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Village Italy Before and After

My husband and I are combining our fourth and fifth RS tours into back-to-backs this April and May: 8 Day Barcelona-Madrid and 14 Day Village Italy. The downside is that they are truly back-to-back with only a day in between. Our first tour ends in Madrid on Sunday, April 28 and Village Italy begins in Padua on Monday, April 29 at 5 pm. I haven’t booked our flight from Madrid to Venice yet. VI ends on Sunday, May 12 and our flight out from Milan Malpensa airport is at 9:55 am. We plan to leave Lake Orta on the morning of the tour and spend the day in Milan. On the front end we will have 2+ days in Barcelona. I realize that we may have compressed this trip a bit but we usually find that three weeks away is about right for us. So here are my questions:

1). After our flight to Venice (hopefully to arrive before noon) should we spend the day and night in Venice and head on to Padua after noon on the following day or just go straight to Padua? I realize this would be a very short visit but we’ve never seen Venice (except the one in So Cal, haha!) and have no immediate plans to return to Italy. Of course that may change after this trip!

2). If we decide to spend the day and night in Venice, do you have hotel and activity recommendations?

3). Can you recommend a hotel in Milan? What would do if you had one day in Milan?

4). Any recommendations for our free time in Barcelona? I’m not too concerned about this as we are happy walking around following Rick’s recommendations. We will, however, arrive on Good Friday and the tour starts on Easter Sunday so it may be more crowded (or possibly closed?) than normal.

5). Finally, any recommendations for short-hop airlines from Madrid to Venice are appreciated.

Thank you for your advice and suggestions.

Lesley

Posted by
13161 posts

The following sights in Barcelona normally require pre-purchased tickets (usually timed), else you will be standing in a very long ticket line and may be turned away because the tickets are already sold out. You need to read about these sights to see whether you want to see any of them. Do not wait until you're in Barcelona to get the tickets.

La Sagrada Familia
Parc Guell
Casa Mila/La Pedrera
Casa Batllo
Palau de la Musica Catalana
Picasso Museum (this is a mob scene and only recommended for serious fans)

I have not checked the tour itinerary to see what it already covers. You can check the websites of each sight and find out the hours during your visit. In general, Barcelona sights keep long hours, so I don't think you'll have any trouble filling your time. Unfortunately, you'll be accompanied by thousands of other visitors who want to see the same places.

During your walking-around time you might visit the Sant Pau Modernista Site. It is fairly new and not on everyone's must-see list yet. As far as I know, you do not need to buy tickets in advance. It is a beautiful, multi-building complex with nice grounds. You could easily spend over 2 hours there.

Barcelona has a lot of interesting museums that--unlike the Picasso Museum--are very pleasant to visit and are generally not crowded. Consult your guidebook to see whether any of them sound appealing.

Milan: I have no interest in The Last Supper. If you want to see the painting, check immediately to see whether you can get tickets. It sells out extremely early, at which point you'll either have to pay extra for a tour that includes it or skip it. I thought the Duomo was magnificent, and a walk through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (gorgeous shopping arcade) is pleasant. I've read that the Brera neighborhood is good for strolling around. I assume the city has some good museums, but I have not researched those, having basically just visited the city because my mother wanted to see the Duomo. (She was right.)

Posted by
4191 posts

Milan, stay at Antica Locanda Leonardo and get tickets way ahead for The Last Supper, near the hotel.
Walk around Duomo area, visit Duomo, La Galleria, and La Scala Opera House, all very near each other. You may be able to get a tour of La Scala.
If you haven't been to Venice, certainly stay at least one night, two or three would be better. Look at Hotel Flora near San Marco, breakfast is served their outdoor courtyard.
Look at Google flights and Skyscanner.com for flights Madrid to Venice.

Posted by
1124 posts

Another vote for Hotel Flora in Venice. We stayed 7 nights last September. Well appointed, charming, walking distance to "off the beaten path" restaurants, but close to all the best sites. Another plus is the easy 5 min. walk from the Vaporetto stop. Consider a couple nights to enjoy this magical city!

