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Italy suggestions

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Deb Hall

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Italy suggestions

{ POST_BY_AUTHOR } Deb Hall » Mon Dec 31, 2012 5:28 pm

For friends who have travelled in Italy:
Is driving a car outside the major cities advisable? Specifically Tuscany, Umbria and Amalfi/ Positano. We are debating destinations for our 10th anniversary in May next year and we've never been. I love the trains in Europe and would love to use them if possible, but don't know if we'd want/need a car inland.

Food of course is also a major factor for our travels. We'll likely rent a small home with a kitchen so we can cook. Any cooking classes, culinary excursions recommended?

Thanks!
Deb
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Re: Italy suggestions

{ POST_BY_AUTHOR } Robin Garr » Mon Dec 31, 2012 5:59 pm

Deb, I've driven all over Italy, and it's as easy as can be. If you've driven in other European countries, the autostrada is no different. Keep right except to speed insanely, and if you see a giant Mercedes or Audi coming up behind you fast, move over - at your convenience, no need to panic.

The autostrada are every bit as modern as American interstates, and in my opinion the driving in general is more competent and sane, with the caveat that some people do speed at levels above what we would consider reasonable.

I'd avoid driving into the larger cities until you're comfortable on the highways. And be aware that a lot of smaller cities have such narrow ancient streets that it's customary to park outside the city centre and walk in with everybody else. :D

But I've driven all over Tuscany, Umbria, Piemonte, Lombardia, Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Trento, Emilia-Romagna and more (and also in Slovenia and Croatia, France, Spain, Germany, Austria, England, Ireland, yada yada, and I can comfortably advise that it's really not a big deal. Give yourself a day outside the big cities to get used to the local customs, the differences in signs and road markings and such, and you'll do fine. Don't worry about traffic circles either. Once you get used to the flow you'll realize that they make a heck of a lot more sense than stop lights. :)
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Re: Italy suggestions

{ POST_BY_AUTHOR } Deb Hall » Mon Dec 31, 2012 9:52 pm

Thanks, Robin. The driving is now a done deal. :D
So I'd love to hear your recommendations for the best places in Italy. We will only have 7 days max and there is far too much to see and do. Remember the point is romance and relaxation- not a mad tour thru 10 cities in 7 days.... :lol: :lol: Food, food purveyors/ culinary experiences/ beautiful scenery are a priority over Museums and seeing all the sights (as much as I love history :( ) We want to feel like we are in real Italy- not just the tourist highlights.
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Re: Italy suggestions

{ POST_BY_AUTHOR } Linda C » Tue Jan 01, 2013 7:13 pm

Hi Deb! Rick and I do Europe every year except the one when we went to S Africa. Last summer, we did our first intensive tour of Italy. I am not a fan of cities, but Rome was amazing. We used or Holiday Inn points and stayed at the Intercontinental by the Spanish Steps. It was amazing! Plan at least 4 days in Rome. Definitely take a tour of the Vatican and Colliseum. We didn't book in advance, we found tour operators on site and they were SUPERB! We used our legs and cabs in Rome. We then took a train to Chiusi, where we rented a car through a private operator. (We spent 2 weeks In South France with a manual transmission and I refused to to that whiplash treatment again.)Our automatic cost us about $150 more but was SO WORTH IT.Anyway, we spent 8 days staying in a lovely castle in Tuscany and ate all around at wonderful restaurants. I can honestly say that we did not have even one mediocre meal in Italy Mama Mia! After that, we drove to Venice, turned the car in at the airport , stayed outside of the city (great idea) and took the bus to Venice for three days. Flew in to Rome, out of Venice open jaw, no price difference.Wonderful! Here's the deal....you cant see it all in two and a half weeks. You have to narrow it down to what you must see. You don't want to spend too little time in an area and never get the rich cultural experience. I have many Italy travel books if you'd like to borrow them. Also, I am getting my travel agent license tomorrow, so if you need any booking help, I would be happy to oblige.
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Re: Italy suggestions

{ POST_BY_AUTHOR } Deb Hall » Tue Jan 01, 2013 8:36 pm

Linda,
Thanks for the input. :D Unfortunately our time is limited to 7 days there as we have limited vacation, so we have to be really selective in where we are going. Love the open ticket advice- i had no idea we could fly in and out of different airports. Would you choose Florence or Rome as your one big city to see? ( Brian has not been to Europe before)

Deb
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Re: Italy suggestions

{ POST_BY_AUTHOR } Ken B » Tue Jan 01, 2013 11:50 pm

This is a really tough one. I would probably choose Florence, only because I have friends there, but Rome has much to offer. I would say driving around Tuscany is a bit more interesting than much of Lazio, puls it is easier to get out of the city and into beautiful countryside much more quickly there. One year Kristen and I spent a little over a week there, bookending a stay in the Chianti hills with weekends in Florence. There are tons of agriturismo in Tuscany, we stayed in an old small castle with olives and grapes growing on premise. On the food side, Rome has greater breadth and depth, more modern/cosmopolitan places, but Florence has Cibreo. Next year, friends who got married in Rome will celebrate their 10th anniversary there, and have invited all of the wedding guests to join them - Kristen and I hope to make it, but it's probably not in the cards for us. It has been just shy of a decade since I've been to either city, but when you decide, I can send a few recommendations for either.
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Re: Italy suggestions

{ POST_BY_AUTHOR } Ken B » Tue Jan 01, 2013 11:53 pm

Also, I have never been tot he Amalfi coast, but my brother has been and it sounds pretty amazing.

