Italy

My husband and i are traveling to Italy in august. we are flying into rome and renting a car to drive north. We only want to spend 10 nights total and are thinking about the following Rome 2 nights ( have been there several times before driving north to Bologna 2 nights then Verona 2 nights then Genoa 2 nights then portofino 2 nights ( know this is glitzy - but husband want to see it back to Rome 1 night My question is: Do you think we are hitting the right cities in northern Italy? Have already been to Sienna ( love it!!) and to CT ( love it!!) Looking for that smaller ( non industrialized) city with charm.
Ideas?

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8732 posts

If you are committed to driving, enjoy it. I'll just ask if you are familiar with the usual caveats about driving in Italy, particularly in and around the cities? And that all the places you mention are linked by very fast and, with some advance planning, pretty cheap trains which take you from city centre to city centre? For that short of a holiday trains may save you time and money. Have you considered Venezia? Padova? What draws you to Genova? I'd say that the right cities are the ones which attract you and which you want to see. I'd go to Venice in a heartbeat and skip Genoa in a nano-second but that is my personal opinion and worth nothing to anybody else. You may be exactly opposite to me. You haven't shared what it is that attracts you to the places you list. My brother-in-law absolutely loved Portofino. I've not been there but have been to the 5 towns of the CT. Lucky you - and lucky you that you have so much time to plan and build expectation.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2820 posts

Since your primary interest is the North of Italy, look into flying into and/or out of Milan, Bologna, Genoa, Parma, Turin, Venice, or Verona (should all be accessible from Boston with one plane change). Unless you really want to see Rome this time, since you have a short trip, in your shoes I'd just get to the place I want to be. I'd really try hard to avoid having Rome at both ends; this just takes up a day you don't have. Are you sure you want a car? Unless you are seeing smaller places than the ones you listed, I think it will just get in your way. If you drive, be sure you know where the ZTL's are for each of your destinations. I wouldn't drive in Bologna if you paid me, and a car in Verona is totally unnecessary. I haven't been to your other destinations. Are you sure you want to go to Genoa on this trip? I haven't been, but my understanding is that is the exact opposite of small, non-industrialized, or "charming." It's supposed to be large, gritty, and somewhat "raw" (although it's also supposed to be quite interesting for those who approach it in the right spirit). Turin, on the other hand, while not small, and with some scruffiness, is quite elegant in parts, if you're going to be in the area and want a break from small towns. If I were in that general area of Italy and looking for charm, I'd go back to Lucca, Mantova, Cremona, Parma, Modena, or Ferrara. I'm sure there are lots of other nice places, but these are the ones that I remember as being very nice small(er) places. Parma and Ferrara were particularly elegant, and for a trip with your stated goals, I'd consider them "don't miss" sights. I seem to be the only person who doesn't like Bologna. But, from Bologna and using trains, I saw Parma, Modena, Ferrara, and Ravenna as day trips.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17728 posts

donna, I definitely agree with Nigel's statement concerning your choice of cities. The cities which are "right" for you may be different than my choice. Some comments on cities that you mentioned..... > Genoa - while I'm sure it has it's "charms", it wouldn't be my first choice. > Portofino - it is "glitzy" and of course also somewhat expensive. I'm not sure there will be a lot to do in the evenings there, so you may consider visiting Portofino on a day trip instead. You could (for example) stay in Santa Margherita Ligure rather than in Portofino. You may find that spending a full day there is adequate? OTOH, if you're content to spend leisurely evenings in the restaurants around the harbour just people watching or whatever, then two nights may be fine. Have you already visited Varenna (Lago di Como)? There's not a lot of night life there either, but it's a great place to practise Il Dolce Far Niente. As Nigel mentioned, are you aware of the usual "caveats" regarding driving in Italy? If I were travelling that route, I'd turn-in the car and take the Freccia or Italo back to Rome for the last night, as it will be much quicker. Good luck with your planning!

Posted by Jim
Dallas, Texas, USA
495 posts

I think Ken nailed it......Lago di Como, Varenna; you'll love it. I also agree about using trains vs. auto. Of coarse, if there is a strike, I'll have to eat crow. I have also heard good reviews of Santa Margherita; do us posters a favor and also visit Portofino and let us know what you think!

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2600 posts

I haven been to all the places with the exception of Verona and if I wanted to see Northern Italy I would structure it a little different. I agree, trying to fly in and out of Milan and skip Rome completely. I would see Lake Como (beautiful) Venice, Portofino and the drive along part of the coast is beautiful. Genova is really quite a big city and not what I think of as charming. You could also visit Burano.

