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What are your favorite places to visit in Italy?

My husband and I are planning are second trip to Italy this May 2018 and are looking for suggestions on places to visit. Last year we visited Italy and spent one week in Rome and one in Positano. We LOVED both areas but would like to visit different areas this year.

I know we want to visit Tuscany. I was thinking of renting a flat in Siena as a jumping off point and also considering a few nights in a country Agriturismo (not sure where to start on finding a good one though).

I had been considering somewhere in Puglia (I love the beach and was thinking it would not be quite as touristy). If anyone could recommend any areas they have loved in Italy I would greatly appreciate it.

My husband and I both love wine, dancing, being in nature, and exploring cities on our own (not guided tours). Some of my favorite things we did in the Amalfi coast was visiting Ravello and hiking down to Amalfi. In Rome, we loved exploring the city at night, sipping wine and seeing local artists in Trastevere, and visiting the local market in Testaccio.

Thank you in advance!

Posted by
169 posts

My favorite places are Venice but if you go stay in Venice, not on the mainland, after about 5 when the cruise ship leaves the city glows. Also in the morning as the sun is coming up or just rose is amazing and worth the early rise. I also really like Cinque Terre. If you are able to hike it is a beautiful area. It is also worth it to take a boat around the cities.

Posted by
475 posts

I LOVE Venice as well and the Cinque Terre. Florence is lovely too. Siena would be a great place to stay. Here is info for an agriturismo that I have been saving as we decided next time we go to Tuscany we want to stay in Siena:
http://www.agriturismomarciano.it/index.php

I don't know much about it other than it looks beautiful but maybe a good place to start!

Posted by
1973 posts

In 20 answers, you'll probably get 15 different favorite places, which is what makes Italy so wonderful.

My top places in three trips are:

--sitting on the top steps of Teatro Greco in Taormina, Sicily
--walking the first floor of Mercato Centrale, Florence
--Sassetti Chapel, Florence
--morning walks along the Tiber River, Rome

Posted by
27451 posts

I like Puglia a lot. I used the Baroque city of Lecce as a base. I've read that Bari is nice but haven't been there. A good guide book will describe a lot of the smaller towns so you can choose an appealing combination. A car will be very helpful there. Otherwise, I would definitely plan to base in Lecce in order to take advantage of the van trips organized by the tourist office. They aren't really tours, but move you from place to place so you can get to a lot of small towns in one day--impossible to do by bus and train. I've linked to the appropriate web page, which seems to be available only in Italian, but you will at least be able to read the names of the towns visited.

If you go to Puglia, I highly recommend that you also include Matera in the neighboring area of Basilicata.

Posted by
22 posts

I love Puglia. Even the small towns are very charming. May is not really high season as it s not that hot plus the tourism is primarily local there and is concentrated in August when the whole Italy has a vacation, so it shall not be crowded.

Posted by
1081 posts

I love all of Italy but my favorites are:
1) Venice - This city is magical, I love St Marks square at night and the Doge's Palace is always impressive.
2) Lake Como - The best place in Europe to relax and enjoy ambiance.
3) Florence - You can feel the energy of the Renaissance just waking through the streets.

Posted by
3905 posts

I stayed at Agriturismo Marciano, just outside of Siena, in May 2015. It was marvelous. We ate dinner there two evenings with the other guests. The food was wonderful -- 2 of the top 3 meals we had during a 3-week trek through Italy.

Posted by
2023 posts

Rome, Florence, Venice of course but we loved Lucca for a few nights. Stayed on an Agriturisimo near Montalcino for a week and explored Pienza, San Quirico ( would like to stay there), Volterra, Cortona ( would not stay there), and others in the area. Banfi Winery is worth a visit if that is of any interest.

Posted by
782 posts

My version of Italy's can't miss would be
1 Venice
2 Florence
3 Rome
4 Sienna,Lucca,San Gimignano,Volterra,Cortona,Orvieto and Assisi
5 Cinque Terre
6 Tuscany
7 Umbria
8 Dolomites
I am obviously a huge fan of Tuscany but any where in Italy is great, we went there every year from 2004 to 2013 for a minimum of two weeks along with visiting neighboring countries.
Mike

Posted by
15686 posts

I would not plan on enjoying beaches in May as the water is likely to be pretty cold. I was in southern Greece in early May this year and the water was only about 16-17C.

Umbria is as lovely as Tuscany. Maybe find a place central to both (with a car). Without a car, Bologna is ideal for lots of day trips by rail.