You might consider Venice, again, never been there, but rather romantic, and it won't be around much longer.
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Re: Italy suggestions

{ POST_BY_AUTHOR } Robin Garr » Wed Jan 02, 2013 8:47 am

I agree with the other posters that just about every part of Italy has its charms, and that it's hard to imagine a life spent without visiting either Florence or Rome. I also agree with Ken that a week in Tuscany would be hard to beat, whether based in Florence or in Siena.

Still, Venice may be the most memorable Italian city, and it has the added advantage of being in the Northeast, a section of Italy that's historic and memorable and easy to get around in. If you don't mind changing planes (in Paris, Rome or even Hamburg) on your way in, there's a lot to be said for entering Europe at a smaller Italian airport. The experience of arriving at Venice Marco Polo or Friuli-Venezia Giulia Regional or even Florence is a lot easier and gentler than being processed with the mobs at Rome Fiumcino or Paris CDG. Fly in to any of these places, consider a base in a larger village in Friuli (Cividale, maybe?) and you can venture out in all directions to Venice, Trieste, smaller Friuli cities like Udine or Gorizia, where Italian and Slavic cultures meet and mingle. I love that part of Italy! From a base near Venice you can also head west toward Verona, Valpolicella, Lake Garda ... this part of Italy isn't as well-known or touristy (except maybe for Venice), but it may be my favorite, particularly for a relaxed getting-to-know-Italy vacation.
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Re: Italy suggestions

{ POST_BY_AUTHOR } TP Lowe » Wed Jan 02, 2013 8:59 am

Deb,
Trying to type through a fit of jealousy! Nothing is better than a driving tour of Italy.
One of my favorite trips ever was flying into Rome, renting a car and driving through Tuscany for a week, meandering toward Florence and finishing the trip in the galleries and museums there.
Agree with others that driving in Italy is not terribly challenging, although on the autobahn you need to be willing to get after it or you'll get run over. Actually, it's sort of the same on most Italian roads!
Hope your planning and your trip are fabulous.
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Re: Italy suggestions

{ POST_BY_AUTHOR } Deb Hall » Wed Jan 02, 2013 11:45 am

Ken B Wrote:This is a really tough one. I would probably choose Florence, only because I have friends there, but Rome has much to offer. I would say driving around Tuscany is a bit more interesting than much of Lazio, puls it is easier to get out of the city and into beautiful countryside much more quickly there. One year Kristen and I spent a little over a week there, bookending a stay in the Chianti hills with weekends in Florence. There are tons of agriturismo in Tuscany, we stayed in an old small castle with olives and grapes growing on premise. On the food side, Rome has greater breadth and depth, more modern/cosmopolitan places, but Florence has Cibreo. Next year, friends who got married in Rome will celebrate their 10th anniversary there, and have invited all of the wedding guests to join them - Kristen and I hope to make it, but it's probably not in the cards for us. It has been just shy of a decade since I've been to either city, but when you decide, I can send a few recommendations for either.


Ken,

Great input, thanks! Any chance you remember the name of the castle you stayed in? We've decided to stay in the countryside and do day-trips from there- we are looking for a small, private villa to stay in. The agriturismo thing is very appealing too, but we really need a kitchen.
Deb
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Re: Italy suggestions

{ POST_BY_AUTHOR } Deb Hall » Wed Jan 02, 2013 12:08 pm

Thanks for all the input. :D TP- love "the fit of jealousy"- especially coming from someone as well-travelled as you.

We decided last night that our definition of romantic definitely fits the Tuscan countryside and leisurely driving for culinary-related excursions. We've decided on Tuscan countryside , with day trips to Parma/ Emilia, Siena and others, and 1-2 days in either Rome or Florence ( in part dependent on flight possibilities). As much as we'd love to see more, there is a ton to see/ experience in Tuscany and we want downtime too- and only 7 days to do it all. We already have one very highly reviewed winery tour and lunch in Chianti that I think we will do:http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g235123-d1931036-Reviews-Castello_di_Monterinaldi-Radda_in_Chianti_Tuscany.html#REVIEWS. ( see their website link to see one reason why we think it's a perfect fit- warning there is sound and I don't recommend for work :wink: :lol: )

Now we are looking for a small, private villa to use as our home-base for exploring. Any suggestions on towns/areas that would be great choices? Any sites/ experiences that are must-see/do for foodies? We are also looking for a one-day cooking class.

Deb
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Re: Italy suggestions

{ POST_BY_AUTHOR } DanB » Wed Jan 02, 2013 12:26 pm

A week can fly by pretty quick in Tuscany. As others said you could maybe tack on a day or so in Venice. Couple of months ago we drove from Lucca in Tuscany up into the Piedmont (Barolo, Alba, Asti areas) and the drive wasn't bad at all so you coulld do four days Tuscany and three days Piedmont. Doing Rome or the lakes may be a bridge too far in such short time. Enjoy it!

Edit to say forget public transportation. Thoroughly overrated. Gas is 9 bucks a gallon though so get a Fiat 500 or similar.
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Re: Italy suggestions

{ POST_BY_AUTHOR } TP Lowe » Wed Jan 02, 2013 12:33 pm

DanB Wrote: Doing Rome or the lakes may be a bridge too far in such short time.


And I think driving in Rome is perhaps the worst city driving in Europe ...
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Re: Italy suggestions

{ POST_BY_AUTHOR } DanB » Wed Jan 02, 2013 12:52 pm

Well, an Italian friend once explained to me there is reallly only one actual traffic law in Italy....remain in motion at all times. Roman traffic is a good example of that theory.
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Re: Italy suggestions

{ POST_BY_AUTHOR } Deb Hall » Wed Jan 02, 2013 1:30 pm

Don't worry, guys-we have no intention of driving in either Florence or Rome-! Too many hassles. Driving to the closest train/bus station and then taking public transportation in and walking is MUCH more relaxing. :lol:
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