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Northern Italy

We are touring Northern Italy this Fall and would like to know if it is best to get a hotel outside of Venice and commute in or stay in Venice. Any recommended hotels for either option. Also looking for hotels and pointers for Parma, Bologna, Lake Como Area, Genoa, and Verona. Also best places for cheese, wine etc.

Posted by
934 posts

Michael hit the nail on the head.After the daytrippers leave Venice is magic.Before they leave it is crowed.

Posted by
31055 posts

Richard, As the others have mentioned, definitely stay in Venice and not "outside"! It's difficult to recommend specific Hotels, as you didn't indicate what type of Hotels you would prefer or the price range. Regarding "hotels and pointers for Parma, Bologna, Lake Como Area, Genoa, and Verona" I would highly recommend picking up a copy of the Italy 2011 Guidebook as that will provide all the answers you're looking for. In my experience, just about anywhere in Italy is great for cheese and wine! Cheers!

Posted by
9450 posts

We loved staying in Venice. The atmosphere is amazing! Don't miss the opportunity to stay here. You ride vaporettos, walk the narrow streets (calle) and get a little lost. There is nowhere like it in the world! If you stay in Mestre you lose all the romance. We liked our B&B, Ai Tagliapietra, a lot (www.aitagliapietra.com). I think about 90 euros per night for two, and only 5 minutes from Piazza San Marco. Check the reviews on Trip Advisor. Be sure to buy a vaporetto pass. It will save you a lot of money. You can buy online before you go (www.hellovenezia.com), or at the Hello Venezia kiosk at the train station when you arrive and before your first vaporetto trip. Rick Steves' Venice guidebook will give you many ideas for eating, touring, sleeping. Do pick it up to help you plan!

Posted by
1446 posts

Richard, stay in Venice. Can't recommend anywhere specific but definitely stay in Venice! While it may cost a little more, I think it's worth it. As for Lake Como, I can recommend a great hotel in Varenna; Albergo Milano. We splurged a little for a room with a lake-front balcony & view and it was incredible! The hotel was very comfortable and clean and the views were to die for. Have a great trip.

Posted by
7737 posts

For your first or even your second time in Venice, you should really stay on the island itself. Venice is at its most magical before and after the influx of daytrippers. Pensione Guerrato is ideal for Venice (and a longtime RS recommendation). It's on the non-San Marco side of the Rialto Bridge, near the fish market (but not the smell). http://www.pensioneguerrato.it/

Posted by
27 posts

Thanks you all for your responses and more are welcome from all the other readers. I will be having a rental car once I leave the Milan airport and return. will I have problems parking outside of Venice or within any of the other cities/towns I mentioned in Northern Itlay?

Posted by
27 posts

Thanks you all for your responses and more are welcome from all the other readers. I will be having a rental car once I leave the Milan airport and return. will I have problems parking outside of Venice or within any of the other cities/towns I mentioned in Northern Itlay?

Posted by
11743 posts

I also think you should stay in Venice. The magic is walking at night with the water lapping up against the buildings. We parked our car in Venice and wouldn't choose to do it again. We parked in Rick's recommended "safe" parking, a private garage near the main parking, the main parking lot may not be a safe place to leave your car. It took over an hour in line to get it parked and at least as long to get it out. It was expensive too but the car was fine when we came back for it. I believe Rick has a recommendation for parking at a mainland train station and training into Venice. Follow that guidance. You will save money, time, and hassle. When you get into town, you can catch the Vaporetto to within walking distance of your lodging.

Posted by
23851 posts

" I will be having a rental car once I leave the Milan airport and return. will I have problems parking outside of Venice or within any of the other cities/towns I mentioned in Northern Itlay?" OK, I'll leave it to one of the others to come through with the usual warnings. I will say that a car would come in handy for going to small villages and can get you between towns. From one who drives to Italy nearly every year I can assure you that a car in the cities is as much use as a chocolate teapot. Venice has no cars. You can leave the car at the Trochetto garages just on the Venice end of the causeway for lots of €uros - and don't forget the $bucks you will be spending for the car while its sitting in the car park. - Or you could park for a fraction in the multi story car park opposite the Mestre station. You could consider taking the train between all the places you list and taking the savings and really enjoy a Grand Canal view down in the centre at a place like Ca'Angeli where my wife and I enjoyed our anniversary. Hope your trip is wonderful...

Posted by
1201 posts

Richard, as Americans we are hardwired for renting a car on holiday, but as Nigel has mentioned the Italian destinations you have listed are much better served by train. Having a car is actually a pain in most of them. You will have a hard time parking and have to pay for the rental and the parking fee without needing to use the car. Consider taking the train instead.