Posted by
1973 posts

Has anybody based in Verona? Thinking about it as a final stop for 4-5 nights after starting in Amsterdam, the Rhine Valley and the Tyrolean Alps in Austria, all by train.

Looks like Verona is close to Lake Garda--would love to visit Sirmione. Then it's also less than an hour from Venice, which I haven't visited yet but don't necessarily want to stay there.

Posted by
27451 posts

I haven't been to Verona, but it's also a good base for Vicenza (24 - 40 minutes by train, depending on whether you take the Eurostar or a regional train) and Padua (42 - 58 minutes, ditto).

Venice is so magical that I wouldn't want to spend 58 - 70 minutes each way commuting to it (that's by Eurostar). Certainly can be done, though.

Another possibility is Bolzano, about 1-1/2 hours from Verona by EuroCity train. We often speak of it as simply the gateway to the Dolomites, but the historic center is really lovely, and there are quite a few museums, not just the one housing the Iceman.

Posted by
2455 posts

Jay, you asked about Verona. I spent 4 nights in Verona on my last trip to Italy in May 2014. I enjoyed it very much, much more than previous visits as a daytripper. I stayed in a nice B & B mid-way between the train station and the central city. It is an ancient city, but with a very modern lifestyle, and I loved being out strolling among the locals in the evenings. There are various sites scattered throughout Verona, none really famous other than the Arena. Yes, you can make various day trips from Verona. I took one day and traveled to Sirmione by bus, then Bardolino by ferry, then return to Verona by bus. I understand that northern Lake Garda is really more beautiful. It would be hard to include both in a single day trip, just too much distance involved, I think. I did another lengthy day trip to Ravenna, with a dinner stop in Bologna on the return. There was a fast 1-hour train from Verona to Bologna in the early morning, which made that day trip more viable. You can also day trip to Vicenza, Padua, and the area north of Vicenza with Cittadella, Bassano del Grappa, etc. Yes, you can also day trip to Venice, about 90 minutes each way I think, but then you’d be one of the throng of daytrippers, while the magical times in Venice are really early morning and evening. If I were you, I would try to make Venice at least an overnight stay.

Posted by
3343 posts

Jay - We spent 3 nights in Verona in April 2014 and loved it. Verona is a really nice place just "to be". Unfortunately, our full days in Verona were a Monday and Tuesday, and most of the sights were closed on Monday. On Tuesday we took the train to Sirmione - it was a beautiful train ride and we had a great walk to and around Sirmione - the train took us to Desenzano. The ferries on Lake Garda hadn't switched to their summer schedule at that time.

Even though the "Romeo and Juliet" aspect of Verona is a bit cheesey, the town didn't feel all that touristy. Excellent food and wine - we didn't try anything with horse or donkey though.

Posted by
15686 posts

Jay, Verona is one of my favorites, but Venice is, after Paris, my favorite city in the world. It's a place that you need to stay in to appreciate the quiet rios, the early morning mists, the lights reflecting off the canal in the late hours of the night. After the many places you've visited, isn't it time to experience Venice?

What month are you traveling?

Posted by
1973 posts

If we go next year (it could be 2019 if things don't fall into place), I'd like to experience a little more warmth than my usual time of travel (Feb/early March), so I was thinking mid-to-late April for a trip by rail. Amsterdam-->Rhine Valley (St. Goar)-->Nuremburg (1 night stopover)--> Innsbruck/Tirol, then I was considering Verona, with a daytrip to Venice. And the reason I hadn't wanted to stay in Venice were the many posts about how it routinely gets just choked by tourists, which pretty much is a deal-breaker for me.

You say that early morning & late at night are the times to really experience Venice, but isn't that true with any European city? I've found Florence and Rome both to be totally captivating that time of day, either walking through the narrow streets of Firenze just after the street sweepers had done their thing, looking for an early-opening caffe bar. Or in Rome, strolling along the quiet of the Tiber, while the traffic builds along the parallel streets. I did that almost every day, and never tired of it. I very much enjoyed Paris in the early morning too, but in a different, more urban way.

Yes, if I daytrip only to Venice and don't stay, I will miss this. No doubt it's beautiful. So when it comes time to analyze its feasibility, I will consider this, Chani. But...I'm currently immersed in Walter Isaacson's book on Leonardo DaVinci--a great, great read--and I can feel Florence drawing me back. Yikes!

Posted by
1018 posts

In no certain order: Matera, San Marino, Roma, Florence, Ariccia, Bergamo, Padua, Milano, Varenna, the Ferrari Museum in Maranello, and Nicastro.

