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Italy itinerary-Piedmont, Lakes district and then???

This is an itinerary I am wishing for once it is safe to travel again. Piedmont is all set as are the lakes each for four nights. Our third base right now is an alpine one heading towards Trento, Bolzano, etc. I think that is a good mix...wine country, lakes, alpine. am planning for a little group but rethinking this alpine. I could do Verano, Bergamo and Sirmione instead? Or not drive as far and do the Aosta region and Valsesia region. This Italian Alp region on google images looks less pretty, more rugged, brown. What am I looking for? Sorry to say no museums, churches or castles. Just the culture, atmosphere, cafes, gelatos, bike paths, light hiking trails, wines, etc. No big cities. Critique away :-)

Posted by
1745 posts

How large is the group, and is there an airport or place where you need to end up last (e.g., is it round trip Milan)? I'd really consider just adding the days to your existing stops, especially with a group. I figure you may need more time. I only passed through Piedmont, but there are lots of outdoor opportunities we would have taken advantage of with more time and better weather. I considered Aosta, but I ended up heading south instead, so I do like that pairing with Piedmont.

Posted by
533 posts

How long are you going for? You mentioned four regions: Piedmont, Trentino Alto-Adige, Lombardy and Valle d'Aosta. Alagna Valsesia is a commune in Piedmont.
Piedmont borders Valle d’Aosta and Lombardy so if I cut something out it would be Trentino Alto-Adige. How do you plan on getting around?

Posted by
125 posts

This is for September 2023...far away, I know but nothing else to do now but get excited about this. We may be a party of six otherwise four of is. We will rent two cars or one and plan for two weeks. People always say to do other stops next time we go but this will be the last time for Italy. Cinqueterre is not an option for us as I think the hiking is too difficult for me. I think 7 nights in my first two stops is too long. Cancelling Trentino...is it less interesting than other suggestions you have for me?

Posted by
125 posts

Planning on Milan coming from Canada.. Your top things to do in Piedmont? We are staying outside Barolo.

Posted by
533 posts

I’ve been to Piedmont seven times to visit family, but have never really explored the area. There are lots of risotto fields and wineries though.
The province in Piedmont I’d recommend is Cuneo and visit: Barbaresco, Barolo, Canale,
Chianale, Neive and the vineyard landscape of Langhe-Roero. I would also visit Lake Como and stay in Varenna (or Bellagio if you’re into hiking). The other place I’d visit is Bergamo and skip Verano and Sirmione.

Posted by
125 posts

Skip Verona..I thought that was a must that I was ignoring. if I have seen walled villages throughout Europe, what makes Bergama special? How does Sirmione compare to our stay on Lake Maggiore...more commercial?

Posted by
533 posts

I would choose Lake Como over Lake Maggiore but hey, Lake Maggiore is closer to Piedmont than Lake Como. The reason I suggest Bergama is because it’s closer to Lake Como.

Posted by
533 posts

What I liked about Piedmont were the big family dinners that lasted for hours. Do any of you speak Italian because this region is not touristy and it can be difficult to engage in conversation? The villages you pass from the road are scenic and very old. The markets are wonderful but not cheap, even though only locals patrionize them. The Cunio province is quite scenic, but if you have no interest in wine it may not be a good fit.
If I were going to Verona plus visiting a lake district, I would choose Como over Lake Maggiore and Lake Garda. You can then drive to Bolzano and Castlerotto in the Dolomites. You're covering a big area and I'm wondering why you're going to Piedmont? I would choose Lake Como and the Dolomites over the Piedmont region.

Posted by
1860 posts

Mary, you may have answered your own question: Piedmont is not touristy, it's rich and food is still made for local's tastes. The wineries in the Unesco Langhe Area actually live making wine and not selling wine to tourists.

