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Calling mushroom

by Road Crazy »

Hi mushroom,

This place seems pretty dead, and I'm worried you won't be checking here any more.  I am planning a longish trip to Italy in probably four years (have to go gorilla-trekking in Africa first), so it's too soon to ask questions that you would be the perfect person to answer.  Is there a way I could get in touch with you off the forums at a later date?  Or another forum you frequent?  If need be, you can email me at clicktwice comcast net (insert appropriate punctuation) and let me know how to reach you in the future.

Thanks,

RC

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RE: Calling mushroom

by engred »

Hi RC.  Yes, this board has fallen off quite a bit since its latest incarnation.  I keep meaning to re-post my trip reports but with fewer and fewer visitors there is not alot of motivation.  I hope Mushroom contacts you - she really is a wealth of information.  Have a great time in Africa - gorilla-trekking sounds like a great adventure.

If you come up with some specific questions please feel free to post as I will keep an eye out on this forum.  I also post on the Italy forums on TA and Fodors.

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RE: Calling mushroom

by mushroom »

Hi Road Crazy! I do look at the board nearly every day -- and the recent election in the US pretty much guarantees I'll be in Italy in 2020, so don't give up posting here.  However, I will also send "clicktwice" an e-mail so you have my personal e-mail address. 

Have you decided where you are going in Italy? I actually don't know every party of the country, although I do hope to remedy that in the next 4 years.  There are only 2 regions I haven't visited, plus there are many I hope to revisit in the upcoming years.

In the meantime, if you have a Twitter account, something you might enjoy doing over the next 4 years is following some of the regional tourist boards who have their own websites and tweet stories and photos on Twitter.  Some of the big sites are Beauty from Italy,  Italian ways, and Italia, and regional sites like Visit Sicily, or Visit Lazio, or Emilia-Romagna Tourism, Visit Veneto (or Detourism Venezia or Venetissimo) are great fun and can be very informative and helpful for getting new ideas about where to go off the beaten track.

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RE: Calling mushroom

by Road Crazy »

Hi mushroom,

You'll laugh, or maybe not.  For a trip that I don't anticipate taking until 2021, I have a full-fledged itinerary set, with a spreadsheet working out my activities and the costs, so I can tell when I will be able to afford it.  Right now it looks like this:

10 nights Rome in an apartment, taking two days out when the weather is good to go to Pompeii and Herculaneum for some serious time (maintaining the Rome apartment while I'm gone).  There is a Yale course on Roman architecture on Youtube that spends three classes on Pompeii, with special attention to the wall paintings of that era, and it has inspired me to go back now that I will understand so much more of what I see.

7 nights Val d'Orcia with a rental car.

1 night Siena - I've been a couple times before but fancy seeing the night and sunrise views of the Duomo from the room balcony of my favorite little hotel again.

5 nights near Florence - I'm thinking of somewhere less usual, maybe Pistoia, easy commuting distance.  There's a sweet B&B in Pistoia that has stellar ratings, so maybe I'll stay there.  I don't want to deal with the Florence crowds, and I"ve already experienced staying there.  I'll spend a day in Lucca, a day vegging out wherever I stay (my vacation from my vacation), and the rest doing/seeing things in Florence that are still on my list.  Maybe Fiesole.

10 nights Bologna in an apartment.  Take a cooking class, take a food tour, day-trips to Ravenna, Parma, Modena, Ferrara, maybe Verona (I think I might want a couple nights in Verona, and there won't be time on this trip, so I'm thinking I will save it for the next trip).

8 nights Venice, seeing Padova en route

I would probably go from early May to mid-June, to catch decent weather, have it be warm enough to sit out at night, light late into the evening (I don't drive after dark, my night vision isn't so great), but before the heat and the crowds.

On an as-yet-unplanned trip, I'd like to work my way north or south via Umbria and Le Marche.  I feel like the trip planned is already jam-packed, and I want to give those areas their due.  This trip will cover most of my wishlist for the western side of the country, excluding the Etruscan ruins around Tarquinia.  I'll catch that next time too.  It will also tick the rest of the boxes for places in the north that I want to go.  I have never been to the lakes but feel no interest, and I've already seen the Cinque Terre (last time in 2000, and from what I hear it's unbearably crowded now, so I'm glad I saw it then).  I guess perhaps someday I might want to see Torino, and I didn't see the Last Supper yet, just flew into Milan and took the first train out, so I will probably need to get back there again at some point.