Buon viaggio,

Posted by
6 posts

This has probably already been said, but Venice is truly magical. People will say it is overrun with tourism, and that it's lost its charm. Don't listen to them. Of course tourists arrive en masse, and of course Piazza San Marco is flooded with people on peak days, but don't let that stop you from experiencing one of the most fascinating cities in human history, from a rich historical perspective and from an architectural and engineering perspective. The entire city is a work of art, and if you are a church history buff you can't miss St. Marks Basillica. The Doge's Palace though is the top sight for me.
One of the great things about Venice is that there are hardly any new buildings on the island-- just re-purposed marvels of Venetian glory days. The whole city feels "frozen in time" which is incredible and makes you feel like you have transported 500 years in the past. Rick's Pocket Venice has incredible tours of these facilities, as well as walking tours that were altogether engaging, educational, enlightening, and entertaining. My wife and I at times could hardly contain our laughter during some of his tours-- Rick's "dad" jokes are in rare form in his Venice book.

We went to Venice for 3 nights as a leg of our Italy trip this past May, and it was our favorite place. It was crowded at times, but the island is bigger than people think and has plenty of off-the-beaten-path hideaways just waiting to be discovered.

Just about everything in Venice is world-class, aside from maybe their food. I enjoyed it, being a lover of all things fish and sea (speaking of which, the fish market on market days is quite enthralling), but my wife was a little more limited in her food choices. But like I said, world-class top to bottom. History, culture, art, architecture, its all there. And it's of course incredibly pedestrian-friendly with no cars around. Strolling at night with the day-trip cruise tourists all gone is where Venice steals your heart.

The canals and boats and gondolas that come to mind when you think "Venice" speak for themselves, but the city really has so much more to offer and I wish we had spent a week there-- we didn't have time to visit the surrounding islands, which look exceptionally charming. Get an airbnb if you go there (in my opinion best value); there are some sweeeet digs in that city. Sleep away from the main drag; there's no point in being centrally located when the city is so easily navigable. I would recommend the Accademia region. Sorry for the long post; I am really a fan of the place!

Posted by
15686 posts

What I'm saying is that you miss the magic of Venice if you don't spend at least a couple nights there. Even when Venice is crowded, it only feels that way around the main tourist sights - the ones you'll be visiting on a day trip.

Posted by
152 posts

Tied between Rome and Venice - adore both - love the history in Rome and the timeless romance of Venice. Crowds never bother me; walk 5-10 minutes and you have Venice to yourself. It's marvelous. MERRY CHRISTMAS!! Thanks for making our 2017 Italy trip a huge success! Happy Travels in 2018!! Thinking of doing Scotland next.....

Posted by
33339 posts

Venice

Staying with friends in Rome and watching their cats

Vicenza and the mid to west Veneto

Quarto d'Altino and the Sile

Posted by
3941 posts

(chants) Venice Venice Venice

And I agree with what someone else posted - stay on Venice proper - we've been 4 times since '08 - 3 at the same B&B (and hopefully will be staying there again when we go back in 2019) and all in the general San Polo area. And May would be a nice time as it'd shouldn't be really hot.

My best tips are to get up early and go out at 6 or 7 am to Rialto/St Mark's Sq - by 10am it's full of tourists. (Then go back to your room for breakfast. It was my 3rd visit before I realized this). And stay out late - nothing like wandering the back canals and having them almost to yourself. Burano, Murano and Torcello make a good day trip. It isn't hard to get away from the tourist hordes if they are annoying you - just get away from the cattle run between Rialto and St Mark's and you'll have an almost people-free Venice.

Posted by
11294 posts

" It isn't hard to get away from the tourist hordes if they are annoying you - just get away from the cattle run between Rialto and St Mark's and you'll have an almost people-free Venice."

This point is worth emphasizing. Look at a map of Venice, and find St. Mark's Square, the Rialto, the train station, and the most direct routes between them. Now, go anywhere else, and voila! - you've missed most of the tourists, even in the middle of the day.

Rick said it very well: "While 80 percent of Venice is, in fact, not touristy, 80 percent of the tourists never notice. Hit the back streets."

That said, it's also true that early or late, you can even go to the "tourist areas" and see them free of crowds. I particularly like taking an early or late vaporetto - the other passengers are mostly Venetians, on the way to work or coming home from dinner or going out to a bar.

Posted by
1973 posts

That settles it. With seasoned travelers like Chani, Nicole & Harold chiming in, we'll consider staying in Venice on our next trip. I suppose if I can bypass the hordes in Florence & live to tell the story, I can do it there too!