Posted by Rosalyn
Berkeley
1002 posts

I would consolidate the 2 nights in Genoa and the 2 in Portofino into a 3 or 4 night stay in Sta. Margherita. From there, it's a not very long train ride to Genoa. You can also get to Portofino by boat, which is scenic and fun. I would describe Portofino as expensive rather than glitzy. It's pretty, but so are many other towns in that area. As one of the other responders stated, there's not a whole lot to do there. You could also add a visit to Camogli one of those days. If you stay in Verona, you might consider a day trip to Padova. The suggestion that you fly into Milan is an excellent one, or you might even get a flight to Venice. A few years ago, we were able to fly, on Delta, from Venice to San Francisco with a stop at JFK. Either airport is better for your itinerary than Rome.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2820 posts

I can't believe I forgot about Varenna on Lake Como! It's perfect for what you've stated your interests are on this trip.

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
3303 posts

Airports No need to fly to Rome if u want go north. Even Zurich is closer. Go to kayak.com and enter the following airport codes separated by commas in the destination box: MXP, VCE, BLQ, VRN, GOA. Milan (MXP) will probably yield the best price. Cities in north Italy (my opinionated opinion): Florence, if u have never seen it, should be a must (that's where I'm from so I'm biased there). Venice and Verona are fabulous.
Bologna is ok. One full day is enough. I give that city a pass only for the food, but Florence is certainly the better choice of the two Appennines cousins, as they are known. Genoa is an industrial ugly port city u should skip altogether. Just go to Newark, NJ and you've seen Genoa. The ugliest spot you can find in Boston harbor will work as well. (yes it's an opinionated opinion) Portofino without a yacht is a waste of time and money. Don't look for their beach because it's an ugly spot smaller than my small backyard. But if your hubby wants to see it, go ahead. It's a cute village for super rich people. One half day will do. I think Florence, Venice, Verona+lake Garda, Padua, maybe bologna (1 day only) (in this order) should be your top destinations for northern Italy given the short time u have. Portofino is kind of out of the way but if hubby insists give it an afternoon. Milan only for the day before flying back home.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2444 posts

Personally I love Bologna and it does make a great hub for daytrips. I also recommend the Parma suggestion someone made. Lake Como or one of the other lakes would be a nice change of pace. With the exception of Verona, you are mainly looking at places in the Northwest of Italy. Verona and Parma could be two daytrips from Bologna. Flying in and out of Milano and skipping Rome this time (I can't believe I'm suggesting this) will give you more time in the places you haven't seen, and will cut some travel costs. Trenitalia has supereconomy, economy and base fares (the first one is super-cheap but locks you in to a specific train departure). All of the places you mention are accessible by train and bus, I'd skip the car rental.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8732 posts

Where's the like button for Roberto's post?

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
3303 posts

My clockwise trip suggestion (assuming flying to/from Milan). Day 1 - arrival MXP. Go to Verona (2hrs). . Day 2 - Verona visit all day. Day 3 - Lake Garda day trip (Limone, Sirmione, Riva). Day 4 - Early morn leave Verona head to Venice. Stop in Padua (1hr from VR) on the way there (visit Padua, St.Anthony's Basilica). Arrive Venice in evening. . Day 5 - Venice visit. Day 6 - Murano/Burano visit. Day 7 - Depart to Florence. Stop in Bologna along the way. Visit BO. Arrive to Florence late. . Day 8 - Florence visit all day. . Day 9 - Florence visit 2nd day (or day trip somewhere in Tuscany. Day 10 - Depart Florence, head to Portofino (2+ hrs drive). Spend a few hours there. Get your wallet fully plundered by local restaurants. Proceed to Milan (2 hrs from Portofino). .
Day 11. Depart to US. PS: If you choose an itinerary like the one above, where you are visiting primarily cities, you might want to reconsider renting a car. You don't need a car in Verona, Padua, Venice, Bologna, Florence, Milan. A rental car might be helpful for day tripping in Lake Garda, Tuscany, or anyplace else outside of big cities (including the Riviera and Portofino). One important word of warning: August is extremely busy in any vacation spot, such as the lakes (any lakes) or the coastal towns (any coastal towns) including and especially Portofino. So if you want to spend nights in those areas, early booking is advised.

Posted by james
farmington
4 posts

Ya my recommendation too would be lake garda Florence Pisa Venice. and Verona is ok wasn't too impressed with it compared to those other locations I mentioned but I'll tell ya the best part about northern Italy is deff. Vacation spots in the summer. Lake garda is winnepausakee times ten that area is just mind blowing with the mountains around it and the size of the lake with all little towns around it very different and amazing. Ya and I'm from nh so ya I know that Logan will take u about anywhere

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1960 posts

You've received very good info here. Ken and Nigel are always have good advice on Italian travel. In April, we stayed in Florence, a Tuscan agriturismo, Orvieto and Zagarolo agriturismo (south of Rome). We ran up to to Venice for a day trip. Let me just warn you that gasoline is approximately $9.50 per U.S. gallon. I know you only live once, but enough is enough. I prefer to stay in a central location for a few days, doing day trips by car. Then, take a train to another centrally located city and do more day trips. Dropping a car off at another city is often free in Italy. A small town north of Milan might be a great location for day trips, especially for Torino, Lake Como and the Alps. Outside of Verona would be a good location for day trips to Venice, Bologna and Florence.
Good luck!