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Itinerary help

Hi all,

I am planning a Sept 2024 family trip to Italy. Flying from Toronto to Milan, day trip to Lake Como, one day in Milan central, one day for Bernina Express train ride and 1.5 day in Venice and 2.5 days in Rome (flying out of Rome). For initial part of the trip, we are renting a car (yes, I'm aware of ZTL zones and know we can't drive to historic centres etc.)

Day 1 is our flight.
We arrive in Milan morning of day 2, pick up car rental at linate airport, grab breakfast, check into airbnb in Milan (yes this has parking onsite and is outside ZTL zone), rest and at dinner time if we feel up to it, we might go to Navigli area.
Day 3-Varenna/Bellagio. Back to hotel in Milan.
Day 4-We plan to climb the duomo rooftop and go to vittorio gallery shopping mall.
Day 5-We have Bernina train tickets reserved for 10am from Tirano to St Mortiz.
Day 6-Return car in Venice by noon. Early check into airbnb (this is close to santa lucia train station). Rest. Evening gondola ride. Overnight in Venice
Day 7-Check out. Store luggage at train station and go to st mark's square. Lunch. Walk back. Catch a train to Rome. Overnight in Rome (staying in prati area near vatican)
Day 8-Pantheon/Piazza navona/trevi fountain
Day 9-Vatican tour booked for 10am. Rest at the airbnb. Dinner in Trastevere
Day 10-Flight back to Toronto

I need help with day 4/5/6 please.
Working backwards, rental car must be dropped at venice airport by noon or our rental cost doubles for some reason. The drive from Tirano to Venice is around 4 hours. So I have split the drive as follows:
End of Day 4 - drive from Milan to Tirano (2 hours) and stay overnight in Tirano so we can easily catch the 10am bernina train next day.
Issue with this is we check out from Milan airbnb in the morning. Where to store luggage? Where to park the car outside the ZTL zone but close to duomo? How can I tell on google maps which areas are in the ZTL zone?
Day 5 - Bernina is 2.5 hours but this should be enjoyable rather than tiring. Regional express train back is ~ 2 hours. Then to split the next morning drive, we will drive that same day from Tirano to Brescia (~2 hrs) and stay there overnight.
Issue with this is obviously too much time in trains / car. But alternative is to stay in Tirano another night and drive to Venice next day which is 4 hours minimum and we might miss the 12pm window to return the car.
Day 6-Returning the car at venice airport then taking the taxi to Venice train station. Airbnb is walking distance from train station.
Issue is that budget car rental doesn't have a location in venice centre. Should I maybe look at other car rental companies that do operate out of venice centre so I can avoid having to go to venice marco polo airport first?

In hindsight, I should have flown into Venice and then worked my way to Milan and then Rome. Or started in Rome, then Venice then Milan. But at the time of flight booking, I hadn't done much research.

By the way, booking hotels in central zones near main train stations was costing me double what i currently have booked which is bit far with onsite parking.

Posted by
7906 posts

1.5 day in Venice and 2.5 days in Rome

MORE time is needed, otherwise wondering why you are even going there.

Posted by
16110 posts

Hi qura.ain and welcome to the forum!
It's unfortunate that your first post cluttered by a spammer; the webmaster will deal with it as soon as he can get to it.

OK, a couple of comments on the plan? Without focusing specifically on day 4,5 and 6, I have to ask why you are renting a car at all? You won't use it to get around in Milan, and Varenna>Milan and back will be by inexpensive regionale train, and Bellagio via ferry from Varenna and back (we've done it). Someone more familiar with Tirano/ Brescia/Bernina will weigh in that piece but rail may be a more convenient option there too.

Exactly how far out of Milan is your accommodation?

Venice: I'll be honest here that you are spending SO little time there that's it's not worth the effort, IMHO, and you could really use another day in Rome. I'd think about skipping it altogether and save it for another trip when you can plan a longer stay?

Posted by
638 posts

1.5 day in Venice and 2.5 days in Rome MORE time is needed, otherwise wondering why you are even going there.

I have to say I really don't understand this type of comment. I personally immensely enjoyed my 2-1/2 days in Rome 2 years ago. And for me, more than a day in Venice would be too much. I understand others disagree entirely, and that's OK.

Bottom line: everyone has his/her own interests and priorities.

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you jphbucks. I appreciate your support. A lot of the times people in the forum start criticizing or questioning why someone is renting a car or where they are staying or how long they're spending on an area, instead of really trying to help with the real issues raised.