Posted by
942 posts

I would never give up a chance to visit Venice, even for one night. However, finding a room for one night could be a problem. As it is a Sunday that may work in your favor. My favorite thing to do in Venice is just to walk around, stopping at bars/cafes for a coffee or wine. Stay away from San Marcos mid day as it is packed with tourists. Later in the day take the Rick Steves' vaparetto tour he outlines in his book, then after the cruise ships and day trippers leave treat yourself to a pro secco at Cafe Florian in San Marcos piazza and listen to the orchestra. It is worth the extra money you will pay for the drink.

Posted by
2905 posts

I'm going to present a different view: If I were leaving Madrid on Sunday and had a tour starting in Padua on Monday, I'd head straight to Padua. There's a bus that goes from the Venice airport straight to the Padua train station. Easy. There's a tram that goes from the train station to within a block or so of the (probable) tour hotel.

Venice is overwhelming. We've been there twice, both times on RS tours, and have promised ourselves to go back some time when we have at least three or four full days to ourselves to hit the high spots. Preferably, a full week, to give time to just wander around and experience some of the many many museums and churches.

Padua is great; when we took the VI tour a couple of years ago we spent three + days there before the tour, and didn't do everything we wanted. Great museums, churches, food, bars (don't forget to try an Aperol spritz!). After our tour we spend three or four days in Milan, and again, didn't do everything we wanted. I do suggest that if you go to the Last Supper, get a guide. I couldn't believe how much we learned from our City Tours guide about the painting.

Whatever you decide, you are going to have a wonderful time. Both these tours are among our favorites; we would gladly repeat either - or both - of them.

Posted by
87 posts

If you opt not to spend the night in Venice, there should be a free afternoon available to you to visit Venice when you are on the RS tour during one of your days in Padua. It's a relatively short ride by train from Padua to Venice and is very doable in an afternoon. Unfortunately, you will likely be there when the throngs of tourists from the cruise ships will be milling around St. Mark's Square and congesting the alleys. However, if you've never seen Venice, I would either spend the night there or take the opportunity to make use of the free afternoon to see Venice. It will at least give you a taste of Venice and allow you to see if you want to come back for a more in-depth experience. And, at least, you can say you've seen Venice. On our first trip to Venice 30 years ago, I was enchanted by Venice. We spent three nights there, and I remember it being magical. Six years ago, while on the RS Village Italy tour, we made a trip to Venice during our free afternoon in Padua. I'm sorry I did that because it ruined Venice for me. The crowds were unbearable. I would have preferred to remember Venice as it was 30 years ago, although, from what I read, folks say Venice is still magical during the early morning or late evenings after the cruise ship passengers have departed. Btw, I loved the Village Italy tour. It's still is my favorite RS tour!

Posted by
7695 posts

I would suggest spending the night in Venice. It is a fascinating, yet crowded, city. Take an early flight to Venice. Padua is only a 30 minute train ride from Venice so you could also spend the following morning in Venice as well. With so little time, I would suggest not trying to go into too many places but just wander around the city--take a vaporetto ride along the main canal, wander the streets between San Marco and the Rialto, head to the other main islands but leave the outer islands--Burano and Murano--for another visit.

I've also stayed at the Hotel Flora with mixed feelings. The first room I had made me feel as if I was sleeping in a noisy jungle. It faced the inner courtyard. There was so much noise from people drinking at the courtyard tables and bugs flying in I had to shut the windows. It was in May and the A/C had not been turned on yet. I moved the next night to another room facing the front and it was fine. I did ask for a fan which they provided. (The entrance to the hotel is down an alleyway so it isn't too noisy). Breakfast was nice and one of the waiters/bartender early in the day lives on Burano and gave me some good sightseeing tips. I forgot his name.

Posted by
835 posts

We will be on the Village Italy tour that starts on 4/22/19. On 4/18 we will fly from Paris to Venice and continue by bus to Padua, and will stay at the tour hotel for four nights before the tour starts. Our plan is to take a day trip to Venice. Since Padua is so close to Venice, we will be able to extend the day trip into the evening if we feel like doing so. After he VI tour is over, we will spend one night in Milan (staying at the Hotel Garda near the train station), fly to Paris, spend a night at a CDG airport hotel, then fly home.

