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Itinerary help: northern Italy with car (mostly)

I would like feedback/help on the following itinerary for our trip to Italy this fall. Our travel dates are **Sept. 20 (fly into Venice)- October 5 (fly out of Florence). Flights are booked.

The destinations are: Dolomites, Lake Como, Siena (with day trips), Florence (with day trips). I've indicated where we've been before, if applicable. Questions follow each section.

Day 1: Arrive Venice airport @ 11:20 am.
We have been to Venice twice (love!) so are forgoing it this time. Arriving relatively early in the day, so will pick up rental car right at the airport and head towards the Dolomites.
Q1: Plan to drive only about an hour north of Venice after our arrival and spend the night en route with respect to jet lag. And also to get a head start for tomorrow's longer mountain drive to Ortisei in the Dolomites (via Cortisi). Any recommendations of what town/where to stay tonight within an hour or so north of Venice airport?

Day 2: Drive to Ortisei (Dolomites). Route: Velluno-Cortina-Passo Falzarago-{Passo Compolong-Corvara-Passa Gardena - Ortisei).
Q2: Is this a good route? modifications in terms of getting to Ortisei? (RS suggests Poroi Pass, but I've heard Poroi Pass is rather harrowing--would like to avoid.
Sleep Orisei.

Day 3, 4, 5. Ortisei (Val Gardena): **We have our 4 nights here already booked at Hotel Grones. We have never been here, excited to see. We are very fit, 60's, but don't need harrowing hiking. Many hiking/view possibilities from this home base. Q3: We have a car --is Val di Fumes a worthwhile side trip while here?

Day 6: Drive to Varenna, (via Verona). We have been to Varenna (Lake Como) before (in 1999!), in complete fog and rain but would love to see it again under better circumstances (crossed fingers for good weather). It's a longer drive, we realize.

Will keep our car and park it outside of Varenna (it's just for 2 nights, less hassle than returning it and picking up another for Tuscany), or find accommodations with parking available. Sleep Varenna.

Day 7: Varenna; boat to Bellagio, spend part of day. Sleep Varenna.

Day 8: Drive to Siena (via Verona) for 4 nights. Yes, a long drive, willing to do this to get to the area with our existing car. Q4: Worthwhile stops along the way? We will have our luggage so don't want to risk theft, but will need a lunch stop, suggestions?
Sleep Siena.

Days 9, 10, 11: Siena and day trips. We have been to Siena (as a day trip from Florence), but mostly interested in it as a home base for our day trips. Sleep all 4 nights in Siena.

With car, 3 day trips:

Montepulciano (went in 1999 and want to re-visit)

San Gimignano and Volterra (went to San Gimignano '99, but never to been to Volterra and want to concentrate our time there--looks lovely)

Orvieto and Civita di Bagnoregio (have been to Orvieto, spent day there; plan to lunch there and then go to Civita, which we didn't have time for in '99! Really want to see it).

Q5: Is Siena the place to stay? With the above day trips spanning west (Volterra) to east (Montepluciano and Civita) it seems most central, if somewhat unexciting. Any "wow" places (an agriturismo ? We want good location, "local" and respected but not over the top (don't need Relais and Chateau level)--and don't want to drive to/from our evening meal--once we're home after a long day we want to walk to/from our dinner whenever possible

Day 12: Drive to Florence, drop car. We have been to Florence twice and love it. Have done thoroughly all the first tier "musts". But love it as as home base and, we fly out of here. Sleep Florence.

Day 13: Day trip to Pisa/Lucca by train. Spend bulk of day in Lucca (never been there, excited to see). Sleep Florence.

Day 14: Florence. Sleep Florence.

*Day 15: (10/5): Depart Florence airport @ 12:10 pm. *

Posted by
2394 posts

For night one, you might consider a stop along Lago di Santa Croce. I haven’t stayed there, but it looks lovely and looks to be about an hour from Venice airport, mostly on the highway. Should be an easy drive.

Posted by
92 posts

I love Val di Funes. It is more peaceful than Ortisei and the views even more breathtaking in my opinion. A great hike to consider in Val di Funes is the Adolf Munkel Trail: It brings you the foot of the Odle peaks, but is not harrowing hike. There are also great huts along the way to visit. Have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
192 posts

Thank you, I will look into the Lago Santa Croce area for our one-night stay enroute to Dolomites. We will need to have access to places to eat that evening and next morning as well. Kate, I appreciate the affirmation about Val di Fumes, and recognize the name of hike. Sounds like a winner!

In terms of my overall itinerary, I would like any feedback on it as an overall plan. I have thought about one other alternative to the above plan.

In short, add another night to Dolomites (5 nights instead of 4), skip going to Lake Como for 2 nights and add another night in Florence (4 nights instead of 3). As follows:

Day 1: Arrive Venice, rent car, drive hour north towards Dolomites, spend one night en route.
Days 2 - 6: Ortisei (Dolomites) with one day trip to Val di Fumes. Six days, 5 nights in Ortisei (as opposed to 5 days, 4 nights.)
Days 7-10: ** Depart Ortisei, drive (via Verona) to **Siena. 4 nights, same day trips (Montepluciana, Civita, San Gimignano and Volterra).
Days 11-14: Depart Siena, drive to Florence. Drop car. Same day trip to Lucca. 5 days, 4 nights in Florence (as opposed to 4 days, 3 nights).
Day 15: Fly out of Florence

Appreciate any thoughts about either itinerary!

Posted by
1591 posts

I can only comment on certain parts of your trip. It's been a long time since I visited Venice and Tuscany.

Val di Funes--it's quite scenic, but Adolf Munkel Trail is an uphill hike requiring hiking boots and perhaps trekking poles. It will take you a good amount of time. If you are not used to hiking, then you need to do more research on it. You don't want to get stuck in the middle of the path.
Also, remember that you need to walk up and down. By the time I reached the mountain hut on top, my legs were really sore. I am not an avid hiker, but I do jog on the treadmill at home for at least one hour per day.

In the Dolomites, if the weather does not cooperate, then don't bother driving through ultra windy passes or going up trails like Adolf Munkel Trail. Mountain weather is fickle.