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Favorite and LEAST Favorite Places you went in Italy

We've planned and enjoyed trips to Europe before, but never to Italy. Planning to go in 2012. I've already poured over the guide books and pretty much know where I want to go and how I want to get there. But when the issue of how long to stay in each place comes up, it occurs to me that it might be helpful if those who have been to Italy before could share where their favorite places were (the places they wished they could have stayed longer) and where their LEAST favorite places were (places where, in retrospect, they wish they would have subtracted time in favor of more time somewhere else). Note that this question is about you, not us. I will take the information into account when planning - especially if there are clear patterns in the responses - but I don't really need advice as much as I am curious about other people's reactions to their own experiences traveling in Italy.

Posted by
117 posts

Least favorite: Cinque Terre. No contest. Not only the least enjoyable of all the places I've been to in Italy (actually, the ONLY place in Italy I haven't enjoyed), but one of the least enjoyable of any places I've ever been anywhere. Gets my vote for the most over-hyped vacation spot on earth. Favorite: So very hard to choose. Siena would probably get my vote. Venice a close second. Parma for the food. Rome, of course, for the history......... So many great places. Italy really is an amazing embarassment of riches. Just steer clear of the Cinque Terre and you'll be fine.

Posted by
7735 posts

The favorites are many - Venice, Rome, Orvieto, Verona, Padova, Assisi, Sorrento. The LEAST favorites are only a few - The first is Naples, where we spent 3 nights. (It looked like a garbage strike was in place - it wasn't, at least not at that time.) Second is Lido di Venezia (Venice with cars and without the charm. It's cheaper for a reason.) Third was Viareggio (in mid-September, which was out of season.) "Meh" for me was Lucca. I still don't get the hype. I mean it was okay, but meh. It will be interesting to see other responses. Happy travels.

Posted by
84 posts

Randy, Favorites: Venice - the architecture and art are incredible plus it is a one-of-a-kind place. Torcello is our favorite of the islands - tranquil, with a nice restaurant near the "Devil's Bridge." Florence - again, wonderful art and the Dome of the Duomo is a source of fascination for me, having read Brunelleschi's Dome a couple of times. Interesting churches, some great restaurants and just the thrill of the surroundings. Siena is a beautiful city with an unusual fan-shaped square and a beautiful duomo. All of the Tuscan hill towns, especially San Gimignano, Monteriggioni, Volterra. Orvieto and Pienza are worthwhile towns and moving on to Umbria, Assisi is a much-loved place for us. Amalfi Coast - we love sorrento and further along the coast we prefer to go up a bit to Ravello, which is quieter and has beautiful views. We enjoy Capri only if we go up to Anacapri, for the views and to tour the Villa San Michele. Ligurian Coast - we base in Santa Margherita and see the CT in small doses, Camogli & Nervi. Ravenna - a very nice small city with incredible mosaics. Much to see but it is concentrated in a small area, except for Sant' Apollinare Nuovo which is a short bus ride out of Ravenna. Easy! Sicily - all of it, but not too much time spent in noisy Palermo. Taormina is beautiful with great views and interesting side streets worth strolling. In short, all of Italy has a lot to offer - it depends on your preference.

Posted by
653 posts

Least favorite: Taranto. Only the Italian Navy personnel were friendly. Places I wish I'd stayed longer: practically everywhere. If this is your first trip, you might want to settle in one town and do day trips to others (Florence and Siena are both great for bases). Assisi: no matter how many tourists there are, it retains a sense of tranquility and loving hospitality. The Amalfi Coast (south of Naples) from Sorrento. If you continue down to Paestum, you can find mozzarella farms and a beautiful archeological zone of three Greek temples and a museum. Also a beach. Torcello, a little island that's part of Venice but worlds away in atmosphere. This is where the original Venetians settled. Ravenna: beautiful mosaics and a city where people seem happy to live. Some of my favorite hotels are here. Sicily: Siracusa, Agrigento, Erice, Cefalu - but Sicily is big and takes some patience to get around. And of course, Rome. As the director of antiquities told me many years ago, "Roma se ama" (Rome is to love).

Posted by
30971 posts

Randy, I've just returned from Italy and found that the Cinque Terre (and specifically Monterosso) was one of the highlights of my trip this year. I had so many wonderful experiences in that area and was sad to leave. There were lots of tourists but that doesn't really bother me (they're in the CT for the same reason I am). I found the crowds in Vernazza to be far worse during the day than in Monterosso. For some reason, Lucca didn't really "click" for me. I met some nice people and found a great restaurant, but it won't be high on my list of places to return to. Perhaps I'd have appreciated it more on a RS tour? I always enjoy Rome, and this visit was no different. Other places that I like in Italy: > Florence > Venice (I'm not as enthusiastic about Venice as others are, but it's so unique and well worth a visit) > Varenna and Lago di Como > Stresa and Lago Maggiore > Siena > Val d'Orcia region of Tuscany (hill towns) > Orvieto > Sorrento & Positano > Naples (although it's a bit "intense and different", that's one of the attractions for me. I didn't notice any garbage in the area I was staying, so perhaps that provided a better impression. It's the best place to get an "authentic" Pizza). Just about anywhere in Italy should be great! Good luck with your planning.

Posted by
791 posts

Favorite: Palermo
Least: Sorrento/Amalfi Coast. It was still great but it just wasn't a place that I found myself wanting to return to.

Posted by
130 posts

We just got back from our first trip to Italy a few weeks ago. We went to Venice, Cinque Terre, Lucca, Florence, Rome and day tripped to Pompeii/Naples Hands down, our least favourite place was Florence. We found it very touristy- although- we are not all that "artsy". We did do an all day cooking class in Tuscany, and we LOVED that. If we were to ever return, we would re-visit Tuscany but not Florence (maybe as a day trip) Our favourite, well, that one is hard. We loved Venice, the CT, Rome, and our Naples/Pompeii trip. I ahve to agree with Ken in saying Lucca, was nice- but we didn't LOVE it. We loved:
Venice- It was so unique- just walking around was magical. We managed to avoid tourists 90% of the time, by staying in Cannaragio, far from the tourist flocks. It made the experience that much better. CT- We stayed in "sleepy Manarola" and we loved it. There were certainly tourists, but we saw locals as well. We waters were gorgeous- we went on a lunch boat tour that was one of our best memories of our entire Italian trip. The hike from Monteresso to Vernazza was also stupendous. Rome- We are history buffs, so it turns out. We loved Rome. We are happy we did it last, as I think it made us able to withstand the traffic much more. It's so full of history- an amazing place to see. - We also daytripped to Pompeii/Naples- doable from Rome, but definitely a long day. It was DH's favourite thing we did on our trip. Good luck planning!