We prefer not to rush out of town on the last morning of a RS tour. It sort of breaks the magic spell associated with the tour experience.

Flights from Madrid to Venice on 4/28 look expensive. Another option would be to fly to Milan and continue by train to Padua.

We were on the Barcelona-Madrid tour in 2015, and visited Parc Guell before the start of he tour. The Sagrada Familia and Picasso Museum are included on the RS tour. We enjoyed the PIcasso Museum so much that we borrowed the group tour pass and returned in the afternoon.

Posted by
194 posts

I would try to get to Venice as early as possible on April 28 and have a 24+ hour stay there before heading to Padua. Even though you'll have free time in Padua and Venice is easy to get to by train, why day trip there, having just a few hours in Venice, potentially sharing the sites with hoardes of cruise ship passengers, when Venice is where your flight takes you one day before your tour starts? A better option is to stay there when your flight arrives from Madrid, see what you can that afternoon, enjoy a nice dinner that evening, take a gondola ride after dark, afterwards head to St. Mark's square to listen to the music, get up early on Monday to walk around before the tourist crowds get thick, and head over to Padua sometime after noon. Don't think of it as "we had only one day to see Venice," but instead think of it as, " the way our flights worked out, we got to see Venice!" This tiny taste will tell you whether or not you want to return some day. We took the Village Italy tour 5 years ago and loved it! Padua is wonderful but you will have the chance to see and do a lot during the tour' s two overnight stays there. The orientation tour on the first evening and the local guide's tour the next morning will hit all the highlights and give you an idea of what you want to do on your free time that afternoon and evening. It's better to have your free time there after you've gotten that kind of orientation, instead of arriving before the tour and seeing things on your own that may end up being repeated on the tour. When we did the Village Italy tour, we flew into Rome one day before the tour started and flew out of Milan one day after the tour ended. Flying into Rome would make little sense to most people taking this tour, but by choosing that city, we got free flights for an unbelievably modest amount of Skymiles points. We thought, why not? We got a hotel near the Pantheon, had a lovely dinner, strolled the streets at night, enjoyed starting our first full day in Italy with breakfast on the rooftop terrace of our Rome hotel, and had 4 hours to roam around in that area before catching our train to Padua. The train trip was relaxing and got us to Padua at 4:00'ish--just on time to check into our room and then get to the welcome meeting! We don't have any regrets doing it the way we did. Rome is a world class city and the chance to start our 2 weeks in Italy with one night in Rome was fun! If I were you, I'd do that with Venice!

Posted by
62 posts

Ah, Venice, my favorite place in Europe. That would be a definite vote for staying a night in Venice! I recommend a Walks of Italy tour, every tour I’ve taken with them has been fabulous and I learned so much!

As far as lodging, we stayed at Hotel Al Codega which is off the square. They were very helpful and served a great breakfast in the morning.

Happy travels!

Posted by
6439 posts

I’m with Jane. I’d head straight to Padua. I did VI and underestimated how interesting Padua is so did not add extra time there.

Plus...you’ll just have finished 2 big cities and you might need to regroup with laundry or perhaps just an unstressed easy morning on Monday before you get back into the tour routine. Now, that last advice makes me laugh because I am an early riser and never sleep in but I know many do!!

Posted by
8 posts

Thanks, everyone, for the terrific advice from all of you! We were just about convinced to take a more relaxed pace and head straight for Padua after Madrid but, after reading all of the “go for Venice!” comments, we are hoping to spend one night there. It took me 30 years to get my husband on an airplane for anything longer than two hours so now we are making up for lost time and doing it well: four trips to the U.K. on our own and three Rick Steves in nine years. Retirement is wonderful! Jane, I printed out your VI trip for closer study. Sounds fantastic, though the Civita day is a bit daunting. I find it hard to believe that the Barcelona-Madrid tour which we will do first is listed as “most active” while this one is not. We should be in great shape by the time we get back! Thanks again. I’ll let you know if I have trouble booking a room for a single night in Venice in April.

Lesley

Posted by
2905 posts

Lesley, there have been several discussions on this Forum about how tours are rated for more or less active. Several of us have noted that active is not the same as strenuous! Both the Barcelona/Madrid tour and the VI are active, and the VI is definitely more strenuous: those hill towns!