Posted by
371 posts

Jay asked if anyone used Verona as a base and we recently stayed there (Oct 1-5 2017) as our base for the second time. We all loved Verona so much, the history and architecture is fabulous. While staying there, we visited Padua, venice (we get very motion sick and didn't want to stay in Venice) and Lago Garda (Gardo and Bardolino). we ran out of time and were going to Montova, but never made it there. We flew out of Venice from Verona (train from Verona and then bus from Piazzelle Roma in Venice) at 11:45 am flight and it was easy. We have also stayed in Vicenza and flow from Venice. Train travel along the Milan to Venice route is very easy and gives you any options, the hardest part is deciding where to go.

Posted by
3941 posts

My husband is not an early riser, but on our 3rd trip to Venice, he actually got up at 6:30 and went out with me for an hour and some...and he thanked me for making him go out that early...lol.

The next trip, my mom was with us and she is an early riser, so she and I went out at 6:30...it was interesting to share the vaporetto with actual school kids on their way to school. (And let hubby sleep in).

Posted by
27 posts

Wow these comments have been amazing!! Thank you everyone. My biggest take a way is that we have to stay in Venice.

I'm thinking skip Puglia this trip and see Tuscany and Venice.
Here is what I am thinking so far.
-Fly into Rome spend one night.
-Stay in a Tuscan city (Florence,Siena, or another) 4 to 5 nights
-Stay in Agritourismo 2 nights
-Stay in Venice 4 nights

I am having a really hard time deciding what city to stay in in Tuscany. We want to be able to take the train or bus and visit other smaller towns and we would love something romantic and calming.

Will the bus and train be enough to get around in Tuscany or is it better to rent a car? Especially for two days at an Agritourismo.

Posted by
27 posts

I should mention on our last trip we spent 6 nights in Rome and loved it. Tickets are cheap to fly into Rome so we are going to make a day of it (enjoy some Porcetta, walk the Passeggiata, and maybe pop into a few Basilicas we missed last time).

Posted by
3265 posts

My favorite city in Italy is Florence, by far, and I've visited whenever I've been in Italy. I'm always surprised when others say it is too crowded (as compared to anywhere else in Italy?). It is lovely. There is much to do for many different tastes. And as in any city, just walk away from the tourist area if it is too crowded, for a bit. My step daughter thinks it is the most romantic place she's ever been...and she's been many places. I would always return to Florence when visiting Italy if I could. Venice was one of my least favorite, but I need to return in good weather (the visit was January, 1976, and it was the coldest and dirtiest place that I'd ever been. I need to revisit and reassess now that I'm older. High on my list is to return to Naples as it caught me, but it did not catch my traveling companions at the time. That being said, I prefer to base in cities as I like the energy and life of cities. I like views, but the joy from them are fleeting for me except in my memory...so 5 minutes is good and then I'm looking for activity, unless the view is of a city and then I'll look a little longer. ;) So really, read as many guidebooks and picture books as you can so you can figure out what suits you best as all of us on the forum are different and, usually, have confirmed tastes at this point.

Posted by
1062 posts

Venice! It is an amazing city unlike any other city in the world. I agree that if you are there in bad weather, your opinion may be different, but I would take my chances.

Posted by
1973 posts

I should mention on our last trip we spent 6 nights in Rome and loved
it. Tickets are cheap to fly into Rome so we are going to make a day
of it (enjoy some Porcetta, walk the Passeggiata, and maybe pop into a
few Basilicas we missed last time).

Here are a couple good ones, LeCar...

Sant' Andrea delle Valle (on Vittorio Emanuele II, not far from Campo de' Fiori)

Sant' Agnese/Mausoleo St. Costanzia (on Via Nomentana north of Porta Pia)

Oh, if you're near Termini station the nearby Baths of Diocletian are definitely worth a visit.

Posted by
944 posts

If you have to pick ONE Tuscan town, I would give Florence a slight edge over Sienna. There is more to see and do in Florence and it is easier to do day trips from and back to Florence. If you decide on Venice, make every attempt to also visit the outer areas such as Murano, Burano and even Lido. Many people that we talked to that were working in Venice, actually lived outside Venice.

Posted by
118 posts

We stayed on Lido quite a few years ago it was really nice. There are beaches there and it's very easy to get to the main islands. It was very quiet.