Posted by
13967 posts

Sorry I went: Torcello & Burano (did not go to Murano) from Venice. But Venice - absolutely fell in love with it. I had rather high hopes and was expecting to be disappointed but it was better than I could have imagined. Best thing I did there was to go to San Marco and watch the sunrise over the lagoon. It's the best place to start a trip to Italy. You can soak up the atmosphere while rejuvenating after the long flight. 3 days minimum. Verona - often overlooked, there is much to see (a full 2 days) and it has lots of "atmosphere" - especially in the evenings. Florence - not a pretty town, but the art and architecture are AMAZING. If you like it, 3 days is barely enough to see the highlights. Siena - went as a day trip from Florence and I plan to go back and stay a couple of nights . . . some day. Pisa - 1/2 day to see the Leaning Tower (and the lovely church and beautiful baptistry) was worth it. No more, no less. Cinque Terre - I was there for 1-1/2 days and would have liked to stay at least one more night. BUT I was there in mid-October when there were very few tourists and the weather was perfect. Milan - worth 1 or 2 days, if you are flying in or out of Milan, otherwise, I'd put it pretty low on my list. Ravenna - charming town, FABULOUS Byzantine mosaics. 2 days. Rome - I was there for 5 days and barely scratched the surface. That's where I've been so far. I guess the only places I wouldn't go back to are Pisa and Milan, but I enjoyed the short time I had in each.

Posted by
375 posts

We enjoyed the countryside and small villages in Sardinia, which are not heavily touristed at all. We drove a loop around the island. The scenery was pretty in a rugged way and the people were very friendly and welcoming. Outside the cities hardly any English was spoken, which we found refreshing and fun even though we don't speak much Italian. My least favorite would be Naples. It seemed dirty and noisy and I had an uncomfortable unsafe feeling while walking around, something I rarely experience elsewhere.

Posted by
1843 posts

On two different trips (only repeat city was Rome, due to tour structure), will split answer into small city/village and large cities. We did two tours, Rick's Heart of Italy and Tauck's Rome/Capri/Amalfi Coast so our travels were limited by those itineraries. Small favorites: Cinque Terre (includes all villages)...but must also see by boat in addition to hiking Volterra and Siena for Tuscany (but still so much for us to see in Tuscany) The drive along the Amalfi Coast, but our favorite little town was Ravello (because of the views) Also enjoyed the town of Amalfi Large favorites: Rome (not so much the city itself, but all the ancient ruins, Vatican, etc.) that are located there. Florence, especially if you stay in a hotel with a tower (oh the views) Least favorite small town:
Lucca (it was nice, but just did not thrill us; bike ride on the wall was unique) Least favorite large city: Naples (was there in May...huge garbage problem, but "looked" unkept/crime ridden anyway) Randy, this is a great question. But, it is really, really hard to answer, because so much of Italy is so very wonderful. We stayed in Positano (loved our hillside hotel, sea view fab), also stayed in Capri (which was magical by convertible taxi and after day trippers departed; chairlift in Anacapri was enjoyable...great pix). Really didn't like dislike any part of Italy other than Naples. Haven't been to Venice (yet). Suggest splitting your time between large city(ies) and small villages. Large cities offer so much to see, but small villages are more relaxing. Re: debate of CT or Amalfi that comes up often on this site, we prefer CT.

Posted by
492 posts

Subjective questions like this are tough. I can't think of any place we would not go back to, but there are places that if we go back, we'd spend just a little bit of time there. That could be because we saw the main things we wanted to see in those locations though. We've been to Rome, Cortona, Montepulciano, Montalcino, Pienza, Orvietto, Sienna, San Gimigiano, Venice, Florence, Sorrento, Ravello, Amalfi, Positano, Taormina, Cinque Terre, La Spezia, Portovenere, Portofino, Santa Margarita Ligure, Naples, Pompeii. Of those places, some I would go back to just to enjoy, some I'd go back as there is more I'd like to see there and some I'd go back to for one specific thing (the pecorino cheeses in Pienza!) but would probably find other things to do there as well that we didn't find the last time we were there. Some places we only spent a few hours in and that felt like enough to us at the time, other places we've spent many days in and barely felt like we touched the surface. For us it would depend on the specific trip for what we would go back to, Rome is always a draw, but Naples exhausts us we can only handle it in small doses, Venice I would never go back to over a holiday weekend. Time of year for potential weather and temps would be a factor for places like the Cinque Terre but for other places we just do what we want even if we're in a thunderstorm (huge hail the last time we were in Montepulciano as we ran from shop to shop exploring). We also prefer to travel in the shoulder seasons to try and avoid the even larger crowds.

Posted by
4500 posts

Most favorite: Siena - especially if you stay overnight when the hordes of tourists are gone. Florence - an art lovers paradise. Great food too. Tuscan hill towns - again, avoiding hordes of tourists during the day in summer makes for a different experience Mixed feelings: Venice - can be a charming city but also has its drawbacks. Sometimes smelly, floods during offseason, hordes of tourists in summer. Rome - without a doubt so much to see and do. But it's noisy and crowded and fustrating to relax in. After few days my stress level goes down there but I don't pick it as charming place to visit. Not so nice: Milan - there is enough to do if you have a day or find yourself flying in or out but don't make it a special trip. Naples - there is no good reason to go here other than to pass through.

Posted by
105 posts

Favorite(s) Venice at night after the hordes of cruise shippers have left Cinque Terre - raw pure magic Florence the polar opposite of Siena (see below) with some of the kindest, most engaging people on the planet. Least Favorite(s) Siena - We had a HORRIBLE experience. Incompetent bus driver refused to drop us off at the Train Station, despite literature CLEARLY stating that was one of his stops. Had to find a cab in an area where many places had "no tourist information" signs in the windows, or refused to speak to us (I speak Italian, so it was not a language issue), to get to our rental car location- 200 meters from the Train Station. Horrible service at our hotel. Local bus service was incredibly inept even for Italywe waited 90 minutes for a bus into town that is supposed to run every 15 minutes.
There may only be 50 rude, inconsiderate, tourist-hating jerks in this city, but if so, we met all of them. I cannot imagine any scenario not involving collecting millions of euros, or saving a loved one's life under which I would return. My wife's opinion of Siena is even lower. If I could go back and replan our trip, I would eliminate Siena altogether an allocate an extra day for CT and an extra 2 for Florence.

Posted by
78 posts

Least favorite: Cinque Terre - i went in mid-october and it rained the entire time. this would be fine anyplace else, but there isn't must to do indoors in the CT when it rains, and the boats also shut down, so we just sat around and read the whole time. combine that with the fact that it took SO LONG to get there from everywhere else we went, and we definitely wished we had skipped it. i'm sure it's lovely in the sunshine when the hiking trails and boats are available, but the weather is too big of a risk for me to go that far out of my way again on a trip of less than at least 21 days.
Favorite: Siena and Bologna. Siena because it's a really great smaller town (definitely do spend a night there so you can enjoy it once all of the day-trippers from Florence leave), and Bologna because it's an overlooked, not very touristy city. Also, both had the best food I ate on my whole trip. I love the shopping in Florence (though not the city itself...way too touristy for my taste, but i'd go back to shop anytime). And Venice, at the right time of year (early spring or early fall) is beautiful.

