pleasant. I can offer transportation suggestions if you need them. A day trip to Siena by Bus is also a good option, as it's only about an hour each way, and the Bus drops passengers right in the centre of town rather than the bottom of the hill where the train station is located.

Getting around by train is the most realistic travel method, but there are some potentially expensive "caveats" to be aware of. If you want a summary, send me a PM.

Posted by
16894 posts

I'm one of the people who loves Venice and second the advice to walk in the opposite direction from the crowds. If you have a couple of nights for Cinque Terre, train timing is 5.5 - 6.5 hours from Venice to Monterosso and 3 hours from there by direct train to Milano Centrale station (plus one more hour for the Malpensa shuttle train).

Posted by
20 posts

So Venice - i think we have decided to go... i've ordered Rick Steve's book.... Any recommendations for accommodations that get us off the beaten path.... but put us in some luxury (husband needs).... willing to spend to make this happen... Even if you can give us an area of Venice to look at ..... to be out of the touristy stuff, in good hotel, and able to safely walk at night for dinner.... You all are the BEST!

Posted by
28 posts

Wendy,

I think your decision to see Venice will be well-rewarded. We had the lowest expectations of Venice, but fell in love with the city. Being away from road traffic and just walking on foot whereever your eyes, nose, and feet take you is really special.

For lodging, you said you wanted luxury. That word means different things to different people. Luxury can be high end furnishings, art, formality, etc. Or great service. For the great service category, we stayed at Locando Orseola. It was very close to St. Mark's square and easy to get to many locations, but felt pretty quiet and private because of the access via private courtyard. It wasn't the most luxurious from a furnishings or size perspective, but the hospitality is wonderful. The staff work to get to know you and be very helpful. But it really depends if you want a name place (Cipriani), a history place, or something else. Lot of great choices. Have fun with the research!

Posted by
20 posts

Bought the book... now we're getting serious. You have all been so helpful. My husband does like luxury furnishings, quiet.... with a view - is that asking too much. I would like it walking distance to good restaurants .... Any recommendations in Venice?

Posted by
20 posts

So we are going to Lake Como from Milan; Lake Garda from Cremona. My husband has to work one day each in Milan and Cremona. Then on to vacation! Venice. If we can squeeze it in the question is CT or Tuscany? Seems like Tuscany is the only place that will be rolling hills not lake or canals.... but we only have 3 nights..... then back to an airport hotel in Milan..... is it enough time?

Hotel Cipriani - yikes! like $1600/night!!

Posted by
16425 posts

There are a number of luxury hotels in Venice that are less expensive than the Cipriani. Right next door is the 5* Bauer Palladio. Both of these are on the Giudecca, across the water from San Marco and well out of the tourist hustle and bustle. But also with limited dining options apart frommthe Cipriani's own restaurant. Both hotels have boat shuttles which take you across to San Marco.

Other popular 5* hotels are the Gritti Palace, the Danieli, and the Bauer Hotel ( not the Bauer il Palazzo). These are all very close to San Marco so when you leave the hotel you are right in the thick of things. The Bauer has rooms right on the water with lovely views.

You should read the Tripadvisor reviews of these and other luxury hotels in Venice to see if one particularly appeals to you. It is hard to get "off the beaten path" in Venice unless you stay over on Giudecca or in one of the residential areas without a canal view. Luxury hotels are not generally situated in those areas.

Venice is very safe for walking, even late at night, so that need not be a concern.

With three nights, you do not have time for both Venice and Cinque Terre.

Posted by
20 posts

Thank you for all the recommendations. I will check out those hotels. Is Tuscany too far from Venice to do 3 days?

Posted by
16425 posts

That depends on what you mean by "Tuscany". Venice to Florence is only two hours by train. But if you are thinking of hill towns or countryside, it will take additional time to get there, leaving you less time to actually "be" there and enjoy.

I love Venice so much I wouldn't leave there to go anywhere. But that is just me ( and I am not a "city" person; our usual destinations involve mountains).

Posted by
20 posts

Palazzo del Capitano was recommended as a wonderful place to stay in Sienna. It looks fabulous.

