France/Travel to Italy
QUESTION: Hi Terry,
I am planning a trip for my parents and brother to Italy for this October 2014 and would like your guidance on that. I know that your expertise is listed for France but we had amazing experience on our France trip(2009) based on your detailed and precise responses to my questions on this website. You were very helpful and the tips and suggestions you provided really improved our vacation to a whole new level. So I am hoping that you could help us for the same for Italy.
They will be a group of 3 adults planning to go from India around 2nd week of October for 10-15 days. They would like to skip Rome and Milan as they have already been there.
I know that Italy has lot to offer in other cities so would like to know what other cities should they cover? Venice, Florence, Naples, Sicily, Torino,etc? They want to do some sightseeing like museums, heritage sites,etc. but would be more interested in exploring the natural beauty.
Thank you once again!
ANSWER: Hi . . . Kruti Chdugar from Delhi, India!
YES, there is lots to see, do and super enjoy for Italy. We have been there several times and has really enjoyed the great variety in this nation with so much wonderful history, architecture, fine food, excellent wine, etc., etc. Glad that I was able to help in the past with your France travels.
October should be a great time to visit Italy. Nice weather. Generally, not too hot. Still busy, but not as congested as you would experience during the summer or September.
FIRST, you need to figure out your overall airline "logistics" plan/strategy! Where do you fly into and out of? Maybe, first into Milan with its major international airport and out of Rome. Or, reverse that pattern/routing.
SECOND, all parts of Italy can be good, but some locations are better than others. I would rate Torino and Sicily as either not as handy for your logistics and travel flow, not maybe as important to see as in other locations. Given your interest in "natural beauty", I would suggest your top priorities as being Lake Como/Bellagio, Venice, Florence, Tuscany and around the Amalfi Coast/Capri.
THIRD, for flow, I would probably fly into Milan and get a rental car to travel to Bellagio overlooking scenic Lake Como. That allows a little time to relax after the long flights and many time zone changes. Then by car to Venice. Drop the rental car, have a couple days or so in wonderful, unique Venice. Then take the train to Florence with its great history, museums, architecture, culture, art, etc. Then maybe a rental car for two to three days in scenic Tuscany with its cute, small villages, etc. Then south, by-passing the traffic and congestion of Rome's main city, to reach and stay in and around the Amalfi Coast, see Pompeii, Capri, Positano, Sorrento, etc. Then back up to the Rome main airport (at some distance from the central city) to fly back home to India.
Below are some of my added notes and ideas on Italy, etc.
Reactions to this general concept/plan? Look forward to hearing back from you with more details and specifics.
Does this start to help a little? What are your needs for added information? Be happy to provide additional info and answer other questions after learning more from you. Be sure to complete the evaluation section so that our "bosses" on this volunteer service know we are working hard to make inquiring minds as happy as possible. ENJOY! Merci Beaucoup!
Thanks. Terry Casey in Columbus, Ohio
A. KEY STRATEGIC ITALIAN TIPS
1. Relax and enjoy! The Romans already controlled the world once and are not in that much of a hurry. It will all work out. Be patient! That's their approach to life!
2. It's hard to have a bad meal in Italy! If you like seafood, you'll find lots of great dishes there. But most everything is wonderful. Enjoy the food!
3. The driving in the cities can be a little crazy, but the Italian are great, defensive drivers . . . very alert and aggressive. Outside of the cities, it’s much easier and lots like driving right here in Ohio.
ITALY FAST FACTS: Total land size is slightly larger than Arizona, but the population is 58 million, nearly twice that of California. The “boot” is 800 miles long by about 100 miles average width, May is one of the four best months for Italian travel (better weather and not over-crowded with tourists). Italy is the world’s largest wine producer.
VENICE (pop. 299,000), best options/priorities of St. Mark’s Basilica (Sun. 2-5:30, M-S 9:45-5:30) be sure to take stairs/steps and go up to the higher second level for both great inside and outside views, wonderful 1000-year old church; Doge’s Palace (9-6 daily), see the jail area, great outdoor pictures from the balcony off of the grand ballroom-reception area on the second level; do sunrise walk, enjoy the “battling bands” at night on San Marco Square; Grand Canal boat ride; Rialto Bridge and its area is wonderful; Gallerie dell’Accademia (9-10, Sun 9-6) has very good art, but not as great the Uffizi in Florence, nice stuff by Leonardo DaVinci; wonderful shopping options, including silk, such as ties for $10 or so on San Marco Square; just walking around Venice is the total joy, no cars, truck or motor scooters, just lots of interesting people in a great, historic setting! You’ll walk where Marco Polo walked after being in China! It's hard to get lost in Venice. The signs will always point you back to San Marco Square.