Posted by
111 posts

Great topic, and from the reviews, not everyone sees and experiences Italy the same (witness CT). I've been 4 times. My favorite memories are biking through the countryside (Umbria, Tuscany, and Puglia) and meeting locals in small villages and trying to understand their culture and not "Americanize it." To pick favorites: Ravello, Ostuni, Montalcino, Pienza, Montefalco, Assisi, Venice, Tuscany Least favorites:
Haven't found it and won't

Posted by
101 posts

Least Favorite: Milan: aside from da Vinci's "Last Supper", I just really have no use for Milan. I wasn't necessarily displeased with it in a touristic sense, but rather in terms of personal preferences. I love "old world" Italy, and Milan is just too commercial, big, modern city-esque to hold any appeal for me. Yes, I would go backfor a day assuming I needed to catch a flight or if I needed a jumping off point to the Lakes. But I wouldn't purposely plan any precious vacation time in an itinerary. Ambivalent:
Venice: I really like Venice, but I am constantly offended by the high cost of pretty much everything here. My vacation budget goes farther in other cities, so I tend to visit Venice a couple days at a time and move on. And I mean Venice Island proper...I won't waste my vacation time staying in Mestre or at the Lido just because they are cheaper and more budget friendly. I refuse to "commute" to my sightseeing, so location is key in properties I . Pisa: pop in, pop out....been there, seen that, don't have to go back Most Favorite: pretty much everyplace else. Florence, Cinque Terre, Lucca, Siena, numerous hilltowns of Tuscany and Umbria, Rome, Sorrento/Amalfi Coast, Paestum, Capri...most of them more than once...some of them several times over. I can even put up with the sometimes unattractive, sometimes unsafe-feeling Naples because I think this is a city where you have to look beyond the surface.

Posted by
61 posts

I have been to the following: 1)Venice-Spent 3 nights there and loved it. It is such an unusal city you can spend days just walking around taking it in. I stayed only 5 minutes from St Mark's square and loved being in the middle of everything! The museum is the city itself. 2)Florence-Incredible art. Duomo is one of the most impressive as it dominates the city to this day. Spent 3 nights there and was happy with it. 3)Siena-Spent 2 nights there and probably wouldn't go back. I know that is against the tide but it is a very interesting place that you can get a feel of pretty quick. 4)Rome-Spent 4 nights there, could probably live there. 5)Amalfi Coast-rented a villa in Positano for 1 week during the summer of 2010. Enjoyed it but I have family of beach lovers. Wouldn't spend as much time down there in the future. Nice to visit but could probably do it all in 3 nights. 6)Cinque Terre-Stayed in Monterosso al Mare during August of 2011. I wouldn't go to the CT unless it was summer. I hear a lot about offseason rain. Summer is magical, hiking between the Towns was awesome, laying on the beaches. Spent 4 nights there would do it again.
7)Milan-Only spent 1 night there. Much different than the rest of Italy but very cool. It has vibe like no other. When I go back I will spend more time there and head up to the lake region. Hope this helps!

Posted by
1976 posts

I love art and architecture so my response is going to be weighted in that direction. My favorite city was Florence. I lived there for 2 weeks and still didn't see everything that the city has to offer. I would say spend 4 days there minimum. If you like Renaissance architecture, that's your city. LOVED Ravenna - one full day minimum. Venice - I was only there for a day but the architecture (highlights are medieval, late medieval, and early modern) and museums are fabulous. If I go back, I will stay there for a minimum of 3 full days. I liked Rome better the second time I visited it, and I would go back again. If you like ancient architecture and Baroque architecture, this city is for you. Cities that I'm neutral about - Lucca, Pistoia, Verona, and Padua. Cities I would happily skip - Bologna and Pisa.

Posted by
5 posts

I just don't get all the hoopla over the Cinque Terre. It was nice enough I guess, but it really wasn't THAT nice. Certainly not nice enough to make up for dealing with the crowded streets. If you've seen water before then it's really nothing special. Count me among those that won't be returning to the Cinque Terre and wish we'd spent our time somewhere else. I loved everywhere else we went. Seriously, not a single destination dissapointed. Sorrento was great, as was Venice. If I had to choose I'd say Venice because it really is unlike any other place on the planet.

Posted by
684 posts

We spent a month in Italy in July (Rome, Positano, Vernazza (CT) and Venice. We spent a week in Rome my husband and I have agreed we enjoyed Rome the best (surprising even ourselves!). Touring ancient ruins by day and enchanted piazza's (Navona, Fiori, Pantheon, Trevi, etc.)and neighborhoods (like Trastevere) by night was wonderful! Positano and the Amalfi Coast would rank next, especially the day we rented a boat and motored up and down the coast and the bus trip (yes the SITA) from Positano to Amalfi and Ravello. Ravello is lovely, be sure to visit the gardens of Villa Cimbrone and/or Villa Rufolo. We did enjoy Vernazza very much, but not the crowded trains which were all that were running. Venice is lovely of course, but the high cost was a downer; you can't even sit down anywhere without paying through the nose. Maybe it was because we were starting to run out of money at the end of our trip!!! Next time we go to Italy, we want to go off the beaten path more - like the Adriatic (East) coast. We went to too many high tourist area's in the high tourist season; but we were introducing our kids to Italy. Now that we've done that we'd like to see the lesser seen area's.

Posted by
653 posts

Beautiful small towns near Assisi or Siena: Spello (about 7 km from Assisi), Todi (closer to Siena), and Trevi.

Posted by
224 posts

Favorite-where I would go back. 1-Tuscany/Siena 2-Domolomites/Castelrotto 3-Lake Como/Mandelo del ario Least-never would go back 1. Venice Everywhere else enjoyed but don't need to go again.
Isn't it funny how different everyone is.

Posted by
27 posts

We loved Venice and don't understand why some people here found it so expensive. Maybe if you just had to stay in or close to St. Marks square, then sure. But there's no reason to do that since Venice is quite small and you can walk everywhere. We stayed about 10 minutes from the train station, can't remember the name of the neighborhood, sort of by the jewish ghetto, and we didn't pay any more for our meals or hotel than we did anywhere else in Italy. In fact, our hotel (Ca' Dogeressa) was fantastic and cheaper than most hotels we stayed at in Italy. A close second would be Rome, but I'm a history buff so it was really a treat for me. The wife would probably pick one of the hill towns of Tuscany - Siena, San Griamo (sp?) and the like. Least favorite was the Cinque Terra, by far. Terrible food, terrible crowds. Someone else mentioned here somewhere that it didn't even fee like Italy and I have to agree whole heartedly. We felt like we were in some pre-fabricated, Disney version of Italy. We would love to have that time back.

Posted by
559 posts

Here's my list: Venice - Have been there twice and can't wait to return. Love it. We go in the off season and stay in Castello. Tuscany - Hilltowns. SanGimingnano and Siena favorites. Taormina - What a wonderful place. Sicily is beautiful. Rome - goes without saying. I think Rome has the best pizza. Sorrento/Amalfi Coast - Was a clear favorite before visiting Taormina. Still like it and it is worth a visit (don't miss Pompei.) I know there are mixed reviews about Naples. We planned on spending one day there, loved it so much, we returned a second day. Obviously not for everyone. Florence - (least favorite) I think we spent too much time there (full week.) The art is wonderful and I am glad I got to visit the Accademia and the Uffizi. But probably won't go back.