I took 1800 photos in four weeks in Greece (about 200 keepers), and I don't like to think how many I'll take with six weeks in Italy!

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RE: Calling mushroom

by mushroom »

Four years from now, if Italy is out of the eurozone, your vacation could be quite cheap.  Even so, there are also sorts of tricks for making a month in Italy affordable without sacrificing comfort or skipping things you really want to see. 

Since it is you who has been one of the forum's biggest advocates of keing trip planning and Q&A's public, so that lurkers and future travelers looking at archives can have the benefit of the info, I'll start by posting a few reactions to what you've got so far (and I will be sure to send you my e-mail address as well.

You might give some thought to putting Venezia at the top of your trip, for reasons of crowds.  May is just a little bit better than June in that regard.  The trade-off is ending your trip in a city that might be hotter than Venice.  Some would rather deal with crowds more than heat, and I would certainly put Roma right after Venezia for that reason. The fast trains make it an attractive option.   All that said, also makes sense just to go with the best air deal, which might give you a reason to go to Firenze or Bologna first  -- unless of course you really want to order your trip sort of historically, chronologically, taking Roman antiquity first.

I heartily endorse your extended visit to Pompei.  I will also point out that it is simple to take a day trip to Tarquinia from Rome, although were it me, I would look into the possibility of spending 1 night in Tarquinia en route to the val d'Orcia -- possibly even picking up the car in Tarquinia. I'd probably nick a night off of the val d'Orcia to do that -- but there is certainly nothing wrong with your plan as is, especially if you really crave the full 7 nights in the val d'Orcia.  If you are a fan of the Etruscans, then you personally MUST go to Chiusi.  It's a great highlight of Tuscany anyway. 

Pistoia sounds like what you are looking for as a Tuscan idyll within striking distance of Florence. The other choice is Montecatini Alto or even Montecatini Terme if you really want to veg and enjoy spa treatments and swimming pools.  I think you might be too early for summer piano concerts in Montecatini Terme, but if something like that appeals to you, check it out. (PIstoia has a big blues festival every year, but I think that's in July.)

I ultimately was disappointed in Fiesole, although I had a surprisingly good lunch and enjoyed the bijoux art museum in town (its tiny).  But not only are the Roman ruins poorly reconstructed, the accompanying museum is underwhelming.  I actually managed to miss the famous view, partly because many of the best viewing spots are colonized by tourist restaurants, so perhaps I'm being unfair since that's the highlight of most people's sojourn there. The town center really has taken on the feel of a coach tour depot, with huge tour groups piling in.  

My favorite short-bus-ride out of Firenze is Machiavelli's house, where he wrote The Prince and from where you also catch of glimpse of Floernce, a source of sorrow for Machiavelli when he was exiled from his beloved city.  I visited it with a car, but I know there is a bus that goes there.  It's a just a tiny borgo nestled among vinyards.  You need to e-mail in advancce to have someone show you around the house, but they are very friendly to people who have an interest in history.

With 10 nights in Bologna, I highly recommend a day trip to Brisighella.  I think I'd sooner take a day from Bologna and add it to Venice and see Verona as a day trip from Venice -- or, like you're thinking, saving it for another trip (in which case you could even think of it as a hub for a visit to Trento and Vicanza and other nearby sights of interest. 

Another possibility for a day trip from Bologna is Mantova, or Rimini if you are a Fellini freak (the town has other nice features) and Faenza if you have a very strong interest in ceramics in terms of art and history as well as craft. The museum there is one of the world's finest.

Padova is so close to Venice that I would probably head to Venice directly and get rid of my luggage and then see Padova on another day when you can have more time (and maybe when you need a break from Venice, if you do).

