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First trip to Italy - help with travel please

Good afternoon.
I am new to the forum. I am traveling in June with my adult (ish -18) daughter to Italy. We have two weeks and are focusing on Northern Italy with a desire to see nature, do easy hiking and just explore/relax. We have the option to do car rental or train/bus depending on location. As of now we are flying into Malpensa and headed to Molina for 2 nights to see Lake Como. We were then planning to head to Voltino for two nights to see Lake Garda. The rest of our trip is TBD. We would like to see Cinque Terre and Venice. My daughter's preference is to only spend a night in Venice as it is not a priority but she feels it is something we "should" see. I'm wondering if it is possible to see anything in the Dolomites with this loose itinerary? We are returning home from Malpensa. I'm also slightly overwhelmed by the travel options going between different locations.

Any suggestions are welcome.

Thank you for your time.
Terrie

Posted by
16862 posts

Welcome to the forum!

I see several towns named Molina in Italy, but none anywhere near Lake Como. Can you clarify?

But regardless, with Voltino on the list and a wish to see the Dolomites, I suggest you rent a car for that part of the trip, including, including your time at Lago di Como. After the Dolomites, drive to Venice and return it there, at Piazzale Roma in the city itself. Then book a night or two (preferred) in Venice, perhaps in San Polo an easy walk from Piazzale Roma for convenience and (some);crowd avoidance. Or near the train station,which is a busier area. Then you can take the train from Venice to your Cinque Terre village. .

Note that lodging for June may be hard to find in Cinque Terre at this late date.

Posted by
13 posts

Molina, Lombardia 22020, Italy

Thank you! We have been using Airbnb/Vrbo for booking and hoping to finalize this weekend. I agree, we are getting close!

Posted by
11480 posts

How many nights do you have for the trip, on the ground in Italy?

Posted by
15471 posts

You will need a rental car except for Venice and the Cinque Terre. I would spend 3 nights in Venice, because if you have never been and you don’t, you will regret it if you spend only one night.
The Cinque Terre is somewhat of an odd ball in your itinerary. It’s not that easy to reach.
I would do
Malpensa (rent a car)
Lake Como (Molina)
Lake Garda (Voltino)
Dolomites (Ortisei, Val Gardena)
Venice
Malpensa

Since a car in Venice is useless, you could return the car there, then take the train to Malpensa (train change at Milan Centrale) for your last night before the flight.

If you want to insert 2 or 3 nights at the Cinque Terre between Venice and Malpensa, you could swing there by train, but it’s a major detour. From Venice to Cinque Terre is a 5 hour train journey with at least 3 train changes. Then from Cinque Terre to Malpensa is another 5 hour train journey with 2 or 3 train changes.

Posted by
27406 posts

I agree with Roberto. One night in Venice sentences you to spend most of your time in the mobbed area between Santa Lucia Station, the Rialto Bridge and Piazza San Marco. It's a recipe for disliking the city. You don't have to go to Venice if you don't want to. It will be there next time. If you do go, please allow yourselves enough time to wander around the back canals and feel the medieval atmosphere. Personally, I think 3 nights is a good minimum.

Posted by
16862 posts

I was going to suggest Ortesei in Val Gardena for your Dolomites stay, but Roberto beat me to it. It is a nice village with lots of lodging options and lifts going up to both sides of the valley to reach the hiking trails.

If you cannot find anything you like there, try Santa Cristina, the small village just a short distance up the valley.

Posted by
33296 posts

I don't believe in going somewhere if somebody says "you should". Go if you both want to and don't if you don't.

Venice is one of my most favourite cities, having returned many times, but just going when the crowds are there is a perfect recipe for leaving it unhappy. Some people don't like Venice (leaves more space for me, LOL) and many do. I think a lot of those who don't like it didn't give it time and were just with the crowds or went because they thought they should.

I'm not in any way having a go at your daughter or whoever said she "should" go but I think that to go when you have the time to see Venice when the crowds aren't there, when you have time to absorb the atmosphere, when you can enjoy getting lost in the different sestieres (areas of the city) and find your way back...

Your choice of course...