Posted by
1525 posts

Thanks everyone for the replies so far. They have been a treat to read. About the only consensus I can see so far is that; 1) Both Milan and Naples are acquired tastes 2) The CT is 50/50 love it or hate it 3) Pisa is a one-trick-pony and nearby Lucca is not as enchanting as it sounds in the RS guide book 4) Everyone loves Italy A LOT Keep the responses coming... Every time we are on the plane coming home from a trip I think about what I would have done differently with our itinerary if I knew then what I know now. Each year there are a few tweaks I would have made, but nothing major. We've had pretty good luck so far. Planning for Italy somehow feels slightly different. I'm not sure why.

Posted by
95 posts

I also LOVE Italy. My most favorite places ( in no particular order ) would be: - The Cinque Terre. Absolutely love it there, but I've only been there in May and October, so I might not like it as much in the summer with the throngs of crowds. I also like to hike, which is the main thing to do there ( and look at the beautiful scenery ). - Florence. My favorite big cit yin Italy. It has everything, and you can take a few day trips to Tuscan towns. A marketplace to DIE for. The best cheese I've EVER had. - Venice. Yes, it's touristy. Yes, I don't care. You've got to see this place before you die. Least favorite places are: - Milan. Underwhelmed. - Rome. Way to crowded and "touristy". I know that I'm one or the tourists, but I really don't want to go to a place and be targeted so much. - Siena. Believe it or not, this place didn't live up to all the hype. If I hadn't been expecting so much, I probably would have liked it more ( and I DID like it, as well as the other two above-mentioned places, but it was simply one of my least favorites in a country filled with beautiful places ). As I said, I have not DISliked any place in Italy. It's a beautiful country, with beautiful people. I oftentimes wish that my descendants hadn't ever left...

Posted by
11432 posts

I have only been to Italy twice, so no expert,, but of the places I have been: Liked and would return: Rome(again and again, yes, crowded ,, but for a reason, so much history, so much to see ) Liked but may not return, expensive or a place that once you've seen it you've seen it( I visited it twice): Venice( yes it is something to see once,, but I have had bad luck there with food, and it is overpriced) Liked but wouldn't return:Florence Did not like and thought was waste of time: Pisa what a dissappointment. Places I would like to check out next time: Amalifi Coast, Pompeii, Assini, Lake Commo and yes, possibly CT or somewhere similar.

Posted by
14 posts

Favorite: 1) Rome, so much to see and do, and they're used to tourists so it's easy to get around in. 2) Ferrara - laid back, beautiful, well located for day trips elsewhere. 3) Spilamberto, a small town in Emilia-Romagna that I spend two weeks in as a teen. I want to go back one day, they have a balasamic vinegar museum there now. Least Favorite:
Turin. To be fair, this was at the end of my Italian trip, I was travelling alone and stressed out. The hostel was a long walk up a steep hill and it was an odd crowd - mostly groups. So Turin had the deck stacked against it to start with. They do have good museums but what do I remember most fondly in Turin? The kebab stand. I was about to lose it and it seemed like those guys were the only friendly faces in the city.

Posted by
506 posts

I haven't been south of Rome, so can't comment on that part of the country. For the places I've been, here we go: Least favorite: Rome, followed closely by Milan. I realize others love these cities, and you might too, but I didn't. Favorite: Pretty much anywhere in Tuscany. I also liked the Cinque Terre, but it was off-season. Doubt I would like it peak season.

Posted by
1446 posts

Least favorite was probably Lucca as others have commented. Most favorite were Venice, Rome, Orvieto, Varenna (Lake Como) & the Cinque Terre. We spent 5 days in Rome & I wished we had stayed longer. We also spent 3 days in the Cinque Terre & wish we had stayed there longer...therefore we'll be re-visiting these places on our trip next year.

Posted by
175 posts

Absolute fav - magical Matera; Barga; Lucca; Ligurian coast. Meh - Naples; Florence in July (nuff said); Reggio de
Calabria.

Posted by
515 posts

Sorted by area   Naples Bay & southward Fav: Naples a beautiful chaotic intricately layered mess that has been that way for centuries, sitting (literally) on a huge bubbling caldera more dangerous than the Camora. The food is justfiably legendary as is the way the locals ignore or joke about their government. Not for the "If this is Tuesday it must be Begium" tour folk but then neither are the cool parts of NYC.          
Not Fav:  Sorrento a well designed transport hub run by Hallmark Cards.    Lazio Fav: Nemi a small photogenic hill town on the rim of a volcanic crater lake. They grow tiny strawberries in the crater's microclimate, most of the year. Best ever, especially in Bellinis Lazio fav: US WWII cemetary Nettuno.  Majestic visually and historically. Lazio not Fav: Ostia Lido the Jersey Shore of Rome. Puglia fav: any little road lined with old stone walls through olive groves and stopping for a panino in a barely on the map village that gets no tourists Not fav: Gallipoli a modern city swallows an old fishing village     

Posted by
354 posts

My faves: Siena, Venice, Rome, Amalfi coast, Assisi, Tuscany's chianti country. First sight of Siena's Piazza del Campo was one of the most memorable experiences of my (traveling) life. It's truly a beautiful square. Assisi: despite the tourists and pilgrims, you can still sense the spirituality of the place. Venice: some love it, some hate it, I keep returning and finding new things to see - I just try not to spend too much time at the overcrowded Rialto and around Piazza San Marco. Rome is chockful of interesting and unforgettable sites, dynamic, frustrating (traffic!). Amalfi coast: beautiful, loved the hair-raising cliff-hugging bus ride from Sorrento. I wish I hadn't skipped Ravello. The Tuscan hill towns are great places to relax, I liked Montepulciano a great deal and Cortona too, but San Gimignano left me cold. This year, I discovered Mantova (Mantua), two hours by train from Venice, and wondered why I hadn't been there earlier ... next time I'm going to try Bologna!
Less-than-favourite: Florence? Great art and architecture, and thus unmissable, but I find the city feels rather harsh, I don't know why. Half a day each in Pisa and Lucca were enough for me.

Posted by
486 posts

Our first European travel was in Italy for four weeks in 1990. We have gone back several times through the years and our favorite(s) changed through the years. In the spring of 2007, we spent 5 weeks in Italy: 1 week in Rome; 1 week in Assisi (loved it); 2 weeks in Venice (least favorite on this trip because it was unseasonably hot and crowded, and I had hip problems); followed with 1 week in Gravedona/Lake Como (very relaxing staying in a lakefront apartment with a balcony - wonderful especially after Venice!) But then we decided to return to Venice that year for Christmas, spending 6 weeks! Result: we keep returning to Venice for the Christmas holidays - three months in 2008, 2 months in 2009 & 2010. We return to Venice later this month for three months! You can say that Venice is our second home now. p.s. for those who may be wondering - read three months as 90 days.