Posted by
7377 posts

Wendy, you invoked the word "luxury" twice. Please use more precise terms if you hope to get useful advice. BTW, everyplace in Europe is chock full of tourists ("touristy") in July. New York City is full of tourists right now. You can't have it both ways-either you want to see the "sights" or you want to rent a house and look at trees and hills.

Posted by
20 posts

Thank you for the advice. Fortunately we'll be there in Sept - NOT July. My husband prefers to have a hotel room that has good views, comfortable & attractive furnishings, and if possible, be somewhat spacious. He likes to "vacation"; i like both to travel (not caring as much about the room) and to vacation. We've been happily married for 39 years so we've managed to accomplish this elsewhere. There's just so much people keep telling us to see in Italy!!

We have to be in Milan and Cremona because he has some work to do there. But we have 3 free days in Milan. Cremona, he has no free time. While in Milan, we will do a day trip to Lake Como. When he is done in Cremona, we were thinking of doing a day in Lake Garda and stay the night - not sure if we should just skip it. We then will go on to Venice as we both want to see it before it totally sinks. I really want to see the Tuscan region.

Our itinerary thus far:
Sept 6 - Arrive at 9 am in Milan; hotel booked by employer
Sept 9 evening - go to Cremona; hotel booked by employer
Sept 11 - Bardolino (Lake Garda) OR skip it?? allowing us an extra day in either Venice or Tuscany
Sept 12-Venice - still looking at hotels (3-4 nights)
Sept 15- Tuscanny (Sienna?) - possibly Palazzo del Capitano (3 or 4 nights)
Sept 18- travel to airport hotel in Milan - airport sheraton
Sept 19 - Fly out

Thank you for any and all advice!

Posted by
28 posts

So putting together a few of your comments from the posts
1. You do not love big cities
2. You really want to see Tuscany
3. You'll have spent 3-4 nights in Venice, which will give you enough time to experience Venice
4. A preference for luxury

My 2 cents is not to stay in Florence, unless Renaissance art is a must. Too close to a big city. We were very fond of Siena - really had the medieval feel, less big city like, but still plenty of sights, shops, and good restaurants. The only down side is getting there. I didn't see if you are renting a car and driving from Florence. High speed train gets you to Florence in a couple hours, walk across the street to the bus station and an hour bus ride & you're in Siena. Then for the luxury experience, have a private driver take you on tours of some of the Tuscan hill towns during your 3-4 night stay. Alternatively, if you have a car, you can drive to whatever Tuscan hill town you choose as a base. In Tuscany, for lodging, you have some decisions to make - stay in a "luxury" hotel in a town, stay in a great B&B, or an agriturismo. Lot of choices. There's quite a few threads here on lodging options in Tuscany. We stayed at Aia Mattonata. Beautiful views and grounds and the best hosts you could imagine. But there are "higher end" places if looking for 5 star type properties.

Posted by
15282 posts

Below I indicated for each night, where I would spend the night to see the things you mentioned.

For Tuscany I put down Florence. I understand you don't like cities, but without a car, that's where you should stay and from there take day trips to the surrounding villages and countryside. If you have a car, then you can venture into smaller places and even in a farmhouse in the middle of a field.
There is no significant difference in tourists presence between July and September. There are 36 million foreign tourists visiting Italy every year, plus the Italians. Most of them travel between late March and early November with a very slight drop in the winter months.

ARRIVE ON 9/6/2014
night of Hotel Location
9/6/2014 MILANO
9/7/2014 MILANO
9/8/2014 MILANO
9/9/2014 CREMONA
9/10/2014 CREMONA
9/11/2014 LAKE GARDA or VERONA
9/12/2014 LAKE GARDA or VERONA
9/13/2014 VENICE
9/14/2014 VENICE
9/15/2014 FLORENCE (or an extra night in Venice)
9/16/2014 FLORENCE (day trip to ??? In Tuscany)
9/17/2014 FLORENCE (day trip to ??? In Tuscany)
9/18/2014 MILANO or MALPENSA
Depart on 9/19/2014.

I'm not sufficiently qualified to advise on luxury hotels (or luxury anything).

Posted by
20 posts

this is the most unbelievably helpful site i've ever been on ... Thank you!