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I planned the wrong trip——advice on changes, please

We have reservations in Italy for the the whole month of March, flying into and out of Milan. Everything is refundable (including flights) up til mid-February; if we cancel after that we would lose a few hundred €€€ on our Venice apartment, but that is all.

The trip plan is a resurrection of the March 2020 trip that we had to cancel, and the focus is Puglia. We planned to work our way down there by train, after 4 nights in Venice, and then return to Milan via Bologna and Ferrara (a few nights in each). The Puglia section has us in 3 bases with 3-5 nights each, plus a night in Termoli on the way down, and one in Caserta on the return, to break up the long train journey to the heel.

Last night we decided this is too much moving around, and too much train time, for the current situation. We want longer stays in fewer locations. So we are canceling the whole Puglia section, and adding time to Venice and Bologna. That leaves us with about ten days to fill in between the two, and I am looking for suggestions, particularly in Emilia-Romagna, my husband’s new love) or the Veneto. We would like at most 2 locations.

We love to walk—-it is what we do at home and when we travel. 5 to 10 miles a day. In urban settings, we plan walks to include stops at museums, churches, or other sights of cultural or historic interest. My husband has a keen interest in architecture. And we love to hike on rural trails, although March will not be a good time for walking in the mountains. But we would like to be able to walk in the countryside close to the town where we stay, if that is possible. We want to travel around by train, not rent a car.

Using my regional guidebooks for Italy (not Rick’s) I have so far come up with Treviso and Vicenza in the Veneto, and Brisighella in Emilia-Romagna. The latter is a small town, which bills itself (or is called by others) “One of the most beautiful medieval villages in Italy”.

But what drew me initially is the fact that it sits along the Via Dante, the long-distance walking path between Ravenna and Florence. That suggests to me there could be at least two days of walking there—-one taking the trail in each direction.

Has anyone here been there? And what else should I consider? Parma and Modena come to mind, but I know little about either, and I wonder if they might be too similar to Bologna? Anywhere else in Emilia-Romagna to consider? Or the Veneto? Padua does not draw me (we spent a day visiting the city from Venice). We have been to Verona and Bassano del Grappa and like both, but I don’t know that they offer enough outside of town or nearby to warrant at a multi-day stay.

Maybe we should expand and look at Lombardy and Piemonte as well? I feel they might be too high (in latitude or altitude) for early spring walking.

Keep in mind that this will be March. We don’t expect perfect weather (we are used to rain in Seattle) but if someplace is particularly known for either bad weather or good in early spring, I would like to hear about it.

I really appreciate your help!

Posted by
3086 posts

Good for you for being flexible! Anything is possible but here are a couple of thoughts:

  1. You could leave that time open - I doubt that it will be very busy in March so accommodations shouldn't be hard to find. You might learn about a place that sounds appealing while you're there.

  2. Lucca is an interesting town that has lots to offer for a longer term stay - you could reorder your trip to visit Venice, Bologna, Lucca and then back to Milan with stops (Parma, etc.) along the way or in between.

Posted by
20797 posts

Ravenna and Ferrara.

Both Milan and Turin have a lot of Art Nouveau architecture.

If you end up spending a good number of days in either Lombardy or the Piedmont, check into their regional sightseeing passes.

Posted by
1735 posts

I'll throw out Bassano del Grappa in the Veneto and Cremona (almost) in Emilia-Romagna.

Posted by
7456 posts

Another voter for Bassano del Grappa. We have been there two times. It is to far from Venice but has an Alpine feel and is charming. We focused on Palladian architecture for our tour of the Veneto region. He designed the bridge in Bassano.
Also, when you do go to Puglia, fly Rome to Bari, one hour. It is a wonderful region to explore.