Posted by
934 posts

My favorites were Venice,Rome,Florence,CT,Como,Orvieto,Assisi,Tuscany Villages. Im still looking for my least favorite.

Posted by
7146 posts

My #1 Favorite: Sorrento. Can never get enough of it. Loved: Venice, Assissi, Montalcino, Montepulciano. Pienza, Rome, Pompeii, Herculaneum, Positano, Amalfi Coast Liked: Cortona, Orvieto, San Gimignano, Volterra Did Not Like: Siena - Claustrophobic, dark, no charm, unfriendly people. Capri, Pisa

Posted by
91 posts

I too. think that the Cinque Terra is way over hyped. One day there was enough for me.
I will take Lake Como over anything. I think it is the most beautiful place on Earth!

Posted by
800 posts

Great question!! Favorite overall - Rome & Tuscany (especially the smaller towns that you discover on your own). Favorite just because of what it is - Venice - there is no place like it. Favorite "undiscovered" - Sicily. We loved Palermo and the smaller towns but thought Taormina was too much of a honeymoon-resort type place. Least favorite for now - Florence, except for seeing the David which was truly spectacular and well worth getting into the city to see. We'll probably revisit during a winter trip to see if we like it better than the one time we visited in the summer. Other comments - Milan - we were only in Milan for one night as it was our arrival point for our trip to Sicily. I don't like to do connecting flights the same day and I figured that one night in Milan couldn't be that bad. With such low expectations we VERY much enjoyed ourselves! The Duomo was fabulous, the people were very nice, we had good food and it was easy to get back to the airport the next day for our flight to Palermo. Amalfi Coast - loved it the first time we went (15 years ago), not so much the last time (5 years ago) -for the same reason that we didn't like Taormina. It was flooded with "beautiful people", wedding parties, honeymooners - we just felt a little out of place - probably because we had our teenage son with us - not exactly the romantic feel that we had felt earlier! Lucca - just putting this in since so many felt it not that great. We used this as our last 2 nights on a trip where we flew out of Pisa. We were at the end of a 2 week trip and so enjoyed that there wasn't much to do besides walk & eat. I don't remember any important sights at all - just the walk around the wall. But it suited us as downtime. But its pretty hard not to enjoy Italy - it is our favorite country.

Posted by
331 posts

I liked Venice much more than I thought I would and want to go back (only had one day the first time round). Pisa a bit of a one trick pony, glad I've "done" it but all the market stalls etc, thought it was very tacky. Really disliked Bologna. Love Tuscany - Florence, Siena, San Gignano, Monteriggione - keen to get back and explore the other places I didn't get to. Agree with others re Lucca - I thought it would be terrific, it was merely OK. Loved Orvieto. Only had a couple of days in Rome, keen to go back. Not been south of Rome yet!

Posted by
3696 posts

Since I usually prefer smaller towns, villages and countryside... I love all of Tuscany and its incredible villages. I enjoyed Florence, but it was hot and crowded and once I had seen the museum sights I was ready to get back to a quiet area.... I have been about 4 times, so this was not just one impression. I am a photographer so I much prefer seeing the areas that inspired the artists as well as the art. Rome...I am okay for a few days, then I am in overwhelm. Do love Venice, and especially magical during Carnavale. I know CT is crowded, but I guess it will always hold special memories for me as it was the first place I went in Italy on my first trip to Europe (per RS recommendation) and I had never seen anything like it. Yes, I wish it existed purely for my pleasure, but such is not the case, and if it were not so special, there would be no tourists. I for one, would rather be in CT with a bunch of people than home alone... For those who don't like it, there are plenty of other places to go...they just don't look like CT. Also, love Lake Como area...
Naples... big, busy city, but I visited a fellow photographer, so I enjoyed my time there, but probably would not need to go back. Have a great trip.

Posted by
1 posts

Least favorite was Pistoia, claimed to be the birthplace of the pistole. Even though I am a gunsmith and a blacksmith, there seemed to be nothing there except a train station. Maybe if they had a antique gun museum there, even if no pistols were ever made there. Just create a legend from nothing, but no. Best was Ravelo (spelling?) uphill from Amalfi. I wish I had a full day to explore there, but only a few hours allowed by the tour company. I also wish I had visited the paper museum in Amalfi as I am a papermaker. I did not go to San Gimignano, others on the tour said it was the best part of the two-week tour. Lucca was not so great. It is a cyclist town, and I am a cyclist, but it seems all the locals are running time trials in their cars to see who can traverse the town in
the low twenty seconds range, right through the center of town. Florence was a disappointment mostly because of the hour-long sales pitch at the leather goods store, before the tour could begin. This is a good reason to create your own "through the back door" experience. This cut the time so short that seeing David at Academia or setting up an appointment at the Uffizi (spelling?) difficult. Very touristy also.

Posted by
238 posts

I've been to Italy several times, for at least a couple of weeks at a time. One of my favorites is Siena, but its personality completely changes if it's crowded with tourists. At dusk, Il Campo is magical. I lay on my back and watched the birds (thrushes? swallows?) soar above and below the clock tower as the sky changed from a brilliant blue to dark, with a sliver of moon in the sky. And I like their Duomo better than Florence's. But when there are crowds, the charm shuts right off for me. My daughter lives near Venice so we go there both on day trips and stay a few days in hotels or apartments. Definitely stay there - it, too, is magical in late evening and early morning. And taking your own water taxi down the length of the Grand Canal can't be beat! Rome is probably my favorite as I love to walk the streets and pop into cafes and Irish pubs. I never tire of looking at the monuments or people watching at Campo dei Fiori and Piazza Navona. And I prefer the Roman style cracker crust pizza to the Naples variety. I will never tire of visiting Pompeii. I could live in the ruins! I'd like to spend more time in Montepulciano. I've done the Amalfi Coast twice and that was enough. And surprisingly, I feel the same way about Florence. But then it WAS packed with tourists. Maybe it was because I visited Florence after Siena, and I wanted to stay in Siena? Verona is a lovely city to spend an afternoon in. The Arena is amazing.

Posted by
48 posts

We were in Italy last summer in late June/early July. Very hot, fairly crowded, but overall we loved everyplace we visited. CT: 3 nights, loved it, but we love hiking and did all 4 of the hikes, even in the heat. If I didn't love hiking, or the weather was crummy, would I still have loved CT as much?? Probably not. But we would go back for sure. We stayed in Rimaggiore which is less touristy and pretty quiet, had amazing views of the sea from our balcony. Venice: one of the few who will say I wasn't in love with Venice. One day/night there was plenty for us, way more crowded and touristy than CT was when we were there. Florence: 3 nights loved it, felt we got to see and do what we liked there in that amount of time. Would like more time for Tuscany next time. Rome: only had 2 nights and felt we needed way more. LOVED it, can't wait to go back and take the kids!

Posted by
7735 posts

As gets repeated many, many times here - To really enjoy Venice, you have to wander away from the crowds. If you don't, you may end up really hating it. If you, you may just fall in love with it, like I did.

Posted by
1525 posts

Thanks again all - and keep the responses coming. They are very interesting to read. Of particular interest to me are places (probably all small/rural) that are not promoted in the guide books much but you found to be a special treat.

