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Need trip advice (please)!

Hello all - I am going on my honeymoon late May/early June and really need help with where to go and for how long. At a high level, we are interested in Northern Italy, Slovenia and Croatia but only have 2 weeks. I don't know much about Istria but it looks beautiful. So what do you think? Is Venice worth going to? I've heard mixed reviews. Are there any other cities in northern Italy you would recommend? Do you think we should skip Croatia and just focus on Italy and Slovenia? We will want some time to relax on the beach and some time to explore old cities. We will be flying from New York, and while renting a car probably isn't our preference it is definitely possible if it's what you recommend. If you've done a trip similar to the one I outlined below and would be willing to share your itinerary, that would be very much appreciated. Thanks so much!

Posted by Rocket
San Francisco area
627 posts

Would you mind posting the full link? Some of us here don't like opening shortened links, especially from first time posters.

And welcome to the forum.

Edit to add: Sorry my mistake, tired eyes.

Posted by gaa204 OP
8 posts

Hi Rocket - thank you! I'm excited to have found this forum. Very much looking forward to everyone's advice!

I'm not sure what you mean by posting the full link. Can you please explain?

Posted by Emily
Vienna, Austria
2728 posts

Rent a villa in Istria for one week with a rental car. Plenty, plenty to explore.

For week two, go to the Triglav National park area of Slovenia, also with a rental car.

Maybe fly in and out of Ljubljana and rent your car there.

Posted by gaa204 OP
8 posts

Thank you so much, Emily! Sounds like you would skip Venice and some of the other Croatian cities like Split?

Posted by doric8
757 posts

We rented a car as we were leaving venice and drove a circuitous route to lake bled. Just off of a4 is the ancient town of aquileia which has archeological dig and an amazing 5th century church w mosaic floors. Its a UNESCO world heritage site. A couple of small cafes on the grounds if it works as a lunch stop at aquileia.

Posted by Emily
Vienna, Austria
2728 posts

I love Split and I love Venice, but I really love Istria. Personal preference.

Posted by JenC
Houston, TX
446 posts

We did a cruise that left from Venice and then made stops in Montenegro, Croatia and Slovenia. It was a 7 day cruise leaving another week to explore if you wanted. I personally would not do a huge ship cruise out of Venice because they are slowly destroying the city (which is my favorite place!). We did a Star Clippers cruise which is a sailing ship, but they are not a budget line and it does not have the same level of entertainment of other cruise lines. We will definitely cruise with them again but it is just a different style than some people think when you say "cruise". But there are others cruises available that would cover those areas just to give you an option.

Note that in Late May/early June the beaches in that area may still be a little on the cooler side. Also the beaches are more like small pebbles and not a sandy beach like you would find in Florida. The water is crystal clear though, partly because there is no sand to kick up.

I love Venice because I love the architecture and the crumbliness and just the atmosphere. You have heard mixed reviews because people have different interests and some people don't get away from the San Marco area and so all they see are the crowds.

Posted by dcp916
3 posts

I'm planning a similar trip, but a bit shorter and no honeymoon. Obviously, I don't have an itenerary worked out.

Anyway, I'm going to fly into Venice and spend the first day/night there because regardless of what people say it seems like an iconic place that you need to see and experience yourself at least once before forming an opinion. Then I'm straight off to Slovenia and Croatia.

My must sees are:

Lake Bled (village, castle and island) plus the nearby Vintgar Gorge
Scokjan caves (probably via the well reviewed Karst + Coast guided tour)
Soca River Valley (a hub for outdoor adventures like rafting, kayaking, ziplining, canyoning, hiking, etc.)
Exploring the city of Zagreb
Plitvice Lakes National Park (looks stunning)
A few stops on the Dalmation coast (haven't figured this part out yet)

Posted by gaa204 OP
8 posts

Thank you all for your advice and tips!

Dcp916, your list of must sees looks amazing. Are you renting a car in Venice through your vacation? As you finalize your itinerary, if you don't mind sharing, I would love to review it.

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
2409 posts

I would personally put Ljubljana on any "must-sees" list for Slovenia. It is perhaps my favorite city in Europe, even if hardly the most significant. It's charming, very walkable, and full of lovely architecture - and not very touristy, at least with American tourists.

Posted by Rocket
San Francisco area
627 posts

I find that Venice is quite the unique city. I still remember the feeling of stepping out of the train station and seeing the grand canal. It was an incredible moment. But it's not for everyone. It gets very crowded with cruise people and other day trippers. There are easy ways to deal with the crowds. Basically avoid San Marco and Rialto during peak hours of 10 to 4. If you decide to go, one of my favorite things to do is an evening visit to San Marco. Sit and have an overpriced drink and listen to the music. Walking around there on a moonlit night is kinda magical. Taking a vaporetto ride at night on the grand canal offers a lovely view.