PS I bet they are working on risotto fields, but I am afraid that in eastern Piedmont they still have ordinary crops of rice. An area I would avoid before cold freezes all mosquitoes to death.

annemarie, some English is spoken by young people and Wine Spectator's subscribers. The more you get deeper into the Wine country, the more English is spoken.
In the past students used to take French at school for "geographic reason", elders usually remember some words. Maybe someone in your group speaks French?

The Aosta Valley is full of Castles and a few Roman ruins. I find the mix of Italian and French culture quite interesting. You could spend a night in Turin on the way, the porticoed city center is a gem of squares and baroque palaces.

Posted by
181 posts

In Piedmont don't forget the Maggiore lake, one of the most beautiful of Italy. Stresa and the Borromeo's islands are always a must-do.
If you like to travel I suggest a road tour. Some days in south of Piedmont, then Maggiore lake + Como lake. From there you lead north pointing to Sondrio - Bormio - Merano. Then south to Trento and Garda's lake (and the Valpolicella wine region), then back to Milan. It became a round trip where you can visit a wide range of things, including some of the most scenic routes of Alps (Stelvio pass), historical cities where to stop and a wide range of wines.
About wines remember that Italy is not France: for us is very important the grape, so in different areas you find different grapes. Isn't only a matter of terroir where are cultivated the few international grapes. So in Piedmont you find some wines, in Trento and Bolzano some others completely different, in Valpolicella a third group.
About Alps in general the mountains are pretty green, even if in September could be they will a little browner if the summer will be dry and warm. On the side of the valley there are a lot of woods and forests, while the bottom are cultivated: only the highest zones (3000m and more) are without vegetation

Posted by
24663 posts

Stresa and the Borromeo's islands are always a must-do.

Agreed with Ricky.... but we stayed just down the lake at Baveno, more intimate, and also has boats to the islands (and Stresa and up and down the lake) and a train station...

Posted by
125 posts

The inn, guesthouse in Piedmont, the owner is fluent in English as are her contacts for tours, etc. We loved Tuscany and our friends have never done a wine area. So figured it would be a good place to chill first days, check out the towns, hike, etc. Alba as a foodie place comes highly recommended, maybe Turin. Are the chocolate tours in Turin overrated? My sister in law is stuck on that. 🙂. I chose Lake Maggiore, Cannero Riviera as I found a hotel rated well for $300.. Towns looks good. and property easy to get at with a car. Plus we can go to Locarno..is it worth it. Also close to town on Lake Orta. If you recommend a stop on Lake Como that is better will look at it, thanks. Driving to Bolzano from either lake, you are suggesting going north? How are the roads and does it take longer?
How would it sound if I told you we are done with the church, castle, most museums part of Europe...We dont want to run every day to another walled village. It is all beautiful. I am surprised no one here is pushing Verona or Sirmione,,those were stopson the original bus tour my husband and I had booked until covid screwed things up. I think this trip will be better.

Posted by
17907 posts

You may find ViaMichelin.com useful not only for driving times but also for identifying the most scenic roads. For the latter you'll need zoom way in.

Posted by
125 posts

Dario...yes, we all speak French. The mosquitos..not sure I understand..is there a problem with them in the region?

Posted by
1745 posts

My suggestions were mostly based on having a large party to shepherd around--I think only three days anywhere will cause frustration. You do have to figure in that depending on arrival and departure times, you may need a night near Milan at either end.
As for chocolate, Alba has a factory but when I visited it was not offering tours, which we really would have appreciated since it rained the whole time--but the town does smell like chocolate, which is pretty marvelous.

Dario, the rice growing region is around Vercelli, yes?

Posted by
125 posts

The morning of arrival we will be driving directly to Barolo from Malpensa. The day of departure, depending on flight times, we will drive from Lake Maggiore(or como) to the airport, or stay at the airport.

Posted by
1860 posts

is there a problem with them in the region?

There is a "mosquito" problem in that relatively small area of Piedmont near Vercelli and Novara where they grow rice and, I suppose, where Mary's family lives.