Posted by
2573 posts

I too highly recommend staying in Venice no matter what your budget is, it is worth every penny. We have stayed at the Hotel Casanova, Hotel Bonvecchiati, and Hotel Mecurio and rented an apartment and enjoyed each experience. (sorry about some of the misspelled hotel names...) We traveled to many of the cities you mentioned (also consider Verona and Lucca) for 3 weeks a couple of years ago and did it all effortlessly by train buying point to point tickets to give us lots of flexibility. We are going to northern Italy again this summer where we have a free car for our use. I'm actually dreading driving so we will still use the train for a lot of our travel. Have a great time.

Posted by
27 posts

thanks for your comments and we wll consider a train vice car. What about going out to visit areas around Parma/Bologna to check out wine, cheese and olive oil?

Posted by
1620 posts

This past October, we stayed at Villa Dolcetti because we were also driving. This hotel is in Rick Steves' guide. It's 1/2 hour by bus to Venice. If you have to stay off the island, I highly recommend this hotel. The rooms were very large and the host was very pleasant and helpful. By the way, the parking structure on the island was 28 euros per day. In ref to Genoa, is there a specific reason to visit there? The part of the city we saw reminded us of the Long Beach Harbor. We only spent one night there, so maybe we didn't experience the true Genoa. We drove along the coast and will never make that mistake again. The streets are very narrow, especially when you are dodging motorcycles, trucks and fast Italian drivers. However, driving in the Tuscany and Chianti countryside was great. Send me a personal message if you want more info on our trip.

Posted by
1500 posts

Hi Richard
Stay in venice. Was just there oct 1 for 18 days and absolutely loved it. We also stayed at hotel nettuno, with a lake view, in bardolino on lake garda outside of verona. Attended the annual wine festival which is usually the end of september first of october. if you are there then you have to go. lots of wine, food, music, fireworks and people. we rented a car to get there from venice and returned it 2 days later. then 7 days walking the streets of venice, so much to see and do. did a 7 day greek isle cruise from venice. we rented a private apartment which was great, near the frari church. found it on homeaway.com you can also look at freereservation.com, booking.com, and venere.com don't really know what you are looking for. go have fun, enjoy and take comfortable shoes.

Posted by
31055 posts

Richard, I agree with Nigel and the others on the topic of having a car, especially during your time in Venice (the description "is as much use as a chocolate teapot" is perfect!). Depending on what you're planning to see, having a car may or may not be the best idea. You could rent a car for the trips to Parma and Bologna for checking out Wines, etc. However, if you're going to primarily be spending time in cities, all of your destinations are easily reached by train. A few points to keep in mind.... For driving in Italy, each driver will require the compulsory International Driver's Permit, which is used in conjunction with your home D.L. (these are valid for one year and easily obtained at any AAA office). A GPS along with a good map would be a really good idea. Many towns in Italy now have "ZTL" areas (see other post regarding ticket in Orvieto), so you'd need to consider that when entering any town. Finally, there are the parking and CDW issues. I also agree on the comments regarding Genoa. Unless you have a specific reason for stopping there, IMHO your time in northern Italy would be much better spent in other locations (have you looked at the Cinque Terre?). Cheers!

Posted by
23851 posts

I missed Genova (Genoa) in the list. Absolutely completely agree with Denise. Do you have a specific reason to go there? If not - you most likely will not see a big return on the huge investment in time and nerves to get there. It sounds 'orrible but I have never heard anybody say good things about it. I had to negotiate the roads around there last year and boy was I underwhelmed.

Posted by
1446 posts

Richard, I would definitely not pick up a car in Milan & drive to Venice. Take the train to Venice & then perhaps pick up a car after Venice for visiting Parma, Bologna & Verona, although I don't know that having a car for those places is compulsory either. As others have stated, Genoa is not really worth seeing unless you have a specific reason. Were you planning to stay in Genoa to visit the Ligurian Coast or the Cinque Terre? If so, stay in one of the nicer towns. As for Lake Como, we did not have our rental car for this portion of the trip but if you are wanting to drive around the lake then I can see why you'd want one. We used the ferries to get around the lake and enjoyed it immensely. We used our rental car for driving around Tuscany but returned the car when we visited the Cinque Terre & Lake Como. The train system is Italy is pretty comprehensive & easy to use. Parking is many places is difficult at best so unless you really need a car, I'd ditch the idea. Have a wonderful trip; I love Northern Italy!

Posted by
31055 posts

Richard, Regarding Hotels, it would help to know what type of Hotels you'd prefer? A few Hotel suggestions for you to look at: > Venice - Albergo Doni or Pensione Guerrato > Verona - Hotel Torcolo or Hotel Europa (Be sure to read the reviews on Trip Advisor) Cheers!

Posted by
282 posts

Richard, we stayed at Palazzo Della Rosa Prati in Parma and loved it. It is right on the piazza in front of the Duomo. Very charming cafe attached to the Palazzo that was great for breakfast every morning!

Posted by
27 posts

WRT lodging we like an assortment of B&Bs, historic homes, or mid-priced hotels. Preference is within walking distance of streetside cafes. We also occasionally like to stay in countryside historic homes that have a lot of charm and would not mind doing such in the Parma/Bologna region if it gives us better access to vineyards and cheese factories. In the past we have stayed in castles, former cardinal's homes, etc.