Posted by
423 posts

just back this week. spent a week on a sailboat in the aeolian islands, then sorrento, amalfi coast, naples, pompeii, paestum, then rome for 4 days. there was nothing i didnt like. probably my favorite thing was hiking the active volcano stromboli to see lava erupt up close and personal. tough hike but so worth it. love all types of ruins so rome was great. saw more than i expected to in 4 days. favs were colosseum underground tour, borghese, sistene, trastevere walk. naples was interesting for a day trip to the museum only. loved pompeii and paestum. top of vesuvius was nice but anticlimactic after stromboli. amalfi coast was lovely and if i were the type of traveler who repeats destinations (too many more places to see to go back where i've already been) i would go back and chill. but then i dont do that either :)

Posted by
951 posts

Last year we did Milan (1 night), Florence (3), Siena (2 nights with side trip to San Gim and chianti region), Assisi (2 nights with side trip to Orvieto), Rome (4), Venice (3). Here are my favorites down to the least favorites 1. Venice: magical 2. Siena/Assisi tied for 2nd place: great work-out just walking around 3. FLorence 4. Rome: great for its history, but the city was pretty stressful
5. Milan: Was our fly into city, was there for only 1 night.

Posted by
515 posts

FYI to the OP: to focus on the spectrum of results that interests you, next time you could expressly exclude all the usual suspects from the scope of the question

Posted by
1525 posts

You misunderstand. I simply asked about hidden gems because where else am I going to find out about them except from someone who has been there, found it especially nice, and can explain why? We will be spending most, but not all, of our time in the usual locations and as I stated in the header, I was interested in getting people's impressions of what they found more/less interesting than they expected. While we don't have a lot of money to spend, we do have the luxury of time. If many people say "I wish we had more time in..." then I can give more thought to adding time to that segment of the trip. But meanwhile, information of hidden gems is always particularly welcome.

Posted by
596 posts

Randy: I have traveled to Italy just once so far... the future is open though and I am planning my next venture to Italy: Rome for 5 nights and Sorrento/Amalfi for 5-6 nights in Nov. 2012. Like so many Americans, I am somewhat dictated by how many days of leave time I have accrued for the year. Any way, my trip in May 2010 involved 9 days with an RS tour – Heart of Italy (Florence, Lucca, Volterra, CT & Rome), and then I was on my own for another 9 days in Umbria, Sienna and back to Florence. Favorites and not so much, follows: Favorites: Florence: hiking up the staircase of the Campanile when the bells chime... what a rush!
Hearing the Gregorian chants at the church on the hill overlooking the Arno (San Minato Al Monte); and later, Trattoria Mario-sharing a table for lunch with fellow travelers from South Africa. In total 5 full days spent in Florence. Rome: so many wonders, they are too numerous to mention and to tell you the truth, it was somewhat of a blur, as this was during the RS tour and a bit overwhelming. A good reason to go back. This time around, I want to visit the Borghese and St. Peters in Chains church for the incredible art that I read about. Rome deserves at least 5-6 days to just scratch the surface. Assisi: delightful. A great place to take in the Umbria countryside, and feel the friendliness of the people all around. It never felt crowded. I spent 2 nights here – 3 full days, with a side trip to Perugia. Perugia was more energetic than other towns in Umbria-there is a beautiful city park here that I just chilled, eating yet another gelato. Siena: Campo is magical at night; So if you go, stay over at least one night. I loved the Duomo's interior – all that black & white striped marble – who wouldn't? Later, I enjoyed an early dinner sitting next to two young men anxious to get to the soccer game. to be continued

Posted by
596 posts

Randy... here is the rest of the story.... Favorites: Greve in Chianti: I took a day trip on my last day in Florence to Greve and toured a winery – Verrezanno Winery. It was a tour and lunch... most fabulous way to end a trip to Italia. Isola Polvese in the middle of Lago Trasimeno was great too. I borrowed a bicycle from the hostel and ventured about 2 miles to the nearest ferry to take me for an afternoon on the island of Polvese. I am a birder and enjoy being outdoors, so this was right up my alley. Not so favorites: CT on the RS tour... the weather was a real bummer. We had so much rain, all the trails were closed and even some of the trains were delayed due to mud on the tracks. I hope to some day make the journey again and really enjoy the hike & views. Lucca: the bicycle ride around the ancient wall was great, but other than that...not much going for it. I know you and your family will love Italy. Ciao!

Posted by
1003 posts

Gosh.....
least favorite: Cinque Terre. Too touristy. Probably I'd put Positano in that category too. And as much as I do like Rome, it is one of my least favorite places I've been in Italy, only because I love the other places so very much! Favorite: Everywhere else, especially Florence, Volterra, Parma, Naples, Venice, and everywhere i went in Puglia particularly Lecce and the few hours I spent in lovely Trani. Ah, Italy.

Posted by
7735 posts

Sort of a hidden gem is the Veronetta neighborhood in Verona. We stayed there this past May for 3 nights and wish we had stayed a week. You're just across the river from the main historic part of Verona, but it's a fascinating neighborhood with very few tourists. Good restaurants and lots of local character. Verona is also well situated for lots of day trips - Padova, Mantova, Vicenza. We're planning to go back in 2013 and stay at least 5 nights. And not too far away is Venice. If you enjoy taking pictures, you can't beat Venice. Also worth a week in my book.

Posted by
1491 posts

We just returned from our tenth trip to Italy. We have stayed in about 50 places and day-tripped to at least 25 others. There is not one place in Italy to which I would not return (the worst day in Italy is better than the best day staying home!). We even spent a night in Gallarate once prior to flying out of Malpensa and enjoyed that. That said, there are many places I'm glad I visited once but would not particularly need to revisit. Our first trip to Italy was two weeks at a music "camp" in Urbino. It's a very special place and we have returned there three times. Other places to which I'd return: Venice, Florence, Rome, Milan, Naples, Genoa, Lucca, Torino, Cremona, Bergamo, Verona, Ferrara, Pesaro, Orvieto, Pienza, Montepulciano, Montalcino, San Quirico d'Orcia, San Gimignano, Assisi, Gubbio, Spoleto, Varenna, Cinque Terre, Bonassola, Camogli, Lecce, Trani, Locorotondo, Vieste, Peschici, Scilla and, in Sicily: Taormina, Cefalu, Polizzi Generosa, Palermo, Siracusa (Ortigia), Trapani, Erice, Catania.

Posted by
13 posts

A couple of our most favorite places include Colonnata and driving around the various quarries above Carrara - steep spectacular mountains and not very touristy. It had the sense of discovering something new around every corner - we knew nothing about Colonnata and stumbled upon it accidentally. Also really enjoyed Assisi - again not very touristy (at least around end of October) with beautiful views and many things to see. I think 5 Terra is probably on most peoples list but I need to add that it is definitely worth a boat trip down to Porto Venere - very picturesque and really ups the ante for the area. Some of our least favorite locations include Volterra - another nice Tuscan hill town but just didn't stand out from the other hill town highlights. Also have to include trying to spend the night in Tivoli - we loved Villa d'Este and Villa Adriana but made the mistake of planning on trying to find a room there. I think half the town dates back to the industrial revolution with no modernization since. We ended up finding a hotel in Bagni di Tivoli. I could put Venice and Lucca on this list but I think that if someone has enough time they should see both these places - we had a month in Italy and don't regret seeing both.