Here's one possible itinerary.

3 nights Venice. Gives you two full days there.

1 day lake Bled. Stop on way to Ljubljana.

3 nights Ljubljana

1 night near Plitivice park. Hit park first thing in the morning.

Head to Hvar or Korcula. Hvar probably has more and better beaches but maybe more expensive. It's where the celebrities go. Korcula is more low key but beaches may be limited. Spend 2 or 3 nights.

2 or 3 nights either Split or Dubrovnik. I found Dubrovnik more interesting but take your pick. Beaches are nearby old town.

Adjust nights up or down to your preferred pace.

Congratulations on the pending nuptials and have a great honeymoon.

Posted by claire
2 posts

Do start with Venice and stay at least 4 nights. Rent on the main island. We like to stay close to the main square, but get your reservations now. Getting around is very easy so you can go into the back neighborhoods when the ships are in and have the island to yourself in the evening..

After the long flight you’ll be exhausted when you arrive; you might spend the first day after checking in quietly riding in a vaporetto to lovely Burano and bucolic Torcello. After strolling the cheerful streets and shady paths, stop to eat before heading back to San Marco. You’ll feel rested and will avoid the mid-day crowds.

Do all the romantic things that cruising tourists don’t get to. Before you leave home, get tickets for the sexy, lighthearted Mozart opera presented in one of the palazzi. Get tickets for the Vivaldi concert across from San Marco church.

Venice and Trieste are wonderful, but getting through them to Istria or Slovenia is a drag. Go by ferry to Croatia to Porec or Pula. It’s a beautiful ride across the Adriatic. There are two very reliable lines with a variety of schedules.
For both ferries and car rentals be sure to read and make notes about times and rules. The agreements seemed more complex than they needed to be.
Rent a car when you leave Porec. You will need one since transportation in the area is complicated. The roads are well kept and the villages are close to each other. Be sure to rent an intermediate model at least. The basic 500 couldn’t get up the hills in Istria which meant we made some interesting work arounds that brought us to beautiful spots. Get a good map before you leave Porec.

Istria and adjoining Slovenia have wonderfully picturesque villages/towns, almost unchanged since the 16th century
We stayed three nights in an Agrotourismso in the Dol Valley so that we could tour into the surrounding hills to hike and visit. The hiking is amazing! We followed a route to 15th c. funerary chapels that are amazingly decorated with frescoes.
The historic, spotlessly clean inn is also a working farm. The food is hearty, the wine and the bread good. There are not many choices within the surrounding area, so go ahead and sign up for meals, making specific choices since the kitchen runs out of specials at crowded times. Looking out over the green valley with a glass of wine in my hand was the end of a perfect day.
The road up into Slovenia is a gorgeous. You are looking forward to an amazing honeymoon.

Posted by gaa204 OP
8 posts

Thank you so much, Andrew, Rocket and Claire! I will continue to reread and refer back to your posts as we make our itinerary. Any other tips, please feel free to post. Everything is appreciated!

Posted by astiskovski
UK / SLO
27 posts

Venice is unique and I personally wouldn't stay long. Is full of tourist and super expensive. With a car you can visit Istria with no problem - 2 or 3 nights, move to Slovenia for few nights - Ljubljana, Bled, Triglav National Park, Plitvice for 1 night, Split perhaps 2 and add few islands. Dubrovnik will be probably too much for this trip, honeymoon as you want to enjoy the trip and not spent half a time driving around.
You will need vignetta for rental car in Slovenia and also IDL ( international driving licence ).

Posted by Michele
Boulder, CO, USA
37 posts

We just visited Slovenia and Italy last month so here is my take...
We spent a week in Venice because I had loved Venice on past trips (10+ years ago). It really was too crowded and just too much for me to take. I love all the lakes in Italy and would recommend going to one of those over a long stay in Venice. This time we stayed on Lake Garda in the Gardone Riviera but also the Limone area looks really charming. If you hike, the Dolomites are nearby and stunning.
As for Slovenia, we just loved it. We spent 13 days there. We stayed in Piran in an amazing apartment with a balcony overlooking the sea. It was charming and small and friendly. Then we went to Ljubljana and thoroughly enjoyed it. If you can time your stay in Ljubljana to include a weekend, I would recommend that as there are many festivals and concerts on the weekends and the city is just hopping. Also, I would recommend staying in the pedestrianized city center even if you need to pay to park a car outside while you stay. Everyone loves Lake Bled, and I hesitate to say that I was not so charmed. It was OK, but everything else in Slovenia impressed me, and I felt that Lake Bled is a bit over-rated and over-crowded. We stayed at a tourist farm in the Triglav National Park after driving over the Vrscic pass. Triglav is stunning.
Also, as a logistical planning tip. We flew in and out of Ljubljana (on Frequent flier miles). The car rentals were lower than in Italy and Croatia and the airport was so easy to navigate in and out. If you can make it a circular trip, I would recommend Ljubljana.