 

 

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RE: Calling mushroom

by Road Crazy »

I have always seen this trip as a procession from north to south or vice versa.  I have been back and forth a dozen times as to where to start.  Venice is a lovely place to get over jet lag, and sometimes it's hard to find a flight leaving Venice that isn't at 7am.  I've seen a flight to SFO mid-morning, however.  I'm leaning toward starting in Rome right now because I tend to want to hibernate in large cities after a few days, and I'm thinking I will better be able to discipline myself to get out there and see things in Rome if I go there first, before I've gotten into a more relaxed frame of mind.  I also probably dislike heat more than crowds, especially in an intense urban environment, also arguing for Rome first.  But this still isn't set in stone.

I haven't yet educated myself about the Etruscans, so I'm not sure of the depth of my interest, but they sound fascinating.  I have a book to read, along with everything else I have to read .... :)  If Rome starts to wear on me, perhaps I'll go to Tarquinia for a day to get a breather.  I will keep Chiusi in mind if I get to Tarquinia and get hooked.

It's good to know Pistoia is a good choice.  I want to spend a little time off the beaten track, and that should do it, at least as far as Americans are concerned.  I've been on the fence about Fiesole.  I'll take your input into consideration on that one.  It will probably depend on whether I feel I have time to spare.  My to-do list in Florence is pretty long for 2 1/2 days, so there's a good chance I'll pass on it.

Thanks for the tip on Machiavelli's house!

I looked up Brisighella, and it made it onto my list right away - looks great!  It looks like the best photos would require a car to get some distance to see the castle and the town.  I don't have a big interest in ceramics, but perhaps since I will have to change trains in Faenza anyway, I could stop off for three hours or so on my way back, assuming I haven't ended up spending the whole day in Brisighella, and take a look?

I will put Mantova on the list as a possible day-trip from Bologna, but that may need to wait until I come back for Verona and Vicenza.  I want to make sure I allow some time for Bologna itself, and I may get worn out with all those day-trips - it's just that Bologna is such a good hub for them.

I will definitely have to make a decision about Padova in advance, as I'll need reservations for the Scrovegni Chapel.  Something more to think about.

I have to beware of spending too much time thinking about this trip - it is hard to wait that long!  I am helping my son out with school a bit and I've had some home expenses (old house, it's always something), which is keeping me home for othe time being.  I must go gorilla-trekking next, while I can still get into good enough shape for the trekking part, and then Italy is after that.  I am approaching a time when I should be able to travel for a month or so every other year, which I am really looking forward to!  My travel list is so long........

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RE: Calling mushroom

by mushroom »

In Response to Re: Calling mushroom:[QUOTE]

I haven't yet educated myself about the Etruscans, so I'm not sure of the depth of my interest, but they sound fascinating.  I have a book to read, along with everything else I have to read .... :)  [/QUOTE]

As far as I know, the Etruscans are still a mystery to scholars in many respects, but  (somewhat like the MInoans) they had a beautiful and unique aesthetic. In addition to the exceptionally user-friendly & small-ish Etruscan museum in Chiusi, the town itself is just about a perfect example of what a Etruscan-Tuscan hilltown was created to be, with underground passages (the Etruscans), and Renaissance overlay, including a prize collection of illustrated hymnals in the city museum that originally came from the abbey in MonteOliveto, near Siena.  If in the end it interests you, you can leave Rome by train in the morning, pick up a rental car in Chiusi, and then park the car with your luggage in it while you tour Chiusi, which even if you did it exhaustively would not take more than a few hours, including lunch.  From Chiusi, it is a 30 minute drive to the val d'Orcia.  By the way, it's possible that some of the major art museums where you live have Etruscan collections. You might want to see them to get an idea if you are interested in these people, who founded Tuscany.

[QUOTE]  

I looked up Brisighella, and it made it onto my list right away - looks great!  It looks like the best photos would require a car to get some distance to see the castle and the town.  I don't have a big interest in ceramics, but perhaps since I will have to change trains in Faenza anyway, I could stop off for three hours or so on my way back, assuming I haven't ended up spending the whole day in Brisighella, and take a look?