I cant wait to hear how your tours go; we loved both of them. PM me if you have any questions about my trip report, although I'd have to review it before I could answer :-)

Posted by
3696 posts

I think you made the right choice to spend that night in Venice (even though Jane and Pam are usually right about everything else). Frank II offers a good plan for your time there (I don't know the hotel though). Last fall I had a few days there and unexpectedly fell in love with the city. You'll be able to give it about 24 hours, which should be enough to tell you whether you want to come back. It's easy to get to Padua the afternoon your tour starts, and it makes more sense to spend your Padua free time in Padua. Have a great trip.

Posted by
2905 posts

Thanks, Dick. Pam and I have decided that we must have been separated at birth. One of these days, we'll manage to meet IRL, I hope.

Posted by
6439 posts

Jane, it's that darn shared brain we have, lol!!

Lesley, whatever you decide, you'll enjoy it!

Posted by
1581 posts

I took this tour with my family a couple of years ago. We spent three nights in Venice before taking the very easy 30 minute train journey to Padua, arriving two nights before the tour started. My husband and I had spent 10 nights in Venice a few years before so I revisited some favorite places while my family saw the things they were most interested in seeing. The cicchiti tours with Alessandro Schezzini (https://www.schezzini.it) are a lot of fun. We very much enjoyed the DIY Lagoon tour (I think it's still in the tour book?) and of course, just wandering alongside the canals and peeking into the many, many churches and enjoying the awesome art in situ. After the tour ended, we went directly to Milan where we stayed three nights. Even though I had stayed in Milan before and in spite of visiting twice, I still don't feel like I have seen enough of what Milan has to offer; there is lot to be seen and enjoyed. I will try to find the two hotels we had in Milan and come back here or PM you. My recommendation for one 'don't miss' is exploring the Duomo and especially the roof. Where else could you walk around the top of a Duomo and be relatively up close and personal with the statues? This is an amazing opportunity and an incredible feeling to be so far above the milling crowds. I loved seeing the "Last Supper" and hearing the story of the door cut into it. We also picnicked on the grounds of the Castle Sforza. My favorite Michelangelo statue, the Rondanini Pietà is in the Museum in the Castle. In Barcelona, one of the activities we did during free time was take a Fat Tire bike tour. It was a great time. We just enjoyed following some of the recommended walking tours in the tour book. Park Guell was awesome! By the way, we were in Sicily from Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday where we enjoyed every second of every day of Semana Santa (Holy Week). We were told Easter is one of the most important celebrations in Europe, complete with traditional processions of the guilds, statues and floats. Try not to miss being part of the celebration, if you can! It's a terrific tour; enjoy!

Posted by
8 posts

Thanks for the further updates, Andi and everyone. You have all been incredibly helpful. I was happy to read in Rick's Italy book that he recommends at least one night in Venice even on a busy trip. I also decided on the Hotel Flora although I did take into consideration the noise concerns. We are not particularly light sleepers so should be okay (I hope) and by this point the choices in Venice were starting to overwhelm me. I didn't have any trouble booking a single night either. I found Rick's DIY Grand Canal tour which we will definitely do and he also has a few ideas for Venice in day.

Everyone's comments about Milan give me plenty of ideas and we will be there for a night staying at the Antica Locanda Leornardo (thanks, Suki!). Our initial plan was to fly from Milan back to San Francisco via Frankfurt but that's a long 14-15 hour trip (and then customs and another 1-1/2-2 hours home depending on traffic). We decided to break it up and fly from Milan to London and spend three nights there. We both love London and are staying at our favorite hotel in Bloomsbury. The entire trip runs 29 days, door to door, which is probably a new record for us. Now to get in shape for those Italian hills in our flat valley town of Davis!

Posted by
104 posts

We're staying at Hotel Berna Milano the night after our Village Italy tour ends in early June. 145.50 EUR (VAT included) We have never stayed there before but there are numerous recommendations in here for this hotel. So far communication with the hotel has been easy. The hotel is near the train station and near the metro which goes into the heart of the city. There is a direct bus to LIN from the train station and the train goes to MXP.