In my group, different people want to see different things (my mom for instance is really looking forward to Switzerland even if it is just a train ride in and out). I have little kids which would make it harder to see a lot of Roman attractions from the inside, so I am ok with sightseeing from the outside for this trip and for that, the 2 days are fine.

car rental. It's a personal preference.

For those who are from Italy or who have visited the areas milan/Brescia or lake garda or verona/venice, how would you structure the 3 days?
My milan apartment host replied saying we can leave luggage there and pick up later so that works out thankfully.

Posted by
16110 posts

OK then a last word on the car for at least Milan/Varenna/Bellagio...
Be cautious not to leave anything you can't afford to lose in it if leaving it unattended. Anything you do leave in it should be kept out of sight. It also looks as if you're traveling with at least 5 people + luggage? If so, you might want to include what sort of vehicle you've rented and if car seats are involved. Yes, this is a "meant to be helpful" question. Ignore it if you wish to.

Yes, it's understood that people have different preferences for how they travel. At the same, travelers who've "been there, done that" might recommend different options based on firsthand experiences and/or effort to reduce potential pitfalls, especially for first-timers. We do it because we care. :O)

Posted by
921 posts

About the towns you asked about:

Brescia is an interesting Italian town with a long series of interconnected piazzas centered around different buildings and functions. There are great Roman ruins to explore and museum with air upstairs and a lower floor of excavated Roman mosaics and ruins in their original places. There is also a huge castle on top of hill that Brescia surrounds which might be of interest to the kids.

Verona has a very chic, arty, cafe culture and mostly pedestrian old city core on the huge bend in the river based on the old Roman street plan. There is an intact Roman Arena (still used) and Roman Theater to explore which leads into the Archeological museum. The arena is in the center of town and easily explored. The Roman Theater (also still in use) and the museum are interesting but are a continuous series of walking up if anyone has mobility or stair climbing issues.
Note that parking in the old section of Verona is a nightmare - search for the recent thread on Verona parking tips for good information.

Lower Lake Garda is easily reachable by train from Verona and Brescia so it is as touristy as you think it is. The upside of that is there are things like water parks - particularly around Peschiera - which might be of interest to the kids. But if you have a car I would look slightly further up the lake for a town that is not easily reachable by train for some peace. Maybe someplace like Lazise which looks like a mix of both, but I say that never having been there - just a suggestion.

My $.02 is that you are trying to do too many places in the time you have and should spend longer in fewer places and spend less time on transfers and more time exploring. But no one can plan and take your trip except for you and the only way to learn what works for you is to do it and find out. Others offer their personal lessons - usually hard won - in an effort to help you but feel free to take and ignore advice as you see fit.

Have a great trip,

Posted by
11511 posts

No idea where you are getting your driving time estimates but they seem 'optimistic'

If you are using google, you can set the 'depart time' for the time and day of the week you will be traveling to get a bit better accuracy. If you let it use the default it likely is off because of the time zone difference.

Don't forget to add time to find parking and get from there to where ever it is you are going ( and back to the car to move on to the next destination)

Posted by
2599 posts

Could you return car in Verona rather than Venice and train to Venice? It might be easier logistically and Verona is a very nice place-nicer than Brescia I think.

And presently, you won’t start touring in Venice until after returning car at noon and it sounds like you are leaving in the afternoon after lunch the next day for Rome. So really you have parts of two days not 1.5 days.

Posted by
5153 posts

In addition to ZTL zones, watch out for the speed limit cameras. You are ticketed for even 1 km over the limit, and it's a separate ticket for each camera that catches you. In many places the cameras are quite close together.
Are you taking car seats or renting them? These laws are very strict in Italy and the daily rental can be quite expensive.
There is an inexpensive bus #5 from the airport to Piazza Roma/ train station area.
I'm confused what area you are calling Venice centre for car rentals?
Have a great family trip.

Posted by
2349 posts

hey hey qura.ain
so many different answers to who, what, why, when and how. it's your vacation and you do what you like. when you say family, how many adults and kids?
make sure with renting a car you will need an IDP (CAA/IDP international driving permit) go to your local CAA, apply for one for each driver with 2 passport photo size picture (they make take it there), legal drivers license, $30+. will receive same day and good for a year.
read up about the laws, parking areas, documents, stickers/vignettes in switzerland needed, tolls and if cash only or credit cards excepted.
if you are on the bernina, pack a picnic lunch to enjoy the ride. will you be roaming around end of your train ride and return back to milan for this day trip? you may need to add you times of traveling with driving, finding a parking spot (look on local maps for parking garages). curious about the double car rental rate at venice. make sure the train station is venezia santa lucia and not venezia mestre. i'm assuming when you say venice center you mean the piazzale roma near train station. very busy with cars, local & city buses, taxis, tour buses. maybe worth dropping at off at VCE or verona as BethFl or changing rental to another rental that you can return to venice. says and take train to venice and get to your airbnb to relax after a long day. many small restaurants are near venezia santa lucia to have dinner, gondola ride in the side canals without the crowds on the grand canal.
hope all works out for you and your family to enjoy your fast paced trip seeing as much as you can. pack light