[/QUOTE]

 You  do not need a car to reach the caslte, the Rocca and all the most interesting sights of Brisighella.  They are basically a 20 minute walk from the station, although the views from the top of the Rocca mean climbing up another 15-20 mins.  

As I recall, you do not need to travel through Faenza to get to Brisighella if you are leaving from Bologna.

Another enchanting little town you can reach by regional train from Bologna is Vignola, which has delicious chocolate cake and beautiful interiors, but not the terrific views that Brisighella has. 

However, above all, as a matter of priority, Ravenna is THE outstanding sight of the region, and one of the great highlights of travel in Western Europe. So it really only matters that you see Ravenna, and anything after that is gravy (although I am quite partial to the duomo & bapistery of Parma).

[QUOTE]

  I must go gorilla-trekking next

Posted by Road Crazy[/QUOTE]

well, of course!

 

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RE: Calling mushroom

by engred »

I am so glad you ladies continued this discussion!  I just had lunch with my mentor's widow and she wants to take her granddaughter to Italy for a high-school graduation present.  She wants to start in Venice but is worried about where else to go before she meets her family in Florence so I volunteered to plan the northern part of their trip.  Unfortunatley (or fortunately) most of my experience in the north has been in the Colio, Piedmonte, Dolomites, etc., which require a car.  She will not be able to handle driving, so we are sticking to trains.  The day trips out of Venice are great ideas, as they are traveling in July so will need to escape the crowds.

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RE: Calling mushroom

by mushroom »

Hi engred...  I can't tell if from your post if you are looking for advice, but in July, with a teen, some beach time might be in order, and something other than the rather shabby lido of Venice.  I've sometimes seen artciles online like "5 best beaches near Venice" if it's a day trip, but there are also some beach areas that might work for a few nights stay between Venice & Florence that can be reached by train. In particular I might consider Marina di Ravenna for a 2 or 3 night stay, which would make it easy to take a leisurely tour of the mosaics in Ravenna itself.  If the young grad likes to dance the night away, then maybe stay in Rimini, which should be going in full swing in July. I would opt for hotels with swimming pools and air-con (mosquitoes), whatever doesn't bust the budget.  That area is also good for biking and birdwatching.

http://www.turismo.ra.it/upload/mappe/mappa_marina_e_punta.pdf

http://www.italyheaven.co.uk/emiliaromagna/rimini.html

If the teen isn't a fan of beaches and biking, then maybe heading into the mountains to get away from the heat is a good idea.  Bolzano is easy to reach (although I would expect it to be a bit crowded in July). From Bolzano it's possible to book some excursions by bus or private driver to get some good views of the Dolomiti or take a cable car ride.   If the twosome loves hiking in quiet places, and wants a special experience, consider the tiny town of Marradi, which is in the mountains between Bologna and Firenze.  It's a tiny bit of an adventure to get their by train from Venice or Ravenna, but a lovely, oldfashioned journey.  The very small town of Marradi was a summer hideway for rich Fiorentini, and it is surrounded by gorgeous woods with easy walking trails.  The place to stay is Palazzo Torriani, great family & they will cook for you if you ask.  (There are also good Slow Food trattorie in town, in particular Il Camino) From Marradi, it's an hour's train ride to the center of Florence. 

http://www.turismo.intoscana.it/allthingstuscany/aroundtuscany/marradi-tuscany/

http://www.palazzotorriani.it/eng-marradi.htm

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RE: Calling mushroom

by engred »

Thanks Mushroom!  I am always looking for advice!  Love the idea of Ravenna - I found the mosaics amazing when I visited a few years ago. Bolzano is also a good suggestion - we spent 3 days there two years ago and found the scenery spectactular.  But I was glad when we left because it didn't feel Italian enough for me. 

 

I also thought about one of the lakes for a few days.  The rest of the family wants to go to CT while they are in Florence, although I am trying to convince them to rent a villa with a pool in Umbria instead (they will have a car at that point).  It is alot of people to get on the same page.  I told my friend to get her granddaughter a guidebook or 2 for Christmas and after she has spent some time reading we can narrow down the plan!

 

So much easier planning my own trip!  Happy Holidays!

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