FLORENCE (pop. 384,000), best options/priorities of Il Duomo Cathedral (open 9 6 daily), if ambitious, climb to the top of the tower, great views, good way up; Palazzo Vecchio (their historic town hall) has great old rooms, climb higher for wonderful views of town; Uffizi Museum and Gallery (open 9-7, closed Monday) enjoy wine on their patio overlooking the Vecchio Plaza near the end of the museum visit; Accademia with Michelangelo’s David (8:30-7); Ponte Vecchio bridge; Santa Croce Church, lots of the famous buried there; Pitti Palace (open 8:30-7, closed Monday). Try to get advanced tickets for both the Uffizi and Accademia. This could save much time waiting in line. Things are busy in the summers, but not as bad as in the earlier spring and later fall.
Greve in Chianti
It is the largest centre in the Chianti region and its name is synonymous with good wine. In 1325, as a fortress, Greve was burned to the ground by Castruccio. The rebuilt church of Santa Croce which houses beautiful paintings of the school of the Beato Angelico and also of Bicci di Lorenzo stands at the bottom end of the asymmetrical main square of Greve.1 km from the centre stands the Castello di Montefioralle and on the "strada chiantigiana" there is to be found the Castello di Uzzano (famous for its Chianti Classico). Go to central square market.....stores display on the sidewalk the crafts of Tuscany: linens, pottery/ceramics/woodwork, straw items. Not fine but cheap fun. Walk thru butcher shop. Visit wine shops, buy chianti.
Castellina in Chianti
Castellina is a quiet and peaceful village full of old buildings, up on a hill at 578 mt high; it is set amidst the countryside of vine-yards, olive plantations and oak woods. In XIIIth century, together with Radda and Gaiole, it was a member of Lega del Chianti, whose flags had the famous black cock, that became symbol of Classic Chianti Wine.The town preserves the typical thirteenth century plan: the beautiful castle, which now houses the Town Council, and the unique Via delle Volte, a street almost totally sheltered by vaults. Buildings such as churches, castles and farms are spread all over the charming surroundings of Castellina.
Siena . . . a Must See & Do of Tuscany!
Siena is . . . the city of the blessed Virgins and the "Balzana"; black and white; decisive, just as its heraldic symbol; passionate and contemplative; always climbing and descending; clear and at the same time obscure; steep and narrow streets; the red of the Piazza del Campo appearing blinding and suddenly. In the alleys, in the museums and oratories of the Contrada, the spiritual songs of the Palio evoke very ancient rituals and modern allegories, while during the evening the shuffling of soles on the deserted pavement is in contrast with the peacefulness of the green valleys providentially enclosed within the wall, which ancient administrators had erected hundreds of years before it became common practice. Siena is also the Cathedral and the extraordinary panorama from the Facciatone; the Sala del Pellegrinaio in Santa Maria della Scala, the Libreria Piccolomini and the prestigious Accademia Chigiana; the enormous Medicean fortress that on the inside, at the Enoteca Italiana, harbors the most precious wines of Siena, Tuscany and the peninsula; sweet-smelling Trattorias, sweet spices, the sounds of the artisans and spouting fountains; Fontebrande and the mystery of the Diana, a famous river underneath Siena; the alchemy geometry of the Piazza, suggestively neo Gothic and cathartic. And these are the reasons why "Siena opens up its heart more than any other place," as the famous inscription reads on the Porta di Camollia.
For Venice, you might look at this earlier posting that I did on the Italy board that shows many options and visual potentials for this city that is so great for "walking around", personally sampling the great history and architecture. This posting is now at 37,717 views and I appreciate those who have dropped by and tuned in.
Venice: Loving It & Why??!!
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Hi Terry,
Thank you so much for your detailed response. It has helped us in preparing a basic itinerary as follows:
Day 1: Arrive in Milan. Take train from Milan centrale or drive to Como.
Day 2,3 : Explore Lake Como, Bellagio, Lake Garda,etc.
Day 3: Leave for Venice. Trying to figure out if there is a direct train from Lake Como to Venice.
Day,4,5 : Explore Venice
Day 5: Leave for Florence.
Day 5,6: Explore Florence.
Day 6,7,8: Go to Chianti and explore more of Tuscany.
Day 9: Leave for Naples.
Day 9,10,11: Explore Naples, Amalfi coast, caprii, pompeii,etc.
Day 12: Leave for Rome.
Day 13,14: Explore Rome . Leave for India.
Please let me know your views and suggestions on this.
Hi, again . . . Kruti Chdugar from Delhi, India!
Appreciate your follow-up and the details for your planned Italy travels. Overall, your proposed schedule looks solid and well-timed. Clearly, depending on weather and other factors, you will need to be ready to adjust, if needed, have back-up plans if outdoor conditions limit some activities, etc.
From Como, you will most likely need to change trains in Milan, but that can work out fine.
Keep up the good work and planning. ENJOY!!!
Thanks. Terry Casey in Columbus, Ohio