Posted by
14014 posts

Verona is easily done on foot. Absolutely no need for a car. Just take a taxi from the train station to the hotel and back. I love the Dorsoduro area of Venice and wouldn't stay anywhere else. Last visit, I stayed at La Calcina, a historic building (no elevator), wonderful staff, good breakfast, great location, moderate prices.

Posted by
27 posts

Thanks for all of your suggestions and recommendations. we are definitely reconsidering rental car plans and may at most rent a car in Parma to visit the wine and cheese areas. Also will drop plans for Genoa. Any additional recommendations on Hotels or B&Bs and restaurants in Parma, Bologna, Verona, Venice, etc would be greatly appreciated. Also any recommendations on day-trips or vistis to wineries/cheese factories? Again appreciate everyone sharing their wisdom and experiences.

Posted by
361 posts

We did this trip and stayed in Padua which is a very short train ride away from Venice. This gave us the best of two locations, train in to Venice in the day and back to Padua at night. Padua is less expensive, an old walled city and a wonderful walking city with a lot of great eating places and sites plus on weekends the piazzas at night become a party center. YAHOO!

Posted by
31055 posts

Richard, Have you got a copy of the Italy Guidebook? If not, check your local Library or Bookstores. The books have simple Maps that provide an excellent idea on the location of Hotels and restaurants in each city, and also good descriptions of the restaurants that are listed. The restaurant map is on page 116/117 of the 2010 edition.

Posted by
3313 posts

Richard - I've driven rental cars extensively through Northern Italy, but generally staying in smaller towns than the ones you mentioned. Parking in the larger cities is a hassle, requiring you to find hotels on the outskirts that have their own parking. That said, if you want to tour the countryside for olive oil, wine and ham, you need a car. The cost per day for one or two days rental is higher, but you'll save on parking and the many days you really won't be using your car. If you do plan to drive in Italy, you should get an International Driving Permit from AAA - It's a translation of your state drivers license and is required in Italy.

Posted by
27 posts

If arriving at Milan Malpensa Airport, does anyone know the best way to get to Varenna (Lake Como Area) via train?

Posted by
11743 posts

Car vs. train? If I had a choice (time and money being comparable) I would train, mainly because it saves me the hassle of driving. I can read or nap and know I'll end up in the city center. This is particularly true of Italy, where the road signs won't help you find your destination and accepted driving practices are different (e.g. running red lights). Cars work best for visiting Tuscan towns that aren't conveniently reached by public transportation. A couple hours in a car can replace a half day negotiating trains, busses and connections. The nicest thing about a car is starting and stopping on your schedule rather than catching the only available train or bus for the day. Cars can be a lot cheaper for large groups. We leased a seven passenger car for our family of five. Five train tickets would have been significantly more expensive than a car lease. Trains are usually cheaper for two, cars are cheaper for four and up.

Posted by
73 posts

Richard
You must stay in Venice. We were there last month and stayed at one of Ricks recommend stays. The Alberto Guerro Pension. It was just above the Rialto market place and a few minutes walk to the bridge. After seeing whats outside of Venice no way. It was so worth it.

Posted by
31 posts

OK, Richard, you have already heard from the best ~ and I DEFINITELY agree with them ~ stay IN Venice!! It is THE most magical/romantic/quaint spot I have ever visited (after traveling 23+ countries!). I, also, have stayed at Albergo Guerrato once and at Locanda Novo Venezia twice ~ both are in Rick's book and you MUST get his book(s) for more info, etc. ~ they make a huge difference in European travel.

Posted by
31055 posts

Richard, "If arriving at Milan Malpensa Airport, does anyone know the best way to get to Varenna (Lake Como Area) via train?" The trip from MXP to Varenna should be much easier in Fall 2011, as there's a new Malpensa Express (train) service direct to Milano Centrale. I'm not sure if the Malpensa Shuttle (Bus) will still be operating at that time? When you arrive at Milano Centrale, buy a ticket for Varenna-Esino either at the staffed ticket office (two floors down via "moving sidewalk") or from one of the automated Kiosks. There are departures every two hours, and the trip is 1H:03M. You'll pass through a tunnel just prior to arrival at Varenna, so watch for that. Be prepared to disembark promptly as the train only stops for about a minute! Depending on which Hotel you're staying at, you should be able to walk from the station. There's a path that leads downhill from the station to the road (when you reach the small bridge, turn left). However, if you're hauling a lot of gear, there are usually Taxis waiting. Depending on how many days you're staying, you might also buy your return ticket while in Milan, as the station in Varenna seems to have "limited" hours (and the validating machines are usually out of commission). There's a Travel Agency just downhill from the station, and I've found them very helpful for obtaining tickets (I believe it's listed in the Guidebook?). Cheers!