Posted by
3281 posts

Quite a few years ago, we stayed at an agriturismo just outside of Brisighella. As I recall, the location was pretty good for daytrips. We visited Bologna, Ferrara, Faenza, and Ravenna from there. (We had a car.)
Parma has a stunning duomo and baptistery. I consider it better than anything we saw in Bologna, actually, on a par with any we’ve seen.
Vicenza is, of course, famous for its Palladian architecture. I believe we had a guided tour of the theater, and it was very worthwhile

Posted by
5516 posts

I’ve stayed in both Parma and Bologna, separate trips, none in March. I did a daylong food tour from each, which ventured into Emilia-Romagna for Parmesano cheese, Prosciutto, and certified Balsamic vinegar (and Saba, a can’t miss byproduct). Only Parma has Parma Ham - the air in Parma gas to contact the meat for it to count.

Parma is much smaller than Bologna, although both cities have similar architecture, from what I’d say is the same time period. Only Bologna has the vast network of porticoes throughout town.

Posted by
720 posts

We loved Ravenna. We were there in early November. We had some rain but it was good sightseeing temperature. We were there 2 nights with 1-1/2 days sightseeing. We could have used 2 full days.

Posted by
841 posts

You should have no problems filling that amount of time in Emilia-Romagna and Veneto. I've done several trips to the area and keep going back. My most recent trip there was just a week at the beginning of a much longer trip but we did visit several of the places mentioned here, including Brisighella, Modena, Parma, Ferrara (the latter three I had all been to previously).

Another very worthwhile town to visit is Mantua which I've visited twice as a day trip but I think warrants an overnight.

You mention Treviso and Vicenza from Venezia, also consider Verona. And from there you're close to Lake Garda. You'll be spoiled for choices in the area.

Here's my photos - (Bologna, Ferrera, Modena, Ravenna, Parma, Brisighella) - The Veneteo

And since you are flying out of Milan there are many places up near there worth visiting that meet your criteria. Bergamo, Cremona, Mantova, Pavia, Brescia

Posted by
918 posts

Hi Lola,
Sorry to hear about your upset plans. I was drooling over your Monopoli hotel choice recently. This is not what you asked about, but I’ll throw out a curve ball anyway. From Bologna, the high speed train to Pescara is a 3-hour-no-changes piece of cake and gives you access to a huge number of hiking trails in 3 national and 1 regional park. Abruzzo has a higher percentage of protected park land than any other Italian region. We met a Canadian family last summer who spent a month doing the Abruzzese hiking trails in this book: Walking in Abruzzo. I appreciate that it’s further south than your new plan intends but as it’s so easy to get here from Bologna, you could pick one base (Sulmona is a good choice) and hike your legs off, then go back to Bologna to refuel.

Another good option is the Via Francigena pilgrimage trail, particularly the parts in Val di Susa in Piemonte. If you head that direction, don’t miss the Sacra di San Michele, a 1000-year-old church on the pilgrimage trail. Avigliana is the nearest town and a fantastic base.

As far as weather, I think Abruzzo would be better for hiking in March. My plum trees were blooming by the end of February last year, and there have been only two days of snow so far this year. Val di Susa will have snow much later.

Good luck with your choices, and I hope you get to pick up the pieces of your Puglia tour soon.

Posted by
981 posts

If architecture is a thing for you (architecture vs. “looking at buildings”), then a couple of recommendations.

Vicenza for the architecture of Palladio, and there is a fine museum there devoted to his work,
Carlo Scarpa, Venice’s best known modern architect. As a starting point, the Querini Stampalia Foundation is special, including the Japanese-inspired bridge leading to the entry. Look also for Frank Lloyd Wright influences. Also the Olivetti showroom on the north side of the Piazza, just west of Quadri. The Castel Vecchio in Verona was renovated to Scarpa’s designs, and it is a delight. The Brion mausoleum at Altivole is worth a trip, train and bus, also the Canova Gypsoteca at Possagno is great. Train to Bassane del Grappa, where you can see the Palladio bridge, then bus to Possagno, a half hour ride in the country.

You can pick up a booklet listing all Scarpa’s projects at the bookshop at the Querini Stampalia.