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
2409 posts

Michele, one reason Ljubljana doesn't make a great arrival/departure city by air for some is that it's a small airport with limited flight connection options from some cities. For example, in May, instead of flying from the east coast (where I had been visiting family) to Ljubljana - which would have required a connecting flight, I got a direct flight to Venice with award miles. Any option to fly with miles into Ljubljana directly would have meant a lot more miles and probably poorer connections, at least for me. (Or I would have had to have bought my connecting flight separately.) Flight connections add uncertainty not to mention time. But I could get from Venice Marco Polo to Ljubljana directly by shuttle in just a few hours. Flying to Ljubljana could have taken more time, added uncertainty and cost more.

I've checked flight connections directly to/from Ljubljana every time I've wanted to visit, but they've never worked out for me. On a previous trip, I could have bought a direct flight to Venice from Amsterdam, where I was flying into, but the connection was too tight, so I again flew to Venice instead the next day. Otherwise, I would have needed to fly the next day from Amsterdam. Had the flight to Ljubljana gone just an hour later, I might have taken it instead.

Posted by gaa204 OP
8 posts

To make decision a little more difficult my fiance has expresssd interest in Dalmatian coast instead of Istria. Any thoughts on which we should focus on? Thanks again!

Posted by Dejan
Slovenia
369 posts

I would recommend Istria for the simple fact that trying to include Dalmatia will inevitably lead to more hard choices regarding your itinerary. To begin with, you will lose the best part of two days to transit due to the logistics involved with getting there from N. Italy/Slovenia and back. It is also a much larger region than Istria and requires more time.

Depending on what is pulling your fiance towards Dalmatia, you could consider the northern Croatian islands in the Kvarner Gulf as a closer alternative, at least as far as natural scenery goes.

Posted by gaa204 OP
8 posts

What are your thoughts on the itinerary below? I know we are missing a couple of what I'm sure are beautiful places but will be impossible to cover everything this trip.
Day 1 Arrive in Venice (direct flight from NY)
Day 2 Explore Venice
Day 3 Ferry to Rovinj
Day 4 Explore Rovinj
Day 5 Explore Rovinj
Day 6 Rent a car and drive to Zadar
Day 7 Explore Zadar and drive to Dubrovnik
Day 8 Explore Dubrovnik
Day 9 Island hopping off of Dubrovnik
Day 10 Day trip to Kotor, Montenegro
Day 11 Explore Dubrovnik
Day 12 Morning flight home

Posted by acraven
Washington DC
8560 posts

You nay find that you don't need two full days in Rovinj, in which case you could bus to Porec, which looks very different from Rovinj (but equally touristy). The interior towns of Groznjan and Motovun are also worthwhile but considerably more difficult to reach by bus.

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
2409 posts

I think you'll find that the ferry to Rovinj leaves late in the day. That would give you more time in Venice if that's what you want, but you could take a bus or transfer service like GoOpti instead if you wish to get to Rovinj earlier in the day.

If you want to explore the interior towns of Istria or Porec, just rent the car a day earlier in Rovinj. Driving would be infinitely easier than trying to do it by public buses. Rovinj is lovely but small - you can explore the whole town in 2-3 hours. It makes a great base for day trips and is a lovely place to return to at night after a day of exploring. If you think you wouldn't enjoy the day trip options from Rovinj, I'd shave a day from it and add another day to somewhere between Rovinj and Dubrovnik.

Zadar wouldn't be my first choice to stop driving south from Rovinj - I'd probably pick Split or Trogir or even Sibenik - personal preference. Some people do love Zadar. I though it was OK.

Posted by gaa204 OP
8 posts

Thank you, Andrew. I will look into GoOpti. Now I'm thinking we should head from Rovinj to Plitvice and then Dubrovnik. Thanks again for your input.

Posted by tombosl
22 posts

In my humble opinion I would spend a week in Venice - it's a lovely romantic city, and in late May, early June, it shouldn't be as crowded as it is during the summer months. We just got back fromLjubljana and it is a beautiful and up and coming city! I would spend my second week there. Do try a boat trip down the Ljubljana River. I too think Lake Bled is over-rated and over crowded, but it is a beautiful town. A day trip might be nice idea...but don't spend an over-night there. In. Ljubljana take your time and watch the world go by...