Probably you have never seen traditional rice paddies, but in the warmer months a rice field is basically a nursery for mosquitoes. It's also the less touristy area of the Region, so you can drive through it on your way to Alba and Barolo with no remorse.

I am surprised no one here is pushing Verona

I'm too ignorant to appreciate Opera and too callous to enjoy a fake balcony where a fake character did't stand. Verona's historic center is nice, like thousands of other historic centers around Italy. Not the nicest people live in Verona, but it's just my opinion. I'd rather stop in Bergamo that's also on the way to north-Eastern Italy.

Sirmione is a not a main tourist destination for Italians living in other Regions, but Germans love it so it must be nice, tidy and clean.

Posted by
533 posts

Thanks for your input Dario, it’s refreshing that someone from IT was able to provide some feedback, much appreciated.

Posted by
125 posts

Yes, I appreciate his honesty as well as I omitted Verona but secretly thought I was not historically versed enough to appreciate it. I don't need to see another walled village, or roman ruin or historical museum. I have seen many. It is the atmosphere, beauty, town centres,walks, light hikes, coffee, wine and gelato vibe..the odd market....we are after. I know, this sounds shallow to some.

So some of you here are telling me to change my Maggiore lake to Como... I gave up as I could not find a small hotel...lots of apartments. If you have a good recommendation for me not over $300 pls send it forward. Otherwise, thanks to you all. This forum is great... no one is telling anyone else off. Ciao.

Posted by
533 posts

You have a nice trip planned annemarie and I would love to hear about it when you return. You're getting off the beaten path and will encounter more culture than tourists.

Posted by
125 posts

Why thank you! We are excited. Just need to get Covid out of the way.

Posted by
181 posts

About walled cities and castles is not only a matter of see it, but is the history behind that make them interesting. Verona for example has a very important history for Italy, so is very important despite the Juliet's balcony and the Arena.
In Piedmont I can suggest a stop at the Pralormo castle (Hahaha!), because host one of the biggest tulip event of Italy: https://castellodipralormo.com/en/mister-tulip/ . Of course if it's the right season.
If you are into food and wine, maybe even a stop in Pollenzo worth a visit. Here there is one of the most important food University of Italy (inside a Renaissance castle, again!): www.unisg.it .

Again about Verona and the Garda's lake: on top of the famous places you can do a stop in Gardaland, a theme park. If you are travelling with children could be nice for them too.
And near it starts the Mincio bikeway, from Peschiera to Mantua: rent bike a cross this plan natural park could be very nice and pleasant. http://www.parcodelmincio.it/Eiti-piedi-bici.php

Posted by
1602 posts

hey hey annemarie
didn't go all that way for sister not to do a chocolate tour, which turin is famous for and home of. go for it!!
eatwith.com/ turin turin patisserie food tour
getyourguide.com/turin guided tour and chocolate experience with local tour
turinfoodtours.com email them for questions and info
miomyitaly.com/turin read up about an introduction to this enchanting city
theculturetrip.com/real capital of chocolate of europe
anyone interested in italian cars? national automobile museum in turin
you can ask at tourist kiosks in the piazzas or ask your host/hostess if they know locals that do tours that interest you. good luck and have fun
aloha

Posted by
6105 posts

Instead of Sirmione look at Saló onSW corner of Lake Garda . I think we were the only Americans in this lovely fairly upscale town. But I would choose Lake Maggiore or Lake Como over Lake Garda.
If we were visiting the Piedmont again along with some lakes, we would include nearby Liguria and stay in Santa Margherita Ligure or Camogli. Actually I would begin the trip in Liguria, driving there from MXP.

Posted by
125 posts

Right....well, we either head up to the Val Gardena area or we stay closer and do some in Salo as you say...But, if already are going to Lake Maggiore after this area, would I not want to change up the scenery? Two lake bases? Interesting enough, I came upon "Salo" in my research...someone online was recommending this upscale agriturismo there as a great base.