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you everyone for your time and input. I am traveling with hubby (who will be the only one driving...he has driven in Pakistan where driving is terrifying so I am confident he can handle italy), 3 kids 2.5, 7 and 9 and my parents. If I hadn't already booked the bernina tickets, honestly I would drop it cuz it's such a detour but I do think kids would really enjoy this.
Car rental return is currently booked for venice marco pole Airport. But I can look for one in verona near the train station.
I have traveled within north America with kids and my parents and we like to be on the go and see as much as we can. However this italy trip planning has been a lot of work as so many different things to look up and be aware of.

Just today I found out my toddlers car seat with chest buckle is considered illegal in italy so now I might rent his from the car rental company. Who knew!

Posted by
11511 posts

Curious what sort of car you are renting? 4 adults and at least 2 kids in car seats; is the 9 yr old over 5 ft tall to not need a car seat?

I am not aware what sort of car can fit 3 across when at least one position has a car seat. It might be possible, but I suspect at least one person will be extremely uncomfortable.

Posted by
383 posts

@ Qura

Not much help on the itinerary. I will try and be a little positive. As Todd has observed, you maybe trying too much. Many could not accomplish what you have in mind. I do not think my family and I could. Perhaps our organisational skill level is lower than yours.

I have spent time north of Brescia around Malonno and on the slopes of Adamello. Working in the Cantinas cleaning and hosing out wine making vats and pumping fermenting grape juice between vats. Also, in the olive groves spreading tarpaulins and such like sheets to catch the olive fruit that fell after my mates, and I viciously attacked the trees with rakes. Transporting to the processing sheds, washing, sorting, and feeding into the mashing wheels and then to the presses. What happens to the pips? Good question. One can find out by working on site. All this has been as volunteer labour for my friends/relatives. And loving it.

Todd has covered Brescia nicely. I like it. From experience can also report that the hospital has modern equipment and is efficient.

I find Verona a tourist trap that one needs to do at least once. Others have found what they are seeking there and return for a fix.

I see the anti-car alliance has given you the once over. I assume that they have all had the bad experiences they describe. I have not, or if I had such bad driving skills, I would not admit it to the world at large. I think their experiences are genuine, or at least a repeat of universal stories that are abundant. Learn from them, do not make the same errors. Many prefer the train network which is top notch. I, and my Italian friends and relatives feel safe knowing such ones are on the train network. And pray they will stay on the rails.

Shame Budget does not have an office at the parking station at Tronchetto. All is not lost. There is an office at Via Venezia 3, Venezia Mestre that may meet your needs. About 10 to 12kms north from Piazzale Roma. Should you return there the staff should be able, with a little advance warning, arrange a black Mercedes van, or like, take your family and luggage close to Piazzale Roma. Seems to me the best option and worth your consideration.

However, the arrival into Venice through Santa Lucia and walking out to see the waters of the Grand Canal in brilliant sunshine the first time is a wonderful moment. The second and third is just as good. Perhaps worth the cost and effort of changing to the train by having the taxi drop you at Mestre Station for the short train ride to Santa Lucia. 14 years since I last did that. A recall still puts a smile onto the face of my wife and myself.

Further on driving. I come from a land down under where women glow and men thunder. A Commonwealth member. A challenge is grasped with both hands. Just driven around a small part of Friuli-Venezia Giulia area in April. Still enjoy it and the Italian style of driving. Maybe oblivious to dangers around me.

Sometimes surprising things pop up during one’s travels. 10 days ago, drove from upper Michigan through Gary to Chicago and onto O’Hare. First time. Was an experience but lived to tell the tale to my mates. A bonus was that American Airlines, Flagship lounge at ORD had Laphroaig whisky (a favourite) on offer. A lot less in the bottle when I boarded my flight to LAX.

Qura, if you think that everything will work out perfectly, you are dreaming. My family and I never accomplish more than 60% of what we planned and have built that into our expectations. Does not leave us disappointed, just hope next time to do better. My wife counts hindsight as my second-best quality.

Best wishes Ron.