Posted by
944 posts

When one asks about favorite places in Italy, its important to include what your interests are. I like and enjoy the really old Roman stuff. My Wife likes later periods of history, 500's to 1700's. These are very different things to sometimes sort out. I enjoy using my imagination to try an see what ancient Italy was all about, cause there really isn't all that much still intact, she can show me things that are basically untouched from the Byzantine till now. Italy is a many layered cake. To me some of the bottom layers are pure chocolate, to my wife, some of the upper layers are pure banana cream. So far, she finds my stuff interesting, and I find her stuff just as interesting. Its a vast amount of time that happened in Italy and cultures changed in different areas at different times. Just saying "Italy" is a bit of misdirection. Italy was not re-united till the 19th century. There still isn't A ITALY. It is still a loose collection of old papal or independent city states. And even after four generations, they still don't really like this whole unification thing.

Posted by
1825 posts

On our last trip we flew into Rome, got a car at the airport and drove North to Tuscany. I'd suggest taking a train to Orvieto for a night and then renting a car to drive to Tuscany. Drop the car in Siena before taking a train to Florence and then on to Venice. Hertz has offices in Orvieto and Siena.

Posted by
7175 posts

For sheer versatility ...

••BOLOGNA••
Day trip to Ravenna, Ferrara, Modena, Parma

••VERONA••
Day trip to Padua, Vicenza, Mantua, Lake Garda

••FLORENCE••
Day trip to Siena, Pisa, Lucca, Chianti

••SORRENTO••
Day trip to Naples, Pompeii, Capri, Positano

Posted by
319 posts

We absolutely love Italy. Rome is certainly a favorite of mine but I also rank Venice right up there. We have done day trips to Venice a few times but it is far more enjoyable, in my opinion, to stay there for an extended period. Nothing can compare to being in Venice in the evening or early morning before the cruise ships and throngs of tourists descend upon the city. I have been part of the "throngs" before and it is much more enjoyable to stay in the city. Also take some time to explore the Veneto, which can be done very cheaply, by train. We explored Padova and Verona and were so happy that we did. Some other wonderful choices would be Tuscany, Naples, Milan, Bologna, Genoa and Sicily. I was in Milan in July 2017 and will be back in Italy March 2018 because I just can't get enough! Enjoy!

Posted by
2153 posts

LaCar, it sounds like we have similar interests!

We stayed in the countryside of Tuscany our last visit and did day trips. It was great! We stayed just outside Greve at Castillo di Verrazzano, which is a winery. Their rooms are reasonable and their breakfasts are to die for, including local cheeses and home grown honey and wild boar salami. Their food and wine tasting and tour was well worth it, but if you do it right, it will take up the better part of the afternoon.

The center of Siena would be inconvenient as a jumping off point, if you mean taking day trips. You'll have to park outside the walls. There may be a B&B that offers valet service who could fetch your car for you.

Here's a thought: Fly into Rome, rent a car and drive to Tuscany. You'll spend a couple of hours on the Autostrada, then turn off and drive through the gorgeous Tuscan countryside. Stay at an agriturismo as many days as possible as you explore the region. Turn in your car in Siena and spend at least two days and three nights. Take the bus from Siena to Florence and stay in Florence three days and four nights, then fly out of Florence.

We will either go to Rome and stay at least a week just in Rome, or spend a week in Venice on our next trip. We would do a day trip to Ostia Antica from Rome. From Venice, we would love to take a couple of days to do the Prosecco Road.

Posted by
1321 posts

I'm running a risk here but we did not enjoy Venice at all.... we spent 2 nights & 2 days there and wish we would have added those two days to our nights in Bellagio. I have to agree with "For sheer versatility ... ••BOLOGNA••Day trip to Ravenna, Ferrara, Modena, Parma ••VERONA••Day trip to Padua, Vicenza, Mantua, Lake Garda". We love Padua and Mantua and Bologna is top three favorite cities in Italy.

We stayed in Arezzo for a week in an Agriturismo - we found using Karen Brown's website. It was nice enough but 7 nights was too long, maybe 4-5 nights total for Tuscany. This past trip we stayed 4 nights in Florence and felt like that was one day too long as well. What we have learned is Tuscany is not our favorite and would opt for Veneto, Piemonte, Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna. Although we did not enjoy the wines of Emilia-Romagna or Lombardy as much as Piemonte.

Posted by
7473 posts

These are the cities we have visited in Italy listed in the order of favorite to less favorite: VENICE!, Stresa, Siena, Torino, Moena, Cinque Terre, Rome, Verona, Padova, Vicenza, Orvieto, Assisi, Grosseto, Florence, Parma, Bologna, Trento.