Posted by
6 posts

Can you please share the name of that recommended Agriturismi near Salo?

Posted by
5761 posts

Are the chocolate tours in Turin overrated? My sister in law is stuck on that.

I don’t know about the chocolate tours but it would be hard to overrate Turin’s chocolate itself, which is absolutely exquisite, in conception, production, packaging, and degustation, all.

(My husband is from Turin and I’ve been going there for more than 15 years now.)

we stayed just down the lake at Baveno, more intimate, and also has boats to the islands (and Stresa and up and down the lake) and a train station...

I also agree with Nigel’s recommendation to stay (if going to Lago Maggiore) in charming Baveno, which we did this summer and loved. We stayed at the owner-operated Hotel Rigoli which we found perfect, small and simple with wonderful views onto the lake from the hotel bedrooms and breakfast room, and an easy easy walk “into” town and the ferry stop.

Posted by
125 posts

Linda...it is called Agriturismo Villa Bissiniga.
Will look into Baveno...when I came across Hotel Cannero and the photos thereof, I had to be there. Will check out Hotel Rigolo and if you can think of any more in Baveno please pass on. Hotel Cannero was the proper pricepoint for us.

Posted by
125 posts

Okay...so checked out Hotel Rigoli...great reviews, lovely building. It still does not beat Hotel Cannero in atmosphere mostly because of all the gravel and plastic(chairs) out front. Beyond train station(would I use the train?) what other reasons is Baveno better than Cannero? Open to critique.

Posted by
24663 posts

I'm confused. Are you looking at Bevano for what is there or for a place to sleep? I can't find a Hotel Cannero near there. There is a Cannero Riviera commune much further up the lake, nearly to Switzerland.

The driving up at that part of the like isn't a lot of fun. It takes much longer than it looks like it should - very narrow winding road with trucks which need the road.

Baveno has autostrada access as does Stresa and is very scenic, very easy access to the Borromean Islands, train (up the hill) and the same slow bus as up by Cannero Riviera (at least I think it goes that far north).

Be aware that the "No Stop" autostrada to the south and east of the lake is a toll road without toll booths. The car is detected on the highway and a record kept. The driver needs to pay the toll on-line within a short time. It is easier to register before the trip.

Posted by
125 posts

Baveno has been recommended, the Hotel Rigoli. If you say Baveno is an easier drive to than Cannero riviera which is where my recommended Hotel Cannero is located that is very good to know and I will search a lakeside property there to compare with Hotel Rigoli. And the auto strada info, thanks.
As an addon, if you have driven Baveno to Salo at Lake Garda...how are the roads on that route?

Posted by
24663 posts

sorry, can't help with Lake Garda - never been there, Como, yes. Maggiore, yes, but never Garda. Sorry.

The good bit about Stresa and Baveno for driving is that the road is good at the southern part of the lake, the superhighway to the south is right there, with easy connections towards the airport, the road from Domodossola is right there, and there are both trains and boats for a break.

If you stay at the northern part of the lake you can get into Locarno if you want to more easily.

Posted by
24663 posts

The Hotel Rigoli looks nice. A bit more than we spent but looks very good and probably worth the difference in money. We stayed across from the docks for the boats to the Islands, at the Hotel Eden, a small family run hotel. We drove there from Bern, Switzerland, on our April 2019 road trip from England.

Posted by
125 posts

I will follow reccomendations if driving north of Baveno is too narrow and winding, etc. The Hotel Rigolo does not appear to be at the level of the Hotel Cannero in atmosphere....but has the top rating in Baveno....speaking in our price range of course. :-) Found the cutest apartment on a property overlooking the lake, owners in a separate building but I don't want to worry about getting back and forth for dinners. The car will stay parked.

Posted by
320 posts

Bergamo is really no more than a day trip unless you are taking in an Atalanta match. We enjoy the Bormio/South Tirol region quite a bit. Excellent hiking in the area. If driving, consider a run down the Stelvio.