Posted by
578 posts

Venice is magical early in the morning (especially if there's fog!) and late in the evening (thrilling if there's fog and you get a bit lost...!) It's like nowhere else on earth and I bet your 18-year-old will love it. 2 nights minimum is my recommendation. Take the vaporetto to Burano for a side trip.

Posted by
16862 posts

I will never try to talk someone into Venice. We love the place and have spent as long as a month there, but we do not go there is summer at all. Too hot and crowded.

It fits logically into your trip, especially as a place to return the car after the Dolomites. But Verona would work just as well, and is a nice place one can enjoy as an overnight stop if you prefer to save precious travel time for the Cinque Terre.

I suggest you search for and fine suitable lodging in the Cinque Terre before making a final decision. There may be little or nothing left at this point. And note that the some of the 5 villages (Vernazza in particular in our experience) can be just as plagued by cruise ship crowds as Venice. We won’t go back there.

Posted by
219 posts

Have you booked your flights? If you are essentially ending your stay in Venice, consider flying out of Venice. It will save you from the travel time back to Malpensa, giving your more time to enjoy the sights. If you have already booked flights, it might be possible to modify them with little or no cost, assuming you want to go with this option.

Posted by
11480 posts

nature, do easy hiking and just explore/relax

If this is what you seek, do one of the lakes for 3 nights (not both), the Val Gardena for 4, and Venice for 3, leaving one night in Milan before your flight out. No one goes to the Val Gardena and wishes they had less time. Likewise those who spend one night in Venice don’t tend to enjoy the city as much as those of us who stay longer.

The Cinque Terre are off piste for you, too far to go in a short trip. Better to stay a few great places and really meet your objectives as stated.

Posted by
795 posts

Hi there & welcome to the Forum! I would second Lauren's suggestion to spend more time in the Dolomites & skip Cinque Terre, which can get very crowded with narrow walking paths along the cliffs rather than room to spread out and walk comfortably. Yes, CT villages are very picturesque & unique, but so are the places you've named. Here's a good thread about the lakes you might like - https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/italy/italian-lakes-region-idyllic-non-touristy-towns-recommendations

Posted by
5126 posts

Venice is easier to fly into than out of. Many flights out of Venice are early morning flights, and it's difficult to get to the airport in the wee hours.
I agree with the above- secure lodging asap!
Have a great trip!

Posted by
13 posts

Thank you so much for all the suggestions.

We altered our itinerary and have all of our lodging complete with the exception of our last night in Milan. Our flight leaves at 9am on the 24th and we have no plans for the 23. Stay in Milan? Do we need to stay close to airport(Malpensa) instead? Suggested airport arrival time?

This will be our only day/time in Milan so any suggestions for things to do are fantastic. We are much more comfortable shoppers rather than high end. We are all for great food and atmosphere but not looking for a formal dinner or outing on our last day.

This forum has been a huge help. I really appreciate all of the replies.

Posted by
27406 posts

For a flight back to the US, I believe your airline will tell you to be at the airport 3 hours early, so 6 AM. Malpensa is quite some distance from Milan, so in this case I'd tend to stay out at the airport the night before the flight.

The big sight in Milan, for me, is the Duomo. Go all the way up to the roof. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is a 19th-century shopping mall that should be seen, if possible.

Many people go to Milan for the sole purpose of seeing The Last Supper painting, but getting tickets from the official website is very, very difficult. I believe many people end up having to take a tour, because the tour companies somehow manage to buy nearly all the tickets.

Milan also has some good art galleries, including the Brera.

I can't help with shopping.

Posted by
13 posts

Ok one more question (at least)
We will have a car while traveling around the lakes and returning it to Venice. I am not clear on the best place to return the car. My directions to where we are staying start at Santa Lucia. Is there a place to return our vehicle near there? If so, I am missing it as I search. If we return to Mestre station, is that difficult to navigate?

Posted by
20430 posts

Did you get a quote for the car rental from Malpensa? If so, where do they say to return the car in Venice? There are some locations in Piazzale Roma, where you walk over the bridge to Santa Lucia station. If you return it in Mestre, just take one of the regional trains to Santa Lucia station. There are trains like every 5 to 10 minutes. Cost 1.45 EUR per person.