Posted by
7647 posts

Since I have only been to 2 cities, Rome and Milan, I can't offer a whole lot of comparison, but here are my thoughts on both places. I loved Rome and was glad I was there in Feb. when it wasn't so hot nor crowded. Going there in the summer time sounds so awful and miserable to me. Looking forward to going back and visiting either by myself or with someone else that likes history as much as I do. Really liked Milan. Was there for 3 days and we never ran out of stuff to see or do and we didn't even go see the Last Supper. Walking on top of the Duomo was cool and visiting the Galleria next door was interesting too. We spent a good portion of a day at the Leonardo Da Vinci museum and found it to be one of the better museums we have visited. Fascinating. Food was reasonable in Milan, the residential neighborhoods were beautiful, with small, old churches tucked in here and there. Friendly, helpful people too. I am not a shopper, but Milan made me want to be one. Visiting La Scala would be a treat for music lovers I would think. The open produce markets were fabulous. 10 times better than what we saw in Paris, and a lot cheaper. Milan has pretty parks to stroll through and some interesting architecture too. Looking forward to visiting Pompeii sometime in the future and seeing Rome again. Have no desire to go to the CT, but Naples, Venice, Florence and Bologna sound interesting.

Posted by
84 posts

"Least favorite: Cinque Terre." I thought it was a beautiful view but I was wobbling, my legs were shaking and I am rather fit. I was praying to arrive to the end. It was o.k., not a "Wow!! I have to go again." It was like, " o.k." I was at the Italian Riviera. MM

Posted by
203 posts

Randy, the biggest letdown for me was Venice, which was like Disneyland and, while many will say that getting and being "lost" is part of its charm, it really got on my nerves, as did the crowded streets and pushy/ aggressive tourists. Apparently tourism is still going strong this October. I would likely not go back to Venice, but if I did I would opt for something outside of San Marco. And gondola rides are overrated. I loved the hill towns of Tuscany and would go back in a heartbeat and stay in the countryside in an Agritourismo. I would suggest if you have your own "bucket list" that you do it, no matter what. People's responses and/or patterns of responses are really going to help you adjust your EXPECTATIONS more than anything else.

Posted by
1525 posts

Marianne, You are quite right. I have been on this board long enough to know that my style of travel does not match many other people's - nor do my expectations of a place. Never-the-less, I like getting others' insights and this has been interesting. Our tickets are purchased!!!!! (for next June/July - I know it's super-early, but we got a good deal on Aer Lingus that was sub-$1000, so I'm not going to play games with a price like that) We have about 4 1/2 weeks and will be spending a week in a rental in Tuscany and a week in Rome interspersed with other shorter stops. The children are very excited...

Posted by
203 posts

Randy, I purchased my airline tickets almost 10 months in advance. I was booking around specific travel dates, direct flights as well as specific planes (A-330 versus a 777). So, when I found the right combination I bought them and never looked back. It is never too early to start booking your lodgings............

Posted by
396 posts

Favorite: Lucca, Siena, Verona, Lake Maggiorie area
Least favorite: Bologna (too big and crowded)

Posted by
48 posts

Marianne, I was just in Venice a week ago for 4 nights. I stayed in Dorsoduro near Campo Santa Margherita and loved it once I got my bearings. I absolutely hated the entire San Marco district and didn't even bother waiting in line to enter St Marks just so I could get away from that area. Every other district was completely different.

Posted by
703 posts

Hi Randy, Great question, tough to answer though. Usually my wife and I can get a vibe pretty quickly after entering a town if we're going to like it or not. I can't explain it, but it just "feels" right. My favorites: Big Town: Rome. I'm a huge history buff as well as architecture so this is an obvious match. The Vatican is amazing as well. I'm not even catholic, but that place moves you. Venice is also great, but my last trip there was with a stroller (bad move) during the biennale (worse move) so it was packed and the stairs got old. No other town like it in the world though. Verona is neither big or small, but I was pleasantly surprised by this town. Used it as a layover on the way to Venice from Florence, but wished we would have spent more time. Skip Juliet's balcony and take in an opera in the Arena. Stunning. Small town: Assisi. This is probably my favorite town in Italy. I completely love it, especially after dark (or when the tourists leave). We revisited it this spring for just a night, and after about an hour, my wife and I lamented that we only gave it one night this time. In future, I'll give it at least two nights every time.
San Gimignano - my wife's favorite town in Italy, and I admit, it is magical after the hordes depart. Excellent views and great wine. A special place. Volterra - This one of those towns where I just have the "vibe". Nothing spectacular there, but we agreed that it just felt right. continued...

Posted by
703 posts

Non Favorites: Florence. I'm always in the minority here, but we just couldn't get our heads around Florence. The art is Amazing, but the town just felt like an American college town. Virtually no one speaks italian, it smells like a sewer, there is trash and grafitti everywhere, and it's pretty expensive. I've gone 3 times trying to convince myself to love it, but other than the art, I'm not enamoured. Go figure. Pienza - Couldn't figure out the hype for this place. Nothing wrong, per se, but nothing right, either.
Cinque Terra - This one has been a hot topic as of late. I really enjoyed myself when there, mostly to decompress. I haven't been back since '05, but the crowds weren't out of control, at least to my memory. I probably won't go back until my kids are older and we can hike as a family. In general, I love everything about Italy. Florence is the only disappointment that lingers (maybe because I had such high hopes) so I don't think that you'll go wrong anywhere. Tuscany is magical. Rent bikes and tour the countryside with your family (we do this on every Euro trip) for some excellent memories. They're some of my best. Have Fun!

Posted by
1525 posts

Thanks everyone for the great input. Our family situation gives us the luxury of time over money. So with that in mind, here is our initial itinerary thoughts (nights in parenthesis); Venice (3) then rent a car for three weeks... Buzz through Slovenia and dip into Istria (4) Castelrotto/Dolomites (2) Cinque Terra (2) Tuscany cottage rental (7) Sorrento or nearby cottage rental (5) then drop the car Rome apartment rental (7)
night train to Paris (3) Input from many of you here has encouraged us to limit CT to two nights, do Florence as a day trip only, and add as much time as possible to Rome. Paris at the end is simply to catch the cheapest flight home and to cap off the trip revisiting our favorite city so far (and during Bastille day, too). We are looking forward to it!! P.S. If anyone has a favorite rental they used for Venice, Tuscany, Sorrento area or Rome that would sleep at least four and cost no more than $160/nt or $1100/week, (a bit more for Venice, of course) please let me know by PM. Thank you.

Posted by
703 posts

That itinerary looks about perfect, Randy. I love the Paris addition to boot.
Have fun!

