Northern Italy itinerary

Can anyone comment on this proposed itinerary? I am mainly interested in scenery and local experiences, plus architecture and sculpture, and not so much art museums. We will have a car and we do not mind driving. I am trying to have 3 nights in most places, but only have 2 weeks. Fly to Milan - drive to Lake Como - 3 nights Drive to La Spezia for 2 nights - spend 1 day seeing Cinque Terre by boat and one day in Pisa and Lucca Drive to FLorence for 3 nights Drive to Venice for 3 nights Drive to Dolomites (Val Gardena maybe?) for 2 nights
Take train - Bernina Express - from Tirano to Zurich and fly home from there (to see the Alps) WHat do you all think - should I make changes anywhere, and is it doable without too much stress/rushing around? Thanks!

Posted by Angela
Vancouver, Wa, USA
591 posts

It is a busy schedule, but if you are happy with it that is all that matters. Since you have a car, see Pisa along the drive from CT to Florence as you only need half a day there. And be super careful of the ZTLs driving into cities, as you'll get huge fines in the mail a few months later.

Posted by Charlene
Centennial, CO, US
1154 posts

Unless you are able to sleep on airplanes, I would be a little concerned about flying from Denver to Milan, getting into a rental car and driving for a couple of hours. Unless you want a car for driving around the lake, you might consider a train to Lake Como and back to Milan, picking up your car there for the trip to La Spezia. Make sure you bring an International Drivers Permit (pick it up at AAA). Or maybe take the train all the way to La Spezia? I personally love the convenience of European train travel. If you're staying in Varenna on Lake Como, I highly recommend spending a day at the Il Caminetto cooking class. Not intense cooking (more of a demonstration) but lots of good food and very enjoyable. You'll need to reserve this in advance. The charming Chef Moreno picks you up in Varenna and brings you back. There are places where you won't need or want a car (such as Venice and Florence). If you stick with your above itinerary, you could drop the car in La Spezia, train to Florence, train to Venice, and pick up a car again as you leave Venice. Or ... since you're not big on museums ... you might keep the car after La Spezia, drive to Tuscany and use one of the smaller towns there as a base, day-tripping by train into Florence. Then drive on to Venice and drop the car. Sounds to me like you're a person who would enjoy the scenery in Tuscany more than the crowds of Florence. Once you've settled on your itinerary, if it includes train travel (other than regional trains), advance purchases can save you a bundle.

Posted by Sherry
San Jose, CA
1851 posts

My only question would be whether you want to deal with a car in Florence and Venice. Unless you're doing day trips from Florence, you'll be walking (and even day trips may be easier by bus/train), and a car is worse than useless in Venice (you'll just be paying for parking and rental fees, while it sits unused). Maybe consider turning it in when you arrive in Florence (I'd return it at the Florence airport to avoid city driving), take the train from Florence to Venice, and rent another car when you leave Venice (probably in Maestre or at the Venice airport, both easy rides via public transportation). It would certainly be cheaper, and I'd guess it wouldn't be any more time-consuming. High speed trains between Florence and Venice are really frequent (about hourly, if I remember correctly)

Posted by Maureen
31 posts

Yes, Sherry, I had thought that might be a good idea to turn in the car.

Posted by Maureen
31 posts

Charlene - I was thinking of staying at Tremezzo on Lake Como - googling the driving distance says it's just over an hour from the airport - do you think that's wrong? Good point about jet lag and driving! We could always stay in Milan a night, but 1 hour drive doesn't sound too bad. My boyfriend usually sleeps on planes anyway!

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
5566 posts

The potential problems with driving after a long-haul flight are more than just being tired. You are jetlagged and for most humans this means being very disoriented, losing some motor function (coordination) and impaired judgment. That's not the best way to start driving in a foreign country, with different signage, mostly in a foreign language. If you do decide to drive from the airport, unless you are quite used to driving with a manual transmission, then be sure to rent an automatic and use GPS. Getting lost can turn your day into a nightmare. Since you are interested in architecture and sculpture, you will probably want to stay put in Florence for your entire time there. Definitely leave the car when you get there and pick up another when you leave Venice. The train station in Florence is an easy walk or a very short taxi ride from the center (and most hotels) and the vaporetto in Venice stops in front of the train station. In Florence, there's great sculpture at the Bargello, the Museo dell' Opera (behind the Duomo), and the Medici Chapels.