Posted by
15 posts

You didn't mention the time of year you plan to go. July, Aug & Sept are too crowded to enjoy the more popular locations. We spent a week in Tuscany and a week in Varese Ligure taking side trips nearly every day to other towns. Favorites were Volterra, Montalcino, Montepulciano, Pienza, & Orvieto. Stayed in a farmhouse in Buonconvento thru www.untours.com (loved the tiny town). Chianti Valley beautiful, esp tiny town of Castellini di Chianti. Varese Ligure, 45 min drive from the Cinque Terra, was beautiful, charming and spotlessly clean. Fabulous bakery. Found a vrbo and stayed a week with side trips to Sarzana and Modeno (great, friendy town). Very few tourists in these places, probably because you need to drive to them. Highly recommend spending more than one night in Orvieto (Umbria)...our favorite. Only spent one night there on way back to airport in Rome. Least favorites were San Gimignano, Siena and Varnazza because of the hoards of people (in Sept). Besides Rick Steves Guidebook, found Tripadvisor to be very informative for hotel/restaurant recommendations as well as travel tips.

Posted by
112 posts

Favorite place in Italy would have to be Rome. It was the first European city that I had ever visited and it knocked me out. I will never forget that experience of walking out of the subway station and entering another world. I have been back and I still love it. It is amazing just how much is there. It is so stuffed with sites that the places that tour books don't really cover much are wonderful. It's just that everything else is even better! Least favorite, hmm I'd say San Gimignano. I know some people love it, but for me it was far too touristy and I almost felt that I was in Disney Land. I would not be back. Venice, I would go back to but I can't say that I was in love with it. Again parts were far too touristy and I got so tired of street vendors selling "masks". Next time I will keep my expectations in check and minimize time spent in Piazza San Marco. My two cents about the Cinque Terre. I was there is Sept 4 years ago, and I'm not sure wether it's changed since then.
I thought it was charming with some spectacular views, but it didn't quite live up to the hype. With all the other fantastic places in Italy that I haven't seen, I'm not sure I'd go back.

Posted by
850 posts

Looks like a great trip Randy. One of my favorite drives was through the Dolomites so I am glad to see it on your list. I know Rick mentions Castelrotto as his preference for a base and it is nice but to get a better feel for the Dolomites I would stay in the areas that Paul and Lola have mentioned in some of their posts. Ortisei is one of the places but I do not recall the name of the lodging accomdations mentioned. We stayed one night in Canazei and one night in the Alpe di Siusi. For a really nice museum stop in Bolzano and give Otzi the ice man a visit.

Posted by
533 posts

Planning 4th trip to Italy- I must have hit it lucky in Vernazza(CT) -May last year-no crowds to speak of -weather perfect- will go back for sure.
Best on my list is Venice, Tuscany hill towns and Amalfi Coast.

Posted by
2663 posts

Hi Randy, Just wanted to respond to the Dolomite nights. Castelrotto, while nice enough, is not "in" the Dolomites, but rather on the outskirts. If you could swing it, I'd add a night to the Dolomite region. The Dolomites are truly unique. I'd recommend staying in either the Alta Badia or the Val Gardena instead of Castelrotto. We can recommend the places we stayed in each... the Garni Ariston in St. Christina, Val Gardena and the Ciasa Montanara in La Villa, Alta Badia. http://www.garniariston.com http://www.montanara.it The Alta Badia and Val Gardena are seperated by the spectacular Gardena Pass. An amazing drive through (actually over) the Dolomites. We have photo's of these places and the Dolomites in general at: http://www.worldisround.com/home/pja1/index.html Hope this helps. Paul

Posted by
1525 posts

Paul & Lane Thank you so much for your suggestions regarding a brief stop in the Dolomites. I will look into all of your suggestions. My casual reference to Castelrotto in my previous itinerary was admittedly not based on anything but a quick scan of the RS Italy book. Frankly, going to the Dolomites at all was a late addition to our trip made possible by reluctantly conceding we couldn't swing including Dubrovnik in this year's trip. That freed up a few extra days. I am excited to see it, but we just have not had it on our radar much. We're currently trying to pour through 1000 or so possible rentals for Tuscany! But I am very interested in finding out how to best visit the Dolomites. Our family likes "pretty" but not "thrills" - really nice walks, but not death-defying cliff climbing, if you get my meaning. Rick's description of the Alpe de Sussi (sp?) sounded perfect. But I am very open to alternatives.

Posted by
2663 posts

Hi Randy, I understand that the Seiser Alm/Alpe di Siusi sounds appealing. It's beautiful. By staying in the Val Gardena you can still easily access the Ape di Siusi. This cable car trip (Mont Seuc) from Ortisei (Val Gardena) up to the Alpe di Siusi sounds like what you're looking for. We did this twice. Paved walks into the Alpe di Siusi with stunning a Dolomite back. There's also a restaurant at the top of the cable car with a lagre outdoor deck. Great for having lunch, coffee, whatever, with an amazing panoramic view of the Dolomites. http://www.alpedisiusi-seiseralm.com http://www.worldisround.com/articles/351565/index.html The Val Gardena is not very large. The 3 towns/villages (Ortisei, St. Christina, Selva) are just 5 minutes drive from one to the next. The entire valley (Val Gardena) takes about 20 or so minutes to drive from end to end. http://www.val-gardena.com Actually, Castelrotto is less than a 30 min. drive from the Val Gardena. It's just that the Val Gardena is more "in" the Dolomites themselves. Paul

Posted by
7735 posts

FWIW, every posting that I've read by someone who's done an overnight train says that they really regretted doing it. See Marie's comment in the Venice to Paris topic: "(tried the sleeper car thing once and that was more than enough)."

Posted by
1525 posts

I have to disagree with the idea that "everyone" finds night trains disagreeable. We have done three as a family - two in eastern Europe. One was great, one mediocre, one tough. The tough one had more to do with heat and the related noise from having the window open than any other factor. Since we are a family of five, we take up most of the 6-person couchette ourselves. Twice the last remaining place was left empty, the other time it was occupied by a young, attractive Aussie female. Not such a bad deal for me...

Posted by
1 posts

We just spent 3 weeks in northern Italy and loved it! Favorites: Rome, Siena, Tuscan/Umbrian hill towns, Assisi, Bellagio Least favorites: Florence, Venice I had high hopes for Florence and Venice, but the crowds of tourists were too much to overlook.

Posted by
87 posts

Randy (hello, fellow MN), how old are your kids and how big is your family? I'm wondering if you might like Buranco Agristurismi in Monterosso in the Cinque Terre.
Let me know if you want to hear more about it. We stayed for 4 nights about 3 wks ago.

Posted by
8 posts

I agree with you completely, Josh. We spent 3 weeks in northern Italy in September. We loved Rome, Siena, San Giagnamo (Tuscany), Monterrosso, and especially Bellagio on Lake Como. However, we too were disappointed with Florence and Venice. The crowds were just too overwhelming. Stayed in Rick Steves' recommended accomodations during our entire trip and were not disappointed. We were not part of a tour group and just "did our own thing." The weather was wonderful and we met some interesting people along the way. Great trip overall!